Thursday, December 18, 2003

Why Dubya Enjoys So Much Support From White Blue-Collar Men

An Interview with Sociologist Arlie Hochschild

A cogent interview that deserves to be read and pondered. My quick and dirty take on the Hochschild is that Bush's appeal among this demographic is primarily emotional. In essence, we get fed a "Those Were the Days" politics, that promises a return to the good old days when "girls were girls, and men were men"; that mythical era when we "didn't need no welfare state/everybody pulled his weight" all wrapped in a pretty Red, White and Blue flag. It sounds nice, but there's no meat to it. The bottom line is that blue collar workers are worse off than they were three decades ago: their paycheck no longer makes ends meet, families have by necessity become dual-income, and the anxiety that their jobs are just a boardroom meeting away from being "outsourced" to Indonesia, China, or elsewhere overseas is an ever-present reality. Bush has done nothing to address those problems. Bush gives the blue collar worker the sizzle, but no steak.

A personal aside: part of my family background is rooted in blue collar industries (manufacturing, oil drilling, etc.), and the rest is rooted in family-operated agriculture. My grandparents' generation did very well for themselves by moving from agriculture to the factory or oil fields. Union jobs enabled them to move from poverty to a relatively middle-class lifestyle: in the process that provided opportunities for their children (my parents) that may not have been available otherwise, and by extension paved the way for the opportunities that my I, my wife, and our siblings have been able to pursue. I take hits on the blue collar workers personally. The job that gets permanently outsourced today affects the future opportunities for that worker's children and grandchildren. Let's not lose sight of that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Another conservative critique of Bush's Iraq policy

Get past the snarky jab at Howard Dean, and one sees some value to this cat's argument. Personally, I am convinced that this war was wrong on so many levels. Not only has it been a moral or ethical disaster, but it's been a disaster at the level of process. To wit, we've seen nothing but foul-up after foul-up since the invasion and occupation began, with the insufficiently prepared troops, the financial mismanagement from those corporations who were awarded contracts for reconstruction of Iraq, etc. After a while, it reaches a point to where the capture of Saddam pales in comparison with the sheer foreign policy incompetence. This was the hardliners' war, and we've seen what happens when the hardliners get their way. Instead of sensible policies that are competently handled, we get competing factions of hardliners engaged in bureaucratic infighting and a foreign policy that sure makes the White House look like an asylum run by delusional inmates. That to me is enough to evict this President after one term. Let's get some people in place who know what they are doing and who actually give a damn about America. The sooner the better.

The Diane Sawyer Interview With Dubya: Some Excerpts

Courtesy Liberal Oasis

Figured I'd highlight some of this as I woke up to some of the Good Morning America coverage of her interview this morning. That unelectable miserable failure commercial-in-chief doesn't hold up too well when the facts interfer with his fantasy. Would you buy a used car from this man? I sure wouldn't.

SAWYER: 50 percent of the American people have said that they think the Administration exaggerated the evidence going into the war with Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction, connection to terrorism.

Are the American people wrong? Misguided?

BUSH: No, the intelligence I operated on was good sound intelligence, the same intelligence that my predecessor operated on.

The – there is no doubt, uh, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. Uh, the – otherwise, the United Nations, by the way, wouldn’t have passed, y’know, resolution after resolution after resolution demanding that he disarm.

I first went to the United Nations, September the 12th 2002, and said:

“You’ve given this man resolution after resolution after resolution. He’s ignoring them. You step up, and see that he honor those resolutions. Otherwise you become a feckless debating society.”

And so for the sake of peace, and for the sake of freedom of the Iraqi people, and for the sake of security of the country, and for the sake of the credibility of international institutions, a group of us moved.

And the world is better for it.

(Bush shows look of self-satisfaction)

SAWYER: When you take a look back --

(Video clip of Dick Cheney saying, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons -- ”)

SAWYER: -- Vice President Cheney said there is no doubt Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Not programs, not intent.

(Shot of Bush shifting in chair, looking a bit annoyed.)

SAWYER: There is no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction.

Secretary Powell --

(Video clip of Powell at UN saying, “Iraq today has a stockpile -- ”)

SAWYER: -- said a hundred to five hundred tons of chemical weapons.

And now the inspectors say that there’s no evidence of these weapons existing right now.

(Video clip of Bush at the State of the Union address saying, “significant quantities of uranium --”)

SAWYER: The yellowcake in Niger. George Tenet has said that shouldn’t have been in your speech.

(Graphic of Tenet and the quote “This was a mistake.” Cut to Bush cocking his head, still annoyed.)

SAWYER: Secretary Powell talked about mobile labs, again the intelligence, the inspectors have said they can’t confirm this, they can’t corroborate.

