BUSHWARS Part II::f vcs HALL OF SHAME _____________________________________ / "What began on September 11 with the world wrapping us in its loving embrace has collapsed today in a literal orgy of shame and disgrace. This happened, simply, because of the complete failure of moral leadership at the highest levels." // "WE WILL REMEMBER THAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION USED THAT TERRIBLE EVENT SHAMELESSLY TO PUSH THEIR TAX CUTS AND PRE-EXISTING AGENDAS FOR BOTH INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC DOMNATION BY A SMALL ELITE." / "Lose any shame whatsoever about using the massive terror attacks as a rhetorical tool against your own people in the pursuit of your ideological goals."
/ "Democracy, more than any other political system, depends on a modicum of honesty. Ultimately, it is much at the mercy of a leader who has never been embarrassed by himself." / - Norman Mailer, "White Man Unburdened", New York times July 17, 2003
"At a public address in Nashville, Tenn., in September, Bush provided one of his most memorable stumbles. Trying to give strength to his case that Saddam Hussein had already deceived the West concerning his store of weapons, Bush was scripted to offer an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. What came out was the following:
WITH TREMBLING FINGERS B Y H A L C R O W T H E R May 12, 2004 Despite the worst foreign policy blunder in American history, George W. Bush and his millionaire supporters don't know the meaning of the word shame.
GO TO ORIGINAL
vfvfI used to take a drink on occasion with a network newsman famed for his impenetrable calm--his apparent pulse rate that of a large mammal in deep hibernation--and in an avuncular moment he advised me that I'd do all right, in the long run, if I could only avoid the kind of journalism committed to the keyboard "with trembling fingers." I recognized the wisdom of this advice and endeavored over the years to write as little as possible when my blood pressure was soaring and my face was streaked with tears. The lava flows of indignation ebb predictably with age and hardening arteries, and nearing three-score I thought I'd never have to take another tranquilizer--or a double bourbon--to keep my fingers steady on the keys.
I never imagined 2004. It would be sophomoric to say that there was never a worse year to be an American. My own memory preserves the dread summer of 1968. My parents suffered the consequences of 1941 and 1929, and my grandfather Jack Allen, who lived through all those dark years, might have added 1918, with the flu epidemic and the Great War in France that each failed, very narrowly, to kill him. Drop back another generation or two and we encounter 1861.
But if this is not the worst year yet to be an American, it's the worst year by far to be one of those hag-ridden wretches who comment on the American scene. The columnist who trades in snide one-liners flounders like a stupid comic with a tired audience; TV comedians and talk-show hosts who try to treat 2004 like any zany election year have become grotesque, almost loathsome. Our most serious, responsible newspaper columnists are so stunned by the disaster in Iraq that they've begun to quote poetry by Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen. They lower their voices, they sound like Army chaplains delivering eulogies over ranks of flag-draped coffins, under a hard rain from an iron sky.
Yeats' "blood-dimmed tide is loosed." The war news had already deteriorated from bad to tragic to pre-apocalyptic, which left no suitable category for these excruciating reports on the sexual torture of Iraqi prisoners. Fingers, be still. In less than a year, the morale of the occupying forces had sunk so low that murder, suicide, rape and sexual harassment became alarming statistics, and now the warriors of democracy--the emissaries of civilization--stand accused of every crime this side of cannibalism. Osama bin Laden has always anathematized America's culture, as well as its geopolitical influence. To him these atrocities are a sign of Allah's certain favor, a great moral victory, a vindication of his deepest anger and darkest crimes.
Where does it go from here? The nightmare misadventure in Iraq is over, beyond the reach of any reasonable argument, though many more body bags will be filled. In Washington, chicken hawks will still be squawking about "digging in" and winning, but Vietnam proved conclusively that no modern war of occupation would ever be won. Every occupation is doomed. The only way you "win" a war of occupation is the old-fashioned way, the way Rome finally defeated the Carthaginians: kill all the fighters, enslave everyone else, raze the cities and sow the fields with salt.
Otherwise the occupied people will fight you to the last peasant, and why shouldn't they? If our presidential election fails to dislodge the crazy bastards who annexed Baghdad, many of us in this country would welcome regime change by any intervention, human or divine. But if, say, the Chinese came in to rescue us--Operation American Freedom--how long would any of us, left-wing or right, put up with an occupying army teaching us Chinese-style democracy? A guerrilla who opposes an invading army on his own soil is not a terrorist, he's a resistance fighter. In Iraq we're not fighting enemies but making enemies. As Richard Clarke and others have observed, every dollar, bullet and American life that we spend in Iraq is one that's not being spent in the war on terrorism. Every Iraqi, every Muslim we kill or torture or humiliate is a precious shot of adrenaline for Osama and al Qaeda.
The irreducible truth is that the invasion of Iraq was the worst blunder, the most staggering miscarriage of judgment, the most fateful, egregious, deceitful abuse of power in the history of American foreign policy. If you don't believe it yet, just keep watching. Apologists strain to dismiss parallels with Vietnam, but the similarities are stunning. In every action our soldiers kill innocent civilians, and in every other action apparent innocents kill our soldiers--and there's never any way to sort them out. And now these acts of subhuman sadism, these little My Lais.
"The irreducible truth is that the invasion of Iraq was the worst blunder, the most staggering miscarriage of judgment, the most fateful, egregious, deceitful abuse of power in the history of American foreign policy." / (M.O.W. editorial insert)
Since the defining moment of the Bush presidency, the preposterous flight-suit, Fox News-produced photo-op on the Abraham Lincoln in front of the banner that read "Mission Accomplished," the shaming truth is that everything has gone wrong. Just as it was bound to go wrong, as many of us predicted it would go wrong--if anything more hopelessly wrong than any of us would have dared to prophesy. Iraq is an epic train wreck, and there's not a single American citizen who's going to walk away unscathed.
The shame of this truth, of such a failure and so much deceit exposed, would have brought on mass resignations or votes of no confidence in any free country in the world. In Japan not long ago, there would have been ritual suicides, shamed officials disemboweling themselves with samurai swords. Yet up to this point--at least to the point where we see grinning soldiers taking pictures of each other over piles of naked Iraqis--neither the president, the vice president nor any of the individuals who urged and designed this debacle have resigned or been terminated--or even apologized. They have betrayed no familiarity with the concept of shame.
(M.O.W. editorial insert)
Thousands of young Americans are dead, maimed or mutilated, 100 billion has been wasted and all we've gained is a billion new enemies and a mouthful of dust--of sand. Chaos reigns, but in the midst of it we have this presidential election. George Bush has defined himself as a war president, and it's fitting that he should die by the sword--in fact fall on it, and quick. But even now the damned polls don't guarantee, or even indicate, his demise.
Conventional wisdom says that an incumbent president with a $200 million war chest cannot be defeated, and that one who commands a live, bleeding, suffering army in the field is doubly invincible. By this logic, the most destructively incompetent president since Andrew Johnson will be rewarded with a second term. That would probably mean a military draft and more wars in the oil countries and, under visionaries like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, a chance for the United States to emulate 19th-century Paraguay, which simultaneously declared war on Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and fought ferociously until 90 percent of the male population was dead.
What hope then? Impeachment is impossible when the president's party controls both houses of Congress, though Watergate conspirator John Dean, who ought to know, claims in his new book that there are compelling legal arguments for a half-dozen bills of impeachment against George W. Bush. Peer pressure? At the White House, world opinion gets no more respect than FBI memos or uncomfortable facts. Many Americans seem unaware that scarcely anyone on the planet Earth supported the Iraq adventure, no one anywhere except the 40-50 million Republican loyalists who voted for George Bush in 2000.
Among significant world leaders he recruited only Great Britain's Tony Blair--whose career may be ruined because most Britons disagree with him--and the abominable Ariel Sharon, that vile tub of blood and corruption who recently used air-to-ground missiles to assassinate a paraplegic in a wheelchair at the door of his mosque. (Palestinians quickly squandered any sympathy or moral advantage they gained from this atrocity by strapping a retarded 16-year-old into a suicide bomber's kit. Such is the condition of the human race in the Middle East, variously known as the Holy Land or the Cradle of Civilization.) Says Sharon, oleaginously, of Bush: "Something in his soul committed him to act with great courage against world terror."
The rest of the known world, along with the United Nations, has been dead set against us from the start. But they carry no weight. Thanks to our tax dollars and the well-fed, strong but not bulletproof bodies of our children--though mostly children from lower-income families--George Bush and his lethal team of oil pirates, Cold Warriors and Likudists commands the most formidable military machine on earth. No nation, with the possible exception of China, would ever dare to oppose them directly.
But the Chinese aren't coming to save us. Nothing and no one can stop these people except you and me, and the other 100 million or so American citizens who may vote in the November election. This isn't your conventional election, the usual dim-witted, media-managed Mister America contest where candidates vie for charm and style points and hire image coaches to help them act more confident and presidential. This is a referendum on what is arguably the most dismal performance by any incumbent president--and inarguably the biggest mistake. This is a referendum on George W. Bush, arguably the worst thing that has happened to the United States of America since the invention of the cathode ray tube.
One problem with this referendum is that the case against George Bush is much too strong. Just to spell it out is to sound like a bitter partisan. I sit here on the 67th birthday of Saddam Hussein facing a haystack of incriminating evidence that comes almost to my armpit. What matters most, what signifies? Journalists used to look for the smoking gun, but this time we have the cannons of Waterloo, we have Gettysburg and Sevastopol, we have enough gun smoke to cause asthma in heaven. I'm overwhelmed. Maybe I should light a match to this mountain of paper and immolate myself. On the near side of my haystack, among hundreds of quotes circled and statistics underlined, just one thing leaped out at me. A quote I had underlined was from the testimony of Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, not long before Hitler's vice-fuhrer poisoned himself in his jail cell:
Goering's dark wisdom gained weight when a friend called me and reported that Vice President Cheney was so violently partisan in his commencement speech at Westminster College in Missouri--so rabid in his attacks on John Kerry as an anti-American peace-marching crypto-communist--that the college president felt obliged to send the student body an e-mail apologizing for Cheney's coarseness.
If you think it's exceptionally shameless for a man who dodged Vietnam to play the patriot card against a decorated veteran, remember that Georgia Republicans played the same card, successfully, against Sen. Max Cleland, who suffered multiple amputations in Vietnam. In 2001 and 2002, George Bush and his Machiavelli, Karl Rove, approved political attack ads that showed the faces of Tom Daschle and other Democratic senators alongside the faces of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. And somewhere in hell, Goering and Goebbels toasted each other with a schnapps.
Am I polarized? I've never been a registered Democrat, I'm sick of this two-party straitjacket, I wish to God it didn't take Yale and a major American fortune to create a presidential candidate. The only current Democratic leaders who show me any courage are Nancy Pelosi and old Bob Byrd--Hillary Clinton has been especially cagy and gutless on this war--and John Kerry himself may leave a lot to be desired. He deserves your vote not because of anything he ever did or promises to do, but simply because he did not make this sick mess in Iraq and owes no allegiance to the sinister characters who designed it. And because his own "place in history," so important to the kind of men who run for president, would now rest entirely on his success in getting us out of it.
Kerry made a courageous choice at least once in his life, when he came home with his ribbons and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam. But Sen. Kerry could turn out to be a stiff, a punk, an alcoholic and he'd still be a colossal improvement over the man who turned Paul Wolfowitz loose in the Middle East. The myth that there was no real difference between Democrats and Republicans, which I once considered seriously and which Ralph Nader rode to national disaster four years ago, was shattered forever the day George Bush announced his cabinet and his appointments for the Department of Defense.
I'm aware that there are voters--40 million?--who don't see it this way. I come from a family of veterans and commissioned officers; I understand patriots in wartime. If a spotted hyena stepped out of Air Force One wearing a baby-blue necktie, most Americans would salute and sing "Hail to the Chief." Cultivating these reliable patriots, President Bush cultivated his patriots by spending $46 million on media in the month of March alone. Somehow I'm on his mailing list. (Is that because my late father, with the same name, was a registered Republican, or can Bush afford to mail his picture to every American with an established address?) Twice a week I open an appeal for cash to crush John Kerry and the quisling liberal conspiracy, and now I own six gorgeous color photographs of the president and his wife. I'm sure some of my neighbors frame the president's color photographs, and fill those little blue envelopes he sends us with their hard-earned dollars.
I struggle against the suspicion that so many of my fellow Americans are conceptually challenged. I want to reason with my neighbors, I want to engage these lost Americans.
What makes you angry, neighbor? What arouses your suspicions? Does it bother you that this administration made terrorism a low priority, dismissed key intelligence that might have prevented the 9-11 catastrophe, then exploited it to justify the pre-planned destruction of Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with al Qaeda? All this is no longer conjecture, but direct reportage from cabinet-level meetings by the turncoat insiders Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill.
If the Pentagon ever thought Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction," it was only because the Pentagon gave them to him. As Kevin Phillips recounts in American Dynasty, officials of the Reagan and first Bush administrations eagerly supplied Saddam with arms while he was using chemical weapons on the Kurds. They twice sent Donald Rumsfeld to court Saddam, in 1983 and 1984, when the dictator was in the glorious prime of his monsterhood.
This scandal, concurrent with Iran-Contra, was briefly called "Iraqgate," and, yes, among the names of those officials implicated you'll find most of the engineers of our current foreign policy. (They also signaled their fractious client, Saddam, that it might be all right to overrun part of Kuwait; you remember what happened when he tried to swallow it all.) Does any of this trouble you? Does it worry you that Dick Cheney, as president of the nefarious Halliburton Corporation, sold Iraq $73 million in oilfield services between 1997 and 2000, even as he plotted with the Wolfowitz faction to whack Saddam? Or that Halliburton, with its CEO's seat still warm from Cheney's butt, was awarded unbid contracts worth up to $15 billion for the Iraq invasion, and currently earns a billion dollars a month from this bloody disaster? Not to mention its $27.4 million overcharge for our soldiers' food.
(M.O.W. editorial insert)
These are facts, not partisan rhetoric.
Do any of them even make you restless? The cynical game these shape-shifters have been playing in the Middle East is too Byzantine to unravel in 1,000 pages of text. But the hypocrisy of the White House is palpable, and beggars belief. If there's one American who actually believes that Operation Iraqi Freedom was about democracy for the poor Iraqis, then you, my friend, are too dangerously stupid to be allowed near a voting booth.
