Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Arrest Bush

Bush Confesses to Waterboarding. Call D.C. Cops!

by Ted Rall

“Why are we talking about this in the White House?” John Ashcroft nervously asked his fellow members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee. (The Principals were Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Ashcroft.)

“History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft predicted.

“This” is torture. Against innocent people. Conducted by CIA agents and American soldiers and marines. Sanctioned by legal opinions issued by Ashcroft’s Justice Department. Directly ordered by George W. Bush.

An April 11th report by ABC News describes how CIA agents, asked by previous presidents to carry out illegal “black ops” actions (torture and killings), had become tired of getting hung out to dry whenever their dirty deeds were revealed by the press. When the Bush Administration asked the CIA to work over prisoners captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, Director George Tenet demanded legal cover. The Justice Department complied by issuing a classified 2002 memo, the so-called “Golden Shield,” authored by Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee. “Enhanced interrogation techniques” — i.e., torture — were legal, Bybee assured the CIA.

Tenet was a good boss, a CYA type. He wanted to protect his agents. So he got the Principals to personally sign off on each act of torture.

“According to a former CIA official involved in the process,” ABC reported, “CIA headquarters would receive cables from operatives in the field asking for authorization for specific techniques.” Can we beat up this guy? Can we waterboard him?

The Bushies weren’t otherwise known for dwelling on details. Osama was in Pakistan; they invaded Afghanistan instead. Two years later, he was still in Pakistan. They invaded Iraq. Bush and his top officials still found time to walk through every step of torment a detainee would suffer in some CIA dungeon halfway around the world.

“The high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed, [Bush Administration] sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic. These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top Al Qaeda suspects — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news.”

Bush knew.

Not only did he know, he personally approved it. He likes torture.

“Yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue,” he confirmed. “And I approved.”

When the U.S. signs a treaty, its provisions carry the full force of U.S. law. One such treaty is the U.N. Convention Against Torture, of which the U.S. is a core signatory. As Philippe Sands writes in his new book “Torture Team:” Parties to the… Convention are required to investigate any person who is alleged to have committed torture. If appropriate, they must then prosecute — or extradite the person to a place where he will be prosecuted. The Torture Convention… criminalizes any act that constitutes complicity or participation in torture. Complicity or participation could certainly be extended not only to the politicians and but also the lawyers involved…”

George W. Bush has publicly confessed that he ordered torture, thus violating the Convention Against Torture. He, Cheney, Rumseld, Rice and the other Principals must therefore be arrested and, unlike the thousands of detainees kidnapped by the U.S. since 9/11, arraigned and placed on trial.

Because the torture ordered by Bush and his cabinet directly resulted in death, they must additionally be charged with several counts of murder. Fifteen U.S. soldiers have been charged with the murders of two detainees at the U.S. airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan in 2002. They were following orders issued by their Commander-in-Chief and his Principals.

One of the Bagram victims was Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver. “On the day of his death,” reported The New York Times on May 22, 2005, “Dilawar had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days. A guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend… Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.”

At least four detainees have committed suicide at the torture camp created by George W. Bush after 9/11 at Guantánamo Bay. Twenty-five more made 41 unsuccessful attempts to kill themselves. The conditions of their confinement — ordered by Bush and his Principals — constitutes torture. It no doubt prompted their deaths.

If George W. Bush were an ordinary citizen, there can be little doubt that he would face a long prison sentence for the scores of acts of torture he authorized both specifically and generally. Four of the seven white hillbillies charged with the kidnap-torture of a black woman in Logan County, West Virginia are now in jail for at least the next ten years.

If Bush weren’t president, he would face murder charges. The maximum sentence in a federal murder case is death.

If Bush and his co-conspirators are not above the law, if the United States remains a nation where all citizens are equal, they must be arrested and indicted. But by whom?

The Supreme Court has never resolved the question of whether a sitting president can be arrested by civilian authorities. Even if he were charged and convicted, many legal experts say he could issue himself a pardon.

However, leaving the presidency in the hands of an self-admitted torture killer is unacceptable. Congress could ask a U.S. Marshal to arrest Bush as part of impeachment charges. But the ultimate outcome — removing him from office a few months before the end of his term — seems woefully inadequate given the nature of the charges. In any case, Democrats have already said that impeachment is “off the table.”

Bush could be extradited to one of the countries where the torture and murders were committed — such as Afghanistan or Cuba. But he could claim immunity as a head of state.

There is, however, a person who could begin holding Bush and the others accountable for their crimes.

She is Cathy L. Lanier, the 39-year-old chief of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Lanier, take note: you have probable cause to arrest a self-confessed serial torturer and mass murderer within the borders of the District of Columbia. He resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Go get him.

History is calling, Chief Lanier. Your city, and your country, needs you.

Ted Rall is the author of the new book “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next big foreign policy challenge.

© 2008 Ted Rall

Pavlov's Dogs of War Propaganda

Jeff Huber | April 29, 2008

It turns out that James “Spider” Marks, retired Army general and military analyst, was peddling the Bush administration’s war propaganda on CNN under the guise of objective journalism for fun and profit.

Say it ain’t so, Spider.

“Shoeless” Barry McCaffrey and “Clueless” Ken Allard were also among the ranks of retired officers who cashed in on their military experience to shill young Mr. Bush’s woebegone war on the major news networks, according to a recent article in the New York Times by David Barstow. Many of the analysts who spoke with Barstow were so contrite they sounded like they were trying to put their hands on a Get Out of Hell Free card. Allard was especially amusing, seeming to want us to think that it took him five years or so to figure out that he was being duped by the Pentagon, but now that he’s on to their little charade, boy he’s hoppin’ mad about it.

It’s difficult to believe Allard could have been that dumb for that long, but keep in mind that he’s a former intelligence officer, and that the average intelligence officer is no more intelligent than the average fighter pilot, so he might have been.

A Few Bad Men

Allard, McCaffrey, Marks and many other network military analysts have been part of an extensive Pentagon information campaign designed “to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance,” according to Barstow. The effort “began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day.” Not surprisingly, “Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

Allard told Barstow the campaign amounted to a “sophisticated information operation.” “This was a coherent, active policy,” Allard said. He would know. If Irony were alive and with us, it would adore the fact that Allard has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, yet now wants to portray himself as a hapless victim of Pentagon spin merchants. “Night and day,” Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”

Gee, Ken. Imagine how the rest of us feel.

You Can’t Panhandle the Truth

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Barstow it is “a bit incredible” to think retired military officers could be “wound up” and turned into “puppets of the Defense Department.” Yet what the retired officers have done is no less unimaginable than the behavior of their still on active duty counterparts.

Air Force General Richard B. Myers was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001 to 2005, and one of the administration’s most avid and visible echo chamberlains. It was during his tenure that a bitter debate arose within the Department of Defense over the ethic and legal implications of Donald Rumsfeld’s programs for planting disinformation in the news media. In the summer of 2004, then U.S. commander in Iraq General George Casey approved merging his public affairs and combat information operations into a single “strategic communications office.”

Myers issued a memorandum that warned commanders like Casey about the risks of merging public affairs with things like psychological operations and operational deception, but that didn’t forbid them from doing so. Casey and the other commanders promptly ignored the memo. Did Myers really expect his generals to follow an order he didn’t actually give? Well, he is a fighter pilot, after all, which, as we discussed earlier, makes him as dumb as an intelligence officer. Our late friend Irony might wonder, though, if Myers is so dumb, how did he manage to earn graduate degrees and certificates from Auburn University, the Air Force Command and Staff College, the Army War College and (ahem) Harvard?

Now retired, Myers seems desperate to distance himself from another disgrace of his tenure: torture. Myers has gone and gotten himself a ten-dollar lawyer named Philippe Sands who’s apparently smarter than an intelligence officer and a fighter pilot put together. Sands says Myers was “hoodwinked” by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney into allowing waterboarding and other torture techniques to be practiced at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. While JCS chairman, Myers aggressively defended the GITMO camp’s existence and the interrogation techniques practiced there. Lawyer Sands says Harvard graduate Myers was “confused” about the decisions that allowed torture to take place, and that he thought the interrogation techniques Rumsfeld approved came from a U.S. Army field manual.

I’ll bet you cash money that a copy of that field manual was laying around somewhere at the Pentagon back then, and that if Myers had really wanted to know what it said about interrogation techniques, he would have had one of his little helpers read it for him and tell him all about it. I think Myers already had a pretty good idea what it said but he didn’t want to know for sure, because then he would have had to stand up to Donald Rumsfeld, and being an Air Force fighter pilot he didn’t have the body parts it takes to do that.

Irony would be delighted to hear that following his retirement, Myers was named as the Colin Powell Chair of Character, Leadership and Ethics at National Defense University, and it would tickle Irony pink that Myers now serves on the boards of Northrup Grumman, one of America’s largest defense contracting firms, and John Deere, which makes the kind of heavy construction equipment that comes in so handy in countries that are trying to rebuild themselves after being blown to smithereens by the United States.

Where Do We Find Such Men?

A good friend who taught at the scandal plagued U.S. Naval Academy once told me that Annapolis is a place where plebe freshmen spend a summer learning a million senseless rules and then spend the next four years learning to break them without getting caught. That the Academy’s curriculum includes an honor code and a required course on ethics would satisfy Irony to no end.

