Archive for May, 2006

America's poodle

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

After Bush & Blair did their song and dance Thursday night, the Beard, Paula Zahn, and other CNN friends provided some analysis. My favorite was Robin Oakley, CNN Sr. European Editor who said, in reference to an exchange in the press conference, about Tony Blair’s likely-to-soon-be-cut tenure at 10 Downing Street that, “He’s been under desperate pressure. And I think President George Bush was maybe meddling a little dangerously in British politics there when he said he wanted Tony Blair around so long as he’s president”.

Then this good dose of political reality:

BLITZER: Very quickly, Robin, does this visit by Tony Blair to Washington, this news conference, the speeches he’s going to deliver at Georgetown University tomorrow, help or hurt Tony Blair back in Britain?

OAKLEY: Without any doubt at all, they harm Tony Blair. Every time he comes over to see President George Bush, he topples another couple of points in the opinion polls. It doesn’t get him seen as an international statesman, it gets him seen as America’s poodle. And that does him no good with his own party, no good with the British public, as far as this particular president is concerned, Wolf.

Cheeky. I love it.

More delusion on Iraq

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Bush, Blair disconnect from reality


Bush “learned” from “misinterpreted” tough talk and Abu Ghraib

Tragi-comedy continued today at the White House as the lame ducks, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, deluded themselves and the country with another installment of their endless recitation that, “The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right.”

The families of over 2500 dead Americans and Britons, plus those of tens of thousands of dead Iraqis would probably dispute the notion that attack, invasion, conquest, and occupation by Bush–a tyrant vastly more powerful and deadly than his quarry ever could be–was the “right” way for Saddam to be removed from power.

I would laugh, if it was not so very tragic, every time Bush says something about how the “enemy” in Iraq kills the innocent, or how the current situation is “a far sight from the days of a tyrant who killed hundreds of thousands”. The American invasion has brought killing of innocents to Iraq on an outrageous scale that soon will eclipse the toll of the entire 35-yr Saddam era. The killing, the detention, the torture that Bush and Blair continue day after day is direct war on the Iraqi people. The “unconventional enemy” in Iraq Bush & his poodle attack overwhelmingly consists of the Iraqi people themselves.

Bush himself admitted last year to killing 30,000 Iraqi civilians with his war. The actual body count is much higher, as American military brass finds itself defending against the notion that it is conducting a reign of terror and Iraqi militias allied to the government, hence the Americans, engage in ethnic cleansing.

Patrick Cockburn is one of the best reporters from Iraq. He describes a country with little correspondence to the picture of progress painted by Bush and Blair.

While dear leaders want to point to the so-called Iraqi “unity” government–recently installed with heavy guidance of the American proconsul–Cockburn writes this week that the US military has failed, and its most important failure is political:

The US and British armies in Iraq have both failed–though they could argue that the root of the failure is political rather than military. Three years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein they control extraordinarily little territory in the country. Watching American forces in Baghdad since 2003 it always seemed to me that they floated above the Iraqi population like a film of oil on water…

Cockburn goes on to comment about suggestions of possible American and British withdrawl“sooner than planned” because the “White House and Downing Street never took on board the sheer unpopularity of the occupation and the extent to which it tainted the Iraqi government, soldiers and police in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis”.

In and earlier piece on Blair’s recent swing through rose-colored Iraq, Cockburn wrote,

[T]he worse the situation becomes, the easier it is for Tony Blair or George Bush to pretend it is improving. That is because as Baghdad and Iraq, aside from the three Kurdish provinces, become the stalking ground for death squads and assassins, it is impossible to report the collapse of security without being killed doing so.

