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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Impeachment Denied, Arms Dealing, and the Defense of Israel

Cindy Sheehan wound up her march from Crawford, Texas, to the Capitol Hill offices of Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Sheehan discussed the impeachment issue with Conyers, participating in a small group session with the Michigan Democrat. According to Marc Parent's blog, Sheehan was visibly angered after the meeting. She and 30 other demonstrators subsequently returned to Conyers' office and were arrested.

Parent rightfully castigates Conyers for his off-and-on support for bringing the issue of impeachment before his committee.

Rosa Parks had worked in a much younger Conyers' office; arresting the peaceful demonstrated shames her legacy, Parent believes.

Parent reflects on the role of peaceful sit-ins in changing the civil code of our nations: "It was, after all, sit-ins that helped lead to the Voting Rights Act which allowed African American candidates like Conyers to finally win seats in the US Congress."

A conclusion that the Democrats have sold out the antiwar movement appears increasingly convincing; worse, they seem to have lost touch with the progressive roots of their party. Parent concludes:

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the Democratic Party—Congressional Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus included--has become nothing but a dried out husk, living on old glories and devoid of any principle other than returning its elected officials to their offices and their perks, year after year."

As Iraq drags on and the Democrats appear unwilling to confront the President in any way more meaningful than rhetoric, the Democratic Party appears wholly inconsequential. Democrats appear unable to perform the much-needed duties of any opposition party: confronting the ruling party.

I've brought up before the very unsettling possibility that the Democrats are sitting on the Iraq war until the next election cycle.

Some practical realities do limit the Democrat's ability to start a withdrawal, most notably the reluctance of the Administration to consider departure. The constantly delayed time needed to appraise "progress" has become little more than an exercise in procrastination.

Results matter. Failing to stop the war may not excuse the Democrats' apparent lack of resolve in minds of voters come next November. The Democrats ascended to control of the Congress by opposing the war; they could certainly bungle what could be a massive victory if antiwar Republicans can achieve more to end the war, a possibility that increases as Bush reign draws to and end and maintaining cohesion with the Party over Iraq becomes less relevant than political survival.

Surely the Republicans saw firsthand the popular benefits of an antiwar stance as it brought the Democrats to power. At a bare minimum, Republicans must oppose the war at least rhetorically which is, sadly, the sole contribution made to the antiwar cause by the Democrats to date. From the example given them by their ostensible competition, maybe Republicans also learned that they could abandon their rhetoric the day after the election, and stall on Iraq come 2009. Eventually, though, there will be hell to pay for incumbents if the war persists and worsens, which it most certainly will.

Politicans representing 18% of our nation's population can forestall any vote in the Senate. This number, I believe, involves tally up the number of Senators capable of a filibuster--41 perhaps--and the lowest combined population of the 20 and 1/2 states those Senators represent. A quick scan of the less populated, traditionally conservative mountain west and Great Plains states could easily produce the votes in the Senate to block any action.

I've alluded to the past about defection from Senators like Lugar, who've spoken out against the Administration's policies in Iraq. Some like Voinovich from Ohio have been particularly blunt, even saying that Bush has "f*cked up" the war. Unfortunately for the case of putting the nation's best interest above partisanship, Lugar and other supposedly anti-war senators voted against the withdrawal plan, which appears the best that the Democrats can do to stop the war.

Perhaps these Senators do buy into the thin logic that the war should not be fought on a timetable, but rather be resolved by commanders in the field. While highly nationalistic, the idea that miltiary solutions will produce a settlement are central to the current policies in Iraq. On the other hand, we cannot win in Iraq if, as many generals have said, political solutions are excluded. The outcome will be eventually be resolved in the political arena, and not arise as a result of military efforts.

By scorning any possible method for bringing the US occupation of Iraq to an end, these Senators are contributing de facto support for continuation of the war. Worse, the failure to agree on any specific withdrawal process means that our current strategies remain unchallenged. No pressure is put on the military to acheive specific goals by a specific timeframe. Every little step forward in ending the war seems to be weighted down with the talk of "legislating failure" or forced timetables.

In the Democratic Presidential Debate July 23rd, the length of time withdrawal from Iraq could take became an issue of importance. In short, any possible problem that departure could cause becomes a reason to not leave. This avoidance of any exit strategy beckons us to expect a better result by avoiding any changes or, in other words, continuing to do things as we have.

In measuring victory, could we have called World War 2 a victory if it had gone on for 20 years? Departure is synonymous with victory; we get out because we've won.

I've long made the point that the Administration has hedged on clear objectives because it can avoid accountability when progress is measured, which it must be, and not by the military or President in rhetorical announcements of progress being made, but rather in arbitrary and transparent goals subjected to outside monitoring.

What is it about leaving that scares Bush and friends so much? Could it be that the hundreds of billions fed into our war machine and the pockets of profiteers like Dubai-based, Cheney-owned Halliburton could come to an end if we leave?

We know that Cheney held a secret energy task force meeting early in the Administration's tenure, months before 9/11. Maps of Iraq oil fields were examined during the course of that meeting. Its minutes were excluded from the public domain on the grounds of ever-ubiquitous "national security," at least according to a ruling by Federal Judge John Bates, appointed by Bush in 2001.

Bates recently re-emerged in the spotlight in his dismissal of Plame's lawsuit against Cheney and other "unnamed co-conspirators". Bates is a White House guardian, an activist judge fighting to protect the man that appointed him. Matt Apuzzo's article in HuffPo gives the details; the AP version skips the background on Bates, not surprisingly. Democrats.com has a work-up on Bates here.


I'd said in my last post that the United Kingdom was the world's second-largest arms exporter.

The nation has fallen from a perch as number two exporter which it held during the 90's.

The BBC cites a 2002 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report placing the UK in fourth, with USD 1.1 Trillion.

This somewhat dated graph shows the world's largest arms exporters.

Russia surged to first in 2001 according to the article, although it presumes Russian supremacy in the arms trade to be "shortlived".

I wasn't able to download the most recent data from SIPRI, but according to the group's 2007 report Russia and the US are about even with 30% of the world's arms exports, while the EU trails collectively with about 20%. A .pdf summary and video presentation on the organization's finding is available here.

A 1995 arms report (graph 1/3 of way down) shows the UK in second as a percentage of world exports.

Trading Arms

The business of supplying arms revolves around wars, so the industry must certainly be pleased with the bellicosity and new paradigm built around wars of aggression launched in the name of fighting terror.

Iraq has been particularly good for weapons dealers. A New York Times article I cited a few posts back claimed that we were supplying the Sunni tribes with arms.

