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Friday, April 27, 2007

Surge results in more war and big profits

I've devoted this blog to explaining how geopolitical and military realities prevent the War on Terror from achieving its goals. Like the War on Drugs, the War on Terror drains our resources without attaining positive results. The goals of the war on terror remain amorphous. War critics cannot accuse the Administration of failing to reach its objectives in Iraq because no tangible ones have been established.

Accomplishments like declaring Iraq "sovereign" in '04, and holding elections have all been held high as achievements. Yet Iraq still requires a huge investment of blood and treasure.

The artificial benchmarks of advancement were simply tools of propaganda in a larger PR war fought to keep the War on Terror going. Were these events true harbingers of success and progress, they would provide evidence that Iraqi is increasingly less reliant on the continued US military presence. Under an improving situation, a withdrawal date could be moved forward rather than pushed back.

In the case of Iraq, the Administration disdains the creation of any benchmarks to evaluate progress. The effort by Congress to demand specific achievements or else force withdrawal--albeit a scaled-down version--has led Bush to accuse Democrats of forcing a surrender date. To accuse the Democrats of mismanaging Iraq at this juncture really tests the boundaries of hypocrisy; neither the Bush Administration nor the Iraqi regime they've installed have been accountable or any standard met or exceeded to date.

While we can't technically lose without established goals, we can't "win" either.

Bush's logic on a timetable is fuzzy. I've heard goals described as dreams with timetables attached, so timetables do matter--they convert distant far-off fantasies into something real and attainable.

Goals require a rigorous framework of time-oriented objectives. The military was built for accomplishing specific tasks, it isn't designed to maintain an counter-insurgency in a hostile country indefinitely.

In the absence of goals, we find our military stretched to the breaking point, a fact now broadly acknowledged in the mainstream media. In the absence of a timetable, we find our patience stretched ever further.

Strategies for winning can't depend on military achievements alone. Yet the only adaptation to our Iraqi policy so far has been an increase in the number of troops. The belated surge shows we lacked the number of troops we needed from the start. It took the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, who was responsible for inadequate troop strength, to clear the way for greater numbers, long after the insurgency strengthened by the fall of 2004.

Now, the insurgency is far more powerful--this article from The Independent is from the perspective of an English soldier returning to Iraq for a second tour.

We cannot achieve what remains undefined as victory. So we stumble on, hoping that an increase in troops strength can compensate for our failure to adequately plan and head off an insurgency we failed to properly anticipate.

Without clear mission goals, I'm assuming we intend to stabilize the nation. We initiated the invasion and are bound under the Geneva Convention to restore Iraq to the state of security that we found it in before our invasion--for whatever that's worth.

Bush and crew seem bent on ignoring international law, yet observing the precedent set by Geneva actually helps leave Iraq in a better situation than the present state of anarchy. While a broken Iraq is touted as a victory for terrorists, our ongoing occupation hardly demonstrates the wisdom of American foreign policy. What's more, the continued inability to contain the insurgents calls into question the strength and durability of the US military, which may in fact embolden our enemies regardless of whether we leave or when.

In a twist of supreme irony, our continued presence destabilizes Iraq and the broader region and in so doing dooms the US to commit huge numbers of soldiers, equipment to Iraq. Juxtaposed with the fear button pressed by supporters of the war--that the US can't afford to leave and let the terrorists "win"--is the reality that the US has invested too much already and must continue to occupy Iraq indefinitely lest it lose face.

The persistent reality that we can't end the insurgency through the use of military force--administered in whatever proportion. Our fixation on military power even as it wanes hinders alternative approaches and solutions, few as they are at this point in the occupation.

Evaluating the Surge

I've said in the past that the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq is like a game of jack-in-the-box: hammer down one jack as he pops up and he'll simply pop up elsewhere. Without enough hammers, or quick enough reactions, the jack-in-the-box can pop up anywhere. As the game goes on, the jack also tends to duck and disappear ever more quickly.

This analogy seems to suit the insurgents, who can seed chaos, popping up anywhere in well organized, spontanteous acts of terror meant to demonstrate their strength or the inability of US or Iraqi forces to find them. Like any insurgency, they can then fade back into the civilian population.

The recent destruction of a bridge in Baghdad also suggest insurgents intend to systematically destroy the country's infrastructure, in a tactic similar to that used by the Vietnamese in order to drive a wedge between the U.S.-backed government and the population.

The AP article "US Troop Deaths Up 21 Percent in Iraq" by Robert Reid summarizes the situation in Iraq since the so-called surge began:

"...1,586 civilians were killed in Baghdad between the start of the offensive and Thursday. That represents a sharp drop from the 2,871 civilians who died violently in the capital during the two months that preceded the security crackdown."

Those figures would indicate the number of deaths in Baghdad has dropped roughly in half since the security crackdown.

However, Reid also notes:

"Outside the capital, 1,504 civilians were killed between Feb. 14 and Thursday, compared with 1,009 deaths during the two previous months, the figures show."

This approximately 50% increase in deaths outside Baghdad is most likely an indicator that the insurgent "jack-in-the-box" is popping up in more sparsely guarded regions outside the capital.

Subsequent to Reid's article in mid-April, I've come across reports that say US figures showing a downturn in violence actually exclude deaths from car bombs. To simply exclude car bombings greatly reduces the death toll, as I believe car bombs are the top killer of Iraqis.

The way the stories are reported and statistics tracked reveals an agenda afoot to suppress countervailing or contradictory evidence of progress. Reporting which simply transcribes government reports, or passing press releases on as the real news is an act of complicity which serves to spread propaganda and distort coverage.

I've come across a number of reports spewed by military authorities in Iraq in the past, including the notorious incident in Najaf in late January where an entire group of pilgrims were slaughtered. In that case, entire families were post-humously labelled terrorists in an effort to justify the scope of the violence used by the Iraqi government against Shia pilgrims, with direct American participation.

I found yet another example of duplicity in an AFP report:

"The second-ranking US general in Iraq said Friday that a suicide attack on Baghdad's parliament showed there remained a 'long way to go' toward providing security in the war-ravaged country."

Later in the article, the general is quotes as saying:

"...that 'steady progress is being made' in Baghdad, where a massive security crackdown has been in place for two months..."

Which is it? Progress or not? And if progress how much have we made? I don't think the American people can be confident in how the war goes. We do know that the invasion was sold on false pretenses--that Iraq had WMD and posed a terror threat. The government has clearly lied to us on the need for war, so should we now expect the truth to be told?

Our government has also used propaganda to advance its objectives during wars, in this case the War on Terror, even at the expense of truth.

At some point, the interest of the Executive branch and the people divurge. It's testimony to the effectiveness of our system of government that Congress--ostensibly the people's most direct representatives in government--finds itself at war with the President's policy continuing the war.

If the President is no longer responding to the will of the American people, we can only hope the Congress can obey the people, who have clearly expressed themselves as against the war.

The Constitution was designed to prevent the usurpation of power by one man who in the days of our Founding Fathers was called a tyrant. Giving the President carte blanche to proceed with a war of choice, for which he has publicly acknowledged full responsibility, would be a gross dereliction of Congress' responsibilities under the Constitution.

Politics in the Media

The war in Iraq is very much a PR war, won or lost in front of Americans' living rooms, as they watch their TVs. The clear willingness to deceive illustrates just how far the Pentagon and supporters of the war will go to preserve an image of eventual victory.

