Friday, January 29, 2010

Remember the Illegal Destruction of Iraq?

Published on Friday, January 29, 2010 by

Remember the Illegal Destruction of Iraq?

by Glenn Greenwald

British political news has been consumed for the last several weeks by a formal inquiry into the illegality and deceit behind Tony Blair's decision to join the U.S. in invading Iraq. Today, Blair himself is publicly testifying before the investigative commission and is being grilled about numerous false claims he made
in the run-up to the war, not only about Iraqi weapons programs and
their ties to Al Qaeda, but also about secret commitments he made to
join the U.S. at a time when he and Bush were still pretending that
they were undecided and awaiting the outcome of the U.N. negotiations
and the inspection process.

[]A major focus of the
investigation is the illegality of the war. Some of the most embarrassing details that have emerged concerns the conclusions by Blair's own legal advisers that the invasion of Iraq would be illegal without U.N. approval. The top British legal officer had concluded
that the war would be illegal, only to change his mind under substantial pressure shortly before the invasion. Several weeks ago, a formal investigation in the Netherlands -- whose government had supported the invasion -- produced the first official adjudication of the legality of the war, and found it illegal, with "no basis in international law."

As Digby notes,
all of this stands in stark and shameful contrast to the U.S., which
pointedly refuses to "look back" or concern itself with whether it
waged an illegal (and horribly destructive) war. The British inquiry
has been widely criticized for being too passive and deferential and
lacking any credible threat of accountability (other than disclosure of
facts). Still, one could hardly imagine George Bush and Dick Cheney
being hauled before an investigative body and forced, under oath, to
testify about what they did as a means of examining the illegality of
that war. Doing that would fundamentally conflict with two leading
principles in American political life: (1) our highest political leaders must never be accountable for actions they take while in power; and (2) whether something they do is "illegal" -- especially the starting of wars -- is utterly irrelevant. Instead of formally investigating whether they broke the law, we treat them like elder statesmen who deserve a life of luxury and media reverence. Tony Blair -- who had no discernible expertise or experience in banking -- himself is showered with riches for a "part-time" job by JP Morgan and by other institutions who benefited substantially from his acts in office.

All of this underscores the fact that -- despite how much public debate it
has received -- we still childishly, and with moral blindness, refuse to come to terms with the true scope of our wrongdoing when it comes to the Iraq War. Several hundred thousand Iraqis -- at least -- were killed as a result of this war, with another 4 million being turned into refugees. As the Iraqi journalist and professor Ali Fadhil put it in 2008, on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion: "basically, my assessment is we have a whole nation called Iraq, now it's wiped out." Contrary to conventional wisdom about the war, the alleged post-surge
improvement in Iraqi civil society has not remotely mitigated the destruction spawned by the invasion. As The Economist detailed in September, 2009, the U.S.-supported Maliki government is relying increasingly on Saddam-era tactics of torture, censorship, lawless sectarian militias, and brutal punishment of dissent: "Human-rights violations are becoming more common. In private many Iraqis, especially educated ones, are
asking if their country may go back to being a police state."

The invasion of Iraq was unquestionably one of the greatest crimes of the
last several decades. The fact that it was illegal -- a blatant
violation of international law -- makes it that much worse. Imagine
what future historians will say about it -- a nakedly aggressive war
launched under the falsest of pretenses, in brazen violation of every
relevant precept of law, which destroyed an entire country, killed huge
numbers of innocent people, and devastated the entire population. Have
we even remotely treated it as what it is? We're willing to concede it
was a "mistake" -- a good-natured and completely understandable lapse
of judgment -- but only the shrill and unhinged call it a crime. As
always, it's worth recalling that Robert Jackson, the lead prosecutor
at the Nuremberg Trials, insisted in his Closing Argument
against the Nazi war criminals that "the central crime in this pattern
of crimes" was not genocide or mass deportation or concentration camps;
rather, "the kingpin which holds them all together, is the plot for aggressive wars." History teaches that aggressive war is the greatest and most dangerous of all crimes -- as it enables even worse acts of inhumanity -- and illegal, aggressive war is precisely what we did in Iraq, to great devastation.

I'm periodically criticized for an "angry" tone in my writing, which
I always find mystifying. I genuinely don't understand why anger
should be avoided or even how it could be. What other reaction is
possible when one looks around and sees the government leaders who
committed these grave crimes completely unburdened by any
accountability and treated as respectable dignitaries, or watches the
Tom Friedmans, Jeffrey Goldbergs, Fred Hiatts and other unrepentent
leading media propagandists who helped enable it still feted as Serious
and honest experts, or beholds the current Cabinet and Senate filled
with people who supported it, or observes the Michael O'Hanlons and
Les Gelbs and other Foreign Policy Community luminaries who lent
trans-partisan credence to it all continue to trapse around still
pompously advocating for more wars that never touch their lives?

A few months ago, I did an MSNBC segment with Dan Senor, who is currently
a Fox News contributor, author of a book hailing the greatness of
Israeli innovations, a recent addition to the Council on Foreign
Relations, and husband of CNN anchor Campbell Brown. But back in 2003
and 2004, he was Chief Spokesman for the "Coalition Provisional
Authority" in Iraq -- the U.S. occupying force in that country.
Sitting in the green room with him before the segment, I was really
disgusted by the paradox that one is supposed to treat him as just some
random political adversary deserving of standard civility, respect and
respectability -- in other words, a Decent Person is supposed to forget
that he was an official who enable and lied about some of the most
monstrous acts of the last many years. And, of course, he was going on
MSNBC that day to opine about our current foreign policy options:
direct involvement in this horrific crime is no disqualifying factor;
it's not even a black mark against someone's credibility and reputation.

At least Robert McNamara had the decency to write a deeply humble mea culpa and spend the last couple of decades of his life living under a cloud
of deep shame and disgrace until he died. Do you think any of that
will happen to any of the people responsible -- in politics, the media
and our Foriegn Policy think tanks -- for the unimaginable crimes of
the last decade, particularly what was done in Iraq: Shock and Awe and
the Fallujah massacres and Blackwater slaughters and Abu Ghraibs and all the rest?

Of course it won't. They continue to thrive unabated even as Iraq tries
to re-build itself from the devastation they unleashed. As toothless
as the British investigation appears to be, at least there's some
public reckoning, compelled answers from their leaders, and an attempt
to determine the precise nature of their crimes. And the Dutch have
formally declared the war in which they were involved to be a crime.
By contrast, we treat it all as a pointless relic of the irrelevant and
distant past, all because the people who did it have banded together to
insist that the worst possible crime is not what they did, but instead,
would be if the rest of us examined what they did and insisted on
meaningful accountability.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Price of US Wars: $1 Trillion and Rising

- News From - -

Price of US Wars: $1 Trillion and Rising

Posted By Jason Ditz On January 26, 2010 @ 5:50 pm In Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Congressional Budget Office’s newly released budget outlook notes that Congress has approved over $1 trillion in direct spending on wars and war-related activities since 2001, and that price tag is only getting higher as the wars drag on.

The spending was divided between $708 billion for the Iraq War, $345 billion for the Afghan War, and $22 billion for assorted other war activities in other countries. The Obama Administration’s repeated projections of a lower budget output for wars in coming years aside, they show no sign of slowing.

The estimated price tag only includes direct costs incurred as a result of the US occupations of those nations, and does not include the trillions of other dollars spent on the military since 2001.

Nor does it include the overall cost of the war to the American economy, a figure economists put at several trillion dollars years ago, and which has only risen as the US presence overseas continues to grow.

The US currently has over 100,000 troops in Iraq, and the escalation in Afghanistan will soon have America’s commitment there near 100,000 as well. The Obama Administration has projected cuts to the Iraq force since taking office, but recent bombings have raised serious doubts about America’s ability to withdraw from the nation, years after both parties agreed that the war was successfully “won.” Troop numbers in Afghanistan will likely continue to rise for the forseeable future.

Article printed from News From

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Rule By The Rich

By Paul Craig Roberts

January 26, 2010 "Information Clearing House" - -The election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate by Democratic voters in Massachusetts sends President Obama a message. Voters perceive that Obama’s administration has morphed into a Bush-Cheney government. Obama has reneged on every promise he made, from ending wars, to closing Gitmo, to providing health care for Americans, to curtailing the domestic police state, to putting the interests of dispossessed Americans ahead of the interests of the rich banksters who robbed Americans of their homes and pensions.

But what can Obama do other then spout more rhetoric?

The Democrats were destroyed as an independent party by jobs offshoring and so-called free trade agreements such as NAFTA. The effect of "globalism" has been to destroy the industrial and manufacturing unions, thus leaving the Democrats without a power base and source of funding.

Obama and the Democrats cannot be an opposition party, because Democrats are as dependent as Republicans on corporate interest groups for campaign funding.

