Saturday, May 31, 2008

McCain (Mis)Speaks

How the Senator Won the War of Words in Iraq (again and again and again…)

By Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky

The Iraq war was a disaster for Iraq, a disaster for the United States, a disaster for the Middle East, a disaster for the world community, but most of all, it was a disaster for the experts.

They were wrong about its difficulty. (It was to be either "a cakewalk" or "a walk in the park" – take your pick). They were wrong about how our troops would be greeted ("as liberators" said Vice President Dick Cheney on September, 14, 2003; "with kites and boom boxes" wrote Professor Fouad Ajami on October 7, 2002). They were wrong about weapons of mass destruction. ("Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise" wrote Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on February 6, 2003.) They were wrong about how many troops would be needed. ("It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct a war itself," said Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on Feb 27, 2003.)

They were wrong about the number of casualties. ("...we're not going to have any casualties," said President George W. Bush in March, 2003). They were wrong about how much it would cost. ("The costs of any intervention would be very small," according to White House economic advisor Glenn Hubbard on October 4, 2002). They were wrong about how long it would last. ("It isn't going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn't going to be months either," claimed Richard Perle on July 11, 2002.) They were wrong about the "sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network," as Secretary of State Colin Powell put it in addressing the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003. They were wrong about the likelihood of Iraq descending into civil war. ("[There is] a broad Iraqi consensus favoring the idea of pluralism," insisted William Kristol and Robert Kagan on March 22, 2004.) There was, in fact, very little they were not wrong about.

Who are we to make such charges? Not to be boastful, we are, respectfully, the CEO and president – the founders, as it were – of the Institute of Expertology, which has been surveying expert opinion for almost 25 years. It is true that our initial study, The Experts Speak: The Definitive Guide to Authoritative Misinformation, came under attack back in 1990 because, at the time, we failed to find a single expert who was right, although we readily conceded that, in statistical theory, it was possible that the experts were right as much as half the time. It just proved exceedingly difficult to find evidence of that other 50%.

In Mission Accomplished!, our new study of the experts – people who, by virtue of their official status, formal title, academic degree, professional license, public office, journalistic beat, quantity of publications, experience, and/or use of highly technical jargon, are presumed to know what they are talking about – we once again came under attack from critics who claimed that our failure to include any misstatements by Senator Barack Obama betrayed a political bias. These allegations were quickly refuted. Everybody knows that Obama has no experience and therefore does not qualify as an expert. Senator Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize the Iraq war, did make the cut, but the presidential candidate-cum-expert of genuine interest is Senator John McCain.

At first, we were impressed by the senator's statements in Republican primary debates about how he had actually opposed the Bush administration's conduct of the war from the start. As he told CNN's Kiran Chetry, in August of 2007, "I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three-and-a half years."

Well, having dug into those missing years a bit, here, for the record, is what we found to be Senator McCain's typical responses to some of the key questions posed above:

How would American troops be greeted?: "I believe… that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators." (March 20, 2003)

Did Saddam Hussein have a nuclear program that posed an imminent threat to the United States?: "Saddam Hussein is on a crash course to construct a nuclear weapon." (October 10, 2002)

Will a war with Iraq be long or short?: "This conflict is… going to be relatively short." (March 23, 2003)

How is the war going?: "I would argue that the next three to six months will be critical." (September 10, 2003)

How is it going (almost two months later, from the war's "greatest critic")? "I think the initial phases of [the war] were so spectacularly successful that it took us all by surprise." (October 31, 2003)

Is this war really necessary?: "Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war." (August 30, 2004)

How is it going? (Recurring question for the war's "greatest critic"): "We will probably see significant progress in the next six months to a year." (December 4, 2005)

Will the President's "surge" of troops into Baghdad and surrounding areas that the senator had been calling for finally make the difference?: "We can know fairly well [whether the surge is working] in a few months." (February 4, 2007)

In April 2007, accompanied by several members of Congress, Senator McCain made a surprise visit to Baghdad to assess the surge, had a "stroll" through a market in the Iraqi capital, and then held a news conference where he discussed what he found: "Things are better and there are encouraging signs. I've been here many times over the years. Never have I been able to drive from the airport. Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today. The American people are not getting the full picture of what's happening here today."

The next evening, NBC's Nightly News provided further details on that "stroll." The Senator and Congressmen were accompanied by "100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead." (In addition, the network said, still photographs provided by the military revealed that McCain and his colleagues had been wearing body armor during their entire stroll.)

Reality check: Five months later, on September 12, 2007, McCain again observed that "the next six months are going to be critical."

Six months later, McCain claimed that the U.S. had finally reached a genuine turning point in Iraq and that his faith in the surge was (once again) vindicated. On March 17, 2008, he reported: "We are succeeding. And we can succeed and American casualties overall are way down. That is in direct contradiction to predictions made by the Democrats and particularly Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. I will be glad to stake my campaign on the fact that this has succeeded and the American people appreciate it."

Well, we at the Institute of Expertology appreciate it, too, and we are, of course, pleased to record the Senator's ever-renewable faith in this latest turning point. As scrupulous scholars, however, we do feel compelled to add that the Senator is not the first to detect such a turning point. Indeed on July 7, 2003, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith said: "This month will be a political turning point for Iraq."

On November 6, 2003, President Bush observed: "We've reached another great turning point..." On June 16, 2004, President Bush claimed: "A turning point will come two weeks from today."

That same day the Montreal Gazette headlined an editorial by neoconservative columnist Max Boot: "Despite the Negative Reaction by Much of the Media, U.S. Marines Did a Good Job in Fallujah, a Battle That Might Prove a Turning Point." On February 2, 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated: "On January 30th in Iraq, the world witnessed an important moment in the global struggle against tyranny, a moment that historians might one day call a major turning point." On March 7, 2005 William Kristol wrote: "[T]he Iraqi election of January 30, 2005... will turn out to have been a genuine turning point."

On December 18, as that year ended, Vice President Cheney, while conceding that "the level of violence has continued," assured ABC News: "I do believe that when we look back on this period of time, 2005 will have been the turning point..."

The Institute continued to record turning points in remarkable numbers in 2006, and 2007, but perhaps in 2008 the surge will, indeed, turn out to be the turning point to end all turning points. After all, Senator McCain has staked his campaign on it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Audacity of Dopes: The Regressive Right’s Happy Memorial Day Message to the Troops

by David Michael Green

Greetings, American Servicemen and Servicewomen (those of you who are still alive),

‘Happy’ Memorial Day.

This is a message from your good friends in America’s conservative movement — otherwise known as the regressive right — and our nice team running the country’s government, the Republican Party.

You remember us, don’t you? We’re the folks who very much like to have our pictures taken with you, especially right before elections. You’ve been voting for us for years. Your drill instructors get you all pumped up with testosterone and adrenaline and then we’re kind enough to provide outlets for your energies in extended quagmires like Vietnam or Iraq.

We want to let you know, especially on this Memorial Day, that the rumors you’ve been hearing about us these last few years are not, um, exactly correct. Just mostly.

Look, we’ll be candid with you. It’s true that we’ve asked quite a lot from our country’s men and women in uniform these last few years. But, remember, the cause was good, and therefore highly worthy of the sacrifice involved, especially because that sacrifice was all yours, not ours. You may have come to think that you were fighting and dying for nothing, but in fact your service has been helping to make sure that we were continuing to win elect… er, that American corporations were continuing to domi… er, that the US was continuing to bring freedom and democracy to the world. Yes, that’s it, that’s it!

Some of you have criticized us for not providing you with adequate armor in this war. Remember that grunt who publicly embarrassed Rumsfeld with his question about that, right before Rumsfeld publicly embarrassed himself with his answer about how you go to war with the Army you have? That was years ago, and we still haven’t gotten you the stuff you need. The important thing, though, was to enrich Jabba-The-Hut-size corpulent contractors at every opportunity by loading them up with fat, no-bid contracts and then quietly letting them fail to provide the material they’ve been contracted to supply. I’m sure you can understand those priorities. Just duck a little faster when those pesky IEDs go off, and you should be okay.

Oh, and we’re genuinely, truly sorry about that lousy care you’re getting when you come home injured. You know, like that Walter Reed scandal, and the way that the military uses every means possible to make sure you don’t get properly treated, including denying that you’re actually injured. We’d really like to help out here, since you fought our little war for us and everything, but the darned thing about it is that adequate medical care is hugely expensive, especially for all the PTSD cases and head injuries that are going to require vast amounts of money to treat over decades worth of time. Sure, the country has the cash, but not enough to also cover obscene tax breaks for the wealthiest elites. Guess what our priorities are?

Maybe you’re a little pissed off about your salary, too, especially since we’re asking you to risk life and limb in the ungodly conditions of that hell-hole we created in Iraq. It’s true that the starting salary for a private in the US Army is only $14,904 (yes, that’s actually per year, not per month), but don’t forget you’re getting the chance to serve your country and see the world! Or, at least one little corner of it we’ve turned into charcoal, rubble, and burnt DNA samples that used to be human beings.

