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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 18, 2003

 
What’s Wrong With The Democratic Party?

Nothing, actually.

First of all, it is terribly important that we remember that the Democratic agenda is remarkably coherent for such a large coalition and it is universally supported within the party and by a majority of the country as a whole.

That is really quite remarkable when you think about it and it is the Democratic Party’s great strength.

We are weak on national security, but I think we can deal with that if we do not cede patriotism and American values to the Republicans. This issue is driven by emotion, not policy, and that is best conveyed through symbolism and rhetoric. We can do that. (See my post below for a longer discussion of that concept.)

It is also important to remember that the Bush administration does not have a real governing majority or an electoral mandate. They just behave as if they do. There seems to be a misapprehension that there has been a huge sea change in American attitudes and political belief and that a vast majority of “regular Americans” have rejected us decadent liberals when in fact all that happened was that a small handful of votes went the wrong way in ’02. Al and Ralph, both left of center, won a clear majority in 2000. We should not allow them to make even us believe that they are universally beloved and supported in this country. The ballot box has certainly not demonstrated that and neither do the re-elect numbers.

Yet, they have successfully enacted a radical economic and social agenda of supply side tax cutting, begun a revolutionary overhaul of the legal system, initiated massive regulation rollbacks and dissolution of the traditional separation of church and state. And they have also, not incidentally, completely overturned half century of foreign policy doctrine in just 2 years.

What’s amazing is that they have done all of this not only without a mandate, but without even explicitly campaigning on those issues or being honest about their implications. They are secretive and uncooperative with both the congress and the press and have assumed an inappropriate level of power in the executive branch. They do this because they know that they cannot win with their real agenda.

So, if most Americans support the Democratic agenda and the Republicans are blatantly governing far more radically than they promised in their campaigns, how are they getting away with it?

First, the other side has a huge advantage in money, incumbency and a constituency that benefits lopsidedly from the unrepresentative electoral college and senate. These are very powerful advantages that are unlikely to go away soon. But, even more importantly, they are overwhelmingly powerful in media, with the megaphone of power they now hold in all branches of government as well as the outright ownership of powerful talk radio, Murdoch newspapers and cable news. As Seeing the Forest so astutely observes, they have a message amplification infrastructure and the Democrats don’t. And that infrastructure serves as a conduit to the grassroots and the mainstream media. It shapes the conventional wisdom and defines the boundries of the establishment mainstream. All of these forces taken together give them the advantage even though a majority of Americans support the Democratic agenda and would reject the radical elements of the GOP agenda if they knew what they were.

Karl Rove knows this and has refined GOP tactics to obscure that profound weakness by using their infrastructure to not only demonize Democrats to the faithful (as they have always done) but to present the Republican Party in general and George W. Bush in particular as a triumphant and overwhelming juggernaut in the belief that this will carry the mushy uninformed with them over the finish line and keep the press on message. It is why, as Paul Krugman points out, “they focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules. This technique brought them victory in the Florida recount battle, the passage of the 2001 tax cut, the fall of Kabul, victory in the midterm elections, and the fall of Baghdad.”

But, he downplays the most salient aspect of these victories. The Republicans don’t just “not worry about the rules.” The fact is that they haven’t won anything without cheating since Bush ran as a moderate, seized office on a technicality and began to govern from the most radical edge of his party. The tax cut was passed with fuzzy math and outright falsehoods about the beneficiaries and the election of ‘02 was (barely) won because of smears against a disabled Vet and a coordinated talk radio campaign against a dead man’s grieving family. The invasion of Iraq was sold on lies about WMD and ties to terrorists.

The Bush administration, then, really is the political equivalent of Enron. Ken Lay and George W. Bush and Karl Rove and Andrew Fastow and Jeff Skilling and Dick Cheney are all cut from the same cloth.

If you recall, what Enron essentially did was cook up a bunch of complicated experimental schemes to take advantage of “energy deregulation,” one of those ivory tower think tank wet dreams they managed to foist on a gullible public in various states . They were theoretically clever but had never been tried in the real world. And they predictably failed, but since the company’s financial reports were so byzantine it was able to hide their losses by creating a bunch of new off the books sweetheart deals with insiders and investment bankers who were also recommending the stock to the public. And they kept moving like sharks, using misdirection and tricks to keep investors looking at their "next big new market," while they covered up the failure of the last one.

When a rare person raised questions, the entire establishment that now stood to benefit from Enron’s success joined together to silence the critics. The company appealed to stockholders purely because of their winning ways and preternatural confidence. Nobody knew the details but they knew the plan was good because the cheerleaders and the analysts were all so convinced. So, everybody bought the stock and it became a self fulfilling prophesy. For a while.

They danced as fast as they could but inevitably all the fuzzy math and all the false bravado and all the secrecy and all the backroom dealmaking eventually caused the company to cave in on itself. There was nothing left but a bunch of theories that never worked and a crippling amount of debt.

The Democrats’ job is to prevent this from happening to the country. As taxpayers and citizens we are all shareholders in U.S. Inc. and if George W. Bush gets 4 more years I have no doubt that the results of his erratic decision making, his lack of transparency, his trust in radical ideologues and his reliance on sophisticated public relations to mislead the public will crash into reality. But, by that point the country will have been so seriously damaged that we may never quite recognize it again.

We shouldn't let these guys intimidate us. They are dangerous, but it's because they are reckless and corrupt not because they are a political juggernaut. That's their schtick. It's not real.

UPDATE:

Seeing the Forest has more on this subject today, as does the watch and worldgonewrong. If my comment section is any guide, Democrats have a lot of thoughts on this issue.

My position is most poetically expressed by that most excellent comment writer -- the farmer:

"W is only a "great brand" by virtue of the marketing that made him a "great" brand. Great in this case, having about the same inate "great" value as say, the Great San Francisco Earthquake, the Great Fire of 1871, the Great Depression, and/or the Great White Shark. As "unknown blogger" mentioned, you can sell a rock in a box if you want to. Its still just a rock. But, its the box that sells the rock.

So, as Digby is getting at, its now up to liberals to restablish their dominance in the political marketplace. To market a high quality product in a highly visible high quality package. A better deal, more for your money, at a better price. Something that you can plant and it will grow for you. A real live perennial tree of liberty that you can plant in your own back yard. Not a nut tree either. Too many nut trees already. Rather, a big sprawling sugar maple, or a big blue atlas cedar. Or an apple tree, the kind you can make your own fresh pies from for years and years. Mom will love it. Mom and her apple pie tree. Its a patriotic American living thing and it arrives in a traditional hoop bound oak stave barrel half all ready to be planted in Washington DC. Ships in 2004, order today


Now, that's what I'm talkin' about...



Thursday, April 17, 2003

 
4 Star Democrat

I have written a few blog posts in the last couple of months about General Wesley Clark, (here, here, and here) mostly as a jumping off point about the absolute necessity for the Democrats to drop the silly notion of the 2002 elections that they will be able to set aside national security in favor of preferred Democratic domestic issues if they vote with the President on foreign policy. Once again, they failed to appreciate that the Republicans will portray their opponents in what ever way suits their game plan regardless of their actual record or personal history. There is no margin in trying to appease them because they will only move the goal posts or lie outright if that's what it takes to stay on message.

Bush has a formidable advantage going into this election and it's not just because of incumbency and money but because many in this country are drawn to the nostalgic martial spirit that is being marketed and sold by the Republicans like it was Classic Coke. Patriotic symbols of strength and superiority make them feel secure at a time when the world seems confusing and chaotic. Questioning of authority is deemed unsafe for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the resulting harsh criticism by those in power.

George W. Bush will be marketed in 2004 as a visionary foreign policy genius and battle hardened commander who is the only man in the race who is seasoned and experienced enough to win the war on terror. He will be wrapped tightly in the flag with brass bands and yellow ribbons and allusions to the great victories of WWII. He will speak of high hopes and serious challenges and he will wield his great personal defeat of Saddam as a weapon against any little pissant who has the balls to suggest they should replace him before he’s even begun to smite evil once and for all. (Oh yes, and we need more religion and tax cuts too. Cue "I'm Proud To Be An American.")

The media, having already learned that patriotism sells, will be signing on to the George W. Bush campaign not so much because of explicit political bias but because the image the Republicans are selling is an image that Americans want to buy. Mostly, that comes down to Good America, Strong America.

I believe that Democrats should give no ground on this. We represent real American values and we have every right to use the traditional language and symbols of patriotism to express that. We are the ones who stand for the Constitution and the American system of justice, which we hold so dear that even in times of war we do not waver. We are the ones who believe in the sacred American values of Liberty, Equality, Opportunity and Democracy and we are the ones who work to ensure that every American, not just the privileged, share in them. We are the ones who have faith that America is strong enough to survive any challenge without sacrificing those values. The flag and Sousa and apple pie and love of country are not the exclusive property of the Republican Party; they belong to all Americans. We should take them back.