The Democrats have to support war and the police state if they want funding from the military/security complex. They have to make the health care bill into a subsidy for private insurance if they want funding from the insurance companies. They have to abandon the American people for the rich banksters if they want funding from the financial lobby.

Now that the five Republicans on the Supreme Court have overturned decades of U.S. law and given corporations the ability to buy every American election, Democrats and Republicans can be nothing but pawns for a plutocracy.

Most Americans are hard pressed, but the corporations have only begun to milk them.

Wars are too profitable for the armaments industry to ever end. High unemployment is now a permanent state in the U.S., thus coercing job seekers into military service.

The security industry profits from the police state and regards civil liberties as a hindrance to profits. By announcing that he intends to continue the Bush policy of indefinite detention, a violation of the Constitution and U.S. legal procedures, Obama has granted the Democratic Party’s consent to the Republicans’ destruction of habeas corpus, the main bastion of individual liberty.

Jobs offshoring is too profitable for U.S. corporations for Obama to be able to save American jobs and restart the broken economy.

Americans are being squeezed out of health care not only by the loss of job benefits, but also by corporate takeover of medical practice from physicians. Today medical doctors are wage slaves of corporate health providers that leverage doctors by turning them into supervisors of physician assistants, lower paid people without medical degrees who perform the services that doctors once provided. As neither doctor nor physician assistant has any independence, there is no one to represent the patient’s care against the profits of the corporation.

Even environmental concerns are being used to create "cap and trade" rights to buy and sell the ability to pollute. Wall Street is licking its lips over a new source of leveraged derivative instruments.

The American public cannot even get reliable information about their plight as the "mainstream media" has been concentrated into a few corporate hands that do not permit independent reporting. The media is as dependent on corporate money as are politicians.

How can President Obama restart an economy that has been moved offshore? Millions of manufacturing jobs are gone, as are millions of jobs for college graduates, such as software engineering, Information Technology--indeed, any intellectual skill the product of which can be conveyed via the Internet. Even those intellectual skill jobs that do remain in the U.S. are filled increasingly by foreigners brought in on work visas.

The wipeout of blue collar and middle class job growth has stopped the growth of American incomes except, of course, those of the super rich. For a decade American consumers substituted increased personal indebtedness for income growth. In order to maintain and to increase their consumption, Americans consumed their assets, such as their home equity. Americans reached their maximum debt load just as the real estate bubble burst and just as the banksters highly-leveraged, toxic financial instruments brought down the stock market and the values of Americans’ pensions.

The enormous damage done to the U.S. economy by jobs offshoring, work visas, and financial deregulation cannot be offset by government stimulus plans, which expand the debt burdens that are crushing Americans. The federal government’s massive budget deficits and the Federal Reserve’s easy monetary policy are setting the stage for an inflationary depression to follow a deflationary depression.

The Federal Reserve chairman says not to worry about inflation, because the Fed can take the money back out of the economy. But can the Fed take the money out without contracting the economy?

The Federal Reserve says not to worry about financing the federal budget deficit. Banksters are buying the Treasury bonds with the proceeds from their sales of their toxic derivatives to the Fed.

So what is happening to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet? And when will the Fed have no recourse but to print new money in order to finance the federal deficit?

How long can the dollar retain its reserve currency role in such circumstances, and how does the U.S. pay for its imports when this role is lost?

Don’t look to Washington for answers to these questions.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. His new book, How the Economy was Lost, will be published next month by AK Press / CounterPunch. He can be reached at:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Corporate Personhood Should Be Banned, Once and For All

Outrageous SCOTUS Decision Should Reignite Most Necessary of Debates

By Ralph Nader

January 21, 2010 - -Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations. With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars.

This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics. It is indeed time for a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the civic and political voices and values of citizens and voters. It is way overdue to overthrow “King Corporation” and restore the sovereignty of “We the People”!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Direct Corporate Spending on Elections

In a 5-4 decision that strikes down a 1907 law, the justices say the 1st Amendment gives corporations, just like individuals, a right to spend their own money on political ads for federal candidates

by David G. Savage

WASHINGTON The Supreme Court today overturned a century-old restriction on corporations using their money to sway federal elections and ruled that companies have a free-speech right to spend as much as they wish to persuade voters to elect or defeat candidates for Congress and the White House.

In a 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said corporations have the same 1st Amendment rights as individuals and, for that reason, the government may not stop corporations from spending freely to influence the outcome of federal elections.

The decision is probably the most sweeping and consequential handed down under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. And the outcome may well have an immediate impact on this year's mid-term elections to Congress.

Until now, corporations and unions have been barred from spending their own treasury funds on broadcast ads or billboards that urge the election or defeat of a federal candidate. This restriction dates back to 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt called on Congress to forbid corporations, railroads and national banks from using their money in federal election campaigns. After World War II, Congress extended this ban to labor unions.

In today's decision, the high court struck down that restriction and said the 1st Amendment gives corporations, just like individuals, a right to spend their own money on political ads.

"The 1st Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech," said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for the court.

Two significant prohibitions on corporations were left standing. Corporations, and presumably unions, cannot give money directly to the campaigns of federal candidates. These "contribution" restrictions were not challenged in the case decided today. And secondly, the court affirmed current federal rules which require the sponsors of political ads to disclose who paid for them.

Most election-law expert have predicted a court decision freeing corporations will send millions of extra dollars flooding into this fall's contests for Congress. And they predict Republicans will be the main beneficiaries.

Today's decision was supported by five justices who were Republican nominees. They include Kennedy and Roberts along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The dissenters included the three Democratic appointees: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. They joined a dissent written by 89-year old Justice John Paul Stevens. Speaking from the bench, he called today's decision "a radical change in the law ... that dramatically enhances the role of corporations and unions -- and the narrow interests they represent -- in determining who will hold public office."

The decision today, though long forecast, displayed a deep division of opinion on the court about the meaning of the 1st Amendment and freedom of speech. The majority said the Constitution broadly protected discussion and debate on politics, regardless of who was paying for the speech. Roberts said he was not prepared to "embrace a theory of the 1st Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concern."

But Stevens and the dissenters said the majority was ignoring the long-understood rule that the government could limit election money from corporations, unions and others, such as foreign governments. "Under today's decision, multinational corporations controlled by foreign governments" would have the same rights as Americans to spend money to tilt U.S. elections. "Corporations are not human beings. They can't vote and can't run for office," Stevens said, and should be subject to restrictions under the election laws.

Today's opinion dealt only with corporations, but its logic would suggest that unions will also have the same right in the future to spend unions funds on ad campaigns for federal candidates.

© 2010 Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Support swells for Indict Bush bus ad

Dear Jeff,

The Indict Bush bus ad campaign has been enthusiastically welcomed by supporters from coast to coast. Thanks to their generous contributions, we are closer than ever to bringing the Indict Bush bus ads to Washington, D.C.!

We are at a critical juncture—and your generous donation can make all the difference.

We are almost there ... but we can't do it without you. Make a donation today to help us raise an additional $20,000 in the coming week!

Our goal is to buy 10 bus ads for bus routes operating in the Capitol Hill and White House area. We are also planning to place ads at bus stops.

Each day brings a new shocking revelation. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the FBI illegally collected thousands of U.S. telephone records during the Bush administration, invoking fabricated "terrorism emergencies" or persuading phone companies to provide information.

The top-level officials behind these criminal policies must be brought to justice. The Indict Bush bus ad campaign will raise the demands of our movement to a new level.

All over Washington, D.C., people will see our message. National and international media. Every representative and senator on the Hill. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the other attorneys at the Department of Justice. President Obama.

Congress is now back in session. Supporters across the country are reaching deep into their pockets to bring the demands of our movement to the heart of the nation's capital. This is the final stretch—Help us cross the finish line!

Become a part of this grassroots campaign by making a generous donation now!

The Rule of Law Has Been Lost

By Paul Craig Roberts

January 19, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- What is the greatest human achievement? Many would answer in terms of some architectural or engineering feat: The Great Pyramids, skyscrapers, a bridge span, or sending men to the moon. Others might say the subduing of some deadly disease or Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The greatest human achievement is the subordination of government to law. This was an English achievement that required eight centuries of struggle, beginning in the ninth century when King Alfred the Great codified the common law, moving forward with the Magna Carta in the thirteenth century and culminating with the Glorious Revolution in the late seventeenth century.

The success of this long struggle made law a shield of the people. As an English colony, America inherited this unique achievement that made English speaking peoples the most free in the world.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, this achievement was lost in the United States and, perhaps, in England as well.

As Lawrence Stratton and I show in our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions (2000), the protective features of law in the U.S. were eroded in the twentieth century by prosecutorial abuse and by setting aside law in order to better pursue criminals. By the time of our second edition (2008), law as a shield of the people no longer existed. Respect for the Constitution and rule of law had given way to executive branch claims that during time of war government is not constrained by law or Constitution.

