Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Execution Begins to Deepen Divisions

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

*BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 (IPS) - New divisions appear to be opening up between
Iraqi political and religious leaders following the execution of Saddam
Hussein Saturday.*

Former president Saddam Hussein was hanged at an army base in the
predominantly Shia district of Khadamiya in northern Baghdad outside of
Baghdad's Green Zone just before 6am local time.

The execution of the 69-year-old former dictator was witnessed by a
representative of Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki and a Muslim cleric
among others.

The execution appears already to be generating more sectarianism, which
has already claimed tens of thousands of lives in the war-torn country.
Sectarian divisions have opened up primarily between Shias and Sunnis,
who follow different belief systems within Islam.

Several Shia leaders, particularly those of Iranian origin, say the
execution would be a blow to resistance against the Iraqi government by
Saddam loyalists. In Baghdad's sprawling Shia slum, the Sadr City, where
most of the three million inhabitants are loyal to the Shia cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr, people danced in the streets while others fired in the
air to celebrate the execution.

National security advisor Mouaffaq al-Rubaii, a Shia, declared that "we
wanted him to be executed on a special day."

Celebrations in Kurdish areas were no expression of unmixed joy, even
though Kurds were persecuted more than any other group under Saddam's

"The world ignored Saddam's crimes when he committed them," Azad Bakir,
a 35-year-old engineer in the northern Kurdish city Arbil told IPS on
phone. "But we are committing the same crime again by executing him like

And few Sunnis were cheering Saddam's death. A senior member of the
Islamic Party who asked not to be named said the timing of the execution
at the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha would prove a grave
mistake. The festival marks the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Muhammad Ayash, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, a
leading Sunni group, said Saddam had served his country well, and had
been punished for the wrong reasons.

"He was executed for the good things he did such as fighting the U.S.
aggression against the Arab nation," Ayash told IPS. "He stopped the
dark Iranian plans in the area, and helped Palestinians survive the
continuous Israeli crimes."

In predominantly Sunni cities like Beji, Ramadi and Saddam's hometown
Tikrit, people fired shots in protest and swore to avenge the execution
of the "legitimate president" of Iraq.

The execution may not bring the end to violence across Iraq that some
Iraqi government leaders expect. At least 68 people were killed in
bombings after the execution Saturday.

So far 2,998 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, including 109 just
this month, according to the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.

The resistance to occupation is expected to continue. A spokesman for
the Al-Mujahideen Army resistance group in Ramadi told IPS that his
group saw Saddam Hussein simply as the leader of the Ba'ath Party who
was "a helpless man in jail when we conducted our heroic operations
against invaders."

The spokesman, who refused to give his name, added: "We praise his
bravery in facing death, but his death will not increase or decrease our
carefully planned actions until the U.S. invaders and their allies leave
our country."

Across Iraq, Saddam seems to have won respect for the calm with which he
went to his execution. And that could increase sympathy for him and his

A close friend of Saddam Hussein's daughters in Amman in Jordan spoke
with IPS on condition of anonymity. She said that when the daughters got
news of the execution, "they cried of course, but then they praised God
for having such a great father who faced death with such courage and faith."

A friend of Saddam's oldest daughter Raghad told IPS: "The family's only
concern now is to receive the body for burial in a dignified way
suitable for a martyr and a national hero."

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.

Hanging Saddam

By Mike Whitney

There’s no way to describe the loss we’ve experienced with this war and occupation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of the Americans in their tanks, fear of the police patrols in the black bandanas, fear of the Iraqi soldiers wearing their black masks at the checkpoints.” Riverbend; blogs from Baghdad

12/29/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- The execution of Saddam Hussein is another grim chapter in the catalogue of war crimes perpetrated against the Iraqi people. It is a gratuitous act of barbarism devoid of justice.

What right does Bush have to kill Saddam? What right does the author of Abu Ghraib, Falluja, Haditha and countless other atrocities have to pass judgment on the former leader of a nation which posed no threat to the United States?

Let’s be clear, the lowliest, most ruthless Iraqi has more right to rule Iraq than the most upright American. That’s what’s meant by “self determination”. When we honor “self rule” we avoid bloody interventions like the invasion of Iraq.

Bush believes that killing Saddam will achieve the “closure” which has eluded him through 4 years of occupation. But he is mistaken. Saddam’s death will only eliminate any opportunity for a political solution. Reconciliation will be impossible and Saddam will die as a hero.

Is that what Bush wants?

Or does Bush really know what he wants? Perhaps, he is just a war-mongering psychopath completely disconnected from reality.

Capital punishment is a moral evil. The state never has the right to kill its own people regardless of their crimes; Saddam is no exception. But the premeditated murder of Saddam is particularly appalling, because it is stupid as well as unjust. It cuts off dialogue with the very people (the Ba’athist-led resistance) who need to be entered into the political process to achieve normalization. Bush is destroying his last chance for a negotiated settlement and paving the way for America’s total defeat.

It’s complete madness.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, told the Times Online that “the deposed president could be hanged ‘within hours’” and that his death sentence would be executed by Saturday at the latest.

Munir Haddad, the presiding judge on the appeals court, said, “All the measures have been done. There is no reason for delays.”

Plans are already underway to film the entire event.

It’s impossible to imagine a more fitting summary of 6 years of Bush rule than video-footage of Saddam’s limp figure dangling at the end of a rope. The pictures will no doubt replace the iconic photos of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner who appeared in headlines across the world.

The United States will pay a heavy price for Bush’s savagery. The war is already going badly and this latest travesty will only quicken America’s inevitable withdrawal.

America has become a moral swamp, its leaders incapable of wisdom or mercy. Hanging Saddam only adds to our mutual disgrace and exposes the real face of American justice.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Stampeding the herd

Stampeding the herd Washington-style
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In the end, the most significant aspect of the Iraq Study Group may be that none of its esteemed members publicly doubted the wisdom of conquering Mesopotamia in the first place. President Petulant appears determined to ignore its recommendations for dealing with the “grave and deteriorating” crisis anyway. Why the hawks-only lineup? Because under the upside-down rules of Washington discourse, dissenting from this crackpot scheme indicated an unseemly lack of interest in career advancement, marking one as unsound. During a stampede, the safest place is the middle of the herd. Maybe this will change after the Democratic-controlled Congress convenes. After all, recent polls have shown that roughly 12 percent of Americans support the White House’s putative plans to “surge” (translation: escalate ) by throwing another
20,000 to 30,000 troops into the Iraqi meat grinder, although it’s unclear whose side those soldiers will take in its civil war. Shoot, you could get 12 percent to agree that Condi Rice is a space alien. Change, however, won’t come easy. Not only does the president retain the power of commander-in-chief, enabling him to confront Congress with a fait accompli—French for “kiss my grits” —before they’re sworn in, but the Washington media elite follows the same inverted logic: Nobody who grasped the folly of invading Iraq in 2002 can be trusted to run with the herd.