Does it anger you that we award these outrageously lush contracts to Blackwater and other mercenary companies, so that the people you’re fighting next to are earning six to nine times the salary of a top Army sergeant? Are you bugged that the US government spends $1,222 per day for each Blackwater hired gun, for a total of $445,891 per mercenary, per year? Do you think it’s a bit, well, wrong, that General David Petraeus earns less than half what some Blackwater officials in Iraq are making? Sorry about all that. If it makes you feel any better, you might like to know that Blackwater contributed scads of money to make sure that we win elections against those wimpy, appeaser Democrats. It certainly makes us feel better.

Maybe you’re upset that there are such mercenary forces in Iraq, anyhow, especially in numbers that actually exceed the amount of uniformed troops there. If so, you’re probably also irritated about the fact that you’ve had to do two, three and four rotations of combat duty now. That your rotations have been extended from twelve to fifteen months. That you’ve been stop-lossed, so that even when you’ve done your part and fulfilled your contract with the government you are being forced to stay in the military longer, while those who never signed-up at all are untouchable. That you signed up for the National Guard or Reserves to help out in an emergency, but not for these endless extended tours for which neither outfit was ever intended to be used.

Maybe you’re thinking, “There are 300 million Americans. They haven’t even been asked to pay additional taxes for this war, let alone to serve. Why is the government balancing this entire war effort on the backs of less than one percent of the country’s population, including me?!?!” Of course, we’ve carefully trained you not to think like that, and indeed not really to think about politics at all, other than to vote-Republican-cause-they’re-gung-ho-and-that’s-all-you-really-need-to-know-soldier. But apparently we need to revise our training methods here in Oceania to make them just a bit tighter.

Anyhow, the answer to all these questions is the same. We’ve got to stick it to you guys, then stick it to you again. First, because we can. And second, because the alternative is completely untenable. We know you won’t complain too much. You’ll spend the first half year in Iraq still living off your macho fumes. You’ll spend the next year silently enraged, but still careful to respect your chain of command and avoid politics. And you’ll spend the rest of your time sinking into despair and accumulating the unimaginably horrific experiences that will later put the ‘T’ into your PTSD.

Sure, we could solve all of this in a heartbeat. In fact, we could do it the old-fashioned way. We could have a draft. That would mean that tens of millions of Americans would share the burdens and risks of this war, rather than just the few who were economically desperate or foolishly patriotic enough to enlist. That would mean that the country wouldn’t have to continue plummeting toward national bankruptcy by paying private mercenaries ten times what it costs to field a GI. Maybe some of that money could even be spent on treating the wounded, or preventing them from getting that way in the first place by providing them with sufficient armor.

But the goddamned thing about a draft is that it would turn latent hostility toward us war profiteers and our Republican marionettes into outright fury, spilling out all over onto the streets. Already, two-thirds of the country opposes the war and thinks that it was the wrong thing for the country to do. A majority even believes that we deliberately lied about the WMD thing. (Of course we did! Jesus Christ, what did you expect? A lecture on energy sector economics?) Anyhow, these people are angry, and they’re showing it in elections. Can you even imagine what would happen if, on top of all that, we did the right thing — the thing that this country has always done — and went ahead and instituted a draft and raised taxes during wartime? Well, we can imagine. Our little regressive movement would be about as popular as the bubonic plague, and our front operation, the GOP, would make the Whigs look like a much-beloved popular party, by comparison. Which it looks like those idiots are about to do, anyhow, since they can’t seem to keep their peckers in their pants. Stupid jerks. Oh well, don’t get us started on that one.

Perhaps you’re also a bit incensed that we who send you off to fight wars never bother to show up ourselves. Maybe you heard that Bush got his daddy to get him into the very safe Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam (and then didn’t even show up for that). Pretty shameful, eh? Well, at least he’s decided to give up golf for the duration of this war. No one can say that the man doesn’t sacrifice for his country. Or maybe you’re angry that Ashcroft got seven draft deferments, or that Cheney got five and literally even said “I had better things to do in the Sixties than fight in Vietnam”, or that Wolfowitz didn’t go, or Feith or Perle or any of the rest of them, or that Romney thinks that his five boys working on his presidential campaign is a contribution equivalent to serving in Iraq. We can see why that might make you mad, but sorry, friends, this is war, and everybody has a role to play. You dudes get to be the fodder. We’re the profiteers. Got it? We’d appreciate it very much if you’d just do your job, and let us do ours. That way, we don’t have to throw you into some Guantánamo-like pit for the rest of your miserable life on some trumped up charge, in order to discredit and silence you.

Sure, it sucks. But don’t feel too bad. We do have one final gift for you — a special Memorial Day present. We’re going to do our best to make sure that the new GI Bill that would give you decent college benefits is treated to the same fate as we gave to Saddam, with about the same degree of dignity, too. Even though god knows you’ve earned it. Even though it was one of the smartest things this country ever did last time around. Even though the story we’re running around trumpeting as our excuse for opposing benefits for the people we always wrap ourselves in during election time — that it would result in sixteen percent of the armed forces retiring so they could obtain the benefit — is nonsense, because the same Congressional Budget Office study that produced that finding also showed that the bill would increase recruitment by exactly the same amount, as more people signed-up to receive the benefit.

And even though — in what is the most remarkably shameful behavior of all by people who wouldn’t know shame if it hit them like a bunker-buster bomb — the underlying logic of this argument is that we cannot give you this benefit because you’ve earned it, you more than deserve it, and damn if you wouldn’t actually use it. Therefore we’d lose you, and since we’re unwilling to risk our own fortunes by having a draft, we can’t have that. So, our way of saying thanks to you, our way of supporting the troops, our way of showing our patriotism this Memorial Day, is to deny you these benefits so that we can further exploit you yet further, after which time we will still be denying you these benefits.

All of which might make you wonder, “How do these guys ever win elections? How is it these guys are in the White House, instead of cleaning up litter by the side of the road with the rest of the chain gang?” To which we might respond, “How come morons like you keep voting for us?” It’s really not so difficult to figure out. We use hate and fear and divisiveness to win elections, and they work great. Wetbacks, ragheads, niggers, fags, kikes, bitches. Whatever. As long as it isn’t plutocrats, we don’t really care what the prejudice du jour might be. Just as long as you’re thinking about something else as we pick your pocket or line you up in battle formation. Or, in the case of you dumb SOBs and this whole GI Bill thing, doing both at the same time.

How can this happen in an America that claims to love and support the troops, that is as nationalistic and as armchair-patriotic as can be? It can happen because we make sure to keep this war as invisible as possible to the whole country. That’s why there’s no draft. That’s why there’s no tax increases. That’s why you don’t see the flag-draped caskets coming back to Dover Air Force Base anymore. That’s why the media are embedded and censored and perhaps even murdered. That’s why we pay whores like Scott McClellan to lie to you. Maybe the rest of you muttonheads weren’t paying attention during Vietnam, but we sure as hell were. Who says America didn’t learn any lessons in Southeast Asia?

True, there are signs that the natives are restless. And desperate Republicans in Congress are voting for the GI Bill in the hopes they won’t ultimately need those resumes they are nevertheless furiously updating just in case. But, honestly, even on this Memorial Day, most Americans are completely clueless about what you’re doing in Iraq and why. It’s doubtful they could even find the place on a map.

They sorta care about you, and they definitely know they’re supposed to, but let’s be honest. It’s very, very easy — one might even say purposely convenient — to simply and nonchalantly believe that you’re off fighting for our national security, and that’s a wonderful thing and all, but, hey, can we flip back to the celebrity channel or the game already, eh? Did you know that Katie Couric’s already dismal ratings actually plummeted even further when they sent her to Iraq to try to make her look like a serious journalist? Who wants to see that? Did you know that coverage of Iraq in the media is drying up faster nowadays than a puddle of blood under the Fallujan sun?

So, yeah, sure. On this Memorial Day, Americans are appreciative of all that you do.

But, more than anything, what they really appreciate is the day off work.

Thank you for your service!

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer

28/05/08 "Washington Post" -- -Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" led by President Bush and aimed at "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war."

McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a "lack of inquisitiveness," says the White House operated in "permanent campaign" mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president's inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative's name.

The book, coming from a man who was a tight-lipped defender of administration aides and policy, is certain to give fuel to critics of the administration, and McClellan has harsh words for many of his past colleagues. He accuses former White House adviser Karl Rove of misleading him about his role in the CIA case. He describes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as being deft at deflecting blame, and he calls Vice President Cheney "the magic man" who steered policy behind the scenes while leaving no fingerprints.

McClellan stops short of saying that Bush purposely lied about his reasons for invading Iraq, writing that he and his subordinates were not "employing out-and-out deception" to make their case for war in 2002.

But in a chapter titled "Selling the War," he alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth and that Bush "managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option."

"Over that summer of 2002," he writes, "top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage."

McClellan, once a staunch defender of the war from the podium, comes to a stark conclusion, writing, "What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

McClellan resigned from the White House on April 19, 2006, after nearly three years as Bush's press secretary. The departure was part of a shake-up engineered by new Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten that also resulted in Rove surrendering his policy-management duties.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the book, some contents of which were first disclosed by The Washington Post acquired a copy of the book yesterday, in advance of its official release Monday.

Responding to a request for comment, McClellan wrote in an e-mail: "Like many Americans, I am concerned about the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. I wanted to take readers inside the White House and provide them an open and honest look at how things went off course and what can be learned from it. Hopefully in some small way it will contribute to changing Washington for the better and move us beyond the hyper-partisan environment that has permeated Washington over the past 15 years."

