Apr 25, 2006
All War-All The Time
By William Blum
04/24/06 "ICH' -
Your War Channel-all war-all the time-24/7-25/8-round the clock-breaking only for commercials for Halliburton and Bechtel
The recent paper by two prominent academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, on "The Israel Lobby", has spurred considerable discussion both in the mainstream media and on the Internet about the significance of the role played by this lobby in instigating the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The answer to this question may reside ultimately, and solely, in the minds of the neo-conservatives, in or close to official government positions, who lobbied for years to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein; an early instance of this being their now-famous letter to President Clinton in January 1998, which, in no uncertain terms, called for an American strategy that "should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power". Warning of Saddam's potential for acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the neo-cons, in language at times sounding frenzied, insisted that his removal was absolutely vital to "the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century" and for "the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil."
This of course was a gross exaggeration. In 1998, after seven years of relentless US bombing and draconian sanctions, Iraq was but a pitiful shell of its former self and no longer a threat even to its neighbors, much less "the world". There were those who hated Saddam, but the only country that had any good reason to fear Iraq, then or later, was Israel, as retaliation for Israel's unprovoked bombing of Iraq in 1981. The letter to Clinton was signed by Elliott Abrams, Richard L. Armitage, William J. Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Peter W. Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, William Schneider, Jr., Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, and Robert B. Zoellick(1), most of whom, if not all, could be categorized as allies of Israel; most of whom were soon to join the Busheviks. What could have prompted these individuals to write such a letter to the president other than a desire to eliminate a threat to the safety of Israel? And when they came into power some began immediately to campaign for regime change in Iraq.
There are those who argue that the United States has invaded numerous countries without requiring instigation by Israel. This is of course true, it's what the empire does for a living. But to say that the Israel lobby played a vital role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is not to suggest an explanation for the whole history of US foreign interventions.
To the role of the Israel lobby we must add two other factors carrying unknown degrees of weight in the decision to invade Iraq: controlling vast amounts of oil, and saving the dollar from the euro by reversing Saddam Hussein's decision to use the latter in Iraq's oil transactions (and this reversal was one of the first edicts of the occupation).
Whatever ambiguity may remain about the role of the Israel lobby in the invasion of Iraq, it's clear that if and when the sociopaths who call themselves our leaders attack Iran, Israeli security will be the main reason, with the euro in second place because Iran has been taking -- or at least threatening to take -- serious steps to replace the dollar with the euro in oil transactions. Iran of course also has lots of oil, but unless the United States aims at conquest and occupation of the country -- and where will Los Socios find a few hundred thousand more clueless American bodies -- access to and control of the oil would not be very feasible. The Israel lobby appears to be the only major organized force that is actively pushing the United States toward crisis in Iran. Along with the lobby's leading member, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), there's the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which has taken out full-page ads in major US newspapers with the less-than-subtle heading: "A Nuclear Iran Threatens All", depicting radiating circles on an Iran-centered map to show where its missiles could strike.
"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel," declared George W. last month. "That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace. I made it clear, and I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel."(2)
Chutzpah of an imperial size
Do you remember the classic example of "chutzpah"? It's the young man who kills his parents and then asks the court for mercy on the grounds that he's an orphan.
The Bush administration's updated version of that is starting a wholly illegal, immoral, and devastating war and then dismissing all kinds of criticism of its action on the grounds that "We're at war."
They use this excuse to defend warrantless spying, to defend the imprisonment of people for years without charging them with a crime, to abuse and torture them, to ignore the Geneva Convention and other international treaties; they use it against Democrats, accusing them of partisanship during "a time of war"; they use it to justify the expansion of presidential powers and the weakening of checks and balances. In short, they claim "We can do whatever we want about anything at all related to this war, because we're at war."
"War is war," says Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, "and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts. Give me a break."(3) Scalia, in his public talks, implies that prisoners held in the far-flung American gulag were all "captured on the battlefield".(4) But this is simply false. Very few of the poor souls were captured on any kind of battlefield, few had even a gun in their hand; most were just in the wrong place at the wrong time or were turned in by an informer for an American bounty or a personal grudge.
