Bush and friends have tried to defend what they have done with this country by arguing that, unlike Arab governments in the Middle East that they support, our open society is self-correcting. We may make mistakes, but our democratic institutions will correct them. That correction will occur in November or not at all. If they re-elect George W. Bush, the American people will tell the world that they approve what he and his friends have done and that Osama just might be right about us, after all.. If the American people pat him on the back and say "Good job, George, keep it up" there is no telling what he might do next. Never in the history of the United States have the American people been asked to make such a monumental decision. That our democracy is so self-correcting is not yet so self-evident.
It wasn't the 11th of September of the year 2001 that devastated this country. It was the 20th of January.
The method is the same. You deprive someone of his comfort level then promise to restore most of it when he tells you what you want to hear. At Abu Ghraib American soldiers tortured and humiliated Iraqi prisoners to take away their comfort level. They promised to restore that comfort level if the prisoners told them what they wanted to hear. Of course, nothing the prisoner says under such circumstances can be trusted. Then, when the shit hit the fan, the military deprived the lowly grunt, in this case Jeremy Sivits, of his comfort level by prosecuting him, threatening to send him to prison for a long time. They promised to restore most of his comfort level if he told them what they wanted to hear - that the grunts were acting on their own and not on orders from higher ranks. Same method. Same reliability.
The abuses inevitably flowed from the deceitful equation by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Wolfowitz of the invasion of Iraq with the "war on terror." Iraqis are terrorists, and terrorists, they had already concluded, are not entitled to be treated fairly under the Geneva Convention. It was neither the grunts nor the ghost-like "system" that has failed. It is Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice & Wolfowitz who are personally responsible for everything that the U.S. has done and continues to do in Iraq. Which explains why this quintet has denigratesd the United Nations and torpedoed the World Court - so that no higher authority may put them on trial.
If Iraq had attacked the United States and had the U.S. taken Iraqi prisoners on the beaches of Santa Monica and New Jersey or hanging out near the White House and Pentagon wearing suicide belts, no one anywhere in the world would have batted an eye about abusive interrogation. The reason the torture and humiliation has inspired world-wide outrage is that the only excuse the U.S. administration had left for invading Iraq, after all else failed, was the idea of liberating Iraqis from an abusive tyrant and teaching them freedom, justice and democracy. The torture and humiliation occurred precisely because the administration succeeded in indoctrinating its military, if not also its civilian population, into believing that it was the Iraqis who attacked the U.S. on September 11. What does not come through the highly censored discussion in the U.S. is that this behavior is exactly why they hate us in the first place. People throughout the Islamic world feel - and rightly so - humiliated by the presence of the U.S. military everywhere they turn, by U.S. proxy governments that oppress them, by U.S. support for Israel, and by the arrogance of this alleged pre-emptive attack on an Arab nation. The humiliation at Abu Ghraib is just more of the same, albeit graphic and direct, but not qualitatively different from the manner in which American soldiers have treated Iraqis in their homes and streets, breaking and entering without warrants and dragging men, women and children into the street and humiliating them tn front of their neighbors with jack boots on their necks. That the Bush administration is viciously blind to this reality is proven by its incapacity or unwillingness to concede or understand that the U.S. cannot ever bring peace to the region except by getting out. We will never be perceived over there as liberators. We're not liberators. All we want is their oil. This is not a perception problem. This is a reality problem.
The Iraq Nam analogy balance sheet
Senator Edward Kennedy spoke the unspeakable recently when he compared Bush's war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam. Right-wing pundits and members of Congress compared Kennedy to Hanoi Jane. The "V" word has finally entered the discussion, but no one until now has composed a comprehensive balance sheet of the differences and similarities. Despite my best efforts and contrary to my initial inclinations, while I could find 36 differences, I could come up with only 26 similarities between American involvement in Viet Nam and today's war in Iraq. I'm therefore forced to concede that the differences prevail. First the differences:
1 Viet Nam produces only fish oil.
2. Viet Nam was mostly jungle; Iraq mostly desert/urban.
3. In Vietnam we were supposedly protecting the world from the commies; now we're allegedly fighting the terrorists.
4. There really were commies in Viet Nam before we got there.
5. Last time the President from Texas escalated the war; this time the President from Texas started it.
6. The President of the United States this time is a total idiot.
7. This time the people we're trying to control will fight us on our own territory and will kill us wherever they can find us around the world.
8. This time the conflict implicates and exacerbates - if it doesn't also emanate from - the seemingly insolvable and highly dangerous Arab-Jewish enmities in the Middle East.
9. We have better helicopters and night vision instruments now, and this time at least our bombs are smart.
10. We now have an all-volunteer army, although the poor and minorities still predominate and most white soldiers still sound strangely like Billy Joe.
11. The old men at the Pentagon are sending an awful lot of young girls into combat.
12. Our leadership learned from Viet Nam to protect the American people from brutal scenes of killing and dying on their tv screens by protecting the battlefields from journalists.
13. Last time it was a bunch of arrogant "whiz kids" who got us into it; this time a bunch of arrogant neocons.
14. The "fair and balanced" Fox network wasn't invented in time for Viet Nam.
15. Bill O'Reilly was an arrogant young man; now he's an arrogant old fool.
16. Buddhist monks set themselves on fire in Viet Nam to demonstrate the depth of their conviction that the U.S. should go home; suicide this time has a different edge.
17. In Iraq we're allegedly trying to save the world from chemical warfare; in Viet Nam we tried to save the world with chemical warfare.
18. Neither Kennedy nor Johnson nor Nixon heard god tell them to kill Vietnamese to spread the American way. If they did, they kept it to themselves.
19. CIA agents play a much bigger role today in combat operations.
20. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara later confessed that the Viet Nam war was a huge mistake and apologized for his role in it; don't expect to hear anything like this from Donald Rumsfeld.
21. It's hard to find anything to rhyme with Bush to rival the old "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today."
22. The President of the United States this time spends more time at his Texas ranch than in Washington, D.C., doesn't like to read much, takes long vacations, and is heavily protected from voices contrary to those from on high.
23. While prosecuting the war in Viet Nam, the President from Texas did much good for his country domestically, empowering the poor and increasing the rights of the people with his Civil Rights Act; while prosecuting the war in Iraq, the President from Texas has given away the store to his friends and curtailed civil liberties with his Patriot Act.
24. At no time did the United States ever assist Ho Chi Minh with weapons, military intelligence and chemical agents to fight a war with its neighbors.
25. At no time did any President during the Viet Nam conflict declare victory by flying onto an aircraft carrier in a Top Gun costume.
26. The shit we've stepped into this time is way worse than the fallout we experienced from Viet Nam.
27. No one suggested back then to invade Viet Nam because of what someone else did to us.
28. The King of Jordan at a joint press conference showed that he has a better command of the English language than the President of the United States.
29. The presidents who prosecuted the Viet Nam war were elected by majority vote.
30. Robert McNamara never allowed himself to be photographed shaking hands with Ho Chi Minh.
31. Prisoner of war issues this time are all about the prisoners we take.
32. The Vietnamese belong to a fairly homogenous culture, while Iraqis are a disunited hodgepodge of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds - at least until we descended upon them.
33. This time we had our experience in Viet Nam to learn from.
34. The determination to attack Iraq was unmistakably laid out in the declaration of purpose of the "Project for a New American Century," a kind of Mein Kampf of Bush administration honchos before Bush was even "elected."
35. The U.S. invasion of Iraq sqandered and reversed in one day once-in-a-lifetime world-wide sympathy for America never seen before and that now will never be seen again.
36. It's unlikely that Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon believed in his own lies.
1. We win the battles, but lose the war.
2. Both countries are way far away from us and their people are way different.
3. Neither Iraq nor Viet Nam had the means or intent to inflict harm on our territory.
4. We misunderstood the extent to which the people in each place would resist our technologically superior military force.
5. We misunderstood the extent to which our actions in each place would stir deep nationalist anti-colonial feelings.
6. We acted each time against the advice and without the support of most of the rest of the world.
7. We tried to achieve military victory in each place at first with a small force, believing in the power of military technology to beat down the will of human beings to resist an invading army; or fearing that the American people would not support the effort if they knew up front what it would cost.
8. In each war we used high-flying airplanes to reduce our casualties while accepting increased civilian carnage because gooks and ragheads don't matter much to us.
9. We were afraid each time that internationally supervised elections would result in a loss for our puppets.
10. As in southeast Asia, we are stepping into the shoes in southwest Asia of French and British colonialists of an earlier era.
11. We failed to understand the deep hatred in each place of western colonialism and the will of the people there to finally shape their own destinies.
12. As in Viet Nam and everywhere else, the war crimes at the top inspire the war crimes at the bottom.
13. Once mired in a cruel war, even opponents argue that, now that we're there, we must support our troops and continue to victory to save our prestige in the world. Now, as then, Americans are bizarrely slow to catch on to the idea of supporting our troops by bringing them home; even slower to the idea that there can be no victory for despised foreign invaders and no prestige from bombing a country into the stone age. Especially when it was already there.
14. As in Viet Nam, a loss in Iraq would remove that country from our sphere of military and economic influence, which it was never in.
15. When all other arguments fail, it is said that we can't pull out now because that would leave the country to the mercy of those who hate us - especially after what we've done there.
16. The war becomes a focus of a national election, but the candidates just use different words to say the same thing.
17. The Charlton-Heston-is-my-president gonzos rabidly denounce those who speak against the war as anti-American traitors.
18. The American media is totally out of step with the rest of the world, leaving most Americans ignorant of the real reasons why they fight us.
19. Our leadership lies to us about the cost of the war.
20. Our leadership lies to us about what we're doing there and why.
21. Our troops frequently can't tell the difference between civilians and fighters because there's not really much difference between them.
22. Each time the only solution anyone can come up with is to train some of them to continue the war, even though this will only prolong the agony and bloodshed.
23. Then and now those who complain that they were misled as to how easy this was supposed to be sound a lot like all those people in Germany who blamed Hitler for losing.
