Selected quotations from the little red (white and blue) book of General Jerry Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, in charge of facilitating intelligence information for Donald Rumsfeld’s “High Value Target Plan,” aimed at hunting down Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Mullah Omar:
Of a strange, dark mark on a photograph he took of Mogadishu, Somalia, during the Black Hawk Down operation of which he was a part: “Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy. It is the principalities of darkness. It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy.”
Of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim Jung il: “Why do they hate us? The answer to that is because we’re a Christian nation. We are hated because we are a nation of believers.”
Of the president: “George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States, he was appointed by God.”
(All quotes taken from addresses made to evangelical congregations, all guaranteed genuine thanks to military analyst William Arkin of the Los Angeles Times, The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy Warrior.)
Now, the above quotes and others caused national news consternation. The day the story broke in the press, it was also at or close to the top of the various network prime-time news shows, though largely in a round-up-the-usual-suspects kind of way. The President was generally shown not to be of General Boykin’s type. Yes, he had slipped early on. That darn “crusades” reference (which Eisenhower got away with in a famous book title — Crusade in Europe — back in the days when nobody here knew there were Muslims in the world). But generally, as we all know, the President has “reached out” to the Islamic world (as has his attorney general to Islamic immigrants with somewhat analogous results domestically and globally).
But let’s stop and consider General Boykin’s comments a bit more closely. If, as he claims, the younger Bush was appointed by God — who, I wonder, appointed the elder Bush? — and the younger Bush, in turn, appointed Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, and Rumsfeld appointed Boykin to help hunt down the Satanic Triad, then it seems clear enough, from one point of view anyway, that Boykin (the poor sap had to offer public apologies yesterday) was himself deputized by and a deputy to God with a cap G.
Okay, you say – or so said most of the media – it’s shocking, just shocking that such a man made it high into public life at such a moment. It was an obvious policy/appointment blunder. Somebody must not have vetted vet him well enough (though, strangely, Rumsfeld defended him in public after he was outed and I’ve heard nothing so far about resignations). But what if
Well, let me put it this way. In a recent piece in the Village Voice, Sydney Schanberg, discussing a sympathetic, soon-to-be-published book by Stephen Mansfield about the President’s “religious journey,” The Faith of George W. Bush, wrote (The Widening Crusade):
“[I]n the election year 2000, Bush told Texas preacher James Robison, one of his spiritual mentors: ‘I feel like God wants me to run for president. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. . . . I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.’
“Mansfield also reports: ‘Aides found him face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office. It became known that he refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq, a partial fast seldom reported of an American president. And he framed America’s challenges in nearly biblical language. Saddam Hussein is an evildoer. He has to go.’ The author concludes: ‘ . . . the Bush administration does deeply reflect its leader, and this means that policy, even in military matters, will be processed in terms of the personal, in terms of the moral, and in terms of a sense of divine purpose that propels the present to meet the challenges of its time.'”
So perhaps Boykin is indeed God’s deputy, not just from his perspective, but from the White House’s. Certainly, most of this administration from the President on down is populated by fervor-struck men like the general, whether religiously, ideologically, or both, men who are congenitally incapable of listening to other viewpoints even when it might be in their own interest to do so. Only the other day, the President was faced with the most modest of Republican revolts in a Senate increasingly anxious over his Iraq policy and considering converting approximately $10 billion in reconstruction funds for Iraq into loans to Iraq. (Remember, on this $87 billion Iraqi give-away, the folks back home are screaming bloody murder in polls and in person or by phone and email.) George B’s response to his own people, according to Guardian Washington correspondent Julian Borger, was interesting indeed (Bush rocked by Senate rebellion on Iraq):
“On Tuesday, Mr Bush had called in nine Republican rebels and ordered them to support his version of the bill, reportedly slamming a table at one point and refusing to answer their questions.
“The outburst did him little good. Eight Republican senators voted against the administration on Thursday. One rebel, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, said: ‘It was very difficult to stop this train because it made so much sense.’ It may prove to be a pivotal moment for the Bush government. Senators of either party defy a popular president at their peril, but this president is no longer all that popular, particularly when it comes to US involvement in Iraq. Fewer than 50% of Americans believe that Mr Bush’s leadership can be relied on in a crisis.”
