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Sunday, May 11, 2008

BRINGING THE WAR BACK HOME (Part I.)
Jordan C. Haerter, 19, Killed In Ramadi
James S. Henry

"To save this world, you asked this man to die.
Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?"
-- Auden

Sag_harbor_3Monday April 28th was an unusually chilly wet morning in Sag Harbor, New York, even for April, our "cruelest month."  But that didn't prevent more than a third of Sag Harbor's 2,200 year-around residents from lining the flag-lined streets and filling the Old Whalers' Church to capacity to mourn the loss of  US Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, age 19.

Even apart from the drizzle, there was hardly a dry eye in the38191822_2 village. The Rev. Steven Howarth offered a moving recollection of Jordan's short life, describing his popularity, impatience with book learning, determination to learn to fly at 16 and to join the military at 17, and his courage under fire. The minister asked the crowd to take comfort in the fact that Jordan would undoubtedly be granted eternal life in the after-world.

After the service, a long cortege made its way slowly to Oakland Cemetery, where Jordan Haerter was buried with full military honors, accompanied by his family, dozens of classmates, scores of police, firemen, Marines in dress uniform,  local American Legion members, and a squadron of motorcyclists Funeral068_2from an organization called the Patriotic Guard. More than a hundred school children from Jordan's former elementary school stood in the rain across from the church, carrying little star-spangled American flags and signs that read, "We will remember." Every local newspaper, radio station, and TV station in the Hamptons carried extensive coverage of the funeral and Jordan's story.

Everyone agreed that Jordan had behaved courageously in Iraq, and that his death was a tragic loss for the whole community.

Standing in the rain that day, and at the wake the afternoon before, I found myself struggling with very mixed emotions about this young man's death. On the one hand, I was proud of his courage and sacrifice. On the other, I couldn't help wondering why on earth he had decided to enlist and serve in a war that for many years has been so discredited. Who was responsible for that? Was this only George Bush's war, or do we all bear some responsibility for the fact that young men and women from all across this country -- not to mention scores of Iraqis -- continue to die every day?  Given the fact that bad wars  will continue to be a reality, what special responsibility do military recruiters, high school principles, teachers, guidance counselors, religious and political leaders, veterans, and other leaders in the community bear for at least making sure that the Jordan Haerters of this world make truly-informed decisions when they enlist?   

YET ANOTHER STATISTIC

Less than one week earlier, Jordan had become another statistic in the seemly-interminable Iraq War. At approximately 7:30 a.m. Baghdad time on April 22nd, Jordan and another Marine had been killed by a suicide bomber at a military checkpoint in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province in Iraq. Two Iraqi policemen and 24 other Iraqis were also injured in the incident.

According to military sources, Haerter, an ace rifleman -- his platoon's  "high shooter" --  was credited with shooting the driver of the bomb-laden truck before it detonated, quite possibly saving the lives of more than 30 Marines and Iraqis who were standing nearby.

Haerter became Sag Harbor's first Iraq War casualty, and indeed, its first combat fatality since World War II. He was also the first Suffolk County resident, 31st Long Islander, 203rd New Yorker, 4053rd American soldier (plus 186 contractors), and 253rd American 19-year old to die in Iraq since the US-backed invasion in March 2003.

Jordan had been in Iraq just one month, on his very first trip ever outside the US.

PREPARING FOR WAR

Obithaerter

Jordan, a life-long Sag Harbor resident,  was  the only child of Christian Haerter and JoAnn Lyles, who had been divorced in the 1990s. Christian, 50, ran a water treatment business and JoAnn, with whom Jordan lived, worked at a building supply company. Jordan's grandfather Werner, a tool-and-die maker at the local Bulova Watch plant until  it closed in 1981, had emigrated to Sag Harbor from Germany by way of Canada in 1953. He died in 1994, when Jordan was four. 

Jordan was reportedly a well-liked, pretty conventional teenager with average-to-good grades and a bit of a willful streak. According to local newspaper accounts, his passions were for driving a small outboard motor boat on Peconic Bay, hanging out with his friends, driving his 1991 Toyota 4Runner on muddy back-trails around Sag Harbor, and eating his grandmother Lilly Haerter's spaetzle and home-grown blueberries.

There was also flying. According to a widely-repeated story about Jordan, at age 16, he'd started taking flying lessons on his own, even though he had not informed his parents and was not yet old enough to legally drive himself to airport.

Jordan was just as single-minded about joining the Marines. He and a high school classmate -- Josh DiStefano, one of his closest friends --  entered the US 38220457Marine Corps together in September 2006, just three months after graduating from Sag Harbor's Pierson High School, and one month after Jordan turned 18.

According to another close friend, Jordan had met a Marine recruiter at Pierson's annual "Career Day" that spring. Soon after, at a meeting with a high school guidance counselor, he stunned his mother with the news that he had decided to join the Marines. 

At the time Jordan was still just 17, so his parents still had to sign off on his four-year commitment to the Marines' delayed-entry program. They did so reluctantly, but without much opposition  -- they'd always encouraged Jordan to be action-oriented and to get a "real world" education.  Jordan apparently used the enlistment bonus that he collected from the Marines to buy a new Dodge Ram pickup truck -- the same truck that his friend Josh would drive in Jordan's April 28th funeral procession.

WHERE WERE THE WARNING LABELS?

Jordan's reasons for joining the Marines are not entirely clear. Of course most young men his age are now avoiding military service like the plague. That is one reason why there has  been a crisis in military recruiting.

This, in turn,  is partly because the five-year old Iraq War is by now widely regarded by most Americans as an unmitigated fiasco, none of whose official justifications -- WMDs, Saddam's supposed ties to Al Qaeda, "democratization," or even the value of controlling Iraq's oil supplies -- have held up.

At best we are now down to a faith-based argument about whether things will be more  or less disastrous if we exit the country now rather than at some ill-defined time in the future -- not exactly an inspiring ground for enlisting.

What is clear that Iraq is a very dangerous way to spend one's youth. Not only have there been more than 4075 US military fatalities, but there have also been at least 30,000 Americans physically wounded, 3000-5000 of whom have injuries so severe that they probably would have died in earlier wars that lacked today's rapid medical evacuations.

According to a RAND studyPtsd1 released in April, 31.7 percent, or 520,000 of the 1.64 million American military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 also suffer from "post-traumatic stress syndrome" (PTSD), depression, and/or "traumatic brain injury" (TBI) induced by explosive devices. These "less visible" injuries have not only contributed  to a surge in suicides by US military personnel -- an estimated 6000 suicides in 2005 alone, growing at 20 percent in 2006-2007, with more than 12,000 attempts each year. Thus the number of  Iraq-related suicide deaths in the American military far exceeds the number of combat deaths.

These mental injuries also impose a high cost on the families and friends of returning veterans, especially given the acute shortage of psychiatric care for returning veterans and their families. The Rand study found that only about half of those with such conditions were getting treatment, and half of those who have been treated got inadequate treatment.

Ptsdap Some cynics have even suggested that the military's understatement of these problems is partly due to the fact that the US military is so dependent on "voluntary" reenlistment that it is afraid to focus on PTSD and TBI  -- both of which are amplified by the long tours of duty that troops are facing.

There is also evidence that such battlefield risks are systematically understated by recruiters, who are under severe pressure to fill quotas. Certainly there are is nothing comparable to the hazard warnings, "truth in lending," and SEC  anti-fraud disclosure notices attached to, say,  cigarette packages, drug prescriptions, car purchases, mortgages, and private equity investments that apply to these life-and-death enlistment decisions by 17-19 year olds. This has lead to widespread demands for new "truth in recruiting" standards, and restrictions on recruiter access to the nation's public high schools.

Finally, from an economic standpoint, military service -- now entirely voluntary, except for the "stop-loss" orders that has affected more than 80,000 reservists -- is simply not very competitive, as discussed below. Unless a student has virtually no civilian job alternatives, and either can't get into college  at all or can't afford to go, the military is likely to be a losing economic proposition, unless it somehow plays a role in some longer-term career plan (see below).

WHAT WAS HE THINKING?

As noted, Jordan's family says that his decision to join the Marines came as a complete surprise.

While other family members had served in the military, there was no tradition of volunteering for duty in Jordan's family. His grandfather Werner, whom Jordan had known as a child, had been drafted into the German Army in World War II, and his other grandfather John Lyle had been drafted into the US Army. Jordan's father Christian had never served.381918131

He spoke no foreign languages and,  as noted, he'd never traveled outside the US. In high school, he'd shown no particular interest in world events or history. Although he appears to have supported the War after enlisting, he'd never expressed strong feelings about the Iraq War before doing so.   

From age five on, Jordan had enjoyed playing shoot-'em-up games on the computer, which he would later actually compare with some of his experiences in the military. He'd also insisted that his Halloween costumes, meticulously designed by his mother, be accurate copies of those worn by soldiers in America's Revolutionary War. But such interests didn't differ all that much from those of any other Sag Harbor boys.

Nor does it seem that Jordan's decision to enlist in the Marines for the minimum term of four years strictly  a matter of short-term job opportunities. True, he had probably received a small ($10,000 or less) signing bounty for enlisting. At the time of his death, however, Lance Cpl Haerter's "E-3" pay grade was earning him just  $19,044 a year before taxes, plus food and housing allowances. By his fourth year in the service, depending on his rank, that might have increased to $25,000 per year at most -- less than $12 per hour. But that wage rate should have been easy for Jordan to beat in the Hamptons.   

A TIDY PLAN

What appears more likely is that Jordan's decision to enlist was part of a longer-term career plan, which tended to understate the risks of being a Marine in Iraq, and overstate the chances of using military service as a stepping stone.  His family says that after hisNew_logo_19 four-year commitment to the Marines, he intended to join the Sag Harbor Village Police Department, get married, and eventually take over his father's water treatment business.

For the first 18 months of Jordan's enlistment,  this plan appeared to be on track. He was assigned to "the Walking Dead," Alpha Company,  First Battalion, the 9th Marine Regiment out of Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.  which had served with distinction in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. After boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina and another year of training at Camp LeJeune and in northern Virginia and California, he was sent to Iraq in March 2008.

Once there, things also seemed to go well at first.  On Monday April 21,  the very day before his death, Jordan's mother received a letter from him, in which Jordan reported that Iraq was "easier than I expected," and assured her that he would take care to return home safely.

Unfortunately, as we'll discuss below,  all this overlooked just a few complexities -- the unpredictable, maniacal nature of the Iraq War, and the tensions that are deeply embedded in the US military's  "surge" strategy.....especially in Jordan's first and only Iraqi destination, Ramadi. (Continued in Part II.)

                                         (c) SubmergingMarkets, 2008


 


May 11, 2008 at 01:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

John McCain: "No We Can't"
Reviving The "Daisy" Strategy in 2008
James S. Henry

Mccain_bomb_4 My friends:  we have spent far too much time and treasure on the prolonged, intense, but ultimately intra-familial and largely issues-free beauty contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.   

Now that that contest is finally drawing to a close, it is time for us to focus like a gamma-ray laser on the real enemy in the fast-approaching November 2008 Presidential election -- Senator John McCain, the bellicose 5'7" septuagenarian fly-boy from Arizona.  

What is it about Air Force-trained Republican Senators from Arizona, anyway? 

Mccain_bushhug767929_3 In many respects this year's race recalls 1964, when Senator Barry Goldwater, another war-mongering, outspoken, short-tempered Air Force veteran and Republican Presidential candidate from Arizona,  scared the B'Jesus out of the entire country with his threats to use nuclear weapons preemptively ("Let's lob a nuclear bomb into the men's room at the Kremlin").

Usually such pro-war designs are kept well hidden until after the election, as the Bush Administration did in 2000 --  and, indeed, as President Lyndon Johnson did in the 1964 election, when he made Goldwater out to be a mad-man (the "Daisy" strategy," after the notorious political ad by that name: Download 20_johnson_64.mov). Johnson conveniently failed to tell the public during the election campaign that he was also a mad-man, already planning to park more than 500,000 US troops in Vietnam within a year.   

In any case, not since 1964 have the Democrats faced a Republican candidate who is as openly pro-war as John McCain is. This should provide them with  a remarkable opportunity for party unity,  a clear brand, and victory in November.     

Gopteam_071664r1 However, it is very important to reunite the Party and get moving. McCain is already attracting fuzzy-minded support from  moderate Democrats and independents who are beguiled by his tough-guy "maverick" image -- especially lower middle-class white males who are (a) bearing the brunt of this year's  economic downturn, and (b) not entirely comfortable with voting for either  Barack  ("the black guy"_ or ("that woman") Hillary. Oddly enough, many of these folks also claim to be anti-war.

Partly because the Democrats have been so distracted by their own interminable (..19 debates??!...six months of primaries?) nominating process, the most  telling criticisms of John McCain have so far been provided by his enemies among the Very Far Right Ranters (VFRRs), including leading professional ranters  like Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and James C. Dodson. This crew complains that McCain doesn't quite pass muster on pet right issues like undocumented immigration, gay marriage, and tax cuts. Ironically, Barry Goldwater himself would have also failed these same litmus tests. Indeed, if the 1964 Presidential election had been fought on social issues and the economy rather than on war and peace, the former Air Force Major General from Arizona would most likely have carried many more states than the 6 that he did carry. Defeating Goldwater in 1964 may not have absolutely required the war-mongering issue, but it certainly helped.  

Some conservatives have also criticized McCain's preference for voluptuous office assistants and fly-boy-style socializing.  From their angle, he also lacks appropriate Christian zeal, was once involved in the shady "Keating Five" savings-and-loan scandal,  and has an intermittent work ethic.

Indeed, in the last five Congresses he missed an incredible 21 percent of all Senate votes, including 56 percent in the current 110th Congress. This high rate of absenteeism is also no doubt partly due to the Presidential race, McCain's long-standing battle with cancer, and the fact that at age 71.5,  he is already the oldest living leading Presidential candidate ever, having already lived longer than over half of all US Presidents.

Images_2 The real problem for Democrats and independents, however, should not be McCain's lack of religious fervor, moldy old rumors about the Keating Five or extra-marital relationships, his age, or even his absenteeism, unless that is due to health problems.

And after this year's endless bouts of the smooth-talking ignoramus the Rt. Reverend Huckabee, the lack of religious zeal and ideological purity in a leading Republican candidate is really rather refreshing.

No -- our core problems with John McCain are twofold. First,  whenever he actually manages to show up in the Senate and legislate, the  results are usually far to the right of what most Democrats, independents, and sensible people in general stand for  -- and what both Barack and Hillary, in particular,  stand for.

For example,  while Barack and Hillary have both earned lifetime voting scores from the American Conservative Union (ACU) of just 8 percent, McCain's  lifetime score is 82. While this may be insufficient for VFRRs like Limbaugh and Coulter, it is well above the tail end of the Republican Senate distribution.

McCain may have mellowed slightly in recent years -- in 2006, for example, his ACU score was just 65.  However, this is still higher than any Senate Democrat, and it is more than three times the 17 rating scored by McCain's turncoat friend Joe Lieberman.  Indeed, on a wide range of key issues that progressives and independents should really care about --  from Supreme Court nominations and extending Bush's tax cuts for the rich to the State Children's Health Insurance program, setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and  bankruptcy reform, and even on his own trademark issues like campaign finance, immigration, the definition of torture, and the Bush tax cuts, the senior Senator from the Grand Canyon state is usually a big disappointment.   

20071113_mccain Second, and even more important, on the most crucial issue of our time, the conduct of present and future wars,  McCain appears to have quite frankly gone completely off the rails.

Misguided Democratic Party strategists like John Podesta, Mark Penn, and Bob Schrum notwithstanding,  this issue of the war, and not just "the economy" or "health care," should be at center stage for this election. 

This is precisely because, on the one hand,  military affairs are supposed to be McCain's core competence, and because, on the other hand, he has gotten this central issue completely wrong.      

As discussed below, while millions of Iraqis continue to vote with their feet and either flee abroad or stay there, McCain just keeps repeating the big lie that "the surge is working."

In fact the main reasons that US military casualties,  and, to a lesser extent, Iraqi civilian casualties have dropped is not because of "the surge," but because (a) Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed, and is now a sharply divided, Shiite-dominated enclave;  (b) Sunni insurgents, fed up with al-Qaeda, have decided temporarily to ally with the "occupiers" and assert control over the "foreign terrorists;" and (c) Iran has temporarily decided to cut down on its support for attacks on US troops, in the interests of undermining the "neocon" coalition in the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that is plumping for a McCain-style bombing. (See the video below).

None of this implies that the surge has achieved anything more than a kind of stop-gap temporary stabilization of this very ill patient's condition -- a Bush Adminstration effort that just happens to coincide with a Presidential election year. Since it is unlikely that the surge is sustainable, in terms of troops and dollars, and since its benefits are likely to be temporary, McCain should be compelled to explain on every possible occasion whether the slim increased chance that a Republican president will get elected is really worth the price.

466284925_964c617f1f_oBut McCain is at least consistent. Apparently he also still believes that the Vietnam War could have been won with just a little more persistence and less interference from Washington.
 

For all his putative military experience, therefore,  in the grand tradition of Major General/ Senator Goldwater and Air Force General Curtis {"Bombs Away") LeMay,  in his 20 hours of flight time over North Vietnam, and his five years of captivity, apparently John McCain never 250pxcurtis_lemay_usaf managed to learn the fundamental lesson that millions of ground troops have learned the hard way -- that guerrilla wars, and, indeed, wars on terror,  are ultimately won or lost by political and economic development, not by military tactics. And, furthermore,  that the blind over-application of military force to a hostile civilian population by an occupying army and Air Force can actually increase enemy resistance much faster than it can be controlled.

Far from repeating the 2004 Kerry campaign's central mistake and focusing this campaign only on the US economy, therefore, it will be vital for us to keep McCain's extraordinary appetite for war in plain view.

The more general question of why so many Air Force professionals -- including, for example, the Israeli General who was widely blamed for mismanaging last year's conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon -- tend to systematically overestimate the efficacy of military power, will be left for another time. Plainly this is not just an Arizona malady.

 For the interested reader, the following is a smattering of sundry provocative materials with respect to Senator McCain. Not all of it is worth taking seriously --- some of it even resembles the scurrilous attacks on John Kerry's war record in 2004,  when McCain, it should be recalled, came to Kerry's defense.  We've presented it here in the interests of of airing it out and redirecting our attention to the clear and present danger of a Republican Party that, even in its death throes,  may still be able to unite around this "great white hawk" from Arizona. 

 

The "Surge" Is Working?"
"100 More Years in Iraq?"

""MIA Cover-Up Artist?""

""War Hero?""

 

From VietnamVeteransAgainstJohnMcCain:

FACT SHEET:  Military record of John Sidney McCain

"Both McCain III’s father and grandfather were Admirals in the United States Navy.  His father Admiral  John S. ”Junior” McCain was commander of U.S. forces in Europe - later commander of American forces in Vietnam while McCain III was being held prisoner of war. His grandfather John S. McCain, Sr. commanded naval aviation at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. McCain III, like his father and grandfather, also attended the United States Naval Academy.  McCain III finished near the bottom of his graduating class in 1958.

McCain III lost five U.S. Navy aircraft: Images_2

1 - Student pilot McCain III lost jet number one in 1958 when he plunged into Corpus Christi Bay while practicing landings.

2 - Pilot McCain III lost another plane two years later while he was deployed in the Mediterranean. ”Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula, he took out some power lines  which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral.

3 - Pilot McCain III lost number three in 1965 when he was returning from flying a Navy trainer solo to Philadelphia for an Army-Navy football game.  McCain III radioed, ”I’ve got a flameout” and ejected at one thousand feet. The plane crashed to the ground and McCain III floated to a deserted beach.

4 - Combat pilot McCain III lost his fourth on July 29, 1967, soon after he was assigned to the USS Forrestal as an A-4 Skyhawk combat pilot. While waiting his turn for takeoff, an accidently fired rocket slammed into McCain Jr’s. plane. He escaped from the burning aircraft, but the explosions that followed killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and threatened to sink the ship.

5 - Combat pilot McCain III lost a fifth plane three months later (Oct. 26, 1967) during his 23rd mission over North Vietnam when he failed to avoid a surface-to-air missile. McCain III ejected from the plane breaking both arms and a leg in the process and subsequently parachuted into Truc Bach Lake near Hanoi. After being pulled from the lake by the North Vietnamese, McCain III was bayoneted in his left foot and shoulder and struck by a rifle butt. He was then transported to the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Mccain1 The 1973 New York Daily News labeled POW McCain III a “PW Songbird” On McCain III’s fourth day of being denied medical treatment, slapped, and threatened with death by the communist (they were demanding military information in exchange for medical treatment), McCain III broke and told his interrogator, ”O.K., I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.” U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain.

It was then that the communist learned that McCain III’s father was Admiral John S. McCain, the soon-to-be commander of all U.S. Forces in the Pacific. The Vietnamese rushed McCain III to Gai Lam military hospital (U.S. government documents), a medical facility normally unavailable for U.S. POWs. By Nov. 9, 1967 (U.S. government documents) Hanoi press was quoting McCain III describing his mission including the number of aircraft in his flight, information about rescue ships, and the order of which U.S. attacks would take place. 

