February 28, 2007

The Truth Shall Imprison You

The sickening immorality and vicious brutality of the Bush administration continues to find new depths:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

"Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media," one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.


They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.


The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: "It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place," referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
Via Chris Floyd, whose additional commentary you should read.

February 27, 2007

I'm Just Loving All This Leadership!

I am overcome by teary-eyed inspiration as I contemplate the boundless bravery of Harry Reid:
Democratic leaders backed away from aggressive plans to limit President Bush's war authority, the latest sign of divisions within their ranks over how to proceed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Monday he wanted to delay votes on a measure that would repeal the 2002 war authorization and narrow the mission in Iraq. ...

"Iraq is going to be there -- it's just a question of when we get back to it,"
Reid said, predicting it would be "days, not weeks" before the Senate returned to the issue. The war reauthorization legislation also appears to lack the 60 votes it would need to pass the Senate.
Harry is my man. "Iraq is going to be there." So deep, too. I really like that. And lots of Iraqis and Americans get killed and horribly wounded every single day.

No rush, Harry. You just take your time. Since you have no trouble passing non-binding resolutions, I'm sure ending a criminal war and occupation won't be a problem. Oh, darn it: you actually couldn't do even that, could you? Well, you're still my man, Harry. And Nancy's my woman:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, meanwhile, said she doesn't support tying war funding to strict training and readiness targets for U.S. troops.The comments distanced her from Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, who has said he wants to use Congress' spending power to force a change in policy in Iraq, by setting strict conditions on war funding.

Pelosi said she supports holding the administration to training and readiness targets, but added: "I don't see them as conditions to our funding. Let me be very clear: Congress will fund our troops."
Wait just a sec. "Training and readiness targets"? Isn't that what the administration is holding the Iraqis' to? And now the Democrats are going to hold the administration to "targets"? Everybody's being held to "targets." Obviously, this is because it's working out so well.

And they'll "fund our troops." She is being "very clear." Way to go, Nancy! Lots more slaughter and mayhem. I love it.

John Edwards gave me a great leadership fix, too. In the first part of my Dispatch from Germany series, I mentioned an article I'm working on, tentatively titled: "John Edwards -- A Case Study in Foreign Policy Ignorance, Amorality and Failure." If I were to include everything that proves the truth of that title, the essay would become a very, very long book. The man just won't stop providing material:
John Edwards' presidential campaign wants to make it clear that he does not consider Israel a threat to world peace.

A spokesman for the 2008 Democratic candidate issued a statement Tuesday denying such a report on Variety.com. Columnist Peter Bart reported that Edwards told a Hollywood fundraiser last month that the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities is perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace.

The report was circulating on the Internet, and the Edwards campaign wanted to reassure its pro-Israel supporters that is not his position."The January 19th Variety article is erroneous," said Edwards spokesman Jonathan Prince. "Senator Edwards did not say nor does he believe that the greatest short-term threat to world peace is the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Senator Edwards said, as he has in the past, that Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is one of the greatest short-term threats to world peace."
I suppose by "short-term" he means five to ten years, at a minimum. You would have had it right the first time, John, if you had actually said it. But it's very dangerous to speak the truth, especially on this subject. Given how politics has been conducted in America for a long time, you fit in perfectly, John: truth is entirely dispensable. You're my man, too, John!

This doesn't help, either:
Prince added that Edwards contends the Bush administration has failed to deal effectively with Iran and should begin by negotiating directly with the Tehran government to end its nuclear program.
"Negotiating directly" is fine, and is obviously what we should have been doing for years. However, negotiating "to end its nuclear program" is not fine. See here, here and here. See Gareth Porter, too. Well, I can easily leave this particular story out of the longer essay on Edwards. I have more than enough material as it is.

Turning to a related subject -- but still about war and killing, have no fear! -- I had an insight this morning that truly stunned me. I can't believe I never saw it before. I realized that it is absolutely critical that we continue with the two parties as presently constituted. Nothing is more important in the world.

Now why is that, Arthur? you inquire with interest piqued. I'm so glad you asked. This is what I realized. Republicans are just crazy about sending American troops into ground wars, where lots of them get killed. From the Philippines, to Vietnam (where Nixon continued and expanded that war for a long time, and got whole bunches of people killed), to Afghanistan and Iraq -- ground fighting all over the world. Lots of people die and get ripped apart, including lots of Americans. Now, some unkind critics of the Republicans say they like this sort of combat -- sending other people off to do the fighting, of course -- because they have deluded, nonsensical visions of their own "manliness," and relatedly that they're trying to compensate for considerable anxiety over their masculinity (or, as some genuinely unkind people might contend, for their fears that they have tiny...well, you know). Whatever. The point is that lots of Americans die. This is cool, so shut up.

On the other hand, Democrats love air wars. Call it the Truman Tradition, ably carried on by W.J. Clinton in Kosovo. In that Clinton business, including several other similar episodes (which largely destroyed some critical concepts of international law, severely eroded national sovereignty, provided a key impetus to the internationalization of the Muhjihadeen ["Mujihadeen forces effectively became the armed wing of Western liberal opinion"], and has led to what appears to be an endless American presence, all of which is exceptionally cool), no Americans died at all. Now, that is not cool. But look! Whole bunches of other people got killed. Clinton even bombed a Serbian television station, and killed and maimed journalists! Unbelievably keen. True, some cruel critics say Democrats like air wars because they're wimpy, emasculated cowards. To which I say: humbug. They still kill lots of people! That Truman guy was a piece of work, and Clinton did what he could. What great guys. Killing people is the important thing. So this is also cool, and you should still shut up.

You see? By alternating presidents from both parties, we get to kill lots of Americans and lots of them! So we can eventually kill everyone! This is very, very cool. I'm sorry I ever said a critical word about this wonderful system we've devised. Sometimes, I'm just terribly, horribly wrong.

Looking ahead: if for some unfathomable reason Bush can't get his Iran war on (like the Democrats are going to stop him, hahaha), Hillary can take care of it. That's really the Democratic kind of war anyway. One way or the other, we'll get it on. Another World War! With nukes! Now how cool is that!

See how much you have to look forward to? And you were depressed. Aren't you the silly goose. Lots more war coming, all kinds with tons of neat new gadgets. God, is this a great country or what?

P.S. About related matters having to do with Iraq, Lieberman, and ongoing Democratic control of the Senate, Digby writes:
But I have to say that I'm just a teensy bit disappointed in the Democrats. This is a war we're talking about not some tax cut legislation.


You can't help but wonder if Lieberman and the Senate Dems aren't working the same side after all.
You're "just a teensy bit disappointed"? Just a teensy bit? Eighteen children were killed today near Ramadi. Yesterday, fourteen people were killed in the same area. Just one small area in Iraq, just one city out of countless cities. It is, indeed, a war.

Digby, my friend. C'mon. I mean, c'mon.

Slowly Going Insane...

You might want to read this post for background.

In its inimitable fashion, the New York Times begins with this:
The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law on Monday that would set guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the immense oil industry. The endorsement reflected a major agreement among the country’s ethnic and sectarian political blocs on one of Iraq’s most divisive issues.

The draft law approved by the cabinet allows the central government to distribute oil revenues to the provinces or regions based on population, which could lessen the economic concerns of the rebellious Sunni Arabs, who fear being cut out of Iraq’s vast potential oil wealth by the dominant Shiites and Kurds. Most of Iraq’s crude oil reserves lie in the Shiite south and Kurdish north.
And almost at the very end of the story, we learn the following:
The draft law has a compromise: regions can enter into contracts, but a powerful new central body, the Federal Oil and Gas Council, would have the power to prevent the contracts from going forward if they do not meet certain prescribed standards, Mr. Salih said. A panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq would advise the federal council on the contracts.
I'll turn it over to Chris Floyd at this point:
I may be writing more on this later, if I have the stomach for it, but read through the above New York Times report on the new oil law approved by the Iraqi government – and gasp in shock-and-awed wonder that the leading newspaper in the United States could file a story like this and only note –in the next-to-last paragraph – that Iraq's oil will controlled by the iron fist of a "central body called the Federal Oil and Gas Council" which will have "a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq" as part of the operation… without telling us that these "oil experts" will in fact be executives and representatives of American and other Western oil companies.

