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When reminded at today’s press conference that the Iraq War is now reaching the duration of World War II, with no “victory” and no end in sight, the President responded,

BUSH: First of all, this is a different kind of war than a war against the fascists in World War II. We were facing a nation state — two nation states — three nation states in World War II. We were able to find an enemy by locating its ships or aircraft or soldiers on the ground.

But back in August, 2005, Bush was touting the similarities between the Iraq War and World War II, particularly in terms of the moral imperative:

“Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless surprise attack on the United States,” Bush said “We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy . . . Like the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, the ideology of terrorism reaches across borders and seeks recruits in every country. So we’re fighting these enemies wherever they hide across the Earth.”

“ . . . our present conflict began with a ruthless surprise attack on the
United States.”
  If the President was referring to 9/11 here, which apparently he was, then someone should have reminded him that Iraq was not responsible for that attack.  And,

Reaching back into history, Bush repeatedly cited Roosevelt’s steadfastness as the model for today’s conflict, comparing the Japanese sneak assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941 to the al Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Much as Roosevelt fought pre-Pearl Harbor isolationism, Bush urged against a return to what he called the “pre-9/11 mindset of isolation and retreat.”

So when it was convenient to do so, Bush compared 9/11 to Pearl Harbor, blindly ignoring the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, which made the comparison to Pearl Harbor meaningless.  But Mr. Bush continues to conflate Iraq and the “war against terror” and,  now, when it is convenient to do so, he uses the same conflation to respond to criticism regarding tactical errors.  After all, this is a different kind of war than World War II.  It is a war against terrorism, not a war against a nation-state.  

The two wars are neither morally or tactically equivalent.  The Iraq War did, in fact, begin with the US attack of a sovereign nation-state defined as the enemy, but the attack was unprovoked and unjustified, which was not the case when the US attacked Japan.  And, since the initial US attack, Iraq has been flooded with terrorists,  completing the self-fulfilling prophecy/myth that in Iraq we are fighting a “war against terror” rather than a war against a nation-state, so it is easier than ever to conflate the two.  And, you see, here is the biggest difference between Iraq and World War II.  Once we have transformed the Iraq War from a war against a sovereign country to a “war against terror,” we must realize that a terrorist organization is not a nation-state, and we must recognize “terrorism” as an “ism,” as a tactic, so the battleground is both dispersed and infinite.

There is absolutely no equivalent between the Iraq War and World War II because United States involvement in World War II was provoked and was certainly not unilateral.  And it was always a war against specific enemies, not a war against a tactic or a broadly defined ideology.  If it had been a war against fascism or a war against the tactic of using nuclear weapons, rather than a war against Germany and Japan, it would never have been won. In fact, the Cold War, a war against an “ism” (communism) and against a tactic (the use of nuclear weaponry) was not fought conventionally, and it took more than 40 years to win. And it was not won unilaterally, it was not won with torture and Guantanamos, it was not won by abusing the Constitution, and it was not won with brute force.

During the run-up to the Iraq War, some time during 2002, I attended a talk and question and answer session by a fellow named Scott Ritter.  Ritter, an ex-Marine with impressive credentials and an intellectual bent, had formerly been a UN weapons inspector in Iraq.  He resigned from that position in 1998, fed up with the Clinton administration’s policy maneuvers and sick of the way that the inspections were being used solely as a means to gather intelligence.  His experience in Iraq and elsewhere, however, made him an expert on the issue of WMDs, and this is the issue that he addressed when I went to see him speak. He argued, quite simply, that there were no WMDs in Iraq.

Before I attended the talk, I wasn’t entirely sure what to believe regarding the presence of WMDs in Iraq, partly because there was so little factual information available on the topic and even less “straight talk.” However, my instinctive mistrust of the Bush administration and its motives, as well as its tendency to paint every issue with a broad brush, made me lean toward believing that the WMDs didn’t exist or, at best, that no one really knew for sure.  Also, my intuitive read on the situation was that Saddam Hussein was playing an elaborate game of cat and mouse. Why? Because that is what I might do were I in his situation.  If you have nothing with which to defend yourself, then you’d better at least make it seem like you do—puff yourself up and seem bigger, as most vulnerable creatures have done since the beginning of time. I’d also read a good book on Iraq by a fellow named Dilip Hiro, who argued that Iraq had been so crippled by the sanctions that they could barely keep the water running, let alone develop weapons of mass destruction. Made complete sense to me.