Neocons and ultranationalists on the Right are obsessed with their visions of grandeur, with successful military interventions crowning the notion of American exceptionalism. Perhaps they feel this can make up for Vietnam, which they've labelled a failure on the premise not that we lost but that the American people abandoned the war or as Bush put in a trip to Vietnam, "We'll succeed unless we quit." (link).

Bill Moyers has received considerable attention for his new PBS special on Selling the Iraq War (portion available here. Moyers confronts the Media's timidity in confronting the case made for invading Iraq, and focuses on the special relationship between top Media figures and the White House.

It was on this very website that I brought up the issue of media collaboration with the White House political agenda in the case of Valerie Plame. Hard-charging Bob Novak chased the idea Plame was sent on a junket, which of course lead him to inquire from Armitage the identity of Wilson's husband. The first reporter to learn of Plame's covert status was apparently Judith Miller, who'd been dispensing fictitious reports on Iraqi WMD through the New York Times, whom the Administration undoubtedly thought would continue to dispense stories on their behalf, in this case not about WMDs but rather Valerie Plame. It was Miller's confidential relationship with Libby that became central in the investigation into the Plame leak.

In the White House effort to discredit Wilson, the press became a tool for leaking Plame's identity. The story is relevant today in understanding the extent to which Mainstream Media figures go to please politicos in the White House, who presumably provide inside information to their cherished press buddies in return--providing content for books like Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack and State of Denial. In Plame's case, the White House was dispensing a truth, not a lie, but one which would force a covert agent off the front line in fighting the spread of WMD, all for political purposes.

The way Plame was so shamefully betrayed demonstrates the lengths to which the Administration was willing to go in order to protect its case for war, a case which had been bravely challenged by Wilson in his confrontation over the 19 Words. Had the mainstream press been willing to confront the Administration's claims, it would have satisfied the moral imperative which compelled Wilson to expose the lie to the public, an act of fundamental righteousness which nonetheless ended up costing his wife her job in a most cowardly way. Wilson did try through private channels to get the Administration to acknowledge the erroneous intelligence for months, it was only at the failed end of this process that he had been left no choice but to write his Op-ed "What I Didn't Find in Africa".

Moyers has spotlighted deficiencies in Mainstream Media coverage of the war, particularly in the run-up to Iraq although the collusion continues. It should come as no surprise that the Administration continues to use the press to further its political goals. Currently, preserving the illusion that the US can emerge victorious is the primary PR goal for the Bush White House.

Follow Up on Profiteering

I haven't had to look very hard to find evidence of war profiteering, which in my last post I described as a major force for continuance of the current war, as it has been in all previous wars.

I discovered a wonderful article originally from TomDispatch.com, "Who Will Stop the U.S. Shadow Army in Iraq?" by Jeremy Scahill, who talks about the huge quantities spent on mercenaries who work for private contractors in Iraq.

Apparently these non-Iraqis are exempt from any law, and cannot be tried or arrested in Iraq. Beyond accountability, little is publicly known about the companies that send private armies into Iraq, including their death rates, which of course reduces US military losses and the collateral political damage.

The Bush-connected firm Blackwater also rakes in huge sums for staffing and contractual services, as part of a larger privatization effort. Scahill quotes one congresswoman as saying 40% of our expenditures in Iraq go to private corporations, which are responsible for many of the functions once directly assigned to the military.

According to the AP article "Lawmakers Rail Against Halliburton," Congress has targetted fraud and "overpricing" by defense contractors.

I've spotlighted the clear conflict of interest between Vice President Cheney and Halliburton, where he'd been CEO and still holds huge numbers of stock options. The AP article explains:

"Lawmakers and the U.S. inspector general have accused KBR, formerly a division of Halliburton Co., which was once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, of abusing federal rules in record-keeping on the current contract. Nearly $2 billion in overpricing on the contract has been identified by Pentagon auditors and government investigators, lawmakers said."

I found the choice of the word "overpricing" amusing. Unlike the private sector, where buyers are free to choose between not buying and buying--effectively setting a maximum price that the sellers would accept--, the government is forced to buy from certain favored contractors at a price dictated by the seller. Unlike the open market, where buyers determine what they will spend, the government must pay regardless of price and in so doing becomes the perfect target for fraud.

Still, some "no-bid" contracts are justified based on the absence of competing bids from contractors, or the scarcity of providers of services to the government in far-flung places like Iraq. Also, very few companies can provide services and equipment on the scale needed, so defense contracting is an industry built around large entities. Yet its the exclusivity of defense contracts, coupled with their no-bid clauses, that exposes the systematic looting of public resources for the benefit of a well-connected few.

In an ongoing process, the military has outsourced a significant portion of functions traditionally assigned to the military. Jobs and functions performed by military personnel have been delegated to corporations, which raises the issue of how much of our military is under the control of private corporations, who are free to violate labor laws and any number of behaviors which would be deemed unacceptable for military personnel or service regulations. Many interrogators in Abu Ghraib were actually non-US nationals in the employ of dubious multinational contractors.

Prominent writer Andrew Bacevich has documented much of the privatization process--how US military spending has been increasingly turned into an intermediary for private sector beneficiaries selling products and services to the government.

The Right wing has been pushing a broad effort to reduce government spending. Under Republican rule of Congress from 1994 and the White House since '01, much of this transformation has turned out to be purely rhetorical. While spending has surged, a larger and larger portion of spending has gone directly to the private sector, in effect reducing the spread of government resources to a smaller and more privileged few. Since 9/11, the battle against federal spending has been converted into a mantra for more military spending, with a large portion flowing to corporations.

Congress and auditors under the direct supervision of the Executive were also responsible for regulating these defense contractors. So in a process that gradually evolved during the period of one-party rule since 2000, government contracting became the most effective method for companies with political influence to increase profitabillity.

Also part of the ode to quasi-Libertarian values was the belief in the economic burden of draconian government regulations. Bureaucratic regulation was trumpeted as unnecessary and expensive.Private companies are praised over the "inefficient" bureaucracy, which was assumed to be nothing more than a layer of government that ran up costs, and failer to deliver productive results.

Discounting the power of government and preventative benefits of ongoing regulations has led to an overestimation of the benefits of outsourcing. In the wake of Katrina as well as in Iraq, the primary policy tool for reconstruction has been massive contracts with limited oversight, the results are predictably fraud and waste.

An absence of regulation has clearly encouraged corruption in the awarding of contracts. As long as the funds flow, both the participating politicans and profitting companies benefit. At some point in the provisioning of goods and services to the government, inefficiencies enter into the contractual process.

As I suggested in my last post, perhaps the Democrats are eager to cash in on their turn at the federal money spigot. Corporate donations have hardly decreased with the advent of Democratic rule. Private sector beneficiaries of government spending likely anticipated the threat to their profit posed by a change in political control. Accordingly, they've been active seeding both sides of the aisle with campaign contributions.

The Republicans have served well the interests of privatization, but have apparently been unwilling to reduce spending sufficiently to let the defense sector rise and fall independent of federal patronage. Even more of the public's money is now showered on a growing Pentagon budget, of which a big chunk goes to private contractors.

These merchants of death must fear the idea of losing their federal money train and are thus willing to great lengths to encourage ongoing expenditures. Some of these companies--like number one military contractor General Electric--own large media networks. {NBC fired antiwar commentator Phil Donahue in the lead up to the Iraq war; CEO Jack Welch was a major Bush campaign donor.) Cross-ownership of media corporations is common among the wealthy industrialist patrons of the Right.