Does it bother you even a little that the personal fortunes of all four Bush brothers, including the president and the governor, were acquired about a half step ahead of the district attorney, and that the royal family of Saudi Arabia invested $1.476 billion in those and other Bush family enterprises? Or, as Paul Krugman points out, that it's much easier to establish links between the Bush and bin Laden families than any between the bin Ladens and Saddam Hussein. Do you know about Ahmad Chalabi, the administration's favorite Iraqi and current agent in Baghdad, whose personal fortune was established when he embezzled several hundred million from his own bank in Jordan and fled to London to avoid 22 years at hard labor?
That's just a sampling from my haystack.
Maybe I can reach you as an environmentalist, one who resents the gutting of key provisions in the Clean Air Act? My own Orange County, chiefly a rural area, was recently added to a national register of counties with dangerously polluted air. You say you vote for the president because you're a conservative. Are you sure? I thought conservatives believed in civil liberties, a weak federal executive, an inviolable Constitution, a balanced budget and an isolationist foreign policy. George Bush has an attorney general who drives the ACLU apoplectic and a vice president who demands more executive privilege (for his energy seances) than any elected official has ever received. The president wants a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage from homosexuals, of all things. Between tax cuts for his high-end supporters and three years playing God and Caesar in the Middle East, George Bush has simply emptied America's wallet, with a $480 billion federal deficit projected for 2004, and the tab on Iraq well over $100 billion and running.
"A lot of so-called conservatives today don't know what the word means," Barry Goldwater said in 1994, when the current cult of right-wing radicals and "neocons" had begun to define and assert themselves. Goldwater was my first political hero, before I was old enough to read his flaws. But his was the conservatism of the wolf--the lone wolf--and this is the conservatism of sheep.
All it takes to make a Bush conservative is a few slogans from talk radio and pickup truck bumpers, a sneer at "liberals" and maybe a name-dropping nod to Edmund Burke or John Locke, whom most of them have never read. Sheep and sheep only could be herded by a ludicrous but not harmless cretin like Rush Limbaugh, who has just compared the sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners to "a college fraternity prank" (and who once called Chelsea Clinton "the family dog"--you don't have to worry about shame when you have no brain).
I don't think it's accurate to describe America as polarized between Democrats and Republicans, or between liberals and conservatives. It's polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves. The world pities or despises us, even as it fears us. What this election will test is the power of money and media to fool us, to obscure the truth and alter the obvious, to hide a great crime against the public trust under a blood-soaked flag. The most lavishly funded, most cynical, most sophisticated political campaign in human history will be out trolling for fools. I pray to God it doesn't catch you.
Hal Crowther is a former writer for Time and Newsweek, the Buffalo News and the North Carolina Spectator before parking his column at the weekly Independent in Durham, N.C., and The Progressive Populist, among others. He won the H.L. Mencken Award for column writing in 1992. Write him at 219 N. Churton St., Hillsborough, NC 27278.
"Caution and deference have
no place in this conversation anymore. We gave those people our
caution and deference, and they have paid us back by steamrolling
us. So enough of caution. Enough of deference. It is time
to talk hard. If we can't speak the truth in the daylight, we
will never be able to begin the process of changing that which
desperately needs to be changed. Every great movement in history
has begun with one thing: Words exchanged in truth between people
of good conscience. So let us, as people of good conscience, exchange
a few hard words in the hopes of beginning something whose time
- William Rivers Pitt
1. Lose an election and win a lawsuit. Move into the White House. Surround yourself with ideological extremists from the far-right wing of the Republican Party. Put them get to work planning 'regime change' in Iraq, something they themselves have been planning for years.
2. Pointedly ignore a variety of specific warnings about a looming terrorist attack against the American homeland. Capitalize on the chaos and fear after the attack has come. On the very day of the attack, get your people to start making public connections between the terrorist attack and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
3. Use the terror attack to pass ruinously contra-constitutional legislation like the Patriot Act, and later the Homeland Security Act. Send your Attorney General to Congress and have him state bluntly that anyone who disagrees with these bad new laws is aiding terrorism. This new legislation will help quash dissent surrounding the actions you plan to undertake, and will also help to insulate you from serious investigation, as the Homeland Security Act essentially destroys the Freedom of Information Act.
4. Periodically terrify the American people with warnings of looming death and destruction, so as to cow them into submission. Time these agitated warnings to coincide with moments when your own political standing is under assault because of your actions.
5. Lose any shame whatsoever about using the massive terror attacks as a rhetorical tool against your own people in the pursuit of your ideological goals. Say things like, "We need to counter the shock wave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates" (G.W. Bush 10/4/01) to help get what you want. Remember: No shame.
6. Have your Defense Secretary organize a group of like-minded ideologues whose task will be to cherry-pick, and often manufacture, evidence to support your push for war in Iraq. Call this group the Office of Special Plans, and remove them from any Congressional oversight. Have the powerful office of the Vice President be their sponsor and defender. When the CIA and State Department tell this Office that their plans and intelligence make no sense, use the influence of the Vice President's office to cut them completely out of the loop. Your Office of Special Plans will now be the main source of information delivered to the National Security Council, Congress, and the American people.
7. Pile up a couple hundred thousand of your troops on the border of Iraq before any consensus has been reached for war within your own government or the international community. This will help develop a sense of inevitability about your plans for war, no matter who disagrees.
8. Go to the United Nations and deliver a lot of cooperative happy talk about wanting to work with the United Nations. Get a unanimous vote from the Security Council for your resolution on the matter, sure in the knowledge that this body has no idea that you have no intention of actually working with them. When weapons inspectors are dispatched to Iraq, per the resolution you saw passed, denigrate and insult their work as being useless. Have your troops on the border begin publicly sharpening their swords.
9. Deliver the information from the Office of Special Plans to the American people on a daily basis, making connections each time between the terrorist attack and the nation of Iraq. Scare the citizens you are supposed to lead, and scare them often. When career intelligence officials complain about your rotten intelligence and outright lying, ignore them completely.
10. When the international community begins to realize they've been led down the primrose path, start denigrating and insulting the United Nations. When no proof of your allegations about Iraq can be found, begin attempting to bribe nations like Turkey with billions of dollars in trade agreements, weapons, and cash on the barrelhead to get them to come along for the ride. When they refuse, proclaim that you can go it alone.
11. Stand before the American people during your constitutionally-mandated State of the Union address and lie like a rug about the threat posed by Iraq. Use evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program based upon crudely forged documents from Niger. Ignore other career intelligence officials, including the one you sent to investigate your 'evidence' who returned to label it fake and forged, when they state flatly that your estimations of the Iraq threat are far from accurate or honest.
12. Send your Secretary of State into the well of the United Nations Security Council to make your case, full in the knowledge that you are going to war no matter what that body decides. Show the UN absolutely no respect by allowing your Secretary of State to argue for war using intelligence data that is ten years old and plagiarized from the work of a graduate student. Note the irony surrounding the fact that this presentation comes a week after your State of the Union address, but that your Secretary of State refused to use the evidence you used before the American people in front of the international community.
13. Do not, at any point, stop lying. Lie about the weapons Iraq possesses. Lie about the threat posed to the American people, thus deepening their fear. Lie about connections between Iraq and al Qaeda. Lie about the efficacy of weapons inspections. Lie about how much the war will cost. Lie about how long we will be there. Lie about your goals. Do not forget that shame has no place here. Avoid press conferences whenever possible.
14. Use the same discredited intelligence from Niger to convince Congress that a vote for war is absolutely necessary. Try to get them to pass a resolution that authorizes you to make war "on the region" surrounding Iraq as well as Iraq itself. When you don't get those three important words in the resolution, settle for what you did get.
15. With the world essentially united against you, with half of the American people convinced that your rhetoric connecting Iraq to the terrorist attack is actually true, with that half bolstering questionable approval ratings for war, with Congressional approval for war in hand despite the fact that their approval was motivated by your lies, and with four full divisions of your young troops ready to go, begin the attack.
16. Bomb Baghdad in a 'Shock and Awe' campaign that kills untold scores of civilians in their beds and on their streets. Roll tanks and troops into the country and beat the hell out of it, knowing full well that there is no army worth mentioning to stand against you after ten years of economic sanctions. To make sure, pay off the commander of Baghdad's Republican Guard to make sure neither he nor his troops fight at the city's gates.
17. Declare an end to combat operations. Strut across the deck of an aircraft carrier and proclaim yourself to be the savior of the Iraqi people. When your soldiers continue to die, scoff at any concerns about this. Dare the killers of your troops to keep it up by sticking your chin out and saying, "Bring 'em on."
18. Ignore the fact that none of the weapons you terrified your people with have turned up, despite the best efforts of your troops and investigators to find them. Ignore the fact that no connections to al Qaeda have turned up. Ignore the fact that more troops have died since your carrier strut than died during the war. Ignore the fact that your war will cost billions and billions more than you said it would.
19. Most importantly, and do not forget: Ignore the fact that you have made your country far, far less safe. You lied about Iraqi connections to the terrorist attack, and to al Qaeda. Your war will have turned Iraq into what it was not before the war - a hotbed of al Qaeda activity. This war has also been an al Qaeda recruiter's dream. Pay absolutely no attention to this. Smile. Talk about courage and staying the course.
20. Make plans to have the 2004 national convention of your party next to the hole in the ground in New York which the terrorist attack caused. Dance on the graves of the dead who helped you get your war. Remember: No shame.
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.
/ "It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare." / - Mark Twain
/ The War on Iraq Has Made Moral Cowards of Us All
By Scott Ritter The Guardian U.K. Monday 01 November 2004 http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1340562,00.html
The full scale of the human cost already paid for the war on Iraq is only now becoming clear. Last week's estimate by investigators, using credible methodology, that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians - most of them women and children - have died since the US-led invasion is a profound moral indictment of our countries. The US and British governments quickly moved to cast doubt on the Lancet medical journal findings, citing other studies. These mainly media-based reports put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at about 15,000 - although the basis for such an endorsement is unclear, since neither the US nor the UK admits to collecting data on Iraqi civilian casualties.
Civilian deaths have always been a tragic reality of modern war. But the conflict in Iraq was supposed to be different - US and British forces were dispatched to liberate the Iraqi people, not impose their own tyranny of violence.
Reading accounts of the US-led invasion, one is struck by the constant, almost casual, reference to civilian deaths. Soldiers and marines speak of destroying hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles that turned out to be crammed with civilians. US marines acknowledged in the aftermath of the early, bloody battle for Nassiriya that their artillery and air power had pounded civilian areas in a blind effort to suppress insurgents thought to be holed up in the city. The infamous "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad produced hundreds of deaths, as did the 3rd Infantry Division's "Thunder Run", an armored thrust in Baghdad that slaughtered everyone in its path.
It is true that, with only a few exceptions, civilians who died as a result of ground combat were not deliberately targeted, but were caught up in the machinery of modern warfare. But when the same claim is made about civilians killed in aerial attacks (the Lancet study estimates that most of civilian deaths were the result of air attacks), the comparison quickly falls apart. Helicopter engagements apart, most aerial bombardment is deliberate and pre-planned. US and British military officials like to brag about the accuracy of the "precision" munitions used in these strikes, claiming this makes the kind of modern warfare practiced by the coalition in Iraq the most humanitarian in history.
But there is nothing humanitarian about explosives once they detonate near civilians, or about a bomb guided to the wrong target. Dozens of civilians were killed during the vain effort to eliminate Saddam Hussein with "pinpoint" air strikes, and hundreds have perished in the campaign to eliminate alleged terrorist targets in Falluja. A "smart bomb" is only as good as the data used to direct it. And the abysmal quality of the intelligence used has made the smartest of bombs just as dumb and indiscriminate as those, for example, dropped during the second world war.
The fact that most bombing missions in Iraq today are pre-planned, with targets allegedly carefully vetted, further indicts those who wage this war in the name of freedom. If these targets are so precise, then those selecting them cannot escape the fact that they are deliberately targeting innocent civilians at the same time as they seek to destroy their intended foe. Some would dismiss these civilians as "collateral damage". But we must keep in mind that the British and US governments made a deliberate decision to enter into a conflict of their choosing, not one that was thrust upon them. We invaded Iraq to free Iraqis from a dictator who, by some accounts, oversaw the killing of about 300,000 of his subjects - although no one has been able to verify more than a small fraction of the figure. If it is correct, it took Saddam decades to reach such a horrific statistic. The US and UK have, it seems, reached a third of that total in just 18 months.
Meanwhile, the latest scandal over missing nuclear-related high explosives in Iraq (traced and controlled under the UN inspections regime) only underscores the utter deceitfulness of the Bush-Blair argument for the war. Having claimed the uncertainty surrounding Iraq's WMD capability constituted a threat that could not go unchallenged in a post-9/11 world, one would have expected the two leaders to insist on a military course of action that brought under immediate coalition control any aspect of potential WMD capability, especially relating to any possible nuclear threat. That the US military did not have a dedicated force to locate and neutralize these explosives underscores the fact that both Bush and Blair knew that there was no threat from Iraq, nuclear or otherwise.
Of course, the US and Britain have a history of turning a blind eye to Iraqi suffering when it suits their political purposes. During the 1990s, hundreds of thousands are estimated by the UN to have died as a result of sanctions. Throughout that time, the US and the UK maintained the fiction that this was the fault of Saddam Hussein, who refused to give up his WMD. We now know that Saddam had disarmed and those deaths were the responsibility of the US and Britain, which refused to lift sanctions.
There are many culpable individuals and organizations history will hold to account for the war - from deceitful politicians and journalists to acquiescent military professionals and silent citizens of the world's democracies. As the evidence has piled up confirming what I and others had reported - that Iraq was already disarmed by the late 1990s - my personal vote for one of the most culpable individuals would go to Hans Blix, who headed the UN weapons inspection team in the run-up to war. He had the power if not to prevent, at least to forestall a war with Iraq. Blix knew that Iraq was disarmed, but in his mealy-mouthed testimony to the UN security council helped provide fodder for war. His failure to stand up to the lies used by Bush and Blair to sell the Iraq war must brand him a moral and intellectual coward.
But we all are moral cowards when it comes to Iraq. Our collective inability to summon the requisite shame and rage when confronted by an estimate of 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians in the prosecution of an illegal and unjust war not only condemns us, but adds credibility to those who oppose us. The fact that a criminal such as Osama bin Laden can broadcast a videotape on the eve of the US presidential election in which his message is viewed by many around the world as a sober argument in support of his cause is the harshest indictment of the failure of the US and Britain to implement sound policy in the aftermath of 9/11. The death of 3,000 civilians on that horrible day represented a tragedy of huge proportions. Our continued indifference to a war that has slaughtered so many Iraqi civilians, and will continue to kill more, is in many ways an even greater tragedy: not only in terms of scale, but also because these deaths were inflicted by our own hand in the course of an action that has no defense.