24. Both episodes demonstrate that no one can harm us worse than we harm ourselves.
25. We united the Vietnamese against us then and we unite the Iraqis against us now.
26. Absent unintended consequences, nothing good can ever come of this.
Before the Senate Armed Forces Committee investigating the prison abuses in Iraq, Senator Joe Lieberman, who came dangerously close to becoming the Vice President of the United States and then the Democratic Presidential nominee, proclaimed that, since the 9/11 terrorists who killed 3000 Americans (many were foreign nationals) never apologized, there is no reason why we should apologize. This is truly the heart of the matter. (Leaving aside for the moment the capacity of the dead to say they're sorry.) Everyone who raises a finger against us is now a terrorist, even those whom we attack without provocation. Those who attacked us on 9/11, mostly from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, our closest allies, next to Israel, in the Middle East, obtained their economic and "moral" support from almost everywhere in the region - except Iraq. Nevertheless, because we attacked Iraq, Iraqis who fight us are terrorists. Which, of course, is why we treat them the way we do. It goes downhill from here.
The question is not whether Rumsfeld might still be "effective," whatever that means in the context of the goals that he has helped to set, since there are others who could take his place, but whether he might be more effective now by resigning. Asked whether his resignation could enhance the capacity of the United States to achieve its goals in the Middle East, Rumsfeld replied: "That's possible." The question, then, is whether his personal career is more important than the country he has been asked to serve.
Not really that bad
Answering questions today from the press, side-by-side, the President of the United States and the King of Jordan left no doubt as to who has the better command of the English language. All this bunk about how the prisoner abuses weren't THAT bad, especially compared to what Saddam Hussein had been doing, forgets one thing. The U.S. used overwhelming military force to attack Iraq because, at least per the last excuse the President had left, we have such overwhelming moral superiority that god chose us to tell the Iraqis how to conduct their political affairs. Well, there goes that argument.
What we stand for
The non-apology by Bush and others in the war machine to the effect that "this is not who we are or what we stand for and that it must have been just a few bad apples" is not going to play well, since organizations like Human Rights Watch has documented prisoner abuses in Afghanistan almost from the beginning of the U.S. occupation there; the American military had been aware of the abuses in Iraq for at least a month and stonewalled them; Bush has steadfastly defended the detention and abuse of prisoners in Guantanomo without charges, trial, or even legal defense; the U.S. arrogates to itself the right to assassinate foreign leaders and attack nations without provocation; and we will support any brutal dictator, even the likes of Saddam Hussein, and any repressive royal family that will assist us in obtaining cheap oil.
Just what do we stand for?
Besides cheap oil.
Out of control
Barely a year ago, American soldiers, out of control, murdered a dozen Iraqi civilians, men, women and children, and injured another 50 who only wanted to escort their children to the school in Falluja that the soldiers had taken from them. It is no wonder that the people of Falluja would rather rise up than bow down and kiss our feet. Before that, American soldiers, out of control, murdered women and children at a checkpoint. Before that, out of control, they shot and killed journalists in their hotel rooms. When Baghdad fell, American soldeirs, out of control, hoisted and draped theAmerican flag on everything still standing, demonstrating that the U.S. had come, not as liberators, but as conquerors. The message from Rumsfeld to the troops was always that war is "untidy." The commander-in-chief concurred. Now American soldiers, out of control, are caught not only torturing Iraqi prisoners, but reveling in it before the camera. The official American news agency, Fox, is appalled. At CBS for breaking the story. The commander-in-chief promises the soldiers will be disciplined. The buck stops at the buck private.
For the rest of the story, see Seymour Hersh's account in the New Yorker and the call for investigations by Amnesty International April 30. General "Warden" Karpinski confirms allegations that the abuses were ordered through the chain of command. Not just a few rogue soldiers, but the entire American military has been out of control from the beginning.
All this is typical of a country that invades another without provocation. The arrogance and brutality that incite the war criminals at the top inspire them at the bottom.
Take your pick
If the U.S. pulls out of Iraq tomorrow, the situation there will get worse. If the U.S. continues on its present course, the situation will get worse. If the U.S. quadruples its force in Iraq (which it cannot do), the situation will get worse. Take your pick. Bush had no more justification for attacking, invading and occupying Iraq than Hitler did to attack, invade and occupy Poland. Now that it has been done, there is no good or honorable way out. Osama wanted a holy war and Bush gave him one. Imagine a world where one nation, in control of advanced weapons technology, attempts to make itself master of the planet by bluster, swagger and murder because its leader believes he has been sent by god to make the rest of the world in the image of god's country. Imagine you're at the wrong end of the swagger. What would any red-blooded Texan do? The Alamo is now in Fallujah. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice and Powell, war criminals of the first degree, are unfortunately not on the front lines. The most dangerous concept in America is the narcissistic propaganda spouted by the Washington Six that "they hate us for our freedoms." They hate us for propping up their dictators and royal families with weapons to beat them down with in exchange for their own oil that we use to produce more weapons to beat them down with. Even Democrats mouth the shiboleth that we need to stay in Iraq long enough to bestow upon the Iraqis a "stable" government, i.e., one that will imprison and badger its own people to serve Exxon and General Motors. Otherwise, we allow Islamic clerics to take control. The next stable government in Iraq will be anti-American. There is nothing we can do about this now. One nanosecond after the last U.S. soldier boards for North Carolina, any government we impose on Iraq will have the staying power of an antiquark in a black hole. By the way, whatever happened to the communist Vietnam end-of-the-world scenario? We created the communist insurgency in Vietnam. We now create the Islamic insurgency in Iraq. All they want is for us to leave them alone. Bush phrases this option as "cut and run" to appeal to our lowest instincts.
Mark my words
We did it in Germany, and we can do it in Iraq. So say Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney. Although it wielded little real power, the German parliament was an elected body even under Bismark. Then came a more serious experiment in democracy called the Weimar Republic after the Great War. Nevertheless, the German-Iraq analogy is not all wrong. Hitler drew a plurality of votes, and received at least a partial mandate, in no small part on the argument that "Weimar" had been imposed by foreign powers and was therefore illegitimate. The only question is whether the consequences of this new illegitimacy will be as grave. Mark my words. U.S.-imposed elections will not turn Iraq into a modern western democracy, but will usher in the greatest era of repression Iraqis have ever known.
A way of life
George II and his court disfavor swift elections in Iraq because they could lead to nationalization of Iraq's oil, depriving Exxon, Texaco, et al of their christian right to exploit it. From Cuba to Viet Nam to Chile to Nicaragua to Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has bled and killed to protect the god-given right of its multinationals to control world resources. America has shunned no dictator, no matter how brutal, not Batista, not Pahlevi, and not Saddam Hussein for as long as he helped American corporations exploit the labor, health, and resources of his people. Democracy isn't even an afterthought. It's a cover-up.
Whether US troops leave tomorrow, in six months or in six years, Iraq will descend into civil war before the last soldier boards. The longer we stay, the shorter the strings on the puppets we install and the greater the resentment and resistance. Unfortunately, the oil cabal pulling the strings in Washington is willing to risk the lives of Iraqis for the faint hope of taking control of them.
The gravest danger facing the world today is the disconnect between how Americans see themselves and what they do. Americans see themselves making the world safe for democracy and their deserved standard of living. Most others on the planet see them making the world safe for American multinational corporations to exploit global resources for brutally extravagant lifestyles in the face of poverty and starvation around the world.
Never before has this disconnect been so stark as today under George II, an ignorant stooge of corporate interests at home and abroad who personifies this disconnect like no other. There is bleak hope that Bush will even bleed enough Americans to get himself thrown out, but he'll have enough money to debauch the debate to guns, gays and gods.
Imposing American-style democracy on a country like Iraq is like commanding a neurotic to be normal at gunpoint. Paint its nose pink, and it's still an elephant. Put a suit on Schwarzenegger, and he's still Arnold. Dress George in an air-force jump suit on an aircraft carrier, and he's still the guy who went on vacation while 9-11 was being prepared and then hid in a bunker while others were pulling bodies from the WTC. Paint the word "democracy" on a tank and it's still oppression. Democracy is not about holding elections every two or four years. It's a way of life.
Given our low voter turnout, the way money controls everything here, and the presidential election of 2000, it's questionable whether we live it ourselves.
The analogy of Bush to Hitler is flawed. Hitler volunteered to fight in the trenches in WWI. Bush joined the National Guard and went awol. Hitler never knew his father, Mr. Schickelgruber. Bush rode his daddy's name into power. Hitler alleged that the Poles fired first. Bush makes no such pretense about Iraq. Hitler was a national socialist. Bush is a national capitalist. All they had in common was that each came to power after being refused a majority vote through an imperfect electoral system.
The better analogy is between the American people today and the Germans of 1938: Flag-waving isolated beer-and-pretzel chauvinists bent on world domination with their eyes closed.
Bush's first act of belligerance toward Iraq was the bunker bombing of "the Farm," a residential compound frequented by Saddam's wife, that expectedly killed innocent men, women and children. With no declaration of war, no threat to the United States, and no concern for the rule of law among nations, he propounded a right to assassinate the ruler of a sovereign nation by remotely and blindly directing massively destructive weapons, calculated also to kill innocent people, because he believed the ruler to be violating international norms. Now that he knows where Saddam is, there can be no reason for hiding from the citizens of a democracy why he allegedly believed that Saddam was lounging there that night just as we were preparing to wipe him out. We need to know who said what and how it was verified. And what if Bush had managed to cremate Saddam along with the innocents he seared limb from limb, with nothing and nobody on the ground to protect the violently divided country from chaos? What did our President think he was going to do next?
About a hundred miles southwest of Baghdad, about 2550 years
ago, Nebuchadnezzar II, the villain of the Old Testament, son of Nabopollassar,
built the famous Hanging Gardens for one of his more exotic wives who didn't
adjust well to the Babylonian sun. Nabopollassar had recently taken Babylon
back from the four hundred year rule of the Assyrians, who had kicked out the
Kassites, who had sacked the city that Hammurabi had built and ruled it themselves
for about six hundred years. Because the Hebrews sided with the Egyptians in
yet another skirmish for ascendancy in this ancient arena, Nebuchadnezzar II
hauled them off at around the same time that he hung the gardens.