Government lawyers told President Bush that he did not have to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which prohibits the government from spying on citizens without a warrant, thus destroying the right to privacy. The U.S. Department of Justice ruled that the President did not have to obey U.S. law prohibiting torture or the Geneva Conventions. Habeas corpus protection, a Constitutional right, was stripped from U.S. citizens. Medieval dungeons, torture, and the windowless cells of Stalin’s Lubyanka Prison reappeared under American government auspices.

The American people’s elected representatives in Congress endorsed the executive branch’s overthrow of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Law schools and bar associations were essentially silent in the face of this overthrow of mankind’s greatest achievement. Some parts of the federal judiciary voted with the executive branch; other parts made a feeble resistance. Today in the name of “the war on terror,” the executive branch does whatever it wants. There is no accountability.

The First Amendment has been abridged and may soon be criminalized. Protests against, and criticisms of, the U.S. government’s illegal invasions of Muslim countries and war crimes against civilian populations have been construed by executive branch officials as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” As American citizens have been imprisoned for giving aid to Muslim charities that the executive branch has decreed, without proof in a court of law, to be under the control of “terrorists,” any form of opposition to the government’s wars and criminal actions can also be construed as aiding terrorists and be cause for arrest and indefinite detention.

One Obama appointee, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein, advocates that the U.S. government create a cadre of covert agents to infiltrate anti-war groups and groups opposed to U.S.government policies in order to provoke them into actions or statements for which they can be discredited and even arrested.

Sunstein defines those who criticize the government’s increasingly lawless behavior as “extremists,” which, to the general public, sounds much like “terrorists.” In essence, Sunstein wants to generalize the F.B.I.’s practice of infiltrating dissidents and organizing them around a “terrorist plot” in order to arrest them. That this proposal comes from a Harvard Law School professor demonstrates the collapse of respect for law among American law professors themselves, ranging from John Yoo at Berkeley, the advocate of torture, to Sunstein at Harvard, a totalitarian who advocates war on the First Amendment.

The U.S. Department of State has taken up Sunstein’s idea. Last month Eva Golinger reported in the Swiss newspaper, Zeit-Fragen, that the State Department plans to organize youth in “Twitter Revolutions” to destabilize countries and bring about regime change in order to achieve more American puppet states, such as the ones in Egypt, Jordan, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states, Britain, and Western and Eastern Europe.

The First Amendment is being closed down. Its place is being taken by propaganda in behalf of whatever government does. As Stratton and I wrote in the second edition of our book documenting the destruction of law in the United States:

“Never in its history have the American people faced such danger to their constitutional protections as they face today from those in the government who hold the reins of power and from elements of the legal profession and the federal judiciary that support ‘energy in the executive.’ An assertive executive backed by an aggressive U.S. Department of Justice (sic) and unobstructed by a supine Congress and an intimidated corporate media has demonstrated an ability to ignore statutory law and public opinion. The precedents that have been set during the opening years of the twenty-first century bode ill for the future of American liberty.”

Similar assaults on the rule of law can be observed in England. However, the British have not completely given up on accountable government. The Chilcot Inquiry is looking into how Britain was deceived into participating in the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq. President Obama, of course, has blocked any inquiry into how the U.S. was deceived into attacking Iraq in violation of law.

Much damning information has come out about Blair’s deception of the British government and people. Sir David Manning, foreign policy advisor to Blair, told the Chilcot Inquiry that Blair had promised Bush support for the invasion almost a year in advance. Blair had told his country that it was a last minute call based on proof of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Sir William Patey told the inquiry that President Bush began talking about invading Iraq six or seven months prior to September 11, 2001. A devastating official memo has come to light from Lord Goldsmith, Prime Minister Blair’s top law official, advising Blair that an invasion of Iraq would be in breach of international law.

Now a secret and personal letter to Prime Minister Blair from his Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has surfaced. In the letter, the Foreign Secretary warned the Prime Minister that his case for military invasion of Iraq was of dubious legality and was likely as false as the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would bring Iraqis a better life.

Blair himself must now testify. He has the reputation, whether deserved or not, as one of the slickest liars in the world. But some accountability seems to be heading his way. The Sunday Times (London) reported on January 17 that the latest poll indicates that 52 percent of the British people believe that Blair deliberately misled his country in order to take Britain to war for the Americans. About one quarter of the British people think Blair should be put on trial as a war criminal.

Unlike the U.S., which takes care to keep the government unaccountable to law, Britain is a member of the International Criminal Court, so Blair does stand some risk of being held accountable for the war crimes of President George W. Bush’s regime and the U.S. Congress.

In contrast, insouciant Americans are content for their government to behave illegally. A majority supports torture despite its illegality, and a McClatchy-Ipsos poll found that 51 percent of Americans agree that “it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”

As our Founding Fathers warned, fools who give up liberty for security will have neither.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. This fall CounterPunch/AK Press will publish Robert's War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost. He can be reached at:

Accepting Various Truths

by Helen Thomas

No one in the Obama administration is going to acknowledge that our foreign policy in the Middle East has alienated many Arabs.

The U.S. pro-Israel policy and our shocking neglect of the beleaguered Palestinians underlie almost every initiative or tactical tilt that comes out of Washington.
President Obama and his predecessors in the White House have scored domestic political points by embracing this world view. This is one vantage point that is truly bipartisan, to the point where no one discusses it.

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA specialist on the al-Qaida terrorists, complained on C-SPAN recently that any debate about American support for Israel is "normally squelched."

"For anyone to say our support for Israel doesn't hurt us is to just defy reality," he added.

Another former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, says the 9/11 Commission report noted that Khalid Sheikh -- the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- cited his violent disagreement with U.S. support for Israel as the motivating dynamic behind the attacks.

Obama knows enough about the Middle East that tightening airport security is not the whole answer to fighting terrorism. He should try a more even-handed policy in the region.

Grievances of the Arab man on the street include bitter criticism of the U.S. for supporting harsh authoritarian regimes in the Arab world and the failure of those U.S.-backed regimes to help the Palestinians in Gaza.

Surely after several years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can dispense with the obfuscation and evasion that flood forth from official U.S. megaphones.

Terrorism spawned in the Middle East is not the only threat we face.

As the American economy digs out from the debris of the Great Recession triggered by the collapse of the housing bubble, we should think about what could happen about another bubble that invisibly chugs through the American economy.

I refer to our bloated defense spending.

The United States spends more for its arsenal than any other 10 countries combined. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. accounts for more than 40 percent of the world's total military spending. China is in second place, at a relatively puny 5.8 percent.

If the U.S. defense spending bubble were ever to deflate, domestic job losses would be catastrophic, a stunning fact that raises the question of whether we can ever afford peace.

The American people have long shown they can handle the truth. When it comes to the Middle East and to threats to our economy, so should our leaders.

© 2010 Albany Times Union

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. E-mail: Among other books she is the author of Front Row at The White House: My Life and Times.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why they hate us? It's not a secret

by Ron Smith

You'll remember that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush said the motivation of the hijackers was that they hated freedom. Hating freedom seemed then and now to be a pretty weak reason to give up one's own life to inflict death and destruction on others. People who had been paying attention knew what the real reasons for the Islamist radicals' actions were -- Osama bin Laden himself had laid them out in detail. They included America's support of Israel in its subordination of the Palestinians and its attacks on Lebanon; the propping up of pro-American kleptocracies in Muslim lands; and the presence of U.S. forces on the "sacred soil" of Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War.

In an audiotape released on Sept. 13, a voice attributed to bin Laden said President Obama is no different than his predecessor and warned that anti-American attacks will not cease unless the United States ends its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The New York Times of Sept. 15, the message, which appeared on an Arabic-language Web site, was reported and translated by two groups in the U.S. that monitor jihadist Web sites. The message offered reasons for al-Qaeda's attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and offered advice on how the conflict between it and the United States could come to a close: "The time has come for you," said the purported voice of Mr. bin Laden, "to liberate yourself from fear and the ideological terrorism of neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby; the reason for our dispute with you is your support for your ally, Israel, occupying our land in Palestine."

There you have it, from the horse's mouth. Yet even now, with the president asking Congress to fork over another $33 billion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on top of the record $708 billion requested for the Defense Department next year, we get more misleading propaganda about what motivates al-Qaeda and its allies. In the wake of the embarrassing security lapses that allowed a young Nigerian to try to set off his "underwear bomb" aboard an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, the president pledged to do better on such things and then turned the stage over to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and counter-terrorism honcho John Brennan, who said nothing believable about what inspired such a suicide mission. As they took questions from reporters, feisty old Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, asked the question none of her younger colleagues would dare to ask: why the Nigerian would do what he did.

"What is the motivation?" she asked. "We never hear what you find out on why."