Anyway, after listening to Scott Ritter talk, I was almost 100% certain that the WMDs didn’t exist, and, since then, of course, Ritter has been proved correct.

Why did I find him credible? Partly because of his experience with the matter and partly because of the logical way he presented the information. Sometimes when you listen to someone speak you just know that they are telling the truth because they are able to make all the proper connections, they are able to illustrate without embellishing, and they are able to provide specific examples to support their points. They are able to answer questions on the topic with great ease and they are able to provide lots of background information. So it was.

So why was 99% of the country not listening to Ritter? Partly because none of the major media outlets were willing to give him a voice. News programs that had formerly used him as a Mid East expert then refused to interview him. Why? Because the media outlets drank the Kool Aid, just like most everyone did at the time. In addition, some reporters tried to shame and slander Ritter by making much of a misdemeanor charge that he tried to solicit sex from a 16 year old girl, via the internet (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). The charge was eventually dismissed, but some say that it was dismissed only because a deal was struck, something that we will never know about for sure because the court records in this sensitive case were, quite properly, sealed. Anyway, all of that did not change or affect his experience and knowledge regarding Iraq. He was a Republican, too, but I didn’t hold that against him.

He argued and continues to argue, quite rightly I think, that the proponents of this war were mostly ideologues (but ideologues unaware of their own underlying cynicism—my point not necessarily Ritter’s) and that the Bush administration was and is all about regime change. Well, we know that now. And Ritter continues to argue that Iran is next on the agenda, regardless what anyone says.

Here’s an interview that Ritter gave on the topic in March of 2006:


And here’s another one on Iraq, older I think:


BBC News today reported on a study, conducted by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath, a reliable source I should think, which determines that, since 2003, upwards of 665,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a direct result of US occupation. As best I can determine from the article, the figure was arrived at by extrapolating data from a sample population.

According to the article, “The estimated death toll is equal to about 2.5% of Iraq’s population, and averages out at more than 500 additional deaths a day since the start of the invasion.” In addition, “the researchers say that in nearly 80% of the individual cases, family members produced death certificates to support their answers.” Now, this means 80% of the sample population, not 80% of the 665,000, but, if one accepts this methodology and, if one were to only count those deaths documented by a death certificate, the figure would still be 532,000, more than five times the official estimate. The BBC article contains further details on how the study was conducted, but the study itself will be published in an upcoming edition of the highly respected medical journal The Lancet.

Well, I recall when liberal columnist Molly Ivins, and Maureen Dowd as well if I’m not mistaken, got in trouble for saying that more Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of the occupation than were killed by Saddam Hussein’s brutal practices. Ivins made the following apology:

CROW EATEN HERE: This is a horror. In a column written June 28, I asserted that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule. WRONG. Really, really wrong.

But, if these estimates are even close to correct, the numbers are, in fact, inching ever closer to each other.

It partly depends upon how you do the math, in both cases, but the numbers are close even if you use an estimate of Iraqi deaths attributed to Saddam that comes from the intensely anti-Saddam and pro-American Iraq Foundation, an organization of expatriates:

DOING the arithmetic is an imprecise venture. The largest number of deaths attributable to Mr. Hussein’s regime resulted from the war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988, which was launched by Mr. Hussein. Iraq says its own toll was 500,000, and Iran’s reckoning ranges upward of 300,000. Then there are the casualties in the wake of Iraq’s 1990 occupation of Kuwait. Iraq’s official toll from American bombing in that war is 100,000 — surely a gross exaggeration — but nobody contests that thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were killed in the American campaign to oust Mr. Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. In addition, 1,000 Kuwaitis died during the fighting and occupation in their country. Casualties from Iraq’s gulag are harder to estimate. Accounts collected by Western human rights groups from Iraqi émigrés and defectors have suggested that the number of those who have “disappeared” into the hands of the secret police, never to be heard from again, could be 200,000.

OK, so if you don’t count Iranians killed in the Iraq-Iran war or the Kuwaitis killed in the Gulf War, that’s 500,000, plus 100,000 as a result of the Gulf War, plus 200,000 as a result of Saddam’s reign of terror. This totals 800,000, and please note that the Gulf War number, if attributed to Saddam rather than the US or some combination of both, is, acording to this source, hugely inflated.

