Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Condi's Persian Ploy

I'm not at all convinced that this latest overture to Iran is a "diplomatic breakthrough." It sounds to me like the same sort of designed-to-fail negotiation tactics we've been employing all along.

Like the Energizer Bunny, Condi Rice is still going, banging the same drum she thumped on to march us into the Iraq fiasco.

Her speech from yesterday, in which she offered Iran the same offer they can't not refuse that she's been offering through proxies all along, was a classic piece of Rovewellian prevarication.

She began, as propagandists often do, with a remarkably flawed if not downright false main assumption: "The pursuit by the Iranian regime of nuclear weapons represents a direct threat to the entire international community…"

We don't know for a fact that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and no one, including Rice, has any credible evidence that such is the case. All of the Bush administration's arguments that Iran desires nuclear bombs are based on "negative proof." Iran can't prove they're not pursuing them, therefore they must be. This is the precise sort of solipsism that Rice and her political sugar daddies used to drive us into the Iraq train wreck.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has found no proof that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists. Iran has long avowed that it has no intention of developing one, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to support that position publicly.

We have no particular reason to take anything Ahmadinejad says at face value, but we have every reason to dismiss out of hand every syllable that comes from Condi Rice's mouth.

Not content to have floated her "fuzzy" main assumption once, Rice quickly repeated it.

"The Iranian government’s choices are clear. The negative choice is for the regime to maintain its current course, pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community and its international obligations."

Again, is pursuing nuclear weapons really the Iranian government's "current course," or is it simply doing what it says it's doing, pursuing a nuclear energy program? If the latter is the case, how exactly is it defying the international community and its international obligations?

Predictably, Condi didn't address those questions.

But she did jump to a third iteration of the fuzzy main assumption, expanding it in the process:

"In view of its previous violations of its commitments and the secret nuclear program it undertook, the Iranian regime must persuasively demonstrate that it has permanently abandoned its quest for nuclear weapons."

Serious questions exist as to whether Iran has violated any aspect of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The supposed violations Iran has been accused of are described in the treaty itself as "confidence-building measures, which are voluntary, and non legally binding."

One fairly good argument, offered by David Morrison in Italy's Uruknet, says the the U.S., by demanding that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program, is in itself a major violation of the NPT, which states that:
Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.

And as we discussed a moment ago, it doesn't seem that Iran has done anything that doesn't conform to the first two articles of the treaty.

And oh, by the way, how could Iran "abandon its quest for nuclear weapons" if it never had such a quest in the first place?

Stick and Kick Diplomacy

Iran's President Ahmadinejad insists on his country's "inalienable right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the NPT, and he has good reason to. Previous offers by Russia and the Big 3 European Union nations (England, France and Germany) to provide Iran with energy grade uranium were specious. Having a nuclear energy program without being able to make your own energy grade uranium is like being allowed to grow your own food as long as you grow it on someone else's property. You'll always be at the mercy of someone else to provide you with a basic survival and prosperity resource. There's little wonder that Ahmadinejad turned down the Russian and EU offers, and there's little hope that he'll accept this latest ruse from Rice.

He'd be foolish to. Moreover, he'd be acting irresponsibly as the notional head of Iran's state.

And yet that, once again, is the deal that Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State and former professor of political science at Stanford University, is offering him.
The United States is willing to exert strong leadership to give diplomacy its very best chance to succeed.

Thus, to underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance the prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our EU-3 colleagues and meet with Iran’s representatives.

In other words, the U.S. will talk directly to Iran as soon as it promises to give up something it has a U.N. mandated "inalienable right" to keep, and has already said that it won't give up.

Ahmadinejad has gained significant domestic political capital in Iran with his stance on the uranium enrichment issue. Does Rice honestly think he'll back down on it now?

Fred Kaplan at Slate thinks the key part of this overture is "as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities…" "Suspends" versus "halt and dismantle" it's program, Kaplan thinks, may be subtle shift in policy that convinces Iran to come to the table and hear what we have to say.

Kaplan also thinks that even though we're not offering bi-lateral talks, but are simply offering to join the multi-lateral process already underway at the UN, the Iranian delegate and the U.S. delegate will talk one on one eventually, even if it's just over lunch or after hours.

Maybe something could come from that. Unless, of course, the U.S. delegate is John Bolton, in which case we'll know for sure the Bush administration isn't at all serious about finding a diplomatic solution.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


I've avoided discussing the Haditha incident before now because it is disturbing at so many levels.

Under the fold:

Time Magazine first reported in March of 2006 that the military's original description of a firefight that had occurred on November 2005 in the Iraqi town of Haditha was inaccurate.
The next day, a Marine communique from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire," prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other.

But over the ensuing months, eyewitness reports from Iraqis indicated that the civilians had not died in the bomb blast; they had been killed by the Marines, who went on a "rampage" and killed 15 people--including seven women and three children--in their homes.
In January, after Time presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis' accounts of the Marines' actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation, interviewing 28 people, including the Marines, the families of the victims and local doctors. According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military's initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents.

On May 18, Representative John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) revealed at a press conference that the Haditha incident was "much worse than reported in Time magazine."

The right wing infosphere launched another swift boat campaign against Murtha, stating he had "condemned" the Marines and accused him, once again of being a "traitor." (No, I won't provide links to any of that.)

Today, the New York Times published this:
Files Contradict Account of Raid in Iraq

A military investigator uncovered evidence in February and March that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb, according to a senior military official in Iraq…

So, it's a safe bet that something happened in Haditha other than what the military initially reported, and it wasn't good.

What's Disturbing?

Don’t get too taken by all the "devil dog, steely-eyed killer" image of the standard United States Marine you may have been exposed to over the years. Yeah, these guys are trained to fight like demons, but they're also disciplined. For that discipline to have broken down in Haditha, as it appears to have, signals to me that something terribly wrong happened--most likely a complex set of circumstances that caused these Marines to react "incorrectly" in the conduct of a type of tactical mission that has shown time and again to produce little if any operational or strategic benefit.

I'm equally disturbed that Congressman Murtha was once again swift boated for bringing up a situation that had already been revealed by open press sources. We're in a sorry state when speaking the truth and informing the public is described as treasonous.

I'm incredibly disturbed that the military once more appears to have tried to cover up bad news. We have no way of knowing, just now, where the false story about Haditha originated, just as we can't tell who first put out the first false reports of the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death, or of Jessica Lynch's capture and eventual rescue.

But wherever the spin started, the result is the same. We can't trust anything we hear from official government sources. As I discussed in You Can't Handle the Truthiness, a sole superpower's most important instrument of policy may well be the credibility of its information environment. And that is most like the largest casualty of America's woebegone excursion to Iraq.

