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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Changing Course or Changing Parties; Zionism Exposed

This first part of this blog post focuses on the significant and rapid changes that are occuring in the domestic political landscape.

It's undeniable the Democrats trounced the Republicans, but the issue of when and how we get out of Iraq may foretell of a Democratic betrayal of the antiwar cause.

Later on, I discuss the crucial influence of Zionism in our media and foreign policy. It's crucial to the cause of peace that the Mainstream Media openly address the "Israeli-Palestinian debate" rather than avoid any issues possibly detrimental to Israel. Israeli aggression towards Palestine cultivates support for terror, and US foreign policy must address the limitations of using military force in confronting terrorism.

Shake Up

Seymour Hersh writes that the Gates nomination and Rumsfeld departure appear to be signals that the hawks in the Administration have been check in their efforts to launch a war in Iran.

On Rumsfeld's departure, Seymour Hersh quotes a "former senior intelligence official" as saying:
"Dropping Rummy after the election looked like a conciliatory move—‘You’re right, Democrats. We got a new guy and we’re looking at all the options. Nothing is ruled out.’"

Hersh writes:

"...But the conciliatory gesture would not be accompanied by a significant change in policy; instead, the White House saw Gates as someone who would have the credibility to help it stay the course on Iran and Iraq. Gates would also be an asset before Congress. If the Administration needed to make the case that Iran’s weapons program posed an imminent threat, Gates would be a better advocate than someone who had been associated with the flawed intelligence about Iraq..." [Source]

Hersh goes on to quote Richard Armitage as saying that the combination of the Democratic victory and Rumsfeld's termination showed that the Administration has backed off on military intervention in Iran.

Hersh brings up in his article The Annals of National Security the possibility Gates will be sacrificed before Congress like Powell was before the UN in order to give credibility to any military action against Iran.

A designated fall guy may have worked well before Iraq, but with the public and Congress victimized by "intelligence failures" in the lead-up to Iraq, using Gates to talk up the threat would fail to help the cause. Besides, Gates lacks Powell's military credentials, or star power.

The key issue going forward is whether or not the Administration can pull back from images of its supremacist position on Iraq, and tone down its anti-Iranian rhetoric. Rice and Cheney still persist in influencing Bush, who eagerly bought into the Iraq War as cause celebre of his Presidency. Seeking a legacy, Bush will no doubt find it difficult--if not impossible--to back off rosy predictions of victory.

Bush must now realizes that the neo-con advice he so eagerly swallowed could forever taint his legacy as problems in Iraq fester and victory goes farther and farther out of reach. Distant and insulated, El Presidente may be preserving a state of denial over the outcome of the Iraq misadventure. [See subsequent post]

Rumsfeld's departure does signal a turn towards a more reasoned approach undoubtedly fostered by his father and even wife Laura, who had wanted Rumsfeld gone. Yet the ability of prominent neocon Dick Cheney to shape policy and make Bush's decisions for him appears unprecedented in history, and persistent.

Now that Rumsfeld is gone, Cheney's position is increasingly isolated. As the neocon ranks thin, ever greater will the need be to insulate the President from the reality of events on the ground in Iraq. Like some personal intervention, perhaps the President's family will need to circle 'round him, console him, and tell him how Cheney has affected him, like some unhealthy addiction he needs to quit.

The Hoyer/Pelosi issue

There are two issues in Nancy Pelosi's ascent to the position of Speaker of the House. The first is the idea that Pelosi suffered an internal political defeat in her choice for Majority Leader in Jack Murtha. The concept is that Pelosi's handle on her own party may be less firm than needed to stop the war.

Also, as a woman in a position of authority, Pelosi makes a juicy target for natural enemies across the aisle, as well as closet masogenists. Anything Pelosi's enemies can do to make her look more infirm or incapable of leading may play to sexist stereotypes. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, anything that can make Pelosi look obsessive and driven--typically masculine roles--can paint her as the mean old witch (in what will probably be a smear technique used by Hillary's opponents.)

The second issue is just how antiwar Hoyer is. Hoyer claims to have signed similar letters endorsing a change of policy, and claims to be as anti-Iraq War as Murtha. Nonetheless, reading from the broad range of antiwar opinion, it's nearly impossible for me to believe that the Hoyer election was anything but a movement away from the antiwar position that got the Democrats in office.

A gut feeling, wholly unsubstantiated at this point, is the idea that most Democrats will drag out the war, while trying to slowing end it, rather than seek immediate closure. An end to the war may not bring the Democrats any political gain as valuable as the ongoing political damage that Iraq engenders for the Republicans. In other words, the Democrats will likely bleed the Republicans and try to make them pay for their leadership on Iraq.

Now, however, the onus of extracting us from Iraq lies with the Democrats. Unfortunately, every "failure" to bring the war to an end will embroil the far less tarnished Democrats. Should a draft arise, much of the anti-incumbency directed towards the Republicans could spill over to the new incumbents: the Democrats.

If the political majority against the war can sway the political environment as it has now, with losses a fraction of Vietnam, who knows how strong the movement could become with a draft and a spiralling death toll. As a matter of fact, some in the Republican party may seek to increase troop levels in order to force the Democrats to start a draft.

As in Vietnam, when politicians in Washington start playing games with issues like troop levels or target lists, the military effort invariably plays a price. More a political than military leader, Rumsfeld has proven wholly inadequate; in hindsight his policies almost look intentionally designed to create the quagmire we now face, instead of a poorly conceived plan.

While the Right has blamed the defeat in Vietnam on politics--grotesquely distorting the role the Vietnamese played in forcing us out--they have been incapable of keeping politics out of Iraq.

If the US were able to convince its population based purely on reason and military justification, people might consider escalation. But no government has been able to justify or perpetuate endless war. Therefore sooner or later practical methods to end war must be evoked.

So few wars really do end with a positive or even productive outcome for either participant. If enough people have died, enough needless damage been wreaked, and precious little fundamentally changed, the end is in itself the achievement.

Accepting that war so rarely solves any problems appears to be too difficult for the militarists in the Bush junta. Even as the clear limitations that their policies have created are exposed, Cheney, Rice, and Bush frame victory as a simple matter of commitment. This distortion revolves around hubris, as if the outcome of external events revolves around Washington, rather than being shaped by realities on the ground abroad.

Lesson Unlearned

In his trip to Vietnam, Bush made the woefully ignorant statement that "we'll succeed unless we quit." This indicates he 1) believes the cause was worth continuing and 2) the Vietnamese weren't winning and that the US was on a course towards victory.

It's truly shameful no one in Bush's circle will point out the inherent falsehoods in the President's ignorant statement, just as no one would tell the Emperor he wore no clothes. (See the well-crafted Hans Christian Anderson fable here)

On Monday the 20th, Keith Olbermann launched into an impressive tirade over Bush's Vietnam comment. I strongly recommend watching it here.


Norm Solomon has a sense of deja vu concerning the reluctance of American government to get out. He can cite from memory examples of media and government excuses for continuing the war in Vietnam. How much similiar they are today!

In Norm Solomon's book War Made Easy, in response to the premise that "Withdrawal Would Cripple U.S. Credibility," Solomon sums up one article in Time debating an exit from Iraq:

..."the most" that could be hoped for was that "some kind" of elected Iraqi government would "eventually emerge," at which time the United States "could conceivably" manage to "reduce" its troop level in Iraq "significantly" although even that vague hope necessitated a commitment of "at least several more months" of Americans killing and dying. But in several more months, predictably, there would still be no end in sight -- just another blank check for more "blood and treasure," on the installment plan. [Source]

Solomon cites a Wall Street Journal Poll all the way back from 2004 which indicated 1/4 of Americans favored an immediate pullout and 30% more wanted one within 18 months.

The total favoring pullout now or in the near future appears to be largely unchanged. I was unable to trace the CNN poll I mentioned in my last post; I'd been seeking current polling detailing popular support for a pull-out.

Trolling through CNN's site, in the transcript for November 13th, Candy Crowley does come through:
"...In exit polls this year, only 17 percent of voters said they wanted to send more troops. Twenty-one percent wanted to hold at current levels. Fifty-five percent wanted to withdraw some or all U.S. troops from Iraq."
[Source; about 1/6th the way down]

The 55% or so of Americans who want us out now or in the short term appears quite persistent. So, exiting troops from Iraq is clearly the position of a majority of Americans and has been that way for more than 2 years. The delay is significant as the death rolls rise with no end in sight.

Judging from Vietnam, the costs of delay are substantial:
"Contrary to myths about media coverage of the Vietnam War, the American press lagged way behind grassroots anti-war sentiment in seriously contemplating a US pullout from Vietnam. The lag time amounted to several years - and meant the additional deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and perhaps 1 million more Vietnamese people."[Source]]

I was able to find this Zogby poll of American troops serving in Iraq, taken Jan-Feb, 2006. No one is in a better position to evaluate firsthand what is going on in Iraq, and judge the future results than our troops over there. At that time, a stong majority--72%--thought the US should exit from Iraq within the next year.


The absence of Mainstream Media support for ending the war has delayed our departure.

Solomon describes misperceptions about withdrawal as common now as they had been in Vietnam:
"Whether in 1968 or 2006, most of the Washington press corps has been at pains to portray withdrawal of US troops as impractical and unrealistic." [Source]

Personalities like Keith Olbermann may complain quite forcefully, but many editors take a conservative approach to questioning Administration policies. Why would they risk losing their jobs? Massive conglomerates control the heavily consolidated Media industry; many are run by supporters of the war.

What are broadly percieved as liberal bastions simply aren't. The New York Times has failed to editorialize against the war. What's more The Paper of Record has directly supported a continuance of the occupation. By failing to control their star reporter Judith Miller, a stream of unsubstantiated rumour about Iraqi WMD wormed its way to the front of the paper.

In a new article, "The New Media Offensive for the Iraq War", Solomon accuses NYT reporter Michael Gordon of flagrant bias:

{Gordon} appeared hours later on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, fully morphing into an unabashed pundit as he declared that withdrawal is 'simply not realistic.' Sounding much like a Pentagon spokesman, Gordon went on to state in no uncertain terms that he opposes a pullout.

If a New York Times military-affairs reporter went on television to advocate for withdrawal of US troops as unequivocally as Gordon advocated against any such withdrawal during his November 15 appearance on CNN, he or she would be quickly reprimanded - and probably would be taken off the beat - by the Times hierarchy. But the paper's news department eagerly fosters reporting that internalizes and promotes the basic worldviews of the country's national security state.

That's how and why the Times front page was so hospitable to the work of Judith Miller during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. That's how and why the Times is now so hospitable to the work of Michael Gordon. [Source]

The NYT is not alone. According to Solomon, "In 2004 the {Wall Street} Journal editorial writers were fervently promoting a 'war on terrorism' version of what used to be called the domino theory."

"that theory...insisted that a U.S. defeat in Vietnam would set the dominos falling through Southeast Asia until the entire region and beyond went Communist. The day after the United Nations' Baghdad headquarters blew up in August 2003, the Wall Street Journal closed its latest gung-ho editorial by touting a quote from General John Abizaid: 'If we can't be successful here, then we won't be successful in the global war on terror. It is going to be hard. It is going to be long and sometimes bloody, but we just have to stick with t.'"[Source, as above]

And why do we have to stick with it? Is the return on our investment improving, or yielding less and less? Will the additional investment in lives and money be justified by an appreciably greater end result?