Even less reliable sources estimate higher because they include civilians that may have died as a result of sanctions, which, however one cuts it, were not imposed by Saddam. Eliminate those numbers and you have pretty much the same estimate:

From a very sketchy source: moreorless : heroes & killers of the 20th century:

. . . between 150,000 and 340,000 Iraqis and 730,000 Iranians killed during the Iran-Iraq War. An estimated 1,000 Kuwaiti nationals killed following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. No conclusive figures for the number of Iraqis killed during the Gulf War, with estimates varying from as few as 1,500 to as many as 200,000. Over 100,000 Kurds killed or “disappeared”. No reliable figures for the number of Iraqi dissidents and Shia Muslims killed during Hussein’s reign, though estimates put the figure between 60,000 and 150,000. (Mass graves discovered following the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 suggest that the total combined figure for Kurds, Shias and dissidents killed could be as high as 300,000). Approximately 500,000 Iraqi children dead because of international trade sanctions introduced following the Gulf War.

OK, so excluding Iranians, Kuwaitis, and those that may have died as a result of sanctions–Minimum: 311,500; Maximum 940,000. 

Some estimates for civilian executions are as high as 600,000, but this figure and the 300,000 one given above seem to be inflated—they are based largely on a mistaken report that 400,000 people were found in mass graves.

Wikipedia’s article on Human Rights in Saddam’s Iraq , which may be the most reliable among all of these sources, includes a total maximum of approximately 330,000 documented civilian deaths as a result of the gulag alone.  To this figure we can add those Iraqi soldiers and civilians killed during the two wars.

So, what is the bottom line of all of this counting which is, at best, estimated? The bottom line from my perspective is that at least half a million Iraqis and Kurds died as a result of Saddam’s brutality and foolishness and at least half a million have died as a result of American foolishness (and, sometimes, brutality). But when you consider that the figure compiled for Saddam covers a period of upwards of twenty years and the American occupation figures cover a period of upwards of three years, one gets a very grim picture indeed. If one accepts the 500 plus a day figure, one must acknowledge that this far exceeds Saddam’s daily average.

At best, one can only conclude that this occupation has caused much more grief for the Iraqi people and has been more a part of the problem than the solution. And one can also conclude that our government has been far less than honest with us regarding the reality for Iraqis, which seems to be getting worse daily, particularly for those in Baghdad.


OK, so the Iraq war is not making the world a safer place.  A classified intelligence report confirms what many people have been saying for years and have determined simply by following the news, reading the headlines, and examining whatever non-classified evidence is available.  Common sense itself dictates that the removal of Saddam Hussein would create a power vacuum, which, if not immediately replaced by a suitable and, most importantly, functional replacement, would suck in forces of chaos and provide a breeding ground in which they can multiply.  In addition, the Iraq War made tangible, not only to Muslims but to people throughout the world, all the policies that radical extremists use as rallying points for anti-Americanism:  the American desire for cultural and political hegemony, the American desire to control Mideast oil, the American desire to control and force rather than negotiate, the American desire to protect Israel, and the American desire to erect military bases on Arab land.  The war made manifest what Muslim jihadists had been complaining about for years.  The young recruits were and continue to be impressed. 


Well, what would make the world a safer place? What would help eliminate terrorism?  You can start by asking Bill Clinton.  When Keith Olbermann asked Clinton, during an interview the other night, what advice he would give to Bush in the unlikely circumstance that Bush should ask him for any, he replied,

I would say that—I would give him, actually, two pieces of advice.  I would say, first of all, I think if you can find some way, consistent with our commitment to Israel’s security, to resume the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and move fairly quickly to a Palestinian state, I think that would do more to change the image of the United States and—than anything else.  I think there’s so many Arab-Muslim countries that are frightened by this instability and all this violence, and I think you would find that Israel would actually get more credit and a more positive response from other Arab nations by doing this than ever before.  And I think we would have a chance then to stabilize a lot of other problems in the Middle East.  That’s the first thing.