The last time I remember a table being pounded by a major leader, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev did it (well, it was a lectern actually) with a shoe at the UN back in perhaps 1959. Or am I dreaming? This is an administration that pounds away but gives very little ground to anyone anywhere. The President got his money at the Senate this week, and his resolution at the UN as well (a resolution probably more crucial for the voters at home than governments abroad), and he gave up nada. As Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate:
“The resolution essentially changes nothing. Its drafters have paid lip service to accelerating the process of Iraqi self-governance and strengthening the United Nations’ role in this process. But a close reading of the resolution indicates that all power remains in American hands, that no real authority is transferred to the United Nations, and that a new Iraqi government remains a long way off.”
A single small change in the Senate set tables a-pounding, while in the UN with next to nothing offered, the Europeans and Russia capitulated (while the Chinese made nice). In part, this simply is evidence of the imperial clout – never to be underestimated — of the world’s sole remaining superpower exercised by men who, faced with restraints of any sort, can seldom restrain the urge to pound the odd table (or city). But there has to be more to it than power. My own guess is that the French, Germans et. al., who theoretically could have sat back, watched Iraq (and the Middle East in general) slide as if off a cliff slowly, and then offered your basic “I told you so,” are in fact terrified that this administration may take them down too. A catastrophe for the United States, given the economic linkages in this world, can’t but seem a potential one for other major powers as well.
So it might look like a good week for the President. He has his Iraq money, his UN resolution, and polls that seem at least to have stabilized. He’s put the media, that hideous “filter,” on the defensive — and, gosh, wasn’t it only weeks ago that our press and the networks came out of the closet? What more could he ask for?
Okay, but what about all those potential Vesuviuses pulsing just under the surface of imperial life? After all, the President can’t, just for starters, seem to control his own administration. Remember when no unauthorized leaks came out of his Washington? I think that was in August, 79 BC, but still this week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush – living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge – told his top officials to “stop the leaks” to the media, or else. News of Bush’s order leaked almost immediately.”
And okay, the only country rushing to offer troops for Iraq is Turkey and the idea of Turkish troops in Iraq is such a raging turkey that even L. Paul Bremmer has gotten nervous. The result? American planners have put their heads together yet again and come up with an idea or two for the Turkish troops, whose commanders would love to fight it out with the Kurds in the north, just dotty enough to fit in with the rest of this woebegone occupation:
Here’s a brilliant example (Ewen MacAskill, Iraqis force rethink on Turkish help, the Guardian): “One [idea] being floated is for Turkish troops to serve in Iraq but not in uniform, a proposal that is unlikely to go down well with the Turkish high command.” Gee, if they could only get the Turkish high command to agree though, that would fool the Iraqis, wouldn’t it? Maybe they could even pass themselves off as Pakistani troops or DynCorps employees.
Meanwhile, without significant numbers of foreign troops to ship in — a few extra South Koreans or Thais aren’t going to do the trick — the Pentagon is preparing to call up yet more reserve and National Guard units, a potential heartland disaster for George. And while the President’s men have been making “sunny” at home about “progress” in Iraq, a Stars and Stripes poll indicates spreading trouble in the military itself, especially among the reservists in Iraq. As the Washington Post reports (Bradley Graham and Dana Milbank, Many Troops Dissatisfied, Iraq Poll Finds):
“A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit’s morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist… threatening to provoke a sizable exodus from military service
“In recent days, the Bush administration has launched a campaign to blame the news media for portraying the situation in Iraq in a negative light. Last week, Bush described the military spirit as high and said that life in Iraq is ‘a lot better than you probably think. Just ask people who have been there.’
“But Stars and Stripes raised questions about what those visiting dignitaries saw in Iraq. ‘Many soldiers — including several officers — allege that VIP visits from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill are only given hand-picked troops to meet with during their tours of Iraq The phrase ‘Dog and Pony Show’ is usually used.”
(For those who remember the Vietnam era, that should certainly ring a little bell or two. I’d love to be able to listen in on a few conversations among top military men in the Pentagon right now. I’ll bet a few ears are ringing as I write.)
