Monday, December 24, 2007
by Andrew Sullivan
Almost all of the time, the Washington I know and live in is utterly unrelated to the Washington you see in the movies. The government is far more incompetent and amateur than the masterminds of Hollywood darkness.1224 02
There are no rogue CIA agents engaging in illegal black ops and destroying evidence to protect their political bosses. The kinds of scenario cooked up in Matt Damon’s riveting Bourne series are fantasy compared with the mundane, bureaucratic torpor of the Brussels on the Potomac.
And then you read about the case of Abu Zubaydah. He is a seriously bad guy - someone we should all be glad is in custody. A man deeply involved in Al-Qaeda, he was captured in a raid in Pakistan in March 2002 and whisked off to a secret interrogation, allegedly in Thailand.
President George Bush claimed Zubaydah was critical in identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind behind 9/11. The president also conceded that at some point the CIA, believing Zubaydah was withholding information, “used an alternative set of procedures”, which were “safe and lawful and necessary”.
Zubaydah was waterboarded. That much we know - it was confirmed recently by a former CIA agent, John Kiriakou, who even used the plain English word “torture” to describe what was done. But we know little else for sure. We do know there was deep division within the American government about Zubaydah’s interrogation, and considerable debate about his reliability.
Ron Suskind’s masterful 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine recorded FBI sources as saying that Zubaydah was in fact mentally unstable and tangential to Al-Qaeda’s plots, and that he gave reams of unfounded information under torture - information that led law-enforcement bodies in the US to raise terror alert levels, rushing marshals and police to shopping malls, bridges and other alleged targets as Zubaydah tried to get the torture to stop. No one disputes that Zubaydah wrote a diary - and that it was written in the words of three personalities, none of them his own.
A former FBI agent who was involved in the interrogation, Daniel Coleman, said last week that the CIA knew Al-Qaeda’s leaders all believed Zubaydah “was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone. You think they’re going to tell him anything?” Even though preliminary, legal interrogation gave the US good - though not unique - information, the CIA still asked for and received permission to torture him in pursuit of more data and leads.
The Washington Post reported that “current and former officials” said the torture lasted weeks and even, according to some, months, and that the techniques included hypothermia, long periods of standing, sleep deprivation and multiple sessions of waterboarding. All these “alternative procedures”, as Bush described them, are illegal under US law and the Geneva conventions. They are, in fact, war crimes. And they were once all treated by the US as war crimes when they were perpetrated by the Nazis. Waterboarding has been found to be a form of torture in various American legal cases.
And that is where the story becomes interesting. The Bush administration denies any illegality at all, insists it does not “torture” but refuses to say whether it believes waterboarding is torture or not. But hundreds of hours of videotape were recorded of Zubaydah’s incarceration and torture. That evidence would settle the dispute over the extremely serious question of whether the president of the United States authorised war crimes.
And now we have found out that all the tapes have been destroyed.
See what I mean by Hollywood? We know about the destruction because someone in the government told The New York Times. We also know the 9/11 Commission had asked the administration to furnish every piece of relevant evidence with respect to Zubaydah’s interrogation and was not told about the tapes. We know also that four senior aides to Bush and Dick Cheney, the vice-president, discussed the destruction of the tapes - including David Addington, Cheney’s right-hand man and the chief legal architect of the administration’s detention and interrogation policies.
At a press conference last Thursday the president gave an equivocal response to what he knew about the tapes and when he knew it: “The first recollection is when CIA director Mike Hayden briefed me.” That briefing was earlier this month. The president is saying he cannot recall something - not that it didn’t happen. That’s the formulation all lawyers tell their clients to use when they need to avoid an exposable lie.
This is not, of course, the first big scandal to have emerged over the administration’s interrogation policies. You can fill a book with the sometimes sickening details that have come out of Guantanamo Bay, Bagram in Afghanistan, Camp Cropper in Iraq and, of course, Abu Ghraib.
The administration has admitted that several prisoners have been killed in interrogation, and dozens more have died in the secret network of interrogation sites the US has set up across the world. The policy of rendition has sent countless suspects into torture cells in Uzbekistan, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere to feed the West’s intelligence on jihadist terrorism.
But this case is more ominous for the administration because it presents a core example of what seems to be a cover-up, obstruction of justice and a direct connection between torture and the president, the vice-president and their closest aides.
Because several courts had pending cases in which testimony from Zubaydah’s interrogation was salient, the destruction of such evidence triggers a legal process that is hard for the executive branch to stymie or stall - and its first attempt was flatly rebuffed by a judge last week.
Its key argument is a weakly technical one: that the interrogation took place outside US territory - and therefore the courts do not have jurisdiction over it. It’s the same rationale for imprisoning hundreds of suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba - a legal no man’s land. But Congress can get involved - especially if it believes that what we have here is a cover-up.
What are the odds that a legal effective interrogation of a key Al-Qaeda operative would have led many highly respected professionals in the US intelligence community to risk their careers by leaking top-secret details to the press?
What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?
What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.
Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have - without any bias - would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.
Congresswoman Jane Harman, the respected top Democrat on the House intelligence committee in 2003-06, put it as simply as she could: “I am worried. It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up.”
It’s a potential Watergate. But this time the crime is not a two-bit domestic burglary. It’s a war crime that reaches into the very heart of the Oval Office.
Yes, it is Hollywood time. And the ending of this movie is as yet unwritten.
© 2007 Times Online
Sunday, December 23, 2007
by Charley Reese
I should clarify something during this season when everyone hopes for peace and good will: I am not a pacifist.
If war is forced upon us, we have no choice but to fight it. Ernest Hemingway said it well when he observed that there are several things worse than war, and they all come with defeat.
I have opposed and still oppose the war in Iraq because, knowing something about the Middle East, I knew it would be futile. I knew we weren't threatened by Iraq. I knew that the war would be a war of aggression on our part. I knew that no clear-cut victory would be possible.
Even though there has been some diminution in violence, the fundamental political problem remains. The Sunnis, the Shi'ites and the Kurds are not fond of each other. For a long time, the Shi'ites and the Kurds suffered under Saddam Hussein's primarily Sunni regime. Now that the Shi'ites and the Kurds are in control, they are not going to be easily reconciled. Furthermore, the Kurds don't especially like Arabs and want an independent country. The Turks don't especially like the Kurds and will react violently to any move on the part of the Kurds to declare independence.