Scott Ritter was a senior UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998 and is the author of "Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America".
Scott Ritter in His Own Words By MASSIMO CALABRESI TIME Saturday, Sep. 14, 2002
Scott Ritter was the UN's top
weapons inspector in Iraq until 1998, when he resigned claiming
President Clinton was too easy on Saddam. Now he says the
dictator doesn't seem to have weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
and that trying to oust Saddam is "extremely dangerous." TIME's Massimo Calabresi asked the voluble
former marine about his recent private trip to Baghdad, Jane Fonda,
and accusations he's a spy for Israel, Iraq or Russia.
Time: What were you doing in Baghdad?
Ritter: Waging peace. My goal in Baghdad was to facilitate a debate here in the United States on America's policy toward Iraq, a debate that's been sadly lacking. We're facing a critical moment in American history and I believe this is something that has to be more thoroughly looked at. Why go to Iraq? You're talking to me now because I went to Iraq. I've been saying the exact same thing for years and I didn't get the call from Time magazine.
Who paid for
the trip? Were any of your expenses paid for by the Iraqis?
No. The only thing that could be construed as an Iraqi expense is that they provided a vehicle that drove me from the hotel to the meetings with the government officials. I did not reimburse them for the gas used or the time of the driver.
Some on the right call you the new Jane Fonda, and joke about what you'll call your exercise video.
Those on the right who say that disgrace the 12 years of service I gave to my country as a Marine. I love my country. I'll put my record of service up against anyone, bar none. If they want to have an exercise video then why don't they come here and say it to my face and I'll give' em an exercise video, which will be called, "Scott Ritter Kicking Their Ass."
In 1998, you
said Saddam had "not nearly disarmed." Now you say he
doesn't have weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Why did you change
I have never given Iraq a clean bill of health! Never! Never! I've said that no one has backed up any allegations that Iraq has reconstituted WMD capability with anything that remotely resembles substantive fact. To say that Saddam's doing it is in total disregard to the fact that if he gets caught he's a dead man and he knows it. Deterrence has been adequate in the absence of inspectors but this is not a situation that can succeed in the long term. In the long term you have to get inspectors back in.
are porous. Why couldn't Saddam have obtained the capacity to
produce WMD since 1998 when the weapons inspectors left?
I am more aware than any UN official that Iraq has set up covert procurement funds to violate sanctions. This was true in 1997-1998, and I'm sure its true today. Of course Iraq can do this. The question is, has someone found that what Iraq has done goes beyond simple sanctions violations? We have tremendous capabilities to detect any effort by Iraq to obtain prohibited capability. The fact that no one has shown that he has acquired that capability doesn't necessarily translate into incompetence on the part of the intelligence community. It may mean that he hasn't done anything.
Are you being
investigated for espionage?
I've been called a spy of Israel since 1996, and since I made my documentary film in 2000 the FBI has investigated me as an agent of Iraq. The FBI has also opened up an investigation into my wife calling her a KGB spy. So there is this form of harassment taking place.
Did you write
a report, at the time you were doing inspections in Votkinsk in
the Soviet Union in 1988 that said the group your wife worked
for was full of spies?
No. I indicated that given past models of Soviet penetration techniques that these young girls, of which my wife was one, who were brought in by the Soviets to carry out translation services had been used in the past to attempt sexual compromise. I subsequently wrote a series of reports that said this did not appear to be the case in Votkinsk. In fact, because of the human intelligence work I did in the Soviet Union I was able to ascertain that the girls were actually dissatisfied with the Soviets. They showed a tendency to speak out against the KGB to the U.S. inspectors.
about having seen the children's prisons in Iraq. Can you describe
what you saw there?
The prison in question is at the General Security Services headquarters, which was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children - toddlers up to pre-adolescents - whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace.
You told the
Iraqi parliament that Saddam had legitimate complaints about the
prior inspection regime. What did you mean?
The U.S. had a track record of putting pressure on the weapons inspectors program during my entire seven years there. It's ironic that everyone has focused on the struggle of the inspectors vs. Iraq. Not too many people speak of the struggle between the weapons inspectors and the U.S. to beat back the forces of U.S. intelligence which were seeking to infiltrate the weapons inspectors program and use the unique access the inspectors enjoyed in Iraq for purposes other than disarmament. Iraq has a clear case that under this past inspection regime unfortunately it was misused for purposes other than set out by the Security Council resolution.
Did you get
any spying done on your trip?
Haha. Did I spy on Iraq my most recent trip? I wasn't there to collect intelligence on Iraq. To be frank, I didn't see barricades in the streets or earthen berms being erected or fortifications underway. I did see a lot of troops in the streets and I saw that Iraq had beefed up their air defense in the capital. I saw that they were moving these air defense units frequently to avoid a strike. But I wasn't there to carry out a full canvas of Iraq's military capabilities.
/ s Who was right about Iraq-- Marine Gulf War I veteran Scott Ritter or five-time draft doger Dick Cheney? / "Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." / - Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003 / / /"The clock is ticking, and it's ticking towards war. And it's going to be a real war. It's going to be a war that will result in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. It's a war that is going to devastate Iraq. It's a war that's going to destroy the credibility of the United States of America." // - U.N weapons inspector, and Gulf War I veteran Scott Ritter speaking at Suffolk University in Boston on July 23, 2002
"WE WILL REMEMBER THAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION USED THAT TERRIBLE EVENT SHAMELESSLY TO PUSH THEIR TAX CUTS AND PRE-EXISTING AGENDAS FOR BOTH INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC DOMNATION BY A SMALL ELITE."
During his six years as a United States senator from the conservative state of Georgia, Max Cleland was known as a moderate Democrat. He drew the wrath of liberals in 2001 when he broke ranks with Democrats and voted for President Bush's tax cuts, and last year he backed the resolution authorizing Bush to wage war with Iraq (though on that vote, at least, he was joined by some liberals).
Today, though, Cleland has emerged as one of the president's harshest critics, especially about the war he voted to authorize. Today, he says, it's a move he deeply regrets, as he scans the headlines from Baghdad. "I feel like I have been duped, I don't mind telling you," Cleland admits. "Everybody in the administration was selling this used car. The problem is all the wheels have fallen off the car and we've got a lemon."
Cleland, perhaps known for being a triple amputee Vietnam vet, lost his Senate seat last November in a race that has gone down in history as typifying the GOP's take-no-prisoners approach to politics. The disabled veteran was smeared as soft on terror because he didn't back Bush's version of homeland security legislation.
Now, outspoken and blunt, he's furious about the White House's handling of the war with Iraq, which he calls a disastrous "war of choice." And he mocks the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were allies. "They had a plan to go to war [with Iraq], and when 9/11 happened that's what they did; they went to war."
Meanwhile, as one of 10 commissioners serving on the independent panel created by Congress to investigate the 9/11 attacks, Cleland bemoans the administration's "Nixonian" love of secrecy and its attempt to "slow walk" the commission into irrelevancy.
At the center of the secrecy debate are sensitive presidential daily briefings, or PDBs, that the commission wants to examine as part of its inquiry. Particularly important is the crucial Aug. 6, 2001 PDB, which warned of Osama bin Laden's desire to hijack commercial planes in the United States. For months the White House resisted, and the commission hinted it might subpoena the document. A deal was finally cut last week, which Cleland opposed, allowing a handpicked subset of commissioners to be briefed on the PDBs.
"We shouldn't be making deals," Cleland complains. "If somebody wants to deal, we issue subpoenas. That's the deal."
Republicans say the
partisan flavor of Cleland's anti-Bush broadsides are easy to
explain; he's still stinging from his surprise reelection loss
last November. Cleland denies it, but if he were still bitter,
it would be easy to see why, considering he was the victim
of a now-infamous attack ad, which even some Republicans objected
opponent, Saxby Chambliss, who sat out Vietnam with a bad knee,
aired a spot featuring unflattering pictures of Osama bin Laden,
Saddam Hussein ... and Max Cleland.
Chambliss charged Cleland, the Vietnam vet amputee, was soft on national security because he'd voted against creating the Homeland Security Act. In truth, Cleland co-wrote the legislation to create the Homeland Security Department, but objected to repeated attempts by the White House to deprive future Homeland Security employees of traditional civil service protection.
It's hard to imagine any recent Democratic senator less soft on national security than Max Cleland, a reflection on the unlikely path he took to the U.S. Senate. In 1967 he volunteered for combat duty. The next year, during the siege of Khe Sahn, Cleland lost both his legs and his right hand to a Viet Cong grenade. Two years later, at the age of 28, he became the youngest person ever elected to the Georgia state Senate. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointed him to head the Veterans Administration. He later became Georgia's secretary of state. And in 1996, Georgia voters sent Cleland and his wheelchair to the Senate.
(M.O.W. editorial insert)
In a lengthy phone interview on Tuesday, Cleland wondered why Bob Woodward gets better access to White House documents than the 9/11 commission ("Just think about that"), blasted Bush on Iraq ("We've got an absolute disaster on our hands"), while constructing a viable exit strategy ("They're trying to make Iraq the 51st state.") He also talked about the trouble Democratic politicians are having getting elected in the South.
Let's start with the 9/11 commission. What are your concerns about how it's dealing with the White House?
First of all, as someone who co-sponsored legislation creating the 9/11 commission, against great opposition from the White House, this independent commission should be independent and should not be making deals with anybody. I start from there. It's been painfully obvious the administration not only fought the creation of the commission but that their objective was the war in Iraq, and one of the notions that was built on was there was a direct connection between al Qaida and 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. There was not.
So therefore they didn't want the 9/11 commission to get going. What you have is the fear from the White House that the commission would uncover pretty quickly the fact that one of four legs that the war stood on was nonexistent. So they slow-walked it, and they continue to slow-walk it. They want to kick this can down past the elections. We should not be making any deals; we should stick to our original timetable of [completing the final report by] May. However, we're coming up on Thanksgiving here and we're still struggling over access issues. It should be a national scandal.
What have some of the access problems been?
In May, the commission asked the FAA to give us the documents we're looking for. We've had to subpoena the FAA. We've now had to subpoena documents from Norad, which they have not given us. I for one think we ought to subpoena the White House for the presidential daily briefings, to know what the president knew, what the administration knew, and when they knew it so we can determine what changes ought to be made in our intelligence infrastructure, our warning system, so that we don't go through this kind of surprise attack again.
Now, it's not partisan; Bill Clinton has already agreed to come personally before the 9/11 commission. But a majority of the commission has agreed to a bad deal.
And what is the deal?
A minority of the commissioners will be able to see a minority of the [PDB] documents that the White House has already said is pertinent. And then a minority of the commissioners themselves will have to brief the rest of the commissioners on what the White House thinks is appropriate.
So the minority of commissioners will get a briefing on the documents?
Yes, but first they have to report to the White House what they're going to tell the other commissioners.
9/11 commission chairman Tom Kean has suggested if you issue subpoenas on the White House and they fight it, it's going to go to the courts and take months and months of legal wrangling.
Well, that's up to the president, he's made this decision. I say that decision compromised the mission of the 9/11 commission, pure and simple. Far from the commissioners being able to fulfill their obligation to the Congress and the American people, and far from getting access to all the documents we need, the president of the United States is cherry-picking what information is shown to what minority of commissioners. Now this is ridiculous. That's not full and open access.
If you trust one commissioner you should trust them all. I don't understand it. You can say, 'I'm not going to show anything to anybody, and take me to court.' At least that's consistent. But it's not consistent at all to say we're going to parse out this information and we determine how many members of the commission get to see it.
Let me read you something from AP regarding Philip Zelikow, who's executive director of the 9/11 commission. Quote, "He said the bipartisan panel asked specifically for pieces of the daily briefings that dealt with subjects such as terrorism, Al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden, the Saudi-born fugitive leader of the terror network. Other sections, such as those dealing with intelligence on topics and countries not related to terror threats, intentionally were left out of the request, Zelikow said."
That's correct, and that's fair.
"'We asked for everything we wanted, and the White House has discovered hundreds of responsive PDB articles, and we are seeing all of them,' Zelikow said. 'None of those articles are being edited. We're seeing everything we asked to see. And our request was never the subject of negotiation.'"
Well, the request was put forward, but the president's decision and response to the request was negotiated time and time again by Tom Kean and [vice chairman] Lee Hamilton, going over to the White House with hat in hand several times, meeting with the lawyers first, and then with [chief of staff] Andy Card.
Secondly, you determine up front there are 22 PDB's in one stack and over 300 in a second stack. And then the White House says if you come in, and play nice and say nice things to us, then you'll be able to report back to the commission. And then maybe we'll take under consideration with our lawyer whether some elements of the PDB's in the second stack can go into the first stack. I mean come on!
It's Nixonian in the approach. The approach ought to be, "Yes, the 9/11 commission gets access to the documents, all the commissioners get access. Whatever items you request we'll be forthcoming in giving you."
Why, in the end, do you think a majority of the commissioners agreed to the deal with the White House?
You'll have to ask each member of the commission. A couple of weeks ago I voted to subpoena the White House and I'll continue to vote to subpoena the documents.
Doesn't the White House have a point though, in terms of these PDB's, which I don't think have ever been released before? And that if analysts writing them are concerned they could be made public one day, than they won't be as forthright with the president?
Let me walk you through this thing here. First of all, we're not talking about a prescription drug plan under Medicare here. We're talking about the most serious assault on the homeland of the United States since the British invaded during the war of 1812. This is the deal. The joint inquiry made up of Democrats and Republican members of Congress, they issued a report [this summer], but they couldn't get at the PDB's. They kicked the can down the street so that the 9/11 commission could get at the full story. That's the reason for this independent commission, with the time and energy and staff to get at all of this. Had the Joint Intelligence Committee been able to do its job, there wouldn't have even been a 9/11 commission.
We're coming down to the final [months] of the commission and we're still messing around with access issues. This is a key item. I don't think any independent commission can let an agency or the White House dictate to it how many commissioners see what. So this "deal," we shouldn't be dealing. If somebody wants to deal, we issue subpoenas. That's the deal. That was the deal with the FAA, that was the deal with Norad.
And the reason is principle. Clinton has agreed to cooperate with the commission and is eager to come before it. So why doesn't this White House, which was on the bridge when the ship got attacked, why doesn't this White House want to know everything that happened on their watch so that it can't happen again? Why they want to play games with this commission, to make deals, I don't know. It's information control. It's not transparency.
