Friday, March 24, 2006

Iraq House Training, er, Nation-Building










MSNBC's catoonist, Daryl Cagle, after hearing Bush explain his Adminstration's failure in Iraq this week after so many years, captures in living color the fact that looking backwards, "house training" (aka "nation-building") in Iraq has gone rather badly.

Nations are just not very good at nation-building and a long serious review of history informs us of that fact. The issue was addressed last week-end in many of the pundit talk shows like Hardball, the McLaughlin Group, This Week, and others: the commentators were all, by and large, in agreement.

The neo-con idea that the USA could start a pre-emptive war and then hope to nation-build was flawed from the begining.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Truth About Iraq

Our myopic president, G. W. Bush, has been traveling the country recently, hoping to head off the bad news emerging as America observes the 3rd anniversary of his disastrous venture in Iraq. Like a broken record, he keeps repeating his mantra: We’re doing better than the media lets on, we can’t retreat, we must fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them here. And Americans in increasing numbers are responding that the war was a mistake, and not worth what it is costing in lives and treasure (upwards of $400 billion at last count).

If there still remain Americans unconvinced of the folly of this war, they should take a look at the stunning article by Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, to be printed in the April issue of The New York Review of Books (available now on Tomsdispatch.com and truthout.com). The piece is almost wholly descriptive of Schell’s trip to Baghdad to assess the state of the journalism there, and it is a sobering reminder of the horrors that we, the United States of America, have perpetrated upon the people and culture of that long-suffering country.

Pretending that we are "liberating" them, and educating them into our democratic ways, we have turned a once-prosperous and modern nation into a medieval nightmare resembling nothing so much as the landscape in the distopic film, Blade Runner. Trash and debris from abandoned military vehicles line the roads. The roads themselves are a no-man¹s land upon which it is only safe to drive in armored vehicles manned with private security forces. No American reporter can venture out alone.

Most are trapped in their hotels and must depend on Iraqi stringers to bring them news from outside. Any place that can afford it is hidden behind twelve-foot highway "T-walls" which, Schell says, "looks something like giant tombstones, totems perhaps from some long-lost Easter Island culture gone minimalist.:" The entire city is barricaded behind these "Bremer walls" placed edge-to-edge to serve as blast walls. There are no services to speak of, no infrastructure, with electricity and water available only part time, with fuel, in which Iraq should be drowning, available only after waiting in line for hours and days, and with no police worth the name (those police there are remain so fearful of being identified as American collaborators that they "wear black stocking caps with eye, nose, and mouth holes pulled down over their faces so they look like so many bank robbers.") Baghdad, outside the American-fortified Green Zone, is a city virtually abandoned to monarchy, a city in the hands of militias, criminals, and private security forces the latter numbering above 25,000, according to Schell, all earning many times what American troops earn, the result being that the aspiration of many American troops is to finish their tour of duty and begin their civilian careers in the booming private security sector.

Schell's account does not even begin to assess the terrible damage that has been inflicted upon individual Iraqis trying to survive in this living hell, but the impact of the article, and many other accounts, leaves no doubt that it has been brutal and all consuming.

One can only hope that some day, and soon, those who have inflicted this disaster upon an innocent people will be held to account, and that Americans will rise up and demand an end to and reparations for this outrage—the wanton, random destruction of the very civilization that gave birth to us all.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Lost Cause




Mike Lester, with the Rome News Tribune in Georgia, captures Senator Russ Feingold's dilemma last week.

The thing is that Feingold has not been consistent lately: to wit, he voted for Bush's boys on the Supreme Court. Shame!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

On Immigration

Guest Blogger: Charlie Ara, Cerritos, Calif.

This morning I attended the Cerritos Optimist Club's annual Oratorical Contest at the Sheraton Hotel. In addition to a delicious meal with parents, teachers and fellow Optimists, I heard the excellent inspirational speeches of seven students from the ABC School District.

As I listened, I noticed that all seven students had dark black hair. I reflected that all were either immigrants or the children of immigrants and that the future of our country will be denriched with their contributions and talents.

To me, the Oratorical Contest was a teaching moment for all the adults present. It was an opportunity to reflect on the immigration debate now raging in the United States.

I do not know if each of these students or their parents are documented or undocumented. However, this was on my mind as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee takes up a series of proposed immigration reforms.

At the present time there exists a hysterical anti-immigration sentiment sweeping even Cerritos as evidenced by the Cerritos Republican Club inviting Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, to address their meeting.

Recently, Cardinal Roger Mahony spoke out against this hysteria. He framed the immigration debate in moral and ethical terms. He suggested that the Judeo-Christian Tradition welcomed the immigrant.

Yes, some reforms are needed. As we say in our Optimist Creed "...to spend so much timeon our own self improvement that we have no time to be critical of others..."

The Minutemen type would have it be a felony to help an undocumented immigrant. The priest, rabbi, iman, minister, etcetera would have to have everyone show their papers before entering a house of worship.

What are we coming to as a country? What can we do about the mean spirited hysteria?

As we are all immigrants or children of immigrants (except for Native Americans) why can't we find ways to deal with our problems without being mean-spirited?

What are some considerations for reforming immigration?

Here are some ideas being considered:

(1) Visas for family members of migrants to reduce what can be decades-long waits to reunify.
(2) A guest worker program with a path to permanent residency.
(3) Legalization of undocumented migrants.
(4) Better legal process to guarantee immigrants rights.
(5) Economic development in poor countries to reduce the need to migrate.

