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"We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been. I can't imagine why you'd even ask the question." Donald Rumsfeld, questioned by an al-Jazeera correspondent, April 29, 2003.

"No one can now doubt the word of America," George W. Bush, State of the Union, January 20, 2004.

A Blog by Rahul Mahajan

February 29, 11:00 pm EST. Aristide has left Haiti. Initial media reports suggest that he left by his own decision. Of course, the same media reported that Chavez had resigned after the April 11, 2002, coup attempt in Venezuela.

I find it odd that he left in an American transport. Also that his prime minister (who has the actual power, according to the Haitian constitution) didn't leave with him.

It makes little difference. He clearly left under the combination of the threat from the probably U.S.-armed militia and from the Bush administration, which has been saying for a few days now that Aristide should step down. The reason he should step down, the international community agrees, is that so much violence is being done by anti-Aristide forces.

It's been infuriating, and surreal, to see Aristide repeatedly blamed for the actions of the "rebels."

The next call will presumably be for "elections." Of course, elections with the former elements of the military and FRAPH in charge will be a joke; the only legitimate call is for the goons to leave and Aristide to come back -- and especially for the U.S. Marines, who are now in Haiti, to leave.
February 27, 6:00 pm EST. Some kudos to John Kerry for a line in yesterday's debate. Repudiating the silly and entirely inaccurate statement of John Edwards that the crisis in Haiti is a result of the administration's "disengagement," he said that it's because of the administration's engagement in the wrong direction. He said the administration has a "theological and a ideological hatred for Aristide."

The ideological hatred is clear -- Aristide is doing what little he can to buck the idea that Haiti is just a slave-labor plantation for multinational corporations and a vassal of the United States, as described earlier.

I hadn't thought about the theological hatred. That's pretty clear too. Aristide is a believer in the theology of liberation; Bush's theology, on the other hand, is about anything but liberation.
February 27, 5:40 pm EST. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice has just completed the first national survey of child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church. Based on self-reporting by 195 dioceses and 142 Catholic religious communities, it concludes that four percent of priests who have served since 1950 have been accused of sexual abuse of a child. Of course, the overwhelming majority of accusations are justified; furthermore, self-reporting tends to decrease the total number.

So this is closer to a lower bound on the number of Catholic priests who have sexually molested children. Add to that the systematic pattern of Church authorities covering up reports and protecting priests who are offenders and you have a very disturbing picture.
February 26, 8:28 pm EST. Here's my letter to the LA Times about the Haiti article (see previous post).
February 26, 7:30 pm EST. From the LA Times, "Worsening Scene in Haiti Will Test U.S. Tolerance for Chaos":
Repeatedly over the last century, the United States has stepped in to avert calamity in the onetime French slave colony, only to back away after the crisis had abated. But these fitful efforts, starting with Woodrow Wilson's dispatch of Marines in 1915 to quell disorder, have never solved the problem — indeed, according to some analysts, they made them worse.
It is true that disorder has always been a pretext for U.S. intervention in Haiti (which included nearly constant violation of Haitian territorial waters, sometimes accompanied by U.S. Marines who went into the National Bank and simply took money they claimed was owed to the United States). The invasion of 1915 was followed by complete U.S. military control of all aspects of life in Haiti. In 1918, the United States promulgated a new constitution. In Paul Farmer's words,
But there was resistance, even from the Haitian elite, to this new document. Many Haitian congressmen refused to sign. The occupying force resolved this dilemma "by genuinely Marine Corps methods," to use the words of Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler: it dissolved parliament and put the question to plebiscite. ... The voters were marched to voting stations and handed a white ballot marked OUI. The Marines noted that they could have asked for a pink ballot marked NON, but very few did. In fact, 99.9 percent of Haitians consulted approved of the arrangements, which abolished Dessalines' most famous law, that forbidding foreign ownership of land.
That 99.9 percent beats Saddam's percentage when in October 1995 he held a referendum on whether he should remain president for seven more years. Dessalines was Haiti's first ruler; he took over when the French, meeting with Toussaint l'Ouverture under a parley flag, treacherously threw Toussaint in prison (where he remained until his death).

That occupation of Haiti lasted 19 years. U.S. companies set up huge plantations. Over 50,000 peasants were dispossessed in the north of Haiti alone. The Marines instituted the corvee -- involuntary conscription of labor crews. When Haitians rebelled against the repression and exploitation, the Marines launched a counterinsurgency that may have killed up to 15,000 people.

You can write letters to the LA Times at
February 26, 7:00 pm EST. Clare Short, British Labor MP and former member of Tony Blair's cabinet, has just revealed that the U.K. was eavesdropping on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the run-up to the war on Iraq last year.

This comes in the wake of another interesting development. Katharine Gun, who was then a British intelligence service employee, had last March leaked a memo in which the U.S. National Security Agency had asked the British government for help in its spying operations on six undecided members of the Security Council. She was then tried for leaking official secrets, but yesterday prosecutors dropped the charges against her.

The reason? Gun was planning to use the necessity defense -- that she had to break the law in order to enforce international law by trying to prevent an illegal war. Prosecutors concluded they wouldn't be able to disprove her claim. There's an inconvenient document called the U.N. Charter that would have stood in their way.
February 25, 6:00 pm EST. By the way, what was France's reaction when Haiti presented its reparations claims (see previous post)? According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs,
Upon Aristide making this call for compensation, the French intellectual and Latin Americanist Régis Debray was appointed by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin to head up a “Committee of Reflection on Haiti.” His report was delivered to the government on January 28 and confirmed France’s initial position rejecting such a claim. According to the Commission’s findings, Aristide’s demands are said to have no juridical base, because all the laws prejudicial to the French position were enacted afterwards and are not retroactive. Debray wrote that he is in favor of what he calls “the duty of memory,” and not of “re-sifting.” He advises the French government to help Haitians into building up a “solid nation” and not to only hand out money.
Debray, incidentally, was a leftist and a friend of Che Guevara. So, apparently, the problem is that those foolish Haitian slaves, when they were toiling on sugar plantations or fighting the French, didn't look ahead and pass some laws against extortion.

Haiti, a country with a well-organized mass civil society movement before the 1991 military coup, needs French help in building a "solid nation" and needs minuscule handouts instead of a much larger amount of money as just repayment for past crimes (and the reparations claim says nothing about the stolen lives and labor of 140 years of slaves breaking their backs to fill French coffers).

