Archive for June, 2006

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, June 30th, 2006

First fruit


Baby summer squash

WMD in Iraq?

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Wingnut buzz not entirely meritless

Brent Bozell from the Media Research Center clearly is a doofus. He is just the latest wingnut to trumpet against the notion that “Bush lied” about weapons of mass destruction on the basis of a recent release by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) of a report describing 500 old, degraded chemical shells located in Iraq.

It’s hilarious to watch the wingers get exercised over supposedly-found WMD. Media Matters has done a fine job over the last few days of pointing to “evidence to the contrary” to refute the hype.

But at the same time, I think there is a story to be told about these remnants of Saddam’s old arsenal. So, while I find the wingnut gesticulations absurd, there is a real story worth telling here, even though they are completely blind to it.

Rightist columnist Kathleen Parker in a piece called “WMD: Lost and found” appearing today in the Bangor Daily News, actually had a pretty interesting observation on this story: a “real political battle…is being waged under the radar between the White House, the intelligence community and Congress” over the documents that Santorum and Hoekstra obtained.

Because much history of US-Iraq relations has been plowed under in recent years, she has little basis for evaluating the White House response. She laments that “theories” about the documents “have offered little comfort or clarity.” She’s puzzled about why the White House is not “happy to spread the news” and why the president is “quiet”.

I’ll help out Ms. Parker tell the story here. I think there are two reasons the White House is not cheering about these documents. One is obvious. They in fact confirm Iraq had only degraded remnant chem arms (not “mushroom cloud” producing stuff), just like all the inspectors said, from the UN to Bush’s hand-picked guys. That’s all well-explained in the Media Matters posts. But what else lurks in these documents is the story about the how Saddam was armed & how he fought Iran in the 1980s–with diplomatic cover from the Reagan & GHW Bush administrations, with US-supplied intel, with materials supplied by international corporations, with clandestine funding using fraudulent banking and agricultural credit schemes. That is the real story, though there is no reason to expect the wingnut crowd to examine it with any honesty.

Thomas Powers had a NYT piece on the Iraqi archives and post-war control of those “documents” just as the invasion started. (See this interview from NPR’s Fresh Air.) Too bad the media follow-up has been pretty much non-existent.

Update 6/29: Edited for clarity, NPR link added.

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Bloom town



First roses and tomato blossoms this week

A string of beautiful days, some quite hot & humid, have led into a murky day today. Looks like periods of rain & thunder for today and tomorrow, just in time for our former Red Sox versus Bangor firefighter charity softball game tomorrow. The forecast for Sunday is a 30% chance of 50 mm of rain. Weird weather.

Pro-war prevaricators

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Iraq embassy memo refutes Bush, Republicans


Full of it

I spent too much time last week listening to the House speeches concerning the non-binding Iraq war continuation/Terror war resolution. President Bush and his drop-in propaganda trip to Iraq and the rest of the pro-war side struck me as giving an awesome dose of un-reality. For example, I watched on C-SPAN while Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) explained how the American invasion was just the cat’s meow for the women of Iraq.

Rep. Deborah Pryce: If I were asked to give one good reason why we should stay in Iraq, I would tell you to stay. We need to stay for the women. Well, I saw women of diverse ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic classes. They were empowering each other with education, with hope, with friendship, just like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony….

Then as if it was on cue, right after passage of the resolution, a devastating cable sent straight from the horse’s mouth at the US Embassy in Baghdad was leaked to the Washington Post, ripping the slimy intestines out of the Republican case for continuing the war as is.

Juan Cole has posted text of the cable here. The document is marked “sensitive” and begins,

1. (SBU) Beginning in March. and picking up in mid-May, Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs Section have complained that Islamist and/or militia Groups have been negatively affecting their daily routine. Harassment over proper dress and habits has been increasingly pervasive. They also report that power cuts and fuel prices have diminished their quality of life. Conditions vary by neighborhood, but even upscale neighborhoods such as Mansur have visibly deteriorated….

It should no longer be so hard to see that it is the American war that causes deterioration.