The criticism of Bush in the book is striking, given that it comes from a man who followed him to Washington from Texas.

Bush is depicted as an out-of-touch leader, operating in a political bubble, who has stubbornly refused to admit mistakes. McClellan defends the president's intellect -- "Bush is plenty smart enough to be president," he writes -- but casts him as unwilling or unable to be reflective about his job.

"A more self-confident executive would be willing to acknowledge failure, to trust people's ability to forgive those who seek redemption for mistakes and show a readiness to change," he writes.

In another section, McClellan describes Bush as able to convince himself of his own spin and relates a phone call he overheard Bush having during the 2000 campaign, in which he said he could not remember whether he had used cocaine. "I remember thinking to myself, 'How can that be?' " he writes.

The former aide describes Bush as a willing participant in treating his presidency as a permanent political campaign, run in large part by his top political adviser, Rove.

"The president had promised himself that he would accomplish what his father had failed to do by winning a second term in office," he writes. "And that meant operating continually in campaign mode: never explaining, never apologizing, never retreating. Unfortunately, that strategy also had less justifiable repercussions: never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising. Especially not where Iraq was concerned."

McClellan has some kind words for Bush, calling him "a man of personal charm, wit and enormous political skill." He writes that the president "did not consciously set out to engage in these destructive practices. But like others before him, he chose to play the Washington game the way he found it, rather than changing the culture as he vowed to do at the outset of his campaign for the presidency."

McClellan charges that the campaign-style focus affected Bush's entire presidency. The ill-fated Air Force One flyover of New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina struck the city, was conceived of by Rove, who was "thinking about the political perceptions" but ended up making Bush look "out of touch," he writes.

He says the White House's reaction to Katrina was more than just a public relations disaster, calling it "a failure of imagination and initiative" and the result of an administration that "let events control us." He adds: "It was a costly blunder."

McClellan admits to letting himself be deceived about the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, which resulted in his relentless pounding by the White House press corps over the activities of Rove and of Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the matter.

"I could feel something fall out of me into the abyss as each reporter took a turn whacking me," he writes of the withering criticism he received as the story played out. "It was my reputation crumbling away, bit by bit." He also suggests that Rove and Libby may have worked behind closed doors to coordinate their stories about the Plame leak. Late last year, McClellan's publisher released an excerpt of the book that suggested Bush had knowledge of the leak, something that won McClellan no friends in the administration.

As McClellan departed the White House, he said: "Change can be helpful, and this is a good time and good position to help bring about change. I am ready to move on."

He choked up as he told Bush on the South Lawn, "I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all."

Bush responded at the time: "He handled his assignments with class, integrity. He really represents the best of his family, our state and our country. It's going to be hard to replace Scott."

Staff writer Michael Abramowitz contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

Invitation to Steal: War Profiteering in Iraq

by William D. Hartung

[Note: This essay was drawn from FPIF’s latest book, Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, published by Paradigm Publishers.]

The heavy reliance on private contractors to do everything from serving meals and doing laundry to protecting oil pipelines and interrogating prisoners has been a major factor in the immense costs of the Iraq war. By one measure, there may be more employees of private firms and their subcontractors on the ground in Iraq than there are U.S. military personnel.

One of the main rationales for using private companies to carry out functions formerly done by uniformed military personnel — a practice that has been on the rise since then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney commissioned a study that led to the contracting out of all Army logistics work to Halliburton in the 1990s — was that it would save money. But in Iraq, the combination of greedy contractors and lax government oversight has resulted in exorbitant costs, many of them for projects that were never completed.

The first sign that something was terribly wrong with the contracting process for the war was the awarding of a no-bid, cost-plus contract to Halliburton, allegedly to pay the cost of putting out oil fires in Iraq. Rep. Henry Waxman started asking questions about the contract after he learned that it could be worth up to $7 billion over x years. He rightly questioned how a no-bid deal justified on the basis of potential short-term emergencies could have such a long duration at such a high price. Only then was it revealed that the contract also covered the task of operating Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Given the long-term nature of this larger task, Waxman argued that this aspect of the work be taken away from Halliburton and subjected to competitive bidding. It was several years before his recommendation was implemented, and even then Halliburton received what at least one potential competitor — Bechtel — viewed as an unfair advantage.

While few contracts matched the size of Halliburton’s oil deal, the use of cost-plus awards was widely emulated. A cost-plus award is virtually an invitation to pad costs, as profits are a percentage of funds spent — in other words, the more you spend, the more you make. This problem has been compounded by a lack of auditors to scrutinize these contacts. For example, in one zone of Iraq, only eight people were assigned to oversee contracts worth over $2.5 billion.

Halliburton’s other major contract in Iraq is for the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). Under this arrangement, Halliburton supplies virtually all of the Army’s non-combat needs in the field, from building and operating bases to repairing and maintaining combat vehicles. LOGCAP operates on a variation of the cost-plus contracts, and it has exploited this arrangement to the fullest. Among the overcharges engaged in by the company have been the following: overcharging by more than a dollar a gallon for fuel shipped into Iraq from Kuwait; billing the government for three times as many meals as it actually served the troops at several of the bases it runs; leasing SUVs for its personnel at a cost of $7,000 per month; and charging $100 each for doing a bag of laundry. These are just a few examples among dozens in which Halliburton took advantage of the “fog of war” to line its pockets. The company’s attitude was summed up by company whistleblower Henry Bunting, who indicated that when he raised questions with his supervisor about Halliburton’s lavish expenditures of government money he was told “don’t worry about it, it’s cost-plus.”

In all, Halliburton has been by far the greatest beneficiary of the Iraq war, with war-related contracts exceeding $8 billion, several billion of which has not been adequately accounted for. Although a number of changes were made in response to the company’s record of fraud and abuse — from taking away its fuel supply contract to splitting the work for operating Iraq’s oil infrastructure into three parts — these measures were a classic case of too little, too late. Reforms designed to prevent “another Halliburton” will be discussed below.

Large firms like Halliburton were not the only ones to exploit the war for excess — and in some cases illegal - profits. One of the most notorious examples involved Custer Battles, named after its founders Scott Custer and Michael Battles. When the two men went to Iraq in search of contracts, they had no capital, no employees, and no experience in the security business. But they did have a knack for marketing, billing themselves “Green Berets with MBAs.”

Shortly after arriving in Iraq, Custer Battles received a lucrative contract to provide security for the Baghdad airport. As an example of just how loose controls were, one early payment to the company was made in the form of $2 million in shrink wrapped $20 bills, transferred to the firm in exchange for a handwritten receipt. A film of two Custer employees playing football with a brick of the shrink wrapped bills provided one of the most enduring images of greed and corruption generated by the Iraq occupation contracting fiasco.

Even as rumors of poor performance on the airport security contract began to circulate, Custer Battles received another major contract, this time for delivering the new Iraqi currency to key points around the country. This effort was characterized by shoddy working conditions, unpaid subcontractors, and the use of broken down trucks that could not carry out their mission.

Finally, after revelations by whistleblowers who had worked for the firm, the extent of Custer Battles corruption was exposed. In addition to failing to provide the security and transport services it was contracted to do, internal company documents showed that it had routinely charged for at least twice the value of services supplied by padding bills and funneling subcontracts to phony companies. While all of this was going on, Mike Battles was paying himself $3 million as head of the company.

These were far from isolated incidents, but the extent of the problem might never have been known without the creation of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). IG Stuart Bowen and his staff did scores of audits of every aspect of the reconstruction effort, from building schools to restoring electric service to providing security for a wide range of projects and activities. They discovered a pattern in which contract dollars were spent out in full while only a fraction of the promised work had been completed. While some of this gap can be accounted for by the violence and insecurity that was rampant in significant parts of Iraq from early on in the occupation, this cannot begin to account for the shoddy performance of major and minor contractors alike.

To cite just one example of a company that was roundly criticized in SIGIR audits, the Parsons Corporation — the second largest Iraq reconstruction contactor after Halliburton — is worthy of mention. The company completely botched or failed to deliver on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts to build health clinics, fire stations, prisons, and a police academy. This misconduct not only wasted dollars, it endangered the lives of U.S. soldiers by fostering resentment among Iraqi citizens.

The lack of accountability of contractors in Iraq has extended well beyond financial malfeasance. Interrogators and translators from Titan Corp. and CACI Inc. were allegedly involved in incidents of torture at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, but no employees of these firms were ever subjected to legal proceedings. This is due to the fact that private contractors in Iraq exist in a legal never-never land, subject neither to Iraqi law nor to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The U.S. Extraterritorial Justice Act is supposed to cover cases like this one but it has almost never been utilized, due to the difficulty of having a prosecutor based in America build a case regarding an incident or incidents that may occur thousands of miles away.

The existence of security contractors who operate outside the military chain of command also poses serious problems. For example, when four employees of the private security firm Blackwater were killed and tortured by a mob in Falluijah in April 2004, the U.S. military felt compelled to strike hard at the city in a punitive backlash that did much to accelerate the opposition to the U.S. occupation among ordinary Iraqis. If the job had been done by personnel within the military chain of command, they might never have been deployed to that location at that time, thereby preventing the first Fallujah crisis from ever occurring.