Baghdad sits on the Tigris, Babylon on the Euphrates. Mesopotamia is the land "between the rivers." The rivers converge south of the more ancient city of Ur where the waters then flow into the Persian Gulf, separated today from present-day Iraq by present-day Kuwait, thanks to relatively recent attempts of Great Britain to establish its own far-flung empire. To the northwest, present-day Israel separates Syria and the rest of the Arab-speaking world from the Mediterranean, again thanks to the defunct and disastrous empire of the British island.
Somewhere around 60,000 years ago, by latest reckoning, modern homo sapiens migrated out of east Africa into an area called "the Levant," paralleling the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, home to, among others, the Canaanites, Philistines, Samarians and Phoenicians of old and the Palestinians, Israelis, Lebanese, Syrians and Jordanians of today. The area was already inhabited by Neandertals, human beings of slightly larger brain size than our own who had evolved from earlier African migrations. The evidence unearthed so far suggests that these early inhabitants had not developed the tools, speech, and organizational skills of the new arrivals but managed to coexist with them for around 30,000 years until they disappeared rather suddenly about 28,000 years ago.
We may never know for sure, but subsequent treatment of their brothers and sisters suggests that the newcomers were anything but kind to their distant cousins.
With the Mediterranean on one side and the desert on the other, the Levant was the bridge between and among Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia Minor, and Europe. Trading caravans, but mostly armies, traversed the land of the Canaanites and Samarians, killing, sacking, capturing and pillaging along the way.
The earliest settlements that might earn the name "city" or "town" appear to have sprung up in lower Mesopotamia about 6500 years ago. Together known as Sumer or Sumeria, some of their names were Ur, Uruk, Eridu, Ubaid, Kish, Lagash and Nippur, south of Babylon. They appear to have warred all with another and erected massive walls for protection from one another and to fight off nomad invaders such as the Akkadians from the north. As soon as people assembled and cultivated wealth, they were attacked by those who assembled to steal it. According to Sumerian legend, Sargon I, who united Akkad with Sumeria about 2340 B.C., was placed in a basket-boat by his mother and set adrift, was rescued and became a cup-bearer to the king, then overthrew the king and took the throne himself.
About 300 years before Sargon, to the southwest on the other side of the Levant, Egyptian pharaohs started building the first of the pyramids. Meanwhile, to the north of Babylon the Assyrians united under warrior-kings along the upper Tigris at Ashur and Nineveh.
The impending regime change in California appeared somewhat removed from the looming transition in the cradle of civilization until I saw the bumper sticker. Beneath the red-white-and-blues neatly placed in each corner of the rear window, the freedom-machine in front of me proclaimed: "Prosperity is my birthright."
This American birthright is the downfall of the likes of Gray Davis and Saddam Hussein. Making up 4.6% of world population, Americans consume 43% of the world's gasoline driving one-third of the world's automobiles roughly 50% of total world miles.
It's our birthright.
While 800 million people, three times the population of the United States, suffer from malnutrition, Americans suffer mostly from obesity, eating 815 billion calories per day, about 200 billion more than necessary.
It's our birthright.
According to the UN, Americans and Europeans together spend $17 billion a year on pet food, $4 billion more than necessary to provide everyone in the world with basic health and nutrition.
It's our birthright to be obese, stuck in traffic, breathing poison, and swearing at one another through the windshield.
Though the method of recall differs a bit, Hussein, like Davis, gave at least the appearance, if not the reality, of standing in the way of Americans' god-given manifest destiny to be now and forever prosperous
If it's our birthright and it hasn't shown up yet, someone must be keeping it from us
Get oil back down to $20 a barrel, and California will be back up on its feet. Until then, "asta la vista, baby."
Example of democracy
Eisenhower warned us about the "military-industrial complex." This is it. The overlapping memberships on the boards of military contractors, empire-crazed right-wing "think tanks," the Department of Defense and the National Security Council tell the story. Dick Cheney, Lynn Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Nelson Gibbs, Dov Zakheim, Richard Armnitage, Peter Teets, James Roche, Stephen Hadley, Robert Joseph, Kathleen Bailey, Stephen Hadley, Gordon England and Stephen Cambone make up just the short list of those with one foot in the defense industry and the other in high-ranking positions with Bush's war councils.
Bush is just their stupid white front man who left the gate open for them.
The policies of enriching the rich with tax cuts, opening the environment for exploitation, and starting wars to hand everything else over to friends of George in the form of military expenditures are not coincidentally linked. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported recently that the situation in Afghanistan, especially for women, is possibly worse now than under the Taliban, and American supported Afghan "authorities" are committing the worst of it, raping and oppressing women like never before, especially any who dare to venture out without the burka, reminders of the American occupation.
Meanwhile, no one knows where Bin Laden is or what he and others may be planning next; the US has lost its world favor after 9/11 and scuttled international cooperation; the economy is going to hell; the poor are getting poorer everywhere; Iraq is in chaos; Africans are starving to death, dying of aids and other diseases, and killing one another in civil war; the Middle East is exploding; the ability of the US today to keep the peace in places like Liberia has reached an all-time low; and the US has done everything it can to render the UN irrelevant.
Rising stars are the likes of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, and General Dynamics. Serving on the board of Lockheed Martin from 1994 to 2001 was Lynne Cheney; its CEO, Peter Teets, is now Undersecretary of the Air Force and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office.
Northrop-Grumman's former Vice-president, James Roche, is today Secretary of the Air Force; Assistant Secretary is former Northrop comptroller Nelson Gibbs. Former Northrop consultants and advisor board members are Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.
Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is a former vice president of General Dynamics. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitrage served on Ratheon's board of directors and consulted for Boeing.
Thus the example of democracy that we intend to impose on the world.
Meanwhile, American twinkie media pretend to be perplexed at why the rest of the world doesn't understand that our motives are pure and we just want to help.
Microcosm in the middle
It is the same warring for resources with tribal and superstitious overtones to better convince the wretched to kill and die for the cause that has been going on since modern hominids first drew on the walls of caves. The U.S. and its dwindling circle of friends drain the world's resources to maintain their fountains and palaces while most of the species live and die in misery and starvation. Iraq was a microcosm in the middle, a mirror that had to be broken.
Sex, lies and war
Clinton besmirched his Presidency when he lied about his liaison with a young twit in the White House, at least according to his own version, because he wanted to protect Chelsea and Hillary from the truth. Somehow this never works. The real legacy of the affair will not be his entry in the history books, but George W. Bush. Not so much because it helped Shrub squeak into the stained office, which it surely did, but because history will not resist comparing Clinton's lies with those of his successor, and maybe even suggest a lineage. Covering up a little nookie in the Oval Office is one thing. Lying to the world about your reason for starting a war is another. Clinton lost his personal credibility. Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz, et al have destroyed the credibility of the United States of America. This country had an opportunity to use its economic domination and military power to make the world safe for democracy. That's all gone now. The US has survived incompetent and dishonest presidents, but this is different. Lying to escape calumny or to fill your own pockets or those of your friends is not new to American politics and has seldom caused a ripple in foreign affairs. Lying to start a war begins a new era. This sort of thing rarely ends well, as when Saddam Hussein claimed that Kuwait was pumping Iraqi oil and Adolf Hitler claimed the Poles fired first. Welcome to the New American Century.
Flipping the switch
The alacrity with which Bush flipped the switch at death row in Texas might have warned us of a pre-emptive strike foreign policy that doesn't care much about what happens when you're wrong. Depending on which side of the switch you're on, so far, so good, except for one thing. Few in the world trust us anymore, of those who did, and neither the role of world policeman nor of world executioner can come to much good this way.
Bush promised today to bring the Al-Qaeda/Saudi suicide bombers to justice.
Bushies are gloating over critics of the AWOL reservist's victory lap on the USS Abraham Lincoln. We just couldn't stand the sight of a US victory. The goal (remember?) was to enforce UN Resolution 1441 which called for the disarming of Iraq of weapons banned after the 1991 war. So far, no one has found any. ("We came to bear country, we came loaded for bear and we found out the bear wasn't here.") The opening salvo on a restaurant in a residential area killed innocent women and children in clear violation of the Geneva Accords on an unsubstantiated hunch that maybe Saddam, who was so afraid of being poisoned in his own palaces that he had each prepare three meals every day, decided to dine out the night that Bush said we were prepared to attack and kill him. Victory. US troops secured Iraq's oil wells while the rest of the country descended into anarchy. Victory. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations, and traditional alliances across Europe are no more. Victory. We attacked a small starving country destitute from a decade of embargo and defeated it.. Victory. We toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in the presence of about a dozen Iraqi teenagers, but made it look like throngs of Iraqis cheered the event. Victory. We killed a lot more of them than they killed of us. Victory. Meanwhile, Reiner Luyken, writing for Die Zeit in Hamburg (# 19, 2003), reports from the ground in Afghanistan that US forces are arresting Afghans without charges, holding them in squalid conditions that make Guantanamo Bay look like a vacation home, overseeing their physical and psychological injury and torture, and refusing to allow meaningful access by the International Red Cross. An American fighter jet, Luyken reports, recently bombed a home in the village of Schkin killing eleven innocent civilians. These victories aren't shown on US tv. They don't sell puppy chow.
Triumph of the Will, Part II
It was grand theater on the flight deck of a mighty aircraft carrier. Martin Scorsese. Francis Ford Coppola. Steven Spielberg. Donald Riefenstahl. Bushy the Vampire Slayer cruised in on a jet and proclaimed victory. George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Condeleeza Rice, Tommy Franks, Paul Wolfowitz, et al, all said they had to disarm Iraq because it would be too late to wait for Saddam Hussein to use his weapons of mass destruction against us and they had a duty to protect the American people. Asked for proof, they first said that they had it, but couldn't show it for security reasons. What they finally laid out was immediately shown to be stale plagiarism. They tried again and it took barely 24 hours for the world to discover that the second attempt was a rank forgery. Then they said that we would get the information from captured members of the Iraqi high command who would no longer have reason to lie, but who have all so far confirmed that any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were either destroyed or decayed over time. Bush says they're just sticking with their old lies (the Iraqis, not the Americans). Rumsfeld now says that we can better trust the ordinary people of Iraq to tell us the truth. Still nothing. Iraq is a big country, the size of California, says Bush, and it will take time to sift through all that sand. America is the only country in the world where not a single journalist has suggested that, if a thousand US inspectors and 150,000 troops can't find the stuff today, Bush and Rumsfeld lied when they said that they knew it was there, poised to strike us, even if they find it buried somewhere in the desert tomorrow. Rumors that some of it was destroyed only days before the attack may suggest why the US couldn't wait. Justification for their war might slip away. We killed over 30,000 Iraqis (a clean war because only 122 Americans have so far given their lives for it.) and still don't know where Saddam is, let alone his grand world-threatening arsenal of Armageddon. We ravaged Afghanistan and still don't even know where Osama bin Laden is. Bush needed to proclaim victory while diverting attention from one bloody failure after another. Leni Riefenstahl couldn't have done it better.
