Monday, October 30, 2006

Blaming the Iraqis?

One of the more disturbing political developments to observe in connection with the Iraqi occupation is the dissembling that is taking place about where the responsibility lies for restoring social order and stability in the country. Now that “victory” seems ever more elusive (whatever it meant in the first place) the President and his “spinners” have begun to heap more and more emphasis on the sovereign status of Iraq and the responsibility of its people to “make the choice” to avoid civil war and restore order. President Maliki, in particular, has often been the subject of intense pressure, as if he could pronounce peace upon his nation, under the conditions that prevail.

As disturbing as the pattern the administration is evidencing…that is quite predictable. What is really quite perplexing is that members of the Democratic party seem also to be taking up the same line. Perhaps they are sensing some added pressure with the upcoming elections and are preparing a deflection of sorts, but this is blaming the victim in the extreme. No Iraqis (save for the few misinforming insiders working with the White House) asked for this intervention. Thousands upon thousands have died. The country has descended into what only a few hold-outs refuse to name a civil war and we are responsible.

Yes, it is tricky because there is a question about what our responsibilities are now and how to help. I personally believe that our sheer presence there stimulates violence and co-generates the environment for bloodshed. Yet, should we simply leave, there will likely be a power struggle that will likely not be smooth. As a starter, the United States should flatly and unequivocally state that we will not maintain a physical presence in Iraq or in the Middle East for that matter. We are the cause celebre. We create the purpose for the terrorism there. Why can’t we absorb that reality? We need a strategy that draws upon the neighboring states and international bodies that will have respect there.

But in any case…do not place the onus of this situation on the people of Iraq who are innocents and have only been damaged by it. It is unfair and unworthy of our country and its espoused traditions.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Has Administration Created Expectation of Disinformation?

The Bush Administration has inflicted upon itself the most damaging of all political liabilities—lost public trust. Scandals, cronyism, duplicity are all surfacing to erode the confidence that is so essential in a representative form of government. But in the sweep of history, all of these will pale in the face of “the big lie”, the one that will reverberate for generations and for many will be unforgivable and unrecoverable—the Iraq War.

Many knew from the beginning that the timing was politically motivated, the rationale was one of convenience, the evidence was suspect and that the strategy itself had been developed years earlier by a small neo-con cabal that was now in power in and about the White House. But in the post 9/11 environment, the administration was able to push, cajole and extend its good offices to execute this unwarranted, illegal foreign policy escapade that has been so devastating.

But the phrase “the truth will out” has proved trustworthy itself and the people of this country have finally, in a majority, been willing to admit the practically unthinkable—the Administration purposely lied to its own people to justify the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Consider these two polls in just the past several weeks:

Newsweek Poll, October 5-6, 2006
"Before the Iraq War, the Bush Administration said it had intelligence reports indicating that Iraq was hiding banned chemical or biological weapons from UN weapons inspectors. But so far, no such banned weapons have been found in Iraq. Do you think the Bush Administration purposely misled the public about evidence that Iraq had banned weapons in order to build support for war?” Yes: 58%
CNN Poll, September 29-October 2, 2006
"Do you think the Bush Administration has deliberately misled the American public about how the war in Iraq is going or don't you think so?" Deliberately Misled: 58%
A clear majority now believe that the Bush administration both lied to bring the war and continue to lie about the progress of it. These are lies that matter. The most scientifically reliable estimates are that over 650,000 Iraqis have died directly as a result of the invasion and occupation. Almost 10% of their adult male population has been killed. Staggering numbers. On the U.S. side, almost 3000 soldiers have died and approximately 17,000 have permanent and disabling injuries.
These are deaths and injuries that were avoidable. They were incurred through deception…and there will be many, many more, now that this has been set in motion. This is behavior among those entrusted with leadership that is simply unthinkable and intolerable.
It is not a surprise that the people of this country have come out of denial and are accepting what has happened. It is a surprise that there is not already a groundswell, not for impeachment…but for a war crimes referral.

Bush Disputes Johns Hopkins War Estimates...Who Do We Trust?