We cannot know what transpires in the corridors of power. The actions of CEOs friendly to the Bush Administration may never be exposed to the light of public admission and scrutiny. We can however see the ownership of media outlets by fewer and fewer conglomerates and the shift in the focus of news coverage towards entertainment, as hard news is not as big a money-maker, and thus valued less in the corporate hierarchy.

Wars are the perfect vehicle for enriching corporate contractors selling to government. Media conglomerates have a vested interest in keeping government money flowing to their advertizers and subsidiaries. Media scrutiny of President Bush's approach to Iraq has become honest only as the reality of failure has become undeniable.

By ignoring the fundamental winnability or methodology used to fight wars, doubts in the public can be suppressed through inadequate Media coverage. Another method, the direct insertion of proganda into the coverage narrative, serves an important purpose in maintaining an illusion of progress and a picture on eventual success.

As I've discussed here in my studies of propaganda, sometimes suppression of the truth or any information critical of the war can neuter popular dissent: what the people don't know cannot upset them. Belated Media scrutiny appears to have come only after an extended period of mismanagement has successfully mired the US in conflict. At this point, an early or easy exit has been made much more difficult, which sustains the expensive occupation and enriches war profiteers.

Fooled Again

I'd said in my previous post that the U.S. military interventions had been almost continuous since World War II.

As the articles I quote below prove, I hadn't been entirely accurate. Yet in my life I have at not time been spared the sense that the US is locked in some long-term war. In my early youth it was the fear of nuclear holocaust, with Vietnam and other flashpoints making the threat real. When the Cold War ended in 1989, we really didn't experience that much of a peace dividend--by '91 we were off to Kuwait. So if I've erred in overestimating the frequency of US interventions, it's because I've never really seen a prolonged period of peace in my life.

Bacevich is more specific in an article posted originally on TomDispatch:

...while the so-called Vietnam Syndrome infected the American body politic, when Republican and Democratic administrations alike viewed with real trepidation the prospect of sending US troops into action abroad. Since the advent of the new Wilsonianism, however, self-restraint regarding the use of force has all but disappeared. During the entire Cold War era, from 1945 through 1988, large-scale US military actions abroad totaled a scant six. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, they have become almost annual events. The brief period extending from 1989's Operation Just Cause (the overthrow of Manuel Noriega) to 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom (the overthrow of Saddam Hussein) featured nine major military interventions. And that count does not include innumerable lesser actions such as Bill Clinton's signature cruise missile attacks against obscure targets in obscure places, the almost daily bombing of Iraq throughout the late 1990s, or the quasi-combat missions that have seen GIs dispatched to Rwanda, Colombia, East Timor, and the Philippines. Altogether, the tempo of US military interventionism has become nothing short of frenetic.

The real issue isn't just how often the US intervenes, it's really about the need to intervene. We've clearly lowered the benchmark to the point a case for intervention can be made quite effectively; the recipe for popular acceptance appears to require nothing more than a war-hungry President and compliant Media.

Wars are never cheap, even if the contributory factors can be blown into justifications for war without a lot of effort. The real damage done by inducing a state of tolerance and unconditional acceptance of war comes over the long-term, on the back end, long after the trumpets have beckoned our young to the front. It's that end--with recuperation, much-needed healing of the injured--that the real costs of war--war fatigue, depleted budgets, and ugliness of war rubbed in our faces-- add up, long after the older white men who beckoned us on have left their offices.

This article by antiwar.com columnist Ivan Eland summarizes previous US military interventions and the political consequences.

Can we trust our Media corporations to tell us the truth about winnability the wars that feed their bottom line? Victory for the defense contractors represents the continuation of war, not its end. I'd arge that the American people know far less about the decisions our politicians not because they don't care news but because the Mainstream Media intentionally suppresses information which would bring into doubt the ultimate winnability of a conflict.

Americans were sold the Iraq war in the same way they are sold cars or any other product--through their TVs. I'm loking forward to seeign the Bill Moyers special on selling the war. It's remarkable so few Americans know what they need to know in order to make an informed decision on the winnability of the war.

As I pointed on, the MSM seemed to turn on the war in the summer of 2006, as its unpopularity grew. I wondered at the time whether or not the shift towards criticism in coverage had precipitated the increasing discontent, or that the MSM had in fact been reacting to the underlying shift in opinion which may have in fact been building.

With the MSM late to the party, and beholden to neoconservative tenets clearly past the point where they'd been proven untenable, suggests that perhaps alternative resources for information like those on the Web were threatening to draw away even more viewership from corporated news divisions that had seen their funding drastically reduced under the "news as entertainment" shifts in policy which have occurred under Media consolidation. News divisions were treated as independent profit centers, which of course they never were meant to be, which may be encouraging further degradation of the quality of MSM news, and further flight to the Web.

Other Sources

Bacevich, Andrew.
Google search of Bacevich articles and quotes on truthout.org here.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why We Fight: Profiteering in An Era of Endless War

The US is in a state of denial perpetuated by the inability of Congress to end the war in Iraq.

To go on is madness; to stop would admit defeat; we are locked in the insanity of doing the same thing while expecting different results.

I've been saying now for months that the surge or any increase in troop strength would not change the result of the war. I've called the increase in troops "N-strength" (the Military calls it "end-strength") because N sounds better in a formula, which is just how the Pentagon uses its troops in the continued occupation.

Believing that the formula to achieve victory is accurate, our decision-maker in chief decided to alter one ingredient, N, while choosing to maintain the same overall formula for victory.

The Administration has rigorously avoided self-criticism of its Iraq policy. Dissent was not to be tolerated, and equated with as disloyalty. The idea that our cause is just and winnable, and the risk of loss and simple consequence of a lack of commitment, sets up failure by denying the possibility of its occurence.

Unswerving methodology which serves the ego of a single man has no place in the foreign policy of our country. Yet that self-serving and egotistical approach to winning in Iraq dominates our occupation.

Without the capacity to re-evaluate and change course in Iraq, we have been stuck on essentially the same strategy since the initial invasion. No flawed formula can be corrected by increasing one ingredient--in this case N.

If top decision-makers are to adapt and change policy they must be willing to see where they've erred and make corrections.

The military needs to function as an evolving response to the manifestation of different threats, with achievable tasks geared to specific goals. Yet like any other major bureaucracy, the Pentagon isn't so nimble. It stumbles forward blindly from the sheer inertia of momentum. A smaller, lighter force Rumsfeld tried to imitate may be the embodiment of an impossible dream--an adaptive, and reactive force which is free to act, unencumbered by policy ruling, military traditions, or even the limitations of international law and boundary.

Another source of failure in Iraq is a lack of flexibility is a lack of responsiveness; rigidity of tactics dooms our military. A new General Petraeus, has been brought in to manage what is apparently a new strategy. While talk of substantive changes in procedure and tactics are easily mouthed from the comforts of the Pentagon, adopting new strategies to the battlefield is a far more challenging affair.

Hard power alone is insufficient to achieve what must be considered at this point victory in Iraq: the restoration of a reasonable level of peace and security to the nation comparable to that which existed before our invasion, under Saddam. Chaos is too be feared above all things, anarchy is the most detestable state of affairs, especially if it's been brought by an elective war of conquest and ongoing occupation, in this case by the US and its coalition partners who invaded the country and still remain.

Perhaps even the ugly possibility of control over Iraq by our fundamentalist enemy is preferrable to what we have now. Yet our leaders' hatred of radical fundamentalism binds us to the pie-in-the-sky notion of total, unconditional victory. Such an outcome, should it be possible, requires either continuous warfare or complete eradication of the other side: genocide.