The President of the United States starts and ends every day with a prayer to his god, wants to give public tax money to so-called "faith-based initiatives," has directed the Justice Department to uphold laws that force every school child to pledge allegiance to a United States "under god," has told his countrymen that the third branch of government will be led by "common sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from god, and those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench," and in all other matters formulates the policies of his administration according to a fundamentalist christion religious revivalism. Iraq, on the other hand, will not be led by a bunch of Islamic Imams. Wrong religion.
A $19 ticket to Las Vegas
Bush's speechwriters couldn't lose. Had there been more terrorist attacks, the text could have read, "See, our job's not finished and that's why we're sending in the troops." Since there weren't more terrorist attacks, it read, "See, it's working." I sense a parallel here to what we've done at our airports. The 9/11 terrorists all bought tickets and quietly boarded through the gates without incident. The US response was to send in the troops in jungle camouflage with machine guns and force everyone to buy a ticket to get through the gates. Just like the 9/11 terrorists. Want to meet someone at the gate at LAX? Buy a $19 ticket to Las Vegas. It'll cost you more to get out of the parking garage. Attacking Iraq had nothing to do with terrorist activity, unless one wants to bring up the grenade attack on US soldiers at Falluja. Maybe it didn't get to the speechwriters in time. Want to commit a terrorist special event? Plan it in Hamburg or New York. Just like the 9/11 terrorists.
Kicking the habit
Shrub once kicked the alcohol syndrome, or so he says, although like acid-head-turned-jesus-freaks before him, he needed a few shots of god to fill the hole. Now the question is whether he can kick the military hero syndrome. Hero worship victory celebration speeches and photo-ops with the troops in boots and flak jackets seem to give him the escape and kick he once craved from a six-pack. This one might be harder to beat, since god is already on his side here. After two wars in 18 months, they're on a roll together. North Korea? No. Already have the nukes. Syria? No. Stirred up enough trouble over there already and too many relatives. Cuba? Perfect. No nukes, no relatives, no problem. Bonus: they'll be voting again in Florida soon.
One of the complaints the American colonists had against King George was that he would force them to house his soldiers in their homes. This practice was so onerous that the Founding Fathers of the American Republic specifically prohibited the "quartering of soldiers" as the third entry in their Bill of Rights. This sensitivity to being forced to give up one's facilities to occupying soldiers was apparently lost on Donald Rumsfeld. When Iraqis showed up at their schoolhouse to demand that the American soldiers leave the premises, commandeered as a military compound, so that their children could get an education, the soldiers shot and killed a dozen of them, including some of the school kids, and seriously injured fifty more. The Falluja massacre. No one may ever know who fired the first shot. What we can at least surmise at this point is that the American military is frightened of the Viet Nam syndrome. The adventure in Viet Nam was lost when the body bags started coming home to Iowa. A million Vietnamese, plus or minus a few hundred thousand, were killed, but they didn't matter. To this day, it is only the 50,000 Americans that ever get mentioned here. There's a memorial to each and every one of them in Washington, but not to a single Vietnamese. The lesson learned from that experience is that American soldiers are to protect themselves at any cost - any cost of the Iraqi people. When in doubt, shoot to kill. Even when all you're doing is defending the quartering of soldiers in their schoolyards. Again, one has to ask why only the Americans, never the British, shoot to kill women and children at checkpoints, journalists in their hotel rooms, and children trying to go back to school. Perhaps the British learned a different lesson from their colonial rampage.
Baghdad Don today: The US "came not to conquer, not to occupy, but to liberate, and the Iraqi people know this." Tthe coalition has no intention of owning or running Iraq." "Iraq belongs to you." Baghdad Bob has nothing on this guy.
We knew this
Those of us who opposed this invasion did so for a variety of reasons: (1) since it was a UN treaty that was allegedly being violated, the UN should decide how to enforce it; (2) the US would set a horrible precedent for the world with its preemptive strike doctrine; (3) the proposed attack was as much an attack on the UN and the international order it stands for, as on Iraq; (4) once the US had rattled its sabres and inspectors were back in the country, Iraq was under control; (5) once Saddam was gone, the country would be plunged into chaos and the anti-American Shiite majority would thanklessly take over; (6) the US would lose the goodwill it had established around the world after 9/11; (7) the death and destruction of primarily innocent civilians such a war would cause would further isolate the US and could not be justified; (8) the real motivations behind the war were just too obvious given the backgrounds of everyone in the administration calling for it, who had made it abundantly clear that they wished to establish a "New American Century" which first required the US to take military control of the Islamic oil-producing region; (9) the US would only weaken itself by overextending its economic and military capabilities; (10) intensified US presence in the region would cause further resentment; and (11) the war would make the US more, nor less, vulnerable to terrorism. What we didn't expect is that we wouldn't even find the weapons of mass destruction that the administration was so cock-sure were there. Now the Bush administration tells us that, gee, that wasn't the real reason we attacked Iraq, anyway. We knew this.
Tyranny in the eye of the beholder
Rumsfeld, in response to a question about Iraqis establishing an Islamic government: "It ain't gonna happen." He's been hanging around Bush too long. Then he said, the US isn't going to replace one dictator with another. The same day, Islamic leaders, trying to quickly establish Islamic control in war-torn Islamic Iraq to preempt a US-arranged quasi-military "democratic" regime, pronounce that they don't want to replace one tyrant with another. Finally we can agree on something.
O ye of little faith
After his ritual christian evangelical prayer meeting in the morning, George W. Bush the Second, a member of a political dynasty supported by oil wealth, who came to power in the US in an election in which less than half of the population particpated, less than half of those voted for him, and with a little help from the election ministry of a state ruled by his brother, sends a retired American general to oil-rich Islamic Iraq to install a secular egalitarian participatory democracy. Why so much skepticism?
Rumsfeld the magician
Today Rumsfeld told the world that the US will not allow an Islamic state in Iraq, no matter what 60% of the population there may want or think. And we'll make sure of that, by the way, without occupying their country.
American Life, after all
Whether the US wreaked more or less damage on the Iraqi people in 30 days than Saddam in 30 years the world may never be able to straighten out, but the havoc sustained to the fledgling international order and the brutalization of the American people may be more quickly discerned. Smart bombs are no match for the stupidity of war and mind-numbing propaganda. The attack assumed a moral superiority to rules and concepts of international law and behavior that took two world wars and tens of millions of lives to design. Meanwhile, Americans glue bumper stickers on their SUVs proclaiming "My president can beat your dictator" in unshakable conviction that all is well in the world now that their aircraft carriers patrol the seas, they can kill anything that moves with Rumsfeld cocktails in far-away lands, and nothing and nobody can stop them. Saddam Hussein is history we gloat, while everyone else is scared sick about the future and how simple-mindedly we mix satellite-guided nighthawk bombing runs with a god-on-our-side patriotic frenzy and then watch it all to the be-true-to-your-school chearleading of Fox "News" like just another football game. The fits and bits of protest here are reflected in Madonna's defense of her American Life video when she said that she's "lucky to be an American citizen for many reasons - one of which is the right to express myself freely...and that's how I honor my country," then changed her mind when it appeared that her honor might hurt her sales. Material girl, after all. American Life, after all.
Huey, Dewey and Louie
Everything I know about economics I learned from Donald Duck. When I was a kid, a long, long time ago, Donald Duck comics were all lessons in economics. Uncle Scrooge was really a shrewd businessman. The episode that always stuck with me was where Huey, Dewey and Louie found the goose that laid the golden egg, except instead of gold the eggs were filled with greenback dollars. Being unselfish, the boys decided to share their fortune with the whole world and spread the money far and wide. Everyone went on vacation because everyone was rich. But when Huey, Dewey and Louie arrived at the country club beachhouse, there was no one to serve them. Everyone was rich, no one had to work anymore, and everything went to hell. When the world realized the problem, everyone gave the money back, went back to work, and lived happily ever after. Only in the comics. Today's goose is oil. You just pump it out of the ground. It's no coincidence that every country rich in oil is poor in everything else. Poor in education, poor in skills, poor in political organization, and poor in freedom, from Iraq to Venezuela. The difference in the real world is that, instead of spreading the wealth, Huey, Dewey and Louie fight over it. While the goal in comic books may be to make the world a better place, the goal in the real world is to make a better place for yourself. In the real world, the golden goose is an albatross because the thugs inevitably take over. Saddam Hussein was such a thug. Now that Saddam is gone, the US, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, virtually the whole world are fighting over which thug will gather the oily eggs. The people of Iraq have the extraordinary misfortune to live - and die - in the land of the goose.
It was 1967. In The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Ben seeks a room in Berkeley so he can stalk his future girl-friend and is asked, "You're not one of those agitators." Ben says, "What?" "One of those outside agitators?" "Oh, no," says Ben. The South blamed Negro discontent on outside agitators from the North. Reagan blamed the troubles in Berkeley during the free speech movement on outside agitators. Nixon blamed anti-war demonstrations everywhere on outside agitators. The Bush "White House" now blames Shiite anti-Americanism on "outside agents" from Iran, trying to sound more original. If outside agents are not supposed to be trying to guide the future of Iraq, what the hell are we doing there?
