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Factinista Archives, July 2006

Do You Support the Troops?
July 29th, 2006


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.

Bush's 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.

With 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."

Indeed you 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.

The 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.

As 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 on.

One 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."

If you support our troops then you should support efforts to figure out the quickest way to get them all back home with their families.

Dr John


 

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.

Now, the 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?

Bill 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 and statesmanlike.

George 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.

In 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.

If you 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?

Bush's 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.

Dr John


 

Mission Unaccomplished
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.

They told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us the war would pay for itself with oil revenues:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us we would be welcomed with flowers and chocolates:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us it would be simple to secure the country:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us they had enough troops to do the job:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us that the troops had more than enough armor and equipment:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us the occupation would be short:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us the insurgency was in its last throes:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us the Iraqi government would stand up, so we could stand down: Mission unaccomplished

They told us that a democratically elected government in Iraq would help spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us that our military was not stretched too thin:
Mission unaccomplished

They told us the job in Afghanistan was done:
Mission unaccomplished

Do you really care what they tell you anymore?

Dr John


 

Where 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.

To me, 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.

After 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 government".

George 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.

Dr John


 

Karl's Pickle
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?

Karl Rove 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 region.

What had 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 hand.

Dr John


 

Contracting Democracy
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.

So-called 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.

In effect 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”.

The hiring 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Dr John


 


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