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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Illegals here to stay, and other pressing realities

Amnesty Bill Fails

Trying to legalize large numbers of illegal aliens is proving difficult. Without the political will to move forward, illegal immigrants will continue to work in the shadows, where they are easily exploited. Payroll taxes might be paid but cannot be credited; a large criminal contingent within the group cannot be tracked. Insuring the health and autos of these people will remain elusive, creating a risk and liability for legal Americans.

Integration will be very slow in coming. The illegals here will continue to stay, whatever ICE might try to do, the most it can muster is an occasional selective raid on an isolated meat processing plant, where illegals may be unionizing--a situation I referred in my second-to-last post.

The longer that the US ignores the plight of its illegal population, the more likely states and municipalities are to pass laws that discriminate against this population. Their maltreatment comes despite their willingness to work unpopular jobs at low wages for the benefit of lower costs of living for the general population. And the costs of inaction include perpetuating an underclass whose children born here will receive citizenship while their parents live in fear of deportation. (Numerous children were left behind at the Smithfield raid.)

Time Magazine on June 18th described the situation:

"The estimated 12 million illegals are by their sheer numbers undeportable. More important, they are too enmeshed in a healthy US economy to be extracted."

The fiscal benefits of illegal immigration are passed on the the general population only if the economy reward the contributions of its workers. Instead, much of the productivity benefits have been passed on to the wealthy (owners of the means of production) who pay lower wages to illegals while wages for average Americans stagnate.

Average Americans may sense that illegals are necessary, but they may also be slow to grasp the benefits of a cheap workforce. Most likely they are intimidated by the prospect of competing against lower-paid workers. Anti-illegal sentiments are easily stirred up, a broader economic downturn could worsen the problem.

Illegals ultimately represent free trade, not in goods but in the global market for labor. NAFTA has created a single North American economy restricted only by the laws of the respective countries. Illegal immigration has conjoined the Mexican/American workforce, while persistently denying the egality of workers within the cooperative who just happen to come from Mexico, whose agricultural economy has been savaged by NAFTA, leading them to seek economic opportunity in the north.

While politicians may fear backlash for selling American citizenship, it's not like the illegals who've been in this country don't deserve citizenship. If after all someone can work in this country for years without committing crimes, speak our language, and learn our culture, they become de facto citizens. It's then only a question of whether we legally recognize them.

Trying to impose radical solutions on illegal immigration means deportation, which doesn't appear possible considering the impunioty which which our territorial integrity is currently being violated. Pulling illegals out now would rip families apart.
For Americans opposed to illegal immigration, there's simply been too much neglect of our borders to believe deportation is still a viable solution. For them, restoring our borders is the crucial task, so at least the human trafficking flow can be stopped going forward.

Since Clinton, who was deeply connected with the Tyson food processing company, there's been an effort to legalize illegal immigration. Big corporations like a supply of cheap labor at least until it organizes and pushes for higher wages, arguably a right of workers everywhere regardless of their immigration status.

Judging by the scope of corporate influence in Washington today, there will remain a considerable level of interest among politicians in maintaining the staus quo, letting illegals continue to flow in, then avoiding any substantive management of the issue--like amnesty--that could cause popularize the case against illegal immigration.

Back to the Future

Two posts ago I reviewed the movie Children of Men and concluded that immigrants are too integrated into secular democracies to be ethnically cleansed. The internecine tribal rivalries which are at the heart of so much ethnic violence today don't exist in the Western world.

I did however believe that governments could commit greivous acts upon human dignity with gross indifference to the value of human life. This was epitomized in the movie's final refugee camp scene, where innocents were slaughtered alongside the rebels, who'd apparently by chance chosen one particular building--filled with families of refugees--to make their stand.

I did mention the Lebanese refugee camp battles that had just begun in the north of that country, near Tripoli. Palestinians militants within the camps have an effective human shield, whihc makes collateral damage and casualties high on both sides--7 Lebanese troops were killed recently, weeks after the initial incursion into the camp by the Lebanese army as they try to find the criminal element within the camp.

Whole families Palestinian refugees have been stuck in these dismal outdoor prisons for decades. The conditions in these camps are atrocious. Coverage on the plight of Palestinians has largely been suppressed in the American media, largely out of sympathy for Israel, which unfortunately leads to the dehumanization of the Palestinians in the media as Israel positions itself as the uncontested authority over Gaza and the West Bank, vast portions of which have been ethnically cleansed of Palestinians.