Given the moral incubation the Academy provides the naval forces’ officer corps, it is little wonder that the semi-official motto of naval aviation’s fighter community is “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Toward the end of my career, the Navy launched its “Moral Sailor” program, the watchwords of which were, “Moral sailors do the right thing even when nobody’s watching.” On the deck plates, this bromide swiftly morphed into “Smart sailors only do the right thing when nobody’s watching because that’s the only time they can get away with it.”

The naval services hardly have a monopoly on moral hypocrisy. The Air Force has produced its share of generals like Richard Myers. Irony would likely say, though, that the Army broke the mold when it manufactured General David H. Petraeus.

The moment he took over as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Petraeus began living up to the assessment of his boss, Admiral William Fallon, who reportedly called him "an a**-kissing little chickens***." One of Petraeus’s first acts in his new billet was to meet with and re-indoctrinate the news channel military analysts like Barry McCaffrey and Spider Marks and Ken Allard.

Petraeus is a master of ends-justify-means media manipulation when it comes to promoting his mission, his agenda and himself. The most atrocious example of his showboating was the Baghdad outdoor market shopping spree he put on for pro-surge Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham in April 2007, a propaganda event made possible by more than 100 U.S. troops who provided security.

The security detail wasn’t just the standard red rump window dressing you deck out whenever VIPs show up. Real danger was involved. The Shorja Market, where Lindsey Graham bought five carpets for a dollar each, had been bombed at least six times since the summer prior to the McCain retinue’s visit. 61 people were killed there the previous February. At least 60 people, mostly women and children, died during a suicide bombing in another Baghdad market the Thursday before McCain’s party arrived. The day after McCain’s shopping excursion, 21 Shiites who worked at the Shorja Market were ambushed, tied up and shot to death.

Any way you want to slice it, Petraeus put the lives of more than 100 soldiers under his command at risk in order to convince the American public his surge was “working,” to promote John McCain’s presidential candidacy, and to grease the rails for his own retirement career in politics.

Lovely guy, huh?

Irony wouldn’t get its hopes up that America’s military can somehow reverse its trend of rewarding self-promoting yes men with its top leadership spots. The man the Army brought in from the field last November to preside over its brigadier (one-star) general selection board was one David H. Petraeus.

This was the same David H. Petraeus, Irony would add, whom young Mr. Bush just nominated to move up and take over Central Command.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Engaging Iran

On "Withdrawing Responsibly" from Iraq


Sixty percent of Americans want the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, according to a March 12th Gallup poll. And sixty-four percent, according a recent CBS poll, believe that the Iraq War was never worth fighting to begin with. After five years, four thousand troops killed, and thousands more crippled and mentally traumatized, Americans are fully comprehending the horrendous cost of our endeavor in Iraq.

The general sentiment of pessimism is correct. The Iraq War should have never been authorized and the time for withdrawal is now. But others in the political mainstream—yet statistically on the political fringe—employ several arguments for staying the course. They argue that Al Qaeda in Iraq will regroup, gain strength, and attack us here, even though Al Qaeda in Iraq comprises only 2 to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency, a paltry figure for a group allegedly poised to dominate a country of 27 million people. Supporters of the war claim that it's merely been a problem of execution, and that withdrawal would make America look weak. But this assertion could easily be stood on its head: Iraq is now the cause célèbre for jihadists flooding into Iraq because we are there, thus the longer we stay the weaker we become. Leaving would weaken the jihadists and actually improve our standing in the region. But arguments for staying the course usually come from the very people who got us into Iraq; so these shouldn't be the go-to-experts for developing solutions to get us out.

But how do we withdraw responsibly, minimizing the chaos left in our wake? How do we turn our moral obligation to aid Iraqis into an achievable mission for withdrawal? There are numerous components to withdrawing from Iraq. A central one is a component that has been least addressed: engaging Iran. Implementing such a policy will be tricky, not only because the Iran's clerical leadership is difficult to deal with, but because engaging Iran will require America's foreign policy establishment to significantly shift its ideological orientation, moving from the belief that diplomacy is weak to the thinking that diplomacy is one of the most potent instruments in our foreign policy toolbox.

Untangling the diplomatic, economic, and ideological roadblocks established over the last three decades will not be easy. But the stability we seek in Iraq is impossible unless we make a concerted effort to induce the actors surrounding Iraq to be responsible stakeholders. That result can come about only if we engage Iran openly, maturely, and without preconditions.
Since 1979, when a group of Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the United States has attempted to isolate Iran throughout the Middle East. Occasionally, the interests of Tehran and Washington have overlapped, most recently, when Iran quietly supported America's effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. But overall, relations with Iran have been frosty, and until a U.S. administration alters that situation, diplomatic avenues will remain closed, and stability in Iraq will remain elusive.

Today, Iran is the only country that has the necessary influence to promote peace in its war-ravaged neighbor. As U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, told The Washington Post several weeks ago, no one in the U.S. and Iraqi governments "feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation." Constructive Iranian influence could provide that crucial tipping point.

Let's look at area in which negotiations with Iran might progress. Iran currently sits on some of the largest known oil reserves in the world, but lacking refinery capacity and technical expertise, is forced to import more than 40 percent of its gasoline. America can offer incentives to reduce this burden, and in return, Iran could encourage Iraq's two largest Shi'ite political parties, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and the Dawa Party-both of which Iran supports-to offer concessions to al-Tawafuq, the main Sunni political bloc.

Iran's role in Iraq is just one piece of the puzzle. Negotiations should also involve Iran's control of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and, of course, Tehran's nuclear program. Moreover, rather than engage Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the United States must go directly to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who truly controls the apparatus of government and has the final say on the country's nuclear ambitions.

But Americans still skeptical of engaging one's adversaries need only look at historical precedents: Richard Nixon's engagement with China. Nixon's engagement occurred during the Vietnam War, when China's assistance to the North Vietnamese could have precluded dialogue. But U.S. officials recognized the regional role China was playing and used it to America's strategic advantage. The same should be done with Iran. It may take months, or even years, but dialogue is imperative, and the sooner the better.

Finding an American leader who will engage Iran without preconditions will be difficult. The U.S.-Iranian relationship is currently at a stalemate because America insists that Iran suspend uranium enrichment before a dialogue can take place. That demand is unrealistic and short-sighted. Demanding as a precondition the very goal we want to achieve is illogical, although it perfectly encapsulates why Bush's foreign policy on so many fronts has been a failure.

The Persian Gulf is a nexus of energy, security and economic interests. To address one area without regard to the others and expect satisfactory outcomes is unrealistic. Most important, refusing to talk with our adversaries unjustly burdens our armed forces, saddling them with the responsibility of meeting all of our expectations in the region. Fighting a needless, ideological war in Iraq is bad enough. Ignoring other states in the region only exacerbates the quagmire, ensuring that any palatable resolution remains out of reach.

Pulling ourselves out of Iraq will take true leadership. And true leadership will take a bold visionary willing to initiate sound, pragmatic statecraft, rather than continuing the faulty reasoning that saps America of its treasure, soldiers, and influence within the region.

Malou Innocent is a Foreign Policy Analyst at The Cato Institute

The Iraq War Morphs Into The Iranian War

By Paul Craig Roberts

29/04/08 "ICH" - -- -It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

The US Air Force can’t wait “to show what it can do.”

Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

Under cover of the mayhem and propaganda, Israel can grab the remains of the West Bank and have another go at grabbing the water resources of southern Lebanon.

Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country’s territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the “two great democracies.”

On April 27 Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed Iran for “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. Has Admiral Mullen forgot that it is the US, not Iran, that is responsible for as many as one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis, the “collateral damage” of a “cakewalk war” now into its sixth year?

On April 26 the Washington Post reported that “the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action” against Iran.

The Bush Regime’s national security advisor says Iran is a threat in Iraq, an accusation echoed endlessly by secretary of defense Robert Gates, secretary of state Rice, vice president Cheney, and president Bush. The US, which has 150,000 troops in Iraq, is not a threat. The US troops are protecting Iraq from Iran, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Just ask Fox “News.”

Doing its part to egg on war with Iran, the US TV news program, “60 MInutes,” gave air time to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Eliezer Shkedi, who declared in a special interview that Iranian president Ahmadinejad was the new Hitler and that we must not again make the mistake of disbelieving a Hitler.

There are better candidates for the role than Ahmadinejad.

Gen. Shkedi himself sounds like Hitler blaming Poland for the outbreak of the second world war. Ahmadinejad has attacked no country, whereas Israel repeatedly invades its neighbors and continues 40-year occupations of Syrian and Palestinian territory.

As Noam Chomsky has written, the US government thinks that it owns the world (Chomsky could have added that Israel thinks it owns the Middle East and America). Americans can wallow in indignation over China’s occupation of Tibet, but be perfectly content with America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel can wax eloquently about “Palestinian terrorism” while its military and Zionist settlers terrorize Palestinians.

Americans see no hypocrisy in “their” government’s damning of Russia for opposing the incorporation of former Russian satellites and constituent parts in a US military alliance.

Americans see manifest destiny, not US aggression, when “their” government drops bombs on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan. Americans do not think it is aggression for them to develop war plans to attack Iran or China or N. Korea or whomever, or to maintain hundreds of military bases all over the globe. The same Americans work themselves into hysterical frenzies over “Iranian influence in Iraq” and “al Qaeda plans to bring the war to America.”

As Chomsky says, we own the world. No one else counts.

Except Israel.

Israel counts so much that every presidential candidate has declared his and her willingness to expend whatever American blood and treasure are necessary “to protect Israel.” There are no limits on the promise “to defend Israel,” no matter what Israel does, no matter if Israel initiates (yet again) war with its neighbors, no matter if it continues to force Palestinians out of their homes and villages in order to “create living room” for Israelis.