While in still in North Vietnam’s military hospital, McCain III gave an interview to prominent French television reporter Francois Chalais for a series titled Life in Hanoi. Chalais’ interview with McCain III was aired in Europe. Vietnamese doctors operated on McCain’s Leg in early December, 1967. Six weeks after he was shot down, McCain was taken from the hospital and delivered to a U.S. POW camp, In May of 1968,  McCain III allowed himself to be interviewed by two North Vietnamese generals at separate times.”  May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain In August 1968, other POWs learned for the first time that John McCain III had been taken prisoner. Mccain_bush_hug

On June 5, 1969,  the New York Daily News  reported  in  a article headlined  Reds Say PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral,   “ . . . Hanoi has aired a broadcast in which the pilot son of  United States Commander in the Pacific, Adm. John McCain, purportedly admits to having  bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam and praises medical treatment he has received since being taken prisoner . . .” 

The Washington Post explained McCain III’s broadcast: “The English- Language broadcast beamed at South Vietnam was one of a series using American prisoners. It was in response to a plea by Defense Secretary Melvin S. Laird, May 19, that North Vietnam treat prisoners according to the humanitarian standards set forth by the Geneva Convention.”

Mcaincu1 In 1970, McCain III agreed to an interview with Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist who was living in Cuba at the time. The meeting between Barral and McCain III (which was photographed by the Vietnamese) took place away from the prison at the office of the Committee for Foreign Cultural Relations in Hanoi (declassified government document). During the meeting, POW McCain sipped coffee and ate oranges and cakes with the Cuban. While talking with Barral, McCain III further seriously violated the military Code of Conduct by failing to evade answering questions ”to the utmost of his ability” when he, according government documents, helped Barral by answering questions in Spanish, a language McCain had learned in school. The interview was published  in January 1970.

McCain III was released from North Vietnam March 15, 1973 In 1993, during one of his many trips back to Hanoi, McCain asked the Vietnamese not to make public any records they hold pertaining to returned U.S.  POWs.  McCain III claims, that while a POW, he tried to kill himself.

McCain III was awarded “medals for valor” equal to nearly a medal-and-a-half for each hour he spent in combat For 23 combat missions (an estimated 20 hours over enemy territory), the U.S. Navy awarded McCain III, the son of famous admirals, a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit Mcain_bu2 for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service medals.

McCain had roughly 20 hours in combat,” explains Bill Bell, a veteran of Vietnam and former chief of the U.S. Office for POW/MIA Affairs -- the first official U.S. representative in Vietnam since the 1973 fall of Saigon. “Since McCain got 28 medals,” Bell continued, “that equals to about a medal-and-a-half for each hour he spent in combat.  There were infantry guys -- grunts on the ground -- who had more than 7,000 hours in combat and I can tell you that there were times and situations where I’m sure a prison cell would have looked pretty good to them by comparison. The question really is how many guys got that number of medals for not being shot down.”

For years, McCain has been an unchecked master at manipulating an overly friendly and biased news media. The former POW turned Congressman, turned U.S. Senator, has managed to gloss over his failures as a pilot and his collaborations with the enemy to become America’s POW-hero presidential candidate."

Another Bellicose Wack-a-Doodle?

"Legendary Temper Could Undermine McCain" Friday, May 25, 2007  By RALPH VARTABEDIAN and MICHAEL FINNEGAN

SPECIAL FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

0_12_300_227_mccain_lieberman" An angry, profane exchange between Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and another Republican senator last week prompted a new round of questions about whether McCain's legendary temper is becoming a liability in his campaign for the presidency. In a private meeting just off the Senate floor, McCain got into a shouting match with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, over details of a compromise on immigration legislation. Cornyn accused McCain of being too busy with his campaign to take part in the negotiations, prompting McCain to utter, "F... you." McCain spokesman Danny Diaz acknowledged that a "spirited exchange" took place but said media reports over the weekend had exaggerated its intensity. McCain's political handlers have plenty of experience in explaining McCain's salty language and strident attacks. His temper has ranged far and wide, directed at other members of the Senate, congressional staffers, heads of government agencies, corporate chieftains, high-ranking military officers and teenage campaign volunteers.

McCain has shouted at people for any number of reasons, including errors of judgment, disagreements on public policy and even how to set up a podium. "In McCain's world, there aren't legitimate differences of opinions," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which differs with McCain on some conservative issues. "There is his way and there is evil. That is how he approaches issues. That is one of the reasons for conservative nervousness about him." His temper has been an issue for years. In the 2000 presidential primaries, McCain was dubbed "Senator Hothead" by Newsweek.

That year, he won endorsement from only a few Senate colleagues, not so much because of his conservative credentials but because of his frequent attacks and volatile personality. "McCain notes," which offer apologies after heated words, are held by many members of Congress. McCain has written about what he describes as his impatience in three books. "Although I try to refrain from being intentionally discourteous, I am demonstrative in showing my displeasure. I am often impatient and can speak and act abruptly," he wrote in "Why Courage Matters" in 2004. In a 1999 interview with the Los Angeles Times, McCain admitted, "I do everything I can to keep my anger under control. I wake up daily and tell myself, 'You must do everything possible to stay cool, calm and collected today.' "

One bureaucrat who felt McCain's wrath was former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin, who was called in by McCain in 1999, not long after a $125 million probe crashed on Mars because of confusion over the use of metric units. McCain's Senate Commerce Committee had oversight over NASA. "McCain went ballistic the moment Goldin walked into McCain's office," said a participant in the meeting. "He was shouting and using profanity, saying he was sick of NASA's screw-ups. It went on for a few minutes and then he kicked Goldin out of the office." Goldin started walking down the hallway but was summoned back to the senator's office by a McCain aide. "When he came back in, McCain started yelling at Goldin all over again. And then McCain kicked Goldin out a second time, before he ever said a word," the source said.

Julian Zelizer, a history and politics professor at Boston University, said the spectacle of a senator getting into "yelling matches with his colleague" undermines his leadership image. "It is an issue he needs to be cautious with," Zelizer said. Until the latest flap, McCain had managed lately to quell the image that he is easily angered. His campaign leadership took sharp exception to the entire matter, characterizing it as political theater. "If something is written every time members of Congress and leading politicians, behind closed doors, try to get the other's attention, and tempers flare, you'd run out of ink," said John Weaver, McCain's chief campaign strategist. Nonetheless, the issue was used effectively in the 2000 primaries by opponents who planted rumors that he was unstable because of his years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Although some ex-POWs did have psychological problems, McCain came through the experience in good psychological shape, said Navy doctors.

As for his temper, "John McCain is John McCain," said Dr. Bob Hain, director of the Navy's Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies. Meanwhile, Democrats said McCain was in deep trouble on the matter. "Apparently, John McCain's do-anything-to-win campaign strategy doesn't include anger management classes," said Damien LaVera, Democratic National Committee spokesman. "We have had eight years of cowboy diplomacy and McCain is even more of a cowboy than the current president," said Roger Salazar, a Democratic political consultant who worked for John Edwards in 2004. "The public wants somebody who is strong but can sit across from allies and adversaries without lunging at them."

(c) SubmergingMarkets, 2008

February 12, 2008 at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

DEFENDING THE FIRST AMENDMENT ON LONG ISLAND
Federal Judge Orders Southampton Village to Allow Free Speech On July 4th!!
James S. Henry

(Note: The following is a brief account of this year's conflict between the First Amendment and the Village of Southampton, New York, by Tony Ernst, a reporter for WPKN/ WKPM, 89.5 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.)

=========================================================

Images_4In Southampton Village, Long Island, a dispute over whether advocacy groups for the Bill  Rights and against the Iraq war can march in the July 4 Independence Day parade was resolved Monday morning by a Federal Judge.

The First Amendment rights of the groups were affirmed by Judge Joanna Seybert of the District Court in Islip.

Judge Seybert issued an order directing that the plaintiffs will be able to  march and freely engage in political speech at the July 4 parade in Southampton Village, without interference from Village authorities. Thumb_opxfidisa4

Last month, members of the Peconic Quakers, the South Fork  Unitarian-Universalists,the East End Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the East End Vets were told by organizers of the parade, the Village of Southampton's "Commission on Veterans Patriotic Events,"  that they could not march with signs of protest as they had done in previous years.

James S. Henry,  the attorney for the plaintiffs, remarked on the irony of having  to go to court to exercise his constitutional rights on July 4th.

A law suit filed by the plaintiffs is still pending.

Those wanting to join the marchers should meet at 9:30am on Tuesday July 4
at the parking lot of Our Lady of Poland Church on Maple Street south of the Southampton Railroad station.

***

(c) SubmergingMarkets, 2006

July 4, 2006 at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, March 03, 2006

"IRAQ'S MOMENTOUS ELECTION, ONE YEAR LATER"
Iraq War Supporters Are Running For Cover
James S. Henry

Image532d3700a1c2427ba5bfefe7f6f417c0_1For those who have not been paying attention in class, the so-called "Iraq War" has recently been setting new records for violence, brutality, and terror -- with at least 379 to 1300 iraqi fatalities in the last week alone, in the wake of the bombing of the 1,062-year old Al-Askariya shrine at Samarra.

Nor did the apprentice Iraqi Army -- with its 20,000-man force, trained by the US military at the phenomenal cost of $15 billion to date, or $750,000 per soldier -- prove to be much help in quelling the violence. This is not really surprising --  after all, this Army shares the same divided loyalties as the population at large.

While a few senior US military officers have issued  Westmoreland-like statements assuring us that "the crisis has passed," and that this is not -- I repeat --  not a "civil war," it is hard to know what else to call it.

Iraq_cupola_samarra200x150_2A few journalists have speculated that, ironically enough,  all the increased violence and polarization may undermine the Pentagon's "hopes" to reduce the number of US troops in Iraq to 100,000 by year end.

Those "hopes," however,  are vague. One suspects that they have always been mainly for public consumption,  including the morale of US troops. We only began to hear about them last fall when opposition to the war really soared in the US.

Images2_2The Pentagon's not-so-secret hope -- among senior planners, at least -- is different. This is to turn Iraq into a neutered or even pro-US -- better yet for cosmetic purposes,  "democratic" -- regime right in the heart of the Middle East, complete with permanent basing rightsimmunity for US personnel from war crimes prosecution by the International Criminal Court, and, naturally enough, the occasional juicy construction, security, arms, and oil contract for friendly US and UK enterprises  -- at least so long as they are not owned by Dubai. 

ALL AGAINST ALL?

Ph2005071302301It is this vision that is most threatened by the recent surge in Iraqi violence.  Clearly this is no longer just a "foreign terrorist/ dead-ender-led insurgency" against the US and its apprentice army.

Nor has the US-guided constitutional process, and continuous interventions by our heady Ambassadors in Baghdad -- safe behind the walls of the world's largest US embassy -- succeeded in stabilizing the country.

Rather, Iraq is now engaged in a complex, multi-sided bloodbath, fought along age-old religious, ethnic, and clan lines by well-armed groups. While American battle deaths continue, almost all the casualties are now Iraqis felled by Iraqis.

Furthermore, this inter-Iraqi violence goes well beyond the suicide bombings that still garner most of the media's attention. It escalated sharply in the last year, long before the Samarra bombing, and even as the vaunted constitutional process was unfolding.

For example, as reported by the Guardian this week, the former director of the Baghdad Morgue recently fled the country, fearing for his life after reporting that more than 7000 Iraqis had been tortured and murdered by "death squads."

According to the former head of the UN's human rights office in Iraq, most of these victims had been tortured by the Badr Brigade, the military wing of SCIRI, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

As we reported over a year ago on this site, SCIRI is not just some fringe element. It is one of Iraq's two key Shiite-led political factions, and one of the principle victors in the December 2005 parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, our expectations have been fulfilled. Upon acquiring power, SCIRI has behaved exactly as anyone familiar with its history -- but apparently not the US military -- would have expected.

TOUGH LIBERALS?

Meanwhile, among America's befuddled liberal intelligentsia, hard-nosed realism has been sorely missing.  The December election and its January 2005 predecessor were events that most neoliberal observers --  for example,  the American Prospect  -- could not praise highly enough:

Iraqis have concluded one of the most successful constitutional processes in history. Rarely, if ever, before has an important country moved from tyranny to pluralism so quickly, with so little bloodshed, and with such a quality and degree of popular participation.

This assessment was spectacularly wrong. Iraq's constitutional process has not led to "pluralism," much less staunched the bloodshed. 

Rather -- no doubt with ample assistance from Iranian secret agents,  "foreign fighters," and other officious intermeddlers  --  the process has exacerbated social and religious  divisions --  divisions that Iraq was always noted for mitigating.

The continued US presence has also helped to legitimize the extremists, letting them fly the "national liberation" flag. We have reached the point where country's armed private militias are expanding faster than the US-trained police and army. 

ITomfriedman109qn this perilous Somalia-like situation, with US troops viewed as part of the problem, and shot at by all sides, it is harder and harder to justify incremental American casualties.

Indeed, about the only thing that all Iraqi factions  -- apart from some Kurds and the country's dwindling minority of remaining secularists -- agree on now is the desire for the US military to leave.  We should respect their wishes.

TOO FEW TROOPS?

By now, even arch-conservative pundits like William F. Buckley have agreed that the Iraq War was a costly mistake, and that a US withdrawal is called for. 

Meanwhile, however, some die-hard US neoliberal defenders of the war -- including tough-guys like the New York Times' Tom Friedman and Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens -- are still denying the existence of Iraq's deep-seated, historically-specific obstacles to democratization and unified self-rule, as well as the overwhelming opposition in Iraq to the US presence.

Images3_1Of course, admitting that local history actually matters might require one to study Middle Eastern history a little more closely, or perhaps even learn Arabic.

Images1_3It might also interfere with certain pet theories, like the "inevitable triumph of technology and free markets over local markets, nations, peoples, customs and practices," or the "inevitable struggle to the death between Islamic extremism and Western democracy."

From the standpoint of these and other warhawks, our only mistake in Iraq was really quite simple -- the Bush Administration sent in too few troops.

On closer inspection, this claim spins itself into the ground faster than a Halliburton drill bit. 

  • One key reason why more troops were not available was the fact that the war's supporters -- not only the Bush Administration, but also leading Democrats like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman,  and their pundit camp followers -- failed to persuade anyone other than Mad Tony Blair that a variety of cockamamie  theories about "democratizing the Middle East," the "connection" between Saddam and al-Qaeda,  and WMDs had any validity whatsoever.
  • Second, while a handful of Pentagon skeptics did support larger troop commitments before the invasion, they were in the minority -- and not just because of Rumsfeld's desire to fight the war with a high-tech army. Most of the war planners and pro-war enthusiasts alike were swept away by Friedman-like naievete about the enthusiasm of ordinary Iraqis for US-backed "liberation." They systematically underestimated the Iraqis' nationalism and their resentment of occupation -- especially by  armies of "Christian" nationals from the US and the UK. In retrospect, it is easy to say that even more troops were needed to maintain order and suppress resistance. But the larger US presence would have provoked even more resistance. 
  • As most US commanders agreed, the "more troops" answer is flawed from a technical perspective, given the nature of the insurgency. It would have provided more targets for suicide bombers, without delivering a remedy for their simple IED and sniper tactics.  While more troops might have provided better border interdiction, Iraq has a larger land mass than Vietnam, and twice as many neighbors. For the "more troops" claim to work with any certainty,  the number would have had to rival Vietnam proportions -- at least 500,000, probably for several years. The US military manpower system has already experienced great strains trying to sustain its 133,000 commitment to Iraq with a volunteer army -- to be effective, the "more troops" approach might well have required a military draft. 

Apart from New York's Congressman Rangle, who may have just been tweaking the establishment's chin for his black constituents, not even the most aggressive neoliberal warhawk has ever proposed that. 

Ever since WMDs failed to turn up and Saddam's connection to al-Qaeda turned out to be a canard, 
the neoliberal warhawks have been running for cover -- worried, quite rightly, that history will not take kindly to their dissembling, and their collaboration with the Bush Administration's neoimperialists.  

For much of the last three years this cover story was provided by the expectation of "nation building," "democratization," and the "training of the Iraqi Army" --  achievements that always seemed to be, conveniently enough, just around the corner.   

As the last week's events have dramatized, these are all more mirages in the desert. We've run out of time and excuses.  

   (c)SubmergingMarkets, 2006.

 

 

March 3, 2006 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Saturday, December 10, 2005

HAROLD PINTER'S NOBEL PRIZE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
"Art, Truth, and Politics"
November 7, 2005

(Note to readers: the following Nobel Prize acceptance speech was video-taped by Harold Pinter, the leading British playwright, for delivery in Stockholm on December 7, 2005. The speech concludes with a sharp critique of US foreign policy and the politics of deception.)

(Click here for complete video)

Pinter_lecture

"In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.'

In each case I had no further information.

Harold_pinter_2In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

'Dark' I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.' So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

'Dark.' A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. 'Fat or thin?' the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: 'But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?'

Seitz was imperturbable. 'I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,' he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: 'The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.

But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, 'I'm Explaining a Few Things':

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.

Come and see the blood
in the streets!*

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet.
But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.


I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called 'Death'.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man."


* Extract from "I'm Explaining a Few Things" translated by Nathaniel Tarn, from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, published by Jonathan Cape, London 1970. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited.

(c)Harold Pinter; SubmergingMarkets, 2005
 

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December 10, 2005 at 12:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, November 21, 2005

SOVIET EXPECTATIONS Vs. REALITY IN THE AFGHAN WAR
Striking Parallels to the US Experience in Iraq
James S. Henry

Vivod11 Thanks to the current national debate over the Iraq War it is now clear to everyone except a few die-hard NCIs (NeoConservative Imperialists) that the real issue about the Iraq War is "constructive withdrawal:" not whether, but precisely when and how.

There are many examples in history of unilateral military withdrawals -- including Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000 and from Gaza August 2005,  the US withdrawal from Beirut in 1984, and the French withdrawal from Algeria in 1962.  

But as we debate the most constructive way for the US to withdraw from Iraq, one of the most interesting experiences for us to consider - ironicially enough -- is the painful Soviet experience in Afghanistan. 

Images The following excerpt is from a pre-9/11 report by the US-based National Security Archives on  the lessons learned by the Soviet Union from its  brutal, unilateral 1979-89 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

The Soviet Army intervened in Afghanistan in December 1979, about six months after US President Jimmy Carter signed off on a secret proposal by National Security advisor Zbigniew Brezinski to aid the opponents of the pro-Soviet Afghan regime -- hoping to entrap them into a Vietnam-like quagmire.

Images1_1 For better or worse, apparently this effort succeeded -- with a little help from Soviet cupidity. The Soviet military only left the country in December 1989, after an unsuccessful decade-long effort to defeat Afghan's determined insurgents -- many of whom were US-backed Islamic militants.

The resulting intervention ended up costing the Soviet Union 15,000 of its own troops, 50,000 causalties, and billions in hard currency, and contributed heavily to a domestic heroin and HIV/AIDs epidemic that continues to this day. An estimated 1 million Afghanis also perished because of the war, and more than 2 million refugees had to abandon their homes in Afghanistan for refuge in Pakistan and Iran. Images2

The war also provided a training ground for many of the Islamist rebels who eventually played a critical role in "terrorist" activities all over the world, including Chechnya, Kashmir, the Sudan, and al-Qaeda's disparate efforts against the US and Israel.

Many observers believe that the Afghan invasion was one of the greatest strategic blunders in Soviet history, and that it contributed heavily to weakening and destabilizing "the Russian bear." Indeed, former US officials like Brzezinski still like to take credit for this effort, viewing it as the final nudge that toppled the entire Soviet Empire. (They are rather less eager to take credit for the other long-term byproduct of the Afghan War, the rise of political-Islamic extremism.)

In any case, as the following excerpt makes clear, there are many resemblances -- some of them almost eerie --  to the recent US intervention in Iraq.

The old cliche still has force -- those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.

THE  SOVIET AFGHAN EXPERIENCE - EXCERPTS

.Mujahidin2250 ....."Believing that there was no single country in the world which was not ripe for socialism, party ideologues like Mikhail Suslov and Boris Ponomarev saw Afghanistan as a "second Mongolia." Such conceptualization of the situation led to the attempts to impose alien social and economic practices on Afghan society, such as the forced land reform.

The Soviet decision makers did not anticipate the influential role of Islam in the Afghan society.  There were very few experts on Islam in the Soviet government and the academic institutions.  The highest leadership was poorly informed about the strength of religious beliefs among the masses of the Afghan population.

Political and military leaders were surprised to find that rather than being perceived as a progressive anti-imperialist force, the Afghanis as foreign invaders, and "infidels." Reports from Afghanistan show the growing awareness of the "Islamic factor" on the part of Soviet military and political personnel.

The Afghan communist PDPA never was a unified party; it was split along ethnic and tribal lines. The infighting between the "Khalq" and the "Parcham" factions made the tasks of controlling the situation much more challenging for Moscow notwithstanding the great number of Soviet advisors at every level of the party and state apparatus.