Mr. Brennan's reply: "Al-Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. ... They attract individuals like Mr. [Umar Farouk] Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he's [sic] able to attract these individuals. But al-Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death."

On it went, for about two minutes, until Secretary Napolitano and Mr. Brennan decided to ignore any further queries from Ms. Thomas. Kudos to her for cutting to the chase while her colleagues were busily jotting down the official garbage about no-fly lists, how we need more of those expensive full-body scanners, promises to fix the "intelligence streams," and so on, which they dutifully pass on to the public as "news." The American people should be given enough credit by its leaders to be told the truth about why we are in this "long war" with Islamic extremists, a war that is hastening our bankruptcy, just as Osama bin Laden dreamed it would.

We proclaim our innate goodness, our pure motives, while decrying "terrorism" and never conceding that to the bulk of the world's Muslims, the greatest terrorism is the destruction of Iraq, a war we started that has seen the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the displacement of more than 4.5 million from their homes. To them, understandably, the bombings from American drones, now killing Afghans and Pakistanis by remote control, are acts of terror. To them, the plight of the Palestinians under siege in Gaza is the result of American-supported Israeli terrorism. This is widely understood around the world, except for the purposefully misled American public.

Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL .com. His column appears Fridays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Palin, Fox, 'Jesus on Acid' and the End of the World

The unconnected dots of Alaska's superstar and rightwing evangelical/fundamentalist victimhood for politics and profit...

By Frank Schaeffer

Do you want to understand Sarah Palin's attraction to the born-again Republican/Fox crowd? Then you have to "get" the apocalyptic fantasy world they live in. I know. It's where I once lived.

Palin comes from that world of hysterical paranoid delusion. It's her attraction to the people who like her. God has "raised her up for such a time as this" they believe. It is why Fox "News" just hired her as another one of their fair and balanced commentators.

Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of sixteen novels (so far!) represents everything that is most deranged about Palin's religion, and understanding why those books are popular is the key to "getting" the Palin Fox "News" deal...

The Left Behind novels represent the fundamentalist end times view that Palin buys into. They have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an "End Times" cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children's books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise.

Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting "Christ-centered" home school curricula, fearing higher education, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the "other," as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism, the murder of doctors who perform legal abortions, and even a killing in the Holocaust Museum.

No, I am not blaming Palin, Jenkins and LaHaye's product line for murder or racism or any other evil intent or result. What I am saying is that feeding the paranoid delusions of people on the fringe of the fringe --- people who think they alone are "Real Americans" --- contributes to a dangerous climate that may provoke violence in a few individuals.

Convincing folks that Armageddon is on the way, and all we can do is wait, pray, and protect our families from the chaos that will be the "prelude" to the "Return of Christ," is perhaps not the best recipe for political, economic, or personal stability, let alone social cohesion! It may also not be the best philosophy on which to make serious American foreign policy decisions --- especially for a Palin-type who we now know didn't even know why North and South Korea were divided into two!

Palin might not know the 2 Koreas but she knows when Jesus is returning!

Here's the official position of Sarah Palin's denomination, of which she'd been a member for 25 years until she left when political ambition meant clearing the decks of embarrassment (then, on the advice of her political McCain handlers, even further distancing herself). Palin was born into a Roman Catholic family. She was "born-again" and joined the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church, which she attended until 2002. Palin then switched to the Wasilla Bible Church --- equally if not even more nutty --- because, she said, she preferred their children's ministries. When in Juneau, she attends the Juneau Christian Center. After the Republican National Convention, a spokesperson for the McCain campaign told CNN that Palin "doesn't consider herself Pentecostal" and has "deep religious convictions on the 'End Times.'":

What does the Assemblies of God believe concerning end-time events?

The Assemblies of God understands the biblical description of end-time events to be literal, not symbolic (as do some churches).
To the Christian who truly loves Jesus, the sudden appearance of Christ in the air will hold no fear, dread, or disappointment.
The end times will be full of frightening events. Christians will be spared from suffering some of them by being snatched away in the Rapture.
With the saints removed from the earth, a time of suffering will come upon the whole world.
The Tribulation directly concerns Israel and is God's judgment for long apostasy (abandonment of religious faith) and neglect of the Messiah - Jesus Christ
After the judgment fire physically destroys those deceived by Satan at the end of the Millennium, all the wicked who have ever lived on the face of the earth will be dead. Then will follow the resurrection of the wicked dead to stand before the austere Judge "from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away" (Revelation 20:11)
If it were only the scoffers and skeptics who raise question about the certainty of the Lord's return for His own (cf. 2 Peter 3:3,4), it would be bad enough. But for the Church of Jesus Christ to become lethargic and careless because the long-promised chain of end-time events has not yet begun is unconscionable. The Assemblies of God preaches a clear message that Jesus is coming soon...

The momentum toward what amounts to a broad Palin-loving subculture seceding from the union (in order to await "The End") and/or a time when the US government quits taxing us, is irrevocably prying loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and their fellow citizens. If you think Palin's fans are nuts; they are. If you think the tea baggers are odd; they are. The theology of the "End" is behind both. In the religious version Jesus is on the way. In the "tea bagger" secular version: the US government is the enemy and is the harbinger of doom, collapse and the end.

Disclosure: I was one of those nuts

A time-out for disclosure is in order. I knew Jerry Jenkins quite well many years ago when I was a Religious Right leader before I quit in the mid 1980s. We worked on a project together. I also knew Tim LaHaye. I'm betting that they mean well. It seems to me that they also have no idea what they have helped unleash. You can be very decent and very blind.

That said...the evangelical/fundamentalists --- and hence, from the early 1980s until the election of President Obama in 2008, the Religious Right as it informed U.S. policy through the then-dominant Republican Party --- are in the grip of an apocalyptic Rapture cult centered on revenge and vindication. This End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Too bad.

The Bible's weirdest book (and that's saying something!)

Revelation: this weird book, was the last to be included in the New Testament. It was included as canonical only relatively late in the process after a heated dispute. The historic Churches East and West remain so suspicious of Revelation that to this day it has never been included as part of the cyclical public readings of scripture in Orthodox services. The book of Revelation is read in Roman and Anglican Churches only during Advent.

Given that Revelation is now being hyped as the literal --- even desired --- roadmap to Armageddon and given Palin and her long-time church buys into this vision, it's worth pausing to note that the book is nothing more than a bizarre pastoral letter that was addressed to seven specific churches in Asia at the end of the first century by someone (maybe John or maybe not) who appears to have been far from well when he wrote it. In any case, the letter was not intended for use outside of its liturgical context, not to mention that it reads like Jesus on acid.

Profit-taking from scraps of "prophecy"

As I describe in detail in my new book Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism), the Left Behind series is really just recycled evangelical/fundamentalist profit-taking from scraps of "prophecy" left over from an earlier commercial effort to mine the vein of fearsome End Times gold. A book called The Late Great Planet Earth was the 1970s incarnation of this nonsense.

It was written by Hal Lindsey, a "writer" who dropped by my evangelical-leader parents' ministry of L'Abri several times. When Mikhail Gorbachev became president of the U.S.S.R., Planet Earth groupies claimed Gorbachev was the Antichrist, citing the references in Revelation to the "mark of the beast" as proof because Gorbachev had a birthmark on his forehead!

After everything predicted in the book came to nothing, Lindsey rewrote and "updated" his "interpretations" in many sequels, in what must have been some sort of record for practicing George Orwell's idea of "doublethink" via editorial revision of ever-changing "facts."

To Jenkins and LaHaye, who have taken over the Hal Lindsey franchise of apocalypse-for-fun-and-profit and expanded it into a massive industry, the "chosen" will soon be airlifted to safety. The focus on the "signs" leading up to this hoped-for aeronautical excursion is understandably no longer the defunct U.S.S.R. but the ripped-from-the-headlines gift that keeps on giving: the Middle East.

The key to understanding the popularity of this series and just why a nonentity like Palin is accepted as a leader by her fans --- and now Fox, and the whole host of other End Times "ministries" from the ever weirder Jack-the-Rapture-is-coming!-Van-Impe to the smoother but no less bizarre pages of Christianity Today magazine --- isn't some new or sudden interest in prophecy, but the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community.

The Evangelical inferiority complex

The words "left behind" are ironically what the books are about, but not in the way their authors intended. The evangelical/fundamentalists, from their crudest egocentric celebrities to their "intellectuals" touring college campuses trying to make evangelicalism respectable, have been left behind by modernity. They won't change their literalistic anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against "the world." This has led to a profound fear of the "other."

Jenkins and LaHaye provide the ultimate revenge fantasy for the culturally left behind Palin/Fox crowd against the "elite." The Left Behind franchise holds out hope for the self-disenfranchised that at last soon everyone will know "we" were right and "they" were wrong. They'll know because Spaceship Jesus will come back and whisk us away, leaving everyone else to ponder just how very lost they are because they refused to say the words, "I accept Jesus as my personal savior" and join our side while there was still time! Even better: Jesus will kill all those smart-ass Democrat-voting, over-educated fags who have been mocking us!