Mixed with the fervor of nationalism, American exceptionalism--the idea that our country is endowed with a set of characteristics which exempt it from norms of conduct expected of the rest of the world--precludes the possibility of anything less than total victory. The notion of anything less than total victory is deemed treasonous, and skeptical thought must be carefully suppressed among the hardcore supporters of the war. To make the possibility of failure publicly known would be nothing short of treasonous.

The same blind madness of Hitler took Germany to a similiar state of self-delusion and self-destruction. To have a nation succumb to the grandeur of an overinflated ego is nothing new. The predilection to impose our will on other nations has been common in American history; if anything the historical precendent has been one of a string of foreign entanglements separated only periodically by brief periods of military isolationism.

Yet unlike Hitler, the Administration appears at first glance to have picked on a nation that would easily fall. Any analysis of the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920's would have exposed many of the problems we now face. Through its pre-war Future of Iraq project the State Department forecast the problems that lay ahead, but were completely ignored by the White House and Pentagon.

Many of the entirely reasonable predictions were dismissed on the basis that the planners opposed the invasion and sought to prevent the war. By equating dissent with disloyalty, pragmatic concerns for the results of military intervention were dismissed.

The White House had given control for all pre-war intelligence over to the Pentagon. Rumsfeld was quick to shut out any intelligence which originated from rival agencies like the CIA and State Department. Likewise, Cheney and the White House Iraq Group inflated the fanciful musings of convicted swindler Ahmed Chalabi into "actionable intelligence."

Chalabi had been discredited by both the State Department and the CIA, more specifically by the WMD counterproliferation unit headed by Valerie Plame. He became the primary source of intelligence for the Pentagon, which spent over $200,000 a month on Chalabi's Iraq National Congress. Chalabi has since been suspected of spying for Iran. {I saw on C-Span2's BookTV on April 16th an excellent talk at the Overseas Press Club with Craig Unger and Italian reporter Carlo Bonini who researched Chalabi for his book Collusion. I haven't been able to locate a video of the talk through BookTV.org; amazon has the book here.}

Wanting the war, neocons lowered their evidentiary standard. Any intelligence which conflicted with the case made for the war was disregarded, practically shunned. The best example of the diminished credibility of intelligence used by the Administration was Bush's 19 words concerning the yellowcake from Niger. It was only through an extensive effort by Joe Wilson that the fake evidence was exposed. Valerie Plame, rather than her husband, ended paying the price, losing both her covert status and her career in a retaliatory strike by the White House.

Without Wilson's willingness to confront the powerful, the public may never have become aware of just how negligent the Administration had been. The Mainstream Media certainly coalesced behind the President's grand scheme to bring democracy to Iraq.

The Status of the Occupation

While Iraq the secular state may have been an easy target, the country's resistance movement is proving completely unconquerable. While much of the violence plaguing the country has been characterized as sectarian, the constantly growing death toll proves that our ongoing presence may in fact be encouraging the violence. At the least, prolongation of our presence engenders more resistance; the occupation also perpetuates destabilization.

Proponents of the surge may tell us that initial results are "encouraging" or--far more realistically--"too early to tell", yet the state of chaos in Baghdad has worsened, the death count exploded, with the additional troops simply offering more targets, lifting the American death toll.

Simply adding more troops won't work. The solution in Iraq requires going in entrely opposite direction--decreasing our presence and delegating security responsibilities to others.

Recently Congress fired a weak salvo at Bush for Iraq, passing a bill which only marginally tries to hold the White responsible for making progress. The bill does include a stipulation that the US might reduce its military presence, but control over the US presence in Iraq and over our policy in Iraq appears to have been ceded by Congress to the President, despite the clear public mandate for change and withdrawal.

So why must we stay? First, the Executive has robbed Congress of its Constitutionally mandated control over the budget. In the years since 9/11, we've seen the savage instrument of brute military force emerge as a tool under the control of the Executive, without any accountability over how's its run, with limited transparency. The nationalistic front, combined with secrecy has created an environment where policy-makers and their advisers can profit from their cronyism.

Money Trail

"Iraq money trail to Bush cronies must end" by Evelyn Pringle details the web of financial underpinnings which prove players like Douglas Feith, Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney benefitted fiscally from the war.

Top defense industry executives like former Defense Secretary Cohen--of the active defense consultancy now called the Cohen Group--have seen an explosion in pay since 9/11, according to Pringle.

Flagrant conflicts of interest between political decision makers and active government officials guarantees corruption. In the shadowy world, defense contractors and former Administration officials wine and dine each other, while huge quantities of cash and stock options maake their way into and out of the public policy sector as politicians leave office.

Cheney continued to receive compensation from Halliburton into 2005. Pringle says:

Cheney himself is also taking in war profits, contrary to what he told Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in 2003, when he denied making any money off his former employer. “Since I left Halliburton to become George Bush’s vice president,” he said, “I’ve severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest.”

“I have no financial interest in Halliburton,” Cheney told Tim, “of any kind and haven’t had, now, for over three years.”

Those statements were proven false when financial disclosure forms showed that Cheney had received a deferred salary from Halliburton of $205,298 in 2001, $262,392 in 2002, $278,437 in 2003, and $294,852 in 2004.

In 2005, an analysis released by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), reported that Cheney continued to hold over 300,000 Halliburton stock options and said their value had risen 3,281 percent over the previous year, from $241,498 to more than $8 million.

Cheney played a significant role in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, and his influence over the President has been said to be the greatest of any Vice President in our history. Seeing the value of his stock options rise clearly presented a significant motive to launch the Iraq war. Also, seeing the profits of Halliburton skyrocket would be a trend that no shareholder would like to see end.

Defense sector spending is now treated as quite distinct from other government ependitures, which have come to be known as "non-military expenditures" in federal budget jargon. I recently read that 40% of the federal budget now goes to private sector companies--growth in the military budget (nearly doubling under Bush to more than $650 billion plus supplementals) is a big reason why.

While its players have benefitted tremendously from the increase in oil prices and military spending, the White House hasn't been alone in nursing the military industrial complex along. By noon on 9/11 anyone could surely have seen the federal dollars lining a golden road for defense contractors in what would later become the Global War on Terror. The rich veins of public monies that feed the War on Terror tempt politicians to channel contracts to favored companies and cronies.

Now in power, the Democrats appear far less inclined to turn off the spigot. Perhaps they too are eager to cash in on ties with the war machine which may have gone underutilized in their days out of power. At the very least Democratic supporters of the war can expect corporation donations, which could be called the spoils of war these days--apparently a never-ending stream of cash to pay for open-ended war.

Federal spending in the cause of war is entirely legal, but some in Congress were apparently too greedy, or insufficiently cautious of outside scrutiny to exploit the benevolence of their private sector cronies, close friends they are. I referred to the "Duke" Cunningham case, not exposed in the Mainstream Media, in a previous post. The former California Congressman had been caught living in a contractor's harbour-bound yacht, even as he sat on the Armed Service Committee deciding how contracts would be awarded in the defense sector.

Veteran peace activists know well the motive and precedent for war profiteering. It's an easy way for parasitic entities to cash in on political connections. Wars are notorious for their rapid depletion of equipment and the omnipresent need for replacement.