Where do the cleansed Palestinians go? Places like the Nahr El-Bared camp, that's where.

Countries like Lebanon and Jordan have taken in large numbers of Palestinians, yet they've been treated as second-class citizens, rarely given the rights they might receive in Israel, for instance, if that country were to let them stay in the territories they've colonized. Instead, they are confined to refugee camps, classified as aliens, denied education and opportunity. It should come as no surprise that they rise up or are vulnerable to radicalization since they've been marginalized economically and politically. In perhaps the same way riots are bound to occur in American ghettos where blacks and Latinos face similar challenges, albeit without as much institutionalized segregation, otherwise known as apartheid.

Sickness abounds in these camps. It's as if the children which live there have been intentionally targetted. While there's no evidence of willful poisoning of refugee populations in Lebanon, like the US did in passing out cholera-laced blankets to Native Americans, the motive for using biological warfare tools to exterminate problem populations is clearly there. Or, quite simply, authorities can simply ignore the evils that befall the refugees by choosing to do nothing and let the conditions enveloping the refugees determine their fate without any intervention.

While doing nothing is morally tantamount to committing acts of gross indifference to human life, local civilian population have been able to look the other way. During World War Two, German locals living near Nazi death camps claimed ignorance as to what occurred, chalking up the ashes falling from the sky as particles of ordinary furnace pollution. US troops liberating the camps forced them to help clear the camps out, a scene well done in a latter episode from the Band of Brothers series.


Children of Men's futuristic nightmare is based on the premise women can no longer bear children. While I found that idea implausible, I've subsequently found some troubling indicators that infertility is becoming a rapidly growing problem, largely due to the increased level of chemicals in our environment.

Since watching the movie, I've noticed references to fertility issues with a plastic compound called BPA. BPA can leach from plastic polycarbonate containers and is of particular danger to the reproductive systems of women and the young. Sierra Club has issued a warning about some plastic containers.

I think infertility has a place in plausible scenario where it is less then total, perhaps even endemic yet not universal. The best example of infertility this might be Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, where fertile women are separated from the infertile and designated bridesmaids to the theocrat leaders of a future America. The infertile end up in camps where they are brutalized by police state government.

If pollution levels increase, and corporate-dominated governments are unwilling to impose restrictions on pollution, fertility will continue to decline. Ironically, growth in pollutants could also cause increased global warming, which would stimulate intervention and regulation, rather than the relaxation of standards. As a matter of fact, the scope of the global warming consequences might encourage the formation of a draconian, New World Order-type of government that would theoretically be needed to deal with the relocations and other problems caused by the phenomena.

The more integrated corporate objectives become in setting government policy, the more likely we are to have a laissez-faire approach to managing pollution, as pollution controls are accused of hurting the economy and damaging profits, particularly by the "pro-business" Right. In actuality, pollution reduction can reduce illness in the general population, which in a society with universal health care would reduce overall government outlays, putting governmental priorities into conflict with free-market (read unregulated) capitalism.

Reducing fertility would do tremendous damage unless immigrants from more fertile populations were allowed in, which would greatly change the make-up of the population in short order. The political structure would be threatened by infertility among Americans of European descent, who form the racist ideal at the political core of the country. If government were run exclusively for the benefit of an exclusive elite, like Atwood's theocrats, there might be little concern over increased infertility among the general population, unless their own bloodlines were imperiled.

Prisoner Abuse

The atrocious conduct of supposedly good guys--the troops from the Western democracies--in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo provides a potent warning flag. We know from the Stanford experiments that good people can commit perverse acts when given free control over captives.

With memories of 9/11, and a green light from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and their superiors, guards at military prisons had both motive and opportunity to commit abuses. These began as a call for "actionable intelligence" in Iraq in 2004 as the insurgency was beginning. Guantanamo prison supervisor Major General Miller was given command of Iraqi detainees; he brought his "harsh interrogation techniques" with him.