The bestselling status of the Left Behind novels proves that, not unlike Islamist terrorists who behead their enemies, many evangelical/fundamentalist readers relish the prospect of God doing lots of messy killing for them as they watch in comfort from on high. They want revenge on all people not like them --- forever.

Jenkins, LaHaye --- and now Palin --- cash in on years of imagined victimhood

I say imagined, because the born-agains had one of their very own, George W. Bush, in the White House for eight long, ruinous years and also dominated American politics for the better part of thirty years before that. Nevertheless, their sense of being a victimized minority is still very real --- and very marketable. Whether they were winning politically or not, they nurtured a mythology of persecution by the "other." Evangelical/fundamentalists believed that even though they were winning, somehow they had actually lost.

Most of that sense of lost battles is related to the so-called "Culture Wars" issues in which evangelical/fundamentalists did not fare so well, from the legalization of abortion to gay rights. But rather than admitting that they were often losing the arguments, or had come across as so mean (or plain dumb) that few outsiders wanted to be like them, they blamed everyone else, from the courts to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the New York Times, and the "left-wing media."

Just about any scapegoat would do to deny or disguise the simple fact that fewer Americans wanted to follow the evangelical/fundamentalist Church Ladies into their gloomy cave (and/or the never-never land of the Rapture) and park their brains there.

Mea Culpa

I used to be part of the self-pitying, whining, evangelical/fundamentalist chorus. I remember going on the Today Show with host Jane Pauley back in the late 1970s (or early 1980s). I debated with the head of the American Library Association about my claim that our evangelical/fundamentalist books weren't getting a fair shake from the "cultural elites." We Schaeffers were selling millions of books, but the New York Times never reviewed them. I made the point that we were being ignored by the "media elite," which was somewhat ironic, given that I had been invited to appear on Today to make that claim.

I dropped out of the evangelical/fundamentalist subculture soon after that Today appearance (years later I was back on Today in my secular writer incarnation, being interviewed about a book of mine on the military/civilian divide, but I decided not to mention that I'd been on the show about thirty years before in what seemed like either another lifetime or an out-of-body experience).

Fox/Palin and the victimhood mythology

Others like Fox and Palin carried on where I and many others in the first wave of the anti-abortion/religious Right wave left off, pushing the victimhood mythology to the next generation of evangelical/fundamentalists, and they have cultivated a following among the terminally aggrieved based on ceaselessly warning them about "the world."

A host of evangelical/fundamentalist Cassandras tour college campuses reinforcing their followers' perennial chip-on-the-shoulder attitude by telling fearful evangelical/fundamentalist students to hold fast against the secular onslaught. They tell their student listeners (and those students' even more worried parents) to not let "those people" --- professors, members of the Democratic Party, moderates, progressives, and such ordinary American men and women as Jews, gays, and members of the educated "elite" --- strip them of their faith. Hundreds of books by many evangelical/fundamentalist authors could be consolidated into one called How to Get Through College with Your Fundamentalist Faith Intact So You Won't Wind Up Becoming One of Them.

Sometimes right-wing paranoia takes an ugly twist. A website maintained by James Von Brunn, an avowed racist and anti-Semite well known to the netherworld of white supremacy --- and the assassin who killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in June of 2009 --- said that Von Brunn tried to carry out a "citizen's arrest" in 1981 on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, whom he accused of "treason." When he was arrested outside the room where the board was meeting, he was carrying a sawed-off shotgun, a revolver, and a knife. Police said he planned to take members of the Fed hostage.

"Mainstream" (in other words, slightly less nutty and less violent) religious-Right Republicans have been saying the same thing as Von Brunn about the Fed for years, particularly the so-called "dominionists" who believe it's their job to reestablish God's dominion on earth. They preach Old Testament-style vengeance and loony gold-standard "economics" from many "respectable" pulpits. They also hate America (as it is), want a revolution in the name of God, and espouse "pro-life" beliefs, anti-gay hate, racism, and far-Right Republican politics. They take the Republican anti-government propaganda to the next step and say that even paying taxes is "unconstitutional." I know them well.

"Reconstructionism" and Palin

I knew the founders of the dominionist movement --- people like the late Reverend Rousas John Rushdoony, the father of "Christian Reconstructionism" and the modern evangelical/fundamentalist home school movement.

What most Americans don't know is that someone like Palin --- who says God is "leading her" --- believe that what God wants them to do is implement the reconstructionist agenda.

Rushdoony (whom I met and talked with several times) believed that interracial marriage, which he referred to as "unequal yoking," should be made illegal. He also opposed "enforced integration," referred to Southern slavery as "benevolent," and said that "some people are by nature slaves." Rushdoony was also a Holocaust denier.

And yet his home school materials are a mainstay of the right-wing evangelical home school movement to this day. In Rushdoony's 1973 book, The Institutes of Biblical Law, he says that fundamentalist Christians must "take control of governments and impose strict biblical law" on America and then the world. That would mean the death penalty for "practicing homosexuals." We see his agenda in the American groups like the Family connected to recent legislation in Uganda to give the death penalty to gays.

Many evangelical leaders --- including Palin --- deny holding Reconstructionist beliefs, but Beverly and Tim LaHaye (of Concerned Women for America and the co-author of the novels we're talking about here), Donald Wildmon (of the American Family Association), and the late D. James Kennedy (of Coral Ridge Ministries and a friend of mine before I left the movement) served alongside Rushdoony on the secretive Coalition for Revival, a group formed in 1981 to "reclaim America for Christ." I went to some of the early meetings.

Many evangelical/fundamentalist's can't get enough of the "end times" rush. And they are Palin's bedrock. They've been sucking doom up up since the early 1970s, and now, in the Left Behind books and Palin's rise, the message has gone viral.


The expanding Left Behind entertainment empire also feeds the dangerous delusions of Christian Zionists, who are convinced that the world is heading to a final Battle of Armageddon and who see this as a good thing! Christian Zionists, led by many "respectable" mega-pastors --- including John McCain supporter, Reverend John Hagee --- believe that war in the Middle East is God's will.

In his book Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, Hagee maintains that Russia and the Arabs will invade Israel and then will be destroyed by God. This will cause the Antichrist --- now, apparently, on re-assignment as the head of the European Union --- to stir up a confrontation over Israel between China and the West.

Perhaps, in the era of Obama, Hagee will do a fast rewrite and say that President Obama is the Antichrist, because the same folks who are into Christian Zionism are also into the far, far loony right of the Republican Party represented by mainstreamed oddities like Sarah Palin. These are the same people who insist that President Obama is a "secret Muslim," "not an American," and/or "a communist," "more European than American," or whichever one of those contradictory things is worse--not like us anyway, that's for sure.

Palin buys into the Christian Zionist agenda hook, line, and sinker. She's all for unbridled US military action. She's for this because theologically speaking the more war the better, at least in the Middle East. Jesus needs war to fulfill "prophecy" so he can "come back"!

Palin's unreconstructed theology is the real story here. And I don't know of one media outlet that has connected these dots in the mainstream.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Obama’s Alternate Universe

By Scott Ritter

January 13, 2010 "Truthdig" -- As America enters the year 2010 and President Barack Obama his second year in office, the foreign policy landscape presented by American policymakers and media pundits appears to be dominated by two physical problems—Iraq and Afghanistan—which operate in an overarching metaphysical environment loosely defined as a “war on terror.” The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, entering their seventh and ninth years respectively, have consumed America’s attention, treasure and blood without producing anything close to a tangible victory.
What exactly constitutes the “war on terror” has never been adequately defined and, as a result, the United States has been, and continues to be, militarily involved in other regions as well, including Somalia, Kenya, the Philippines and, increasingly, Yemen. The American people today are fatigued, and while their political leadership promises to lead the nation out of the long, dark tunnel of conflict, there continues to be no light emerging in the distance, only the ever-darkening shadows of wars without end or purpose.

While Obama has promised a draw-down of military forces in Iraq, the lack of stability in that nation since the removal of Saddam Hussein precludes any meaningful reduction of troops, and the ever-present potential of renewed civil and sectarian warfare means that whatever troop level is eventually settled upon will be deployed in Iraq for quiet some time. Moreover, the Iraq conflict, built as it was on an American policy that sought the alteration of the political character of the Middle East beyond simply removing an Iraqi dictator from power, has drawn the United States inexorably toward conflict with Iraq’s larger neighbor to the east, Iran.