In other words, the Bush-backing oil barons will now have an official stranglehold on the oil of the Iraqi people. No wonder the Administration has been so adamant that "a new oil law is crucial to the country’s political and economic development," as the warm and fuzzy Times tells us.
Floyd also notes a story about a truly shocking development that you might have missed:
US forces launched air strikes in southeast Baghdad on Saturday, Iraqi officials said, as a series of massive explosions rocked the war-torn city.

"American aircraft are bombarding terrorist targets that have been chosen by US and Iraqi forces, as part of our Baghdad security plan," said Brigadier-General Qasim al-Mussawi, spokesperson for the operation.

There was no immediate comment from the US, but AFP reporters in downtown Baghdad heard the rumble of more than three dozen powerful blasts in rapid succession at around 22:00pm (19:00 GMT).

Shortly after the first blasts, electricity was cut in part of central Baghdad, but it was not clear if these events were linked.
Yes, that's right: we're bombing the major city -- again -- in a country that we now occupy. We also occupy the city that we're bombing. How's your insanity quotient right about now? And of course, our bombs are so precise that we won't kill any innocent civilians in a city with a population of six million. Of course.

Let's turn that one over to Juan Cole:
Last Saturday the US Air Force launched a series of bombing raids on southeast Baghdad. This is absolutely shameful, that the US is bombing from the air a civilian city that it militarily occupies. You can't possibly do that without killing innocent civilians, as at Ramadi the other day. It is a war crime. US citizens should protest and write their congressional representatives. It is also the worst possible counter-insurgency tactic anyone could ever have imagined. You bomb people, they hate you. The bombing appears to have knocked out what little electricity some parts of Baghdad were still getting.
As I have occasion to note periodically, you must never think this ungraspable nightmare can't get worse. It always will.

Always, until we leave. And if it's up to our governing class, we won't leave, not in your lifetime. Remember those enduring bases...and that huge embassy...and the oil...and...

February 26, 2007

Dispatch from Germany, Summer of 1939 (III): Building an Effective Resistance

[Part I; and Part II]

There is an obvious and vital difference between our situation in the United States today and that in Nazi Germany in 1939: as Americans, we are still essentially free to say whatever we want about political matters. What is often unforgivable in our case is how little use we make of that freedom -- use that is effective and that might crucially tip the balance away from the criminal gang now running the executive branch of our government.

Let me deal briefly with a few preliminary matters. Some may view my concern, which I am hardly unique in feeling, about the likelihood and consequences of a U.S. attack on Iran as "alarmist." I desperately hope such critics will turn out to be entirely correct. I have never wished so deeply to be wrong about any issue in my life. However, in light of the large body of evidence to date, that is not a chance I myself am willing to take.

"Regime change" in Iran has been an essential part of this administration's plan for "rearranging" the Middle East from the beginning; the origins of this plan date back to the 1990s. In many ways, Iran has always been the primary goal. Iraq was supposed to represent the "low-hanging fruit" -- the easy victory that would provide a critical staging ground for the much more important target. See this essay for only a few out of countless examples on this particular point.

The fact that Iraq has turned into an incomprehensible disaster has not changed this to the slightest degree. All the events of recent months support only the conclusion that Iran remains the essential target: from the movements of carriers into the Middle East, to the unceasing and increasingly bellicose statements, to the identification of Iran as the reason for our failure in Iraq -- all of it supports only one conclusion. Please keep in mind one further point: time is running out for the Bush administration -- which means it is also running out for those of us who oppose their determination to realize their remaining goals before leaving office.

If you want to more fully appreciate the hell on earth that an attack on Iran could lead to, read or reread the second half of this post: "Unleashing Armageddon." I've seen comments in various places to the effect that, if this criminal gang does attack Iran, "we" will have to get out in the streets, make our opposition known in forceful ways, and so on. No: at that point, it will be far too late. The repercussions of such an attack will already be playing out, across the Middle East and perhaps across large parts of the world -- to say nothing of the consequences here, possibly including martial law. If action needs to be taken, and it absolutely does, it must be taken now.

Two or three years hence, no one will be happier than I to look back on this time and laugh about how worried we were about what turned out to be nothing in the end. But as I said, that is not a chance I am willing to take. Even if my assessment should turn out to be completely wrong, the steps suggested below would be wonderfully good practice, in the awful event that an equally maniacal administration should hold power in the future. It would be enormously useful and comforting to know that an effective force of resistance can be built to check the mad ambitions of those who hold the reins of power.

With regard to the following specific suggestions, two fundamental guidelines should be kept in mind all the time. They can be stated very briefly, but they are absolutely critical:

1. The criminal and immoral nature of an attack on Iran in the present circumstances and in the foreseeable future must be identified and stated with all the force imaginable, without qualification, in virtually every interview, every television appearance, and every news story that any politician (or any other public figure) takes part in, beginning tomorrow. THE INSANITY AND CRIMINALITY OF SUCH AN ATTACK MUST BE MADE NATIONAL TOPIC NUMBER ONE, UNTIL THIS ADMINISTRATION FULLY AND COMPLETELY DISAVOWS ANY AND ALL SUCH INTENTIONS AND PLANS -- AND UNTIL THE MAGNITUDE OF PUBLIC OPPOSITION CONVINCES US THAT THEY MEAN IT.

2. In every statement about an attack on Iran, no opponent of this administration can accept any of the terms of debate chosen by the administration. Such opponents must argue on completely different terms. If you argue within the framework they prefer to any extent at all, you will lose -- and the next global war may begin.

On the first point, I refer you once again to "Morality, Humanity and Civilization: 'Nothing remains...but memories'" for the full explanation as to why an attack on Iran would be shockingly, unforgivably immoral and criminal in the current circumstances. On the second point, see "Trapped in the Wrong Paradigm" for a discussion about why these sorts of battles must be fought on the terms you choose, together with three especially important examples.

Let me give perhaps the major example of how these two guidelines work together. One argument about Iran (and about Iraq, as well) is absolutely wrong and completely ineffective: the idea that we need "Congressionally-authorized, well-managed" wars of aggression. If a crime is "well-managed" and "competently" executed, that makes it worse, not better. If you're arguing for "competent" wars of aggression followed by "well-managed" occupations, you're not genuinely opposed to this administration in any way that matters, or with regard to any significant principle. As I explained in "Trapped in the Wrong Paradigm," you're arguing over secondary matters, that pale in comparison to the fundamental issues involved -- and you thereby concede the basic terms of the argument to your opponents. If you proceed in this manner, you will always lose in the end.

One other general point is equally important: I've been writing about the general motives and goals of U.S. foreign policy for the last hundred years in my ongoing series, "Dominion Over the World." But with regard to what follows, the major points can be very simply and briefly stated. Keep in mind that there is no argument in the world that cannot be stated in one or two sentences, or in many very lengthy books. It all depends on the nature of the argument you make, and the amount of supporting detail you provide or omit. (I also note that it obviously isn't necessary for anyone to agree with my argument in the "Dominion" series in its totality. You can disagree on a number of points, but still think an attack on Iran is criminally insane at present.)

Here are a few examples on other issues of special importance, specifically about a possible attack on Iran. If you're being interviewed on television, for example, you can offer this as an opening statement:
Every knowledgeable, independent expert agrees that Iran is at least five to ten years away from having nuclear weapons. Iran is not any kind of serious threat to the United States now or in the foreseeable future. Any attack at present or in at least the next several years would be an act of aggression that violates one of the cardinal Nuremberg Principles. [Principle VI -- The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law: (a) Crimes against peace: (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).] Are you seriously proposing that we commit the kind of unforgivable act that we condemned the Nazis for?
That should shut your opponents up, and fast.