Still no one knows what happened to all those Iraqi soldiers and their weapons. Meanwhile, Shiites are filling the streets and buying up all the weapons and ammunition they can get their hands on, preparing to take over. Now the US says it doesn't want to stick around for this. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung from Munich said today: "Iraq, a creation of Britain, has been set afloat. Because the British and their imperial successors, the USA, too long thoughtlessly nurtured the rise of Saddam Hussein, they saw themselves forced to straighten out this disastrous development in a colonial correction-war. An order of strong Islamic mold could follow. A cynic would have to venture the prediction that in a few years another violent correction might come due - because the liberators of 2003 envisioned the new Iraqi democracy differently."
Made in China
Recent reports overwhelmingly suggest that if free elections were held today in Jordan, fundamentalist Shiite candidates would win in a landslide with the mandate to install an anti-American Islamic theocracy. This would be true also in Saudi Arabia. And Iraq. Iran, which has barely over two decades of experience with nuovo Islam, is not exactly thrilled and may turn out to be the leading edge of westernization in the Middle East, suggesting the historical process that we may have to endure in the region. If we don't blow it. The Shah was rare among the kings and dicatotors the US has supported to the extent that he may have actually planted our seed. Few Arabs prefer American aircraft carriers and the 3rd Infantary to a pipsqueak like Saddam. Whether the Iraq test range for the revolution in military tactics and technology will hasten or dampen America's cultural and economic influence in the area may be the only relevant question. Our problem is that our culture and economics need their oil and need it now. The US purpose today, as it always has been, is to thwart nationalized oil, whether under communist, nationalist, Islamic, or even democractic rule. The only people who can't lose no matter what happens sell American flags to Americans to fly from the antennaes of their Japanese SUVs. Most are made in China.
The US has finally forged a meaningful coalition of Middle East nations to deal with Iraq. Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey have joined in a declaration that the British and American "occupation forces" should restore order and then get out as fast as they came in.
The Empire Strikes Out
The best analysis I have found yet on the larger problem is The Empire Strikes Out - The "New Imperialism" and its Fatal Flaws, November 26, 2002, by Ivan Eland, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute. The notes provide a comprehensive bibliography. Another excellent essay is Toward Universal Empire - The Dangerous Quest for Absolute Security by David C. Hendrickson, chair of the department of political science at Colorado College. For analyis of the Project for a New American Century, see "Welcome to the New American Century."
Mostly young vandals and looters ransacking hospitals, businesses, homes, museums, and the history of the origins of civilization shouted "Thank you, Mr. Bush, thank you, thank you" and we finally felt appreciated. At least Fox News did. Those images are not much favored right now, but I look for them to come back as enduring symbols of this adventure. I expect to see a political cartoon soon drawing the looters wearing Bechtel and Halliburton t-shirts.
"The right of the people peacably to assemble"
The US sent its young soldiers to die and kill, and risks its future to an ever-expanding and costly military perimeter, to free the people of Iraq to speak out and peaceably assemble in mass demonstrations...against the US. The US may well succeed in building a nation in Iraq the way Britain once did in India - by uniting the natives against the hated invader.
Not too surprising
In an admittedly uncontrolled poll taken today by the German CNN affiliate N-TV, over 80% of those calling in said that the US cannot be trusted to conduct an honest inspection of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
So we lied
Rumsfeld said today: “Inspectors didn’t find anything and I doubt we will. What we will do is find the people who’ll tell us." So we lied when we said we knew he had the stuff. So what? It's a done deal. What's anybody going to do about it now?
"Uplifiting, heroic, compelling and dramatic"
Everyone wants to film the Jessica Lynch story and make lots of money. Another Hollywood action hero movie. The great American passtime. But it won't look like this.
Freedom fries with that?
You can criticize America for a lot of things, but not for lack of imagination. Jill, for example, has the solution to our troubles with France. One big ketchup bomb over Paris ought to do it.
The great ponzi scheme. To cover the consequences, failures, or unfinished business of the last war, just start another. First Afghanistan, then Iraq, now Syria, and then.... Meanwhile, Karzai is barely the mayor of a portion of Kabul and must be protected every second by American mercenary para-military body guards. The rest of Afghanistan is back to ancient tribal anarchy and Osama bin Laden is alive and well. The concept of controlling Iraq by dividing it into its traditional parts - Mosul, Baghdad and Basra - worked under the Ottoman Empire when the Ottoman Turks held an iron hand over the region. (Kuwait was part of the Basra province) When that collapsed as a result of the invasions brought about by the European war of 1914-1918, the British scissored out out an odd "nation" that could only be held together by ruthless dictatorship. Hence Saddam. The next attempt to keep this tattered quilt from unraveling has little chance of succeeding without another iron hand. A tightly knit and peaceful democratic Iraq of Kurds, Shiites and Saddamite Sunnis is a mirage, while a loose confederation of such disparate and bitter enemies is sand in the wind. The US will seek to forge a "government" that will protect western control over the oil wells, one way or the other, but this will fail. Everyone knew going in that what will take its place will be worse than Saddam, but the short term goals of the National Capitalist American Workers Party prevailed.
And that includes the Pentagon
Asked to speak to US threats delivered to Syria this afternoon, Rumsfeld began, "The United States, and that includes the Pentagon..." It is good that he cleared this up. Especially after he shipped Chalabi into Iraq before Powell and Bush had a chance to discuss the matter.
04/13/03 (12:45 am PST)
Just after 11:00 pm PST, while watching CNN's Brent Sadler heading toward Tikrit with his camera team, reporting back to the US and the Pentagon about abandoned military facilities and the "eerie silence," and at least pretending to be stunned by their own "exclusive" only-on-CNN private intelligence operation, I emailed CNN@cnn.com: "You guys are blooming idiots. The reason the tank stalls are empty and there has been no looting is that they have changed their tactics. You are sauntering into guerilla warfare and are going to get yourselves killed, you stupid fools." One hour later they were fired upon by automatic weapons at a checkpoint which they were forced to try to run,. They had been told to put down their camera, but picked it right back up and starting filming again. Their "security" personnel fired back at the Iraqis, possibly injuring or killing some of them. A few minutes after a high-speed chase CNN suddenly lost all contact with the convoy. The other news channels are not covering the story, probably because it was a CNN "exclusive," but Der Spiegel carries a brief description already at this moment. No argument can be made on behalf of CNN that Sadler was not conducting a reconnaisance operation. Sadler and the CNN anchors said as much themselves, even reporting on the reaction of the Pentagon to what CNN was broadcasting back to the US military. CNN put the crew in extreme danger, converting them into military reconnaissance, jeopardizing the lives of reporters from here on out, to say nothing of Sadler and his entire 7-vehicle convoy.
Over three weeks ago, Der Spiegel published an interview of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who said, about a discussion he had with Paul Wolfowitz: "His view was that the US had to liberate a whole string of countries from their terrorist rulers, if necessary by force. Ultimately a new world order would come out of this - more democracy, peace, stability, and security for people." This was nothing new. Wolfowitz and his Project for a New American Century friends have been saying this for years. There are hawks, then there's the Wolf. Now that the US has invaded Iraq and Fischer has campaigned for a strong Europe to possibly get the world back to a balance of power, and now that Fischer is considered a strong candidate to become the first foreign minister for a strengthened European Union, the Wolf sends the German government a strongly worded objection to Fisher's 3-week old interview, saying first that Fischer should not have revealed the contents of the discussion and second that he misreported it. Just a hunch, but something tells me that Fischer has the better recollection. And that the Wolf and the rest of the Republican lair in the White House would rather not see Joschka lead the new European Foreign Ministry.
Make my day
Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson stand up strong for Donald of Arabia. As they should. They make millions playing soldier in their Hollywood sandbox. Except they don't really fit the part. Most G.I.s, like posthumous citizens Jose Guitierrez and Jose Garlbay, and like petite Jessica Lynch, were just looking for a job with health care and a way out of ghetto or Appalachian poverty. Or to escape the violence. In the three weeks they went to war in Iraq more Americans were shot to death back home. Those who get back safely will at least know how to defend themselves. Maybe they can get Britney Spears to play Jessica.
"Freedom is untidy." Donald Rumsfeld, 04/11/03
"It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," stormed Rumsfeld, his hand chopping the air for emphasis in response to reporters' questions at a Pentagon briefing. (as quoted in Reuters from a press conference) The word "untidy" appears to be a favorite expression of the Donald. Meanwhile, tonight (11:08 EST) on CNN, the normally stoic Christianne Amanpour appears to have barely beaten back the tears before greeting the camera to talk about hospital horrors in a bloodied and destroyed Iraq. Rumsfeld's emotions were directed at the reporters who dared to report this stuff "over and over again." ("I picked up a newspaper today, and I couldn't believe it," he said. "I read eight headlines. And it talked about chaos, violence, unrest ... I've never seen anything like it." "And here is a country that's being liberated. Here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator. And they're free.") "We're doing what we can," the network quoted a US soldier, which was nothing. The prediction of German military historians ("First time for everything" 03/26/03 above) that the cities would not be taken without laying them waste appears to have been strangely prophetic.
New world order
A Lebanese editorial today in "al Safir" claimed that we are witnessing planned chaos, right from command headquarters. The anarchy in the streets of Baghdad is "intentional, organized and protected" it said, to confirm the US mission and to distort the truth. Their raging cynicism and our callous arrogance are the new world order.
Private intelligence operation
If the US can intimidate whole armies to quit and walk home barefoot because they have no chance, the question asked all over the world today, except in the US, is what will the US do with this power? What concerns people all over the world, not just in the Middle East, is not so much our power, but that we don't ask the question.
Rumsfeld complains how the media and military observers prematurely criticized his war strategy, then prematurely criticized the lack of any control over the ensuing anarchy, emphasizing how he proved everyone wrong on the first item. Besides, the troops were needed in the field because there was still a war going on. Ingenious. The man is a master at getting away with this stuff. Either that, or Rumsfeld has shocked and awed the press corps into numb submission. Among the criticisms of the war strategy was that there weren't enough personnel to do the job and that we rushed into this without considering the consequences. The job was to remove the government and bring freedom to Iraq. Since the first consequence of removing a government is anarchy, you need to have the resources on the ground to restore order. Let alone establish freedom and democracy. There weren't enough personnel to do it.