Simultaneously we are naturally exploiting our position of control to turn Iraqi into a client state buying weapons from us. Through subsidies, loans, and a flow of military aid, these official channels feed money back into the hands of American contractors, who deliver their weapons to Shia.

Like the US, the arms export business wields tremendous political influence in London. Many war critics attribute Blair's decision to go to war to the influence of the arms industry. The industry's role in formulating government policy remains a sensitive spot.

With so many of the connections between military contractors and the governments both here and in the UK shrouded in mystery--cloaked in the national security need for secrecy--the public can only guess at the extent of influence exerted on the behalf of military contractors. The antiwar's healthy skepticism over militarized solutions to foreign policy dilemnas, many artificially created, is well founded.

It was after all the efforts of then-Vice President George HW Bush senior that extend massive loan guarantees to Iraq in the eighties. The weapons--including chemical ones--may have punished our arch-enemy Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, but they also impoverished Iraq and arguably led to its seizure of Kuwait in 1990. (Bush Sr. had supposedly told Saddam that the US had no problem with the action.)

The Roots of War

Military contractors play a huge role in formulating foreign policies behind the scenes. By funding Right-wing think tanks that exaggerate threats to the US, new enemies can be manufactured and the need for future military action seeded in public opinion.

Perhaps the most suspicious behavoirs occured in the early 1990's, when the end of the Cold War coincided with what was potentially a steep drop-off in defense expenditures, called the peace dividend.

Much has been said of the neocons' role in formulating policy under Bush II, but before Richard Perle created the Project for the New American Century in the 1997, there were two documents that helped beef up the military in the aftermath of the Cold War.

According to Jim Lobe and Michael Flynn's "The Rise and Decline of Neoconservatives", one position paper was a draft of the Defense Planning Guidance, which assigned to the US military new goals new responsibilities in protecting America's position as the world's only and newly uncontested status as a hyper-power.

The International Relations Center's Right Web website provides a profile of the 1992 Draft Defense Planning Guidance which states:
...the draft DPG called for massive increases in defense spending, the assertion of lone superpower status, the prevention of the emergence of any regional competitors, the use of preventive—or preemptive—force, and the idea of forsaking multilateralism if it didn't suit U.S. interests. It called for intervening in disputes throughout the globe, even when the disputes were not directly related to U.S. interests, arguing that the United States should "retain the preeminent responsibility for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends..."

By allies, we can only presume the national interest of the State of Israel, a country which is far more than a friend or simple ally: in the Middle East, it's Israel that forms US foreign policy goals.

The neocon ties to Israel run deep, deep enough to raise question of where loyalties lie. PNAC-founder Perle had in fact been caught accepting bribes from an Israeli company earlier in his career; he'd also lost his security clearance by giving secret information to the Israeli government in the early 70's.

Links between neocons and the Israel Right-wing (Likud) are far-reaching; by developing a hard line in American foreign policy against Israel's enemies, the Likud-sympathizers could forge a tighter, mutually beneficial relationship with their friends in Israel.

The progress of the neocon agenda displays the solidarity with Israel, or more specifically, Zionist principles within the Israeli political scene which emphasize territorial aggression and confrontation with Iran and any other Arab state perceived to threaten Israel.

As advisers with tight ties to Israeli Right-wingers gained influence with the President through their most notable advocate, Dick Cheney, the impact made on our Israeli-dominated foreign policy were made clear.

US foreign policy in the Middle East is crafted around the perceived security needs of Israel or, more specifically, a militaristic solution offered by the Israeli right as a method of dealing with the threat its enemies pose.

A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” by David Wurmser offers a 1996 plan for Israeli policies in the Middle East.

Clean Break's main goal has been to remove regimes in Iraq and Syria, and destabilize Iran. In a sequence of actions supporting US aggression towards Israel's enemies--in line with Clean Break--the Israeli-centric policies have been brought into reality by the efforts of neocons within the Bush Administration.

In the sense the Israelis have managed to shape US foreign policy in the Middle East, they've succeeded beyond all expectations. The American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) has been able to curtail any criticism of Israeli tactics or behaviors. The intervening years have also seen a dismantling of any reasonable solution to the Palestinian issue, the construction of an apartheid wall, and a second entifatah.

For advocates of military force, the abandonment of peaceful alternatives has been a boon. Yet even with a highly sympathetic American President, there are limits to Israel's geopolitical and military power. As the war last year in Lebanon showed, Hezbollah has become powerful, dug in, and well equipped with sophisticated Iranian-made rockets. Nothing short of a long-term war and open-ended occupation could hope to roll back Hezbollah.

So whatever the scheming of Perle and his confederates, and the mighty heights to which neocon control over US foregin policy have soared, limits to the US-Israel nexus can stretch shared objectives only so far. As the unpopularity of Iraq and Afghanistan grow, the "special relationship" with Israel will be imperiled. As our foreign policy faces blowback, so too could the influence of Zionist sympathizers, many of whom (Perle, Fukuyama, etc.) have already conceded that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

Perhaps an acknowledgment of the limitations in the effectiveness of military force lurks behind the abandonment of Clean Break. Still, the Zionist-centered policies remain influential-encouraging military action still against Iran.

The political damage that the US' wars of aggression could do might in fact exceed the benefits of achieving the Zionist-oriented objectives of the neocons, and in that way stygmatize the organs of Israeli political influence ("the Lobby") as they try to preserve the Special Relationship. If politicians are seen as caving in to Israeli influence, they could conceivably be susceptible to criticism, assuming rival candidates are willing to risk confronting the role of Israel in shaping our foreign policy.

Sympathy for Israel seems non-partisan. This may be due to the vetting process where candidates who don't unconditionally support the "defense of the State of Israel" are marginalized by the political leadership of both political parties, each of which is heavily influenced by "Israel-first" lobbyists and money.

The mainstream media has downplayed the link between Israeli Right-wingers and the disproportional and militaristic influence they've had in shaping US foreign policy. As long as the media avoids any possible scrutiny of Israeli influence, the public might remain ignorant as to the narrow policy agenda at the root of our current entanglements.

While the MSM might like to think of itself as the sole source of all information for Americans, droves have turned away to alternative sources of news as conglomerate-driven content softens into infotainment.

With the abandonment of traditional news channels comes new threats to MSM hegemony over what Americans think about Israel. Americans may in fact come to learn a great deal about the role Zionism has played in launching our wars in the Middle East. Theoretically, anti-semitism and isolationism could arise in response, both of which could undermine future efforts to affect American politics by people sympathic to the Jewish state.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Confronting Iraq: Exposing Propaganda and Overcoming Denial

Norm Solomon's War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits keep spinning us to death is coming out in video documentary form narrated by Sean Penn. I've been working my way through the book; it's packed with a littany of techniques used by American Presidents to construct a positive political reception for acts of military aggression.