So, the U.S. forces in the country have a wolf by the ear. We can keep the level of violence reasonably contained as long as we stay there, but neither the armed forces nor the U.S. budget can afford to stay there indefinitely. And to leave, we have to let go of the wolf.
The present peace in the Anbar province came about because the al-Qaeda fighters went too far and the Sunni sheiks decided to kill them. We, opportunistically, said, "Hey, as long as you're killing al-Qaeda instead of us, we will give you guns and money." Now the Marines in Anbar are enjoying Arab hospitality, which I fear they are mistaking for friendship.
I don't know how things will play out. As long as the cowardly Congress continues to fund the war, the troops will be stuck there. Don't look for any victory parades or celebrations. Bombs and bullets will stay on the menu probably as long as we are there and afterward, too, until some new Iraqi strongman takes control.
As for Afghanistan, where the situation is deteriorating, Americans should be clear about what we did there. The Taliban won the civil war by driving the northern warlords out of Kabul. We hired the warlords to fight the Taliban, bribing them with cash and air support. Afghanistan is now run by the warlords, and they are turning it into a narco-state. At the same time, we failed to catch or kill Osama bin Laden, who was the only person in Afghanistan or Iraq who had attacked us.
Now the U.S. has dragged NATO into the fight, but I don't think the Europeans will stick. What is the point of a European getting himself killed in Afghanistan? Or an American, for that matter? There is nothing in Afghanistan except fields of opium and men with rifles.
We are overextended, both militarily and financially. That's just a sad truth. Our economy is teetering on the edge of a recession or worse. Our so-called diplomacy in the Middle East is getting less than zero results. We are crazy to try to stay there. The age of colonialism is over.
We should go to war only in self-defense. I don't believe the American people wish to adopt Iraq and Afghanistan as permanent wards of the taxpayers. I don't believe they want to keep burying sons and daughters whose deaths don't make America safer. That's not pacifism. It's common sense.
by Glenn Greenwald
In yet another superb piece of journalism, the peerless Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe submitted to the leading presidential candidates a questionnaire asking their views on 12 key questions regarding executive power. Savage’s article accompanying the candidates’ responses makes clear why these matters are so critical:
In 2000, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were not asked about presidential power, and they volunteered nothing about their attitude toward the issue to voters. Yet once in office, they immediately began seeking out ways to concentrate more unchecked power in the White House — not just for themselves, but also for their successors. . . .
Legal specialists say decisions by the next president — either to keep using the expanded powers Bush and Cheney developed, or to abandon their legal and political precedents — will help determine whether a stronger presidency becomes permanent.
“The sleeper issue in this campaign involves the proper scope of executive power,” said Richard Epstein, a University of Chicago law professor.
All of the leading Democrats — Edwards, Dodd, Biden, Clinton, Richardson and Obama — submitted responses, as did Mitt Romney, John McCain and Ron Paul. Refusing to respond to the questions were — revealingly — Giuliani, Thompson and Huckabee. Significantly, if not surprisingly, all of the candidates who did respond, with the exception of Romney, repudiated most of the key doctrines of the Bush/Cheney/Addington/Yoo theories of executive omnipotence, at least for purposes of this questionnaire. I’ll undoubtedly write more about those responses shortly.
But by far the most extraordinary answers come from Mitt Romney. Romney’s responses — not to some of the questions but to every single one of them — are beyond disturbing. The powers he claims the President possesses are definitively — literally — tyrannical, unrecognizable in the pre-2001 American system of government and, in some meaningful ways, even beyond what the Bush/Cheney cadre of authoritarian legal theorists have claimed.
After reviewing those responses, Marty Lederman concluded: “Romney? Let’s put it this way: If you’ve liked Dick Cheney and David Addington, you’re gonna love Mitt Romney.” Anonymous Liberal similarly observed that his responses reveal that “Romney doesn’t believe the president’s power to be subject to any serious constraints.” To say that the President’s powers are not “subject to any serious constraints” — which is exactly what Romney says — is, of course, to posit the President as tyrant, not metaphorically or with hyperbole, but by definition.
Each of the questions posed by Savage is devoted to determining the extent of presidential power the candidate believes exists and where the limits are situated. On every issue, Romney either (a) explicitly says that the President has the right to act without limits of any kind or (b) provides blatantly nonresponsive answers strongly insinuating the same thing.
Just go and read what he wrote. It’s extraordinary. Other than his cursory and quite creepy concession that U.S. citizens detained by the President are entitled to “at least some type of habeas corpus relief” — whatever “some type” might mean (Question 5) — Romney does not recognize a single limit on presidential power. Not one.
And even with regard to his grudging allowance that American citizens should have “some type of habeas relief,” Romney — and only he — implicitly endorses Alberto Gonzales’ bizarre claim that — despite the clear language of Article I, Section 9 — “nothing in the Constitution confers an affirmative right to habeas corpus” (Question 9). Under this twisted Romney/Gonzales view, the right of habeas corpus — which Thomas Jefferson described as “one of the essential principles of our government” and “the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution” — is not constitutionally guaranteed to Americans but can be revoked at any time, for any reason.
In every area, Romney explicitly says that neither laws nor treaties can limit the President’s conduct. Instead, displaying the fear-mongering cowardice that lies at the heart of Bush/Cheney Republican power, Romney described the root of his view of the world this way: “Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive.”
Romney recited that cowardly platitude — what has now become the shameful flagship of the Republican Party — in response to being asked whether the President has the power to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants even in the face of a law that makes it a crime to do so. At its core, the defining principle of the Republican Party continues to be a fear-driven repudiation of the American ethos as most famously expressed by Patrick Henry, all in service of keeping the citizenry in fear so the President can rule without limits.
These are just some of the powers which Romney — and, among the respondents, Romney alone — claimed the President possesses, either by explicitly claiming them or refusing to repudiate them when asked directly:
* to eavesdrop on Americans with no warrants, even if doing so is in violation of Congressional law (Question 1);
* to attack Iran without Congressional authorization, even in the absence of an imminent threat (Question 2);
* to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops (Question 3);
* to issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass laws enacted by Congress (Question 4);
* to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified where said (Question 8 )
Even more disturbing were the specific questions Romney refused to answer. When asked if the President has the right to use “interrogation techniques” that Congress, by law, has prohibited in all circumstances, here is what Romney said (Question 7):
A President should decline to reveal the method and duration of interrogation techniques to be used against high value terrorists who are likely to have counter-interrogation training. This discretion should extend to declining to provide an opinion as to whether Congress may validly limit his power as to the use of a particular technique, especially given Congress’s current plans to try to do exactly that.