The American public, like all publics, requires only sufficient repetition from "respectable" sources to learn how to play the game: Earlier this month many cities of Wisconsin held referendums on bringing the troops home from Iraq. Here's Jim Martin, 48, a handyman in Evansville. He thinks that his city shouldn't waste taxpayers' money running a referendum that means nothing. "The fact of the matter remains, we're at war," he said as he ate his lunch at the Night Owl bar.(5)
And here now is Chris Simcox a leader in the Minuteman movement that patrols the Mexican border: "If I catch you breaking into my country in the middle of the night and we're at war ... you're a potential enemy. I don't care if you're a busboy coming to wash dishes."(6)
One observer has summed up the legal arguments put forth by the Bush administration thusly: "The existing laws do not apply because this is a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war because the president says so. The president gets to say so because he is president. ... We follow the laws of war except to the extent that they do not apply to us. These prisoners have all the rights to which they are entitled by law, except to the extent that we have changed the law to limit their rights."(7)
Yet, George W. has cut taxes tremendously, something probably unprecedented while at war.
Facing calls for impeachment, plummeting popularity, a looming Republican electoral disaster, and massive failure in Mesopotamia, Georgie looks toward Persia. He and the other gang members will be able to get away with almost anything they can think of if they can say "We're in two wars!"
A tale of two terrorists
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged to date in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks, testifying at his trial in Alexandria, Virginia:
The sobbing September 11 survivors and family members who testified against him were "disgusting" ... He and other Muslims want to "exterminate" American Jews ... executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was "the greatest American"(8) He expressed his willingness to kill Americans "any time, anywhere" ... "I wish it had happened not only on the 11th, but the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th."(9)
Orlando Bosch, one of the masterminds behind the October 6, 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane, blown out of the sky with 73 people on board, including the entire young Cuban fencing team, interviewed April 8 by Juan Manuel Cao of Channel 41 in Miami:
Cao: Did you down that plane in 1976?
Bosch: If I tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself ... and if I tell you that I did not participate in that action, you would say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one thing or the other.
Cao: In that action 73 persons were killed ...
Bosch: No chico, in a war such as us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your reach.
Cao: But don't you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for their families?
Bosch: Who was on board that plane? Four members of the Communist Party, five north Koreans, five Guyanese ... Who was there? Our enemies. Cao: And the fencers? The young people on board?
Bosch: I saw the young girls on television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. She gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant. We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.
Cao: If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane, wouldn't you think it difficult ... ?
Bosch: No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba.
The main difference between Zacarias Moussaoui and Orlando Bosch is that one of them is on trial for his life while the other walks around Miami a free man, free enough to be interviewed on television.
Bosch had a partner in plotting the bombing of the Cuban airliner, Luis Posada, a Cuban-born citizen of Venezuela. He's being held in custody in the United States on a minor immigration charge. His extradition has been requested by Venezuela for several crimes including the downing of the airliner, part of the plotting having taken place in Venezuela. But the Bush administration refuses to send him to Venezuela because they don't like the Venezuelan government, nor will they try him in the United States for the crime. However, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1973), of which the United States is a signatory, gives Washington no discretion. Article 7 says that the state in which "the alleged offender is found shall, if it does not extradite him, be obliged, without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory, to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution."(10) Extradite or prosecute. The United States does neither.