Erug407a The Soviet underestimation of ethnic tensions within Afghan society was one of the reasons of the unsuccessful policy of national reconciliation.

The war in Afghanistan had a major impact on domestic politics in the Soviet Union.  It was one of the key factors in the delegitimization of Communist Party rule. Civil society reacted to the intervention by marginalizing the Afghan veterans.  The army was demoralized as a result of being perceived as an invader. .

The prominent dissident and human rights activist, Academician Andrei Sakharov, publicly denounced the atrocities committed by the Soviet Army in Afghanistan.

The image of the Soviet Army fighting against Islam in Afghanistan also contributed to a rapid rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Central Asian republics and possibly to the strengthening of the independence movement in Chechnya, both of which continue to pose major security threats to Russia today.

The Soviet Army also quickly realized the inadequacy of its preparation and planning for the mission in Afghanistan. The initial mission—to guard cities and installations—was soon expanded to combat, and kept growing over time.Oni4

The Soviet reservists, who comprised the majority of the troops initially sent in, were pulled into full-scale combat operations against the rebels, while the regular Afghan army was often unreliable because of the desertions and lack of discipline.

The Soviet troops had absolutely no anti-guerrilla training.  While the formal mission of the troops was to protect the civilians from the anti-government forces, in reality, Soviet soldiers often found themselves fighting against the civilians they intended to protect, which sometimes led to indiscriminate killing of local people.

Operations to pursue and capture rebel formations were often unsuccessful and had to be repeated several times in the same area because the rebels retreated to the mountains and returned to their home villages as soon as the Soviet forces returned to their garrisons.

3 Soviet traditional weaponry and military equipment, especially armored cars and tanks were extremely vulnerable on Afghani terrain.

The Soviet troops also suffered from the confusion about their goals—the initial official mission was to protect the PDPA regime; however, when the troops reached Kabul, their orders were to overthrow Amin and his regime.

Then the mission was changed once again, but the leadership was not willing to admit that the Soviet troops were essentially fighting the Afghan civil war for the PDPA. The notion of the "internationalist duty" that the Soviet Limited Contingent was fulfilling in Afghanistan was essentially ideological, based on the idea that Soviet troops were protecting the socialist revolution in Afghanistan whereas the experience on the ground immediately undermined such justifications.

The realization that there could be no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan came to the Soviet military leadership very early on.  The issue of troop withdrawal and the search for a political solution was discussed as early as 1980, but no real steps in that direction were taken, and the Limited Contingent continued to fight in Afghanistan without a clearly defined objective.Vivod12

Early military reports emphasized the difficulty of fighting on the mountainous terrain, for which the Soviet Army had no training whatsoever. Parallels with the American War in Vietnam were obvious and frequently referred to by the Soviet military officers...."

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November 21, 2005 at 04:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"I AM NOT NOW, NOR HAVE I EVER BEEN, AN OIL TRADER!"
George Galloway Kicks Senate Butt

Coleman_before_after_1This week's developments in the so-called Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal  ("OFF") have turned out to be nothing less than a fiasco for the US Senate's Permanent Investigations Subcommittee and its feckless freshman Republican Chairman, Minnesota's Norm Coleman.

2410geob
In the first place, a newly-released minority staff report by Democrats on the Subcommittee shows that Bayoil USA, a Houston-based oil trading company headed by David B. Chalmers, Jr., now under indictment,  was by far the most important single conduit for the illegal surcharges pocketed by Saddam Hussein under the program. 

The report showed that more than half of Iraq's oil sales that generated surcharges for Saddam were made to US buyers during the period September 2000 to September 2002, most of them right under the nose of the Bush Administration and the US Treasury's rather lackadaisical Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Other US companies that have reportedly received subpoenas in the on-going surcharges investigation include ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and Houston's El Paso Corp, as well as prominent Texas oilman Oscar S. Wyatt Jr., who was also deeply involved in supporting and profiting from oil-for-food. Wya_wyatt_136x155_1

Next,  British MP George Galloway, appearing voluntarily before the Subcommittee, deliverered a feisty denial of allegations that he had personally profited from the oil allocations, as well as a withering assault on the last twenty years of US policies toward Iraq.

Meeting little resistance from the badly-outgunned Senators, Galloway made the points that

  • He met with Saddam no more times than Donald Rumsfeld, who had met with Saddam  to sell arms and provide maps, while Galloway met him to seek peace and encourage arms inspections;

  • He had actually opposed Saddam's policies way back in 1990, while the first Bush Adminstration was still making loans and selling arms to Saddam; 
  • He had always opposed the oil-for-food program as a poor substitute for lifting sanctions, which unfairly punished all Iraqis for the sins of its dicator -- especially its children, up to 1 million of whom may have died because of increased infant mortality;
  • The Subcommittee's investigation was a "smokescreen" that distracted attention from far more serious issues -- such as the disappearance of more than $8.8 billion of Iraqi national funds during the first year after the US invasion. 

The combative Scot's  hard-hitting testimony makes compelling viewing.

Meanwhile, we recall that back in June 2003, J. Bryan Williams III -- ExxonMobil's former head of global crude procurements, and the US'  hand-picked UN overseer on the Iraq Sanctions Committee, in charge of making sure that Saddam did not obtain any illicit income from the oil-for-food program -- pled guilty to evading taxes on $7 million,  including a $2 million kickback to help Mobil win business in Kazakhstan's oil dictatorship.

So there is at least some good news here, Senators --  if you want to find big-time corruption in the international oil trade, you don't have to go looking for it in London, Moscow, or Paris.

Jspades_1These developments also help to put Senator Coleman's continual "head-hunting" of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in perspective. While there's no evidence that Kofi profited personally from OFF,  his minions were probably not squeeky-clean.  But the enormous profits earned by Saddam's "fellow travelers" in Houston make them seem like pikers.   

Furthermore, while Kofi is certainly not much of an effective manager,  we now know from the Bolton hearings that administrative skill doesn't count for very much with the Bush Administration.060504

Indeed, it appears that Annan's key fault is that he had the temerity to oppose the Iraq invasion, and even to label the War "illegal" -- once the invasion had already occurred.  With Paul Volcker's final report on the oil-for-food scandal due out soon, and US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (!) likely to arrive as soon as he clears the Senate and adjusts his meds, the outlook for the summer is definitely for more fireworks.

                                    ***

                  (c) SubmergingMarkets.Com, 2005.    

May 18, 2005 at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, April 18, 2005

WHAT'S SO F'IN FUNNY?
From One Wolfie to Another
"We Have a New Pope!"

News Flash! - World's Poor Dancing in Streets!


A note to our Faithful Readers:
Our Editor is on book leave, writing a long-awaited tome on international private banking.  Meanwhile, we will pass the time by offering free "Submerging Market" hats to the best proposed captions.  Here's the first. Question: Why are two these fellows smiling? Globe2

Send your proposed entries to jhenry@shg.com. Good luck!

April 18, 2005 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

IRAQ’S ONLY ELECTION
More Lipstick on the Pig?
James S. Henry

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On Sunday January 30, according to the official results finally  released on February 13, 8.46 million Iraqis, or 58 percent of Iraq’s 14.6 million registered voters, seized the opportunity to participate in a “free election” of sorts. They voted for candidates and parties that most of them had never heard of,  marked ballots that a majority of them could not read, walked for miles to secret polling booths under the watchful eyes of a foreign occupation army that had “collaterally” killed, injured or brutalized tens of thousands of their fellow citizens, and defied threats from thousands of other blood-thirsty, anti-democratic insurgents.

About 265,148 of those who voted were located outside the country -- just 13 percent of all the relatively affluent Iraqis who live abroad. Indeed, on Election Day, a large fraction of the Iraqi elite, and many officials in the interim government, were not to be found in the country -- like many members of the Iraqi elites, they had decamped for Jordan, Dubai, or London, anticipating that the insurgents would strike hard.

These non-resident voters did include some 56,568 Iraqis who voted from Iran, 15,062 who voted from Syria, and 11,409 who voted from the UAE -- places that are not otherwise known for holding free elections.  That might indeed be viewed as one small victory for "democracy" in the Middle East.

But most ordinary Iraqis had little choice but to stay in Iraq, and a majority of them braved all the difficulties -- including 260 attacks and more than 50 fatalities -- to vote.

_40578263_allawi_203apClearly the Iraqi people deserve much credit for this electoin-day bravery – especially those who tried to vote in more heavily Sunni Arab  districts where the insurgents have been most active.

Indeed, for once, this display of bravery was something about Iraq that most international leaders could agree on.

In President Bush’s words,The Iraqi people themselves made this election a resounding success.” The UN’s Kofi Annan described the Iraqi people as “courageous.” Britain’s Tony Blair reported that he was “humbled”  – no mean accomplishment in itself. Even Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, perhaps anticipating a Shiite victory, and hoping that this will accelerate a US withdrawal, pronounced the elections a "success" and a "sign of nobility of the Iraqi people.”

1_521938_1_34 It is clear as well that the long-suffering Iraqi people also deserve our respect  for simply having survived more than three decades of costly wars, occupations, international embargoes, and a brutal dictatorship – aided, armed, and abetted by several of the very same foreign powers that are now boasting so loudly about being the midwives of Iraq democracy.

1_523058_1_34Despite all the collateral damage, the security forces -- mainly unknown young Iraqi, American, and British soldiers -- who protected these voters also deserve credit.  Without this protection, even with all the Iraqi bravery, there would have been no election. These efforts go a long way toward repaying the moral debt that is owed to the Iraqi people   for the Great Powers’ decades of complicity with authoritarian regimes in Iraq, their failure to reckon with Saddam much earlier, and the fact that the Bush Administration and its friends have otherwise botched this latest intervention so thoroughly.

10_23_012905_iraq2Does anyone else deserve credit for this achievement? Precisely what has been accomplished,  at what cost? And when will the Coalition be able to withdraw its troops?  Our answers may surprise you.

ANY OTHER CREDITS FOR THIS MOVIE?

Bush_tieIn addition to the courageous Iraqi people and those who protected them, who else genuinely deserves praise for Sunday’s election?

As usual, success has generated paternity suits.

Chirac

According to France’s Jacque Chirac, who spearheaded opposition to the war at the UN and has been of little assistance since then, the election was somehow “a success for the international community.” Chirac did not explain how this was consistent with the fact that the US alone has so far provided more than 90% of the funding, non-Iraqi Coalition forces, and Coalition casualties.

We could have held better elections much earlier, with much less bloodshed.

On the other hand, if you listen to President Bush and his supporters,, as illustrated by the President's State of the Union speech, the election is nothing less than another “mission accomplished,” a complete vindication for the Administration’s entire Iraqi strategy.

There is also no shortage of hyperbole and self-congratulation from journalists and pundits, especially those who supported the invasion from the get-go – marching up one rationale and down another.

~ For example, The New York Times Magazine’s Michael Ignatieff declared that Sunday’s election in Iraq was “without precedent,” a bold experiment in democracy that everyone ought to “embrace.”

~ Similarly, The Guardian’s David Aaronovitch, another long-time supporter of the invasion, wrote that, however we may feel about how we arrived in Iraq and what it cost to get there, the only issue now is, “Are you for or against democracy?”Geraldo_rivera

~ FOX’s flak-jacketed Jerry Rivers (Geraldo Rivera), surrounded by four heavily-armed US Army riflemen, and this time apparently reporting from where he said he was without giving away any troop positions, called the Iraqi election “right up there with “1776 (sic), voting in Selma in 1960 or whatever (sic), and the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Indeed, this newfound enthusiasm for democracy on the American center-right is so thick that some observers have been reminded of The New York Times’ upbeat assessment of South Vietnam’s Presidential elections in September 1967. The headline read , US Encouraged by Vietnam vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror."

So we are all Wilsonian democrats now – except perhaps when elections produce outcomes that we don’t like.

In the local elections in the West Bank and Gaza in December 2004, for example, an unprecedented 81 percent of registered Palestinians voted, and more than a third of them voted for Hamas.

Was this comparatively free election, held under Israeli guns in the occupied territories, not a “resounding success?” Were the Palestinians who braved rival factions and the Israeli Army and came out to vote not “courageous?” Are we really, after all, “for or against democracy?” 

THE HIGH COST OF MIDDLE EAST DEMOCRACY

It is not surprising that so many have stepped forward to take credit for the courage demonstrated this weekend by ordinary voters, soldiers, and police in Iraq. After two years of terrorist dentistry, we were starved for good news from Iraq.

Expectations have been incredibly low. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson’s remark about the singing dog, we were not surprised that the Iraqi election had imperfections; we were surprised there was any election at all.

The war’s supporters are also down to their very last official justification for preemptively invading a country that never attacked us. Having given up on justifying preemption by finding WMDs, and having made Iraq more of a terrorist base camp than it ever was before, those who “embraced” the original invasion are leaping at the opportunity to say – hey, look, maybe there will be at least some return on this incredibly costly experiment. Maybe the West really can plant democratic seeds in Middle Eastern deserts!

26pix020The investment certainly has been huge. It includes more than 1,606 Multilateral Force fatalities, 10,371 US wounded, 1,200 other MLF forces wounded, at least 1,362 fatalities among pro-Coalition Iraqi security forces, and anywhere from 15,563 to 100,000 or more Iraqi civilian and insurgent fatalities, depending on who is counting.

The direct dollar cost of the war and its aftermath is fast approaching $220 billion for the US alone, plus whatever costs the other Coalition members  and the Iraqi interim government have paid out of their own pockets – and another $9 billion of Iraqi money that apparently simply vanished under Paul Bremer's administration.

All told, this amounts to nearly$30,000 per Iraqi voter, 15 times the country’s per capita income.

Nor was all this spending only a financial cost, because there were opportunity costs – a fancy way of saying that the money could have been spent elsewhere and saved thousands of lives. After all, it amounts to eight times the annual level of all foreign aid provided by all First World countries,and100 times the amountrequested this year by the World Health Organization to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In practice, of course, if President Bush had not been able to launch his pet project in Iraq, he might well have just pursued another tax cut.

But for that much money, maybe we could at least have persuaded Saddam and his loyalists to leave the country and set up shop in Panama or Cuernavaca, following in the Shah’s footsteps. Like the Shah, Saddam has now contracted cancer, and may just have a couple years to live.If only we had waited…..?


EMBRACING REALITY

Under a microscope, most of the ex-post back-patting turns out to be simplistic, self-serving nonsense. Before we take off the flak jackets and break out the champagne, let's recall some sobering realities:

1. Most Iraqis Want Us Gone

Whether or not most First Worlders and the Bush Administration “embrace” Iraqi democracy,most Iraqis have clearly not “embraced” occupation.

Recent opinion polls show that the vast majority – not only the insurgents, but also those who voted in this election – would like nothing more than for the foreign occupation to end.

Indeed, if they had had the chance to vote directly on this subject, one suspects that Sunday's turnout would have increased to 90 percent, and that more than 80 percent would have voted to send all US and British troops packing, to replace them with a few thousand peacekeepers from neutral countries, and to immediately cease construction of the Pentagon's 14 permanent military bases in Iraq.

2. We Could Have Held Better Elections, Much Earlier

In recent months, as the insurgency gathered steam, some observers began to suggest that it should be postponed. But Sunday’s election came nearly two years after the US-led invasion. The real issue is, what did we really gain from waiting so long?

In fact, largely because of the deteriorating security situation, this election was almost certainly much less effective, efficient, and democratic than the election that we could have held within a few months of the invasion – using the same simple ration card- and finger-printing based system for voter registration that we ended up using anyway.

PaulbremerWay back then, we probably could have achieved even higher turnout at much lower cost, with a much weaker insurgency -- as the Ayatollah Al-Sistani, Iraq’s chief Shiite cleric, advised Paul Bremer some 20 months ago.

Indeed, in other transitional situations, like South Africa’s transition from apartheid in 1994 and East Timor’s election in 2001, snap elections were held with only a few months of preparation, with great success – more than 90 percent turnout in both cases.

Instead, the Bush Administration decided to postpone the election for almost two years, in a failed effort to manage Iraqi’s political destiny, assert control over Iraq’s domestic policies, head off Shiite and Kurdish regionalism, and install a government that would be more sympathetic to US "neocon" ambitions.

As a result, the Bush team really deserves responsibility for stoking an insurgency -- now estimated by some observers at having at least 10,000 to 20,000 fighters. This armed resistance, in which foreign fighters actually play only a minor supporting role,  has derived much of its fire from the continued occupation and the perpetuation of the unelected “interim” government.

This insurgency, in turn, came very close this month to squelching this election entirely -- to the point where Prime Minister reportedly called President Bush in mid-January to propose delaying it again.

In the end, only an all-out mobilization of Coalition forces, including shipping another 12,000 US troops to Iraq on top of the 140,000 already there, prevented a disaster.

While this transition was never going to be easy, the US control-oriented strategy also antagonized many other Iraqis, making it harder to work with local allies and train Iraqi forces. It exacerbated  divisions within Iraqi society, as groups like the Kurds grew more and more independent, radical Shiites took up arms, and more and more Sunni Arab areas became no-go war zones.

Far from serving democracy’s cause, therefore, the Bush Administration’s high-risk strategy actually amounted to a dangerous game of “chicken.” After two years of this, we arrived at a situation where people were amazed that the election could even take place. It is bizarre for us to celebrate this close escape as a triumph for the President  -- we really have only the Iraqi people and our troops on the ground to thank for narrowly avoiding disaster.  As usual, the fortuitous G. W. has just skated by. 

3. The Real Meaning of “High” Turnout

“Higher than expected” turnout in this election has been the main cause for celebration so far. But in fact many other developing countries have also held first-time elections and achieved even higher turnouts, even under occupation.

We already mentioned the case of Palestine’s recent elections. UN-supervised elections in Indonesian-occupied East Timor in August 2001 saw a 93 percent turnout. Kosovo’s 2001 legislative election, also supervised by UN peacekeepers, recorded a 65 percent turnout. In Afghanistan’s October 2004 Presidential election, the turnout was 70 percent.

Of course in non-occupied developing democracies like South Africa, Indonesia the Philippines, India, and Brazil, 80-85 percent or higher turnouts are the order of the day.

Only in the US, where voter turnout struggles to exceed fifty percent, does he Iraqi turnout look like a big number. 

The overall turnout also masks some important potential problems in Iraq, because turnout rates varied sharply along religious, ethnic, and regional lines. 

For example, among the Shiites, who constitute 60 percent of Iraq’s population and live mainly in better-defended parts of Baghdad and the south, turnout reportedly averaged more than 80 percent. Among the 15 percent of the population that lives in Iraq’s three Sunni/Kurdish provinces in the better-defended north, turnout was even higher.

Iraq’s population statistics are subject to huge uncertainties – there has been no census since 1997, and in the case of the Kurdish areas, since 1987. But if we assume that these conventional population share estimates are roughly right, they already add up to more than 8 million votes in Sunday’s election -- even if turnout in Iraqi’s Sunni Arab-dominated provinces was zero.

In other words, the final voter turnout would have to have been substantially greater than 8 million for there to be any room left over for Sunni Arab participation. This is consistent with many reports that this participation was very low.

 

4. Signs of Disunity?

Since the overall turnout rate was partly a product of these growing divisions, it may not be a sign of health. 

Sunday’s election employed a nation-wide list proportional representation system to select the 275-member National Assembly that will choose interim leaders and draft a new Iraqi constitution.

In other contexts, such a voting system is arguably much more democractic than many others. For example, if it had been employed to elect representatives to the US Congress, rather the current "single member district/first one past the post" system, the Democratic Party would control both the House and the Senate.

However, in Iraq's case, this system asked a great deal of many people who had never before voted, did not know the candidates, and, indeed, often could not even read.  Almost half of them are under the age of 18; the median age of voters is under 25. Adult literacy is just 39 percent. These voters were expected to choose among more than 111 different national parties and 200 separate candidate lists, which, in turn, contained 7,000 candidates for the Assembly and 12,000 for regional offices.

Most of these parties and candidates were virtually unknown. The ballots were so complex that even the Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, needed special instructions on how to fill them out. Because of the security situation, there were severe constraints on how much campaigning could be done beforehand by all but the best-funded parties – for example, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi List party, which was somehow rich enough to afford massive TV advertising and $100 bills for embedded journalists. Most individual candidates chose not to be publicly identified – the leading United Iraqi Alliance party only identified 37 of its 225 candidates, “to keep them alive.”

This peek-a-boo national list system may have been the only one that was feasible, given the late date of the election and the precarious security situation. But as we have just argued, that was not inevitable. It almost certainly increased the leverage of a handful of political gatekeepers like Allawi. It also reinforced the incentives for block voting, and the potential for regionalism and fratricide. 

5. Another “Mission Accomplished?"

While Sunday’s election was an essential battle for democracy to win, it is premature to declare victory. Even apart from the insurgency, which is likely to continue as long as there are any US or UK troops in the country, Iraq remains a semi-artificial colonial construction that is subject to strong centrifugal forces. This election may have only succeeded in increasing these forces, by reinforcing group and regional polarities.