Rep. Pryce must have missed on her tour what is described by this note in the cable about the lives of Iraqi women who are collaborators with the occupation:

Two of our three female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. One, a Shiite who favors Western clothing, was advised by an unknown woman in her upscale Shiite/Christian Baghdad neighborhood to wear a veil and not to drive her own car. Indeed, she said, some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative.3. (SBU) Another, a Sunni, said that people in her middle-class neighborhood are harassing women and telling t h em to cover up and stop using cell phones (suspected channel to licentious relationships with men). She said that the taxi driver who brings her every day to the green zone checkpoint has told her he cannot let her ride unless she wears a headcover. A female in the PAS cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats in May. She says her neighborhood, Mhamiya, is no longer permissive if she is not clad so modestly.

The cable goes on to mention that an “Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province , as political parties and their militias are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq”.

Complaints about the lack of electric power and day-long gas lines are transmitted in the cable. The widespread threat of kidnapping is reported. And this incredible item:

In April, employees began reporting a change in demeanor of guards at the green zone checkpoints. They seemed to be more militia-like, in some cases seemingly taunting. One employee asked us to explore getting her press credentials because guards had held her embassy badge up and proclaimed loudly to nearby passers-by “Embassy” as she entered Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people.

Wow. The palace guards are willing to out collaborators at the gate! This says to me that this war is totally lost by the Americans already, unless they take a decision to just destroy the entire population. Otherwise, the country will never willingly be governed by American puppets.

Naturally, the corporate media beyond the Post has been completely unwilling to take any action to fact check Republican claims against the revelations presented by the cable. Media Matters has a very good post on this media non-response here.

War is not the answer

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

Republicans want the choice to be between war (“victory”) and “defeat”


Forcefully opposing H. Res. 861

The Republicans have resisted debating the Iraq war in Congress. Until now. They suddenly seem to think they have an irresistable political force, “victory”. They are betting the farm that the American people will see their war in Iraq in just this way–stay in it for victory or withdraw for “defeat”. For those American voters in a Congressional or presidential election who perceive the choice that way, how many would select “defeat”?

Facing weak-kneed, divided Democrats, the Republicans may well prevail in the November Congressional elections on just this counterintuitive, pro-war strategy. Frank Rich argues as much in a Sunday New York Times oped. (“Karl Rove Beats the Democrats Again”, June 18, 2006). Unfortunately, I fear he is right.

To underscore the point, the Republican House leadership has rammed through a resolution (HR 861) containing a mythos so profound that voting against it would be equivalent to voting against victory, hence freedom, and by implication even God himself.

The resolution in part, “declares that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the noble struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.” It does not bother to explain how we are going to know when we have “prevailed.” I can only guess. Will the US have prevailed after its military has attacked and destroyed every population on the planet that might contain individuals who might be able to engage in attacks of their own? Prevailing, then, would be the point at which the US military is the only force left able to kill, as is its God-given right.

Reviewing the Republican arguments reveals what can only be described as myth, on par with how they promoted the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. It’s must be a very busy Pentagon & White House psy-ops operation against the American people to keep this panic button pressed while driving support for war through use of fear. A recently-unleashed Karl Rove seems to be producing with the utmost zeal.

Here is the shorter version of the pro-war narrative: America failed to recognize the signs from the bombing of Khobar Towers, our East African embassies, the USS Cole, and the World Trade Center (in 1993) that we were up against a powerful, highly organized, evil, global force called Terror. We made the mistake of thinking that a justice system that survived for 800 years since the Magna Carta was up to the task of victory against Terror. Then came the day on 9/11 when Terror really slapped us in the face, jerking our blue skies into a stark reality of balls of fire, ash, and choking soot. On that day, everything changed and we realized that only Heroes would be able to defeat Terror. Heroism began on Flight 93 on 9/11 and continues today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Saddam was an evil cancer on the world and was a threat to us because we thought he had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Iraq is better off today because Saddam Hussein is answering for crimes he committed against humanity while our brave troops deliver apple pie and kill Terror, after sorting it out from the population. The Iraqis and Afghanis are thrilled with their liberation.