We've often heard Iraq described as the central battlefront in the war on terror. If we are losing in Iraq, we are losing the war on terror. This fact may far harder to confront than pretending we can still win in Iraq, and therefore win against terror.

Who Controls Foreign Policy

On CNN's Situation Room November 16, The Hill's AB Stoddard and Wolf Blitzer had an exchange in which Stoddard said that the President controls foreign policy, and that the only direct method for stopping the war available to Congress was stopping the flow of funds, which Stoddard claimed was a move Congress was not willing to make. That option aside, Stoddard said the most Congress could do was to apply political pressure on the White House.

I couldn't help but think there had to be some way, some law, some step Congress could do, but regrettably couldn't think of one. Besides, Stoddard was a Washington insider, someone who clearly knew what she was talking about.

Then in the course of my news-following, I came upon "The New Media Offensive for the Iraq War" by Norm Solomon. In it, Solomon describes an exchange concerning this point early in Vietnam:

The show's host on that 1964 telecast was the widely esteemed journalist Peter Lisagor, who told his guest: "Senator, the Constitution gives to the president of the United States the sole responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy."

"Couldn't be more wrong," Senator Wayne Morse broke in with his sandpapery voice. "You couldn't make a more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the president of the United States. That's nonsense."

Lisagor was almost taunting as he asked, "To whom does it belong then, Senator?"

Morse did not miss a beat. "It belongs to the American people," he shot back - and "I am pleading that the American people be given the facts about foreign policy."

The journalist persisted: "You know, Senator, that the American people cannot formulate and execute foreign policy."

Morse's response was indignant: "Why do you say that? ... I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you'll give them. And my charge against my government is, we're not giving the American people the facts." [Source]


Also on CNN November 13th, Congressional correspondent Dana Bash said of withdrawal:
"Even with the new reins of power, congressional Democrats are limited in how much they can change U.S. policy in Iraq, since the president is commander in chief. Congress could force troops to come home by cutting off funding, but Democrats say that's off the table, a political nonstarter which would harm service men and women." [ Source]

It's not hard to say what harms our troops more, putting them in harm's way, to marginal effect, burdening their families with endless service and endless worry, or getting them out of harm's way. Cutting funding may be the only way that the Congress can stop the war. For the Democrats to continue to fund the war would actually be denying the popular political mandate against the war.

The Democrat's victory entitles--and obligates--them to end the war by any means possible. If Bush cannot remove our troops from Iraq, the responsibility falls to Congress. If they fail in that responsibility, the lives of many more American soldiers and Iraqi civilians will be needlessly lost, having done nothing to alter the inevitable outcome.

Military Limits

The War on Terror has become ineffective, in large part due to the military's inability to implement Administration policies in Iraq.

On Tony Karon's Rootless Cosmopolitan, the article "The Iraqi Failure and the End of the American Century" states:

"U.S. talk-shows and op-ed pages are filled with proposals for Iraq [EM] partition it; shunt aside the elected government and let a strongman regime kick ass and take names; start withdrawing the troops to send the Iraqis a message; send more troops to stabilize the security situation [EM] but the reality of which Baker will be only too grimly aware is that the time has passed in which the U.S. could hope to write the script for events in Iraq. The U.S. maintains considerable power in Iraq, but not sufficient to impose its will. There are too many other actors in the field who, while they can’t impose their own will, are more than capable of restraining U.S. efforts..."

Karon goes on to list some of the many limitations of the exercise of US influence and power in Iraq. A decline of American military and political influence is not limited to Iraq. He goes on to say:

"the new reality of U.S. policy in relation to North Korea and Iran — the U.S. quite simply lacks sufficient power to impose its will, and is being forced to abide by a multilateral consensus that is quite different from Washington’s own position."

He focuses on an article in the Guardian, "America faces an age of imperial decline", wherein Martin Jacques points out:

"...the decline of U.S. power in north Asia relative to that of China that has ultimately consigned it to the role of second fiddle to Beijing in the search for a diplomatic solution. In the Middle East, its distaste for dealing with Islamist parties has simply left the U.S. isolated from the regional political dynamic, having all but abandoned its post World War II role of final arbiter of the region’s conflicts. And even in Latin America, traditionally its imperial 'backyard,' the U.S. is more isolated politically than ever, as it flails and fails to stop a leftward drift by the continent’s electorates." [Source]

Pro-Israeli Bias

Karon also has a piece on Israel worth reading. You can find the article

As I said in my last post, US foreign policy in the Mideast has undeniably been shaped by the "special relationship" we have with Israel. The fact we are allies with the Israelis in no big surprise--we share a large Jewish population. Yet whenever we see the co-opting of US foreign policy by a foreign interest, issues are bound to emerge, particular when that other country sees itself as constantly under the threat of attack by its neighbors and preemptive military action as its only recourse.

As I pointed out in my last post, Israeli's preemptive warfare against perceived threats in the Muslim world set a precedent for the US in its War on Terror, a war which is perhaps not coincidentally waged against Israel's enemies.

Preemptive warfare is illegal under international law, not that that would really matter to a die-hard militarist or nationalist. Even when the threat of a impeding terror strike is considered, preemptive war may hardly be an effective means of preventing non-State actors from succeeding. We see also in the failure to stabilize Iraq a failure to establish the peace, which lengthens our commitment.

Overblown influence by foreigners and their sympathizers lets the US be drawn into political games played abroad. The use of war as a policy device may not be overwhelmingly popular, but it can appeal to the Right's ultra-nationalist base.

The Right is willing to seed destructive policies by placating its base through war. As we saw in the War on Lebanon, Olmert's war wasn't domestically popular. Service to the cause of war benefits the Israeli Right, which is are eager to maintain the illusion that constant war is a necessity and matter of survival.

Zionism, the concept which puts Jews as the chosen people of God, leads to a dangerous mindset among Israelis and their sympathizers. Territorial aggression is one of Zionism's consequences. Unchecked, the philosophy is racist and oppressive, quite the opposite of any multicultural mindset embraced by modern Western secularism.

Zionism undeniably birthed neo-conservatism, as most members of the neocon circle were Jews embracing Zionist principles. So it's really no surprise that our present neocon-inspired policies may also embrace the arbitrary and rampant use of superior force to oppress native populations in Iraq; our policies there have been created by Zionists.

The policymakers advocating military action on Iran now are from the same Zionist camp. Clearly these figures--Richard Perle, John Bolton, others--share a strong sense of loyalty not only to the Israeli cause, but to a far narrower aggressive, militarist Zionist posture.

Sharing foreign policy goals with an ally is one thing; implementing alien philosophies based on race and ethnicity is a whole 'nother matter. Working to help Israelis--many of whom are Arab--is a charitable objective; capitulating to a group of Zionists within Israel is a far more burdensome entanglement based on a questionable agenda--Jewish supremacy over the Middle East.

It may be that US interests do in fact lie with those of Israeli. The military synergies are undeniable and cooperation made even stronger through the GWOT. We send over $2 billion a year to the nation, with far more in loan guarantees. Israeli is also the largest recipient of US military aid and technology.

Israel's security is undoubtedly threatened in way most Americans could not imagine before 9/11. Still, Israel's large nuclear arsenal gives it a retaliatory capacity. It's also broadly known in the Middle East, that should Israel be struck with a nuclear weapon, the Israelis would respond against Damascus and Teheran more or less instanteously, whether or not evidence of involvement by those countries could be proven.

The avidly militarist agenda of Wurmser's Clean Break and the Project for a New American Century ("Pearl Harbor-type event") do lead to speculation concerning Israel's role in 9/11. What's so troubling and persistent about these rumours is the unfortunate coincidence that 9/11 seems to have served Zionist goals quite well. Conspiracy theorists will for this reason be able to blame the event on Israel.

Also quite damning for the cause of Zionism in America is the fallout of our Iraq War. If the War could be proven to have been instigated by Zionists, the US' commitment to Israel could be seriously depreciated. Anti-Zionist sentiment could easily become wantonly anti-Israeli sentiment, or generate wide anti-Semitism, and not just among Muslims.

There are clearly limits on the extent of Israeli influence in our government and in shaping US policy. The unprecedented level of influence by pro-Zionists in the Bush Administration opened a door of opportunity to synchronize US policy visions for the Middle East with those of Israel.

Still the "special relationship" is vulnerable to the consequences of policy failures as the US finds itself entangled in an Iraqi occupation which has undeniably damaged its policy goals in the region.

The precepts of aggressive territorialism inherent in Zionism have put Israel's international reputation under incredible strain.

It remains to be seen if Right-wing elements in Israel will face the political consequences of its aggressive policies. It's undeniable that Olmert's war in Lebanon damaged him politically, which is ironic considering the political fallout for Republicans over Iraq. Zionism--or is it the militarism it breeds?--appears to have failed both constituencies.

Zionism and Media Influence

It's amazing to recognize the extent of influence by supporters of Israel (or is it Zionism?) in the media. I'd like to devout more time to this issue, for in my role as a budding media critic, I've found overwhelming influence in every channel of the Mainstream Media.

The failure of the Mainstream Media to challenge Bush on Iraq can be traced to the prevalence of unconditional support for Israel among prominent members of the MSM. I think Jewish people are vulnerable to the notion that they must do all they can to protect Israel; this opens them up to exploitation by those who frame unending military action as necessary for the defense of the Jewish state.

Jews are eager defenders of their faith, perhaps in large part due to the
racism and genocide they've faced. Yet on issues like Iraq, American Jews remain quite skeptical, with a narrow majority opposed. So the natural question is: why support a war that makes no sense? How does antagonizing the Muslim world--which the Global War on Terror has undeniably done--help to protect and preserve Jewry? Perhaps the interests of the State of Israel don't overlap those of average Jews.

Many Jews are captivated by the notion that Israel is ringed by nations eager to destroy it. It's a stoic concept that unifies Jews throughout the world by virtue of ethnicity, regardless of the extent which they practice their religion. Yet for peaceful coexistence to be given a chance to work, the State of Israel needs to rein in militaristic and expansionistic concepts cradled by Zionism.

Fervent Zionists will say that they've tried that approach and the Arab side has violated their commitments. This is undoubtedly true on some levels, but at this point it's clear that killing more and more Palestinians and Lebanese civilians makes Israel into the aggressor. To say that some child in a refugee camp posed a threat to the safety of Israelis is more paranoia than practical defense.

The US Mainstream Media habitually underplays the Palestinian cause. After all, the Israelis are more like us. Americans can sympathize with the death of an Israeli far more easily than they can a Palestinian. Israel is more modern, more democratic, at least with those who've been given the right to vote within the country.

But there's far more to the underreporting of Palestinian deaths. The Media is hyper-sensitive to any criticism of Israel or its policies. Yet as the death toll mounts up, and more Americans get wind of what is really happening in Gaza, and how unnecessary so much of the killing is, the pro-Israel media veneer gradually erodes.

The zeal with which mostly Jewish Media figures have unconditionally defended Israel may have created a major issue. By trying to preserve a near total blackout on any news that could be considered unfavorable to Israel, media people have become enthralled to the whim of a small group of Zionist extremists. As the actions of Israel in Gaza and the West Bank penetrate the blackout, the credibility of the Mainstream Media--which has constricted the flow of information--will erode even further.