I believe that the best person to make the argument that Democrats are Americans too is someone who defies the phony liberal stereotype manufactured by GOP Inc. I think that many Americans could have their eyes opened to the true patriotism of the Democratic Party if that case were made by someone who spent more than 35 years maintaining American security. If that someone was so excellent that he began this career by graduating first in his class at West Point and ended it as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, the Democrats would have the perfect symbol of patriotic leadership as well as someone who has the demonstrated ability to maneuver the political shoals of the Pentagon and Washington without the taint of partisan politics.

I want the Democrats to nominate the candidate who can best beat George W. Bush. Standard stump speeches and stale rhetoric cannot compete with the spotlight conferred upon the flag draped Commander In Chief who is being expertly marketed as the Man Who Saved The World. We will not defeat that 200 million dollar juggernaut with predictable Washington faces or unknown iconoclasts without national security credentials.

This election is not business as usual.

I believe that Democrats can beat the Republicans at their own game if we take back our rightful ownership of patriotic symbolism and nominate someone who embodies those All American virtues.

General Wesley Clark is as qualified to be President today as was Colin Powell in 1996 when he was seriously courted by the Republicans as the most serious threat to Clinton's re-election. He is far more qualified to be President than George W. Bush ever will be. He is a Democrat.

I sincerely hope that he throws his hat into the ring and if he does, I will support him.

To read more about General Clark, please visit the Daily Kos’ Draft Clark web site. Sign the petition even if you are not entirely persuaded but think that he could make a contribution to the primaries. Having a General on the stump would be helpful to the Democrats and he could very well be an attractive VP candidate if someone else emerges as a clear winner. We need him in the race.



 
Roundheels

We read that the Bush administration has rolled out a plan to parlay its "success" in Iraq and the immense and overwhelming personal popularity of our wartime President to push its its crazy domestic program. Political strategists speak openly of this strategy and discuss at great length Poppy's failure to do the same thing back in 91. Everyone reporting on politics understands that conflating the President's wartime popularity with his unpopular tax cut is a conscious political tactic.

So naturally, Judy Woodruff just promoted an upcoming segment on CNN with this script:

"Next. The Commander In Chief tries to revitalize his battleplan for the homefront."

All that was missing were the strains of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in the backround. Judy may have even issued a smart salute, but I probably missed it when my eyes filled with tears at the image of our battle-weary Dear Leader forced to once again climb aboard that political Humvee and roll on down to Capitol Hill to fight the evil liberals and (sadly) even some of his own troops as they try to sabotage his crusade against terrorism and taxes.

Can't we even let our hero shake off the dust of his latest mano a mano combat with the satanic Saddam before we force him to take on Mullah Daschle and Olympia bin Snowe?

Thank goodness we have Major Judy around to keep us focused on the fact that while the war between Good (Republicans) and Evil (Democrats) is not over, our tired but determined President George W. Patton will not rest until every last enemy is crushed under the boot of liberty and justice.




Wednesday, April 16, 2003

 
The Lesson Of Iraq

Demosthenes and others have blogged this item from The Guardian yesterday which claims that Dubya has nixed a Syria invasion. Let’s hope it‘s true.

But, it would seem to me to be fairly easy to change his mind if Wolfowitz or Rummy are of a mind to. All they have to do is draw the parallel between Poppy leaving Saddam in power when he had enough troops on the ground to go all the way to Baghdad and Junior leaving Assad in power when he has the troops on the ground to go all the way to Damascus (and Beirut.) I’m sure his good friend and fellow “man of peace” Ariel Sharon would be happy to weigh in on that as well.

If Syria is off the table, however, it appears that Israel is consciously playing cozy with the administration for reasons that make no sense unless they really believe that Assad is about to fold up his tent and run crying from the room. Otherwise, this sort of thing seems designed to inflame the situation to a point where invasion is unavoidable.

Mofaz, who often serves as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "bad cop" in taking a hard security line regarding Israel's Arab neighbors, was quoted Monday as detailing demands he said Israel would ask the Americans to pass on to Syrian officials.

Accusing Assad of having supplied Iraq with weaponry during the war, as well as making statements that appeared to negate Israel's right to exist as a nation, Mofaz told the Ma'ariv daily:

"We have a long list of issues that we are thinking of demanding of the Syrians, and it is proper that this be done by the Americans. It begins with removing the threat of Hezbollah in south Lebanon; distancing long-range rockets; moving Hezbollah away from the south, up to dismantling [Hezbollah]; stopping Iranian aid to Hezbollah via Syrian ports; and halting the granting of the cover of respectability to the terror headquarters of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad based in Damascus, from which they dispatch orders and funding to Palestinian terrorist organizations."


Inexplicably, (to me, anyway) the prevailing view really is that the US can now control events without having to go to war because it has demonstrated that it is willing to use force in Iraq.

Thomas Friedman says that we should begin a policy of “aggressive engagement” with Syria which, because we have no legal basis for a military invasion, falls somewhere between military aggression and “useless constructive engagement.” Basically, it consists of “getting in Syria’s face every day” and reminding the people of Syria how bad they have it. Somehow, this is supposed to force Syria to change because Assad saw what happened to Saddam when he refused to do what the US told it to do.

If that is the case, then it would be ridiculous to take the threat of invasion off the table because without it, it’s just a bunch of annoying hot air. Implicit in these complaints is the threat of military action and everybody knows it. It makes no sense otherwise.

But, more importantly, we need to look more closely at the example we made of Saddam Hussein and the lessons that other foreign leaders are likely to have drawn from it.

Immediately after 9/11 various friends of the administration like Perle and Woolsey immediately began banging the drum to invade Iraq, a desire that was fully documented for years by various highly influential policy makers in the administration.

Throughout the next few months, speculation in the media built as to whether the US was going to adopt this policy.

The administration released TheBush Doctrine stating in clear terms the fact that the US is adopting a strategy of pre-emption to remove the threat of weapons of mass destruction before they are operational.

In August Dick Cheney made a speech laying out the case for regime change in Iraq and the US willingness to invade unilaterally.

In September, the President changed course and went to the UN and asked for a resolution requiring that Iraq rid itself of its WMD and allow inspectors back into the country to verify said disarmament.

The UNSC voted unanimously for this resolution, Saddam declared he had destroyed his WMD long ago and the inspectors were allowed back into the country.

From that time until March, inspectors had been in the country and found no evidence of WMD. The US then said that time had run out and launched the invasion against the wishes of most of the Security Council and much of the world.

Throughout this time, the US government had insisted that if Saddam disarmed we would have no need to invade. Saddam claimed throughout that he had disarmed and allowed weapons inspectors into the country to verify that.

We have been in the country for a month now and have yet to turn up any evidence of WMD and now seem to be shifting our sights to Syria and rewriting the reasons for the invasion to be purely a war of liberation.

Yet, everyone is saying that since we deposed Saddam tyrants and despots everywhere will scurry to do our bidding in order to avoid similar treatment. Indeed, the administration says this straightforwardly: “They would do well to learn the lesson of Iraq…”

But, the lesson of Iraq is that if the US has decided to invade it has no compunction about drawing up a speculative list of crimes such as harboring terrorists and WMD’s, followed by a series of demands that you cease doing those things. Unfortunately, it has also shown that even if you make an effort to comply with those demands and as impossible as it is to prove a negative, it will say that you are lying and invade anyway.

I have no doubt that Bashar Assad is aware that Bush stuck his head in Condi Rice’s office last spring and said “Fuck Saddam, we’re taking him out,” which means that nothing short of Saddam’s ruling junta committing mass suicide could have stopped the war despite all of the posturing before the world community about "disarmament."

The lesson of Iraq is that the United States is going to do what it wants to do without regard to international law or any nation’s good faith effort to cooperate. If they have decided to take military action against you it is a fait accompli. “Aggressive engagement” looks suspiciously like the “Decade of Defiance and Deception” public relations package that sold the war to the American public. No world leader is now under the misapprehension that complying with American demands necessarily guarantees that he will not be invaded and deposed anyway. There is no value in face saving or compromise because the US has proved that it will change its goals and create new rationales at will. So, the only question for any leader in this situation is whether to surrender without bloodshed or go down fighting. All moral authority is vested in America's willingness to deploy its military.

The lesson of Iraq for the US is that the United States had better be prepared to invade any country it “aggressively engages” from now on because it proved to leaders everywhere that capitulating to its “demands” guarantees them nothing. US power now rests entirely on force – it can no longer use diplomacy or any kind of positive reward for good behavior because the lesson of Iraq is that the US cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. Any threats short of war are useless because foreign leaders can no longer count on the US to keep its word not to invade if certain conditions have been met.