Another circle of beneficiaries may be referred to as the “policy profiteers”: individuals who advocated for the war with Iraq at the same time that they stood to gain from it. Chief among these were Bruce Jackson, R. James Woolsey, and Richard Perle. Jackson, a former vice president at the world’s largest weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin, co-chaired the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an advocacy group which closely coordinated its pro-war messages with the Bush administration. He had previously served as chair of the foreign policy subcommittee of the Republican platform committee at the party’s 2000 convention. Both Woolsey and Perle served as advisors to then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as part of the Defense Policy Board. Both men used their posts as official advisors to the Pentagon to beat the drums for war, and both simultaneously ran investment funds that were receiving money from major contractors like Boeing that have profited mightily from the Iraq conflict. In addition, Woolsey is an executive at Booz, Allen and Hamilton, a consulting firm that has given seminars on how to get Iraq-related contracts.

Preventing war profiteering on the scale that has prevailed in Iraq will require the implementation of thoroughgoing reforms:

* Increasing the use of competitive bidding, even in cases in which only a few contractors are deemed to be capable of doing the task at hand;
* Better screening of bidders to rule out companies with no experience in the relevant area of work (e.g., see profile of Custer Battles, above);
* More auditors in the field from the outset of a conflict;
* A new “Truman Committee” modeled on the effort led by then Senator Harry Truman during World War II. The committee should have subpoena power, a robust investigative staff, and the ability to forward major abuses to the relevant criminal authorities;

These initial steps would go a long way towards preventing fraud and misconduct in future conflicts.

William Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Project at the New America Foundation. With FPIF’s Miriam Pemberton he edited the just-published Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War (Paradigm Publishers) from which this essay was taken.

Copyright © 2008, Institute for Policy Studies

Falling Out With The President: The Devious World of George Bush

by Rupert Cornwall

He was the most plodding, the most robotic, and - until this week - apparently the most loyal of presidential spokesmen. But now Scott McClellan, White House press secretary for George Bush between 2003 and 2006, has delivered the most wounding critique yet of this unhappy administration by one of its erstwhile senior officials.0529 11

What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception is no falsely touted insider memoir, jazzed up with a few titillating anecdotes to boost sales. It is a 341-page disquisition on Mr Bush, on his misbegotten war in Iraq, and on his entire conduct of the presidency, which Mr McClellan says was built on the use of propaganda, and on the technique of government as permanent campaign.

“History appears poised to confirm,” he writes in arguably the most damning paragraph of a book full of them, “that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now … What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

And those are not the words of a disgruntled outsider, summoned to the colours and then casually tossed aside. Mr McClellan largely owes his career to Mr Bush. He was spokesman for Mr Bush and part of the “Texas Mafia” along with the likes of Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.

A man with deep political connections in the Texan capital, Austin, Mr McClellan first worked for then governor Bush in early 1999. He was travelling press secretary for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000 before becoming chief deputy White House spokesman in the first Bush term. In July 2003, he took over from Ari Fleischer, and served as press secretary for almost three years.

It was a wretched period. True, his boss did win a narrow re-election in 2004 but, thereafter, it was downhill all the way. The draining CIA leak affair (in which Mr McClellan claims he was misled by both Mr Rove, Mr Bush’s closest adviser, and by Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff who was ultimately convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice) was followed by Hurricane Katrina and the administration’s disastrously botched response, and by ever growing public disenchantment with the war. By the time Mr McClellan was eased out in April 2006, Mr Bush had become one of the most unpopular US presidents of recent times, and has remained so ever since.

In its own words, What Happened is a chronicle of “how the presidency of George W Bush veered terribly off course”. Its longer term impact may be limited, by dint of the fact that the Bush presidency has sunk so low that it can hardly fall further. Mr McClellan’s “revelations” moreover merely confirm what all but the most blinkered supporters of the 43rd President have long since realised. But the immediate reaction of the Bush camp has been predictably bitter. Officially, the White House brushes off the book. Unofficially however, the President’s men are vitriolic, claiming he did not know what was going on but has turned upon his former boss to boost his book royalties.

“It shows how out of the loop he was,” Mr Rove, the man once known as “Bush’s Brain”, said on Fox News where he is now a commentator. “This doesn’t sound like Scott, it sounds like a left-wing blogger. I don’t remember him speaking up [about the concerns laid out in the book] at the time.”

In fact, Mr McClellan’s portrait of the President - a man he says he still respects and admires - is far more nuanced. Which of course only makes it more telling. Mr Bush comes across in now familiar guise, as a skilled politician, possessed of charm and an engaging wit, who is, “plenty smart enough to be President”. On the other hand, he is utterly incurious and uninquisitive on policy matters, preferring to rely on gut instinct than a detailed sifting of the arguments.

For the 43rd President, a decision once taken is always right. The approach reflects not only Mr Bush’s ingrained stubbornness but his ability to deceive not only others, but also himself. Mr McClellan offers as illustration a moment on the campaign trail in 1999, when he heard the governor/candidate talking on the phone to a friend about reports that he had used cocaine in his youth. Apparently, Mr Bush remarked that … “the media won’t let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumours. The truth is I honestly don’t remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back then, and I just don’t remember.”

In 2000 voters - battle-hardened by having to confront Bill Clinton’s marijuana use (”I did not inhale”) and explain to their curious children the finer points of the Monica Lewinsky affair - did not seem greatly bothered. They assumed Mr Bush might indeed have indulged in cocaine, just as he had indulged in the bottle which he had emphatically given up. But Mr McClellan drew a different lesson from the episode. “I remember thinking to myself, how can that be?” he writes. “How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn’t make a lot of sense.”

On the other hand, Mr Bush wasn’t, “the kind of person to flat-out lie.” So, Mc McClellan concludes, “I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine … I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that was not true, and that, deep down, he knew was not true. And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious - political convenience.” And thus, by implication at least, it was with Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

What Happened may throw new light on the enduring mystery of the war: why exactly did Mr Bush decide to invade a country that even he knew had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks that triggered his “war on terror?”

In a 2003 interview with Vanity Fair, Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Secretary of Defence and intellectual architect of the war, gave a hint when he suggested that WMD were only one reason for the invasion - “something everyone could agree on”. Mr McClellan goes significantly further. The administration’s real motive for war, he declares, was the neoconservative dream of creating a democratic Iraq that would pave the way for an enduring peace in the region.

But the White House had to sell the war as necessary because of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. They accordingly took a different tack, not of “out-and-out deception”, but of “shading the truth”. This was achieved by “innuendo and implication”, and by “intentionally ignoring intelligence to the contrary”.

But, one might ask, what else is new? An identical conclusion after all was reached as early as the summer of 2002, in the celebrated Downing Street memo in which British officials just back from a visit to Washington said US intelligence was being shaped to fit a decision to go to war .

It is, however, astounding to hear this critique from the man who spent the best part of three years doggedly defending the war and its consequences from a press corps that (as he writes in the book) had given the administration far too easy a ride in the run-up to the war - and was bent on making up for that omission when Mr McClellan succeeded Ari Fleischer as press secretary in summer 2003, when no WMD had been found, and it was all but certain none would be.

Even more astounding is his assertion that, contrary to everything the President continues to insist (aided no doubt by that talent for self-deception) Mr Bush would take his war back if he could. “I know the President pretty well,” Mr McClellan writes. “If he had been given a crystal ball in which he could have foreseen the cost of war, more than 4,000 American troops killed, 30,000 injured, and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis dead, he would never have made the decision to invade, whatever he says or feels he has to say publicly today.”

Blame does not belong with Mr Bush alone. What Happened delivers tough criticism of the President’s once vaunted national security team. One member of it of course was Dick Cheney, referred to by Mr McClellan as “the magic man” who somehow “always seemed to get his way” on every issue that mattered to him, be it the war, boosting the executive power of the presidency, or the harsh treatment of detainees.

Even more damning is his verdict on Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser in the run-up to the invasion. Her main talent, Mr McClellan suggests, was a Teflon quality. Whatever went wrong, “she was somehow able to keep her hands clean,” even when the problems related to areas for which she was responsible, such as the WMD rationale for war (including the infamous “16 words” in the 2003 State of the Union address about Saddam seeking uranium in Africa, that led to the CIA/Valerie Plame affair) and the planning for post-war occupation. History, he predicts, will not be kind to Ms Rice. But “she knew well how to adapt to potential trouble, dismiss brooding problems and always come out looking like a star”.

That is more than could be said for Mr McClellan himself, with his consistently gloomy demeanour and lack of the eloquence or sense of humour required to extricate himself from tight corners in the press room.

Rarely did he come out looking like a star. Equally rarely however did he look like a man secretly thirsting for revenge, even when he was replaced in spring 2006 by the conservative broadcaster Tony Snow (who, whatever else, was never lost for words).

Today Mr McClellan has found his words, in print. He professes still to like and admire his old boss. To which Mr Bush can only conclude, with friends like this, who needs enemies?

© 2008 The Independent

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Some Call It Faith

An American President Steps Over the Line (Again)
by Douglas Milburn

How do you live with yourself if you’re responsible for the deaths of 4,000 American soldiers and uncounted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?