I don't know if they're hiding something. But the public will never know and the 9/11 commission will never know because under the current deal, a minority of commissioners will see a small number of documents and then brief the White House on what they're going to tell the other commissioners. Wait a minute! That doesn't make any sense at all.
Can the commission finish its work by May?
I think it's going to be increasingly difficult. I think the White House has made it darn near impossible to get full access to the documents by May, much less get a full report out analyzing those docs by May. This is a three- or four-year project, it really is. And to delay and deny at this point is to compromise the work of the commission from here on out. I can't say, as a commissioner, to the Congress and the American people, that I had full access to all the documents pertaining to 9/11 and here's the conclusion. I can't say that.
You've heard the claim, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and others have made it, that you are still upset about your 2002 reelection loss and that's why you are so critical of the White House.
This doesn't have anything to do with the 2002 election. It has everything to do with 9/11.
So it's not some sort of payback?
No. It's all about 9/11. This is not a political witch hunt. This is the most serious independent investigation since the Warren Commission. And after watching History Channel shows on the Warren Commission last night, the Warren Commission blew it. I'm not going to be part of that. I'm not going to be part of looking at information only partially. I'm not going to be part of just coming to quick conclusions. I'm not going to be part of political pressure to do this or not do that. I'm not going to be part of that. This is serious.
You say you think it should be a national scandal ...
It is a national scandal. Here's the deal. The administration made a connection on Sept. 11, and you can read Bob Woodward's book ["Bush at War"]. He's a private citizen. He got access to documents we don't have yet! Just think about that. He's a great reporter and a good guy. Bless his heart. But he got documents over two years ago, handwritten notes from Rumsfeld tying the terrorism attack into Iraq. This administration had a point of view the day that happened. If you look at 9/11 separately you realize it had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein. Except [vice president Dick] Cheney and [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz put a plan together in '92 to try to convince [president] Bush One to invade Iraq, but here's what Bush One said about it, in his book "A World Transformed," which I think is devastating:
"I firmly believed that we should not march into Baghdad. To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us and make a broken tyrant into a latter day Arab hero. Assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a secretly entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war."
Now, this administration bought the Cheney-Wolfowitz plan from '92 hook line and sinker. It was all about using 9/11 as an excuse to go into Baghdad, not as a reason.
What's the significance?
Let's chase this rabbit into the ground here. They had a plan to go to war and when 9/11 happened that's what they did; they went to war. They pulled off their task force in Afghanistan, their Predator assets, and shifted them over to the war in Iraq. They took their eye off the 9/11 ball and transferred it to the Iraq ball. And that's a very strategic question that ultimately has got to be answered. I'm focused on 9/11 and the administration is not focused on it. They don't want to share information, and they didn't agree with the commission in the first place.
For the commission's final report, will the White House have final say over what gets released publicly?
For national security reasons, yes, it will be vetted by the CIA and the national security apparatus. Please don't misunderstand here. We're not talking about releasing or even seeing full presidential daily briefings. I don't care about what the president was briefed on about China. Nobody on the commission is going to spill national secrets, nobody's going to give away methods of recruiting agents. As a matter of fact, it was administration officials who ratted out one of their own CIA agents in order to keep guys like Joseph Wilson quiet.
What's your take on the situation in Iraq?
One word: Disaster. And when the secretary of defense puts out a memo to his top staff and says we don't have the metrics to determine whether we're winning or losing the war on terrorism? If the secretary of defense does not understand that we're losing our rear end in Iraq in order to save our face, he ought quit being secretary of defense. Because all you have to do is ask any Pfc. out there. They're sitting ducks with targets on their backs; they're getting blown up. The question more and more is, for what? And, when are we coming home?
The president is trying to find a reason, now that there's no weapons of mass destruction, no yellow cake coming from Niger, no connection with al-Qaida and no immediate threat to the United States, we now have a war of choice. I'm telling you we're in a mess. It's a disaster.
If the pattern holds for the rest of the month, we'll have 100 U.S. soldiers killed during November.
We've lost more youngsters killed in Iraq in less than a year than we lost during the first three years of the Vietnam War. And people say there's no Vietnam analogy?
Do you regret your vote last fall in favor of the resolution authorizing war?
I do. Because I sensed it was a political ploy rather than a ploy to genuinely protect the United States. It was just an attempt to get any resolution passed so the administration could say, just like Lyndon Johnson [with Vietnam], 'We got the approval of Congress.' And then, just like Lyndon Johnson, they went ahead and did whatever they wanted to do; massive buildup, putting the military on thin political ice, getting a bunch of kids killed.
You were up for reelection at the time and you felt a pressure to vote yes?
Yes. They did this purposefully. I will say to you that I did think that it was worth a shot to give the president of the United States the authority to go to the United Nations and try to put together a coalition to try to find out if there were weapons of mass destruction. And if there were weapons of mass destruction, to destroy them.
Of course what I did not know was that the White House had the 1992 Cheney-Wolfowitz war plan on the front burner. I knew they wanted regime change. But I did not know that the Cheney-Wolfowitz war plan was what they were going to do with and that they hadn't figured out a plan B.
I know you're a supporter of Sen. John Kerry.
I am yes, a big supporter.
Do you think his vote last fall in favor of war has hurt him?
Yes, it's cost him. But he and I were trying to do the right thing and give the president of the United State the benefit of the doubt. After all, the vice president stood up at the VFW convention and said Iraq is building nuclear weapons. It was all part of cherry-picking the intelligence and boosting the case for war in Iraq, which they'd already decided to do. They were just looking for reasons. They kept saying there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. And the president said it's all about terrorism and the war on terrorism. Everybody in the administration was selling this used car. The problem is all the wheels have fallen off the car and we've got a lemon. Looking back, yeah, I regret that vote. I gave the president of the United States the benefit of the doubt. He took it as a blank check. I feel like I have been duped, I don't mind telling you. But the deal with Iraq was obvious. [White House political strategist] Karl Rove and those guys knew that all of a sudden the president's numbers shot up, so the Cheney-Wolfowitz plan fit with Karl Rove's plan; perpetual war keeps the president's numbers up and we'll cover over any attack on the president and any other issue. So they put that front and center and used it as a hammer. They even put me up there with Osama bin Laden and all that kind of stuff, and said I voted against Homeland Security when I was really one of the authors of the Homeland Security bills. So you can see how they used it as a hammer over members of Congress who were running.
And now we've got an absolute disaster on our hands. And now the president's numbers are falling and they don't know what to do about it. So the ground truth has overtaken the political B.S. and now the real truth of the war, the cost of the war, is coming out. The American people, one thing I know is, they do not fight wars of attrition well. And as Thomas Paine once said, "Time makes more converts than reason." As time goes on, this war will not be resolved.
Now, how does this relate to the 9/11 commission? If you slow-walk the 9/11 commission and keep kicking this can down the road, and keep making deals and denying access, within a year they'll have the election out of the way. So it's election-driven.
What should the U.S. now do to improve the situation in Iraq?
You've got to go back and do what you didn't do in the first place. You didn't put together a U.N. coalition, you didn't get the vote of the National Security Council. You didn't bring along your NATO allies. As a matter of fact, all of Europe is laughing at us and the president is going into the teeth of 100,000 demonstrators against our transatlantic ally, the only one we've got left, Britain. This is a disaster.
Do we need more troops in Iraq?
No, no, no. You've got a have an exit strategy. You've got to make this a U.N protectorate with our NATO allies taking up the political and economic restoration of Iraq and we have to command our troops and withdraw our forces. We've got to give up our oil fields.
You've got to pull out. Don't try to make it the 51st state. That's what the White House was trying to do; they're trying to make Iraq the 51st state. The dream of Cheney and Wolfowitz was you create a base of operations in Iraq and then you attack Syria and Iran. I'm serious. You think this is nuts. It is nuts in the case of this particular cost of blood and treasure that the American people are finding out and they're going south on this big time.
When you were in the Senate you were known as a moderate Democrat; you voted in favor of the Bush tax cuts. It's clear your perception of the White House has changed dramatically.
Yeah, they lied to me. I know they lied flat-out about any connection to al-Qaida. Now al-Qaida is teaming up with Saddam loyalists and are doing what? Targeting Americans.
They do have a target in common now and that's the 130,000 U.S. soldiers out there. And we lost two more yesterday.
What was your reaction when you saw President Bush landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in May to give a victory speech of sorts?
I'll tell you the truth. I thought, "Oh my God." A man who deliberately got out of going to Vietnam by hiding out in the National Guard and who did not even complete his National Guard tour of duty, now walks onto an aircraft carrier in a flight suit with helmet under his arm, as if he's Tom Cruise in "Top Gun," and says"Mission Accomplished."
What do you think now?
The president ought to be ashamed because real soldiers are out there fighting and dying for a disastrous policy that he created. I'm telling you this is serious business. And that has now all been acknowledged as a sham. We're in a helluva mess. And the worst part is the kids are getting killed every damn day, that's what gets me.
I want to ask you about Democrats in the South. They just won the Louisiana governor's race, but the weeks earlier had not been good for Democrats in Mississippi and Kentucky. There's lot of concerns in Democratic circles that the South is essentially gone, which could relegate Democrats almost to a permanent minority party. As someone who won lots of elections in the South, what do you think Democrats have to do to win statewide elections?
I think these states have their own peculiarities of local issues. In Georgia, with the president being 70 percent popular and coming in targeting me as hostile to national security, putting me up there with Osama bin Laden, and raising millions of dollars, and Karl Rove pumping in millions of dollars to [former Georgia GOP chief] Ralph Reed down there, and using Georgia as a test case for voter turnout and capturing the white male anger, the backlash at the governor for taking the Confederate banner off the state flag, that was powerful and it took out me and the governor.
When you mobilize the entire Republican apparatus and you energize it with race and the good ole boys in the South, that's tough to beat. That's the Nixon 1968 "Southern strategy." And the Republicans have adopted the Southern strategy.
Meanwhile, the Florida seat is open now. Bob Graham said to heck with it and I understand that. And we'll see how Florida pans out. With Jeb Bush as governor it'd be tough to get a Democrat there. Georgia has an open seat and you're probably looking at a Republican taking that.
Democrats in the South have to do a better job organizing themselves and not take things for granted. I think we in Georgia took for granted that our base would be organized. It's now obvious the Republicans have set a new standard with Ralph Reed and Karl Rove in charge, they nationalize local elections.
-------© 2003 truthout.org.
/ Shame on You, Ann Coulter By Scott Galindez t r u t h o u t | Perspective Monday 16 February 2004
Excerpts from Coulter's column:
"Cleland lost three limbs in an accident during a routine non-combat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix. In fact, Cleland could have dropped a grenade on his foot as a National Guardsman - or what Cleland sneeringly calls 'weekend warriors.' Luckily, for Cleland's political career and current pomposity about Bush, he happened to do it while in Vietnam."
But he didn't "give his limbs for his country," or leave them "on the battlefield." There was no bravery involved in dropping a grenade on himself with no enemy troops in sight. That could have happened in the Texas National Guard - which Cleland denigrates while demanding his own sanctification."
Coulter saying that Cleland was "lucky" the incident happened in Viet Nam is despicable. If Cleland was stateside he probably wouldn't have faced live grenades. Many conservative chickenhawks who now support sending our young men off to war never faced live fire or live grenades. For information on the service records of leading conservatives go to the Chickenhawk Database: http://www.awolbush.com/whoserved.html
As for the claim that a Silver Star winner is not a "war hero," Coulter said people "should stop allowing [Cleland to be] portrayed as a war hero" - despite the fact that, in a separate incident four days before he lost three limbs, Cleland won a Silver Star - one of the highest honors for combat courage the U.S. military gives out. The congressional citation which came with the medal specifically said that during a "heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack Captain Cleland, disregarding his own safety, exposed himself to the rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted in moving the injured personnel to covered positions." The citation concluded, "Cleland's gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army."
Coulter's claim that it was a non-combat incident was also false, as the 8/1/99 Esquire Magazine notes: "Cleland lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam when a grenade accidentally detonated after he and another soldier jumped off a helicopter in a combat zone."
Peter Carlson of the Washington Post also wrote:
"On April 8, 1968, during the siege of Khe Sanh, he stepped off a helicopter and saw a grenade at his feet. He thought he'd dropped it. He was wrong. When he reached down to pick it up, it exploded, ripping off both legs and his right hand. He was 25."
He returned home to Georgia in December 1969. "I had no job, no girlfriend, no car, no hope," he says. "I figured this is a good time to run for the state Senate. And politics became my therapy, forcing me to get out of the house and be seen."
In 1970, at 28, he became the youngest person ever elected to the Georgia Senate. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to head the Veterans Administration. In 1982, he was elected as Georgia's secretary of state. In 1996 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating businessman Guy Millner in a very close race."
That sounds like an "American Hero" to me. A role model for all people, an example that despite obstacles anyone can succeed.
Ann, I know you are getting nervous that your "War President" is surrounded by other chickenhawks, while John Kerry comes surrounded by veterans and real American heroes like our nation's firefighters. Nevertheless, that does not give you the right to slander the reputation of a man who has dedicated his life to service for our country. Shame on you!
Max Cleland, keep up the fight!
© : t r u t h o u t 2004
EDITOR'S NOTE: I thought these dolls were a joke until I read their descriptions; they must be seen to be believed. Other dolls include "Turkey Dinner Photo-op Bush", Papa Bush, Rumsfeld, Dr. Laura, Teddy Roosevelt, Dennis Miller, and Evil Mastermind Bill Clinton. / "Bill Clinton successfully manipulated and maneuvered his way to the highest office in the nation, the Presidency of the United States. All the while he left scandal after scandal behind him." / Yes friends, according to these folks, George Bush is an honest and successful business man, and his administration is scandal-free! How's the weather in the Twilight Zone, guys? I'm guessing they sell far more of these to liberals who find them hilarious than to conservatives who take them seriously... / Check their site out for a chilliing view into of the child-ilke, fantasy-world conservative mindset that elected these criminals. http://www.talkingpresidents.com / NPR's Andy Bowers talks to Jim Wessling, whose company has produced a George W. Bush doll that speaks 17 lines by the president. Wessling says the doll is a big seller and he has plans for other presidential dolls. Weekend Edition Sunday, December 15, 2002 / Here's a slightly more accurate portrayal of "Top Gun" W : / MAD Magazine TM and © 2003 E.C. Publications, Inc. f? I'm a WAR president! Bring it on! dfbddbf Alfred E. Awol / "The mission must be to fight and win war and therefore to prevent war from happening in the first place,'' - The day before Super Tuesday in San Diego, Mr. Bush was talking about the need to give the military a new mission, March 2, 2001 f? "The reason we start a war is to fight a war, win a war, thereby causing no more war!" - The first Presidential debate, 2000 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
They did find weapons of mass destruction, namely, the ones that had been sent to Saddam by the United States, Britain, and others through the 1980s. A lot of them were still there. They were under control of U.N. inspectors and were being dismantled. / But many were still there. When the U.S. invaded, the inspectors were kicked out, and Rumsfeld and Cheney didn't tell their troops to guard the sites. So the sites were left unguarded, and they were systematically looted. The U.N. inspectors did continue their work by satellite and they identified over 100 sites that were systematically looted, like, not somebody going in and stealing something, but carefully, systematically looted." / - Proffesor Noam Chomsky interview, "Chomsky: 'There Is No War on Terror'" by Geov Parrish, AlterNet, 14 January 2006 http://www.alternet.org/story/30487
UPDATE 2007: Weapons Given to Iraq Are Missing by Glenn Kessler The Washington Post Monday 06 August 2007 / GAO estimates 30 percent of arms are unaccounted for.