The second thing I’d say is no American president can possibly please people all over the world all the time.  If you have an unusual political, military and economic position, you’re always going to do things that some people won’t like.  But there are two things that are important.  You should look like we prefer cooperation over unilateralism and act alone only when we feel we have to.  And you should let people know that we have no anger or animosity and we wish them the best.  And if we can do it consistent with Israel’s security, let’s get back to work on this Palestinian-Israeli peace process, because that’s half the juice that’s feeding terror all around the world.

Regardless of what you think of Clinton, he is right on the money here.  Middle East resentment over US support of Israel can be found anywhere someone cares to look for it.  It is in almost all Al-Qaeda diatribes.  A peaceful and fair solution to the conflict would and must inevitably defuse this resentment because there will be nothing to hang it on any more.  Every day that the conflict continues is another day that the Palestinians serve as the embodiment of Arab and Muslim victimization and oppression.  All past resentments, over British colonialism, over the Crusades, and over efforts to control the wealth and the resources of the land have been crystallized in this never-ending conflict, almost like an icon for jihadists to raise over the heads of the underprivileged masses.  The conflict is like a centrifuge of hatred, the force of which radiates throughout the Middle East.  But now we have a competing centrifuge—the one in Baghdad that has welled up out of the power vacuum of Iraq, if I’m not mixing my metaphors too much here.


There will always be those unhappy with any two state solution.  Unfortunately, there will probably always be some degree of violence and terrorist activity.  But it is inevitable that it will be substantially reduced by a reasonable compromise and, as far as I can see, the Bush administration has not exerted one iota of effort towards achieving this.


And what about the second point—American cooperation and good will?  What does this imply?  Diplomacy, something that George Bush said at his last press conference he has no patience for.  It implies a slower, more socio-cultural approach to problem-solving, one that is sensitive to underlying causes.  Where do young jihadists come from and how are they bred?  They are bred in schools that are run by extremists and fundamentalists.  Why do parents send their children to these schools?  Because there are no other schools, or no other schools that they can afford, if they happen to be one of the many poor in this still developing part of the world.  In some places, it is a Mujahideen education or no education.  In some places, it is Mujahideen  health care and social services or no social services.  Who handed out wads of cash to the Lebanese after their homes were destroyed?  Hizballah, quicker than you can say FEMA.  Who has helped the impossibly downtrodden Palestinians in Gaza?  Hamas has, and it has done so for many years.


What about American hypocrisy—do you think that this wins us any friends?  Do you think that the people of the region take us seriously when we speak of Democracy, particularly when we ally with countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, provided they play by the rules? 

And, as Reza Aslan said on Real Time, we have to think about what we say and how we say it, rather than shooting from the hip:

When Bush says, ‘You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists,’ most people – particularly most moderate Muslims – think, ‘Well, I’m not with you.’

I’d like to add one more method for making the world safer—developing alternative energies, or, to start, developing an energy policy that is not an oil policy.  As Jefffrey Sachs said in The Guardian:

It always comes back to oil. The continuing misguided interventions in the Middle East by the United States and the United Kingdom have their roots deep in the Arabian sand. Ever since Winston Churchill led the conversion of Britain’s navy from coal to oil at the start of the last century, the Western powers have meddled incessantly in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries to keep the oil flowing, toppling governments and taking sides in wars in the supposed “great game” of energy resources. But the game is almost over, because the old approaches are obviously failing.


Just when one is lulled into thinking that something other than oil is at the root of current US and UK action in Iraq, reality pulls us back. Indeed, President Bush recently invited journalists to imagine the world 50 years from now. He did not have in mind the future of science and technology, or a global population of nine billion, or the challenges of climate change and biodiversity. Instead, he wanted to know whether Islamic radicals would control the world’s oil.

Yes, another gem from Bush’s last press conference.  George Bush’s imagination is limited indeed, if he is unable to imagine a world with alternative energy sources or a world in which oil, which has always buttered his family’s bread, is not the number one commodity.


But are we any closer to a clear vision?  Must a former president use TV talk shows to show us the way?  What now?





