Saturday, March 22, 2008

Is War Against Iran Inevitable?

Image information: Artist is David Dees; found at the blog The Fourth World War

Some items you should be reading - carefully:

U.S. News and World Report - 6 Signs the U.S. May Be Headed for War in Iran

William R. Polk - Iran: Danger and Opportunity

Chris Floyd - One Foot in the Grave: Iran Attack Nearer, More Likely Than Most Suspect

Arthur Silber - Thus You Lose the World: What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?

Remember that Bob Marley quote I left you with this morning?
The people, who were trying to make this world worse... are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness.
That's a good quote to live by right now. The folks who fantasize about a "long war" (and whose bank accounts will be richly padded by such a war) are not taking a day off at all. If they succeed, they will make this world worse.

I have a version of the following quote on a poster in my office - it's been with me for easily over two decades dating back to my anarcho-punk days:
When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds, and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow
It's a Hopi prophesy that seems to be particularly apt. Each one of us needs to do whatever we can to light up the darkness, by words and deeds.

A couple useful letters to the NYT editor

Image caption: 'Cellular' by Martha Rosler, from the article House Beautiful Iraq.

Two items in New Pravda (the article Bush Defends Iraq War in Speech and op-ed piece Mission Still Not Accomplished) led to some letters, a couple of which are worth mentioning:
Re “Marking 5 Years, Bush Insists U.S. Must Win in Iraq” (front page, March 20) and “Mission Still Not Accomplished” (editorial, March 20):
Five years of war with Iraq blown to bits and shards cannot be sugarcoated by the false rhetoric of a waning administration that remains bent for war at any cost.
The United States has waged this war unleashing cluster bombs, inflicting torture, institutionalizing violence against civilians in its military operations and thumbing its nose at international law. There is no nobility that can be claimed in this, there are no gains, and the destruction of one country while imperiling our own cannot be called progress.
It is possible that when President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney refer to gains, they are referring to their stealth advances toward control of Iraqi oil. Those gains dangle just off the horizon, a lure the United States is willing to follow at the price of an obliterated Iraq, a bankrupt United States and a future of occupation.
We, the people, are calling for no more; we are calling for peace.
Nancy Dickeman
Seattle, March 20, 2008
Re “Mission Still Not Accomplished”:
In my conversations with a number of people outside the United States, what seemed most appalling to them was not the killings, torture or illegal detentions nor was it the complete callousness of the current administration.
Indeed, what appalled them most was the fact the country re-elected this president in 2004 and that neither the press nor the electorate is willing to hold anyone culpable for what has to be the most egregious human rights violations by any democratic government in history.
What has tarnished our image more is not what we did in Iraq but that we appear to care so little about it. I am sorry to say that editorials and letters to the editor won’t help in changing that perception.
Sukumar Vijayaraghavan
Denver, March 20, 2008
Indeed if one reads the editorials appearing in New Pravda and elsewhere in what passes for our mainstream media, it becomes clear in a hurry that the perception that Americans generally appear to care little about what has been inflicted on the Iraqis in their names is not likely to be changed any time too soon.

I'd like to think that beneath the surface that perception is deceiving - driven largely by the banality of the war (and the larger "Global War on Terra" that includes the Iraq occupation) in the minds of our ruling elites and those whose lives are largely sheltered within the confines of suburban and exurban gated communities. For those most likely to profit directly or indirectly from the carnage, life is good. As long as the Hummers, liposuctions, hair extensions, and salad shooters are affordable to them, there is indeed nothing to worry about. Even for those who do seem interested in understanding the situation in Iraq, so much is hidden from view that the carnage there becomes little more than the very ominous background noise that is barely audible.

Vijayaraghavan's reflections on the perceptions of the 2004 election are also worth pondering, as unfortunately perception may not entirely reflect reality. If you look at that election - or any other held in the US - you must soon realize that American voters are offered woefully limited "choices" and that even then there is just enough corruption in the voting process (e.g., Florida 2000, Ohio 2004) to even negate the activity of "choosing" a lesser of evils. If one gets down to it, John Kerry wasn't really going to change much of anything with regard to Iraq, other than to begin a "surge" a lot earlier than Bush. It is indeed distinctly possible that if we were currently talking about the ending of a first term of a Kerry regime, much of our conversation would be strikingly similar to what we are having now. To the extent that the 2006 mid-terms signaled a more successful voter effort to change course in Iraq, that effort was largely frustrated by the very Democrat majorities that were supposed to end the occupation. Those same Congressional majorities weren't too keen on actually holding accountable anyone actually responsible for perpetrating the atrocities against Iraqis (impeachment of Bush and Cheney, for instance, was immediately declared "off the table"). As it stands now, 2008 isn't looking so great either.

I'd suggest that a substantial portion of what may seem like apathy could in fact be a manifestation of a great deal of frustration at not being listened to by those who supposedly "represent" us, and by the apparent failure of traditional means of dissent. That's not to let the American people completely off the hook, nor is it to suggest that there isn't a lot of genuine apathy, but rather to suggest that onus will continue to fall on those of us who do give a damn (for all I know, we could well be the "silenced majority" - there may be something to those opinion polls that find Americans consistently against continued occupation of Iraq) to find other means of demanding meaningful change. We've got our work cut out for us.

Weekend music: Redemption Song

Bob Marley.

Was viewing the DVD I Am Legend this evening, which features this tune (along with a few others).
A quote attributed to Bob Marley (also via I Am Legend), on why he decided to perform two days after being shot:
The people, who were trying to make this world worse... are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness.
Let's light up the darkness.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What was so controversial about this?