The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.
The author of the report from the Government Accountability Office says U.S. military officials do not know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 through early this year as part of an effort to train and equip the troops. The highest previous estimate of unaccounted-for weapons was 14,000, in a report issued last year by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
The United States has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least $2.8 billion to buy and deliver equipment. But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq.
The Pentagon did not dispute the GAO findings, saying it has launched its own investigation and indicating it is working to improve tracking. Although controls have been tightened since 2005, the inability of the United States to track weapons with tools such as serial numbers makes it nearly impossible for the U.S. military to know whether it is battling an enemy equipped by American taxpayers.
"They really have no idea where they are," said Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information who has studied small-arms trade and received Pentagon briefings on the issue. "It likely means that the United States is unintentionally providing weapons to bad actors."
/ "Those weapons of mass destruction have to be here somewhere," Bush joshed as he narrated a slide show of him looking behind furniture, as if hunting for the weapons of mass destruction.
"Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here," Bush joked."
/ / Families of Soldiers Not Amused By Bush's Comedy Routine / By Kenneth R. Bazinet New York Daily News Thursday 25 March 2004
WASHINGTON - (KRT) - President Bush got some laughs at a Washington dinner when he spoofed the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but some family members of dead G.I.s said Thursday there was nothing funny about it.
"Those weapons of mass destruction have to be here somewhere," Bush joshed as he narrated a slide show of him looking behind furniture, as if hunting for the weapons of mass destruction.
(M.O.W. editorial insert)
"Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here," Bush joked Wednesday night at the annual dinner of Washington radio and TV correspondents, an event where Presidents typically poke fun at the press and themselves.
(M.O.W. editorial insert)
George Medina, 43, of Orange County, who lost a son in Iraq, heard about Bush's remarks when his outraged daughter, an Army sergeant, called him Thursday. "She was very upset," Medina said.
"This is disgraceful," Medina continued. "He doesn't think of all the families that are suffering. It's unbelievable, how this guy tries to run the country."
His 22-year-old son, Spec. Irving Medina, died Nov. 14 in Baghdad when an explosive device struck his convoy.
Charles Celestin, 28, of Coral Springs, Fla., and Irving Medina's brother-in-law, blasted the commander in chief's remarks.
"To be poking fun; it's just a travesty to the soldiers who lost their lives. I think it's disrespectful," he said.
The camp of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry last night fired off a statement from Iraq war veteran Brad Owens, who said he was "insulted" by the President's comments.
"No weapons of mass destruction have been found and that is no joke - this is for real. This cheapens the sacrifice that American soldiers and their families are dealing with every single day," said Owens, who served in the Army Reserve.
The dinner performance put the President on the defensive for the second time this week. The Bush campaign was already dealing with fallout from testimony by former presidential aide Richard Clarke, who has claimed in a new book that Bush and his cabinet were looking for reasons to attack Iraq within hours of the 9/11 terror attack despite being told Saddam Hussein was not linked to it.
The President's dinner act also bombed with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), who called it "out of line and in poor taste."
"It's disgusting that during his little performance on stage, the President seemed to forget that people are dying in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction he lied about," Nadler said.
Asked whether the comment was appropriate, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he was not at the dinner and so could not comment.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan noted that Bush ended his remarks at the dinner with a very serious tribute to U.S. forces serving in Iraq, but "was poking fun at himself" with the comments about weapons of mass destruction.
"Anyone who has followed the President's views on this knows how seriously he takes this issue," Buchan said.
/ "It's unbelievable, how this guy tries to run the country." ______________________________________________________________ / He Just Doesn't Get it winbackrespect.org October 22nd, 2004 / "My brother DIED for weapons of mass destruction." /
Brooke Campbell's family have felt first-hand the tragic results of George Bush's foreign policy. Win Back Respect produced this ad (video) to showcase Brooke's moving, unscripted remarks and contrast them with the President's flippant attitude and ongoing deception. An open letter with more details of Brooke's story is reproduced here. Pollsters Greenberg, Quinlan & Rosner tested the ad and found that after viewing it just once, there was an almost unprecedented 8 point gross shift away from Bush in voting intentions among the 750-person test sample. It also badly eroded support for Bush across a wide range of measures including confidence in his Iraq policy and key measures of character, including honesty and sharing the concerns of ordinary people.
/ / To Whom it May Concern By Brooke M. Campbell t r u t h o u t | Letter Friday 03 September 2004 / Sgt. Campbell requested that, if something happened to him, his family place this photo on his coffin.rhhh /
To Whom it May Concern,
I found out that my brother, Sergeant Ryan M. Campbell, was dead during a graduate seminar at Emory University on April 29, 2004. Immediately after a uniformed officer knocked at my mother's door to deliver the message that broke her heart, she called me on my cell phone. She could say nothing but "He's gone." I could say nothing but "No." Over and over again we chanted this refrain to each other over the phone as I made my way across the country to hold her as she wept.
I had made the very same trip in February, cutting classes to spend my brother's two weeks' leave from Baghdad with him. Little did I know then that the next time I saw him would be at Arlington National Cemetery. During those days in February, my brother shared with me his fear, his disillusionment, and his anger. "We had all been led to believe that Iraq posed a serious threat to America as well as its surrounding nations," he said. "We invaded expecting to find weapons of mass destruction and a much more prepared and well-trained Republican Guard waiting for us. It is now a year later, and alas, no weapons of mass destruction or any other real threat, for that matter."
Ryan was scheduled to complete his one-year assignment to Iraq on April 25. But on April 11, he emailed me to let me know not to expect him in Atlanta for a May visit, because his tour of duty had been involuntarily extended. "Just do me one big favor, ok?" he wrote. "Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you."
Last night, I listened to George W. Bush's live, televised speech at the Republican National Convention. He spoke to me and my family when he announced, "I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong."
This is my reply: Mr. President, I know that you probably still "don't do body counts," so you may not know that almost one thousand U.S. troops have died doing what you told them they had to do to protect America. Ryan was Number 832. Liberty was, indeed, precious to the one I lost-- so precious that he would rather have gone to prison than back to Iraq in February. Like you, I don't know where the strength for "such pride" on the part of people "so burdened with sorrow" comes from; maybe I spent it all holding my mother as she wept. I last saw my loved one at the Kansas City airport, staring after me as I walked away. I could see April 29 written on his sad, sand-chapped and sunburned face. I could see that he desperately wanted to believe that if he died, it would be while "doing good," as you put it. He wanted us to be able to be proud of him. Mr. President, you gave me and my mother a folded flag instead of the beautiful boy who called us "Moms" and "Brookster." But worse than that, you sold my little brother a bill of goods. Not only did you cheat him of a long meaningful life, but you cheated him of a meaningful death. You are in my prayers, Mr. President, because I think that you need them more than anyone on the face of the planet. But you will never get my vote.
So to whom it may concern: Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you.
Brooke M. Campbell
Courtesy of the Tillman Family
"....don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity." / After Pat's Birthday By Kevin Tillman
It is Pat's birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice until we got out.
Much has happened since we handed over our voice:
Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can't be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.
Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few "bad apples" in the military.
Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It's interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.
Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.
Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.
Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.
Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.
Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.
Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.
Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.
Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.
Somehow torture is tolerated.
Somehow lying is tolerated.
Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.
Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.
Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.
Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.
Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.
Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.
Somehow this is tolerated.
Somehow nobody is accountable for this.
In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that "somehow" was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.
Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat's birthday.
Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,
/"This administration and the previously Republican-controlled legislature have been the most caustic agents against America's Armed Forces in memory. / Less than a year ago, the Republicans imposed great hardship on the Army and Marine Corps by their failure to pass a necessary funding language. / This time, the president of the United States is holding our soldiers hostage to his ego. / More than ever apparent, only the Army and the Marine Corps are at war - - alone, without their president's support." // Major General Paul Eaton, USA, Ret,. after Bush's veto of the Iraq spending bill, May 1st, 2007
"The President vetoed our troops and the American people. / His stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible. / He committed our great military to a failed strategy in violation of basic principles of war. / His failure to mobilize the nation to defeat worldwide Islamic extremism is tragic. / We deserve more from our commander-in-chief and his administration." // - Major General John Batiste, USA, Ret., after Bush's veto of the Iraq spending bill, May 1st, 2007 // "With this veto, the president has doomed us to repeating a terrible history. President Bush's current position is hauntingly reminiscent of March 1968 in Vietnam. At that time, both the Secretary of Defense and the President had recognized that the war could not be won militarily -- -- just as our military commanders in Iraq have acknowledged. But not wanting to be tainted with losing a war, President Johnson authorized a surge of 25,000 troops. At that point, there had been 24,000 U.S. troops killed in action. Five years later, when the withdrawal of U.S. troops was complete, we had suffered 34,000 additional combat deaths." // - Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, USA, Ret. after Bush's veto of the Iraq spending bill, May 1st, 2007 // ___________________________________________________ // SUPPORT OUR TROOPS? May 17th, 2007: "The Bush administration today threatened to veto a House defense spending bill over a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. soldiers and a $40/month increase in benefits for military widows, among other provisions. Troops don't need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill. The legislation passed the House today 397-27." / f?
Weapons of Mass Hysteria By Paul Edwards t r u t h o u t | Perspective
President Bush, as the world and many Americans have long known, is a fraud and a liar. Sadly, that's no big surprise. American presidents have a long tradition of mendacity that has ranged from the quirky and trivial to the unpardonable and even treasonous.
Some Presidential lies have been simply personally disgraceful and ridiculous, as was Clinton's brazen denial of sex at the office; others have been of such monstrous gravity that they have shaken the presidency and jeopardized the nation.
Nixon's lies in the Watergate crime were of that profoundly damaging kind. He authorized a burglary of political opponents' offices, his thugs were caught, and he used the full power of his Presidency to attempt to hide his guilt. These were the brazen tactics of a power-addled dictator. Legally thwarted and exposed, he resigned to avoid certain impeachment.
The Reagan-Bush Iran/Contra crime was comparable. Reagan knowingly broke the law in arming Contra mercenaries in Nicaragua and was exposed by Ollie North's blundering attempt at bribing hostile Iran. Reagan stonewalled and let underlings take the fall, and a cowardly, corrupt Congress preferred to let our constitution sustain a massive insult rather than to punish a simple-minded, dangerous, and criminal President.
We Americans are now confronted with the monstrous lies of George W. Bush and we must decide what has to be done about them. It is not as if there had been only one. The Bush presidency has been built and sustained on a basis of outrageous falsehoods and cynical deceptions in every area of public policy.
He lied to the nation about his fiscally insane Tax Cuts For Tycoons. Struggling working families get chump change as the top 1% of the super-wealthy reaps huge windfalls.
He lied in affecting support for working people when his labor policy is calculated to emasculate unions and to abuse, exploit and impoverish the working middle class.
He lied in claiming energy independence must come from raping our last wild lands for gas and oil, spurning solid viable technologies that could end fossil fuel addiction now.
He lied about supporting our soldiers, crafting an $87 billion boondoggle for his giant corporate backers to "rebuild" the Iraq he ordered our troops to fight and die to destroy.
He lied about fires in his Stealthy Forest Act, exploiting public fear to promote high-grading of our last old growth rather than protecting the urban-wildland interface.
He liedabout supporting fairness and equity on the Federal courts while he has fought fiercely to pack them with ignorant, blatant racists and rabid, sexist zealots.
He lied about domestic security to pass the egregious Patriot Act that has blasted our Bill of Rights, eroded civil freedoms, invaded our privacy, and made us all potential suspects.
So many lies... but the lie that was far the most cynical, most despicable, most criminal of all, is the lie that caused America to break two hundred years of honorable tradition to invade, without provocation or cause, a small, weak, devastated and tyrannized country.
Bush told us Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was threatening to attack America. This was the paramount, indeed, the single solid justification for his war.
While the world implored him to give U.N. inspectors time to find the WMDs he swore were there, Bush refused on the grounds that an attack by Saddam on America was not only likely, but imminent. He implied, and led Americans to believe, that Saddam and Osama bin Laden were allies when they were, and always had been, bitter enemies.
After the bludgeoning of an already prostrate Iraq, the world waited for evidence, for the discovery that was to have justified this brutal blitzkrieg. It never came. And it never will, because there were no WMDs and never had been. Bush lied to goad Americans to a climax of fear and fury so as to launch a baseless, shameful assault for which we will answer to our consciences, our children, and the world, for as long as our country exists.
The Constitution cites "high crimes and misdemeanors" against the state as grounds for impeachment. Could there be any higher crime against the American people than to have knowingly deceived us in order to stampede us into an act of barbarism that has betrayed our finest ideals, our highest ethical standards, our national honor, and our whole history?
Now, as the web of lies that created the Iraq disaster collapses in the light of bitter, incontrovertible truth, and the unending cortege of our dead and wounded young people continues to come home to hospitals and graveyards, we are asked to forget Bush's lies. We are told by cynics and moral defectives that his monstrous lie about WMDs didn't matter. We are told that eliminating its dictator was reason enough to bludgeon Iraq and to kill, maim and brutalize its stunned and powerless people.
Facing a furiously rising national rebellion and clear evidence that we are justly blamed, hated, and seen as the enemy by the Iraqi people, we are asked to swallow the horror of this deception, to accept what has been inflicted on Iraq and on us, with all its bloody, bankrupting consequences, and to authorize, by our silence, cowardice and quiescence, the continuation of this grisly nightmare, and of our sociopathic appointed figurehead's odious misrule.