Tyler Marshall and John Daniszewski of the Los Angeles Times offer this small scene from today’s Iraq (Progress competes with chaos in Iraq):
“The lengths to which the administration has gone to promote Iraq as a safe place was underscored during last week’s trip to Baghdad by Commerce Secretary Don Evans. At one point, Evans did a television interview with Fox News at the Baghdad airport, one of the best-protected sites in the country. Surrounded by armed guards, including a Humvee bristling with weapons that shadowed his every move, Evans delivered his message to the people of America about the current situation in Iraq: ‘I’m not fearful [for] my security.'”
And that’s just an edge of the trouble brewing in the kingdom of incipient crisis. Yet the Bush machine rushes onward, as the President has been doing in Asia this weekend, strangely oblivious, pushing yet more wars onto the horizon of the war on terrorism. The men of this administration combine, to put it politely, a certain religious “conviction” not to be denied — as in Gen. Boykin’s case — with, for some of them, a near religious belief in the power of power and in the subterfuges that must be called upon to use it “well.” There has been much shock recently in the mainstream media and elsewhere about the lies we were told to get us as a people into the Iraq war.
Senator Robert Byrd, the bluntest of all Congressional opponents of the President’s Iraq policy, gave a rousing speech (found at the www.commondreams.org website and included below) explaining why he voted against the $87 billion dollar request of the President. He begins with a fairy tale and ends with Hermann Goering and in between suggests that we’re mortgaging our children’s future to a vast lie:
“The Emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoodsTaking the nation to war based on misleading rhetoric and hyped intelligence is a travesty and a tragedy. It is the most cynical of all cynical acts. It is dangerous to manipulate the truth. It is dangerous because once having lied, it is difficult to ever be believed again. Having misled the American people and stampeded them to war, this Administration must now attempt to sustain a policy predicated on falsehoods. The President asks for billions from those same citizens who know that they were misled about the need to go to war. We misinformed and insulted our friends and allies and now this Administration is having more than a little trouble getting help from the international community. It is perilous to mislead.”
The best and most inventive accounting I’ve recently seen of these lies can be found at the Foreign Policy magazine website. It’s a parsing of a presidential speech in Cincinnati on Oct 7, 2002 (Joseph Cirincione and Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Revisiting the case for war) in which the President made his detailed case for an Iraq war. If you run your cursor across the highlighted lines of the speech, you can check out both the lies and reality. If only someone would do the same for Colin Powell’s shameful collection of lies, his “Stevenson moment” at the UN. His former aide, Greg Thielmann recently appeared on 60 Minutes II and was questioned on the subject. CBS described the interview this way (Ex-aide, Powell misled Americans):
“The person responsible for analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Colin Powell says the Secretary of State misinformed Americans during his speech at the U.N. last winter. Greg Thielmann tells Correspondent Scott Pelley that at the time of Powell’s speech, Iraq didn’t pose an imminent threat to anyone – not even its own neighbors. ‘I think my conclusion [about Powell’s speech] now is that it’s probably one of the low points in his long distinguished service to the nation,’ says Thielmann.”
But it turns out that, for the neocons, lying is seen as an honest way of life in a democratic society. At the openDemocracy website, Danny Postel has conducted an interview with Shadia Drury, a Canadian professor of political theory. Drury is an expert on the work of the philosopher king who “appointed” many of the neocons — the long-dead Leo Strauss who inspired many of them with his readings of Plato. As she points out (Nobel lies and perpetual war):
“Leo Strauss was a great believer in the efficacy and usefulness of lies in politics… The effect of Strauss’s teaching is to convince his acolytes that they are the natural ruling elite and the persecuted few. And it does not take much intelligence for them to surmise that they are in a situation of great danger, especially in a world devoted to the modern ideas of equal rights and freedoms. Now more than ever, the wise few must proceed cautiously and with circumspection. So, they come to the conclusion that they have a moral justification to lie in order to avoid persecution. Strauss goes so far as to say that dissembling and deception – in effect, a culture of lies – is the peculiar justice of the wise
“The combination of religion and nationalism is the elixir that Strauss advocates as the way to turn natural, relaxed, hedonistic men into devout nationalists willing to fight and die for their God and country.
“I never imagined when I wrote my first book on Strauss that the unscrupulous elite that he elevates would ever come so close to political power, nor that the ominous tyranny of the wise would ever come so close to being realised in the political life of a great nation like the United States. But fear is the greatest ally of tyranny.”