Mitt Romney is running for President and proudly refuses to say if he would obey the law regarding torture. Worse, he’s citing national security as an excuse for refusing to answer the question. He’s not even President yet, and he’s already insisting that it’s too Top Secret for him even to participate in the debate over the President’s duties to abide by the law. Even considering where our country has been taken with these matters, that’s an astonishing assertion — that the Terrorists will win if Mitt Romney expresses his views on whether the President must obey the law.
Underscoring his authoritarian mentality, Romney refused to say that there was even a single “executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that [he] think[s] is unconstitutional” or even that there were any which were “simply a bad idea” (Question 10). In Romney’s view, the Leader has not erred at all. Rather, this is the caricature of a response he gave to that question:
The Bush Administration has kept the American people safe since 9/11. The Administration’s strong view on executive power may well have contributed to that fact.
Romney perfectly expresses the driving view of our GOP-dominated political culture over the last seven years, as profoundly un-American as it is Orwellian: You are in grave danger of being slaughtered by Terrorists. The only thing that matters is that your Leader protect you. In order to be safe, you must place your blind faith and trust in the Leader. There can be no limits on the Leader’s power — not even ones you try to place on him through your representatives in Congress — otherwise you will be in severe danger and might even lose your freedoms.
In a Washington Post Op-Ed this morning, historian and George Washington biographer Joseph Ellis labels Dick Cheney’s quest for limitless presidential power “historically myopic” and writes:
Your opinion on the current debate about how much power the executive branch should have will be significantly influenced if you read the debates about the subject in the Constitutional Convention and the states’ ratifying conventions. For it will soon become clear that the most palpable fear that haunted all these debates was the specter of monarchy.
Although one would not have thought it possible, a Mitt Romney presidency, by his own description, would remove us still further from those core principles. Romney isn’t running to be President, but to be King. Anyone who wants to dispute that ought to try to distinguish the fantasies of power Romney is envisioning from those the British King possessed in the mid-to-late 18th Century.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
By JACOB G. HORNBERGER
Neo-con supporters of the U.S. government's war of aggression against Iraq are undoubtedly holding their collective breath in the hope that U.S. military forces have finally smashed any further violent opposition to their conquest of Iraq. The attitude would then be, "You see, this shows that we were right after all to invade and occupy Iraq and kill and maim hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people."
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting that U.S. soldiers have found mass graves next to a torture center north of Baghdad. In the torture center, chains were attached to blood-spattered walls while a metal bed was attached to an electrical shock system.
Hey, who knows? Maybe the torture center prevented a ticking time bomb from going off? And who's to say that chains, blood-spattered walls, metal beds, and an electrical shock system really constitute torture? Doesn't torture depend on each person's subjective determination of the term?
By the way, wasn't there torture in Iraq under Saddam Hussein? I wonder if his justifications for torture were different from those employed by those torturing in Iraq today. I wonder if they were different than those employed by current U.S. torturers.
As Rosa Brooks writes in the Los Angeles Times today, Baghdad has now been divided into "cleansed" neighborhoods, in which Sunnis occupy some areas and Shiites occupy others. The U.S. military is helping to keep the neighborhoods free of violence by constructing walls that separate the respective neighborhoods. What an interesting way for the Pentagon to rebuild a peaceful society that it has destroyed with its invasion.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled the country, mostly to neighboring countries given that the U.S. government refuses to let them emigrate to the United States, despite one of the U.S. government's claims (in addition to the WMD one) that it invaded Iraq out of love for the Iraqi people. Hey, what better way to reduce the death toll than by reducing the country's population?
And if things weren't crazy enough, we now learn that the U.S. government is helping Turkey to attack Iraqi Kurds in the northern part of the country. Can't you just hear U.S. officials exclaim when some Iraqi survivor of those attacks retaliates with a terrorist attack against the U.S.: "We're innocent! We're innocent! We haven't done anything to provoke this! They hate us for our freedom and values! God bless America!"
No rational person can deny that Iraq never had any connection whatsoever to the 9/11 attacks, especially given that none of the 9/11 attackers were even from Iraq. Yet, countless Iraqi people are now dead or maimed and their entire country is destroyed. One might easily say that Iraq is the federal massacre of Waco magnified a million-fold. The whole situation in Iraq brings to mind the famous dictum of Tacitus: "They made a desert and called it peace."
Nothing, not even "peace" in Iraq, will ever be able to morally justify a war of aggression against a nation whose people were totally innocent of the 9/11 attacks. Nothing, not even some warped definition of "terrorist," will ever be able to morally justify killing Iraqis who were doing nothing more than trying to oust their country of an illegal invader who had invaded with a thirst for vengeance and regime change relying on fake and false rationales for its invasion. Nothing will ever be able to morally justify the killing of even one single Iraqi, much less hundreds of thousands of them, given that neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
by Gretyl Macalaster
PORTSMOUTH - The evidence for impeachment of the president and vice president is overwhelming, former CIA analyst and daily presidential briefer Ray McGovern told a room full of people at the Portsmouth Public Library Monday night.1221 02
McGovern, who provided daily briefings for former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as well as other high ranking officials during his 27 year CIA career, said he has witnessed a “prostitution of his profession” as the Bush administration lied to the American people about the evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
“Don’t let anyone tell you the President was deceived by false intelligence … they knew,” McGovern said.
For the next 40 minutes, he relayed a series of events leading up to 9/11 which illustrate the President’s desire to go to war with Iraq well before 9-11, that reliable CIA evidence showed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and was presented to the administration and the “facts were fixed” in order to legitimize the invasion.
“The estimate which said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was prepared to the terms of reference laid down by Dick Cheney in a speech on Aug. 26, 2002. It was the worst estimate of intelligence and came to the wrong conclusions, but it was designed to do that,” McGovern said.
McGovern has been an outspoken commentator on intelligence-related issues since the late 1990s and since 2002 has been publicly critical of Bush’s use of government intelligence in the lead-up to the war.
The recent report detailing Iran’s stopping its nuclear weapons program four years ago, is an example of how the administration knows it can no longer hide such “incontrovertible evidence” from the American people in the fallout from the misinformation they received on the Iraq War, McGovern said. He added that he had almost given up on believing their were people still working at the top with a conscious and enough people at the top willing to let analysts do their job and accept independent analysis.
In late 2005, Congress requested an estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities.
