Archive for January, 2007

State of delusion

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

President Bush evidently is fighting a very different war in his mind than the one that is going on in Iraq

Tonight on the News Hour, a discussion about the new US Iraq Commander, General Petraeus, with “two Army officers who have known and worked with him,” Retired Army Major General William Nash, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. And retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, author of two books on Army transformation, now an independent businessman:

MARGARET WARNER: Let’s look at Mosul more deeply here, because there he really — he had his men going into the neighborhoods, did he not, tried to use less force, more persuasion. He had, as I understand it, little precinct bases, much like — it sounds like what they’re hoping to do in Baghdad. One, do you think, at least that the — I think your point that, after it ended, Colonel Macgregor, it didn’t last — but do you think that the strategy and the approach itself worked? And can it be applied in Baghdad?

DOUGLAS MACGREGOR: No. First of all, in Mosul when he arrived with the 101st, there was no insurgency. That area was fairly pacific. I spoke with some soldiers in the 101st who’d been on patrol, and they talked about patrolling there over 30 days without any incident, until finally they were approached. And someone at marketplace walked up and, in perfect English, said, “Do you see a problem here?” And they said, “No.” And they said, “Well, then, why are you here?” The next day, they had their first RPG attack on the patrol. Soldiers said, “We were not attacked — we did not patrol because we were attacked. We were attacked because we patrolled.”

MARGARET WARNER: Take that to Baghdad now, because that’s what we’re looking at here.

DOUGLAS MACGREGOR: Well, if you go to Baghdad, and now you have an absolutely hardened population against you. We are hated in that country. The Sunni Muslim population has good reason to hate us, based upon how we’ve treated them over the last couple of years. But the Shiite population has joined that particular throng. We have no friends, if you will. Sending men with rifles in small numbers to go into these neighborhoods, to stay in these neighborhoods, is a very, very dangerous thing to do, in my estimation. We could end up taking very serious casualties. We don’t know. We can’t predict the future. But this is not the environment that General Petraeus found when he got to Mosul.

Jesus Christ!! There is nothing more “important at this moment in our history” than THAT????

BUSH: The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now it’s time for their government to act. Iraq’s leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended. They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad — and they must do so.They pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party — and they need to follow through, and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad….My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far-reaching. If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime.A contagion of violence could spill out across the country — and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective.Chaos is the greatest ally — their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America.To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger. (Applause.)

No further comment is needed.

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Pretty snow!

Winter is here.

Winter arrived last weekend with a good 15 cm snowfall on Saturday. The temperature took a dive to low of about -23 C by midweek. Now that’s winter! Actually colder than it’s been around here since 2005. Today, about 10 cm more snow came down, icy this time.

The bird feeder is out. So far, I’ve seen cardinals, chickadees, and juncos grabbing seeds out there.

Update: I changed the incorrect unit labels to cm from mm.

K explains Bush

Friday, January 19th, 2007

The US can’t leave Iraq–it is about the oil, in a deeply strategic way

Henry Kissinger (via Corrente):

The disenchantment of the American public with the burdens it has borne alone for nearly four years has generated growing demands for some form of unilateral withdrawal, usually expressed in the form of benchmarks to be put to the Baghdad government which, if not fulfilled in specific time periods, would trigger American disengagement.

But under present conditions, withdrawal is not an option. American forces are indispensable. They are in Iraq not as a favour to its government or as a reward for its conduct. They are there as an expression of the American national interest to prevent the Iranian combination of imperialism and fundamentalist ideology from dominating a region on which the energy supplies of the industrial democracies depend.

I suppose K is just adding to what President Bush said about oil on January 10:

President Bush (1/10/07):

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions.

Kissinger paints a fuller picture. US troops are not just holding the line against a “failure” where the wrong people then get oil revenue. The troops are really the last line protecting the entire way of life of the “industrial democracies,” indeed an entire economic system of exploitation and profit.

Sure, the US has enemies in this regard. But there has to be a better solution than endless war.

Axis of oil

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

Coming to their senses on energy; the US is “in deep, deep trouble”

This story by Richard Bell, Communications Director for the Post Carbon Institute, on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recent hearing about “The Geopolitics of Oil” is worth noting. Bell reports,

There appeared to be a genuine sense that some members really were surprised at how bad things look for the U.S. The shock was so great that after declaring himself a “free-market conservative,” Republican Jeff Sessions (R-AL) concluded the session by admitting that if you looked at energy as a national security issue rather than as a market commodity, Congress might be justified in spending more money on energy R&D and tax credits.

