The question is, just why did we invade Iraq? It's a hell of a question.
I fully expect to hear this question argued over for the rest of my life.
Former British environmental minister Michael Meacher writes in today's
Guardian that the "'global
war on terrorism' has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda -- the US
goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project." Further, this reason "provides a much better explanation of what actually
happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis." [Meacher, "This War on Terrorism Is Bogus," The Guardian, September 6, 2003]
Meacher makes a good argument. He asks the same questions many of us have asked about
September 11, such as why the Bush Administration willfully ignored the warnings of terrorism and why there was a curious
shortage of armed fighter jets to respond.
Was the real reason oil? There is damning evidence that it was. During the
military action last spring seizing and guarding the oil fields was a bigger priority than, say, finding evidence of
weapons of mass destruction. While the oil fields were guarded, the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, repository for every Iraqi government record relating to its weapons programs, was not. While the oil fields were guarded,
the nuclear waste at Tuwaitha was not. And actions do speak louder than words.
Further, if the Bushies had been genuinely interested in bringing democracy to the
Iraqis, you'd think they would have had a plan for accomplishing this before charging to Baghdad. It's apparent they did not.
Was the real reason world hegemony? The neocon purists in
the administration had regime change in Iraq at the top of their wish list for several years (be sure to spend some time on
the New American Century web site, if you haven't already).
I suppose one has to be a neocon to appreciate why removing Saddam Hussein
was vital to the future of America. The New American Century's statement of principles, however, includes the bulleted item "we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending
an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles." That does sound a lot like world
hegemony to me.
But I think ultimately the answer is, because the Bush Administration wanted
Getting down to the real reasons any of us does anything is nearly always like
peeling an onion -- the real reasons hide underneath layers of such stuff as rationalization and cultural imprinting. And
this is true of actions made in the public sphere as well as the private.
Why were we in Vietnam? If you think the reasons begin and end with the domino theory, you're missing a lot. The real reasons are murkier and include a generation of Americans primed by years of Cold War rhetoric
for a military confrontation with Communism; a President determined not to "lose" Vietnam the way China had been "lost" in the 1950s; and senior military officers determined to have a "splendid little war" before they retired.
In retrospect, it was all madness, just as the War in Iraq is madness now.
I think George W. Bush is more of an opportunist than an ideologue, and self-aggrandizement
is his only real agenda. But beneath the surface I suspect it's his relationship with his father that's driving him. It's no coincidence that so many people working in his administration used to work for his father, or
that he was overeager to re-fight his father's old enemy. Bush II must send Freudians into analytic overdrive
And then we've got Cheney, who makes sure his old company Halliburton gets the lion's
share of the contracts; and Rumsfeld, playing the part of the world's biggest celebrity CEO. The first Iraq War was very good
for their careers, as it was for Powell's, and beneath their apparent avarice may be an unconscious wish to relive the glory
days of their youth.
But whatever the real reasons are, I don't expect them to come
out of the President's mouth; not tomorrow, not ever.
What got me going on reasons was the report in the Washington
Post that seven in ten Americans still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with September 11.
In follow-up interviews, poll respondents were generally unsure why they believed
Hussein was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, often describing it as an instinct that came from news reports and their long-standing
views of Hussein. For example, Peter Bankers, 59, a New York film publicist, figures his belief that Hussein was behind the
attacks "has probably been fed to me in some PR way," but he doesn't know how. "I think that the whole group of people, those
with anti-American feelings, they all kind of cooperated with each other," he said.
You may be alarmed that the clueless Ms. Morrison is a teacher, but
let's put that aside for now.
How was the public brainwashed? The White House denies any responsibility,
of course. But the Post provides a page of quotations from Bush Administration officials linking Saddam Hussein to September 11. And whenever the "President" speaks about the Iraq
War in public he brings up September 11, although in recent speeches he doesn't explicitly say Hussein was to blame for the
terrorist attacks that day. For example, the May 1 "victory" speech on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln began, "The battle
of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 ..."
Television and radio news programs played their part. Some right-of-center "pundits"
framed the Iraq debate within assumptions that all Middle East terrorism is connected, that Saddam Hussein supported
al Qaeda, and that Iraq was an immenent threat to the United States. These assumptions
are not always stated explicitly, but the Hussein-September 11 link is transmitted nontheless.
Of course, it helped a lot that most Americans know little about the Middle East
and Islam. Ignorance loves a vacuum.