Debray and people like him no doubt make pious noises about how bad the war on Iraq was.
February 25, 5:10 pm EST. More on Haiti, because it's just so infuriating. This has been a clear case of complete collaboration by all the powers that victimized Haiti in the colonial era -- not just France and the United States, but other European powers like Germany and the United Kingdom (read Paul Farmer's excellent book, The Uses of Haiti). They're all agreed in blaming Aristide for suffering a foreign-funded insurrection that he can't put down, and suggesting some accomodation between a basically legitimate government that represents the poor mass of Haiti and a group of criminals representing the elite.

In fact, in addition to roughly $3 million that USAID spent in 2003 on "democracy-promotion" in Haiti (giving the criminals and rapacious businessmen a political cover, the Group of 184 and the Democratic Convergence), the European Union has spent close to $900,000 on the same groups.

Back in early January, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on a very interesting twist that Haiti and the Aristide government had come up with. Instead of just appealing for remission of its external debt a la Jubilee 2000, an appeal either based on morality (people are being crushed by the debt burden) or on the doctrine of odious debt, Haiti was calling for repayment of 90 million gold francs extorted from the country by France in 1825. They estimated that, with interest, this amounted to roughly $21.7 billion dollars.

Aristide first brought this up in a speech on April 7, 2003, and, until his recent troubles exploded, was going to take this issue to the International Court of Justice. He called it the "price of liberty" extracted from Haiti and correctly identified it as the first in a chain of steps that kept Haiti poor, even though it had historically generated a huge surplus (the history of Haiti in the 19th and early 20th century is full of incidents of extortion of money from Haiti at gunpoint by European powers).

African Americans have talked about reparations for slavery and the complex of policies around it, but I don't know of any serious attempt by formerly colonized countries to do what Haiti was talking about. This is potentially far more explosive than debt cancellation.

Does this have something to do with Europe's unwillingness to defend Aristide as the legitimate head of state of Haiti?
February 24, 7:40, pm EST. What's happening in Haiti in a nutshell: An opposition making use of foreign funding, death squads from the Dominican Republic, and the fortuitous re-emergence of exiled former leaders of the FRAPH (the paramilitary group responsible for many of the at least 7000 murders committed under the military regime from 1991-94), had managed, purely by the use of force, to get Aristide, the elected head of state and the Lavalas front, the only group with significant popular support, to agree to a "power-sharing agreement" with the opposition.

This was done with full help of the "international community" (backed by the United States). Now, the thugs trying to take power in Haiti think they have enough power to take over the country, and have refused to agree to power-sharing.

For anyone who is still wondering which side is which: Louis-Jodel Chamblain and Guy Philippe, former FRAPH leaders, have not just come back; they are now in charge of the "rebel" forces.
February 24, 6:50 pm EST. China has opened its doors, under pressure from the United States, to the import of genetically modified foods. The great danger from the spread of genetically modified plant crops is that nobody has done, or could do at the current level of scientific understanding, any kind of study of what long-term effects this could have on the environment. There are some legitimate health concerns with the consumption of some GM foods, as there are with other kinds of artificial foods, but the real problem is that biological systems reproduce and there is no control over the reproduction and dissemination of genetic modifications.

Thus, every nation that allows their importation increases the market, increases the amount under cultivation, and thus increases these unknowable risks. For now, apparently, China is not approving cultivation within the country.

There is a lot being done to bash China for "taking jobs" away from the United States (from the left, liberals, and the right); where's the complaint about this? Not to mention the fact that increased U.S. agribusiness exports to China pose a severe risk for the already beleaguered Chinese peasant, who has seen little good and a great deal of harm from the policy changes of the past 20 years (like the dismantling of the barefoot doctor program).
February 23, 3:50 pm EST. In the Times today: Iraqis Say Deal on U.S. Troops Must Be Put Off. Apparently, the Bremer-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has decided that it lacks the authority to negotiate a formal agreement on keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. Combined with the falling-through of the American caucus plan and the threat of real elections, this means, as the article points out, that
The delay could put the Americans in the position of negotiating an agreement with leaders they did not appoint on such sensitive issues as when the use of force would be allowed.
Leaders they did not appont? Perish the thought. It reminds me of earlier commentary in the Times (article by David Rohde on June 22, 2003), when the local elections in Najaf were cancelled back in June of last year:
There are, indeed, examples of recent post-conflict elections gone wrong. In Bosnia, elections held soon after the war there allowed nationalist parties to gain parliamentary seats that they used to thwart the implementation of the Dayton peace accord. In nearly every election since then, Bosnia's electorate has returned nationalists to office despite overt signals from American officials that they favored moderates.
Imagine that -- Bosni's electorate ignoring "overt signals from American officials." The Times seems a little unclear on the concept of democracy.
February 22, 11:50 am EST. The Times reports that the CIA acknowledged, in a January 20 letter to Carl Levin, that it gave no information to U.N. weapons inspectors about 21 of the 105 sites in Iraq that it designated as high or medium-value in terms of finding WMD or related activities.

It should come as no surprise that, in the Times's delicate prose, this acknowledgment "contradicts public statements before the war by top Bush administration officials" -- i.e., here's one more thing they lied about.

Of course, we knew even before that the United States had waited for two months to turn over its information to UNMOVIC and the IAEA, in contravention of the spirit of UNSCR 1441, which
Requests all Member States to give full support to UNMOVIC and the IAEA in the discharge of their mandates, including by providing any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects of their mandates
And that isn't as bad as the violation of 1441 after the war, when the United States prohibited U.N. inspectors from coming back into the country, even though they were supposed to continue searching until they could certify Iraq as disarmed. The worst of it is that the United States violated a resolution that it had rammed through the Security Council.
February 22, 11:25 am EST. From a couple weeks ago (in the Post): Staffers at the Pentagon's clipping service, the Early Bird, were told in October to eliminate clips from weekly newsmagazines, after mildly critical articles on Rumsfeld appeared in Time and Newsweek. The official rationale is that stuff from the weeklies is dated; however, more recently, they have made an exception to this rule for articles that are deemed "positive."

How the ostrich pose helps the Pentagon in its task of dominating the world is hard to imagine.