Meanwhile, Bush tells us now that we’re at another “new beginning for Iraq and a new beginning for the relationship between Iraq and our coalition”, like so many other times he has said Iraq is at a “turning point”:

There have been setbacks and missteps — like Abu Ghraib — that were felt immediately and have been difficult to overcome. Yet we have now reached a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror. [Chicago, May 22, 2006]

And, finally, they [Rice & Rumsfeld after dropping by Iraq] talked about the need to make sure that all Iraqis share in the benefits of this new democracy. A new Iraqi government represents a strategic opportunity for America — and the whole world, for that matter. This nation of ours and our coalition partners are going to work with the new leadership to strengthen our mutual efforts to achieve success, a victory in this war on terror. This is a — we believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens, and it’s a new chapter in our partnership. [May 1, 2006]

Tomorrow the world will witness a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom, and a crucial advance in the war on terror. The Iraqi people will make their way to polling centers across their nation… [Jan.29.2005]

We’re helping Iraqis take responsibility for their own security. We’re continuing to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, and we’re helping Iraq move to free elections. A turning point will come two weeks from today. On June the 30th, governing authority will be transferred to a fully sovereign interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, an American embassy will open in Baghdad. [Tampa, FL, Jun.16.2004]

Spare me. Bush says, “It is the heart of our strategy remains the same: to support the emergence of a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself”. Yeah, while US elites run the oil show.

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Dodging the floods


One-week precip: We were in the 1-inch band; to the south, not so lucky (10+ inches)


Lilac in the rain

Libya: Amazing foreign policy flip-flop

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Full diplomatic relations announced; We undertake a 20-yr review; Judith Miller surfaces

There should be no mystery to readers of Deep Blade Journal about the underlying truths of the great rapprochement between the Bush foreign policy establishment and Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya. This is all really about the 36-gigabarrel oil province underneath Libya and Qaddafi’s willingness to abandon nearly four decades of anti-US state control thereof in order to join the neoliberal fold. More about that in a bit.

But first let’s note that all administration rhetoric, most mainstream reporting, and virtually all major-paper opinion pieces point to Libya “coming clean” about its infant clandestine weapons programs as it cowered under the possible hammer of Iraq-like treatment.

Funny how on the day after President Bush announces restoration of full diplomatic relations with Libya–“in recognition of Libya’s continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism”, according to Secretary of State Rice–former New York Times Iraq weapons propagandist Judith Miller resurfaces with a Wall Street Journal opinion-page piece on the “complex surrender of Libya’s WMD”.

Furthermore, the White House has posted a declaration ending the last remaining sanctions against Libya:

Memorandum for the Secretary of State on Rescission of Libya’s Designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism
Presidential Determination No. 2006-14

May 12, 2006

SUBJECT: Certification on Rescission of Libya’s Designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

Pursuant to the Constitution and laws of the United States, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and consistent with section 6(j)(4)(B) of the Export Administration Act of 1979, Public Law 96-72, as amended (50 U.S.C. App. 2405(j)), and as continued in effect by Executive Order 13222 of August 17, 2001, I hereby certify, with respect to the rescission of the determination of December 29, 1979, regarding Libya, that:

(i) the Government of Libya has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period, and

(ii) the Government of Libya has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

This certification shall also satisfy the provisions of section 620A(c)(2) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Public Law 87-195, as amended (22 U.S.C. 2371(c)), and section 40(f)(1)(B) of the Arms Export Control Act, Public Law 90-629, as amended (22 U.S.C. 2780(f)).

You are authorized and directed to report this certification and the attached memorandum justifying the rescission to the Congress and to arrange for their publication in the Federal Register.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Seemingly in concert, Judith Miller purports to get to the bottom of the whole matter from close to the horse’s mouth, as if to reinforce the notion of a great Bush counter-terror and intelligence triumph:

Col. Gadhafi’s hip, 34-year-old son, Saif-al-Islam, told me in Vienna–where he earned an M.B.A. and lives when he’s not carrying out tasks for his father, or studying for a doctorate in political philosophy at the London School of Economics–that his father changed course because he had to. “Overnight we found ourselves in a different world,” said Saif, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks. “So Libya had to redesign its policies to cope with these new realities.”

But a review of confidential government records and interviews with current and former officials in London, Tripoli, Vienna and Washington suggest that other factors were involved. Prominent among them is a heretofore undisclosed intelligence coup–the administration’s decision in late 2003 to give Libyan officials a compact disc containing intercepts of a conversation about Libya’s nuclear weapons program between Libya’s nuclear chief and A.Q. Khan–that reinforced Col. Gadhafi’s decision to reverse course on WMD.