Is it enough to believe your own public political platitudes about making the Middle East safe for democracy? Is the unstated rich peoples’ platitude about making the same region safe for Halliburton et al. enough to calm your troubled presidential mind?

Over the years of this national (international) tragedy we’ve heard — and picked apart — enough of Bush’s speeches to conclude that both those rationales are at work.

His 2008 Memorial Day radio address gave away the game in one sentence that, strangely, no one seems to have noticed. Partly, I suppose, because we are by now so inured to his inanities that nobody except talking heads and columnists hard up for analytical fodder is paying much attention to what he says.

I couldn’t get this one sentence out of my mind after it flashed through whatever media I was tuned in to.

Right at the end of a few minutes of the usual patriotic vacuities, he asks all Americans to remember the soldiers who paid the ultimate price, who were “delivered out of the agony of war to meet their Creator.”

My first reaction of jaw-dropping surprise was followed, the more I thought about it, by incredulity and then embarrassment, which finally morphed into a kind of nightmarish despair, the kind you feel when Slim Pickens at the end of Dr. Strangelove reveals his true cowboy colors and happily rides one of the bombs to earth shouting “Hee-haw” with a big grin on his face.

I was stunned that a president could and would say such a thing in public on the radio 1) without shame and 2) apparently without awareness that there might be any cause at all for shame in making such a statement.

A statement which basically says, “4,000 soldiers have died, but that’s OK because however awful their deaths were, they’re now a lot better off than they were before (and than we are who are still struggling along on Earth) because, well, they’re face-to-face with the Big Guy Himself. So, not to worry.”

We’ve known that Bush some good while ago delivered himself into the hands of evangelical Christians. We’ve had a number of hints that Biblical prophecy concerning Israel, End Times, and all that, may have played a part in shaping White House policy in the Middle East.

But here, in this one sentence, he revealed in total clarity, the extent to which he has bought into the most simplistic, bedrock faux reality of the right-wing religionists.

Clearly the mountains of the dead weigh on him. Just as clearly, he’s found a way to sleep under that crushing weight, a way to think himself beyond the horrors that he has caused into a happier world: “As your president, I say to all you loved ones and friends of our dead soldiers, never mind your sadness and feelings of loss, because the simple truth is that they are much better off now than we are and certainly much better off than they were before they died.”

Some call it faith. What do you call it when the leader of an ostensibly secular nation uses his position of power to spin an unverifiable tale to justify and celebrate the deaths for which he is responsible? I call it obscene.

Douglas Milburn is the founder/editor of the Internet magazine, Magellan’s Log (since 1999). He is the author of several books and former editor of Houston City Magazine (RIP).

Stopping the War Machine: Military Recruiters Must Be Confronted

by Ron Kovic

As a former United States Marine Corps sergeant who was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1968, I am sending my complete support and admiration to all those now involved in the courageous struggle to stop military recruitment in Berkeley and across the country.

Not since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s has there been a cause more just than the one you are now engaged in. Who knows better the deep immorality and deception of military recruiters than those of us who, decades ago, entered those same recruiting offices with our fathers, believing in our hearts that we were being told the truth — only to discover later we had been deceived and terribly betrayed? Many of us paid for that deceit with our lives, years of suffering and bodies and minds that were never the same again. If only someone had warned us, if only someone had had the courage to speak out against the madness that we were being led into, if only someone could have protected us from the recruiters whose only wish was to make their quota, send us to boot camp and hide from us the dark secret of the nightmare which awaited us all.

Over the past five years, I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding in Iraq. So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war 30 years ago which left me paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for life. Refusing to learn from the lessons of Vietnam, our government continues to pursue a policy of deception, distortion, manipulation and denial, doing everything it can to hide from the American people their true intentions and agenda in Iraq. As we pass the fifth anniversary of the start of this tragic and senseless war, I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded, nearly 30,000, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across our country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, a whole new generation of severely maimed men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York in 1968.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which afflicted so many of us after Vietnam, is just now beginning to appear among soldiers recently returned from the current war. For some the agony and suffering, the sleepless nights, anxiety attacks and awful bouts of insomnia, alienation, anger and rage will last for decades — if not their whole lives. They will be trapped in a permanent nightmare of that war, of killing another man, a child, watching a friend die … fighting against an enemy that can never be seen, while at any moment someone, a child, a woman, an old man — anyone — might kill them.

These traumas return home with us and we carry them, sometimes hidden, for agonizing decades. They deeply impact our daily lives, and the lives closest to us. To kill another human being, to take another life out of this world with one pull of a trigger, is something that never leaves you. It is as if a part of you dies with that person. If you choose to keep on living, there may be a healing, and even hope and happiness again, but that scar and memory and sorrow will be with you forever. Why did the recruiters never mention these things? This was never in the slick pamphlets they gave us.

Some of these veterans are showing up at homeless shelters around our country, while others have begun to courageously speak out against the senselessness and insanity of this war and to demand answers from the leaders who sent them there. During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, returning soldiers formed a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War, just as we had marched in Miami in August of 1972 as Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Still others have refused deployment to Iraq, gone to Canada and begun resisting this immoral and illegal war. Like many other Americans, I have seen them on television or at the local veterans hospitals, but for the most part, they remain hidden like the flag-draped caskets of our dead returned to Dover Air Force Base in the dark of night, as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely allowing the human cost of its policy to be seen.

Many of us promised ourselves long ago that we would never allow what happened to us in Vietnam to happen again. We had an obligation, a responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, as human beings, to raise our voices in protest. We could never forget the hospitals, the intensive-care wards, the wounded all around us fighting for their lives, those long and painful years after we came home, those lonely nights. There were lives to save on both sides, young men and women who would be disfigured and maimed, mothers and fathers who would lose their sons and daughters, wives and other loved ones who would suffer for decades to come if we did not do everything we could to stop the momentum of this madness.

Mario Savio once said, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

It is time to stop the war machine. It is time for bold and daring action on the part of us all. Precious lives are at stake, both American and Iraqi, and military recruiters must be confronted at every turn, in every high school, every campus, every recruiting office, on every street corner, in every town and city across America. In no uncertain terms we must make it clear to them that by their actions they represent a threat to our community, to our children and all that we cherish. We must explain to them that condemning our young men and women to their death, setting them up to be horribly maimed, and psychologically damaged in a senseless and immoral war, is wrong and unpatriotic and will not be tolerated by Berkeley — or, for that matter, any town or city in the United States.

The days of deceiving, manipulating and victimizing our young people are over. We have had enough, and I strongly encourage all of you to use every means of creative, nonviolent civil disobedience to stop military recruitment all across our country. I stand with you in this important and courageous fight, and I am confident your actions in the days ahead will inspire countless others across our country to do everything they can to end this deeply immoral and illegal war.

(Note: This statement represents portions of several essays and writings I have done over the past five years.-R.K.)

Paralyzed from the chest down by Vietnam War wounds, and confined to a wheelchair for almost 40 years, Ron Kovic stands as a symbol of the brutality of war. He also exemplifies a man’s ability to transform such tragedy into a lifelong pursuit of peace—for himself and his country.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bush’s Reaction to War

by Vincent Bugliosi

How has George Bush reacted to the hell he created in Iraq, to the thousands of lives that have been lost in the war, and to the enormous and endless suffering that the survivors of the victims — their loved ones — have had to endure?

I’ve always felt that impressions are very important in life, and other than “first impressions,” they are usually right. Why? Because impressions, we know, are formed over a period of time. They are the accumulation of many words and incidents, many or most of which one has forgotten, but which are nonetheless assimilated into the observer’s subconscious and thus make their mark. In other words, you forgot the incident, but it added to the impression. “How do you feel about David? Do you feel he’s an honest person?” “Yeah, I do.” “Why do you say that about him? Can you give me any examples that would cause you to say he’s honest?” “No, not really, at least not off the top of my head. But I’ve known David for over ten years, and my sense is that he’s an honest person.”

I have a very distinct impression that with the exception of a vagrant tear that may have fallen if he was swept up, in the moment, at an emotional public ceremony for American soldiers who have died in the war, George Bush hasn’t suffered at all over the monumental suffering, death, and horror he has caused by plunging this nation into the darkness of the Iraq war, probably never losing a wink of sleep over it. Sure, we often hear from Bush administration sources, or his family, or from Bush himself, about how much he suffers over the loss of American lives in Iraq. But that dog won’t run. How do we just about know this is nonsense? Not only because the words he has uttered could never have escaped from his lips if he were suffering, but because no matter how many American soldiers have died on a given day in Iraq (averaging well over two every day), he is always seen with a big smile on his face that same day or the next, and is in good spirits. How would that be possible if he was suffering? For example, the November 3, 2003, morning New York Times front-page headline story was that the previous day in Fallouja, Iraq, insurgents “shot down an American helicopter just outside the city in a bold assault that killed 16 soldiers and wounded 20 others. It was the deadliest attack on American troops since the United States invaded Iraq in March.” Yet later in that same day when Bush arrived for a fund-raiser in Birmingham, Alabama, he was smiling broadly, and Mike Allen of the Washington Post wrote that “the President appeared to be in a fabulous mood.” This is merely one of hundreds of such observations made about Bush while the brutal war continued in Iraq.