On his iconoclastic Web site, The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby highlighted a characteristically lame discussion on MSNBC’s Chris Matthews show. Andrea Mitchell, wife of former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, was guest host. Also featured were Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Joe Klein of Time, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times and Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic.

What a lineup! Newsweek fired Klein for lying about his authorship of “Primary Colors.” Sullivan, a transplanted Brit, opined after 9/11 that the “decadent left... may well mount what amounts to a fifth column” against fighting terrorists. He’s now stridently anti-war. Bumiller’s a White House orrespondent who confessed to being scared to ask the president a tough question “on prime-time live television... when the country is about to go to war.” Tucker is disarmingly pretty. Here, she’s the token progressive.

It’s a perfectly representative group of D.C. pundits: trimmers and court jesters all.

So would Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presumptive presidential candidacy be damaged by her pro-war vote? (Actually, President Bush vowed that attacking Iraq was a last resort, although nobody believed him.) The panel agreed that Clinton might be able to finesse the issue. Then Tucker said something remarkable.

“I also think that the peacenik wing of the Democratic Party may have learned a lesson from their failures in Connecticut, where Ned Lamont lost in the general election to Joe Lieberman,” she said. “The simple fact of the matter is, every serious Democrat who was in the Senate at the time voted for the war.”

Nobody contradicted her. The panel digressed to the titillating topic of Clinton’s odd marriage and whether she fits the “traditional model of what a woman should be.”

Excuse me, but why do we need these people?

Peaceniks? Who’s that? Almost nobody opposed going into Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden. It’s the administration’s failure to finish the job that’s put the U.S. in danger of simultaneously losing two wars.

On Iraq, Somerby provided a fact check. In the Senate vote of Oct. 11, 2002, he said, 21 Democratic senators voted against the war resolution. (Also one Republican and an independent.) Among the nays was Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who recently questioned the wisdom of a commission composed “entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism.”

Also voting against Iraq were Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Carl Levin of Michigan, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Failure in Connecticut? Because anti-war Democrats won Montana, Virginia and four other states, all will chair key Senate committees in 2007. Not serious people, Tucker thinks—presumably along with the 126 House Democrats who also voted against this bloody exercise in far-right utopianism, Little Rock’s Rep. Vic Snyder among them. Actually, it’s unlikely that Tucker really thinks that. Most often, the stances taken by TV pundits have more to do with establishing their own position within the herd than any outside reality. They can’t be bothered to get even basic facts straight, even amid a disaster substantially caused by the news media’s failure to apply appropriate professional skepticism to begin with. “Because our modern elites are so constantly wrong,” Somerby writes, “they must constantly disappear those who were right. Result? Inside a Washington hearing room, 10 well-known people who were wrong from the start tell the nation what to do next.” Far too often, alas, the news media are no exception.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

A legal farce: Iraqi court confirms Saddam Hussein’s death sentence

By Peter Symonds
27 December 2006

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The confirmation yesterday of the death sentence against Saddam Hussein is the final act in a legal charade directed from Washington. The Iraqi Appeal Court upheld the verdict against Hussein and two of his co-accused—Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Hamed al-Bandar—brought on November 5 for the execution of 148 Shiites from the town of Dujail in 1982. With the only avenue of appeal exhausted, all three can be hanged at any time within the next 30 days.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel hailed the court decision, declaring it to be “an important milestone” in efforts “to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law”. In fact, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated its contempt for basic legal norms, riding roughshod over international and US law. It has pressed for the execution of Hussein as a means of demonstrating to the world that it is capable of killing its opponents with impunity.

The Appeal Court decision comes as no surprise. From start to finish, the trial of Hussein and senior figures in his Baathist regime has been a piece of political theatre with a preordained outcome. The Bush administration refused to place the former Iraqi strongman before an international tribunal, drew up the flawed rules for the Iraqi High Court and has overseen every aspect of the case via a large team of American lawyers based in the US embassy in Baghdad.

Washington’s Shiite-dominated puppet government in Baghdad has brazenly interferred in the trial, exploiting it to bolster support among its social base. Shortly after the verdict was handed down last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki preempted the outcome of the appeals process, telling the BBC that he expected Hussein to be hanged by the end of the year. Significantly, yesterday’s decision was first announced, not by the Appeal Court, but by a government minister—National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie.

International legal experts and human rights bodies have repeatedly criticised the legal process. In a statement issued yesterday, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the trial as “deeply flawed” and called on the Iraqi government not to carry out the execution. A detailed 97-page HRW report on the Dujail case issued last month highlighted numerous breaches of elementary legal process, pointing to government interference in the trial. The report concluded that the court’s conduct reflected “a basic lack of understanding of fundamental fair trial principles”.

In January, the chief judge in the case, Rizgar Muhammed Amin, was forced to resign after senior government officials denounced him for giving too much leeway to the defendants and defence lawyers. His replacement Raouf Abdel Rahman repeatedly overrode defence protests, expelling the defendants and their lawyers from the court. Defence challenges to the legitimacy of a court established through an illegal invasion were simply swept aside. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who was part of Hussein’s defence team, yesterday described the legal process as a travesty.

The trial was never about justice. The first charge was deliberately confined to the Dujail killings in 1982 to avoid any reference to Washington’s close collaboration with the former Iraqi strongman, particularly in late 1980s. The Bush administration was deeply concerned that Hussein would follow the example of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and implicate the US in the crimes of the Baathist regime.

Following the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, the US actively encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade in 1980 as a means of undermining the newly established Islamist regime. The Dujail incident occurred amid a series of setbacks to the Iraqi army in the Iran-Iraq war. The execution of Shiite men and boys from the town of Dujail was carried out in reprisal for an attempt on Hussein’s life by members of Dawa—the same Islamist party to which Prime Minister Maliki belongs.

In 1983 and 1984, former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went to Baghdad as a special presidential envoy to cement closer ties with the Hussein regime. Following those visits, the US provided military and economic assistance to Iraq, including for the development of the chemical weapons that were used against Iranian troops and Kurds allied to Iran. A second trial is currently underway into atrocities against the Kurds in the late 1980s—the so-called Anfal campaign. There is, of course, a complete silence in the court on US complicity.

Whatever Hussein’s undoubted crimes, the Bush administration is directly responsible for war crimes of a far greater order of magnitude in Iraq. More than 650,000 Iraqis are estimated to have died directly as a result of the illegal US-led invasion and occupation. The charge of which Hussein has been convicted—a reprisal for an attempt on his life—is standard operating procedure for the US military in Iraq, which has mercilessly bombed and strafed buildings and villages suspected of harbouring anti-occupation insurgents.

US troops routinely break into houses and arbitrarily detain Iraqis. Thousands continue to be held without trial in US-run prisons and subject to torture. High profile detainees have simply disappeared into the American gulag of secret jails and torture chambers. Many of the Shiite death squads that are now criticised in the American media had their origins in the “Salvador option” first implemented in 2004 following the appointment of John Negroponte as US ambassador. Hit squads operating under the cloak of the Interior Ministry are widely believed to have been responsible for the murder of three of Hussein’s defence lawyers.