Already the MSM struggles to retain viewers and readers. As long as the Media can't serve the untarnished truth, Americans will look to alternative sources. While the threat posed by terrorism has been the most prominent public media impression shaped by 9/11, made equally significant by 9/11 is the reality the world has shrunk, and foreign problems have been made our own. Thus in seeking to understand their world, Americans will need to learn more about it.

Unconditionally defending any and all actions of the State of Israel, or ignoring in the media any issue detrimental to the cause of Zionism, can popularize anti-Semitism.

Zionism has more or less parasitically attached itself to the Jewish faith, in a way that is perhaps not entirely different from the rise of radical fundamentalism in the Muslim world. Both solutions embrace total warfare, and instill hatred of the other side, and embrace violence--one through terrorism and the other the imposition of military force (called State terror by its victims). True peace will emerge when both philosophies are thoroughly repudiated, and peaceful coexistence will be the result.

To regain its credibility, Israel needs to confront its internal distractors, not its outside detractors. Jews need to scrutinize their loyalty and understand that military action is not in the best long-term security interest of Israel, and that turning off (or down) the conflict requires concessions from both sides.

The MSM's unconditional acceptance of Israel's behavior may make them tools of a narrow Israeli political agenda. The real underlying issues behind the Israeli-Palestinian issue do need to be openly addressed, without spin or fear of consequence.

Above all, shapers of American foreign policy need to realize the role Zionism plays in forming destructive policies. While the use of miltitary force may appear to be expeditious in the short-term, Iraq is showing the difficulties of denying non-State actors their agendas, no matter how nefarious.

Radicals ride the wave of popular resentment which Israel's treatment of the Palestinians engenders in the Muslim world, popularizing terrorism. By confronting the fallibility of Israeli and American policies, restricting unilateral action, both countries will enjoy the benefit of international cooperation, which is prerequisite of peaceful coexistence and ultimately Man's survival in the nuclear age.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

War & Statism vs. the Rule of International Morality

War empowers the State. Wars unify loyalty towards the State. Wars don't benefit average citizens, nor society, but rather they reaffirm the State.

I've read--I believe it was on lewrockwell.com--that war is the exercise of the most powerful form of Statism. Through a draft, the State exercises the right to sacrifice the life of any able-bodied young adult, regardless of their personal views on the war they are forced to fight.

The survival of a society is rarely at risk in the wars of today. Unlike ancient societies, societies of today are rarely threatened with eradication. Genocide does occur, but is rarely total, so nowadays the purpose of war is not to completely destroy another society but rather to disrupt it, and force it comply with the will of a stronger State.

For the States involved, their survival is dependent upon a war's outcome. Look at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan or the destruction of Saddam's regime. War is ultimately a battle between States; each government's authority over its people is put in jeopardy. While its citizens fight, they fight not for their own needs or even their collective defense, but to achieve the goals of a State over which they exert almost no influence.

Wars are fueled by nationalism, which is the concept that members of a society are unified by their allegiance to the same State. Millions are captivated by nationalism's premise that citizens of one nation are endowed with a set of dominate characteristics, or share some almost supernational destiny differentiating them from foreigners.

Through nationalism, we are led to believe that our government is good, and the government of certain enemies--invariably chosen by the state and not by its citizens--is bad. The other side naturally presumes the same of us.

Harnessed by the State, borne on the back of its citizens, nationalism engenders war. Nationalism combined with twentieth century inventions like the machine gun and mustard gas have produced predictable results. So strong was the notion of loyalty to the State that we have had not one but two World Wars. We are told that so great was the injured sense of pride among Germans that they needed a whole second war to redeem their self-esteem lost in the first.

Virtually every any government has at one time used the institution of war to empower itself. Maintaining loyalty of the people to the institutions of governance is vital in preserving the State from internal revolt, which is its primary threat.

By unifying the external threat, nationalism glazes over differences among component groups of its citizenry and in so doing maintains the tenuous idea that we are more unified than we might otherwise realize. And what better means of firming our common bonds than the periodic sacrifice of those who serve in the "collective defense"?

The blood of our fallen soldiers binds citizens to the wars they fight by virtue of the personal sacrifices they make. The deaths of our troops serve a purpose valuable to the State. In surviving, combat veterans testify to the pointlessness and inhumanity of war. In dying, our troops validate the cause they fought for--ostensibly our defense--and evoke great patriotism.

The loss of soldiers is framed as a heroic sacrifice, whatever the circumstances. They are honored as heroes regardless of the contribution their lives make towards ending the war, or "achieving victory".

Avoided are disturbing questions about the logic behind the war itself, and any debate over whether the loss of lives actually accomplishes anything.
The State seeks to avoid any negative publicity that can lead to doubts as to the stated purpose of the war, or its winnability. Body bags are hidden, as if their exposure would put the ratonale for dying under too much scrutiny.

As casualties mount, the loss of lives justifies the war, and embitters one nation against the other. As the conflict lengthens, people tend to question whether or not the war is worth its growing human toll. Citizens end up questioning the State's claim that the war is needed to protect us, or that our survival will be dependent on a winning outcome.

For a people to come to grips with war, they must understand the functions assigned to them by the government. They must see how their collective impulses control the actions of the State, and how the hot brand of nationalism has shaped our collective conscience.

In the short-run, support for a war is based on popular support, which is subordinate to the emotions of the masses. The war's validity or ultimately even its winnability are secondary, but concerns over these issues grow. The people are of course vulnerable to the idea that they are good, and their cause more deserving of victory than that of their foe.

War has become an exercise in denial. Media plays a role, hiding the images of horror and death that can only lead us to question the morality of war, and by proxy the validity of any war to which we are party.

Formerly, this self-endowed favoritism may have been manifest in religion: God is on our side. Today, religion plays a undeniable role shaping the mindset of Muslim fundamentalists, who see us as infidels. Yet for established democracy, nationalism has replaced religion as the primary motivator for war.

Secular and logical, we in the West see the taking of outright plunder or the seizure of land as distasteful. Yet in our not too distant past we've done horrible things to dispossess the natives. Even now, in Israel, huge tracts of land stolen from Palestinians go under the bulldozer.

During the medieval ages, the systematic annihilation of indigenous populations required a overriding excuse. Concepts like colonialism emerged to soften the guilt that murder and theft might engender. Religious icons and representatives strode alongside conquistadors in their rampage through what is now called Latin America. For many, it's simply not enough that some nation or king wills a war, but that God must demand it.

Blind loyalty can emerge as a form of mass delusion--just look at how the Germans and Japanese were swept away by nationalism. The individual citizens of both countries tend to be quite logical. They suffer from no lack of education or capacity for reason. So if these people fall for nationalistic impulse, no country is immune the ultimate weapon of Statism: war.

War is a popular method for increasing the size and power of the State. The US has launched numerous wars: on poverty, drugs, and now on terror. All have yet to be won and require ever-larger sums to finance. Most wars carry with them burdens to be assumed by the populace, which justify increasing the powers of State and its level of control over the population.

Wars have become the method of choice to increase government control over our lives. More important than emerging victorious is the pursuit of war itself; the State has come to draw on open-ended war as a source of sustenance. It's the process of waging war that presents a victory to the State; victory can only bring an end to war, and with it an end to the expansion of State authority. The State must avoid the perception that it's losing, but the threat can't be entirely neutralized either.

The Present Case

Our most recent war has been framed as one fought for our survival, like clashes of ancient civilizations wherein the loser loses all.

The influence of nationalism does have limits. Judging by the recent election, the American people have grown weary of the concept that we are always on the right side and our enemies the wrong one. Perhaps Americans have garnered the necessary emotional maturity to realize that that our society is not morally superior, or our cause automatically on the side of justice. They may also realize that the leaders don't speak for them, and that the choices our leaders make to go to war may not always be fair or just.

It is quite a testimony to the power of delusion that some in our nation believe that victory can be achieved solely through the exercise of unconditional , open-ended support by the citizenry. This most uncritical perspective requires believing in the infallible wisdom of our leaders and the perfect foresight of their decisions. Yet, largely to redeem the failure in Vietnam, many believe to this day that it could have been won if not for the impact of dissent. In one way this attitude avoids confronting the possibility of defeat, which to some can be more threatening than the idea of endless sacrifice.

Fight them there, or we will end up fighting them here, so the argument goes. Our leaders' justifications for preemptive war may not be so logical to the people over there, who had no intention of attacking us over here, but are now being victimized because they were labelled a threat.

It is more than possible the victims of our aggression abroad now feel compelled to attack us here so we don't attack them there. The logic creates a never-ending loop of preemption and reprisal, which if left unchecked will create open-ended warfare, probably not too different from what transpires inside Iraq today.

Modern technology has made war all the more efficient, and gross disparities in military power apparent, but humans have always adapted. We see now in Iraq as we saw in Vietnam the amazing ability of indigenous fighters to adapt their tactics to negate the military superiority of the invaders.

Blending in with native populations, insurgents can strike at will. Supplies can be cached in sympathizer's houses, to shrink their supply lines while we are forced to use choppers to ferry even basic supplies and fuel. And the failure of the US to secure stockpiles of explosives early in the invasion has provided insurgents with a nearly unlimited supply.

The American people have in the course of the past 3 and 1/2 years gradually become more knowledgeable about what's going on as the Mainstream Media releases evidence of failure piecemeal. In response, they've become decidedly antiwar. Democrats have swept Republicans out of both Houses of Congress riding the growing wave of the war's unpopularity.

Issue of Media complicity aside, it has come down to the voters to determine the future course of events. Our leaders lack the political will to leave Iraq; hopefully Democratic leaders will do as the electorate commands and end the Iraqi misadventure.

I saw on CNN's Tuesday night a poll that showed about one quarter of Americans support troops out now, another quarter want them gone soon. Only 17% want more troops now. [Editor's Note: I was unable to find a link to this poll I viewed on Anderson Cooper Nov. 14; I did however find a NYT article (Subscript. Req.) cited on HuffPo here showing 14% wanting more troops--you may want to read the commentary on McCain there as well.]

Guess which direction some policymakers, John McCain among them, want the US to turn? Towards the least popular option: more troops! While McCain might seem to be working on some counter-intuitive plan, he also mentions the word victory, as if it were a possibility under the present circumstances. Yes, declare a Pyrrhic victory, John, if salvaging our pride is a necessary prerequisite to withdrawal.

McCain's willingness to acquiesce to Bush on the torture laws is especially painful considering McCain was a torture victim while held as a POW in Vietnam. Perhaps McCain's position on more troops is as viable as his Presidential aspirations; maybe the Arizona senator has simply chosen to ignore the past few weeks and the massive electoral imbalance he will have to face if he expands the war.

The idea that applying escalation can help us get out is not new; Nixon called the effort "peace with honor". At the end of Vietnam, when the Paris Peace Talks floundered, Nixon ordered a massive set-up in bombing of North Vietnam. [You may have seen the movie Flight of the Intruder where a pair of rogue aviators raid Hanoi and in so doing tactily encourage a broader bombing campaign.]

The idea that applying more force will work to demotivate the enemy only works when facing a singular, symmetrically organized opponent. It remains to be seen whether throwing more bodies into a caldron of violence will motivate one or more opposing groups to end hostilities. In the fractionalized, non-symmetrical warfare in Iraq, there is no one to turn it off because there is no one leader or government at the opposite end of the spectrum leading opposition to the US.