Support for our troops is also an obstacle in confronting the militiary industrial complex and the corruption and destruction it wreaks. The nationalism of war--draping our foreign military interventions in the flag--masks much of the scandalous malfeasance and greedy struggle at the trough for unscrupulous capitalists to profit off the misery of war.

What better vehicle for transferring tax monies to a well-positions circle of crony capitalist than war? Expenditures are huge and accounting vulnerable to the fog of war. Not billions, but rather trillions have simply disappeared. Catherine Austin Fitts offers excellent exposure on the matter of disappearing money on her solari.com website here. One website, www.whereisthemoney.org, is even dedicated to the effort to find the misplaced cash. It cites Rumsfeld as saying "we cannot track $2.3 trillion" on the day before 9/11, see the CBS video.

The investigation of the Pentagon's missing 2.3 trillion or so (Who's counting? Besides who could know?) is stunning both in its silence and complete absence of any paper trail for auditors to follow.

Washington's bad bookkeeping made its way into the Iraq occupation. There is a report of a transfer of $2.4 billion in $100 bills to Baghdad in 2004 from the Los Angeles Times. An aid organization discovered the disappearance of huge sums of money early in the Occupation, see their report here. Apparently, no one knows just where that money and countless other billions went.

Iraq has become a mess by design, if the war is to be measured by the financial benefit of the war's spending for a fortunate few. The conflict of interest may be known, and publicly addressed, but as long as principal decision-makers can legally accept compensation from outside parties while in office, the corruption will continue, and with it the preservation of war profiteering as a motive in the making and continuation of war.

War Profits, the Easy Way

Extracting the real spoils of war from Iraq--its oil--is far more challenging and indirect a method than profiteering. Long-term infrastructure investments are needed and Production Sharing Agreements must be signed which depend on the preservation of governmental authority. Funds to protect the extraction of oil may not provided indefinitely out of public coffers; security firms risk losing government contracts.

During the Gold Rush, astute entrepreneurs sold shovels instead of prospecting for the gold themselves. Why take additional risks and face uncertainties? Demand for shovels was high, so the prices were good and profits large. With wars, it make equal sense to avoid fighting when you can personally proft from selling the guns and bullets. Risk is lower, and no one shoots at you.

War profiteering is an effective method for the ambitious and politically well-connected who lack moral constraints on their avarice. The only requirement is a war and wars can always be found, if not manufactured. And for the truly lazy (or clever), the instability that wars create can generate profits; so if the war causes the price of oil to triple, why not buy and hold oil stocks! If the continuation of the war keeps jacking up some companies' profits, it makes sense to own their stock, if the morality of how one makes their money is not an issue.

Other Sources

Corruption in Iraq
"Iraq Occupation Ran on a Policy of Corruption" by Brian Dominick

Democratic "Withdrawal" Bill
"That Was an Antiwar Vote?" by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Racism in Radio: Rutgers Responds

Sandwiched between coverage for custody of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter was a chunk of emotional, hard biting news: a press conference on behalf of the Rutgers' womens' college basketball team. Tuesday morning's press conference was compelling, and confronted Don Imus' comments that the team was a bunch of "ho's".

The story has been inaccurately framed as the "Imus' Story" and the media has chosen to focus on the 2 week suspension granted Imus by his employer, WNBC of New York. The focus of the coverage is on Imus, rather than the strong reaction his comments have spawned, which are a far more remarkable aspect of the story--the strength of opposition to the public use of racial terms.

The story shouldn't be about Imus' comments, but rather the persistent attitude that would have sustained such awful perceptions towards women, blacks, and the sport of college basketball.

What possessed Imus to say what he did is unclear. I haven't followed the details of Imus' side of the case. I did however, follow the animated Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer as she spoke poignantly of the wrongness of putting the team down.

She said the team had come far and accomplished much on the court. She spoke of the team's 40 point loss to Duke early in the season. For a team of 10, made up of five freshmen, to make it to the Championship game speaks legions of not only talent, but persistence and determination.

The problems Imus' tongue has created for him and his career are the secondary element in this story. With blazing indignation, the coach of the Rutgers team, a black woman who'd dealt with personal tragedy in her long struggle to the top, spoke for all minorities who'd felt the sting of discrimination.

The "ho" comment also displayed a primitve attitude towards women in general, not to mention the insult to Rutgers--an apparently decent school--and the sport of womens' basketball.

The valiant defense of Rutgers, its female student-athletes, and the honorable and spiritied performance of its team in the NCAA tourney made for high drama. Imus' hateful words became secondary to saluting the team, its accomplishments, the school, and its coach. Replacing the vitrolic dialogue was a message of hope for our minorities, that they could excel and achieve, despite the demeaning attitudes plaguing so many white males--the real villain of the story.

Blacks face racism all the time. Yet they are not really the exclusive victims of the attitude which Imus' comments exposed running beneath the veneer of racial equality. By insulting the racial orientation of blacks and women, racist comments reflect deep-seededd antagonism--perhaps even fear--of women succeeding, especially black women.

Unfortunately, we white people see the tenets of racism around us whenever blacks and whites meet. We all know someone, perhaps close to us or in our family, that makes a big deal of race. The discrimination may be subtle, whispered behind backs in the company of whites, but it is there. Like a cancer, the decent among us do nothing, so the evil can persist.

Whites who don't come into contact with racists--or blacks--may not see it so much, and that is good. But to think racism has been eased simply by the passage of time, think again. Racism is as alive today as it has been for centuries.

Like a equally evil cousin, sexism rides atop the racist beast. This is why white men of the racist persuasion reserve a special breed of anger for black women. Rather than champion their success against long odds, the racist will be compelled to put down, criticize, because the blacks and women have succeeded, not fallen, and thereby exceeded the lowly place in society assigned to them by the racist.

Sexists may be especially threatened by the ascension of Hillary and Nancy Pelosi, two white women who have changed the political landscape dramatically in just the past few years. Change is a threat, as is the ascension of women, and their power, and a climbing sense of self-respect earned through long, hard, years of unrecognized toil.

Racial injustice is not meant to be tolerated, especially by a major news entity that's responsible for providing millions of Americans with their news. What does Imus' two-week suspension say of NBC's tolerance for the use of racist and anti-female derrogatory terms? If NBC tolerates a slip of the tongue, that's one thing; if it keeps Imus it demonstrates tolerance for bigotry at the height of its media empire--as long as it's veiled and exposed only intermittedly.

What prior comments and utterances escaped Imus' lips? What other indications did the public have the Imus was a racist? Tracking back into Imus' history, bloggers may be revealing telltale signs that all was not well with Imus' attitude towards blacks or women. To add insult to injury, it's also possible certain blacks may have been offended in the past, and with the majority white community, with a disproportionally white media representation, older complaints about Imus may have gone heard but unlistened to.

Imus' apologists would argue the commentator simply made a mistake. Deep down inside, many may be sympathizing with another white male; blacks would be far more likely to say the racism was there, flowing beneath the surface, every day as it is in America.

Far easier is it to reconcile the ambivalence with which we deal with racism and sexism than it is to confront those attitudes with real indignation, and a sense that racism is an evil ideology. So tainted is our society with racism, that actually confronting the racist perceptions of other whites is far too deconstructive and potentially divisive.

Imus' comments that show the strength of currents that run through much larger slice of the white community than whites would like to admit.