“My former colleagues got really good, incontrovertible evidence that the program, such as it was, has been ordered stopped since 2003. The evidence was such that not even Dick Cheney could deny it. That’s why the report was not produced until three weeks ago,” McGovern said, adding that the Bush administration has been putting “spin” on their rhetoric ever since.
McGovern also addressed the reasoning he believes is behind the threat of war with Iran. He said he believes Israel thinks they have a pledge from the White House to deal with Iran before Bush leaves office and relayed the story of the U.S.S. Liberty, which was attacked by the Israelis in 1967 and covered up by the United States. Thirty-four U.S soldiers were killed and about 170 were seriously injured.
“It seems to me, that on June, 8, 1967, Israel realized it could literally get away with murder,” McGovern said.
McGovern said he also believes Congress will be of little help. Recently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted to learning about torture and illegal eavesdropping in briefings, but said it was her understanding when briefed, that she will not share the information with anyone else, including other members of the House Intelligence Committee.
McGovern called Pelosi out on violating her oath to uphold the Constitution “against enemies, foreign or domestic” by allowing acts in violation of the Constitution to continue by not saying “diddly.”
He added that although an impeachment bill currently in Congress is gaining more support, Democrats are shying away because of the influence of lobbies and political analysts telling them to “wait it out” until the election.
Charges in the impeachment bill sponsored by Dennis Kucinich, are very detailed and “as good as any,” McGovern said, and referenced the illegal eavesdropping of American citizens. He added that the President has “admitted” to this “demonstrably impeachable offense.”
“The argument for impeachment is overwhelming,” Randy Kezar of Kingston said after the event. “Impeachment is constitutionally required.”
McGovern’s visit was co-sponsored by NH Codepink, Seacoast Peace Response, NH Peace Action, NH American Friends Service Committee, Seacoast 9-11 Questions Group, NH Veterans for Peace and Witness for Peace-N.E.
© 2007 Foster’s Daily Democrat
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Lieberman Peddles the Old Iraq-9/11 Connection
I had CNN’s Situation Room on in the background, when I saw the sight of Senator John McCain and Senator Joseph Lieberman on my TV screen. As you probably know, Lieberman has endorsed Republican McCain for President.
(You also know but for any who have forgotten: Lieberman was a Democrat, then lost his party’s 2006 primary to the anti-Iraq-war candidate Ned Lamont, then ran for the Senate anyway as an Independent, and won almost all of the Republican vote and 20% of the Democratic vote. And he’s an Independent in the Senate, but is counted as a Democrat.)
On the Situation Room, McCain talked about the surge is working, the surge is working. (Violence is down, and now we can stay there babysitting and shooting and getting shot for the next 10 to 20 years. Yippeee!)
And then Lieberman, asked about his 2006 campaign, said it was important he had defeated the pro-Lamont, antiwar part of the Democratic party because once the 2008 Presidential campaign came around the Lamont part of the party would have trouble with “the American people, who know we’re at war with a brutal enemy who attacked us on 9/11.”
“We are at war with a brutal enemy who attacked us on 9/11.”
Really, Senator Lieberman, and who would that be?
Are we back to looking for Bin Laden in Afghanistan? Have we decided to hell with Musharraf and we’ve invaded Pakistan to track down Al-Qaeda? Have we deposed the royal family in Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers came from, and we’ve decided to impose democracy on that country?
I’m not in favor of invading Pakistan or deposing the Saudi Arabian royal family, but as ideas they at least CONNECT with 9/11.
But Senator Lieberman didn’t mean any of that, did he?
He meant to imply (to mislead, distort, to lie)… that our invading Iraq, a country that did NOT attack us, is connected to the 19 terrorist hijackers who attacked us on 9/11.
And it is not connected, is it, Senator Lieberman, or Senator McCain?
We were not attacked by a country. We were attacked by members of an organization. By 19 individuals who belonged to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, which had safe haven in Afghanistan (not in Iraq!).
Class, what countries were the individual terrorists from?
Answer: “Fifteen of the attackers were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon.”
Class, and how many on that list were from Iraq?
No, Vice President Cheney, that is the wrong answer, please sit down again. What? You’re going to gather your own intelligence to analyze this list? Very well. Only spend just a few billion dollars on it, alright?
In the lead up to the war, Cheney and Bush and others spent LOTS of time misleading the American people about the non-existent connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks.
But the administration a couple of years ago let go of trying to push that connection (except for Cheney).
And on TV Bush even once admitted there was no connection, which he said in a mumbled, annoyed voice when asked the question explicitly by some reporter during a press conference. (Asked long after we’d been there, of course).
But here is Senator Lieberman SELLING THAT LIE again. And McCain smiled benignly in the background.
I mean most of the liars in the Republicans party who continue to hawk this war and claim it’s for our safety no longer try to tie Iraq with 9/11.
They usually do the song and dance about “the war on terror” and we have to fight it everywhere, and now there IS Al-Qaeda in Iraq, though it wasn’t there before we invaded. And if we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them here. (That last bellicose bromide is said often by McCain.)
I just found Lieberman intoning “the American people… know we’re at war with a brutal enemy who attacked us on 9/11″ to be enraging. Enraging. We’ve gone past that lie.
Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor. Then we attacked back. We didn’t react to Japan’s attack by bombing Korea, did we? Or by invading China? Or by attacking Connecticut, who elected the dense and smiling Mr. Lieberman. Elected him over and over again.
Bush and Cheney sold this war first for our self-defense (we were in DANGER from Saddam, and we had to act IN THE NEXT TEN MINUTES OR ELSE). Then when there were no WMD’s, the justification changed to we were creating democracy there. Then we were babysitting a civil war (well other people said that, Bush kept saying it wasn’t true). Now it’s calmer there, but it’s hardly safe, and so what is the result of that? Now we’re to be there for ever and ever? At billions a week, or is it a billion a minute by now?
I find it appalling and shocking that we are in a war, with men and women dying and being horribly maimed, when it was undertaken under false pretenses. And when as many of us believe, our being there as an occupier makes us less and less safe, and creates more terrorists. It’s not a good bargain. You break it, you own it, said ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell, referring to the Pottery Barn Rule. How I wish we had invaded Pottery Barn. Then at least we’d have some nice merchandise, and could use some of it to give as Christmas presents.
And Lieberman just re-brought out that old, biggest lie about the war again, the supposed connection between our Iraq and 9/11. Enough with that lie.
Senator Lieberman is despicable.