According to Der Spiegel this morning, Hans Blix said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper "El Pais" published today that the US invasion of Iraq had little to do with weapons of mass destruction and that the US had long planned to remove Saddam Hussein. By March, he said, US hawks became impatient. The allegation that Iraq possessed such weapons, Blix said, was undermined by the falsification of documents, which tends to prove that even the US could not have seriously believed that the threat existed. At this stage, said Blix, the US should be even less convinced than before of its allegations. The loss of life and the destruction of a country, he said, are an exceptionally high price to pay considering that the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction could have been controlled by UN inspections. The attack on Iraq, Blix continued, will not lessen, but increase, the danger of proliferation. Washington, said Blix, has sent the wrong signal - that a country risks attack when it doesn't have biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Proof is the difference in the way the US is dealing with North Korea. "When a state has the impression that its security is guaranteed, it doesn't need weapons of mass destruction," Spiegel quoted Blix in the interview with "El Pais." "The guarantee of security is the first line of defense against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
he poor man's version
They're dancing in the streets because the witch is dead. They're dancing in the streets because it appears that the fighting and killing will soon be over. They're dancing in the streets because they no longer have to fear being dragged out in the middle of the night by Saddam's SS or disembodied in the morning by Bush's B-52s. They're dancing in the streets because they now know whose ass to kiss. Had the Americans been humiliated, the dancing in the streets around the world would have thrown the planet out of orbit. The question now is, as it has always been, will The Empire stop here? Is this just one more "dust-up" in a century-long crusade to conquer the planet for western profiteers? It has already been said that the rest of the world toils so that America can consume because it's own resources can't support its vaunted standard of living. Is this unsurpassed military power in the service of freedom or of freedom-fries? If western society has some god-given right to exploit resources around the planet, shouldn't the starving half of the world have a right to the western food that is largely produced from the exploited resources? Is Islam to take the place of communism as the alternative to western domination for a large segment of the world? After the Middle East, will China emerge as the counterpoint to America? Will Americans live from here on out in a state of siege against terrorist attacks everywhere, from San Francisco to Sri Lanka? How proudly will Americans plant their flags on their lawns after having subdued a country starved, decimated and disarmed by decades of internal and external brutality and sanctions? Will the US ultimately succumb to the necessity of maintaining a far-flung military to dominate world resources in order to support its far-flung military to protect its power to dominate world resources? Is the plundering at this moment of what little is left in the shops of Basra and Baghdad just the poor man's version when there is no one around to stop you?
Why not the British?
Why did not the British kill journalists? Why did not the British kill American soldiers with "friendly fire?" Why did not the British kill women and children at their checkpoints? Why did not the British hoist the Union Jack to say that they had come to conquer? Why did not the British shoot down their own aircraft? Why did not the British bomb schools or hospitals? Why was it only Rumsfeld's forces that did these things?
From the Guardian of April 2 by Arundhati Roy:
"While the American people will end up paying for the war, oil companies, weapons manufacturers, arms dealers, and corporations involved in "reconstruction" work will make direct gains from the war. Many of them are old friends and former employers of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice cabal. Bush has already asked Congress for $75bn. Contracts for "re-construction" are already being negotiated. The news doesn't hit the stands because much of the US corporate media is owned and managed by the same interests. Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tony Blair assures us is about returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people. That is, returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people via corporate multinationals. Like Shell, like Chevron, like Halliburton." See the whole article
"Kiss your ass goodbye" (see "Back to you, Wolf"
No sense in trying to summarize this stuff about the murder of eastern and
western non-embedded journalists:
International Federation of Journalists Crimes of war that must be punished 04/08/03
Committee to Protect Journalists Protest Letter 04/08/03
Reporters without borders 1 Outraged 04/08/03
Reporters without borders 1 US military deliberately firing at journalists 04/08/03
Rumsfeld's top choice for puppet Iraqi adviser is ex-banker and embezzler Ahmad Chalabi who left Iraq in 1958 and never returned. This is the guy who kept saying that Iraqis would immediately desert and rise up against Saddam as soon as the US Army showed up. He will have no real power, if for no other reason because he won't be trusted by his "countrymen." His main qualification is his willingness to "negotiate" with Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, Shell Oil, Unocal, et al. Rumsfeld's choice for "Minister of Information" is ex-CIA director James Woolsley who last week in a speech in Los Angeles referred to the war in Iraq as the beginning of World War IV (the cold war being WWIII), with Iran and Syria next on the list. The top job, "Coordinator of Civil Administration," will go to Jay Garner, Rummy's old friend and weapons firm executive, who will be setting up shop any day now even as the battle rages. One of his first duties will be to privatize the Iraqi oil industry, i.e., hand it over to loyal American oil companies. The Iraqis will have no say in the matter. This is apparently a top priority that can't wait for the war to end and likely the main reason the US doesn't want any meddling by the United Nations. Or by the likes of France, Germany and Russia. Colin Powell's State Department is not pleased, but Powell doesn't often get dealt in to this game of Old Rummy. For details from the beachside villas of Kuwait, see "What do the Americans want to control? As of now, everything." from the Daily Telegraph in London.
Even more inevitable than misery and death from war are propaganda and lies. Blair's fabricated and plagiarized proof of weapons of mass destruction and Colin Powell's forged documentation of Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Africa cannot be casually dismissed as errors of judgment at such a high level, especially in light of the lies since the invasion began. The big one, of course, is that the US is concerned only about freeing Iraq from the oppressive Saddam Hussein and will go away quietly once he's gone. Another is that all those people in civilian clothing shooting at US and British invaders are really Iraqi soldiers pressed into service against their will who have shed their uniforms in violation of the "rules of engagement." There is no doubt now that Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Yemenis, Palestinians, and Iraqis have been crossing the border into Iraq to join the fight against a common enemy. A recent photo by a non-embedded German photographer (Deutsche Presse Agentur) showing a teenage girl approaching a destroyed American tank, not with flowers, but with a pistol, in her hand is not likely to be brought up by President Rumsfeld in his next show-and-tell. The Iraqis will be glad when Saddam is gone, but only if the British and Americans leave right behind him, but no one this side of Jupiter believes this will happen.
Perhaps it's a coincidence that the percentage of Americans who wanted this war equals the percentage of those who call themselves christian. Perhaps not. All we know for sure is that this overlay of stone-age superstition has made it easier to recruit people to kill and die on all sides for over 2,000 years and that if Iraq produced bananas, god wouldn't have called on his reformed alcoholic born-again to send in the B-52s.
A caller to a radio talk show here yesterday said that we should rather nuke Iraq and the entire Middle East than risk one American life. Polls show that 50% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein caused the World Trade Center attack. The predominant attitude even among the Democratic "opposition" party is that the President should not be criticized in time of war. Can anyone seriously suggest that Iraqis who take up small arms against armored divisions to protect their families and cities, even if they are ruled by a brutal dictator, against Anglo-American hegemonic crusaders are any less informed or more irrational?
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Coalition spokespersons are to issue the following response to allegations
of inevitable collateral damage that could hamper the campaign to liberate Iraq,
and let the march of events move the issue back from page one:
"US Central Command is continuing its investigation into an allegation that Coalition [choose one] aircraft/forces/personnel/armored divisions [choose one] bombed/shot/attacked/burned/destroyed/maimed a [choose one] school/hospital/residential block/hotel full of reporters/wedding party/van full of women and children in earlier today. Central Command officials are reviewing targeting data for Coalition missions around the time of the alleged incident. Additional information will be released as it becomes available. Coalition forces target only legitimate military targets and go to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian facilities."
It wasn't the airplanes
The Soviet Union disintegrated because reality trumps ideology. The miscalculation of military advantage that dominates US airwaves today is beside the point. Looking through their world domination kaleidescope, the Elite Republican Guard ideologues - Perle, Wolfowitz, Libby, Rumsfeld, et al - that Bush has surrounded himself with have miscalculated human values and motivation along with America's true place in the world. "It wasn't the airplanes. It was ideology that killed the beast."
Just following orders revisited
William Branigan of the Washington Post embedded at the checkpoint saw it differently than the official US story about firing warning shots.
Treason in a democracy is keeping quiet.
It's starting to get scary in these United States. The concept that one should not voice dissent in time of war, the moral equivalent of martial law, has overtaken this country. Dissent is never more precious than in times like these. Just ask the dwindling survivors of the Holocaust. The Fox fascists are vilifying Madonna for saying something worthwhile for the first time in her professional life. Remember Hanoi Jane? Now it's Baghdad Madonna. If Madonna is guilty of treason, it's for pulling her "American Life" video and not standing up for it. It's not the right time for it, she said, defending herself against inane cries of treason by the same militarist elements in this country that the video exposes. Naturally, they don't like it. This is the only time for it. Treason in a democracy is keeping quiet. Especially in time of war. Shielding a leader from criticism for so long as he wages war is possibly the most dangerous idea in human history.
At the first whisper of criticism, the Dixie Chicks apologize and Madonna pulls her latest video from US distribution and denies that she ever meant a word of it. For more, see Freemuse. "Because something is happening here, but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones." Ballad of a Thin Man, Highway 61 Revisted, Bob Dylan, 1965.
When the witch is dead
Planning a northern front, the US sent an armada carrying 60,000 troops to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey to join up with the Kurds in the North of Iraq from Turkish territory. Bush's elite Republican Guard assumed that Turkey would do whatever the US tells it to do. In fact, the US will be lucky to cajole Turkey into refraining from sending in its own troops to make sure the Kurds stay put. This could bring in Iran, which has its own large Kurdish population that it also wishes to keep in check. An American-Kurdish alliance scares everyone in the region. The situation has become serious enough for Secretary of State Powell to leave Washington and travel to Ankara for personal talks. Potentially the Palestinians of the region, the Kurds were splintered into Iraq, Turkey, and Iran by the British after the First World War to better control the region's oil supplies. Their aspirations for a united Kurdistan have been mightily resisted by everyone around, but it is Saddam Hussein who has kept them in the tightest box. If the Republican Guard couildn't even figure out that they would have a problem driving 60,000 troops through Turkey in Humvees and Abrams tanks to hook up with the Kurds, what makes anyone think that they have a clue about what is going to happen once the witch is dead?