Image of Rev. Wright from the Anderson Cooper 360 Blog

Rev. Jeremiah Wright sez:

“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

Looks pretty tame to me. It may not exactly be a "feel-good" message for most Americans, but overall it's pretty spot-on.

Shorter Anne-Marie Slaughter

"Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who."

Slaughter's missive is quite capably taken apart by Glenn Greenwald and Arthur Silber.

The quotation comes from the King of Swamp Castle, scene 17 of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in an effort to quell the anger of his wedding guests after Sir Lancelot had gone on a rampage.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The years before the current phase of the Iraq War

I always figure that a reminder that the US had been at war against the Iraqis for longer than the five years that we've been marking this week. To take a trip down memory lane, here's a list of some noteworthy US bombings of Iraq during the Bill Clinton years:
June 27, 1993: The U.S. launches a cruise missile attack on the headquarters of Iraq's intelligence service. Although the action, which is not authorized by the Security Council, is allegedly undertaken in retaliation for an attempt to assassinate former Pres. Bush during a visit to Kuwait, no evidence is ever produced to confirm that Iraq was involved (or even if the supposed assassination attempt actually occurred. Among the many "collateral" victims of the missile strike is the prominent Iraqi painter, Leila Attar.

September 3-4, 1996: The U.S. launches a series of cruise missile attacks against targets in northern Iraq. Although the action, which is not authorized by the Security Council, is supposedly undertaken to protect the Kurdish population around Irbil from Iraqi depredations, the U.S. policy of supporting assaults against these same Kurds belies any such noble motive. On Sept. 14, Pres. Clinton admits that he actually "ordered these attacks in order to extend the no-fly zone." The U.S. missile strikes thus violate Chapter VII of the UN Charter, As Well as UNGA resolution 337A (V) and a host of other elements of international law. Given the extent of "collateral" civilian casualties involved -- not the least among the very Kurds Clinton claimed to be trying to "save" -- violations of the 1923 Hague Rules of Aerial Warfare and the 1949 Geneva Convention IV are also at issue.

December 16, 1998: UNSCOM chief Richard Butler, having withdrawn the last of his personnel from Iraq, submits a report to the Security Council stating that the Iraqis had refused admission of inspectors to a number of "sensitive" installations (this is a conscious misrepresentation; Iraq had refused admission mainly to presidential palaces and other facilities deemed essential to "the dignity and sovereignty of the country."). On this pretext, and without Security Council authorization, Pres. Clinton orders the commencement of "Operation Desert Fox" the same evening. Over the next 4 days, more than 100 sites -- several of them in Baghdad -- are subjected to heavy bombing. As U.S. inspector Scott Ritter later observes, by that point, Iraq's existing stockpiles and capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction had already been completely destroyed. The U.S. airstrikes are thus plainly geared far more to impress upon the Iraqi government that it must do whatever it is told, than to "eliminate Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capabilities."
From about three years ago, I noted:
It is also the case that the US and UK had been cooperating since the end of the 1991 Gulf War to continue periodic bombing raids within Iraq's borders. None of this is a secret. The US (abetted by UK) campaign of genocide in Iraq was already on-going by the time Bu$hCo usurped the throne - the economic embargo imposed by the US had led to the death by starvation and disease of some 500,000 children in Iraq, for example - something that Clinton's ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright considered an acceptable price to pay.
In that light, from around the same time period, I said:
I've discussed previously the fact that following the presumed "end" to the Gulf War the regular bombings of Iraq targets continued unabated throughout the 1990s and early 2000s - at which point begins the official "beginning" of the war that our government is currently perpetrating. These airstrikes, conducted under the pretext of preventing the Evil Saddam from engaging in further hostilities with his neighbors, actually served the purposes of preventing efforts to rebuild the infrastructure (and worked in tandem with economic sanctions serving the same end). These strikes included, among other targets, the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq on Sept. 3 & 4, 1996 (ostensibly to "protect" the Kurds) ordered by none other than Bill Clinton (see, e.g., Ward Churchill's On the Justice of Roosting Chickens for a more thorough treatment of the US posture towards Iraq during this period). Of course, there were periodic spikes in bombing activity including - as it turns out - a noticeable escalation in airstrikes during the latter half of 2002:
THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.

The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make "regime change" in Iraq legal.

Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, told the meeting that "the US had already begun `spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime".

The new information, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, shows that the allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001, and that the RAF increased their attacks even more quickly than the Americans did. Link
Keep in mind what both Bush and Blair were saying both to their respective constituencies and to the rest of the world: they lied when they contended that they were still pursuing diplomatic avenues.
I can only reiterate that the history of US hostilities against the Iraqi people stretches back to 1990, and has included not only two major military phases (The 1991 Gulf War and the current occupation that started in 2003), but also largely successful effort via sanctions to starve out the Iraqi people. Of course, as the above serves to remind us, the bombings never really stopped and indeed escalated in the months running up to the "Shock and Awe" that occurred on March 19th/20th. This genocidal effort was and is largely a bipartisan affair inside the Beltway, and aided and abetted by the UK's governments (e.g., John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown).

It's easy to try to rewrite history. It's up to us who know otherwise to continue to call bullshit at those revisionist efforts.

What other bloggers have been saying on the Iraq War anniversary

Image caption: Falluja/Guernica, 2004 by Rob Landeros (found at Gernika)

Although there are some 375 blogs participating in the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm, there are plenty of other similarly-minded bloggers who are not formally part of the blogswarm but who deserve to be read. Please check these folks out. You'll be glad you did.