For example, to maximize their influence on the constitutional debate, and press their not-so-secret ambition to have an independent Kurdish state, the two leading Kurdish political parties established a united front, the Kurdish Alliance List, for Sunday’s election. They also sponsored a referendum on "Kurdistan’s" independence, side-by-side with the election.

One country’s liberation is another’s nightmare. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan recently expressed grave concern over the Kurds’ designs on oil-rich Kirkuk, their continued interest in an independent state, and the refuge they have provided to some 5000 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters – “terrorists” in some vernaculars -- in northern Iraq. Two pro-PKK parties also participated in the Iraqi elections, despite Turkey’s denunciation of them as “terrorists.” There were also complaints from Kirkuk’s Turkomen community that 72,000 Iraqi Kurds had migrated there and registered to vote, to shift the balance of power.

SisMeanwhile, Iraq’s Shiites are also struggling to organize their political power. One reason why Shiite turnout was so high is that 75-year old Iran-born Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, issued an edict declaring it a religious duty for them to vote, and also permitted women to vote. Al-Sistani could not vote in the elections himself because he is not  even an Iraqi citizen. But together with fellow cleric Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, and accused Iran spy/ bank fraudster Ahmad Chalabi, al-Sistani helped to organize the United Iraqi Alliance, which has reportedly captured at least 45 percent of the vote.

_40758367_hakim_203apThe UIA is a diverse lot, and it is by no means clear who will lead it or what policies it will support. But what is clear is that some of its leaders would make very strange bedfellows for the United States of America, and that perhaps, at a minimum, we should not count on them to serve as the vanguard of our efforts to export democracy to the Middle East.

For example, Al-Hakim is the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), one of two leading Shiite parties in Iraq, has been openly opposed the “US occupation.” The second element of the Alliance’s program demands: “…A timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq.”

In May 2003, two months after the US invasion, Al-Hakim returned from exile in Iran and set up shop in Najaf. SCIRI, which has been called the “Hezbollah of Iraq,” also maintains the Badr Corps, an Iranian-trained militia that Al-Hakim helped to found in the early 1980s, is based in Teheran, and numbers anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000.

_40553465_chalabiThere is more. In the run-up to the war, SCIRI was one of six Iraqi exile organizations that shared at least $92 million in US military aid. (Another was Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.)

However, in April 2003 it earned Donald Rumsfeld’s wrath. He sternly warned Iran about using Badr Corp, which had also developed strong relations with the Kurd’s military wing, to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs. The SCIRI is also staunchly opposed to the recognition of Israel until the “occupation of Palestine” has ended.

In October 2004, Iraq’s national intelligence chief Mohammed al-Shahwan accused the Badr militia of assassinating 10 of his agents, and accused Chalabi, Al-Hakim’s ally, of being a spy for Iran. Indeed, according to the US 9/11 Commission, SCIRI, Hezbollah, and Hamas are all basically sister organizations that are heavily supported by Iran.

Of course this is the Middle East, so one has to take all such scuttlebutt with a grain of saffron. Maybe just the experience of participating in elections will cause religious radicals to become moderates! True,  that hasn't exactly happened yet on the US religious right, much less among Iranian, Arab, or Israeli true believers. But hope springs eternal -- after all, US foreign policy is a faith-based initiative!   

So perhaps now we understand another reason why Iran’s Foreign Minister was just as enthusiastic about the elections in Iraq as President Bush. Hamas’ recent victory in Palestine may not have been his only cause for celebration. Or perhaps everyone is reading Woodrow Wilson these days!

But you ‘re still either for democracy or against it, right? 

6. Seedbed for Democracy?

Whatever the longer-term consequences of this election for Iraq, can we at least be assured that it has had a salutary effect on the rest of the Middle East? Here again the waters are murky.

689c0fe9738901Not surprisingly, Hamid Kharzai, “the mayor of Kabul,” was enthusiastic about the election. Jordan's King Abdullah, a dapper, English-speaking Arab Sunni monarch and a leading US aid recipient whose own country doesn’t quite yet hold Iraq-style elections for some reason, worried that the Sunni Arab turnout was "a lot lower than any of us hoped.” But he also added that "This is a thing that will set a good tone for the Middle East, and I am optimistic."

Other US allies in the Muslim world have found Iraq’s example much less contagious.

MusharrafPakistan’s President Musharraf has made no public comment on the elections. But in December 2004 he called the Iraq War a “mistake” that “made the world a more dangerous place.” That same month he also broke his solemn promise to give up absolute power, extending his term as Army Chief and President several more years. The US currently gives Musharraf's nuclear-armed military dictatorship more than $300 million a year in military aid and $306 million in economic aid, and has also recently helped it reschedule billions of foreign debt.

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak ventured the hope that the Iraqi election “would open the way for the restoration of calm and stability.” But just last week, Mubarak, who gets $2 billion a year of US economic and military aid, said he may run for a fifth 6-year term – unless his son runs. Just this weekend, as Iraq starting to hold elections, his government detained Egypt’s main opposition leader.

Mubarak_1You are either for democracy or you are against it, right?

SUMMARY

So now that we’re here, where are we? How do we make sense of this bizarre, contradictory outcome, where the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want us to leave their country forthwith, but could not retain their electoral freedoms for one New York minute without us?

Was trying to force-feed democracy-to-go in this complex environment really ever a good idea? Once there, couldn't we have done a vastly better job of it than we have?  Will the astronomical price that we and the Iraqi people have paid, in terms of blood, distraction, international law, and treasure, ever be worth it? How long will it be until we will know for sure?

But history is not made by critics, historians, and other second-guessers. For better or worse, it is often made by simplistic, decisive little men (and women) who are able, one way or another, to grab hold of the reigns of power and say -- "Follow me - I'm sure the trail is this way." Our continuing propensity to respond to such appeals, in the face of mounds of evidence about the likely results, is astounding and disturbing.

In any case, whatever else the Iraqi experiment has accomplished, at least the Iraqi people have now held their first election since…..Well, come to think of it, up to now, there never has been a truly free election in “Iraq,” the pseudo-nation that Britain and the World War I Allies cobbled together out of three Ottoman Empire administrative eyalets (provinces), Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul in 1921, and deemed “independent” in 1932.

For that matter, the Great Powers of that day probably could have mandated an election way back then that was no less free, secure, or fair than  last Sunday’s and avoided the whole bloody sequel.

***

(Note to readers: SubmergingMarkets™ enjoys the dubious satisfaction of having been roughly right about developments in Iraq for the past year and a half. For example, see Reference 1 and Reference 2.) 

© James S. Henry, Submerging Markets™, February 05

February 1, 2005 at 08:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 30, 2004

IRAQI FUBAR:
The Road to God Knows Where

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We have made a desert and called it “peace” – or, at least, “Iraqi democracy.”

Whatever Americans may choose to believe about whether they are really better off with Saddam Hussein gone, it is by now evident that, nineteen months after the US invasion of Iraq, most ordinary Iraqis feel much less secure, much less well-off, and more anti-American than ever before. 

Indeed, the country appears to be spiraling out of control. Nor is it clear that even a sharp post-US election crackdown by Coalition Forces, with all the attendant Iraqi casualties that it is likely to produce, will be able to turn this trend around.
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So far, neither leading US Presidential candidate appears to have fully come to grips with this deteriorating situation in Iraq,  or the fundamental strategic blunders that underlie it. At least they are not saying so in public.   
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A rather undistinguished, pig-headed,  President continues to defend his faith-based initiative for “democratizing” the Middle East. 

A rather undistinguished junior Senator from Massachusetts -– who has spent much of his life trying to be on all sides of recent US wars -- continues to argue that the key problems with the Iraq War have been tactical – too few troops and equipment,  too little Allied support, too few trained Iraqis, careless handling of high explosives, and so forth.
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Neither of these positions is realistic.

Indeed, as we will argue below, regardless of who is elected US President on November 2, the facts on the ground in Iraq are now pointing relentlessly toward one seemingly counter-intuitive conclusion:

The US will only be able to stabilize Iraq, preserve that country's national unity, win more support for the interim government,  undermine the role of “foreign terrorists” in the country, and secure a modicum of domestic and international support for “democratization” if and when it links the calendar for Iraqi democratization and constitutional reform to a firm, near-term timetable for the withdrawal of all US forces (though not necessarily all Coalition forces) from the country. 


October 30, 2004 at 06:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday, July 02, 2004

Fourth of July, 2004: "A Time to Weep""
Ted Sorensen
Commencement Address, The New School, New York City, May 21, 2004

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(Note: Theodore C. Sorensen, the leading Wall Street lawyer and former top aid to President John F. Kennedy, gave the following commencement address at The New School University in New York City on May 21, 2004. This speech is a call to arms, which deserves the serious attention of every patriotic American on this Fourth of July 2004 weekend.)
A TIME TO WEEP
As a Nebraska émigré, I am proud to be made an Honorary Doctor of Laws by another Nebraska émigré, President Bob Kerrey, at an institution founded by still another, Alvin Johnston.

Considering the unhealthy state of our laws today, they probably could use another doctor.

My reciprocal obligation is to make a speech.

This is not a speech. Two weeks ago I set aside the speech I prepared. This is a cry from the heart, a lamentation for the loss of this country's goodness and therefore its greatness.

Future historians studying the decline and fall of America will mark this as the time the tide began to turn - toward a mean-spirited mediocrity in place of a noble beacon.

For me the final blow was American guards laughing over the naked, helpless bodies of abused prisoners in Iraq. "There is a time to laugh," the Bible tells us, "and a time to weep." Today I weep for the country I love, the country I proudly served, the country to which my four grandparents sailed over a century ago with hopes for a new land of peace and freedom. I cannot remain silent when that country is in the deepest trouble of my lifetime.

I am not talking only about the prison abuse scandal - that stench will someday subside. Nor am I referring only to the Iraq war - that too will pass - nor to any one political leader or party. This is no time for politics as usual, in which no one responsible admits responsibility, no one genuinely apologizes, no one resigns and everyone else is blamed.

The damage done to this country by its own misconduct in the last few months and years, to its very heart and soul, is far greater and longer lasting than any damage that any terrorist could possibly inflict upon us.

The stain on our credibility, our reputation for decency and integrity, will not quickly wash away.

Last week, a family friend of an accused American guard in Iraq recited the atrocities inflicted by our enemies on Americans, and asked: "Must we be held to a different standard?" My answer is YES. Not only because others expect it. WE must hold ourselves to a different standard. Not only because God demands it, but because it serves our security.

Our greatest strength has long been not merely our military might but our moral authority. Our surest protection against assault from abroad has been not all our guards, gates and guns or even our two oceans, but our essential goodness as a people. Our richest asset has been not our material wealth but our values.

We were world leaders once - helping found the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and programs like Food for Peace, international human rights and international environmental standards. The world admired not only the bravery of our Marine Corps but also the idealism of our Peace Corps.

Our word was as good as our gold. At the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, President Kennedy's special envoy to brief French President de Gaulle, offered to document our case by having the actual pictures of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba brought in. "No," shrugged the usually difficult de Gaulle: "The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me."
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Eight months later, President Kennedy could say at American University: "The world knows that America will never start a war. This generation of Americans has had enough of war and hate…we want to build a world of peace where the weak are secure and the strong are just."

Our founding fathers believed this country could be a beacon of light to the world, a model of democratic and humanitarian progress. We were. We prevailed in the Cold War because we inspired millions struggling for freedom in far corners of the Soviet empire. I have been in countries where children and avenues were named for Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. We were respected, not reviled, because we respected man's aspirations for peace and justice. This was the country to which foreign leaders sent not only their goods to be sold but their sons and daughters to be educated. In the 1930's, when Jewish and other scholars were driven out of Europe, their preferred destination - even for those on the far left - was not the Communist citadel in Moscow but the New School here in New York.

What has happened to our country? We have been in wars before, without resorting to sexual humiliation as torture, without blocking the Red Cross, without insulting and deceiving our allies and the U.N., without betraying our traditional values, without imitating our adversaries, without blackening our name around the world.

Last year when asked on short notice to speak to a European audience, and inquiring what topic I should address, the Chairman said: "Tell us about the good America, the America when Kennedy was in the White House." "It is still a good America," I replied. "The American people still believe in peace, human rights and justice; they are still a generous, fair-minded, open-minded people."

Today some political figures argue that merely to report, much less to protest, the crimes against humanity committed by a few of our own inadequately trained forces in the fog of war, is to aid the enemy or excuse its atrocities. But Americans know that such self-censorship does not enhance our security. Attempts to justify or defend our illegal acts as nothing more than pranks or no worse than the crimes of our enemies, only further muddies our moral image.

Thirty years ago, America's war in Vietnam became a hopeless military quagmire; today our war in Iraq has become a senseless moral swamp.

No military victory can endure unless the victor occupies the high moral ground. Surely America, the land of the free, could not lose the high moral ground invading Iraq, a country ruled by terror, torture and tyranny - but we did.

Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein - politically, economically, diplomatically, much as we succeeded in isolating Khadafy, Marcos, Mobutu and a host of other dictators over the years, we have isolated ourselves. We are increasingly alone in a dangerous world in which millions who once respected us now hate us.amman_030323_reuters

Not only Muslims. Every international survey shows our global standing at an all-time low. Even our transatlantic alliance has not yet recovered from its worst crisis in history. Our friends in Western Europe were willing to accept Uncle Sam as class president, but not as class bully, once he forgot JFK's advice that "Civility is not a sign of weakness."

All this is rationalized as part of the war on terror. But abusing prisoners in Iraq, denying detainees their legal rights in Guantanamo, even American citizens, misleading the world at large about Saddam's ready stockpiles of mass destruction and involvement with al Qaeda at 9/11, did not advance by one millimeter our efforts to end the threat of another terrorist attack upon us. On the contrary, our conduct invites and incites new attacks and new recruits to attack us.

The decline in our reputation adds to the decline in our security. We keep losing old friends and making new enemies - not a formula for success. We have not yet rounded up Osama bin Laden or most of the al Qaeda and Taliban leaders or the anthrax mailer. "The world is large," wrote John Boyle
O'Reilly, in one of President Kennedy's favorite poems, "when its weary leagues two loving hearts divide, but the world is small when your enemy is loose on the other side." Today our enemies are still loose on the other side of the world, and we are still vulnerable to attack.

True, we have not lost either war we chose or lost too much of our wealth. But we have lost something worse - our good name for truth and justice. To paraphrase Shakespeare: "He who steals our nation's purse, steals trash. T'was ours, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches our good name...makes us poor indeed."

No American wants us to lose a war. Among our enemies are those who, if they could, would fundamentally change our way of life, restricting our freedom of religion by exalting one faith over others, ignoring international law and the opinions of mankind; and trampling on the rights
of those who are different, deprived or disliked. To the extent that our nation voluntarily trods those same paths in the name of security, the terrorists win and we are the losers.

We are no longer the world's leaders on matters of international law and peace. After we stopped listening to others, they stopped listening to us. A nation without credibility and moral authority cannot lead, because no one will follow.

Paradoxically, the charges against us in the court of world opinion are contradictory. We are deemed by many to be dangerously aggressive, a threat to world peace. You may regard that as ridiculously unwarranted, no matter how often international surveys show that attitude to be spreading. But remember the old axiom: "No matter how good you feel, if four friends tell you you're drunk, you better lie down."

Yet we are also charged not so much with intervention as indifference - indifference toward the suffering of millions of our fellow inhabitants of this planet who do not enjoy the freedom, the opportunity, the health and wealth and security that we enjoy; indifference to the countless deaths of children and other civilians in unnecessary wars, countless because we
usually do not bother to count them; indifference to the centuries of humiliation endured previously in silence by the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The good news, to relieve all this gloom, is that a democracy is inherently self-correcting. Here, the people are sovereign. Inept political leaders can be replaced. Foolish policies can be changed. Disastrous mistakes can be reversed.

When, in 1941, the Japanese Air Force was able to inflict widespread death and destruction on our naval and air forces in Hawaii because they were not on alert, those military officials most responsible for ignoring advance intelligence were summarily dismissed.

When, in the late 1940's, we faced a global Cold War against another system of ideological fanatics certain that their authoritarian values would eventually rule the world, we prevailed in time. We prevailed because we exercised patience as well as vigilance, self-restraint as well as self-defense, and reached out to moderates and modernists, to democrats and dissidents, within that closed system. We can do that again. We can reach out to moderates and modernists in Islam, proud of its long traditions of dialogue, learning, charity and peace.

Some among us scoff that the war on Jihadist terror is a war between civilization and chaos. But they forget that there were Islamic universities and observatories long before we had railroads.
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So do not despair. In this country, the people are sovereign. If we can but tear the blindfold of self-deception from our eyes and loosen the gag of self-denial from our voices, we can restore our country to greatness. In particular, you - the Class of 2004 - have the wisdom and energy to do it. Start soon.

In the words of the ancient Hebrews:

"The day is short, and the work is great, and the laborers are sluggish, but the reward is much, and the Master is urgent."

***

© Theodore C. Sorensen, SubmergingMarkets™, 2004

July 2, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, June 14, 2004

The "Reagan Revolution," Part One:
Did He Really Win the Cold War?

Printable PDF Version.
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INTRODUCTION

Former President Reagan’s $10 million taxpayer-funded bicoastal funeral extravaganza is finally over, so we may now be able to regain a little objectivity about the man’s true accomplishments. This really was an extraordinary Hollywood-scale production – one of Reagan’s best performances ever. Apparently the actor/President started planning it himself way back in 1981, shortly after he took office, at the age of 69. Evidently he never expected to live to be 94.

For over a week we have been inundated with neoconservative hagiography from adoring Reagan fans -- one is reminded of Chairman Leonid Brezhnev's funeral in 1982. Even the final event’s non-partisan appeal was slightly undercut by the fact that only die-hard conservatives like President George W. Bush, former President George H. W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, and Canada’s Brian Mulroney were invited to give eulogies. But at least this saved Democrats the embarrassment of having to say nice things about their fiercest, most popular, and most regressive antagonist of the 20th Century.
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Some Bush campaign staff members reportedly recommended shipping the casket home from DC to California by train. Cynics suggested that this was intended to prolong the event and further distract voters from Bush’s serious political difficulties.

Thankfully Nancy Reagan spared us this agonizing spectacle. She probably recognized that it would only invite unfavorable comparisons with FDR, whose family eschewed the state funeral in favor of the more humble train ride. Furthermore, AMTRAK no longer serves most of the towns along the way, due in part to service cutbacks that really got started under President Reagan.

There has already been quite a bit of dissent from the many one-sided tributes to Reagan. Most of it has focused on domestic policy -- especially Reagan's very mixed track record on civil rights and the HIV/AIDs epidemic, his strong anti-union bias, the huge deficits created by his “supply-side” legerdemain, his deep cutbacks in welfare and education spending, and his weak leadership on conservation, the environment, consumer protection, and energy policy. Reagan’s hard-right bias on domestic policy certainly was underscored by the almost complete absence of blacks and other minorities among the ranks of ordinary Americans who lined up to mourn his passing.
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With respect to foreign policy, the “Iran-Contra” arms scandal and Reagan’s support for apartheid were recalled by some observers. But most of the attention was directed to Reagan's supposedly uniformly positive contributions to the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

In this article, the first of two in this series, we'll examine Reagan's foreign policy contributions more closely. The analysis has important implications not only for our assessment of Reagan, but also the White House's current incumbent.

DID RONNIE REALLY “WIN THE COLD WAR?”

We can debate this alleged role endlessly. Of course, like John Kennedy (“Ich bin ein Berliner”), Reagan made one very forceful speech in Berlin (“Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev.”) Especially during his first term, he also supported policies that tried to roll back the Soviet Empire’s frontiers in distant places like Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, and Grenada. He also expanded the US defense budget, accelerated the deployment of theater-nuclear missiles in Europe that had already been started by President Carter, and financed the (largely-nonproductive) first round of the “Star Wars” anti-missile program. All these moves no doubt increased pressure on the Soviets, and probably encouraged them to negotiate and reform.

However, Reagan was hardly responsible for the fact that the “Soviet Empire” had been more or less successfully “contained” almost everywhere except Cuba, Vietnam, and Afghanistan from the 1950s to the 1980s, and that even these client states had become more of a burden to the USSR than a blessing.
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Nor was he responsible for the fact that President Carter had initiated anti-Soviet aid to the Poles and the Afghan rebels in the late 1970s; deployed the first long-range cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe in December 1979, partly in response to the Soviets’ deployment of SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe; suspended Senate consideration of the SALT II Treaty in January 1980; and issued Presidential Directive 59 in August 1980, adopting a new, much more aggressive “countervailing force” strategy for nuclear war.

Nor did Reagan have much to do with the fact that a whole new generation of Soviet leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev, took power in 1984-85, or the fact that these new leaders chose the “glasnost/ big bang” route to reform rather than the more gradual and successful one that has kept the Chinese Communist Party in power to this day. This was also a matter largely of the Soviets' own choosing.

Nor was Reagan responsible for the fact that Gorbachev, who actually sought to preserve a stronger, reformed version of the Soviet Union rather than disband it, proved to be much less adept at Russian politics than Boris Yeltsin.