Bush and his handlers, of course, have taken this isolation to a far greater level. George II's detachment from reality (he's twice claimed he went to war because Saddam wouldn't let inspectors in and twice claimed that "free nations" don't develop weapons of mass destruction) is roughly on a par with George III's. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
February 21, 8:30 am EST. Democracy Now has rebroadcast John Kerry's 1971 speech (streaming video), along with video of operations in Vietnam. They also have short excerpts from the earlier Winter Soldier hearings, where soldiers talked about what they did in Vietnam. Watch the soldier talking about destroying houses as part of a game, to see who could destroy a hut in a "friendly" village with less use of artillery.

Although the occupation of Iraq has a much lower level of violence, atrocities are being committed there as well. There's a great need for returning soldiers to start speaking out about that. It hasn't happened yet to any noticeable degree.
February 21, 7:50 am EST. Check out this article in the Washington Post, Vietnam is a Double-Edged Issue. As expected, the press has finally caught up to Kerry's speech to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 where, among other things, he talks about testimony of veterans on the atrocities they committed:
They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
The article's comments on this are rather interesting. First it says,
Although many of the alleged atrocities have never been verified -- and some have been disproved -- Kerry told the Senate that such stories were not isolated occurrences but had happened "on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."
Then it follows up with a historian, a former Marine professor at the Naval War College, and the great scholar Sean Hannity all saying that these claims are nonsense. There's not a single person quoted as saying that, in fact, they were understated. The historian acknowledges My Lai, as everyone has to, but there's no mention that My Lai was just a slightly bigger example of something that was normal operating procedure (for example, the massacre at My Khe in which 100 people were killed), no mention of the Phoenix Program, certainly no mention of Mark Baker's book Nam, in which veterans recount in gruesome detail -- check out the definition of "double veteran."

There are two interesting things about this extremely slanted article in the Post. First, there can't be too many veterans who saw combat in Vietnam who are unaware of the fact that atrocities like those of the infamous Bob Kerrey were all too routine. Second, the article implies that veterans themselves, recounting what they did, have routinely exaggerated the atrocities they were responsible for and painted themselves in the worst possible light. This is not generally consistent with what we know of human behavior.

You can email letters to the editor to
February 20, 2:30 pm EST. Check out this transcript of Bush being interviewed on the new, U.S.-created, Middle East Television Network (I noticed this in an article in the Washington Post). A little excerpt:
Q If, hypothetically, people in the Middle East could vote, would the next four years be -- if you were to be elected -- would be good for them?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, absolutely.

Q Why would they vote for you?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Well, they'd vote for me because I am strong on the war on terror, for starters. I refuse to relent to terrorist groups. There's no negotiation with these people.
They'd vote for Bush because he knows there's no negotiation with "these people." A little detached from reality, you think?

If you read the whole thing, you'll see it's the kind of fawning, softball interview that Bush gets in the American media or that Saddam might have gotten on Iraqi State TV if he had had a smarter public relations strategy. How exactly this administration can think that broadcasting this kind of thing is going to reach out to the Arab world is beyond me.
February 19, 12:30 pm EST. A group of over 60 eminent scientists just put their name to a statement blasting the Bush administration's misuse and manipulation of science. They accuse the administration of "suppressing, distorting, and manipulating the work done by scientists at federal agencies." Wolfgang Panofsky, former president of the American Physical Society and a scientific advisor to the Eisenhower, Johnson, and Carter administrations, said "If an administration of whatever political persuasion ignores scientific reality, they do so at great risk to the country."

Among the things cited were censoring of a report on global warming, which I mentioned earlier, ignoring the advice of scientific experts about Iraq's aluminum tubes, establishing political litmus tests for scientific advisor boards (including one assessing the dangers of lead paint), and suppressing a microbiologist's findings about the dangers of factory farming of hogs.

The statement was assembled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and was issued along with a 46-page report on "Bush administration's misuse of science."

It's important to understand in this that the kind of people who signed this statement (12 of whom were Nobel laureates and 11 winners of the National Medal of Science) are, whether politically liberal or conservative, deeply conservative in a personal way. Steven Weinberg (who was the head of my group back when I was doing physics), Val Fitch, Leon Lederman, and the others are not the type to go out on a limb, they won't make public statements about science unless they are very sure of themselves, and they have all spent much of their lives in federally funded scientific endeavors where they were heavily dependent on the decisions of whatever administration was in power. Given all of that, this is a stunning indictment.
February 18, 10:30 pm EST. I'm about to hit the road, leaving Alpine, Texas (not far from the set of Giant, for film buffs), so just a quick post. Apparently, some Shi'a leaders are proposing a new plan whereby voting occurs in Shi'a and Kurdish areas, which are relatively more peaceful, and the Sunni Triangle gets some kind of tightly controlled caucus system. This is obviously a disastrous plan and American officials quoted in the New York Times article mention this (suddenly they've learned that appointed caucuses making decisions are not democracy?). At the same time, some signs of a rapprochement between Shi'a and Kurds.

A related idea: make the puppet Governing Council more "representative" (although still absolutely meaningless) by enlarging from 25 to 50 members. Of course, this doesn't even address the issues and can only be seen as a fairly pitiful attempt to buy off Sistani and possibly other emerging leaders who challenge the occupiers.

I'm very skeptical. I would not be surprised if both of these plans originated from Americans. Shi'a and Kurds have to know that a plan that singles out the Sunni Triangle in this manner exacerbates what is already one of the most common complaints in the area -- the deliberate ethnic/sectarian balkanization of politics and creation of a Lebanese-style confessional system.

Again, perhaps the answer is that the Americans feel that, in alliance with key political forces, the results of elections in the Shi'a south and the Kurdish north can be more easily controlled than in the Sunni Triangle.
February 17, 12:00 pm EST. On Saturday, the New York Times published an extremely important article, Chaos and War Leave Iraq's Hospitals in Ruins. The situation in Iraq's hospitals is catastrophic: 80% of patients at the Baghdad Central Teaching Hospital leave with iatrogenic infections, infant mortality is up since before the war, raw sewage covers the floors of operating theaters. Overall, unbelievable as it may seem, Iraq's hospitals are worse off than they were under the sanctions:
"It's definitely worse now than before the war," said Eman Asim, the Ministry of Health official who oversees the country's 185 public hospitals. "Even at the height of sanctions, when things were miserable, it wasn't as bad as this. At least then someone was in control."
This is the first article I've sen that documents this. All of what the article says is consistent with what I saw when I was there in January.