Marisacat - The Thousand and One Nights
A Tiny Revolution - Five Years Later and Spencer Ackerman on Jeffrey Goldberg and Stephen Hayes
The Heathlander - Polling Your Face Off (part of the post includes results from a recent Iraqi opinion poll)
Left I on the News - Obama on the 5th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq
Lenin's Tomb - The re-division of Iraq and Extraordinary testimony from Iraq vet
Mickey Z: Cool Observer - The Iraq War did not "begin" on March 19 (useful reminder that the war and occupation in its present incarnation is merely a continuation of what Papa Doc Bush and Bubba Clinton perpetrated)
Arthur Silber - Tragic Reprise: A Nation of Stupid Children Who Refuse to Give Up the Lies and Over One Million Murdered -- and Nothing Has Been Learned
The Try-Works - Happy Fifth Anniversary US Soldiers! and Happy Fifth Anniversary Iraqi Civilians! (both posts contain very graphic images - enter at your own risk)
Who is IOZ - Psalms
Green Left Infoasis - Global Warming and the Iraq War and National Day Of Protest Against Iraq War Includes Labor
Invictus - Five Years of U.S. War on Iraq (Graphic)
World War 4 Report - More than 100 arrested in San Francisco anti-war actions
jmbzine - Still stunned by everything at Winter Soldier
Peace Arena - 5 Years Too Many events in OKC and Voices from the war
Okie Funk - Iraq Occupation Killed Truth
Free Iraq - There rarely was a suicide in Iraq before 2003 and Corporate Genocide - Result of 5 years of occupation
Earthside - Five Years of Failure
Empire Notes - Nothing Ever Happens in Macondo
The Fanonite - There Must be a Reckoning and Was It Worth It?
Informed Comment - The Arab Conscience and the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War and 5 Years, Five Lies: Cole in Salon
EuroYank - Blog Debates - Your Life Hangs on a Thread (includes a mention of the Iraq War)
American Samizdat - Iraq: teachers told to rewrite history
Fitness for the Occasion - Iraq: Seeing the Violence
Empire Burlesque - Five Years and Counting: A Milestone on America's Long March Into Hell

Suffice it to say, this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Some other columnists' fifth anniversary writings

Image caption: 'Photo-Op' by Martha Rosler, from the article "House Beautiful Iraq"

From CounterPunch:

Jeff Taylor - Five Years of War in Iraq: When Failure is Rewarded
Patrick Cockburn - A War of Lies: The Terrible Reality of Iraq
Robert Fisk - The Little Men and the Inferno: The Hell-Disaster of Iraq
Ron Jacobs - Five Years and Counting: Who'll Stop the Rain?
Yifat Susskind - Iraqi Women Resist the Occupation: Will Progressives Stand With Them?
Andrew Wimmer - War Demands Its Due: Getting the Story Right


Justin Raimondo - Iraq: Five Years After the Conquest
Jim Lobe - Why Did the US Invade Iraq?
Ivan Eland - For the Iraq War's Birthday, Slice of Cake

From elsewhere:

Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky - A surge in Iraq gasbags
Jonathan Steele and Suzanne Goldenberg - What is the real death toll in Iraq?
Greg Mitchell - 5 Years Ago, As War Neared, Hillary Clinton Was Silent, 'NYT Archives Show - Robbing the cradle of civilization, five years later
Linda Heard - How to Destroy a Country and Get Off Scot-Free
Curt Guyette - The Left Was Right
Scott Horton - Six Questions for Aram Roston, Author of ‘The Man Who Pushed America to War’
Walter C. Uhler - My Protest to The Times: Effete Warmonger Kristol/Sanitizing Five Years in Iraq
Dahr Jamail - Rule, Not Reconciliation
Jon Soltz - Iraq: Five Years and Fading
Michael Goldfarb - Happy Anniversary
Rebecca Solnit - Five Years Later
Madeleine Mysko - Winter Soldiers: Nation must heed the horrifying words of those who have returned from the front lines
Nofa Khadduri - Occupation is Corporate Genocide
Rob Winder - US Voices Against the War
Firas Al-Atraqchi - The Iraq Invasion: Five Years On
Robert Parry et al. - How Could So Many People Buy into Bush's "Patriotism Sweepstakes" War?
Michael Zweig - The War and the Working Class
Maya Schenwar - Five Years Into War, Soldiers Speak
Susan Donaldson James - Penn's War: Media Lap Dogs Backed Iraq Mess
Bill Moyers - Casualty of War

Also, The Huffington Post has a whole series called Iraq Five Years of War.

Note that I'll be continuing my series of posts on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War through today, as - depending on the perspective of Americans/British or Iraqis (different time zones) - the war either commenced on the 19th or 20th of March.

While You're At It

Make sure you check out what some other bloggers are saying as part of the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm. Many of us have posted links to our offerings in the comments.

A couple more blasts from the past

Here are my Iraq War anniversary posts from the old Left End of the Dial days.

March 19, 2003 - A Day That Will Live in Infamy (2006 - a slightly updated version of the 2005 post)

March 19, 2003 - A Day That Will Live in Infamy (2005)

One Year Later: We Are All Victims of Bu$hCo's Groupthink (2004)

It's interesting to look at how one's thoughts about the Iraq War have evolved over time. If anything, the Iraq War and its aftermath have led me to a more radical perspective than I would have held previously. I'm probably not alone in that regard.