Christopher Durang is a playwright and sometime actor.
Copyright © 2007 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
December 13, 2007 - 8:09am.
There has to be a reason for Democratic capitulation
By DOUG THOMPSON
Is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi venturing over to the Oval Office late at night to nosh on the First Member and otherwise pleasure the most unpopular President in American history?
Or does George W. Bush have a file of photos of Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shacked up at one of those seedy motels that line U.S. Route 1 south of Washington?
Something is going on because there is no rational explanation for the willingness of both Pelosi and Reid to roll over and constantly abandon the wishes of voters who put their party into power in the 2006 mid-term elections. They did it again Wednesday by giving in to Bush on cuts in domestic spending while adding billions for the President’s failed war in Iraq.
Perhaps we expected too much of Democrats. They are, of course, just another set of political whores – more liberal than the Republicans they replaced but whores nonetheless.
We’ve heard all the convenient political excuses as to why Democrats give Bush just about everything he wants: They don’t have the votes to override vetoes, they can’t muster needed support from the Republican minority, they don’t want to be seen as abandoning soldiers in the field, etc., etc.
But Pelosi started screwing the voters who trusted her and her party before the new Congress even convened. She set the tone of capitulation by taking impeachment of Bush and his criminal cabal off the table.
Since then she and Reid have proven to be complicit co-conspirators to the Bush-Cheney plan for destruction of the Constitution and a once-great nation called America.
We could offer a sexist rationale by saying a woman wasn’t up to the job but that’s not true. Women capable of leadership serve in Congress. Pelosi just isn’t one of them. One problem is that she is her father’s daughter and her father was a corrupt, bribe-taking mayor of Baltimore.
And Reid, another bribe-taking hack from Nevada, proves you can have balls and still be a wimp.
Neither Reid nor Pelosi have shown an ounce of leadership since assuming power on Capitol Hill. Such subservience to Bush defies explanation.
We never really expected that much out of Reid but we hoped Pelosi would rise above her upbringing and prove she is capable of the challenge.
The only thing she proved is that she is just another political whore.
And like any easy woman, Pelosi will spread her legs and let Bush screw her and the American people faster than a five-dollar whore in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
The only difference is that the New Orleans’ ho is probably a better lay and you're actually getting something for your money.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Military Recruiters Try to Be Hip; Kids Roll Eyes
By Aaron Sarver, In These TimesPosted on December 12, 2007, Printed on December 12, 2007http://www.alternet.org/story/70307/
Teenagers, be warned: Military recruiters have armed themselves with "Wat up, dude?" and "nmu" in their effort to lure you to Iraq. (For those who lack daily interaction with teens, "nmu" means "Not much. You?")
As headlines reveal that the military is lowering standards to meet its recruiting goals, the Pentagon is trying new techniques to connect with Millennials -- those born between 1980 and 2000, formerly known as Generation Y.
In September, the website Entropic Memes reported that attendees at last spring's Annual Navy Workforce Research and Analysis Conference were given a slideshow presentation titled "The Road to a 2025 Total Force: Talkin 'bout Their Generation."
At the presentation, ad executive Arthur Mitchell, director of strategic planning for Campbell-Ewald, the agency behind the Navy's Accelerate Your Life campaign, talked about the inability of Navy recruiters to connect with today's young people.
Millennials, he explained, are "narcissistic praise junkies" and "a somewhat alien life force." To help recruiters communicate with such bizarre life forms, Mitchell presented a pop culture quiz, asking recruiters to identify members of Green Day and the Black Eyed Peas (two popular bands). In addition to getting them up to speed on today's music, he showed them the ins and outs of text messaging and emoticons.
"At first contact, the Navy world is going to be too real to digest," according to the slideshow presentation, "akin to the 'The real world' in Matrix." It goes on to say, "Teach them. Guide them. Mentor them. Bull@*#% them, and they will just walk away."
The typical kid today, the report says, has the following characteristics:
Many of their experiences have been secondhand.
A sizable part of their life has been spent in a virtual world rather than in the real world.
The television/computer screen has always acted as a 'screen' that has kept them away from many direct real world interactions.
Their 'B.S.' barometer is very high.
Status and authority will not impress them, bureaucracy and red tape will frustrate them and a patronizing attitude will drive them crazy.
Perhaps they'll even expect their parents to "rescue" them.
They are used to instant gratification and praise.
Mitchell underscored that Millennials are tightly bound to their parents. A slide titled "The 'Coddled' Generation" explained that these young people were "raised by active, involved, 'helicopter' parents who challenge poor grades, negotiate with soccer coaches, visit college campuses, question employers, etc." (The term "helicopter parent" means someone who hovers over their kids, ever ready to touch down and help out.) The challenge for recruiters then is not only to convince the kids, but also their parents. "This generation actually likes their parents, somewhat of a departure from previous generations," Mitchell said.
The Army first reached out to parents in 2005 as part of its Army of One campaign by advertising giant Leo Burnett. These ads were directed by Samuel Bayer, who made his mark directing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video.
Since then, the Army has changed its ad slogan to Army Strong, which targets parents with the slogan "You made them strong, we'll make them Army strong." At the GoArmy.com website, a "For Parents" link features videos from parents who have children serving. These videos retread the usual Army themes -- see the world, learn self-discipline and go to college. Although the Army may have been a good life experience for these kids and their families, these days, a slick commercial with an inspiring soundtrack won't necessarily persuade media savvy parents, many of whom are Gen Xers.
"No matter what, Navy experiences will only be a Google search away," reads one bullet point in the second half of the slideshow. But also a Google search away, Millennials can find unflattering information from troops in Iraq, like the photos leaked in 2003 from Abu Ghraib.
In Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War and Build a Better World, authors Aimee Allison and David Solnit document that recruiters lie. They lie about job training, the likelihood of being deployed to a battle zone and the size of bonuses. "Among recruits who sign up for the Montgomery G.I. Bill," the authors write, "65 percent receive no money for college." Knowing this, "kids today are less likely to join the military because they want to go to college," Solnit said in an interview.
As for the $1,200 nonrefundable deposit required to enroll for the G.I. Bill, Solnit says the military uses this deposit as "a retention factor [so that] people stay in for their full eight-year term." Recruits are more likely to stay in the military if they risk losing their deposit or if they risk qualifying for their promised college benefits.
It's been almost 35 years since the military switched to an "all volunteer" force. When it did so, it dropped the generous and deserved benefits that were granted to previous generations.
