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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fear of Iran: Root of the Next War

This is a double posting beginning with an article on the artificial atmosphere of fear and mistrust towards Iran.

US military options remain limited to punitive strikes, and incapable of triggering regime change. Destroying Iran's nuclear capacity appears impossible, short of a nuclear strike which would deplete US global stature and embolden rival leaders like Russia and China, not to mention invite nuclear retaliation.

Attached to my discussion of Iran and the US is an essay on the roots of war. A current update on Bush policy in Iraq follows the essay, along with some revealing information on the trial and execution of Saddam's co-defendants.

A Matter of Language

To many Americans, Iran is a country run by fervently anti-American mullahs bent on the destruction of Israel. Recently the Mainstream Media echoed a statement attributed to Iranian President Ahmadinejad where he said he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map."

In a direct translation, Ahmadinejad in fact said:
"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time".

Clarifying the accurate translation, Arash Norouzi writes:

"...the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh", is not contained anywhere in his original farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's President threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", despite never having uttered the words "map", "wipe out" or even "Israel".

The erroneous mistranslation was allowed to profligate throughout the American Mainstream Media. No alternate translations were offered, nor was the translation's accuracy ever questioned.

As it turns out, the mistranslated quote attributed to Ahmadinejad was also not Ahmadinejad's at all, but rather something said by the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

Misquoting Ahmadinejad creates an environment of mistrust through which anti-Iranian elements can exaggerate the threat the Muslim nation poses.

* * *

Iran has been portrayed as a fundamentalist state in the Western Media. The average Iranian, however, is portrayed as less inclined to follow the medieval worldview of their theocratic leadership. Media fixate this schism between unpopular mullahs and their regressive sharia law and a younger, forward-leaning citizenry. Groups advocating regime change in Iran therefore propose the Iranians would welcome US liberators with open arms. In the lead-up to Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi made similar claims, which through the activities of advocates for war in Washington, resounded to the American public.

If the Iranian public is more receptive to the West, military intervention would be less needed, not more incumbent. Conversion would be a function of time, not the result of intervention. If Eastern Europe is any guide, a process called "articulation from below" (as it was called by a Polish political science professor of mine) should emerge "from within." Developed internally and over time, this voice of revolution will allow the will of the Iranian people to shape its government. Yet not everyone is willing to wait for the Iranian government to moderate, or cast off its present government without resorting to force.

Military Intervention

Those who are most impatient are also those who stand to gain by military intervention. As we see in Iraq, Big Oil sees regime change as a method for exploiting Middle East oil. Profitting in war, the military-industrial complex is eager to expand profits swollen from Iraq war spending. Right-wing advocates of military force and Isreali sympathizers naturally see the destruction of the Iranian regime they've labelled a sponsor of terror as an urgent priority.

Yet the strategical limitations imposed on military intervention show how vulnerable US forces are to counterattack, being on two sides of Iran. In retaliating, Iran could choose to rely on surrogates, as some war supporters now claim they are doing in Iraq. The evidence of direct Iranian involvement remains thin; why Shia Iranians would sponsor Sunni terror remains unclear.

Our military is stretched so thin that it is in no position to occupy Iran, much less hold any territory.

Iranian intervention appears unachievable on the strategic scale needed to force regime change (although some clamoring for action will likely say the toppling the regime requires nothing more then a big push). The military appears quite able to launch some form of punitive strike on Iran, yet this would likely expand the Iraq theatre and broaden the war. The US clearly has too few active duty troops to mount any sustained offensive.

Our force/strength deficiencies show the inadequacies of our current military policy govenrning Iraq. Limitations to the use of American military power naturally exists in plain sight for any would-be rogue state who dared to test us. North Korea showed the US could bark but could not bite. Unfortunately for US efforts to deter nuclear weapons development in Iran, the consequences of the use of force, particularly in Iraq, mean that the US can't strike on the scale needed to end weapons development. The military card may not be off the table, however. One report claims that an Israeli jet carrying a tactical nuclear weapon was intercepted by the US Air Force over Iraq in route to Iran.