So it goes. We'll keep lighting candles in the darkness for as long as necessary.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What the war propagandists were saying

As I've said before, I have a long memory:
Here are some blasts from the not so distant past courtesy of Norman Solomon:
"the Defense Department has evolved highly selective and accurate munitions that can sharply reduce the need to take or receive casualties. The predictions of widespread mayhem turned out to be false last time – when the weapons [in the Gulf War] were nothing like so accurate. [...] it can now be proposed as a practical matter that one is able to fight against a regime and not a people or a nation."
-- Christopher Hitchens, March 18, 2003
"what I've seen of Iraqi television, with Saddam Hussein presenting propaganda to his people and showing off the Apache helicopter and claiming a farmer shot it down and trying to persuade his own public that he was really in charge, when we're trying to send the exact opposite message"
-- Michael Gordon, NYT reporter, March 25, 2003
"The American public knows how important this war is, and is not as casualty sensitive as the weenies in the American press are."
-- Fred Barnes, Fox News, March, 2003
"They are calling this the cleanest war in all of military history. They stress they're fighting a regime and not the people, using smart bombs, not dumb, older munitions. But there have been and will be accidents. … And there's a new weapon in this war: Arab media, especially al-Jazeera. It's on all the time, and unlike American media, it hardly reflects the Pentagon line. Its critics say it accentuates civilian casualties and provokes outrage on the Arab street."
-- Brian Williams, NBC News, April 2, 2003
"Thank you for coming on the show. And I want to add, I think the Special Forces rock!"
-- Katie Couric, NBC Today Show, April 3, 2003, to a US military official appearing on the show
"We're all neocons now."
-- Chris Matthews, MSNBC Hardball, April 10, 2003
"He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys."
-- Lou Dobbs, CNN, May 1, 2003
"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple."
-- Chris Matthews, May 1, 2003
Never forget. Never forgive.

Since we'll likely have a "six years too many" blogswarm next March

Here are a few words commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War by Arthur Silber, under the title, Tragic Reprise: A Nation of Stupid Children, Who Refuse to Give Up the Lies:
As the United States is about to begin the sixth year of its eternally unforgivable, genocidal war crime in Iraq, I direct your attention to a piece I wrote just over a year ago, on March 1, 2007. I could have selected any number of essays, but this one will do for my purposes.

"A Nation of Stupid Children, Who Refuse to Give Up the Lies" arose out of yet another of the utterly meaningless controversies of the moment. Such daily contortions over trivialities -- which contortions consume our major media and far too many bloggers of all political persuasions -- prevent us from understanding anything of significance about the actual meaning of our nation's actions. This is why so many of us love them so much: we never have to think and, of even greater importance, we never have to do a damned thing that might actually matter to stop the ongoing crimes. In this case, the circus was set in motion by John McCain's comment that the United States had "wasted a lot of ... American lives" in Iraq.

And the heavens shook. Almost no one would speak the truth, which was far, far worse than anything McCain or any other national figure had said. As I wrote:
The truth is infinitely worse than that these lives have been "wasted": these deaths have served to strengthen our enemies and weaken our own country in countless ways that our actual enemies could never have achieved on their own. That these lives have been "wasted" is the best one can say, not the worst. They are the greatest boon our enemies could dream of. These lives have not been "wasted": they are the precious tribute laid at the feet of our enemies, by our own leaders in the pursuit of indefensible and criminal aims.

Of course, the recognition of this truth requires that we act like adults, and that we are capable of coherent thought, shorn of lies. We must be willing to give up the myth of the "noble soldier" who "selflessly sacrifices" his life for the glory of the Perfect and Good United States -- and see that these individuals died in a criminal war of aggression launched to consolidate and expand America's hegemonic role, a goal embraced by almost every leading politician, Republican and Democratic, over many decades of entirely avoidable conflict, chaos and death.

I find it easier to deal with the widespread ignorance that afflicts so many Americans -- for example, the almost total lack of knowledge concerning the U.S. occupation of the Philippines that I detailed last week. Since they are rarely provided with this information, it is possible that at least some Americans might prove capable of absorbing it, and begin to question the myths that sustain their identities as "Americans."

But it is almost impossible to deal with the fact that so many Americans, almost all our political leaders, and our media virtually without exception are so relentlessly stupid, and so resolutely determined to remain so. As this latest episode in national idiocy proves yet again, and for the millionth time, this laughably pathetic state of affairs certainly would appear to be the unalterable truth of where we are.

And so we debate whether these lives were "wasted." With the blind ferocity of religious maniacs, we enforce our new Puritan code, which demands that certain prohibited thoughts may never be uttered. Violation of this code means banishment from public life and from further "serious" consideration. Every matter of importance is reduced to the intellectual level of a remarkably backward house pet.

Meanwhile, no one will stop this criminal war and occupation. And no one will do a goddamned thing to stop the next war, which could alter all our lives forever.

How in the world do most Americans face themselves each morning? Someone needs to explain that to me. I truly would like to know.
It is now a year later, and I still would like to know.

It is now a year later, and more than one million people have been murdered.

It is now a year later, and still no one will stop this damnable war and occupation.

A year from now, perhaps some American troops will have been withdrawn. But regardless of who the new president is, at least 80,000 or 90,000 American troops will remain, and probably more. The Theater of Death will go on.

A year from now, the war may very well have widened. If there is a major attack on U.S. troops in Iraq (or any of a number of similar possible incidents), if the blame is laid at the feet of Iran -- regardless of whether such a claim is true or not, and we may not know for many more years, if ever -- and if the fevered and unreasoning demand for retribution rises, fed by a media that, like our political class, has learned nothing from the catastrophes of Iraq, no U.S. president will be able to resist the tide. He or she will probably not even want to. John McCain will not stop it, Hillary Clinton will not stop it, Barack Obama will not stop it.