Perhaps this is a little dated at this point, but President Bush’s news conference last Friday raised so many interesting issues and revealed so much about the President’s inner workings, that I really want to take a closer look at it. The President opened the news conference according to form, by outlining current policy agenda items and the administration’s stance on them.  He began by promoting his controversial bill to maintain CIA interrogation practices that are currently in use, redefine Chapter 3 of the Geneva Conventions (a provision in the bill since dropped, apparently), and retroactively pardon any US personnel that might have violated those conventions.  With much gravitas, he provided the following as an example of the effectiveness of the CIA program:

The information that the Central Intelligence Agency has obtained by questioning men like Khalid Sheik Mohammed has provided valuable information and has helped disrupt terrorist plots, including strikes within the United States.  For example, Khalid Sheik Mohammed described the design of plane attacks on building inside the U.S. and how operatives were directed to carry them out. That is valuable information for those of us who have the responsibility to protect the American people. He told us the operatives had been instructed to ensure that the explosives went off at a point that was high enough to prevent people trapped above from escaping. 

Excuse me, Mr. President, but am I missing something here?  Is this the kind of information that you waterboarded the man for?  Is this something that our top CIA analysts couldn’t figure out for themselves, particularly after observing the events of 9/11?  And what does the President mean by “high enough” anyway?  It seems to me that the intention, on 9/11 at least, was to attack “low enough” to prevent people from escaping.  Bush proceeds to offer two examples that are more compelling, but he offers no details about them, and I, for one, wonder why we haven’t heard about them before if they were such remarkable successes.  And, beyond waterboarding, described as follows:  

The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

the following tactic was applied, something that many Americans don’t know about because it was barely covered by the mainstream media:

Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed . . . are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk. Yousef al-Khalid, nine, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, seven, were taken into custody in Pakistan last September . . . The boys have been held by the Pakistani authorities . . . Last night CIA interrogators confirmed that the boys were staying at a secret address where they were being encouraged to talk about their father’s activities.

Have we, as a people, really sunk that low under this man’s leadership? 

Further on in the conference, the President is questioned about Colin Powell’s comment that “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,” and, no wonder, given the above.  The President’s response? 

It’s unacceptable to think that there’s any kind of comparison between the behavior of the
United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.

Keith Olbermann on Countdown has provided extensive commentary on the President’s use of the phrase, “It’s unacceptable to think . . .”  Olbermann discoursed at length on the totalitarian implications of a president who would presume to judge the acceptability of any person’s thoughts, let alone those of his former Secretary of State.  But let’s give the President the benefit of the doubt here and assume that this phrase was just one more entry in his already overflowing “slip-of-the tongue” catalog.  Perhaps he simply meant to say, “I don’t agree  . . .” 

But let’s look at the rest of the statement:  “ . . there’s [no] comparison between the behavior of the United States and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.”  Now, is this really true?  Really?  The above acts of torture aside, given that they were conducted on someone presumed guilty, let’s take a look at the Iraq Body Count.  One look at the IBC listings, especially those that detail the beginning of the war and occupation, and you will see that US soldiers killed a fair number of Iraqi civilians, including women and children and, inadvertently, the members of a wedding party:  Pages 88 and 89 of this database are particularly interesting in that they detail virtually scores of civilians, including children, that were killed “mistakenly” or by unexploded cluster bombs.  Whether or not these actions were intentional matters not to those who are dead and to their families, and it is not even worth debating intention when soldiers strike in civilian areas.  Undoubtedly, their deaths were the direct result of US “behavior” that was intended “to achieve an objective,” and a flawed one at that, given that Iraq was a sovereign nation that posed no direct and immediate threat to the United States.  Are we so different, when you look at “the bottom line,” a standard that Bush quite frequently refers to.  Well, if it unacceptable to think it, then it must be even more unacceptable to state it.   

The same reporter asks if he can “follow-up,” and Bush answers flatly, “No you can’t.”  Apparently the President doesn’t understand that reporters are just being polite and respectful when they ask that question, with the expectation that the President, who is at bottom just another US citizen with a job to do, will be polite and respectful in return.  In reality, they can ask as many questions as they want, if not in the Rose Garden, then in their newspapers, and in polite company no one would expect a literal and a flat response to the question.  But Mr. Bush, unrefined even when compared to the likes of Richard Nixon, is seldom polite or politic when dealing with the free press. . .