We're still hearing "stay the course" and "complete the mission" talk from the Bush administration. But we have yet to hear specifics on what the "course" or the "mission" might actually be.

That's what disturbs me the most. The Iraqi security forces are showing no signs of "standing up" and the new Iraqi government appears to be sitting down on the job. There seems to be no end in sight to this nightmare.

And American soldiers and Marines will continue to be put in Haditha-like situations for reasons our national leadership can't (or won't) explain to us.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Neo-Memorial Day

Here are this retired Navy veteran's thoughts on Memorial Day.

We suffer under a regime that gives a glad hand to America's veterans as it exploits and abuses them to support their hidden agenda.

Though its vision of a U.S. global dominance enforced by military power is a proven failure by any coherent measure of effectiveness, the American neoconservative movement refuses to concede the obvious. America's armed interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have produced more instability in the world than existed prior to them. America's standing and prestige in the world have all but vanished.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ronald Reagan called on America to become the "shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere." George Herbert Walker Bush encouraged America to become a "kinder, gentler nation" and to use its strength as "a force for good."

Those were wonderful, inspirational sentiments. It's too bad that neoconservatism, as embodied in the young Mister Bush's administration, has turned our nation into one of history's greatest bullies. What's worse is that neoconservative policies and strategies have done profound damage to all of America's instruments of national power.

Our military might, on which we spend more that the defense budgets of the rest of the world combined, has been demonstrably ineffective at achieving America's foreign policy aims. We are, at present, engaged in a "generational war" that has no end in sight with an enemy that has no army, no navy, no air force, and no military budget whatsoever.

Our economic clout is now rivaled by the European Union and China. There's a very real possibility that the euro and or the yen may replace the U.S. dollar as the world's currency standard.

Our information environment is an Orwellian quagmire. Domestic and foreign consumers alike can no longer trust any information that comes from the U.S. government, and our so-called "free press" has become--wittingly or not--a hapless echo chamber for the propaganda of Karl Rove and his henchmen.

Our diplomacy defies the very definition of the word itself. We're presently attempting to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions through uncooperative proxies who have more to lose than gain by going along with our desires.

It's in this context that I'm particularly sickened by the public proclamations of young Mister Bush and his echo chamberlains who are using this Memorial Day as an opportunity to promote their delusional, sinister agenda.

Buy our war or we'll shoot this dog.

If Bush had wanted to give America a genuine message, he wouldn't have delivered his Memorial Day speech before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He would have given it in front of the Monument to the AWOL Texas Air National Guardsman.

Which would, in fact, have been the White House.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Iraq: Another Mission Accomplished

Hooray that the Iraqi's have stood up a government. Mission accomplished again.

Now let's get down to what good that's really done.

This from BBC News yesterday:
Iraqis shot 'for wearing shorts'

The coach of Iraq's tennis team and two players were shot dead in Baghdad on Thursday, said Iraqi Olympic officials…

…Witnesses said the three were dressed in shorts and were killed days after militants issued a warning forbidding the wearing of shorts…

…Two of the athletes stepped out of the car and were shot in the head, said one witness. The third was shot dead in the vehicle.
"The gunman took the body out of the car and threw it on top of the other two bodies before stealing the car," said the witness, who requested anonymity.
He said leaflets had been recently distributed in the area warning residents not to wear shorts…

After all this time and all this talk about "standing down as they stand up," Baghdad is still under control of militias that declare their own capital crimes through pamphlet and judge and execute them on the streets.

Last Tuesday, 40 people were killed in attacks across Iraq. Also on Tuesday, the Bush administration began playing down prospects of reducing U.S. troop levels in Iraq any time soon.

Mister Bush said that Iraq's government will assess its security needs and its security forces and work with U.S. commanders. "We haven't gotten to the point yet where [Iraq's] new government is sitting down with our commanders to come up with a joint way forward,'' he said.

If they haven't sat down with U.S. commanders to "find a way forward" yet, they're sitting down on the job. They've had enough time in their busy schedules to publicly back Iran's right to pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy. I happen to agree with that sentiment, but it sure seems like Iraq's new government has a lot more immediate things on its plate than worrying about the internal affairs of another country. And it doesn't seem like anything could require the more immediate attention of Iraq's government than getting its own security situation under control.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said, "We're not going to sort of look at our watches and say, 'Oop, time to go.' The conditions on the ground tell us that our job's not done.''

And Brigadier General Carter Ham, deputy Joint Chiefs of Staff operations director, said of reducing troop levels, "We want to do it as soon as we can, but you can't do it too fast,'' and cautioned against "rushing to failure.''

No, General, no need to rush. Failure has all the patience in the world. It will wait until you're ready for it.

The excuses for "staying the course" in Iraq are wearing so thin you can see through them on a cloudy day. Back in October, I wrote "Ten Bad Reasons for 'Staying the Course' in Iraq" for the ePluribus Media Journal. Since then, the Bush administration and its echo chamberlains have sprung several more bad reasons.

-- If we leave now, Iraq will turn into chaos.

Iraq is already in chaos. Our military presence created it. Our continued military presence sustains it.

-- If we leave now, the chaos in Iraq will spread throughout the Middle East.

We can't control the chaos in Iraq. If it spreads throughout the Middle East, our troops in Iraq won't able to do anything about it.

-- If we leave now, Iraq will be vulnerable to invasion from its neighbors.

After watching what happened to the mightiest nation in world history when it invaded Iraq, who would want to repeat the experience?


Last March, on the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Mister Bush promised to "finish the mission" in Iraq with "complete victory." He made no mention of when this complete victory might be achieved. More importantly, though, he didn't bother to describe what complete victory might consist of.

The stark truth is that there is no such thing as "complete victory" in a situation like the Iraq scenario. Bush and his high-powered advisers either know that or they're utterly incompetent.

In the latter case, they need to be handcuffed, either literally through impeachment proceedings or figuratively through election of a Congress that can put them in a cage.

In the former case, they're determined to maintain their regime's power by insisting, in Orwellian fashion, on pursuing victory in a war that can't be won. If that's what's going on, and enough of the electorate continues to support their policies, then we are in for a long war indeed.

An adage of military art says that wars aren't over until the losers decide they are.

And if the losers who presently run this country continue to have their way, their war will go on until the sun blinks out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

You Can't Handle the Truthiness


Zacarias Moussaoui confessed to being part of the 9/11 plot, and was sentenced to life in prison on May 4th. Yesterday, Osama bin Laden released a videotape on the web stating that Moussaoui had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Which of those two guys is telling the truth? If one or the other of them were members of the Bush administration, it would be easy to tell.