I'd like to be able to say that racism was confined to the South, or rural areas, but it really isn't. And despite the de-codification of racist laws, justice works against the minority community here in the USA. Black males innundate the prison system, making up something like 1/3 of all prison inmates, three times their share of the population. And looking at election results in Cuyahoga County, we continue to see blacks disenfranchised in our election system. {See the excellent in-depth coverage at Wasserman and Firakis' freepress.org (their articles are on the right; another is here)

The crack epidemic and AIDS have torn through African American communities. Crack cocaine was apparently flown into our country to pay for the Contras and fund illegal interventions in Guatemala and El Salvador (see the Dateline video play on this page concerning reporter Gary Webb.)

It's hard to say exactly where AIDS come from, with some contending that the "monkey story" is completely fictious and that AIDS began in West Africa as a result of a hepatitis B vaccination program.}

Who knows how deep the racist agenda lies? We know it to be prolific, so much so that whites in positions of authority tend to let loose racial slurs quite regularly. While the vast majority of comments remain hidden, from time to time, those who abhor these values see them in those around us. And if we are not careful, and let those attitudes go unchecked, we find ourselves tempted to think likewise.

Kudos to the proud and brave Rutgers people and for making their accomplishments known, in the face of sexism and racism which Imus' comments show are quite popularly held.


- CBS affiliate KCAL offers the unfortunately titled "Rutgers Team Blasts Suspended Imus' Comments" and clips of the press conference here.

-Website, Rutger's Women's Basketball (Little news available there yet.)

-AP article "Rutgers women's team, coach speak out" posted on ESPN. See the additional links on the right side; video of press conference not functioning.

-Foxnews commentary and coverage on Youtube available here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Spring, A Time for Change

The warm weather has brought with it rumors of fresh hostilities in the Middle East. The ceasefire imposed on Israel in its punishment of Hezbullah is under pressure. Lebanon may come under by Israel attack.

There is also no shortage of friction between French forces in the south of that country and Israeli overflights. In one such flyover late last year, French peacekeepers came within seconds of firing upon Israeli jets.

Afghanistan is nearing basket-case proportions. Despite the near blackout on information coming out of the country, rumors of a resurgent Taliban are proving true and the threat far more grave than anticipated. The destabilizing influence on nuclear weapons-possessing Pakistan presents an additional threat to the War on Radical Islamic Fundamentalists (formerly the War on Terror.)

And at the crown of potential military disaster is the possibility of a US attack on Iran, which according to the Russians, come come as soon as Good Friday. I've posted extensive comments on Iran here on this blog and to summarize, I'd strongly recommend that the US reconsider military action.

Unfortunately, in a news environment dominated by propaganda, falsehood and belligerent rhetoric can quickly lead to unforeseen complications, as we are now seeing in the saga of 15 British sailors held by Iran. At this point, the back-and-forth, very public jabbering has led nowhere, although the "ratcheting up of tension" seems to be a favored description in the mainstream media. The Persian Gulf will soon see the arrival of a third American Aircraft Carrier Battle Group, described in the media as a display of American military power and high-profile source of security for our "allies in the region."

I would recommend that my readers vigorously participate in the debate over the use of military force against Iran. While the issue of Iranian involvement in terrorism has received extensive coverage, the present situation in Iraq makes any broadening of the military operation in Iraq extremely hazardous to our military forces in Iraq and would clearly run against any prospect of stabilizing the region.

Irbil Revisited

I mentioned in a previous post the seizure of Iranian diplomats in Arbil (also written as Irbil or Erbil) in January. Here's a description of the raid in The Independent:
"Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds."

The article continues, indicating a much more sinsiter purpose behind the raid:
"The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment...
...The two senior Iranian officers the US sought to capture were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Kurdish officials.
The two men were in Kurdistan on an official visit during which they met the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, and later saw Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), at his mountain headquarters overlooking Arbil.

"They were after Jafari," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, told The Independent. He confirmed that the Iranian office had been established in Arbil for a long time and was often visited by Kurds obtaining documents to visit Iran. "The Americans thought he [Jafari] was there," said Mr Hussein.

Still more:
In a little-noticed remark, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, told IRNA: "The objective of the Americans was to arrest Iranian security officials who had gone to Iraq to develop co-operation in the area of bilateral security."

US officials in Washington subsequently claimed that the five Iranian officials they did seize, who have not been seen since, were "suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces". This explanation never made much sense. No member of the US-led coalition has been killed in Arbil and there were no Sunni-Arab insurgents or Shia militiamen there.

The US military action was launched on the premise that Iran is actually engaged in sponsoring terrorism in Iraq. At the time the Media framed the raid as a effort to stop Iranian-sponsored terrorism; the capture was billed as the apprehension of Iranian officials involved in terrorism.

The Iranian government has no reason to sponsor Sunni insurgents. The vast majority of attacks on American soldiers come from IEDs placed in Sunni regions, Al Anbar province in particular. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a far larger contributors to American casualties than are the Shia, whose ethnocentrically dominated neighborhoods tend to be under the control of militias and factions with ties to Iranian fundamentalists. (Oddly enough the notorious Muqtada al-Sadr is Shia but said to be far more reconcilatory with Iraq Sunnis, and almost friendly to Iraq nationalists.)

Despite no motive for Iranian involvement in supplying the Sunni resistance, the US propaganda machine was hard at work claiming that Iranians had exported especially lethal forms of IEDs to Iraq. This despite the military's figures that attributed a marginal amount of American casualties to the new IEDs. What's more the accusation met general disbelief that the weapons would be sold to Sunnis by Iran, although there is a possibility they came through the Iranian black market rather than covertly supplied by the mullahs.

The story of Iranian IEDs lacked legs, and after a few weeks after the Irbil incident, claims of Iranian exports of high tech explosives to Iraq continued to be parrotted solely by the White House and a small group of chimers for the war.

Truth and reality diverge in the Administration's posturing. This is no surprise when we consider the potential motives affecting our foreign policy in the Mideast. While we claim to do one thing, we then move on when that goal fails. First it was WMD, then democracy, now stabilization--or am I missing a few of the Administration's throwaway goals? If we constantly shift our goals, it may be because we have failed or, perhaps even more tellingly, because those in power recognize the impossiblity of success, of going forward with one particular plan.

Propaganda serves political purposes, and initiating military conflict with Iran spreads the conflict, so by proxy we must assume that spreading the war to Iran serves some political goal. I've read that this broadening was Nixon's strategy in the end of Vietnam; Cambodia and Laos were target of American intervention (The movie The Killing Fields involved one scene where Sydney Schanberg learns of a grisly B-52 raid across the border into Cambodia. In his excellent monologue Swimming to Cambodia, Spalding Grey vividly reproduces the few lines he contributed in the role of a US embassy staffer in the movie.)

Spreading the conflict produces nothing positive for our military or our security, which also lends creedence to the idea motivations lie outside our strategic interests, somewhere in the geopolitical sphere.

The initial war creates a vaccuum of instability into which surrounding nations get sucked into, like some giant black hole.

Realpolitic involves the analysis of the international arena where the ambitions of political authority and military power meet, in expressions of the national resolve. Realpolitic understands the exercise of hard as opposed to soft power; the study of the raw denomination of authority rather than the more organic framework of international treaty, dialogue, and compromise, which is far less satisfactory to the ultranationalist Right.

I believe it was Grover Norquist who claimed the the purpose of the Iraq war was to destroy--or make obsolete--the foundation of international law. While the mostly unilateral action the United States took succeeded in the sense the will of the international community was ignored, the abandonment of the UN framework for resolution ended up dooming the US-led coalition. Other nations left Iraq as their political leadership faced angry consituencies back home. Even the British have announced their intention to leave, not coincidentally before the next election scheduled in that country. No politician facing election could possibly want their troops in Iraq.

