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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.



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