American foreign policy is now entirely unpredictable and is based upon nothing more than an elastic self-serving notion of American security. It requires no international consensus regardless of whether it directly impacts US national security and does not follow any international law or norms. It interprets treaties as it wishes without regard to precedent and holds other nations to standards to which it does not hold itself. It does not speak with one voice so its impossible to judge its real position and act accordingly. The American public are overwhelmingly supportive of the administration's new policy regardless of whether the government lies blatently about its reasons so there is little hope of any internal pressure to moderate. The world must now base its relationship with America on nothing more than blind hope or fear of one man's unknown intentions.

The lesson of Iraq is that the US is now the world’s most powerful rogue state.


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

 
GOP Flack

Following this Atrios post I see that Robert George of the NY Post writes to Romanesko’s Media News in response to Michael Wolff's article and my post speculating that the unnamed "uber-civilian" is Jim Wilkinson:

Michael Wolff probably should have named who he was having trouble with -- it would hardly be the first time that a journalist has complained about how much (or how little) information that they are getting from official sources (or for that matter, how much they are being "spun"). It seems to me that the biggest problem that Wolff (and many in blogworld) have with Jim Wilkinson (if that is indeed the person to whom Wolff is referring) is his "uber-civilian" and "Republican operative" status. First, there seemed to be a hint that it is wrong for a civilian to be doing public affairs. But the simple fact is -- as has been reported elsewhere and I can confirm -- is that Wilkinson is a Navy reservist. Now, that doesn't make him active duty, but it doesn't make him a total "civilian" either.

As for Wilkinson's alleged party affiliation, well before heading to CENTCOM, he worked out of the White House press operation. I'm sure the WH people felt that the combination of military and political background made him a good pick to flack for Tommy Franks. Kinda makes sense to me. Besides, are we to be shocked -- shocked!!!! -- that a press person representing an administration's viewpoints (even those in a war zone) might have been involved in politics earlier?


I don’t know why a civilian reservist who is not on active duty would be wearing a uniform, but perhaps that’s just an odd vainglorious affectation rather than an attempt to appear to be DOD instead of White House. In any case, it is just a little bit of delicious detail and holds no real importance.

What I find really amazing is that George acknowledges Wilkinson is representing the “administration’s viewpoint” when he says:

"I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." "A lot of people don't like you." "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." "This is fucking war, asshole." "No more questions for you."


I always felt that the administration acted like a bunch of cheap movie gangsters, but it’s quite refreshing to see a Republican concur.

However, he still does not really understand why people object to a partisan hack like Wilkinson being influential in the war zone. It’s not just that Wilkinson characterized the bourgeois rioters as “volunteers” when everybody knows that they were virtually all paid congressional staffers. It’s because his job is to spin the war and control the message and that’s just a little bit offensive to old fashioned people who still think that the military should not be explicitly political, particularly in wartime. And it’s all the more objectionable when this very same fellow is the one who was in charge of compiling the report "A Decade of Defiance and Deception that included so many of the now disproved allegations about aluminum tubes and the like.

Here are some excerpts
of an internet cache of this archived article
from Newsweek written by Martha Brant last September:

Ladies and Gentlemen ... the Band: Selling the war in Iraq



"We’re getting the band together," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told the group on their first conference call last week.

The "Band" is made up of the people who brought you the war in Afghanistan—or at least the accompanying public-relations campaign. Their greatest hit: exposing the Taliban’s treatment of women.

Now, they’re back for a reunion tour on Iraq. The Band's instrument, of course, is information.

They aim to use it against Saddam Hussein, respond to his disinformation and control the message within the administration so no one—not even Vice President Dick Cheney—freelances on Iraq.

That’s no easy task. The members talk every day by phone at 9:30 a.m.

The key players are a handful of rising stars in their early 40s and under:

For starters there’s Deputy Communications Director Jim Wilkinson, 32, a fast-talking Texan who has become an unlikely but keen student of Islam. He recently got back from a trip to Morocco where he continued his study of Arabic (which he can now read and write pretty well).

It was Wilkinson who spearheaded the successful Afghan women’s campaign last year. A Naval Reserve officer, Wilkinson got his start working with Bush ally Texas Rep. Dick Armey. He’s the go-to guy when the White House needs information against its enemies.

In the last few weeks, he and his underlings have weeded through hundreds of pages of news clippings, U.N. resolutions and State Department reports to compile an arsenal of documents against Saddam Hussein. They released the first round last week: "Decade of Defiance and Deception" (a broken-U.N.-resolutions hit parade).

Then there’s Tucker Eskew, 41, a savvy South Carolinian, who will soon be named the director of the new Office of Global Communications, which will be formally launched this fall. Neither a Texan nor a lifelong Bushie, he earned his stripes during the Florida election mess by becoming the campaign’s tropical smooth-talker.

[…]

It was Bartlett, Bush’s right-hand man and the 31-year-old leader of the Band, who has insisted that this and all documents be sourced. Wilkinson spent hours footnoting the 22-page "Decade of Defiance" document released last week, for example. "We compiled every single possible bit of research we could find and then set out to verify, verify, verify," Wilkinson explains.

[…]


The White House is sending administration bigwigs to hearings this week and next to help make Bush’s case against Saddam Hussein—not just to Congress, but to the American people. It’s the Band’s job to make sure that case gets heard.

They’ll be playing soon at a TV, newspaper and radio near you.


I would have thought that once the invasion was underway that the DOD could be depended upon to handle the press. Why a costumed White House "band member" needed to be there is still not clear, George's oh-so-world weary Raines impression notwithstanding. Perhaps it is standard in all wars for the White House to have a representative at Central Command to coordinate "the message" and tell reporters "don't fuck with things you don't understand" and "no more questions for you." But, that wouldn't make it any less disturbing.


Monday, April 14, 2003

 
Law and Order: Private Justice Squad

Boy, those police states are just awful. I'm sure glad we liberated the Iraqis from a regime that would do things like this:

...[he] witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased."

...[they were] engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts."

...women and girls were handed over to bar owners and told to perform sex acts to pay for their costumes.The women who refused were locked in rooms and withheld food and outside contact for days or weeks. After this time they are told to dance naked on table tops and sit with clients. If the women still refuse to perform sex acts with the customers they are beaten and raped in the rooms by the bar owners and their associates. They are told if they go to the police they will be arrested for prostitution and being an illegal immigrant."


It is so nice that the United States has arrived to set things right.

Oh, wait a minute. These are things that were done by our All American Dyncorps Rent-a-cops in Bosnia. And guess what? We're gonna send 'em to Iraq! I'm sure they'll have some juicy stories to swap with those Ba'athist secret police we've also hired to "restore order."

Dyncorp Wants You

That plan appears to be almost ready. Half a world away from the bedlam in Iraq, just outside of Forth Worth, Texas, police recruiters are currently manning the phones for Dyncorp, a multi-billion dollar military Contractor. For Dyncorp the turmoil that is emerging in Iraq could mean a boom in business.

"When the area is safe, we will go in. Watch CNN. In the meantime fax us a resume if you want a job," Homer Newman, a Dyncorp recruiter told Corpwatch. But Chuck Wilkins, a company spokesman in Virginia, said: "The contract hasn't yet been awarded."

Yet a website has been offering Dyncorp jobs to "individuals with appropriate experience and expertise to participate in an international effort to re-establish police, justice and prison functions in post-conflict Iraq." The company is looking for active duty or recently retired cops and prison guards and "experienced judicial experts." Applicants must be US citizens with ten years of sworn civilian domestic law enforcement. The site even has a toll free number and a "cops.recruiting@dyncorp.com" email address for applicants.

The website explains that recruits will help "establish police stations and monitor activities determining the selection, screening and training processes for police officers, demonstrating police practices and techniques used by democratic societies advising local police on criminal investigation methods and monitoring their progress working side-by-side with police officers from around the world reporting humanitarian violation."


Cool, huh? Too bad about those unfortunate allegations of Human Rights Violations and Fraud

The company is not short on controversy. Under the Plan Colombia contract, the company has 88 aircraft and 307 employees - 139 of them American - flying missions to eradicate coca fields in Colombia. Soldier of Fortune magazine once ran a cover story on DynCorp, proclaiming it "Colombia's Coke-Bustin' Broncos."

US Rep. Janice Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, told Wired magazine that hiring a private company to fly what amounts to combat missions is asking for trouble. DynCorp's employees have a history of behaving like cowboys," Schakowsky noted.

"Is the US military privatizing its missions to avoid public controversy or to avoid embarrassment - to hide body bags from the media and shield the military from public opinion?" she asked.