Man oh man, such delusion. I’ll have more to say on the amazing pro-war rhetoric in future posts.

On Friday, the House passed HR 861 with a 256-153 vote. This is not too far off of the numbers that voted in favor of the war in 2002, with many Democrats voting with the majority. The majority for funding the war was even bigger, 351-67. As John Nichols writes in The Nation, Congress has given Bush “another blank check for perpetual war”. Is it not clear that Congress will never stop this war without millions of people on their doorsteps calling for an end to the war, continuously for months?

That is what Rep. Dennis Kucinich said in one of the best anti-war speeches during Thursday’s debate:

MR. KUCINICH: Thank you, Mr. MURTHA, and the Out of Iraq Caucus.The President will not bring an end to this war. He says it is a decision for the next President. But he is building permanent bases in Iraq, and he is determined to keep 50,000 troops in Iraq into the distant future. This Congress may not bring an end to this war because the real power to end the war is in a cutoff of funds. Congress keeps appropriating funds in the name of the troops, and the troops will stay in Iraq instead of coming home.

Only the American people can bring an end to this war as they brought an end to the Vietnam War. Let this be a time of stirring of civic soul. It is a time for a reawakening of civic conscience. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but there are WMDs in DC. Lies are weapons of mass destruction. 2,500 soldiers dead. Over 10,000 Iraqis, innocent Iraqis have died.

It is time for an end to our national sleepwalk to the graveyard of the Iraq war. It is a time for truth, a time for clarity, a time for action, a time for teachins, for meet-ups, for marches, for rallies about the war to begin at college campuses, at churches, at labor halls, at libraries. It is time to gather in civic centers, in town halls, to discuss the truth about this war and to plan civic action to end it, time for the American people to exercise their first amendment right to stand up and speak out, time to redirect the policies of this country, time to learn and practice peaceful, nonviolent conflict resolution, time to believe in our capacity to evolve beyond war, to believe and act under the belief that war is not inevitable and peace is inevitable if we are ready to commit to the daily work of peace building everywhere.

The global war on terror has become a global war of error: attacking or threatening countries which did not attack us, bombing neighborhoods to save neighborhoods, committing atrocities in the name of stopping atrocities, losing our vision, losing our way in theworld, sacrificing our children and their future, giving up their future resources for education, for health care, for housing, piling it all high on the altar of war and worshipping a false god of destruction.

When we begin these proceedings with this remembrance, Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, we are not talking about any nation. We are talking about a force which is above all of us. The world is not ours to conquer. There is no glory in the abuse of power. This President will not bring an end to this war after the Murtha resolution, this Congress may not bring an end to this war, but the American people certainly will bring an end to this war. They will do it in the streets, and they will do it at the ballot box, and the American people will become the Out of Iraq Caucus.

Unfortunately, as long as a great swath of public operates on delusions supported by the rhetorical flourish of the pro-war operation, the killing will continue. Dennis has said what needs to happen if we want to stop the killing.

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, June 16th, 2006

Summer arriving


Lupine blooms will be peaking soon

Looks like the rain dump is over for a while. We exceeded 150 mm of rain in a little over a week from June 3 to June 12. The sump came on for five days and kept the water from coming into the Deep Blade Journal offices.

A big blast of summer heat is coming in just in time for the summer solstice, which will occur about 8:25 am on Wednesday the 21st.

Bush mentions oil

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

We’ve heard about oil trust for the Iraqi people before. It was a lie then and it is a lie now.


War council has oil plans

Back in January 2003, Colin Powell sought to quell rampant speculation about America’s plans for Iraqi oil. He said that Iraq’s oil, “will be held for and used for the people of Iraq. It will not be exploited for the United States’ own purpose,” and he assured us that, “it will be held in trust for the Iraqi people, to benefit the Iraqi people.”

For the first years of the US occupation of Iraq, these statements by Colin Powell turned out to be totally false. Iraq’s oil revenue simply vanished under the auspices of the Coalition Provisional Authority. In one of the best articles on the subject, CIA veteran Philip Giraldi wrote in the October 24, 2005 issue of The American Conservative:

The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA] could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004.