So, we will once more have cause to note this date in March after another year has passed. Many more people will be dead, and the chaos may have spread far beyond Iraq. And we will fiercely debate the latest instance of idiocy, while the crimes of the United States continue unimpeded and uninterrupted.

Happy Anniversary.

Iraq: Five Years Too Many (Perp Edition)

As part of the series of posts in solidarity with March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm, here's a roundup of what the perps - the ones who wanted and got their war - are saying and doing.

Dick Cheney, when asked about the mounting opposition to the war, had this to say - "So?":

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

Never mind, of course, that opinion polls have been pretty consistently against the Iraq War for quite a while now, and were part of the impetus for putting (albeit misguidedly) the Dems back in control of Congress. Then again, as at least a few of us around blogtopia have contended, the ruling class simply does not care what we "mere citizens" might think. By the way Cheney also was once more trying to link Iraq and 9/11 (gotta keep that urban myth alive, eh, Dickie?), and is claiming (despite plenty of reason to believe the opposite) that the more the US stays in Iraq, the better the Iraqis feel about the US.

Junior Caligula - taking one right out of the old Madeleine Albright playbook - claims that the high costs in lives and treasure were "necessary".

Think Progress looks at the Rogues' Gallery of Iraq War architects, and where they are now. They've largely made out like bandits. (h/t the blog)

Arthur Silber highlighted the words of some of those architects, advocates, and "Good Germans" appearing in a recent edition of New Pravda few days ago, including those of Richard Perle, Kenneth Pollack, and Paul Bremer.

Perle, as one of the war's architects is now flip-flopping a bit regarding how "easy" the war would be to "win." These days he's saying it "won't be overnight."

Pollack, one of the most vocal Iraq supporters back even before it began, and also one of those advocating and propagandizing for last year's "surge", also seems to be using the Madeleine Albright playbook. In he most recent dribblings over at WaPo, he contends that in 30 years, we'll view the Iraq War as "worth it."

Paul Bremer seems only to regret the alleged lack of a "plan." As the head honcho of the "Coalition Provisional Authority" during that first year after Junior Caligula crowed about the so-called "end" of major combat operations in Iraq, Bremer squashed Iraqi attempts to hold local town and city elections (so much for "democracy"), and somehow managed to "lose" $9 billion that was supposedly going to "reconstruction." His response? Don't worry, it was only Iraqi money.

Don't forget to check the updated Iraq War Timeline, to get a quick picture of the propaganda that Americans are fed, and those pesky inconvenient facts.

Five years of war journalism from outside the corporate media

The one silver lining thinly plated around the dark cloud which is the Iraq War (and more broadly the "Global War on Terra") is the high quality journalism that has occurred - usually underneath the radar. New Pravda, WaPo, CNN, FauxNews, and so on were of course little more than stenographers for the government's propaganda, and obviously I wouldn't be giving them any props. Instead, it's a lot of these cats who dared to travel outside of The Green Zone. From TomDispatch:
And that's where Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor & Publisher magazine, comes in.

He himself is a shining example of someone who exhibited foresight about the invasion and then regularly dealt with issues that the mainstream media was slow to pick up. Just take, for example, this initial sentence he wrote on March 7, 2003, less than two weeks before Bush's invasion began, for a piece included in his new book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, The Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq: "Considering that we seem to be on the verge of a major war, with little firm evidence of the Iraqi WMD driving it, the questions for Bush at his final press conference before the war seems likely to start were relatively tame." Mitchell then asked 11 questions of his own, all more piercing than any posed on Sunday's Times op-ed page five years later.

As his book makes brilliantly evident, you didn't have to be wrong all the time to be an "expert" on Iraq. His article below begins the necessary acknowledgement of those who were right, or did right, in these years and it should encourage all of us to make our own lists and create our own walls of honor to go with the wall of shame the Times displayed Sunday.

My list would be long indeed, but it would certainly include: the Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) reporters Warren Stroebel and Jonathan Landy in Washington, as well as Tom Lasseter, Hannah Allam, and others in Iraq who never had a flagship paper to show off their work, but generally did far better reporting than the flagship papers; Seymour Hersh, who simply picked up where he left off in the Vietnam era (though this time for the New Yorker); Riverbend, the young Baghdad blogger who gave us a more vivid view of the occupation than any you could ordinarily find in the mainstream media (and who has not been heard from since she arrived in Syria as a refugee in October 2007); Jim Lobe who covered the neocons like a blanket for Inter Press Service; independents Nir Rosen and Dahr Jamail, as well as Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent, who has been perhaps the most courageous (or foolhardy) Western reporter in Iraq, invariably bringing back news that others didn't have; the New York Review of Books, which stepped into some of the empty print space where the mainstream media should have been (with writers like Mark Danner and Michael Massing) and was the first to put into print in this country the Downing Street Memo, in itself a striking measure of mainstream failure; and Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment website was so on the mark on Iraq that reporters locked inside the Green Zone in Baghdad read it just to keep informed.

Maybe I'd throw in as well all the millions of non-experts who marched globally before the war began because commonsense and a reasonable assessment of the Bush administration told them a disaster -- moral, political, economic, and military -- of the first order was in the offing. And, of course, that's just a start. Tom

Read the rest.

