As Tony Blair and George Bush blathered on and on to the press about
freedom and security in Iraq, the people in Iraq witness further
deteriorations in both their security, and their daily freedoms. But
that seems to be the way of the Republicans these days; state the
exact opposite of the truth, and hope no one will notice. Nowadays
they can pretty much count on the mainstream media not noticing.
plan to fix a shattered Iraq is to move even more troops back to the
Green zone in Baghdad because the situation in the country's largest
city is deteriorating further. Most US troops are already stationed
in Baghdad, but still cannot quell the violence there. In order to
increase troop strength in Baghdad, several thousand troops were
just told that they would not be going home as scheduled in a few
weeks, but rather that their tours of duty would be extended for
four more months. Troop morale has never been lower in Iraq. The
Washington Post recently had an
article detailing comments from some soldiers who had been
interviewed in Iraq.
regard to freedom in Iraq, one soldier was quoted as saying, "They
say we're here and we're giving them freedom, but really what is
that? You know, what is freedom? You've got kids here who can't go
to school. You've got people here who don't have jobs anymore.
You've got people here who don't have power," he said. "You know, so
yeah, they've got freedom now, but when they didn't have freedom,
everybody had a job."
could say that the main freedom that the Iraqis have now is freedom
from any kind of security whatsoever. Sunnis and Shiites continue to
form their own militias, and to send out death squads to kill each
other. The Kurds are already operating a semi-autonomous,
militia-controlled territory in the north, and only protracted
bitter fighting would ever bring that region back into any future
Iraqi nation, as dim as that hope seems now.
Bush-Cheney plan was to squeeze Iran between US military forces in
Afghanistan to the east, and Iraq to the west. With a little US
provocation, the stage would be set for suggesting that Iran had
somehow picked a fight and had to be dealt with. I am sure that
their plans are now shifting from direct military action towards
covert actions to undermine the Iranian government, perhaps to be
perpetrated in conjunction with bunker buster bomb strikes on
Iranian nuclear facilities.
conditions in Iraq worsen, as they certainly will with Bush and
Cheney's limited ability to adjust and adapt their plans, more US
forces will have to be pulled from forward firebases and cities
around Iraqi back into the Green zone in Baghdad. This will allow
militias and insurgents to gain much greater footholds throughout
the country, and will allow them to prepare and better equip
themselves. This will permit them to slowly close the noose around
Baghdad, putting our troops at greater and greater risk as time goes
soldier’s comments were particularly poignant, "My personal opinion,
I don't speak for the rest of anybody, I just speak for me
personally, I think civil war is going to happen regardless. Maybe
this country needs it: One side has to win. Be it Sunni, be it
Shiite, one side has to win. It's apparent; these people have made
it obvious they can't live in unity."
support our troops then you should support efforts to figure out the
quickest way to get them all back home with their families.
Competence Not Required
July 23rd, 2006
It's pretty obvious that George Bush isn't qualified to be president
of the United States, but the common wisdom seems to be that you
really don't need any special qualifications to be president.
Republicans never really cared for Bill Clinton's encyclopedic
knowledge of the workings of government and international affairs.
Just lots of big words to them.
world spirals towards violence and war under George Bush, whereas
peace and prosperity were spreading across the world under Bill
Clinton. I wonder if a disparity in competence may have something to
do with this disparity in outcomes?
Clinton was a hands-on president who knew more about governmental
function and international relations than the people working under
him. He worked constantly with foreign leaders and the United
Nations to promote world peace, and to quell the violence in the
Middle East. He brought peace to Bosnia, and dramatically reduced
tensions throughout the Middle East. His policies were thoughtful
Bush is a hands-off president who prefers mountain bike riding to
governing. His concept of quelling violence in the Middle East is to
attack Iraq and help stir up a hornet's nest between Israel, Hamas,
Lebanon and Syria. His failed Iraq adventure now has that country
spiraling into civil war, as Israeli troops and tanks roll across
the southern Lebanese border. All the unrest in the Middle East has
caused price speculators to drive the price of crude oil to over $75
a barrel, increasing gasoline prices across the globe.
general, the Republicans look down on the ideas of statesmanship and
diplomacy. They consider those to be weaknesses rather than
strengths. This leads them to elect and appoint incompetent people
for various government positions because pushing a political agenda
forward is much easier than wise governance. You don't need
knowledgeable people in important positions, and you don't have to
listen to both sides, you just need both houses of Congress in
Republican hands. So we end up with people like George Bush as
president, Michael Brown as head of FEMA, and Harriet Myers getting
nominated to be a Supreme Court justice.