The Village Voice recently featured a blog piece, followed by many interesting comments, on the proliferation of 9/11 conspiracy theories.  Are those who believe such theories simply nuts?  Are they doing the right thing, at least, by questioning the “official version” of the story?  Either way, their cause has some legs because according to the article, which cites a Zogby Poll (and I find this hard to believe in a country in which the one third of the population consistently supports the President):


A startling 36 percent of Americans now believe the Bush administration either perpetrated the attacks or failed to stop them because it wanted to go to war in the Middle East [and]


Forty-two percent of Americans believe the U.S. government and 9-11 commission are in some way covering up the truth of 9-11.

One needn’t believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories to see who was the clear victor on that day.  It was, resoundingly, the Bush administration.  Whether the Bush administration powers-that-be knew or didn’t know what would happen; whether they turned their heads or didn’t turn their heads; whether the catastrophe was a result of their cynicism or their negligence; whether they were shocked, shaken, horrified, or grief-stricken, they must have known, very soon after, what a victory the event was for their party and for the neoconservative agenda.

The event, within a matter of days, justified a sweeping revamp of executive power, long on the Dick Cheney and neoconservative “to do list.”  It gave the President not only the already legally sanctioned right to make independent decisions in a time of war, but it gave him an excuse to push through other policy agendas, such as the NSA surveillance program, without the support of Congress or the sanction of the courts.  It seemingly justified his self-anointed role as “The Decider.”

The Decider

After 9/11, the Bush administration had the almost unanimous support of Congress and the support of a large majority of the American people.  Congress rubber-stamped (98-1) the Patriot Act without debate and some legislators approved it without even reading it.  Most importantly for the Bush administration, they were able to use 9/11 as a leverage point for their nearly monomaniacal plans for Iraq.  They were able to conflate Al-Qaeda, “The War on Terror,” and Saddam Hussein, and they were able to use the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” within the context of all-too-vivid imagery of what a weapon of mass destruction can actually do.  Whether or not Saddam actually had such weapons seemed almost beside the point.

And how fortuitous it was for them that the tragedy occurred less than two months prior to Election Day, so that, every year, they can trot out the same old slogans about the war on terror, play upon people’s fears, and market Republicans as the party that is “tough on terror.”  Each September they can exploit the shocking imagery to the max without even directly referring to it (although they do that often enough) and without being accused of exploiting it, since it is already all over the media.  They can use the debate about war, terrorism, and security as a distraction that allows them to push through legislation that gives tax cuts to the rich, irreversibly harms the environment, and short changes education and the country’s infrastructure (see New Orleans levees).  They can cater to big business and the oil industry with nary a peep of critique because everyone, including the media, has their eyes fixed on Iraq and the ongoing (and almost by definition never-ending) “War on Terror.”  Oil prices can go up, wages can remain stagnant, and the health care system can remain an expensive mess, because all we ever hear about is Iraq and terrorism.  It is almost all that we have to respond to.

The neoconservatives have been able to use 9/11 as an exquisite justification for their Project for the New American Century.  And the longstanding US, and particularly conservative, policy of nearly unconditional support for Israel seemed almost sensible in light of what Muslim extremists were actually capable of.  Never mind that unconditional support for Israel is actually more part of the problem than part of the solution.

In short, all of the main policy agendas of the neocons, the Rumsfelds, the Cheneys, the Wolfowitz’s and the Kristols, have been justified or aided by the events of 9/11.

The Latin proverb says that it is the “victor [who] rewrites history.”  The Bush administration was the clear victor in the 9/11 attack , and almost from day one they rewrote the history of that event, by linking Saddam Hussein and “the axis of evil” to it and, now, by purveying, through right-wing hacks and shills, shamelessly blatant propaganda in the form of “The Path to 9/11.” 

And who were the biggest losers that day?  The American people.  Not only because they lost a cultural icon and 3000 souls, but also because they lost some of their freedom and privacy, some of their good sense, and a lot of the world’s good will.


For those who need to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, Human Rights Watch has recently issued a report called “No Blood, No Foul”: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq.  Many of the soldiers interviewed stepped forward to report abuses that outraged and angered them, but that they could do little about due to their systemic nature: “Standard Operating Procedure” as some soldiers called it.  Soldiers reported that when they expressed concern over the abuses, they were threatened and intimidated by commanding officers, told that their email was being screened, etc.