Indeed a group of Ecuadoran peasants filed a class action against the company in September 2001. The suit alleges that herbicides spread by DynCorp in Colombia were drifting across the border, withering legitimate crops, causing human and livestock illness, and, in several cases, killing children. Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers intervened in the case right away telling the judge the lawsuit posed "a grave risk to US national security and foreign policy objectives."


And then there was all that unpleasantness about slavery and prostitution:

What you have here is a Lord of the Flies mentality. Basically you've got a bunch of strong men who are raping and manipulating young girls who have been kidnapped from their homes. Who's the bad guy? Is it the guy who buys the girl to give her freedom, the one who kidnaps her and sells her or the one who liberates her and ends up having sex with her? And what does it mean when the U.S. steps up and says, 'We don't have any jurisdiction'? That's absurd."


Rummy meant it when he said freedom meant people were free to commit crimes. "Course, you're especially free to commit crimes if you are a private cop working for a defense contractor who has immunity from prosecution.

I sure hope our Iraqi friends don't choke on those big old whiffs 'o freedom we're giving them.



 
The American Death Star

Mary over at the Watch (which has a whole bunch of great posts up) sent me this analysis from Stratfor by Dr. George Friedman on the Big Picture. Their belief is that the rationale for invasion can be reduced to 2 simple premises:

1. To transform the psychology of the Islamic world, which had perceived the United States as in essence weak and unwilling to take risks to achieve its ends.

2. To use Iraq as a strategic base of operations from which to confront Islamic regimes that are either incapable of or unwilling to deny al Qaeda and other Islamist groups access to enabling resources.


The first is really just a way to demonstrate the basic logic of the Bush Doctrine and it comes down to a rather cultish worship of Machiavelli. (Check out Michael Ledeen's onanistic writings on the subject.) You know the line:

My view is that it is desirable to be both loved
and feared; but it is difficult to achieve both and,
if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer
to be feared than loved.

[…]

Nevertheless, a ruler must make himself feared
in such a way that, even if he does not become
loved, he does not become hated. For it is
perfectly possible to be feared without incurring
hatred. And this can always be achieved if he
refrains from laying hands on the property of his
citizens and subjects.


I’m at a loss as to how this can possibly fit in with the Straussian views of the conservative Virtuecrats, but I guess it all just boils down to team sports or something. The more I delve into the philosophical foundations of the Bush Doctrine and those who support it the more incoherent it is. Christians for Machiavelli. Now that’s some intellectual gymnastics.

I suppose it is of a piece with a government that openly embraces fear and power as a policy while using the rhetoric of liberty and religion to sell it. This kind of cognitive dissonance is so pervasive that you have to give them credit for their superhuman ability to keep their heads from exploding.

Anyway, the Stratfor report takes a whack at examining the psychology of those we believe we can cow with our vast military prowess:

The simplistic idea that resentment of the United States will generate effective action by Arabs misses a crucial point. Two scales are at work here: the radicalism scale and the hope scale. On the radicalism scale, the level of radicalism and anti-Americanism in the Arab world has been off the chart for months. Increasing the level would be difficult. However, radicalism by itself does not lead to action. There must also be hope -- a sense that there are weaknesses in the U.S. position that can be exploited, that there is some possibility of victory, however distant. So long as the hope scale tends toward hopelessness, radicalism can be intense.

The United States was prepared to allow the radicalism scale to go deep into the danger zone, but Washington has been trying to keep the hope scale deeply in the green zone. Israel's failure after 1967 was inherent in its position: The Israelis depended heavily on outsiders for national security. The Arab perception was that the Israelis could be attacked by splitting them from their patrons. This sense of vulnerability led to an active response to defeat. .


It goes on to say that the US must now work to avoid projecting a sense of vulnerability and suggests that in order to ultimately prevail it must reduce the hatred. The hatred will cause us to lose control of Iraq and that loss of control will lead to a perception of vulnerability.

I agree that the administration believes all this, but it remains inexplicable to me. Yes, al Qaeda uses the “Americans are a bunch of pussies” rhetoric in their recruitment videos. And, they do harbor the illusion that they single handedly brought down the Soviets (a trait they share with the neocons.) But, does anyone believe that this invasion of Iraq has somehow made us seem invulnerable to anybody but a bunch of stupid Americans who missed the point of Star Wars?

Terrorists don’t have to defeat the mighty US military to win. These people already know that all it takes is a handful of fanatics killing American civilians on American soil to provoke our government into acting like a rabid dog by wildly undertaking reckless adventures abroad, invoking totalitarian measures at home and spending more and more of our money on warmaking capability. We could theoretically scare all the tinhorn dictators in the world into cowering like a bunch battered Democratic Senators before our mighty sword, but it is an extremely strange reading of psychology that says you can frighten suicide bombers.

But, the neocons think that terrorists are just agents of rogue states so they don’t spend a lot of time second guessing their decade old plan to rule the world. But even by their own logic, I fail to see how aggressive bellicosity toward Syria even before the bullets have stopped flying in Iraq is going to accomplish their goal of being both feared and loved.

With respect to the second point, there is some speculation that this saber rattling toward Syria is a sop to Ariel Sharon as an inducement to sign on to the "road map." On the other hand Richard Perle believes that since we’ve “liberated” 25 million Iraqis, we’ve done our part for the Arabs and the Palestinians can piss up a rope. So, as usual, nobody really knows what the hell they are up to.

Perhaps they actually believe they can force Assad to step down just by saying “boo!” But, if the Stratfor analysis is correct, if he stays in power after all of this in your face rhetoric we must invade Syria or risk being seen as vulnerable. And, if we do that then we will definitely create more hatred. It’s hard to see how they can finesse this one into another “liberation.”

When you open your big mouth and roar at other countries that you “expect” them to do what you tell them – no need for a UN resolution fig leaf or wimpy coalitions in Bush’s Empire --you’ve got to be prepared to back it up. And when you talk tough to a guy whose power rests entirely on his repressive authority you’ve left him no choice but to go down fighting. So, unless Assad humiliates himself and backs down or Bush backs down, thereby making the US appear vulnerable, we are backing ourselves into a corner. It's very likely that we will be invading Syria.



 
You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!

Via Atrios this may be the best article yet about the surreality of Operation Big Swinging Manhood.

Even Kubrick and Southern couldn’t have made this stuff up:

[…]

First it was CNN that replayed my question - the CNN view was, more or less, the liberal media view: a certain hand wringing about whether the media was being used. Then it was Fox, with its extreme, love-it-or-leave-it, approach to the war, which took me apart: I was clearly a potential traitor.

And then it was Rush.

To his audience of 20 million - pro-war, military minded, Bush-centered, media-hating - lily white-Rush laid me out. I was not only a reporter, but one from New York magazine. "New York" resonated. It combined with "media" and suddenly, in the hands of Rush, I was as elitist and as pampered (fortunately nobody mentioned the Ritz) and as dismissive of the concerns of real Americans as, well, Rush's 20 million assume the media to be. Whereas Rush, that noted foot soldier, represented the military heartland.

What's more, according to Rush, that great defender of the rights of African-Americans, I was a racist. Duh. A white liberal challenging a black general. It's a binary world.

And Rush gave out my email address. Almost immediately, the 3,000 emails, full of righteous fury, started to come.

Clearly marked as the rabble-rouser of the get-out-of-Doha movement, I was approached by some enforcer types. The first person was a version of a Graham Greene character. He represented the White House, he said. Wasn't of the military. Although, he said, he was embedded here ("sleeping with a lot of flatulent officers," he said). He was incredibly conspiratorial. Smooth but creepy: "If you had to write the memo about media relations, what would be your bullet points?"

The next person to buttonhole me was the Centcom uber-civilian, a thirty-ish Republican operative. He was more full-metal-jacket in his approach (although he was a civilian he was, inexplicably, in uniform - making him, I suppose a sort of para-military figure): "I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." And: "A lot of people don't like you." And then: "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." And too: "This is fucking war, asshole." And finally: "No more questions for you."

I had been warned.


Read the whole thing

It's pretty clear who the civilian in uniform is and he's a real piece 'o work:

Signaling the high interest in improving the military's image is the appointment of [Jim] Wilkinson as spokesman for CENTCOM. A veteran White House publicist as well as a Navy Reserve lieutenant, Wilkinson headed the anti-Taliban Coalition Information Center during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and was spokesman for the Bush campaign in Miami-Dade County during the Florida recount after the 2000 election.

Wilkinson's political credentials have aroused journalistic concerns that the Bush administration, not known for its openness, is trying to control the message and use it for re-election purposes in the 2004 campaign.