Finally thinking ahead
The body bags are starting to trickle in. At last we're thinking ahead. Two months ago, the Pentagon ordered 77,000 of them.
Just following orders
3/28/03: George Bush warns Iraqis that "just following orders" will
not be a defense.
3/31/03: American soldiers open fire on a van containing 13 unarmed women and children fleeing American bombardment of their town. The van doesn't stop when the Americans fire shots over the bow. The women trying to protect their children from B-52 bombers carrying 30 tons each of explosives know nothing about this martial tradition. A couple of crazed Americans shooting in the air is easiily the lesser hazard. Acting under strict orders from the President of the United States to shoot and kill anything that doesn't look right, the 21-year-old American soldiers murder seven of the unarmed women and children.
The thief and the thug
Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim is not showing up much in the list of American preferred post-war leaders, assuming the US gets a say in it. (See 3/25/03) Leading the short list, instead, is banker and aid embezzler Ahmed Chalabi and retired general Nizar al Khazraji who has been charged in Denmark with the war crime of using chemical weapons against the Kurds, one of the primary excuses that Bush and Blair keep bringing up for the war to take out Saddam. The advantage to the Americans of the thief and the thug is that they don't represent the majority of Iraqis. Both are in exile. Other Iraqi exiles, meanwhile, are streaming back to Iraq to fight the Americans and die for their country. These people are not "loyal to Saddam" as loyal American media prefer to call them. They're loyal to their country, or what is soon to be left of it. While American reporters pretend to be nonplused about the unexpectedly small number of refugees making their way to Jordan, Jordan's Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb notes that more Iraqis are leaving Jordan to go back.
Throwing it all away
On September 28, 2001, when the death toll from 9/11 was thought to be around
wrote in the Las Vegas Mercury:
"But we must not make the same mistake as the terrorists and kill innocent people. We must not commit terrorism ourselves, or we will be the murderers of those 6,000. We must seek justice, not revenge, or we will squander a great opportunity. Let's hope that when the president mobilizes the armed forces, it's a diversionary tactic. There are few, if any, targets that may be shelled or bombed with tanks and planes. With the entire world out looking for the creatures who murdered 6,000 innocent people, we will find them. For the first time in our history, the entire world is on our side. We can prove that we're different from our enemies or we can throw it all away in one more precipitous act of terror. That last option is exactly what the terrorists want us to do. ... What happens next is critical. The worst thing this country can do now is bomb the wrong targets, sacrificing more innocent civilians. ... There will be pressure to do something rash. We must resist it. If we do it right, we will unite the world behind us for a long time to come. If we don't do it right, we'll be right where we started or worse. Minus the New York 6,000."
So here we are. Right where we started. And worse. Minus all those who died on 9/11. We have made a hero out of a murderous tyrant, made murderous tyrants out of people who should be heroes, and united the entire world against us in less than 18 months. Somewhere in Pakistan, Osama watches his dreams come true on CNN. Saddam was on his list, too.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld threatened today that the US will hold Syria and Iran "accountable" for their "hostile acts" of allowing material and personnel to cross their borders into Iraq. (The US can't even keep drugs and aliens from crossing north into Texas.) He declined to affirm or deny that this was a threat of war. "Carefully phrased," he called it, sort of like "serious consequnces." Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Powell have clashed in the past over how best to handle Syria and other Islamic countries. Rumsfeld's threats today leave no doubt now that Powell is out of the picture, unless he caves in as he did with Iraq. Powell might as well resign, but Bush needs him to put up the facade of a moderate in the administration who has seen the light. The real problem, though, is how this is viewed in the Middle East. Rumsfeld is unmistakably in charge of US foreign policy. First Afghanistan, then Iraq, then Syria and Iran. They see the US under Rumsfeld as out to get Islam and take over the entire region and its resources. They may not be wrong. While anti-US protests rage everywhere else in the region, in Egypt, the one major Islamic state trying to be friendly with the US, protesters were chanting in the streets today: "Hosni Mubarak is CIA." No one in the region can watch from the sidelines now that the Bush Doctrine - you're either with us or against us - is sinking in. Or call it "Rumsfeld Roulette." Red or black. Rogue state or rogue superpower. Cruise missles or dragged through the streets by your own people.
Question and Answer
Question: When is a brutal dictator who tries to overrun a neighboring country
and uses chemical weapons not a threat to world peace?
Answer: When he is our brutal dictator.
Question: Why are B-52s loaded with thousands of tons of explosives not considered weapons of mass destruction?
Answer: Because they are our weapons of mass destruction.
All your fingers and toes
The main difference between discussions leading up to the war in the US and abroad is that in the US media the topic was, and is, always Iraq and Saddam Hussein, while everywhere else in the world the topic was, and is, the United States. US media feel compelled to treat the US as God's Gift with nothing but the purest of motives. The rest of the world hardly shares this view. To count the dictators we have supported on every continent of this planet you will need all your fingers and toes. The list includes the likes of Saddam Hussein. In the Middle East we exchange weapons for oil so that the autocrats there can use the weapons to suppress the people, which keeps the oil flowing to sell more arms, a military-political-economic perpertual motion machine. Only a Fox-News O'Reilly American can happily ignore the way Bush kept moving the goal posts, from enforcing the UN resolution to declaring the UN irrelevant, from disarmament to regime change, from regime change to exporting democracy throughout the Middle East and beyond, and who knows what next. It is not Iraq that threatens to dominate the world with a god-on-our-side arrogance, aircraft carriers patrolling every sea and ocean, a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction capable of obliterating mankind and every other creature on the planet, and a long history of intervening in other countries' affairs. Only a Fox-news O'Reilly American can forget how the US rejected the land-mine treaty and the Kyoto accords on the environment, tore up the ABM treaty, and threatened to take out the World Court, all recent examples of the arrogance of power and US disdain for international institutions. Since there are no land mines on US soil, and since the US has the military capability to plow through them, what should we care that they maim and kill men, women and children around the world? No, the issue everywhere else in the world is not Iraq. It's the United States.
Much is being made by Rumsfeld and other US spokesmen about the awful Iraqis fighting in civilian clothing on their own soil. They did this in Vietnam, too. Come to think of it, the guys we sent over to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs weren't wearing US Army issue, either. The British also once faced this dastard tactic against a bunch of war criminals led by a man named George Washington. We fight fair by bombing the fuck out of them with B-52s and drones where the guys pulling the joysticks could just as well be wearing their pajamas. During the war in Afghanistan, which is still going on, by the way, it was reported that Afghan fighters disdained the American tactic of crawling on their bellies rather than standing up like men and letting themselves get shot. Now it's the Iraqis who aren't cooperating.
News item: Rumsfeld sends another 120,000 troops to Iraq
"Operation Rolling Thunder" it was called. Defense Secretary Robert McNamera hawkishly led the way to inevitable victory over the wicked and technologically inferior Viet Cong. In 1964, the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" gave the President from Texas sweeping powers to employ "all necessary measures" to defend America against the dictatorial rule of a backward country thousands of miles away. The alleged incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, however, was a total fabrication. Initially, just a few thousand American advisers would do the trick, but America's superior firepower and technology proved inadequate against guerilla warfare by a determined adversary. Helicopter gunships and B-52 bombers were the weapons of choice, but only ground troops could fight these people on their own turf. "Surgical" bombing with "smart bombs" made its debut on the world stage, but the non-industrial economy of this third-world country offered few effective targets. Escalation after escalation, 20,000 turned into 40,000, turned into 200,000, then 400,000. Finally over 600,000 American soldiers hit the ground in Vietnam by mid-1968. The United States employed chemical warfare (napalm, agent orange) to no avail and invaded neighboring Cambodia, causing monumental destruction, death and social and political degeneration in the area. The U.S. economy and international esteem suffered permanent damage. The wicked enemy was willing to suffer heavy losses, while Americans got queasy just watching the stuff on tv. Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators filled the streets in a divided nation.
At last they agree
George Bush and Saddam Hussein agree at least on one thing. The United Nations can go to hell.
God have mercy on us
When it came to the word "relentless" in Bush's speech March 26, 2003, at MacDill Air Base in Florida, the translator for the German news TV station Phoenix translated the word with "unbarmherzig," then apparently realized the mistake and added "und unnachlässig." "Unnachlässig" is a good translation of "relentless." "Unbarmherzig" means "merciless." The end result was that Bush's statement that "We will be relentless in our pursuit of victory" against Iraq was translated to mean "We will be merciless and relentless in our pursuit of victory." Freudian slip? Reading Bush's mind? Or just the newspapers. Bush invoked "God" six times. The word "democracy" was not part of his vocabulary. God have mercy on us.
First time for everything?
German military historians are saying that, if the US and Brits manage to take Basra and Baghdad in house-to-house fighting without laying them waste, it will be the first time in military history. Paris in 1940 and Rome in 1944 were not defended, while Saigon in 1973 was taken over by an indigenous force. Otherwise, we're left with Leningrad, Stalingrad, Berlin, etc. as our models. (original from Teleopolis) American technological outfitting gives "the coalition" no advantage in this kind of fighting. So far, as the history of WWII suggests, the aerial bombardment appears to be steeling the Iraqis together against a common enemy. No exile riding into town after this on an American tank will have much chance of holding elections ala Katherine Harris.
Democracy in Iraq
Leading the majority Iraqi population, their Shiite leader in Iranian exile, Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim, at the head of the "High Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq," expects to take over after the war and form a government under Islamic law. Britain and the US are playing along, but they don't like it and are searching for alternatives. The Ayatollah and his followers hate America and the West even more than they hate Saddam. Turning the country over to "democracy" will ultimately mean turning it over to the High Council and the Ayatollah, since the Shiites are 2/3 of the population. The only other option is to install another Sunni dictator. The British already tried this. The Ayatollah is not likely to look kindly on the idea of turning the oil fields over to Halliburton to "pay for the war." One reason the US didn't finish the job in 1991 is that it saw Saddam as the lesser of evils. It then encouraged the Shiites to revolt, only to sit back and watch them get slaughtered, as though by plan. Al-Hakim's family was executed in the process and al-Hakim himself was tortured. The Shiites want Saddam gone, but they want to see the Americans leave right behind him. The only popular ruler of Iraq, General Karim Kassem, came to power by kicking out the British and their puppets, tore up the contracts for future western oil concessions, instituted land reform, turned to China and Russia for help, warred with the Kurds, and demanded the return of Kuwait to the Iraqi province of Basra.