On another point: the administration is now attempting to convince everyone that Iran is the source of all our problems in Iraq. This is demonstrably false; see here for example. But many people, including almost all politicians, remain deplorably susceptible to a secondary ploy. If they're confronted with the argument, "But we have to protect our troops in Iraq! So if Iran is threatening them directly or indirectly, we have to do something about that!," they are all too likely to say: "Oh, of course we have to protect our troops! I would never recommend anything that undermined our troops!"

In this context, that or any similar response is completely wrong. It also happens to be the administration's argument. Try this response instead:
Iraq was never a threat to us either. And it's not true that "everyone thought Iraq had WMD." [Insert here any three or four of your favorite 300 citations on this point.] So we have no right to be in Iraq at all. Our presence in Iraq is only making a horrific situation worse. If we want to protect our troops, we should get them out of there as soon as possible, in six months at the most. And let me ask you this: how would you feel if Communist China "liberated" Canada, and had 150,000 Communist troops in Canada today? Would you buy China's argument that the U.S. was "improperly meddling" in Canada's affairs? Wouldn't you expect and demand that we do everything possible to get the Chinese the hell out of there?
Or as I put it more formally:
[O]ur war of aggression against Iraq and the current occupation constitute an enormous and continuing war crime. Because Iran shares a long border with Iraq, and because our criminal presence in Iraq includes 150,000 U.S. troops, Iran can hardly be blamed if it attempts to protect itself from our extraordinarily dangerous militancy.

I stress that no proof whatsoever has been presented that Iran is in fact directly attempting to aid those in Iraq who attack U.S. troops. But even if Iran were acting in this manner, we are in no position to complain -- not morally, not legally, and not strategically. We have no right to be in Iraq at all. If we wish to avoid further "sacrifices" by members of the American military, then leave. Our presence only worsens this disaster each moment that we remain. Because we commit additional war crimes with every day that passes, we would leave -- if we recognized even minimal moral constraints on our actions, constraints that we apply to all other nations.
These are just two of the many examples of how you reject your opponent's terms, and argue on your own. Even if you utter only one sentence setting forth your opposition to an attack on Iran, it must be on terms entirely separate and apart from those utilized by the administration.

Now, on to some specifics. Jonathan Schwarz outlined several actions you can take a few weeks ago. Those are all very good ideas, and you should do what Jon suggests if you care about this issue. But I also think those actions are not nearly enough.

The major goals here are to educate, to lead, and to motivate a critical number of Americans to take action themselves:

ONE: If I had the money, I would take out full-page ads in the leading national newspapers -- at a minimum, in the NYT, the Washington Post, and the LA Times. The major focus of the ads would be the explanation of why an attack on Iran by the United States directly or by proxy (via Israel) in the present circumstances would be a criminal war of aggression, and a blatant violation of basic precepts of international law, including the Nuremberg Principles. If I had a lot of money, I would run a series of ads, or even the same ad every day for at least a week. After that, I would continue to run the ads (adding new material as appropriate and necessary, depending on events) at least every few days, two or three times a week in at least one of those papers, and preferably all three.

The ads should be written simply and directly, and they could provide supporting evidence needed to make a convincing case as required (there isn't that much needed in this respect; the case against an attack is starkly clear if one knows the relevant facts). At the conclusion, the ads should urge readers in the strongest possible terms to contact their Senators and Representatives, and demand that they take action along the lines noted in Point Two, below.

I don't know an individual or an organization that has the money or the willingness to run a series of ads of this kind. I hope someone who reads this might, or might be able to convince a person(s) or an organization(s) to undertake this critical task. In this connection and with regard to any of the other steps I suggest, if anyone thinks that some of my writing in my many essays on these topics would be helpful, I hereby grant full and irrevocable permission to use as much of my writing as you wish for this purpose, without credit and without compensation in any amount. In other words: steal whatever you want from this site and as much as you want, please.

TWO: Contact your Senators and Representatives, and demand that they take the actions I outlined here. Two of those are absolutely required: they must rescind both Authorization for the Use of Military Force resolutions, the one passed immediately after 9/11 and the one on Iraq. The Bush administration uses the AUMFs as the "justification" to launch any war of aggression of its choice, while they simultaneously use them to destroy our remaining liberties here at home. Wipe the AUMFs off the books.

You should also tell those in Congress to pass resolutions in both the House and Senate stating that if Bush attacks Iran without a Congressional Declaration of War, as provided in the Constitution, he will be considered to have committed an immediately impeachable offense. I myself prefer that the argument be made in this clean, straightforward form; let the lawyers and legal experts contend over how this fits into the relevant statutes, including the War Powers Act. I view that Act as pernicious in the extreme, and think we and the world would be infinitely safer if that too were wiped off the books. The founders got this one (and much else) entirely right in my view.

But at a minimum, Congress must tell Bush that he cannot attack Iran without specific, explicit Congressional authorization. If he does so, he will be impeached. As I also suggested, they should draw up Articles of Impeachment on this point now. Those too should be published in the major newspapers, with a brief explanation as to the reasons for them and their purpose -- which is to prevent a second war of aggression begun by the United States in less than five years.

Contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them this, as briefly as possible -- and tell them EVERY DAY. No, I am most certainly not kidding. EVERY DAY, until they do it. You only have to write the message once, and then deliver it repeatedly by fax, email and/or telephone as needed.

THREE: Tell every politician, Democratic or Republican, that they must stop repeating the Bush administration propaganda on Iran. Above all, they must stop saying that "all options are on the table," which in this context can only refer to a threat to launch an unprovoked war against Iran.

"All options" -- to do what? To start a war of aggression against a non-existent threat? To begin a second criminal war, in violation of every principle of international conduct that we demand all other nations follow? To act as Nazi Germany did? Are those the "options" we have to keep "on the table"? Every single time any politician repeats this and similar phrases, it makes an attack on Iran more likely, and provides invaluable help to the Bush gang. [Also read Gareth Porter on this issue and the Democrats' failure.] What they ought to suggest is blindingly obvious: the grant of full diplomatic recognition to Iran, with everything that entails, as I discussed it here:
[T]hink what might happen if we granted recognition to Iran -- and if we did so right now. Again, the entire dynamic would shift very profoundly. And such moves are not unknown in the history of our foreign policy, Nixon and China being perhaps the prime example. This is the kind of courageous and daring gesture that breaks stalemates apart -- and that possibly could halt the bloody insanity that threatens to engulf the entire Middle East. It requires at least one statesman of vision and bravery, one who knows what he is doing and is willing to take the long view. We have no such statesmen at the moment. The great loss is ours, and the world's. (I note that, at one time recently, even the otherwise detestable Christopher Hitchens saw the wisdom of this approach to Iran.)
If I were an influential blogger active in Democratic politics, I would inform every presidential candidate and would-be candidate that, until and unless they stop using this kind of gutter language about leaving "all options on the table," THEY WILL RECEIVE NO SUPPORT FROM ME AT ALL. I would urge everyone else to similarly refuse to support them. If that eliminates all the candidates you have at the moment, THEN FIND BETTER ONES. Alternatively, do everything you can to convince the candidates you have to become BETTER ones themselves.

This is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road. How one acts in this circumstance depends on how much one values his or her contacts with the Democratic establishment, as opposed to how much one cares about preventing the next catastrophe -- a catastrophe that could spread across the world, and destroy what remains of our own liberties. I will not prejudge how anyone will act in this situation and I recognize that an individual's specific personal context can be immensely complicated, but I will watch to see what people do with more than a little interest.