Now, news coming out of the White House war council and the president’s stealth visit to Iraq sounds vaguely similar to those falsehoods Powell spoke in 2003. On Monday, the New York Times published a story by David Sanger quoting President Bush’s remarks that, “Iraq ought to think about having a tangible fund for the people so the people have faith in the central government.”

About this remark, Sanger makes totally apropos observations, suggesting that Bush is talking about Iraq’s oil as if the last 39 months never happened.

Mr. Bush did not elaborate, and he said nothing about the insurgent attacks on pipelines and pumping plants that have kept production to levels below what Iraq produced under Mr. Hussein’s rule, and the rampant corruption that has diverted oil revenues from the Iraqi government.This is not the first time that Mr. Bush and his aides have suggested that oil could be a solution to many of Iraq’s problems: Before the war, Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense, suggested that oil revenues could pay for Iraqi reconstruction. So far, that has not happened.

Usually President Bush speaks about Iraq as if oil does not even exist there. But on Monday during his war council at Camp David, he issued a slightly expanded statement, containing more information about oil in Iraq than the oilman had ever given before.

PRESIDENT BUSH: We spent a lot of time in talking about energy and oil. The oil belongs to the Iraqi people. It’s their asset. It is one of the — the capacity to generate wealth from the ground distinguishes Iraq from Afghanistan, for example. It’s something that I view as a very positive part of Iraqi future. And we talked about how to advise the government to best use that money for the benefit of the people.
Secondly, obviously, we spent time figuring out how to help strategize with the new ministries as to how to get oil production up. And recently, they’ve had oil production as high as a little over 2 million barrels a day, which is extremely positive. The oil sector is very much like the rest of the infrastructure of Iraq. Saddam Hussein let it deteriorate. There wasn’t much reinvestment, or not much modernization. After all, he was using the money for his own personal gain and he wasn’t spending the people’s money on enhancing the infrastructure. And the oil infrastructure collapsed and deteriorated. And as a result, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on, for example, work-overs — that is to help oil wells become revitalized, just a standard maintenance procedure. So there’s a maintenance program on to help the Iraqi people get their production up.
There’s some unbelievably interesting exploration opportunities. And the new government is going to have to figure out how best to lease the people’s lands in a fair way. My own view is, is that the government ought to use the oil as a way to unite the country and ought to think about having a tangible fund for the people, so the people have faith in central government.

The stuff about Saddam stealing from and ruining Iraq’s oil industry contains truth, but Bush fails to mention that the scale of theft during the period his own CPA was in charge. There is a sense of salivation in this statement, as Bush certainly understands the riches available. And let’s just assume that the crap about “the people’s lands” and “tangible fund for the people” is nonsense recitation required for the consumption of Iraqis well aware of the history of the CPA theft, and window dressing for the American media.

Tuesday, Bush dropped into the central palace of his energy colony. I could speculate that one of the messages he brought with this show of body was that he was very, very serious about getting the right result out of the new government’s early deliberations on the hydrocarbon law.

What the clue? Back in DC, Bush made a statement on this during the Wednesday press conference. Can’t be sure, but this very much sounds like code, a warning to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and the Parliament to tread very carefully where US oil interests are concerned:

I’ve directed the Secretary of Energy to travel to Iraq to meet with his counterpart and identify ways we can provide additional support. It’s up to the Iraqis to pass a hydrocarbon law, which they’re now debating. It’s up — for the Iraqi government to decide what to do with the people’s asset. Our advice is to be careful, and to develop it with the people’s interest in mind. [emphasis added]

So what might be the content of this “hydrocarbon law” the Iraqis are supposedly designing for the benefit of “the people’s interests”? I wrote about the move toward PSAs or Production Sharing Agreements for Iraq’s oil last December. The top-level reason the US will stay in Iraq indefinitely is US-centered international oil companies getting PSAs, amounting to concessions for new oil exploration and a significant stake in producing and marketing oil from the existing fields. Control of this incredibly important asset in Iraq will only grow in strategic importance as oil markets tighten over the next few years. The US has not had direct control of spare oil production capacity, or the ability to influence market prices, since the Texas Railroad Commission lost leverage after US peak oil in the early 1970s.