As long as the military continues to lie to and mislead prospective recruits -- whether in person or via a text message with a pop culture allusion and a friendly emoticon -- today's kids will continue to shun military service. By doing so, they are heeding the government's implicit message: As an Army of one, you're better off joining Blackwater.
Aaron Sarver is an independent audio producer and writer based in Chicago. For nearly three years he produced and co-hosted the radio program, Fire on the Prairie, which featured interviews with progressive writers and activists, and is archived at fireontheprairie.com.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/70307/
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
But one highly reliable intelligence community source I consulted immediately after Hadley spoke answered my question this way: “This is absolutely absurd. The NIE has been in substantially the form in which it was finally submitted for more than six months. The White House, and particularly Vice President Cheney, used every trick in the book to stop it from being finalized and issued. There was no last minute breakthrough that caused the issuance of the assessment.” So what, I asked, if not an intelligence breakthrough, what caused the last-minute change and the sudden issuance of the summary of the NIE? My source had no idea.
Horton’s source adds that though it appears Vice President Cheney “and his team” had “to fold their cards” on “plans for an air war in Iran,” Cheney’s “a tenacious son-of-a-bitch. He may very well be back at it tomorrow.”
Norman Podhoretz, widely reputed to be the “godfather” of neoconservatism, has been one of the most aggressive hawks clamoring for war with Iran. Podhoretz laid out the “The Case For Bombing Iran” in a June cover story in the right-wing Commentary Magazine. He insisted that the Iranians were very close to developing a nuclear weapon:
[Iran’s] effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all. […]
“[A]ll this negotiating has had the same result as Munich had with Hitler. That is, it has bought the Iranians more time in which they have moved closer and closer to developing nuclear weapons.”
Yesterday’s NIE proved Podhoretz’s claims were false. Rather than modify his views on Iran, Podhoretz — who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 — aired a nasty conspiracy theory yesterday, attacking the authors of the NIE and accusing the intelligence community of deliberately “leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush:”
I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view (including as is evident from the 2005 NIE, within the intelligence community itself) that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. […]
But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.
After insisting that Iran was “only a small step away from producing nuclear weapons,” and after pushing for military strikes against Iran for months, Podhoretz is apparently determined not to let facts get in the way of his prayers for an Iran war.
At a press briefing this morning, President Bush said he was told by his Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell “in August” that “we have some new information” regarding Iran’s nuclear program. But Bush asserted “he didn’t tell me what the information was”:
BUSH: I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was John — Mike McConnell came in and said, We have some new information. He didn’t tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.
Later, when a reporter followed-up on this statement, Bush asserted no one ever told him to stop ratcheting up the rhetoric against Iran:
REPORTER: Are you saying at no point while the rhetoric was escalating, as World War III was making it into conversation — at no point, nobody from your intelligence team or your administration was saying, Maybe you want to back it down a little bit?
BUSH: No — I’ve never — nobody ever told me that.
Yesterday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said, “when the President was told that we had some additional information, he was basically told: stand down; needs to be evaluated; we’ll come to you and tell you what we think it means.” Later in the briefing, Hadley reversed course and said, “In terms of stand down, they did not tell the President to stand down and stop talking about Iran’s nuclear program.”
White House officials are obfuscating on what they knew and when they knew it because the answer has the potential of further damaging the credibility of what they have asserted about Iran in the past few months. As ThinkProgress has noted, while the intelligence community was processing new information that Iran was “less determined to develop nuclear weapons,” President Bush was specifically warning that Iran was trying to “build a nuclear weapon.”
To recap: At the same time Bush was ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iran, he was told by his National Intelligence Director that that have “some new information.” Yet Bush wants the public to believe he never learned what the information was, nor was he interested.
UPDATE: The Washington Post reports this morning that “intelligence officials began briefing senior members of the Bush administration” about the new information “beginning in July.” But apparently, Bush was left completely in the dark until last Tuesday.
The BBC reports:
[T]he new NIE will make it harder for proponents of military action against Iran to argue their case.
One source, who has close links to US intelligence, said that members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff continued to call for military strikes against Iran “on a daily basis”.
Atrios adds: “It must be understood that since our intelligence agencies don’t believe Iran has a nuclear weapons program, it also means that they don’t know where such a program would be physically located if it did exist. This means that any desires of Dick Cheney and his people to bomb Iran simply involve… bombing the shit out of Iran.”
Monday, December 3, 2007
December 3, 2007
Bush Negotiates Permanent Presence in Iraq
Operation Iraqi Freedom Exposed
By MARJORIE COHN
The revelation that Bush will sign an agreement for a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq before his term is up confirms the real reason he invaded Iraq and changed its regime.
It was never about weapons of mass destruction. It was never about ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. And it was never about bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. These claims were lies to cover up the real motive for Operation Iraqi Freedom: to create a permanent American presence in Iraq. With Bush's November 26, 2007 announcement that the United States and Iraq were negotiating a permanent "security relationship," his lies have been exposed.
Bush declared, Iraqi leaders "understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency." His outline for the permanent U.S.-Iraqi "Economic" relationship is "to encourage the flow of foreign investments to Iraq." Two senior Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that Bush is negotiating preferential treatment for U.S. investments.
This isn't the first time Bush has tried to turn Iraq into an investment haven for U.S. oil companies. He used to tout the "Iraqi oil law," which would transfer control of three-quarters of Iraq's oil to foreign companies, as the benchmark for Iraqi progress. But in the face of opposition by the Iraqi oil unions, the parliament has refused to pass that law.
All along, Bush has been building mega-bases In Iraq. Camp Anaconda, which sits on 15 square miles of Iraqi soil, has a pool, gym, theater, beauty salon, school and six apartment buildings. Our $600 million American embassy in the Green Zone just opened. The largest embassy in the world, it is a self-contained city with no need for Iraqi electricity, food or water.
Although Bush has negotiated terms to keep U.S. troops in Iraq in perpetuity, the majority of American people oppose a permanent American occupation of Iraq.
So do many Iraqis. University of Michigan Juan Cole's blog, "Informed Comment," cited an Al-Hayat report in Arabic that the Sadr Movement and the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front rejected the "memorandum of understanding" between the United States and Iraq that Bush and Nuri al-Maliki signed. These groups say this agreement would be illegal unless agreed to by the legislature, and they complain about the absence of any timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
No wonder Iraqis oppose the U.S. occupation. The organization Just Foreign Policy has estimated that 1,118,846 Iraqis have been killed since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Australian born journalist John Pilger wrote, "The scale of death caused by the British and U.S. governments may well have surpassed that of the Rwanda genocide, making it the biggest single act of mass murder of the late 20th century and the 21st century."