Iraqi is proving a text book case of selling the war, a topic I discussed previously in regard to Bill Moyer's special on Selling the War. I'd also referenced a book an interview by Bill Moyers of Carlo Bonini, author of the book Collusion on the Niger forgery documents. The placement and processing of the Niger documents provides evidence of a conspiracy to fabricate intelligence in support of the war.

The infamous 16 Words worked their way into the State of the Union address in January 2003. Iraq had allegedly sought to buy large quantities of yellowcake in Niger, a statement attributed to British intelligence, which related to a forged letter procured in Rome. The Bonini interview exposes the dark roots of the documents, the flow of intelligence, and the manipulation which elevated the intelligence beyond scrutiny.

The release of other questionable intelligence--later designated as "faulty"--led to the 16 Words, circumventing the fact-checking role traditionally assigned to the CIA over the State of the Union.

We saw a similar parallel with WMD allegations directed at Iraq, where statements of possibility were framed as certainties of fact through an intelligence-gathering apparatus with a strong pro-war bias. Run by Cheney, with Wolfowitz, Feith, and other advocates for war, a general propaganda thrust was made by the White House Iraq Group to build the case for an Iraqi war based on 1) terror and 2) WMD.

The Administration is enduring major blowback from Iraq and the justifications made for the war are being examined in detail. The more unpopular the war, the more criticism the White House faces over its pre-war intelligence claims. Attributing intelligence mistakes to unintentional error may be insufficient cover for the scale of the intervention into and manipulation of the intelligence-gathering process by the Administration.

Avoiding Blowback

Avoiding additional damage required preemptive damage control in the lead-up to the 2004 Election. The fabricated and untested intelligence had been converted to assertions of fact in the Administration's headlong rush to war. To put one of these statements--that Iraq had been seeking yelllowcake--under scrutiny would imperil the whole of the case and worse, spotlight the White House's illicit effort to insert propaganda favorable to starting the war.

Plame's outing may have sent a message sent to government employees who might be tempted to blow the whistle on the fallacious evidence or the conspiratorial misconduct which elevated it. As insiders, Plame and others in the CIA were in position to blow open the false intelligence. As a matter of fact Plame herself had discredited a major intelligence asset used so freely by the Pentagon--most likely Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Pentagon-funded Iraqi National Congress who said we'd be "welcomed with open arms."

Assuming Plame's outing achieved the desired result--a neutering of potential internal dissent--would-be truth-tellers in the intelligence services were silenced, fearful of White House retaliation.

As the "faulty intelligence" unravels into a basket of outright lies, maintaining the cover-up--that Bush and Cheney acted in good faith--is harder. Congress must be drooling for the full-scale investigations which will be forthcoming in time for the 2008 Election.

Even the Republicans will get involved in Administration bashing should they have no choice. During the Watergate hearings, Republican crusaders led the inquiry into wrongdoing in the White House.

Revelations concerning the Administration's role in intelligence-gathering have opened up new vulnerabilities. The passage of time since the war may have done little to glaze over the magnitude of the White House's manipulations. And the progress of the war certainly can't help justify the techniques used to get Congressional support for the war.

Recent defections by Senators like Lugar may have been encourged by the conclusion that we'd entered Iraq under false pretexts fabricated by the White House. Every additional casualty brings further scrutiny of the reasons why we are in Iraq, justifications which can be directly traced to pre-war manipulation of intelligence by Republican advocates for war.

In the political arena, we are perhaps seeing the belated arrival of checks and balances crafted into the Constitution, which is designed to set off the Executive Branch against the Congress, by putting into direct competition the self-interest of the two bodies. Congress must mind the next election; to win they must not support a failed war nor Nixonian-style Presidential misconduct. Nor can Republicans afford to shelter their President's policies merely out of simple loyalty to their Party or, to be more specific, a Party led only nominally by a lame duck President in the last two years of office.

So our political process is reverting to a state of more balanced power, assuming the War will end, as it one day must in order to show that the will of the people is being followed under our system of government. Iraq could continue to damage the US as it wears on, with no appreciable benefit to continuation save unlikely potentialities.

The Democrats face unrelenting pressure to leave; they've done so little so far. Republicans in the Senate appear to be blocking antiwar legislation, but the number of defections grows to the point that a filibuster can no longer prevent debate on reducing our troop strength.

We are now stuck; according to some we must stay simply in order to prevent even worse things from happening. This is not the way to fight a war--should it need to be fought--as we are divided by domestic political competition, perhaps for good reason as our goals in Iraq are inadequately defined, and the potential for a successful outcome impossible under the approach endorsed by the President.

Iraq's Legacy

While Cheney and Bush envy Iraq's oil, the US military will face a diminished role in the long-term. More and more of the burden for Iraq's occupation will shift over to private contractors--a modern euphemism for mercenaries--whose recently revealed numbers in-country surpassed the strength of US forces. Still, with the mega-bases constructed in Iraq, a US military presence will stretch on, in large part to support the extraction of oil--the real goal of the occupation.

As more government functions privatize, more money is driven to politically connected contractors. Something like 40% of the Pentagon's budget now flows directly to the private sector. The profit potential is huge; the massive increases in budgets offer an ongoing fire-sale of government services to private contractors. A laissez faire approach among Republicans has abandoned responsibility and transparency. Any potential scrutiny is absolved by virtue of "national security" and the need for secrecy.

The arrival of Democrats to Congressional power may bode well for accountability in government, and a slowing down of privatization, but the damage has been done to our credibility, our military, and the fabric of what makes America great.

Is it too much to say that this is not how great nations behave? We've been corrupted by our hubris and the flow of federal money.

Our leaders are driven by imperial desires to make the US highest and mightiest of all the world's nations. The current absence of any rival superpower is not by itself proof of American supremacy, merely its temporarily unrivalled status.

I think America was made great by her humility not her haughtiness. Teddy Roosevelt urged us to "speak softly and carry a big stick." Instead we've resorted to unilateral military force to "solve" a problem entirely of our own making, especially if Iraq was never involved in Terror.

Our incessant meddling with other nations seems to be at the root of our problems with others. Instead of projecting power, we should be projecting peace, using our soft power like the Chinese.

Call me biased, but the America I know wants to win in the world, to throw the winning touchdown then emerge triumphant, prom queen on the arm, admired by all. She doesn't lie to get what she wants, or cheat. That America isn't content to settle for fear in others where she can't earn their respect. She wins by playing fair.