In 1998, the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century urged President Bill Clinton to remove Saddam Hussein from power by military force in order to protect "our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil[.]"

In 2002, as the Bush administration pushed for an invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's deputy Tariq Aziz told the New York Times that "The reason for this warmongering policy toward Iraq is oil and Israel."

In early 2006, Mister Bush admonished his critics not to accuse him of invading Iraq for "oil" or "because of Israel."


In August 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

In September 2002, Senator Joe Lieberman said, "Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States."

Later that month, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

In November 2002, Ms. Rice said, "He already has other weapons of mass destruction. But a nuclear weapon, two or three our four years from now -- I don't care where it is, when it is -- to have that happen in a volatile region like the Middle East is most certainly a future that we cannot tolerate."

In May 2003, she said, "U.S. officials never expected that we were going to open garages and find weapons of mass destruction."

On last Sunday's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked Rice why, given the administration's assertions about Iraq's WMD, anyone should believe them now regarding Iran's nuclear intentions.

Rice's reply: "Well, let’s remember, first of all, that the United States didn’t go and say Iraq is a, is a problem on the WMD side."


In his 2005 State of the Union Address, Mister Bush said that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country has no desire to develop or acquire nuclear weapons.

Who are we to believe? Ahmadinejad says a lot of incendiary, crazy sounding things. But then so does Mister Bush. And as far as I know, Iran's president hasn't lied to me yet, which is a lot more than I can say for America's president.


We know that the Bush administration has manipulated the U.S. information media--both overtly and covertly--to spread propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation. As Daniel Schulman of Columbia Journalism Review so aptly puts it, our government uses "'truth based' information…as a substitute for the truth."

Comedian Stephen Colbert's reinvention of the word "truthiness" as an adjective to describe the Bush administration's rhetoric was selected by the American Dialectic Society as its 2005 Word of the Year.

A noted political scientist once identified the key tools of national power as diplomacy, information, military and economy. While the policies and actions of the Bush regime have done significant damage to all of America's tools of power, the most seriously affected victim may be our information environment. In the post-Dubya world, we'll be able to rebuild our military and bring our deficit under control. We've done both of those things before. We will heal our diplomatic prowess overnight simply by replacing all the diplomats (just getting rid of John Bolton will be a 100 percent improvement).

But will anyone ever really trust us again? Will Americans ever be able to trust their own government? Will we ever feel confident about the authenticity of anything we read or hear or see in the news media? Will there ever be a "spontaneous" public moment that we won't suspect of being staged? Is there any aspect of daily intercourse that hasn't been infected by "truthiness?"

When acquaintances recommend a service or product to you, will you ever stop wondering if they're getting paid to spread "word of mouth" advertising?

Will there ever again be meaningful political discussion that isn't a rehash of carefully crafted and echoed talking points? Will you ever again not question whether the people you're talking to actually believe what they're saying, or even understand what they're saying actually means?

I really wish I knew of a sure fire way to heal the horrific wound our national trust has suffered, but I don't.

It may be a good sign, however, that thanks to the likes of Stephen Colbert, we can at least laugh about the fact that we all know our nation's leaders are lying to us.

Hopefully, the next step will be that Americans will go to the polls in unprecedented numbers come November and do something about it.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Program Note

It's not like this news will break hearts all over America, but I'll be cutting back to two columns per week for a while. This is partly because of other pending projects, and partly because the issues I'm tracking are becoming so complex that writing about them requires quite a bit of research to get the "latest" information and square it with what's been said or done before.

It's also becoming more and more difficult to sort out fact from "sanctioned leaks" in the big media, particularly with Alberto Gonzales' recent statements about prosecuting reporters for revealing "classified" information and tapping their lines to identify their sources. We've reached a point where information attributed to any "anonymous government source" is susect of being propaganda deliberately channeled through the outlets of our supposed "watch dogs."

Further, the information environment will become even noisier as the November elections approach. As much as possible, I'll be avoiding discussion of specific races, but as I often say (perhaps too often) there's really no such thing as a separation between foreign policy, domestic policy, and electoral politics, and that may be truer now than ever.

In 1997, the neoconservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC) proclaimed that foreign and defense policy under President Clinton was "adrift." Almost a decade later, America's foreign and defense policy have run amok, thanks to key PNAC members of the Bush administration like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Lewis Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad.

No measure of future success in Afghanistan and Iraq can make up for their ill-conceived and tragically incompetent execution to date. Our so-called "diplomatic" efforts with Iran are doomed to failure. Our insistence that Iran give up their claims of a right to enrich uranium is a sort of "reverse Godfather" approach: we're making them an offer they can't accept. Our standing in the world has taken a drastic nosedive since young Mister Bush took office, and the effectiveness of our military, diplomatic, and economic power has diminished alarmingly.

No amount of deck chair shifting in the administration will reverse this trend. The only way to check the Bush machine's pursuit of absolute power and insistence on continuing to pursue failed policies and strategies is for we the people to restore our constitutional system of checks and balances by taking away the GOP's control of Congress.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Much Ado About English

I tend to lean in agreement with the argument that says we don't do anyone a favor by offering multi-language services because they allow some segment of the immigrant population--however large or small that segment may be--to navigate through daily life in America without ever becoming fluent in the English language. But we've had such services for decades now, and if American society is collapsing, it isn't because the signs on some grocery stores in Los Angeles read Super Mercado.

So I'm more than a little dismayed at the pro and con furor going on over the proposed immigration bill amendments that will make English the "official language" of the United States of America. Aside from whipping up emotions, what would such an amendment accomplish?

I don't know what if any federal laws are on the books that require any commercial enterprise or any agency in federal, state, or local government to provide other-than-English services. But by and large, the law that governs multi-language services is the law of supply and demand. If you're a merchant in China Town, you're probably wise to cater to the desires of your Chinese-speaking customers. If you're a politician in a city that has a large Hispanic voter population, you'll be inclined to approve of multi-lingual signs in city facilities. Ever get annoyed at that Espanola menu option when you call your phone company? Well, get used to living with the aggravation, because if your phone company weren't making money on people who use that option, it wouldn't be on the menu.

Legislating English as America's "official" language, or stating in law that no one has an "inherent right" to multi-language services is not likely to change where, when, or how these services are offered. To get rid of those services would require legislation that bans them, and the men and women in our Congress won't go anywhere near a proposed law like that. And would Congress ever dream of making it illegal for immigrants to use their native languages in their own homes and neighborhoods? I'll tell you what, I'll scream bloody murder if the Language Police ever come knocking on my door demanding I turn over my great uncle's German bible!