(Video of Bush at the SOTU again, saying, “suitable for nuclear weapons production -- ”)

SAWYER: “Nuclear” suggested that he was on the way on an active nuclear program.

(Bush’s right leg starts to bounce anxiously)

SAWYER: David Kay: “We have not discovered significant evidence of an active -- ”

BUSH: Yet. Yet.

SAWYER: Is it, “yet?”

BUSH: But what David Kay did discover was he had a weapons program. And had that knowledge --

SAWYER: Missiles.

BUSH: Let me finish for a second. No, it was more extensive than missiles.

Had that knowledge been, uh, examined by the United Nations, in other words, had David Kay’s report been placed in front of the United Nations, he, Saddam Hussein, would have been in breach of 1441, which meant it was a casus belli.

And, uh, look --

(Bush’s voice begins to rise)

BUSH: -- There’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous person. And there’s no doubt we had a body of evidence proving that.

And there is no doubt that the president must act, after 9/11, to make America a more secure country.

(Look of self-satisfaction returns.)

SAWYER: Um, again I’m just trying to ask -- and these are supporters, people who believed in the war --

BUSH: Heh-heh-heh.

SAWYER: -- who have asked the question.

BUSH: Well you can keep asking the question, and my answer is going to be the same. Saddam was a danger, and the world is better off because we got rid of him.

(Raised voice cracks a bit on “rid.” A pause, then Bush shoots Sawyer an exasperated look as if to say “Get it?”, though with a bit of a smile.)

SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So what’s the difference?

(Smile's gone.)

SAWYER: Well --

BUSH: The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were acquire weapons [sic], he would be the danger. That’s the -- that’s what I’m trying to explain to you.

A gathering threat, after 9/11, is a threat that needed to be dealt with.

And it was done after 12 long years of the world saying, “the man’s a danger.” And so, we got rid of him.

And there’s no doubt the world is a safer, freer place as a result of Saddam being gone.

SAWYER: But, but again some, some of the critics have said this, combined with the failure to establish proof of elaborate terrorism contacts, has indicated that there’s just not precision, at best, and misleading, at worst. [sic]

BUSH: Y’know, uh, look (shakes head). What (chuckle) what we based our evidence on was a very sound National Intelligence Estimate.

SAWYER: Nothing should have been more precise?

BUSH: I – I – I – I made my decision based upon enough intelligence to tell me that the country was threatened with Saddam Hussein in power.

SAWYER: What would it take to convince you he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction?

BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.

(Pause, as both smile.)

SAWYER: And if he doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction --

BUSH: You can keep asking the question. I’m telling ya, I made the right decision for America.

Because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait.

But the fact that he is not there, is uh, means America is a more secure country.

'Five Lies' Excerpt: Bait and Switch

It's one of the oldest tricks in the book: bait and switch. Used car salesmen have relied on that trick for as long as there have been used cars. The idea is to lure the customer in to the lot with an unrealistically attractive bargain. Sounds great, until it turns out that the bargain product no longer exists. But there is this somewhat more expensive car that the customer is then told about. To the extent that the customer has already committed himself/herself to a course of action, the salesman is well-positioned to make a sale and get his commission. Dishonest? You bet. Effective? You bet. Of course our slimy used car salesman here is none other than Dubya. The customers? The American public. We were baited into an invasion of Iraq based on the assertions that Iraq possessed WMDs in violation of UN mandates, and that Saddam was an imminent threat to our security; not to mention he and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots with each other to terrorize the US. One other thing: the war will be a breeze and within a few months the troops should be home. All bait. As we've found, no WMDs have been produced, Saddam has been proven to be little more than a paper tiger, and no Saddam-Osama link has ever been established. But wait. Saddam did run a brutal regime reminiscent of Stalin (switch). And let us not forget about bringing democracy to Iraq (switch). And of course we're now needing a longer occupation and more tax dollars to fund that occupation (switch). I get the feeling that Dubya sold the American public a lemon, and no amount of hyping the optional capture of Saddam will make that lemon run any better.

When you go to the polls next November, ask yourself this about Dubya: would you buy a used car from this man? Thank about it. If I saw him in a used car lot, I'd jet.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Iraq Diary: This is the Better Life?

Again just to drive home the point that the capture of Saddam, while a good thing, is really little more than a sideshow for the average Iraqi.

Welcome to the occupation where Iraqis face dire poverty; unemployment; malnutrition; checkpoints; lack of medicines, schools, drinkable water, electricity and fuel; an entire infrastructure destroyed by allied bombing and U.N. sanctions; an entire economy up for sale to those responsible; and the heavy-handedness of a U.S. occupation force with little understanding or care for Iraqi life, sensitivities, hopes, grievances and concerns. But still, the word is out to the Iraqis: no matter how bad you find our occupation you had better like us or be shot.