With this sort of promise, why should Israel ever settle for anything less than “greater Israel”?

Just as the US government launched its illegal invasion of Iraq on the back of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, the US government claims it must attack Iran or Iran will build a nuclear weapon. The Bush Regime has learned never to discard a lie as long as it works.

The lie works for the US Congress, the US media and much of the US public, but it is breaking down abroad. On April 27 the British newspaper, the Independent, responded to the recent US government claim that the Syrian facility attacked last September by Israel in an act of naked aggression was a nuclear reactor built by N. Korea:

“There is no independent way to verify any of this, especially since the installation has now been destroyed. We must rely on the integrity of the Israeli and US intelligence. That is where we hit a problem. The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented similar evidence to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 showing what we were told was strong evidence of Iraqi storage of weapons of mass destruction. As we all know, that intelligence turned out to be bogus.”

A needless war, a country destroyed, all for bogus intelligence. Why must we repeat our crime in Iran?

Why do we persist in our crime in Iraq? On April 27 McClatchy Newspapers reported that 50 Iraqi political leaders representing numerous political groups including Sunnis went to Sadr City to protest the siege by the US military. Why is al Sadr under seige? He called for a halt to bloodshed between Iraqis, for a “liberation of ourselves and our lands from the occupier,” for “a real government and real sovereignty.” However, for the Bush Regime, rhetoric about “freedom and democracy” is but a mask behind which to impose a US puppet government. Real Iraqi leaders like al Sadr are “terrorists” who must be eliminated.

Why do the American people and “their” representatives in Congress continue to tolerate a criminal Bush Regime that uses lies and propaganda to mask its acts of naked aggression, war crimes under the Nuremberg standard?

Why does the rest of the world continue to receive political representatives from a war criminal government?

What if the rest of the world told the US to close its bases, its embassies, its CIA operations and to go home?

Self-righteous Americans would regard such demands as effrontery! We own the world.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts @

Bloated in Baghdad

by Sarah Stillman

CAMP STRYKER, Iraq - The first warning that many U.S. troops receive here in Baghdad isn’t about the rampant IEDs (improvised explosive devices), or the RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), or even the EFPs (explosively formed projectiles). It’s about the PCPs: the pervasive combat paunches.

As I wait for my C-130 flight from Kuwait to western Baghdad, a soldier tells me about a PowerPoint slide that’s becoming popular in Army briefings: “Back in 2003, the average soldier lost 15 pounds during his tour of Iraq,” he recounts. “Now, he gains 10.”

Arriving at Camp Stryker, I get to savor the dilemma firsthand. My low-slung Army tent is pitched just down the road from a Pizza Hut, a Burger King and a Green Beans Coffee — the war-zone cousin of Starbucks that sells mocha frappes for a cheeky $4.25. Around the corner sits a massive chow hall run by former Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc. where troops load up on four varieties of fried meats and five flavors of Baskin Robbins. The facility is billed as “all-you-can-eat,” and, trust me, soldiers do.

Traveling all the way to a war zone to report on military calorie counts may seem like the height of triviality, especially as Baghdad’s security situation implodes. But Camp Stryker’s butterball cuisine is more than a frivolous aside; it’s an entree into the general engorgement of the war itself.

Where, for instance, do the mountains of beef patties, pecan pies and Coco Puffs come from? The Houston-based KBR farms out most of its $27-billion government contract to Gulf states middlemen, who greet initial food shipments in Kuwait. Low-wage Pakistani and Nepali subcontractors then distribute the goods to U.S. mess halls, where even lower-wage Indians and Sri Lankans prepare them for the troops. All along the route are markups galore, sometimes exceeding 500 percent.

This logistical gravy train creates the unchecked fat on America’s profile here in Baghdad. The bloat applies to basic counterinsurgency strategy, too. Even after Gen. David Petraeus shifted several units out of giant bases and into Joint Security Stations — humbler urban outposts where soldiers, to use the general’s words, live “among those we are trying to protect” — the average U.S. camp remains a behemoth and a glutton. Over 70 percent of American troops here are classified as “support” forces, meaning they may never step outside the wire to engage in local operations or address community grievances over a customary glass of chai. These big-base bureaucrats are known to front-line soldiers as “Fobbits”– a play on the acronym for “forward-operating base” (FOB) that echoes J.R.R. Tolkien’s plump, provincial milquetoasts.

The whole scenario unfolds to the ironic soundtrack of “support the troops.” The FOB experience in Iraq, particularly on larger posts, is defined by countless privatized efforts to console and distract: mini-marts where soldiers can buy PlayStations and Harley-Davidsons; KBR recreation facilities where they can shoot pool or take salsa lessons; fast food joints where they can kick back with a non-alcoholic beer and a personalized pizza. Such perks ostensibly make soldiers feel more at home. But many insist that the surreal arrangement only highlights what they’ve been asked to leave behind. A baseline fact remains: Troops’ psyches can’t be bought with bikes or bacon double cheeseburgers (or re-enlistment bonuses, or college loans, or fill-in-the-latest-bait) — especially after Gen. George Casey’s acknowledgment that “the current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply.”

Passing time in a rec tent back in Kuwait, I chat with a soft-spoken 28-year-old sergeant who is preparing to fly back into the caldron of Baghdad’s Sadr City after three weeks of R&R in Georgia. In a room strewn with crepe paper palm trees and plastic hula skirts left over from the previous night’s “Spring Fling Luau,” the two of us look like attendees at a cornball junior prom. But the sergeant’s mind is a long way from such frivolities: He has recently lost his squad leader, and two other soldiers from his area of operations were killed a few days later.

Burying his head in his hands as we talk, he says: “All the Burger Kings in the world wouldn’t be enough for this. Some of us are on our third or fourth tours, and we just can’t do this anymore — we really can’t.”

–Sarah Stillman

Sunday, April 27, 2008

TV Military ‘Analysts’ Are Part of What Ike Warned Against

A New York Times report shines a light on how the military-industrial complex tries to shape broadcast news.

by Nancy Grape

The faces dominating the front page of The New York Times last Sunday were male, strong-jawed and familiar. Indeed, that was the point.

They were the faces of nine retired military officers (there were more inside the paper) who appear regularly on network and cable television news to give viewers informed, independent assessments of the war in Iraq.

At least that was the idea.

What viewers have been getting, the Times revealed, is something quite different. The paper reported convincingly that some retired officers appearing as “military analysts” have been pushing Pentagon propaganda in return for continued access to top officials and financial benefit for themselves.

According to the Times report, “Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department.

“In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated,” the report said. “Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access. A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an enthusiastic golfer in his presidential years, left behind more than spike marks on the White House floor. He stood at a convergence in American history. He knew it. And he gave voice to a solemn warning, delivered in 1961, three days before he left office.

Eisenhower, a renowned World War II general, declared, “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.

“In the councils of government,” he warned, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes,” he declared. “We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

The Times’ report on the military analysts is a tale of propaganda, hidden loyalties and financial interests. It reveals a vulnerability that reaches all the way to the survival of the United States as a country governed by the informed opinion of its people.

The newspaper’s investigation shows that in case after case, the military analysts take their cues and their information from specially prepared Pentagon briefings and trips.

A number wear more than one hat. In addition to offering their “analysis” on television, they work for pay for defense-related industries. Employers range from military equipment manufacturers and contractors to lobbyists and consulting firms on the hunt for defense-related business.

The report is important for the glimpse it provides into how powerful forces help keep us enmeshed in Iraq.

The 17 military analysts pictured include such oft-seen faces as retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey on NBC News, retired Brig. Gen. James Marks on CNN and retired Lt. Gen. Tom McNerney on Fox. Even so, television news audiences haven’t heard much about the report. Up it popped on Sunday morning, and by Sunday night, it was smothered like a Philadelphia cheese steak in rehashed political news.

“This article would have come sooner, but it took us two years to wrestle 8,000 pages of documents out of the Defense Department that described its interactions with network military analysts,” reporter David Barstow explained on the Times’ Web site. “We pushed as hard as we could, but the Defense Department refused to produce many categories of documents in response to our requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act.”

Ultimately the Times went to court. Yet even then, Barstow said, “the Pentagon failed to meet several court-ordered deadlines.” Finally, the judge had enough. He threatened the Defense Department with sanctions if it continued to defy court deadlines. The stalling stopped.

The television networks and cable fiefdoms involved probably would prefer this story follow another military tradition and just fade away. Like it or not, however, the report on the Pentagon puppets leaves an indelible mark.

Eisenhower, president and general, would see it and heed it. So should we.

Nancy Grape comments on state and national issues for the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

Saturday, April 26, 2008

All the President’s Liars

Fun new game! Which TV news ‘military expert’ is really a whore for the Bush administration? (Hint: all of them)

by Mark Morford

Did it work? Were you duped?

Were you calmly and methodically and rather nefariously led to believe that maybe, just maybe, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the rest, right along with tales of soldier suicides and torture and staggering civilian body counts and the utterly disastrous Bush military policy weren’t really all that bad after all?

Did you watch any CNN or Fox News or MSNBC, lo, these past five or six years, listen to the pundits and ponder the wise, informed comments of all the military experts the networks brought on to discuss Iraq policy, then conclude that maybe this war, this appalling invasion might actually be positive, that maybe the surge is working and torture ain’t all that bad and the democracy is taking root and America is proud and perky and victorious once again?

Did you believe any of it? Because oh my God, they sure as hell worked us over like a rabid dog works a hunk of gristle.