Update: Editor & Publisher also reminds us that even as crappy as the mainstream media was (and still is), there were still about a third of major US newspapers willing to oppose the Iraq War.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

As a prelude to tomorrow's blogswarm: fueling the Iraq war machine

The cover article can be read here. Just to whet your curiosity:

Today the average American G.I. in Iraq uses about 20.5 gallons of fuel every day, more than double the daily volume consumed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq in 2004. Thus, in order to secure the third-richest country on the planet, the U.S. military is burning enormous quantities of petroleum. And nearly every drop of that fuel is imported into Iraq. These massive fuel requirements—just over 3 million gallons per day for Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Energy Support Center—are a key reason for the soaring cost of the war effort.

But America’s presence in Iraq isn’t making use of the local riches. Indeed, little, if any, Iraqi oil is being used by the American military. Instead, the bulk of the fuel needed by the U.S. military is being trucked in from the sprawling Mina Abdulla refinery complex, which lies a few dozen kilometers south of Kuwait City. In 2006 alone, the Defense Energy Support Center purchased $909.3 million in motor fuel from the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. In addition to the Kuwaiti fuel, the U.S. military is trucking in fuel from Turkey. But some of that Turkish fuel actually originates in refineries as far away as Greece.
In 2007 alone, the U.S. military in Iraq burned more than 1.1 billion gallons of fuel. (American Armed Forces generally use a blend of jet fuel known as JP-8 to propel both aircraft and automobiles.) About 5,500 tanker trucks are involved in the Iraqi fuel-hauling effort. That fleet of trucks is enormously costly. In November 2006, a study produced by the U.S. Military Academy estimated that delivering one gallon of fuel to U.S. soldiers in Iraq cost American taxpayers $42—and that didn’t include the cost of the fuel itself. At that rate, each U.S. soldier in Iraq is costing $840 per day in fuel delivery costs, and the U.S. is spending $923 million per week on fuel-related logistics in order to keep 157,000 G.I.s in Iraq. Given that the Iraq War is now costing about $2.5 billion per week, petroleum costs alone currently account for about one-third of all U.S. military expenditure in Iraq.
It's going to get worse:
But even the newest armored Humvees, which weigh about six tons, haven’t been enough to protect soldiers against the deadly explosives. Last year, Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon agreed on a four-year plan to spend about $20 billion on a fleet of 23,000 mine-resistant ambush protection vehicles or MRAPs. Last August, the Pentagon ordered 1,520 of the vehicles at a cost of $3.5 million each.
The MRAPs mean even greater demand for fuel from U.S. troops in Iraq. An armored Humvee covers perhaps 8 miles per gallon of fuel. One version of the MRAP, the Maxxpro, weighs about 40,000 pounds, and according to a source within the military, gets just 3 miles per gallon. The increased demand for fuel for the MRAPs will come alongside the need for an entirely new set of tires, fan belts, windshields, alternators, and other gear.
This swelling of the logistics train creates yet another problem for the military: an increase in supply trucks on the road, which demands yet more fuel and provides insurgents with a greater range of targets to attack.
Now, if one reads through the rest of the article, I'm less sanguine than the author about the power of "the market", although the expectation that the chaos caused by the Iraq War (most likely intentional) is starting to change the political calculus in the region seems reasonable enough. If nothing else, the article is useful for pointing out one facet of that godforsaken war - oil is the Achilles heel of the US empire as it wages its Global War on Terra:
For the US, it is oil. If you even give a cursory glance at the article, you'll find that the US military is going through some 340 thousand barrels of oil per day. That's a lot of Texas Tea. Turns out that having upwards of 700 military bases around the globe (the sun does not set on the US), and keeping the machinery of war running in Iraq and Afghanistan is extremely energy intensive. Not only are the various invasions and occupations energy intensive, but they are extremely vulnerable to the potential of supplies or supply routes for necessary petroleum products (and other goodies) - the Iraq occupation alone has a very long "logistical tail" that could be severed by emboldened insurgents or our oil suppliers turning off the spigots.

The article does make mention that the current consumption needs of the military are simply not sustainable over the long haul. I'm personally wagering that even over the short to medium term the current imperial setup is not viable. I've periodically made reference Dmitry Orlov with regard to the eventual post-peak oil crash that we will be experiencing sooner or later, and some lessons that we in the US could learn from the Russian experience after the crash of the Soviet government. One thing Orlov says in particular jumps out as I read about our military's oil habit:
I am also worried about soldiers getting stranded overseas – abandoning one's soldiers is among the most shameful things a country can do. Overseas military bases should be dismantled, and the troops repatriated.
That is a concern that I share as well. Stranded soldiers tend to fare poorly, especially when the governments they represent have bad reputations. Starting the process of dismantling overseas bases, repatriating troops, and abandoning imperial ambitions would actually be useful in terms of our nation's economic well-being, reducing dependence on petroleum, and reduced risk to life and limb. At this juncture, I'm quite pessimistic about any of our current crop of political "leaders" showing the good sense or the courage to even so much as advocate such a thing. One can hope, I suppose.
More to come.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Feliz Día de San Patricio

[Crossposted from Latino Político]

You know it's Saint Patrick's Day when one of your fellow Metro travelers (I'm in DC for the week) is wearing radioactive green pants and a shamrock vest over a black dress shirt with green tie. Good stuff.

As part of the commemoration, I thought I'd highlight this piece from the USA Today about Mexico's annual remembrance of the solidarity they received from Irish American and Irish Immigrant soldiers during the U.S./Mexico War in the mid 1800s. To this day, Los San Patricios are honored in Mexico City with bagpipes and merriment.