This is your mind on anti-communism
Earlier this month, in Miami-Dade County, Florida (where else?) it was reported that the parent of a schoolchild asked the school board to ban a book called "Vamos a Cuba" ("Let's go to Cuba"), a travel book that has smiling kids on the cover and inside depicts happy scenes from a festival held in Cuba. "As a former political prisoner from Cuba, I find the material to be untruthful," Juan Amador, wrote to the school board. "It portrays a life in Cuba that does not exist. I believe it aims to create an illusion and distort reality." Mr. Amador is presumably claiming that no one in Cuba is ever happy or even smiles. The book is currently being reviewed by a school committee.(11)
During his recent election campaign, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared that communists in Mao's China boiled babies to make fertilizer.(12) He defended his remark by citing: "The Black Book of Communism", a "history" of communism published in 1997, a book that is to the study of communism as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zionism" is to Judaism or the collected statements of George W. Bush are to understanding why we are fighting in Iraq. Berlusconi's remark may actually be regarded as progress in the wonderful world of anti-communism, for following the Russian Revolution of 1917 it was widely and long proclaimed that the Bolsheviks killed and ate babies (as the early pagans believed the Christians guilty of devouring their children; the same was believed of Jews in the Middle Ages). It's interesting to note (Well, to me at least) that in 2003, when my book Killing Hope was published in Italy, the publisher gave it the title "Il Libro Nero Degli Stati Uniti" ("The Black Book of The United States").(13)
Charles Taylor and that fake opposition party known as the Democrats
Some things I have to repeat, because the news makes them relevant once again, and because the media ignores them once again. Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, has been captured and is being held for trial in a UN-sponsored war-crimes court in neighboring Sierra Leone. In 2003 Taylor was indicted by this court for "bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law" during Sierra Leone's civil war. The United States, along with the rest of the world, condemns Taylor, applauds his capture, and calls for his punishment. What we're not reminded of is this:
In 1998, President Clinton sent Rev. Jesse Jackson as his special envoy to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the latter being in the midst of one of the great horrors of the 20th century -- You may remember the army of mostly young boys, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who went around raping and chopping off people's arms and legs. African and world opinion was enraged against the RUF, which was committed to protecting the diamond mines they controlled. Taylor was an indispensable ally and supporter of the RUF and Jackson was an old friend of his. Jesse was not sent to the region to try to curtail the RUF's atrocities, nor to hound Taylor about his widespread human rights violations, but instead, in June 1999, Jackson and other American officials drafted entire sections of an accord that made RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone's vice president, and gave him official control over the diamond mines, the country's major source of wealth.(14)
And what was the Clinton administration's interest in all this? It's been speculated that the answer lies with certain individuals with ties to the diamond industry and to Clinton, while he was president or while governor of Arkansas; for example, Maurice Tempelsman, generous contributor to the Democratic Party and escort of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright around this time, whose Antwerp, Amsterdam and Tel Aviv diamond marts arranged for Sierra Leone diamond sales to Tiffany and Cartier.(15)
Good ol' Bill? Good ol' Jess? I know, I know, I keep tearing down your heroes. Who will you have left? But remember the words of the two characters in Bertolt Brecht's "Galileo":
"Unhappy the land that has no heroes," says the first.
"No," says the other, "Unhappy the land that needs heroes."
Or as Abbie Hoffman said: "Sacred cows make the best hamburger."
After the war-crimes trial we'll need a second tribunal for shameless lying, gross insults to our intelligence, and just plain weird stupidity and stupid weirdness.
George W. Bush, speaking March 29, 2006 to the Freedom House organization in Washington: "We're a country of deep compassion. We care. One of the great things about America, one of the beauties of our country, is that when we see a young, innocent child blown up by an IED [improvised explosive device], we cry. We don't care what the child's religion may be, or where that child may live, we cry. It upsets us. The enemy knows that, and they're willing to -- they're willing to kill to shake our confidence. That's what they're trying to do."(16)
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire
Is this any way to organize a society of human beings?
April 18 was the 100th anniversary of the historic, catastrophic San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Studies predict that the next big quake in the city will take a much greater human toll because so many of the residents live in apartments and houses built before building codes were tightened in 1970. And because many units are rent-controlled apartments, we are told, landlords have few incentives to seismic retrofit.(17) There are those who would use this as an argument against rent control. There are others who would use it as an argument against free enterprise or private ownership of housing. Think of it. Over the years, California has learned very well how to modernize buildings to prepare them to withstand earthquakes much better than in the past. That this works has been proven again and again, even dramatically, such as in Los Angeles, hit by a 7.4 quake in 1994, with relatively little damage. (I was asleep in my bed in Hollywood when it hit in the early morning of January 17 and was rudely and frighteningly awakened, but the apartment building was fine.) Yet large numbers of people in California are still living in dwellings very vulnerable to a quake because to correct the situation would adversely affect the profit and loss statements of the owners of those dwellings.