On to Baghdad
Bush kept moving the spots on the board - first disarm weapons of mass destruction according to UN resolutions, then forget the UN unless it's with us, then regime change, then spread democracy, then Saddam leaves, then his whole entourage, then it doesn't matter if he, or they, are gone. A criminal defendant who changed his story this many times would not pass Go. (The US is boycotting the International Court of Justice, anyway, and has threatened Shock and Awe on it should it ever charge an American.) The "proof" personally presented to the world by the US Secretary of State that Iraq attempted to procure elements of nuclear weapons from Africa everyone now agrees was a cheap forgery. The allegation that a 9/11 hijacker once met with Iraqi Secret Service everyone now agrees was a hoax; and that the great final proof from Great Britain was cheap plagiarism. Even the CIA has contradicted Bush's allegation that the US can prove that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction; and we now know that Iraqi defector Hussein Kamal, the since deceased former CEO of Iraqi armaments, who the Bush Administration has frequently quoted to support its story, told the American government that Iraq destroyed its weapons of mass destruction ten years ago. So far, the American military has neither found nor encountered any atomic, biological or chemical weapons in Iraq. Are we beginning to see now why the Bush cabal couldn't stick with the weapons of mass destruction story? Bush just might still hope to be vindicated if Saddam's boys start spraying US boys with chemical or biological agents. On to Baghdad.
Back to you, Wolf
Tanks and sand, more tanks, more sand, "shock and awe" interviews, vocabulary devised by the Pentagon for its effect, more "shock," more "awe," bombs bursting in air, jingoistic scuttle 24 hours non-stop on 24 channels, look at me whizzing through the sand on this nifty tank, and stay tuned to "Operation Iraqi freedom" right after this dog food commercial. Shakespeare journalism: sound and fury, signifying nothing. But then, what can you do after the Pentagon tells you that, if you're not "embedded" with US troops, and we catch your satellite phone signals, you can kiss your ass goodbye? Especially now that the threat has been carried out. Better to find a retired general and play with pointers on a screenwriter. Shepherd Smith, anchor for the unofficial news agency of the US military, Fox News, could use a little more make-up. Back to you, Wolf.
It makes perfect sense for the Pentagon to claim now that it doesn't matter much whether the US takes out the Iraqi central command and that the US will see this through come what may, besides the fact that it covers the failure to get Saddam. The US can't walk away from this now. The US military machine has not been greeted with flowers in the streets or masses of happily surrendering soldiers. One person in the world is hated more in Iraq than Saddam Hussein, and George the Second has no choice now but to take total control to install a "responsible democratic" government or see Iraq fall into more capable anti-American hands. The initial tactic was to destroy as little as possible because the US will end up with no one to help pay to put it back together. The Pentagon says everything is going according to plan. Plan B. That the US governing elite couldn't see that their request for expulsion of Iraqi diplomats around the world would only subject themselves to the humiliation of being turned down is scary because it reveals that they are completely out of touch with the world outside their bunker.
Ted Widmer correctly pointed out August 15 in "The Democrats and the War" that Democrats' silence while Bush threatens Iraq is not in their best traditions. They're afraid of being labeled isolationist, even when this war-mongering is both symptom and product of Bush's right-wing isolationist spasm. Bush dropped the Middle East like a land mine, rejected the Kyoto Accords, scrapped the ABM treaty, and threatened the world over the World Court, alienating even our closest allies with his conception of America as the Empire. Iraq will be our Alderon, chosen to be annihilated as a demonstration of the power of the Death Star. Darth Bush is handing terrorists the one thing they need in their struggle against the United States – justification. The few Democrats with courage to speak up are not isolationists. They just don't like to see Osama Bin Laden transformed into Obi Wan Kinobe.
Creature comforts: of war and resources
The smartest creatures to ever walk, crawl, swim or fly on the planet get together regularly in large groups and kill each other. They call it "war", they never assemble as many of themselves for any other reason, and when it's over they start breeding again faster than before, leaving one to wonder why they go to all the trouble. Creatures within a group will sporadically kill one another, but this is highly regulated and usually discouraged.
With rare exception, the groups are organized in territorial units. Their borders frequently follow natural breaks in geography such as rivers, oceans and mountains which usually attend natural divergences in planet resources. The creatures wage war to control these resources, sometimes by extending their boundaries, sometimes just to pillage and return. Overlays of group superstition ("religion"), group loyalty ("patriotism") and group think ("ideology") are used to encourage group members to kill and die, but every war the creatures have ever fought has been to control resources.
One effect of war has been to inspire groups to develop and improve their organization, tools and methods of exploiting planet resources.
Groups that fall behind tend to lose the next war, while groups that design more effective tools and organization tend to win. Organization and technology thus evolve. Groups sometimes band together against other groups in alliances that usually dissolve when the war ends. Groups frequently exchange resources willingly, but uneven distribution and uneven evolution of organization and technology inevitably lure groups to try to take territory and resources for free, minus expenses. Alliances are unreliable, miscalculations are frequent, and expenses are sometimes high.
Today organization and technology are more uneven than ever. One group now is so much stronger than any other that it can annihilate the entire rest of the creatures all by itself. This group, called the "United States," produces more food than it can safely eat and suffers mostly from its own excess while millions around the planet die of starvation. Its ability to do this, however, depends upon resources that it doesn't fully control. Without a resource called "oil" from an area called the "Middle East," this dominant group can maintain neither its dominance nor its way of life. The creatures of the United States use more oil than all the other creatures combined, usually to get somewhere faster so that they can use more oil going somewhere else. The problem is that once oil is used, it's gone, because no one has figured out how to use it without burning it.
The United States has never needed to control the Middle East because the area lacks organization and tools. Attempts to organize have always been resisted by the United States and have usually failed. Whenever a group tries to organize the area, the United States backs another. When a territorial group called "Iran" threatened to organize it, the United States helped a territorial group called "Iraq" to attack Iran. When Iraq then tried to make itself the organizational principle, the United States struck down Iraq. This is a common tactic of these creatures.
The most recent attempt to organize the Middle East comes from a group with no territory and scant tools. Instead of taking or controlling territory, which it cannot do, the new group, "Al Quaida," uses loosely connected cells around the planet to terrorize. Because patriotism requires territory, Al Quaida uses superstition as its primary overlay. With great advantage in material and technology, the United States fights Al Quaida long distance – dropping bombs from high altitudes – to avoid (its own) casualties. With great disadvantage in material and technology, Al Quaida works exactly opposite by going in close and killing themselves. Each side accuses the other of cowardice, as though this was an issue. Neither tactic would appear to have much chance of achieving its goal.
The goal of the United States is to destroy the leaders and followers of Al Quaida, but dropping bombs from 20,000 feet lets them get away while falling on weddings and allied troops.
The goal of Al Quaida is to lure the United States into abusing its dominance and inciting the inhabitants of the Middle East to rise up against their rulers and invite Al Quaida to organize them into a world force. As bizarre as this sounds, it seems to be working, since the United States has decided to attack Iraq again, Al Quaida's other rival for control of the Middle East. This has aroused not only creatures in the Middle East, but those of the United States' own allied groups, while diverting resources from the struggle against Al Quaida.
The United States has done a decent job recently of reacting to events. Its military-industrial complex that Eisenhower once warned about is vaulting this country to a pinnacle of global power that would be the envy of conquerors, emperors and kaisers past. Napoleon once described himself as merely the reed through which the winds of history were blowing, a sentiment that so far fits George W. Bush, whose claim so far to a place in history is that he has performed better than most expected with the help of a military built with taxes that he plans to cut and that he wisely leaves to others to command.
An old saying in eastern countries is that when God wants to punish you, he sends you to invade Afghanistan. We haven't quite invaded it, but our "conventional" war machine has proven so overwhelming that it looks like Sunday morning target practice. George Bush has an opportunity to use this phenomenon to change the course of history. Not by invading Iraq or otherwise extending the military campaign, but by renouncing the doctrine of "first use" of nuclear weapons.
For much of the twentieth century we felt threatened by what we called the Russian and Chinese hordes, so we maintained the bluff or insanity that we would not hesitate to be the first to use nuclear weapons to defend ourselves and our friends. Today the threat to the United States is from our own outdated and dangerous doctrine of first use. What the United States should do now is declare a doctrine of Second Use. It could be called the Bush Doctrine and it would go something like this: Any country, person, or group that uses nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of any kind against anyone for any purpose and for any cause anywhere in the world will be destroyed, by a Second Use if necessary, and by a coalition of every civilized society on the planet. Before we can outlaw First Use, we must renounce it.
The doctrine of Second Use would be an extension of what we are doing with terrorism. Vladimir Putin stood his country by us as close as did Tony Blair, while most of the rest of the world came in right behind them. There could be no better way to show our appreciation, perfect an historic alliance, and complete an American new world order than to combine our renunciation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty with a renunciation of First Use and a declaration that an attack against anyone anywhere with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons is an attack upon the world and everyone in it.
Superstitions have had less time to fade in some parts of the world than others, but the reason we fear certain lands of Islam while counting old communists as friends is that the latter established such independence from western society that their people can't blame us for their problems. It is Iran, the Muslim country that established the greatest distance from U.S. influence and can't blame us for its problems, that has the potential to become the most modern society of the Muslim Middle East. The entire Muslim world is going kicking and screaming into the (our) third millennium, but it is those lands of Islam that have been ruled by our "friends," such as the brutally dictatorial family of Al Saud, that threaten to fall to our bitter enemies. Their people would likely have been no better off without us, but they have had no opportunity to prove it.
Bin Laden gave terrorism a bad name, but his successors could do worse. Like Hitler, he struck prematurely, and a few years later might have had the bomb. We lost thousands of Americans on 9/11, but the next time it could be millions, and those thousands could now save them.
No army in the field can bully us. The threat to the United States is the notion that a group or nation can justify the first use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. If he fails to put an end to that notion, George W. Bush will be just another hollow reed.