The focus of the testimony was on oil in the transportation sector, which will be responsible for most of the predicted increase in demand over the next two decades. Dr. Fatih Birol described this dependence on oil in the auto, truck, and plane sectors as “the Achilles heel” of the energy problem.

Linda Stuntz, who participated in a Council of Foreign Relations report last fall on “National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency,” stunned the Senators when she said that there was consensus among the report’s authors that talking about “energy independence” for the United States was chasing an impossible dream. Stuntz said that it was not clear whether the U.S. could achieve energy independence even with the most “draconian” government interventions. Dr. Flynt Leverett from the New America Foundation echoed Stuntz’s analysis:

“…there is no economically plausible scenario for a strategically meaningful reduction in the dependence of the United States and its allies on imported hydrocarbons during the next quarter century.”

Reminds me of what John Howe said last summer about the energy alternatives people often bandy about as solutions to the energy crisis in his Good Life Center program on, “You have to put numbers on these delusions.”

It appears the witnesses at this hearing have crunched those numbers. World oil intensity of 85 million barrels per day, with the US consuming 1/4 of that, will be extremely difficult to grow, or even maintain within a few years.

A whole lot of Americans, myself included, are sleepwalking into the energy future. We haven’t even begun to see it hit the fan yet. But when it does, the times will be surprising.


Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Washington hands nervous on Bush Iran/Syria war signals;
Olbermann: “Simply, it is madness”

Brzezinski on the Thursday PBS News Hour

President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser fears that the White House and Pentagon are setting Iran and Syria up to take the blame for America’s failure in Iraq.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: And this is what really worries me. There are hints in the president’s speech and in Rice’s testimony today about the possibility of escalation, not necessarily in the number of troops, but in the range of the military operations, namely perhaps against Syria or Iran.

And the incident with the Iranian consulate, the rhetoric about Iran, the increasing temptation to blame our failure on the Iranians and the Syrians could push us in that direction. And there are a lot of people still around here, particularly the neocons, who would like us to have a crack at Iran.

The Washington Note has much more, taking off on the president’s promise that “we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq”:

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran….

Some are suggesting that the Consulate raid may have been designed to try and prompt a military response from Iran — to generate a casus belli for further American action.

If this is the case, the debate about adding four brigades to Iraq is pathetic. The situation will get even hotter than it now is, worsening the American position and exposing the fact that to fight Iran both within the borders of Iraq and into Iranian territory, there are not enough troops in the theatre.

Bush may really have pushed the escalation pedal more than any of us realize.

This Bush has a way of turning everything crazy, making a pit in the stomach that won’t go away.

Bush declares bigger, wider war

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

After president’s laundry list of escalations, Democrats reinforce despicable theme of the “ungrateful” Iraqis

This is how Bush will spend thousands more lives in his “surge”:

  • Counter-terror operations against Al Qaeda and insurgent organizations; troops will have “wider authority” to “pursue extremists” while “going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents”
  • Iran and Syria are interfering in Iraq so he will “disrupt” this meddling — thus making a grave threat to these countries
  • He will chasten Iran with a new carrier battle group he has ordered to the Gulf
  • In previous failed surges, Bush said there “weren’t enough troops”, and they had “too many restrictions.” What does this mean? Will there be more mayhem, more bombardment, more homes smashed in by those “door-to-door” raids, and more detention, torture, and killing now than before?

    The rationale Bush is using remains the same: failure in Iraq would mean “disaster” — historical failure leading to the end of America under a future assault from terrorists who would base there. The irony is lost. What extremely violent operation is based there now? Who has threatened Iraq’s neighbors, possibly with nuclear war?

    And the mis-identification of the “enemy” being fought remains. Bush says the “terrorists and insurgents” cause “political and sectarian interference”. They just keep coming back when the troops are gone. He speaks of the “local population” as if it is something different than the people his forces are killing. In fact, the US attacks are killing everybody, and therein lies the catalyst for the violence to escalate.

    Durbin’s response feels pathetic to me, and highly condescending to the Iraqi people. We’ve given them so much, everything they wanted, we dug their dictator “out of a hole.” Now, we won’t be Iraq’s “911”. What does this say? That the Iraqis enjoy the occupation of their country? Sure, the quislings installed in the Iraqi government are propped up by the American military. But it is a remarkable conceit for Durbin to suggest the big punishment the Iraqi public fears is to see the backs of the Americans.