Yet Congress refuses to reign in the President. When Bush announced that violence is down in Baghdad so he can withdraw 5,000 troops, the Democratic candidates cheered, diverting their criticism to the lack of political progress in Iraq. But with so many Iraqis dead, there are fewer to kill.
We the people have to keep the pressure on. As we demand the United States withdraw completely from Iraq, we must also forbid Bush to attack Iran. Our voices must be heard - by Congress, by the media, and throughout the world.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Why American Troops Can’t Go Home
Every week or so, the Department of Defense conducts a video-conference press briefing for reporters in Washington, featuring an on-the-ground officer in Iraq. On November 15th, that briefing was with Col. Jeffrey Bannister, commander of the Second Brigade of the Second Infantry Division. He was chosen because of his unit’s successful application of surge tactics in three mainly Shia districts in eastern Baghdad. He had, among other things, set up several outposts in these districts offering a 24-hour American military presence; he had also made generous use of transportable concrete walls meant to separate and partition neighborhoods, and had established numerous checkpoints to prevent unauthorized entry or exit from these communities.
As Col. Bannister summed up the situation:
“We have been effective, and we’ve seen violence significantly reduced as our Iraqi security forces have taken a larger role in all aspects of operations, and we are starting to see harmony between Sunni and Shi’a alike.”
The briefing seemed uneventful — very much a reflection of the ongoing mood of the moment among American commanders in Iraq — and received no significant media coverage. However, there was news lurking in an answer Col. Bannister gave to a question from AP reporter Pauline Jelinek (about arming volunteer local citizens to patrol their neighborhoods), even if it passed unnoticed. The colonel made a remarkable reference to an unexplained “five-year plan” that, he indicated, was guiding his actions. Here was his answer in full:
“I mean, right now we’re focused just on security augmentation [by the volunteers] and growing them to be Iraqi police because that is where the gap is that we’re trying to help fill capacity for in the Iraqi security forces. The army and the national police, I mean, they’re fine. The Iraqi police is — you know, the five-year plan has — you know, it’s doubling in size. … [We expect to have] 4,000 Iraqi police on our side over the five-year plan.
“So that’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re helping on security now, growing them into IP [Iraqi police]…. They’ll have 650 slots that I fill in March, and over the five-year period we’ll grow up to another 2,500 or 3,500.
Most astonishing in his comments is the least astonishing word in our language: “the.” Colonel Bannister refers repeatedly to “the five-year plan,” assuming his audience understands that there is indeed a master plan for his unit — and for the American occupation — mandating a slow, many-year buildup of neighborhood-protection forces into full fledged police units. This, in turn, is all part of an even larger plan for the conduct of the occupation.
Included in this implicit understanding is the further assumption that Col. Bannister’s unit, or some future replacement unit, will be occupying these areas of eastern Baghdad for that five-year period until that 4,000 man police force is finally fully developed.
Staying the Course, Any Course
A recent Washington Post political cartoon by Tom Toles captured the irony and tragedy of this “five-year plan.” A big sign on the White House lawn has the message “We can’t leave Iraq because it’s going…” and a workman is adjusting a dial from “Badly” to “Well.”
This cartoon raises the relevant question: If things are “going well” in Iraq, then why aren’t American troops being withdrawn? This is a point raised persuasively by Robert Dreyfuss in a recent Tomdispatch post in which he argues that the decline in three major forms of violence (car bombs, death-squad executions, and roadside IEDs) should be the occasion for a reduction, and then withdrawal, of the American military presence. But, as Dreyfuss notes, the Bush administration has no intention of organizing such a withdrawal; nor, it seems, does the Democratic Party leadership — as indicated by their refusal to withhold funding for the war, and by the promises of the leading presidential candidates to maintain significant levels of American troops in Iraq, at least through any first term in office.
The question that emerges is why stay this course? If violence has been reduced by more than 50%, why not begin to withdraw significant numbers of troops in preparation for a complete withdrawal? The answer can be stated simply: A reduction in the violence does not mean that things are “going well,” only that they are going “less badly.”
You can tell things can’t be going well if your best-case plan is for an armed occupation force to remain in a major Baghdad community for the next five years. It means that the underlying causes of disorder are not being addressed. You can tell things are not going well if five more years are needed to train and activate a local police force, when police training takes about six months. (Consider this an indication that the recruits exhibit loyalties and goals that run contrary to those of the American military.) You can tell things are not going well when communities have to be surrounded by cement walls and checkpoints that naturally disrupt normal life, including work, school, and daily shopping. These are all signs that escalating discontent and protest may require new suppressive actions in the not-so-distant future.
The American military is well aware of this. They keep reminding us that the present decline in violence may be temporary, nothing more than a brief window of opportunity that could be used to resolve some of the “political problems” facing Iraq before the violence can be reinvigorated. The current surge — even “the five year plan” — is not designed to solve Iraq’s problems, just to hold down the violence while others, in theory, act.
What Does the Bush Administration Want in Iraq?
What are the political problems that require resolution? The typical mainstream media version of these problems makes them out to be uniquely Iraqi in nature. They stem — so the story goes — from deeply engrained friction among Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, frustrating all efforts to resolve matters like the distribution of political power and oil revenues. In this version, the Americans are (usually inept) mediators in Iraqi disputes and are fated to remain in Iraq only because the Bush administration has little choice but to establish relatively peaceful and equitable solutions to these disputes before seriously considering leaving.
By now, however, most of us realize that there is much more to the American purpose in Iraq than a commitment to an elected government in Baghdad that could peacefully resolve sectarian tensions. The rhetoric of the Bush administration and its chief democratic opponents (most notably Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) is increasingly laced with references — to quote Clinton — to “vital national security interests” in the Middle East that will require a continuing “military as well as political mission.” In Iraq, leading Washington politicians of both parties agree on the necessity of establishing a friendly government that will welcome the presence of a “residual” American military force, oppose Iran’s regional aspirations, and prevent the country from becoming “a petri dish for insurgents.”
Let’s be clear about those “vital national security interests.” America’s vital interests in the Middle East derive from the region’s status as the world’s principle source of oil. President Jimmy Carter enunciated exactly this principle back in 1980 when he promulgated the Carter Doctrine, stating that the U.S. was willing to use “any means necessary, including military force,” to maintain access to supplies of Middle Eastern oil sufficient to keep the global economy running smoothly. All subsequent presidents have reiterated, amplified, and acted on this principle.