There is more to it
Judith Miller, and Secretary Rice too, should be more careful readers of The Wall Street Journal. The paper ran in April a news story that explains the impetus behind this administration move in favor of Libya and it’s investors much more completely:

Business Group Pressures U.S. To Take Libya Off Terrorism List
By MASOOD FARIVAR
April 11, 2006; Page A12

A business group is pressuring the State Department to strike oil-rich Libya from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism, arguing that U.S. officials are keeping it on the list for human-rights reasons. The U.S.’s annual list of “state sponsors of terrorism” is expected to continue to include Libya when it is released at the end of the month. The U.S. lifted two-decades-old sanctions in late 2004 after Libya dismantled its weapons-of-mass-destruction program and forswore support for international terrorist groups. But the State Department has kept it on the list, citing “outstanding questions over its residual contacts with some past terrorist clients,” and officials said they don’t have a set timeline for taking Libya off the list.

Its presence on the list makes moving technology in and out of the country more costly and difficult. For example, U.S. companies have to pay what amounts to a 3% surcharge to get a special license from the U.S. Treasury Department to export goods with potential military as well as business applications to Libya, said David Goldwyn, executive director of the Washington-based US-Libya Business Association.

The group argues Libya’s presence has everything to do with questions over Libyan political and human-rights behavior, not terrorism. “Libya has done everything that the U.S. government has asked of it with respect to both the cessation of any actions concerning terrorism as well as the dismantlement of its [weapons-of-mass-destruction] program,” Mr. Goldwyn said.

Libya remains on the list primarily for human-rights reasons, former government officials say. Libya’s detention of seven Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting 426 Libyan children with HIV has caused an international uproar, and questions linger over whether the Libyan government was directly involved in a 2004 plot to assassinate then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

In recent months, the US-Libya Business Association has met with administration officials as well as members of Congress in a bid to have Libya removed from the list. The group represents 11 U.S. companies, including the Oasis Group — a consortium comprising Marathon Oil Corp., ConocoPhillips and Amerada Hess Corp. — that returned to Libya’s vast hydrocarbon resources in January after a two-decade absence.

Libya, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, had 36 billion barrels of proved oil reserves — the world’s eighth-largest — and 45.5 trillion cubic feet of natural-gas reserves in January 2005, underscoring its importance in a world increasingly thirsty for oil.

Unlike Iran and Syria, Libya isn’t explicitly accused of sponsoring foreign terrorist groups. In its 2005 report, the State Department praised Libya’s cooperation in the global war against terror.

Michael Kraft, an independent analyst and formerly a congressional aide involved in the list’s creation, said the list itself isn’t an end goal. Rather, it is a tool to try to change a country’s behavior.

Taking Libya off the list “is a judgment call about how much political capital the administration is willing to expend or whether it wants to keep residual leverage with the country to deal with other problems,” said Mr. Kraft, who also served as senior adviser in the State Department’s office of the coordinator for counterterrorism.

Copyright c2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc., Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 FAIR USE INVOKED

Darn, that 3% licensing surcharge was just such a deal-breaker, just not worth the meager human rights leverage the last vestiges of Reaganite punishment of Libya may have provided.

President Bush, flip-flopper
As long-time readers of Deep Blade Journal know, the case of the great Libya-Iraq foreign policy flip-flop is one of the most instructive episodes of US diplomatic history. Let’s review…

The 20-year-long sanctions regime against Libya that finally was completely removed this week by President was established in 1986. Back then, President Reagan referred to Qadhafi as a “subversive” who is “not only an enemy of the United States”, but also has a “record of subversion and aggression against the neighboring States in Africa”.

On January 7, 1986, following terrorist shootings at airports in Rome and Vienna, President Reagan pushed the Libya panic button. His letter to Congress laid out a decision to declare a “national emergency” based on section 204(b) of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. In effect, this declaration prohibited purchases and imports from and exports to Libya; banned U.S.-Libya maritime and aviation relations; banned trade in services relating to projects in Libya; banned credits or loans or the transfer of anything of value to Libya or its nationals; and prohibited transactions relating to travel by Americans to or in Libya.

President Reagan wrote,

I have authorized these steps in response to the emergency situation created by international terrorism, in this instance the actions and policies of the Government of Libya. Its use and support of terrorism against the United States, other countries, and innocent persons violate international law and minimum standards of human behavior. These Libyan actions and policies constitute a threat to the security of the United States as well as the international community. Our Nation’s security includes the security of its citizens and their right freely to go about their lives at home and abroad. Libyan use of and support for terrorism also constitute a threat to the vital foreign policy interests of the United States and of all other states dedicated to international peace and security.