Over the past 20 years Iraq and Iran have been linked in American policy objectives in the Middle East, both in terms of dual containment and dual transformation. Regardless of what rhetoric the Obama administration chooses to hide behind, the underlying characteristic that continues to define America’s Iran policy is regime change. It is not the policy that is subject to debate in Washington, D.C., but rather the means of implementing that policy. The ongoing tension over Iran’s nuclear program is less derived from any real threat such a program poses (it is, in reality, one of the least significant issues facing the United States today in terms of national security concern), but rather the utility that such an artificial crisis serves in facilitating the larger objective: regime change.

Obama’s Iran policy bears a marked similarity to the Iraq policies of the Clinton administration throughout the 1990s, with the specter of weapons of mass destruction used as a screen to hide the true goal. In both cases, the policies were constructed in a manner that gave the United States no viable solution short of open conflict. President Bill Clinton maneuvered around the issue of all-out war, settling for a decade-long “non-war” in the form of CIA covert operations and assassination attempts and enforcement of “no-fly zones,” combined with selective aerial attacks, including the 72-hour “Operation Desert Fox” in December 1998.

President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was the logical conclusion to an irrational policy begun by Clinton. The situation between the United States and Iran today is directly tied to the Iraq problem, and as such makes use of the same policy tool set that led to the invasion of Iraq.

The failed attempts by the United States to orchestrate a “soft” revolution in Iran, in the form of covert support to pro-Western reformists, have only strengthened the position of the extreme hard-liners the United States seeks to remove from power, in the same way that the continuation of economic sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s only strengthened the regime of Saddam Hussein.

When the Obama administration is finally confronted with the reality that there is no possibility for viable economic sanctions against Iran, and that the reform movement inside Iran will never be able to force a regime change in Tehran, war with Iran, however insane and unpalatable, becomes the only option. In the end, it is not the theocracy in Tehran, or an Iranian nuclear program, that will push America to war with Iran, but rather American policy itself, designed as it is not to solve any tangible problem emerging from Iran, but rather to mollify domestic political pressures at home.

The situation President Obama faces in today’s post-Taliban Afghanistan is similar to the one he faces in Iraq: There is no good policy option for resolving a problem that is defined mostly by the need to manufacture a perception of “victory” for the American people. In Afghanistan, as was the case with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States removed a political entity from power and ended up creating a vacuum in the nation’s social, political and economic reality that the American occupier has not been able to fill, no matter how much money has been spent and how many soldiers have been deployed. With the Taliban made politically unacceptable in Washington, D.C., the idea that the Taliban may in fact be politically viable inside Afghanistan will not register among those American officials tasked with bringing stability to that nation.

The war in Afghanistan is further complicated by the fact that, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is inexorably linked to the nebulous concept of a “war of terror,” and in particular the defining moment in this “war”—the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. American politicians, like those they represent, tend to operate in a conventional linear manner, seeking absolute cause-and-effect relationships from even the most complex of problems.

As such, when one declares a “war” to exist, there must be a physical manifestation of an enemy, as well as the psychological manifestation of victory. After the 9/11 attacks, the “enemy” took on the form of the Taliban in Afghanistan, in so far as they facilitated the operations of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida by providing sanctuary and logistical support, however indirect. That the Taliban had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attack never registered in the minds of those U.S. policymakers who morphed the Taliban and al-Qaida into a singular entity, thus dictating a singular solution. The United States will forever be chasing the ghosts of al-Qaida in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, all the while fighting a Taliban enemy that becomes stronger every day the American occupiers operate inside their country among their people.

The “war on terror” has further complicated the Afghanistan situation by drawing in the complicating reality of Pakistan’s Pashtun population and the centuries-old problem of Islamic fundamentalism, which has always existed in the rugged territory of Pakistan’s hinterlands and northwest frontier. The situation unfolding between Afghanistan and Pakistan is far less influenced by the events of 9/11 than by the historical consequences of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the U.S. covert efforts to oppose the Soviet action by supporting Islamic fundamentalist fighters operating out of Pakistan.

In the simplistic formulations emanating from Washington, Pakistan has become a new front in the “war of terror,” and the conflict in Afghanistan has been inexorably linked to an internal Pakistani domestic condition that has existed for centuries. In short, the United States was drawn into Afghanistan through a lack of understanding of the true nature of the problem it faced in the aftermath of 9/11 and is being further drawn into Pakistan by a similar lack of comprehension of the problems in that nation. In both cases, the United States seeks solutions to problems that have been inaccurately defined, which means the solutions being sought solve nothing, and for the most part only further complicate the original problem.

The “war on terror” into which Obama seems to have thrust himself (the most recent manifestation being Yemen) remains the largest obstacle for any rational resolution of America’s problems in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Simply put, so long as the United States seeks an enemy that does not exist, it will always be looking for an enemy in its stead. The “war on terror” has the United States combing the world in search of enemies, and because American policymakers are responsive not to the reality that exists in the world today, but rather the perceptions of an American people largely ignorant of the world in which they live, and paralyzed by the fear such ignorance generates, there will always be countries and causes America will anoint as foe.

The “war on terror” becomes a self-perpetuating problem for which there is no solution. Worse, it is a problem that ultimately will destroy America, not from any actions undertaken by whatever manifestation of “enemy” America conjures up, but rather from the actions undertaken by America itself.

The asymmetrical nature of the “war on terror” allows an individual, or group of individuals, using a thousand dollars worth of explosives and airline tickets to generate a response from America that costs billions of dollars and further erodes the very system of ideals and values that ostensibly define the United States, all the while doing nothing to resolve the original issue.

The most visible example of this disparity is the American response to the 9/11 attacks. At a cost of a few million dollars and 19 lives, al-Qaida compelled the United States to spend a trillion dollars, destroy America’s reputation abroad and eviscerate the Constitution. In this manner, a case can be made that the greatest threat posed to the United States in the prosecution of the “war on terror” is the United States itself.

The solution to these problems rests not in defining new parameters for action, but rather in the definition of the basic problems faced. From an overarching perspective, the United States needs to realize that there is no “war on terror,” and as such no “enemy” for us to close with and destroy. The human condition has always produced those who would seek to do harm to society. Norms and standards have been adopted, in almost universal fashion, that define how humans, organized into communities and nations, should interact in dealing with such deviations. This body of rules and regulations is collectively “the rule of law,” the principle of which defines modern society.

Deviations from the “rule of law” are best dealt with in collective fashion by those who share not only common values but also a common interest in such a resolution. Giving a criminal element, whether in the form of al-Qaida or a drug lord, the status of community or nation by waging “war” against it represents a failure to define the problem properly, leading inevitably to solutions that solve nothing. The answer to 9/11 is not war, but rather the “rule of law.” Until this underlying premise is recognized and adopted by U.S. policymakers, the psychosis of war will continue to corrupt American policy, and with it American society.

The inability or unwillingness of American policymakers to accurately define the problems confronting the United States in Iraq/Iran and Afghanistan/Pakistan prevents any meaningful solution to these issues.

The heart of the problems facing the United States in the Middle East lies not in actions taking place in Baghdad or Tehran but rather in Gaza and Tel Aviv. The continued refusal of the United States to address the issue of Palestine and the Palestinians in a manner that reflects the reality of the situation on the ground, rather than the situation that exists inside Washington, as manipulated and interpreted by Israeli interests, means that the tension and unrest this issue generates will never be resolved. The conflicts with Iraq and Iran are, in many ways, simply symptoms of a larger disease represented by the failure of the United States to formulate a sound and realistic policy regarding Palestine. So long as American politicians find themselves constrained by a pro-Israeli lobby that refuses to permit the inclusion of either the concept or reality of Palestine into the lexicon of American foreign policy considerations (beyond simplistic “dual-state” and other demeaning and dishonest formulations), then there can and will be no long-term solution to any other modern Middle Eastern problem. Solving the Palestine-Israel problem wouldn’t by and of itself resolve all outstanding issues. But it would create the foundation of regional stability and rationality upon which all other solutions could be constructed.

In a similar fashion, the United States must stop factoring al-Qaida and a nebulous “war on terror” into the problem it faces in Afghanistan and Pakistan today. As is the case in the Middle East, the problems faced by America in Central Asia are manifested not so much by what is (improperly) acknowledged—i.e., al-Qaida, the Taliban and a “war on terror”—but rather by that which is not. As the instability of Afghanistan pushes the United States deeper and deeper into the quagmire of Pakistan, it becomes clearer by the day that the key to any future American exit from the region runs not through Kabul, but rather Islamabad. As such, the problem faced by the United States cannot be defined as it currently is, in terms of Swat, Waziristan, Baluchistan and other remote areas of Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, but rather a region which American politicians are loath to utter publicly: Kashmir.

The increasing radicalization of Pakistan is not derived from what has been transpiring in its Pashtun regions, or those of Afghanistan, but rather from the cancerous tumor that remains from the messy divorce of India and Pakistan in 1948. Kashmir is the source of Pakistani-Indian enmity, and is the primary reason that each of those two nations has developed a nuclear arsenal aimed at the other’s heartland.