The deserters became known as the San Patricios and were led by John Riley, an artilleryman who had fought in the British army. They were joined by a few Swiss, French, Scottish and German recruits, most of them also Catholic.

Called los colorados, or "the redheads," by their Mexican comrades, they fought against the Americans at the key battles of Monterrey, Buena Vista and Cerro Gordo.

The Americans eventually reached the outskirts of Mexico City on Aug. 20, 1847. Mexican forces, with the remaining San Patricios handling the artillery, pounded the Americans from a monastery-turned-fort on the Churubusco River until they ran out of ammunition. Thirty-five San Patricios died in the battle, 85 were captured, and another 85 retreated with the remnants of the Mexican army.

On Sept. 13, 1847, the Americans seized Chapultepec Castle in the war's last major battle. San Patricios who had deserted before the war were branded by the Americans with the letter "D" on one cheek. The rest were hanged, including 30 who were executed at the foot of Chapultepec Hill.

"They were hanged at the moment that the American flag was raised over the castle of Chapultepec, so that they would take that sight to hell with them," Mayer said.

Mexico lost nearly half its territory as a result of the war, while the United States gained California and the Southwest. Even today, many Mexican school textbooks portray the war as an unjust land grab by the United States that led to the divergent economic paths followed by the two neighbors.

That ought to wake things up around here :)


mas información:

The banality of our evil

Tom Engelhardt sez:
In places like Somalia, we deliver death, and every now and then an American bomb or missile actually obliterates a terrorist suspect. Then we celebrate. The rest of time, it's hardly even news. When the deeper principle behind such global strikes is mentioned in our papers, in some passing paragraph, it's done – as in a recent Washington Post article about a Predator strike, piloted from Nevada, that killed a suspected "senior al-Qaeda commander" in Pakistan – in this polite way: "Independent actions by U.S. military forces on another country's sovereign territory are always controversial…" (Imagine the language that the Washington Post would use if that had been a Pakistani drone strike in Utah.)

This version of globalization is already so much the norm of our world that few here even blink an eye when it's reported, or consider it even slightly strange. It's already an American right. In the meantime, other people, who obviously don't rise to the level of our humanity, regularly die.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rachel Corrie: Five Years Later

An eyewitness account of what happened:
"[Between 13:00 and 13:30, activists] noticed that two Israeli Army bulldozers and one tank [had] entered onto Palestinian civilian property near the border and [were] demolishing farmland and other already damaged structures. The military machine was severely threatening near-by homes, so the 3 activists went up onto the roof of one home, and then called for others to come.

"[Between 13:30 and 14:00], I arrived, and one of the three activists in [sic] the house joined me on the ground ... [W]e began to disrupt the work of the bulldozers ... At this point, Rachel and the two other activists joined us ... Rachel and a British activist were wearing jackets that were fluorescent orange and had reflective stripping [sic] ... [Between 14:00 and 15:00], Rachel and two other activists began interfering with the other bulldozer, which was attempting to destroy grass and other plants on what used to be farmland. They stood and sat in its path, and though it would drive very close to them, and even move the earth on which they were sitting, it always stopped in time to avoid injuring them ... [Between 15:00 and 16:00], one bulldozer pushed Will, an American activist, up against a pile of barbed wire. Fortunately, the bulldozer stopped and withdrew just in time to avoid injuring him seriously, but we had to dig him out of the rubble, and unhook his clothing from the wire. The tank approached to see if he was ok. One soldier stuck his head out of the tank to see, and he looked quite shocked and dumbfounded, but said nothing ...

"[Between 16:45 and 17:00], [o]ne bulldozer, serial number 949623, began to work near the house of a physician who is a friend of ours ... Rachel sat down in the pathway of the bulldozer ... [It] continued driving forward headed straight for Rachel. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer. She got so high onto it that she was at eye-level with the cab of the bulldozer ... Despite this, he continued forward, which pulled her legs into the pile of rubble, and pulled her down out of view of the driver ... We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted, one activist with the megaphone. But [he] continued forward, until Rachel was underneath the central section of the bulldozer ... Despite the obviousness of her position, the bulldozer began to reverse, without lifting its blade, and drug [sic] the blade over her body again. He continued to reverse until he was on the boarder [sic] strip, about 100 meters away, and left her crushed body in the sand. Three activists ran to her and began administering first-responder medical treatment ... She said, "My back is broken!" but nothing else ..."

-- Joseph Smith, ISM activist
Learn more at Rachel's Words and The anniversary of her death is a stark reminder of just how dark the days were just as the war on the Iraqis was about to begin, and how dark they've been since. While right-wingers in the US and Israel would no doubt find her death to be a source for endless amusement (and for "respectable" liberals and moderates something not even worthy of so much as a shrug), for those of us who still give a damn about human rights there was (and still is) a sense of mourning and anger.

For a better understanding of the context in which Rachel was murdered, see Sonja Karkar's article from last year in CounterPunch, What Rachel Saw: Rachel Corrie and Palestine, as well as this year's article by Tom Wright and Therese Saliba, Five Years Later: Rachel Corrie's Case for Justice.

Finally, an interview from two days before Rachel was killed:

Never forget. As time permits, I'll try to point out other blogs that commemorate Rachel Corrie and of course the struggles faced by Palestinian activists and their allied activists in civil society.