Citing a report called Crude Designs from PLATFORM/www.carbonweb.org, an organization related to the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), I wrote:

“What the Bush `Victory’ outline forgets to mention is that currently there are highly secretive negotiations being pushed for oil production sharing agreements or PSAs. A stunning new report from a UK group associated with the Institute for Policy Studies explains in great detail how a massive theft of control of Iraq’s oil is being planned and executed as the touted `democratic’ elections are being used to legitimate US `gains’ from the process:

In October 2005, a new Constitution was accepted in a referendum of the Iraqi population. Like much of the Constitution, the oil policy section is open to some interpretation. Apparently referring to fields not currently in production, it states: “The federal government and the governments of the producing regions and provinces together will draw up the necessary strategic policies to develop oil and gas wealth to bring the greatest benefit for the Iraqi people, relying on the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment”…

…The debate over oil “privatisation” in Iraq has often been misleading due to the technical nature of the term, which refers to legal ownership of oil reserves. This has allowed governments and companies to deny that “privatisation” is taking place. Meanwhile, important practical questions, of public versus private control over oil development and revenues, have not been addressed.

The development model being promoted in Iraq, and supported by key figures in the Oil Ministry, is based on contracts known as production sharing agreements (PSAs), which have existed in the oil industry since the late 1960s. Oil experts agree that their purpose is largely political: technically they keep legal ownership of oil reserves in state hands (3), while practically delivering oil companies the same results as the concession agreements they replaced.

Running to hundreds of pages of complex legal and financial language and generally subject to commercial confidentiality provisions, PSAs are effectively immune from public scrutiny and lock governments into economic terms that cannot be altered for decades.

In Iraq’s case, these contracts could be signed while the government is new and weak, the security situation dire, and the country still under military occupation. As such the terms are likely to be highly unfavourable, but could persist for up to 40 years.

Furthermore, PSAs generally exempt foreign oil companies from any new laws that might affect their profits. And the contracts often stipulate that disputes are heard not in the country’s own courts but in international investment tribunals, which make their decisions on commercial grounds and do not consider the national interest or other national laws. Iraq could be surrendering its democracy as soon as it achieves it.

“There should be no doubt about why the US faces an insurgency in Iraq.”

An article just posted at Dar al-Hayat covers some of this ground suggesting how the most consequential decisions Iraq will make for decades–if Bush is to be taken seriously about the “people’s asset”–should be considered. This document is quite difficult to sort out. But go there and try to read it carefully. It explains the serious rifts that are being created by the carve-up of existing fields and prospective fields, demanding changes to the Constitution rammed through last fall. Most important, it recommends that,

In order to have efficient development of the oil industry “ensuring highest benefit to the nation” it is necessary that a reference be made in the constitution to legislate a hydrocarbon law which endorses, among others, the allocation of the upstream and down operations and related commercial aspects, to a national oil company (INOC)

In other words, control of the oil industry should not be farmed out to international companies, but rather held by the national company.

It will be interesting to see how Bush and the Americans react if the Iraqis try to write law and set up their oil industry truly “to benefit the Iraqi people.” My bet is that Bush is lying. The US will tolerate nothing short of total behind-the-scenes control of Iraq’s oil.

Lies of the state: Ramadi 2006

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Developing massacre, information blackout

Except for a small article published in the Los Angeles Times last Sunday, we are getting no news about a major escalation in the US attack against the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

LA Times: The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said.

Smashing of the city over the last week was described further in a posting at Free Iraq, a website sympathetic to Iraqi anti-colonial resistance, past and present:

Islam Memo: (Saturday June 10, 2006, 9 at morning) “A full scale American attack on Ramadi has commenced and fierce fighting is taking place in most districts of Ramadi. American helicopters withdrew from the area after one of them was hit by Resistance fire but was not downed. American fighter planes are now taking part in the offensive.”

Flashpoints carried an interview yesterday evening with Rana, an independent Iraqi journalist now in Amman, Jordan and who was in Falluja during its destruction in late 2004.