Who are “they,” exactly? Why, they’re the newly discovered and rather unexpected fraternity of expert BS artists, a highly specialized group known to gullible Americans as stoic, stern-faced retired generals, colonels, majors, military advisers, former Pentagon officials, the ones you’ve heard and seen on TV news for years, but who are known to the Bush administration as a delightfully dishonest gaggle of preferred liars, lackeys, shills, puppets and mouthpieces for Dick Cheney and Donny Rumsfeld and Dubya himself.

The truth is as sad as it is revolting: You have been lied to, again and again, perhaps even more than you imagined, in a rather unexpected way, perhaps like no other time in American history, in a more carefully orchestrated and widespread effort than any presidential administration has managed to attempt in the past.

Here is the New York Times, still managing to do what it does best despite the era of dying newspapers and disrespected journalism, running a simply astonishing piece on all the dishonest “military consultants” who’ve appeared for the past half decade on every major network — and yes, Fox adores these liars best of all — to discuss Iraq, surges, U.S. military strategy, the works.

Here is the Times revealing, after two years of battling the Defense Department to release the 8,000 pages of incriminating documents by way of instigating lawsuits and leveraging the Freedom of Information Act — and barely even then — that this entire dour fraternity of deceitful military cretins has been in service of BushCo since Sept. 11 — and still is, to this very day.

To clarify: Whenever you’ve seen one of those dour-faced retired generals discussing details of U.S. war strategy on MSNBC, chances are staggeringly good he was/is in the pocket of Rummy or Cheney. Whenever a wise old colonel has appeared on Fox or CNN or CBS News to say the surge is working or troop morale is strong or that all those suicide bombings aren’t really so bad, chances are overwhelmingly good that he is lying outright and you’re hearing exactly what Donald Rumsfeld wanted him to say. Isn’t that refreshing?

The Times story is simply astounding. Up and down the line, from major to general to colonel to every sort of expert they have, it’s the same story. Over and over again, presented “tens of thousands of times” and totaling countless hundreds of TV and radio hours, it’s been a near constant stream of calculated deception and misrepresentation and bogus pro-Iraq spin. Neutrality? Fair analysis of the war? Criticism of Bush? Not a chance.

You may ask: Why would they do such a thing? What’s in it for the generals and the colonels to lie outright to the American populace and the embarrassingly blind news networks, to whore their credentials and trash their distinguished reputations in favor of defending a lost war and useless president?

That’s easy: Access. Access to the White House, to the corridors of power and influence; access to the perks and the pals and snifters of brandy, the backroom handshakes, the business deals, the hugely lucrative military contracts, the sweet, sweet piles of cash and privilege and power awaiting them if they just toe the line and keep their real opinions to themselves. Also worth mentioning: Many are military men down to the bone. Failed war and inept commander in chief or no, they will defend any U.S. military operation, simply because it’s a U.S. military operation. It’s just automatic.

Reminds me, in a depressing sort of way, of that gaggle of Big Tobacco CEOs who banded together not long ago in a hilarious attempt to convince the nation — and the courts — that cigarettes aren’t all that bad and there’s little evidence smoking causes cancer or impotence or death, and in fact small children really love secondhand smoke and so do puppies and flowers and Jesus, and if you want to have fun sometime, walk into a hospital nursery and fire up a fresh Marlboro and blow that yummy smoke straight into the faces of the newborns. Watch them squirm with delight!

Except wait, no, it’s not like that at all. One major difference: Big Tobacco execs are professional liars, de facto and a priori and understood. It’s what they do. Not even the most ardent smoking advocate would trust one those jackals as far as he could throw him into a vat of chemotherapy drugs.

Different, at least in theory, with these high-grade military men. They have a potent aura of trustworthiness, fairness, decency. They are f-ing generals, for chrissakes, and hence we like to think of them as straight-talking, no-BS working men whose word is solid and whose authority unquestionable and therefore no wimp-assed monkey-faced president or scabrous Defense secretary could make them say something they didn’t actually believe.

Wrong. Oh, how horribly wrong.

So I ask again, did it work? Was America duped? Well, yes and no. There’s little doubt that this insidious, sustained PR attack — and make no mistake, it was/is an attack on the American people; such calculated “psychological operations” aimed at U.S. citizens are actually very illegal, though it’s enormously difficult to prove so in court — swayed millions of Americans, gave fuel to the preemptive attack argument, inflamed (and still inflames) the warmongering right, scammed the media, fanned the pro-war fires for years before the public recoil finally kicked in.

But oh, kick in it did. This is the fascinating thing. Even all those high-ranking military experts lying like well-decorated dogs in one of the most impressive, appalling PR campaigns in American history could not keep Bush from collapsing, could not prevent Americans from learning the real facts of the failed war and toxic presidency — eventually.

And maybe this is a good thing. Because now, given the scope of the Bush administration’s lies — the true scale of which we may never fully know — the recoil is even more forceful than it ever might’ve been, the anti-neocon, anti-Bush revolt is potent and heartening and enormously helpful to the Democratic cause, perhaps far more than if Bush and his cronies had told the truth in the first place.

Then again, if they had been the slightest bit honest, if Bush had even a hint of integrity, we’d never have launched this staggeringly botched, futile war in the first place, and maybe we wouldn’t be where we are now, with the American experiment under Bush far less of an experiment and far more of a cyanide tablet.

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford’s Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

© The San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The New Walls of Baghdad

How the US Is Reproducing Israel’s Flawed Occupation Strategies in Iraq
by Steve Niva

The new “surge” strategy in Iraq, led by General David Petreaus, has been heavily marketed as an example of the U.S. military’s application of the “lessons of history” from previous counterinsurgencies to Iraq, foremost among them the need to win the population over from insurgents through cultivating human relationships, addressing popular grievances and providing security.

Yet one glance at the realities on the ground in Iraq today reveal that the cornerstone of current U.S. military strategy is less about cultivating human relationships than about limiting them, primarily through concrete walls and checkpoints. And it has been less about minimizing violence than containing Iraq’s population and redirecting the battlefield from the streets to the skies above Iraq.

While the coffee klatches between Marine commanders and Sunni tribal sheikhs may garner all the publicity, the real story on the ground in Iraq is that from Baghdad to Mosul, the U.S. military has been busy constructing scores of concrete walls and barriers between and around Iraqi neighborhoods, which it terms “Gated Communities.” In Baghdad alone, 12-foot-high walls now separate and surround at least eleven Sunni and Shiite enclaves. Broken by narrow checkpoints where soldiers monitor traffic via newly issued ID cards, these walls have turned Baghdad into dozens of replica Green Zones, dividing neighbor from neighbor and choking off normal commerce and communications. Similar walls are being erected in other Iraqi cities, while the entire city of Falluja remains surrounded by a razor-wire barrier, with only one point of entry into the city. Moreover, the U.S. military has doubled its use of unmanned aerial drones and increasingly relies upon aerial strikes to quell insurgent activities, often through bombings and targeted assassinations.

While there is no question that overall levels of violence have temporarily decreased, Iraq has become virtually caged in a carapace of concrete walls and razor wire, reinforced by an aerial occupation from the sky. Reporting from a recent visit to the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, the seasoned journalist Nir Rosen noted in Rolling Stone (March 6, 2008) that:

Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush’s much-heralded “surge,” Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood.

The Israeli Laboratory

The explosion of walls and enclaves reinforced by aerial violence across Iraq suggest that the primary counterinsurgency lessons being followed by the U.S. military in Iraq today derive less from the lessons of “Lawrence of Arabia” than from Israel’s experiences in the Occupied Palestinian Territories over the past decade.

Over the past decade, Israel has developed a pacification strategy against Palestinian resistance to its military occupation by erecting separation walls and checkpoints across Palestinian territory that has enclosed Palestinians within a proliferating archipelago of ethnic enclaves to separate them from each other and from illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. This wall and enclave strategy is maintained under a blanket of aerial Israeli surveillance and deadly unmanned drones, which target the frequent airborne assassinations and strikes. This strategy reached its apotheosis in Gaza following Israel’s withdrawal of its soldiers and settlements in 2005. In Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians are now living within an enclosed cage, while Israel controls access to the essentials of life through high-tech border terminals and unleashes “penetration raids” and airborne “targeted killings” when resistance is offered.

Iraq, it seems, is surging towards Gaza.

This fact is not missed by average Iraqis. Visiting the Sunni bastion of Amriya in Baghdad, Nir Rosen in The Nation (April 3, 2008) recounts how his Iraqi driver pointed to a gap in the concrete walls with which the U.S. occupation forces have surrounded Amriya: “We call it the Rafah Crossing.” He was referring to the one gate from besieged Gaza to Egypt that the Israeli army occasionally allows to open.

The U.S. military’s virtual reproduction of distinctively Israeli counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq reveals that claims about applying the “lessons of history” of counterinsurgent warfare to Iraq are largely beside the point. The actual application of counterinsurgency on the ground in Iraq has a distinctly Israeli DNA, born of very recent lessons from Israel’s own urban warfare laboratory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This should not be surprising. The Israeli DNA in the new “surge” strategy is only the latest manifestation of a widely overlooked but unmistakable American predilection to increasingly draw from Israel’s urban warfare laboratory and its flawed efforts to devise fresh tactics in the service of rebooting its own military occupation of Palestinian lands. What we are seeing in Iraq today has much less to do with the declared shift in U.S. military doctrine than with a deeper and more far-reaching “Israelization” of U.S. military strategy and tactics over the past two decades that was only heightened by America’s misadventures in the Middle East after September 11, 2001. In the search for new means to confront urban insurgencies in predominately Arab and Muslim lands, there has been a complex institutional and cultural harmonization between these two militaries under the banner of fighting “the war on terror,” though the traffic is mostly in one direction. In light of the real lessons of counterinsurgency history, however, mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure.