Kashmir serves as the principle motivating force for radical Islam in Pakistan today. Long before Pakistan facilitated American support for Afghan freedom fighters, it was providing training and support for Islamic fundamentalists who served the cause of a unified Kashmir under the flag of Pakistan.

Reducing the influence of radical Islam in Pakistan will never come as a result of any manifestation of American “Af-Pak” policy, but rather through American leadership in recognizing the reality of the unresolved Kashmir situation, and the necessity of resolving this problem in a manner that recognizes Pakistan’s legitimate concerns. However, similar to what Israel does in handling the issue of Palestine, India has been able to leverage its economic and regional influence in a manner that prevents American policymakers from engaging on the issue of Kashmir. Without such an engagement there can never be a resolution of the problems faced by America in Pakistan today.

As America enters 2010, one does not require a crystal ball to forecast that issues pertaining to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the “war on terror” will dominate the headlines throughout the year. And here’s one thing that is less clear but every bit as certain: So long as President Obama fails to recognize that there is no “war on terror” for America to fight, and that the problems in the Middle East and Central Asia cannot be resolved without recognizing the paramount roles of Palestine and Kashmir, respectively, then not only will there be no solution to America’s problems but these problems will only get progressively worse, creating the conditions for the formulation of a series of new “solutions,” none of which will address the problems they are designed to resolve.

Sadly, if this prediction comes true, 2010 will be a very bad year for the American people, and the world as a whole, simply because those who can make a difference are operating in an alternative policy universe governed by the self-serving interests of those who use politically induced fear as a mechanism of placating a public oblivious to the fact that they are sleepwalking ever closer to a demise of their own making. For this we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Scott Ritter was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2007).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iraq Invasion in 2003 Was Illegitimate: Dutch Probe

Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 by Agence France Presse

THE HAGUE - The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq lacked legitimacy under international law, an independent commission probing Dutch political support for the still controversial action said Tuesday.

"There was insufficient legitimacy" for the invasion for which the Netherlands gave political but no military backing, commission chairman Willibrord Davids told journalists in The Hague.

The commission's report said the wording of UN resolution 1441 "cannot reasonably be interpreted (as the Dutch government did) as authorising individual member states to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with the Security Council's resolutions."

The resolution, passed in 2002, had offered Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations".

The Dutch commission, which started its work in March last year, was set up by the government following pressure from opposition politicians and the public for a probe of claims that crucial data had been withheld from Dutch decision-makers who opted to support the US-led action.

The Netherlands had sent about 1,100 troops to Iraq in July 2003 to take part in a post-invasion, UN-mandated Iraqi stabilisation force. They left Iraq in 2005.

The probe found that Dutch policy on the issue had been defined by the foreign ministry under then minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who later became NATO secretary-general.

"The Prime Minister (Jan Peter Balkenende, still premier today) took little or no lead in debates on the Iraq question; he left the matter of Iraq entirely to the minister of foreign affairs," the report said.

The commission also found that Dutch intelligence services did not have "any significant amount of independently sourced information" that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destructions -- the main justification used by the United States and Britain for the war. None were ever found.

Balkenende has repeatedly stated that Dutch backing for the invasion was based on then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's refusal to respect UN Security Council resolutions.

The commission report said the Dutch government did not disclose to parliament the full content of a 2002 US request for support.

But there was "no evidence", it added, to support rumours that the Netherlands had made a clandestine military contribution to the invasion.

Last month, a former UN weapons inspector said former US president George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair shared a conviction that Hussein was a threat, blinding them to the lack of evidence justifying war and causing them to mislead the public.

An official inquiry has started in Britain, with Blair set to testify in the coming weeks on the intelligence used to make a case for war.

© 2010 AFP

Why Are They at War With Us?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“We are at war. We are at war against al-Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again.”

Thus did Barack Obama clear the air as to whether we are at war, and with whom and why.

Following his remarks, during a White House briefing by National Security Council aide John Brennan, Helen Thomas asked a follow-up question to which we almost never hear an answer:

Why is al-Qaeda at war with us? What is its motivation?

It was Osama bin Laden himself, in his declaration of war in 1998, published in London, who gave al-Qaeda’s reasons for war:

First, the U.S. military presence on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. Second, U.S. sanctions causing terrible suffering among the Iraqi people. Third, U.S. support for Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians. “All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his Messenger, and Muslims,” said Osama.

He began his fatwa quoting the Koran: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.”

To Osama, we started the war. Muslims, the ulema, must fight because America, with her “brutal crusade occupation of the [Arabian] Peninsula” and support for “the Jews’ petty state” and “occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there” was waging war upon the Islamic world.

Terrorism, the direct killing of civilians for political ends, is al-Qaeda’s unconventional tactic, but its war aims are quite conventional.

Al-Qaeda is fighting a religious war against apostates and pagans in their midst, a civil war against collaborators of the Crusaders and an anti-colonial war to drive us out of the Dar al-Islam. On Sept. 11, they were over here – because we are over there.

Nothing justifies the massacre of Sept. 11. But these are the political goals behind the 9/11 attack, and this is why Islamists fare well in elections in the Middle East. Tens of millions of Muslims, who may despise terrorism, identify with the causes for which Osama declared war – liberation of Muslim peoples from pro-American autocrats and Israeli occupiers.

Americans are being killed for the reasons Osama said we should be killed – not because of who we are, but because of where we are and what we do.

Consider. America lost 4,000 soldiers in six years in Iraq, with 30,000 wounded. Yet not one American of the 125,000 soldiers in Iraq was killed in December. Why not? Because we no longer conduct raids, patrol streets, kick down doors, and pat down suspects. We have ended our combat operations, withdrawn to desert bases, and seem anxious to go home. When we stopped fighting and killing them, they stopped fighting and killing us.

Most Americans today appear content to let Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd decide the future of Iraq. And if they cannot settle their quarrels without a civil-sectarian war, why should their war be our war?

According to Gen. Barry McCaffrey, we must now prepare for 300 to 500 dead and wounded every month in Afghanistan by summer.

Why are the Taliban killing our soldiers? Because we threw them out of power, took over their country, and imposed the Hamid Karzai regime, and our troops, some 100,000 by fall, are the force preventing them from recapturing their country. We will bleed in Afghanistan as long as we are in Afghanistan.

But if, as Obama said, “we are at war with al-Qaeda,” why are we fighting Taliban when al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa?

Hamas has used terrorism, but not against us. Hezbollah has used terrorism, but not against us since the bombing of the Marine barracks, a quarter-century ago. And our Marines were attacked in Lebanon because we were in Lebanon, intervening in their civil-sectarian war. Had the Marines not been sent into the midst of that war, they would not have been targeted.

When Ronald Reagan withdrew them, the attacks stopped.

Like Europe’s Thirty Years’ War – among Germans, French, Czechs, Dutch, Danes, Swedes, Scots, and English, Catholics and Protestants, kings, princes, and emperors – the Muslim world is roiled by conflicts between pro-Western autocrats and Islamic militants, Sunni and Shia, modernists and obscurantists, nationalities, tribes and clans. The outcome of these wars, the future of their lands – is that not their business, and not ours?

The Muslims stayed out of our Thirty Years’ War. Perhaps we would do well to get out of theirs. But as long as we take sides in their wars, those we fight and kill over there will come to kill us over here.

This is payback for our intervention. This is the price of empire. This is the cost of the long war.

Patrick Buchanan is the author of "Churchill, Hitler, and The Unnecessary War."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Taking Tea with the Lizards

By Joe Bageant

January 11, 20101 "Information Clearing House" -- Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico - The Republican Party will beat the living piss out of anybody for a buck. The Democrats will fly the flag of FDR, even as they pirate the public coffers on behalf of Wall Street. Don't think the American people have not noticed these things. After thirty years of pistol whipping and emptying of their wallets, they've started to figure out there just may be a public robbery underway, with both parties as accomplices.

And so Americans at both ends of the political spectrum are finally wising up to the need for a third party. Even if it is a third party within their own party, which is no third party at all, of course. However, for Americans it's all about branding, what you call a thing, that's important. Call a six-ounce block of corn sugar with sunflower seeds and raisins stuck on the outside an "Organic Energy Bar" and by god, you have natural food right there on the 7-Eleven shelf. What a thing is called is how a nation a people carefully bred for consumption will see it, thanks to that advertising arm of American capitalism called the news media

Presently surfacing from the frothing drek we call our political system is a thing called the Tea Party. Whether advertised as such or not, the Tea Party is viewed by millions as an emerging third party, or the functional equivalent of one. In some dark recess of the American consciousness -- hard to tell which one because it's all darkness and recession -- millions have figured out that nobody is getting what they want or need from Congress, except the corporations that own Congress. Actually, dedicated voters on the far right are getting exactly what they have voted for -- a police state -- but do not recognize it yet. No matter. Millions are unhappy and one way or another, think a third party, or the threat of one at least, offers a solution. And how could you go wrong with a brand evoking hallowed images from Ms. Jenkins fourth grade history class of the Boston Tea Party?