How might the public be enlightened? We're dealing with people who
don't read and are not exactly champs at critical thinking. This means our best
hope is advertising. Moveon.org has prepared television and print ads on the Bush lies that got us into Iraq, and I urge you to visit their site and give
whatever support you can. But the ads don't mention September 11, and I think they should.
From time to time I read Wall Street Journal editorials. I find
them to be both grotesque and compelling; sort of like road kill. They make you want to gawk and hide your
eyes at once.
For example, yesterday WSJ took on the challenge of rationalizing Bush's
turn to the "irrelevant" United Nations for help with Iraq. Given the task -- spinning a retreat into an assault -- the writer
did as well as anyone could have. The result was still an incoherent mess.
For example, the obligatory slam of the Evil French People --
Our friends the French will want a piece of the oil business they had under Saddam,
and they'd also like a say anointing any new Iraqi government. After everything the French did to stop the liberation of Iraq,
we suspect more than a few Iraqis would consider this a betrayal.
How many howlers can be packed into two sentences? First there's
the snipe at the French for wanting a piece of the (read "our") oil business. Never mind the open corruption of the Bushies
gifting lucrative no-bid contracts to their cronies and supporters; never mind that the Vice President continues to receive
deferred income from most-favored-vendor Halliburton in the neighborhood of $160,000 per year; never mind that the Bushies
sent troops to protect the Iraqi oil fields but forgot to secure nuclear waste. But, mon dieu, the French want in on the act, too! Shocking!
And the French warned Bush not to rush into war and to give the inspectors
a chance. This the WSJ spins into an attempt to stop the "liberation of Iraq." The editorial writer might want to
ask some Iraqis how liberated they feel at the moment.
This statement is simply off the wall --
The strange hostility to enlisting Iraqis exists on both the left and right. On the
left, it seems rooted in a belief that Arabs will never be able to govern themselves; they need the U.N. to midwife the next
strongman to keep all of the religious crazies in line.
Am I out of the loop? Is there someone on the "left" saying Arabs
will never govern themselves, or that the UN should install a strongman to suppress Muslim extremists? Not that I've noticed,
although maybe I missed it. I suspect, however, the WSJ is constructing straw men to blame on the failures of Iraq.
But WSJ outdoes itself today. In an opinion piece entitled "Wonder Land," Daniel Henninger asks the question: Can any Democrat really be able to protect America?
... the Democratic Party is not quite a normal party now. It has become the antiwar
party. It is the hell-no-we-won't-ever-go-party. Which is why Howard Dean, the most antiwar candidate among the party's presidential
hopefuls, is stretching his lead in polls based on phone calls to Democratic warrens, with the result reflecting what Salon.com's
David Talbot calls "the party faithful's passionate mood."
The ghost of Richard Nixon, who deflected criticism of his failed
policies in Vietnam by campaigning against the antiwar movement, lives on at WSJ. Joe Conason writes in his new book,
The image of disloyal liberals harks back to the national trauma of Vietnam,
when a fragment of the broad antiwar movement drew media attention by burning the American flag, carrying the banner of the
National Liberation Front, and indulging in random violence. Profoundly infuriating to most Americans, the revolting conduct
of a few privileged students was seized upon by the Nixon administration to discredit the completely loyal dissent of mainstream
Democrats, Republicans and independents from places like South Dakota, Oregon, Idaho, Texas and New Jersey as well as liberal
New York, Massachusetts and California.
In the Nixon White House, a young conservative named Patrick Buchanan penned
many of the harshest attacks on the antiwar liberals. Buchanan's aggressive patriotism didn't extend to wearing his country's
uniform, however. He had slipped past the District of Columbia draft board with a "bad knee." But he didn't hesitate to question
the loyalty of prominent liberals who had worn that uniform with valor -- including heroic veterans and leaders of the liberal
opposition to the war such as George McGovern, a bomber pilot who won the Distinguished Service Cross for flying many dangerous
missions over Germany, and John Kerry, a decorated Navy captain wounded in Vietnam. [Joe Conason, Big Lies (St. Martin's Press, 2003), p. 61]
Yep, they're at it again. While reminding us that in 1972 McGovern
lost to Nixon by 18 million votes, Henniger warns the Dems that opposition to the Iraq war "would take the party's candidate
to the bottom of the cliff in a general election." Then he says,
Activist Democrats have managed to make patriotism itself a wholly owned
conservative value, burdening their candidates today with the historically unprecedented task of proving they're patriots
Could Mr. Henninger be a more infuriating hypocrite if he tried
harder? Or has he pretty much maxed out?
