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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

War Party Loses; Iraq Looms Large

Here's a headline you won't find:
Victory for the antiwar cause! Nationwide, Democrats emerge victorious, seizing the House and Senate!

Iraq was mentioned prominently in the Mainstream Media, but it demurred on the magnitude of this victory and the role the antiwar majority played in destroying Republican control. The Media did bring up the issue of corruption, which meant that voters found incumbents--yes, even their own--basically untrustworthy.

The Media's reluctance to acknowledge the magnitude of the victory may be based on their undeniable support for the war. It's only long after the last election of significance--'04--that the stark failures in Iraq have been unveiled, moving from relative obscurity in the alternative news sources to the mainstream.

It's unclear whether the Media began covering issues important to the antiwar movement in response to the war's growing unpopularity, or perhaps because competing sources of information like the blogs were addressing issues they wouldn't. It's also unclear whether broader Media coverage generated antiwar sentiment or came as a result of a broadening antiwar movement. Either way, once in the mainstream, antiwar momentum has proven politically invincible. MSM coverage plays a huge role in shaping public opinion, at least concerning the issues it chooses to cover.

Media compliance had a great deal to do with generating a permissive environment before Iraq. The President avoided any significant scrunity in the Mainstream Media before his quasi-re-election. In late October 2004, one newspaper editor even claimed that running a story on Bush's National Guard service would be too damaging to Bush so close to the election! Dan Rather error in judgement just happened to spike a story on Bush's Guard service scheduled to run on Viacom's 60 Minutes.

Media critics can now only bleat at the Media's bypassing issues that would play out in favor of the Democrats. In '04, the chief fear among politicians was appearing soft against terror. The Bush Administration has been able to avoid serious consequences for invading Iraq. Vulnerable to a cascade of political consequences, Republicans in the Congress weren't so lucky. Many of the more savvy Republican politicians ducked Bush's efforts to "help" in their campaigns.

The political climate in 2008 will be shaped by the consequences of ouropen-ended commitment to defend not one but two proxy regimes in Asia. Can Hillary find a soft spot between those who believed voting for Iraq was the right thing to do and those who believe it was a mistake, flip-flop or not. On one level, admitting error may become politically preferable to supporting the war.

We clearly saw many voters disillusioned with Iraq voice their displeasure. As Iraq disintergrates, and the Taliban rise once agains, it's increasingly difficult to rationalize any previous intervention. By failing to oppose the war, and persisting in that stance, Hillary is vulnerable to the antiwar movement and is now dependent on Bush's willingness and capacity to end the conflict in Iraq to avoid fallout in '08.

Rifts Among the Victors

Conservative Democrats are reluctant to acknowledge the role Iraq played, although the progress of the war undeniably translated into anti-incumbency, as was spelled out here on this blog.

In a November 8th Counterpunch.org article, Alex Cockburn and Jeff St. Clair summarize:
"...the national Democrats, led by Rahm Emanuel of the Democratic Congressional Campaign, had tried pretty successfully to keep such peaceniks off the ballot, but in a few key races the antiwar progressives romped home. The Democrats won, despite Emanuel. If the Clintonites weren't still controlling most of the campaign money, and more openly antiwar populists had been running, the Democrats today would probably be looking at a wider majority in the House..."

Conservative Democrats very much like to believe in their President. They yearn for the days when a strong leader could unite the nation under a shared, nonpartisan, and patriotic banner. Their trip down memory lane to the days of Ronald Reagan will grow increasingly implausible as the options to save honor in Iraq dwindle and the concept of a strong unified America caves into dissent over the war.

Lieberman did win, but by the narrowest margins. Republicans were tacitly supportive of Lieberman; they did what they could do minimize Lamont's electability. Many Democrat politicians did nothing to help Lamont, perhaps believing he stood no chance by virtue of underestimating the strength of the antiwar sentiment, or simply favoring their fellow insider in Lieberman.

Lamont's near-win did demonstrate the strength of the antiwar movement, especially considering his relative inexperience, the lack of Democratic support, Republican complicity, and the fact he was more or less running on antiwar sentiment alone.

Howard Dean had a similar burnout in '04. Yet Dean's fall has been short-lived. As chairman on the DNC, Dean's political prestige has risen since then and continues to ride the wave of antiwar sentiment.