The Bush administration, in applying the Carter Doctrine, was faced with the need to access increasing amounts of Middle Eastern oil in light of constantly escalating world energy consumption. In 2001, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force responded to this challenge by designating Iraq as the linchpin in a general plan to double Middle Eastern oil production in the following years. It was reasonable, task force members decided, to hope for a genuine spurt in production in Iraq, whose oil industry had remained essentially stagnant (or worse) from 1980 to that moment. By ousting the backward-looking regime of Saddam Hussein and transferring the further development, production, and distribution of Iraq’s bounteous oil reserves to multinational oil companies, they would assure the introduction of modern methods of production, ample investment capital, and an aggressive urge to increase output. Indeed, after removing Saddam via invasion in 2003, the Bush administration has made repeated (if so far unsuccessful) efforts to implement this plan.
The desire for such an endpoint has hardly disappeared. It became increasingly clear, however, that successful implementation of such plans would, at best, take many years, and that the maintenance of a powerful American political and military presence within Iraq was a necessary prerequisite to everything else. Since sustaining such a presence was itself a major problem, however, it also became clear that America’s plans depended on dislodging powerful forces entrenched in all levels of Iraqi society — from public opinion to elected leaders to the insurgency itself.
American ambitions — far more than sectarian tensions — constitute the irresolvable core of Iraq’s political problems. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis oppose the occupation. They wish the Americans gone and a regime in place in Baghdad that is not an American ally. (This is true whether you are considering the Shiite majority or the Sunni minority.) As for a “residual” American military presence, the Iraqi Parliament recently passed a resolution demanding that the UN mandate for a U.S. occupation be rescinded.
Even the issue of terrorism is controversial. The American propensity to label as “terrorist” all violent opposition to the occupation means that most Iraqis (57% in August 2007), when asked, support terrorism as defined by the occupiers, since majorities in both the Sunni and Shia communities endorse using violent means to expel the Americans. Hillary Clinton’s ambition that the U.S. must prevent Iraq from becoming a “petri dish for insurgency” (like the President’s stated fear that the country could become the center of an al-Qaedan “caliphate”) will require the forcible suppression of most resistance to the American presence.
As for opposition to Iran, 60% of Iraqi citizens are Shiites, who have strong historic, religious, and economic ties to Iran, and who favor friendly relations with their neighbor. Even Prime Minister Maliki — the Bush administration’s staunchest ally — has repeatedly strengthened political, economic, and even military ties with Iran, causing numerous confrontations with American diplomats and military officials. As long as the Shia dominate national politics, they will oppose the American demand that Iraq support the United States campaign to isolate and control Iran. If the U.S. insists on an ally in its anti-Iran campaign, it must find a way in the next few years to alter these loyalties, as well as Sunni loyalties to the insurgency.
Finally there is that unresolved question of developing Iraqi oil reserves. For four years, Iraqis of all sectarian and political persuasions have (successfully) resisted American attempts to activate the plan first developed by Cheney’s Energy Task Force. They have wielded sabotage of pipelines, strikes by oil workers, and parliamentary maneuvering, among other acts. The vast majority of the population — including a large minority of Kurds and both the Sunni and Shia insurgencies — believes that Iraqi oil should be tightly controlled by the government and therefore support every effort — including in many cases violent resistance — to prevent the activation of any American plan to transfer control of significant aspects of the Iraqi energy industry to foreign companies. Implementation of the U.S. oil proposal therefore will require the long-term suppression of violent and non-violent local resistance, as well as strenuous maneuvering at all levels of government.
Foreigners (Americans Excepted) Not Welcome
This multidimensional opposition to American goals cannot be defeated simply by diplomatic maneuvering or negotiations between Washington and the still largely powerless government inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. The Bush administration has repeatedly gained the support of Prime Minister Maliki and his cabinet for one or another of its crucial goals — most recently for the public announcement that the two governments had agreed that the U.S. would maintain a “long-term troop presence” inside Iraq. Such an embrace is never enough, since the opposition operates at so many levels, and ultimately reaches deep into local communities, where violent and nonviolent resistance results in the sabotage of oil production, attacks on the government for its support of the U.S. presence, and direct attacks on American troops.
Nor can the pursuit of these goals be transferred — any time soon — to an American-trained Iraqi army and police force. All previous attempts at such a transfer have yielded Iraqi units that were reluctant to fight for U.S. goals and could not be trusted unsupervised in the field. The “five year plan” Colonel Bannister mentioned is an acknowledgement that training an Iraqi force that truly supports an American presence and would actively enforce American inspired policies is a distant hope. It would depend on the transformation of Iraqi political attitudes as well as of civic and government institutions that currently resist U.S. demands. It would involve a genuine, successful pacification of the country. In this context, a decline in the fighting and violence in Iraq, both against the Americans and between embittered Iraqi communities, is indeed only a first step.
So surge “success” doesn’t mean withdrawal — yes, some troops will come home slowly — but the rest will have to embed themselves in Iraqi communities for the long haul. This situation was summarized well by Captain Jon Brooks, the commander of Joint Security Station Thrasher in Western Baghdad, one of the small outposts that represent the front lines of the surge strategy. When asked by New Yorker reporter Jon Lee Anderson how long he thought the U.S. would remain in Iraq, he replied, “I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass, but it really depends on what the U.S. civilian-controlled government decides its goals are and what it tells the military to do.”
As long as that government is determined to install a friendly, anti-Iranian regime in Baghdad, one that is hostile to “foreigners,” including all jihadists, but welcomes an ongoing American military presence as well as multinational development of Iraqi oil, the American armed forces aren’t going anywhere, not for a long, long time; and no relative lull in the fighting — temporary or not — will change that reality. This is the Catch-22 of Bush administration policy in Iraq. The worse things go, the more our military is needed; the better they go, the more our military is needed.
Michael Schwartz, professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency. Among other books, he has written Radical Protest and Social Structure (with Beth Mintz). His work on Iraq has appeared on numerous Internet sites, including Tomdispatch, Asia Times, Mother Jones, and ZNET. His forthcoming Tomdispatch book, War Without End: The Iraq Debacle in Context, will be published in the spring by Haymarket. His email address is Ms42@optonline.net.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Unless something changes for the better, there will be no Christmas cheer from me this year.