Even if we acknowledge that Reagan’s policies contributed to ending the Cold War, therefore, the historical record is very far from giving him “but for” credit for this happy ending.

In fact, even if "Cold War liberals" like Jimmie Carter and Fritz Mondale had presided over the US throughout the 1980s, the odds are that the very same key systemic and generational factors that helped to produce fundamental change in the Soviet system would have still applied – with very similar outcomes.

WHAT RISKS DID RON RUN?

In the literature on the economics of investment, it is well established that (at least in equilibrium, with competitive markets) there are no increased rewards without increased risk. When it comes to evaluating historical leaders, however, apparently this basic principle is often overlooked.

Reagan’s confrontational approach to the “Evil Empire” clearly was very distinctive. But this was hardly an unmixed blessing. Indeed, we now know that he took incredible risks in the early 1980s, and, as discussed below, that we are all extraordinarily lucky to have survived this period intact.

Furthermore, we are all still living with serious systemic risks that are a direct byproduct of Reagan’s high-risk strategies—even apart from the long-term legacy of his Afghan “freedom fighters” and latter-day terrorists.
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Andropov

For example, only in the mid-1990s, after the USSR’s collapse, did we learn that the Soviet Politburo and top Soviet military planners really had become convinced in the early 1980s that Reagan had adopted a new pro-nuclear war-fighting strategy, changing from “mutually assured destruction” to the pursuit of an all-out victory.

Soviet leaders came to this conclusion partly because of several key developments in military technology and strategy.


  • By the early 1980s the US had acquired a growing advantage in submarine-based nuclear weapons (D-5 Trident missiles, with greater accuracy and short flight times) and anti-submarine warfare techniques, as well as space-based communications, surveillance, and hunter-killer satellite capabilities.
  • As noted, Carter and Reagan both started to deploy cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe and on submarines. These were just 4-6 minutes from the Soviets’ command-and-control centers and many of their ICBM silos, which they counted on for up to two-thirds of their deterrent capability.
  • In the early 1980s the US also took several steps that were apparently intended to increase its chances of surviving a nuclear war. These not only included “Star Wars,” but also hardened telecommunications, new command-and-control systems and some “civil defense” measures, and revised policies for “continuity in government.”

On top of these structural changes, the Reagan Adminstration’s aggressive rhetoric and behavior also contributed to this new Soviet view of US intentions.

In early 1981, for example, Reagan ordered the military to mount a still-highly-classified series of “psyops” that probed USSR airspace and naval boundaries with US and NATO jet fighters and bombers, submarines, and surface ships. The US and NATO also conducted several large-scale exercises in 1982-84. The US also sharply increased its assistance to “freedom fighters” like the Nicaraguan contras, the Afghan rebels, and Jonas Savimbi’s bloodthirsty South-Africa-assisted renegades in Angola.

As we now know, all this belligerent US activity scared the living daylights out of old-line Soviet leaders like Yury Andropov. It reminded them of Hitler’s sudden blitzkrieg attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, a searing experience for which Stalin had been surprisingly unprepared. They came to believe that the US was actually planning the nuclear equivalent of this blitzkrieg -- a first strike that would decapitate Soviet command-and-control while minimizing the effects of retaliation on the US. Of course Europe would be probably destroyed in such a confrontation. But the Soviets assumed, perhaps correctly, that the US saw “Old Europe” as dispensable.

In response to this perceived US threat, the Soviets did not roll over and play dead. Rather, drawing on their 1941 experience, their first response was to assume the worst and try to prepare for it.

  • From May 1981 on, they ordered a worldwide intelligence alert, code-named “RYAN”, aimed at keeping the Politburo informed on a daily basis of US preparations for a first strike.
  • The Soviets shifted their nuclear posture decisively to “launch-on-warning.” For the first time they also provided the Politburo with the ability to sidestep the Soviet General Staff and launch all strategic missiles with a central command. To support this shift, they also deployed new ground-based radar and space-based early-warning systems.
  • Most striking of all, in the early 1980s the Soviets also implemented a full-scale nuclear “doomsday” system, code-named “Perimeter.” This system, first tested in November 1984, placed the power to unleash a devastating retaliatory strike against the US essentially on autopilot, whenever the system “sensed” that a nuclear strike against Moscow had either occurred, or was about to occur.


Together, all these shifts in Soviet defensive strategy cut the decision time available to their leaders, when deciding how to respond to a perceived US/ NATO attack, to as little as 3-4 minutes.

As Gorbachev later remarked,

“Never, perhaps, in the postwar decades was the situation in the world as explosive and hence, more difficult and unfavorable, as in the first half of the 1980s.”

THE LEGACY

To our great distress, despite the mutual de-targeting that was announced with so much fanfare by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin in 1994, both these Cold War “hair trigger” responses to Reagan’s initiatives are still in place today, responsible for controlling at least the 5000+ strategic nuclear warheads that Russia still maintains.





Lt. Colonel Petrov had been forced to make a profound decision about world civilization in a matter of minutes, with alarms and red lights going off all around him.




These systems have already experienced several close calls. Among the incidents that we know about were those in September 1983, August 1984, and January 1995. In this last incident, President Yeltsin -- who was not always a picture of mental health and stability -- came within minutes of unleashing a full-scale nuclear retaliation in response to a false alarm set off by a Norwegian research missile that was sent aloft to study the Northern Lights. Apparently it bore a striking resemblance to an incoming Trident missile on Soviet radar until it crashed harmlessly in the sea.
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The September 1983 incident, at the height of Soviet tensions with the Reagan Administration, and just a few months after the huge anti-Soviet NATO exercise “Able Archer” in Western Europe, was even more scary. In 2000, Lt. Colonel Stanislov Petrov, the duty officer who had been in charge of an early-warning bunker south of Moscow at the time, told Western journalists what happened when the new early-warning computers at his facility suddenly reported a full-scale US attack:

"I felt as if I'd been punched in my nervous system. There was a huge map of the States with a US base lit up, showing that the missiles had been launched. I didn't want to make a mistake…..I made a decision and that was it. In principle, a nuclear war could have broken out. The whole world could have been destroyed. After it was over, I drank half a liter of vodka as if it were only a glass and slept for 28 hours."

Ultimately it turned out that the new Soviet early-warning system had malfunctioned. Lt. Colonel Petrov had been forced to make a profound decision about world civilization in a matter of minutes, with alarms and red lights going off all around him.

Fortunately for all of us, he decided to not to believe his own computers.

Unfortunately for all of us, a modified version of that same hair-trigger early warning system is still in place in both Russia and the US to this day, since neither side has ever reverted to the pre-Reagan “MAD” strategy -- and Lt. Colonel Petrov has long since retired to a humble Moscow flat.

SUMMARY

From this vantage point, President Reagan’s long-term legacy is a little more difficult to evaluate, even with respect to his impact on the Cold War.


  • Clearly he had a great deal of help from others, as well as from sheer fortuity.
  • We are still living with the heightened risks in the world system that were partly created by the aggressive nuclear strategy adopted by President Reagan, and to some extent by President Carter before him. If Russia’s early warning systems and doomsday systems – both of which are now reportedly starved for maintenance funds -- should ever fail, history may not be so kind to Ronald Reagan, assuming that there is anyone left to write it.
  • Much of Reagan’s vaunted “strength” was really based on a blithe combination of sheer ignorance, blind faith, and risk taking. Compared with President Nixon (who, like FDR, also eschewed a state funeral), Reagan knew almost nothing about world affairs other than what he read in The Readers Digest and (perhaps) The National Review.
  • On the other hand, compared with the insecure Nixon, who was constantly seeking reassurance from his advisors, Reagan certainly did have much more faith in his own convictions. With respect to the Soviet Union’s nuclear strategy, like a determined child, he may have never fully appreciated the fact that he was playing with…well, er.., much more than dynamite.

After the fact, of course, like any high-stakes gambler who bets it all on “black,” spins the wheel, and wins, Reagan looks like a hero, at least to many Americans.

However, whether or not ordinary citizens of the world should look back on this track record and cheer, much less encourage our present and future leaders to adopt similar blind-faith strategies, is very doubtful.

Indeed, today, most of the rest of the world seems to regard President Reagan -- rather more accurately than many Americans -- as the friendly, fearless, perhaps well-meaning, but really quite reckless “cowboy” that he truly was.

***

(c) James S. Henry, SubmergingMarkets.com, 2003. Not for reproduction or other use without express consent from the author. All rights reserved.


June 14, 2004 at 03:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The UN Security Council Resolution on Iraq:
Breakthrough?

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Yesterday the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve a new resolution with regard to Iraq. This action is already being positioned by Bush, Blair, and some journalists as a legitimation of the 160,000 Coalition forces in Iraq, and a sea change in the international community's attitude toward the war.

We need to examine this closely, to see whether it really is a turning point. Does it represent an important concession by the hard-pressed Bush Administration to important UN demands -- not so much because of the June 30 deadline, but because of the real deadline, November 2? Or was it just another example of the UN's inability to accomplish very much on this core international issue other than to "follow the US or get out of the way?"

Doesn't the UN resolution really amount to a kind of "appeasement" of Bush and Blair, a bizarre reward for having launched this illegal war without explicit UN authorization? What do the Kurds think of the UN resolution, which completely ignores their demand for autonomy? And where does it leave the hapless John Kerry, who now finds that one of his few policy suggestions for Iraq, the notion of getting the UN more involved, has been encapsulated by the President?

SOVEREIGNTY?

To begin with, the resolution endorses President Bush's June 30th deadline for the transfer of "full responsibility and authority"to the "sovereign" Interim Government of Iraq.

The UN resolution also notes that on June 30, control over accumulated profits from oil sales and the UN's "oil for food" program will be transferred to the interim Iraqi government. Of course, given the high costs of security and recent constraints on production and exports, oil profits have been relatively modest. As for the UN oil for food program, it is almost extinct, with key former administrators under investigation for corruption. For the foreseeable future, therefore, the interim Iraqi Government is likely to remain heavily dependent on aid from the US Government, which is still sitting on more than $18 billion that was supposed to have been spent on infrastructure, and on relief from Iraq's $130 billion foreign debt.
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Furthermore, the new "sovereign" government is also instructed to "refrain from taking any actions affecting Iraq's destiny beyond its interim period of governance."

Presumably this rules out privatizing oil assets. One hopes that it doesn't also prevent the interim government from challenging US plans to build 14 new military bases all over the country, or from revising the extraordinary neoliberal provisions in the country's new laws on investment, trade, privatization, and taxes.

These were drafted by Paul Bremer's staff (including McKinsey veteran and Greenwich-based venture capitalist Tom Foley) and adopted by the Iraqi Governing Council and the CPA without any significant debate. They include some of the most extreme "free market" provisions in the developing world -- 2 percent import duties, wide open capital markets, and a maximum 15 percent income tax rate. Russia, which already tried an experiment with such measures in the early 1990s, should volunteer to give the new interim Iraqi government some free advice about the effects of such measures.

AN END TO OCCUPATION?

The UN resolution also declares the "end of the occupation" and the authority of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority as of June 30th. On the other hand, it also recognizes the mandate of the "multinational force" (MNF) currently in Iraq at the request of the interim Government (sic)" to "take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability."
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In exercising this broad mandate, the MNF is requested to "work in partnership" with the new "sovereign" Iraqi Government. The request from France and Spain that the MNF report to the Iraqis was turned down.

Nor is there any attempt to create a UN peacekeeping force, other than a "small" (4,000 person!) force to protect UN workers themselves. (How many UN workers will there be, exactly?) Apart from the US and the UK, none of the other Security Council members are yet prepared to commit their own troops to joining the MNF in this adventure -- despite their newfound enthusiasm for Bush's plans.

The UN promises to review this MNF mandate in one year. It also assures us that if the Iraqi Government wants the UN to terminate the MNF's mandate to be in Iraq, it only has to ask. Of course the US will then promptly withdraw all its troops from Iraq, because, after all, we only invaded the country with...uh..UN authorization?

That kind of request might conceivably occur under some hypothetical future Iraqi government. But the UN knows full well that at the moment, this "right to demand withdrawal" business is pure cosmetics -- the Tigris- Euphrates will freeze in summertime and all looters will leave Baghdad before such a request is made by the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

This rising star and secular Shiite was not a London brain surgeon for nothing. He is also a leading Chalabi rival, Iraqi National Accord leader, and early Baath Party member who was hand-picked by the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council, with Paul Bremer's backing.

Allawi, who is reported to have spied for the Baathist Party in London before he turned against Saddam in the 1980s, has a long history of cooperation with US and UK intelligence agencies, as well as with disgruntled senior Iraqi Army officers. Allawi has become the agencies' preferred alternative to Chalabi -- a talented administrator who represents "the acceptable face" of Baathism, and has none of Chalabi's weird connections with the Iranians, busted Jordanian banks, or the insufferable Richard N. Perle.

It is far too early to say whether or not Allawi will be able to leverage his "transitional" role into a more permanent one, or even live to see the fall, but he and his numerous relatives -- some of whom are married to Chalabi's relatives -- are more likely to ask for increased MNF troops than to ask them to withdraw.

The UN resolution does recognize that Iraqi security forces will, at least technically, report to the Iraqi Government rather than to the MNF. This provision may help Allawi restore more control to his friends in the Iraqi Army. But since they will continue to derive most of their payroll, training, arms and ammunition from the Coalition for the foreseeable future, it is unclear how much practical difference this really makes.

Unless the MNF is booted out by a successor Iraqi Government, according to the UN resolution, its mandate is scheduled to expire "on completion of the political process outlined above." Optimists may read this to mean "by December 31, 2005." But that assumes that this "process" will stay on track. We have all seen in the last 14 months just how accurate such forecasts have been with respect to Iraqi politics -- for example, the abortive effort to "write a constitution by March 2004." Bearing this in mind, the UN resolution was careful not to specify an explicit date for MNF withdrawal.

THE ROAD TO DEMOCRACY?

The UN resolution also endorses a rather convoluted timetable for the creation of representative government in Iraq -- the broad contours of which can only be described as "Floridian," in terms of the efforts being made to control the exercise of democratic choice as much as possible, even while making loud noises in favor of it.

  • The process begins with a "national conference reflecting the diversity of Iraqi society." How a conference can do that without being democratically elected is a puzzle that evidently the UN has solved, since it will help to organize and convene this conference in July 2004.

    That conference, in turn, will select a "Consultative Council" of 100 members, which will "advise" the Interim Government and have "veto power over its orders." Precisely how this Council, which has just been added to the stew, will exercise this potentially very important power over Allawi and his team, is unclear -- remember, folks, we are making this up as we go along.

  • With the UN's help and the Consultative Council's "advice," the Interim Government will then hold "direct democratic" elections for a "Transitional National Assembly" by the end of 2004, or January 31, 2005 at the latest. This is the UN, remember; one-month variations in schedules fall like raindrops from the sky.


  • This Transitional National Assembly, in turn, will establish a "Transitional National Government," which would take charge of drafting a "permanent constitution."

    Presumably the Consultative Council will by then have faded away, along with the interim Iraqi government and the Iraqi Governing Council before it. Iraq may be setting something of a record here for prophylactic appointed governmental bodies, designed to sharply slow the rate of descent to that point where ordinary people actually get to vote. (The so-called "non-Florida point.")

  • Finally, on the basis of the yet-to-be drafted constitution, a "constitutionally-elected government" will finally be elected by the Iraqi people themselves by December 31, 2005. Or perhaps by January 31, 2006; who knows?

What are ordinary Iraqis likely to make of this "timetable?"

First, they've already had more than 14 months of "interim" rule by people who were basically appointed by foreigners, and many of them evidently have some very strong opinions about the results.

Now they are being told that they will basically continue to be governed by recycled ex-Baathist exiles and military men, also chosen by foreigners, for at least another seven months.

Furthermore, these appointees will also now be in charge of the Iraqi military. In a country where government is commonly viewed, with strong historical justification, as a private fiefdom that is populated by a gang of thieves, this is unlikely to encourage people to believe in the UN's roadmap.

Finally, they are also being told that even when they do finally get to vote for the first time, by say January 2005, they will only be electing yet another "transitional" government, on the way to a constitutional convention and yet another new government the following year.

In this regard, the Iraqi Kurds, in particular, have enormous reasons for concern. Their demands for a loose federation and a great deal of autonomy, which were recognized in the draft March 2004 constitution, were not mentioned at all by the UN. Apparently they face the prospect of having to start over from scratch, without nearly as much leverage and high level support as they had before. Already key Kurdish members of the interim Iraqi Government have threatened to resign over this issue.

In short, even if everything goes according to plan, this political timetable requires ordinary Iraqis -- many of whom are still unemployed, and most of whom are already incredibly angry at how the US has mismanaged Saddam's overthrow -- to have extraordinary patience and to suspend an extraordinary amount of disbelief.

But we've already seen how difficult it was to achieve agreement on an overall national constitution this year. My humble conjecture is that that difficulty was not due to a shortage of UN advice, consultative councils, or Security Council resolutions.

Rather, it reflects very real, deep-seated divisions of views, interests, ideology, and affiliations within Iraqi society.

These divisions may never be overcome, or they might be overcome by a bold experiment in de-occupation, liberation, local autonomy, and democratization. But they are unlikely to be overcome by the slow-motion, controlled kind of pseudo-democratization that the UN, in its wisdom, has just endorsed.
We should not really be surprised, therefore, if the roadmap just outlined produces even greater resistance and discord, rather than peace and quiet.

REWARDING AGGRESSION?

Beyond the impacts of the UN resolution within Iraq, the other key risk is that it constitutes appeasement. In effect, rather than being sanctioned by the UN for starting this preemptive war on false grounds in clear violation of international law, the US and the UK are now to some extent being let off the hook. And Bush and Blair, in particular, who are both fighting for their political lives, will undoubtedly be helped by the perception that their policy has at last been embraced by the UN.

Of course UN members can argue that they had little choice from the standpoint of helping the Iraqi people, and that the new resolution says nothing about the "original sin" that may have been committed.

This will be cold comfort to Bush opponents like John Kerry, who had made UN and Nato involvement in Iraq a key pillar of his approach to the war. At this point, armed with the UN's blessing, it is no longer clear how Kerry's position differs at all from the President's.

More important, by swallowing whole so much of the Bush/Blair program for Iraq, caving in on UN representative Brahimi's preferences for key appointments in the interim Iraqi government, and effectively sanctioning the continuation of the occupation until the country achieves political nirvana (or forever - whichever comes first), the UN may have reduced its own influence even further, and cleared the way for more such adventures.

SUMMARY

After more than a year of grossly mismanaging Iraq's transition to democracy, and more than eight decades of pushing the country toward autocracy, the reluctance of today's "Great Powers" to put an end to this custodial occupation and proceed more expeditiously with a bold experiment in "ASAP" local democracy is discouraging.

Between the lines, this measure has really sanctioned the continuation of an open-ended military occupation, alienated key constituents like the Kurds, undermined the opponents of the war, and rewarded serial violators of international law.
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Yet to our senior leaders, and, indeed, many journalists, victory, suitably redefined, is once more just around the corner.

Of course we never found those WMDs or the links to al-Qaeda, we were not welcomed as liberators, and a majority of Iraqis now want us to leave the way we came in --quickly. But the theory is that now, with the UN solidly in our corner, and more and more troops on the ground (perhaps including some from NATO), we really will be able to (1) stabilize the country; (2) hold more or less free elections; (3) make sure that the winners are friendly moderates; (4) hang on to our precious military bases; and of course (5) minimize US casualties.

Over the next few months, I fear that a great many more lives will be wasted as we wait once again to find out whether or not this latest untested neo-imperialist prophesy is true.

***

(c) James S. Henry, SubmergingMarkets.com, 2003. Not for reproduction or other use without express consent from the author. All rights reserved.

June 9, 2004 at 01:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Forgotten Members of the "Greatest Generation"

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This weekend President Bush was in Europe, celebrating the 60th anniversary of D-Day. He was joined by thousands of American, British, Canadian, and French veterans of World War II, members of the so-called “Greatest Generation,” as well as the Queen, the UK’s Tony Blair, France’s Jacque Chirac, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, all of whom converged on Normandy for commemoration ceremonies. As Schroeder duly noted, the fact that all the leaders of these former allies and enemies could finally come together to celebrate D-Day for the first time means that “the post-war period is finally over.”

Many other US leaders, from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney to John McCain and John Kerry, have also recently tried to associate themselves with the valor and sacrifices of American veterans in our increasingly long list of foreign wars. Their tributes have been similar, whether the veterans in question fought in wars that were short or long, one-sided or evenly matched, just or unjust -- and whether or not the politicians in question have ever spent even a single minute on an actual battlefield.
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This year, such martial rhetoric is flying thicker than usual because of the coincidence of several events. In late April, the long-awaited $190 million memorial to America’s World War II veterans was finally unveiled in Washington DC. Its architectural reviews have been decidedly mixed, especially by comparison with the beautifully-understated Vietnam War memorial. But this certainly is a long-overdue tribute to the 16.4 million Americans who served in that objectively “good” war and the 405,000 who lost their lives in it.