The Appeal Court announcement coincides with the US administration’s plans for an escalation of violence against the Iraqi people. President Bush is preparing to announce a huge “surge” of between 20,000 and 50,000 US troops to Iraq for a bloody crackdown in Baghdad and in the western Anbar province against anti-US insurgents and the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. What is being prepared is a crime that will dwarf anything that Hussein ever carried out.

Those responsible for the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq—Bush, Cheney and the rest of the gangsters in the White House—should all be put on trial for war crimes.

See Also:
Iraqi prime minister calls for Saddam Hussein to be hanged before year's end

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sell-Out Democrats Have Walked into a Bush Trap on Iraq

By Dave Lindorff

12/20/06 "Information Clearing House" --- - The Democratic Party and its feckless leaders in Congress are about to fall into a trap. The trap is being sprung by President Bush and his too clever brain trust, but the sad fact is that it was actually laid by the Democrats themselves.

Taking over the Congress on a wave of popular revulsion at the twin catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democrats could have issued immediate calls for an end to those wars, a return of the troops, and investigations into the criminal causes of those costly fiascos. They could have initiated efforts to halt funding for further war and foreign occupation. Of course, taking such stands and actions would have opened them to charges of being "soft on terror," but the public clearly isn't buying that crap any more. With a little courage and leadership they could have handled it, and come out winners.

Instead, they took what they thought was the easy road, condemning not the criminal policies themselves, but only the administration's handling of the wars. This led some to call not for an end to the wars, but for more troops.

Now, Bush has called their bluff by proposing just that: more troops for Iraq (the so-called "surge" option), and a major expansion of the army over the longer term--the better to allow the president to invade other countries even as the nation is already mired in two losing wars.

And what are the Democrats in Congress going to do? Devoid of any principles, their chance to demand an end to reckless imperialist military adventures squandered, they are likely to fall in line and vote to fund both an escalation of the Iraq War and an expansion of the military.

It's a double win for Bush. He gets the funding for more war right through the end of his second term of office, allowing him to hand the Iraq quagmire to the next president, making it someone else's job to take the blame for the eventually unavoidable loss. And he gets a bigger defense budget and more troops to play with--perhaps as much as a 10 percent increase in total combat troops.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the allegedly liberal, allegedly anti-war incoming speaker of the House, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry "send-in-the-cavalry" Reid can kiss their much touted "First 100 Hours" progressive agenda goodbye. With all the new money that will have to be thrown into the Pentagon sinkhole, there won't be a dime for domestic spending.

The Pentagon budgeters claim deceptively that every increase of 10,000 new troops adds another $1.5 billion in defense costs, which makes a 50,000 increase in troop strength sound like a manageable $7.5 billion extra--a drop in the bucket of a $500-billion defense budget. But this figure is grossly misleading. First of all it doesn't include the back-end costs of pensions, benefits and support costs, and the interest on the debt, which taken together at least double the figure to over $15 billion a year. But more importantly, it doesn't factor in the costs when those extra troops are actually sent into battle, where the costs of support, equipment, equipment replacement, medical and long-term care can explode. And make no mistake, the purpose of adding troops to the U.S. active-duty roster is to use them for further war-mongering and further imperial adventurism.

Singer Dan Fogerty had it right: this is déjà vu all over again.

When President Lyndon Johnson saw that the Vietnam War was being lost, he over-rode the best advice he was getting that the war was a lost cause, and escalated the fighting with a massive infusion of troops and an expansion of the U.S. military. The only result was more killing of Vietnamese and Laotians, and more dying of American troops. President Nixon did the same thing. Instead of ending the war when he took over the presidency in 1968, he upped the ante again, eventually raising the number of US troops in Indochina to over half a million, doubling the number of Southeast Asians killed to over two million, and more than doubling U.S. casualties to an eventual 58,000 before the U.S. finally had to admit defeat.

"Surge" is the new escalation, and we're set to repeat this tragedy, with Democrats (the new "sucker"), who had a chance to call a halt to the nonsense, instead stupidly joining the mad charge.

The end result of this betrayal of the electorate, which has made it clear it wants an end to the Iraq War, will be a collapse of the Democrats in 2008, with the party losing both houses of Congress and probably the White House too. It will be a richly deserved collapse.

While the hour is late, there is yet a slim chance for the public to rescue the Democrats from this course of political suicide and the nation from disaster. If masses of committed people from all walks of life take to the streets on January 27, when United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Impeach for Change are planning a major demonstration against war and against the crimes of the Bush administration, maybe enough Democrats in Congress will realize the intensity of public opposition to further pointless mayhem and slaughter in the Middle East, and will realize the only option is to pull the plug on the president’s imperialist megalomania--and to initiate impeachment hearings against the president.

I realize counting on Democrats to do the right thing, even in their own self-interest, is a thin reed on which to rest hopes for a return to national sanity, but we need to grasp it.

Award-winning investigative reporter Dave Lindorff has been working as a journalist for 33 years. A regular columnist for CounterPunch (, he also writes frequently for Extra! ( and Salon magazine (, as well as for Businessweek, The Nation and Treasury&Risk Management Magazine. Visit his website

The long wait begins

The long wait begins
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Although the U. S. Constitution mandates a presidential election two years hence, nothing compels citizens to obsess about it until that blessed day. As I write, exactly 761 days remain in the lamentable reign of George the Incompetent, according to my electronic Bush Countdown Calendar. Turning what CNN bills as the “Race to 2008” into a long-running reality-TV series, however, threatens to make them seem interminable. In the aftermath of a bruising 2006 campaign, most Americans would welcome a break from the incessant buzz and clamor of electoral politics. The new Democratic Congress hasn’t yet been sworn in. How can the nation govern itself during a permanent campaign? We’re at least two Super Bowls, a couple of World Series, a bunch of new “Sopranos” episodes and several Britney Spears husbands away from the deciding moment. Can’t we please give it a rest? Evidently not. Nor is it only cable TV that’s to blame. “The Race Is On,” trumpets Newsweek’s cover story. The race between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, that is, two Democrats who haven’t declared their candidacies.

Newsweek’s story, written by Jonathan Alter, focuses largely on Clinton’s gender and Obama’s race, the kind of “hot-button” coverage editors hope will stimulate newsstand sales. As Alter cogently observes, “The record of white males in high places has not exactly been stellar of late, and voters might be in the mood to try something historic and possibly redemptive.”

But it’s less the fact of the premature coverage than its terms that is so objectionable. The selfsame media cohort that’s made a farce of the last several presidential elections has begun to fictionalize the contest according to its own adolescent preoccupations: looks, personality quirks, fashion preferences, sex appeal and that perennial favorite, authenticity.