Brad Johnson and William Dafoe might have been able to force the Vietnamese to end the war, but a pair of rebel air jocks can hardly turn off a civil war by lobbing a few well-placed bombs into some "SAM park" in the enemy's capital.

The Solution

The answer to Iraq lies not in what we do differently going forward, but in the past. In their never-ending quest for easy solution, Americans tend to neglect the past. We dismiss the concept of adherence to a set of laws as the most logical method to prevent war.

International laws have long recognized the flawed premise of preemptive war, and made it a crime. Hitler used the notion of an impending attack to justify aggression. Wisely, the Europeans have made preemption no excuse for war, and lying to start a war is definitely a war crime. Rather than tolerate repitition of Hitler's tactics, they started a International Criminal Court in The Hague, Belgium.

The former Yugoslvaia provided a key test for the enforcement of international law. Western media packaged the Bosnian conflict as Serbian aggression. The Media played on the concept of a rogue state led by Milosevich. Now while the Europeans seemed completely incapable of interdicting conflict in the former Yugoslavia, their system of justice did in fact eventually catch up with Milosevich, who ended up dying in custody ignominiously while waiting for trial.

What the European system may lack in terms of deterrent capacity, it makes up for in its dogged pursuit of justice for war criminals. Nothing may be harder to overcome than justice determined and arbitrarily enforced. While military conflict may seem the best form of punitive action, it really represents subjugation of the objective exercise of law to more base human instincts, and in so doing does little to advance any cause.

Trying former heads of state and top officials for complicity in war crimes does stand for justice. And the trials represent a form of deterrence; any would-be war criminal knows they'll be found and prosecuted.

Even now, Rumsfeld stands accused of war crimes in Germany; German law allows prosecutions of war crimes regardless of their place of origin. While American media pundits murmur how the German government and courts system won't "let things get so far", I'd be surprised to see Rumsfeld trot off on a European vacation anytime soon (or ever, as apparently there is no statute of limitations, either, for these crimes.)

The US has done everything it can to protect any international law or tribunal from trying its soldiers. Beyond the obvious excuse of trying to protect innocent US soldiers from being tried in kangaroo courts abroad lies a much more sinister intent to the US' dodge of international law and precedent.

Putting itself above the law feeds the hubristic notion of the US military as beyond accountability, as a force de majeure, the law in and of itself. Supranationalist, a great motivational concept, egoism is hardly an effective way to solve conflicts peacefully. Instead, the US is seen as imperialistic, which hardly encourages cooperation or support from the international community.

It's no surprise those who denigrate the rule of international law are the most likely to break it. Iraq war architect Richard Perle has said that the purpose of the Iraq war was to make obsolete the rule of international law [Source; for more, see Neocons and Israel below].

The recent passage of the Military Commissions Act shows just how far the US will go to defy the rule of international law. Protections were retroactively extended to all upper echelon military and political figures for their part in detainee abuse scandals in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and secret prisons run by the CIA.

It's no surprise that Bush now seeks legal cover in the last days of control of the Congress by his party. Milosevich would have done likewise. Now while Bush may not be tied to specific war crimes, there are those in his Administration who have advocated torture, and high-ranking officers within our military who've facilitate its use, in defiance to the Geneva Convention and the military own system of justice.

Investigating the legality of the Administration's conduct of the Iraq War will restablish the prominence of international law in our justice system.
There are pragmatic reasons behind the Geneva's laws, and among them is the desire to shorten war, and minimize its impact not only among the Occupied, but for the Occupier as well.

By adhering to and enforcing international law, the US can avoid future
Iraqs. By fullying investigating the origins of the Iraq War, future leaders will realize they must abide by the law, and not just look to pass retroactive laws exonerating them from what are clearly violations of the international legal code.

While all nations can make a claim that international laws not apply--that their circumstances or the immediacy of their cause require otherwise--it's precisely in following and adjudicating international law that the rules are followed and egregious transgressions like those leading to Iraq are avoided. No one country is above the law; no single ruler has the right to claim exemption to the statues, whatever his nation's laws may say.

As we deal with the nasty consequences of entangling alliances--in this case open-ended obligations two new democracies we've created through military intervention--, we must strive to hold our leaders accountable. This will set the stage for America's redemption in the world community, which is a necessity if we are to extract ourselves from Iraq, which is the clear intent of the American majority.

Staying the course has become a giant political and military challenge. The White House is seeking a new course as evidenced by Rumsfeld's firing and Bush's apparent willingness to consult with James Baker's Iraq Study Group (not to be confused with the White House Iraq Group which promoted the war.)

The US must reestablish its commitment to international law in order to regain its credibility. If not, Congress must force the Administration to abide by repealing laws like the Military Commisions Act. Still, for as long as Bush stubbornly follows a foreign policy course set by neocons, who are undeniably under the influence of a foreign power--Israel, Iraq will grow into an even larger problem.

Neocons and Israel

The role of international law was eagerly targetted by the neocons:
...disdain for international law is very clearly expressed in considerable detail in a 1996 document prepared for the incoming Natanyahu government of Israel of that year entitled, A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm", prepared by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David and Meyrav Wurmser, James Colbert, and Robert Loenberg in their capacity as members of The Institute for Advanced Strategy and Political Studies' "Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000" a Washington/Jerusalem based think tank providing policy analyses for the government of Israel.

This document is remarkable for its very existence because it constitutes a policy manifesto for the Israeli government penned by members of the current US government. From the perspective of a reader of this document and from one who has also watched its program unfold during the course of the Bush administration, one can best view the confluence and the inseparability of the Israeli and the American governments. In addition to Perle, Douglas Feith is currently undersecretary of defense for policy, the departments number three man and a protege of Perle who has worked closely with him in the past. David Wurmser initially assistant to undersecretary for arms control, John Bolton, at the State Department, the latter coming from the far right conservative American Enterprise Institute has since moved into the Vice President's office.

This document advocates the scrapping of UN Resolutions 242 and 338 - the "land for peace" formula - in favor of one based on the "balance of power". Since Israel possesses the 4th largest army in the world with essentially unlimited weaponry, unrestrictedly provided by the US, and since the Palestinians have no army at all, the "balance of power" formula application simply means that Israel should respect no constraints of its expansionist aspirations. Indeed, the authors state, "Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimensions, "peace for peace," is a solid basis for the future." Surely this also means "the unconditional acceptance of the Israel's unilateral definition of Israel's rights."

As we see more atrocities committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip, and the systematic disenfranchisement of the Palestinians, it's clear that the State of Israel intends on developing Palestinian land for its own use. So of course the UN and its observance of international law represent a threat to Israel's landgrab. Similarly, the suppression of Palestinians human rights has led to widespread condemnation of Israel by the world community.

Acts of terror by Palestinians provide the excuse for intervention by Israel. Exaggerating the scope of the terror threat excuses the taking of Palestinian land.

Similarly, the illusionary link between Saddam and 9/11 rationalized military action by the US against a wholly overblown threat. The US is now locked into an Occupation against its own interests, one which jeopardizes its leadership and goals in the wider Muslim world, which sympathizes with the worsening plight of the Palestinians and now, the Iraqis.

Iraq has been a war clearly not in America's best interest. Radical Islamists have profitted. Our military is weaker, incapable of containing other threats. The influence of the neocons is a reason why we invaded Iraq, in particular their strong sympathy towards Israel.

Iraq is to us as the Palestinians are to the Israelis: on the surface weak and easily conquered--perfect victims for unilateralism. Iraq was sold by the neocons as an easy win, perhaps because of neocon sympathies towards Israel. In the end, the neocons have gained the gift that keeps on giving, entrenching the US in a long-term war against Israel's enemies.

Now that the US is mired in the quagmire, it matters little to the neocons how the war was packaged or sold. Clearly the neocons care more for the ongoing strategic benefits US intervention may bring to Israel than they do for the Republicans, who are clearly suffering disasterous political consequences.

US Leadership Position

Unilateralism and preemption destabilize the security environment, and violates international law and established principles of morality. By definition unilateralism benefits one country and perhaps its closest allies, rather than the group, in the case the world of nations.

The US needs to ascribe to higher ethical standards in order to lead. World leadership is a fine American goal. The US should look to its own needs first, and shun any policy group whose allegiances lie with other states. In its quest for leadership, the US must routinely purge itself of any counterproductive policy regardless of its benefit to other states, allies or not.

Siding overwhelmingly with Israel entangles the US in its commitment to our alliance with that country. Allowing our relationship with a foreign power to shape our foreign policy imperils American leadership as the world's bias against Israel grows, deserved or not.

World opinion judges Israel's behavior with an eye a far less biased than our own. In pursuing Israel-centric policies in the Mideast the US inherits the image problems of the Israelis, which seem to be more or less constant or growing not only with the Arabs but other countries as heavy handed tactics yield tainted fruit and a bleak future for Israel's neighbors.

Observing the rule of international law embodied in the Geneva Convention allows the US to retake the moral high road. It's not too late to correct the crooked logic of the neocons which has cost the US its vital leadership position in the 21st century. Already rivals challenge our leadership; the Shanghai Cooperative Organization is thriving as a result of the US' international unpopularity which came out of the lingering effects of strong neocon influence over US policies.

Follow Up

i. I talked in my last post about the investigations forthcoming under the Democratically controlled Congress. Truthout.org has an article by Jason Leopold looking into any potential probe here.

These investigations will be very important in holding all those who lied to the American people to justice. Sadly, Pelosi and Conyers have precluded the possibility of an impeachment of Bush. While the process of impeachment may not be the best method for uncovering the lies that led to war, no representative has the legal right to find the President innocent, at least until the facts are brought to light and explored at length.

A Zogby poll show a majority want impeachment if it is warranted. According to HuffPo's David Swanson, 85% of Democrats in one poll support candidates open to impeachment [Source]

Let's hope that the Democrats intend to honor the will of the people who put them in office. Some people the antiwar movement may be quite right in encouraging people to tell their new representatives that they can be replaced, if they fail to obey the will of the majority. If the Democrats are foolish enough to let the war to continue into 2008, they could end up victims of the very same forces that brought them to power.

ii. Truthout posted this article from TomDispatch by Doug Troutman, a Vietnam veteran. I found the article poignant and extremely significant in honoring not only our veterans, but all who've died in war.

The personal experiences of men in combat are rarely glorified, but rather remembered as a time of extreme loss and hardship. Rather than revel in their roles as "heroes", combat veterans mourn their dead and often carry a bitter legacy over the inherent futility of war.

President Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld all avoided combat, and I believe that was the main reason they were so eager for war in Iraq. Lacking painful personal experiences, this group felt no burden of conscience in launching a war that has killed close to 3,000 American soldiers, wounded over 20,000, and killed a minimum of 150,000 Iraqis.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

War Party Loses; Iraq Looms Large

Here's a headline you won't find:
Victory for the antiwar cause! Nationwide, Democrats emerge victorious, seizing the House and Senate!

Iraq was mentioned prominently in the Mainstream Media, but it demurred on the magnitude of this victory and the role the antiwar majority played in destroying Republican control. The Media did bring up the issue of corruption, which meant that voters found incumbents--yes, even their own--basically untrustworthy.

The Media's reluctance to acknowledge the magnitude of the victory may be based on their undeniable support for the war. It's only long after the last election of significance--'04--that the stark failures in Iraq have been unveiled, moving from relative obscurity in the alternative news sources to the mainstream.