Rana: [In second siege of Falluja in 2004] …the Americans were shooting everywhere… they were shooting not at specific things, but everything that was moving in the streets. And the signs… It’s similar, the same signs that we did have at this stage before they started the siege of Ramadi. First, they start with the airstrikes that destroy more houses and more buildings… And what they did at Falluja, the first thing they did at Falluja General Hospital… [they] arrested the doctors and patients, even some people who had surgery at this time. The entered the operation room and arrested them.

Rana goes on to describe the continuing and totally unreported humanitarian disaster that continues to this day concerning the internally displaced people from Falluja. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of people from Ramadi now face this fate.

Good hearted folks trying to help Iraq, these Americans are, eh? That is what you may think after reading the shameless propaganda piece on the White House website. It does say more about Ramadi than nearly the sum total of the entire world media beyond what the LA Times has reported. Here’s how the White House describes the Ramadi operation.

Securing Ramadi: Terrorists/insurgents have been focusing on destabilizing Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, both to undermine the government in that province and as a transfer point and staging ground for attacks elsewhere.

  • Coalition Action: Coalition forces are working with the Iraqi Government to stabilize the city by keeping the pressure on terrorists/insurgents while recruiting, training, and fielding Iraqi army units to serve in and around Ramadi. A locally recruited police force is also being built.
  • It all sounds so benign, so justified. But these are lies of the state. As in Falluja in November 2004, it looks like we can expect a whole new episode of rampant war crimes–like the destruction of medical facilities and denial of care for injured persons–as an entire Iraqi city of 1/2 million is razed and its population displaced. The policy appears to be collective punishment. The Americans have taken a decision that widespread resistance to occupation must be met with sacking of an entire city. America has decided that the entire population is America’s enemy–including all the men, the women, and the children. What better definition of tyranny is there? America outdoes Saddam’s Anfal campaign with its actions. Ramadi pays the price.

    Souless

    Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

    We are under attack. We do nothing. We are victims.


    Gingrich: empty inside

    The panic button is firmly pressed, if the things Newt Gingrich has been trotted out to say recently are any indication. Oh yeah, there’s an election coming up!

    Gingrich appeared on Good Morning America on Tuesday to recount for ABC news anchor Charles Gibson the mythic scope of the Terror War around the world and plug for the president. Brave Bush is framed as the 33% public opinion underdog in a struggle to keep his Iraq project going so he can protect America from the bad guys. After all, “This is going to be the first globalized war. This is a long war, Iraq is a key battlefront in that war,” according to Gingrich, obviously versed in the White House talking points.

    “This is necessary, and we’re going to continue working at it until we win,” said Gingrich.

    I guess this time neither interviewer nor interviewee cared to include mention of the current body count–about 2500 US troops, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis blown into eternity.

    Gingrich and Gibson banter about the iconic images of the killing of Zarqawi and the formation of an Iraqi government, over which Bush is exerting much effort to hold puppet strings. Gibson quotes the president in a cheering tone, “Can he do it? Can he convince people?” that “The stakes are worth it.”

    It appears the White House figures the American people respond to the notion that “our side” is “winning”. “Victory” has been a key rhetorical construct for many months now. Bush and the Republicans, their spokespeople like Gingrich, and even Democrats like Nancy Pelosi (who has now called the war a “grotesque mistake” and has said that troops should be withdrawn “at the earliest practical date”) want to frame the debate in terms of victory.

    Some one ought to tell the American people that the war was lost the moment we began to wage it. Some one must stand up to the likes of Gingrich, whose soul was emptied long ago. No longer can people like Gingrich admit into their hearts the idea that the death and destruction that is the continuous consequence of their war can be stopped. They no longer see past unspoken strategic interests of domination and commerce that permeate the war enterprise and have consumed their consciences. This is an extremely dangerous precipice to which they have brought the world.

    Real victory will come when we are able to wrest political control from these men and stop the war. Our security will come from the elimination of war, not from insistance on fighting a mythic, permanent “long war” while secrecy conceals underlying goals of energy resource control, wealth extraction, and accumulation of strategic power.