Like the others, this last category’s much favored because it’s entirely subjective, lending enormous power to pundits who wield it as a weapon. Already we’re told by The Washington Post’s Lynne Duke that “the national fascination with the Clintons and their marriage will be central to the race.” So which will it be? Duke’s choices: “Hillary the martyr. Hillary the steadfast, for sticking with her man. Hillary as Machiavelli, accepting marital humiliation as the price of power.”

Of course, it’s not the reporter herself who finds these dopey, unanswerable questions fascinating. Despite expending close to 2,500 words dredging up rumors and playing amateur psychoanalyst, Duke blames prurient public curiosity and “the media industrial complex.”

Then there’s New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Washington’s oldest high school “Heather.” To her, the 2008 Democratic campaign will hinge not upon Iraq, terrorism, health care, the runaway federal budget or any
of that tedious business, but “how manly the woman, and how white the black.” Clinton, see, is a big faker who “won her Senate seat only after becoming sympathetic as a victim,” whereas Obama, who “glides between the black and white political worlds,” is her “worst nightmare, as comfortable in his skin as she is uncomfortable in hers.”

It may be worth recalling that Dowd, who appears never to have considered that her gift for witty put-downs has very little to do with mature judgment, also cited a bunch of trumped-up tales such as Al Gore’s supposed claim to have invented the Internet to deride the Democratic candidate as a phony back in 2000.

And look where that got us. How well does Dowd, or any of the pundits assessing the candidates’ “authenticity,” actually know them? Hardly at all, it’s safe to say. But mind-reading and pop psychology are ever so much more entertaining to her and the Kool Kids of D.C. High than icky, tedious political issues.

But the most farcical bit of commentary emanated from CNN’s ostensibly thoughtful Jeff Greenfield. What with GOP operatives leaking word that Obama’s middle name is “Hussein” — the equivalent of “John” in Kenya, where his father was born—the pundit pondered the senator’s clothing. Despite his perception that Obama was, yes, “comfortable in his own skin,” and “knows who he is,” Greenfield couldn’t help but notice his deeply troubling wardrobe.

“Ask yourself,” Greenfield said, “is there any other major public figure who dresses the way he does? Why, yes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, unlike most of his predecessors, seems to have skipped through enough copies of GQ to find the jacket-and-no-tie look agreeable.”

Lampooned on several influential Web sites, Greenfield quickly alibied that he’d meant to parody cable TV political commentary. “I figured there was no way on planet Earth that anyone could possibly take such a presentation at face value,” he wrote. “I was wrong.” He certainly was. That’s partly because of the perception that “mainstream” pundits mainly reserve the crazy stuff for Democratic candidates. On the GOP side, the “straight-talking maverick” and “America’s mayor” have five marriages between them. Ever seen them psychoanalyzed? Neither have I.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Songbirds of the Armand Bayou::Clear Lake City::Texas

Tabblo: Songbirds of the Armand Bayou::Clear Lake City::Texas

The Armand Bayou Nature Area is located in SouthEast Texas  ... See my Tabblo>

Monday, December 18, 2006

** Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail website **
** Website by **

December 14, 2006

Child Victims of Violence

Here is the text and photos I just received from a doctor friend in Baghdad:

"This is 20 month-old Iraqi baby girl
who was severely injured and mutilated, in a blast by a car bomb in
Al-Sadr City 21 days ago,she lost her two eyes.

"Her name is Shams-means sun in Arabic-... well not anymore, her mother
was killed during the accident. Shams lies now
a surgical specialty hospital in Baghdad, and as we live in these
terrible conditions in Baghdad she has not much chance to get any proper
medical care...

"She is an innocent element amid this turmoil. I have a kid almost the
same age and I feel aching pain inside for her. Shams was sent for my
consulatation for her but I could do nothing. If she could make it she
would live with a broken soul forever. Who could bring back her cherubic
childish smile again? I hope that the criminal who did this
sees part of his accomplishment."

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.

Bush administration elaborates plans for bloodbath in Iraq

By Bill Van Auken
18 December 2006

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Reports on the Bush administration’s discussions on a change of course in Iraq indicate that Washington is preparing a major new bloodbath as part of a desperate attempt to salvage its nearly four-year-old bid to conquer the oil-rich country.

The New York Times Sunday carried an article entitled “The Capital Awaits a Masterstroke on Iraq,” which indicated that the options under discussion include what amounts to support for a genocidal war against Iraq’s Sunni population as well as the deliberate unleashing of a region-wide sectarian conflict between the predominantly Sunni Arab countries and the Shia majorities in Iran and Iraq.

This proposal—known widely in Washington as the “80 percent solution,” the percentage of the Iraqi population comprising Shia and Kurds—the Times writes, “basically says that Washington should stop trying to get Sunnis and Shiites to get along and instead just back the Shiites, since there are more of them anyway and they’re likely to win in a fight to the death. After all, the proposal goes, Iraq is 65 percent Shiite and only 20 percent Sunni.”

The plan reportedly has been promoted by Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the principal architects of the Iraq war from the beginning.

A key consideration, the article adds, is control of Iraq’s oil fields. “The longer America tries to woo the Sunnis, the more it risks alienating the Shiites and Kurds, and they’re the ones with the oil,” the Times states. “A handful of administration officials have argued that Iraq is not going to hold to together and will splinter along sectarian lines. If so, they say, American interests dictate backing the groups who control the oil-rich areas.”

An off-shoot of the plan, which the Times cynically describes as something “some hawks have tossed out in meetings,” is a suggestion that the US could reap the benefits of a region-wide sectarian conflagration. “America could actually hurt Iran by backing Iraq’s Shiites; that could deepen the Shiite-Sunni split and eventually lead to a regional Shiite-Sunni war,” the Times writes. “And in that, the Shiites—and Iran—lose because, while there are more Shiites than Sunnis in Iraq and Iran, there are more Sunnis than Shiites almost everywhere else.”

At the same time, there are growing indications that a proposed “surge” of tens of thousands more American combat troops into Iraq will have as its first objective taking on the militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, meaning a brutal assault on the impoverished Shia masses of Baghdad.

The formulation of such mutually contradictory policies appears to be less the product of diplomatic and military calculation than political insanity. Underlying what seems like madness is the desperation and disorientation at all levels of the American state over the deep crisis that its policy has produced.

What predominates is the conception that provided it carries out a sufficient level of killing—whether in a genocidal slaughter of Sunnis, a bloodletting against the Shia, or a combination of the two—US imperialism can somehow extricate itself from a humiliating defeat in Iraq.

The leaks concerning the strategies now under consideration only underscore the abject criminality of the war as well as the desperate crisis that is gripping the American political establishment, which remains deeply divided over how to confront the political and military debacle confronting the US occupation.

Less than two weeks after the release of the report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the Bush administration has repudiated the panel’s prescriptions for reducing the US military role in Iraq and pursuing diplomatic initiatives aimed at winning cooperation from the neighboring countries of Iran and Syria.