Memories of Kerry fresh, some in the Democratic party remain cautious about appearing to have flip-flopped on Iraq. Flip-flopping could be a plausible political charge, but not if the Congress had been lied to, with the explicit purpose of forcing an invasion of Iraq based not on faulty intelligence, but cherry-picked, intentionally misleading intelligence.

Victors, the Democrats are now in a position to launch investigations which could thoroughly discredit the Administration's flimsy statement, supported mostly by Tenet, that the intelligence had been wrong, but gathered with good intent. Since the last major election, we have uncovered various evidence akin to the Downing Street Memo which clearly indicate that the Administration was going to invade, and merely needed excuses--chief among them the fallacious notion that Iraq and 9/11 were connected, and WMD.

As long as "faulty" intelligence lie disguises the fact that fake intelligence was churned out to build support for the war, the consequences of flip-flopping remain significant. But acting on faulty intelligence is one thing, acting on faked intelligence is another. Faking evidence demands forthcoming investigation under the supervision of Democrats. Even the premise of fakery will generate suspicion and justify an antiwar position based on the faulty pretenses; the introduction of evidence into the public record will do even more damage.

Hillary Clinton's unmodulating pro-war stance may have come out of fears over being labelled a flip-flopper. Yet if the US is deeply involved in Iraq in 2008, which seems likely, ongoing antiwar sentiments may in fact hurt Hillary's chances.

Hillary's persistence that her vote on Iraq was the right call may have once helped her to look stronger on defense, but now she must work towards "peace with honor" or some similar method of extraction. Kerry was unable to avoid the flip-flop label by admitting what must be obvious: that voting for the Iraq war was a huge mistake.

The Media's Role

As the American people gradually come to understand the hoax that was perpetuated upon them in the lead-up to Iraq, flip-flopping may become not only a non-issue but popularly acceptable. After all, the blatent lies that led to the invasion didn't seem like lies at all at the time, largely due to the failure of the Media to ask questions, which in turn originated out of fear of losing access to the White House, and from sympathy to anti-Arab interests.

Unlike Republicans in Congress, the Media has been faced not a Grand Moment of Accountability but rather a stream of little crises of confidence as the still curious among us turn to alternate news sources. Circulations are shrinking, and staff being terminated. Conglomerate-dominated news rooms are regurgitating watered-down, less local, and celebrity-focused coverage which typifies today's Mainstream Media.

The rise of the blogs threatens the profitability of the MSM as their viewers are stripped. Ironically money is the source of the problem with the MSM: excessive cost-cutting transpired as news divisions were treated as independent profit centers. The MSM has avoided investigative reporting, for fear of offending some cross-marketed business cell, which has weakened the quality of its content.

Blogs devoted to the simply telling truth have been succeeding while MSM companies who've avoided scrutinizing the Iraq war have seen their audiences drop. The MSM has grown increasingly antiwar, I would argue, not because of the progress of the war, but instead out of economic necessity, as profit and cost paradigms now control the selection of content.

The On-Going Issue of Iraq

Whether they like it or not, Democrats are now in power because of Iraq. A clear majority of Americans want us out. There is however, a ray of hope for the Republicans if the Demos can't extract us from Iraq, which will be no simple task. Nixon, after all, campaigned on the promise to extract us from Vietnam; it took him five years to get us out.

As long as Bush is driving the us on towards unattainable victory, the possibility for an easy extraction will be faint. In his press conference November 8th, Bush specifically denied that Iraq was another Vietnam. What was so clearly confusing wasn't that Bush stood by his decision to go in, what was so utterly terrifying was Bush's unwavering belief that we can still win.

The departure of Rumsfeld is a long-sought after personal goal of this writer. I've written on the Secretary of Defense for several years now, including this article critical of his leadership.

I take an end to Rummy's reign as a signal that I was right that the "reins of power must be pulled from the hands of the incompetent, for the good of the state."

It took the elimination of an entire political party's handle on power to begin to correct the mistakes that began under Rumsfeld. Far worse is reflection on the lives that have and will continue to be lost in Iraq. While Americans may not care too dearly for the sufferings of Iraqis--I hear no solemn ode to the deaths of some 2 million Vietnamese--they are sensitive to the loss of American soldiers.