To make changes, Americans need to assume responsibility for their country. They must vote. Above all they will need to care, not only for themselves, but for how we conduct ourselves as a nation. On the military front, a presumption of victory is no longer sufficient to suspend disbelief indefinitely, or to unconditionally justify open-ended war. Internationally, we cannot presume that which makes us feared will endear us to the world which we presume to lead. Leaders don't bully; we are but one nation among many.

Wars are encouraged by our leaders and they must be responsible for them. If we don't hold them accountable, there will be no consequences, they will believe themselves beyond accountability, like kings, while we--the sheeple in their eyes--sacrifice the lives of our children and pay the bill in higher taxes.

Our political system may begin to affect some changes, but we Americans must assume the role of controlling our government, and not be content to leave that vital task unattended, or left to the self-interested parties that benefit from bloated government.


Unfortunately denial has crept into the American way of life. We've heard the term in substance abuse and addicitive disorders--it essentially means to ignore the situation that our actions have created.

Denial makes accepting an ugly reality easier. By refusing to consciously acknowledge the reality, we avoid the truth: that we must be responsible for the consequences of our actions.

Believing in the possibility of victory in Iraq is a great example of denial. George Bush claims we can still win, month after month, even as reports dooming our military to certain failure under the current approach cross the President's desk.

For average Americans, a debt trap is a good example of denial. It's all too easy to get credit. It's also supremely easy to believe that things will get better. As finances tighten, more credit can simply be found, just as more time can seem to buy the possibility of victory in Iraq. By denying the truth that Iraq can't be won the way it is being fought, if it all, belief in our own invulnerability is sustained.

The heavier the debt, or the larger the costs and consequences, the more comforting the denial. All the while the environment deteriorates until one day the drunk awakens in some jail cell, or the addict mother loses her children. Denial makes the long, tortuous path to the inevitable "hitting bottom" all the easier to take, with the steady slide into depravity so obvious to others and painful to watch.

Denial is the perfect remedy for problems for which there are no easy solutions. Cessation becomes the sole method to end the descent but committing to cessation requires acknowledging error, which most of us, like our leaders, find exceptionally difficult.

Selling Terror and Iraq

TV and Media play a huge role in advertizing consumer products--is it so strange that media manipulation would become the favored method for selling a war?

Yellow journalism played a major role in all of America's previous wars. The difference today is in the sophistication of the marketing, and the amazing ability of TV to shape what we think and believe on the subconscious level.

The administration wanted to link Iraq to terror. The Office of Special Plans was set up to find linkage between Iraq and terror, their findings were passed to the White House Iraq Group who packaged them as statements of fact for the media.

By the fall of 2003, most of the premise that Iraq had sponsored terror had even been disproved. Bush himself came out and claimed that Iraq and al Qaeda had not in fact been linked--a statement that should have ended the connection for all but the most hard-core Iraqi terror conspiracy theorists. Then, just before the 2004 Election, the Administration resold the terror connection, claiming that Iraq was a central battlefront in the War on Terror. [For more, see the Sequence of Proclamations on Iraq and Terror, at the bottom.]

I found the initial admission of no connection between Iraq and terror quite surprising. Admitting no connection was really a media manipulation effort in itself, a Rovian trick which aimed to counter the clear hypocrisy of fighting terror in Iraq where there hadn't been any. In other words, the threat concocted by the OSP and White House no longer had to be concealed. The fact that Iraq hadn't been involved in terror could be allowed to emerge only after the war had been started and White House well entrenched in a second term.

Pollsters have looked at one finding on Iraq in particular--the widely held belief that Iraq was involved in terror. A high percentage of Americans still believes to this day that Iraq was involved in 9/11, or that Saddam sponsored terror. The poll question originated in 2004 as part of exit polls and follow-up on the Presidential election, researched in order to ascertain the impact of popular opinions about terror on candidate preference.

Those most scared of terror sided with George Bush, largely due to premise that Republicans were harder on terror. I've referenced Olbermann's Nexus of Poltiics and Terror to identify the coincidental timing of terror alerts; it's undeniable the incumbents could gain from instilling an atmosphere of fear in key demographics like soccer Moms and NASCAR Dads. Meanwhile, the desire of politicians to look hard on terror may emerge through history as the greatest single motivator for support for the invasion of Iraq.

In Spetember 2003 Bush confessed that Saddam and al Qaeda hadn't been linked. So why hadn't the correction made an impact? Branding. Through the Presidential pulpit, Americans had been sold the premise that Iraq had been involved in terror. They'd been told often enough, and forcefully enough that they'd become convinced.

The media has done nothing to dispel the connection; quite to the contrary they fed to the public what the White House Iraq Group had told them, without due diligence the American people had come to believe exactly what the White House wanted them to believe. Journalists with close ties to the Administration like Judith Miller dispensed WMD fables, her facts weren't checked and lies were propagated through the Paper of Record. Why would the trusted and venerable media institutions of our days threaten their credibility by admitting they'd failed to check the facts? To this day the New York Times has failed to correct any of Miller's stories.

The connection between Iraq and terror stuck in the popular perception because Saddam made a good a villain. We'd fought him before. Having lost to the US, it was easy to assume that he'd tried to get us back, and succeeded through 9/11.

And for the media, Saddam and Iraq made a much easier target than some nebulous terror organization. After 9/11, it was simply easier for many Americans to grasp the idea that Iraq had struck back, rather than confront the idea that American policies in the Middle East had birthed a stateless enemy.

And the Mainstream Media, sympathetic to Israel, could glaze over the broad-based reaction to acts of aggression which had fueled support for terror. The Media could avoid holding the US and Israelis accountable for their roles in generating terror. Saddam corralled the problem, gave an easily identified enemy, one who we could easily destroy.

So well received was the Iraq/terror connection that it lives on today. The persistency is a product not of a great sustained misinformation campaign, but rather innuendo and capitalizing on fears about 9/11, which channelled quite purposefully into the case for war in Iraq.

Branding the Masses

On selling the war, I'd said that repitition had formed the backbone of our government's case for war in Iraq, on the grounds it presented a terror threat. The act of simple repitition fostered indelibly the illegitimate premise that Iraq had posed a threat. In the same way, the war could be sold like any merchandise, fear of terror acting as the motive for taking action against Iraq.

"Bob Simon of CBS explained to Moyers that the administration used marketing techniques to sell the war, 'Just repeat it and repeat it and repeat it ... Keep that drum beat going.'"