It's unclear whether the Media began covering issues important to the antiwar movement in response to the war's growing unpopularity, or perhaps because competing sources of information like the blogs were addressing issues they wouldn't. It's also unclear whether broader Media coverage generated antiwar sentiment or came as a result of a broadening antiwar movement. Either way, once in the mainstream, antiwar momentum has proven politically invincible. MSM coverage plays a huge role in shaping public opinion, at least concerning the issues it chooses to cover.

Media compliance had a great deal to do with generating a permissive environment before Iraq. The President avoided any significant scrunity in the Mainstream Media before his quasi-re-election. In late October 2004, one newspaper editor even claimed that running a story on Bush's National Guard service would be too damaging to Bush so close to the election! Dan Rather error in judgement just happened to spike a story on Bush's Guard service scheduled to run on Viacom's 60 Minutes.

Media critics can now only bleat at the Media's bypassing issues that would play out in favor of the Democrats. In '04, the chief fear among politicians was appearing soft against terror. The Bush Administration has been able to avoid serious consequences for invading Iraq. Vulnerable to a cascade of political consequences, Republicans in the Congress weren't so lucky. Many of the more savvy Republican politicians ducked Bush's efforts to "help" in their campaigns.

The political climate in 2008 will be shaped by the consequences of ouropen-ended commitment to defend not one but two proxy regimes in Asia. Can Hillary find a soft spot between those who believed voting for Iraq was the right thing to do and those who believe it was a mistake, flip-flop or not. On one level, admitting error may become politically preferable to supporting the war.

We clearly saw many voters disillusioned with Iraq voice their displeasure. As Iraq disintergrates, and the Taliban rise once agains, it's increasingly difficult to rationalize any previous intervention. By failing to oppose the war, and persisting in that stance, Hillary is vulnerable to the antiwar movement and is now dependent on Bush's willingness and capacity to end the conflict in Iraq to avoid fallout in '08.

Rifts Among the Victors

Conservative Democrats are reluctant to acknowledge the role Iraq played, although the progress of the war undeniably translated into anti-incumbency, as was spelled out here on this blog.

In a November 8th Counterpunch.org article, Alex Cockburn and Jeff St. Clair summarize:
"...the national Democrats, led by Rahm Emanuel of the Democratic Congressional Campaign, had tried pretty successfully to keep such peaceniks off the ballot, but in a few key races the antiwar progressives romped home. The Democrats won, despite Emanuel. If the Clintonites weren't still controlling most of the campaign money, and more openly antiwar populists had been running, the Democrats today would probably be looking at a wider majority in the House..."

Conservative Democrats very much like to believe in their President. They yearn for the days when a strong leader could unite the nation under a shared, nonpartisan, and patriotic banner. Their trip down memory lane to the days of Ronald Reagan will grow increasingly implausible as the options to save honor in Iraq dwindle and the concept of a strong unified America caves into dissent over the war.

Lieberman did win, but by the narrowest margins. Republicans were tacitly supportive of Lieberman; they did what they could do minimize Lamont's electability. Many Democrat politicians did nothing to help Lamont, perhaps believing he stood no chance by virtue of underestimating the strength of the antiwar sentiment, or simply favoring their fellow insider in Lieberman.

Lamont's near-win did demonstrate the strength of the antiwar movement, especially considering his relative inexperience, the lack of Democratic support, Republican complicity, and the fact he was more or less running on antiwar sentiment alone.

Howard Dean had a similar burnout in '04. Yet Dean's fall has been short-lived. As chairman on the DNC, Dean's political prestige has risen since then and continues to ride the wave of antiwar sentiment.


Memories of Kerry fresh, some in the Democratic party remain cautious about appearing to have flip-flopped on Iraq. Flip-flopping could be a plausible political charge, but not if the Congress had been lied to, with the explicit purpose of forcing an invasion of Iraq based not on faulty intelligence, but cherry-picked, intentionally misleading intelligence.

Victors, the Democrats are now in a position to launch investigations which could thoroughly discredit the Administration's flimsy statement, supported mostly by Tenet, that the intelligence had been wrong, but gathered with good intent. Since the last major election, we have uncovered various evidence akin to the Downing Street Memo which clearly indicate that the Administration was going to invade, and merely needed excuses--chief among them the fallacious notion that Iraq and 9/11 were connected, and WMD.

As long as "faulty" intelligence lie disguises the fact that fake intelligence was churned out to build support for the war, the consequences of flip-flopping remain significant. But acting on faulty intelligence is one thing, acting on faked intelligence is another. Faking evidence demands forthcoming investigation under the supervision of Democrats. Even the premise of fakery will generate suspicion and justify an antiwar position based on the faulty pretenses; the introduction of evidence into the public record will do even more damage.

Hillary Clinton's unmodulating pro-war stance may have come out of fears over being labelled a flip-flopper. Yet if the US is deeply involved in Iraq in 2008, which seems likely, ongoing antiwar sentiments may in fact hurt Hillary's chances.

Hillary's persistence that her vote on Iraq was the right call may have once helped her to look stronger on defense, but now she must work towards "peace with honor" or some similar method of extraction. Kerry was unable to avoid the flip-flop label by admitting what must be obvious: that voting for the Iraq war was a huge mistake.

The Media's Role

As the American people gradually come to understand the hoax that was perpetuated upon them in the lead-up to Iraq, flip-flopping may become not only a non-issue but popularly acceptable. After all, the blatent lies that led to the invasion didn't seem like lies at all at the time, largely due to the failure of the Media to ask questions, which in turn originated out of fear of losing access to the White House, and from sympathy to anti-Arab interests.

Unlike Republicans in Congress, the Media has been faced not a Grand Moment of Accountability but rather a stream of little crises of confidence as the still curious among us turn to alternate news sources. Circulations are shrinking, and staff being terminated. Conglomerate-dominated news rooms are regurgitating watered-down, less local, and celebrity-focused coverage which typifies today's Mainstream Media.

The rise of the blogs threatens the profitability of the MSM as their viewers are stripped. Ironically money is the source of the problem with the MSM: excessive cost-cutting transpired as news divisions were treated as independent profit centers. The MSM has avoided investigative reporting, for fear of offending some cross-marketed business cell, which has weakened the quality of its content.

Blogs devoted to the simply telling truth have been succeeding while MSM companies who've avoided scrutinizing the Iraq war have seen their audiences drop. The MSM has grown increasingly antiwar, I would argue, not because of the progress of the war, but instead out of economic necessity, as profit and cost paradigms now control the selection of content.

The On-Going Issue of Iraq

Whether they like it or not, Democrats are now in power because of Iraq. A clear majority of Americans want us out. There is however, a ray of hope for the Republicans if the Demos can't extract us from Iraq, which will be no simple task. Nixon, after all, campaigned on the promise to extract us from Vietnam; it took him five years to get us out.

As long as Bush is driving the us on towards unattainable victory, the possibility for an easy extraction will be faint. In his press conference November 8th, Bush specifically denied that Iraq was another Vietnam. What was so clearly confusing wasn't that Bush stood by his decision to go in, what was so utterly terrifying was Bush's unwavering belief that we can still win.

The departure of Rumsfeld is a long-sought after personal goal of this writer. I've written on the Secretary of Defense for several years now, including this article critical of his leadership.

I take an end to Rummy's reign as a signal that I was right that the "reins of power must be pulled from the hands of the incompetent, for the good of the state."

It took the elimination of an entire political party's handle on power to begin to correct the mistakes that began under Rumsfeld. Far worse is reflection on the lives that have and will continue to be lost in Iraq. While Americans may not care too dearly for the sufferings of Iraqis--I hear no solemn ode to the deaths of some 2 million Vietnamese--they are sensitive to the loss of American soldiers.

The people have undeniably spoken for an end to Iraq, but it's not clear that the Democrats will honor the reason for their ascension. They will do a better job addressing the problem, however. Rumsfeld's departure signals an acknowledgement by the White House of the magnitude of the Iraqi problems and is perhaps a gesture of accomodation, in advance of the desperate need for a non-partisan dialogue on Iraq.

I would argue that the White House was brought to their senses not by the actions of the Democrats, but rather the impact of the antiwar movement which has ushered them into power.

As long as the President continues to exist in a state of denial, and Clinton-types try to look hard on terror, a successful resolution of the Iraq problem will be made virtually impossible. Unfortunately circumstances on the ground have now made military force wholly ineffective against our enemies--radical pan-Muslim fundamentalists--thus the application of more force alone won't really help end the conflict.

As we saw with Vietnam, we can try to apply more force, but we ultimately can't prevent our enemies from emerging victorious. It's a simple fact that exerting additional force results in a corresponding increase in opposing force. Geopolitical and military realities really do trump political ideology.

Repudiating Vietnam

The President in his Wednesday press conference denied Iraq was another Vietnam. Bush indicated that Vietnam wasn't plagued with terrorists trying to "destroy progess." Yet it is clear that's exactly what the Communists wanted, to prove to the Vietnamese people that pro-American governments couldn't deliver on their promises. And now the Taliban destroy the symbols of modernization in their country.

Bush has steadfastedly maintained the belief that the US and Iraqi governments have been working toward progress--the universal advancement of the Iraqi people--and that terrorists have been impeding that progress. The assumption is simply false; it avoids confronting the massive fraud and abuse of power which has come as a result of the Occupation.

Worst of all, the oversimplified "we-good, enemies-bad" argument ignores the most basic flaw of our presence in Iraq: that in order to maintain power, the Iraq government must rely on US troops, but in so doing loses any credibility among Iraqis. So, in other words, for any Iraqi government to stand up, they must stand alone, which they cannot because of their dependency on us.

The Iraqi scenario is almost identical to Vietnam. On the surface, we were supporting the premise of democracy in Vietnam while behind the scenes we were propping corrupt leaders like President Diem, or encouraging coups when the puppet government grew too greedy or incompetent.

Unfortunately for the cause of peace in Iraq, a strong Iraq represents a threat to its neighbors. One reason given for not building up Iraq's army (and disbanding it) has been the premise we want to minimize the threat it poses to our allies in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Some claim that the US has seeded discord between Shia and Sunni in order to keep Iraq divided and weak. Such a goal would be in keeping with Wurmser's Clean Break approach so popular with neo-cons, which called for de-stabilizing Israel's enemies.

We've been victimized by our own nefarious plans. Rather than approach Iraq on a bilateral level and look to address their needs and future, the US has used the country to further a Global War on Terror where no threat existed. There is now, however, such a threat.

To say the scope of threat today is a good thing would be woefully ignorant. Even ardent militarists might likely admit they don't want our military to be in Iraq. Yet it's hard to see any non-militarized solution going forward, if al Qaeda is in fact entrenched. It's hard to imagine an ongoing commitment of this scale and duration being intentional, or designed by anyone representing our government or serving our military.

The result is that the so-called forces of terror have become one of the most potent forces fighting for the liberation of the country.

Obviously no one in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans or White House Iraq Group was being paid to analyze problems which may have emerged out of our invasion or subsequent Occupation. The findings of State Department group of Iraq experts had been summarily dismissed. Instead the reasons for invading were chosen based on their potential to head off skepticism and their rhetorical merit--to sound really, really scary.

Valerie Plame and Gen. Shinseki are two people who stood in the Administration's way. In the course of her counterproliferation work, Plame revealed the untrustworthiness of the Administration's sources on WMD claims. Shinseki was simply being truthful on the number of troops needed. Both were simply doing their jobs in an honest, apolitical way. One was fired, the other's identity cruelly fed to a network of Media pawns.