In Nomaan Hospital in Aadhamiya, we were told that the day we came they had run out of ampicillin and didn't expect any more any time soon. They said they were still running the hospital off of the pitiful stocks of medicine they had from the Saddam era. The hospital got power from the electric grid only six hours a day. In Kadhimiyya Teaching Hospital, we were told about sewage backing up on the floors. There was no heat; children with respiratory cases were forced to sleep in near-freezing rooms. Doctors estimated that they got far less than half (some said one-fifth) the level of supplies that they got under Saddam and the sanctions.

The problem is this: the sanctions didn't end, they were worsened. Before the war, Iraq's oil revenues went into a bank account in New York, to be overseen by the Sanctions Committee, a subcommittee of the Security Council. Any disbursements were dependent on concluding a contract with a foreign company (except in the three northern governorates, money could not be used for internal operations like paying government salaries or buying from local businesses) and then submitting an application to the Sanctions Committee, specifying not just what was to be bought but the exact path from import to end use of the commodities. In the Sanctions Committee, the United States could and did block well over 1000 contracts. The U.N. Office of the Iraq Program oversaw the process and issued reports.

Now, the money goes into the Iraq Development Fund, a bank account controlled entirely by the United States (and the "c oalition"). Disbursements go to Halliburton, which has no incentive to solve the problems but is happy to "study" them -- and, in fact, with cost-plus contracts where the "plus" is a percentage of the cost, has an incentive to drive up costs.

The real problem, however, is that before there was an Iraqi government that made plans to use the money to keep the country running -- not just for food and immediate needs, but for medicine for the hospitals, repair for the electrical and water power systems, industrial reconstruction, etc. (and also used money obtained by smuggling to build palaces and mosques, annoying almost everyone in Iraq). Now, the palaces and mosques are replaced by the bank accounts of Halliburton stockholders, but there's no government with authority and funds to keep the country running. I'll be writing a longer article on this shortly.
February 16, 9:36 am EST. From today's New York Times: U.S. Aides Hint Afghan Voting May Be Put Off. Lakhdar Brahimi, former U.N. coordinator in Afghanistan and current U.N. envoy to Iraq, says neither country is suitable for immediate elections. As Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin points out, "If you read all the statements the administration is applying to Iraq - that security and logistics do not allow for quick elections - you'll see that they apply also to Afghanistan."

And yet the administration is pushing for quick elections in Afghanistan and resisting them in Iraq. What's going on?

Ahmed Rashid's recent article in the New York Review of Books suggests that the push for elections in Afghanistan is all about the Bush administration's image:
Late in the summer of 2003, with American forces bogged down in Iraq and Saddam Hussein still at large, the Bush administration appeared to have what one senior US official in Kabul described to me as an epiphany . With no turning point in Iraq in sight, he said, no accomplishment that might help the President's approval rating as the country entered an election year, Bush's advisers decided that Afghanistan needed to be turned into a success story. ... For that to happen, more money was needed, reconstruction had to be accelerated, and the creation of new Afghan security forces speeded up. And, for the first time, the official said, the US began to recognize that to carry out these plans, the warlords had to be neutralized.
Could the explanation for this distinction perhaps be that the administration is confident it can control the results of elections in Afghanistan (where no one is likely to be able to challenge Karzai as president) but not in Iraq?
February 16, 5:00 am EST. Check out Amy Wilentz's new column, Haiti's Collapse, in The Nation. Purporting to be an overview of developments since 1990, it harshly criticizes Aristide, saying, for example, that he is "no Mandela." It leaves out a few things, however. Here's a quote:
No one can argue that Jean-Bertrand Aristide's presidency has been in any way successful other than this: It exists. He was elected in 1990 with enormous hope by an overwhelming majority in a legitimate election--and quickly overthrown by the Haitian Army and its friends. In 1994 he was returned to power through the good will of the Clinton Administration, in the optimistic expectation that he would be able to turn Haiti around.
In that short space, she manages not to mention the fact that FRAPH, the paramilitary death squad that instituted a reign of terror under the military regime, had ties with the CIA, a fact first reported by Allan Nairn in The Nation; that the United States for many years harbored FRAPH's former leader, Emmanuel Constant, in defiance of Haitian extradition requests (he recently returned to Haiti with a Dominican death squad); or that Aristide's restoration to power had nothing to do with Clinton Administration "good will" but rather with his agreement to institute a raft of brutal neoliberal structural adjustment "reforms."

Worst of all, however, it says nothing about the fact that the United States has largely created the "Democratic Convergence" and the "Group of 184," the umbrella for the opposition, through the good offices of the International Republican Institute. The Democratic Convergence has never polled over 12%.

The activist group Haiti Action has put together a well-researched 16-page pamphlet called Hidden from the Headlines: The U.S. War Against Haiti. I wish it had footnotes, but double-checking most of the information is not difficult.

To write letters to The Nation, click here.
February 15, 1:20 pm EST. More in the Bush administration's continuing assault on truth. According to an op-ed in the LA Times, the National Academy of Sciences concluded a study two years ago that documented "widespread racial disparity in dispensing medical care." This is not a surprising result -- it was on the basis of strong evidence that Congress initially called for the study.

That report's findings were never published. Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rewrite that said claims of racial disparity were unproved. Tommy Thompson twice refused to approve versions of the report which mentioned the racial disparities.

Remember when they censored the EPA's environmental report, removing a long section on the perils of global warming?

This is the first truly postmodern administration in U.S. history. In one of his finest essays, Looking Back on the Spanish War, George Orwell writes:
I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written.

The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not a frivolous statement.
February 14, 2:05 pm EST. Human Rights Watch has weighed in on the campaign to overthrow the Haitian government by violence. Their press release quotes the Executive Director of the Americas division saying "President Aristide must take immediate, constructive steps to reestablish the rule of law and rebuild the country’s democratic institutions" -- as if to suggest that the opposition-driven breakdown of the rule of law is Aristide's fault.

The release also says, "Under international standards, the intentional use of lethal force by law enforcement officials is permissible only when strictly unavoidable to protect life." This is a laudable standard, but one that no government will abide by when there is a danger of armed insurrection -- yes, perhaps if the government allowed the thugs to take over without resisting, there would be no immediate loss of life, but democracy would have gone right out the window.

So Human Rights Watch, in the face of a U.S.-engineered destruction of Haitian order and attempted regime change, comes up with criticism only of Aristide and his government. Not even a word to say about whether U.S. intervention to fund and create the opposition is a violation of Haitians' civil and political rights.