The proposed "English amendments" have as much real impact as the immigration reform bill itself. Building a great wall along the border that can be tunneled under or climbed over won't slow down illegal immigration or the illegal enterprises that support it. Nor will adding six thousand border guards, whatever agency they happen to work for.

The proposed immigration legislation serves two purposes.

First, it's an appeal to both ends of the split electorate baby. It courts the immigrant vote and the vote of businesses that employ immigrants and contribute to campaign funds. At the same time, it woos the segment of the population that wants to limit immigration for a variety of reasons ranging from labor issues to outright bigotry.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it's a smoke screen that's masking a bevy of government failures and scandals.

Whatever the immigration reform bill winds up looking like, it will do for immigration reform what the Homeland Security bill did for Homeland Security. But don't worry. It won't cost you anything. Whatever the Social Security surplus doesn't cover we'll throw on our tabs with non-English speaking nations like China and Japan.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Iran and Bad Diplomacy

The administration still insists that it hopes diplomacy will solve the Iranian nuclear program controversy. But it's insisting on diplomatic measures that are unlikely to succeed.

It's bad enough that we'll only talk to Iran through proxies in the United Nations--we're negotiating with the negotiators--but to top it off, the deal we're authorizing the negotiators to negotiate with Iran is manifestly bogus.

A Reuters report from Monday carried the Bush machine's latest attempt to puppeteer an agreement with Iran.
The European Union is ready to share the most sophisticated civilian nuclear technology with Iran if it agrees to halt uranium enrichment on its soil, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday.

But the initiative seemed likely to be rejected by Iran.

Iran is likely to reject the deal for the same reason it rejected an almost identical deal offered by the Russians a few months ago. It's a raw deal. Saying you can have a nuclear energy program if you don't enrich uranium on your own soil is like saying you can have an automobile industry as long as you don't make your own cars in your own country.

Thinking Iran would fall for a scam like that is the rough equivalent of trying to buy 21st century Manhattan for a fistful of wampum. Only young Mister Bush and Dick and Don and Condi would think they might get away with it. Or maybe they know they can't get away with it, and don't care.

Are They Really That Dumb?

In January 2006, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said, "There is simply no peaceful rationale for the Iranian regime to resume uranium enrichment."

Condi's becoming more and more like her fellow Bush administration luminaries all the time. It's difficult to say whether she actually believes her own balderdash or if she figures she can say anything and nobody will call her on it no matter how ridiculous it is.

The argument that an oil rich nation like Iran doesn't have a legitimate reason to pursue nuclear energy is a non-starter. Iran has reasonable ambitions to emerge as a modern industrial nation. Building up its infrastructure will require increased energy consumption. The less of its own oil it needs to provide its domestic energy needs, the more it has to sell to other, larger emerging nations like China.

As time marches on, Iran's big oil clients will move away from fossil fuel energy to nuclear energy. At some future date, the demand and price of oil will drop to the point where it's not worth the cost of pulling it out of the ground. Other emerging nations of what we once called the "third world" will want to make the jump straight to nuclear energy, and will be looking to import the technology from countries that already have mature nuclear energy programs.

If, at that point, Iran cannot enrich its own uranium, it will be up the creek of proverbs without a paddle. Nobody will want to buy its oil, it won't have the kind of nuclear energy anybody wants to import, and it will be wholly dependent on other nations to supply fuel for its reactors.

One might reasonably expect Secretary of State and former professor of political science at Stanford University Condoleezza Rice to understand that. Is she playing dumb, or is she just being dumb?

Middle East, Take Two

Even as he echoes the diplomacy mantra, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is planning two big show-of-force demonstrations aimed at bringing Iran into line with America's demands: the big "bunker buster" test in Nevada and a multi-battle group naval exercise in the Arabian Gulf.

In "stick and carrot" diplomacy, you give an adversary a choice between a nice, tasty carrot and a club upside the head. What the Bush administration is practicing with Iran is "stick and kick" diplomacy. Take a club upside the head or a steel-toed boot up the other end.

For reasons we previously discussed, Iran cannot accept a "no enrichment" agreement. If America continues to insist on one, we'll all too probably watch a rerun of the Iraq show.

"Negative proof" arguments that the target nation has or seeks to possess weapons of mass destruction (we can't prove they don't have or want them, therefore they must have or want them).

Comparisons of the target nation's head of state to Hitler, and claims that he's psychotic.

Scare noise about "state sponsor of terrorism" and "destabilizing influence."

Half-baked attempts at diplomacy that have little chance of succeeding. When they don't succeed, blaming France, Germany, China, Russia, the UN, and any other scapegoat that happens to be handy.

What about a "catalyzing event," the next Pearl Harbor on 911? The U.S. naval maneuvers in the Gulf will supply ample opportunity for such a thing. Games of "chicken" on the high seas lead to shots being traded. Maybe a surface combatant hits a mine. Maybe an Iranian patrol boat gets lucky and hits an aircraft carrier with an anti-ship missile.

And the mightiest nation in history jumps headfirst into another quagmire.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More Distortion on Iran

Last Friday and over the weekend, we saw a telling example of just how dangerous the global information environment has become.

Friday afternoon, over a cold carbonated beverage at the neighborhood watering hole, my retired Army buddy said, "You heard the latest about Iran?"

"No," I said. I hadn't been plugged into a news source for almost an hour, so I was behind the news cycle. "What about Iran?"

"They found yellow cake in one of their nuclear facilities," he said.

I cut happy hour short, went home, and jumped on Google. Here were the first headlines and lead stories I found.

From Reuters:
UN finds new uranium traces in Iran - diplomats
Fri May 12, 2006 11:16 AM BST

U.N. inspectors have discovered new traces of highly-enriched uranium on nuclear equipment in Iran, deepening suspicions Tehran may still be concealing the full extent of its atomic enrichment programme, diplomats said.

The headline in Calcutta, India's Telegraph read "Fresh Iran uranium traces found."

The second paragraph in the Saturday morning Toronto Sun article read, "This revelation is likely to strengthen U.S. arguments that Tehran wants to develop nuclear arms."

The lead paragraphs in the Saturday New York Times piece said:
Atomic inspectors have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment linked to an Iranian military base, raising new questions about whether Iran harbors a clandestine program to make nuclear bombs, diplomats said yesterday.
It is the second such discovery in three years of United Nations inspections in Iran. As the Security Council debates how to handle the atomic impasse with Tehran, the finding is likely to deepen skepticism about Iran's claims that its program is entirely peaceful.

But a deeper analysis of the story shows that the sensational war drum banging found in the headlines and lead paragraphs of the world's major papers is utter bosh.