I submit that Bush has committed the vilest, most cynically depraved act of betrayal of the American people in the history of the Presidency.
Nothing less than impeachment, with the conviction that must inexorably follow, can begin to address the damage and redress the harm this President and his amoral handlers have inflicted on America.
God help us as a country if we allow this cancer of mendacity to continue to consume us.
------© 2003 truthout.org.
/ Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself fbdbz / By Paul Craig Roberts Counterpunch.org 12 -13 February 2005 Edition / As things fall apart, lie and lie again. /
Suppose you are the party responsible for invading a country under totally false pretenses. Suppose you had totally unrealistic expectations about the consequences of your gratuitous aggression.
What do you do when, instead of being greeted with flowers, you find your army is tied down by insurgents and you have no face-saving way to get out of the morass? If you are the moronic Bush administration, you blame someone else.
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney and Bush blame Syria and Iran for the troubles that they brought upon themselves. The Iraqi insurgency, say the Five Morons, is the fault of Syria and Iran.
Here is Rumsfeld excusing himself for his dismal failures in Iraq: "Partly it's [the insurgency] a function of what the Syrians and the Iranians are doing.
(M.O.W. editorial insert)
You see, the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis' homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America "bringing democracy to Iraq."
The insurgency, according to the Five Morons, is because Iraq and Iran won't close their borders, thus letting in "terrorists" who are responsible for the insurgency. Some might think that this accusation is an example of the pot calling the kettle black coming as it does from the US, a country that has not only proven itself incapable of closing its own borders but also has demonstrated no respect whatsoever for the borders of other countries.
The Bush administration, which already held the world record as the most deluded government in history, has now taken denial to unprecedented highs by blaming Syria and Iran for its "Iraqi problem." Why didn't Americans realize that it is dangerous to put a buffoon in charge of the US government who hasn't a clue about the world around him, what he is doing or the consequences of his actions?
Why is Secretary of State Rice trying to set Iran up for UN sanctions--which the US can manipulate to justify invading another Muslim country--when the US has proven to the world that it cannot occupy Baghdad, much less Iraq?
Are Iran and Syria going to quake in their boots after witnessing the success of a few thousand insurgents in tying down 8 US divisions? The bulk of the US force in Iraq is engaged in protecting its own bases and supply lines. It was all the generals could do to scrape up 10,000 Marines for their pointless assault on Fallujah.
What is the point of the Bush administration's bellicosity when it has been conclusively demonstrated that the US has insufficient troops to successfully occupy Iraq, much less Syria and Iran? The American people should be scared to death that they have put in power such deluded people.
Are Americans going to fall for the same set of WMD lies a second time? Are Americans going to deliver up their sons, and perhaps daughters as well, to be drafted and sent to the Middle East to be killed and maimed for no American cause?
The US Treasury is empty. The once "almighty" dollar is tottering. The US military is stretched to the breaking point. Former allies look askance at America. Hatred of America has reached an all time high.
The Bush administration must bring its policies in line with its means before it leads our country into greater disaster. The Bush administration and its deluded sycophants must stop poking fun at "reality-based" experts and listen to a reality-based message.
There is no possibility of the US imposing its will on the Muslim world. By its behavior the Bush administration is confirming Osama bin Laden's propaganda and breeding more terrorists. Much better to address the causes of Muslim discontent--America's enabling of the Israeli government's mistreatment and dispossession of the Palestinians, and America's export of "culture" that glorifies the sexual promiscuity of women.
It does not serve America for Bush to impose Ariel Sharon's agenda on the Middle East. Bush's insane policy is producing rising anger that endangers Israel and America's puppet governments in Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan along with the Saudi regime. Ironically, this is recognized by Egypt's Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah, who was unable to refrain from pointing out that Bush has managed to create a Shi'ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon.
What, King Abdullah wonders, will be the next unintended consequence of the moronic administration that the American people in their superior wisdom and virtue have seen fit to empower in Washington. "If our aim is to win against terrorism, we can't afford more instability in the area," warned the king prior to the ill-fated US invasion of Iraq. "It's the potential Armageddon of Iraq that worries all of us."
It should worry Americans, too.
From the bogus to the outrageous to the illegal, we are now living the American Nightmare. / By Steve Fowle Intervention Magazine Posted Sunday, February 13, 2005
Steve Fowle is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and is the publisher and editor of The New Hampshire Gazette, the nation's oldest newspaper.
It has been another of America's special, sacred Januaries: The American Dream itself has been wheeled out of storage, washed and waxed, and buffed to a high quadrennial shine. Once again we have demonstrated to the world (as if we really cared what they thought) that anyone -- any white male, anyway -- can become president.
This year, we actually improved on that old, traditional American value. We have shown that anyone can do it a second time, even if they used their first term to wage an optional war, at terrible expense in blood and treasure, on grounds that proved to be, as many said before the shooting started, completely bogus, and put the nation in far greater peril than it was before the pre-emptive shooting started. And, instead of a dream, we have a nightmare.
Nothing Succeeds Like Excess
A lot of people apparently found the president's ambitious inaugural address, which all but vowed to expunge the word tyranny from the world's dictionaries, a bit startling. They expected a more restrained approach from a man who had just barely won the election (and that only through massive fraud and voter suppression) and whose war on terror, according to the CIA's own in-house think-tank, is creating more terrorists than it's killing.*
A sentence from a Seymour Hersh article in The New Yorker resolves this conundrum: Bush's election is regarded within the Administration as evidence of America's support for his decision to go to war. In other words, on Planet Bush, if you can fool enough of the people enough of the time, your lies must be the truth.
Far from being daunted by results which the rest of the world seems to see as utter failure, the Bush administration, according to Hersh's article, has apparently only just begun. For instance, the U.S. is already conducting hostile, covert military action in Iran. To many members of Congress, this undoubtedly came as a surprise. That's no accident -- it was supposed to.
Hersh writes that through a series of findings and executive orders, Mr. Bush has delegated to Donald Rumsfeld the task of democratizing not just Iran, but the whole of the Middle East. Minus, of course, cooperative-but-autocratic dictatorships like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. In Pakistan, Hersh says, we've given Mr. A.Q. "Nukes-R-Me" Khan a get-out-of-jail-free card, and we wink at President Pervez Musharraf's burgeoning nuclear arsenal, so our clandestine operatives can flit from Washap to Kuhak without having to pass through customs.
Who's Funding Terrorists Now?
A few members of the gung-ho gang seem willing to admit, off the record, that a thing or two didn't go quite right in Iraq. But they argue that lessons were learned in Iraq, and so future pre-emptive, unilateral wars will undoubtedly go better.
It's not clear what lessons were learned in Afghanistan, or who learned them. Last year's opium crop broke all records, even those set by the Taliban, when they were actively encouraging poppy farming. Under the accommodating Mr. Musharraf, this branch of agriculture is booming. Unfortunately, that metaphorical boom is translating into actual booms, because the profits are funding terrorists.
Perhaps it would have been better
if Mr. Bush had followed through on his promise to catch Osama
bin Laden, rather than leave him astride the opium trail where
he, or others of a like mind, can tax it.
The Pentagon's hired spokesman, Lawrence DiRita, said last Monday that Hersh's article did not do justice to the global challenge posed by the Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organizations. Hersh's article was so riddled with errors of fundamental fact, said Mr. DiRita, that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed.
Apparently the standards for journalists are higher than those for Secretary of State.
The Called-Off Search for WMDs
For the record, the U.S. invaded Iraq because, if we had waited another month or so, Saddam was likely to nuke us. So said Condi Rice. He also had huge supplies of chemical and/or biological weapons. Donald Rumsfeld knew right where they were. Those were not suppositions, those were facts.
However, those facts have now been replaced with new facts. One such new fact is that last December the administration abandoned all hope of finding the nukes and the gasses and the germs. This should not come as a great surprise. This administration managed to lose 388 tons of high explosives, and can only seem to find it a few pounds at a time, when it blows up our poorly-armored troops.
Republicans Spend Money For Propaganda But Not For Veterans
While the Republicans dismissed Chris smith, the New Jersey Republican because he argued for full funding for VA hospitals, they have no problem about spending money for propaganda purposes. The $241,000 the Bush administration paid to Armstrong Williams to promote No child Left Behind could have bought a lot of wheelchairs. And, as the Washington Post reported, Maggie Gallagher got $20,000 for writing about how the government could perform the vital constitutional function of protecting marriage.
The Iraqi Election
Well, so what have we gotten for our $200 billion, our thirteen hundred-plus dead, our ten thousand and more wounded, and our lost global stature? It's not what we went to war for, but it's about all we've got: on January 30, we got an election -- a Middle Eastern version of Dodge City.
A lot of people are very dubious about the success of this venture. But all the official government experts say it will all work out fine. And only those cursed with memory will recall that the official experts were saying much the same about Vietnam -- that is, until the Tet Offensive happened, thirty-seven years ago on Monday.
/ / Did Somebody Say War? By BOB HERBERT New York Times May 24, 20
////President Bush fell off his bike and hurt himself during a 17-mile excursion at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Saturday. Nothing serious. A few cuts and bruises. He was wearing a bike helmet and a mouth guard, and he was able to climb back on his bike and finish his ride.
A little later he left the ranch and went to Austin for a graduation party for his daughter Jenna. And then it was on to New Haven, where daughter Barbara will graduate today from Yale. Except for the bicycle mishap, it sounded like a very pleasant weekend.
Meanwhile, there's a war on. Yet another U.S. soldier was killed near Falluja yesterday. You remember Falluja. That's the rebellious city that the Marines gave up on and turned over to the control of officers from the very same Baathist army that we invaded Iraq to defeat.
It's impossible to think about Iraq without stumbling over these kinds of absurdities. How do you get a logical foothold on a war that was nurtured from the beginning on absurd premises? You can't. Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11. The invasion of Iraq was not part of the war on terror. We had no business launching this war. Now we're left with the tragic absurdity of a clueless president riding his bicycle in Texas while Americans in Iraq are going up in flames.
How bad is the current situation? Gen. Anthony Zinni, the retired Marine Corps general who headed the U.S. Central Command (which covers much of the Middle East and Central Asia) from 1997 to 2000, was utterly dismissive about the administration's "stay the course" strategy in Iraq. "The course is headed over Niagara Falls," he said in an interview with "60 Minutes," adding, "It should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up."
When the weapons of mass destruction rationale went by the boards, the administration and its apologists tried to justify the war by asserting that the U.S. could use bullets and bombs to seed Iraq with an American-style democracy that would then spread like the flowers of spring throughout the Middle East.
Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, addressed that point last week in a report titled, "The `Post Conflict' Lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan."
"At this point," the report said, "the U.S. lacks good options in Iraq - although it probably never really had them in the sense the Bush administration sought. The option of quickly turning Iraq into a successful, free-market democracy was never practical, and was as absurd a neoconservative fantasy as the idea that success in this objective would magically make Iraq an example that would transform the Middle East."
The president's reservoir of credibility on Iraq is bone dry. His approval ratings are going down. Conservative voices in opposition to his policies are growing louder. And the troops themselves are becoming increasingly disenchanted with their mission. Yet no one knows quite what to do. Americans are torn between a desire to stop the madness by pulling the plug on this tragic and hopeless adventure and the realization that the U.S., for the time being, may be the only safeguard against a catastrophic civil war.
The president is scheduled to give a speech tonight to lay out his "clear strategy" for the future of Iraq. Don't hold your breath. This is the same president who deliberately exploited his nation's fear of terrorism in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to lead it into the long dark starless night of Iraq.
As for the Iraqis, they've been had. We're not going to foot the bill in any real sense for the reconstruction of Iraq, any more than we've been willing to foot the bill for a reconstruction of the public school system here at home. There's a reason why Ahmad Chalabi and the Bush crowd were so simpatico for so long. They all considered themselves masters of the con. They all thought that they could fool all of the people all of the time.
There's a terrible sense of dread filtering across America at the moment and it's not simply because of the continuing fear of terrorism and the fact that the nation is at war. It's more frightening than that. It grows out of the suspicion that we all may be passengers in a vehicle that has made a radically wrong turn and is barreling along a dark road, with its headlights off and with someone behind the wheel who may not know how to drive. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________//
A Not So Wonderful Life By Maureen Dowd The New York Times Sunday 19 December 2004 vcnxc (M.O.W. editorial insert)
Exterior bridge over Potomac River - Night
Close Shot - Rummy is standing by the railing, staring morosely into the water. The snow is falling hard. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he wheels around and wrestles an old man with wings into a headlock.
Old Man: Ouch! Tut, tut. When will you learn that force doesn't solve everything?
Rummy: Who the dickens are you?
Old Man: Clarence, Angel First Class. I've been sent down to help you.
Rummy, squinting: You're off your nut, you old fruitcake. You can't help me. I was a matinee idol in this town, a studmuffin. Now everyone's turned on me - Trent Lott, Chuck Hagel and that dadburn McCain.
Clarence: No more self-pity, son. I'm going to show you what the world would have been like if you'd never been born.
Clarence, who can fly now, takes Rummy's hand and they soar over the icy Potomac to the Pentagon. Beneath the glass on the desk of the defense secretary is a list of members of Congress and their phone numbers.
Rummy: Who put that there?
Clarence: Sam Nunn. He's the defense secretary. Sam consults with Congress. Never acts arrogant or misleads them. He didn't banish the generals who challenged him - he promoted 'em. And, of course, he caught Osama back in '01. He threw 100,000 troops into Afghanistan on 9/11 and sealed the borders. Our Special Forces trapped the evildoer and his top lieutenants at Tora Bora. You weren't at that cabinet meeting the day after 9/11, so nobody suggested going after Saddam. No American troops died or were maimed in Iraq. No American soldiers tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. No Iraqi explosives fell into the hands of terrorists. There's no office of disinformation to twist perception abroad. We're not on the cusp of an Iraq run by Muslim clerics tied to Iran. Here's Sam. He's with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
General Shineski: We got some good news today on the National Guard, sir. Recruiting is up 40 percent. With the money we saved killing that useless missile defense system, we up-armored all our Humvees.
Rummy, fists and jaw clenched: Grrrrrrr...I want to see Wolfie!
Clarence: Sam never hired any of those wacko neocons. Wolfowitz is a woolly headed professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a consultant to Ariel Sharon. Richard Perle was never in charge of the Defense Policy Board, so he was unable to enrich himself through government connections, or help Ahmad Chalabi con the administration. Perle stayed an honest man, running a chain of soufflé shops. His soufflés were so fluffy he became known as the Prince of Lightness. Doug Feith never worked here, either, so he never set up the Office of Special Plans to spin tall tales about W.M.D. and Qaeda ties to Saddam. And he never bungled the occupation because there was no occupation. Without you to swoon over in a book, neocon doyenne Midge Decter became a fallen woman, like Violet.