The report includes numerous accounts of horrors, such as the following:

Standard procedure, when I was there, you [i.e., the detainees] had twenty-four hour inside the Conex [container] . . . you’re blind-folded, you’re zip-stripped, your hands are behind your back; your feet usually weren’t, unless there was a particularly volatile prisoner—somebody who’d caused a lot of trouble, they’d hitch the feet as well. You were there, twenty-four hours: no sleep, no food, no water . . . Early on, when I first got there, it only got up to about 115, but by July and August, we were regularly between 135 and 145 [Fahrenheit]. [Inside the container] it was really extremely hot, to the point where it was irritating to go into the back of the Conex to get somebody out to use the restroom, which is usually the only thing they were allowed to do. . .

Nick said that the MPs were instructed to keep the detainees awake for the initial 24-hour period, by forcing them to stand in the metal shipping container: It was your job to make sure that they weren’t sleeping. . . .

At night time, a lot of the guards would walk by, unload the magazine from the rifle, bang on the side [of the metal container] for a little bit to make sure that you know, everybody was awake. And you’d catch them if they’d fall asleep—they’d fall over because they’re bound. You see, they’d try to lean their head against the wall [but] you’d slap on [the container] to make sure they lift their head back up off the wall, or do whatever it took to make sure they’d stay awake.

Other soldiers reported severe beatings and the use of dogs to terrorize.  Many of the techniques used could have been life-threatening, and, in at least one case, resulted in death. 

Some of these detainees had allegedly been involved with setting off IEDs, despicable yes, but the phenomena of insurgent activity and IEDs was a direct result of US occupation of a country that was oppressed but stable under the rule of a dictator.  Corrupt autocracy was not exclusive to Iraq.

These detainees are not the people that were responsible for 9/11 or the Madrid bombing.  Iraqi insurgents, sometimes under the rubric of Al-Quaeda, use mayhem to destroy their own country, their own people, and the occupiers that never had any business being there in the first place. 

These interrogation techniques, beyond being morally reprehensible and in violation of international law, have been more a part of the problem than the solution, as evidenced by the escalating violence and ongoing chaos that is part of the daily life of far too many Iraqis.


As the Bush administration continues to do a whole lot of nothing about the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, employing a “hands off” policy as it’s now being called, Iraq, now relegated to the bottom of page one or the top of page two, continues to teeter-totter on the brink of civil war, if not having already fallen in.   

A  startling UN report, which was issued shortly after the Israel-Lebanon crisis began, reported that an average of 100 Iraqis per day died during the month of June.  Most were victims of the sectarian violence that has been a direct result of the US occupation.  These astonishing figures have been mostly ignored by the mainstream media.  It’s not their fault; it’s just that they can’t do more than one thing at a time, and that one thing is usually whatever is hot at the moment.     

What a fortuitous fringe benefit for the Bush administration.  Almost makes you think that the Israel-Lebanon-Hizballah hostilities might last until . . . maybe November?

Here is an excellent opinion piece by Sidney Blumenthal, published in the Guardian UK, which describes Condi Rice’s hope for a “domino effect” [!] coming out of the current Mid East crisis: 

Israel’s attacks will demolish Hizbullah; the Lebanese will blame Hizbullah and destroy its influence; and the backlash will extend to Hamas, which will collapse. From the administration’s point of view, this is a proxy war with Iran (and Syria) that will inexplicably help turn around Iraq. “We will prevail,” Rice says.

Sung to the tune of “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.”  Oh yes, we may get a domino effect as a result of this crisis.  But it might not be the domino effect that the administration is hoping for. 

A more apt tune: When will they ever learn?   Blumenthal cites the irony of The Office of Lessons Learned and its apparent need to do more research.  I can’t find any official listing of an Office of Lessons Learned, but there has been much ado on the web regarding the Director of Lessons Learned (nice work if you can get it), Stuart Baker, and he was once on the staff of Katrina Lessons Learned (ha ha), and there is a Center for Army Lessons Learned (that also has its work cut out for it) that Baker doesn’t have anything to do with. 

Blumenthal’s piece, by the way, offers yet another variant spelling of H-b-llah, and, quite honestly, I’ve given up on trying to figure out which one is correct.