Selling propaganda uses the same process to market to the American people as any other product. Propaganda differs only in the fact it is made for the benefit of government, ostensibly acting in the nation's best interest, as opposed to the commercial interest.

We live a mass consumption lifestyle not by choice but by the ways in which our purchases are influenced. A stream of commercial messages are thrown at us daily.

Branding is after all a revolting term: like cows we are made the property of advertizers who imprint their logos in our memories. We presume to buy products as a matter of free and independent choices while in fact our minds are being subconsciously and methodically made to choose one product over another.

Our economy and even our society have been defined as consumerism. The idea is that our purchase decisions shape every facet of our lives-they are the raison d'etre of our existence, and pattern the way we live by providing us choices in what we buy.

Calling ours a consumer society makes innocuous the manipulations at the heart of capitalism which serve the seller not the buyer. The concept that we shape our world is in fact the complete opposite of the truth: that our consumption decisions and the way we live is arranged for us by corporate advertising and branding, which in fact limit our selectivity and openess to rival brands and products, without us even knowing how our decisions are being influenced.

Consumerism hosts a parasitic process of branding through the subconscious. We buy based not on careful deliberation or true choice, but rather in ways that have been shaped for us by the sellers of what we buy. We pretend that our choices make a life for us of our choosing when in fact our choices are limited and decisions manipulated in favor of one product over another.

Imagining ourselves at the pinnacle of capitalist society, surrounded by consumption alternatives, we do have a plethora of decisions to make. The more valuable choice of whether or not we need to buy anything, at all, is made insignificant through a torrent of advertizing, throwing at us some 1,000 daily marketing messages as it does.

Teenagers and the young are especially vulnerable. Using advertizements plugged on shows used by young people, companies encourage consumption under the guise of choices. The largest companies with the broadest product lines simply know that stimulating consumers will bring more revenue--the more stimulation, the more is bought.

So sophisticated is marketing today that the actual purchaser of products--typically parents--need not be directly targetted. Instead the children whine and beg, their wants fashioned into needs. Engaged fully in the consumer lifestyle themselves, parents are reluctant to deny their children what they so desperately claim to need.

American society is beginning to show the effects of a society gone wild. Overspending brings mammoth debt loads which imperil the fiscal solvency of millions. Collectively, our borrowing ways have made the US a net importer of money. To finance our trade and federal budget deficit we must now import about $2.5 billion dollars a day.

Like the indulgent parent, China and Japan keep sending us the money so we can buy stuff and our government continue to spend well beyond its means.

Is the status quo sustainable? No. Eventually, our lenders will find the risks of continued lending higher than the interest we will pay in return--or--the interest we pay will increase to the point that our society cannot borrow enough. This latter scenario is what is called the free hand of the market: a corrective process in economics that forces the overspender to spend less by cutting off their sources of cheap money.

With so much public and personal debt, we've become dependent on more borrowing just to stay afloat. Basic living expenses and core components of federal spending like health care have become threatened.

Like compulsive spenders, we spend more and more on the things that matter less--like travel, luxury goods, and gambling--as a means of preserving the state of denial that accompanies the disease. Like all addictions, recognizing the problem is the vital first step in addressing the debt problem. Postponing acceptance of the problem suspends doing something about it.

A massive speculative bubble has been created by our spectacular denial over our overspending. Housing prices sky-rocketed; seizing on the opportunity (and fed by legions of hungry lenders eagerly advertizing home equity loans) Americans borrowed on their equity. We justified the borrowing on the flimsiest of reasons--that the price of credit was low, or that the interest charged on the credit card was so much higher. We failed to make any changes to our spending patterns, which form the root of over-borrowing. We also assume the we will be able to earn more, when if fact social mobility is decreasing in our society: X-generations Americans are forecast to make less than their parents.

Interest that we must pay on debt represents a claim on our future income, so whenever we borrow, it comes at a considerable opportunity cost in the future. By borrowing continually, the problem snowballs. Debt may not appear to be that much of an issue while interest rates are low, however Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) threaten to jack up mortage costs dramatically as rates rise.

Where are we headed? Well, our consumption-oriented lifestyle, praised for all the "choice" it offers us, shows no signs of change. Too many consumer messages are reaching us and too many brands have already been imprinted on our brain's hard-wiring to led our minds to contemplate the possibility of spending less.

Debt has become a giant component of our economy. In short, we've become addicted to spending so we must continue to spend to sustain the economy.

Our government's first instruction after 9/11 was, after all, to shop. Why? To preserve our way of life, so the terrorists don't win.

While the notion of patriotic shopping sounds canned, like the faux terror warnings which were to spring out in the years following, the call to shop does acknowledge our dependence on retail shopping. So much of our manufacturing capacity has been lost, so this call in large part endorses buying Chinese-made products sold by retailers led by Walmart.

There's been a "CNN effect" on consumption, a startling and immediate decline in consumer activity corresponding to wall-to-wall coverage of major news events. A stream of news doesn't serve any commercial interest; commercials aren't even run much if at all. People simply sit on their couches to watch the news. Media conglomerates have yet to learn how to profit from news. Celebrity journalism is far better suited to promoting media products sold by entertainment divisions.

Does our way of life revolve around shopping? Apparently we must shop to be American. The elite that lead our nation must have no problem with the reality that much of what we buy isn't American at all. Cheap, foreign imports dominate our stores. Shopping may be great for the retail business but buying more will do little to help the wages of people working in the industry--sustaining their mcjobs, yes, but making substantive improvements in their quality of life, no.

Sequence of Proclamations on Iraq/Terror Link

Acknowledging the absence of a connection has done little to reduce the widely held belief that Iraq had sponsored terror. Even today a large percentage of Americans--perhaps over 40%--hold that Saddam had been involved in 9/11.

foxnews from Sept. 2003:
"...recent public opinion polls indicate that 70 percent of Americans think there is a tie between Iraq and the attacks."

More from that article (beware if you go to the link, it is "mined" with links):

...Rice, asked about the same poll numbers, said, "We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9-11."

She continued: "What we have said is that this is someone who supported terrorists, helped to train them, but most importantly that this is someone who, with his animus toward the United States, with his penchant for and capability to gain weapons of mass destruction, and his obvious willingness to use them, was a threat in this region that we were not prepared to tolerate."

This also from September 2003:
"Bush Flatly Declares No Connection Between Saddam and al Qaeda:

Then a change, in June 2004, just before the election:
"Bush takes issue with finding that 'no credible evidence' exists of link between Iraq and al-Qaeda"
...and "Bush backs Cheney on assertion linking Hussein, Al Qaeda"

Including Iraq in the war on terror (or making it the "central front") blurs the distinction between the two. The link also sustains justification for the occupation by nurturing the misperception that Iraq was linked to al Qaeda. The inadequate occupation has by this time spawned radical Islamic terror, reinforcing the idea terror was in Iraq when it was our occupation, not Saddam's rule, that had brought it.