First Update - The following bloggers have remembered Rachel:
Fear is Tyranny - "The are us. We are them."
Above and Beyond - Remembering Rachel Corrie
Grateful Dissident - Remembering Rachel Corrie
Karmalized - March 16th - 5th Year
Hands Up! Guns Up! - Oh, Gaza
FrOm Here TO There - God Bless you Rachel
Palestine News - Rachel Corrie play debuts in Israel
Java Corner - In Memoriam of Rachel Corrie (1979 - 2003)
Rachel's Words - March 16, fifth anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death

Second Update (and bumped) - Some more bloggers who've remembered Rachel:
Around The World - Still Gaza!
Hold that thought - This is for you, Rachel
American Street - Sad Anniversary (h/t skippy)
TheZoo - The "open prison" of Gaza
BitterGrace Notes - Today is the fifth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie
International Solidarity Movement - 5 years on, we remember Rachel Corrie
Homeless on the High Desert - Five years ago today
The Heathlander - Another sad anniversary
Suburban Guerrilla - Five Years Ago Today
SandBabe - In Remembrance of Rachel Corrie
IntLawGrrls - On this day
Liberal White Boy - Rachel Corrie...Murdered Five Years Ago Today By Apartheid Israel
Progressive Alaska - On the Fifth Anniversary of Rachel Corrie's Death
kenny's sideshow (two posts) - Why Does Starbucks and its Founder Support the Racist Apartheid State of Israel? and Rachel Corrie ~~ Murdered By the State of Israel 5 Years Ago
Desertpeace - Rachel Corrie Remembered With Love
PhillySound: new poetry - The Death of Rachel Corrie - Five Years Ago Today

Third Update (and bumped once more) - yet another roundup of bloggers remembering Rachel:
Obama Evening News - Rachel Corrie Remembered
The Truth Behind the Mask - Seed of Hope
No Empires - The death of Rachel Corrie, and the invasion of Iraq, five years on
Uranias 9th House - Message from Starhawk
roGER's RaNtS - Rachel Corrie 1979-2003
Green Left Infoasis - Rachel Corrie: Five Years Later
Listics - Rachel Corrie - Five Years Later h/t onegoodmove
Ten Percent - Anniversaries
The Zachary Jones Band - The Ballad of Rachel Corrie (h/t to Tim in the comments)
Rock The Truth - Rachel Corrie: The Girl With The Dream - In Memory of Rachel Corrie
Clipmarks - In Memory of a Brave American
International Solidarity Movement - Denied Entry (h/t Dove's Eye View)
Action Center For Justice - Rachel Corrie Memorial and "The Unrecognized" film
Liberty Street - Rachel Corrie: April 10, 1979 - March 16, 2003

Fourth Update (and bumped one last time) - another batch of bloggers willing to honor Rachel's memory:
Left I on the News - My Lai + 40
mary_j_59 - For Peace
Real Hartford - Reflections on Rachel's Words
Carol For Peace - Social Justice Activist in Denver - On This Day
stop the siege on gaza - Action of silence and peace for Gaza and Rachel Corrie
scribe (commenting on my identical post at Political Fleshfeast) - For Rachel

Fifth and final update - some more good folks willing to remember Rachel and her cause:
Lincoln Writer - Peace in the Mideast ... When?
Olympia-Rafah Mural Design - "From Palestine to Puget Sound: The Olympia-Rafah Mural Project"
thedashcat - (no title)
American Everyman - Rachel Corrie Play Opens in Haifa
Madison-Rafah Journal - Rachel Corrie and Mai Lai
Sky Star - Fifth Anniversary of Death of Rachel Corrie
Psyche, Science, and Society - Remember Rachel Corrie!
'Imagine' A World Of Peace, Understanding, Tolerance - The other romantic war Bush missed
Laughing as I go... - Hrrm
Tricycle Editors' Blog - Tibet Protests Continue
Radioactive Quill - Five years is a long time.
Rock the Truth - Rachel Corrie: Remembered With Love
Defending the Truth - Rest In Peace!
Palestinian Pundit - Action of silence and peace for Gaza and Rachel Corrie
The Arab Advocate - Remembering a Martyr for Palestine, Rachel Five Years On

That pretty well covers the English-language blogs as of the moment - once we add in the Spanish-language bloggers, French-language bloggers, etc., there are undoubtedly a good number of others who payed homage as well to Rachel. For some, her senseless murder was mentioned in passing while covering other anniversaries and other actions (such as what's going down in Tibet); for others (the vast majority), Rachel's life and death were the main focus. We may not necessarily know one another, or even knew Rachel personally, but on some level this show of solidarity is comforting - a reminder that, as another leader for human rights, Subcomandante Marcos might say, "you are not alone."

Peace, and God Bless.

More Stupidity From the Oklahoma GOP

We have our share of lousy politicians in my state, including this state Rep. Sally Kern:
"The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation, OK, it's just a fact," Rep. Sally Kern said recently to a gathering of fellow Republicans outside the Capitol.

"Studies show no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted, you know, more than a few decades. So it's the death knell in this country.

"I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat," she said.


Kern, who is finishing her second term, has tried unsuccessfully to pass bills to rid libraries' children's sections of books that have homosexual themes. She told the group that school children are being indoctrinated by gay activists.

"We're not teaching facts and knowledge any more, folks," she said. "We're teaching indoctrination, OK, and they are going after our young children, as young as 2 years of age, to try to teach them a homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle."

In the same speech, she said gays are "infiltrating city councils" across the country.

"It spreads, OK, and this stuff is deadly and it's spreading and it will destroy our young people," she said. "It will destroy this nation."
Here's a YouTube post with the audio of Sally Kern's own brand of stupidity, in all its glory. Yes, we are listening.