Yes, let's debate the issue of immigration but let us do it with a sense of justice, fairness and concern for all our fellow human beings on planet earth.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Harboring Terrorists



As the Parker political cartoon describes well (and after today's vote in the House), Bush's plan for our harbors seem like a lost idea.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Iran's Oil Bourse

The warning signs are rising again that the Bush administration really does intend to initiate another aggressive action against Middle East oil giant, this time Iran. Part of the problem most Americans have imagining such a drastic scenario is the lack of information about the real cause of such action perhaps because the situation is too dire for the media to handle. I am referring to the plan by Iran to open an Oil Bourse, or oil exchange of its own.

As explained by Mike Whitney on Op-Ed News, "The Bush administration will never allow the Iranian government to open an oil exchange (bourse) that trades petroleum in euros. If that were to happen, hundreds of billions of dollars would come flooding back to the United States crushing the greenback and destroying the economy. This is why Bush and Company are planning to lead the nation to war against Iran. It is straightforward defense of the current global system and the continuing dominance of the reserve currency, the dollar."

Whitney goes on to explain that because the world oil market is denominated in U.S. dollars, oil nations hold enormous dollar reserves, which forces them into the U.S. orbit. Add to this the huge national debt now in excess of $8 trillion and continuing record trade deficits, which also force nations like China and others to hold huge reserves in dollars, and it becomes clear why the U.S. is worried about Iran’s bourse.

If oil-producing nations were to suddenly no longer have to hold their dollar reserves, it could start a stampede of dollars rushing back into the U.S. The result could either be hyperinflation or depression, depending on whether the Fed decides to raise interest rates to leading to recession, or print more money, leading to hyperinflation.

Thus, the war rumblings echoing throughout Washington have nothing to do with Iran’s supposed nuclear development plans. That is just the cover story, as countless analysts have pointed out that it would be at least 10 years before Iran might have a bomb. Iran poses no threat to anyone, not even Israel, which has over 200 (unacknowledged) nuclear weapons of its own.

As for the United States, which has launched unprovoked attacks on both Afghanistan and Iraq, not only is there no threat, but any thinking person must reflect back on the identical situation that prevailed in 2002 and 2003, when Americans were told the same story about the growing threat of Iraq’s WMDs. In fact, no WMD were ever found. The whole threat was a ruse, an excuse for the Bush administration to begin its Middle East aggression, and for similar reasons: Iraq, too, had threatened to switch from dollars to Euros. Such open defiance of United States hegemony could not be allowed to stand then, and it appears it will not be allowed to stand now.

The only question is, are Americans and the world dumb enough to be fooled into yet another phony war? Stay tuned. Or better yet, let Washington know that you object to their plans, by going to the web site Stop War on Iran.


Note: For additional information and some historical tid-bits read a Krassimir Petrov, PhD article. Dr. Petrov teaches Economics at the American University in Bulgaria.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

George W. Nixon

George W. Nixon



Paul Conrad's view of the Bush, er, Bush-Nixon Administration.

Mr. Conrad always gets to the core of the argument.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Plutocracy versus Democracy

It was widely reported in the Associated Press recently that the US Coast Guard raised some red flags when the proposed take-over by Dubai Ports World of certain US ports was brought to their attention. Last December the Coast Guard warned of potential intelligence gaps and, as such, made it difficult for the Guard to evaluate the true security threat before the business deal was approved. We still do not know why their concerns were ignored (or ameliorated) but I have a view, and to me it seems the plutocrats continue to wield power in America.

It’s such a tragedy that so many Americans do not see the irony as this little political brouhaha developed vis-a vis our policy towards Iraq the last four years. Our Splinters team member George Giacoppe wrote a sizzling post a few days ago as he unmasked the realities of life for many living in the UAE, especially foreigners. As Mr. Giacoppe discussed, in the UAE there is no democracy, but the Bush Administration, it seems, can care less.

By contrast, let’s remember than one of the goals (later stated) of invading Iraq was to bring democracy and freedom to a country under the control of a political strongman. Yet, as the Bush Administration cozies up to the UAE regime demonstrably shows it’s not about democracy that concerns Bush when it comes to the conflicts in the Middle East, but, what else, the eternal lucre and getting along with other plutocratic regimes in the area. All the arguments made about the UAE being America’s friend in the “so-called” war on terrorism is just a red herring. We Americans have to keep our eye on the events that are developing without relying on the faux arguments made by the ever-lying White House.

When plutocrats—like the ones in power in Washington DC (mostly the executive branch, but not exclusively) and the UAE—have the same agenda they are all too willing to work together. This is the same throughout the Middle East as we work warmly with the non-democratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and others. Before the fall of the Shah (1979), America was so nice to Iran, another plutocratic regime. We never criticize these regimes, not even a little bit. I'll say it out loud, “There is a hidden agenda, and it’s about money, oil, and control.”

And I have heard zero about the political background of the UAE that Mr. Giacoppe addressed in his post in the mainstream media, yet the media networks continue to parrot Bush’s democratic goals in Iraq daily. Shameful.

Yet, for Bush, the problem with plutocratic regimes, especially in open societies, is that not everyone with spheres of governmental influence is in adherence with the plans of the leadership in power at any point in time. In this fiasco many Republicans in Congress who worry about re-election next year have determined the Bush Administration is not concerned about their needs, and as expected, they are fighting Bush on this contentious issue. Look at the public opinion polls: 75% of Americans oppose the UAE taking charge of our ports. So it comes to no one’s surprise that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said, "I am more convinced than ever that the process was truly flawed. I can only conclude that there was a rush to judgment."

I've mentioned in my posts that the legislative goals of Democrats in Congress lie with moderate Republicans. Now it seems that Republicans concerned about loosing the next election can also help, at least in this instance. I strongly believe that in the end Congress will stop this very strange deal and override Bush’s threatened veto.