The Media has spun the terror and Iraq connection, not only failing to dispel it but trying to support the premise. This from Pierre Tristam:

It could briefly be played up as a significant number, and the New York Times is certainly trying to headline it as such: 51 percent of Americans see no link between the terror war and the Iraq war But it isn’t significant. It’s closer to pathetic, like taking heart from the fact that 51 percent of Americans don’t think the Apollo 11 Moon landing was staged, or that 30 percent don’t think angels exist. That 51 percent who see no link between Iraq and terror still means a proportion approaching half, half, still think there is a link. That’s the sort of proportion that also saw a link between 9/11 and Saddam, or that Saddam was ready to nuke the Empire State Building with drones. And you still have a 55 percent approval rating for the way President Bush is handling the terror war, which essentially nullifies that a majority that see no terror-war link with Iraq, since Bush’s entire focus of the terror war is on Iraq, and only—only—53 percent of those polled said it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq in the first place. Statistically, that means half the country still believes the war was justified from the start, and it renders irrelevant whether they think Iraq is linked to the war on terror or not.

Tristam's final opinion:

"We have a nation still wholeheartedly willing to be deceived, as if the possibility of a sham would be too much to bear—too implicating, in the end, of the public’s complicity, to not say stupidity."

H.L. Mencken said that no one could ever go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. The public's gullibility on Iraq has proven just how easily the American people are deceived. Perhaps the future holds hope as Americans sour on the war and our system of government slowly responds to popular opinion.

Until Americans become willing to critically examine the issues, and hold our leaders collectively responsible by voting them out, we will be vulnerable to militarized solutions that resolve nothing, and the people who would launch and exploit wars for profit or political gain.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Not If But When: Terror Strikes UK, US Next?

The other side in the terror war has launched some terror of its own. Several apparently low tech car bombs have been discovered as part of coordinated terrorist attacks on soft targets in England and Scotland.

Late last week terror attacks began in England and Scotland, with 2 of the 3 car-borne bombings so far being prevented by chance or prompt police intervention. The third struck the Glasgow Airport and ended up crashing and burning to limited effect; two suspects are in custody.

England has gone on its highest threat level: critical, a state of emergency which disrupts lives and the economy. The state of siege in which the country finds itself is psychologically hard to bear, and the costs to the economy do mount up. It does bear repeating that Osama Bin Laden stated that the jihad launched against America was meant to be economic in nature; by extending the military occupation to Arab lands, he sought to bleed us.

Terror warning fatigue is nothing new in the US. Unlike England and its long experience dealing with the Troubles and Irish Republican Army, the US hasn't had to deal with regular attacks. Without repeat acts of terrorism, it's hard to make real the otherwise vague and far-off threat posed by terrorists. The US public hasn't established a routine in managing terror threats, which requires public sensitivity to the threat, and a mix of strength and fortitude or, as the English would say, a stiff upper lip.

Judging from our sensationalized reaction to 9/11, the US public will have a hard time dealing with terror events, particularly larger events as they can impose a high level of emotional trauma in the population and result in an episode of mass mania generated through our reaction to what we see on our televison sets. The terrorists, knowning this, turn to the most graphic and dramatic attacks, knowing that this will concoct precisely the reaction they seek.

Still, judging from the reaction to 9/11, I think we do see a unifying of the popular will in response to a terror strike. Many will go out and shop, work, and go on as before, doing what would we have done in our routines, not in stubborn defiance of the threat but not in ignorance of it either. But what if we must face a sequence of little acts of terror, like the British faced?

The Politics of Security

The turbulent years since 9/11 have allowed all sorts of political skullduggery to work their way into the national security and intelligence/threat management nexus. So many terror alerts have been jacked up to brew sufficient fear of terror just in time to seize on some political opportunity, or counter upswings in popularity for the opposition like that which followed the end of the Democratic Convention in 2004, or the selection of Kerry's running mate John Edwards.

A few posts back, I referred to Olbermann's well done countdown called the "Nexus of Politics and Terror" where he describes the suspicious timing of the terror alerts. The coordination of terror threat manipulation and political timing is just too likely to be considered the product of coincidence.

The most noxious of these was the July '04 arrest of an Pakistani computer programmer named Khan (not the proliferating nuclear weapons scientist) who'd been under surveillance as part of an ongoing terror threat. According to USA Today, some al Qaeda agents had been allowed to escape in the ensuing media showcase that exposed the undercover operation.

The Administration has done its part to undermine the non-partisan foundation of our national security services. They've demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice non-partisanship when the continuity of their political control was put at stake--in the periods predening elections. The arm-twisting and cherry-picking of intelligence showed the Administration's desire to subvert the traditional intelligence-gathering process. The outing of Valerie Plame came through criticism of White House methods: the message was sent that other public servants in vulnerable places might face retaliation for exposing the truth like Joe Wilson did.

Corporate media has also projected an image of stability and strength, in a trade-off of openess for access, perception for reality. The image of a gentle grandfather called the American State protecting us from the evils of the outside world will be shattered by any terror attack on the US. In this regard, the TVs through which so many Americans define their world will serve the interest of terrorism, and project images of the triumph of evil over the ineffectiveness of our anti-terror effort.

The idea that Bush and Republicans like him are better on national security issues will be shattered by a terror strike, so there is a political incentive for incumbents to prevent terror, or at least those incumbents who must face reelection. Future terror will make it clear that the US is vulnerable, but that all our efforts to get the terrorists over there before they get us here will have been in vain.

The ranks of skeptics grow. Some suffer from terror alert fatigue while others attribute any warning about terror to political motive. The boy has cried wolf, yet it never comes. To be real, to be viable, credible the threat must be real, or made real.

Bush and crew whined endlessly about the potential devastation caused by a terrror strike in building support for the invasion of Iraq, saying that WMD created a new imperative, one in which the US must prevent the spread of WMD from state "sponsors of terror" to terrorists. In fighting terror under the new paradigm, international laws were suspended. International cooperation was scorned. Military action was to be taken immediately, preemptively, unliaterally if need be.

Lofty in its goals, the means by which Bush has tried to stop terror may have had the opposite effect: encouraging it.