But our administration’s evangelical convictions and a no less faith-based belief that, once the wise know the path to be taken, the ignorant masses of a democracy must be lied to in order to be lead down that path is only the beginning of the story. For there are obviously other players with conviction in this stew of a mess of a world, driving no less hard and just as incapable of hearing others. There are, of course, the Islamicist apocalypts who truly do hate the United States. A Bush-inspired world, driven via faith-based passions, imperial or otherwise, toward a borderless chaos is heaven itself for them. A recent Guardian piece on al Qaeda by Richard Norton-Taylor, based on a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, suggests that, despite the blows leveled at the organization by the Bush administration things are looking up (Iraq war has swollen ranks of al-Qaida):
“War in Iraq has swollen the ranks of al-Qaida and ‘galvanised its will’ by increasing radical passions among Muslims, an authoritative think-tank said yesterday ‘The counter-terrorism effort has also perversely impelled an already highly decentralised and evasive transnational terrorist network to become more “virtual” and protean and, therefore, harder to identify and neutralise. If al-Qaida has been compromised since the Afghanistan intervention from an offensive point of view, from a defensive perspective it is better off.’ Al-Qaida’s great advantage, the report says, is its operational flexibility as a result of it not having a state to defend.”
Clearly lessons are being exchanged in an increasingly borderless world. Tony Karon of Time magazine, for instance, reports on the recent roadside bombing in Gaza, visibly similar to those in Iraq, that killed three American private security guards and wounded an American diplomat (Tempting Fate in Gaza):
“The Gaza attack is also a reminder of the dangerous fracturing of centralized command and control among Palestinian terror cells. Even during the ill-fated ‘hudna’ cease-fire negotiated between the PA and representatives of Hamas, JI and the al-Aksa Brigades, it was clear that localized cells – such as the Hamas operatives in Hebron and some of the Al-Aksa structures in the northern West Bank, which Israeli intelligence believes had been penetrated by elements from Hezbollah – retained the capability and the intent to violently veto agreements reached by their political leadership. The attack in Gaza may be a sign that at least some elements in the terror cells have taken up the banner of the Iraqi insurgency, or al-Qaeda or Hezbollah – or some combination. Washington’s call for all U.S. personnel to leave Gaza suggests an expectation that there may be more to come, and that Gaza, and possibly the West Bank may become a new front in America’s war on terrorism.”
And recently, there were rumors that al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the Baghdad Hotel double-suicide bombing.
But why stick only to the apocalypts who loathe the United States and its policies when the Bush administration. in its drive to “remake” Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, is being aided and abetted by fanatics who love us, perhaps literally to death? Take, for instance, the Tourism Minister in Ariel Sharon’s Israeli government, Benny Elon. In the wake of the Gaza deaths, he issued a statement aimed at Americans which reads like a set of condolences from Hell. Here’s a sampling, passed on by an alert reader, of what Mr. Elon has in mind (some of the lines about terrorism seemingly drawn directly from our President’s speeches), and what the Bush administration has more or less given a green light to in the region. (I’ve highlighted a few not-to-be-overlooked phrases or passages.) Put your winter coat on. It should give you a chill:
“After 10 years of suffering through the Oslo peace process, Wye peace
accords and the ‘road map,’ the time has come that both we, the Israelis,
and the American government realize that the Palestinian Authority is a
brutal terrorist organization that is a partner of Al Qaeda, and peace can’t
be made with these gangsters, regardless of whether Yasser Arafat or Abu
Mazen, or Abu Ala (aka Ahmed Qurei) is in charge. Consistently replacing
one Abu with another Abu simply isnt the answer — there are a lot of Abu’s
in the world, but what we need is something to replace this failed Oslo
program. The entire leadership must be expelled, including Abu Ala (Ahmed
Qurei) and Arafat, or even killed, and we call upon the American government
to join us in these actions which will benefit peace in the entire region.’
“‘We call upon the world to recognize that the people who hate Israel are the
same people who hate America, and the ones blowing up American convoys
today, whether in Gaza today or Baghdad tomorrow are the same ones killing
Israel. There can be no double standard – Just as America confronted Iraq,
so too we must stand together and confront terrorists without limits.