On the other hand, HRW did mention very clearly in its 2004 World Report that the war on Iraq was not a humanitarian intervention.
February 14, 1:30 pm EST. According to the Associated Press, the resistance staged a major raid in Fallujah against a security compound, killing 20 members of the Iraqi security forces and freeing 100 prisoners. This is the kind of attack that could quickly increase the popular base of the resistance, unlike killing people standing in lines waiting for jobs or gunning down cleaning women. It's even possible that a few raids like this could catalyze mass action. Expect severe collective-punishment-type reprisals from the U.S. occupying forces.
February 14, 4:00 am EST. A stunning revelation, from the LA Times -- Ex-Halliburton Workers Allege Rampant Waste. Halliburton's standard military contracts are cost-plus -- and the plus is a percentage of the cost -- so they actually have a positive incentive to increase costs. Ex-employees told of renting cars and truck for almost four times the going rate, wasting money on monogrammed towels, and much more. Some particularly striking examples:
The procurement supervisor mentioned other examples. He said Halliburton had purchased several fire engines for $750,000 whose hose mountings did not match the hoses available in Kuwait. As a result, a building burned down when firefighters could not connect a hose to the fire engine, he said.

In another incident, the procurement supervisor said that Halliburton had purchased 25 tons of nails that were too long for a construction project. The nails were dumped in a fenced enclosure in the desert.
Imagine that: buildings burning down because there were no hoses to attach to the extremely expensive firetrucks. It's the rare corrupt, feckless Third World government that can match that level of absurdity. It's pretty clear that the Iraqi people, if given a fraction of the money Halliburton is being given for "reconstruction," could do a far better job.
February 13, 9:15 pm EST. Lakhdar Brahimi, recently appointed U.N. special envoy to Iraq, has just agreed with the United States that elections by June 30 are not feasible. Interestingly, Ahmad Chalabi, favorite of the neoconservatives, disagrees and his spokesman, Entifadh Qanbar, has said that the Iraqi National Congress will prove that elections are doable by then.

Of course, there is no technical impediment to having elections by then. Countries with worse levels of internal violence routinely have elections.  On the other hand, it's definitely not a great idea to have the elections, since there is no chance for a political process to develop that will make elections meaningful while the occupation continues. Furthermore, it should be understood that no Iraqi government that comes to power under a U.S. occupation has any pretension to legitimacy. U.S. control of the process would be far to great for any pretense of fairness.

What's interesting is that the United States doesn't want to hold artificial elections and try to take the easy path to legitimacy. Apparently, this administration is not ready to take even the slightest chance on elections anywhere. Perhaps the real reason they claim there isn't enough time for elections in Iraq is that there isn't enough time to hire ChoicePoint to scrub Iraq's voter rolls or to get Katherine Harris chosen as Secretary of State by the Erbil caucus.
February 13, 9:00 pm EST. Israel has just decided not to defend itself before the International Court of Justice on the case of the apartheid wall. It claims that the ICJ has no jurisdiction because the wall is a matter of internal security. This is laughable, because, of course, the wall does not follow the internationally recognized pre-1967 boundary of Israel, but cuts through the occupied territories. If the ICJ has no jurisdiction here, then it should have none on any international case.

Israeli intransigence here. bad as it is, is not as bad as that of the United States, which since the 1986 decision on U.S. v. Nicaragua (which found the United States guilty and ordered it to pay $17 billion in damages) has refused to recognize that the ICJ has any jurisdiction over the United States, period. When a case was brought against the NATO nations over the Yugoslavia war, the ICJ didn't even issue a ruling on the case against the United States.
February 13, 1:30 pm EST. I've just posted a new article, Bush -- Cracks in the Ice?, about the signs of a new political opening, about Bush's vulnerability, and about what a re-emergent mass movement should be doing. Public opinion is even more open to a new point of view about U.S. foreign policy than it was before the war.
February 13, 12:40 pm EST. Bush seems to be newly vulnerable. A few signs:
  • A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows approval for the war at 48%, Bush's job approval at 50%, and belief that Bush lied or exaggerated about WMD at 54%.
  • Alan Greenspan, for three years Bush's favorite Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, has broken with the administration and is calling for limits on tax cuts.
  • The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence just voted to expand the purview of the new independent commission to include, in an extremely limited way, administration deception. The Pentagon's Office of Special Plans will be investigated, but ways the administration used its material will not. Published statements of administration officials can be viewed, but the commission doesn't have subpoena power. Still, given that the Republicans control the Senate, this is not insignificant.
Intriguing signs, although Bush has not yet begun to counterattack seriously.
February 12, 4:30 am EST. This just in. The Bush administration is moving into the endgame on its Haitian regime-change operation. That old staple of foreign policy reporting, the senior State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity, is reported in the New York Times as saying, "When we talk about undergoing change in the way Haiti is governed, I think that could indeed involve changes in Aristide's position."

The reporting on Haiti has been enormously misleading and readers of the mainstream U.S. media can be forgiven for not understanding that the issue is of a coup against a democratically elected government with significant popular support by a gang of brutal thugs who represent the interests of the traditional Haitian elite. Aristide's government would have even stronger support among the mass of Haitian poor had it not been for the preconditions levied by the Clinton administration on his 1994 restoration, which included wholesale acceptance of IMF-style structural adjustment and neoliberal "reform."

Virtually unreported in the media here is the fact that the thuggish opposition has been put together largely by the International Republican Institute, the Republican Party's portion of the National Endowment for Democracy (which helped give us the 2002 Venezuela coup attempt).

There are allegations that Aristide supporters have committed atrocities as well, although nothing on the scale of any past Haitian government (all other recent ones were U.S.-supported). And, of course, to put down a violent coup attempt, the government has to use violence.

Kevin Pina has written an excellent series of articles on the subject for The Black Commentator.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

February 11, 10:00 am EST. Thirteen Palestinians killed in an Israeli invasion of the Gaza strip today. When these things happen, they get reported. The larger underlying story, however, the complete breakdown of life and even the basic humanitarian situation, in the occupied territories, goes generally unreported. The report written over the summer by Jean Ziegler, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right of Access to Food, paints a horrific picture: the Israeli policy of "closures" has resulted in a Palestinian population with over 60% in poverty, two-thirds unemployed, 50% of families subsisting on one meal a day, over 50% completely dependent on international food aid. Check out the earlier Bertini report as well, which in the year after it was released was covered once in a major newspaper in the United States.