Rummy, dyspeptic: Holy mackerel! Take me to Dick!
Clarence: Dick and Lynne run a bait, tackle and baton-twirling shop in Casper, Wyo. You didn't exist, so you never gave him those jobs in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and he never ran for Congress or worked for Bush 41 or anointed himself 43's vice president. W. chose Chuck Hagel as his running mate. So without you and Dick there to dominate him, he was guided by his dad and Brent Scowcroft, who kept Condi in line. Colin Powell was never cut off at the knees and the U.N. and allies were never bullied. There was never any crazy fever about Iraq or unilateralism or "Old Europe." Here's Colin now, heading for the Oval Office.
Powell: Merry Christmas, Mr. President. With the help of our allies around the world, we have won the war on terror. And Saddam has been overthrown. Once Hans Blix exposed the fact that Saddam had no weapons, the tyrant was a goner. No Arab dictator can afford to be humiliated by a Swedish disarmament lawyer.
Rummy: Goodness gracious, I've heard enough now. I'm going home. Unless you're going to tell me my wife is an old maid, because I wasn't around to marry her.
Clarence: Oh, no. Joyce lives across the street from your old house on Kalorama Road. She's happily married to the French ambassador.
"Auld Lang Syne" swells as we Fade Out.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.) ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
// "Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy." / - Henry Kissinger (Bush's origiinal choice to head the 911 commission), quoted in "Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POW's in Vietnam"
"Boohoo, boohoo," Kissinger said, pretending to cry and rub his eyes. "He's still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty." He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis." / - Henry Kissinger, on Robert McNamara's public repentance for his part in the millions of lives lost in the Vietnam war / //
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________//x z z
//x z z We, the veterans of the war, now know all of these reasons for invading the sovereign country of Iraq were false, and we have paid a heavy price for these lies. Two years into a seemingly endless war, our nation has incurred a terrible debt, while the corporations who profit from the business of war reap millions. Our deficit has climbed to a rate that can only be paid by our children's grand children. While our domestic programs crumble, the social and economic future of our children is indeed bleak. Most tragic, over 1,500 of our comrades in arms have given the ultimate sacrifice for this senseless, imprudent, and immoral policy of war and occupation. A cross section of our county, these extraordinary men and women came from all walks of life. They were both poor and wealthy, high school dropouts and highly trained professionals. All believed in their country's leadership and in their own duty to that country, and so they went into needless slaughter. Every one of these fallen comrades was loved by their families and many in their community. They were our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers; most of all, they were our friends and they are sorely missed. If they could arise from their graves and speak, they would tell us to find a better way to solve our conflicts."
- "IVAW Statement on the Second Anniversary of the Iraq War ", Iraq Veterans Against the War BELOW: A mosaic of soldiers who have died in Iraq. See a larger of the image at: http://photomatt.net/archives/2004/04/07/mosaic/ (Highly recommended).
George Widowmaker Bush /
The Ultimate Betrayal By Howard Zinn The Progressive April 2004 Issue
Howard Zinn is a historian and a playwright. He taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, then at Boston University. He was active in the civil rights movement, and in the movement against the Vietnam war. He has written many books, his best known being A People's History of the United States. His most recent books include You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (a memori), The Zinn Reader, The Future of History (interviews with David Barsamian) and Marx in Soho (a play).
I cannot get out of my mind the photo that appeared on the front page of The New York Times on December 30, alongside a story by Jeffrey Gettleman. It showed a young man sitting on a chair facing a class of sixth graders in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. Next to him was a woman. Not the teacher of the class, but the young fellow's mother. She was there to help him because he is blind.
That was Jeremy Feldbusch, twenty-four years old, a sergeant in the Army Rangers, who was guarding a dam along the Euphrates River on April 3 when a shell exploded 100 feet away, and shrapnel tore into his face. When he came out of a coma in an Army Medical Center five weeks later, he could not see. Two weeks later, he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, but he still could not see. His father, sitting at his bedside, said: "Maybe God thought you had seen enough killing."
The newspapers on December 30 reported that 477 American GIs had died in the war. But what is not usually reported is that for every death there are four or five men and women seriously wounded.
The term "seriously wounded" does not begin to convey the horror. Sergeant Feldbusch's mother, Charlene Feldbusch, who, along with his father, virtually lived at his bedside for two months, one day saw a young woman soldier crawling past her in the corridor. She had no legs, and her three-year-old son was trailing behind.
She started to cry. Later she told Gettleman, "Do you know how many times I walked up and down those hallways and saw those people without arms or legs and thought: Why couldn't this be my son? Why his eyes?"
George Bush was eager to send young men and women half a world away into the heart of another nation. And even though they had fearsome weapons, they were still vulnerable to guerrilla attacks that have left so many of them blinded and crippled. Is this not the ultimate betrayal of our young by our government?
Their families very often understand this before their sons and daughters do, and remonstrate with them before they go off. Ruth Aitken did so with her son, an Army captain, telling him it was a war for oil, while he insisted he was protecting the country from terrorists. He was killed on April 4, in a battle around Baghdad airport. "He was doing his job," his mother said. "But it makes me mad that this whole war was sold to the American public and to the soldiers as something it wasn't."
One father, in Escondido, California, Fernando Suarez del Solar, told reporters that his son, a lance corporal in the Marines, had died for "Bush's oil." Another father in Baltimore, whose son, Kendall Waters-Bey, a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, was killed, held up a photo of his son for the news cameras, and said: "President Bush, you took my only son away from me."
Of course, they and their families are not the only ones betrayed. The Iraqi people, promised freedom from tyranny, saw their country, already devastated by two wars and twelve years of sanctions, were attacked by the most powerful military machine in history. The Pentagon proudly announced a campaign of "shock and awe," which left 10,000 or more Iraqi men, women, and children, dead, and many thousands more maimed.
The list of betrayals is long. This government has betrayed the hopes of the world for peace. After fifty million died in the Second World War, the United Nations was set up, as its charter promised, "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."
The people of the United States have been betrayed, because with the Cold War over and "the threat of communism" no longer able to justify the stealing of trillions of the public's tax dollars for the military budget, that theft of the national wealth continues. It continues at the expense of the sick, the children, the elderly, the homeless, the unemployed, wiping out the expectations after the fall of the Soviet Union that there would be a "peace dividend" to bring prosperity to all.
And yes, we come back to the ultimate betrayal, the betrayal of the young, sent to war with grandiose promises and lying words about freedom and democracy, about duty and patriotism. We are not historically literate enough to remember that these promises, those lies, started far back in the country's past.
Young men--boys, in fact (for the armies of the world, including ours, have always been made up of boys)--were enticed into the Revolutionary Army of the Founding Fathers by the grand words of the Declaration of Independence. But they found themselves mistreated, in rags and without boots, while their officers lived in luxury and merchants were making war profits. Thousands mutinied, and some were executed by order of General Washington. When, after the war, farmers in Western Massachusetts, many of them veterans, rebelled against the foreclosures of their farms, they were put down by armed force.
It is a long story, the betrayal of the very ones sent to kill and die in wars. When soldiers realize this, they rebel. Thousands deserted in the Mexican War, and in the Civil War there was deep resentment that the rich could buy their way out of service, and that financiers like J. P. Morgan were profiting as the bodies piled up on the battlefields. The black soldiers who joined the Union Army and were decisive in the victory came home to poverty and racism.
The returning soldiers of World War I, many of them crippled and shell-shocked, were hit hard, barely a dozen years after the end of the war, by the Depression. Unemployed, their families hungry, they descended on Washington, 20,000 of them from every part of the country, set up tents across the Potomac from the capital, and demanded that Congress pay the bonus it had promised. Instead, the army was called out, and they were fired on, tear-gassed, dispersed.
Perhaps it was to wipe out that ugly memory, or perhaps it was the glow accompanying the great victory over fascism, but the veterans of World War II received a GI Bill of Rights--free college education, low interest home mortgages, life insurance.
The Vietnam War veterans, on the other hand, came home to find that the same government that had sent them into an immoral and fruitless war, leaving so many of them wounded in body and mind, now wanted to forget about them. The United States had sprayed huge parts of Vietnam with the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, resulting for the Vietnamese in hundreds of thousands of deaths, lingering cancers, birth defects. American GIs were also exposed in great numbers, and tens of thousands, pointing to sickness, to birth defects in their children, asked the Veterans Administration for help. But the government denied responsibility. However, a suit against Dow Chemical, which made the defoliant, was settled out of court for $180 million, with each family receiving $1,000, which suggests that more than 100,000 families claimed injuries from the spraying.
As the government pours hundreds of billions into war, it has no money to take care of the Vietnam veterans who are homeless, who linger in VA hospitals, who suffer from mental disorders, and who commit suicide in shocking numbers. It is a bitter legacy.
The United States government was proud that, although perhaps 100,000 Iraqis had died in the Gulf War of 1991, there were only 148 American battle casualties. What it has concealed from the public is that 206,000 veterans of that war filed claims with the Veterans Administration for injuries and illnesses. In the dozen or so years since that war, 8,300 veterans have died, and 160,000 claims for disability have been recognized by the VA.
The betrayal of GIs and veterans continues in the so-called war on terrorism. The promises that the U.S. military would be greeted with flowers as liberators have disintegrated as soldiers die every day in a deadly guerrilla warfare that tells the GIs they are not wanted in Iraq. An article last July in The Christian Science Monitor quotes an officer in the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq as saying: "Make no mistake, the level of morale for most soldiers that I've seen has hit rock bottom."
And those who come back alive, but blind or without arms or legs, find that the Bush Administration is cutting funds for veterans. Bush's State of the Union address, while going through the usual motions of thanking those serving in Iraq, continued his policy of ignoring the fact that thousands have come back wounded, in a war that is becoming increasingly unpopular.
The quick Thanksgiving visit of Bush to Iraq, much ballyhooed in the press, was seen differently by an army nurse in Landstuhl, Germany, where casualties from the war are treated. She sent out an e-mail: "My 'Bush Thanksgiving' was a little different. I spent it at the hospital taking care of a young West Point lieutenant wounded in Iraq. . . . When he pressed his fists into his eyes and rocked his head back and forth he looked like a little boy. They all do, all nineteen on the ward that day, some missing limbs, eyes, or worse. . . . It's too bad Bush didn't add us to his holiday agenda. The men said the same, but you'll never read that in the paper."
As for Jeremy Feldbusch, blinded in the war, his hometown of Blairsville, an old coal mining town of 3,600, held a parade for him, and the mayor honored him. I thought of the blinded, armless, legless soldier in Dalton Trumbo's novel Johnny Got His Gun, who, lying on his hospital cot, unable to speak or hear, remembers when his hometown gave him a send-off, with speeches about fighting for liberty and democracy. He finally learns how to communicate, by tapping Morse Code letters with his head, and asks the authorities to take him to schoolrooms everywhere, to show the children what war is like. But they do not respond. "In one terrible moment he saw the whole thing," Trumbo writes. "They wanted only to forget him."
In a sense, the novel was asking, and now the returned veterans are asking, that we don't forget.
© : t
r u t h o u t 2004
/Spc. Jose Martinez, age 20, was driving in Karbala when his Humvee struck a landmine. He was trapped inside the vehicle and received burns on his face, head, arms, hands and part of his legs. (Photo: Time) /
Greg Palast's writings have appeared in The Washington Post, Harper's, and The Nation. He's been a guest on Politically Incorrect, C-SPAN's Washington Journal, and does regular investigative reports for BBC's Newsnight. Winner of Salon.com's 2001 "Politics Story of the Year," Greg Palast is a legend among his colleagues and his devoted leadership worldwide. Palast earned his MBS from University of Chicago, where he studies under the tutelage of ultraconservative Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman. A native of California, he divides his time between New York and London.
His name's Maurice. He's 26 years old with a face like an angel and a computerized prosthesis where his left leg used to be. His name's Victor and he still seems like a boy. His cherubic face, set against blond hair, is plagued by an unanswerable question every time his restless eyes inadvertently fall on the stump: "Why?" His name's Steve and you couldn't imagine a more All-American soldier -- that is to say if he hadn't lost his right arm. A real good patriot, he's always in control of himself and he has the air of an American hero. His name's Rob. Bound to a wheelchair, he's mad at the whole world and explodes in a barrage of insults at everyone and everything for the loss of his right leg and the uselessness of his left.
Maurice, Victor, Steve, and Rob are just a few of the thousands of GI's returning from Iraq -- often with one or more limbs amputated, flown in with little notice under the cover of night and brought to Walter Reed military Hospital in Washington, D.C. Here, they're operated on, treated, fitted with prosthetics when possible, generally medicated, and given psychological and physical therapy. For the record, Walter Reed is the hospital where wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam went. No fanfare for these heroes. On top of the injuries they've had to endure to their bodies and hearts, they come home to be ignored by mainstream American media. Only an English TV station, Channel 4, considered it newsworthy to go to the hospital to interview the injured soldiers. Of course, all interviewees must be selected and briefed by army leadership in advance of any conversations with journalists. Curiously, the casualty statistics released by the Pentagon contradict those of the U.S Army. While the Pentagon contends that 2722 soldiers have been wounded in action and 417 in non hostile fire as of March 1, the U.S. Air Force confides that it has flown approximately 12,000 wounded soldiers into Andrews Air Force Base over the past 9 months. With the severity of injuries sustained, it seems like the Pentagon's reduced estimates are meant to camouflage a scandal that could cost George Bush his re-election.
"They come here [to Walter Reed Hospital]19 or 20 old and when I see them leaving with missing limbs - I've seen up to 3 limbs gone off people and I don't think in our generation, we've seen this amount of harm done to young people", explained Major General Delaune on public radio in Minnesota. "During the Gulf War, there were about 3 soldiers wounded for every death. In the current Iraq war, there are 7 wounded for every death", says an article titled "New Technologies and Medical Practices Save Lives in Iraq" in a Knight-Ridder newsaper. The facts support this statement: the Kevlar vests the soldiers now wear save lives, not limbs. England's newspaper The Guardian reports that the mhistic jest is received with suppressed awkward laughter and turned heads. But Rob takes pride in his sense of humor.