If interdicting the rise of the insurgency was the intention of all the prisoner abuse, Miller and the "recycled hillbillies" running Abu Ghraib certainly failed. As any honest student of interrogation will tell you, the results of torture--which the despicable acts perpetrated at Abu Ghraib must be considered--are notoriously unreliable. And the lack of results also testifies to the ineffectiveness of torture as a deterrent; many Iraqi undoubtedly took what happened at Abu Ghraib and other prisons under US military supervision as an insult to their religion and pride, which any counterinsurgency expert will tell you will embolden resistance not inhibit it.

So torture doesn't really work as a means of gathering intelligence or as a punitive disencouragement. If someone believes with sufficient vigor in their cause, they might consider the risks of apprehension and torture as the price of their convictions. The fact is that torture, called whatever it might be by the guilty parties, may in fact embolden insurgents by providing a moral basis for resistance. Resistance fighters in France were inhibited not in the least by Nazi brutalities; so total was their commitment to liberty for France that the consequences of capture motivated the resistance into acts of extreme bravery.

This isn't to say insurgents don't resort to similar acts of brutality when dealing with people they believe to be government sympathizers or informants. In the movie Children of Men the rebels are even more brutal in dealing with threats, arbitrarily killing any who oppose their hate-filled agenda. Destruction is their end, any methods are rationalized in the name of opposing government oppression.

The Stanford experiment showed the need for strict control over guards. An adherence to morally and legally acceptable procedures is vital to the administration of justice in a prison environment. Arbitrary arrest and detention can be bad; the treatments that befall the incarcerated can be positively horrific if legal standards aren't maintained. The Standord experiments--which used middle-class college kids as guards and prisoners--had to be stopped because those overseeing the experiment felt they had lost control over the guards, so atrocious their behavior had become in just a few days.

Even a disciplined, experience prison guard could quite easily lose it if given the 9/11 excuse, which might be more applicable in Guantanamo than Abu Ghraib considering the Iraqis had nothing to do with the bombings in New York. The "high value detainees" brought to the Cuban base may have been associated with al Qa'eda or not--the premise for creating the Gitmo prison was undoubtedly that the terrorists held there were guilty and knew something of value in the ongoing war against terror. Never mind that the interrogation techniques might actually get results out of the desire of the victims of torture to end their sufferings.

One example of interrogators hearing all they wanted to hear--and then some--may have been Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11. KSM, as he is referred to, apparently did everything for al Qaeda except maybe their limo driving for which another man stands accused.

Khalid Shiek Mohammed's sons were allegedly detained by US forces:

"In September 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's two young sons, aged seven and nine, were arrested. According to eyewitnesses, the two were held in an adult detention center for at least four months while U.S. agents questioned the children about their father's whereabouts." (Source)

KSM was allegedly waterboarded--which is a clear practice of torture--and proceeded to spill his guts. Deciphering the truth out of what Mohammed has confessed to is proving to be impossible. Admitted to a myriad of crimes--probably including some we never directly accused him of--KSM must have been a good example of the effectiveness of torture, at least until the breadth of his confessions brought into question the plausibility of individual confessions. Underlings must have pleased their political bosses in Washington who'd been eager to pin 9/11 on him and al Qaeda.

In the torture chamber, or on the rack, at a certain point it matters not who did what. The only thing important to the victim is ending the experience.

The movie Children of Men captures the inevitable outcome of government oppression and brutality. While we don't see torture, we do see the systemic rape of human dignity and we are left to imagine what horrors might befall dissidents and rebels captured by government forces.

Intelligence derived through torture is virtually worthless, and the torture appears to motivate insurgents.

As I said in a recent post, any force will be opposed by a force of equal strength: resistance hardens and the government resorts to arbitrary acts of violence and repression, which feeds the cause of resistance.

Limits on Military Power

Military solutions are inherently counterproductive in the long-term when victory is contingent on the open-end occupation of hostile foreign lands--in Asia no less. Sadly we've known this since Vietnam, when we tried to win the hearts and minds of Vietnamese.

Opting for a more streamlined solution in the War on Terror, we've essentially taken a step backward to the days before Vietnam, when the myth of American invincibility emphasized a militarized approach in competing with communism. Soft power--American influence and popularity--was undervalued and underutilized as it provided no big bang yet was a consistently effective means of imposing limits on the spread of communism, ultimately defeating it economically.