The “Israelization” of U.S. Military Doctrine and Tactics

This “Israelization” of U.S. military doctrine and tactics can be traced back to the early 1990’s, especially the “Black-hawk down” debacle of 1993 in Somalia, which led U.S. military strategists to rethink their approach to fighting urban warfare in poor Third World “battle spaces.” In the following years, according to urban theorist Mike Davis in his 2004 article “The Pentagon as Global Slum Lord,” Israeli advisors were brought in to teach Marines, Rangers and Navy Seals the state of the art tactics against urban insurgencies that Israel was using to ruthlessly suppress Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

This tactical “Israelization” of U.S. combat doctrine was accompanied by what Davis terms a deeper strategic “Sharonization” (referring to Israeli militarist and later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) of the Pentagon’s worldview in which U.S. military strategists began to envision the capacity of high-tech warfare to contain and possibly defeat insurgencies rooted in third world urban environments. Sharon is known to have kept by his bedside a well-thumbed Hebrew edition of Alistair’s Horne’s A Savage War of Peace, an account of the failed French effort to defeat the Algerian insurgency against French colonial occupation. While many viewed the French defeat as proof of the futility of military solutions to anti-colonial insurgencies, Sharon’s belief was that Israel could learn from Algeria to get right what the French did not. In 2001, the journalist Robert Fisk reported, Sharon told French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in a phone conversation that the Israelis were “like you in Algeria,” the only difference being that “we [the Israelis] will stay.”

The “Israelization” of U.S. military doctrine and tactics since the attacks on September 11, 2001, has gone so far as to create what the Palestinian academic Marwan Bishara, writing in Al-Ahram Weekly (April-May, 2002), has termed a new “strategic cult” in which Israel’s “asymmetrical war” against the Palestinians became seen as a continuation of the U.S. “war on terrorism” in both theory and practice. Learning from Israel’s experiences centered on the need for new precision weaponry and a tactical emphasis on aerial assassinations and armored bulldozers, as well as other elements of Israel’s fighting style in the new “asymmetrical” and urban battle spaces. According to The Independent’s Justin Huggler (March 29, 2003) Israel’s unprecedented assault on Palestinian cities and the refugee camp in Jenin during “Operation Defensive Shield” in April 2002 was keenly observed by foreign militaries, particularly the United States and UK as they geared up to invade and occupy Iraq.

But the most direct application of the Israeli tutorial took place in Iraq, particularly after the U.S. found itself mired in a growing insurgency in an occupied country, confronting urban guerilla warfare and suicide bombings in Fall, 2003. Having banished counterinsurgency doctrine from its own playbook after Vietnam, the Pentagon turned to Israel. According to the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writing in The New Yorker (December 15, 2003),

One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East. According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers - again, in secret - when full-field operations begin.

Hence, American forces increasingly used a new set of tactics that appeared to have come straight out of the Israeli playbook from the occupied Palestinians territories, including physically enclosing villages within razor-wire fences, bulldozing homes of suspected insurgents, destroying irrigation systems and agricultural fields, taking civilian hostages and using torture to extract intelligence. Seymour Hersh claims that the U.S. was told it had to “go unconventional” like the Israelis - to use harsh tactics to counter the harsh insurgency such as deploying assassination squads. As he summarized it: “The American-Israeli liaison on Iraq amounts to a tutorial on how to dismantle an insurgency.”
According to Julian Borger at the Guardian (December 9, 2003) one former senior American intelligence official raised serious concerns about the dangers of adopting Israel’s “hunter-killer” teams, and the political implications of such an open embrace of Israel: “It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we’re already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world and we’ve just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams.”

The “Surge”: Shifting Tactics in Iraq, Israeli-Style

The Israeli tutorial, as we know, was nothing less than a complete failure, as Iraq slipped into anarchy and then raging civil war in large part as a result of the destructive tactics deployed the U.S. military.

As a consequence, the failures in Iraq forced the U.S. military to reconsider the pre-eminence of harsh Israeli-style tactics. And so in late 2006, Gen. David Petraeus and his highly touted cadre of counterinsurgency (COIN) experts, fresh from a six-month command and staff course at Fort Leavenworth that according to The Independent’s Robert Fisk (April 11, 2007) included at least four senior Israeli officers, ushered in a heavily marketed new counterinsurgency strategy that reduced the reliance upon brute military force in favor of creating alliances with former insurgents, building intelligence capacity, and restoring a semblance of security for the population, particularly in Baghdad.
But it would be a mistake to read this new “hearts and minds” counterinsurgency strategy as a full-scale retreat from “Israelization” in two important respects, both of which illustrate how remarkably similar American and Israeli strategic and tactical frameworks have become at this point in time.

First, it is striking how much the new U.S. approach in Iraq mirrors Israel’s own tactical response to its failed attempt to use harsh and brutal tactics to crush the renewed surge of Palestinian resistance between 2001 and 2004. In 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled a new strategy - what he termed “disengagement” - as a new way to “shift the narrative.” This strategy included the tactical withdrawal of Israeli settlements and soldiers from the Gaza Strip to be replaced by its complete encirclement and economic strangulation, while further enclosing Palestinians in the West Bank within separation walls, barriers and checkpoints. Whereas the previous approach relied upon aggressive Israeli military incursions within Palestinian areas, the new strategy seeks to control Palestinians from beyond their walled-off enclosures by selectively controlling access to life essentials and relying on air-strikes to quell resistance.

Similarly, in response to the chaos in Iraq and the growing popular demand for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in late 2006, President Bush and the U.S. military adopted the “surge” strategy as its own way to “change the narrative.” As in the Israeli case, the “surge” has shifted techniques of domination across Iraq from the direct application of violence against insurgents to indirect spatial incarceration, multiplying archipelagos of externally alienated and internally homogenous ethno-national enclaves through walls and checkpoints, under a blanket of aerial surveillance.

Secondly, the tactical shift towards walls, enclaves and aerial domination is still rooted in the “Sharonization” of U.S. strategic doctrine mentioned earlier; that is, the belief that one can use military force to defeat an insurgency by reformulating one’s military tactics. Neither Israel nor the United States are willing to countenance a serious political solution to either occupation, which would entail addressing the core political issue that is driving each insurgency: ending the foreign occupation. As it happens, Henry Kissinger is reported to have given President Bush a copy of Horne’s A Savage War of Peace to read in the winter of 2006, and the U.S. military frequently uses the Algerian case as one its primary lessons in most COIN training. They appear to have learned the same faulty lessons as Sharon.

Both Israel and the U.S. are seeking to replace direct military occupation with a form of occupation management in order to preserve the fruits of their respective occupations.

Israel has simply shifted tactics to achieve its original goal of securing its illegal settlements and land confiscations in the West Bank to maintain “greater Israel.” Since it is unwilling to accept a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and allow for a fully sovereign Palestinian state, its strategy is to pacify Palestinians through ever confining walls and enclaves until Palestinians accept their fate living in splintered enclaves under complete Israeli control.

Similarly, since the U.S. is unwilling to negotiate with the insurgency or consider a timetable for withdrawal, it is clear that the new counterinsurgency plan is an effort to pacify Iraq into accepting a form of “soft partition” into ethno-political enclaves to enable the U.S. to secure its original goals of establishing permanent military bases, securing access to Iraq’s vast oil fields, and installing an Iraqi central government to pass laws to ensure these aims. Like the Palestinians, Iraqis will be sequestered within walled enclaves so that the political and economic occupation can remain in place.

The Real “Lessons of History” for Iraq

Needless to say, all this amounts to trying to find new ways to do the impossible. The bottom line is that both Israel and the U.S. will be losers in their quest for military solutions to fundamentally political insurgencies against a foreign military occupation. Framing an occupation as “liberation” or “counter-terrorism” does not make it any less a foreign occupation.

One of the great ironies in all of this is the willful failure of both Israel and the United States to learn the fundamental historical lesson of the French in Algeria: that they could have negotiated a withdrawal far earlier and spared all this bloodshed and violence.

Militarily, the French army did not lose — they certainly won the Battle of Algiers and had pacified the country by late 1958. But the military victory was hollow. The French achieved pacification only, which simply meant that the number of violent incidents per month was at a tolerable level. But this came at the price of herding over a million Algerians into fortified villages, extensive torture, and millions killed. This was a situation that could not be sustained and it unraveled as open warfare broke out between settlers and Algerians with the French army caught in the middle, battling both. All of this looks very much like Iraq today with Americans caught between Shia and Sunni militias, battling both in an effort to achieve pacification on behalf of an ineffective puppet government associated with its occupation. There are also obvious parallels to Israel’s predicament in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The primary reason why the French military victory was hollow was because the French offered no political solution that met the core aspirations of Algerian nationalism, which should be clear to anyone who reads the second half of A Savage War of Peace. They only offered a flimsy notion of “self-determination” and “democracy” that De Gaulle called “association,” which we recognize today as a neo-colonial relationship. France sought to maintain exterritorial control through military bases and dominion over Algerian oil resources, including a permanent French settler presence. The Algerians rejected this and fought until the French were forced to leave entirely. The parallels with U.S. plans for Iraq hardly need to be elaborated.