think it is important in a football or baseball game to put the best
people in certain positions at certain times in the game, or if you
feel that it is important to have the best brain surgeon available
to perform your brain tumor operation, as opposed to an intern with
no experience, then you are one of those people who thinks
competence is important. So as the world edges towards violence and
war, do you really think that George Bush is the most competent
person to be running the show?
depth of knowledge about international relations and diplomacy was
made clear during the G-8 summit when he said to Tony Blair “We've
got to tell Syria to tell Hamas to stop doing this shit!” The
primary operative word there is “tell”. When Bush speaks mangled
English to foreign leaders he tells them what to do. No
discussion necessary. That's Bush's foreign-policy expertise in a
nutshell. At the G-8 summit, Bush seemed far more interested in the
roast pig than he was in diplomacy or international relations. After
all, it only takes a couple of seconds to tell international leaders
to stop doing “shit”. The rest of the summit can be devoted to
eating pig and cracking jokes.
July 15th, 2006
Over three years after the war in Iraq ended, and the US occupation
of Iraq began, it is perhaps prudent to review the Bush-Cheney
administration's scorecard of accomplishments in the Middle East.
us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction:
us the war would pay for itself with oil revenues:
us we would be welcomed with flowers and chocolates:
us it would be simple to secure the country:
us they had enough troops to do the job:
us that the troops had more than enough armor and equipment:
us the occupation would be short:
us the insurgency was in its last throes:
us the Iraqi government would stand up, so we could stand down:
us that a democratically elected government in Iraq would help
spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East:
us that our military was not stretched too thin:
us the job in Afghanistan was done:
really care what they tell you anymore?
are the Conservatives with Conscience?
July 13th, 2006
As Israeli bombs fall on southern Lebanon, and
North Korea test launches missiles, and Iran starts up its nuclear
program again, and as Iraq spirals into civil war, John Dean's new
book comes out to give us a glimpse into how conservatives have
gotten us into such a mess.
“Conservatives Without Conscience” is the newest book by the lawyer
who served in Richard Nixon's administration during the Watergate
crisis. John Dean became famous for telling President Nixon that
there was a cancer growing on the presidency, when referring to the
Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up. Dean describes himself
as a Barry Goldwater Republican; as a conservative with a
conscience. Dean wrote the book because he believes that the
Republican Party has been taken over by a group of people who do not
share his conservative Republican values.
this is one of the most important books to be published in recent
years because it is the first book written by a prominent Republican
that shows from behind the scenes how the Republican Party was
co-opted by people whose policies and actions bear no resemblance to
those of Republicans in decades past. In his search for answers
about how the Republican Party had taken such a drastic turn toward
the dark side, Dean stumbled upon decades of research by social
scientists into authoritarianism.
World War II, social scientists wanted to understand how the German
and Italian populations could have been seduced into following those
brutal regimes down the path towards militaristic fascism. What they
found was a mindset that they called authoritarianism. Perhaps the
most famous set of experiments were those of Stanley Milgram at Yale
University in the early 1960s. Dr. Milgram convinced his test
subjects to deliver what they thought were strong electric shocks to
“volunteers”. Even though no shock was actually given, the
“volunteers” screamed louder and louder as the “shock voltage” was
raised with each incorrect response. Most test subjects were willing
to deliver “shocks” labeled “danger” on the voltage dial because
they did not want to question the authority of the scientists
conducting the experiments.
Authoritarians come in two flavors, leaders and followers. In
Stanley Milgram's experiments, the test subjects who were delivering
fake shocks to volunteers were authoritarian followers. To them, the
scientists conducting the experiments were authority figures who
were beyond question. Authoritarian followers permit authoritarian
leaders to acquire great power while also cracking down on civil
liberties and freedoms. John Dean quotes an expert on the subject
who noted; “authoritarian governments are identified by ready
government access to information about the activities of citizens
and by extensive limitations on the ability of citizens to obtain
information about the government. In contrast, democratic
governments are marked by significant restrictions on the ability of
government to acquire information about its citizens, and by ready
access by citizens to information about activities of the
Bush and Dick Cheney are classic authoritarian leaders. Secrecy and
contempt for the rule of law are hallmarks of their brand of
governing. John Dean is once again warning that there is a cancer
growing on the presidency. Unlike the crimes of the Nixon
administration, however, those of the Bush-Cheney administration
have hurled the world toward a simmering, low-grade world war
pitting poor Muslim countries against the United States and our
allies. International relations between the United States and the
rest of the world have never been worse, and this deterioration is
directly attributable to the authoritarian nature of the Bush-Cheney
regime. Because they are authoritarians, they will not change their
tactics because they are incapable of doing so. That means you can
expect at least two more years of deteriorating international
relations, simmering war in the Middle East, unstable markets, high
energy prices and terrorist acts against Western targets.