Instead of treating the Vietnamese with respect, and fighting communists with alternatives to violence, we lashed out, killing some two million Vietnamese (1/7th of their total population) in the process of saving them from communism. We reapt a whirlwind that end up costing us 50,000 American lives and a good chunk of our national pride.

On to Iraq: what in our approach shows we've learned from our failure in Vietnam? It's only now that non-military solutions have started to get the attention they deserve in the mainstream media. The central finding of the Iraq Studies Group extolled the value of political and economic approaches and resolved that military solutions alone were incapable of resolving the insurgency. Bush ignored the group's findings; in my opinion he's been aiming for a long-term "solution" to Iraq that involves extracting its oil.

The desire to look strong against our enemies has led politicians to disdain non-militarized solutions to our problems in Iraq. Perceptions that Vietnam was winnable have also lingered.

The illusion of American invincibility has forced us down a violent path of escalation and reduced effectiveness in combating the insurgency. Our primitive approach that relies purely on the projection of military power has only created more resistance which has cost us American lives, although not as many perhaps as in Vietnam although our death rate does seem to be climbing as our troop presence grows and the occupation drags on.

I've said that our occupation has been intentionally mismanaged. I believe the extraction of Iraqi oil to be the long-term objective of the invasion and to do that we need a pretext for an ongoing military presence that can force compliance with our will upon Iraq's government in Baghdad. The pretext for our ongoign presence will undoubtedly be resistance by Sunnis to Shia rule. If the Shia are too strong and dominate the Sunni, the US is no longer needed in Iraq and Big Oil can't get its prize (a prize for which the American public has offered 3,500 of its bravest.) So it was with little suprise and a fair amount of outrage that I recently read that the US has been arming Sunnis.

Divide and conquer has allowed us to play on ethnic differences. Yet to really work for the benefit of oil extraction, the two sides must be continually supplied with weaponry, which is clearly to the advantage of the military industrial complex in the US and UK, the world's top two arms exporting nations. Wars need weapons and ammunition to be fought. In Iraq's case, arms dealers can sell to both sides and the Americans.

And the continuation of the war brings big profits to companies like Halliburton, whose patronage can be traced to the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney. Endless war means endless profits for politically connected industrialists who supply the war machine--a market controlled by federal contracts and inside deals worth hundreds of billions.

Combined with the tripling in the price of oil and corresponding doubling or more of oil industry profits, another industry with close connections to the Bush White House, Big Oil, has done well by seeding instability in the Middle East. Ending the Iraqi occupation would stabilize the region and bring oil prices down, costing Big Oil billions. Better for them that they can enjoy favorable PSAs (Production Sharing Agreements) which offer more than double the usual take as part of a "security premium" associated with developing Iraq's oil fields.

American legions under Big Oil-friendly George Bush have turned Iraq into a mess that allows foreigner oil concerns to buy Iraqi oil fields at huge discounts, purportedly to compensate for the risks of investing into the country's oil infrastructure in such a dangerous time.

In the sense that the Occupation provides a rich stream of revenue to Big Oil and war profiteers, mismanagement of the Iraqi war continues to be a smashing success, despite the human costs of their blood money. If the occupation were to end, and Iraq stabilize, American firms would undoubtedly lose out and have to compete against equally qualified competitors in extracting Iraqi oil.

In a liberated Iraq oil sales would be made in Euros (currently all oil sales are denominated in dollars or pounds, which greatly increases demand for those currencies) as Saddam began to do shortly before the invasion. The Iranians have tried to move away from dollars in a new oil-trading bourse, which would greatly reduce demand for the US dollar and undermine its value.

So far the Russians and Chinese seem content to buy dollars to pay for the oil; the latter country has a vast sum of dollars from its exports to the US that it needs to spend somewhere.

Politics as usual

Congress spends on our military and the Pentagon funnels contracts to politically connected firms. Most of the favored companies are at the present time owned or run by Republicans, but the Democrats appear more than willing to keep the money flowing for the war, which could indicate that future beneficiaries of defense spending might be connected to Democrats.

Richard Dreyfuss' excellent article on this topic was originally posted on TomDispatch and is available here.

Some analysts think the Democrats are hesitant to stop the war because it presents such a liability for their political opposition. This position is highly cynical and would mean that the Demos are willing to sacrifice American soldiers in what they think to be a lost cause in order to position themselves better for a run at the White House.