Buried nose deep in the NYT article is the factoid that, "…the traces of highly enriched uranium could be explained by the inadvertent contamination of machinery that Iran obtained abroad."

"Obtained abroad," in Iran's case, mainly means "bought second, third or fourth hand from Pakistan." Pakistan is the most primitive nation on the planet to possess nuclear technology. Many regions of that country look uncivilized even by medieval standards. Indiana Jones' felt hat, leather jacket, bullwhip, and metal canteen would seem like high tech survival gear to the average Pakistani.

So what does it say about the state of any of Iran's advanced technology programs--nuclear or otherwise--that it's buying high tech industrial equipment from Pakistan?

And what's the surprise that any "dual use" equipment Iran bought from Pakistan is contaminated with traces of enriched uranium?

What do we mean by "traces," and what sort of equipment were the traces found in?

The UN's International Atomic Energy Committee (IAEA) discovered the traces through a microscopic particle analysis of swabs taken from vacuum pumps earlier this year. Vacuum pumps that were purchased from, yes, Pakistan.

The diplomats who leaked information about the "new" discoveries and said they were further evidence that Iran may be pursuing development of weapons grade uranium "demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the confidential information." If you haven't picked up on the code yet, that's shorthand for "diplomats who wanted to spread propaganda and disinformation in the press without having it blow back in their faces when it turns out to be disinformation and propaganda."

At the end of the day, there was nothing new about this "news." IAEA inspectors have found microscopic traces of highly enriched uranium in dual use equipment that Iran bought from Pakistan before. It doesn't prove or disprove anything regarding Iran's intentions toward acquiring nuclear weapons. It's just another muffled tap on the war drum.

But for the grace of timing, this misleading story could have created a firestorm of misdirected reaction. Fortunately, it appears to have taken a nosedive. It wasn't discussed on any of the Sunday political talking point shows that I watched, and hasn't appeared to grow legs in any of the major U.S. newspapers. That could be because it broke on a Friday and was noise jammed by the more sensational stories about the NSA spying program and General Hayden's nomination to head the CIA. It might also just be that the greater mainstream media took a look at the story and said, "Eh, this looks like we're being manipulated, let's not push it too hard." But that's giving the mainstream media a lot more credit than they deserve, given their track record during the Bush regime.

In any case, don't expect "new" Iraq story to disappear for good. If ugly stuff comes out in the Hayden nomination hearings next week, or if Karl Rove gets indicted in the traitor-gate affair, or some equally spectacular item unfavorable to the Bush administration comes to light, stand by for an all out distraction campaign centering on the "threat" from Iran.

And when the story reemerges, logically impaired Americans like my retired Army friend won't recall the nuance about contaminated equipment bought from Afghanistan. They'll be completely swayed by the hyperbolic and misleading rhetoric of the likes of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who just this morning wrote:
As it races to acquire nuclear weapons, Iran makes clear that if there is any trouble, the Jews will be the first to suffer…

… When Iran's mullahs acquire their coveted nukes in the next few years, the number of Jews in Israel will just be reaching 6 million.

Keep in mind that Krauthammer is more than simply a right wing bull feather merchant who writes ill-tempered articles for some of America's leading publications. As a member of the Project for the New American Century he was one of the influential neoconservatives who, days after on September 11, 2001, exhorted young Mister Bush to "remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq" even if "evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack."

And he and his cohorts will doubtless continue to urge action against Iran even if evidence of their alleged ambition to obtain nuclear weapons never amounts to more than microscopic traces of enriched uranium discovered in contaminated dual use equipment the Iranians bought from Pakistan.

Friday, May 12, 2006

NSA Poll: Shame on WaPo

Do a majority of Americans really think unlimited government access to phone records is okay by them?

If the Washington Post can be believed, "Most Americans Support NSA's Efforts." In an overnight poll conducted by WaPo and ABC News, "63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort," Not surprisingly, WaPo doesn't tell us what the poll questions actually were or what the multiple choice answers were. It does, however, admit at the bottom of the article that: "A total of 502 randomly selected adults were interviewed Thursday night for this survey. Margin of sampling error is five percentage points for the overall results. The practical difficulties of doing a survey in a single night represents another potential source of error."

I want to talk to the statistician who claims that 502 randomly selected adults, called at home at night, who may or may not have been familiar with the story or the issues involved, or have understood the questions, can give an accurate snapshot of what "Americans" actually think within any margin of error. What pool of "adults" were the 502 polled selected from? The same pool that logs online to vote in those instant polls that ask, "Do you believe Nancy Holloway is still alive?"

WaPo's Richard Morin is on MSNBC with Natalie Allen echo chambering the poll results. He's making all kinds of claims about what the poll says without giving any granularity as to how it was conducted. And the rest of the talking heads are citing the poll results as if they were Gospel truth.

We need to start insisting on transparency in poll reporting. Who was polled, what questions were asked, what the answer choices were, and an honest assessment of any given poll's statistical accuracy.

As best one can tell from the information WaPo has provided, the overnight poll on the NSA call database story has no scientific legitimacy whatsoever.

Shame on them for even publishing it, and shame on the news networks for giving it legitimacy.


Hey, here's a poll question for you: who has less credibility, WaPo or the Bush administration?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

World War III and Counting

As Patriot Daily at My Left Wing points out, young Mister Bush has apparently decided to change the name of the "Global War on Terror" to "World War III." It's fairly certain that even Bush realizes renaming his war isn't going to make it go any better, so he has to be fishing for a way to keep the American public from voting his party out of control of Congress this fall. We'll see how that goes.

This is not, of course, the first time the Bush propaganda machine has used patriotic sounding allusions to previous American wars--and cheesy pop culture references--to sell the administration's neoconservative agenda. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil," an invocation that combined the "axis powers" of World War II (Germany, Italy and Japan) and Ronald Reagan's Cold War description of Russia as the "evil empire," which itself was drawn from the Star Wars movie series.

During the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Bush friendly media outlets like National Review began echoing the mantra that compared Saddam Hussein to Adolph Hitler.

The term "generational war" recalled misty eyed accounts of American sacrifice in the Second World War as described by Tom Brokaw in his book The Greatest Generation.

"Fighting them over there" comes from the World War I propaganda song "Over There."

"Mission Accomplished," that piece of Rovewellian theater in which Mister Bush played Navy fighter pilot on the USS Lincoln, provided imagery drawn from visual media pieces ranging from the television program Victory at Sea to newsreels of the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri to the feature film Top Gun.

And boy, when Donald Rumsfeld decided to change the name of the Global War on Terror to the "Struggle Against Global Extremism," Mister Bush put the kibosh on that right away. We were in a doggone war, doggone it, and Bush wasn't going to be remembered as no "struggle-time" president.