Buzzflash reported:

...this entire public affairs operation is headed Jim Wilkinson, one of the thugs who protested the Florida recount. Ever the good soldier, (though a civilian, Wilkinson reportedly wears a military desert camouflage uniform to work)...


He is a big believer in freedom of expression, though, so it's hard to believe he would try to muzzle the press. Why, during the Florida recount CNN reported:

A spokesman for the Bush recount team in Florida said he was there during the exchanges Wednesday and saw no violence or kicking.

"I can tell you that simply did not happen," said Jim Wilkinson.

"What you had was a lot of young volunteers who, frankly, objected to this election being decided behind closed doors, without the media having a full view and without our observers having a full view," Wilkinson said. "We executed our First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner, with full decorum."


Yes. Elections these days are so darned "untidy," aren't they?



Saturday, April 12, 2003

 
Heads or Tails?

If there was ever any doubt as to the reason why nothing makes sense in this administration this removes it:

With strong and powerful personalities such as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney at the center of these disputes, the battles are often carried on to the last minute, when Bush makes a decision. Both sides wage spirited fights because, up until the moment Bush tips his hand, they assure themselves that the president shares their point of view.

The process, some officials say, at times verges on dysfunctional, largely because people at the lower levels make decisions without knowing or understanding the actual policy. That in turn can confuse and confound allies and foes as the administration appears to shift tactics from diplomacy toward confrontation, and back again.


No kidding.

That bodes well for this:

Administration officials have told the Israeli government that it is in its interest to allow Abbas to succeed. "We're talking hard, right now," an official said, about the steps expected of the Israeli government. A senior Arab official said Arabs will be watching to see whether Israel takes substantive steps such as quickly reducing the number of roadblocks and checkpoints on the West Bank or dismantling some settlements.

Yet Israel has serious concerns about the road map, and officials have indicated they want to renegotiate some aspects, a position that has some sympathy in other parts of the administration.


And this could certainly be a problem:

Asked if the United States was preparing to take some action against Syria, Wolfowitz said, "That's not a decision the Defense Department makes. That obviously . . . would be a decision for the president and Congress."

Yet, on the same day as Wolfowitz's comments, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told reporters that "in the last several days they have responded quite well to U.S. and coalition warnings and démarches about closing their borders and things of that nature and she has done so."

While the State Department is not unhappy to have Syria rattled, the rhetoric has begun to alarm some officials, as well as officials in the British government. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is frequently forced to deny in television interviews overseas that the United States has a secret list of countries it plans to attack next


So, what do you think he does? Eeeny meeny miney mo? Rock, paper, scissors?



 
Good Cop, Bad Cop

I swear I was being facetious when I said back on April 8th:

Saddam's Ba'ath party probably has some damned good administrators. And police forces, for that matter. Highly experienced. Surely they can be convinced to assume a more benign role in a post-Saddam Iraq. Maybe we don't have to engage in all that messy "accountability" mucky muck. Particularly when the ungrateful Iraqis are looting all the spoils (that we will just have to replace with our oil profits...)

I honestly did not believe that the United States would actually put Ba'ath Party police back on the streets because well...you know... all that torture, killing, cutting tongues out stuff. It didn't seem like the kind of thing that would be good for that All American altruistic liberator image to put Saddam's police apparatus back in place. Call me crazy, but I think some Iraqis might find that a bit disconcerting. Iraq wasn't called a police state for nothing.

Explaining the decision to encourage the Iraqi police to return, another civil affairs officer, Major David Cooper, said: "An awful lot of these people were police officers first and Ba'athists second. If we can identify those who were not hardline Ba'athists but are hardline Iraqi policemen, we can use them to maintain order. The first thing is to find out who they are and then see if we can work with them. We are not going to put war criminals in positions of authority."


And to think I was afraid they might be using some of the bad Ba'ath police who did the electrodes on the genitals and raping kids in front of their parents thing that Dubya mentioned about 3,236 times in the last month.

I'm awfully relieved American soldiers can tell so easily which ones are the war criminals and which ones are the good Ba'athists. They probably have a lot of experience negotiating labyrinthine social systems in total chaos. Perhaps they'll see into their souls.




 
Oh heck

Officials at the Pentagon have specific concerns about one aspect of the widespread looting -- that vandalism of government offices could destroy evidence about weapons of mass destruction.


Wouldn't you just know it?

Update: All Is Not Lost

Britain and the United States have bypassed the United Nations to establish a secret team of inspectors to resume the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

[...]

The role played by the new inspectors, who set up a base in Kuwait a week before the war began, was disclosed to the Guardian by David Kay, the former head of Unscom, the arms inspections team which left Iraq in 1998 after Iraq accused it of being infiltrated by spies.

No mention has been made of the new group by ministers or military spokesmen, who have indicated that weapons inspections are carried out by military forces. But the group, headed by Charles Duelfer, a former deputy head of the Unscom weapons inspectors, has travelled extensively in Iraq.

[...]

Mr Kay described the new inspectors as a "robust group of people". "There are special forces teams that carry out [immediate] inspections. But they are not as technically based as the Kuwait team, who are heavily science-based civilians."

A spokesman for Mr Blix, Ewen Buchanan, said the US-led team had tried and failed to recruit some of his staff.

Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University, said the existence of the secret team would lead to a major dispute. "You are more likely to find what you want if you do it yourself," he said. "If this team finds a smoking gun, people will not believe it."

The disclosure is likely to embarrass British ministers, who are officially committed to allowing Unmovic a role.

Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, would only say yesterday that Britain and the US had set up a "machinery" for resuming inspections. "It may take some time," he added.


Whew. That's a relief.

I don't know why people wouldn't believe it if our secret team comes up with a smoking gun. And, anyway, who cares what a bunch of losers think? They thought we couldn't beat Saddam either and boy are they eating their words today. They'll eat more words when our special super secret team finds all those WMD's. At least that's what Andy and Rummy and Dubya will say. And that's ALL that matters.



Friday, April 11, 2003

 
Goodfella

This is so damned nuts that I'm just going to let it speak for itself. Is America really ready for this?

A strong warning to Syria
Barry James/IHT International Herald Tribune
Saturday, April 12, 2003

Perle, a Pentagon adviser, sees more preemption in future

PARIS Richard Perle, one of the chief U.S. ideologists behind the war to oust Saddam Hussein, warned Friday that the United States would be compelled to act if it discovered that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been concealed in Syria.

Perle said that if the Bush administration were to learn that Syria had taken possession of such Iraqi weapons, "I'm quite sure that we would have to respond to that."

"It would be an act of such foolishness on Syria's part," he continued, "that it would raise the question of whether Syria could be reasoned with. But I suppose our first approach would be to demand that the Syrians terminate that threat by turning over anything they have come to possess, and failing that I don't think anyone would rule out the use of any of our full range of capabilities."

In an interview with editors of the International Herald Tribune, Perle said that the threat posed by terrorists he described as "feverishly" looking for weapons to kill as many Americans as possible obliged the United States to follow a strategy of preemptive war in its own defense.

Asked if this meant it would go after other countries after Iraq, he replied: "If next means who will next experience the 3d Army Division or the 82d Airborne, that's the wrong question. If the question is who poses a threat that the United States deal with, then that list is well known. It's Iran. It's North Korea. It's Syria. It's Libya, and I could go on."

Perle, a Pentagon adviser as a member of the Defense Policy Board, said the point about Afghanistan and now Iraq was that the United States had been put in a position of having to use force to deal with a threat that could not be managed in any other way.

The message to other countries on the list is "give us another way to manage the threat," he said, adding, "Obviously, our strong preference is always going to be to manage threats by peaceful means, and every one of the countries on the 'who's next?' list is in a position to end the threat by peaceful means."

"So the message to Syria, to Iran, to North Korea, to Libya should be clear. if we have no alternative, we are prepared to do what is necessary to defend Americans and others. But that doesn't mean that we are readying the troops for a next military engagement. We are not."

The former official in Republican administrations said the United States also has "a serious problem" with Saudi Arabia, where he said both private individuals and the government had poured money into extremist organizations.

"This poses such an obvious threat to the United States that it is intolerable that they continue to do this," he warned.

He said he had no doubt that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"We will not find them unless we stumble across them," he said, "until we are able to interview those Iraqis who know where they are. The prospect of inspections may have had the effect of causing the relocation of the weapons and their hiding in a manner that would minimize their discovery, which I believe will turn out to mean burying things underground in inaccessible places."

He added that the speed of the coalition advance, "may have precluded retrieving and using those weapons in a timely fashion."

Asked if the United States was doomed to follow a policy of preemption alone, Perle replied that it is necessary to restructure the United Nations to take account of security threats that arise within borders rather than are directed across borders.