The implication is, of course, that anyone who is opposed
to the war in Iraq is not a patriot. But this situation is not "historically unprecedented." Believe me, we went through
this same nonsense during the Vietnam War years. For that matter, a century ago some very wise people (including Mark Twain
and Andrew Carnegie) were vilified for being unpatriotic because they opposed America's imperialistic exercises in the Philippines
(see Peaceniks of the Past).
What history has shown us is that Twain and Carnegie were right
about the Philippines, and McGovern and many others were right about Vietnam, and I believe to the depths of my soul that
opposition to the Iraq War is also right.
Mr. Henninger quotes John Kerry as an example of Democratic wrong-headedness
on foreign policy:
Sen. Kerry said: "Pride is no excuse for making enemies overseas. It is time
to return to the United Nations, not with the arrogance of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz but with genuine respect. For the Bush Administration
to reject the participation of allies and the UN is a miscalculation of colossal proportions."
By now anyone with the intelligence to use a spoon ought to
realize that Senator Kerry is right. Although the magnitude of the "President's" policies in Iraq (and the economy,
and the environment, and everything else) presents a conceptual challenge, the fact that our invasion of Iraq was
one of the biggest blunders in American history is plainly evident. And the fact that the Iraq War has
nothing to do with "protecting America" is also clear.
And you know what else is obvious? If we don't bounce Bush and
the neocons out of government as soon as possible, they'll take America itself to the bottom of a cliff.
For those of you who don't remember the Joel Chandler Harris
"Uncle Remus" stories, the tar baby was a doll made of tar found by Brer Rabbit of briar patch fame. Brer Rabbit picked
a fight with the tar baby and became hopelessly stuck in the tar.
Nice metapor for our little problem in Iraq, huh?
As I keyboard, news is breaking that France and Germany reject Shrub's proposal
for a new UN resolution on Iraq. Bush wants UN members to provide money and troops to deal with the Iraq tar baby. However, the Bushies want full
U.S. military control and a dominant political role. Germany and France may be the only nations saying so, but surely most
UN nations recognize a tar baby when they see one and will not cooperate until the Bushies let go of control.
French President Jacques Chirac said in a news conference today that the primary objective should be to turn political
authority in Iraq over to Iraqis, as soon as possible. I'm eager to hear what counter argument the White House will make to
Meanwhile, member of Congress, returning to Washington from vacation,
say the constituents are getting restless. The people want their president to speak to them plainly and honestly about what's
happening in Iraq. True to form, the White House is planning a marketing blitz instead.
CNN reports the President plans "a very aggressive campaign" to explain his Iraq policy to the American people. Seems to me he should
make a very aggressive effort to form a policy first. But maybe Karl Rove figures that with the right photo ops, sound bytes,
video clips, music, flag waving, tap dancing, and a Broadway-worthy production number, people won't notice the smell of bullshit.
Which pretty much sums up the Bush II Administration so far, and so far they've
gotten away with it.
The manufacturing sector is hemorrhaging jobs, so the "President" boldly
announced he would Do Something and appoint a manufacturing czar. Just the thing! Eventually there will be a czar and an assistant
czar and some clerical czarettes, and maybe we'll get, oh, a dozen jobs out of this. Splendid!
Of course, those won't be manufacturing jobs, so these numbers won't put much of
a dent in the 2.4 million manufacturing jobs -- more than one in ten of the nation's factory jobs -- lost during the Bush II Regime. Also, the "President" hasn't
told us when this czar would be appointed and exactly what he or she would do.
What will the manufacturing czar do to create new jobs? And why do I think the Regime's
solution will involve tax cuts to benefit the wealthy?
If middle- and lower-income people were to get a break on their payroll taxes, maybe
they'd have some money to replace the old toaster that's throwing sparks, or get the rec room carpeted, or splurge a little
more on Christmas presents this year.
But giving tax breaks to plain folks is so ... democratic. What we should
do to stimulate manufacturing is give tax breaks to manufacturing corporations so that they will be inspired to manufacture
Never mind that a lot of these outfits are incorporated on some tropical island and
don't pay taxes, anyway. And never mind that there's no profit in manufacturing stuff that nobody's buying. Don't bother me
with the details.
We could help the manufacturing sector by making labor cheaper! If employers
didn't have to pay so much money in overtime, for example, they would save a lot of money by forcing employees to work longer hours for the same pay! Oh, but
then they wouldn't need as many people to do the work, huh? Never mind.