Interestingly, the U.S. policy in Iraq of destroying the government and putting in military search-and-destroy missions in its place (plus a few cosmetic programs on the side) has led to 60% unemployment in Iraq, althought the food situation is better.
February 10, 8:15 pm EST. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is much in the news again because U.S. forces allegedly found a document written by him in which he proposes to senior al-Qaeda leaders a massive campaign to cause sectarian strife in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi, you may remember, is a Jordanian militant who spent some time before the war in Baghdad, getting his leg amputated, and was mentioned in Colin Powell's famous February 5 presentation to the Security Council.

The reasoning was that since al-Zarqawi was allegedly a member of Ansar al-Islam, an Islamist group operating in northern Kurdistan (outside of Saddam's control) and since he had gone to a hospital in Baghdad, therefore the Iraqi government had been planning the 9/11 attacks with al-Qaeda -- even though Ansar's head, Mullah Krekar (living untouched in Norway) denied any connection between al-Qaeda and Ansar.

Well, if these claims are true, we have one more self-fulfilling prophecy. Before the war, al-Zarqawi was apparently unable to do much operating in Iraq, and hadn't been involved in any attacks against "U.S. interests." Now that the United States is occupying Iraq, he has apparently been involved in numerous gruesome attacks, including the attack on U.N. humanitarian headquarters in Baghdad and the assassination of Grand Ayatollah Bakir al-Hakim at the Imam Ali mosque (killing roughly 100 others in the process) -- and he's allying with al-Qaeda.

A stunning, and predictable, success of the "war on terror."
February 10, 8:30 am EST. More on Science Applications International Corporation, from an article in the New Yorker:
It is unclear what special expertise S.A.I.C. brings to several of its contracts. One company executive, who asked not to be named, said that its chief credential for setting up what was supposed to be an independent media for Iraq, modelled on the BBC, was military work in “informational warfare”—signal jamming, “perception management,” and the like.
I think that says it all. Their qualification to set up something like the BBC was experience in denying the enemy (read the people of Iraq) information. There's an excellent article in the Guardian from a month back that explores this theme further. A quote from that article:
Achieving information dominance according to American military experts, involves two components: first, "building up and protecting friendly information; and degrading information received by your adversary". Seen in this context, embedding journalists in Iraq was a clear means of building up "friendly" information. An MoD-commissioned commercial analysis of the print output produced by embeds shows that 90% of their reporting was either "positive or neutral". The second component is "the ability to deny, degrade, destroy and/or effectively blind enemy capabilities". "Unfriendly" information must be targeted. This is perhaps best illustrated by the attack on al-Jazeera's office in Kabul in 2001, which the Pentagon justified by claiming al-Qaida activity in the al-Jazeera office. As it turned out, this referred to broadcast interviews with Taliban officials. The various attacks on al-Jazeera in Kabul, Basra and Baghdad should also be seen in this context.
Of course, that "information dominance" approach is being applied quite consistently here as well (absent the bombing of unfriendly sources, but with severe pressure on some of them to recant). For proof, I refer you to the transcript of Bush's brilliant exercise in information denial on NBC's Meet the Press.

This idea, if you take it seriously (and remember that in the much-touted "full spectrum dominance" that the military types are going for, the full spectrum refers to land, sea, air, space, and information) explains the Soviet-style crudity of the administration's propaganda.
February 9, 5:00 pm EST. Here's a call from and to, I kid you not, have Congress "censure President Bush for misleading the country about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

MoveOn is apparently returning to its roots; it was founded in 1998 around the call to have Congress "censure President Clinton and move on." So let's get this straight: Clinton engages in sexual harassment and lies about it and MoveOn thinks he should be censured (in fact, he was impeached), and Bush lies repeatedly and consistently for two years to take the country into a blatantly illegal war and he deserves the same fate?

With enemies like this, Bush doesn't need friends.
February 8, 9:40 pm EST. More on Science Applications International Corporation, which failed so spectacularly in its attempt to create an Iraqi TV station that would be notably different from Saddam's state TV. Apparently, it held 60% of Intesa, the "public-private" enterprise that runs computerization and automation for PDVSA, Venezuela's national oil company. During the strike by the oligarchy in late 2002 and early 2003, it is alleged, Intesa deliberately sabotaged the operations of the oil company by crashing the computer systems.

Not surprising in a company with such luminaries as ex-US Secretaries of Defense William Perry and Melvin Laird, ex-directors of the CIA John Deutsch and Robert Gates, and former Admiral Bobby Ray Inman (ex-director of the National Security Agency) on its board.
February 8, 1:00 pm EST. Got this from Joshua Marshall's blog: if you read the executive order creating the new WMD commission,  you can see that the commission's entire brief is to investigate the nonexistent "intelligence failures" (as well as to look into similar issues for Libya, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, etc.). There is to be no investigation of administration pressure on the CIA, lies and distortions of existing intelligence, etc. So the commission starts out as a whitewash. And, to add insult to injury, it doesn't report until March 2005.
February 7, 9:00 pm EST. Naomi Klein's latest column for The Nation, about democracy in Iraq, is superb. It hits all the right notes. The last paragraph:
Washington's hold on Baghdad is growing weaker by the day, while the pro-democracy forces inside the country grow stronger. Genuine democracy could come to Iraq, not because Bush's war was right, but because it has been proven so desperately wrong.
This brilliant administration gave the contract for Iraq's new state television to Science Applications International Corporation, a corporation without media experience but with plenty of experience feeding at the Pentagon's trough (here's a blistering denunciation of that effort, by a former producer, published in Television Week -- when Television Week criticizes the occupation, you know something's up). How better to follow it up than by giving the contract for creating "democracy" in Iraq to the Research Triangle Institute, a private nonprofit known, Klein says, for its drug research?
February 7, 1:05 pm EST. Bild, Germany's best-selling newspaper, has just accused the RAF of ignoring Auschwitz in its massive bombing campaigns of World War 2. The occasion was the release of numerous RAF photos of Auschwitz by Keele University's Aerial Reconnaissance Archive. Some of the pictures show mass funeral pyres. The paper wrote (in the London Daily Telegraph's translation)
"It's certain that the British collators [of the pictures] knew of the existence of the concentration camps at that time. Why therefore were the extermination camps not destroyed after the reconnaissance planes of the Britons and Americans photographed them in such detail? At the very least, the railway tracks on which the Jews were transported into the extermination camp?"
The paper was earlier known for bringing attention to the saturation bombing of German cities by British and Americans as a war crime.