The White House, backed by the Republican right and the most ruthless sections of the American ruling elite, is instead preparing what amounts to a re-invasion of the ravaged country and the pursuit of a broader regional war, ultimately aimed at toppling both the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.

It was reported late last week that the Pentagon has already ordered the 3,500 troops of the Second Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, currently based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to prepare for deployment to Kuwait next month. This would be the first contingent for what is anticipated to be a “surge” of between 30,000 and 50,000 additional troops.

Not only is the political establishment deeply divided over the way forward in Iraq, but the US military command as well. Some, such as Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, the senior commander of US forces in the Middle East, have questioned the value of a “surge” of American troops into Iraq, noting that such an increased deployment could not be sustained and warning that it could serve to further delay Iraqi forces taking over security operations.

On the other hand, a number of recently retired senior commanders have advocated the escalation, and the scheme is reportedly supported by Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, who assumed command of combat troops in Iraq last week. Odierno commanded the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Anbar Province in 2003 and 2004, gaining a reputation for heavy-handed counterinsurgency operations and repression that is credited by many with generating much of the popular support for the Iraqi resistance.

“We are going to go after any—any—individual who attacks the government, who attacks the security forces and who attacks coalition forces no matter who they are and no matter who they are associated with,” he said at a ceremony in Baghdad last Thursday.

The remark appeared to be a warning that the immediate target of the new offensive now being prepared will be the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr. According to press reports, the Pentagon’s uniformed command has been unanimous on its insistence that any increased deployment in Baghdad be accompanied by unrestricted rules of engagement for US forces going after Sadr’s followers.

Such an offensive would signal not only a US-engineered coup against the current Iraqi government, in which Sadr’s movement holds substantial power, but also a massive loss of civilian life, as an all-out war would be waged in the crowded Shia slums of Baghdad’s Sadr City.

Barely six weeks after growing popular opposition to the war in Iraq produced a stunning defeat for the Bush administration at the polls, there is every indication that the White House intends not only to continue the war, but to escalate it substantially.

The Democratic leadership, meanwhile, exhibits no such conviction or determination as it prepares to assume the leadership next month of both houses of the US Congress.

On Sunday, incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared in a television interview that he is prepared to support the proposed “surge” in Iraqi troop deployment if it served as part of a broader strategy to achieve the Baker-Hamilton commission’s proposal for reducing the number of troops in Iraq by early 2008.

“If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we’ll go along with that,” Reid said, adding that an escalation for two to three months would be acceptable, but not one that dragged on for 18 months or 24 months.

The Democratic Senate leader’s qualms were dismissed by one of the prominent advocates of the “surge,” former Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane, who pointed out, “It will take a couple of months just to get forces in.” Keane said that it would take at least one and half years for an expanded force to suppress Iraqi resistance.

Meanwhile, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, considered the most liberal Democrat in the US Senate, appearing on the Fox News channel, voiced opposition to the increased troop deployment, but rejected any move to cut off funding for the war—the only means, short of impeachment, that the Democrats have to rein in the escalating militarism of the Bush administration.

“One thing about the Democrats is we will support the troops,” Kennedy declared, adding, “We are not going to pull the line, in terms of the troops.”

Pressed by interviewer Chris Wallace as to why he was unprepared to support a vote to defund the war in Iraq, when Democrats had pursued just such a course during the Vietnam War, Kennedy stressed that “This is a different situation than Vietnam” and “we are not at this point at this time.”

What is different is that in Iraq, decisive sections of America’s ruling elite remain determined to pursue the goal of establishing US domination over one of the largest reserves of petroleum in the world by means of military force and colonial-style domination.

While there are intense divisions over how this goal is to be pursued, the defense of the geo-strategic interests of American capitalism is upheld by every faction of the political establishment. It is for this reason that the Democrats have served as the Bush administration’s accomplice in this war since voting to authorize an unprovoked invasion more than four years ago.

The growing threats to escalate the assault against the Iraqi people and potentially unleash a conflagration that could spread throughout the Middle East and worldwide demonstrate that the popular opposition to the war cannot find expression through the present two-party political set up in America.

Even before the new Congress convenes, it has become starkly apparent that the struggle to end the war in Iraq and to hold those who are responsible for launching this war politically and criminally responsible can be advanced only through the emergence of a new independent political movement of working people in opposition to the American financial oligarchy and both of its parties.

Friday, December 15, 2006

U.S. Troops Raid Hospital Again

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily

*FALLUJAH, Dec. 14 (IPS) - Iraqi doctors and medical staff are outraged
over yet another U.S. military raid at Fallujah General Hospital.*

The raid followed a roadside bombing Dec. 7 where four Iraqi policemen
were killed and two civilians injured. The injured were taken to
Fallujah General Hospital.

Shortly after this attack, a U.S. Marine who was on a patrol in the city
was wounded by a gunshot.

"U.S. soldiers replied to the source of fire then headed straight to the
general hospital across the (Euphrates) river hoping that they had shot
and injured the sniper," an eyewitness told IPS.

"American soldiers seem to have some imagination to think wounded
fighters might go to that so-called hospital," a retired surgeon told
IPS. "We know that they do not trust that place because of the
continuous raids by the U.S., and lack of everything in that hospital."
The hospital is functioning at minimal capacity due to lack of medicines
and equipment, the surgeon said.

Eyewitnesses at Fallujah General Hospital said U.S. soldiers raided the
hospital "as if it were a military target."

"We panicked at the way they entered, kicking open doors and blasting
locked ones," a nurse told IPS. "A doctor tried to tell them he had keys
for the locked doors, but they pointed their guns to his face. Then they
told us to go out of the building and they kept us under guard in the
garden until the early hours of next morning."

The nurse said the soldiers "would not even allow us to get some
blankets to keep us warm; the temperature was below five degrees

Doctors and medical staff were arrested and insulted, and some were
called terrorists, witnesses said. The hospital was then closed, and
could no longer offer even minimal treatment.

"We are used to that kind of behaviour from American soldiers," a
hospital employee told IPS. "This was the third time I was in handcuffs
with my face down. They have been more vicious with medical staff than
others because they consider us the first supporters of those they call

The U.S. military said that Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5
entered Fallujah General Hospital in order to search for fighters after
two Marines were wounded the previous day in the city.

Lt. Col. Bryan Salas, spokesperson for the Multi-National Forces in
Iraq, told reporters: "Coalition forces searched the hospital to ensure
that it continues to be a safe place for the citizens of Fallujah to
receive the medical treatment they deserve."

This hospital has been raided many times before, particularly in the
U.S. military assault on the city April and November 2004.

Two years back, on Dec 13, 2004, IPS reported that the U.S. military was
impeding Iraqi health workers around and inside Fallujah, and was
deliberately targeting ambulances. In November 2005 IPS reported that
the U.S. military had raided two hospitals in Ramadi.