Later, in April 1986 following the Tripoli bombing raid, President Reagan told the country, “Before Qadhafi seized power in 1969, the people of Libya had been friends of the United States. And I’m sure that today most Libyans are ashamed and disgusted that this man has made their country a synonym for barbarism around the world. The Libyan people are a decent people caught in the grip of a tyrant”.

Qadhafi’s support for an April 5, 1986 bombing at the La Belle discotheque in Berlin, an act that killed two American military personnel, constituted “monstrous brutality [that] is but the latest act in Colonel Qadhafi’s reign of terror”.

President Reagan used this demonization to justify an April 14, 1986 bombing raid on Tripoli intended to kill Qadhafi. He escaped, but his one-month old daughter was killed in the American attack.

The state of emergency with respect to Libya declared in 1986 remained in effect until President Bush recinded it in April 2004.

Iraq policy, 1986
Now let’s take a look at how the Saddam Hussein government in Iraq was being treated at about the same time as Libya was being demonized and bombed by the US in 1986.

At this time, the clandestine US policy of sending weapons to Iran became the Iran-Contra affair. But a largely untold story of these years is US support for Saddam, despite Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran during the then-in-full-horror Iran-Iraq war. According to released internal documents, even though quiet objections were communicated to Iraq, US policymakers preferred to advance the US-Iraq business relationship rather than press Saddam on thousands of deaths through poison gas.

The relevant documents are available from the National Security Archive concerning Donald Rumsfeld’s March 1984 trip to Iraq and meeting with high officials, including Saddam. In a cable to Rumsfeld, US Secretary of State George Shultz and Undersecretary Laurence Eagleburger tried to reassure Iraq’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Ismet Kittani that they wanted to keep the relationship on track.

According to the March 24, 1984 briefing document, “They clarified that our CW (chemical weapons) condemnation was made strictly out of our strong opposition to the use of lethal and incapacitating CW, wherever it occurs”.

“They emphasised that our interests in (1) preventing an Iranian victory and (2) continuing to improve bilateral relations with Iraq, at a pace of Iraq’s choosing, remain undiminished.”

The document goes on to discuss the shaky creditworthiness of Iraq with respect to the Bechtel Corporation’s proposed Aqaba Pipeline, a project in which Shultz had an interest as a former Bechtel high executive.

Fast forward two years. In March 1986, at exactly the time Libya had become a “national emergency”, the United States quietly prevented the United Nations Security Council from passing a resolution condemning Iraq’s use of chemical arms after the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives in the grizzly Iran-Iraq war. Toothless UNSCR 522 passed on February 24, 1986. But when it came time for specific condemnation of Iraq, the US balked.

Pan Am 103
With respect to terrorism, the most troubling issue has been Libya’s involvement in the December 21, 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103. This is a very complex story, well explained in a penetrating 2000 American Radio Works documentary. A Scottish court entered a guilty verdict against one Libyan agent in 2002 while acquitting another.

Libya clearly was not the only actor associated with this act of terrorism. However, Libya in 2003 accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials and paid compensation to the victims’ families. UN sanctions were then lifted on September 12, 2003. Judith Miller writes that the final push for this Libyan acceptance (along with acknowledgement by Libya that it possessed banned weapons) came, according to “Libyans close to the Gadhafi family”, because “after Saddam Hussein’s sons were killed in a shootout with U.S. soldiers in Mosul in July 2003, Safiya, Col. Gadhafi’s wife, angrily demanded that he do more to ensure that Saif and her other sons would not share a similar fate.”

There you have some good raw meat for the foreign-policy-by-murder-works crowd. But who would the US have to kill in order to scare Osama bin Laden into coming back under its wing?

Are we dizzy yet?
So US demonization versus US support for Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi and Saddam Hussein have flip-flopped completely since 1986. The policies are incoherent if taken at face value. The rhetoric is good for swelling the reactionary emotions present in the US public when certain actions must be taken at certain times, or when public attention needs to be distracted — but it is not so good for explaining the inevitable policy shifts as time goes on. For that, our officials depend on us having short attention spans.