It will be
interesting to see how much the mainstream media ignore John Dean's
book and its implications for our democracy. Currently, the
mainstream media are acting like authoritarian followers, deferring
to the Bush-Cheney administration regardless of the egregiousness of
their policies and actions. We can only hope that more conservatives
with a conscience will come forward and speak out against the Bush
Cheney administration's disastrous disregard for the rule of law,
and for our democratic principles.
July 13th, 2006
Karl Rove has been using the war in Iraq and the so-called "war on
terror" to help get Bush and other Republicans elected for several
years now. This tactic worked well in the 2002, and 2004
elections. The question is, does the war now present another
opportunity for Karl to drum up support for the Bush administration
and the Republicans, or has the Iraq war become Karl's pickle?
has been able to turn political sow’s ears into silk purses in the
past, but as violence spirals out of control in Iraq, that trick is
going to become more and more difficult to pull off. Karl will tell
Republicans to attack the Democrats resolve on winning the war in
Iraq, and attempt to tie the Iraq war to terrorism. But as violence
escalates throughout the Middle East, it is going to be very
difficult to put a happy face on the growing civil war in Iraq,
especially in light of the tensions between Israel and its
neighbors, and the possibility of a widening war throughout the
been Karl's secret weapon may in the end turn out to be Karl's
pickle. He can't ignore the war, but it will become increasingly
difficult to sell it to the American people as something that is in
their best interest. Clearly, the Bush administration's policies in
the Middle East have made that region of the world far more
volatile, and have made the United States far less safe.
Nonetheless, the cards have been dealt, and Karl has to play his
July 8th, 2006
George Bush will be remembered for many erosions to our democracy
ranging from imprisonment without representation or trial to
warrant-less spying on American citizens. But one of the greatest
injuries to our democratic system may be the corporate contracting
of America. The Bush administration now contracts out government
jobs to private corporations in a way that no other American
administration would ever have contemplated.
Private Military Companies (PMCs) have become a ubiquitous American
fixture in Iraq. You've heard many of their names, including
Halliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root, Parsons, Fluor, Titan, Vinnell
Corp., Custer Battles and many others providing a variety of
services for the war effort, at great profit. In many cases,
services that have been contracted for were never delivered, and
vast sums of money have vanished into partially completed projects
that are now abandoned.
By far the
great majority of PMCs in Iraq are providers of security services.
These include companies ranging from Blackwater to Triple Canopy, to
“DTS Security” to BH Defense and many, many more. Because our troops
are spread so thin and have been stretched to the breaking point,
our government is being forced more and more to rely on private
security companies to provide combat support functions including
convoy escort, force protection, and personnel protection.
the Bush administration has decided that private industries are far
more capable of performing combat operations than our military, and
has therefore decided to privatize military operations to the
greatest extent possible. And because the government is operating
under great national debt, the money for the war has been borrowed
from foreign banks. This is not war on the cheap, but rather war on
a “platinum credit card”.
of mercenaries to perform combat operations in Iraq is a slap in the
face and an insult to those in uniform. Contractors earn five times
to 10 times the combat pay that our soldiers earn. This is one of
the primary reasons that the war in Iraq has been so expensive as
compared with previous wars, combined with the fact that the United
States is going it pretty much alone and therefore cannot count on
the international community to help defray the costs. A new film by
Robert Greenwald, "Iraq
for Sale", will be out this Fall, and will detail the extreme
downsides of contracting out a war effort.
planning for war in Iraq was done with extreme naïveté and lack of
understanding of both history and foreign-policy. The Bush
administration has discovered the hard way that they are fallible,
and that ideology and hegemony cannot replace diplomacy in the
service of international relations.
corporatization of America, and of our government functions, right
up to the waging of wars, will not serve the people of the United
States well. The contracting of America will drive up the cost of
performing any government function, and will remove government
oversight of supposedly governmental functions, leaving no one
accountable, but every corporation profitable. A government without
accountability is anathema to a true democracy.