The people have undeniably spoken for an end to Iraq, but it's not clear that the Democrats will honor the reason for their ascension. They will do a better job addressing the problem, however. Rumsfeld's departure signals an acknowledgement by the White House of the magnitude of the Iraqi problems and is perhaps a gesture of accomodation, in advance of the desperate need for a non-partisan dialogue on Iraq.

I would argue that the White House was brought to their senses not by the actions of the Democrats, but rather the impact of the antiwar movement which has ushered them into power.

As long as the President continues to exist in a state of denial, and Clinton-types try to look hard on terror, a successful resolution of the Iraq problem will be made virtually impossible. Unfortunately circumstances on the ground have now made military force wholly ineffective against our enemies--radical pan-Muslim fundamentalists--thus the application of more force alone won't really help end the conflict.

As we saw with Vietnam, we can try to apply more force, but we ultimately can't prevent our enemies from emerging victorious. It's a simple fact that exerting additional force results in a corresponding increase in opposing force. Geopolitical and military realities really do trump political ideology.

Repudiating Vietnam

The President in his Wednesday press conference denied Iraq was another Vietnam. Bush indicated that Vietnam wasn't plagued with terrorists trying to "destroy progess." Yet it is clear that's exactly what the Communists wanted, to prove to the Vietnamese people that pro-American governments couldn't deliver on their promises. And now the Taliban destroy the symbols of modernization in their country.

Bush has steadfastedly maintained the belief that the US and Iraqi governments have been working toward progress--the universal advancement of the Iraqi people--and that terrorists have been impeding that progress. The assumption is simply false; it avoids confronting the massive fraud and abuse of power which has come as a result of the Occupation.

Worst of all, the oversimplified "we-good, enemies-bad" argument ignores the most basic flaw of our presence in Iraq: that in order to maintain power, the Iraq government must rely on US troops, but in so doing loses any credibility among Iraqis. So, in other words, for any Iraqi government to stand up, they must stand alone, which they cannot because of their dependency on us.

The Iraqi scenario is almost identical to Vietnam. On the surface, we were supporting the premise of democracy in Vietnam while behind the scenes we were propping corrupt leaders like President Diem, or encouraging coups when the puppet government grew too greedy or incompetent.

Unfortunately for the cause of peace in Iraq, a strong Iraq represents a threat to its neighbors. One reason given for not building up Iraq's army (and disbanding it) has been the premise we want to minimize the threat it poses to our allies in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Some claim that the US has seeded discord between Shia and Sunni in order to keep Iraq divided and weak. Such a goal would be in keeping with Wurmser's Clean Break approach so popular with neo-cons, which called for de-stabilizing Israel's enemies.

We've been victimized by our own nefarious plans. Rather than approach Iraq on a bilateral level and look to address their needs and future, the US has used the country to further a Global War on Terror where no threat existed. There is now, however, such a threat.

To say the scope of threat today is a good thing would be woefully ignorant. Even ardent militarists might likely admit they don't want our military to be in Iraq. Yet it's hard to see any non-militarized solution going forward, if al Qaeda is in fact entrenched. It's hard to imagine an ongoing commitment of this scale and duration being intentional, or designed by anyone representing our government or serving our military.

The result is that the so-called forces of terror have become one of the most potent forces fighting for the liberation of the country.

Obviously no one in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans or White House Iraq Group was being paid to analyze problems which may have emerged out of our invasion or subsequent Occupation. The findings of State Department group of Iraq experts had been summarily dismissed. Instead the reasons for invading were chosen based on their potential to head off skepticism and their rhetorical merit--to sound really, really scary.

Valerie Plame and Gen. Shinseki are two people who stood in the Administration's way. In the course of her counterproliferation work, Plame revealed the untrustworthiness of the Administration's sources on WMD claims. Shinseki was simply being truthful on the number of troops needed. Both were simply doing their jobs in an honest, apolitical way. One was fired, the other's identity cruelly fed to a network of Media pawns.

Is the basis of Iraq no longer significant? Perhaps not, now that Democrats are in charge. One of the many forthcoming investigations will be into the Downing Street Memo, which has been an acute area of interest for new House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, whose hearings on the subject may now move from the crammed basement rooms to the main stage.