Maybe the manufacturers need to change their product lines. Who's got the money to
buy stuff? Rich people, that's who. Think luxury goods! Let's retool to produce
fewer household appliances and more yachts. That should give us a boost, although in the long run there are a finite number
of extremely rich people who go about buying yachts every year, so we need some other solutions.
What desirable, must-have products will stimulate buyers and revitalize the manufacturing
sector? Some ideas ...
Air purifications systems, gas masks, oxygen tanks. Bushie environmental policy will
ensure these will be hot items, sooner or later.
Water filtering systems, for similar reasons.
Various prostheses (e.g., artificial legs, arms, eyes), for the heroes returning from
the War on Terrorism.
Body bags, ditto.
Sun screen lotions and sun goggles (for when the Ozone layer is finally gone).
Firearms. John Ashcroft will buy them.
First-aid kits. It may be the only health care you'll be able to get.
Fallout shelters, for when the "President" flaps his mouth about getting tough with
North Korea one too many times.
Flashlights, batteries, portable radios, in preparation for more blackouts.
Bicycles. They're good for you, and they don't require gas, which you can't afford.
Buttons, banners, T-shirts, and bumper stickers promoting the eventual 2004 Democratic
We've got exactly one year until the 2004 Republican National Convention
in New York City. Plans for protests and counter conventions are in the works.
To anyone thinking of coming to New York City next year to protest:
If your idea of "protest" means acting out to draw attention to yourself, please
stay home. If you ache to commit acts of vandalism, fuhgeddaboudit. New York has been through enough.
Further, us old veterans of anti-Vietnam protests remember the way a few out-of-control
hotheads muddled the message and helped re-elect Richard Nixon. And, yes, a lot of those hotheads were on the payroll
of CREEP -- Nixon's infamous Committee to Re-Elect the President. No doubt Karl Rove is lining up operatives and
infiltrators now. This is all the more reason for serious protestors to keep themselves under control.
Madison Square Garden is directly over Pennsylvania Station, which has been patrolled
by armed National Guard since September 11. I suspect there will be a lot more National Guard around Madison Square Garden
during the convention. If you confront the Guard and behave in a manner they find alarming, they will probably shoot you.
Your motto should be: Protest smart, not violent.
If keeping yourself under control doesn't sound like much fun -- stay home.
Keep in mind that the borough of Manhattan is a 23-square-mile island.
About 1.5 million people live there, and a great many more work and visit there. The NYPD takes crowd control very seriously.
Also, don't even think of getting around Manhattan in your car.
United for Peace and Justice is organizing protests for the week of the convention. UPJ did an excellent job with the anti-war protests last spring, and
they get my vote for the group with the expertise to do the job next year. I strongly suggest you take whatever direction
and follow whatever suggestions UPJ is giving. Get more details on what's being planned on this page.
Counter Convention is another good resource. They even provide information on cheap (by Manhattan standards) places to stay. I suggest you look
into moderately priced motels in one of the outer boroughs and take subways into Manhattan. Or, find a place to stay in Westchester
County within walking distance of a Metro North Railroad station and enjoy a scenic train trip into beautiful Grand Central
Station every day. There are a lot of good options, but don't wait until the last minute to make reservations.
Long-time federal employees must wonder what hit them. Since when has
a chief executive taken it upon himself to cut their January raises?
All I can say is, welcome to the Corporate States of America.
If this running-the-government-like-a-corporation trend continues, civil service
employees have more fun in store. American CEOs see employees as just another property to be exploited. They pay you, so they
own you. And when cash flow from sales and investment isn't good enough, employees are the first cost to be cut back.
During the Bush I administration I worked for Simon & Schuster, which at the
time was a division of Paramount Communications. Please note that Simon & Schuster has changed ownership at least a couple
of times since then, and now it's probably a swell place to work. Anything I say about Then does not apply to Now. But Then
it was, well, interesting. My experiences there exemplified several features of American corporate culture.
Money and testosterone. I was at S&S when it paid an $8
million advance to Ronald Reagan for two books (this was before we knew about his alzheimer's). The morning this news became
public I schmoozed with some other employees about how the company had lost its mind. We got our calculators out
and crunched numbers. We knew what it cost to produce a book and what the company's profit margins were. Even assuming a big
print run (the bigger the print run, the smaller the per-unit cost) and best-seller sales figures, there was no way the
company was going to make that $8 million back. Not even close. And, in fact, Book I sold 380,000 hardcover copies, which
is respectable but not spectacular. I'm not sure Book II was ever produced.