The real effect of the war on terror has been an unprecedent expansion of State power and control over the individual. Every American concerned with their civil liberties should be extremely concerned with the government's response to the next terror event. What predatory opportunities will emerge by which the power of the State can be further projected? Can we trust politicians not to try to seize on the response, overextending our reaction to invading yet another country?

So beneficial to the advancement of the interests of a larger State are acts of terror that they seem to be launched on behalf of the State, to achieve its aims in making itself larger, and the need for security more pressing, and the primacy of civil rights far less important.

Events which should demonstrate the inability of the government to protect us instead end up forcing the American people--terrorism's real victims--to cede more and more control to their government.

Our response to the threat of terror is managed, massaged, and prodded for political gain as the vital non-partisanship of our nation's intelligence branches is adandoned, opening a path towards the politicization of law enforcement.

Where opposition parties triumph, changes in government would bring broad purges not only of political appointees but also of anyone suspected of having sympathies to the previous government. In short, we'd be playing politics with our national security. No matter who the political victor, our intelligence agencies would end up the loser.

Terror, Tool Of Political Expediency

Under the secrecy deemed necessary by the White House, the war has been pervaded with a culture of corruption. War contractors, many of whom are connected to the architects and supporters of ongoing military action, profit mightily. Big Oil has seen profits surge as destabilization in the Middle East brings a security premium borne as as higher costs at the pump.

The way our war on terror is being fought drains federal coffers while providing vague results. Our approach compounds the fiscal abuse which must be borne by the American people, who must fund the war which contributes to the ongoing chaos and higher oil prices.

The War on Terror is thus the perfect method for accumulating power and wealth in the hands of the State. As long as it continues, the State will take more lives and more money, and redistribute it to those who profit from war. Americans will be in the long-term poorer as a result, facing huge unpaid debts on account of the wars, while beign forced to contend with the obvious conseuqences of a terror cycle gone awry: unabated acts of terror directed at the US and retaliatory actions that only encourage more terror in response.

The War on Terror was launched as a war to make us safer, under the premise that future Americans will be victimized by terrorism unless we act now (presumably in military action against a random Muslim state with no ties to terror.) To borrow from the pre-Iraq War rhetoric of the Bushies, are we any safer off? 9/11 proved we are vulnerable; --insert date of future terror attack here-- will prove we aren't any safer at all.

These are the first of hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of terror attacks the West will face in response to its Middle East policy. Many, like the attacks we've seen in the UK, might be haphazard and ineffective. Yet for highly qualified medical doctors to throw their careers and possibly their lives away says a great deal about the resentment Muslims carry and their willingness to launch jihad to defend their ancestral homes.

The on-going occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is at the heart of anti-Western radicalism; bin Laden knew it would--the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia during Gulf I gave him his first popular boost.

If there's one way to prevent terror, it's to prevent its origins. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict props up much of the resentment that fuels terror.

The West holds sympathies towards Israel because the country is much closer to them in ideology and cultural identity. To advocates of Zionism and the more ardent defenders of the Israeli's security, the country is an island of secularism in a sea of fundamentalism. Apartheid-like walls and checkpoints holds a would-be Muslim majority in check as the country expands its control over the West Bank, much to the delight of Zionist expansionists who see territorial aggression as a right granted Jews by God.

Palestinian grievances has not been addressed in any meaningful way-each problem that lays festering represents a justification of violent reprisals. In-fighting between Fatah and the legitimately elected Hamas government keeps the Palestinians divided. In the absence of a strong central leadership, meaningful dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis denies the fruits of legitmate negotiations (agreements with Fatah's Abbas simply aren't credible without Hamas participation.)

The Israelis are likely eager for any terror attack from Islamic fundamentalists on Western cities as it would align non-Jews with Jews in a shared struggle against radical Islamists. Enlisting American support has long been a Zionist objective in what some Israelis believe to be an battle of survival between the Jewish state and Arabs bent on its destruction.

The Terror Nexus

Before 9/11 we can't prove that Bush wanted a terror strike. There is however suspicion that if the Bush Administration had learned of an upcoming terror strike--as the evidence given to it would seem to indicate--they'd perhaps be unwilling to stop it. This is of course a far more palatable belief than the idea that the Bush Administration was "in on it."

Whatever conspiracists believe about 9/11, the Bush Administration now has a vested interested in preventing a terror attack as it would show the inability of our government to protect us. If the terror war is a political method, meant to serve the interest of an incumbent and militarist Right-wing, it is equally a threat to the chief source of their credibility: the masculine image of an America made safer by the strength of the military and the toughness of our leaders.

9/11 Truths Revealed

Israeli agents were found cheering on top of a moving van on September 11th, in a state park across the harbor in New Jersey. Arrested, these five were found to have links to Israeli intelligence. Other Israeli were caught up in the post-9/11 dragnet, including an infamous "art student" ring which had accessed sensitive government facilites in the months leading up to the attack.

The reason for their cheering is obvious: once America had been struck, the full wrath of its military would come down on the alleged perpetrators. The reviews of the incident I've read said the five were filming the strikes, which meant they'd been in position in advance of the first plane hitting the towers.

Advance knowledge is vital in assessing the intelligence environment surrounding 9/11. I find it remarkable that the government feels no need to make a public inquiry into the anomalies concerning the event. It's as if nothing has been discovered since the release of the 9/11 Commission report, as if information that's come out since minting of the original story hasn't been worthy of any further examination or public inquiry. The storyline remains rigid, acceptable to infinity, contemplating nary even the possibility of any other sequence occuring, no matter how probable. 19 hijakers drove airplanes into the buildings, which subsequently caught fire, burning off fireproofing that in turn sufficiently weakened the trussles holding up the exterior of the building to start a pancake style collapse...that's it.

Ignored are the shocking photos of steel cut at a sharp angle, seared as if by explosive, or the huge volume of reports on explosions in the buildings (video, see bottom for more sources.)

And where we have debunking, like in a Popular Mechanics article, the debunkers are forced to address theories the government won't. A multitude of possibilities would need to be explored in any ordinary investigative procedure, and the world's most egregious crime of 9/11 warranted full and open disclosure as well as unbiased and exhaustive inquiry.

Odd it was that the 9/11 investigation started with the conclusion--that the planes took down the two towers and secondary fires brought down WTC 7. Government bodies like the NIST have parroted down the initial findings over time, deviating in no way from their initial determination.

We in the public have become all to accustomed to hearing from public officials in criminal cases that every meaningful "ongoing" investigation warranted that the government "explore all possible leads." People are always advised to "avoid jumping to conclusions." Apparently 9/11 has opened a new precedent investigatory procedure. Rather than prove its finding, an Official Explanation was produced, and any evidence that could contradict its conclusions excluded or ignored.