Lying to start a war is an act of treason and a war crime. Over 2800 Americans have died so far, unnecessarily if Iraq did not pose a threat. If it can be proven that the White House lied to build its case for war, prominent figures, the recently departed Defense Secretary among them, may be subject to imprisonment.

Issues With Democracy

Bush said in his November 8th press conference that voting participation by Iraqis differed from Vietnam, but the US did in fact support elections in Vietnam. Where there was little mention of voter fraud in Iraq, Vietnam had been rife with it. This isn't to say the Vietnamese were any less inclined to participate politically; they'd simply been deprived of fair elections.

Had Vietnamese been give a choice of communists on the ballot, and their votes accurately tabulated, the war would have likely ended. In this sense, democracy would have been a means to an end. Instead of voting for the communists, the Vietnamese may have simply been voting for whatever force could guarantee its independence. The US, embroiled in its self-righteous mission of delivering democracy to the people of Southeast Asia, simply didn't recognize the premise that its intervention would engender more sympathy to the Communist side than they would have otherwise had.

The US has similarly wedged itself into Iraq, placing the democratically elected government there in the untenable position of cooperating with the infidel or losing its hold on power. There were no representatives of al-Qaeda represented in the Iraqi election. Therefore the people lacked the full range of alternatives.

As strange as putting al Qaeda on the ballot may seem, it does offer an alternative to violence. Keeping the enemy off the ballot may suppress a political victory, but it also guarantees ongoing resistance in lieu of political dialogue.

If Osama were on the ballot--and alive--, he'd undoubtedly win in every Middle Eastern country. He'd easily win any contest to emerge as Grand Vizier of The Greater Islamic Caliphate. Can't have that--just what would happen to our oil-dependent society if the Saudi shieks weren't controlling the flow of oil? The US has thus been caught support a cause, democracy, that it can't hope to benefit from, whose only outcome will be unfavorable to the US in the region.

Democracy can be used as a tool by those in power to maintain their power by presenting just enough of a semblance of choice to preserve the idea that meanignful change is possible. While the people enjoying positions of power may change in name, seldom does an elite ruling class get supplanted by those from the masses. Whenever the possibility of true change threatens the status quo, large corporate interests tend to intercede. Democracy threatens the balance of power by allowing the mandate of the people to set the course independent of the desires of the landed gentry (aristocratic class).

Latin Democracy

As we see in Chavez's Venezuela, popular politics can really make a difference in the lives of the people. In the years since Chavez's election, there's been a marked increase in the levels of participation in government by the general population. While Chavez's methods have been criticized as unorthodox and anti-capitalist, for the peasantry and other habitually marginalized groups, Chavez's ascendancy represents a poplar referendum on the corruption and economic exploitation typical of so many Latin countries.

It's an unfortunate consequence of the US' total commitment to regressive and neo-liberal forces opposed to popular change in Latin America that our influence there must decline with the rise of popular political figures. These include Morales in Bolivia and now Ortega in Nicaragua.

Like Iraq, US involvement in the internal politics of Latin America achieves as a matter of consequence unpopularity for pro-American governments, and encourages popular resistance to what are perceived to be American positions. Past support for the dictator Pinochet and CIA assistance in the brutal removal of democratically elected Ariende in Chile in 1973 stands as a hallmark of American intervention in Latin American affairs.

Leftist movements are anchored in resistance to ruthless Latin dictatorships and neo-liberal, pro-American trade policies. The US and governments in the region friendly to it will continue to pay a price for their association. Alternatives to global American leadership, such as the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, are on the rise; our record of past meddling and present hubris have driven the powerful juu-juu of anti-Americanism into the open arms of demagogues and radicals of the far left.

The Bolivarian revolution rising across Latin America is undoubtedly occuring despite the near-total blackout in the MSM. It took Chavez calling Bush the devil at the podium of the UN for the press to rise up and take notice.

The stories about Venezuelan distribution of free heating oil to impoverished Americans never seemed to gain popular traction in the US. Far more nourishing to anti-Chavez elitists was 7-11's decision to terminate its relationship with Citgo, despite the thousands of Americans working for the Venezualan-owned company. The rights of workers are seconded to the privileges of power and authority; economic justice for poor Americans and Citgo employees is far less important to 7-11's obviously Republican management. (Perhaps 7-11's reaction isn't so partisan as Nancy Pelosi did leap to Bush's defense in response to Chavez's comments.)