Is the basis of Iraq no longer significant? Perhaps not, now that Democrats are in charge. One of the many forthcoming investigations will be into the Downing Street Memo, which has been an acute area of interest for new House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, whose hearings on the subject may now move from the crammed basement rooms to the main stage.

Lying to start a war is an act of treason and a war crime. Over 2800 Americans have died so far, unnecessarily if Iraq did not pose a threat. If it can be proven that the White House lied to build its case for war, prominent figures, the recently departed Defense Secretary among them, may be subject to imprisonment.

Issues With Democracy

Bush said in his November 8th press conference that voting participation by Iraqis differed from Vietnam, but the US did in fact support elections in Vietnam. Where there was little mention of voter fraud in Iraq, Vietnam had been rife with it. This isn't to say the Vietnamese were any less inclined to participate politically; they'd simply been deprived of fair elections.

Had Vietnamese been give a choice of communists on the ballot, and their votes accurately tabulated, the war would have likely ended. In this sense, democracy would have been a means to an end. Instead of voting for the communists, the Vietnamese may have simply been voting for whatever force could guarantee its independence. The US, embroiled in its self-righteous mission of delivering democracy to the people of Southeast Asia, simply didn't recognize the premise that its intervention would engender more sympathy to the Communist side than they would have otherwise had.

The US has similarly wedged itself into Iraq, placing the democratically elected government there in the untenable position of cooperating with the infidel or losing its hold on power. There were no representatives of al-Qaeda represented in the Iraqi election. Therefore the people lacked the full range of alternatives.

As strange as putting al Qaeda on the ballot may seem, it does offer an alternative to violence. Keeping the enemy off the ballot may suppress a political victory, but it also guarantees ongoing resistance in lieu of political dialogue.

If Osama were on the ballot--and alive--, he'd undoubtedly win in every Middle Eastern country. He'd easily win any contest to emerge as Grand Vizier of The Greater Islamic Caliphate. Can't have that--just what would happen to our oil-dependent society if the Saudi shieks weren't controlling the flow of oil? The US has thus been caught support a cause, democracy, that it can't hope to benefit from, whose only outcome will be unfavorable to the US in the region.

Democracy can be used as a tool by those in power to maintain their power by presenting just enough of a semblance of choice to preserve the idea that meanignful change is possible. While the people enjoying positions of power may change in name, seldom does an elite ruling class get supplanted by those from the masses. Whenever the possibility of true change threatens the status quo, large corporate interests tend to intercede. Democracy threatens the balance of power by allowing the mandate of the people to set the course independent of the desires of the landed gentry (aristocratic class).

Latin Democracy

As we see in Chavez's Venezuela, popular politics can really make a difference in the lives of the people. In the years since Chavez's election, there's been a marked increase in the levels of participation in government by the general population. While Chavez's methods have been criticized as unorthodox and anti-capitalist, for the peasantry and other habitually marginalized groups, Chavez's ascendancy represents a poplar referendum on the corruption and economic exploitation typical of so many Latin countries.

It's an unfortunate consequence of the US' total commitment to regressive and neo-liberal forces opposed to popular change in Latin America that our influence there must decline with the rise of popular political figures. These include Morales in Bolivia and now Ortega in Nicaragua.

Like Iraq, US involvement in the internal politics of Latin America achieves as a matter of consequence unpopularity for pro-American governments, and encourages popular resistance to what are perceived to be American positions. Past support for the dictator Pinochet and CIA assistance in the brutal removal of democratically elected Ariende in Chile in 1973 stands as a hallmark of American intervention in Latin American affairs.

Leftist movements are anchored in resistance to ruthless Latin dictatorships and neo-liberal, pro-American trade policies. The US and governments in the region friendly to it will continue to pay a price for their association. Alternatives to global American leadership, such as the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, are on the rise; our record of past meddling and present hubris have driven the powerful juu-juu of anti-Americanism into the open arms of demagogues and radicals of the far left.

The Bolivarian revolution rising across Latin America is undoubtedly occuring despite the near-total blackout in the MSM. It took Chavez calling Bush the devil at the podium of the UN for the press to rise up and take notice.

The stories about Venezuelan distribution of free heating oil to impoverished Americans never seemed to gain popular traction in the US. Far more nourishing to anti-Chavez elitists was 7-11's decision to terminate its relationship with Citgo, despite the thousands of Americans working for the Venezualan-owned company. The rights of workers are seconded to the privileges of power and authority; economic justice for poor Americans and Citgo employees is far less important to 7-11's obviously Republican management. (Perhaps 7-11's reaction isn't so partisan as Nancy Pelosi did leap to Bush's defense in response to Chavez's comments.)

Perhaps the most remarkable non-coverage in the Media has been of the Oaxaca rebellion. Teachers had been striking for months behind barricades before the government sent troops in. [Background on the strike here.]

Oaxaca is a non-issue in the American Mainstream Media because it represents the arbitrary use of force against local people engaged in a struggle for human rights and political equality. Just like the massive roadblocks dominating Mexico City after Olbrador's non-election, the barriers of Oaxaca simply won't go away regardless of the Media's exercise in denial.

The broadly popular premise that the US is motivated by a quest to dominate Latinos culturally and economically feeds off the US' involvement in Iraq and the inherent brutality of military force used on civilians.

Domestic Issues of Race and Class

The Democratic victory represents more than a turn in politicial sentiment, it represents a shift towards more liberal values in government, among them issues of race and economic opportunity.

Corporations have been doing well under the laissez faire policies of the Republicans but corporations don't vote. They may design the vote-counting software, build, and manage the voting machines, but it remains to be seen how far Diebold and ESS can go in manipulating results. It is clear that electronic voting can easily disenfranchise voters, and minority voters are disporportionally affected.

The winner-take-all system denies representation to minority parties here in the US.
At no time has the US Senate had more than one black senator. Must blacks all move to one state--and presumably win the State's two Senatorial seats--in order to have their votes count?

The recent passage of voter ID bill in Indiana demonstrates the omnipresent desire of Republicans to make voting harder for blacks. When confronted with the egregiousness racism of voter registration constraints, Republicans don't seem too worried. At least the Courts have interceded on some Voter ID laws, with Indiana's law the only one not overturned.

We here in America like to pretend class distinctions aren't important. Yet increasingly we face the truth that the rich are in fact growing richer and the middle classes face uncertain futures.

Economic justice has long been unattainable for the African Americans living here. Despite progress made towards closing the income gap during the Clinton years, economic advances for African Americans have been retreating as manufacturing jobs--a hallmark of economic strength for blacks--disappear. Alongside a decrease in funds for college assistance, the current environment turns back the clock on gains and flattens future income projections for the coming decades, in effect perpetuating an underclass based on race.

The idea that all economic failure is deserved, and all financial success earned, came in alongside the war on affirmative action. Right-wing talk radio framed the debate in terms of fairness--was it fair for people to be rejected on the basis of race? They would point out the lower standards applied to African Americans for admission and career advancement, and cite egregious cases of more qualified white candidates being spurned for less qualified blacks.

The debate on affirmative action may have grown cold, but the ideals of the Right have wormed their way into the subconsciousness of millions. It's no real suprise that whites tend to see the unfairness in affirmative action while blacks--invariably more inclined to be economically disadvantaged--see affirmative action as a means of achieving fairness, to help level the playing field.

While I didn't start this blog to discuss political issues like affirmative action, it's impossible not to feel a general sense of oppression originating out of our political system. Therefore to discuss political issues, disenfranchisement must be addressed. If any effort to correct an imbalance is scorned, the politically aware must strive to learn why. Who gains by the status quo?

Fear and Loathing

I will admit many blogs suffer from considerable paranoia in their discussion of government, Media, and politics. In this sense, many blogs do in fact go too far in suggesting the presence of conspiracies--in this case to "keep the African American down". But when objective measurements of progress in a country (of which full and equal access to political participation must be considered a part) fail to embrace all citizens, that system must be inherently flawed and that country fundamentally unjust.

I guess most of my position is based on my politics. I believe that a society is measured not by the achievements of its greatest, but in the way in treats its poorest (this is a quote from Kennedy or King.) In the crazy pursuit of individual wealth, in the me-generation, it's inevitable that some will be left behind. I find the notion that some people deserve to be left behind un-Christian, antiquated, and bigoted. I suppose these are the qualities of a progressive. You may not share my progressive values, and so I must suppose that you don't feel that minorities are being left behind. But they are; it's simply a question of if you see them left behind, or whether you feel it's their fault and therefore not an issue of any consequence to you.

I'll leave you with the following quote:

"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing." -John Berger


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ever-more Presidential Power; Politics in Election '06

Below, this blog discusses the upcoming Election. More important than the Election is its credibility, so I've devoted space to a brief discussion of vote fraud.

My first priority is to pay attention to what the mainstream media doesn't--which is a fundamental purpose of this blog like many others. President Bush has been on a quest to enhance his authority, and the Media simply doesn't care.

I've made it a point to highlights limits imposed on the Bush Administration in its quest for unrestrained Executive authority. Still the situation is dynamic as Bush's quest for Presidential power goes on, sneaking and slithering its way through the Congress and Courts largely unnoticed by the public.

This issue is too important to let slip by. If the Mainstream Media can't serve its most important purpose in keeping the public informed, blogs like mine must strive to maintain the cherished ideal of a free and independent press.

I. Executive Authority Expands

True conservatives have a major reason to feel betrayed by the passage and signing into law of two draconian laws which grant the President new unrestricted powers. The prominent role of military force in the Terror War opened a window of opportunity for the President to expand his authority.

Under the Military Commission Act, the President can use State powers to detain anyone--American or foreign--he sees as a threat. The Act seeks to legitimize the Administration's effort to try detainees, while granting legal protections for past conduct which could be construed as illegal.

As described in "President’s Inaction Equals ‘Pocket Veto’" by Pat Shannan, the MCA does the following:
*Grant unprecedented and unchecked authority to the Executive Branch to label as “unlawful enemy combatants”, and possibly to detain indefinitely, an overly broad range of people, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents inside the United States
* Deny independent judicial review, through habeas, of detentions of U.S. legal permanent residents and non-citizens
* Limit the sources of law to which the courts may look and the scope of review on appeal
* Narrow the scope of the War Crimes Act and seek to eliminate accountability for past violations of the law by the president and his administration.
* Permit evidence obtained through coercion to be used in the military commission proceedings, with certain limitations.
* Permit the introduction of classified evidence against the accused even if the accused has not had the opportunity to review and challenge the “sources, methods, or activities” by which the government acquired the evidence.
* Restrict full disclosure to the accused of exculpatory evidence
* Give the Secretary of Defense authority to deviate from time-tested military justice standards for fair trials

Civil libertarians have been terrified by the consequences of granting the Executive unlimited powers of arrest and detention, something they believe our Constitution was explicitly created to prevent. If Constitutional limits on Presidential power were shattered by Lincoln, they've been dismantled under Bush. While at this point the targets of the war on terrorism may now be far more discriminating than Lincoln's crushing of the New York City draft riots, the list of enemies could grow, and the temptation to arbitrarily imprison with it.