The Tea Party is the latest neoconservative end run around the possibility of a real third party emerging to threaten the status quo. To be honest, it's a brilliant political move, absorbing any energies that might have propelled a real third party. And, in true neocon fashion, it capitalizes on the working class' inchoate anger at the ongoing screwjob they've been getting from both parties for thirty years. The one escalated by Clinton's NAFTA, institutionalized as corporate theft by G.W. Bush, and polished to a high sheen by Obama's bailouts, as he brings home the bacon for those Wall Street syndicates running the economy.

Mobilizing the masses into a movement was never easy, and never harder than in America where moving the ever-expanding national ass toward anything other than the refrigerator is a job for a fork lift. Another way to do it is to adapt the national consciousness through installation of some new hot button by the state media. At the same time, installing a hot button in a significant portion of the national brain is mostly about simple repetition.

When it comes to watching the effect of simple repetition on simple minds, you could not do better than my native stomping grounds of Virginia and West Virginia, and the packed "town hall meetings" there during the health care reform initiative. In Southwest Virginia's Voting District 9, the Town Hall meetings' sponsoring congressman was 14-term Democrat Rick Boucher. 
"Slick Rick," is one of those rightist Democrats never examined by our simplistic, cartoonish media, which treat both parties as if they were uniform in their makeup. Slick Rick is pro Iraq and Afghan war. He is bought and paid for by the utilities and communications companies, and is the tenth most powerful person in Congress.

During the so-called health care debate, a crowd was rounded up to fill his town hall meetings with the sort of screaming, red-faced heartland white folks so loved by news cameras, reviled and therefore watched by urban liberals, both white and several shades darker, and upon which the nightly news depends for ratings and ad revenue. Ruddy overweight working people with neck veins bulging, fists shaking, they made gripping footage for the news hour, even with the sound turned off.

In glaring contrast to to this display of the flow of Aryan blood in the face, sat a lone older black woman. She had come to tell the congressman about her Down syndrome grandchild. The child cannot get the physical and mental care he needs, she said, "because our family can't afford any kind of health care at all ... We are just too poor," she concluded, near tears.

Her touching plea, as ground zero an illustration of our health care non-system as you could hope for, was interrupted by a sheer burst of redneck compassion. A young white man jumped up and screamed, "It's a wonder they didn't abort him!" An angry chorus of mob agreement goes up.

Between that entire sorry assemblage there was not enough combined brainpower to piss, much less ask: Who didn't abort the child? Just whom are we talking about here? And what in the name of heaven does abortion have to have to do with fixing the health care system for 300 million other Americans, at least three-quarters of whom are incapable of ever getting pregnant, either by virtue of age or their plumbing.

The implied villains were -- who else? -- those dirty liberal baby killers. Instantly, abortion rights had become the meeting's main theme. All it took was one well-inculcated hot button word -- abortion. My people, white working class Virginians, had responded right on cue. 
Few of them could be called political types by any stretch -- most of whom would normally have been home stuffing their pie holes and waiting for the winning lottery number on TV. However, they had shown up at the behest of local Republican businessmen, the Chamber of Commerce and fundamentalist pastors, who in turn were orchestrated by health care industry lobbyists and public relations firms. And so by golly, tonight America was gonna hear the genuine, bona fide, straight-from-the-horse's-mouth unadulterated opinion of the common man! Just as soon as they were all instructed as to that opinion.

Many attendees at Town Hall meetings are sufferers of the agitated inchoate anxiety and frustration of the working class. But as many more at the staged health care rallies, and now the staged "Tea Party" anti-tax rallies, are retired or just plain bored people to whom the free bus ride, or the cheap buffet dinner that often comes with the faux protests looks pretty good. Not to mention the spiffs, the free tote bag of goodies -- chocolates, coupons, a neat little pen light key ring. You can dig through this nickel-dime loot while the group's organizer gives you the "orientation" during the bus ride -- dividing up the planted questions among the alphas in the group, giving tips on how to short circuit the opposing side's speaking opportunities, booing on cue, and so on. And sometimes there is even a free trip to Washington D.C. later to do more of the same, if you show enough talent for the cameras. Boucher's attendees had little talent, and not even a gnat's ass worth of understanding of the issue. But they knew the Devil's mark, and the Devil's mark is abortion. So they responded for the cameras just as they have been conditioned to do.

I know a slew of these people all over the nation and I can tell you this: they honestly do not give a tinker's damn about abortion. They really don't. Not one in a hundred. You will never hear any of them mention the word abortion, except when their preachers and self-designated spokespersons or news reporters urge them to. Or when they are expected to offer some kind of political opinion, or show verbal credentials they are one of their crowd. The term abortion is tucked away somewhere in their heads in a file holding the vague lexicon of "stuff I understand that I should believe in." There it remains, a stale unexamined little brain fart until the appropriate hot button word is pressed, until summonsed up by those who instruct them directly or indirectly as to what they should believe. 
And then right on cue, like serially wired blasting caps they are detonated at the Town Hall meetings or Tea Party protests, setting off a chain blasts of "citizen anger."

The sad truth is that the pent up emotion has little to do with feelings about health care, or taxes (when the hell has any working American not been against any kind of taxes?) but a helluva lot to do with all the shitty breaks, insult and degradation that come with being an underclass citizen of the empire. We are conditioned in much the same way a dog is trained to bite on command. It doesn't matter who gets bitten, just that the dog gets the satisfaction of biting somebody for a change, and that his master looks pleased when he does.

Widely televised, these anti-reform screamers provide the necessary theatrics for media consumption in an ideological theater state. Hopped up by anti-reform forces, they do what millions in PR money cannot do, but what only word of mouth misinformation can accomplish with unnerving swiftness -- sew lies and misinformation, let it spread virally until it can no longer be ignored, then give the lies credibility by plastering "citizen outrage" across the nation's television screens day after day.

It's effective. How many people now remember that real health care reform had seventy percent support when it began? After a few weeks of orchestrated slap-downs of its proponents at Town Hall meetings, and staged citizen revolts, public opinion of health care reform went down the toilet. Ordinary people, quiet folks who never much discuss politics, started to have doubts when they saw folks like themselves on television rising up in what was touted by blonde meat puppet anchorpersons and jowly self-important male pundits as "a nationwide protest by the common man." The Tea Party is the latest version of a tried and proven neocon tactic.

After the Town Hall Meeting, Boucher could go back to Washington and show Congress proof that working class voters in his district like things the way they are. That they like being screwed by the insurance rackets and prefer medical bankruptcy to affordable health care. Once again my people, the great unwashed and unlettered, were sicced like dogs on challengers to the status quo. A cheer went up from American news consumers out there dining on the spectacle and hyperbole of it all. "By god Helen! The common citizen, the working guy, the little guy is standing up to Big Gubbyment about taxes. Says he ain't gonna take it anymore!"

The Tea Party's serial wiring and detonation caps are being set. Tomorrow morning I will be on NPR's To The Point with the Tea Party's founder and master blaster, Dale Robertson. "We are turning our guns on anyone who doesn't support constitutional conservative candidates," he says. In a test pop last week, the Tea Party blew the Florida's Republican Party chairman out of his seat. Robertson, who is obviously enjoying his time in the GOP limelight, declines to say which other states are wired up in the series, but says party leaders in those states will be warned privately.

If it sounds to you like the same old lizards in the meanest corner of the Republican cave are at it again, terrorizing the saner members of their party, well that's the way it sounds to me too.

But I cannot help but wish that the left end of the Democratic Party, the party that is alleged to represent the political left in this country, had half as much savvy as the neocon puppet masters who are manipulating ole Dale. The ones pulling the strings on Boucher, despite that Boucher comes packaged as a Democrat. Or chameleons like Joe Lieberman.

They say that if you put a chameleon on plaid it goes nuts. I dunno. But imagine what could happen if the Democrats were not sharing the same corporate industrial sheets with the Republicans. (Imagine what they could do to that old shape-shifting whore Lieberman! Otherwise, it's only a matter of time until Lieberman shows up grinning alongside Dale Robertson at some tea party stomp, assuming Robertson manages to remain useful to the lizard pack long enough.)

But we know the truth. And the truth is that the same pack of greaseball oligarchs have done it again. Managed to slip the schnickle to the proles – again. Because in the big picture, the one where the money is counted (and money is the only thing that counts in capitalism's big picture) they own the game and make the rules.

As George Orwell said, some truths are just too big for people to face.

Viewed from down here in a different neighborhood, here in Jalisco, Mexico, the picture doesn't look so big. In fact, it looks like your standard garden variety racketeering. The same shit on a red white and blue bun called American politics. But served up with teabags this time around.

Joe Bageant