During times such as these, our friends in the U.S. understand that we
cannot reward terrorism. We will not remove settlements or make concessions
as our stay in Judea and Samaria (The West Bank) is not temporary, and we
will not permit the creation of a terrorist state in our biblical heartland.”
Meanwhile, the friends of our apocalyptic friends in Congress (where Elon has showed up in the past to talk “tourism” – no, Eliza, right now there isn’t any to speak of in Israel) have been hard at work making his work easier. The latest symbolic gesture on this score is the charmingly entitled “Syria Accountability Act” — this from an administration and its supporters unwilling to be held accountable for anything. As a recent Nation magazine editorial put it (Is Syria Next?):
“In an eerie replay of the buildup to the war on Iraq, the demonization of Syria has swelled to a chorus in Washington, whose members include not only Republicans but pro-Israel Democrats like Tom Lantos, the senior Democrat on the House committee that passed the act. The leading Democratic presidential candidates backed Bush’s support for Israel’s bombing in Syria. Only months ago we were told that the “road to peace in Jerusalem runs through Baghdad.” As resistance to the US occupation of Iraq grows and the road map continues to crumble, the neocons are having a much harder time making that argument, so we are now being told that the twisted road to peace runs through Damascus.”
And behind all this has been a recent expansion of the Axis of Evil itself, a reminder that long ago the Bush men were planning for unending wars to take out enemies of every sort. You would think, with Iraq gone and only two points left to connect, it might at least have been renamed the Straight Line of Evil, but, reports the Christian Science Monitor, instead Syria, Libya, and Cuba have simply been added in. One former U.S. official calls them “the ladies’ auxiliary of the axis of evil” (Howard LaFranchi, US eyes second-tier threats in terror war):
“The ‘axis of evil’ is back – and in expanded form. Anticipated congressional action against Syria this week is just one sign that the US plans to keep up the pressure on countries it places on the wrong side in the war on terror John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, has linked several states – including Syria – with the charter members of the axis of evil. In remarks last week at the American Embassy in London, Mr. Bolton said, ‘We’re now turning our attention to Iran, Syria, Libya, and Cuba.'”
Meanwhile, in Iraq, let me just try to summarize a few of the many chaotic developments of a week in which American postwar combat casualties topped the hundred mark. In Baiji, according to the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn, “New babies are being named Saddam by their parents in this oil refinery town 160 miles north of Baghdad, such is the hostility to the US occupation, an official at the local births and deaths registration office said.”
But by now we expect that of the Sunni Triangle. What’s new is that, in the last bloody week of ambushes and skirmishes for Americans and Iraqis, the fighting and dying which, this administration has reassured us, was and would remain confined to “five percent of Iraq” – all in that Triangle – moved first to Sadr City, the Shi’ite slums of Baghdad, and then, ominously, south to Karbala, like a dagger heading for the Shiite heartland. There, in a city where there had previously been no trouble at all since the war, at least three American military policeman, two Iraqi policemen and eight Iraqi Shi’ite members of an informal religious militia died in a fire fight or an ambush of some sort. Many more were wounded. I’m skipping here the rising average of 22 ambushes a day to the north, the attempted assassination of a provincial governor, the various ill-aimed mortar attacks, and the endless sabotage of oil pipelines, too ordinary to be reported much of the time, which has slowed northern oil exports to a trickle.
The Shiites were to be our crucial allies in that epic at the center of neocon dreams, the makeover of the Middle East. We were to turn in Saudi Arabia for a reconstituted Iraq, where the oil would flow like wine. (Somebody should have had a chat with the Elder Bush, who stopped American troops from marching on Baghdad in the first Gulf War in part because he and his advisers feared a Shiite government in Baghdad that might look unnervingly like the one in Iran.) In a brilliant recent analysis of administration policy in the Boston Review, Juan Cole, Middle Eastern expert and one-man band, argues that of all the mistakes the hubris-ridden Bush administration made, none was greater than its misreading of the history and character of the Shiites, or more fantasy-ridden than its belief that a new American-style Middle East could be based on them. He writes in part (The Iraqi Shiites):
“The hawks came to see an Americanized Iraq as a replacement for Saudi Arabia. The plan was risky, not least because the secular Baath government had been among the main ramparts against Sunni and Shiite religious radicalism in the Gulf. The hawks argued that a liberated Iraq would kick-start a wave of democratization in the Middle East, paralleling events in Eastern Europe when the Soviet Union weakened and then fell They believed, incorrectly, that Iraq’s petroleum-producing capacity-while not at Saudi levels-was significant enough to offset Saudi dominance of the oil markets. And unlike Saudi Arabia, Paul Wolfowitz thought, Iraq did not have holy cities such as Mecca and Medina that would make the stationing of U.S. troops there objectionable (He apparently did not then know about the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala). The hawks were aware that a democratic Iraq would have a Shiite majority, but their client, Ahmad Chalabi convinced them that Iraqi Shiites were largely secular in mindset and uninterested in a Khomeinist theocracy.”