December 3, 2003. Abu Gharib priedical personnel, overwhelmed, work 70-80 hours a week, and according to CBS, Washington's largest military hospital has had to borrow beds from its cancer ward to meet the swollen needs of its prosthetics ward. Still the hospital can't handle the load, and several wounded soldiers are being put up in a nearby hotel. This writer was able to meet with some of them there after having been prevented from continuing her interview in the ward, because she hadn't obtained the permission of the army, passed its screen tests, and the soldier she was interviewing hadn't been briefed as to how to respond. Against all odds, she had made it through the security gate at the entrance to the military-medical complex, into the building, to the 5th floor.
"Do I have to get naked for the interview? Can I keep my shoes on? ! Oops! I said 'my shoes' I have to get used to saying 'my shoe' Rob snapped bitterly. "It's like yesterday, I went to buy a pair of sneakers and I messed with the young guy's head at the store. He turned red as beet when I asked him if he would sell me one, just one shoe, at half price." Rob laughs sardonically. But Rob, always cutting, isn't finished evening his score with humankind, or with himself. He defends his pain with sadistic, self-effacing jokes. " Look, I lost one leg! I must have left it outside." To another wounded soldier:" You didn't find it by chance, did you? I think I might have left the foot near the trash can." His last masocson. Rob's Humvee, accompanied by two other vehicles, is suddenly caught in an ambush. His jeep is hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. "It took the quick-reaction forces 20 minutes to get me, and here I'm bleeding, the flesh of my left leg is blown off and my right leg is gone GONE!" He says this while repeatedly folding and unfolding the empty leg of his blue-jeans. Somehow, you know he's leaving out the worst. The interviewees only hint at it, saying the madness, destruction, blood, and burnt flesh can make the strongest man lose his mind. In their silence, the soldiers mute themselves much like the mainstream media, downplaying the bloodbath on the battlefield to keep up the unflinching image of an individual (or nation) at war.
The Times Picayune was one of the few newspapers to describe the X-rated scene : "Explosions shatter and sever legs and arms. They char flesh and drive debris deep into the soft tissue that remains. Unattached muscles, nerves and tendons dangle. Red-hot shrapnel sometimes punctures torsos below waist-length body armor, ripping bowels and bladders. Concussions bruise skulls and brains. Soldiers thrown into the air are injured again when they hit the ground." "Wanna see a $100,000 leg?" asks Rob pointing to his computerized prosthesis, the same one that Maurice got. Numerous soldiers tell the same story.. They were riding in a Humvee when it got rocked by an I.E.D (improvised explosive device).
But, Victor's story is different. Victor was stationed in Afghanistan for over a year. When a grenade landed on the floor of his truck, he picked it up instinctively to throw it as far away as possible. Only when he went to throw it, he realized he was surrounded by fellow soldiers. He held it in his hand and "blew up" with it, losing his right arm, and damaging is entire right side. "I held it because I didn't want to hurt anybody else. There were too many people all around me." For this heroic act Victor should receive a medal ("one of the highest medals you can get" according to Maurice). But while George Bush would be the one to give him a medal, you get the impression from Victor that he's going to wait a long time. Unfortunately for Victor, the war in Afghanistan hardly exists in the media, and in contrast to Maurice who, in spite of his pain, wears a mask of happiness, and to Steve, to whom Bush gave a Purple Heart, Victor is pissed.. He's over patriotism. "My father is a Vietnam Vet. He's really upset. Imagine, my life's ruined and now my brother is going to Iraq." He's disgusted by disability pay. "They'll give me 50% disability. I'm making $30,000 a year, so that means 14 or 15G. How am I supposed to live on that?" Not exactly the Pentagon's poster-boy amputee. Victor could very well launch his pain and anger right at Bush's face. And what about Rob? Rob, the kind of anti-hero who's always kept hidden from the public view, is like a time-bomb waiting to explode. Meanwhile, a warlords' pet gets good press. Paul Wolfowitz, wrote this caption in Time Magazine, below the photo of Saddam Hussein's disheveled head: "'We Got Him!': To Sgt. Maurice Craft, A Real American Hero." That's conservative compassion for you.
Beyond the physical pain (many amputees repeatedly refer to pain emanating from their now missing limbs), it's the trauma, and anxiety for the future that haunt these soldiers the most. All of the interviewees, with the exception of Steve, complain of not being able to sleep, in spite of increased daily doses of sleeping pills and anti-depressants. Bitter, Rob pulls outs a plastic bag full of pills and empties it on his bed. 'See, I have a whole bag of medications for different times of the day and night. I can't sleep all night no matter how many pills I take. I nod off, that's all. They had to increase the doses. For nothing." "It's so hard. That's why they give us so much medication, a lot of it's just for depression," explains Maurice.. " My arm's cut off but my whole side is taken, and now, I'm gonna spend my life wondering if I'm gonna find a girlfriend" shoots Victor, eliciting a spontaneous reaction from Maurice. "At first, my wife didn't want to come and see me like this. She said she just couldn't. It was really hard 'cause I was afraid she was gonna do just like a lot of wives or girlfriends, who leave their men shortly after they see them in the hospital. I have two daughters But it's alright now." " Thank God I'm single. I wouldn't want to have to go through what the other guys do. There's this one guy who lost his sight and had both of his arms blown off. His wife is pregnant but he's never gonna be able to hold his baby in his arms," says Rob.
The majority of soldiers interviewed believe that the Iraqis were too poor to go on living the way they were, and that it was therefore necessary to remove Saddam Hussein regardless of whether he posed an imminent threat to the US. Only Rob thinks differently: "They could have overthrown him themselves, those f**king Iraqi's. I'm convinced that the people we are training there are the ones who are fighting us, because the screening process is so weak. I have no respect for those f**king Iraqi's. The more of them that die, the better. They use women to hide their weapons and kids to detonate them, but we have to stick to the Geneva Conventions, at least in public." And in private? "I'm not gonna answer that one," he said insinuatingly. Victor, and to a lesser degree Maurice, think that they were just pawns for this administration. " At Baghdad International Airport, there were 15 I.E.D.'s every two weeks. Each time there was an explosion, the whole compound would get shut down. The computers and the telephones would go off all of a sudden And we would know that a soldier had just been killed 'cause they didn't want anyone to be able to reach the family before the Army could."
© : t r u t h o u t 2004
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.
Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.
We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.
And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.
Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur.
Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face.
Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.
This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.
In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, underfunding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.
In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come.
Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.
The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land.
Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace?
And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reins of power after Saddam Hussein?
Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq?
Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?
In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years.
One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution.
But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.
Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.
We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.
To engage in war is always to
pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first
choice. I truly must
question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military
attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral
traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time.
Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our
mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our
challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own
making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.
"Bush lies" doesn't cut it anymore. It's time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.
Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: "This government does not torture people." Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of "torture" is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.
By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America's "enhanced interrogation" techniques have a grotesque provenance: "Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the third degree.' It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation."
Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled "politics." We turn the page.
There has been scarcely more response to the similarly recurrent story of apparent war crimes committed by our contractors in Iraq. Call me cynical, but when Laura Bush spoke up last week about the human rights atrocities in Burma, it seemed less an act of selfless humanitarianism than another administration maneuver to change the subject from its own abuses.
Mrs. Bush spoke, two women, both Armenian Christians, were gunned
down in Baghdad by contractors underwritten by American taxpayers.
On this matter,
the White House has been silent.
That incident followed
the Sept. 16 massacre in Baghdad's Nisour Square, where
were killed by security forces
from Blackwater USA, which
had already been implicated in nearly 200 other
shooting incidents since 2005.
There has been
no accountability. The
State Department, Blackwater's sugar daddy for most of its billion
dollars in contracts,
won't even share its investigative findings with the United
States military and the Iraqi government, both of which have deemed the killings
The gunmen who mowed down the two Christian women worked for a Dubai-based company managed by Australians, registered in Singapore and enlisted as a subcontractor by an American contractor headquartered in North Carolina. This is a plot out of "Syriana" by way of "Chinatown." There will be no trial. We will never find out what happened. A new bill passed by the House to regulate contractor behavior will have little effect, even if it becomes law in its current form.
We can continue to blame the Bush administration for the horrors of Iraq - and should. Paul Bremer, our post-invasion viceroy and the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts, issued the order that allows contractors to elude Iraqi law, a folly second only to his disbanding of the Iraqi Army. But we must also examine our own responsibility for the hideous acts committed in our name in a war where we have now fought longer than we did in the one that put Verschärfte Vernehmung on the map.
I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press - the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration's case - failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.
As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin.
In April 2004, Stars and Stripes first reported that our troops were using makeshift vehicle armor fashioned out of sandbags, yet when a soldier complained to Donald Rumsfeld at a town meeting in Kuwait eight months later, he was successfully pilloried by the right. Proper armor procurement lagged for months more to come. Not until early this year, four years after the war's first casualties, did a Washington Post investigation finally focus the country's attention on the shoddy treatment of veterans, many of them victims of inadequate armor, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals.
We first learned of the use of contractors as mercenaries when four Blackwater employees were strung up in Falluja in March 2004, just weeks before the first torture photos emerged from Abu Ghraib. We asked few questions. When reports surfaced early this summer that our contractors in Iraq (180,000, of whom some 48,000 are believed to be security personnel) now outnumber our postsurge troop strength, we yawned. Contractor casualties and contractor-inflicted casualties are kept off the books.
It was always the White House's plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there's no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.
Instead of taxing us for Iraq, the White House bought us off with tax cuts. Instead of mobilizing the needed troops, it kept a draft off the table by quietly purchasing its auxiliary army of contractors to finesse the overstretched military's holes. With the war's entire weight falling on a small voluntary force, amounting to less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of us were free to look the other way at whatever went down in Iraq.
We ignored the contractor scandal to our own peril. Ever since Falluja this auxiliary army has been a leading indicator of every element of the war's failure: not only our inadequate troop strength but also our alienation of Iraqi hearts and minds and our rampant outsourcing to contractors rife with Bush-Cheney cronies and campaign contributors. Contractors remain a bellwether of the war's progress today. When Blackwater was briefly suspended after the Nisour Square catastrophe, American diplomats were flatly forbidden from leaving the fortified Green Zone. So much for the surge's great "success" in bringing security to Baghdad.
Last week Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war combat veteran who directs Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, sketched for me the apocalypse to come. Should Baghdad implode, our contractors, not having to answer to the military chain of command, can simply "drop their guns and go home." Vulnerable American troops could be deserted by those "who deliver their bullets and beans."
This potential scenario is just one example of why it's in our national self-interest to attend to Iraq policy the White House counts on us to ignore. Our national character is on the line too. The extralegal contractors are both a slap at the sovereignty of the self-governing Iraq we supposedly support and an insult to those in uniform receiving as little as one-sixth the pay. Yet it took mass death in Nisour Square to fix even our fleeting attention on this long-metastasizing cancer in our battle plan.
Similarly, it took until December 2005, two and a half years after "Mission Accomplished," for Mr. Bush to feel sufficient public pressure to acknowledge the large number of Iraqi casualties in the war. Even now, despite his repeated declaration that "America will not abandon the Iraqi people," he has yet to address or intervene decisively in the tragedy of four million-plus Iraqi refugees, a disproportionate number of them children. He feels no pressure from the American public to do so, but hey, he pays lip service to Darfur.
Our moral trajectory over the Bush years could not be better dramatized than it was by a reunion of an elite group of two dozen World War II veterans in Washington this month. They were participants in a top-secret operation to interrogate some 4,000 Nazi prisoners of war. Until now, they have kept silent, but America's recent record prompted them to talk to The Washington Post.
"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he "never laid hands on anyone" in his many interrogations, adding, "I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."
Our humanity has been compromised by those who use
Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the
more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed
ignorance of their own Gestapo. It's up to us to wake up
Congress to challenge administration
policy every day. Let the war's last supporters filibuster all
night if they want to. There is nothing left to
lose except whatever remains of our country's good name.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.) __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
\ " In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." / - White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, in a memo written to President Bush about prisoners' rights under the Geneva Conventions a few months after September 11 2001. / "...there's no escaping the fact that by stupidly removing safeguards against the abuse of prisoners in the war on terror, they have done irreparable damage to the reputation of the American military and the international prestige of the United States. " - "Still to Blame", by Joe Conason, Salon.com
Brigadier General David M. Brahms (Ret. USMC) General Joseph Hoar (Ret. USMC) Brigadier General James Cullen (Ret. USA) Rear Admiral John D. Hutson (Ret. USN) Brigadier General Evelyn P. Foote (Ret. USA) Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy (Ret. USA) Lieutenant General Robert Gard (Ret. USA) General Merrill McPeak (Ret. USAF) Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn (Ret. USN) Major General Melvyn Montano (Ret. USAF Nat. Guard) Rear Admiral Don Guter (Ret. USN) General John Shalikashvili (Ret. USA)
Members of the Senate Judiciary
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:
We, the undersigned, are retired professional military leaders of the U.S. Armed Forces. We write to express our deep concern about the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be Attorney General, and to urge you to explore in detail his views concerning the role of the Geneva Conventions in U.S. detention and interrogation policy and practice.
vb The United States' commitment to the Geneva Conventions - the laws of war - flows not only from field experience, but also from the moral principles on which this country was founded, and by which we all continue to be guided. We have learned first hand the value of adhering to the Geneva Conventions and practicing what we preach on the international stage.
During his tenure as White House Counsel, Mr. Gonzales appears to have played a significant role in shaping U.S. detention and interrogation operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo Bay, and elsewhere. Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts, and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world. Before Mr. Gonzales assumes the position of Attorney General, it is critical to understand whether he intends to adhere to the positions he adopted as White House Counsel, or chart a revised course more consistent with fulfilling our nation's complex security interests, and maintaining a military that operates within the rule of law.
"In my judgment ..."
"The citizen who sees his society's democratic clothes being worn out and does not cry it out, is not a patriot, but a traitor." / - - Mark Twain
"....don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity." / - "After Pat's Birthday", by Kevin Tillman / \ /_____________ / Smart People nrfnnfnf/ Bushwars / Bushlies / Cheneylies / Incurious George / St. George / King George (the madness of) / George the Lionheart and the New Crusades / George of Orwell / Georgie Warbucks / George W. Hoover / Vanishing Votes // Death Culture / Hall of Shame // 911 Accountability / (Not-so) Friendly Fascism / Project For A New American Perpetual War / Fanning the Flames of Fear, Loathing and Terror / T h e C o l l a t e r a l C h i l d r e n / About This Site: A Gathering Danger _____________// / More writings by, and interviews with SMART PEOPLE on our Dire Situation: / Kurt Vonnegut Speaks / Bill Moyers Rallies / Gore Vidal Rants / Mark Twain Sings _____________// /
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