Bush and Cheney sided with full militarization of the intelligence-gathering and war planning appartus before the war, siding with the Pentagon. The State Department and advocates for non-military action were entirely shut out of the planning process. Militarized, our foreign policy devalued the importance of planning and segregated opinions on predictions which differed from Rumsfeld on the size of the force needed and the White House on the risk Iraq presented.

Hard Facts

Realpolitic analysis would raise the possibility that Iraq is no longer about "victory" but is devolving into a damage control exercise with the intent to scale down our presence, yet preserve some benefit for our effort. The long term Production Sharing Agreements (P.S.A.s) birthed out of Iraq's new government agree to favorable terms for US multinationals for decades, which raises the issue of how those companies intend to safeguard their oil.

Serving a narrow constituency of Big Oil would be in keeping with the Bush Administration's cosy ties with that industry. As a matter of fact, Bush's first oil venture (Arbusto) fell through because of a low price on West Texas oil.

Since 2003 the price of oil has tripled, much to the delight of Bush's friends, the same ones who came up with a massive loan to secure Bush's proportional ownership in the Texas Rangers and their ballpark. Energy player Enron was the top contributor to Bush's 2000 Election Campaign, giving over a million dollars to Bush in various campaigns; we can't expect such massive donation not to have granted influence, which could have very easily stymied adequate regulatory enforcement.

Perhaps the most we can expect in return for our military escapade is establishing fear in whichever neighbors happen to border the target of our military conquest.

Spreading chaos far and wide will lead to a host of unforeseen consequences, and may even strengthen the strategic position of our enemies. Militarization of surrounding nations is inevitable; perhaps broadening the conflict helps create client states. Such a destructive impulse may be motivated by the arms export business, for which the British and Americans are worldwide leaders.

Whatever the underlying motives, it's clear that the Bush Administration's rhetoric is seeking a war or at least broadening of the conflict to a larger theatre. The multilateral and inherently anti-Muslim character of the War on Terror conveniently builds a threat profile around the enemies of Israel. Through AIPAC, the most powerful lobbying organ in the US, Israel has undeniably played a huge role in shaping our foreign policy in the Mideast.

The US is willing to destabilize Iran and Syria. The Clean Break strategy articulated by neocon advocate David Wurmser has been followed in US foreign policy and there's no reason to believe the strategies will not be followed, even with the consequences of military action so counterproductive, as Iraq has shown.

Probably through the exertion of influence on Bush, Vice President Cheney has used leading neocon think tanks and their plans to shape US policies. It appears the supporters of war at the Project for a New American Century, along with neocon allies scattered around the Beltway, provided not only the rationale for attacking Iraq but also often ideologically motivated plans which formed the basis for operational strategies. No matter how theoretical and inexperienced the adviser, loyalty was a far more favored qualification; important posts in Baghdad were filled with young, inexperienced former Bush campaign staffers.

The failure of the US to stabilize Iraq is in fact a product of the continued occupation. In other words the occupation justifies itself: security will be unattainable for as long as we infidels are there inciting attack.

So hard it is for so many to believe that the US could have actually failed to anticipate the aftereffects of invasion on the scale it did that conspiracy theories abound.

Nonetheless destabilization is a policy goal which fits what we have done to Iraq so far. Continued destabilization would concur with the long-term vision of a destabilized region and theoretically weaker capacity of Israel's enemies to threaten that country.

At this point, reality has trumped policy; the images that we must now confront are those of failure. The long-term result of our policies will be open-ended conflict along sectarian lines in Iraq. Domestically, politically, the price for continuing the occupation rises, which will likely incite serious summertime antiwar protests.

Perhaps a withdrawal would suffice to calm tensions; it remains to be seen if the promise of a force withdrawal would offset the war's growing unpopularity. If the Democratic leadership's moves are any indication of what's to come, popular discontent may in fact grow; the war's rich funding--conditional on performance benchmarks--will ensure that it continues.

More War Spending Bill

I'd been somewhat less critical of the bill floated before Bush by Congress in which limits on the length of deployment were offered in exchange for funding the war. The Congressional bill had also stipulated conditions that would have to be met in order to avoid a set withdrawal date of September 2008.

Apparently, the restrictions on the deployment of American troops past that date were very lax. On its website, United for Peace and Justice provides this article from Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Research which brings up some of the many exceptions to limiting the ongoing force.

If the bill really is complicit in the continued occupation, and incapable of changing our policy, this isn't the first time the Democrats have softened their antiwar stance. I, like millions of other Americans who voted Democratic in order to stop the war, harbor a special kind of anger for the Democrats retreat from ending the war. As we saw with the rejection of Rep. Murtha from the House Majority Position, so do we now see the signs of another betrayal of the promises which won the Democrats the 2006 election.

As Bennis and others have said, there is a war only with the continuation of funding for the war. Compromise may play a role in how we get out, but the American public has come down against the war--and for as long as the US has a military presence in Iraq, there will be an organized resistance and a war there.

Bush's stated intent to veto the bill may send the issue funding for the troops back to the House. At this point, stalling on the funding may force the Pentagon to reduce scheduled deployments. Bush is set up to blame Congress for not "supporting the troops" despite the fact it may be his veto that denies the troop the money. (I set out in my last post to prove that supporting the troops is really the antithesis of forcing our soldiers through forced service to occupy a nation, and risk death and permanaent injury at the mercy of people who hate them and wants us to leave their country.)

Whatever the political games played with the troops and the noxious redefinition of "supporting the troops," the US' strategy simply isn't getting results. For the war-monger and profiteers, the continuation of the war is a success; for those who don't have to risk the lives of sons and daughters, the cause is infinitely more tolerable.

Our troops only need the tremendous amount of funding because our strategy is not working. Success or progress on any level would have encouraged a reduction in US troop strength, instead we've seen our strategy shift to one of escalation! If the troops have been fully supported so far--something many of our returning veterans would dispute--, what results do we have to show for it?

The underfunding and privatization of the delivery of medical services for Iraq veterans proves that our troops haven't been adequately supported upon their return, where many of our returning soldiers carry dehabilitating injuries, in particularly those affecting the brain, as a result of explosion caused by Improvised Explosive Devices.

The political debate can continue to blame one side or the other for underfunding, but the ongoing crisis reflects the strain that our militarized foreign policy is placing on our Armed Services. Support for our troops must be considered both on and off the battlefield, and form not just a political accusation but a viable response to a crisis engineered by the war's early proponents and perpetuated by the unwillingness to recognize failure. True support for the troops should hold the supporters of war accountable for the troops they send and their suffering both over there and back here, since after the uniform come off, pain can persist.

The failure of the Adminsitration to recognize the consequence of an open-ended occupation is yet one more hallmark of incompetence in the White House's management of our foreign policy. Wars do drain manpower and equipment--were Bush and his neocon divas completely ignorant as to the inevitable consequences of the use of military force? The inability to anticipate the war's costs does put a tremendous burden of responsibility on the war's original advocates in the White House, and demmonstrates a failure of planning which should establish a strong precedent not to continue the existing policy of open-ended occupation without coherent objectives for the military to accomplish.

I've heard goals described as dreams with a timeframe attached. Without a specific goal, our policy in Iraq can only flounder. If we really want to stabilize the country, we must evaluate the contribution of our presence to the overall security environment--whether contributing to the betterment of the situation (the rate and scale of violence suggest not only a lack of progress but a digression.)