Instead of learning from the French experience, the U.S. has naively looked to the Israeli experience as a training manual for counterinsurgency. The U.S. continues to be mesmerized by a mythical version of Israel that is based more on savvy marketing than demonstrated performance. Israel’s responses to unconventional war has never been well developed or very successful; it was defeated by Hezbollah in South Lebanon not once but twice, and its attempt to crush the Palestinian uprising through force actually led to further suicide bombings, while its destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure has left the political field open to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure. Martin Van Creveld, an Israeli military historian who had lectured U.S. military officials on Israeli military strategy in late 2003, warned in an Associated Press article (December 12, 2003) that just as Israel had been unsuccessful in eliminating militant groups and suicide bombers, the United States cannot expect to be victorious in Iraq. “The Americans are coming here to try to mimic all kinds of techniques, but it’s not going to do them any good,” he reportedly warned. “I don’t see how on earth they (the U.S.) can win. I think this is going to end the same way Vietnam did. They are going to flee the country hanging on the strings of helicopters.”

Whether or not this happens will be the subject of future “lessons of history.” But by following the Israeli model rather than the actual lessons of counterinsurgency history, the U.S. appears trapped by the logic of its own image co-dependency with Israel as a state now permanently at war with much of the Arab and Muslim world, with history’s lessons decidedly not on its side. Read correctly, A Savage War of Peace is less a user’s manual for counterinsurgency than a warning about the futility of fighting colonial wars in the first place.

Dr. Steve Niva is a professor of Middle East Studies and International Politics at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He is currently writing a book on the relationship between Israeli military violence and Palestinian suicide bombings.

Why Does the Bush Regime Want to Rule Iraq?

By Paul Craig Roberts

23/04/08 "ICH" -- -- The Bush regime has quagmired America into a sixth year of war in Afghanistan and Iraq with no end in sight. The cost of these wars of aggression is horrendous. Official U.S. combat casualties stand at 4,538 dead. Officially, 29,780 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq.

On April 17, 2008, AP News reported that a new study released by the RAND Corporation concludes that "some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries."

On April 21, 2008, reported that an internal e-mail from Gen. Michael J. Kussman, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Administration, to Ira Katz, head of mental health at the VA, confirms a McClatchy Newspaper report that 126 veterans per week commit suicide. To the extent that the suicides are attributable to the war, more than 500 deaths should be added to the reported combat fatalities each month.

Turning to Iraqi deaths, expert studies support as many as 1.2 million dead Iraqis, almost entirely civilians. Another 2 million Iraqis have fled their country, and there are 2 million displaced Iraqis within Iraq.

Afghan casualties are unknown.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered unconscionable civilian deaths and damage to housing, infrastructure, and environment. Iraq is afflicted with depleted uranium and open sewers.

Then there are the economic costs to the U.S. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the full cost of the invasion and attempted occupation of Iraq to be between $3 trillion and $5 trillion. The dollar price of oil and gasoline have tripled, and the dollar has lost value against other currencies, declining dramatically even against the lowly Thai baht. Before Bush launched his wars of aggression, one U.S. dollar was worth 45 baht. Today the dollar is only worth 30 baht.

The U.S. cannot afford these costs. Prior to his resignation last month, U.S. Comptroller General David Walker reported that the accumulated unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government total $53 trillion. The U.S. government cannot cover these liabilities. The Bush regime even has to borrow the money from foreigners to pay for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no more certain way to bankrupt the country and dethrone the dollar as world reserve currency.

The moral costs are perhaps the highest. All of the deaths, injuries, and economic costs to the U.S. and its victims are due entirely to lies told by the president and vice president of the U.S., by the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, the secretary of state, and, of course, by the media, including the "liberal" New York Times. All of these lies were uttered in behalf of an undeclared agenda. "Our" government has still not told "we the people" the real reasons "our" government invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Instead, the American sheeple have accepted a succession of transparent lies: weapons of mass destruction, al-Qaeda connections and complicity in the 9/11 attack, overthrowing a dictator and "bringing democracy" to Iraqis.

The great, moral American people would rather believe government lies than to acknowledge the government's crimes and to hold the government accountable.

There are many effective ways in which a moral people could protest. Consider investors, for example. Clearly Halliburton and military suppliers are cleaning up. Investors flock to the stocks in order to participate in the rise in value from booming profits. But what would a moral people do? Wouldn't they boycott the stocks of the companies that are profiting from the Bush regime's war crimes?

If the U.S. invaded Iraq for any of the succession of reasons the Bush regime has given, why would the U.S. have spent $750 million on a fortress "embassy" with anti-missile systems and its own electricity and water systems spread over 104 acres? No one has ever seen or heard of such an embassy before. Clearly, this "embassy" is constructed as the headquarters of an occupying colonial ruler.

The fact is that Bush invaded Iraq with the intent of turning Iraq into an American colony. The so-called government of Maliki is not a government. Maliki is the well paid front man for U.S. colonial rule. Maliki's government does not exist outside the protected Green Zone, the headquarters of the American occupation.

If colonial rule were not the intent, the U.S. would not be going out of its way to force Sadr's 60,000-man militia into a fight. Sadr is a Shi'ite who is a real Iraqi leader, perhaps the only Iraqi who could end the sectarian conflict and restore some unity to Iraq. As such he is regarded by the Bush regime as a danger to the American puppet Maliki. Unless the U.S. is able to purchase or rig the upcoming Iraqi election, Sadr is likely to emerge as the dominant figure. This would be a highly unfavorable development for the Bush regime's hopes of establishing its colonial rule behind the facade of a Maliki fake democracy. Rather than work with Sadr in order to extract themselves from a quagmire, the Americans will be doing everything possible to assassinate Sadr.

Why does the Bush regime want to rule Iraq? Some speculate that it is a matter of "peak oil." Oil supplies are said to be declining even as demand for oil multiplies from developing countries such as China. According to this argument, the U.S. decided to seize Iraq to ensure its own oil supply.

This explanation is problematic. Most U.S. oil comes from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. The best way for the U.S. to ensure its oil supplies would be to protect the dollar's role as world reserve currency. Moreover, $3-5 trillion would have purchased a tremendous amount of oil. Prior to the U.S. invasions, the U.S. oil import bill was running less than $100 billion per year. Even in 2006 total U.S. imports from OPEC countries was $145 billion, and the U.S. trade deficit with OPEC totaled $106 billion. Three trillion dollars could have paid for U.S. oil imports for 30 years; $5 trillion could pay the U.S. oil bill for a half century had the Bush regime preserved a sound dollar.

The more likely explanation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the neoconservative Bush regime's commitment to the defense of Israeli territorial expansion. There is no such thing as a neoconservative who is not allied with Israel. Israel hopes to steal all of the West Bank and southern Lebanon for its territorial expansion. An American colonial regime in Iraq not only buttresses Israel from attack, but also can pressure Syria and Iran not to support the Palestinians and Lebanese. The Iraqi war is a war for Israeli territorial expansion. Americans are dying and bleeding to death financially for Israel. Bush's "war on terror" is a hoax that serves to cover U.S. intervention in the Middle East on behalf of "greater Israel."

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Military Draft: A Moral Abomination

by Michael Boldin, Posted April 21, 2008

An article in Newsweek, “Why We Need a Draft: A Marine’s Lament,” stirred up a bit of a hornets’ nest online recently. It was written by a Marine who fought in Fallujah, Iraq, and gave a fairly compelling overview of the practical need for the draft.

I’m sure the Marine felt he was right. Forcing you or other people next to him to kill or be killed might have made him feel better in the battles he fought in. In fact, in the minds of Washington policymakers and Pentagon officials, a few million more soldiers, albeit conscripted, might well be quite beneficial to the military — and to the foreign-policy ambitions of the U.S. government.

Arguments about military “needs” or “benefits” aside, it seems that there are always plenty of politicians who absolutely love the concept of mandatory service to the state. To these types, the government is America, and serving the state is equal to loving one’s country.

Morality and the Constitution

There are a number of solid constitutional arguments against the draft. The Thirteenth Amendment makes it quite clear that “involuntary servitude” is not permitted. Moreover, the principle of “positive grant” expressed in the Tenth Amendment states that any power not specifically given to the federal government by the Constitution is “reserved to the States, respectively, or to the People.” In short, since there’s nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the federal government to conscript, it may not do it. Yes, the principle really is that simple (and can be applied to everything else the feds do, but we’ll leave that for other articles).

As compelling as these constitutional arguments may be, they still miss the mark.

The most important argument against the draft is moral. Whatever the excuse given for its implementation, the draft is a form of slavery. Period.

Forcing someone to work for the state; forcing someone to kill or be killed; forcing someone to do anything at the point of a gun — under threat of prison or even death — is involuntary servitude. Of all the forms of slavery that have existed throughout history, forcing someone to fight and die in war is among the most disgusting and is a form of murder against all who don’t survive.

Even Ronald Reagan, writing in Human Events back in 1979, made a clear case against the draft:

Conscription rests on the assumption that your kids belong to the state. If we buy that assumption then it is for the state — not for parents, the community, the religious institutions or teachers — to decide who shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where and how in our society. That assumption isn’t a new one. The Nazis thought it was a great idea.

America was founded on the principle of individual liberty — that the government exists to serve, not enslave, the people. Yet conscription is a form of slavery, a horrible and costly exception to America’s founding principle. It is morally repugnant to the ideals of a free society.