Many Iraqi doctors have been arrested by U.S. forces for various periods
of time on suspicion of "supporting terrorism" in Iraq. Many have fled
the country for fear of repeated arrests or even killings by U.S.
soldiers or sectarian militia death squads.

The independent Iraq Medical Association announced last month that of
the 34,000 Iraqi physicians registered prior to 2003, over half have
fled the country, and that at least 2,000 have been killed.

Article 12 of the first Geneva Convention states: "(Combatants) who are
sick and wounded...shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party
to the conflict in whose power they may be..." The article goes on to
state that "any attempts on their lives, or violence to their persons,
shall be strictly prohibited..."

Article 24 of the first Geneva Convention states: "Medical personnel
exclusively engaged in...transport or treatment of the wounded or
sick...(and) staff exclusively engaged in the administration of medical
units and establishments...shall be respected and protected in all

Under the fourth Geneva Convention, Article 18 reads: "Civilian
hospitals organised to care to the wounded and sick, infirm and
maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but
shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the
(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto: a painful experience

By David Walsh
14 December 2006

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Apocalypto, directed by Mel Gibson, written by Farhad Safinia

What are we to make of Mel Gibson’s extremely violent Apocalypto? It seems less an artistic event than a social-psychological phenomenon.

The drama unfolds in the last days of the Mayan civilization in Central America, as imagined by Gibson and his screenwriter, Farhad Safinia, on the eve of the arrival of the Spanish. A peaceful village is ransacked and burned to the ground by a group of warriors, its inhabitants killed or carried off as captives. One young man, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), manages to hide his pregnant wife and child in a well before he too is captured and taken away.

After a terrifying journey, the warriors and their captives arrive in a large Mayan city in an area suffering from drought and plague. In the main temple the prisoners are to be sacrificed in an effort to appease the angry gods. After a natural miracle barely saves Jaguar Paw from this fate, he manages to flee, wounded, into the jungle. The fearsome warriors give chase. Will he evade them? Will he reach his wife and family in time to save them?

What does Gibson wish to tell us with his film? He explains to interviewers, perhaps not disingenuously, that the genesis of the film was merely the desire to create an exciting and sensational chase scene. And that does contain visually audacious and exciting moments. However, the events and details that have grown up, so to speak, around this central story inevitably reveal the director’s attitude toward the world.

Two elements dominate the film: violence and the fear of violence. We remember the slit throats, severed heads, cut-out hearts, impaled body parts, as well as the pit of corpses, a face chewed by a panther, a spear through the back and so on, but, equally, the looks of terror on the faces of the various victims. In fact, the latter are the more powerful images. The camera may occasionally shy away from some of the goriest details, but it lingers lovingly on the awful expressions. Often, before we witness terrible things, we see them registered in frightened eyes and gaping mouths. Even the arrival of the Spanish is first captured in the amazed and fearful glances of the Mayans.

Gibson told an interviewer from Entertainment Weekly, “We’re all afraid. That’s something I’ve been finding out more recently—how racked by fear we are as a society. It all comes back to that. If you watch the news you’re going to be terrified,” and that “using fear” is “what this film is about.”

Apocalypto conveys a sense that to gaze at the world honestly is to gaze at it with horror. And helplessness. Because, for the most part, none of the foreboding or forewarning does any of the characters any good. They stare into the face of unspeakable savagery as it bears down on them and they can do nothing. Only Jaguar Paw, at home in his natural habitat and determined to save his family, is able to produce a different result. (Interestingly, he summons up his nerve and decides to take the offensive against his pursuers when his back is turned to the camera, when he is not looking his tormentors in the face.) According to the logic of the film, one would hardly blame the individual who rejected human society and, with his wife and children, headed for the forest’s deepest recesses.

There are various, mostly unpleasant, aspects to Apocalypto’s outlook as it presents itself to an audience. The film offers up hostility to cities, to large masses of people, and advances or implies a type of eco-survivalist misanthropy. The scenes in the capital represent an infernal vision, not one with fire and brimstone, but hell as a dry, dusty, chalky place, a polluted, desiccated wasteland—Gehenna or something like it, populated by soulless, demented men and women who cheer as one when human heads come rolling down the temple steps. The city and its inhabitants are entirely unredeemable. It would be best apparently if the place were razed to the ground, its population exterminated and a new beginning made.

Gibson’s film begins with a citation from historian Will Durant in a title: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

It seems clear that Gibson has the present situation in mind. The film’s production notes cite his comment that “one of the things that just kept coming up as we were writing is that many of the things that happened right before the fall of the Mayan civilization are occurring in our society now. It was important for me to make that parallel because you see these cycles repeating themselves over and over again. People think that modern man is so enlightened, but we’re susceptible to the same forces—and we are also capable of the same heroism and transcendence.”

And this from screenwriter Farhad Safinia: “We discovered that what archeologists and anthropologists believe is that the daunting problems faced by the Maya are extraordinarily similar to those faced today by our own civilization, especially when it comes to widespread environmental degradation, excessive consumption and political corruption.”

These vague, ahistorical ruminations are not at all the same thing as a critique of or a protest against contemporary society—although it would probably be a mistake to pigeon-hole Gibson too quickly. He has not won friends on the political right by his recent comments critical of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. At a screening in Austin, Texas, in September he drew parallels between the dysfunctional Mayan civilization and the current political situation in the US. “The precursors to a civilization that’s going under are the same, time and time again,” he observed. “What’s human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?”

About his own political orientation, Gibson says, “I’ve always been very independent about the way I see things. Everyone always presumes I’m a Republican. I’m not. I couldn’t vote for either one of those guys in the last election. I looked at the pair of them and was like, ‘What do you want to do—get punched or get kicked?’ It was a terrible choice to have to make. So I found somebody else on the ballot who was an independent who I liked the sound of. I can’t even remember his name.” It would be interesting to know whether this forgotten individual was a left-wing or, more likely, an extreme right-wing candidate.

If Gibson feels that Western civilization or American society is on its last legs, how does he account for this circumstance? Presumably ‘apocalyptic’ religious conceptions (premonitions of ‘the end of days’) combine in the filmmaker’s thinking with the unscientific notion that every society’s development proceeds through some universal and pre-determined cycle of birth, life and death.

The filmmaker does not trouble himself to attain an accurate historical picture. Shocking images are easier to create. Gibson’s narrative makes no particular sense. How is it that one portion of the Mayan population lives in harmony while another murders and enslaves without batting an eyelid? Is it the very advance of civilization into the cities that has turned people into monsters? One should not insist on too precise an answer, it will not be forthcoming.

The director’s thoughts and feelings are very confused, to say the least. In place of the real motives behind the actions of the various social players in his films, Gibson provides, first, rapid movement, and, second, brutality.