FOUR: Contact every politician you know who appears on television or gives newspaper interviews, and tell them they must be sure to explain briefly in every appearance they make why an attack on Iran at present would be a monstrous crime. IN EVERY APPEARANCE. As I noted above, if this catastrophe is to be stopped, it must be made the NUMBER ONE TOPIC IN THE NATION. If you're well-known enough to create interviews or appearances for yourself, THEN DO IT. Talk about Iran, and why we must not attack that country in the present circumstances.

FIVE: Talk to everyone you can, at work, in your family, among friends, and at social gatherings. Explain the issues to them in a way that is appropriate for the relationship and the occasion, and urge them to take all these actions themselves. Explain briefly why this might be the most important battle they will ever fight.

Talk to them as much as you have to, and take all the time you can afford. Where you can, create more time for this work. Talk to as many people as you can, every single day.

As is true of many actions in life, this work will become easier as more and more people are convinced to act. A greater number of people will be contacting Congressmen and women, more people will be talking about it privately and publicly, and once a critical number of people are involved, this movement will begin to take on a life of its own. My fantasy, and I hope that is not all it is, is that four or five weeks from now, there will not be a single television or radio program or issue of a newspaper that does not discuss these issues, with someone explaining why we must not attack Iran. That reminds me of a further point:

SIX: If you are a writer well-known to any extent at all (and even if you're not well-known, in which case you can contact your local paper), write several op-eds on this subject, and submit them to every newspaper you can. As I say, I look forward to the day very, very soon when every major newspaper will have at least one article every day explaining the immorality and criminality of an attack on Iran in the current circumstances. (Needless to say, I think every blogger who agrees with my overall perspective on this issue should write at least one post a day on this subject, and more if possible. Those entries can be very short, and perhaps only link to lengthier discussions elsewhere with a brief comment. But at least mention it once a day.)

I'll write about further ideas as they occur to me. But taking action on at least several of these suggestions would be a tremendous start.

I want briefly to comment on a general related issue. In a number of essays, especially over the last year, I've remarked that, if the United States does launch a second war of aggression, we will deserve everything we get, and more. When I use "we" in this sense, I refer to the United States as a social-political entity. It is certainly true that, to the extent we as Americans allow our government to continue to commit criminal actions, we are in a very broad way "responsible" for those actions, simply by virtue of our being members of this society at this time (except and to the extent that we individually protest and act to oppose those policies with which we disagree).

But that is not to say that we are all guilty of committing those actions ourselves. We obviously are not. Guilt and responsibility are often used interchangeably, but they do not in fact refer to the same kinds of judgments -- or they should not, if we use the terms precisely. These are complex issues, and I'll try to analyze them in more detail soon.

Even though I think that the "United States" will, in the broad sense, "deserve" what it gets if we attack Iran, I would certainly not say that about many Americans as individuals. I would not for one primary reason: as I am discussing in the "Dominion" series, we have suffered the effects of a monolithic foreign policy establishment for a century in this country. Every leading politician, with only a handful of exceptions, believes in "American exceptionalism." They all think, as William Pfaff puts it, that "history has an ultimate solution, and that the United States is meant to provide it" -- a solution, as I went on to note, "which is unique and so supremely good that we are obliged to share it with others, by force as necessary."

Most Americans have never heard an alternative point of view -- because almost no one in national life has an alternative point of view. That is why I say that a critical part of this campaign must be educational in nature: to explain, however briefly, an alternative view, specifically with regard to Iran. And consider a related point: most of you reading this are seriously engaged with political issues to one degree or another. But in many ways, that kind of involvement is a luxury unknown to most Americans. The great majority of Americans spend all their days, and often sleepless nights, worrying about very basic concerns: how to pay next month's rent, how to afford the medical care that one of the children needs very badly, whether they can afford to go to the movies -- or if they have to save that money for food next week. I think a lot of you who may read this forget how many Americans live. I don't forget it, in large part because I've lived with those kinds of concerns myself for the last few years, and continue to live that way now.

Most Americans rarely think about politics at all; they can't afford to, in any sense of that phrase. When they very briefly pay attention, they simply absorb the ideas that predominate on television or radio, or in newspapers they may occasionally glance at. Today, virtually everything they hear or read tells them that Iran is the "greatest threat" we face, and that an Iran with nuclear weapons is "intolerable" and "unacceptable." None of that is true: see here and here for more on those points.

They don't hear another point of view, because there isn't one. It's past time for those of us who approach these issues in a radically different way to provide it to them, on the largest scale possible. For many of you reading this, your involvement in and knowledge about politics is a great luxury, one you often take for granted. But I would suggest that, along with that luxury, comes greatly increased responsibility. You know more, you are able to spend more time on these subjects, and so more can rightfully be expected of you.

Yes, this is a monumental battle. Yes, the odds are not in our favor. But the stakes are the greatest ones in the world -- peace, and freedom. In different ways, many of you have indicated this was the kind of battle you wanted. Many of you have said this was why you got involved in politics in the first place.

We cannot choose the moment in history during which we happen to spend our lives. But we can choose what we do about it, and how we try to affect the course of events, to the extent we can. We are living during an especially critical time, one that is filled with terrible dangers -- and one that might change the world and our country for the rest of our lives. We may not have chosen this battle, but it is here whether we want it or not. So I hope some of you will choose to join it, on the side of peace, liberty and the infinitely precious value of a single human life.

And I hope some of you start, or continue with renewed dedication, today.

February 25, 2007

Dispatch from Germany, Summer of 1939 (II)

[Part I] [And I'll post an entry specifying the various ideas for action that I have, and the rationales behind them, sometime on Monday, February 26. ... and here it is.]

To continue this series from hell (which will doubtless have further installments throughout the coming weeks), I turn to Jim Bovard. As I have urged you to do before, please consider buying his books: Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice and Peace to Rid the World of Evil, The Bush Betrayal, and Attention Deficit Democracy.

In a column entitled, "'Liberating' Iran, Enslaving the USA," Jim writes:
Attacking Iran will put American civilians in the terrorist crosshairs, with little or no federal Kevlar to protect them. The key question is not whether terrorists will attack but how the American people will likely respond and how politicians could exploit the situation.

There is no reason to expect the American people to be less docile than they were after 9/11. The percentage of Americans who trusted the government to do the right thing most of the time doubled in the week after 9/11. It became fashionable to accuse critics of Bush administration policies of being traitors or terrorist sympathizers. ...

The Bush administration has a record of exploiting terrorist attacks to seize nearly boundless power. After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration effectively temporarily suspended habeas corpus, railroaded the Patriot Act through Congress, authorized warrantless domestic wiretaps, and nullified restrictions on torture by the CIA and U.S. Military. The Bush administration now claims that the Authorization to Use Military Force resolution passed by Congress in September 2001 raised the president’s power above the Bill of Rights.

If there are new terror attacks at home, how much more latent presidential power will administration lawyers claim to discover within the penumbra of the Constitution? How broad would the roundup of suspects be? How many years would it be until Americans learned of how much power the government had seized? Is there any reason to expect that a series of attacks would not quickly result in attempts to proclaim de facto martial law?


If Bush does bomb Iran, the chain reaction could wreck American democracy. The Bush administration shows no signs of developing either an allergy to power or an addiction to truth. The American republic cannot afford to permit a president to remain above the law and the Constitution indefinitely. Anything that raises the odds of a terror attack reduces the odds of reining in the government.
I also mentioned the possibility of martial law here in the United States following an attack on Iran, in Part I. I urge you to read Jim's piece in its entirety.

And you should also read Seymour Hersh's latest article, about which I will have more soon. These brief excerpts can get you started:
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.


The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”
And thus continues The Folly of Intervention. I repeat what I stated to be "the single most important principle concerning foreign intervention," whenever such intervention is not a genuine act of self-defense in response to a grave threat:
Intervention always leads to more intervention: the first intervention leads to unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as the justification for still further intervention. That intervention in turn leads to still more unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as yet another justification for still further intervention. The process can go on indefinitely, and the ultimate consequences are always disastrous in the extreme.
We have seen this principle reenacted time and again on the world stage, ever since the disastrous involvement of the United States in World War I. This is one lesson all our political leaders absolutely refuse to learn, even as devastation threatens to spread across the world -- again.