The mainstream media has completely ignored the new laws. It's as if the President's Lincolnesque seizure of unrestricted authority never happened. The public cannot be afraid of what it doesn't know, so perhaps the MSM feels its serving the public interest by downplaying the significance of these troubling new laws.

Congressional Compliance or Conspiracy?

It's ironic that its the same Warner of Virginia who was one member of the "Revolt of the Three Senators" against Bush's proposed torture rules and tribunal system discussed here. As was discussed on this blog at the time, Warner's "revolt" may have been more about presenting an impression of internal debate rather than challenging the Administration's positions, judging by the bow-down to Presidential authority apparent in the Act's passage.

One article, "President’s Inaction Equals ‘Pocket Veto’", by Pat Shannan gives the following background on the MCA:

"On September 6, 2006, President Bush asked Congress to pass the Military Commission Act of 2006. This Act - among other things - sought to re-define U.S. obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, international treaties signed by every country in the world. Common Article 3 places an absolute prohibition on inhumane treatment of detainees during an armed conflict.

"Specifically, the President wanted Congress to replace the absolute prohibition on inhumane treatment of Common Article 3 with a “flexible” standard, which would assess on a case-by-case basis whether particular conduct would amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Human Rights First criticized the Administration’s proposal for adding ambiguity to an otherwise clear standard of Common Article 3, and would open the door to more Abu Ghraib-style abuses.

"In response to the administration’s proposal, more than 45 retired senior military leaders wrote to members of the U.S. Senate expressing their opposition to redefining Common Article 3 on the grounds that it would compromise the safety of U.S. Service men and women. They were joined by Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former U.S. Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Vessey, Hugh Shelton, and William Crowe, who also sent letters expressing their opposition to redefining Common Article 3.

"Spearheaded by Republican Senators John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed an alternative bill, sponsored by McCain, Warner, and Graham, that preserves Common Article 3. The Administration then agreed to negotiate with the key Senators, and a compromise was reached on September 21, which preserved the meaning and requirements of Common Article 3."

Double Whammy

On October 17th, Bush signed into law "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" which severely challenges existing laws meant to limit the use of federal soldiers in the US. Descriptions of the implications of this odious Act are available here:

-Good summation of the Act in "Bush Moves Toward Martial Law" by Frank Morales

-More on the Executive's newfound powers in "Bush's Absolute Power Grab" by Carla Binion

-Scary and insightful is Kurt Nimmo's "Bush’s Martial Law Act of 2007".

Nimmo quotes a New York activist/minister:

"...The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions."

Nimmo goes on to bring up Katrina, when Louisiana Governor Blanco failed to mobilize the National Guard. More decisive deployment of the Guard had clearly been needed. Yet the whole debate over Bush federalizing the Guard failed to address the fact Bush had been given authority to nationalize troops under a post-9/11 federal emergency plan.

Like the FISA Court, there were existing laws which gave the Administration all the tools they could possibly need. It's been said dodging FISA allowed Bush to keep the targets of surveillance secret. Likewise efforts to clear the way for federalizing the National Guard may have nefarious or alternate purposes.

Naturally, President Bush sees himself as more capable of reacting to a catastrophe--or terror attack--than governors. Yet two conditions must be met for federalization to be effective. First, the National Guard must be available and fully equipped to be of use; the Lousiana Guard had been at a fraction of its strength due to committments in Iraq. Politically, blaming governors for failing to use the Guard effectively might make more sense if troops were available.

Secondly, for the President to nationalize the Guard on his own authority to make sense, the exercise of his discretion must be beneficial. The President--or his proxy--must be capable of managing the entire response, a capability which can hardly exist, judging by the Katrina response. There's a serious command and control challenge associated with regular Army commanders supplanting the leadership of the National Guard units deployed in a crisis.

Perhaps the ineptitude of FEMA demonstrated the dangers of assigning control to federal agencies. Internally, the Armed Services may be better choreographed, but there's no indication they would be able to communicate with and coordinate between disparate State, local, and not-for-profit response elements any better than FEMA.

Legal Limitations

Unfortunately for the Administration--and fortunately for those who believe firmly in the rule of international law--the MCA and its ugly twin, the John Warner defense act, will likely fall to court challenges. One challenge brought out in the Shannan article concerned likely incongruities bound to exist if the Federal laws are changed and possibly no longer comply with binding treaties like Geneva.

Perhaps the bills were passed out of the impression that the Congress would soon turn Democratic and deny Bush any easy way out of the situation his tough-on-terror approach has created. Thousands of Iraqis languish in jails, not to mention Guantanamo and Jose Padilla. Classified as enemy combatants, these detainees' rights have been violated and now stripped, their confessions coerced. Obviously not all are guilty, many clearly have been mistreated according the standards of the Geneva Convention.

In processing detainees the White House and military face serious challenges due in large part to the use of torture in confessions and the gathering of evidence. So the Administration can only try to change the law to get illegally obtained confessions to apply. As it is the Military's Code of Justice simply won't be able to process the detainees, not because of risks to the national security posed by the calling of witness, but due to the legally questionable interrogations of the accused.

It's sad that Bush's War on Terror has manifested itself into such a threat to civil liberties. With the power to deny "enemy combatants" universally recognized legal rights, the Executive has increased its power to the point it can no indefinitely incarcerate an American citizen and deny the right of habeas corpus.

There may be a ray of hope for the stalwart defenders of Constitutional limits on Presidential authority--apparently the MCA was signed by the President more than 10 days after it'd been passed, resulting in a pocket veto.

Shannan's article elaborates:

"...The U.S. Constitution requires the President to sign or veto any legislation placed on his desk within ten days (not including Sundays). If he does not, then it becomes law by default. The one exception to this rule is if Congress adjourns before the ten days are up. In such a case, the bill does not become law; it is effectively, if not actually, vetoed. Ignoring legislation, or 'putting a bill in one’s pocket' until Congress adjourns is thus called a pocket veto.

"Congress passed 6166 on September 29th, presented it to the President on October 10th, and adjourned on October 13th. Bush signed it on October 17th, the week after Congress had adjourned, thereby rendering it 'vetoed' by constitutional standards."

If the bill had actually been disqualified under the pocket veto, the MCA and presumably the Warner Act could be considered null and void! At the very least, the pocket veto casts the new legislation in a state of limbo.

Odd it would be if the bills were forced back into a Congress controlled by Democrats! Perhaps there was indeed a revolt which could have been more aptly called a delaying action, pushing the new legislation too late in the session for signing into law. Find more legal analysis in the Shannan article.

II. Politics

It's important to examine the voter's attitude towards politics and voting behavior during the last election. The growing role of electronic voting must also be considered to understand the upcoming Election and what it means.

Many mass psychological phenomena are associated with electoral trends, among them the idea of moderates enraged with the state of affairs in Washington, traumatized by higher gas prices, or generally worried about jobs and the economy. As Bill Clinton said, "it's the economy, stupid." If the economy is seen to be strong, people will be more sympathetic to incumbents. If the polls are to be believed, anti-incumbent sentiments are high; the majority of American could thus be worried about the economy.

Nonetheless, the public tends to hold a far higher opinion in regard to their representative than they do for Congress overall, as if it weren't their representatives fault for contributing to the waywardness of the body.

Non-Election '06

Many people have grown completely cynical with politics and deactivate themselves, assuring minimal accountability for politicians by reducing overall participation in voting. Once the politician is elected, re-election is almost assured, turnover neglible. In return for the ample pork dispensed from Washington, moneyed interests back the incumbent with lots of campaign cash, virtually guaranteeing re-election.

The US' two-party system has created a duopoly in which two relatively similar groups deny any political representation to third parties.

It's hard to know where parties stand on the Iraq war. Despite the roar of discontent, few Democrats have really contributed to an exit plan; no bipartisan effort exists.

Democrats have yet to field a true opposition exhibiting political confrontation seen in healthier democracies; they do however still compete with Republicans for votes. We have a choice yes, but not one where the impact of a political change will be immediately felt or even eventually felt by the vast majority. This isn't to voting makes no difference; only rather to admit that the our selections differ little.

Both parties seek more to appease the voter than to confront each other. Whatever changes are made to candidate's position are made superficially, while the influence-peddling techniques are used by both sides, disguised in the form of campaign contributions and honorariums.

Idealism has no place in the boardroom, thus corporate-sponsored politicos remain malleable behind the scenes, regardless of how vociferous they might sound in public. No one makes the case better than Internet child safety advocate Mark Foley, who used the Internet to pursue an adolescent male page. Whatever Foley's long-hidden depravities, their exposure may reveal more about the permissive atmosphere in Washington than the state of his moral values or those of his party.

Oh how America longs for a leader with the strength of conviction! They presumed to have found one in Bush, but the consequences of his bullheadedness have been costly. The real political message that the voters send could be one of real anger at the state of affairs in Washington, D.C.. Inherently non-partisan, anti-incumbency could be far more threatening, uncontrollable by established political forces, methods or means.

Theoretically, such a threat to the status quo could justify vote-rigging, if corporations have control over the voting and vote-counting process, which appears to have happened to some extent through electronic voting. Still, why bother if both candidates represent first and foremost the highest bidder in a backroom auction to corporate interests? Without a broad range of candidates, and a system of proportional representation, ballots are vacant of real choices, just empty suits, now popularly called "the evil of two lessors".

Iraq's Impact

The public's shrinking appetite for casualties seems to put any politician's position on Iraq under intense pressure.

The antiwar movement has become highly organized. Rather than directly oppose the 61-64% of the population against the war, politicians have paid lip-service to the problems we face in Iraq while they appease Bush and the Pentagon's every call for funding. While some Democrats like Jack Murtha stand up in opposition, a solid majority can always be found to vote for a continuation of the war through its funding.

While the antiwar rhetoric heats up about Iraq, making the tough choice to leave falls to politicians who likely voted for the intervention, and would be hard pressed to vote "against the troops" in any effort to stop the war.

No politician wants to be seen as failing to support the troops, especially this close to election day. Antiwar sentiments could likely froth to the surface soon after the election, but with Congress on a two-year cycle, any cutting of war funding is simply too immediate and too big a political negative.

If the antiwar cause is to fully succeed, it must prove capable of defeating incumbents even in predominantly Republican areas. Former Marine Corps Major Paul Hackett launched a Senate campaign and could win. Candidates have made Iraq the centerpiece of their campaigns; the public has also grown tired of Iraq and the issue will affect the election although perhaps not be the key deciding factor.

In the Red States, Democrats must appeal to the shame voters must secretly bear for their support of the Iraq war and the general desire to fix what's broken or simply find a way out. Standing by the President and by proxy, his Iraq war policy , appears to be a liability, the inverse of the flagrantly militarized and nationalized foreign policy position that worked so well in 2004.

Just as a Congressperson might cringe at the sight of bodybags--had such a viewing been possible in the US media--so might John Q. Public, whose majority vote in 2004 had retroactively legitimatized the Iraq invasion. Duped into the Iraq war, perhaps the public in general privately acknowledges that they'd made a mistake in believing the President. With losses growing in Iraq, this guilt could contribute to the Republican's widely anticipated loss of control in the House and possibly the Senate.

While I'd love to be able to say a change of suits will bring a change of policy, I'm afraid Congress simply can't stop the war. Supporters of the Iraq War might flip their positions--in part to hold on to their jobs--, but they would never admit they'd made a mistake in believing the President. The wiggle factor may reign supreme--candidates sounding just unhappy enough about things to suggest some change in policy is in the offing. Lieberman is an excellent example of a pro-war Democrat who could win by simply changing hats.