And even when Bush is off camera, we have consistently heard from those who have observed him up close how much he seems to be enjoying himself. When Bush gave up his miles of running several times a week because of knee problems, he took up biking. “He’s turned into a bike maniac,” said Mark McKinnon in March of 2005, right in the middle of the war. McKinnon, a biking friend of Bush’s who was Bush’s chief media strategist in his 2004 reelection campaign, also told the New York Times’s Elisabeth Bumiller about Bush: “He’s as calm and relaxed and confident and happy as I’ve ever seen him.” Happy? Under the horrible circumstances of the war, where Bush’s own soldiers are dying violent deaths, how is that even possible?

In a time of war and suffering, Bush’s smiles, joking, and good spirits stand in stark contrast to the demeanor of everyone of his predecessors and couldn’t possibly be more inappropriate. Michael Moore, in his motion picture documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, captured this fact and the superficiality of Bush well with a snippet from a TV interview Bush gave on the golf course following a recent terrorist attack. Bush said, “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you.” Then, without missing a single beat, he said in reference to a golf shot he was about to hit: “Now watch this drive.”

Before I get into specific instances of Bush laughing and having fun throughout the entire period of the inferno he created in Iraq, I want to discuss a number of more indirect but revealing incidents that reflect he could not care less about the human suffering and carnage going on in Iraq, or anywhere.

1. The first inkling I got that Bush didn’t care about the suffering or anyone, not just those dying in Iraq, was from an article in the September 22, 2001, New York Times just eleven days after 9/11. Though 3,000 Americans had been murdered and the nation was in agony and shock, the man who should have been leading the mourning was, behind the scenes, not affected in the tiniest way. The article, by Frank Bruni, said that “Mr. Bush’s nonchalant, jocular demeanor remains the same. In private, say several Republicans close to the administration, he still slaps backs and uses baseball terminology, at one point promising that the terrorists were not ‘going to steal home on me.’ He is not staying up all night, or even most of the night. He is taking time to play with his dogs and his cat. He is working out most days.” So right after several thousand Americans lost their lives in a horrible catastrophe, behind the scenes Bush is his same old backslapping self, and he’s not letting the tragedy interfere in the slightest way with the daily regimen of his life that he enjoys.

In fact, he himself admitted to the magazine Runners World (August 23, 2002) that after the Afghanistan war began: “I have been running with a little more intensity . . . It helps me to clear my mind.” (In other words, Bush likes to clear his mind of the things he’s supposed to be thinking about.) Remarkably finding time in the most important job on earth to run six days a week, Bush added: “It’s interesting that my times have become faster . . . For me, the psychological benefit [in running] is enormous. You tend to forget everything that’s going on in your mind and just concentrate on the time and distance.” But even this obscene indulgence after 9/11 and during wartime by the man with more responsibility than anyone in the world wasn’t enough for Bush. He told the magazine: “I try to go for longer runs, but it’s tough around here at the White House on the outdoor track. It’s sad that I can’t run longer. It’s one of the saddest things about the presidency.” Imagine that. Among all the things that the president of the United States could be sad about during a time of war, not being able to run longer six days a week is up there near the top of the list.

A New York Times article not long after 9/11 (November 5, 2001) reported that Bush had told his friends (obviously with pride) that “his runs on the Camp David trails through the Maryland woods have produced his fastest time in a decade, three miles in 21 minutes and 6 seconds.” USA Today (October 29, 2001) reported that Bush used to run 3 miles in 25 minutes and now he was “boasting to friends and staffers” about his new time, and was “now running 4 miles a day.”

So with his approval rating soaring to 90 percent in the wake of 9/11 — and with his being the main person in America whose job required that he be totally engaged every waking hour in working diligently on this nation’s response to 9/11 — Bush, remarkably, was working diligently on improving his time for the mile. I ask you, what American president in history, Republican or Democrat, would have conducted himself this way?

2. One thing about Bush. He’s so dense that he makes remarks an intelligent person who was as much of a scoundrel as he would never make. They’d keep their feelings, which they would know to be very shameful, to themselves. On December 21, 2001, just a few months after 9/11 — a tragedy that shocked the nation and the world in which 3,000 Americans were consumed by fires, some choosing to jump to their deaths out of windows eighty or more stories high — Bush, who could only have been thinking of himself, told the media: “All in all, it’s been a fabulous year for Laura and me.” He said this because that is exactly the way he felt. What difference does 9/11 make? I’m president. I love it, and Laura and I are having a ball.

Indeed, on January 20, 2005, right in the midst of the hell on earth Bush created in Iraq — when the carnage there was near its worst and American soldiers and Iraqi citizens were dying violent deaths every day — Bush, referring to himself and his wife, told thousands of partying supporters at one of his nine inaugural balls: “We’re having the time of our life.” Can you even begin to imagine Roosevelt in the midst of the Second World War, Truman during the Korean War, or LBJ and Nixon during the Vietnam War, saying something like this?

3. Does it not stand to reason that if Bush were suffering over the daily killings and tragedy in Iraq, he would be working every waking hour to lessen the mounting number of casualties as well as find a way to satisfactorily end the terrible conflict? I mean, as president, that’s what you’d expect of him, right? Isn’t that his job? Yet we know that although Bush is still in office, he has already spent far more time on vacation than any other president in American history. For instance, by April 11, 2004 (he was inaugurated January 20, 2001), he had visited his cherished ranch in Crawford a mind-boggling thirty-three times and spent almost eight months of his presidency there.

Although the office of the presidency follows the president wherever he goes twenty-four hours a day, and at least some part of every day on vacation, no matter how small, was spent by Bush attending to his duties as president, we also know that Bush’s main purpose when he goes on vacation, obviously and by definition, is to vacation, not work. CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who travels with Bush and keeps track of such things, told me that as of January 1, 2008, in Bush’s less than seven years as president, he visited his ranch in Texas an unbelievable 69 times, spending, per Knoller, “all or part of 448 days on vacation there.” As amazing as this is, Bush also made, Knoller says, 132 visits to Camp David during this period, spending “all or part of 421 days there,” and 10 visits to his family’s vacation compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, spending “all or part of 39 days there.”

So the bottom line is that of a total of approximately 2,535 days as president, most of them during a time of war, Bush spent all or a part or 908 days, an incredible 36 percent of his time, on vacation or at retreat places. Hard to believe, but true. Nine hundred and eight days is two and a half years of Bush’s presidency. Two and a half years of the less than seven years of his presidency in which his main goal was to kick back and have fun. You see, the White House digs, with a pool, theater, gymnasium, etc., weren’t enjoyable enough for Bush. He wanted a more enjoyable place to be during his life as president. *

My position in life is infinitely less important than Bush’s, yet during the above same period of Bush’s presidency, I not only worked much longer hours every day than Bush, I worked seven days a week, never took one vacation, and only took three days off to go to the desert with my wife to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. If it had not been for the anniversary, I wouldn’t have even taken those three days off. I realize I take working to an extreme, living by the clock each day, always looking up to see how much time I have left, working from morning to morning (retiring usually around two in the morning and starting my day at ten in the morning). Still, it is striking to consider that in seven years, I took 3 days off and Bush, the president of the United States, took 908. Even Americans who lead a more normal life than I, even fat-cat corporate executives, haven’t taken anywhere near the time away from their work that Bush has. Indeed, I think we can safely say that even though Bush has the most important and demanding job in this entire land, he has irresponsibly taken far more time off from his job to have fun during the past seven years than any worker or company executive in America!!! Is Bush, or is he not, a disgrace of the very first order?

* * *

*Remarkably, during his campaign for reelection in 2004 Bush very frequently spoke of the “hard work” he and his administration were engaging in. This was the first time I had ever heard an American president speak of the “hard work” involved in his job. I have heard them speak of the immense “burden” of the office of the presidency being responsible for the destiny and welfare of millions of people. But you see, for someone like Bush who was born on home plate and thought he had hit a home run, anything he does, any effort at all, he considers “hard work.”

The above is an excerpt from the book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi Published by Vanguard Press; May 2008;$26.95US/$28.95CAN; 978-159315-481-3

Vincent Bugliosi received his law degree in 1964. In his career at the L.A. County District Attorney’s office, he successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder convictions without a single loss. His most famous trial, the Charles Manson case, became the basis of his classic, Helter Skelter, the biggest selling true-crime book in publishing history. His forthcoming book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder, is available May 27.

For more information visit

Copyright © 2008 Vincent Bugliosi

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bush administration insults U.S. troops with its policies, behavior

by Ed Janosik

In his offering on April 30, Ryan Cooper again displays his lack of knowledge of current affairs, devoting his article to how he thinks Democrats disrespect our armed forces. There follows six examples of how the Bush administration insults our troops on a regular basis.

Isn't it an insult to covertly sneak the flag-draped caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq back into the United States? Is this a hero's welcome? What is the Defense Department ashamed of: It offers the lame excuse that it doesn't want to intrude into the grief of the families of our fallen dead. How would pictures of a planeload of anonymous caskets intrude in the final burial in some small cemetery where most of them are interred?

Many will remember the scandal at Walter Reed General Hospital a few months ago where recuperating soldiers were living in rot and roach-infested quarters while the Defense Department figured out what to do with them.