This week Johns Hopkins released new estimates of deaths in Iraq that are attributable to the invasion and occupation. The revised estimate is a staggering 655,000, according to an article in the BBC this week, translating to a doubling of the mortality rate in the country since the invasion and averaging 500 deaths per day. These are deaths directly attributable to the invasion and occupation and in which in nearly 80% of the cases that were identified from which to make the estimates, the families produced bona fide death certificates.

The death rate in Iraq rose from 5.5 to 13.3 per 1000 pre to post-invasion. In this short 3 and ½ years, then, Iraq has lost 2.5% of its population. If the same thing had happened in this country, our equivalent would be 7 million dead. It is totally unthinkable. And for the Iraqis, there is no end in sight. They must shudder at the words, “stay the course.”

As shocking as the numbers are, it is equally shocking that the President so blithely dismisses them. He characterized the study as “pretty well discredited” and “whatever they guessed at is just…it’s just not credible.” Quite amazing for a man who has been wrong about everything…not some things, or a few things, but everything…to call into question the careful work of scientists who are staking their reputations on their methods and analysis…not the political implications of their results.

The Bush administration could have a counter-claim but they foreclosed that option when they made the policy decision in the beginning not to count civilian deaths. So, on what basis, does the President, General Pace or anyone else, have any objection to make about this study? These people can continue to delude themselves, but no longer can they delude the rest of us.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Iraq Just a Comma in History?

This week, President Bush tried out a new line of rhetoric about Iraq. Well, he had a lot to say, much of it strictly political in nature. But one thing he said was apparently intended to be more of a statesmanlike utterance (I know…hard to comprehend that since we haven’t pursued any statesmanship in so long). But in any case, he said that he expected that what was going on in Iraq now would be, in the context of history, “just a comma.”

As we all know, a comma is a grammatical device to signify a brief pause between clauses. It has no meaning of its own, it is used only to set off what comes before from what comes after.

Such an unfortunate metaphor for the families of the 2,737 service people who have died in Iraq. For them, it has meant an indelible “period.” Someone deeply meaningful to them is gone forever. And, in making the sign this week, I was almost embarrassed to focus on just the American lives lost because so many more Iraqi lives have been lost and ruined. And to think…this was all not only discretionary and pre-emptive…but made up.

Unconscious and unconscionable.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Constitution Bushwhacked

In the most significant betrayal of values for politics in my memory, a significant number of Democrats joined Republicans of both Houses in passing legislation that authorizes an obnoxious abridgement of human and Constitutional rights in the so-called War on Terrorism. This legislation is not worthy of this country, its people, the way we represent ourselves to the world and is clearly inconsistent with our own Constitution.

Here are some major provisions, as I understand them:

  • It establishes military commissions to try the so-called “enemy combatants,” based on evidence that can be obtained without search warrants and that does not have to be revealed to the person charged in order to be rebutted.
  • It assigns the definition of acceptable interrogation techniques to the President and does not require that these be made public.
  • It eliminates the right of habeus corpus so people can be imprisoned indefinitely without charge with no recourse to any court and not knowing, even, the reason that they are being held.
  • It was made retroactive to a convenient time to avoid complication with the scandals of our earlier treatment of detainees and has no sunset clause so it is now in place indefinitely with no established review or point of reconsideration.

Now, what in the behavior of this administration would suggest that this kind of latitude is appropriate to be given them? This is a government that habitually lies, distorts, manipulates, conceals and recriminates. It’s record of corruption is the worst in modern history. It’s notoriety of cronyism over competence is already legendary. It’s stance of aggression and the brutality of the practices it has unleashed are what has promoted the calls for caution in the first place.

What happened to the Congress? Major military figures, the former Secretary of State (and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell), former President Carter…dignified and respected figures from all stripes and backgrounds opposed this. Just this past week the National Intelligence Estimate established what the common public already knew…that the War on Terror and occupation of Iraq, in particular, are creating more and more dangerous terrorists. Likewise, adopting measures such as those contained in this bill will further the recruitment logic of terrorist networks by clearly showing that we practice our own brand of terror…and try to legitimize it by actually placing it into law.

These are quite indescribable occurrences. We are not in the overheated atmosphere of the few days and weeks of the aftermath of 9/11. This is cold, calculated, state-sponsored curtailment of basic human rights and is showing a dark underbelly of this country that I, for one, had hoped we had moved beyond. Are doing these things simply because we can?