To wield the geographical equivalent of a mixed metaphor, there was a phrase used in imperial China with horror, and by the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong with a more positive twist: “Great disorder under the heavens.” It seems to me now simply a useful descriptive phrase to encapsulate where we’re headed in the Middle East and allied regions.
It’s this principle of chaos that this administration, increasingly embattled and riven at home, may simply embrace. If the faith holds, the response, however illogical, may only be to drive us (or Israel as our proxy) into an ever widening “war” without borders. Take down Syria, for instance, and you have but more – and far more dangerous chaos – on your hands. After victory, what? That’s a post-Iraq question with far deeper meaning for all of us today. And under the faiths, religious or Straussian, what? There’s another question worth asking. It may turn out that what lies buried there is a kind of nihilism, a darkness, a smudge on the city of us that could – with a bow to General Boykin – seem little short of satanic.
A sidelong glance in any direction only reveals more possibilities for chaos.
While Israel is evidently making its subs nuclear and Iran seemingly races for its own bomb, at the eastern edge of the “arc of instability,” the India-Pakistan “stand-off” is again starting to look suspiciously like a nuclearized stand-on. Both militaries have been rushing to brush up and improve their missile systems and nuclear arsenals in what can now only be called an arms race at the brink of time. Praful Bidwai reports in the Asia Times on-line (India, Pakistan walk a fine nuclear line):
“As India and Pakistan ready their nuclear arsenals for deployment, their leaders seem to be slipping into denial mode, refusing to acknowledge that they are being inexorably sucked into a dangerous, and potentially ruinous, nuclear arms race
“The smugness of the Indian authorities is astonishing and shocking. It speaks of a cavalier disregard for security, and an obsessive wish to accelerate the arms race with Pakistan Islamabad claims the tests demonstrated “Pakistan’s technical prowess” in missile technology. ‘They also reflect Pakistan’s resolve and determination to continue to consolidate its minimum deterrence needs and national security.’
“However, many media reports say the tests were aimed at showing Pakistan’s ‘protest’ and ‘frustration’ at India’s procurement of an airborne radar system from Israel, with Washington’s approval. The Phalcon early warning system was jointly developed by Israel and the United States.”
For that matter, a seemingly modest but impressive Chinese triumph – the brief placing of an astronaut in space – holds its own dangers. Don’t forget, one bedrock belief of many in this administration is that we must dominate space militarily and alone until the end of time:
A report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” published just two months before the Bush election by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), many of whose adherents would soon enter the upper reaches of the new administration, put it this way: “Develop and deploy global missile defenses to defend the American homeland and American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world. Control the new ‘international commons’ of space and ‘cyberspace,’ and pave the way for the creation of a new military service-U.S. Space Forces-with the mission of space control.”
Many of the same men believe that, in the end, China is America’s natural enemy of the 21st century. Dan Plesch in the Guardian, discussing the Chinese achievement, offers these comments (Hans Blix isn’t needed in space – yet):
“Such a successful introduction of advanced technology by a developing country might be thought a cause for international celebration – but that is not how the militarists in Washington will see it. There, it is likely that the launch will be used as further evidence of a ‘China threat’, while China’s own proposal – for a treaty banning weapons from space – will be rejected
“One of the Pnac members explained that: ‘The US has never accepted a deterrent relationship with China, the way we did with Russia.’ To the US military, any space programme it does not control is a challenge to its formal policy of dominating space militarily.