It should also be pointed out that it was not the Defense Department, it was not one of the flag-waving veterans' organizations who serve as captive audiences for George Bush and Dick Cheney who exposed such terrible living conditions; it was reporters from the liberal Washington Post who let the public know how our wounded troops are treated after their medical treatment is completed.

Then just a couple of weeks ago, the father of an 82nd Airborne Division trooper took pictures of a barracks at Fort Bragg where, among other scenes, there was one of a raw-sewage-covered bathroom floor. Are incidents of this nature evidence of how the "conservative" Bush administration honors our troops for their valiant service or are they an indication of what they think of our troops when they think nobody is looking?

When we have the DOD's "stop-loss" policy and its 15-month deployment policy. You may think the latter has been changed, but it is in effect until Aug. 1. The 4th Infantry Division will be redeployed in July, so under the Bush (and God forbid, McCain) administration, it will be in Iraq until November 2009.

Under "stop-loss," after a trooper has completed his enlistment and can leave the service, DOD can arbitrarily, depending on what skills and special ties it needs, extend the trooper's enlistment. This is nothing more than a "back-door draft," keeping a trooper in the service against his will.

If these sad examples aren't enough, the current one is the supreme insult. Sen. Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, with the support of Sen. John Warner, Republican of Virginia, is supporting an educational Afghan and Iraq wars veterans bill. This bill would be similar in its scope of benefits to the famous WWII G.I. Bill of Rights that educated Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" after its war service.

In addition to Senator Warner, 10 other Republican senators, including Kit Bond of Missouri, have "signed on" to the bill, as have 46 other Democrats. Missing from the list of supporters is Sen. John McCain, who has bought into the White House and Pentagon argument (you won't believe this) that if the Webb bill passes, it would be so generous that it would encourage a trooper to quit the military after he qualifies for the top benefit of a four-year state university education after serving on active duty for three years. In other words, putting your life on the line for three years isn't enough for Bush, the Pentagon and 38 Republican senators, including McCain.

Can Sen. McCain possibly believe that veterans' educational benefits should be so limited and unattractive that a trooper would choose to re-enlist and be subject to "stop-loss" frequent deployments? Is treating troopers essentially as captives after they initially enlist a way of honoring them?

One hopes it isn't too much of a surprise to Ryan Cooper that almost all Democrats and a significant minority of Republican senators think "honoring" is more than wearing a lapel pin and sticking a yellow ribbon made in China on your car. It's known as putting your money where your mouth is.

It’s Not a Campaign, It’s a Mission


A YEAR ago, Leon Lim, a 35-year-old doctoral student in Sanskrit from Dayton, Ohio, decided with his wife, Ranjani Powers, a yoga instructor, to head off to Bali, or India, or anywhere, really, just “somewhere very far away” — from the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and the tanking dollar, Mr. Lim said.

“We were just so disillusioned with the way everything was going,” explained the shaven-headed Mr. Lim, who wore a gold hoop earring in each ear. The couple had supported Ralph Nader in 2000, Ms. Powers said, but had since “given up on America.”

But they found an unlikely reason to stay: Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican congressman from Texas who continues to run for president, even months after Senator John McCain has essentially sewn up the nomination.

The Lims were among 1,200 or so supporters in Louisville, Ky., on May 17 who greeted their candidate like a rock star when he walked on stage at a rally at the ornate Louisville Palace Theater. He wore a crisp dress shirt the color of mint ice cream and a color-coordinated tie, which made him look like an insurance claims adjustor.

“The war on drugs has wasted $300 billion and has undermined our civil liberties!” he said.

People in the crowd, many under 30, if not 25, rose to their feet and thundered in applause, even if they looked as if they had stumbled into a Republican rally on their way to the Coachella rock festival. In many cases, hair was aggressive, clothing artfully tattered. Beards seemed to have a mind of their own.

“I talk about bringing the troops home from Iraq, but also don’t you feel like it’s about time they came back from Korea, Europe and Japan?” the candidate then asked.

The audience whooped in approval, as if Ron Paul were a lead guitarist tearing off a solo.

Mr. Paul was supposed to be a memory by now. But in the Oregon primary last week, he won 15 percent of the vote, and the campaign appears to be growing into something beyond a conventional protest campaign. Some supporters have helped turn the outspoken congressman’s campaign into a colorful, loud sideshow with their guerrilla marketing tactics — self-penned Ron Paul anthems on YouTube, a Ron Paul blimp, T-shirts that portray Mr. Paul as a world-historical icon like Che Guevara.

Attendance at Ron Paul campaign stops has nearly returned to pre-Super Tuesday levels. A group of supporters recently announced plans to start Paulville, a gated community in West Texas, where believers can pursue the candidate’s libertarian ideals as a cooperative lifestyle. Ron Paul’s book, “The Revolution: A Manifesto,” rocketed to No. 1 on a New York Times best-seller list on May 18 (it has since dropped). Supporters are starting to discuss creating yippie-ish disruptions at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul in September to gain visibility for the movement.

Many supporters say that such gestures are not the final gasp of a failed political campaign, but a spark for a “revolution.” And Mr. Paul encourages such talk. When he speaks or writes of revolution, the congressman means it in the 1776 sense, except that the oppressors now live in Washington, not London. The candidate wants to turn back what he sees as 200 years of creeping expansion of federal power, dissolve the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service, return to the gold standard, bring the troops home, not just from Iraq, but from everywhere — and yes, legalize pot, at least for medical purposes.

This message has hit home — not only with some traditional libertarians, but also among a small but passionate group of young voters who came of age after Sept. 11, during the debates about the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and Abu Ghraib. For them, the Ron Paul message has the feel not of 1776, but of 1968, when an unpopular war raged abroad, and a subculture of disenfranchised young people embraced an unorthodox philosophy built around a utopian ideal of freedom.

Of course, Ron Paul is a lot closer to Barry Goldwater than to Eugene McCarthy. But his young supporters, many of whom call themselves former liberals, said the peacenik left shares much with the libertarian right.

“It’s about taking the country back,” Mr. Lim said, waving off the policy differences between his old “political saint,” Mr. Nader, and his new one, who is anti-Roe (Mr. Paul opposes abortion personally, but thinks states should decide the issue) and supports gun rights. “Whether you believe in abortion or not, in guns or not, that’s not the point,” Mr. Lim said. “It’s about the way the country is going: to hell in a handbasket.”

Mr. Paul’s voters tend to be younger and angrier than most Republicans. Exit polls in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan by Edison/Mitofsky showed that Mr. Paul’s voters tended to strongly disapprove of the Iraq war, and hold a far more negative opinion of the Bush administration than other Republican voters do. In Michigan, where Mr. Paul received 6 percent of the vote, 34 percent of Paul voters were under 30, compared with 13 percent of voters there over all. (Mr. Paul is also, largely, a guy thing. In the New Hampshire primary, where the candidate received 8 percent of the vote, his support was 77 percent male, according to exit polls.)

With young voters comes youthful enthusiasm. “This is the message of the Beatles, the Dylans of the world,” said Marc Scibilia, a 21-year-old songwriter from Buffalo, referring to Mr. Paul’s platform. Mr. Scibilia posted a video of his Paul-themed song, “Hope Anthem,” on YouTube, and this summer he will lead a 28-city “Freedom Tour” featuring other musicians. Mr. Paul’s message of freedom and peace is “an ancient message — it inspired people in the 60s and 70s,” Mr. Scibilia said. “I want to bring back that era of magic.”

Some supporters are as quick as Dylan fans from the 60s to label mainstream politicians as sell-outs and compromisers. They cherish their candidate’s outspokenness.

“Man, I’ve straight hated politics, I’ve just never liked the authority,” explained Tommy Rayome, 19, a “musician-slash-cook-slash-whatever” from Lexington, Ky., who was one of more than 600 people who showed up at last week’s Ron Paul signing at a Borders bookstore in Louisville.

Mr. Rayome, whose unkempt ash curls cascaded from a knit Rasta cap, wore an enameled American flag pin on his faded maroon T-shirt. He said that he fell for Mr. Paul almost instantly after his roommate, also a supporter, described the candidate’s lack of hypocrisy. (In Congress, Mr. Paul is known as Dr. No, for his staunch refusal to vote for any bill he thinks might expand government power.) “I said, ‘All right, I like him,’ ” Mr. Rayome recalled. “He’s a terrible politician, so he’s the best.”

Brad Linzy, who writes for a small entertainment magazine in Evansville, Ind., said that by now, Mr. Paul is more than a political preference. “The man is my hero,” he said. “He is a hero on the level of a Gandhi.” Adhering to the candidate’s calls for a hard-currency economy, Mr. Linzy, 30, keeps nearly half his savings in silver bullion, and scours antiques fairs and rummage sales for objects containing silver.

In this passionate support, some political observers hear echoes not from 1968, but from 1964 — when Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election but won a fervent following.

The youthful zeal of the Paul movement “does recall the early Goldwater movement, which was also jam-packed with people dropping out of graduate school, college, maybe even high school, to devote themselves 24/7 to what they called the ‘revolution,’ ” said Rick Perlstein, author of “Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus” (Hill and Wang, 2002).

And such movements don’t always stay in the margins forever, he said, adding that the young supporters who stumped for Goldwater’s failed presidential bid helped lay the seeds for the Reagan revolution 16 years later.