Of the speed of the action, he explains, “If you notice, the film practically doesn’t stop moving, and so the entire style in which I wanted to have it happen was completely and utterly kinetic. I don’t think we ever put a camera on a stick, so either it was hand-held, flying along on a cable, driving along, or somebody was holding it and running.” In fact, the film’s time scheme is deliberately skewed; once Jaguar Paw begins his journey homeward, although the march to the city took more than one day and night, he never stops moving until he reaches the remains of his native village.

The frenzy and brutality of the action obscure the essentially static, ‘timeless’ character of Gibson’s social and historical view. If humanity has always been the same and its social forms have always undergone the same processes, whether one chooses the Mayan civilization or fourteenth century Scotland as one’s setting is an entirely arbitrary matter.

It is worth noting, if only in passing, that Gibson’s view of the Mayans as bloodthirsty, wanton savages is disputed by historians and anthropologists who point to the Central American civilization’s great advances in mathematics, science, writing, art, architecture and engineering. Moreover, while human sacrifice was apparently practiced, the accounts left by Spanish soldiers and priests of mass deaths have been challenged as self-serving and grossly exaggerated.

Traci Ardren, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Miami, rejects the “offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserve, in fact they needed, rescue. This same idea was used for 500 years to justify the subjugation of Maya people ... Maya intellectuals have demonstrated convincingly that such ideas were manipulated by the Guatemalan army to justify the genocidal civil war of the 1970-1990s.”

Atrocity and brutality become ends in themselves, critic Georg Lukács noted years ago, when the artist can only give a weak presentation “of what is the chief issue—the social development of man.” Lukács noted that inhumanity and cruelty become substitutes for the “lost greatness of real history.” Moreover, these qualities, as well as the choice of an exotic locale, stem from the morbid longing of modern men and women “to escape from the suffocating narrowness of everyday life.”

This latter point seems entirely à propos. Gibson responds with paranoia, disgust and boredom to both the political elite and the Hollywood establishment, but his sentiments find a fairly noxious and fantasized outlet.

There is also the matter of personal psychological difficulty. His films and behavior, including his recent anti-Semitic rant, indicate an unstable personality. Burdened with a dreadful father, a Holocaust denier and member of a traditionalist Catholic splinter group who described the reformist Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as “a Masonic plot backed by the Jews,” Gibson obviously battles his own devils. The image of a nearly naked man scourged, beaten almost to death and tortured while restrained or crucified (in Apocalypto, Jaguar Paw and his fellow captives are attached Christlike to heavy poles they carry through the jungle and over mountain passes) recurs in the director’s films. He seems to be infatuated with the need to receive pain as a means, presumably, of morally cleansing oneself. This is by no means healthy.

Gibson has talents, even as a director, although too many of the performances in Apocalypto are caricatures of hulking, leering, monstrous evil. He is obviously endowed with demonic energy. The construction of a miniature Mayan city, carried out with great attention to physical detail, involved a vast labor. Money does not seem to be his primary interest.

One goes to one of Gibson’s films with a certain dread. It is not, however, that feeling aroused by a monumental work of art, works that radiate with depth and demand an almost unbearable amount from the reader or viewer, Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz or King Lear, for example, but the sheer animal dread associated with watching a gruesome horror film. In fact, there is an overlap here, which does not speak well of Gibson.

At the same time, however, there is a good deal of cant, and superficiality, in the more self-righteous attacks on Apocalypto. Individual critics certainly have the right to deplore the bloody ‘pornography’ of Gibson’s film, its sensationalism, its gratuitous and relentless violence—there is much to condemn and, anyway, the director has made many enemies. However, one needs to ask: how many of these same critics heaped praise, for example, on Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill or Martin Scorsese’s The Departed?

People fool themselves in various ways. Tarantino is absolved because his fashionably cynical films are considered cartoonish forays into ‘black comedy’ and Scorsese’s violence is forgiven on account of its supposed textured and poetic quality. In reality, the films by Tarantino, Scorsese and Gibson are points on the same disoriented and debased continuum. Interestingly, in one of his interviews, Gibson mentions that “Martin Scorsese sent me the script from the last film he did, The Departed [in a vain effort to obtain Gibson’s services as an actor]. I thought it was fantastic.” In turn, one reviewer noted that Scorsese’s latest work contained “scenes of cruelty and violence that Tarantino himself would be proud to rip off.”

The difference is that Gibson goes overboard. Out of control, something of a loose and quasi-independent cannon (he has self-financed the last two films), Gibson is less able and has less need to restrain himself. He is like the professional football player, for example, who crosses over the fine line between the systematic, controlled thuggishness encouraged by the sport’s authorities and media and the ‘extracurricular,’ even criminal activity that brings moralizing and punishment down upon his head.

Gibson makes people nervous in part because he takes the obscene fascination with violence, which pervades the film and entertainment industry, to such absurd heights that the entire phenomenon threatens to become visible and called into question. That, however, is not convoluted reason enough to praise his new film, which is largely a painful experience.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Smile, And The World Smiles With You

What makes the Prime Minister a happy camper? Roasting Iraqis.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Boys will be boys
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Absent what TV football announcers call “incontrovertible video evidence” of what took place between President Bush and Sen.-elect James Webb, D-Va., during their recent dust-up, it’s hard to know quite what to think. As reported by The Washington Post, the president asked Webb at a White House reception about his son, a Marine serving in Iraq. Webb, who’d bitterly criticized Bush’s war policies during his campaign, refused to make nice. “I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,”
he said. “That’s not what I asked you,” Bush replied. “How’s your boy?” “ That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb answered. A decorated Vietnam veteran and bestselling novelist, Webb says he was tempted to take a punch at Bush, thereby endearing himself to those who see the president as an insolent punk. Less amused was the Post’s persnickety columnist, George Will.

“Webb,” he wrote, “certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb’s more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being... [who ] asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.”

Never mind, too, Bush’s haughty demand that Webb answer him like a servant or a royal subject, which Will evidently thought reflected badly on the president because he discreetly omitted it from his account. Others have noted that the very proper Mr. Will previously failed to object when Deadeye Dick Cheney told Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to go bleep himself on the Senate floor.

Even so, it’s possible to suspect that both Bush and Webb acted like jerks. Surrounded by the figurative equivalent of the Secret Service all his life, Bush clearly failed to absorb one key lesson of adolescent experience: If you’re not careful who you run your mouth to, you can get your butt kicked. I know a former Yale football jock who claims he introduced the future president to this principle in a frat house bar
long ago, but I’ve got no idea if it really happened, or if Bush was sober enough to remember.

Provoking a hothead like Webb would be a bad idea under ordinary circumstances. From long observation, I’m pretty sure how Bill Clinton would have handled the incident. He’d have smiled, patted the senator-elect on the shoulder and allowed as how he looked forward to working with him on the Iraq problem come January. Webb might have fumed, but impotently.

Does that make Clinton a sissy? No, it makes him an adult, one who understands that pointless confrontations can have unintended consequences.