"There is no doubt that if some of the organizations that are determined to destroy this country could lay their hands on a nuclear weapon they would detonate it, and they would detonate in the most densely populated cities in this country, with a view to killing as many Americans as possible, " he said. Yet there was nothing in the UN charter authorizing collective preemption to avoid such threats.

"I think the charter could say that the terrorist threat is a threat to all mankind," Perle said.

Perle said resentment over France's opposition to the war ran so deep in the United States that he doubted there could ever be a basis for constructive relations between the two governments.

"When you have both the government and the opposition agreed on one thing, which is that they are not sure whether they want Saddam Hussein to win, that is a shocking development and Americans have been shocked. The freedom fries and all the rest is a pretty deeply held sentiment. I am afraid this is not something that is easily patched and cannot be dealt with simply in the normal diplomatic way. because the feeling runs too deep. it's gone way beyond the diplomats."

Perle said he had no doubt the world is safer than it was a month ago. "The idea that liberating Iraq would spawn terrorists all over the Muslim world I think will be proven to be wrong, and it will be proven to be wrong by the Iraqis themselves . We are about to learn what life has been like under Saddam Hussein. Even in the tough world we are living in, people are going to be shocked about the depravity and sadism of the Saddam regime."

Perle said there were good reasons to support the Middle East peace process, but not in a way that suggests the United States has caused damage by the war in Iraq. "The sense that we somehow owe this to the Arab world only diminishes the essential truth about what we've done in Iraq," he said. "We have not damaged Arab interests. We have advanced them by freeing 25 million people from this brutal dictatorship."


Now I don't know if this guy is a certifiable psychopath, but he is obviously completely fucking demented. This kind of talk scares the hell out of me now that it's quite clear that this freak really does speak for the administration.



Thursday, April 10, 2003

 
Ain't Misbehavin'

Calpundit makes a small point in his post today on Michael Tomasky's excellent call to arms in The American Prospect. He has said this in so many words a number of times in the ongoing debate about extremism vs. moderation etc.

My problem is with extremist liberals who seem to go out of their way to alienate Middle America — highly public vomit-ins, tree spikings, trips to Baghdad — without ever thinking about what effect this might have on acceptance of the liberal agenda in general.


Every political party has its fringe. In a two party system, the coalition in each is huge and represents a wide range of opinion. There are also always those who will use dramatic and over the top actions in the name of politics. However, they rarely signify with the public unless a concerted propaganda campaign makes it appear that these people represent a mainstream view and then closely ties them to elected politicians.

White supremecists, Christian Reconstructionists, militias, neo-confederates and anti-immigrant bigots represent the extremist fringe of the Republican party and I would suggest that their activities would be far more repulsive to most middle of the road Americans than some theatrical kids at a protest rally --- if they heard about them constantly. If there were a non-stop barrage of criticism coming from talk radio and cable television against comments like this, many of Kevin's ordinary Americans would begin to see these people for the rude, immature bigots they are.

But, the fact is that the only "extremists" who are pointed out and regularly lambasted in the media are from the left. And, it is part of a long standing, organized effort to portray the entire democratic party as being out of the mainstream. Even if we could persuade every single theatrical liberal that it is in the best interest of the liberal agenda to behave in a more politic way, it would not make one bit of difference. They already call Tom Daschle an ultra liberal spawn of Satan and Howie Kurtz says that's mainstream partisan discourse. If the "extremists" of the left didn't exist, Rush would just make some up.

The problem for Democrats isn't our cultural nonconformists who embarrass and disconcert the bourgeoisie. Our problem is the GOP extremists who are now directing the government and buying up the media while dishonestly presenting themselves as moderate middle of the roaders. The Republicans have successfully convinced a lot of people that kooky gay guys "shocking" the straights or removing the word God from the pledge of allegiance are more of a threat to them than a series of expensive unilateral wars while bankrupting the government and discarding the safety net and all consumer protections.

We have to recognize that the other side will demonize us no matter what we actually do so there is no margin in trying to tailor our image. The other side won't let that happen. We have to depend upon our ideas and our candidates making a better case. And we have to finally go after the other side with everything in our arsenal. Worrying about our own extremists instead of exposing theirs is playing into their hands.



edited slightly for clarity

 
Shanghai Surprise

This is too rich. The FBI “handler” of Johnny Chung in the hysterical Chi-Com fundraising scandals in the late 90’s turns out to have been sleeping with a Chinese double agent – and well known Republican fundraiser – for many years.

If you have forgotten the sad and tawdry story of Johnny Chung, let me remind you what all the breast beating was about:

MARGARET WARNER: Last year, Senator Fred Thompson, Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, opened his investigation of campaign fund-raising abuses...

[…]

...but the hearings ended last October without establishing a Chinese government connection to various illegal contributions made during the 1996 election season.

Then, last Friday, The New York Times reported that Justice Department investigators believe they have established such a link, based on testimony provided by California businessman Johnny Chung. Chung, who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable contributions to the Democratic National Committee, began cooperating with the Justice Department after pleading guilty to campaign-related bank and tax fraud charges in March. Chung reportedly told investigators that a significant portion of his 1996 contributions came from China's People's Liberation Army by way of Liu Chao-Ying, a lieutenant colonel who also is a top executive of Beijing's state-owned aerospace company, China Aerospace. That same year, the Clinton administration was making it easier for American commercial satellites to be launched by Chinese rockets--a move that benefitted Liu's company. Such launchings had been tightly restricted in the past out of concern that they would give China access to technology that could be used for military purposes.

The Justice Department is also investigating whether the administration's decision was influenced by domestic campaign contributions from executives of two American aerospace companies that had been lobbying to get the restrictions eased--Loral Space Communications and Hughes Electronics. Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz gave the Democrats more than $600,000 before the '96 elections, making him the party's largest single contributor that year. President Clinton insisted that contributions had not influenced the decision to let China launch American satellites.


Remember now? Clinton had supposedly knowingly taken money from the Chi-Coms and two aerospace companies and then, acting as the Communist agent we always knew he was, eased regulations allowing the sale of extremely sensitive satellite secrets to his comrades. It was, of course, never even slightly proven that anybody in the White House had the slightest idea that the money Chung donated came from Chinese sources, the money was returned immediately upon hearing that it may have been, and all the scandal really managed to do was nail some low hanging fruit for violations unrelated to the screaming headlines charging espionage and treason. The investigation of Loral and Hughes continued but it was determined that the easing of restrictions had nothing to do with the kind of sensitive information the companies were suspected of sharing with Beijing.

Fast forward to March 28th of this year as we entered Operation Neocon Wetdream:

While he led an influential Pentagon advisory board, Richard N. Perle advised a major American satellite maker, Loral Space and Communications, as it faced government accusations that it improperly transferred rocket technology to China, administration officials said today.Officials at the State Department said that the senior official considering how to resolve the rocket matter, Assistant Secretary Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr., was contacted by Mr. Perle once or twice in the second half of 2001 on behalf of the company.

At the time, Mr. Bloomfield, who heads the State Department's bureau of political-military affairs, and other officials were investigating accusations that Loral turned over expertise that significantly improved the reliability of China's nuclear missiles...

"We have an office, our political-military office, led by Assistant Secretary Linc Bloomfield, who did receive queries from Mr. Perle," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in response to a question during an interview today. "And quite appropriate, since Richard was, I guess, authorized for Loral to ask. In conducting our regular business I know that Linc and members of Linc's staff did have conversations with Richard Perle. We would do that with anybody who is authorized to call and ask of such matters."

Mr. Perle said this afternoon that he was retained by Loral seven months before his appointment by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to head the Defense Policy Board and was given a one-time retainer at the outset of his work. "I was retained by Loral in January 2001 to assist the company in assessing its dispute with the government concerning transfers of technology to the Chinese, to recommend approaches to settling that dispute including new security arrangements to assure against any further technology leakage," he said. "At no time did I urge any government official to settle the case."

He said any conversations he may have had with Mr. Bloomfield or his staff "related to the licensing" of other Loral satellites for the Chinese and that he was "not compensated by the company in connection with that activity."

[…]

The government accused Loral of providing Chinese officials with confidential materials from an American panel that investigated the February 1996 crash of a Loral satellite, which was built for Intelsat, the international consortium, and was launched by a Chinese Long March rocket.

The inquiry into Loral and other companies resulted in restrictions that have prevented the industry from seeking new business with China.

[…]

… people involved in the case have said Mr. Perle was retained on the instructions of Mr. Schwartz, who came under criticism by some Republicans during the Clinton administration for being one of the largest political donors to Democrats.

Mr. Schwartz retained a prominent team to defend the company in the investigation. Among those who worked on the matter were Douglas J. Feith, who is now under secretary of defense for policy. Mr. Feith is also an old friend and former colleague of Mr. Perle. When Mr. Perle was an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, Mr. Feith was his special counsel.