    Bangor activists sentenced to jail

    Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

    Snowe, Collins not moderate on Iraq

    Sign at Olympia Snowe’s office in Bangor, 9/21/2006 (Eric T. Olson photo)

    Let me be very clear about so-called Maine “moderate” Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins: Up to now they have been absolutely terrible leaders on Iraq. They have both been part and parcel in helping President Bush lead America in the disastrous war in Iraq. Archive postings making the cases against our war-loving senators are here, here, and here.

    Today, several Maine activists finished a 24-hour sentence for the September 21, 2006 protest that Doug Allen described in his piece, reproduced in the previous post. The Bangor Daily News reported some details in this story:

    Six anti-war activists got their wish Tuesday when a district court judge sentenced them to 24 hours in the Penobscot County Jail rather than ordering them to pay a $200 fine as prosecutors originally recommended.

    Judge David B. Griffiths also ordered the six to reimburse the county $80, the maximum allowed by law, toward the more than $90 per day cost of housing them at the jail.

    The jailed protesters, along with five others, were arrested in September at U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s Bangor office. Four of the 11 agreed to pay the $200 fine, while one woman served her 24-hour jail sentence in December.

    “We chose to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, who felt civil disobedience was necessary when elected representatives fail to act to stop extreme injustice,” Douglas Allen, 65, of Orono told the court. “We are willing to face the consequences of our action with the hope that others will take whatever steps they can to put an end to the occupation of Iraq and bring our troops home safely.”

    Allen and the others were arrested on Sept. 21 and charged with criminal trespass for refusing to leave Snowe’s third-floor offices and hallway at One Cumberland Place when asked to do so by the building’s owner and the police.

    There is no greater gift we could give our troops, and the Iraqi people, than to bring our troops home. That’s why the protesters at Sen. Snowe’s office are so important — to let her know that her policies and those of her president are wrong — and in a way that calls attention to her failures after she has ignored this majority position for so many years, and after the loss of so many lives.

    Nonviolent civil disobedience and Iraq

    Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

    Guest writer Doug Allen invokes spirits of King & Gandhi in effort to stop this disastrous war

    Doug Allen is led out of Senator Olympia Snowe’s office by Bangor police

    On Sept. 21, 2006, International Day of Peace, 11 of us were arrested for refusing to leave Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office. She, along with Sen. Susan Collins, has consistently voted to support and fund the Bush administration’s Iraq war and occupation, and she was unwilling to pledge to work for a speedy end to the war in Iraq by endorsing the national Declaration of Peace.

    We preferred not to face arrest. With the overwhelming majority of Mainers opposing the war, we hoped that Snowe might represent the views of her constituency and perhaps take a desperately needed leadership role in ending this illegal, immoral, disastrous war.

    We planned our action of nonviolent civil disobedience in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Our court date for sentencing, Jan. 9, is just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and should remind us of King’s true activist commitment to peace and justice.

    For more than three years, even well before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, we assembled the facts. There was no imminent threat to the United States. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein and Iraq had no ties with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. Iraq had no connection with the terrorist attacks of 9-11. The Bush administration’s policies leading up to the invasion and then justifying the occupation of Iraq were based on the manipulation and distortion of U.S. intelligence information and other data and involved blatant lies told to the American public.

    In short, we assembled the facts that clearly show that U.S. political and corporate policies have resulted in an illegal, immoral and unjust war and occupation of Iraq. Our direct action was the next step after assembling the facts, sharing information, phone calls, petitions, letters, office visits, rallies, calls for town meeting, and arrests of others for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.

    Following the Gandhi-King model, civil disobedience must be carried out upholding the following three criteria. First, direct action is done openly. The police, authorities, media and others know ahead of time what may occur so they can prepare to handle the action in a calm, orderly manner. The main point is to minimize any potential for violence. In addition, when one takes such a dramatic action openly, it increases possibilities for discussion and engaging others about the injustices of the Iraq war that gave rise to the action.

    Second, direct action is done lovingly. Gandhi equates hatred with violence. One undertakes action with a spirit of love, compassion and nonviolence. You keep open the possibility for reconciliation with those opposing the action. However, this nonviolent action is not passive. You are determined to be active in exposing, resisting and overcoming the injustice.

    Third, those committing the nonviolent civil disobedience are willing to accept the consequences. Even if such punishment seems unjust, this shows that you are well intentioned, and this directs attention to the injustice that must be removed. In addition, you show that you are willing to accept suffering rather than inflicting suffering on others. As Gandhi and King repeatedly assert, such a position can be educational and transformative in motivating others to struggle against injustice.