Does anybody else remember the time Rumsfeld talked to the troops Iraq and answered a question (an obviously staged one) regarding criticism of Mister Bush over the war? Rumsfeld said that Abraham Lincoln had suffered scathing rebukes in the press over his handling of the American Civil War, drawing not only an absurd comparison of that war an the Iraq war, but between Lincoln and (gasp) George W. Bush.

Still Going

Like the Energizer Bunny, the Bush machine continues to bang the war drum long after its dream of global domination by armed force has proven itself delusional.

Divine Strake, the bunker buster test scheduled for June in Nevada, will ostensibly send a signal to Iran and North Korea that no matter how deeply they bury their bunkers, we'll find a way to bust them. But the signal we're liable to send by showing them how deep a bunker we can bust is how much deeper they need to bury their bunkers so we can't bust them.

But that makes no never mind, because Divine Strake's real target audience isn't Iran, or North Korea, or China, or Russia. It's the American public. When the Bush administration was garnering support for the invasion of Iraq, Condi Rice and Mister Bush made scare noise about "mushroom clouds." Now they're going to give us more than just talk.

Divine Strake is expected to create a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas, and boy, do you think that's going to get play on the cable news channels?

Scary, huh kids? Next time, it'll be them nasty old terrorists setting off that there bomb, and ground zero will be Vegas itself!

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now being cast as Hitler. And oh, I see where some sources are starting to describe Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as playing "Mussolini to Iran's Hitler."

Rewriting the War Story

A glance through the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century's paper trail going back to 1997 clearly shows that the Bush administration's foreign policy was based on a desire to establish a global American hegemony. Its ambitions for the Middle East were to establish an increased military footprint in the Middle East for the purpose of protecting Israel and other allies in the Gulf region and ensure continued U.S. access to the region's oil. The policy had nothing to do with terrorism. And it only tangentially had to do with the threat from weapons of mass destruction or Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 attacks were a convenient excuse to execute "the plan," and Saddam Hussein was a convenient bad guy to go after. But, as the PNAC's September 2000 "Rebuilding America's Defenses" revealed, 9/11 was the cataclysmic "new Pearl Harbor" needed to execute the neoconservative plan, and "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf" transcended "the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

On September 20, nine days after the 9/11 attacks, PNAC wrote a letter to Mister Bush that said, "…even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq."

What's It All About, Condi?

One way to track how the war story has changed over the course of the Bush administration is to take a look at statements made by Condi Rice.

Back in 2002 she said, "The prospect of Saddam Hussein acquiring [weapons of mass destruction] is a very powerful moral case for regime change."

In September 2003, Condi Rice, defending the Iraq invasion, Condi said, "Iraq, if it is prosperous and stable, in a different kind of Middle East, is going to be the death knell for terrorism." (Since Hussein's ouster, Iraq has been anything but prosperous or stable, and terrorism incidents have increased.)

In October 2005, well after the WMD and terrorism claims regarding Iraq had been disproven, she said, "…the liberation of the Iraqi people was long overdue.”

Compare that pattern with Condi's rhetoric on Iran:

In December 2005 she told Fox News that Iran could not be trusted with technology that could lead to nuclear arms.

In March 2006, she described Iran as "the world's leading sponsor of terrorism."

Later in March she said, "We do not have a problem with the Iranian people. We want the Iranian people to be free. Our problem is with the Iranian regime."

I'm guessing she can repeat that pattern indefinitely.

World Wars from Here to Eternity

Some experts, including ex-CIA director James Woolsey, say that the Cold War was World War III and that the war on terror was World War IV. Since we now know that the Iraq war had little if anything to do with terrorism--at least, not until we invaded that country--we might as well call that World War V. If they work it right, the Bush crowd can liberate the freedom loving people of Iran (VI) and Venezuela (VII) before the end of big brother's term of office. And if we can replace big brother George with little brother Jeb in 2008, we'll be off to the races. Jeb, after all, was one of the original PNAC members. He's all on board with this Hitler bashing and terror crushing and WMD eliminating and freedom loving people liberating.

With any luck at all, we can be well into the World War Xs by 2016!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Balance of Power in the Next World Order

Not only is the Next World Order already here, we're already seeing a typical example of how power plays will be executed in it.

Last week, the New York Times carried a story by Nazila Fathi titled "Iran Threatens Retaliation if Attacked."

The main story concerns warnings by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran will respond "two fold" to an invasion of Iran. That's the scare noise that makes the story sell (and don't think Khamenei doesn't know that), but the more germane aspect of the Iran situation is at the bottom of Fahti's article.
Iran has been relying on the vote of two its economic allies, China and Russia, at the Security Council meeting, hoping they would use their veto power to stop any punitive measures against it.

Moscow has helped Iran build its first nuclear reactor in the southern city of Bushehr and Iran has extensive oil deals with China.

Earlier in the Next World Order series, we discussed the emerging multi-tiered matrix of major powers, balance powers, regional powers, wild cards, and others. As the Iran nuclear saga unfolds, we see a loose economic and energy coalition forming between a major power (China), a balance power (Russia) and a wild card seeking to achieve the status of a regional power (Iran). Russia stands to profit by assisting Iran in develop its nuclear program. The more Iran can draw on nuclear power as a source of energy, the more it has to sell to China, a nation aggressively developing its industrial and infrastructure base. Russia and China already have a dozen or so other dope deals going on on the side, including a mutual dislike of the idea of the United States dictating terms to the rest of the world on every issue under the sun.

On the other side of the fence we have the declining hegemon (U.S.) that has alienated it's traditional allies in the European Union. Even the prime minister of our traditional balance power friend England has informed Mister Bush that it will not support any military strike on Iran.

Next World Diplomacy

We've thrown the diplomatic process on Iran into the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China hold all the high cards. All they have to do is say "no." And how are convincing them to play along with us? Vice President Dick Cheney accuses Russia of being a "bully" and young Mister Bush blames China for the spike in oil prices.

And who's our man in the UN we're relying on to smooth all the bruised feelings and broker a bargain? John Bolton. Calling Bolton a "diplomat" is like calling a Doberman a lap dog.

But say, by some miracle, the U.S. manages to convince China and Russia to vote for sanctions against Iran. Iran's already ahead of that contingency: they'll just drop out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Teaty. The treaty contains a provision for signatories to withdraw by giving the UN and other treaty members three months notice.

Then what do we do? North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003, and admitted up front that they had developed nuclear weapons. Iraq still insists that it has no interest in having nuclear weapons. We've promised North Korea we won't attack them. How do we justify keeping an attack of Iran on the table?