In the mean time, Party on, Garth, but the hangover's gonna be a bitch.

Shaking Hands With Saddam Hussein

Here's a friendly reminder of where the Reagan administration stood with regard to Saddam. In spite of all Dubya's post-9/11 rhetoric about Saddam being an "evil-doer" and a part of the "axis of evil," it is quite apparent that once upon a time many of the figures in his administration were more than happy to cozy up to Saddam during the Reagan years (e.g., as the Rumsfield/Saddam handshake photo suggests). True, the Reagan administration did pay lip service to the notion that Baghdad's use of chemical weapons was naughty, but actions speak louder than words. The truth of the matter is that Saddam's regime served a purpose: as a secular barricade against Iran and its brand of Islamic fundamentalist (or faith-based) governing, and as a source of cheap oil. Hence, any statements of protest to Saddam's chosen warfare strategies were done with a wink and a nod. Truth is, no one in the administration really cared as long as Saddam was seen as cooperating with them.

What did we send to Iraq during the 1980s? As Michael Moore notes:

* Bacillus Anthracis, cause of anthrax.

* Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin.

* Histoplasma Capsulatam, cause of a disease attacking lungs, brain, spinal cord, and heart.

* Brucella Melitensis, a bacteria that can damage major organs.

* Clostridium Perfringens, a highly toxic bacteria causing systemic illness.

* Clostridium tetani, a highly toxigenic substance.

Who sent these shipments of biological agents to Saddam? None other than American Type Culture Collection.

For more details check this 1994 report from the US Senate.

Who did business with Iraq? Check out this article Made in the USA, Part III: The Dishonor Roll America's corporate merchants of death in Iraq for a detailed rundown. It's an eye-opener.

Boy, it sure didn't take long

...for the mood to change among the Iraqi people

The dancing and cheering in the streets ended rather rapidly, and has been replaced with the more common frustration felt by many under US occupation. Those darned Iraqis. Aren't they supposed to be showering the occupying forces with flowers now?

Steve Gilliard on why Saddam's capture is just a footnote

If you haven't been reading Steve Gilliard's newsblog, perhaps you should. He has some rather thoughtful analyses regard what Saddam's capture really means for Iraqis and occupying forces. The gist is this: the resistance isn't really based on loyalty to Saddam, but rather has its origins elsewhere:

There is a fundamental core to the resistance which is based in Iraqi history and psychology, and made worse by US actions. Baath is, by the war, not a synonym for Saddam worshiper, but a pan-Arab nationalist ideology. While the American media uses the term to mean Saddam supporter, it is more complex than that.

...While Bremer was crowing, the fact remains that there has not been a day since March 21 where US troops have not come under fire. His Young Republican Abroad projects are faltering, leaving the vaunted schools worse off than before. The IGC is still regarded as quisilings by most Iraqis. And the power of the Ayatollah Sistani grows by the day. Even secularlists or lapsed Shia intellectuals have to regard his position as the morally and ethically correct one. Why can't they have one man, one vote elections? Because the Americans won't like the outcome? Iraqis are intelligent, crafty, people and they don't need the great white fathers from Young Republicans Abroad to run their country for them. Removing Saddam as a threat just makes opposition that much easier.

Think of the lives and money it cost to get Saddam, a haggard old man living in a cave with a box of money. Nearly 500 American families have lost young ones, most under 25, thousands more have sons and daughters injured in combat, starting life over minus a limb. Is Iraq safer, more democratic, more of a US ally? Yet, there has been a river of blood to get just this far. How much longer will the war continue? And in the end, will the ultimate outcome be an Islamic Republic run by a disciple of Sistani? Will thousands of Americans have died to ensure an Iraqi theocracy?

That, in the end, is why the capture of Saddam will be a historical footnote.

In another related post, Steve notes:

Why should an Iraqi now align themselves with a corrupt, ineffective occupier who disrespect their customs and homes? What do they gain? Why shouldn't they join the resistance and determine who runs Iraq on their own? Bush has offered them no reason to lay down their weapons, and instead, may encourage many of them to fight.

And from another post:

Americans ignore the reality that Iraqi nationalism is now the driving force. The praise of Saddam we hear for the cameras is to taunt and mislead the US, not some irridentist desire for Saddam resurgent. Iraqis are not idiots, they know any mention of Saddam turns Americans nuts. What will Sanchez say when that fully-loaded C-130 comes crashing out of the sky, or when a US-occupied position is blown to hell killing 20-30 Americans at once? That it's "bitter enders" who just won't quit?