That said, it strikes me as past time that reality testing returned to Washington, and if it takes a little Webb-style boorishness, then, to paraphrase Bush himself, bring it on.

The nation’s capital is chock-full of etiquette experts, many of whom mistook George W. Bush for a tough guy and treated invading Iraq like a Boy Scout jamboree. It’s the Washington disease: fantasies of omnipotence indulged by persons who themselves put nothing at risk, and who never have, people who confuse talking with doing.

To them, a guy like Webb’s a barbarian, albeit a barbarian with real political skills. Campaigning in his son’s combat boots while simultaneously earning credit from pundits for not trading on the young man’s service was definitely cute.

Nor does a combat record necessarily confer wisdom. Consider Sen. John McCain, another Vietnam veteran currently courting right-wing Republican voters by proposing to increase combat troops in Iraq—troops who happen not to exist in service of an undefined cause that’s already lost.

Looking back, it’s amazing to contemplate the sheer unreality of the political discussion leading up to America’s first “pre-emptive” war. The Post’s Walter Pincus, whose excellent reporting casting doubt upon Iraq’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction got buried on Page A 23 back then, recently wrote an interesting piece looking at what some of the 126 House Democrats who voted against Bush’s war were saying at the time.

Some were amazingly prescient. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, wrote that he had “no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq’s forces and remove Saddam [Hussein]. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it.”

Skelton warned that Iraq’s history of dictatorship and nasty ethnic tensions might cause a U.S.-imposed regime to “be rejected by the Iraqi people, leading to civil unrest and even anarchy.”

None of these misgivings, Pincus noted, was reported in The Washington Post. The White House ignored them. Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews lionized Bush as “our young warrior king.” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman discerned in him “a model of unblinking, eyes-on-the-prize decisiveness,” even hinting that Bush’s clothing made him regal. “He’s a boomer product of the ’60s,” the pundit gushed, “but doesn’t mind ermine robes.” They’re not talking that way now.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Senate committee votes unanimously to confirm Bush nominee for Pentagon chief

By Barry Grey
6 December 2006

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There is nothing ambiguous about Tuesday’s unanimous vote, 21 to 0, by the Senate Armed Services Committee to recommend that the full Senate confirm President Bush’s nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense.

There could be no clearer demonstration of bipartisan support for a continuation of the illegal US war in Iraq—a fact that will be underscored when the full Senate, as early as Wednesday, votes overwhelmingly to confirm former CIA Director Roberts Gates as the new defense secretary.

Exactly five weeks after an election in which, as even the establishment media acknowledges, the American people repudiated the war and voted to put the Democrats in control of Congress with a popular mandate to end it, senators of both parties joined to stage a political love fest for Bush’s choice to prosecute the war to a “successful” conclusion.

This development confirms the analysis that has been consistently advanced by the World Socialist Web Site and shatters the attempts by various “left” supporters of the Democratic Party to portray this political instrument of the American ruling elite as a means for opposing the Iraq war and the policies of militarism and social reaction of which the slaughter in Iraq is a part.

More fundamentally, the vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee testifies to the absence of anything that can legitimately be called an opposition party within the American political establishment. A genuine opposition party, in the wake of the popular repudiation of the Bush administration in the November 7 congressional election, would, as a matter of principle, oppose the president’s choice to oversee the war.

That precisely the opposite has occurred—and in the most shameless fashion—demonstrates a political truth whose comprehension is the starting point for a serious and effective struggle against the war in Iraq and the future wars that are already in preparation against other countries deemed obstacles to the global aims of the American financial aristocracy. That truth is the fact that both parties, the Democrats no less than the Republicans, represent the interests of a small and obscenely rich ruling elite—to such an extent that they are incapable of responding, or even making a serious show of responding, to the desires, views or needs of the vast majority of the population.

There is simply no other plausible explanation for the unanimous vote by the Senate committee to confirm a man who, as deputy director of the CIA, was personally implicated in the illegal activities of the Reagan administration that have come to be known as the Iran-Contra scandal. The senators, moreover, voted without dissent for Gates after he told the committee that he opposed any time-table for drawing down US troop levels in Iraq, that “all options” were on the table, including an increase in US force levels, that his perspective was to ensure “success” in Iraq, only after which “at some point in the future” it might be possible to “begin drawing down our forces,” and that the United States would “have to have some presence in Iraq for a long time.”

Not a single Democrat on the committee challenged this perspective. The only criticisms that were suggested in the question-and-answer period that followed Gates’s opening remarks came from those senators who are pushing for a substantial increase in US troop levels, such as Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Democrat Joseph Lieberman.

Among the senators who lavished praise on Gates for his supposed “candor” and “independence” were the dean of Democratic liberals Edward Kennedy and two soon-to-be-declared candidates for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Evan Bayh of Indiana and the putative front-runner, Hillary Clinton of New York.

Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, who will take over as chairman when the new, Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January, acknowledged that he had voted against Gates’s elevation to the post of CIA director in 1991. He had done so because, like Iran-Contra Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, he believed Gates had deceived the Senate when he denied having had any knowledge of the CIA’s secret sales of missiles to Iran and illegal diversion of the proceeds to fund the Contra war against the Sandinista regime—a terrorist campaign that killed tens of thousands of Nicaraguan civilians.

This did not prevent Levin from lauding Gates at the hearing, saying, “Your acknowledgment that we’re not winning in Iraq, frankly, is a necessary, refreshing breath of reality that is so needed if we’re going to look at ways of changing course in Iraq to maximize the chances of success. I thank you for that and the other candid responses that you’ve given here.”

The farcically perfunctory hearing, lasting a mere five hours, and the immediate and unanimous vote to confirm that followed the public session, were carefully staged to demonstrate bipartisan unity. The Senate proceedings, along with the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to be released Wednesday, are elements of an orchestrated effort to fashion a new policy consensus for salvaging the disastrous US intervention in Iraq.

Looming over the hearing was the view, stated repeatedly by both Gates and his questioners, that the situation for the US is dire, and that an outright defeat for American imperialism in Iraq would be a catastrophe of historical proportions. That, all agreed, had to be prevented at all costs.

This firm consensus underscores the fact that, whatever the tactical policy differences within and between the two parties, the Democrats and Republicans, along with the Bush administration and the entire political and media establishment, support the underlying goal of establishing US hegemony in the Middle East and Central Asia and control of the regions’ vast oil resources—the real aims of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as the ongoing slaughter in Afghanistan.

What this means for the Iraqi people is clear: More violence, killing and repression. What it means for the American people is no less clear: more families of soldiers devastated by the loss or maiming of their loved-ones, and hundreds of billions more squandered in a popularly despised war abroad, along with an intensified onslaught on the living standards and democratic rights of working people at home.

The bipartisan unity exemplified at the Gates hearing amounts to a conspiracy not only against the Iraqi people, but also against the American working class.

See Also:
The 2006 elections and the US two-party system
Bush, Democrats disenfranchise antiwar voters
[4 December 2006]