“The likely reply from the Pentagon to the Chinese space programme is an intensification of the ‘son of star wars’ project In contrast to the US quest to dominate, the Chinese have been campaigning for a UN treaty banning weapons from space. Right now, there are no weapons above our heads. It is not necessary to put Hans Blix in a space suit to carry out inspections.”
Those analogies again:
Just a couple of quotes from the week past:
Sydney Schanberg in his Village Voice article: “No one seems to be asking themselves: If in the end the crusade is victorious, what is it we will have won? The White House never asked that question in Vietnam either.”
And Julian Borger in his Guardian piece: “The finger-pointing over an increasingly unpopular military involvement, and the finger-waving at the media reminded Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, of another president and another debilitating war: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam. ‘I think there is an emerging quality to the tensions Bush faces and his reactions to the criticism that is reminiscent of Johnson in Vietnam. If the enterprise in Iraq keeps faltering this is George W Bush’s war, just as Vietnam became Johnson’s war.'”
And in a column included below, Renato Redentor Constantino in the Philippine paper Today suggests certain parallels between past American wars and what our President called “one of the… most humane military campaigns in history.” Tom
Blast from the Past
By Renato Redentor Constantino
October 12, 2003
Booze time at the bar or a quiet evening at home paying homage to the artists. So many things American to celebrate on October 18.
Blues giant Chuck Berry was born on this day in 1926. The same birthday as jazz great Wynton Marsalis, who was born in 1961 in New Orleans.
Unfortunately, the Philippines won’t be commemorating the birthdays of these magical artists. The Philippine government prefers the music of imperial America — a more suitable accompaniment to the famed multiple cartwheels of its cheerleading.
We can expect the garlands to be ready by October 18, when George W. Bush arrives in the Philippines to applaud the Arroyo administration’s Bambi-eyed support to America’s “War on Terror.”
One more Filipino government shamefully displaying its utter lack of historical memory.
The Emperor Has No Clothes
By US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Remarks
October 17, 2003
In 1837, Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, wrote a wonderful fairy tale which he titled The Emperor’s New Clothes. It may be the very first example of the power of political correctness. It is the story of the Ruler of a distant land who was so enamored of his appearance and his clothing that he had a different suit for every hour of the day.
One day two rogues arrived in town, claiming to be gifted weavers. They convinced the Emperor that they could weave the most wonderful cloth, which had a magical property. The clothes were only visible to those who were completely pure in heart and spirit.
The Emperor was impressed and ordered the weavers to begin work immediately. The rogues, who had a deep understanding of human nature, began to feign work on empty looms.
Minister after minister went to view the new clothes and all came back exhorting the beauty of the cloth on the looms even though none of them could see a thing.
Finally a grand procession was planned for the Emperor to display his new finery. The Emperor went to view his clothes and was shocked to see absolutely nothing, but he pretended to admire the fabulous cloth, inspect the clothes with awe, and, after disrobing, go through the motions of carefully putting on a suit of the new garments.
Under a royal canopy the Emperor appeared to the admiring throng of his people – – all of whom cheered and clapped because they all knew the rogue weavers’ tale and did not want to be seen as less than pure of heart.
But, the bubble burst when an innocent child loudly exclaimed, for the whole kingdom to hear, that the Emperor had nothing on at all. He had no clothes.
That tale seems to me very like the way this nation was led to war.
We were told that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they have not been seen.
We were told that the throngs of Iraqi’s would welcome our troops with flowers, but no throngs or flowers appeared.
We were led to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but no evidence has ever been produced.
We were told in 16 words that Saddam Hussein tried to buy “yellow cake” from Africa for production of nuclear weapons, but the story has turned into empty air.
We were frightened with visions of mushroom clouds, but they turned out to be only vapors of the mind.
We were told that major combat was over but 101 [as of October 17] Americans have died in combat since that proclamation from the deck of an aircraft carrier by our very own Emperor in his new clothes.
Our emperor says that we are not occupiers, yet we show no inclination to relinquish the country of Iraq to its people.
Those who have dared to expose the nakedness of the Administration’s policies in Iraq have been subjected to scorn. Those who have noticed the elephant in the room — that is, the fact that this war was based on falsehoods – have had our patriotism questioned. Those who have spoken aloud the thought shared by hundreds of thousands of military families across this country, that our troops should return quickly and safely from the dangers half a world away, have been accused of cowardice. We have then seen the untruths, the dissembling, the fabrication, the misleading inferences surrounding this rush to war in Iraq wrapped quickly in the flag.