For more on the decades-long history of United States' support of Islamic fundamentalism -- a history about which most Americans are entirely ignorant -- read this essay, It's Much Later than We Think (the second half in particular), which includes some excerpts from Robert Dreyfuss's very valuable book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

To read my earlier series on Iran, which dates from a year ago and longer, go here, here and here, and follow the links for more. All of it is now more relevant than ever before.

February 24, 2007

Dispatch from Germany, Summer of 1939

[Part III, with some specific suggestions for action, is here.]

Seymour Hersh, in an article published almost one year ago:
There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be "wiped off the map." Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. "That’s the name they’re using. They say, 'Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?'"

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was "absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb" if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do," and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy."
An article dated February 24, 2007, titled, "Cheney Hints at Iran Strike":
US Vice-President Dick Cheney has raised the possibility of military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

He has endorsed Republican senator John McCain's proposition that the only thing worse than a military confrontation with Iran would be a nuclear-armed Iran.

In an exclusive interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Cheney said: "I would guess that John McCain and I are pretty close to agreement."

The visiting Vice-President said that he had no doubt Iran was striving to enrich uranium to the point where they could make nuclear weapons.

He accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of espousing an "apocalyptic philosophy" and making "threatening noises about Israel and the US and others".

He also said Iran was a sponsor of terrorism, especially through Hezbollah. However, the US did not believe Iran possessed any nuclear weapons as yet.

"You get various estimates of where the point of no return is," Mr Cheney said, identifying nuclear terrorism as the greatest threat to the world.

"Is it when they possess weapons or does it come sooner, when they have mastered the technology but perhaps not yet produced fissile material for weapons?"
The Democrats could take action to try to stop this criminal catastrophe, but they will not:
I indicated the other day some crucial actions the Democrats in Congress could take to stop these events, which are already gathering terrifying momentum. I repeat those suggestions here. ...

It simply is not true there's nothing the Democrats can do to stop the drive toward a wider war. For God's sake, they control Congress now. There's plenty they can do -- if they want to, and if they want to lead. The actions outlined above are critical; all of them together would throw a huge roadblock in the path of this criminal administration.


If, several months or a year from now, we are in the middle of a catastrophic and ever-widening war triggered by an attack on Iran (by either the U.S. or Israel), let no Democrat be heard to say: "But there wasn't anything we could do! We didn't want this to happen, but there wasn't anything we could do to stop it!"

It's absolutely not true. If this nightmare should come to pass, they will be its co-equal creators together with the executive branch.
From an article dated January 31, 2007:
Senior European policy-makers are increasingly worried that the US administration will resort to air strikes against Iran to try to destroy its suspect nuclear programme.

As transatlantic friction over how to deal with the Iranian impasse intensifies, there are fears in European capitals that the nuclear crisis could come to a head this year because of US frustration with Russian stalling tactics at the UN security council. "The clock is ticking," said one European official. "Military action has come back on to the table more seriously than before. The language in the US has changed."
Many similar stories have appeared in recent weeks.

The Democrats could take action to try to stop this immoral catastrophe, but they will not:
Yet, despite these crimes, the war chants rise once again, this time directed at Iran. If we should attack Iran in the near future, much of the world will treat us as we will fully deserve: as a barbarian, pariah nation, which no one can trust and which will join the most monstrous countries in history.

Is there a massive protest from Americans about the route we may follow? No. Are the Democrats who now control Congress at least trying to avert this catastrophe, which may be the last? No -- because they fully share the belief in American "exceptionalism" and in our "right" to worldwide hegemony. Is there even one prominent voice in America regularly explaining the horror of what we have already done, and what we may still do? No.

If this remains unchanged, and if we launch another war of blatant, unforgivable aggression, we will deserve everything we get -- and more. Historians, if there are any in the years to come, will see what we were and what we did, and they will judge us accordingly.

I honestly don't have the slightest idea what people are waiting for, before they finally begin to take action against the still worse nightmare that might be coming. I think most people must tell themselves that it won't be "that bad." But it will be; it will probably be worse than anything we can imagine.
I detailed the profound and horrifying immorality of a U.S. attack on Iran in the current circumstances, and some of the likely equally horrifying consequences, in "Morality, Humanity and Civilization: 'Nothing remains...but memories.'" From that essay:
Any military attack by the United States on Iran within the foreseeable future -- even an attack using only conventional weapons -- would be profoundly immoral, and eternally unforgivable. Remember the critical facts: all experts agree that Iran is approximately five to ten years away from having a nuclear weapon. Moreover, Iran is fully entitled to take the actions it does at present, including the enrichment of uranium it announced yesterday. It is entitled to take those actions under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory. While we condemn Iran and maintain that its actions are "intolerable" and "unacceptable" -- even though they are entirely permissible under the relevant agreements, and are only "intolerable" because we say so without any moral, legal or strategic justification for that stance -- we carve out exceptions for a country like India, which is not a signatory to the nonproliferation treaty. The position of the United States is an entirely unprincipled one, and one which devolves into incoherence.

These central facts lead to only one conclusion: an attack on Iran would represent a blatant, naked act of aggression against a country that does not threaten us. It would not be an act of self-defense, if that term has any meaning at all: there is nothing at present or in the immediate future to defend ourselves against. Of course, the same was true of Iraq. We refuse to learn any lessons at all.

So an attack on Iran, even if confined to the use of conventional weapons, would confirm beyond the point of any remaining dispute that we have abandoned all the constraints on military action that the world has accepted for some time. We would make indisputably clear that we believe we have the "right" to make war on any nation, at any time, and on the merest whim. The existence of a threat to the United States is irrelevant and unnecessary to our actions. In effect, we will have declared war on the entire world, at least by implication. No one will be able to view themselves as safe: those we consider allies today might be viewed as enemies tomorrow. All concepts of "right" and "morality" would be jettisoned forever. We will have entered a world where brute force and military superiority are all that matter. Since no other nation can view itself as safe from our wrath, we can expect the rest of the world to make plans accordingly.

When the unprovoked, aggressive and non-defensive use of nuclear weapons is added to this picture, we will have entered a world of potential global holocaust.
The Democrats in Congress could take action to try to stop this impending catastrophe. They will not.

In this connection, IOZ anticipates me. I've been working on a lengthy essay, the working title of which is: "John Edwards -- A Case Study in Foreign Policy Ignorance, Amorality and Failure." Part of that post will analyze the plaudits accorded to Edwards by some of the more intelligent progressive bloggers, to their considerable discredit. Edwards fully embraces all the basic assumptions, the overall perspective, and the gross misperceptions (which is here a kind word for lies) that have led us to this fateful moment. And these bloggers swallow all of it, and don't even realize they are doing so.

In my notes for that essay dated February 16, I included a reference to this Wikipedia entry, which IOZ mentioned only yesterday. Let me offer the introductory paragraphs concerning the Gleiwitz incident:
The Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack on 31 August 1939 against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Republic of Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe.

This provocation was one of several actions in Operation Himmler, a Nazi Germany project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which would be used to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland.
This is our posture and strategy toward Iran: the posture and strategy of Nazi Germany toward Poland. But we are America the Good. We cannot commit evil of this kind. Many Germans believed the same thing about their country.

Germany, in the summer of 1939. Like most Germans then, most Americans will do nothing. In the hysteria combined with national triumphalism that will almost certainly follow a U.S. attack on Iran -- aided in significant part by many hawkish Democrats with their eyes on 2008, and by our criminally propagandistic media -- it is more than possible that martial law may be imposed. Perhaps only in several major cities to begin with, but a start is all they need. All the mechanisms are already in place for such action by this administration -- and the Democrats still have not learned how to fight this battle, either.