Americans are incredibly naive when it comes to understanding the hostility our actions have engendered in Iraq. Many people were inclined to see us as helpful, but the US Army's tactics and the refusal to impose order made accepting the occupation impossible for many. Relegating the opposition to a few mercenaries and Baathists sounded fine on TV, but it's not the military reality. Saddam couldn't trust his own army, a point I make repeatedly, what makes you think that Army, unemployed and humiliated, is now fighting for him? Because it is fighting Americans and doing a decent job of it.

It would be nice to think our Iraqi adventure is over. My sneaking feeling is that not only is it not over, it has really just begun.

There's a great deal of rich material here. I suspect he's nailed it.

While We Celebrate the Capture of Saddam, Let Us Remind Ourselves:

The Iraqi resistance is much more than a Saddam-controlled operation. The writer lists a number of players, with something in common: most of the likely resistance factions are nationalistic. They just simply dislike the idea of foreign occupiers on their home turf. There is a subset who view this more as a religious war (e.g., Jihadis who may be in part mercenaries from outside Iraq), and still another subset representing organized crime. Shia factions generally have stayed out of the resistance, with the exception of perhaps some of the more radical of these factions; although too there's probably at least some nationalistic sentiment that could change that. Add to the mix the potential that Osama bin Laden may be targeting Iraq as a site for Al Qaida to focus its energies, and we could see more mercenaries in the area. Even if Saddam had planned some form of resistance operation after his fall, it is probable that he has had little to no involvement in it (he was too busy trying to hide in a hole). Rather than cutting off the head of the serpent, the occupying forces have merely cut of one of many heads, and one that was rather weak to begin with. Catching Saddam is good, but the violence is probably far from over, as Iraq slides ever closer to civil war.

Update:Here's what Sen. Jay Rockefeller had to say about the Saddam capture

"Given the location and circumstances of his capture, it makes it clear that Saddam was not managing the insurgency, and that he had very little control or influence.

"That is significant and disturbing because it means the insurgents are not fighting for Saddam, they're fighting against the United States," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And here's a summary of US intelligence conclusions about Saddam's involvement in the wave of insurgent attacks (from the same report):

US intelligence officials have previously said they believe Saddam was too concerned with survival and staying hidden to provide much more than symbolic leadership.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam's Captured, and I Feel Fine

Definitely one of those pieces of news that regardless of one's views about Bu$hCo and its oil wars, is fantastic. Saddam has certainly been a bastard, and hopefully he'll be tried for his attrocities. Ideally this will be handled by an international war crimes tribunal (e.g., the one charged with trying Milosovich), where there would be a sense of legitimacy, and in which those involved are quite experienced with such matters.

That said, I don't quite see this as anything more than a temporary propaganda boost for Bu$hCo and Blair. For starters, it seems highly implausible that Saddam has been able to run any sort of insurgency campaign: he's been too isolated and apparently too disoriented to have been terribly useful. I'd be willing to wager that once Saddam fell he pretty much had lost any legitimacy he had once commanded, even among Ba'athists. Iraqi opponents to the US occupation probably never much cared for Saddam, are glad to see him gone, and wish the Americans would do likewise. Even if Saddam had been able to coordinate a guerilla campaign, we would be well advised to look at the Peruvian experience with Sendero Luminosa, a Maoist rebel group, who after their leader was captured continued to escalate its guerilla activities. Iraq is still unstable, and insurgents will continue their attacks unabated for the time being. More importantly, the capture of Saddam does nothing to address the day-to-day problems that the average Iraqi faces. Infrastructure problems persist, problems in establishing an Iraqi-based security organization persist, and the heavy-handed approach used by the occupying military forces (primarily US) has done much to turn the average Iraqi off. Saddam's capture as a symbolic victory maybe won't play so well in Iraq (even as it temporarily plays well in the Beltway and in middle America). The "hearts and minds" campaign has been a failure thus far, and I see little to change that as long as the occupation continues on its present course. Another problem I see for Bu$hCo down the road: once Saddam is tried, I would expect that he will use his day in court to remind the world that the very government that deposed him and vilified him has present many individuals who seemed perfectly pleased with him during the 1980s, and seemed quite unbothered by his attrocious human rights record which was already well known. No wonder Bu$hCo is not all that eager to push for a trial any time too soon. Might want to wait til after the Presidential elections are over first, lest Saddam says something embarrassing. So Saddam can still cause headaches for this president even from a prison cell. Finally, I doubt this will change the financial situation the US faces in funding the occupation: I doubt that the UN or numerous other European states will suddenly do a U-turn with regard to their position on Iraq and begin emptying their nations' treasure and committing their troops to the quagmire.

So, I'm pleased that the scum is captured. I just don't think it will do a lot of good.