The right to ask questions, debate, and dissent is under attack. The drums of war are beaten ever louder in an attempt to drown out those who speak of our predicament in stark terms.
Even in the Senate, our history and tradition of being the world’s greatest deliberative body is being snubbed. This huge spending bill has been rushed through this chamber in just one month. There were just three open hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee on $87 billion, without a single outside witness called to challenge the Administration’s line.
Ambassador Bremer went so far as to refuse to return to the Appropriations Committee to answer additional questions because, and I quote: “I don’t have time. I’m completely booked, and I have to get back to Baghdad to my duties.”
Despite this callous stiff-arm of the Senate and its duties to ask questions in order to represent the American people, few dared to voice their opposition to rushing this bill through these halls of Congress. Perhaps they were intimidated by the false claims that our troops are in immediate need of more funds.
But the time has come for the sheep-like political correctness which has cowed members of this Senate to come to an end.
The Emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods.
Taking the nation to war based on misleading rhetoric and hyped intelligence is a travesty and a tragedy. It is the most cynical of all cynical acts. It is dangerous to manipulate the truth. It is dangerous because once having lied, it is difficult to ever be believed again. Having misled the American people and stampeded them to war, this Administration must now attempt to sustain a policy predicated on falsehoods. The President asks for billions from those same citizens who know that they were misled about the need to go to war. We misinformed and insulted our friends and allies and now this Administration is having more than a little trouble getting help from the international community. It is perilous to mislead.
The single-minded obsession of this Administration to now make sense of the chaos in Iraq, and the continuing propaganda which emanates from the White House painting Iraq as the geographical center of terrorism is distracting our attention from Afghanistan and the 60 other countries in the world where terrorists hide. It is sapping resources which could be used to make us safer from terrorists on our own shores. The body armor for our own citizens still has many, many chinks. Have we forgotten that the most horrific terror attacks in history occurred right here at home!! Yet, this Administration turns back money for homeland security, while the President pours billions into security for Iraq. I am powerless to understand or explain such a policy.
I have tried mightily to improve this bill. I twice tried to separate the reconstruction money in this bill, so that those dollars could be considered separately from the military spending. I offered an amendment to force the Administration to craft a plan to get other nations to assist the troops and formulate a plan to get the U.N. in, and the U.S. out, of Iraq. Twice I tried to rid the bill of expansive, flexible authorities that turn this $87 billion into a blank check. The American people should understand that we provide more foreign aid for Iraq in this bill, $20.3 billion, than we provide for the rest of the entire world! I attempted to remove from this bill billions in wasteful programs and divert those funds to better use. But, at every turn, my efforts were thwarted by the vapid argument that we must all support the requests of the Commander in Chief.
I cannot stand by and continue to watch our grandchildren become increasingly burdened by the billions that fly out of the Treasury for a war and a policy based largely on propaganda and prevarication. We are borrowing $87 billion to finance this adventure in Iraq. The President is asking this Senate to pay for this war with increased debt, a debt that will have to be paid by our children and by those same troops that are currently fighting this war. I cannot support outlandish tax cuts that plunge our country into potentially disastrous debt while our troops are fighting and dying in a war that the White House chose to begin.
I cannot support the continuation of a policy that unwisely ties down 150,000 American troops for the foreseeable future, with no end in sight.
I cannot support a President who refuses to authorize the reasonable change in course that would bring traditional allies to our side in Iraq.
I cannot support the politics of zeal and “might makes right” that created the new American arrogance and unilateralism which passes for foreign policy in this Administration.
I cannot support this foolish manifestation of the dangerous and destabilizing doctrine of preemption that changes the image of America into that of a reckless bully.
The emperor has no clothes. And our former allies around the world were the first to loudly observe it.
I shall vote against this bill because I cannot support a policy based on prevarication. I cannot support doling out 87 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars when I have so many doubts about the wisdom of its use.
I began my remarks with a fairy tale. I shall close my remarks with a horror story, in the form of a quote from the book Nuremberg Diaries, written by G.M. Gilbert, in which the author interviews Hermann Goering.
“We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
“. . . But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”
“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”