And now we find that one of the FBI agents who was heavily involved in the Chi-Com fundraising scandal was also heavily involved sexually with a Chinese double agent who also happened to be a well known Republican fundraiser. Meanwhile, the company that was portrayed as a treasonous Chi-Com front for Bill Clinton and his commie brethren hires a bunch of neocon heavyweights in the Defense Department to get it out of its mess.

Oh congressional committees, where art thou? Anybody? No treason? What about the “smell test?” As Senator Specter (R-Gasbag) said at the time, “… these matters may be coincidences, but they raise an unsavory inference and ought to be investigated.”




 
Offers They Can't Refuse

Chris Anderson has some criticisms of my newfound friends, the neocons. He says:

This is a foreign policy in which America's primary role is that of a protection racket. People can go about there business, just so long as they don't do anything that we don't like. Then they better watch out! Look what we did to Sadaam!


And I say, what's wrong with that? There is a lot wrong with the Mafia, as we all know, but they did bring order to unruly neighborhoods by selling their protection. We too will bring order to the world by laying out the rules under which nations may behave and then taking only the resources we absolutely need to maintain our hegemony. If they fail to behave (or give us these small tokens of respect) we will have to make an example of them. This is the very essence of the Pax Americana. Sometimes a little "knuckles de sandwich" is the price 'o freedom, my friends.



 
Ich Bin Ein Neoconer

"In removing the terror regime from Iraq, we send a very clear message to all groups that operate by means of terror and violence against the innocent. The United States and our coalition partners are showing that we have the capacity and the will to wage war on terror-and to win decisively." Vice President Cheney 4/9/03


Ok. I’m a convert. I have been studying the neoconservative movement for some time and thought them to be little more than crass imperialists who couched their will to power in a delusion born of discarded leftist radicalism. But, after seeing the American flag draped over the statue of Saddam’s ugly mug, the cheering people getting their first “whiff ‘o freedom” I now know that all that talk of weapons of mass destruction and support for al Qaeda was just a clever ruse by the Bush administration to convince wimpy Americans to support the first in a series of wars against those who operate by means of terror and violence against the innocent. I now believe, like most Americans and good people everywhere, that it doesn’t matter if Saddam had WMD or supported terrorists. It was never about that.

It has now been established that America boldly defied the cowardly Europeans and the perfidious United Nations and put its own blood and treasure on the line for purely altruistic reasons --- the liberation of a repressed people from a cruel and heartless dictator and all that talk of threats to ourselves were forced upon us by cynics who refuse to see that we are a country that operates solely out of humanitarian concern.

You see, Americans have also been liberated today.

We are liberated from the restraints of Realpolitik, the need to consider issues of stability, economic interests or the outmoded concept of the “sovereignty” of nations. No longer will ideology or politics or “strategic interests” play a part in our foreign policy calculations. It will not be necessary for our government to set forth thinly veiled rationales for our actions, paying lip service to silly notions of international law that only serve to protect the guilty. We will not have to provide evidence that the United States or an “ally” (whatever that is) is itself threatened and therefore we are operating out of self-defense. We have openly declared ourselves liberators of oppressed people everywhere. We will use our vast military power to back up President Bush’s words in his State of the Union speech:

“America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.”


Our President was clearly chosen by God to be his instrument. We are going to free the world. This, then, truly is moral clarity.

To that end I would like to suggest that the following nations be considered for invasion immediately.

We should start with almost all countries in the middle east (except Israel, which is as devoted to freedom as we are.) Every single regime needs to be changed. We have a small fraction of the troops we will eventually need already in the area and I think it would be a grave mistake to do as Bush’s father did and leave the innocent people of the region in the clutches of what can only be deemed repressive violent governments. We must not repeat the mistakes of 1991.

We can give them warning, as the neocons and the defense department are now doing, but it simply must be backed up with a willingness to invade when a given deadline for reform and/or exile has passed. Only cynical naysayers could object now that we’ve established our sterling motives for invading Iraq.

And, even if they do --- so what? This is about bringing freedom to oppressed people everywhere. We cannot let outmoded notions of casus belli stand in the way of our crusade.

Our “ally” Turkey, for instance, is a known violent repressor of its Kurdish population and is documented to employ torture tactics against innocent people. The most frequently reported methods included severe beatings, blindfolding, suspension by the arms or wrists, electric shocks, sexual abuse, and food and sleep deprivation. Many Kurdish politicians have “disappeared” and political prisoners are numerous. Extrajudicial executions are common.

There is no excuse for this. We must liberate the Turkish people from the yoke of its government’s use of terror and violence against innocent people.

Every other country in the region is guilty of even worse. No political freedom, no democracy, torture, extrajudicial executions, repression of women and ethnic minorities. The list of crimes that must be stopped is so huge as to be overwhelming. We simply cannot allow this to go on.

And, that’s only the beginning. Countries throughout Africa are in even worse shape. Amnesty International reports, “whether in Angola, Burundi, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan or Uganda, thousands of unarmed civilians suffered some of the most egregious human rights violations in Africa -- illegal arrests and detention, kidnapping, torture and ill-treatment, rape, murder, "disappearances" -- by both government forces and armed opposition groups.”

Is that any less of a horror than that which we saw in Iraq? Are those people any less deserving of liberation? I think not. And through the generosity and altruism that has been released in the American people by their neoconservative leaders, I have little doubt that we will soon begin the planning to bring freedom and democracy to Africa.

There is so much more work to be done, however. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Chechnya, Russia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, North Korea, Tibet, Nepal, China and many more all have horrific human rights records. We must systematically prepare to take them down.

We will issue warnings, much as we did with Saddam Hussein, but if they do not capitulate before the deadline, we will invade them, depose their despotic rulers, liberate their people and do whatever it takes to build democracy. Our military is unbeatable and our people are willing to do whatever it takes to bring freedom to the oppressed.

John F. Kennedy told us more than 40 years ago:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Unfortunately he went on to say:

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do—for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

[…]

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support—to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective—to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak—and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

[…]

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.


Thankfully, we’ve learned some lessons since that time. Our oldest allies and newly freed states have proved to only be useful to the extent they agree to do exactly as we say and the United Nations is irrelevant. Civility is counterproductive. Threats backed by guns are what works. American sincerity is unquestioned. We do not negotiate.

But, thankfully, the larger point --- our commitment to bear any burden for liberty --- has now been engaged with all the weight of our vast wealth and power. We are on a crusade for freedom and we will invade, occupy and democratize any country that tries to stop us.

Long live the neocons.

Long live the Pax Americana.





Tuesday, April 08, 2003

 
The Doctrine of Infallibility

Matthew Iglesias posts the following and I quite disagree:

The other day I saw someone all upset by some kind of poll indicating that most American don’t think we need to find any WMDs in Iraq for the war to have been justified. I found myself actually agreeing with this proposition — whether or not the invasion was a good idea has almost nothing to do with whether or not we find WMDs.

For one thing, the whole WMD issue only speaks to the narrow topic of legal justification. As long as we’re on that topic, however, only one thing matters: compliance with UN resolutions. As everyone knows, Iraq was not in full compliance with the relevant resolutions and the United States did not receive authorization to enforce the resolutions by invading. You can make of that what you will (it was blogged to death about a month ago) but it has no relationship to whether or not we’re able to find any WMDs in the country. Saddam was supposed to comply with the inspectors, and he didn’t. We were supposed to get yet another UN resolution, and we didn’t.


This is truly perverse. One of the fundamentals of the Bush Doctrine is the doctrine of "preemption," stating that the US has an obligation to invade and depose any regimes that are developing weapons of mass destruction. "We can't wait for a smoking mushroom cloud." This, and the doctrine of overwhelming US military dominance, rejection of deterrence as a strategy, keeping Europe from presenting a military challenge and Mid-east and China regime change are what make up the global security guarantee envisioned as the Pax Americana. The worry about selling or giving WMD to terrorists was tacked on recently but it more or less fits with the overall construct and provides a powerful (if phony) argument post 9/11.

The threat of asymmetrical warfare and terrorists getting their hands on WMD is a real one. This is why the administration makes the argument that the preemption doctrine must be stretched to say that any existing WMD program in an unstable regime presents an "imminent" threat, merely by presenting an opportunity for terrorists to obtain fissionable material or small amounts of deadly chemicals and toxins. I don't agree that this situation presents an explicit rationale for invasion, and it seems clear that it is little more than a fig leaf for what is otherwise a doctrine of preventive war, but I can at least see some logic in the argument. But, if there is no evidence that such a program exists then we have no justification other than an arbitrary decision by our government to depose the rulers of a sovereign nation (and kill a bunch of their citizens in the process) for no better reason than that it suits our strategic objectives. (The “liberator” rationale so favored by the media is really only suitable for children and really dumb Republicans like President Bush.)This is a very dangerous concept and Americans should not accept it unless we actually believe that our leaders are all ordained by God and therefore always know what is right and just and need never present their rationale or evidence for taking action. This does not sound like liberal democracy to me.