The idea, which came out during Kerry's run in 2004, is that Democrats must appear hard on terror and strong on security, under the presumption that these areas are weak spots for Democratic candidates. Paradoxically, the effort to seem tough may have made the Democrats into Republicans in supporting the war despite the liability it's clearly become.

A much less publicized rationale for sustaining the war might be good old fashion war profiteering. Long before Democrats were ever perceived as weak as terror, there were people like 'Scoop' Jackson, a Southern Democrat, who advocated big run-ups in defense spending. Many Democrats have defense industries, like Lieberman's submarines in Connecticut, that would be hurt by decreased defense spending, despite the obvious fact submarines are of marginal value in fighting terror.

Geopolitical Realities

The reasons for continuation of the war really don't matter, the consequences do. One clear outcome has been the weakening of US troop strength capability.

The recent large-scale incursion of Turkish troops in Northern Iraq is symptomatic of inadequate force-strength along the northern border.

As troops are deployed to other volatile areas in Iraq, its borders remain porous, allowing neighboring countries to violate Iraqi sovereignity.

Countries like Saudi Arabia have stated their intent not to let Iraqi Shia decimate the Sunni population, so they, like the US, are likely supplying Sunni insurgents. Should the US occupation end, the possibility of a proxy war fought between Iranian-backed Shia and Saudi-backed Sunnis would spike. Al Qaeda in Iraq is an organization which may have faced some setbacks in Sunni tribal territories on account of its brutality. Like the Americans, many al Qaeda are outsiders and Sunni tribal leaders seem to have quickly grown angry with the group's unsavory methods.

The only positive outcome in Iraq is one in which the nation takes responsibility for itself, a condition which is firmly rooted in the idea of self-determination, or a state of minimal dependence on foreign states or non-state actors.

The additional border-monitoring responsibilities associated with occupying Iraq are just one more reason for the US to acknowledge the presence of immutable boundaries limiting our capacity to projecting military power. Preserving Iraq's territorial integrity is a clear prerequisite for establishing de facto sovereignity. Sealing Iraq's borders, as important a task as it is, ultimately falls to Iraqis. And if Iraq can't seal its borders, terrorists and hostile military forces from neighboring countries will act with impunity, whether against the US or one of the internal factions vying for power.

Whatever the consequences of withdrawal, the benefits to our enemies of remaining engaged in Iraq far outweigh whatever benefits our ongoing occupation could bring, at least from a strategic perspective. Economically, the vast oil wealth beneath Iraq could represent a big win for Big Oil, if they're able to function long-term in Iraq without ongoing US military support to prop up a sympathetic regime in Baghdad, a task which increasingly appears challenging.

Meanwhile, the benefits of extraction flow to large energy companies, who get to profit from cheap oil made available to them through a war of conquest funded by taxpayers. The American public is then charged higher "war" prices at the pump, for oil paid for in American lives in a war of conquest subsidized with taxpayer funds from the same public that is their captive market.

Other Resources

Keith Olbermann has a good rundown on the terror alerts issued by the Bush Administration and their suspicious timing. Scroll down about halfway on the transcript of Olbermann's show to the "Nexus of Politics and Terror" or find the video under <> at MSN Video. Olberman also discussed the issue on his show August 14th, 2006 (?).

Just like Vietnam, the War on Terror has been politicized. Ironic it is that many Republicans blame politics as the reason for defeat in Vietnam when they've let political motives creep into the ways wars are fought, rather than let the generals fight the war unencumbered by political agendas. (Coincidentally, another retired general--Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded American forces in Iraq, has come out against the war.)

One warning sign of politicization with the War on Terror were the average expenditures on a per capita basis: Wyoming came out ahead of New York City. Another example of politics being played in clear contradiction to the national security interest was the Plame outing. How quickly the Right denigrated Plame, ignoring her leadership role as a covert agent engaged in efforts to stop WMD proliferation. A good overview of the outing from Robert Parry is available here.

The War on Terror has been a vehicle to expand State spending, and launched us in two open-ended interventions. Wars are appealing to the State as they glorify the State through the sacrifice of patriotic soldiers, which personalizes the war effort amongst the population. The results of the war have been pathetic so far, diminishing US credibility and overextending our military, who must now follow vague, politically focused goals under increasing strain and a worsening geopolitical situation.



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