The fact that British and Americans knew about the Holocaust (earliest reports in 1941 and conclusive beyond a doubt knowledge about death camps by 1943 at the latest) has long been known. It's interesting that the charges are being resuscitated now in the violent aftermath of a war that was justified in the United States more often by reference to World War 2 than it was by reference to any facts about Iraq in 2003.
February 6, 2:08 pm EST. Lots of attention being paid to recent drops in Bush's poll numbers, especially a Gallup poll showing his job approval at 49%. But also check out these Gallup poll results on attitudes toward the war and related issues.

Conducted on January 29-February 1, the poll found Americans evenly split, at 49% apiece, on whether the war was "worth it." 48% think the war was justified, and another 23% say it would be if WMD were found; 25% say it wasn't justified no matter what.

Unfortunately, after eight months of cascading revelations about lies, only 43% think the administration deliberately misled us and 54% say they didn't. Perhaps most disturbing, 74% think it certain or likely that Iraq had ties with al-Qaeda, 71% that it had biological or chemical weapons before the war, and 70% that it was trying to develop a nuclear program. Major cognitive dissonance.
February 6, 2:08 am EST. Yesterday, speaking at Georgetown University, CIA Director George Tenet supposedly made a vigorous defense of CIA intelligence-gathering on WMD and the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that was produced in order to stampede Congress into agreeing to the war.

There's a declassified excerpt from the NIE on the Web. Some interesting lines:
Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW [chemical or biological weapon] against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger cause for making war.

Iraq probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the US Homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge. Such attacks -- more likely with biological than with chemical agents -- probably would be carried out by special forces or intelligence operatives.


Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al-Qaeda -- with worldwide reach and extensive terrorist infrastructure, and already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States -- could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct.

In such circumstances, he might decide that the extreme step of assisting the Islamist terrorists in conducting a CBW attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.
Now, this doesn't involve any facts, just supposition, but the reasoning is clear. If Saddam had chemical or biological weapons, the only scenario in which he would use them would be a war for "regime change" -- and such an attack might push him to work with al-Qaeda as well.

So, first, Iraq was not and would not be a threat if the United States didn't attack it. Second, if Iraq had any CB weapons or links with al-Qaeda, then attacking it would be too dangerous. In other words, as I mentioned earlier the United States could only go to war with Iraq because it knew Iraq didn't have WMD and didn't have links with al-Qaeda.
February 5, 7:10 am EST. I'm heading out to Connecticut today and will be speaking tonight at a Town Hall meeting on the War on Iraq and U.S. Foreign Policy in the West Hartford Town Hall (50 South Main Street West Hartford) at 7:00 pm EST. Subject to Internet availability, I will keep updating.

After much wrangling, Bush has finally agreed to allow the 9/11 commission to extend its deadline until July. It was scheduled to terminate on May 27, but, primarily because of extreme obstructionism (do read that article, from the Wall Street Journal in July -- it's amazing) by the administration, was unable to complete its investigation by then.

The incredibly feeble rationale the administration gave for not wanting to extend the deadline was that they wanted it to finish its work as soon as possible. But, check out this lovely quote from the Post:
Privately, White House aides feared that delaying the commission's final report would result in a potentially damaging assessment of the administration's handling of pre-attack intelligence in the heat of a presidential campaign.
Doesn't that just about say it all?
February 5, 7:00 am EST. Here's an interesting piece from the GOP -- Why Liberals Fear the Pledge of Allegiance. Don't worry, it's not about the pledge of allegiance. It's about the "fact" that liberals want us to think that the United States is a democracy when, actually, as the author and the pledge point out, it is a republic. What's interesting is that is argues that this is intrinsically better than direct democracy, and not just a necessary compromise between the principles of democracy and the difficulty of consultation within a large polity. The reason it's a better form? Because it's what the Founding Fathers wanted. This is not some rightwing fringe group arguing against the principle of maximal consultation and participation by citizens -- it's the website of the Republican Party.
February 4, 9:30 am EST. Here's an excellent analysis of the new military budget by Fred Kaplan. He's a very mainstream, middle of the road guy, but this is a bit too much for him to swallow. The $420.7 billion suggested allocation (the real military budget includes that for the Defense Department as well as a big chunk of the Department of Energy's budget) in itself is, as he says, equivalent (when adjusted for inflation) to the budget in 1968, when there were half a million troops fighting a very hot war in Vietnam and when the "Cold War" was also at its height. And, amazingly, that number doesn't include the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; the administration left them out so that it could lie about the deficit this year. When you factor that in, the budget is, inflation-adjusted, the largest since 1952 and the second largest postwar budget.

He goes on to detail a lot of the fat in the budget, like almost $8 billion for a new class of submarines and new ships for a navy that is challenged by none and never has to fight. This is obviously a straightforward corporate boondoggle of the kind that all administrations have been fond of but this one has raised to an art form.

The allocation for "missile defense" has been increased from $9.6 billion to $10.7 billion. This, however, is not just a boondoggle; expect more from me about the real point behind "missile defense" shortly.

And, oh yeah, although Bush is content to jack the deficit up to unheard-of heights, he is also using the "opportunity" of the deficit to trim the real fat -- rural development assistance, housing aid for the elderly and Native Americans, ... Just two weeks after promising to create a new "Jobs for the 21st century" program, he is cutting federal funding for vocational training and adult education by one-third, from $2.1 billion to $1.4 billion. This and much more is detailed by Jonathan Weisman in the Washington Post. All of this is squeezing blood from a stone; his "deficit-reduction-related program activities" all concentrate on the meager 17% of the budget that comprises non-military discretionary spending. This approach is even being criticized by the (Republican) chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
February 3, 4:55 pm EST. At the same time that most forces in the democratic polities of the United States and the United Kingdom are stampeding to let their heads of state off the hook for going to war on false pretenses, lawmakers in Iran are taking real risks to stand up for democracy.

It all started when the Guardians Council, the body of Islamic jurists that must certify candidates for political office and can set aside decisions of the elected government if it judges them contrary to Islamic law, disqualified over 3600 of the roughly 8000 candidates for the February 20 parliamentary elections. Of those 3600, 80 are currently members of Iranian Majlis and they include President Khatami's brother Reza, a leader of the liberals. Protests, combined with partial concessions (reinstatement of some candidates) have now snowballed to the point that one-third of the members of the Majlis have resigned and Reza Khatami's party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has decided to boycott the upcoming elections.