The figure at the center of the tempest looks like an unlikely political idol. Waiting in an empty green room at the Palace Theater before taking the stage, Mr. Paul looked slender, stooped, slightly sad. But that image dissolves when he begins to speak about the unlikely sense of community spawned by his traditional libertarianism.

“It does bring people together, people who were totally apathetic,” he said in an interview afterward. “They’re very diverse. But they understand the issue of freedom. There’s a reason for this. If you’re free to live your life as you choose and spend your money as you wish, you’re not competitive with other people, you don’t tell people how to live.”

Libertarianism and utopianism are part of the plans for Paulville, outside of Dell City, Tex. For now, the town is little more than an idea and a title deed to a 50-acre parcel of desert. The goal, according to, is “to establish gated communities containing 100 percent Ron Paul supporters and or people that live by the ideals of freedom and liberty.”

For $500 apiece, the residents would buy shares representing one acre of land to homestead. The site contains no contact information, but land records indicate the first purchase was made by the Jason Ebacher Land Investment Group. Mr. Ebacher, a Ron Paul supporter in Farwell, Minn., did not respond to requests for interviews.

The candidate himself, however, has said that supporters should take the message out into the world, not hide from it.

At a recent mixer at a bar on East 15th Street in Manhattan, it seemed as if Paul supporters had built a community without the help of gates.

“Don’t you feel like an evangelist sometimes?” asked Rain Chacon, 36, a television writer and former Kucinich Democrat who lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “It’s like, ‘Here’s The Book, have you read The Book?’ ” she said, wearing a Fleshtones T-shirt and cat’s-eye glasses and hoisting her copy of “The Revolution” into the air.

The assembled — a few women and about 15 men — cheered with approval. They talked about their beliefs in spiritual terms, using phrases like “seeing the light.” Those who follow “the movement” are termed “awake.” The fact that their candidate has essentially zero chance to be president did not seem to faze them.

“As Ron Paul said himself, the revolution has to be more than Ron Paul,” said Andrew Rushford, 25, a legal assistant who lives in Brooklyn. “To him, it didn’t start the day he was born. It started in 1776.”

No threat, yet we go to war

by Ross Nelson
Fargo Forum 05/25/2008

This is a tale of two American presidents, and the complete reversal of foreign policy between their tenures. It is a comparison of wisdom and witlessness. We can see today the results of the less intelligent president’s policy.

On May 15, President Bush addressed the Israeli parliament in a laudatory, even obsequious, speech celebrating Israel’s 60th year of existence. Now, it should surprise no one to hear that American politicians have been increasingly cowed by pro-Israel lobbying and sentiments, a process that seemed to take wing after Israel’s Six Day War in 1967. Previously, America took a much more neutral stance between Israel and the Arab nations. In contrast, nearly all of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in the current contest fawned over Israel, pledging undying love to it and destruction to its enemies, in perpetuity and unconditionally.

But Bush’s proclamations to Israel were so fervent as to be shameless. One exultant parliamentary lawmaker exclaimed that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could “learn from the president of the Unites States what Zionism is.”

Dropping our traditional role as an honest broker and taking sides in the Mideast has done no one any favors. No doubt it’s sheer coincidence, some say, that our troubles in the Mideast and with terrorism started after we shed our neutrality. Scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt demonstrate that our bias has compromised both America’s and Israel’s security, as possible compromises have been skewered in the Mideast by our favoritism while despair thrives.

It should be undeniable that America and Israel are two discrete countries whose interests are not wholly synonymous. Yet all too often, America’s interests in the Mideast have been made subservient to Israel’s.

George Washington saw the problem clearly in his farewell address, although France was his concern of the day: “A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation … in cases where no real common interest exists … betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter. …

“Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil … the arts of influence on the other.”

All of this seems terribly obvious. And yet to assert as Americans that our interests come first is to unleash all the Furies and their cousins. Ironically, those who accuse peace mongers and constitutionalists of blaming America first are generally the same ones who criticize these two groups for putting America first.

Having learned nothing from our aggressor war with Iraq, Bush and his gang appear to be gearing up for war with Iran. Once again there’s no visible threat to us, so leaders such as Bush and Hillary Clinton insist we would be defending Israel. But it’s pure farce to assume Israel is existentially threatened by any Arab nation or coalition. As possessor of a couple of hundred nuclear weapons and a top-notch military, Israel needs our protection like a lion needs shelter from tsetse flies. Nonetheless, Israel will keep its No. 1 ranking on America’s foreign aid list, which for it consists mostly of military spending.

There are shared values between us and Israel, but Americans shouldn’t have to fear for their reputations or jobs by speaking out on our priorities as a country. Washington knew what might become of those who put America first, however: “Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people.” So it has come to pass.

Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary pages.

He can be reached at

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Christian fundamentalism and Zionism

Time To Terminate This Unholy Alliance?

By Alan Hart

23/08/08 "ICH " -- - In the light of the revelation (devine or not) about Pastor John Hagee’s assertion that Hitler was God’s agent, is it too much to hope that Jews everywhere, and Jewish Americans especially, will insist that Zionism terminate its unholy alliance with Christian fundamentalism?

This alliance has always seemed to me to be the greatest madness and also the biggest obscenity in the continuing story of conflict in and over Palestine.

Historically speaking, Christian fundamentalists were classic Jew haters on the grounds, they said, that the Jews were the “Christ killers”. So what explains Christian fundamentalism’s support for Israel right or wrong - support which today includes much of the money to fund Zionism’s on-going colonisation of the occupied West Bank?

The evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell gave this answer.

The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was the most crucial event in history since the ascension of Jesus to heaven and

“proof that the second coming of Jesus Christ is nigh… Without a State of Israel in the Holy Land, there cannot be the second coming of Jesus Christ, nor can there be a Last Judgement, nor the End of the World.”.

Another answer is that provided by Yakov M. Rabkin, the Jewish Canadian Professor of History at the University of Montreal. In his book A Threat From Within, A CENTURY OF JEWISH OPPOSITION TO ZIONISM, he writes:

“The massive support extended to the State of Israel by millions of Christian supporters of Zionism is overtly motivated by a single consideration: that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land will be a prelude to their acceptance of Christ (when he returns) or, for those who fail to do so, to their physical destruction.” (My emphasis added).

Simply stated, Christian fundamentalism’s only interest in the Zionist state of Israel is in assisting it to become the instrument for bringing about, as foretold by the Christian Bible, the end of the world in a final battle at Armageddon between the forces of good and evil. In this scenario the Jews will have a choice - either to junk their Judaism and become Christians, in which case they will be beamed up to heaven, or to be annihlated… It seems to me that there’s a case for saying that Christian fundamentalism is, potentially, a far bigger threat to Jews and Judaism than all the Arabs and other Muslims of the world put together, including a nuclear-armed Iran!

So why is Zionism in alliance with Christian fundamentalism?

The short answer needs only two words - political expendiency.

On its own and in its various manifestations, the Zionist (not Israel!) lobby is awesomely powerful. It is even more influential, in America especially, in association with Christian fundamentalism. In May 2002, the BBC’s admirable Stephen Sackur presented a remarkable radio documentary, A Lobby to Reckon With. It was honest, investigative journalism at its very best. The programme explained why it was no longer accurate to talk about the Zionist lobby (which in my view was wrongly called the Israel lobby) as the main influence on American policy for the Middle East. There was now a more powerful lobby, one that had been formed, effectively if not institutionally, by the Zionists joining forces with Christian fundamentalism. As Sackur observed, “It is an alliance of the two best organised networks in the U.S.”

Another way to put it would be to say that America’s elected representatives, almost all of them including their Presidents, are frightened of offending Zionism too much and sometimes at all, and terrified of offending Zionism in alliance with Christian fundamentalism.

A truth about Zionism is that it’s always been ready, willing and able to use or be used by any power or interest when doing so advanced its own cause. It has never needed a spoon, long or short, to sup with the devil. Those who are familiar with the most intimate details of Zionism’s history know that in 1940 there was a Zionist offer to collaborate with Nazi Germany - to participate in the war on Germany’s side and to assist the establishment of Hitler’s New (totalitarian) Order in Europe.

To this day Zionism and all supporters of Israel right or wrong deny there was ever a Zionist proposal for collaboration with Nazi Germany, just as they deny Zionism’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948/49 and on-going; but 45 years after the offer was made in writing, Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving director of Military Intelligence, made the following observation about it in his book, Israel’s Fateful Hour:

“Perhaps, for peace of mind, we ought to see this affair as an aberrant episode in Jewish history. Nevertheless, it should alert us to how far extremists may go in times of distress, and where their manias may lead.” (My empassis added).

It could also that there was a financial consideration in Zionsm’s decision to use and be used by Christian fundamentalism. At some point in the future it’s not impossible that the more American and European Jews realise that Zionism is their enemy, the less they will be willing to pump money into the Zionist state.. In that event, Zionism may have calculated, it will need Christian fundamentalist money more than ever.

I’ve never believed that enough Americans would be stupid enough to put Senator John McCain in the White House, and hopefully his better-late-than-never rejection of Hagee’s endorsement will guarantee his defeat.

The only “end of times” I wish for is the termination of the unholy alliance between Christian fundamentalism and Zionism. Amen.