(1) Letter to Clinton: http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm
(2) Agence France Presse, March 20, 2006
(3) Newsweek, April 3, 2006
(4) Washington Post, April 15, 2006, p.2
(5) Associated Press, March 27, 2006
(6) Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 2006
(7) Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.com, March 28, 2006
(8) Washington Post, April 14, 2006, p.1
(9) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, April 13, 2006
(11) Washington Post, April 9, 2006, p.2
(12) Associated Press, March 29, 2006
(13) For many other examples of the mind on anti-communism, see William Blum, "Freeing the World to Death", chapter 12 ("Before there were terrorists there were communists and the wonderful world of anti-communism")
(14) Ryan Lizza, "Where angels fear to tread", New Republic, July 24, 2000
(15) The Washington Post, August 2, 1997, p.A1 and February 6, 1998, p.B1 re Tempelsman. Other speculation in various places has concerned diamond investors Jean Raymond Boulle and Robert Friedland, each with alleged ties to Clinton.
(16) Federal Information and News Dispatch, Inc., State Department Documents and Publications, March 29, 2006
(17) Washington Post, April 17, 2006, p.3
William Blum < email@example.com > is the author of: Killing Hope: < www.killinghope.org > US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Apr 18, 2006
Thanks to Gregory
Read his other blog posts here: Category: News and Politics
Posted on Apr. 14, 2006
National Book Award-winning author Gore Vidal
By Gore Vidal
Editor’s Note: The following essay by Gore Vidal is the full-text foreword to Robert Scheer’s new book: “Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton--and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush.” Ordering information here. Read Scheer’s introduction here.
America and Empire
by Gore Vidal
The twentieth century produced a great deal of writing about American politics, much of it bewildered when new notions like empire started to sneak into nervous texts whose authors were not quite certain if “empire” could ever be an applicable word for the last best hope of earth.
The bidding then changed dramatically after World War Two, when Harry Truman armed us with nuclear weapons and gave us an icy sort of permanent war against Godless Atheistic communism, as personified by Joseph Stalin, standing in for Hitler, whom we had got rid of with rather more help than we liked to admit from the new world demon Stalin. How, why did Truman lock us all into a national security state, armed to the teeth? The simple story was dread of communism everywhere on the march, but those of us who had served in World War Two knew as well as our political leaders that the Soviet Union, as of 1950, was not going anywhere very soon: They had lost twenty million people. They wanted, touchingly, to be like us, with consumer goods and all the rest of it.
What actually happened was tragic for the Russian people and their buffer states: Truman, guided by that brilliant lawyer Dean Acheson, was quite aware that by 1940 the world Depression of the early ’30s had returned. The New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt had largely failed. What was to be done? FDR took a crash course in Keynesian economics. As a result, he invested $8 billion into re-arming the United States, in order to hold our own against the Fascist axis of Germany, Japan, Italy. To the astonishment of Roosevelt’s conservative political enemies, the U.S. suddenly had full employment for the work force and a military machine of the first rank with which we were able to defeat Fascism, and just about anyone else who defied us.
Truman and friends learned and never forgot an important lesson: It was through war and a militarized economy that we became prosperous with full employment. After victory in Europe and the Pacific, Truman himself began to play the war drums. Stalin was menacing Turkey and Greece (Acheson threw in nearby Italy, and why not France?). We must stop the rising Red tide, while acquiring that era’s latest propaganda toy, a TV set. This wearisome background was well known to historians like William Appleman Williams, but hardly suspected by too many of the usual publicists of the American way of life.
Robert Scheer has had the good fortune to observe first-hand the last half-dozen Presidents, from Nixon to “W”. He has also had the perseverance as a journalist to insist that he be able to conduct one-on-one conversations with the odd sort of men who were playing (or trying to play) President. This makes for a fascinating immediacy in the book at hand, particularly when he is giving his protagonists a harder time than they had expected. Scheer has always suspected that he would be one of the last journalists able to use the print medium fully in the electronic age that had dawned around 1960.