In an interview with Terry Gross on last night’s “Fresh Air,” Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq said that the US Mid East policy now consciously promotes instability rather than stability.  He said that, after 9/11, the administration decided that the “policy of containment,” as described by Wolfowitz, would only cause more 9/11s and that there was a need to “roll the dice” or “drain the swamp.”  From my perspective, this means promoting conflicts (or fabricating evidence, as in Iraq) that justify the use of US and/or Israeli force, with the intention of annihilating or subduing the enemy.  We can define “enemy” as any Mid East forces that threaten US and Israeli interests, whether they be heads of secular, sovereign states such as Saddam Hussein, or militants that use terrorist or guerrilla tactics such as Hizballah, who are generally all lumped together as “terrorists.” This serves multiple and often unrelated interests: those of defense, reconstruction, and security contractors; those of the energy industry; those of idealist neo-cons who see US hegemony as the answer to the world’s ills; those of the Israeli lobby who view the US as their personal “capo di tutti capi,” and those of fundamentalist Christians who see the road to Armageddon as the road to salvation. 

So, what’s wrong with that picture?  First, it disregards the rights and interests of those that are perceived as the enemy; second, it leaves a lot of innocent victims in its wake; and third, it might not work and we just might actually get that Armageddon that is being used as a carrot for the extremists.   

In Gross’s prior, seemingly unrelated interview, Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, authors of One Party Country:The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century, describe how Republicans have the edge over Democrats because they have perfected the art (as noted above) of marshaling diverse and unrelated interests behind a single cause.  As an example they describe how, in the 1990s, Grover Norquist of the famous “Wednesday Meetings,”  got “mom and apple pie” proponent Phyllis Schafly to rally against stricter fuel efficiency standards  by describing them as “de facto family planning”  and convincing her that downsizing automobiles was just another way of downsizing American families.  

And in the prolifically reproductive 1950s where did they put the kids—in the trunk?  Yes, I know that cars were pretty big and inefficient then, but they weren’t as big as SUVs.

Peter Wallsten, by the way, is the LA Times reporter that President Bush chided and teased at an outdoor  press conference for wearing sunglasses when asking his question.  Bush, perhaps trying to appear jovial and relaxed in front of the press a la Clinton or JFK, didn’t realize that Wallston is legally blind.  He has macular eye degeneration that causes not only impaired vision but sensitivity to glare.  But what would you expect from a guy who would “massage” the German Chancellor by pouncing on her from behind?



As the Middle East starts looking more and more like a powder keg, as tension rises in the fertile crescent, as Iraq seems to inch ever closer to civil war, as the real threat seems to loom larger in North Korea, and as other world problems such as global warming seem ever-more pressing, there are some who still defend the Bush-Cheney administration’s six year running obsession with subduing Iraq.   

According to VOA News:

Republican Congressman Christopher Shays says that while there have been mistakes, progress is being made. “We made mistakes in our efforts to secure and rebuild the country,” he said. “But we are correcting those mistakes and progress is being made. Yes, the task is difficult but that only reinforces the need to closely examine our roadmap for success.”

Roadmap for success?  This war seems more like a ride with Toonces the Cat.

It seems impossible for some to transcend this remarkable arrogance that justifies all actions and helps drive US efforts to remake the world in its own image. 

A six year obsession?  As many know, it has really been a twenty year obsession that began with the neo-cons at the PNAC, who are really just updated versions of 19th century proponents of Manifest Destiny and 20th century Wilsonian idealism.  The belief in America’s divine mission to spread the “virtues” of democracy and capitalism was originally well-intended, but has somehow transmuted, over the years, into a near-fascistic need to control and police those who are out of step, particularly when they sit on essential resources or strategic locales.  The “shining city on a hill” of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount became John Winthrop’s Providential justification for a New World takeover and Ronald Reagan’s metaphor for American privilege, to be defended at all costs, leveraged as needed, disseminated for a price, and exported when advantageous.  His ideological children, the neo-cons, took their father’s idea one step further—use force to get the job done.

Historically, Manifest Destiny has been extremely convenient in that it has provided a religious and social justification for personal aggrandizement.  The more that the chosen prosper, the more they are able to spread that prosperity to others. 

This approach is not a conspiracy, but an organized political stance.  The right has said so itself, in the abstract language of the academy through turncoat neo-cons like Frances Fukuyama and adherents like William Kristol, and in the bully pulpit of the media, through transparent vehicles such as Fox News.  Its adherents are now seeing its tragic failures, both in Iraq and Afghanistan.   


April 2017
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