We are also in the middle of an unusual US Presidential election race, which is proceeding while the country fights two wars at once – the war in Iraq and the less visible, potentially much more dangerous “war on terror.” Both key Presidential candidates are vying hard to be viewed as stalwart defenders of national security and close friends of the veterans community.

Indeed, the whole period from Memorial Day to July 4th has become a high season for veteran commemorations and martial romanticism. Those who happen to part of the majority of Americans who are neither veterans nor members of the “Greatest Generation” may feel a bit uncomfortable – sort of like non-Christians at Christmas.

I don’t happen to share this discomfort. To begin with, my family has done more than its share of fighting for the nation since it arrived in Virginia in the 1620s. We’ve volunteered for almost every single “good” American war in history, from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korea War. As for the “Greatest Generation,” we also supplied several authentic members, including my father, a World War II veteran who served four years with the Navy in the South Pacific, and my uncle, one of General Patton’s tank commanders who helped to liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp.

It is also not the fault of subsequent generations that almost all the wars that the US has chosen to fight since the Korean War in the early 1950s have been one-sided affairs, undertaken against more or less defenseless Third World countries like Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Granada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Except for Afghanistan, where the Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to build training camps, none of these countries ever attacked us or our allies, posed a serious direct threat to our national security, or even had air forces or navies, much less nuclear weapons.

These wars were basically neo-imperialist adventures in gunboat diplomacy. Not surprisingly, most of them proved to be vastly more lethal to the hapless natives than to US troops. For example, while the US lost 58,226 killed and 2300 missing in Vietnam, the Vietnamese lost an estimated 1 million combatants killed, 4 million killed and 200,000 missing in action, most of them to our relentless bombing campaigns.
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Furthermore, while those American veterans who have served in genuinely defensive wars certainly deserve to be honored, our political leaders do no service by oversimplifying their contributions. As the history of Germany indicates, excessive militarism and the idealization of martial values like “honor, duty, and blind obedience to one’s superiors” may help to encourage still more aggressive wars, which creates more veterans, which creates more glorification, which encourages still more wars…..

So, in the interests of reversing this venomous cycle, we offer the following critique of “Greatest Generation” mythology -- and also pay homage to other members of the Greatest Generation whose contributions have largely been forgotten.

REALITY CHECKS

The conventional image that most Americans seem to have of the US role in World War II is that we – or, at most, the US and the UK – basically won the war.

In this view, fed by sixty years of Hollywood films, poltical rhetoric, jingoistic reportage in the mass media, and bad history courses, the vast majority of the “Greatest Generation” supposedly volunteered courageously to fight against the Axis Powers. The US military supposedly played a decisive role in defeating not only Japan but also Nazi Germany and Italy, and the Normandy invasion was supposedly critical to the German defeat.

Unfortunately, it was not quite that simple.

>Draftee Predominance. To begin with, of the 16.4 million US veterans who served in World War II, only about a third were volunteers. The rest were drafted. Even in this “best of all possible wars,” therefore, where the lines between good and evil could not possibly have been any clearer, compulsion, not volunteerism, was the main motor force. In fact, volunteerism was even less in evidence during World War II than it was during the Vietnam War. Just a quarter of the 2.6 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1973 were draftees – notwithstanding the role that the draft played in stimulating opposition to that war.

>Casualties. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the US suffered a grand total of 6603 casualties, including about 2000 killed in action or missing. Our other non-Soviet Allies added another 3646 casualties. All told, that first day, there were about 3000 killedamong all the Allies. For the entire Battle of Normandy, the US suffered 126,847 casualties, including about 30,000 killed, and the UK and other non-Soviet allies added 83,045 casualties.
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For World War II as a whole, as noted, the US suffered 405,000 American deaths. About 290,000 of these were due to combat, the rest to accidents and disease.

These were impressive losses by comparison with other American wars. Only the Civil War recorded a larger number of total fatalities, but those included a huge number who died from disease. World War II's combat fatalities was the largest for any US war.

Despite these records, the fact is that all these US and non-Soviet Allied casualty statistics pale by comparison with those suffered by our key Ally on the Eastern Front, the Soviet Union.
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All told, the USSR lost 8.7 million to 11 million troops killed in combat against Germany, Italy, Rumania, and the other Axis coalition members from 1941 to 1945. This included 500,000 troops killed at the Battle of Stalingrad alone from September 1942 – January 1943. There were also 440,000 Soviet troops killed at the Siege of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944, 250,000 at the decisive Battle of Kursk in June 1943, and 450,000 on the march to Berlin in 1945.

In addition, there were also another 12-18 million civilian casualties in the Soviet Union during World War II, compared with the 60,000 civilian casualties that the British lost to Germany air raids, and negligible US civilian casualties.

>Strategic Role – Germany. Most important, far from playing a decisive role in defeating Hitler, the fact is that the D-Day invasion came so late in the war that even if it had been turned back by Hitler, the chances are that this would have only delayed the Soviet advances into Berlin by six months to a year at most, without fundamentally affecting the outcome of the war.

The Soviets had been lobbying hard for a D-Day invasion from 1942 on, but were resisted by Churchill, in particular, who favored a "southern" strategy through Italy and the Balkans -- and had been a lifelong hardline anti-Communist.
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During the 1944 Normandy invasion and the Battle of France, the key battles involved, at most, about 15 Allied and 15 Germany divisions.

On the Eastern Front, by comparison, from 1941-44 more than 400 Germany and Soviet divisions battled each other along a 1000-mile front, and the Soviets succeeded in destroying more than 600 Germany divisions. (Overy, Why the Allies Won, 321).

Even as the Normandy Invasion was proceeding, the much larger Soviet Army was driving towards Berlin, destroying Germany’s main army group and costing the Axis powers nearly 4 million casualties.

Without this Soviet effort on the Eastern Front, therefore, the Normandy invasion could not have succeeded, and Hitler would probably have prevailed. Combined with the successful invasion of Normandy, by the time it came, the main effect was to shorten the war a bit in Europe.

Nor did the “Lend-Lease” aid provided to the Soviet Union by the US and the UK during the war prove decisive. Much more important was the fact that Soviet industry, relocated to the east, was able to out-produce Germany several times over in aircraft, tanks, and artillery pieces throughout the war.

Despite all this, the commemoration speeches given this weekend by Western leaders failed to even mention the Soviet contribution to the war effort. .

>Strategic Performance – Japan. As for the war with Japan, it has long been recognized by military historians that it was distinctly less important than the war with Germany. Without the victory over Germany, the victory over Japan would have been impossible; with it, given Japan’s relative weakness, V-J Day was basically just a matter of time. Consistent with this, the war with Japan only consumed about 15 percent of the total US war effort.

After Germany’s demise in April 1945, the US, with some belated help from the Soviet Union, turned its attention to Japan, and quickly swept it out of China and the Pacific. By August 1945, when the US dropped its two atomic bombs, the Japanese were already on the verge of surrender. As Gar Alperowitz, the leading historian of Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, has argued, that decision was largely undertaken to impress Stalin, not because of military necessity or to save American lives.

IMPLICATIONS

All this is not to say that American World War II veterans do not richly deserve the honors that have been bestowed on them. Millions of them fought valiantly, at D-Day and elsewhere.

However, especially in these times, when the US has given in to the temptation to launch an unprovoked war largely alone on its own, it is important to remember how much assistance the US needed from allies in its most important victory ever -- and how it achieved its best results when it was fighting a clearly justified defensive war.

This viewpoint offers a helpful perspective on several other popular myths about World War II. These include (1) the myth that British intelligence breakthroughs like “Ultra” – a program that broke German encryption codes -- were critical to the war’s outcome; (2) the myth that US economic capacity provided the decisive edge; and (3) the myth that the atomic bomb had to be used to force Japan’s surrender.

This analysis also provides an interesting perspective on the many critics who have deplored the “tragedy” of the Russian Revolution and the brutality of Stalin’s forced industrialization campaign during the 1930s.

The unpleasant reality is that Tsarist Russia had barely held its own against Germany during World War I. It t is very unlikely that a Tsarist regime or even a Kerensky-style liberal capitalist regime could have achieved anything like the rapid industrial development that Stalin accomplished during the 1920s and 1930s. however, in restrospect, there is little question that Stalin's crash industrialization program permitted the Soviet Union to acquire the industrial base that proved to be essential for the defeat of Nazi Germany.

So it is all very well for First World liberal democracies like the US and the UK to look down their long noses at Russia's developmental misfortunes. But perhaps we in the West should at least acknowledge our debt to the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s brutal industrialization program, his millions of victims, and especially the long-suffering Russian people. If they accomplished nothing else, at least they saved our liberal democracies from fascism. This is hardly an apology for Stalin. But if anyone deserves to be called “the Greatest Generation,” it was the generation of Russians that had to face down both Stalin and Hitler during the 1930s and 1940s.

This does not imply that the Normandy invasion was worthless. What it really may have accomplished was not so much the defeat of Hitler, per se, but a more balanced post-war political division of Europe. With the Soviet Army in control of Germany and perhaps even much of France and Italy after World War II, the post-war history of Europe might have been very different. In that sense, the value of D-Day was less a matter of defeating Hitler than of affecting the division of Europe with Stalin.

THE FORGOTTEN GREATEST GENERATION

In retrospect, there is one group of American veterans that unquestionably deserves to be included in the “greatest generation” -- although it is never mentioned in veteran tributes, and none of its members have ever qualified for US veteran benefits.

This is the all-volunteer group of 2800 Americans that journeyed to Spain at their own risk and expense in 1936-39 to serve as members of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War.

A ragtag army, mainly consisting of leftists, union members, and many American Jews, they joined forces with some 56,000 other international volunteers from more than 50 countries, and fought against overwhelming odds to defend the Spain’s democratically-elected Republic against General Franco’s army, which was openly supported by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.
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Most of these volunteers were amateur fighters, without any military training. The arms embargo that was enforced by the future Allies -- the UK, France, and the US -- against the Spanish Republic – but not Germany or Italy – prevented the Lincolns and their comrades from having adequate arms and munitions. As a result, combat fatalities were very high. More than a third of the Lincolns died in battle, even higher than the 20-30 percent fatality rates recorded by US troops on D-Day.

Meanwhile, the US, the UK, France, and most other European countries (except the USSR), heavily influenced by conservative business elements and the Catholic Church, concocted the “non-intervention pact” that prevented arms and other aid from reaching the Spanish Republic. These Western countries also stood by and watched while Germany, Italy, and their allies aided Franco, seized Ethiopia, butchered China, and occupied Czechoslovakia. Throughout the 1930s, major US firms like GM, Texaco, Exxon, DuPont, Alcoa, and IBM, as well as Wall Street firms like JPMorgan, Brown Brothers Harriman, and Citibank, also continued to trade and invest, not only with Franco, but also with Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

In the aftermath of the civil war, the Lincoln Battlion members continued to prove their heroism and commitment. After Franco won the civil war in 1939 and the Lincolns returned to the US, they were labeled as “premature anti-fascists” by the US government, prevented from holding government jobs or joining the military. To continue to fight the fascists, they had to enlist in foreign military services. In the 1950s, during the McCarthy era, many were blacklisted and otherwise persecuted. Despite such pressures, they continued to play a leading role in progressive causes throughout the last fifty years, right down to leading recent protests against the invasion of Iraq.
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Ultimately, in the late 1970s, Franco’s dictatorship – which was supported by the US Government after World War II for nearly twenty years – gave way to the return of democracy in Spain.

Finally, in 1996, as a tribute to the Lincolns’ sacrifices, the “Second Spanish Republic” celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War by welcoming those American veterans who had managed to survive to a commemoration ceremony in Madrid -- a modest version of this weekend's ceremonies at Normandy. Spain, at least, recognized that these American veterans had been the forgotten members of the Greatest Generation, whose courageous efforts were never properly honored by their own country.

SUMMARY
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American veterans like my father and uncle certainly displayed extraordinary courage, sacrifice, and heroism during World War II. But, as they would have been the first to admit, in some ways they actually had a relatively easy time of it. This was not only because they had a great deal of help from allies like the Russians, the British, and the Chinese (against Japan). It was also because, as noted earlier, their war was perhaps the most clear-cut struggle ever fought between good and evil.

The veterans of all too many other American wars have had to face the fact that their wars were much less virtuous. Bearing that kind of understanding honestly certainly requires a special kind of courage and sacrifice. Perhaps that is why there is so much enthusiasm for the World War II festivities -- perhaps there is a hope that some of that war's glory will rub off on these other efforts. Those of us who have an opportunity to prevent our overly-adventurous leaders from launching such misconceived efforts, or to bring them to a halt as soon as possible, have every obligation to do so.

Finally, as we saw in the case of the Lincoln Battalion, still other American veterans have sometimes had to defy their own country’s policies of the day in order to fight for justice, and then pay a very heavy price for being “prematurely” right.

This year, as we honor those who helped to defeat global fascism, we should also honor those who were among the very first to take up arms against it.

***

(c) James S. Henry, SubmergingMarkets.com, 2003. Not for reproduction or other use without express consent from the author. All rights reserved.


June 6, 2004 at 09:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 27, 2004

052704.Iraq - High Time to "Cut and Walk"
Defining Alternatives to"Stay and Die" and "Cut and Run"

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Bush Lite
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“A nation has prestige according to its merits. America's contribution to world civilization must be more than a continuous performance demonstration that we can police the planet."
Eugene McCarthy, The Limits of Power (1967)
“A nation should not send half a million military personnel to a distant continent or stake its international standing and domestic cohesion unless its leaders are in a position to describe victory. This implies a definition of attainable political goals and a realistic strategy to achieve them.”
Henry Kissinger, Ending the Vietnam War (2003)


Back in the days when fixed exchange rates were the order of the day, Citibank's former CEO, Walter Wriston, had a very simple rule for deciding when to short a country's currency -- whenever a Finance Minister reassured investors that under no circumstances whatsoever would the country’s currency ever be devalued.

One might have thought that a similar rule would apply to US military misadventures. Perhaps it does, but with a much longer time lag.

In the investment world, of course, the cardinal rule is to “cut one’s losses early."

Recently, however, a growing number of US politicians, senior officials and pundits on all sides of the political spectrum have counseled us to do precisely the opposite in Iraq.

Despite the many recent setbacks, and the evident lack of any clear strategy, they’ve repeatedly warned about the perils of “cutting and running."

This is as if a precipitate withdrawal were the only conceivable alternative to the open-ended military occupation that the Bush and Blair Administrations and the would-be Kerry Administration are all promising to maintain even after June 30.

Ironically, public opinion is far ahead of these timid political lemmings, and much more consistent with the “cut your losses” strategy. Right now, just 45 percent of US adults still believe that it was “worth going to war in Iraq,” down from 76 percent a year ago. A majority in the US and 66 percent in the UK now oppose sending any additional troops to Iraq, and fully 40 percent of US adults and 55 percent of UK adults now support a withdrawal of US and/or UK troops after the handover of power to the interim Iraqi Government on June 30.

This is comparable to the level of popular US opposition to the Vietnam War that prevailed immediately after the January 1968 Tet offensive. Of course the vast majority of the Iraqi people have favored the withdrawal of Coalition forces for some time.

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In fact there is a clear alternative to the current “prolonged occupation” strategy. As explained below, this “cut and walk” strategy has many advantages -- not the least of which are the many lives that it would save on all sides.

WHERE’S OUR BOBBY?

Despite these strong public sentiments, one searches in vain for any mainstream American political leaders, other than Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader, who are prepared to insist on a definite timetable for a withdrawal of US troops.

In other words, with respect to the Iraq War, we’re still missing our Robert Kennedy, our Eugene McCarthy, and our Martin Luther King. I'd hate to think that this leadership deficit reflects something fundamental about our ethical and cultural regression since the 1960s, but I fear that it may. (Where are, after all, the student protests in this period? Where are the Berrigan Brothers, the Sloane Coffins, the teach-ins, the Chicago 7s, and so forth?...Was all that just about the fear of being drafted?)

In the UK and Australia, a few daring military and political leaders are beginning to catch up to public opinion and advocate a more rapid exit. Even there, however, the alternative to the status quo is often described rather pejoratively and unimaginatively as “cut and run.”

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This “muy macho” lingo was used in early May by Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard, who vowed that Australia’s troops in Iraq would not “cut and run,” despite the unpopularity of this position. It was also used by the UK’s Tony Blair on May 17. Ignoring the mounting political crisis that he faces over the war, Blair repeated at least three times that under no circumstances would the UK “cut and run.”

President Bush, whose political fortunes are also flagging, has also recently issued a crescendo of assurances that he will not “cut and run” from Iraq. The first assurance was given last November, when Iraqi resistance started to take off, and it was repeated in March, April, and again on May 10. Every time the President repeated it, more and more people had doubts about whether he really meant it.

Some pro-war pundits have also become fond of the “cut and run” formulation. The Wall Street Journal’s arch-conservative Deputy Editor George Melloan warned in May that “those who counsel a “cut and run” solution to the problems of Iraq are kidding themselves.” This echoed a November WSJ Op-Ed Page piece entitled “Don’t Cut and Run,” and another one last July by Paul Gigot that proclaimed that “The Iraqis' greatest fear is that America will cut and run.”

Of course the truth, as indicated by Iraqi polls, is that most Iraqis would probably be delighted if they woke up one morning to find us gone.
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Many Democrats who support the war have also been using the "cut and run" formula as a convenient way to avoid serious discussion of alternatives. Among the leading practitioners on this side of the isle is John Kerry. As early as September 2003, with respect to Iraq, Kerry promised that “We're not going to cut and run and not do the job." In November he said, “I know we have to win. I don't want to cut and run.” In December, in an “attack from the right” speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, he warned that the Bush Administration itself might be on the verge of a “cut and run.” In April, annoyed by anti-war critics, Kerry insisted that “…The vast majority of the American people understand that it's important to not just cut and run. I don't believe in a cut-and-run philosophy (sic)." ("Muy macho, muy macho!")
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Similarly, Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently warned that “To succumb to political pressure and cut and run would be a catastrophe for U.S. interests.” Similarly, Joe Lieberman: “We simply cannot lose. We can't cut and run,” and again: “…America cannot cut and run from Iraq. Both parties and both Presidential candidates agree that we should send more troops….” Similarly, Indiana’s Evan Bayh, who’d love to be Kerry’s VP: “We can't cut and run…” New York's Chuck Schumer commented on the killing of a US citizen in Iraq: “If they think this is going to make us cut and run, they are dead wrong.”

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On the Republican side, John McCain is also fond of the phrase. On November 5 he told the Council on Foreign Relations, “Iraq is not Vietnam. There is no popular, anti- colonial insurgency…..I was heartened to here the President say there will be no cut and run.” On April 7 he cautioned, “Is it time to panic? To cut and run? Absolutely not.” On May 18, he warned, "If we fail, if we cut and run, the results can be disastrous.”

Variations on the same construction have been used by many other Republicans, including Virginia’s John Warner, Minnesota’s Norm Coleman ("It’s not to cut and run"), Missouri’s Chris Bond, and Alabama’s Richard Shelby. (May 12: “We've got a lot at stake. We cannot cut and run.”)

Other senior US officials also love this dismissive. Former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, who actually presided over the tail end of the Nixon-Ford Adminstration’s “cut and run” strategy in Vietnam, told the US Senate with respect to Iraq on April 20 that “We going to be there for an extended period, unless we decide to cut and run, which I trust will not be the case.”

Last November, Secretary of State Colin Powell commended Italy for its decision to “… not cut and run.” On May 18 he echoed Blair: "We don't want to stay a day longer than we have to but we are not going to walk away. We are not going to cut and run."
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Powell, a Vietnam vet like Kerry and McCain, uses this construction a lot -- evidently that aspect of the war is still a sore point. But at least with respect to Powell’s warnings against “run cuts,” the “Walter Wriston contrarian” rule may apply. In 2001, for example, with respect to US troops in the Balkans, Powell remarked that “The U.S. would not "cut and run" from the region.” At the time this was viewed as an implied criticism of neoconservatives who were seeking to limit America’s ”imperial overstretch” and “open ended military commitments,” as Presidential candidate Bush actually pledged to do in 2000. Since then, the number of US troops in the Balkans has been reduced from 6900 to 4100, and the Administration is now reportedly looking for ways to eliminate this commitment completely.

Earlier, in September 1993, when Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he responded to the deaths of 18 US soldiers in Somalia with the comment, “Because things get difficult, you don’t cut and run…You work the problem.” Within two weeks of this statement, President Clinton announced that the remaining 5000 US troops in Somalia would be withdrawn within six months.

In any case, the last time the “cut and run” phrase was used so heavily was over a decade ago, around the time of this Somalia decision. In October 1993, William Safire, the New York Times columnist, former Nixon speechwriter, and self-styled lexicologist, devoted an entire “On Words” column to the origins of “cut and run,” pointing out that it derives from an 18th century nautical term for putting out to sea quickly by cutting an anchor cable.

Given the phrase’s recent revival, in early May 2004 Safire was able to dust off his earlier column and recycle it.

He did not, however, bother to remind his readers that by far the most important occasion for its use was the unhappy experience of the Vietnam War, much of which was presided over by his former boss, who had made quite a point of refusing to "cut and run."