Scheer makes a telling analysis of Nixon and his “frozen smile,” with the comment that “despite being unquestionably the best prepared of all modern Presidents before assuming office, it was his indelibly awkward and secretive style that did him in.” Scheer is impressed by this President’s mind despite himself, as was Walter Lippmann, whom I once teased for supporting Nixon. Walter was serene: “I only know,” he said, “if I had a difficult lawsuit on my hands, I would go to him as a lawyer. He presents you an entire case before your eyes: He is simply brilliant, unique in public life.”
Print journalism is a challenge to the writer’s intelligence, as well as to that of his subject. Of course, few journalists and player Presidents are up to Scheer and Nixon. Yes, Nixon did much that was evil along the way (Cambodia, Watergate), but he usually managed to harm himself most—a form of good manners. He was primarily interested in foreign affairs and the opening up to China; détente with the Soviets; these were significant achievements, and he had no strong domestic policies, which should have been a great relief for Us the People. No wartime tax breaks for cronies is quite enough for us to applaud him in other roles.
Presidents are trapped in history as well as in their own DNA codes. After Watergate, Nixon starred as Coriolanus for a while, but when he saw that this got him nowhere, he realized he was so steeped in blood that he could not turn back, so he went on as Macbeth, to our benefit at times. Scheer is not the first of our journalists to recognize how like classical players the Presidents tend to be if they have the right war or disaster to contend with. Scheer is generally good-humored about them, though Bush I’s implacable self-love seems to rub him the wrong way; also, Reagan’s rambling does not get either of them very far, yet Scheer has grasped what few others have: Mrs. Reagan’s importance not only to her somewhat listless husband but to our country, where she seems to have understood before other politicians that the Cold War was getting us nowhere.
Scheer had problems with Jimmy Carter and, perhaps, with Southern politicians in general. He struggled with the man’s compulsive fibbing about himself and his place in an imaginary Plains, Georgia, which kept changing to fit his restless re-imagining of his career, recalling homely barbershop quartets as well as killer rabbits at large in catfish ponds. Scheer had an edgy time with Carter, but it was to Scheer that Carter confessed he had lusted in his heart for ladies, causing much of the nation to admire and smirk.
Scheer concedes Clinton’s brilliance as a player but frets over (as many of us did) “the end of welfare as we know it.” It is with this President that Scheer is most interesting, largely because Clinton is as intelligent as he, at least on the subjects they discuss. Clinton has dared occasionally to touch the third rail of American political discourse: the superiority of other nations’ economies to that of America the Beautiful and the Earmarked.
Scheer: Some now blame the Europeans and Japanese for our problems and call for protectionism. Are you sympathetic to such calls?
Clinton: But to be fair, the biggest problems we have in maintaining the manufacturing base are our failures to work together to achieve high levels of productivity, to control health care costs, to have a tax system which is pro-manufacturing. Our tax system now is anti-manufacturing. And it was during the Reagan/Bush years. I think, you know, it rewarded money making money and not production, not jobs, not goods, and not services.
Scheer: Well, that’s what we say now. But when the last tax-reform package was passed, many Democrats supported it. It was supposed to help production.
Clinton: I never thought it would . . . You know, the elemental principle of taxation should be [that] people should pay according to their abilities to pay. And you should have incentives that do specific things. Those ought to be the two driving, in my view, principles of the tax system.
This is very grown-up stuff.
The final chapter, perhaps in every sense, deals with George W. Bush. Scheer confesses he was ill-prepared for someone who seems to have no idea of, or interest in, playing President, as opposed to playing “Wartime President,” easily the trick of the week when Congress has modestly declined to declare war on anyone.
Certainly, with these observations on a section of our history, Scheer joins that small group of journalist-historians that includes Richard Rovere, Murray Kempton, and Walter Lippmann.
Gore Vidal is an internationally acclaimed novelist, essayist, playwright and screenwriter whose historical fiction and collected criticisms have garnered him the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, among others. An outspoken political activist, he ran for the U.S. House in New York in 1960 and in the 1982 senatorial primary.
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.
Columbia, MO, USA
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