    Gingrich’s topper yesterday was to use the Guantanamo suicides to push the panic button even harder. They “would have been happy killing themselves in a mall near you or a bus near you,” said Newt.

    I doubt “happy” has anything to do with it. But by the same logic, Newt should be “happy” to pick up a gun and get his ass straight to Iraq to donate his life alongside the rest of our troops.

    Torture I discuss here

    Sunday, June 11th, 2006

    US-sponsored/approved torture is my beat

    Torture Awareness Month

    Elendil is the blogger who began signing up the Torture Awareness Month blogroll. This sad but appreciated effort is one in which I’m happy to participate. I carry the full roll below to the left.

    On Sunday, Elendil posted asking the question, “Who are we missing from the blogroll?” It’s a fair question. Opposition to torture on principle should cut across all political lines. Torture should be opposed, no matter who does it.

    Elendil is concerned by criticism that some points of view against torture are not represented in the blogroll. The focus of many in the blogroll is torture under American auspices. The criticism generally runs along the lines that this is “anti-American” or that an anti-torture position is seen as a “convenient way to attack America”, often supported with the accusation that “human rights abuses elsewhere are being ignored”.

    It’s rare, but Deep Blade Journal occasionally catches feedback with some similarities, “I agree that you have every right to your opinion, but I think loading your site with one-sided pathos arguments only makes people less-inclined to believe your remarks.”

    My response to the notion that Deep Blade Journal is one-sided, anti-American is simple: Yes, the focus of this blog is on America, my own country. But it is completely wrong to assume that I am “anti-American”. I love America every bit as much as any of my neighbors or other fellow citizens. There is nothing I want to see less than harm done to my country.

    I abhor killing. I abhor torture. Where I choose to start with my opposition is torture and killing being done in my name by the leadership of my own country. Does this not make sense to be the very first place for me to work on stopping the killing and the torture? And I’m finding so much of it–cases of war-mongering and domination against other people around the planet by my own government–that full-time examination of the American world footprint is a plenty-big job.

    My own country is my responsibility. Clearly, it is in America where an American citizen has the most influence. It is my responsibility as a citizen to say when the leadership of my county is wrong. And nearly every single policy of Bush’s America is wrong. No good case can be made for these wars and systems of torture, even on their own merits. If the aim is to protect the country Bush is totally and completely wrong. The immediate moral and eventual financial bankruptcy of doing it through the Bush approach of war and torture has the main effect of ushering in a debilitating and potentially catastrophic “long war”.

    For many years, I have taken to heart the response of Noam Chomsky to similar needling about why his criticism chiefly is directed at US policy. In response to hostile questioning at a talk in 1991, Chomsky spoke of two perfectly valid ways to oppose atrocities and torture in the world. One is to take the in-principle even-handed institutional approach of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Their mandate with respect to torture is to report it everywhere, without political deference. The other way to oppose torture and support human rights, according to Chomsky,

    is to focus on your own responsibilities. So if you’re in Russia, say, take like, say, [Andrei] Sakharov. Sakharov never said a word about US atrocities. That’s fine. I wouldn’t criticize him for a minute for that… What made sense for Sakharov was to discuss Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan, which he did. Now of course the party hacks continually denounced him. They said things like… “What about Vietnam? What about Chile? Why’re you concentrating on Afghanistan?” and so on…Party hackery is understandable and you have party hacks everywhere. But if you’re a particular human being, …if you have some moral principles at least, you ask yourself, “Well look, what am I responsible for? What can I affect?”

    So I ask myself, what can I affect? The answer for me at this time is torture and killing of the US-sponsored variety.

    Meanwhile, I will support others who wish to focus from a humanitarian perspective on other areas of the world, perhaps where there is no American involvement. I even believe American involvement sometimes (rarely, unfortunately) can be a plus. For example massive US-supported humanitarian aid to displaced populations in Darfur, and much greater security assistance than currently is being provided could be of great help in that particular tragedy.

    It is a big world. In order for me as an American to help my country be a moral and effective humanitarian force, I insist that we set a better example than we have been setting and get our own house cleaned up after the awful excesses of our recent governments.