In "Thus the World Was Lost," I set forth several excerpts from Milton Mayer's, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45. Mayer quotes one German, who said:
"You know," he went on, "when men who understand what is happening--the motion, that is, of history, not the reports of single events or developments--when such men do not object or protest, men who do not understand cannot be expected to. How many men would you say understand--in this sense--in America? And when, as the motion of history accelerates and those who don't understand are crazed by fear, as our people were, and made into a great 'patriotic' mob, will they understand then, when they did not before?

"We learned here--I say this freely--to give up trying to make them understand after, oh, the end of 1938, after the night of the synagogue burning and the things that followed it. Even before the war began, men who were teachers, men whose faith in teaching was their whole faith, gave up, seeing that there was no comprehension, no capacity left for comprehension, and the thing must go its course, taking first its victims, then its architects, and then the rest of us to destruction. ..."
I also offered parts of Mayer's recounting of the story of a chemical engineer, who first refused to take the "oath of fidelity" to the Nazi government, but finally did. When Mayer said that he didn't understand the engineer's reasons for contending that he should not have taken the oath, since the engineer did in fact save many innocent lives, the engineer replied:
"Perhaps not," he said, "but you must not forget that you are an American. I mean that, really. Americans have never known anything like this this experience--in its entirety, all the way to the end. That is the point."
And that, I fear more with each day that passes, is what we will finally learn: what "this experience" is like -- "in its entirety, all the way to the end."

And still, the Democrats in Congress and most Americans will do nothing that matters, and nothing to try to prevent catastrophe, should this administration decide to proceed with its plans to attack Iran.

I indicated recently that I would offer some specific suggestions about actions that might be taken (in addition to those genuinely critical actions I've already identified for the Congressional Democrats). Probably sometime in the next week, I still will do that. But I confess that I feel little motivation in connection with the task, for it strikes me as utterly futile.

I could observe how sad and pathetic it is, and what it reveals about our political culture generally and the world of political blogging more narrowly, that a writer with a very small readership needs to provide ideas of this kind -- while bloggers with huge audiences and "connections" to those in government appear to do absolutely nothing. But I'll let that go without further comment.

What destroys my motivation almost completely is my close to absolute conviction that, even when I do offer a number of suggestions, most of you will still do nothing, including virtually all the liberal and progressive bloggers. I honestly don't see any point in it whatsoever.

Still, I'll put forth those ideas I have. At least, I will know I did everything I could. [I'll post an entry setting forth the various ideas I have, and the rationales behind them, sometime on Monday, February 26. Done.] In the meantime, I strongly suggest you think about this:

Germany. The summer of 1939. What could the Germans have done, and what could they have done earlier -- before events reached that point? And what are you prepared and willing to do now?

If you care at all, you need to think about that. Start this weekend. For if not enough of us take action, then we may very well learn what the Germans did, and we may finally face this:
"[T]he thing must go its course, taking first its victims, then its architects, and then the rest of us to destruction."
And those of us who survive will have to endure the same nightmares -- nightmares that will not end for the rest of our lives.

AND: Part II of this series is here. And here is Part III, with some ideas about actions that can be taken.

February 23, 2007

And Still More News from the Land of Stupid!

Breathlessly picking up on this, a story that ascends to heights of Stupid rarely seen before (at least, by anyone who survived to tell the tale), Rush Limbaugh excitedly began the third hour of his program today.

"Now, this is mighty interesting," he ominously began (I paraphrase, but this is very close to what he said). "This woman, and she's a Democrat...well, I'm assuming she's a Democrat. I'm looking at her photograph, and you can usually tell by looking at them if they are or not, but in her case, it could sort of go either way."

A minute or so later, he said: "Oh, she's a Republican. Okay, a Republican. But does anyone doubt that if we cut and run from Iraq, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT IRAN WILL DO???!!!"

Too much Stupid this early in the day. Bad for my health, and yours. Profuse apologies.

Previous bulletins from the Land of Stupid:

And Still More News from the Land of Stupid!

Upsetting All Those "Beautiful Minds"

The Pathetic, Miserable Cowards Who Rule Us

Let's first recall some of Cheney's words that I noted the other day, concerning the British troop withdrawal from Iraq:
"I think (the British) believe that in southern Iraq, that Basra region where they’ve been most active, we have made significant progress," said Vice-President Dick Cheney. "What I see is an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well."
Keep these statements in mind, as you read this assessment from Patrick Cockburn, one of the few reporters who has known and been familiar with the history, culture and peoples of the Middle East for several decades:
The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security, say specialists on Iraq.

In a comment entitled "The British Defeat in Iraq" the pre-eminent American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005.

Mr Cordesman says that while the British won some tactical clashes in Basra and Maysan province in 2004, that "did not stop Islamists from taking more local political power and controlling security at the neighbourhood level when British troops were not present". As a result, southern Iraq has, in effect, long been under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and the so-called "Sadrist" factions.

Mr Blair said for three years Britain had worked to create, train and equip Iraqi Security Forces capable of taking on the security of the country themselves. But Mr Cordesman concludes: "The Iraqi forces that Britain helped create in the area were little more than an extension of Shia Islamist control by other means."


Mr Cordesman's gloomy conclusions about British defeat are confirmed by a study called "The Calm before the Storm: The British Experience in Southern Iraq" by Michael Knights and Ed Williams, published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Comparing the original British ambitions with present reality the paper concludes that "instead of a stable, united, law-abiding region with a representative government and police primacy, the deep south is unstable, factionalised, lawless, ruled as a kleptocracy and subject to militia primacy".

Local militias are often not only out of control of the Iraqi government, but of their supposed leaders in Baghdad. The big money earner for local factions is the diversion of oil and oil products, with the profits a continual source of rivalry and a cause of armed clashes. Mr Knights and Mr Williams say that control in the south is with a "well-armed political-criminal Mafiosi [who] have locked both the central government and the people out of power".


There is no doubt the deterioration in the situation is contrary to the rosy picture presented by Downing Street. Messrs Knights and Williams note: "By September 2006, British forces needed to deploy a convoy of Warrior armoured vehicles to ferry police trainers to a single police station and deliver a consignment of toys to a nearby hospital." Some British army positions were being hit by more mortar bombs than anywhere else in Iraq. There was continual friction with local political factions.

Why is the British Army still in south Iraq and what good does it do there? The suspicion grows that Mr Blair did not withdraw them because to do so would be too gross an admission of failure and of soldiers' lives uselessly lost. It would also have left the US embarrassingly bereft of allies. Reidar Visser, an expert on Basra, says after all the publicity about the British "soft" approach in Basra in 2003, local people began to notice that the soldiers were less and less in the streets and the militias were taking over. "This, in turn, created a situation where critics claim the sole remaining objective of the British forces in Iraq is to hold out and maintain a physical presence somewhere within the borders of the governorates in the south formally left under their control, while at the same minimising their own casualties.' Mr Visser said.

In other words, British soldiers have stayed and died in southern Iraq, and will continue to do so, because Mr Blair finds it too embarrassing to end what has become a symbolic presence and withdraw them.
It is almost impossible to capture in words how profoundly immoral and deeply sickening this is. We have destroyed a country that never threatened us, and murdered more than half a million innocent people. We will not leave, and the horrors, including the rapes, continue every day.

And our leaders, and Britain's, refuse to end this nightmare -- because to do so would be "too embarrassing." There is no pit in hell deep enough for these despicable, disgusting sons of bitches.

More on Cockburn in these posts: Sacred Ignorance

A Genuine Mission Impossible

Give Up the Fantasies -- and Get Out Now

February 22, 2007

The Unspeakable Horror of What We Have Done

Several days ago, I offered an imaginary tale, in what was probably not an entirely successful effort to capture at least a part of the emotional reality of what we have done to Iraq, and to countless numbers of Iraqis. I presented it in that form in an attempt to break through the massive emotional repression that dominates our culture, a phenomenon I discussed further here. I've received a few emails indicating the "Imagine" post did "get through" to some people, so I think it was worth trying to make the argument in a different form.