The Bush administration could pull the Israel card, citing Iran's bellicose rhetoric regarding the Jewish state. But Iran's threats against Israel are pure trash talk. Nearly a thousand miles separate Tehran and Tel Aviv. Iran is not capable of effectively projecting conventional sea, air or land power that far. There's no conclusive evidence that Iran's new Shabat 3 ballistic missile actually works, or if it does, that it can reach or accurately target Israel. But even if it can hit a target in Israel, what kind of warhead would it carry? An envelope full of anthrax? That will do less harm than a car bomb would. Even if Iran actually is pursuing a nuclear weapon, it won't have one for many years, and if it ever does manufacture one, the consequences of using one on Israel would be devastating.

(And don't buy the nonsense that says Iran's leadership is crazy. They're crazy like North Korea's Kim Jong Il is crazy--like a fox.)

Next World Congitive Dissonance

The greatest failing of the neoconservative philosophy is that we've become so reliant on armed force as our primary tool of foreign policy we're nearly incapable of competently employing diplomatic and economic leverage. And as our expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq have illustrated, military action has become a profoundly counter-effective means of conducting policy. Every time we pull the trigger, we shoot ourselves in the foot.

One hopes that the Bush administration has at long last learned the fallacies of its core ideology. But those hopes could well be in vain. We're already hearing the same kinds of rhetoric from the White House that we heard during the run up to the Iraq. Calling Iran our biggest challenge. Comparing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler. (Remember when Saddam Hussein was Hitler?) Drawing conclusions about Iran's intentions based on negative proof (they're not telling us everything, therefore they must be developing nuclear weapons.)

We're also hearing about hoping to solve the problem through diplomatic efforts through the UN. But as we've discussed, the odds of those efforts are stacked on the side of probable failure.

If they fail, the Bush administration can say, "we tried the diplomatic route," and blame the UN because diplomacy didn't work. That will be a hard position to sell, though, considering that President Ahmadinejad has now sent Mister Bush a letter thought to be an overture for direct Iran-U.S. diplomatic talks.

We'll see what happens, but if the administration is as hell bent for leather to pull the trigger on Iran as they were on Iraq, they're going to pull that trigger. If they do, lamentably, this time, they'll shoot off something far more precious than a toe.

And it may be that end of American neoconservatism will not end with another Watergate, but another Waterloo.

Not with a whimper, but with a bang.


The Next World Order Series

Part I: America's 21st Century Military

Part II: Network-centric Warfare

Part III: America's Military Industrial Complex

Part IV: The Revolt of the Retired Generals

Part V: What Good is War?

Part VI: Body Count

Part VII: Order in the Next World Order

Part VII; The Cost of War and Peace in the Next World Order

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bad Apples at the Top of the Barrel

Raw Story brings us new revelations on the Abu Ghraib torture affair:
New Army documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union today reveal that Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez ordered interrogators to "go to the outer limits" to get information from detainees. The documents also show that senior government officials were aware of abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke…

… Among the documents released today by the ACLU is a May 19, 2004 Defense Intelligence Agency document implicating Sanchez in potentially abusive interrogation techniques. In the document, an officer in charge of a team of interrogators stated that there was a 35-page order spelling out the rules of engagement that interrogators were supposed to follow, and that they were encouraged to "go to the outer limits to get information from the detainees by people who wanted the information." When asked to whom the officer was referring, the officer answered "LTG Sanchez." The officer stated that the expectation coming from "Headquarters" was to break the detainees…

The ACLU said the document makes clear that while President Bush and other officials assured the world that what occurred at Abu Ghraib was the work of "a few bad apples," the government knew that abuse was happening in numerous facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the 62 cases being investigated at the time, at least 26 involved detainee deaths. Some of the cases had already gone through a court-martial proceeding. The abuses went beyond Abu Ghraib, and touched Camp Cropper, Camp Bucca and other detention centers in Mosul, Samarra, Baghdad, Tikrit, as well as Orgun-E in Afghanistan.

It always was a stretch of the imagination to believe that Sanchez, then commander of the coalition forces in Iraq, was entirely out of the loop in the goings on in Abu Ghraib. Back in May of 2004, Sanchez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Abu Ghraib interrogation rules had been written at the company commander level, and that he had no role in preparing or approving them.

We now know that the interrogation practice paper trail leads back to the highest levels of the Bush administration. Steven Shafersman of Texas Citizens for Science has compiled a fairly encompassing collection of links and articles on the subject here.

Janet Karpinski is the senior officer to have been punished over the Abu Ghraib abuses. President Bush demoted her from brigadier general to colonel and she subsequently retired. Her punishment was "administrative," and such did not amount to a conviction on criminal charges. A number of junior officers and enlisted personnel, like Private Lindie England, have been criminally charged and convicted.


Our war on terror torture record is disturbing at so many levels it's difficult to know where to begin describing them. What perhaps disturbs me most is that I can't feel outrage over this matter any more because I'm all outraged out. Once again, I'm seeing a smoking gun that proves what I more or less already knew, and chances are that this story will fall off the radar thanks to the electronic interference from the other outrageous stories I'm already out of outrage over and the all outrages we haven't heard about yet that will seem tame because the outrage threshold has been set so high that it's impossible to get outraged about anything any more. The human nervous system can only absorb so much.

Here's another thing I can't get outraged about any more. We're never going to get to the bottom this outrage or any other outrageous act of this administration as long as the only investigation of the administration's outrages are conducted by the outrageous administration itself.

Yeah, there's a good chance the Democrats will wrest control of both Houses of Congress come November which would give them control of all the investigative committees. But if they try to conduct an honest investigation of every Bush administration outrage, they'll never get anything else done.

So they'll have to prioritize, do a "triage" of outrage, if you will, and pick and choose who and what they can actually bring to justice.

Let's hope they focus on the apples at the top of the barrel, and not on the Lindsie Englands.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The PNAC Paper Trail

The longer the fiasco in Iraq drags on, the more we hear the folks who cooked up the idea of invading that sand dune republic denying that they had anything to do with it. Crooks and Liars provided this John Bolton quote from a press conference televised last week on CNN.
We did not violate the UN charter in the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and that plan was not drawn…at the Project for the New American Century.

John's memory must be slipping, what with all those responsibilities he has as Ambassador to the United Nations now. Maybe it's time to help him refresh it.

Let's take a stroll down PNAC Lane.

June 3, 1997: PNAC issues its Statement of Principles. "American foreign and defense policy is adrift," it states at the beginning, and goes on to criticize the Clinton administration. This document contains no specific mention of Iraq, but does admonish that, "America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East," and that "we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future[.]"

Among the signatories are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, as well as PNAC co-founders Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan.