I've also heard insanity described as doing things that same way over again and expecting different results. Our policy in Iraq has failed to achieve any stability. No amount of funding can make us victorious in Iraq. The "support the troops" straw man may serve a poltiical agenda, but it masks the failure of our government to provide adequately for the troops who do come home.

And what of Iran? If the Administration is set on a new war or, perhaps more appropriately, expanding the Iraq theatre of operations to encompass Iran, why should we expect the result to be any different? The results speak for themselves in Iraq.

Broadening the war to Iraq will force a draft as the Shia rise up in support of their Iranian brethren. The draft will force even more political pressure on the power in charge, which could well control the Presidency and Congress. For the new President to inherit the Iraq war would be bad enough, to deal with war on an even -bigger scale would be nothing short of tortuous, and perhaps even treasonous, if the President who started it could leave the consequences of his decisions for his successor to deal with and thus avoid assuming responsibility for whatever he might choose to do in his remaining days in power.

Removing impeachment from the table really startled some political observers, who had heard for months from people like John Conyers of Michigan that crimes had been committed and investigation crucial. How distant must the memories of the new leading Democrats be? I can remember it was not so long ago that Conyers had to preside over a out-of-committee meeting in some Capitol Hill cellar to address the clear complicity of the Administration in the Downing Street Memos, which proved that the White House had "fixed the intelligence around the policy," in other words been to do whatever it needed to bring war with a nation that posed no threat.

Precedent would indicate that governments lie, but perhaps the scope of damage from Iraq has made this Administration's lies particularly grievous. And the precendent is extremely damaging to our credibility and global leadership position. The willingness to fabricate intelligence indicates that the Administration is willing to compromise its ethics in order to start wars which it seeks.

Bush and Cheney want to attack Iran. They will seek a justification for war and if they can't find it, they will make it up. For this reason, Americans cannot trust the Executive. We must instead rely on Congress, and even then we must confront the hypocrisy of yet more lies spread by politicians which were apparently designed to convince the American people that the Democratic Party sincerely wanted to end the war.

My Private War Against Warming

I apologize for the irregularity of my postings here. Spring has brought its usual assortment of distractions.

In the backyard, I've planted trees for aesthetic and CO2 reduction reasons. Greening of my environment has become increasingly important. Trees consume Carbon Dioxide, a primary cause of global warming.

I'm eager to do my part to decrese carbon dioxide (CO2.)

Destruction of rainforest contributes to increase C02 as the dense tropical vegitation is cut away. The more jungle cut down, the less CO2 is consumed by plants. The more CO2 left in the atmosphere, the more heat. And we are producing more and more greenhouse gases as we continue to use more energy.

Another set of problems develops as a secondary consequence of a slight rise in temperatures. Plant life consumes CO2 under the sea, where CO2 and methane are trapped in huge quantities. In the complex interactions between sea and its salinity, plant life in the ocean and methane trapped beneath the ocean surface, one imbalance can set off a chain of unforeseen consequences.

Methane is another major contributor to heating--far worse than CO2; I believe it's trapped under the artic tundra--and sea bed.

Where there is less snow or ice, the oceans absorb more heat. The additional heat in the water accelerates the warming process, and reduces further the surface ice.
The Arctic is projected to be ice-free by the middle of this century.


Spring is a time of change. As optimists, we often want to see the beauty in change. Americans in particular suffer from over-optimism, seeing for instance in Christianity the rebirth of Chirst, Easter.

I've heard some soul-searching evangelicals scold worshippers for their neglect of Christ's suffering--the hard part of his life.

Most of us Americans may succumb to the temptation of hope in a better world; let's hope it doesn't come at the expense of our compassion and awareness for the suffering of other

We as Americans do like to lead the world; it is a position from whihc we've only recently fallen. We pride ourselves on efficiency and classical fixation on big dreams and big ideas. We yearn to entertain our imaginations, and love freedon and worship it by shedding limitations and spurning tradition.

We've had a capacity for change, our nation has from seen itself as different from its peers, and inherently superior, capable of leading from the front edge of change, not dragged along screaming towards it.

So why must I ask, are we so slow to recognize the scope of the global warming problem? Is it that we don't want to see what is there before us, simply because it's not a rosy glimpse into the future?

I guess many choose to glide onward in autopilot rather than wake up to the problem before us. It's not American to persist in denial, it's a universally human characteristic. But as Americans, we owe it to our history and to our tradition of leadership to acknowledge the problems the world faces.

I think Americans would honestly agree to accept the problem of global warming. While some will perpetually remain in denial, it's not enough for business and political leaders to ignore global warming. Representatives of industry have been coming to Washington, DC, seeking leadership from the government.

Roosts of climate change denial exist in those companies which stand to lose the most from change. With so many billions in lost profits at stake, these Big Oil companies have funded misinformation campaigns that have delayed an effective response to the environmental changes.

TIme is a crucial factor in the fight on global warming; as I said above, changes can begin at even small temperature rises that increase warming. The only remaining scientific issues of contention are how much warming will occur and how soon. Yet unfortunately a plethora of unforeseen sources of contribution to global warming are emerging.

Eventually, mankind's contribution to global warming might be seen as a small but precipitating contribution to a larger atmospheric disaster brought about by what were initially small changes in winds, rainfall, and temperature.

Like dominoes, unforeseen consequences will pop up as global warming plays out. One very noticeable change seen in America is in the greater intensity and frequency of tornadoes and storm damage. Heated just slightly, climatic conditions once less conducive to the formation of storms become spawners of powerful low pressure cells called "supercells".

How are we to know what threshold sets off the creation of these mighty monsters? How much difference does a half degree, a full degree, make?

You may have heard the story of the beating of a fly's wing in Africa. The wind generated by the fly's wing contributes just enough extra energy to a passing cloud to let fall one additional raindrop. The extra water thens flow into a lake, then the ocean, where it evaporates and borne its gaseous form lift aloft where it reforms into a cloud, which being two hydrogen and one oxygen atom heavier, is enticed to form into a hurricane, which eventually crashes into the US mainland.

We do not know what makes our climate change, nor do we know how we are changing our climate in a complex and virtually unforeseeable chain of events.

Atmospheric heating has destabilized our planet's weather. Judging at least anecdotally from the extremities of weather in this country, drought and flood, reports of damage from clusters of tornadoes and extreme seem to be appearing more regularly, and the intensity of damage much higher.

Will one tree stop the problem? No, but if we Americans can work together in ways to reduce global warming, the consequences will be less dire. Rather than go on using energy in ways I have in the past, I'm trying to change and use less. The few changes I have made don't seem to have been expensive or that challenging, so we have zero excuses to continue to use as much energy as we do.

If we continue our ways, and new sources of oil are not found (Peak Oil), we will be forced to compete for dwindling supplies of petroleum, and maintain a presence in Iraq indefinitely to secure our supply. In this respect our gluttonous ways serve the peddlers of death and destruction, and encourage violence and a unshaky future based on unreliable foreign suppliers who may be funding terrorism.

Every drop of blood shed in the service of Mideastern oil represents the failure of Americans to change. The accumulation of gases produced by the combustion of fossil fuels presents a direct atmospheric threat to the stability of our planet.

The world is going to have to change. The world is gradually abandoning fossil fuels because of the damage they cause to the environment. We can follow or we can get ahead of the changes, it is our choice. It is clear to virtually all but a few that we must make serious changes to help the planet survive and begin them now.