In my imagined horror tale, I used rape both literally and symbolically, to represent the nature of our actions in Iraq. When I wrote it, I knew that reality had far outstripped any horrors I could create in my mind. And now, we have confirmation of that point -- in a manner that leaves me numb with a disgust so profound that I find it impossible to express in words:
It takes a lot to get the energy and resolution to blog lately. I guess it’s mainly because just thinking about the state of Iraq leaves me drained and depressed. But I had to write tonight.

As I write this, Oprah is on Channel 4 (one of the MBC channels we get on Nilesat), showing Americans how to get out of debt. Her guest speaker is telling a studio full of American women who seem to have over-shopped that they could probably do with fewer designer products. As they talk about increasing incomes and fortunes, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman, is on Al Jazeera telling how Iraqi security forces abducted her from her home and raped her. You can only see her eyes, her voice is hoarse and it keeps breaking as she speaks. In the end she tells the reporter that she can’t talk about it anymore and she covers her eyes with shame.

She might just be the bravest Iraqi woman ever. Everyone knows American forces and Iraqi security forces are raping women (and men), but this is possibly the first woman who publicly comes out and tells about it using her actual name. Hearing her tell her story physically makes my heart ache. Some people will call her a liar. Others (including pro-war Iraqis) will call her a prostitute- shame on you in advance.

I wonder what excuse they used when they took her. It’s most likely she’s one of the thousands of people they round up under the general headline of 'terrorist suspect'. She might have been one of those subtitles you read on CNN or BBC or Arabiya, "13 insurgents captured by Iraqi security forces." The men who raped her are those same security forces Bush and Condi are so proud of- you know- the ones the Americans trained. It’s a chapter right out of the book that documents American occupation in Iraq: the chapter that will tell the story of 14-year-old Abeer who was raped, killed and burned with her little sister and parents.


I look at this woman and I can’t feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too.


And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.
And even that is not the end of this particular episode, one of a countless number of similar episodes:
As expected, Al Maliki is claiming the rape allegations are all lies. Apparently, his people simply asked the officers if they raped Sabrine Al Janabi and they said no. I'm so glad that's been cleared up.


I hate the media and I hate the Iraqi government for turning this atrocity into another Sunni-Shia debacle- like it matters whether Sabrine is Sunni or Shia or Arab or Kurd (the Al Janabi tribe is composed of both Sunnis and Shia). Maliki did not only turn the woman into a liar, he is rewarding the officers she accused. It's outrageous and maddening.

No Iraqi woman under the circumstances- under any circumstances- would publicly, falsely claim she was raped. There are just too many risks. There is the risk of being shunned socially. There is the risk of beginning an endless chain of retaliations and revenge killings between tribes. There is the shame of coming out publicly and talking about a subject so taboo, she and her husband are not only risking their reputations by telling this story, they are risking their lives.

No one would lie about something like this simply to undermine the Baghdad security operation. That can be done simply by calculating the dozens of dead this last week. Or by writing about the mass detentions of innocents, or how people are once again burying their valuables so that Iraqi and American troops don't steal them.

It was less than 14 hours between Sabrine's claims and Maliki's rewarding the people she accused. In 14 hours, Maliki not only established their innocence, but turned them into his own personal heroes. I wonder if Maliki would entrust the safety his own wife and daughter to these men.

This is meant to discourage other prisoners, especially women, from coming forward and making claims against Iraqi and American forces. Maliki is the stupidest man alive (well, after Bush of course…) if he believes his arrogance and callous handling of the situation will work to dismiss it from the minds of Iraqis. By doing what he is doing, he's making it more clear than ever that under his rule, under his government, vigilante justice is the only way to go. Why leave it to the security forces and police? Simply hire a militia or gang to get revenge. If he doesn't get some justice for her, her tribe will be forced to... And the Janabat (the Al Janabis) are a force to be reckoned with.

Maliki could at least pretend the rape of a young Iraqi woman is still an outrage in todays Iraq...
This is what the United States has done, and what we continue to do every day that we remain.

And still we will not leave. We will be there for years to come, and probably for decades, at least on the permanent bases.

Much of the world now considers us to be a barbarian, pariah nation. From the Philippines, through Vietnam, and via many other interventions in Latin America, the Middle East and around the world, there is a monumental amount of evidence to prove the claim. We can appeal all we wish to the "principles" and "freedom" for which we allegedly stand -- but, and here is the point that most Americans refuse even to consider: to the extent those principles were once genuinely admirable, important and good, they are not operative with regard to our conduct abroad. That conduct arises from entirely different motives and concerns, as I am documenting in my Dominion Over the World series.

To continue to believe that we are "the Good Guys" in some unique manner, people must blind themselves to evidence that crashes over us at least several times a day. People must render themselves unforgivably ignorant, and criminally stupid.

I fear that very bad times may soon befall this nation. I also think, with the horrors of Iraq as only the latest chapter in what is now a lengthy book, we will fully deserve all of it. I do not condone any acts of violence perpetrated against innocent human beings -- not when others commit such acts against Americans, or when we commit such acts against others. I vehemently condemn all such acts, without exception. But in a very general sense and with regard to the United States as a nation (by which, I primarily refer to its government and its military), keeping in mind this latest incident reported by River together with the innumerable similar acts we've committed over the last century and longer (and I again draw your attention to the atrocities U.S. troops committed in Vietnam, detailed in the second half of that essay and which the hawks deny to this day), in reply to the questions that seek to intimidate and shut up all those who criticize our actions -- "Are you saying that we deserve it? Are you saying that it's our fault?" -- I would have to answer: Yes, we do deserve it. Yes, it is our fault.

We have not left the rest of the world alone for over a hundred years. We have invaded, exploited, robbed, raped, murdered and destroyed on an immense scale. What sort of reasoning affirmatively approves our actions, and simultaneously condemns what others might do in response? It is not any sort of reasoning that I view as legitimate or coherent, or remotely honest. We might argue, as I would and do, that justice must always be particularized and individual, and that we do not punish anyone who has not himself committed wrongful acts. But in the realm of foreign affairs, the United States has rarely acted in this manner. It is rather too late to insist that others treat us with carefully calibrated justice, when we have so completely and repeatedly failed to accord the same right to them.

We can only hope that those we have mistreated in so barbaric and inhumane a manner are much more merciful than we have been. If I were you, and for the foreseeable future, I wouldn't count on it.

America, Now Without the Revolution

From my essay, "Understanding the Significance of Guantanamo: The Symbol of Omnipotent Power," written almost two years ago, in May 2005:
And that, in brief, is why Guantanamo is so crucial to the Bush's administration's goals in its war, a war that will be never-ending if it has its way: Guantanamo symbolizes the Bush administration's desire for omnipotent power -- for the administration to be able to do whatever it wants, with no oversight or interference by anyone, including the federal judiciary and including those restraints imposed by the Constitution itself.

In this manner, especially when coupled with the great danger represented by the Padilla case, the Bush administration seeks to place itself beyond all restraint derived from any source, and to make itself all-powerful. If it is successful, that will definitively and absolutely spell the end of liberty in America -- and the rest is only a matter of time, and of details. In this sense, it is entirely appropriate that Guantanamo is located where another omnipotent dictator already holds sway.


Whether Bush and his enablers will admit it or not, in fact the policies they seek to implement would make the United States itself into one gigantic Guantanamo: where any one of us can be detained indefinitely merely upon the word or desire of one person, with no charges ever filed against us, and where we can be abused or tortured, and perhaps even murdered, at will. And no one and nothing would be able to stop or even question them. That's the future they want so desperately -- and I suggest that you always keep it in mind and never, ever forget it.
In an act of profound, historic cravenness and betrayal, the Congress acceded to the administration's desire for absolute power, with the passage of the Military Commissions Act. As I detailed in "Thus the World Was Lost," the Democrats offered no serious opposition, until it was far too late, and despite the fact that all of us had been on notice for several years that this battle would soon arrive:
There is no question that the Military Commissions Act, given the language it now contains, grants -- in principle -- full dictatorial powers to the executive. As I explained in the earlier essay, the executive and certain entities it controls can designate anyone, including any American citizen, as an "unlawful enemy combatant." That person can then be imprisoned for the rest of his life, with no recourse whatsoever. Period.