In 1967-68, as opposition to the Vietnam War mounted, President Johnson repeatedly deplored the “nervous Nellies” who wanted to “cut and run.” After the Democrats relinquished the White House and responsibility for the war, many leading Republicans, including future President Gerald Ford and Pennsylvania’s Senator Scott, disparaged those who wanted to “cut and run.” So did President Nixon, in his 1968 campaign against Hubert Humphrey as well as in his 1972 campaign against George McGovern. He repeatedly assured conservatives that the US would somehow achieve “peace with honor” – that we would never “cut and run.” At the same time, Nixon winked and nodded to the increasingly anti-war public that he had a “secret plan” to end the war. But this was turned out to be just one of his many lies, told to garner a few votes from gullible peaceniks.

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In fact recent historical research has showed that Nixon and Kissinger decided on a cynical “decent interval” approach to the US withdrawal from Vietnam as early as 1970, after having tried in vain to win the war with expanded bombing in 1969. The result was that the US spent another three years flailing around in Vietnam without a winning strategy, at the cost of 21,000 extra US lives and up to 1.5 million Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian lives. After that, it really did cut and run. This cynical, slow-motion approach to making “peace” probably helped Nixon win reelection. But it did nothing for the Vietnamese people, US troops, or, in the end, American honor. Far better for us to have “cut and run” way back in 1968.

Indeed, it turns out that by 1968, the Pentagon had indeed developed a plan for a rapid US withdrawal from Vietnam. But Hubert Humphrey refused to consider it, despite the fact that it might actually have won him the election. Evidently he was loyal to President Johnson. And Hubert also didn’t want to be perceived as having “cut and run.”

IRAQ - THE CASE FOR “CUT AND WALK”

It may not be surprising that President Bush has forgotten these painful lessons. But the fact that Vietnam veterans like Kerry and McCain have forgotten them, and, indeed, are repeating the same misleading phrase that Nixon once used to describe all alternatives to “staying the course,” is disappointing.

Of course it is nonsense to suggest that the only alternative to an open-ended military occupation of Iraq is to “cut and run.”

One such alternative might be described as “cut and walk.”

In broad strokes, this would include a reasonable (say, six-nine month) deadline for the withdrawal of (almost) all US and UK forces from Iraq, combined with a greatly-accelerated timetable (say, 90 days) for “interim”/ “first-round” elections at the local and regional levels.

The case for such a “cut and walk” policy is very strong, especially when viewed side by side with the high costs and highly uncertain benefits of the current strategy.

First, it is now clear that the Coalition’s purely-defensive security interests in the continued occupation of Iraq are very limited at best.

While the Iraqi Army has been destroyed, we have not found any WMDs, WMD programs, or terrorist training facilities in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the entire region has become an al-Qaeda recruiter’s wet-dream.

Finally, if Iraq ever did become a clear and present danger to us, there’d be nothing to prevent our reoccupying the country – evidently, having done it twice, that is something that we are good at.

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Second, far from helping to insure peace and stability in Iraq, the absence of a clear deadline for the presence of Coalition Forces helps to (1) attract foreign terrorists; (2) legitimize terrorism and spread the resistance; (3) increase the power base of those who happen to have private armies at their disposal; (4) undermine Iraqi support for moderate leaders; and (5) militarize ethnic, religious and tribal conflicts.

In contrast, the existence of a firm near-term (say, six months) deadline, along with an accelerated (90 day) timetable for local and regional elections, would almost instantly cause the Iraqi resistance to quiet down.

That, in turn, would create several “virtuous cycles:” (1) It would permit the Iraqi people to turn their attention away from violence and toward the upcoming political elections. (2) It would discredit and undermine popular support for any leaders or foreign fighters who tried to perpetuate the resistance; (3) It would permit economic reconstruction, now largely on hold because of the security situation, to resume, permitting more and more ordinary Iraqis to feel that they are indeed better off than before Saddam’s demise.

Third, far from helping to promote positive relations with the US, other Western powers, and the UN, the Coalition’s continued military presence, including its construction of 14 military bases and its dominance over economic policy, (1) feeds suspicions about neo-imperialism; (2) helps to promote anti-Western ideology; and (3) provides an opportunity for a variety of outside forces – Iran, Syria, and perhaps al-Qaeda – to gain influence.

In contrast, the announcement of a firm withdrawal date would make it much clearer than it is now that the US/UK invasion of Iraq is “well-motivated,” in the sense that there are no grand designs on Iraqi oil, economic policy, or military bases.
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Fourth, far from encouraging democracy in the country, the continued occupation, combined a US- or even a UN-anointed, non-elected transitional regime, actually helps to undermine it, by (1) tainting the appointees with “guilt by association” with the occupying army, and (2) deferring popular elections, against the wishes of the vast majority of Iraqis.

For all their imperfections, moving directly to “snap elections” for local governments, regional assemblies, and, soon thereafter, an interim (say, two-year) national congress, would (1) help to satisfy the Iraqi peoples’ strong desire for representative government; (2) give “unstable” parts of the country an incentive to settle down so that they would be entitled to participate in the elections; and (3) perhaps most important, make the Iraqis feel responsible for their own destiny.

With a more representative body in place, it would of course be entitled to request foreign assistance for its police and military. In that event, forces under the auspices of the UN might even be asked back in. They would have much more legitimacy among ordinary Iraqis than the Coalition forces have now.

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From the standpoint of the US and the UK, that would also have the added attraction of sharing the astronomical costs of this expensive, misbegotten venture.

SUMMARY

Throughout its entire history, the US has almost never “cut and run” from any foreign military intervention that it has undertaken – even in the case of Vietnam, where the last US combat troops did not leave until March 1973, after nearly 14 years in the country.

In fact, an examination of more than fifty US military interventions since the 1880s reveals that the far greater risk has been for US troops to intervene repeatedly and stay too long, overstaying their welcome, especially in the case of relatively-weak developing countries – for example, China (1894-95, 1898-1900, 1911-40, 1948-49), Cuba (1898-1902, 1906-09, 1912, 1917-1933, 1961), the Dominican Republic (1903-4, 1914, 1916-24, 1965-66), Guatemala (1920, 1966-67) Haiti (1891, 1914-1934, 1994-96, 2004-), Honduras (1903, 1907, 1911-12, 1919, 1924-25), Mexico (1913, 1914-18), Nicaragua (1894,1896,1898-99,1907,1910,1912-1933), Panama (1895, 1901-1914, 1918-20, 1925, 1958, 1964, 1989-90, plus bases), the Philippines (1898-1910, plus continuing bases), Russia (1918-22), Vietnam (1959-73), and Korea (1894-96, 1904-5,1950-53, plus continuing bases.)

Despite this, American policymakers continue to fixate on the spurious risk that the US might be viewed as “cutting and running” from such engagements. Just like earlier fixations with Saddam’s WMDs and his purported links to al-Qaeda, this could prove to be very costly.


***

© James S. Henry, Submerging Markets™, 2004


May 27, 2004 at 06:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

4510. Iraq: From a Strategic Standpoint, We've Already Lost
Strategic Anomalies, Denial, Redoubling, and the Case for Withdrawing Now

"Knee Deep in the Big Muddy, and the Big Fool Says to Push On!"



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In the wake of the recent upsurge in popular resistance in Iraq, and the evidence of soaring hostility among ordinary Iraqis and Iraqi elites of all persuasions toward the US-led occupation, a growing number of seasoned US military professionals are concluding that, from a strategic viewpoint, the US is either just now losing the "Iraq Peace," or may have already lost it, and should now focus its attention on accelerating the withdrawal of Coalition Forces.

This viewpoint, combined with harsh criticism of the "Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/ Wolfowitz/neocon clique," is becoming more and more widespread among senior Pentagon officers and planners, though most are still reluctant to go on the record.Of course the "usual suspects" on the American Left, like Nader, Chomsky, Jonathan Schell, and Howard Zinn, are ahead of the pack on this issue. But the interest in "withdrawal now" is also gaining ground among some conservative intellectuals, like the New York Times' David Brooks, who argued forcefully in an editorial just this week that the US needs "to lose in order to win" in Iraq. Support for withdrawal is also gaining ground with the American public at large, as noted below. But as in the case of the Vietnam War, the masses are way ahead of their "leaders."

Already, we've heard this revisionist view expressed in public by such Pentagon strategy heavyweights as former Reagan National Security Agency boss General William C. Odom, Army Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr., Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and Army Colonel Paul Hughes, who headed strategic planning for the Coalition Authority in Baghdad.

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Even before the War, some senior officers, like former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, had grave concerns about the feasibility of Rumsfeld's war plan. But those had to do mainly with resources and tactics -- whether the plan provided for enough troops and heavy armor, and so forth.

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General Odom

In the last few months, however, the deepening concerns have shifted from tactics to strategy -- as in, do we really have one?

By this we mean:

  • Does the US have a clear "definition of victory" and a long-term strategy for accomplishing it? Are these the same goals that it has announced publicly, or are there others? Is it now just floundering reactively from crisis to crisis, wishfully hoping that things will somehow work out, while getting locked in to a vicious cycle of anti-Americanism and violence? Even worse, as in the case of Vietnam, are US leaders just staying the course and sacrificing lives mainly for domestic political reasons, or because the US fears appearing to have been "defeated?"
  • Are the initial or revised goals realistic, not only in terms of military might, but also political, economic, diplomatic, and moral capital? Has the US reached the point where -- as in Vietnam in 1967-68 -- these goals of the war are no longer feasible, either because, as in the case of WMDs, they based on misinformation, or, as in the case of "democratization," they may be inconsistent with continued US occupation, or have an unacceptable price tag?


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  • What are the real long-term costs of the current strategy likely to be, in terms of both "direct" and "opportunity" costs, and costs to credibility, image, and international relationships, as well as human and cash costs? How badly were these costs underestimated by the war's planners? Do we have any reason to believe that cost prediction has improved?
  • What impact is this war having on other fronts in the war on terrorism? Has it become a costly distraction? Is it actually helping the terrorist cause, by providing a rallying point, an enticing opportunity to strike at US troops and foster internal divisions in Iraq, and a new source of armaments? If the US withdraws now, would that strengthen or weaken global terrorism? Would it clear the way for other countries or the UN to become more involved?

  • Is a continued substantial US military presence in Iraq an obstacle to peace and security, and a source of increased religious and ethnic polarization in Iraq and the Middle East in general?

  • Rather than announce increased, prolonged US troop commitments, isn't this the time for the US to announce a specific schedule for a US troop withdrawal, perhaps contingent on a ceasefire.?

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As we'll see below, the overall answer is that a fundamental Iraq strategy rethink is overdue. We need to take into account the many "anomalies" that we've discovered in the last year, which have fundamentally undermined the original strategy behind the War.

When policymakers find their pet strategies challenged by such anomalies, however, their first response is usually to dig in.

In the case of the Vietnam War, for example, most top Democrats and many Republican leaders had already agreed by the end of 1968 -- in private, at least -- that no "strategic victory" was feasible at an acceptable price, and that a US withdrawal was indicated.

Shamefully, largely for reasons of cosmetics, the war was continued and even expanded during the next four years. At the time, both President Johnson and President Nixon were terribly concerned about "peace with honor" -- the country's appearing "weak" before the supposedly=unified global Communist menace.

That unity soon proved to be chimerical, with Vietham actually fighting China and Cambodia in the mid-1970s. But it took the US from 1968 until March 1973 to remove its last combat troops. And two more years of fighting were needed before the inevitable reunification of the artificial, largely US-inspired creations, "North" and "South" Vietnam. Today, of course, Vietnam remains united and "Communist," but it is known to us mainly as a worthy supplier of shrimp and coffee, and a hefty World Bank client.
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As Senator John Kerry of all people must remember, those four extra years cost an additional 21,000 American lives, plus over 1.5 million extra Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian lives. For what? Indeed, as Henry Kissinger himself admitted in a 2001 interview with documentary filmmaker Stephen Talbot, when asked about what difference it would have made if Vietnam had gone Communist right after World War II,


"Wouldn't have mattered very much. If the Vietnam domino had fallen then, no great loss."

So, according to Kissinger, the architect of that war's misguided strategy for withdrawal (and numerous other policy blunders), 58,000 Americans and 3 million Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians basically died for nothing. This precedent is worth thinking about, as we each decide individually whether to continue to sit and watch while yet another cockamamie "national security" strategy chews up thousands of innocent lives.
DENY AND REDOUBLE

Unfortunately, the first response to strategic anomalies is usually a denial (or reinterpretation) of the new evidence, followed by a redoubling of efforts to make the tired old strategies work.

Where, as here, senior politicians who are also running for office are in charge, these tendencies are reinforced, since they fear being branded by their opponents as "inconsistent." As in Vietnam, the result could easily be over-commitment to a pipedream, ending in an eventual forced withdrawal that is much more costly than it needed to be -- and yet another young generation of Americans that never quite views their country in the same way.

Despite all this, you wouldn't guess from our President or his Democratic challenger that the US is facing any strategic crisis whatsoever in Iraq.
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Both major parties' senior politicos and bosses are stuck like deer in the headlights, committed to the same pro-war strategies they all supported last year, as if nothing has been learned since then. Locked in a tight contest, both candidates are running toward the center of the field at full speed, and not paying much attention to the new hard facts on the ground.

Indeed, Senator Kerry, Bush, Senator Clinton, Senator Lieberman, Senator Biden, Senator Lugar, and almost all leading Democrats and Republicans appear to be in violent agreement about the Iraq War, except about picayune tactical details. Consistent with the "denial/redouble" pattern, all of these "leaders" are also now calling for a significant expansion of US troop commitments in Iraq. In Bush's estimates, this would require at least 135,000 to 160,000 US troops in Iraq at least through 2006. But there is no reason to expect that only two more years would be enough, if the current strategy is continued. Indeed, as discussed below, the Pentagon is already proceeding with a little-noticed plan to build 14 permanent US military bases in Iraq.

All these leaders, including Bush, also now give lip service to some kind of increased role for the UN in Iraq, without defining precisely what that would be. They all a bit too glib about how they expect the UN to reenter. Presumably this would be by way of a new UN resolution, but it is not at all clear how much "control" the US is willing to yield to its owl nemeses on the Security Council, France, Germany and Russia. Most important, if there is no fundamental improvement in the security situation, the UN is unlikely to want such a thankless job. But improving the security situation requires, as we'll argue, a new view of where the insecurity is coming from, and a US/ UK withdrawal timetable.

All this implies a substantial increase over the $175 billion that the US has already spent in Iraq -- Bush's latest $25 billion supplemental budget request is consistent with an annual "run rate" of at least $50-$60 billion a year. If recent casualty rates are any indication, this also implies at least another 1500-2000 US war dead through 2006, and probably 5-6 times that many US wounded, not to mention thousands more Iraqi dead and wounded, including many civilians.

In Senator Kerry's case, this lack of leadership is especially disappointing. As he said recently,


"Americans differ about whether and how we should have gone to war, but it would be unthinkable now for us to retreat in disarray and leave behind a society deep in strife and dominated by radicals."


One might have hoped that Senator Kerry would have learned something about the high costs and radicalizing effects of dead-end wars from his years in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, if not from his four months on a gunboat in Vietnam.


PLUMMETING SUPPORT FOR THE WAR

According to the latest USA Today national poll, taken May 10, 2004, in the wake of the disgusting Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, for the first time since the initiation of the war in March 2003, over half of Americans -- 54 percent -- now believe that it was a "mistake" to send US troops to Iraq. This is a dramatic turnaround in less than six months -- and, interestingly, a much faster erosion of support for this war than occurred during the Vietnam period.

Fully 29 percent now believe that all US troops should be withdrawn now, up from just 16 percent in January, and another 18 percent believe that some troops should be withdrawn. At least 75 percent oppose expanding the number of US troops in Iraq.

Despite this, as noted earlier, this is still the official position of both President Bush and John Kerry, and almost all other leading Republicans and Democrats politicos. As in the case of the Vietnam War, the unwashed masses are far ahead of the "leaders."

At the moment, indeed, the only candidate who supports an immediate (six month) withdrawal from Iraq is the stubborn 70-year old Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader. Many Democrats still vehemently (and incorrectly) still believe that he was the "spoiler" for a Democratic victory in the 2000 Presidential election. Whatever we may think about his candidacy, the fact is that at the moment, he is our only Robert Kennedy. To his great credit, Ralph has opposed this "preemptive war on a defenseless country" since the start, and is now advocating a withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq within six months.
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As the most recent polls show, Nader's opposition to the Iraq War has given him a burst to 5 percent in the May 10th polls. Perhaps Kerry could take a few lessons from Ralph with respect to his position on the war. For the same poll that showed American support for the war plummeting, and Bush's approval dropping from 52 percent in mid-April and 49 percent in early May to just 46 percent this week, also found Kerry dropping two full points, and losing to President Bush, 47-45, among likely voters. Meanwhile, Ralph gained two points, to 5 percent among likely voters.

Of course this is just one national poll, but if Kerry really wants to win in November, he'd better think about the implications of his me-too position on the war -- the main source of public dissatisfaction with Bush. As one analyst has suggested, he might even consider cutting a deal with Nader, getting Ralph to appoint the same list of Presidential electors as Kerry, in exchange for permitting him to get on the ballot in 50 states. He might also consider adopting Ralph's more popular position on the war, as well that of the National Council of Churches proposal, which has also just recommended withdrawing and turning over control in Iraq to the UN.

Oddly enough, this situation also gives President Bush an incredible opportunity. If he really wanted to insure his victory over Kerry, the smooth move might be for President Bush to reverse course and announce plans for a definite US withdrawal. If the polls are any indication, this "win by losing" approach to fixing Iraq would very popular with the American people -- especially those who are wavering in the center. It would also be popular with many Bush supporters on the right, who fear that aggressive nation-building in Iraq may jeopardize other vital concerns on their agenda -- like gay marriage, abortion rights, more tax cuts, new Supreme Court judges.

However, Bush, like Kerry, also seems determined to dig himself in even deeper on Iraq. This is what he did just this week by unnecessarily backing Secretary Rumsfeld in the Abu Ghraib scandal, despite the many calls from right and left alike for the Secretary's resignation.
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STRATEGIC ANOMALIES - "REALITY CHECK, PLEASE!"

Meanwhile, as we've just learned in the towns of Falluja and Najaf, an aggressive US military presence may just lead to increased hostility. This is only one of many "strategy anomalies" that the war's architects -- Democrats, Republicans, and Blair's Laborites in the UK as well -- have encountered. There are many others. Most are already familiar to those who have followed recent events. But it is worth restating them, just to put the case in order.

1. Iraq's WMD Threat. Of course the first basic assumption, declared innumerable times in the fall of 2002 and early 2003 by US and UK officials during the run-up to the war, was that Saddam's Iraq posed a grave threat to the US and its allies. Either it already possessed WMDs and the means to deliver them, or was actively attempting to acquire them.

A key related assumption was that this threat could only be removed by an immediate US invasion, and the complete removal of Saddam from power. The UN weapons inspection program, according to the war's supporters, had been a failure.

In this regard, it is also important to note that the removal of Saddam's regime from power was never a goal of the invasion per se -- apart from the reduction of the WMD threat, reduced terrorism, and democratization. After all, the world is filled with lousy governments, and just replacing Saddam's nasty regime with another nasty regime could never have justified the invasion. So while the supporters of the war have often trumpeted Saddam's removal from power as a sign that we have already triumphed, in fact this depends on whether or not these other goals are achieved. And this is very much in doubt for all of them.

Reality Check, Please: Of course no WMD stockpiles or serious WMD programs have been found, after months of searching by thousands of highly-trained US and UK personnel.

It also now appears that the UN weapons inspection programs was in fact very successful at identifying whatever WMD programs Saddam had, and getting him to curtailing them. For all its imperfections, the UN approach worked.

Indeed, if, as France, Germany, and Russia proposed, weapons inspection had been permitted to continue, the war might have been avoided completely, or, at worst, eventually proceeded with better preparations and much broader multilateral support, as in the 1991 Gulf War.

That, in turn, would have meant less US influence over post-war Iraq (as in military bases and oil). But the costs to the US and Iraq would have been much lower, and the transition to peace and a new representative government much smoother and less violent.

2. Iraq's Role in Supporting Terrorism (Pre-War). The second key strategic premise for the war was that Saddam's Iraq was aiding al-Qaeda and other global "terrorist" groups.

Reality Check, Please: In fact one of the few bona fide pre-war "terrorists" who was living in Saddam's Iraq turned out to be the aging Abu Nidal,, who had been inactive since the mid-1980s. Abu Nidal was reportedly suffering from leukemia, but he died of multiple gunshot wounds in Baghdad in August 2002, long before the invasion -- perhaps the victim of an attempt by Saddam to head it off.