WTC 7 has been singled out as an example of an exception to the laws of physics, in a thorough explanation made in the documentary "Loose Change." The building fell at free fall speed, an event possible only through demolition.

Larry Silverstein, owner of the entire WTC complex (and signatory of a 99-year lease just six weeks prior to the event), was caught saying that he thought "pulling" the building was the best thing to do at one point. "Pulling" is jargon in the demolitions industry for controlled demolition.

WTC 7 housed the safes of the Securities and Exchange Commission which reputedly contained evidence from an ongoing investigations into major securities fraud connected to the 2000 stock market blow-up, which saw brokerages talking up tech companies even as a collapse in their stock prices became certain. A laundry list of corporate misconduct had been assembled; we don't know how much evidence was lost or prosecutions dismantled because of the demolition of WTC 7.

Evidence of advance knowledge among employees of the Israeli company Odigo also raises eyebrows. Odigo employees had reportedly received e-mails warning them not to go into work. Apparently the only Israeli national to die in the blast--odd considering how hundreds customarily worked in the towers--was one who hadn't checked his e-mail.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon had cancelled a planned visit to New York on September 11th.

I was shocked to read that Mossad had been watching Atta in Florida, and had gone to the extraordinary step of informing the FBI about the threat of an impending strike by Atta and those he'd been working with. Apparently even a direct warning couldn't elicit any meaningful response: our own intelligence service briefed President Bush in August 2001 that bin Laden "was determined to strike," and could use airplanes.

With a culture of woeful (or was it willful) ignorance as to the scope of the terror threat before 9/11, it's positively laughable that President Bush considers himself our great protector-in-chief. An attack would provide evidence that being tough on terror has nothing to with preventing terror attacks. The notion we can strike out at terror, as we could have at communism or fascism, is undoubtedly a popular misconception lodged deeply in the American pathology so anemic to meaningful comprehension of foreign policy and national security issues.

Unfortunately, lashing out is bringing nasty consequences. Not only is the military effort failing to stop al Qaeda, it's encouraged recruitment and the pursuit of politics by other means for the growing ranks of disaffected Islamists, who see no way but violence to force the US out of its sphere of influence.

Geopolitical Issues

I've explained in the past the perils of linking Iraq to the War on Terror, a rhetorical move which may have strengthened initial domestic political support for the war but is now proving to be highly problematic in the realm of geopolitics. The world is not so easily swayed by the easy solutions and flowery rhetoric of Bush/Blair. Nor are non-Americans so ignorant of the motives behind our Iraqi adventure.

It's clear to most of the world that the US is in Iraq in an effort to colonize its oil. The war on terror is seen by those sympathetic to its victims as state terror directed against a Muslim population who had the most unfortunate luck of being in Israel's neighborhood, and sitting on the world's last remaining large source of easily extracted oil.

Whatever the PR dance and media complicity in spinning the truth, other governments are already responding to the disturbance in the international political order that US military aggression--generated in response to the 9/11 event--has caused.

Russian President Putin, now isolated with Bush in the family's Maine house, may have been willing to ignore US overtures to the republics of Central Asia just after 9/11 when the cause of ousting the Taliban seemed a natural response to their hosting al Qaeda. It's also important to note that it was Afghanistan, not Iraq, that had been a legitmate target for US military intervention under international law. The timing of the geopolitcal fallout after Iraq is no coincidence--as we've abandoned the rule of the Geneva Convention, so too has our global leadership been imperiled, soft power undermined, and international sympathy, so great after 9/11, lost.

Yet as the occupation of Afghanistan drags on, the Russians and the rest of the world have begun to realize there's more to the ongoing occupation that regime change. While the superficial justification of the ongoing occupation has been nation-building and preventing the return of Taliban rule, the US' desire to exploit energy resources is becoming clear. Our unconditional acceptance of Israeli military action in the Lebanon War didn't help our international popularity any. And if you think the US doesn't need to run a popularity contest, think again: global leadership stature requires servant leadership and cooperation, not domination.

Abandoning international law and statecraft in lieu of military power has left many in the world community distrusting of the US. Our image in the world has sunk as we've slid towards the despotism of military force and abandoned our traditional role as diplomatic interloper in the Middle East. It took more than two weeks for Condi Rice to begin any effort to mediate last summer's attack on Lebanon by the Israelis.

I doubt people like George Bush worry about how the US is perceived abroad. Bush, like so many Americans, had virtually no experience in the international world. While he must have seen admiration of the Untied States among the many Mexicans he'd dealt with, it remains to be seen if Bush had ever questioned the righteousness of our country, or ever viewed our country as but one nation among many. Instead, the concept of American exceptionalism must have led him to conclude that whatever the United States wanted was good, and the way we do things the right way, no matter what ugliness ensued.

The very ugly beating that our international credibility has taken does have a direct impact. In one sense, the interests of the Right are strengthened by an abandonment of soft power in favor of military force. If we are unable to resolve our problems with other nations peacefully, we must solve (or try to solve) them militarily, thus feeeding the vampiric block that thrives off sales of death machines and services the American military.

To lead, the US must be able to draw on alternatives to military force like a prizefighter would alter his stance, or mix up his punches. Brute force isn't a solution. If we can only force submission to our superior military force, we are a bully.

Using the excess capacity of our military-industrial complex, the world's largest, we can dispense military aid, propping up various regimes. Yet dictatorships and the like are unable to build popularity and consensus--they rule simply through the exercise of their might.

Like the Palestinian problem, Iraq begs out for a regional solution. We can't influence other nations strategically without the use of positive (read non-military) reinforcement.

Without any outside help, the US War on Terror is certainly doomed. At this point a win for the terrorists must be defined as forcing the continuation of the occupations, thereby bleeding the US militarily and crippling our credibility, and undermining our economy.

Any terror strike upon UK/US homeland also demonstrates the persistence of the threat and spotlights the inadequacy of our preventative efforts.


"9/11 and the Greenberg Familia", Larry Mazza, 1/04/07

"Lucky Larry" Silverstein , Anonymous, 9/06/06

"Explosions Heard in the Twin Towers BEFORE They Collapsed
" George Washington Blog, 6/03/06

"Two More WTC Workers Claim Explosion In Lower Levels Of North Tower" Greg Szymanski, 7/13/05

whatreallyhappened.com has legions of information on 9/11:
"Evidence of
Demolition Charges In WTC 2
"The 9/11 WTC Fires:
Where's the Inferno?
"Silverstein Makes a Huge Profit off of the 9/11 Attacks"