The critical point is what, in principle, the grant of power includes. As noted, the grant is absolute: it includes everything.As I have pointed out, the determination of the Bush administration to achieve absolute power has been indisputably clear since shortly after 9/11. And this is hardly the first time that I and others have noted that the mechanisms for a complete dictatorship have now been put in place.


With proper preparation, and with the requisite understanding that freedom itself was imperiled, the Democrats could have achieved these aims. All of us would be forever in their debt. Surely liberty itself is worth such a battle, isn't it? But the Democrats did none of these things, so the bill passed. Thus, they share in the guilt and responsibility. The guilt and responsibility that accrues to the Democrats is not as great as that of the Republicans, but it is surely great enough. And when your freedom, and that of your family and friends, and that of every single one of us, is destroyed in this manner, how do you even go about measuring degrees of guilt? How do you say this failure is worse than that one? The bill passed. They all failed, Republicans and Democrats alike. In principle, torture was enshrined and liberty was destroyed.


Some argue that the Supreme Court will find the act, or at least certain key provisions, unconstitutional. That, too, is a hope, but I myself am far from certain that the Court will rule in such a manner. In any event, we do not know what the ultimate outcome will be as far as the judicial system is concerned.

So we are confronted with one stark certainty, opposed by fragile and uncertain future hopes. We know the Military Commissions Act destroys liberty at its very foundation. We do not know if this fatal injury will ever be ameliorated. The Act should have been stalled at the very least. It was not.

Destroying the very basis of liberty is not an event that occurs every day. Mark the date. Historians may well have cause to note it.
A brief word to those who think the "Restoring the Constitution Act" is an effective means of combatting the immense evil represented by the Military Commissions Act. When I first read about this proposed legislation, I thought it was an important step in the right direction. After considering it further, I have concluded this is precisely the wrong way to fight this battle.

Let me repeat: the Military Commissions Act destroys the ultimate foundation of liberty, and it transforms the great evil of torture into a State-sanctioned means for treating those designated as enemies of the State by the executive and those who do his bidding, on any basis they choose or on no basis at all. (On the second point and in connection with the hell on earth to which such a government sanction can lead in time, see my series On Torture, and especially Part I.) The Act is an abomination in its totality, and in every detail.

If we genuinely seek to walk the long road back to a constitutional republic, the Act must be repealed. It must be wiped from the books completely. Instead, the Democrats propose to enact another bill, "correcting" the errors in the first. Inevitably, this will lead to endless debates, in Congress, in the courts and everywhere else, about how the two bills should be construed in relation to each other. These debates and confrontations will go on for years -- and all the while, the Military Commissions Act will remain the law of the land, a law that destroys the very concept of law in terms of what it had once meant.

You do not "fix" evils of this kind. You obliterate them as required. It is required here. At long last, let the Democrats understand the nature of this battle, as I discussed it in the earlier essay. Let them educate themselves, other members of Congress, and the American public. Let them attempt to mobilize Americans to demand that the Act be repealed, on a scale and in a manner that cannot be ignored. All our political leaders endlessly praise those who give their lives in defense of liberty, as they should when it is true. (It is not true in Iraq.) If they are sincere in that praise to any degree at all, can't they fight a legislative battle to restore the basis of liberty? They are being asked to take up only intellectual arms. For God's sake, they can do it sitting down the entire time.

But, you say, Bush will veto legislation repealing the Military Commissions Act. I initially note that Bush is equally likely to veto any attempt to "fix" that Act. But if the Democrats waged the necessary campaign and enlisted a significant part of the American public on their side, then let him. He will stand alone, revealed as the enemy of liberty and civilization that he is. To my knowledge, Bush has demonstrated no courage on any issue at all in the full course of his life. Since he and his cabal are after absolute power and do not have much time remaining to achieve their goal, I suppose he might surprise us all and reveal a ruthless determination, devoid of conscience and decency, in the pursuit of a dictator's powers. Given the ends he seeks, "courage" is a word that grants far too much dignity and humanity to such tenacity. It is the dogmatic obstinacy of an authoritarian; it is the stubbornness of a rabid, homicidal dog, that wants to make absolutely certain its prey is dead. Here, the prey is your liberty, and mine, and that of every single one of us.

Repeal the Military Commissions Act. Wipe the evil out of existence. I also note, realizing this argument very rarely applies in politics, that it is the right thing to do -- constitutionally, legally, and morally. And the world will know that some Americans still give a damn about what's right. Moreover, as Chris Floyd notes, there is an important strategic purpose as well: "Bush will doubtless veto any move to tamper with his beloved MCA, but at least the 'will of the Congress' argument in favor of gulags and tyranny will no longer apply when the case finally reaches the Supreme Court."

That may be crucial, especially in light of this news:
Detainees being held at the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have lost their bid for access to US courts to challenge their open-ended detention in the war on terror.

In an important ruling announced Tuesday, a divided federal appeals court panel here dismissed cases filed by 63 detainees raising fundamental legal challenges to various aspects of the Bush administration's approach to the war.

The ruling applies to every pending or future case – in effect closing all but a few doors to the courthouse for those being held at Guantanamo.

"Federal courts have no jurisdiction in these cases," the appeals court declared.

The ruling is expected to be quickly appealed – perhaps to the full US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – or directly to the US Supreme Court.


At the center of the appeals case was the assertion that the newly enacted Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) was an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Lawyers for the detainees argued that their clients enjoyed a constitutional right to challenge their open-ended detention before a neutral judge. If the Bush administration's position prevailed, they said, it would mean that terror suspects at Guantanamo could be tossed into a legal black hole.

Two of the three appeals-court judges disagreed. They ruled that Congress did not violate constitutional protections when it passed the MCA. The law was approved in part to overturn last summer's decision by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which overturned the military commission process proposed by the administration. Congress later passed the MCA.

"Everyone who has followed the interaction between Congress and the Supreme Court knows full well that one of the primary purposes of the MCA was to overrule Hamdan. Everyone, that is, except the detainees," writes Judge Raymond Randolph in an opinion joined by Judge David Sentelle.

Judge Randolph says the detainee arguments are "creative but not cogent." He adds, "To accept them would be to defy the will of Congress."

About 400 detainees are currently held at Guantanamo. According to MSNBC.com, 110 are labeled ready for release. Among the others, only several dozen are likely to face trial before special organized military commissions. For those remaining, there appears to be no end in sight to their detention.

Writing for the panel, Judge Randolph said that Congress could not have been clearer about its intent when it passed the Military Commission Act. The law says the repeal of habeas jurisdiction in Guantanamo cases applies in all cases without exception. "It is almost as if the proponents of these words were slamming their fists on the table shouting, "When we say 'all,' we mean all – without exception!"
Note carefully where we are: a judge defends absolute authoritarian rule, and embraces naked evil -- and he cloaks and seeks to disinfect it with allegedly neutral, dispassionate "legal argument" and theory. History has seen this phenomenon many times before; the twentieth century saw it repeatedly. Those parallels should disabuse you of the pathetic notion that this battle is anything like one over tax policy or Social Security, or that it can be fought in the same manner.

The Democrats (and a few Republicans) have the opportunity to fight for liberty once again. It is a considerable miracle that they, and we, even have another chance of this kind. Let us see what they do with it. History will long remember the final outcome of this struggle -- and history is not forgiving. "Good intentions" count for nothing. Let them act.

And we must let them know, in no uncertain terms, what liberty and honor now demand of them.