"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.
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
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
, to leave.
February 27, 6:00
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
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
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
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
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
Here's my letter to the LA
about the Haiti article (see previous post).
February 26, 7:30
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
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 email@example.com
February 26, 7:00
Clare Short, British Labor MP and former member of Tony
Blair's cabinet, has
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.
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
Aristide making this call for compensation, the French intellectual and
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
base, because all the laws prejudicial to the French position were
and are not retroactive. Debray wrote that he is in favor of what he
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
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.
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
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
, 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?
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
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
of the "rebel" forces.
China has opened
, 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
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,
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,
recent post-conflict elections gone wrong. In Bosnia,
elections held soon after the war there allowed nationalist parties to
parliamentary seats that they used to thwart the implementation of the
peace accord. In nearly every election since then, Bosnia's
electorate has returned nationalists to office despite overt signals
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
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
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
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
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
From a couple weeks ago (in
): 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.
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.
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
They told stories that at times they had personally
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
Although many of the alleged atrocities have never
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
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
, certainly no mention of Mark Baker's book Nam, in which
veterans recount in gruesome detail -- check out the definition of
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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?
PRESIDENT: Oh, absolutely.
would they vote for you?
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.
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
Among the things
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.
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
On Saturday, the New York Times published an extremely
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
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
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
February 16, 9:36
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
And yet the administration is pushing for quick elections in
Afghanistan and resisting them in Iraq. What's going on?
Ahmed Rashid's recent
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
. 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
Check out Amy Wilentz's new column, Haiti's
, 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
); or that Aristide's restoration to power had nothing
to do with Clinton Administration "good will" but rather with his
agreement to institute
of brutal neoliberal structural adjustment "reforms."
Worst of all, however, it says nothing about the fact that the United
States has largely
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Lakhdar Brahimi, recently appointed U.N. special envoy to
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
ChoicePoint to scrub
Iraq's voter rolls or to get Katherine Harris
chosen as Secretary of State by the Erbil caucus.
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.
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
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.
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
- 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
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
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
Republican Party's portion of the National Endowment for Democracy
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.
am EST. Thirteen
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
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
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
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is much in the
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
A stunning, and predictable, success of the "war on terror."
February 10, 8:30
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
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
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
February 9, 5:00
Here's a call
from MoveOn.org and
TrueMajority.com to, I kid you not, have Congress "censure President
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
With enemies like this, Bush doesn't need friends.
February 8, 9:40
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
in late 2002 and early
2003, it is alleged, Intesa deliberately
the operations of the oil company by crashing the
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
Got this from Joshua
: if you read the executive
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
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
, a corporation without media experience
but with plenty of experience feeding at the Pentagon's trough (here's
of that effort, by a former producer, published in
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
, a private nonprofit known, Klein says, for its
February 7, 1:05
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
"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
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
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
Yesterday, speaking at Georgetown University, CIA Director
George Tenet supposedly made a vigorous
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
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
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
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
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
final report would result in a potentially damaging assessment of the
administration's handling of pre-attack intelligence in the heat of a
Doesn't that just about say it all?
February 5, 7:00
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
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
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"
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
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
February 3, 7:50 am EST.
A recent article
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
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
, 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
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
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
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
to increase total troop strength by 30,000 (partly through "stop-loss"
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
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