    I accept a basic teaching in the ancient Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, that inaction or nonaction is an action and has consequences. This applies to us today with regard to the Iraq war and occupation, as well as other examples of imperialism and militarism, class exploitation, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, domestic violence, environmental devastation, and concern for family and neighbors. Through our nonviolent civil disobedience, we affirmed that inaction is an action and has disastrous consequences. We must resist and not be complicit. We must send a clear message: Not in our name. Nonviolent civil disobedience can be one of many ways not to be complicit, to send such an antiwar peace message, and to build a peace and justice movement

    Previously those arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience for the first time had been sentenced to community service. We felt by performing community service we would be able to contribute in a positive way to our community. However, it now appears that that will not be an option, and we are willing to accept sentences of jail time and fines. We still hope Collins and Snowe will work with us to end the Iraq war and occupation, bring our troops home, and redirect resources from war to reconstruction of Iraq and to providing health care, education, good jobs, and real security in Maine.

    If our nonviolent civil disobedience is effective, it will be one part of building an antiwar, peace and justice movement. If we are effective, it will be because others will be motivated to join us in doing more to stop the death, suffering and destruction. Nonviolent civil disobedience is not for everyone. It should be a small part of antiwar actions to end the war.

    In building a larger and more effective peace and justice movement, we can share information, speak with others, write letters, make phone calls, sign petitions, and help publicize actions. We can support current impeachment campaigns. We can help organize the major demonstration of our concern for the human and financial costs of war planned for March l7, the fourth anniversary of the Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. We can join or support antiwar, peace and justice groups that focus on war, violence, human rights abuses, class exploitation, racism, sexism and environmental destruction.

    Doug Allen is education coordinator of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

    This post first appeared as an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News for January 9, 2007.

    Sacrifice, why?

    Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

    For the madmen in the White House, it was and is about exchanging blood for oil

    Olbermann on target

    Today a story at the BBC says that the big, shiny, new Iraq strategy President Bush is set to announce next week will have “sacrifice” as its “central theme.” The BBC has been told that the strategy “involves increasing troop numbers.”

    Keith Olbermann at MSNBC tonight took a good, solid anti-war shot at Mr. Bush’s new lunacies:

    If in your presence an individual tried to sacrifice an American serviceman or woman, would you intervene? Would you at least protest? What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them? What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them — and was then to announce his intention to sacrifice hundreds, maybe thousands, more?

    [Your] simplistic logic ignores the inescapable fact that we have indeed already show[n] weakness to the enemy, and to the terrorists. We have shown them that we will let our own people be killed for no good reason. We have now shown them that we will continue to do so. We have shown them our stupidity. Mr. Bush, your judgment about Iraq — and now about “sacrifice” — is at variance with your people’s, to the point of delusion.

    Sacrifice, Mr. Bush? No, sir, this is not “sacrifice.” This has now become “human sacrifice.”

    And it must stop. And you can stop it… Our meaningless sacrifice in Iraq must stop.

    And you must stop it.

    All the stuff I skipped in the middle is just as solid. Olbermann does grope a bit to explain why, despite the total failure of use of force in Iraq, the president now would wish seemingly senselessly to want to escalate and compound the sacrifices already made.

    Olbermann comes up with two pithy observations that do get near the acutual reasons of empire behind the tenacious US death grip: (1) Iraq inures America to far-away conflict and the deaths of young Americans for reasons presented as “too complicated to be interpreted except in terms of the very important-sounding but ultimately meaningless phrase `the war on terror,”’ and (2) Iraq is about war profiteering.

    I’d go farther than Olbermann does: Iraq is a strategic asset that neither Bush, nor Cheney, nor even most Democrats want to see “lost” if the US can’t hang onto it. The General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, Iraq understand this all too well. Recently they issued a call to halt approval of the new oil law that would give total control–everything except actual title to the fields–to the US-connected multinational oil corporations (see here for explanation). This worker group explains exactly the nature of American interests in Iraq. Here is just one point from the longer statement:

    For example, through production sharing agreements these companies shall not be subject to the Iraqi courts in the event of any dispute, nor to the general audit, nor to democratic control. The proprietorship of the oil reserves under this draft law will remain with the State in form, but not in substance.

    This means that the occupier seeks and wishes to secure themselves energy resources at a time when the Iraqi people are seeking to determine their own future while still under conditions of occupation….

    The biggest disaster is that there will be an excuse and a pretext for the occupier to extend the stay of the occupying forces in Iraq to protect the foreign oil companies.

    Ahhh…. There you have it. Bush’s escalation is intended to enable more than just a continuation of war profiteering, which it will. It is a security force to be used for enforecement of the oil law, and therefore protection of the strategic asset the war planners have be after all along.