Recently the President may have acknowledged some of his Iraq policy's many shortcomings. Like any consummate politician, Bush may simply be trying to sell a veneer of change of policy on Iraq when in actuality no plan exists. If the perception of progress towards an impending change of policy can be instilled in the public, the GOP can appear to be just accomodating enough to mollify firming antiwar consensus and ride the coattails of national security to victory once again.

History shows that politician oiliness is nothing new; the 2004 Election in particular demonstrated how the electorate may inwardly want change in Iraq but be more comfortable with the status quo. Familiar from 2004 is the "support the troops" refrain; the last election found us in "times of trouble", a climate generated by the War on Terror and Iraqi occupation.

In light of all the serious challenges posed to the Constitution, the change of control by parties may not signify change on an immediate level as desired by antiwar supporters. A lame duck, Bush has nothing to lose by pushing his agenda in Iraq; the War President has committed troops to Iraq for the remainder of his time in office.


The position of Democrats on Iraq was clouded by pre-war misinformation--lies--meant to convince the Congress and public that Iraq represented a threat, which had been cherry-picked by the Office of Special Plans and massaged into the MSM by the White House Iraq Group.

All politicians are inclined to want to look tough against any credible threat, which Iraq was forged into through the manipulation of intelligence retroactively proven false. Many Democrats bought into the President's dramatic and convincing portrayal of the threat; a vote against the invasion would have been politically consequential.

While many Democrats fell for the war, so did much of the general population, many of whom believed in striking back at Iraq for the commonly held misperception it was responsible for 9/11. So opposition to the Iraq invasion would have come at risk of popular opinion; in times of war, looking soft against outside threats must have been considered far too dangerous even if candidates had reservations about the war.

Democrats persisted into 2004 in basing their Iraq positions on an artificial middle-of-the-road. They couldn't outwardly seek closure for fear of not appearing to "support the troops" (only later would the cut'n'run accusation be levelled.) Nor could the Democrats become complacent in oppsing the war--the rise of Howard Dean signalled that the antiwar movement did hold broad popular support.

The Democrats' complacency would cost them, and earn Kerry the label "flip-flopper" in 2004. As the campaign degenerated into the art form of swift-boating, alongside Rove's introduction of gay marriage as a wedge issue, Kerry's general awkwardness became his most visible--and disturbing--media image.

Where he may have once stood for the antiwar movement at the end of Vietnam, Kerry seemed to stand for the worst caricature of politicians: timidly dipping his toe in the antiwar political pool while defending his "national security" credentials and militarist posture by standing behind the President's foreign policy in Iraq.

The public probably just compared the medal-tossing, war-protesting Kerry to the "War President" in Bush and found the latter more attractive. Cloaked in the flag in a time of war, Bush would go on to win by the narrowest of margins in an election almost certainly rigged in his favor.[Sources: best single source on the 2004 election I've found is Robert Kennedy's Rolling Stone article.]

Fear Factor

Fear has long been the Republican catalyst for building support for the President War on Terror policies. Fear is a useful tool in stimulating nationalist and militarist impulses, and thus serves an important role in politics. Fear can work both ways, however, and at some point fear of our own government may work against the fear-mongering that's help get re-elected.

In his book The Truth, Al Franken talks about a TMT (Terror Management Theorist) test where participants were asked to vote, one group after thinking about death and the control group another topic. Voters were apparently swayed to Bush in large numbers by the incessant banter about terror and war, just as thoughts about mortality had triggered a pronounced swing in the test group towards Bush.

Consummate poll master Karl Rove undoubtedly built Bush's re-election around a fear response. Terror alerts, talk of WMD, all channelled the targetted demographic--suburban moms and NASCAR dads--toward the fear candidate.

It remains to be seen whether capitalizing on terror will pay similar dividends at the Congressional level. The electorate must have grown tired of the constant crying wolf; just how often can a fear response by concocted. Unfortunately the tired terror banter has weakened the validity of any real terror warning, which presupposes the issue of just how threatened the American people really were. Meanwhile, suppressed is any talk the Tenet and Rice had met before 9-11, where Tenet had virtually guaranteed Rice (10 out of 10) that an attack was coming.{See my previous post}

Fortunately, no real terror attack has materialized in the US, which would bring into question just how effective Bush has been in his efforts to stop terror, and lead the electorate to seriously re-evaluate Bush's artificial fear-based credentials. In light of the emphasis put on the political in the lead-up to Iraq and corresponsping neglect of the geopolitical consequences of launching a preemptive war, there is no doubt now that the fear factor was artificially blown up, to capitalize on the President strength and conviction, ostensibly seen as key qualification in the much hyped War on Terror.

Election Issues

The credibility of election results is contigent upon the smooth functioning of the electoral process. In many ways challenges to the election process, primarily that posed by electronic voting, transcend the election itself. Who wins is secondary to fairness, just as any game depends on fair enforcement of its rules for its outcome to be meaningful.

Vote fraud is as significant a threat to our democracy as the Bush's pursuit of unrestricted legal authority to prosecute accused terrorists. The Mainstream Media plays a huge role in minimizing the significance of both phenomena. With public awareness about the risks of vote denial, theft and fraud minimal, little consensus has been built for the need to make voting systems impervious to tampering.

Black box voting, as electronic voting is now called by its critics, means voters don't know whether their vote registered, or if it was tallied under the appropriate candidate. So rife is the election with e-voting problems that new issues are emerging daily; one portal on the challenges facing the election system can be found at www.votetrustusa.org.

County elections supervisors and administrators like Ion Sanchez of Leon County (Tallahassee) Florida have tested and proven Diebold and ESS machines to be undependable. Rather than admit errors, the predominantly Republican-owned company refused to provide Sanchez with voting machines, holding him in violation of the Help America Vote Act, which facilitated quite prematurely the transition to electronic voting machines. Governor Jeb Bush of Florida claims his is a model state for e-voting--odd considering Bush lives in Sanchez' district. Sanchez had brought in an independent technical consultant, who proved how easy it was to hack Diebold's machines. [For more on Sanchez, see this article in www.votetrustusa.org.]

Critics have found numerous problems uncorrected which translate into lost votes and lost legitimacy. Voter paranoia about election functionality might not be widespread but it does run deep among those in the know.

Voter fraud is not limited to e-voting. Deemed "spoilage", millions of votes were literally tossed out in key battleground states. In Ohio, more provisional ballots went uncounted than was the margin of victory in Bush's favor; the Republican responsible for counting the votes didn't bother to count.

For the large part, many of the problems plaguing the election process persist from last elections. Without a broad mandate for improvement, and any mainstream call to action in the media, the state of electoral disrepair has persisted. Many more votes will go unrecorded, or be changed, if elections are run as they were in 2004. Mandated federally under HAVA, electonic voting has spread to put more and more votes at risk of manipulation or loss, with paper trails being the only apparent method to secure e-voting.

Democracy in Neglect

Many Americans disregard the importance of voting. Perhaps the price of democracy has been forgotten. Classic nationalist dogma as seen in the Depression and WWII embraces the connection between sacrifice and unity; mutual toil for mutual benefit. How many Americans today hold dear the concept of mutual sacrifice?

I'm sure each ensuing generation looks at the youth of the next and sees what the previous generation saw of them. Nonetheless, it's true our creature comforts are greater now than they've ever been. It's perhaps also true that the the business cycle not so prone to roaring highs and crashing lows; still, the way we live today is devoid of a traditional sense of community, atomized. Political participation has become an increasingly dysfunctional value in our society.

Iraq may change things as a draft may well have to happen. Soldiers there are on 3rd or 4th tours of duty, and have been prevented from leaving, making our forces' participation increasingly involuntary. Vietnam draftees would serve a year; nowadays multi-tour mandatory service may do to morale what draftees did to morale during Vietnam.

Bush and his war-glorifying fellows love to raise the ghosts of WWII--would American GI's have to serve consecutive terms through the entire war? Possible, but unlikely. That war was a NOT an occupying action, it had specific goals, namely the attainment of victory over fascism. Comparing Iraq to post-war Germany or Japan doesn't do adequate justice to those serving in far more hostile Iraq.


Problems may be even worse, yet go unrecorded in the media; acknowledgment of errors threatens the legitimacy of the election process. The American ideal held high by the trusty Media torch is one where election results matter, but the votes count less. The double standard praises patriotism and America's vaunted model of democracy yet minimizes the value of participation in the political process.

Most in the Mainstream Media avoid the Black Box Voting issue. Rather debate the worthiness of electonic voting systems, the media avoids the issue, as if problems were sporadic and anticipated, rather than pressing and endemic. Discovery of the problem is not however even the solution, Lou Dobbs might conclude.

Digitalization and commercialization of the voting system threaten the most fundamental principle of our democracy--that government is elected and therefore accountable.

The Mainstream Media minimizes the scale of infringement on civil rights. Media scrutiny raises public awareness about the risks of vote denial, theft and fraud minimal, little consensus has been built for the need to make voting systems impervious to tampering. Lou Dobbs of CNN did addresses electronic voting problems Tuesday evening, interviewing internet voting critic Bev Harris and sounding the warning. However the voting challenges aren't easily remedied. In the hands of corporate insiders and federally mandated contracts, the voting machine companies enjoy limited competition.

Like 2004, there could be considerable delay in reporting on election day failures. It wasn't until 2006 that the Kennedy article on the 2004 elections surfaced;. Perhaps the public's tolerance for voting improprieties has shrunk; what is certain is that State legislatures--whose caution concerning electronic voting has been greatly heightened by activists like Bev Harris and the experiences of local officials like Ion Sanchez--will continue to address the problem.


Conspiracists might lean towards the conclusion that some level of coordination exists in the "selection" process controlling our "rigged" elections. They will argue that corporations control the voting machines and tally votes. On one level, they are completely correct--Diebold representatives are in a position to control how their machines work, and exploit whatever vulnerabilities they may host. Yet the idea of shaping the outcome of individual Congressional races is hard to fathom. Much more likely is a state of general chaos, an environment where illegitimacy is allowed to persist by virtue of a lack of technical understanding of the machines and their vulnerabilities.

The Conspiracist could argue that this chaos can only benefit the unpopular, in the same fashion that internal discord in Iraq could justify our ongoing presence there--although that ulterior motive may be hard to prove. Rather than electronic vote-rigging, the far simpler tool of discouragement could be confined to majority Democratic districts, like the liberal bastion Kenyon College whose students were forced to wait twelve hours or more, or the machines which weren't delivered to predominantly minority districts in Columbus, forcing long lines there.

In sum, the election results will certainly be inaccurate and reflect numerous "spoiled" votes; the hanging chad replaced with far more insidious violations of the right to vote. Like our civil liberties chipped away in the Global War on Terror, the unambiguous Constitutional guarantee to have one's vote counted appears to have disappeared, if it had ever truly existed. Absent any popular outrage, the sorry state of the election system will continue to disenfranchise, disproportionally affecting minority Democratic voters.

The Election result may matter, but the absence of accountability will persist into the next Congress. Turnover rates are abysmally low. Where change happens, it occurs superficially. Still, there are candidates focused on ending American involvement in Iraq, and eventually more sensible politicians will replace those who've led us into that mess, assuming the vote's results accurately reflect how Americans actually voted.