We are the world’s only superpower. We can do whatever we please to whomever we please. Why not adopt a more measured, reasonable, effective set of policies that have a chance of creating a sense of responsibility and good will, rather than more hatred and retaliation?

In the long run, I believe we will pay a significant price. We are shrinking by the moment on the world’s stage. Witness the willingness of small countries to berate Bush in the United Nations and defy him with their policies and programs. As our moral authority evaporates, and our military prowess shows itself to be hopelessly inept as it is in Iraq, as our sheer scale contracts in contrast to other nations and our economic power is counter-balanced around the world—we will begin to re-pay those who suffered from our arrogance and misuse of power.

Bush speaks of the “Long War”, knowing that it is nothing more than a political rationale. I hope for the long peace but it’s onset is being protracted by these enormous mistakes and I am deeply disturbed that so many are complicit in it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why don't Iraqis appreciate us more?

Mysteries of the mind. Perplexities of perspective. Obscurity of the obvious.

When Iraqis turned out in the thousands to march in support of Hezbollah during its active conflict with Israel in south Lebanon, President’s Bush’s observation was that he couldn’t understand why the Iraqi’s didn’t appreciate more what the Americans were doing for them. An interesting equation to make in its own right.

But here we are a country that is afraid of the possibility of the occasion of another terror attack while Iraq is a country that is engulfed by terrorism. If an equivalent number of people died here from terrorism last month that did in Iraq, it would amount to over 40,000 people. Imagine. Who would sleep at night? Who would drive the streets? Who dare move about?

We have de-stabilized a country, lost control of the security situation, cannot repair it and our leader has the audacity to ask for a more decorous level of appreciation.

The President quite often uses the term “mindful” when describing his opinions. That’s appropriate I think because I believe his was already full of pre-conceived conclusions that will not be changed or revised by contravening evidence or circumstances that don’t square with them. We all are tempted to deny that which is inconvenient for an already formed opinion or belief…but most of the time, thousands of people aren’t required to suffer and die because we steadfastly hold to it while a country of 20 million innocent people move toward self-destruction.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bush Opposes "Nation Building"? Apparently So.

During a debate with then-Vice President Al Gore on Oct. 11, 2000, in Winston-Salem, N.C., Bush said: "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building. . . .”

It seems like “regime change” might fall under the category of “nation building”. On the other hand, the approach that the administration has taken does reveal that they didn’t expect to have to “build” much of anything. We were told that Iraq could fund its own reconstruction, that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the democracy that flourished in Iraq would begin the transformation of the entire Middle East into a peaceful and stable region.

We have found that this was inflated rhetoric based on arrogant assumptions and manipulative communication. Now we have an Iraq in the chaos of sectarian violence and increasingly resentful of our occupying presence.

Hasn’t our misguided, self-delusional “nation building” actually become “nation wasting”?

Monday, July 31, 2006

How much more barbaric can "peace" efforts become?

The ostensible reason for our intervention in Iraq (well, one of the latter ones) was to bring about a peaceful and stable Iraq through a democratic government. That country has descended into a chaotic state of violence that can only reasonably be labeled a civil war with over 100 Iraqis dying on a daily basis. This can only be considered a catastrophic outcome and quite the opposite of what was envisioned and promised to them when we initiated our military invasion.

Now, in south Lebanon and Gaza, Israel is raining down death and destruction in a conflict so disproportionate in the respective capacities of its opposition that it can simply be described as acting as it wants, how it wants, when it wants. The United States, the only international power, that could effectively terminate this action refuses to do so, oddly, in the name of peace…a “durable” peace…one which somehow should not be initiated with a ceasefire.

The Israelis have actually matched the gall of the U.S. by proclaiming what they are doing is really just as much for the good of Lebanon as it is for their own purposes. By “crushing” Hezbollah they will free Lebanon of an internal oppressor, an unwanted predator that lurks in their midst, undermining their freedoms and liberties. In this, they don’t mention that Hezbollah is, in fact, a political party that has won elections, conducts social programs and maintains many supportable aspects of its relationships with the Lebanese people beyond its military capacity.

If these are the actions of peacemaking, we must be redefining war.