Without the draft, unpopular wars are very difficult to fight. The ability to use conscription actually encourages politicians to wage even more wars — the massive resources are a temptation that is hard for the war-lover to resist. When the draft was finally undermined in the 1970s, for example, the Vietnam War ended.

Slavery versus freedom

The draft is slavery. If we see it return to America, arguments about whether this country is free or not become totally moot. No society can ever be free when its own government seizes by force not only the resources of the country, but the money and lives of “its” own people.

Military conscription in the name of freedom is illegitimate and criminal. A government that is willing to enslave people with conscription is not protecting people’s freedom; it is destroying it. A government that forces people to fight for its goals, its protection, and its benefit has created a morally perverse situation where there is no free society left to defend.

Michael Boldin is a gun-toting, thirty-something, technology-inclined city-dweller who loves the wilderness and is an avid hiker of the San Gabriel Mountains. Raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a politically active family, he developed a distaste for big government early on. He is a senior editor and contributing writer for and welcomes your feedback at

A World of Fantasy and Half-Truths

Spinning Saddam's Linkages


After prolonged bureaucratic labor the latest report of the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) finally made it out to the larger world. Its primary conclusion, which has been making headlines since news of it was first reported March 10 by Warren Strobel of McClatchey Newspapers, is that an exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents and several thousand hours of audio and video footage, archived in a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) database called Harmony, that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion, has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The IPP is a research effort conducted by United States Joint Forces Command (JFC) focusing on Operation Iraqi Freedom. Its latest study, titled "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents," was produced by analysts at the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded military think tank. The report is actually composed of five volumes: the first volume, 94 pages, lays out the overview and conclusions, and the remaining four volumes include about two thousand pages of captured Iraqi documents, declassified and translated into English.

Although the report was actually completed last November and officially released on March 13, the Pentagon declined to publish it online. Instead the Joint Forces Command said on its website that those interested could contact it for a CD containing the report. The full study is now posted on the Federation of American Scientists website.

Predictably, neoconservative publications such as the Weekly Standard have published selected portions of the report, claiming it reflects "widespread journalistic negligence" and does not reflect "strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism." To try and vindicate old Bush administration claims that there were links between Iraq and al-Qaeda the Standard noted, "Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives."
But the study itself is far more nuanced. It says, in the second paragraph of the executive summary:

But the relationships between Iraq and the groups advocating radical pan-Islamic doctrines are much more complex. This study found no "smoking gun" (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. Saddam's interest in, and support for, non-state actors was spread across a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. Some in the regime recognized the potential high internal and external costs of maintaining relationships with radical Islamic groups, yet they concluded that in some cases, the benefits of association outweighed the risks.

The study does note on page 34 that Saddam Hussein's regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al-Qaeda - as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term vision. The report notes that from the beginning of his rise to power, one of Saddam's major objectives was to shift the regional balance of power favorably toward Iraq. After the 1991 Gulf War, pursuing this objective "motivated Saddam and his regime to increase their cooperation with -and attempts to manipulate- Islamic fundamentalists and related terrorist organizations. Documents indicate that the regime's use of terrorism was standard practice, although not always successful."

The study's primary conclusion should come as no surprise to any serious scholar of Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime was always relentless secular. The Baath party, after all, was founded (or co-founded) by a Christian, and its ideology was pan-Arab and nationalist, the opposite of the religious posture espoused by al-Qaeda.

The report does acknowledge that the Iraqi regime was involved in regional and international terrorist operations prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But it also acknowledges that "the predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq."

The report notes that as of August 2006, only 15 percent of the captured documents have English translations so the whole story on linkages between Saddam Hussein is not yet fully known. Many potentially relevant documents were either inadvertently destroyed by Coalition forces during major combat actions, or else were hidden or destroyed by members of the former regime.

As the Federation of American Scientists noted, the Iraqi documents themselves are an eclectic, uneven bunch. One of them, a 50-page Iraqi "intelligence" analysis, disparages the austerely conservative Wahhabi school of Islam by claiming that its 18th century founder, Ibn 'Abd al Wahhab, had ancestors who were Jews.

In what must be the only laugh-out-loud line in the generally dismal five-volume report, the Iraqi analysis states that Ibn 'Abd al Wahhab's grandfather's true name was not "Sulayman" but "Shulman."

"Tawran confirms that Sulayman, the grandfather of the sheikh, is (Shulman); he is Jew from the merchants of the city of Burstah in Turkey, he had left it and settled in Damascus, grew his beard, and wore the Muslim turban, but was thrown out for being voodoo."

The study does amply confirm, to nobody's surprise, that Saddam Hussein was willing to use terror and terrorists to maintain his grip on power. A series of memorandum dated April 2000 outlined an operation where a volunteer was to travel to London to kill Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress. The operation failed, in part, because the Iraqi agent failed to obtain a visa to enter the United Kingdom

It bears noting that this report is not the first one to conclude there was no al-Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein. Other reports have also reached the same conclusion, including ones from the Sept. 11 Commission and the Pentagon's Inspector General.

Yet in the world of fantasy and half-truth that pervades the outlook of those who supported the invasion of Iraq and keeping U.S. troops there, the reality confirmed by the JFC report is likely to matter not at all. As publications like the Weekly Standard and National Review show, if reality can't be denied it can always be spun.

David Isenberg is an adjunct scholar a the CATO Institute, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information. The views expressed are his own.

Impeachment Now Or Apocalypse Later?

By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers

April 22, 2008

The political noose seems to be tightening on the key members of the remaining miscreants down in the White House bunker -- mainly Bush, Cheney, Rice, Addington and Mukasey. (Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Powell and Tenet were pushed out the door earlier.) But will the Democrats, having been provided with smoking gun-type evidence of these officials' high crimes and misdemeanors, take the next logical step to end this continuing nightmare of law-breaking at the highest levels? Consider:


After eight years, the multiple examples of ethical and felonious crimes of the Bush Administration are now abundantly clear and beyond rational dispute. Most compelling among them is the crime of authorizing torture as state policy.

In recent days, we've learned that George W. Bush signed orders authorizing torture, and admitted that he approved of the deliberations by his National Security Council's Principals Committee on the torture regime being set up for a few high-value prisoners. (Which, of course, filtered down to how thousands of suspected terrorists were maltreated.)

Bush has conceded that his Principals (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet) kept him apprised of their deliberations on which suspected terrorists would undergo which forms of torture, according to ABC News' recent blockbuster story.

The meetings of the Principals, according to ABC, took place in early 2002 at least four months before the Administration's famous Bybee/Yoo memos were issued that retroactively sought to provide legal justification for the torture. (Short version of those memoranda: The President is above all U.S. laws and international treaties.)

During those Principals' meetings, Dick Cheney was a driving force behind the use of "harsh interrogations" of the prisoners in U.S. care. Other members were more worried about what they were doing. In the ABC story, according to a top official, John Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

Condoleezza Rice, then National Security Advisor, aggressively chaired the Principals' torture meetings. Despite some occasional misgivings voiced by Ashcroft and Colin Powell about the "enhanced interrogation" techniques being employed, Rice told the CIA: "This is your baby. Go do it."


Torture, as commonly understood and defined, is illegal under both U.S. law and international treaties that American governments have ratified over the decades. Bush&Co. had to come up with a way to torture suspects but not to appear to be doing so. Here's how it worked: Officials felt they could honestly assert that the Administration didn't approve of or authorize torture because under the new definition supplied in the Bybee/Yoo memos, it was torture only if the prisoners were near-death or their internal organs were about to fail as a result of their treatment. In other words, the Administration simply made everything else legal: beatings, near-drownings, electroshocks to the genitals, stress positions, sexual abuse, etc. Only if the interrogators killed the prisoners or were thisclose to doing so would they have crossed over the line. See my "Control the Dictionary, Control the World."

It turns out that David Addington, Cheney's then-Legal Counsel who has since replaced Scooter Libby as Cheney's chief of staff, was at the locus of the cockamamie reasoning behind both the Bybee/Yoo torture memos and the "unitary executive" theory of governance. The latter asserts that the President is in charge of basically everything governmental and can't be touched; further, the Bybee/Yoo memos assert, the President cannot be second-guessed when he claims to be acting as "commander in chief" during "wartime."

Of course, there has been no Congressional Declaration of War, as the Constitution requires; the "war" -- at an estimated cost of several trillions(!) of dollars -- is the "War on Terror," which, since it's being waged against a tactic, can never be completely won and thus is never-ending. In short, the President, under this asserted legal cover, can act more or less as a dictator forever, including declaring martial law whenever he deems an "emergency" situation prevails. (Suppose, for example, the ballot-counting books are cooked in November and the Democratic candidate once again has a victory stolen away. There could be mass protests, perhaps even riots, in the streets. A potential "civic emergency" right there.)


Michael Mukasey, who promised he would be an independent Attorney General, has turned out to be just as much of a lackey for the Administration as his predecessor Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey seems to feel, as Gonzales did, that he doesn't work for the public but is there to ensure that his bosses stay out of jail. (Interesting side-note: Barack Obama says that, if elected, he would ask his attorney general to investigate whether Bush and Cheney might have committed indictable crimes while in office.)

But what really got Mukasey into hot water in recent days was his assertion that the U.S. knew that a terrorist in Afghanistan was calling someone inside the U.S. prior to the 9/11 attack but the supposedly "outdated" FISA laws wouldn't permit the Administration to tap that phone call and thus prevent the 9/11 events from happening. Mukasey was using that fallacious argument in 2008 as a scare reason for why the Bush Administration needed Congressional re-authorization immediately of the NSA's domestic-spying program, complete with built-in amnesty for the big telecom companies working in cahoots with the Administration.