If we worker bees in the cubicle-hive could see the $8 million advance was nuts,
why couldn't the Suits at corporate headquarters see that? The only possible answer is testosterone. The
Suits wanted Our Company to publish the Gipper. Our Guys were going to bag the biggest wooly mammoth in the valley,
no matter how dangerous it was, to show the other tribes that we rule.
(I suspect Alfred Knopf will not make back the $10 million it paid to President Clinton,
either, even though Mr. Clinton's book will no doubt sell a lot more than 380,000 hardcover copies. And in my opinion the
only really good book ever written by a former president is Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant.)
Consider that the Reagan advance is roughly equivalent to the Bush II Administration's
missile shield -- it will cost a gawdawful amount of money ($60 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office) and not do much in return. But there's something about all that technology that gets a guy's testosterone cooking.
Employees are not like real people. Like most Simon
& Schuster employees, I participated in the company stock purchase plan. This means that in corporate eyes I was two separate
entities -- maha the employee and maha the shareholder. From time to time I got letters to maha the shareholder about how
the company was doing great and making money hand over fist. Then, sometimes on the same day, another letter would go to maha
the employee. This letter would say that company profits were down and we had to tighten our belts. "Our" meant rank and file
employees, not the corporate heads, of course.
It didn't occur to these geniuses that shareholder-employees got both letters and
might notice the discrepancy. And, I doubt it has occurred to the Bushies that federal employees are citizens and voters.
Once when a Paramount film was number one at the box office, the president of Paramount
bought $100,000 automobiles for the film's stars and director. This is while employees were in belt-tightening mode, and we
suspected Tom Cruise had enough money to buy his own $100,000 automobile if he really wanted one, so we employees were somewhat
Someone in the company -- I never found out who -- faxed a letter on corporate
letterhead to every fax machine in the Paramount directory apologizing to the employees. We can't afford to buy all
of you automobiles, it said, so instead we are sending you plastic replicas of a hood ornament. Heh.
You expect benefits? Dear civil service employees, the
next step after they mess with raises is to raise the cost of or cut benefits. For example, in the wake of the Reagan advance
and several similar miscalculations, S&S announced a wage freeze -- no raises at all. And at the same time they increased
the paycheck deduction for health insurance, meaning our paychecks were getting smaller, not bigger. Many lower-paid employees
opted out of health insurance because they couldn't afford the premiums (which may have been the Plan).
A good manager is one who can squeeze the most work out of the fewest employees.
Exempt employees (i.e., no overtime pay) who work for corporations do not put in eight hour days. They put in ten to twelve
hour days, and sometimes come in to work on Saturdays as well. This has happened because corporations do not hire as many
people to do the same amount of work that they used to. And, since exempt employees are not paid for the extra time they put
in, this practice boosts corporate profits. This is called increasing productivity.
The old Fair Labor Standards Act created the 40-hour workweek and mandated
that employees be paid time-and-a-half for overtime. Administrative, professional, and executive employees were exempt from
receiving overtime pay. As you've probably heard, the Bush Administration wants to loosen up requirements for who can be exempted
from overtime. If this goes through, millions more Americans will find themselves working longer hours for less money.
And, the Suits will figure they can save money by eliminating jobs and squeezing more hours out of the remaining employees.
If only there was some way to get around the 13th Amendent. Of course, if American workers get too uppity, there's always India.
To be fair and balanced, Michael Janeway wrote this review with his head up his ass.
First off, the review of Conason's book is tacked on at the end of a longer look
at Dick Morris's new work, Off With Their Heads, suggesting Conason's work is less important. Then, Janeway
sighs, although Big Lies is "sometimes factually arresting," it's trop négatif, and Mark Twain was a better
Metaphorically, Janeway lounges in a burning house while critiquing the flames.
His chapter on ''crony capitalism'' -- the web of deals, ventures and profiteering
on the part of President Bush, his family members and their allies -- is worth the price of the book, but it's drawn entirely
from newspaper, magazine and Web site accounts, and from other books.
So? The point is, Professor, that the story of Bush's "crony capitalism" remains
largely untold in mainstream media and unknown to most of the voting public. Don't you find that a tad alarming?
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
ˇ ˇ ˇ ˇ ˇ ˇ
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.