Perhaps the most remarkable non-coverage in the Media has been of the Oaxaca rebellion. Teachers had been striking for months behind barricades before the government sent troops in. [Background on the strike here.]

Oaxaca is a non-issue in the American Mainstream Media because it represents the arbitrary use of force against local people engaged in a struggle for human rights and political equality. Just like the massive roadblocks dominating Mexico City after Olbrador's non-election, the barriers of Oaxaca simply won't go away regardless of the Media's exercise in denial.

The broadly popular premise that the US is motivated by a quest to dominate Latinos culturally and economically feeds off the US' involvement in Iraq and the inherent brutality of military force used on civilians.

Domestic Issues of Race and Class

The Democratic victory represents more than a turn in politicial sentiment, it represents a shift towards more liberal values in government, among them issues of race and economic opportunity.

Corporations have been doing well under the laissez faire policies of the Republicans but corporations don't vote. They may design the vote-counting software, build, and manage the voting machines, but it remains to be seen how far Diebold and ESS can go in manipulating results. It is clear that electronic voting can easily disenfranchise voters, and minority voters are disporportionally affected.

The winner-take-all system denies representation to minority parties here in the US.
At no time has the US Senate had more than one black senator. Must blacks all move to one state--and presumably win the State's two Senatorial seats--in order to have their votes count?

The recent passage of voter ID bill in Indiana demonstrates the omnipresent desire of Republicans to make voting harder for blacks. When confronted with the egregiousness racism of voter registration constraints, Republicans don't seem too worried. At least the Courts have interceded on some Voter ID laws, with Indiana's law the only one not overturned.

We here in America like to pretend class distinctions aren't important. Yet increasingly we face the truth that the rich are in fact growing richer and the middle classes face uncertain futures.

Economic justice has long been unattainable for the African Americans living here. Despite progress made towards closing the income gap during the Clinton years, economic advances for African Americans have been retreating as manufacturing jobs--a hallmark of economic strength for blacks--disappear. Alongside a decrease in funds for college assistance, the current environment turns back the clock on gains and flattens future income projections for the coming decades, in effect perpetuating an underclass based on race.

The idea that all economic failure is deserved, and all financial success earned, came in alongside the war on affirmative action. Right-wing talk radio framed the debate in terms of fairness--was it fair for people to be rejected on the basis of race? They would point out the lower standards applied to African Americans for admission and career advancement, and cite egregious cases of more qualified white candidates being spurned for less qualified blacks.

The debate on affirmative action may have grown cold, but the ideals of the Right have wormed their way into the subconsciousness of millions. It's no real suprise that whites tend to see the unfairness in affirmative action while blacks--invariably more inclined to be economically disadvantaged--see affirmative action as a means of achieving fairness, to help level the playing field.

While I didn't start this blog to discuss political issues like affirmative action, it's impossible not to feel a general sense of oppression originating out of our political system. Therefore to discuss political issues, disenfranchisement must be addressed. If any effort to correct an imbalance is scorned, the politically aware must strive to learn why. Who gains by the status quo?

Fear and Loathing

I will admit many blogs suffer from considerable paranoia in their discussion of government, Media, and politics. In this sense, many blogs do in fact go too far in suggesting the presence of conspiracies--in this case to "keep the African American down". But when objective measurements of progress in a country (of which full and equal access to political participation must be considered a part) fail to embrace all citizens, that system must be inherently flawed and that country fundamentally unjust.

I guess most of my position is based on my politics. I believe that a society is measured not by the achievements of its greatest, but in the way in treats its poorest (this is a quote from Kennedy or King.) In the crazy pursuit of individual wealth, in the me-generation, it's inevitable that some will be left behind. I find the notion that some people deserve to be left behind un-Christian, antiquated, and bigoted. I suppose these are the qualities of a progressive. You may not share my progressive values, and so I must suppose that you don't feel that minorities are being left behind. But they are; it's simply a question of if you see them left behind, or whether you feel it's their fault and therefore not an issue of any consequence to you.

I'll leave you with the following quote:

"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing." -John Berger



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