I have long thought that the Iranian electoral system and the American are oddly analogous. In Iran, there is an elected government, but to be elected you need to be approved by the clerics. Furthermore, the elected government can't do anything the clerics judge to be against Islamic law. In the United States, you can run for office, but you can't be elected to major offices without money from corporations and the rich, which means without having a platform that they approve of (some exceptions are starting to appear, like Green Matt Gonzalez, who almost got elected Mayor of San Francisco -- and, of course, the other potential exception is if you yourself are a billionaire). Once in office, any legislation that departs too far from the rules of the economic-political corporate-state nexus that is laughably called "free enterprise" is almost impossible to pass and implement, and is liable to be struck down by the Supreme Court, our Guardians Council. Imagine a third of Congress resigning in protest of corporate control of our political process.
February 3, 11:25 am EST. Just posted a long article, "Our True Intelligence Failure, or, Don't Throw Me in That Briar Patch,"
February 3, 7:50 am EST. A recent article by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball is an early attempt at doing some serious revisionism on the Bush administration and WMD. It's all about a recent (classified) Senate Intelligence Committee report that blasts the CIA and simultaneously attempts to exonerate the administration. It mentions Alan Foley, who was portrayed in an earlier New Republic article by Spencer Ackerman and Franklin Foer ("The Radical," December 1-8, 2003), as "bullied and intimidated" by the administration into signing off on the bogus claims about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger. Foley recently told Newsweek that he did think the claims had some merit and that he didn't feel pressured at all.

Expect future coverage to ignore several crucial facts:

1. The fact that Iraq's getting uranium from Niger was impossible due to the degree of monitoring the French have over the mines.

2. The fact that the only hard evidence was a crude forgery.

3. The fact that unenriched yellowcake uranium was useless to Iraq. Without enrichment facilities, which Iraq didn't have, and which could have been detected with Geiger counters (yes, the IAEA inspectors had Geiger ccounters), you can't do anything with naturally occurring uranium.

4. The fact that Iraq has uranium of its own.

And most importantly, the stunning similarity of Foley's testimony and presumably that of many others to come (you heard it here first) to the dramatic recantation of John DiIulio, another insider critic of the Bush administration. Paul O'Neill has also backtracked on some of his claims. With the Bushies playing for keeps on an issue that could still blow up in their faces, expect the screws to be turned behind the scenes on every relevant player.
February 2, 10:45 am EST. Yesterday's attacks on the headquarters of both main Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK, in Erbil, bring up again the question of the Iraqi resistance. The political point of such attacks is incredibly murky at best.

Some factions, at least, of the resistance are going on the notion that any Iraqi who is involved in any way with the occupation is a "collaborator" and deserves to be targeted just like the occupying forces. The most shockingly inhumane incident in this context was an attack on January 22 in Fallujah where gunmen opened fire on a van carrying nine poor women who made their living cleaning on a U.S. base; four were killed. I spoke with a wide cross-section of people when I was in Baghdad in early January, and I can't imagine any Iraqi I met supporting such an attack. Most Iraqis I talked to were in sympathy with the idea of armed resistance against the occupying forces (an internationally recognized right), but said things like the attacks on the U.N. humanitarian headquarters and on the Red Cross back in the fall were the work of "terrorists." Killing cleaning women is a step beyond even that. Many of these attacks, whoever is carrying them out, are losing the Iraqi resistance the support of the populace. The most common complaint is how many Iraqis the resistance is killing.
Targeting the KDP and PUK seems to make no sense. On the one hand, they are part of the Governing Council and are among the staunchest allies of the Americans. On the other hand, this kind of attack is hardly going to scare them (they saw far worse from Saddam on more than one occasion) and is only going to push them into a more active role in supporting the occupying forces. It's hard to see this as anything but a net loser for those attempting to end the occupation. They've openly declared war on the only indigenous force in Iraq that has a substantial number of armed men with military experience. "Peshmerga," by the way, the name that the Kurdish militia fighters give to themselves, means "those who face death."
February 2, 10:15 am EST. Thom Shanker reports in the New York Times that G.I.'s in Baghdad will pull back to a ring of bases around the city and leave internal policing to the Iraqi police (IP, as they are affectionately known in Iraq). Already, from 60 operating locations they have cut down to 26, with plans to decrease that to 8 (2 of them within the heavily fortified "green zone" where the Coalition Provisional Authority's main headquarters are and the other 6 on the outskirts of the city).

This is very clearly the long-term plan for the occupation of Iraq. At the same time, on the one hand, you can read about the "transfer of sovereignty" (I'll be writing more on this soon) by July 1 and about Rumsfeld's decision to increase total troop strength by 30,000 (partly through "stop-loss" orders that represent an involuntary extension of an initially voluntary servitude) in order to keep troop strength at above 100,000 in Iraq through 2006. As I mentioned in my January 23 entry, a "transfer of sovereignty" in which the express design is to create a government that will invite the United States to continue the occupation is a sham. The point, however, is this: a continued military presence in which American soldiers don't have to expose themselves to Iraqi attacks, but can retreat into the security and the artificial world of a new complex of bases that is springing up all over Iraq.

This is consonant with the role of the U.S. military in other bases around the world. Any overseas deployment has two primary motivations:

1. Saber-rattling against neighboring countries. This happens through ongoing military maneuvers and through making large-scale military action a more immediate threat, since the existence of  forward-based troops makes a full deployment easier and quicker.

2. Leverage over the government of the country where they're based. In the case of Japan, this leverage is so great that, even with 80% of the population opposed to the war and later opposed to or wary of sending Japanese forces to Iraq, Koizumi did it anyway. Japan has never seriously crossed the United States on military foreign policy.

What all of this  means is that the Bush administration has a plan to continue the occupation, with all of its negative effects for Iraqis and negative effects in terms of U.S. world domination, but in a way that addresses the main criticism people make, that it's costing too many American lives. A broader critique is necessary, but right now it's coming from very few places.
February 1, 10:00 pm EST. Just returned from a conference in Ann Arbor put on by the South Asian Awareness Network. The promised review of Perle and Frum's An End to Evil will come out shortly in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond"Report from Baghdad -- Hospital Closings and U.S. War Crimes "Report from Baghdad -- Winning Hearts and Minds"Report from Fallujah -- Destroying a Town in Order to "Save" it"Report from Baghdad -- Opening the Gates of Hell"War on Terrorism" Makes Us All Less Safe Bush -- Is the Tide Turning?Perle and FrumIntelligence Failure Kerry vs. Dean SOU 2004: Myth and Reality