If we do not need actual evidence of a regime's WMD development program and if this entire project relies instead on the idea that our government can be trusted to have total prescience of a regime's future intentions then the Bush Doctrine is a straight up doctrine of preventive war.

And, while the Bush Doctrine clearly backs into an embrace of preventive war, even the neocons aren’t going to openly admit that and for good reason. Their mission is to establish global military dominance to ensure American hegemony (and not incidentally ensure Israel’s security.) Therefore, even on their own terms it is in their best interest to at least appear to adhere to international norms that everyone understands.

A policy of straightforward preventive war would be intolerable to most of the world, which will justifiably feel threatened by a huge and powerful nation that believes it can reject agreed upon international law and tradition (which are far more longstanding than any UN resolutions) simply because it is powerful enough to do so. The United States does not, by virtue of its military power, really have any unusual claim to righteousness. If we do not adhere to the rules that have been designed to set guidelines of tolerable behavior for the nations less amenable to democratic values -- especially in the name of those same democratic values -- we will have become incoherent and unpredictable. We will have no allies who don't operate solely from fear and opportunism which is an invitation to perfidy. Nobody will share our "values," because our values are no longer known and predictable. And we will have taken a giant leap into creating an anarchic global system that no matter how powerful we are, we cannot hope to unilaterally control through force alone.

Even wild-eyed neocons have to adhere at least on some level to the rule of law and international norms if they truly believe in a Pax Americana. They cannot rely on a puerile notion of being selective “liberators” nor can they straightforwardly propose a policy of preventive war. Therefore, they must produce evidence of “imminent” threat (even as they elastically define it) before taking action like that in Iraq. And if they are proven wrong after the fact, the war should rightly be deemed illegal and immoral, on the terms the neocons themselves set forth.

.

Update: I see Kevin Drum has already posted a more cogent response.






 
A Thousand Flowers Bloom

Armed gangs in Najaf undermine peace plans
By Charles Clover in Najaf, Iraq
Published: April 8 2003 17:57 | Last Updated: April 8 2003 17:57


The people of Hay al-Ansar, a district on the outskirts of Najaf, were glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party rule when the city was seized by US forces last week.

But they appear to be just as terrified, if not more so, of their new rulers - a little known Iraqi militia backed by the US special forces and headquartered in a compound nearby.

The Iraqi Coalition of National Unity (ICNU), which appeared in the city last week riding on US special forces vehicles, has taken to looting and terrorising the people with impunity, according to most residents.

"They steal and steal" said Abu Zeinab, a man living near the Medresa al Tayif school. . "They threaten us, saying 'we are with the Americans, you can do nothing to us.'"

Sa'ida al-Hamed, another resident, says she has witnessed looting by the ICNU and other armed gangs in the city, which lost its police force when the government fled last week. One man told a US army translator on Monday that he was taken out of his house and beaten by ICNU forces when he refused to give them his car. They took it anyway, he said.

If true, the testimony of residents in Hay al-Ansar reveals a darker side to US policy in Iraq. In their eagerness to hand local administration back to Iraqis, US forces are in danger of losing the peace as rapidly as they have won the war, by handing power back to tyrants.

US special forces said they were looking into the complaints, which had been passed to them by US military sources. They declined, however, to discuss the formation of the group, how its members were chosen, or who they were.

The head of the ICNU, who says he is a former colonel in the Iraqi artillery forces who has been working with the underground opposition since 1996, announced on Tuesday that he was acting mayor of Najaf, and his group has taken over administration of the city. Other Iraqi exiles, brought in by the CIA and US special forces to help assemble a local government over the next few days, say the militia is out of control.

"They are nobody, and nobody has ever heard of them, all they have is US backing," said an Arab journalist traveling with a group of exiles from the US and UK in Najaf.

Abu Zeinab said the ICNU "has no basis in this city, we don't know who they are." He said the residents of Najaf, who are predominantly Shia Muslims, follow only one man, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who lives in the city.

Ayatollah Sistani has so far refused to meet representatives of US forces, according to associates, and has made no public pronouncements on co-operating with the US military. Associates say he is "waiting for the situation to become clearer".

"We only follow Ayatollah Sistani, and so far he has said nothing," said Abu Zeinab.

Hassan Mussawi, a Shia' Muslim cleric who helps lead the ICNU, said on Tuesday that the reports of looting by his group were untrue and fabricated by religious extremists to discredit his movement.[uh oh..ed.]

"There are people with guns stealing things in their neighbourhood, but they think anyone with a gun belongs to our group," he said.

He added that his group was seeking to arrest former Iraqi government officials and "collaborators" with Saddam Hussein's regime throughout the city.

"If they do not resist arrest, we hand them over to the Americans. If they resist then we take measures accordingly."

The allegations against the ICNU threaten to undermine much of the goodwill built up by US forces among the people of Najaf, who still wave and cheer at US troops driving through the city. In an effort to curb the looting, which is rampant in Najaf, US forces have begun to patrol at night. They will not be undertaking specific police functions, according to their commanders, but "if we come upon looting, we will try to control the situation and disperse those doing the looting," said Lt Col Marcus De Oliveira, of the 101st Airborne Division.

The city's political rivalries appear to be affecting humanitarian assistance to the town. US special forces have objected to allowing certain local Shia religious leaders, with ties to Iran, to distribute food aid.

The 16 truckloads of food that recently arrived in the city from the Kuwait Red Crescent Society is being distributed according to a plan drawn up by the Iraqi ministry of commerce for the United Nation's oil-for-food programme.

US forces are also trying to restore running water and power to the city, by bringing in a 2.5 MW generator from Kuwait to restart the city's power plant, which was shut off by Iraqi forces.

Hussein Chilabi, a father of six in Chilabat, on the outskirts of Najaf, said until running water is restored, his family are forced to drink water from canals, which is not healthy. "The children are sick in their stomachs from drinking this water. We need running water more than food - more that anything right now."


How very interesting. US Special forces installed a bunch of thugs nobody has ever seen before to patrol the city of Najaf. It is unexplained and unremarked upon in the major papers.

Meanwhile, in Basra, they have named a local sheik as leader, but these reports don't seem to know much about him. Viceroy Garner signed off, so I guess we have to assume it's all part of his cunning secret plan...


..The sheik was identified as a tribal leader, but his name and religious affiliation were not disclosed. Col. Chris Vernon, spokesman for the British forces, said the sheik had met British divisional commanders Monday and been given the job of setting up an administrative committee representing other groups in the region.

The sheik and his committee will be the first civilian leadership established in liberated Iraq, even as retired U.S. Gen. Jay Garner, appointed by the Pentagon to form an interim post-war administration, tries to define a new leadership for the whole country.

The sheik's committee will be left alone by the British to form a local authority, Vernon said...


Interesting plan they have going. Locals are being chosen to lead by the US military. It looks like some, at least, aren't working so well. I wonder what will happen if it turns out that these local leaders aren't as schooled as they should be in the Enlightenment values that so animated our founding fathers and are sure to take hold in Iraq within a matter of days? Will we be forced to institute some more of that "regime change" in the name of democracy?

It's just so hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys and install a democratic beacon of lightness for the whole world to imitate when you haven't a fucking clue about anything or anyone you are dealing with. What a sticky wicket.

Surely, the new sub-Viceroys who have no experience with Iraq or the language or large organizations are sure to be able to sort all this out, though. And, although he has not been to Iraq since 1958, Mr Chalabi's vast experience leveraging his position in neocon salons from one end of Georgetown to the other will stand him in very good stead in putting together a government from scratch.

Of course, the sheik who shall remain nameless said that he will likely appoint Baathists whom he believes are tolerably good, so maybe the country won't have to start from scratch after all. Saddam's Baath party probably has some damned good administrators. And police forces, for that matter. Highly experienced. Surely they can be convinced to assume a more benign role in a post-Saddam Iraq. Maybe we don't have to engage in all that messy "accountability" mucky muck. Particularly when the ungrateful Iraqis are looting all the spoils (that we will just have to replace with our oil profits...)

I am just breathless with excitement as we watch this brilliant plan for regional, no global, democracy begin to take shape. Just like in Philadelphia circa 1787 we have gathered the finest minds of a generation, all together in one place, to ratify a bold new experiment in self-government. The names Perle, Wolfowitz, Garner, Bodine and the sheik with no name will long be remembered. Feel the magic.






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