The only other "terrorist group" operating in Iraq before the war was Anwar al-Islam, which was located in northern Iraq in the "no-fly" zone, outside Saddam's control. Its headquarters could easily have been bombed at any time. But the US chose to wait until after the war started, so that it could say that it actually destroyed some terrorists.
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Beyond this, no definitive pre-war links between Saddam and al-Qaeda have ever been established. As former Bush Administration counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke and many other experts have long argued, Saddam and al-Qaeda were, if anything, antagonists, and even if he had had WMDs, Saddam was not about to share control over WMDs with a radical like Bin Laden.

The US also made much of the alleged medical refuge that Saddam allowed a Jordanian sympathizer, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The US claimed that Zarqawi had links to al-Qaeda. But in fact it seems that his organization, al-Tawhid, was actually a rival to al-Qaeda before the war, focused on overthrowing Jordan's King Abdullah. Of course Zarqawi's influence in Iraq does appear to have been strengthened by the US invasion.

3. Iraq's Role in Supporting "Terrorism" (Post-War). Whatever the details of Saddam's links to global terrorism were before the War, it was assumed by the war's supporters that the invasion would reduce Iraq's role in global terrorism.

Reality Check, Please: In fact just the opposite has occurred. Since the invasion, Iraq has actually become a terrorist Mecca, with anti-US fighters from all over the Muslim world pouring into the country across its now-wide-open borders, eager to kill Americans. They have no need to bring automatic weapons, grenade launchers, mines, or explosives. Saddam's huge stockpiles of these ordinary weapons have been very poorly secured by the under-manned Coalition Army. And arms have also reportedly been for sale from the new Iraqi police force.

So, as Bin Laden's most recent recorded messages have made clear, far from being a "defeat for terrorism," the Iraq War has actually been something of a boon -- rather like the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ultimately proved to be. The Soviets, we recall, lasted nearly 10 years in Afghanistan, at a cost of more than 15,000 Soviet lives and hundreds of thousands of Afghanis. The US is of course vastly more powerful than the Soviet Union. And, unlike that situation, there is no foreign aid available to the Iraqi resistance. Still, as noted earlier, such aid may not be necessary here. And the US is already well on its way to keeping pace with the Soviet casualty count.
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Not only has the Iraq War provided opportunities for young radicals to secure weapons and attack Americans close at hand. It may have also distracted some resources from the hunt for other terrorist organizations. Most important, it has antagonized the whole Muslim world, providing the radical factions a wonderful opportunity to recruit new supporters.

4. Iraq's Warm Welcome for US "Liberators" The US also assumed that we would get a warm reception from Iraqis, as "liberators" of Saddam's Iraq.

The US war planners also assumed that Iraqi nationalism was weak, and that and resistance would disappear after Saddam and his "dead-ender" henchman were gone. They defined "victory" as the removal of Saddam and his Ba'athist regime. They also assumed that the Iraqi Shiite and Sunni communities were fundamentally at odds, and that there would be little opposition to the Coalition Forces outside the so-called "Sunni Triangle."

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Reality Check, Please: The US invasion created a wave of genuine nationalism that spans Sunni and Shiite community lines and helped to unite radical factions in each against the "occupiers," as they united in their 1920 revolt against the British. The sharpest fighting in Iraq has taken place in just the last month, long after Saddam and all but ten of the other 55 "most wanted" Ba'athist leaders were killed or captured.

Furthermore, just 17% of all Sunnis live in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" north of Baghdad -- Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities have historically been much closer than in other Muslim countries. Indeed, one key challenge faced by "foreign fighters' like Zarqawi has been to try and divide them. In the wake of the continued US occupation, the US has experienced growing armed resistance from Shiites and Sunnis alike, as exemplified by the May 10 US strikes against the Shiite leader al-Sadr's headquarters in Baghdad. While the vast majority of Iraqis are still watching the battle from the sidelines, a majority also now supports an end to the US occupation, believe that Coalition Forces have conducted themselves badly, and believe that the Coalition will not withdraw until forced to do so.

In this situation, destroying the Ba'athist Party turns to have been insufficient for a return to peace and security. Nor, given the importance of "ordinary" former Ba'ath Party members in the educational system, the civil service, and the police, was it a necessary condition. It was, in fact, just a dumb move taken by Paul Bremer in the early days of the occupation, under pressure from Chalabi's INC, and recently reversed.

5. "Liberators" Vs. "Occupiers" The pro-war strategists also assumed that thousands of US and UK troops could be counted on to conduct themselves in Iraq as proper "liberators."

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Reality Check, Please: The grim reality is that the US and UK forces have hardly distinguished themselves as "liberators." Rather, they were rushed into duty without adequate training or acculturization, with few skills in Arabic. They had also been encouraged from the top of the Bush Administration on down to believe that Iraqis had something to do with 9/11. As a result, many of our troops have behaved very badly toward ordinary Iraqis -- like crude, rude barbarians. As the events at Abu Ghraib prison have dramatized, there have been widespread human rights violations, ethnic slurs, religious slights, and indignities to Iraqi women. The result has been yet another public relations debacle for the Coalition Forces.
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6. Iraq's Support for "Acceptable" Democracy. Yet another key strategic assumption was that in a relatively short time, the Coalition and its Iraqi allies would be able to lay the foundations for an "acceptable" democratic system.

In the US vision, this would be one that would be (a) reasonably representative, (b)able to avoid the kind of popular theocracy that has characterized Iran, (c) pro-US and at least neutral towards Israel, (d) able to maintain a unified federal system, including the Kurds, and, of course, (e) be willing to go along with other key 'imperial" requirements, like permission to build 14 long-term US military bases in the country, the use of oil revenue to defray the invasion's costs, and the opening of Iraq's oil resources to foreign investors like ExxonMobil and BP.

Saddam's Removal Alone Not a Victory.In this regard, it is important to note the simply removing Saddam and his associates was never a goal of th invasion for its own sake -- apart from the goal of removing the WMD threat, cutting his alleged support for terrorism, and ultimately installing democracy. In other words, the world is filled with nasty dictators -- there had to be some special reason for singling him out. And no one argued that simply replacing him with yet another nasty dictator would justify the war -- apart from achieving these other goals. So the fact that he and his regime have been removed only "justifies" the war if, in fact, we are able to achieve these other objectives. So far, as we've seen, the WMDs, reduced terrorism, and democratization have all proved elusive.

Reality Check, Please: In fact it has been impossible to square all these various requirements with each other. As of April 2004, after a year of occupation, while 82 percent of Iraqis still support "democracy" in the abstract, , outside Kurdistan, most Sunnis as well as Shiites are also opposed to a rigid separation between church and state. There is, at this late date, still no complete draft constitution that the various key interest groups in the Coalition-appointed Iraqi Governing Council Constitution have been able to agree on.

Ordinary Iraqis, it turns out, are also highly critical of the US, the UK and Israel. They are also highly critical of the Iraqi Governing Council created by the Coalition Forces, which is widely viewed as a puppet government. As the Shiite leader Sistani has said, "We want elections as soon as possible."

Finally, Kurdistan, the one part of the country that is now stable and enjoying economic recovery, also strongly favors complete independence, not federation. Since Kurdistan is one of Iraq's richest provinces -- the original source of much of its oil -- the rest of Iraq is determined to prevent this. As if we needed one, this issue provides another potential source of conflict. The whole country is a bubbling cauldron of such regional, ethnic, tribal, religious, and anti-foreigner feelings, and we have turned up the fire.

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7. Reestablishing Security/ Avoiding a Military Draft. Yet another key strategic assumption was that it would be relatively easy to reestablish security with a "politically acceptable" commitment of less than 150,000 Coalition troops. This force level was supposed to diminish over the year, complemented by a large number of private security contractors.

This was supposed to be feasible, despite Bremer's disbanding of the entire pre-existing Ba'athist police and military structure, the fact that Saddam had emptied his prisons of all criminals prior to the invasion, and the fact that Coalition troops had little training in policing, crowd control, or non-lethal weaponry.

One implication was that the US and UK troops expected to rotate home on regular schedules, without undue burdens on their families and morale.

Another was that a new Iraqi national police force would be able to provide an adequate substitute for the Coalition's policing activities.

A third was that military forces from other countries, or the UN, might also become available to back-stop US and UK troop commitments, as the security situation stabilized.

Reality Check, Please: All these assumptions about security have proved false. Almost incredibly, the US military repeated the same exact mistake that was made in Haiti during the 1990s. The complete disbanding of Iraq's military, with no adequate substitute, played a key role in the initial looting that occurred in Baghdad in April, 2003, and the general crime wave and insecurity, especially in Baghdad, that has continued ever since.

It also turned out to be much harder than expected to "train up" an Iraqi police force willing to stand and fight (for what? the unelected IGC?) As the Iraqi resistance became more violent, this problem escalated, to the point where, during the recent turmoil in Falluja, more than 50% of the new police force graduates defected or disappeared into the crowds.

The continuing security problem, in turn, scared many private contractors out of the country, and jeopardized the whole schedule for Iraqi reconstruction, which has basically ground to a halt. The exposed yet another dubious assumption by the war planners -- the decision to rely so heavily on private contractors for security services and reconstruction.

The security crisis has also prolonged service terms for US troops, and led many of them to be given assignments to "policing functions" for which they were never trained. That, in turn, led to even great frustration among US troops -- more than 40,000 of whom are members of the US Army Reserves or National Guard. This encouraged increased hostility among Americans and Iraqis, many of whom are now viewed as "criminals who hate us."

The resulting morale problems have caused US Army Reserve and National Guard enlistment and reenlistment rates, as well as regular military enlistment rates, to plummet to 30 year lows. Another byproduct of the continuing security nightmare is that it has been very difficult to get other countries, or the UN, to maintain, much less expand, their troop commitments.

If Iraq's security situation continues to demand increased Coalition troop commitments, and reenlistment/ enlistment rates don't improve, some observers have even speculated that the US might be forced to reintroduce a military draft. For the moment this appears unlikely, unless some new "front" opens up in Syria, Iran, or North Korea. But those of us with college-age children take no comfort from the fact that several members of Congress have already introduced the necessary legislation.

8. Modest, or At Least "Acceptable," Costs. The last key assumption was that this whole effort could be mounted at a relatively modest, or at least politically-acceptable cost, not only in terms of direct financial costs, but also human lives, and "opportunity costs" as well.

Evidently it was assumed by some planners -- Assistant Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, for example -- -- that Iraq's oil production would resume quickly enough to let it make a substantial contribution to funding the costs of the War. It was also assumed that, as indicated earlier, security would improve rapidly after Saddam's demise, and that the new Iraqi police force would be able to substitute for US troops, at a fraction of their cost. Finally, the super-optimists in the pro-war camp may have even assumed that part of the War's freight would be paid by other UN members, even though the Security Council was never permitted to rule on the final decision to go to war.

Reality Check, Please: The reality is that, just one year in, the Iraq War is a budget-buster, both in terms of cash and lives.

The Pentagon's cost accounting for this effort is inscrutable -- perhaps intentionally so, although it is never easy to know precisely what fraction of, say, a hospital in Frankfurt or "wear and tear" on a particular aircraft is properly assignable to a specific front. However, most estimates put the "sunk cost" to date of the Iraq venture at about $175-$180 billion, including the current interest on this spending, since all of it has to be deficit financed.

Going forward, there is now a continuing "run rate" of about $5 billion per month. In terms of real dollars, this is close to the peak $5.1 billion per month run rate for the Vietnam War. These numbers omit the costs incurred by the UK and other Coalition members, which have supplied about twenty percent of the troops.

Nor is Iraqi oil production anywhere close to covering these financial costs. Indeed, production has still not recovered to its pre-War levels, and the cost of securing Iraqi oil exports against increasing sabotage attempts is eating up almost all the profits.

Coalition casualties have also been much greater than expected. As of May 10, after 13 months of combat, the Coalition has sustained a total of 881 combat fatalities and approximately 4716 wounded, assuming that US "dead to wounded" ratios also apply to non-US Coalition Forces.

While these totals are well below those sustained during the peak years of the Vietnam War -- 1967-69 -- they are far greater than those sustained during the first three years of that War, 1961-64, and comparable to the losses sustained by the US in 1965, the first big year of the Vietnam War, allowing for improved survival rates because of improved body armor and "just-in-time" medicine.

As for the Iraqis, officially, our "new Pentagon" no longer keeps track of "enemy body counts" much less civilians -- one major way in which Vietnam was indeed different, at least for PR purposes.

However, efforts have been made by some observers to keep track of Iraqi civilian fatalities reported in the press. While these statistics are probably an understatement, they indicate at least 9,016 to 10,918 Iraqi civilian deaths through April 24, 2004.

In addition, of course, there have also been at least 4-5 times this number of civilians wounded. In a country with a population of 25 million, this is quite a blow. For the 80 percent that is Arab, and has suffered almost all the casualties, this would be comparable, in US terms, to a loss of 100,000 dead and 600,000 wounded. Assuming that the average Arab family in Iraq has four members, that each family member knows 10 people, and each of these 10 people also knows 10 people, the entire Arab population of Iraq is within "two degrees of separation" of experiencing these losses personally.

Is it any wonder that we have already lost the peace?

LONGER-TERM COSTS

But the real long-term costs of this war are even higher.

Far from striking a decisive blow for "democracy and liberation" in the Middle East, and setting an example for other Arab countries to follow, this war has become a lightning rod for anti-Americanism, and a text-book example of hegemony run amok.

Far from teaching the world to respect and admire America's newfound power, our global reputation has plummeted to an all-time low.

The citizens of other countries that have practiced imperialism against their neighbors or their own peoples know what it feels like to be despised and hated whenever they travel. Americans are not used to this treatment. As a direct result of this war, as well as our other policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, we are going to have to get used to it.

Far from providing the world an inspiring example of our truthfulness and honor, the way in which the case was made for this war, and the way it has been conducted, have severely damaged our nation's credibility.


THE CASE FOR WITHDRAWING NOW

Few Americans doubt that we will someday withdraw all US troops from Iraq, as we did from Vietnam.

Probably most of them are not aware that, unlike in Vietnam, the Pentagon's military engineers are already hard at work designing and constructing 14 enduring" military bases all over the country, in Baghdad, Mosul, Taji, Balad, Kirkuk, and near Nasiriyah, Tikrit, Fallujah, Irbil, and elsewhere.
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Apparently the objective is to provide a substitute for our bases in Saudi Arabia, both in terms of oil and military presence. Presumably this is being done in part to keep the Saudis happy, because they are afraid that the presence of US troops on their soil excites domestic resistance. The influential Saudi royal family no doubt prefers to have US troops and Iraqi leaders facing down resistance in Baghdad than in Riyadh.

But of course we are still telling the Iraqis that they will "eventually vote and govern" their own country, and that we have no intention to "occupy" it.

In any case, for those who oppose this war, as well as for the vast majority of Americans who have swallowed the brave new lies that our only long-term interest in Iraq was to "remove Saddam's tyranny," "rebuild Iraq's economy and democracy" and "withdraw," the key issue is -- when should withdrawal start?

In light of the recent crisis, the war's architects have not been able to get on with their agenda quite so easily as they once hoped. Faced with the acute security crisis noted above, they now tell us that if we only increase the number of troops in Iraq for two more years, and provide the extra $120 billion that this will require, we can all return to the original smooth transition plan.

On the other hand, they also claim that, unless the Coalition stays the course, Iraq will disintegrate into civil war, instability, and chaos -- even worse conditions, somehow, than already exist.

To this hokum we say, first, as noted above, the credibility of war's architects is not exactly unsullied.

And now they seem to be proposing yet another episode of "Who Do You Believe -- Me, Or Your Lying Eyes?" As Peter Gutmann once remarked,

We're standing there pounding a dead parrot on the counter, and the management response is to frantically swap in new counters to see if that fixes the problem.

The good news is that the war's architects and pamphleteers are actually very few in number. As the New York Times' Thomas Friedman said in an interview with Ha'aretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, in 2002,

This is a war the neoconservatives wanted.....(and) marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11th came, and they sold it. Oh boy, how they sold it. This is not a war that the masses demanded. This is the war of an elite. I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom sit within a 5-block radius of my Washington D.C. office, who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq War would not have happened.

So if this tiny band was able to wield so much influence in our erstwhile democracy, and a much larger number now realize that their assumptions were wrong, shouldn't it be possible to reverse course?

Or is it the case that we are now locked into sitting through this whole dreary play?

We say that it is actually the continued occupation that is the greatest threat to stabilization, democratization, the restoration of the Iraqi economy and oil exports, and the preservation of a unified Iraq.

Indeed, Iraqi hostility to the US/UK occupation has now reached the point where securing these goals is much more likely if the Coalition forces withdraw as soon as possible.

This is true for several reasons:

  • The announcement of a definite schedule for a US withdrawal will almost instantly cool the resistance, reduce the leverage of the radicals and the "foreign fighters," permit Iraq's beleaguered police force to focus on fighting crime, and allow the reconstruction of the economy to proceed.
  • Mainstream Iraqis know full well how to restore order in their own neighborhoods, once the US provocation is gone. Absent the occupation, the vast majority of Iraqis have will have little patience for foreign subversives like Zarqawi, and will throw the bastards out.

    Indeed, an astute US withdrawal from Iraq would surely be as sad a day for "terrorists" as the US invasion of Iraq was a happy one.

  • A clear withdrawal timetable would make it clear to the Iraqis that the US has no imperial intentions with respect to their oil wealth. It would permit them, indeed, to recover some of the pride that they must have lost, by having to rely on a foreign power to get rid of their dictator -- even if they did not oust Saddam, they could feel, at least they were able to oust the most powerful hegemon on the planet. That along could provide the ideological foundations for a vast rebirth of national pride.

  • Such a withdrawal would also permit us to remove the provocative presence of largely-Christian US troops in this overwhelmingly Muslim country. It would also clear the way for UN assistance and multilateral development aid, as well as debt relief, to flow more freely into the country.
  • Few Iraqis want a return to dictatorship -- the demand for democracy is overwhelming. It is indeed odd and un-American for the United States of America, in particular, to insist that Iraqi democracy can only be established at the point of a gun, under the guiding hand of a foreigner. I don't recall the Founding Fathers at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia requiring much help from Tony Blair's predecessors or the British monarchy.
  • As General Odom has argued, a clear timetable for a US withdrawal would actually help the UN, or perhaps other Muslim states, to send in peace-keeping forces of their own.
  • So long as the war in central and southern Iraq continues, the Kurds have every incentive to continue to move toward complete independence. Only the restoration of Iraq's central government, and the prospect of "win win" gains from interregional trade and development, can break down these regional ethnic barriers, and keep Kurdistan within Iraq.
  • A US/UK withdrawal, according to a pre-announced timetable that is brisk, yet responsible, and conditioned on the preservation of security, will give Iraqis an incentive to observe and enforce their own general ceasefire, so long as they clearly see progress being made. Unlike the situation in Israel, where the occupiers have been stalling for more than 30 years on "security" grounds, the US has no settler minority that is trying to hold on to Iraqi resources, unless it is Chalabi's band of thieves, thirsting after an oil privatization. But we don't have to be hostage to his demands; if he becomes a problem, we can simply approve Iraq's new extradition treaty with Jordan, cut off his $300,000 per month allowance, and dump him over the border in Jordan, so that he can finally stand trial for bank fraud.
  • If it did turn out that this little experiment with a pre-scheduled withdrawal failed, and the Iraqis themselves, perhaps with UN assistance, were unable to develop a peaceful government, there'd be nothing to prevent the UN or even the US from returning with a more rested, better trained peace-keeping force. After all, we're now pretty sure that the Iraqi Army is not about to fight us with WMDs!

  • fig. 8.15. Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, 1983
  • In the event that a civil war erupted in Iraq, and the situation somehow managed to deteriorate from the abysmal state where it is right now -- which 58 percent of Iraqis believe is "the same or worse" than before Saddam's removal -- peacekeepers would probably be welcomed by the majority of Iraqis. This is unlike the current situation, where only a third of Iraqis believe the Coalition forces are doing more good than harm.

All told, the case for a US unilateral withdrawal from Iraq seems very compelling. If the case for it is made to the American people by a leading political figure, it could also be politically very successful. But, other than a marginal, if courageous and thoughtful, candidate like Ralph Nader, is willing to pick up this torch?

Where, indeed, is our Robert Kennedy? Where is the major US political figure who will stand up to this war?

Of course there are some self-styled "conservatives" in the audience -- people who have otherwise somehow found it possible to give a hearty "Sieg Heil" to one of the most radical, un-Constitutional, internationally illegal, risky, costly and irresponsible exertions of military power in US history -- who will no doubt argue, as they did in the case of Vietnam, that this abrupt policy reversal " might be risky."

After all, it might undermine US credibility! It might encourage the world's terrorists! It might make our own allies distrust us! It might jeopardize national security!
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These are the same folks whose tidy little war plan has just sullied America's image and credibility almost beyond repair. It has poured hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of liters of human blood into the sands of the Iraqi desert. It has helped make Iraq more of a sanctuary for the world's worst terrorists than ever before. It has alienated the entire world, and succeeded in making many Iraqis actually long for the old regime.

As Bertrand Russell once remarked, "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."

Or, as Peter Gutmann might have said, the war's supporters are still trying to swap in new counters and pound them with the same old dead parrots.

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© James S. Henry, Submerging Markets ™, 2004






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