But Mukasey's explanation is total B.S.

As Glenn Greenwald and others have made clear, under then-existing FISA law the Bush Administration could have eavesdropped on the pre-9/11 call and didn't really need any more draconian spying programs. (Mukasey has since tried to tapdance away from having misled Congress.)

The whole object of the Bush Administration, in this and every other matter, has been to amass total control of information and intelligence in the White House, cutting out the courts (in this case, specifically the FISA Court) and Congress. They want full freedom to operate outside the law, with nobody -- no judges, no legislators, no media reporters -- looking over their shoulders at what they might be up to, and telling them what they can or cannot do. It's possible that at least one aim of the domestic-spying programs is to learn from secret phone-taps and emails what their political enemies are thinking.


OK, so Cheney, Bush, Rice, Mukasey, Addington (and no doubt others not quite as prominent) are dirty, involved in activities beyond and outside the law. In other words, they have engaged, and are still engaged, in high crimes and misdemeanors. What's to be done?

There's more than enough documented evidence to justify, at the very least, an impeachment hearing in the House. Potentially, if the committee voted to go forward, there could well be enough support to convict in the Senate from both Democrats and Republicans worried about their electoral chances in 2008.

But nothing can happen unless or until the majority Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate make the collective decision to begin the impeachment process with hearings in the House Judiciary Committee.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers are sticking to their guns that impeachment is "off the table."


Let's examine the main reasons why the Congressional Democratic leaders refuse to budge from this policy, and how they might be made to change their minds. Their arguments appear to rest on four basic premises:

1. Breaking the impeachment cycle. The Democrats moved to impeach Republican President Richard Nixon (who resigned before the Senate could try him), then the Republicans impeached Democratic President Bill Clinton and tried him in the Senate (not for treason or malfeasance in office but for lying about a sexual dalliance. He was acquitted). Putting Cheney and Bush on trial in the Senate, according to this reasoning, might be seen as tit-for-tat partisan vengeance.

In this argument, the impeachment option is being over-used for political reasons and risks becoming cyclical each time one party controls Congress and the other controls the White House.

A Democrat may win the Presidency in 2008. Unless the impeachment cycle is broken now, this reasoning goes, a future Democratic President might become the object of a vendetta by forces of the Republican rightwing, anxious for some payback.

2. Impeachment would hamper getting essential Congressional business done. The Democratic leadership says that preparing and conducting impeachment hearings would use up all the political oxygen and energy in Congress, making it virtually impossible to deal legislatively with important matters.

The question is whether the Democrats are having any success right now dealing with these important legislative matters. Looking at the situation realistically, it's obvious that not much essential business is being conducted, let alone completed.

The Republicans filibuster, or threaten to, at which point the Dems back off their legislation; if a bill by the Democratic majority does manage to sneak through, Bush either vetoes it or issues a "signing statement" saying he won't obey the new law. Virtually all matters of import are being postponed until after the new President is installed next January.

3. Why rock the boat? Why risk the opprobrium of Independent and moderate-Republican voters in November, who might think the Democrats are "piling on" for partisan, electoral reasons, and thus decide to vote for the Republican nominee?

The Democratic leadership's argument goes: "Look, the Republicans are on the ropes as a result of this incompetent, corrupt, greedy, war-mongering Administration. As a result, we're well positioned to enlarge our electoral gains in the House and the Senate, maybe to the point of being able to prevent obstructionist Republicans from filibustering needed legislation. And we may well take back the White House. So why rock the boat?

"Let's just last out CheneyBush's final months in office [the Dem argument continues]. Since we know that this unpopular pair will continue to earn the disdain and anger of the American public by continuing their extremist ways until Inauguration Day in January, it's better they remain in office rather than risk firing-up GOP-base passions during the election campaign by putting Bush and Cheney in the impeachment dock. Besides, if we impeached them, the public's focus would fasten on Bush and Cheney rather than on the Republican nominee and the dangers of a possible McCain presidency."

In short, the American people, this reasoning goes, want to quickly move away from thinking about the godawful CheneyBush Administration of the past eight years and head to a more optimistic, hopeful future.

4. The fear of being slimed. The Democrats don't want to be accused of being "unpatriotic" by putting a "wartime" President into the impeachment dock. Even though Bush is the most unpopular president in history, and though more than three-quarters of American citizens think under his leadership the country is "on the wrong track," the Democrats, anxious for a re-election sweep in the House and Senate, remain terrified of Rovian-type Swiftboating smears that could possibly cost them some votes in November and in the 2010 midterm election.

Realizing that the Bushistas still control the mainstream, corporate-owned media, and thus have all sorts of TV/radio/newspaper organizations that could dump on them big time, the Democrats continue to roll over and make nice to the shrinking but noisy Republican base and their TV/radio pundits. In other words, the Dems are perennial wimps and haven't yet figured out how best to confront the smash-mouth, take-no-prisoners politics of Rove & Co.

I strongly disagree with these four rationales for inaction, but at least I can understand where they're coming from. But the Democrats, especially their leaders, are simply ignoring some essential arguments.


1. Nine months is a longnnnnnnnnnnnnng time. Between now and January 2009, a full nine months from now, CheneyBush are capable of doing a hell of a lot of further damage to the body politic, to the economy, to the Constitution, to the reputation of the U.S. abroad, to the armed forces, to the "enemy" countries in their crosshairs. The propaganda campaign being catapulted against Iran, for example, is nearly a carbon copy of what took place before the U.S. bombed, invaded and occupied Iraq. The neo-cons in the Administration, especially Cheney and Bush, are salivating at the prospect of an enormous air assault on Iran's military establishment and laboratories, have positioned attack forces near and around Iran, and are ready to rumble. All they need is an acceptable causus belli.

A cornered CheneyBush&Co. down in the bunker may decide, what the hell, to unleash the dogs of war again, even though their two previous unleashings have been disasters. Iraq is a catastrophic quagmire of epic proportions, and a somewhat ignored Afghanistan is heating up again with the Taliban re-asserting control of larger and larger portions of the country.

In addition, John McCain is making it clear that he will be continuing the Administration's foreign and domestic policies if he were to win in November. He's said it would be fine for America to stay in Iraq for a hundred years or more, he's indicated that he's quite amenable (maybe even eager) to "bomb, bomb, bomb" Iran, he won't do much to help deal with the consequences of global warming, he has little to offer in the way of solutions for the financial mess the country is in -- we're talking a possible foreign policy/economic/environmental apocalypse here!

2. The danger of a green light. Impeachment is an important and necessary step Americans can take to rein in an out-of-control administration that is endangering the country's national security with its reckless, extreme misadventures.

Taking the possibility of impeachment "off the table" is to fight the CheneyBush Administration with one hand tied behind the back. Bush&Co. have demonstrated over the past eight years that they understand, and respond to, only one thing: countervailing power that refuses to give in. The ultimate effective weapon in the Legislative Branch's arsenal is the fear of impeachment and conviction and removal from power, to be followed either by "war crimes" charges internationally and felony and civil-suit prosecutions inside the U.S.

Absent the possibility of impeachment, Cheney and Bush feel they have a green light to do whatever they wish in the time remaining of their tenure. Waxman and Leahy can try to humiliate and embarrass them in their Congressional one-day hearings, but they will face no real accountability or punishment for their actions. So why not continue the corruption, attack Iran, appoint more ideologues to the courts and into high administrative positions, postpone any global-warming solutions, etc. etc.?

3. The precedent of respecting the law. Whenever leaders are not punished for their unethical policies or criminal misdeeds, the rule of law suffers. Impeachment is mentioned numerous times in the Constitution as the legal and required remedy for extreme misrule. It's the last option for citizens, through their legislators, to discipline errant leaders.

If the Congress does not impeach this president and vice president, who have nearly taken the country down as a result of their reckless, dangerous, incompetent, authoritarian behavior, then the rule of law stands for nothing. And future elected leaders can legitimately believe that they more or less can also get away with anything they wish to do.

Putting Cheney and Bush into the impeachment dock is to assert the primacy of the rule of law under our system of governance, and would serve as a clear warning shot across the bow of future presidents.

4. Force CheneyBush to play defense. There is one other advantage to initiating impeachment hearings ASAP for Bush and Cheney. The Bush&Co. juggernaut is most effective when on the offensive and their opponents are put on the defensive. The Bushistas don't like, and don't do well, when they're forced to play defense. Tying them up in defending themselves in impeachment hearings and/or impeachment trials might well prevent them from doing more mischief before they give up the reins of power. (Many Republicans were convinced they would never convict Bill Clinton in the Senate but figured the trial was worth doing anyway because it would hog-tie Clinton's agenda for the rest of his presidency -- and they were correct.)

A final side-benefit of impeaching Bush and Cheney: John McCain would find himself on the campaign trail being forced to take positions on torture and signing statements at the heart of the impeachment hearings, and, more often than not, would wind up either defending those unpopular policies or promising never to repeat them.


Will the Congressional Democratic leaders change their attitude toward impeachment?

I think the answer is a clear No unless their constituencies loudly and unwaveringly tell them they have to or risk the consequences at the ballot box, or in the possible establishment of a new, grassroots-engendered party after the November election that will demonstrate the courage and passion for ethical and reality-based government that is so lacking in today's timid, Bush-enabling Democratic Party.

That, unfortunately, is where we are politically in the Spring of 2008. It doesn't have to be that way.

Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers ( To comment: .