January 19, 1998: John Bolton publishes "Congress Versus Iraq" in Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard. He slams President Clinton for being soft on Iraq, and exhorts Congress to force Clinton into taking more aggressive action against Saddam Hussein.

January 26, 1998: PNAC sends a letter to President Clinton urging military action to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power. A key passage states that if America continues its containment policy, "…the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard."

Keep that in mind the next time young Mister Bush says invading Iraq wasn't about Israel or oil. (Please note that I have no problem with America keeping Israel under its protective umbrella. But we didn't need to invade Iraq to do it.)

And, oh, one of the signatures on that letter belongs to a guy named John Bolton.

A copy of the letter appears in the Washington Post on January 27.

January 30, 1998: PNAC founders Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan publish "Bombing is not Enough" in the New York Times. "Saddam Hussein must go," it says. "If Mr. Clinton is serious about protecting us and our allies from Iraqi biological and chemical weapons, he will order ground forces to the gulf. Four heavy divisions and two airborne divisions are available for deployment. The President should act, and Congress should support him in the only policy that can succeed."

There's no question: PNAC was specifically calling for an armed invasion of Iraq by ground forces. How many teams of lawyers do they need to talk their way around that?

February 2, 1998: Robert Kagan publishes "Saddam's Impending Victory" in Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard. Kagan again calls for removal of Hussein by force and compares him to Hitler.

February 26, 1998: Kristol and Kagan publish "A 'Great Victory' for Iraq" in the Washington Post. "Unless we are willing to live in a world where everyone has to 'do business' with Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction, we need to be willing to use U.S. air power and ground troops to get rid of him."

March 9, 1998: Bolton publishes "Kofi Hour" in the Weekly Standard and criticizes the Clinton administration for working through the UN to deal with Hussein.

September 18, 1998: PNAC's Paul Wolfowitz testifies before the House National Security Committee on Iraq during which he condemns the Clinton's Iraq policy. "The Clinton Administration repeatedly makes excuses for its own weakness…"

September 28, 1998: Robert Kagan's "A Way to Oust Saddam" appears in the Weekly Standard. "It has long been clear that the only way to rid the world of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is to rid Iraq of Saddam."

November 16, 1998: An non-attributed editorial in the Weekly Standard titled "How to Attack Iraq" says, "It now seems fairly certain that some time in the next few weeks the Clinton administration will have to strike Iraq. There really are no acceptable alternatives."

January 4, 1999: Robert Kagan's "Saddam Wins-Again" appears in the Weekly Standard. More castigation of UN and Clinton administration efforts to contain Saddam Hussein.

Skip Ahead

There's much more. You can read the entire PNAC literature on Iraq at the group's website, starting here.

But let's take a close look at two key PNAC documents from the 21st century.

Rebuilding America's Defenses was published in September 2000, just before the presidential election that brought George W. Bush into power. This neoconservative manifesto revealed that the PNAC's ambitions in the Middle East were only obliquely related to Saddam Hussein.
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Page 14.)

In other words, Hussein was merely the convenient excuse for establishing permanent military bases in the heart of the Middle East and controlling the flow of the region's oil.

But the PNACers realized that the road to achieving their dream of a global American empire was "…likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor." (Page 51.)

On September 11, 2001 PNAC got its Pearl Harbor, and a significant portion of its membership held key policy making posts in the Bush administration, some of the most notable among them being Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bolton.

On September 20, nine days after the 9/11 attacks, PNAC wrote a letter to Mister Bush that said, "…even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq."


DNA evidence couldn't provide better proof that the PNAC formulated the Bush administration's Iraq policy than the paper trail the PNAC itself provides. For Bolton to deny that the PNAC "planned" the Iraq invasion goes beyond irony, beyond the absurd, beyond the Orwellian.

There's a temptation to shrug one's shoulders and say, "Why dwell on this? It's in the past."

But it's not in the past. We're living with the neoconservative nightmare today and there's no telling how long it will take to undo their damage, partly because they're still in power and they're still doing damage.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Manic American Monday

I'm having one of those Mondays when I wonder if I'm still living in the United States of America, and if I am, what happened to it?

It seems we have a country where illegal immigrants have constitutional rights, retired military officers have none, and the commander in chief isn't subject to any law whatsoever.

A Boston Globe story from Sunday tells us that:
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

I've written quite a few articles about Mister Bush's outrageous claims of absolute powers in his capacity as America's executive officer and the commander in chief of its military, but I hadn't realized that he's told the legislature to pack sand more than 750 times.

Is it legal for him to do that?

Apparently so, if he's decided it's up to him to decide what's legal and what isn't. The GOP controlled Congress isn't likely to tell him otherwise, and the Supreme Court seems too busy looking into whether Anna Nicole Smith is entitled to pursue a share of her late billionaire husband's estate to make any judgments on whether Mister Bush's arbitrary fiats on constitutionality are constitutional.

Filling the vacuum left by the Supreme Court is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Mister Bush's lawyer in chief, whose job appears to be to tell his boss that whatever he wants to do is legal.


How many wars are we in now? Are Iraq and Afghanistan separate wars, or are they part and parcel of the so-called Global War on Terror? What's Iran going to be?

I see now where the friends of the Bush administration are starting to liken Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler. I recall a time not so long ago when Saddam Hussein was being compared to Hitler. How many Hitlers is it legal to have at the same time? Is there a rule on that, where once you have one Hitler in custody and on trial that somebody else can become Hitler?

I also see where Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has compared Mister Bush to Hitler. How does that work? Is it one of those deals where each side of a conflict is allowed to have one Hitler? I guess that makes sense, in a world where the "evil doers" are squared off against the "Great Satan."


There's been quite a bit of discussion in the wake of the retired generals who have called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation over whether retired retire military officers are subject to discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for publicly criticizing Mister Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other "officials." At the crux of the issue is whether or not military retirees receive "pay" or "pension," and whether or not commissioned officers who retire are still commissioned officers.

Commander Jeff Huber, United States Navy, had quite a few legal authorities under the UCMJ. Commander Jeff Huber, United States Navy (Retired) has none. So does that make the retired commander subject to discipline under the UCMJ article that states:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Hard to say, but the whole issue becomes moot in light of the fact that Mister Bush appears to be able to apprehend and hold any and all American citizens, retired military or not, as an enemy combatants, and deny their rights to due process.


In a separate but related issue:

Illegal immigrants are staging demonstrations across the country today to protest America's immigration policy. Apparently, it's legal for the illegals to do that.

What kind of country do we live in when illegal immigrants can protest government policies, but retired military members who are U.S. citizens--and who have done as much as anyone to earn their rights of citizenship--cannot?