The real, underlying policies are always hidden, sometimes in full view. It is very, very easy, for example, with just a little digging, to trace the real reasons behind both 20 years of Iraq policy, and 20 years of Libya policy. Here are a couple additional of the occasional news stories that appear sometimes illuminate the Libya situation, like the April 11 Wall Street Journal item cited above.

Libya Tempts Executives With Big Oil Reserves
By JAD MOUAWAD; New York Times; January 2, 2005

TRIPOLI, Libya – For the first time in a decade, a new oil territory is opening up. Reopening, that is.

American oil executives have recently been flocking to Libya, crowding the lobby of Tripoli’s only luxury hotel and literally standing in line to meet local officials. The executives are bent on finding out whether this oil-rich North African country – long walled off from foreign investment because of its anti-American regime and ties to terrorist organizations – could become the next frontier for exploration.

What the petroleum crowd is after lies hundreds of miles south of this enclave founded by Phoenician traders in the seventh century B.C., beneath a desert the size of Alaska that holds oil reserves estimated at over 36 billion barrels. That is enough to meet the daily imports of the United States for eight years.

And,

West beats a path to forgive Libya its pariah status
By Michael Binyon; Times of London; January 18, 2005
Gaddafi’s volte-face is for real

COLONEL GADDAFI’S promise to abandon the pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons has opened the door to a country that has been shunned by the outside world. Suddenly, after 35 years of socialism, revolutionary rhetoric and isolation, Libya is welcoming back the West.

Since Gaddafi’s pledge in December 2003, hundreds of oil executives, architects, lawyers and bankers from Europe and America have been flocking to Tripoli in the hope of contracts as Libya races to catch up for lost time. After a year when everything changed, Libya is poised for the breakthrough.

Many Libyans have difficulty comprehending the scope of Gaddafi’s volte-face. It is not just that their leader has scrapped development of all weapons of mass destruction; he has also abandoned Arab socialism, admitting that his vision of a paternalist state bringing wealth to every Libyan is unachievable and that state control of the economy has been a shambles, with corruption, bureaucracy and shortages the only result.

But the turnaround is real, and is being spearheaded by Shukri al-Ghanem, the Harvard-educated Prime Minister, who preaches privatisation, encourages foreign investment and wants to scrap bureaucratic controls. Libya is calling home its exiles, sending its students to the West and welcoming Europeans to its capital.

So, much as is the case in Iraq, that other energy-rich country now turned into US subsidiary, return of Libya to the neoliberal fold is of such delight to US executives and policymakers that all earlier terrorism and human rights hyperbole rapidly has been abandoned.

In the end, a history of terrorism and use of horrid weapons by tyrants is far less important than the quiet policies that advance oil and other commercial interests.

Medea Benjamin in Bangor

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

The real meaning of Mother’s Day

World-recognized peace activist Medea Benjamin visited Bangor last Thursday. Her evening program is now posted over at peacecast.us.

Medea visited us on her way to a Mother’s Day weekend vigil at the White House for a Mother’s nationwide call for peace in Iraq and Iran including Susan Sarandon, Cindy Sheehan, Randi Rhodes, Dolores Huerta, and Patch Adams.

You can find what is reproduced below in a lot of places, but it bears repeating:

Original Mother’s Day Proclamation

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.”

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe
Boston, 1870


Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Damp


Fraxinus americana

The large white ash in the front yard takes its merry old time putting on foliage. This is the largest tree we have on our 0.1 hectare. It’s height is in that 20 to 25 meter range for a mature specimen of this species.

In case you haven’t noticed before, the official Deep Blade Journal style sheet calls for metric units wherever appropriate.

Meanwhile, the weather has made a big shift to downright wet. We’ve had only about about a centimeter and a half of rain over the last two days, but it’s always dank and spitting something out there.

Fortunately, the rain held off at our press event with Medea Benjamin yesterday. It was really great and inspiring to have her here on her way to the Mother’s Day White House peace vigil.

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Spring bursting


Maple leaves coming out


Time to mow

The weather has been outrageously beautiful; the leaves, grass, and weeds are exploding; and I’m buried with inside work. Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy this more, and get the blogging restarted this week…