Those calling for military intervention in Iran face an almost impossible uphill climb in the antiwar political climate dominating Washington. For any indicator of how far the divide is on Iraq, look at Bush State of the Union Address on the 23rd, where majority Democrats remained seated when Republicans clapped in response to Bush's plans for Iraq.

The Israelis have been making overtures that they would rush in where the US dares to tread. The punch behind their belief that they can interrupt Iranian development of nukes must in turn be nuclear. The Israelis may be willing to nuke the Iranians. Among Israeli hard-liners, a response in force may not be totally unwelcomed; if counterattacked, the Israelis could justify additional strikes, reardless of the international condemnation nuclear weapon use would generate. Still, paranoid minds can welcome military force, especially if the Israelis remain convinced Iran will use nuclear weapons against them once they've been acquired.

Will Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) work between nuclear-armed enemies in the Middle East? The philosophy that one side would avoid using nuclear weapons because of the likelihood of a cataclysmic response inhibits even the most ardent proponents of nuclear weapons use.

People have said that the Israeli tail controls the American dog. Still, the US clearly has a much wider field of interest in avoiding nuclear weapons use, even--or especially--by our allies. Unfortunately, recent changes to US military doctrine have liberalized the definition of nuclear weapons, defining tactical nukes more as less as no different from other weapons. This may mean that the US is trying to diminish the consequences of lower scale detonations--at least according to its own military standards.

From a position of strike capability, bunker busters may not be sufficient to do the job. Many of these massive bombs were used in the "shock-and-awe" opening salvo in Iraq in 2003, then again by Israel last summer. While some of these projectiles do contain nuclear material, it's in the form of undepleted uranium, which burns at high temperature, allowing the bomb to penetrate bunker walls or layers of earth before exploding. While undepleted uranium weapons are de facto Weapons of Mass Destruction, contamination is much more limited than a nuclear explosion. Nonetheless undepleted and depleted uranium weapons are nasty stuff. Iraq has experienced higher cancer rates, particularly among children, in areas where depleted weapons were used in the 1991 war. Over 1/3 of Gulf War veterans are on permanent disability.

The possibility of a strike remains. The lack of a robust conventional capacity limits options. Different constraints and policy goals for the US and Israeli complicate any potential response to nuclear weapons development in Iran. While nukes may be the only viable method for disrupting Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, the political damage would turn major powers like Russia and China--not to mention the world community--against Israel and US.

Some of Israel's "staunchest defenders" may believe a nuclear attack on them by Iran is imminent. Yet it is known throughout the Middle East that Israel would retaliate against Teheran and Damascus, regardless of who could be found responsible. With a strong MAD deterrent in place, no State would dare attack Israel, so Iran doesn't present a direct threat, only an indirect one. Faced with the arbirtrary retaliation for any act of nuclear terror directed against Israel, Iran and Syria have an interest in preventing the use of nukes on Israeli soil.

Still, much must happen in order to give Iran the ability to build nuclear weapons, much less hand them out to terrorists and invite retaliation should they be used.

Mutual Assured Destruction worked for the US, and Israel's nuclear stockpiles provide more than enough capacity for a counterstrike. Yet many would argue terrorists operate outside any conventions or controls, and would use the weapon should they have it. With a strong MAD deterrent in place, no State would dare attack Israel, so Iran doesn't present a direct threat, only an indirect one. So the real issue is how to influence the Iranians so that they don't feel compelled to sponsor terror.

Getting at the root of terror allows the US and Israel--likely the primary targets of terror--to create better relationships with their enemies: a process which has been shunned by Bush as negotiating with terrorists. Paradoxically, the use of military force by Israel and the US has worked to worsen the relationships, and cast their State enemies into the pariah's box of State sponsors of terror. So military force is completely counter-productive.

Conspiracists would even argue the main point of using military force is to eliminate non-violent policy options down the road. Isolation clearly does not work. And the Shanghai Cooperative Organization--a Sino-Russian alternative to Western leadership--gives Iran and Syria reason to align against the US and Israel. {Russia recently delivered anti-air missiles to Iran [source], which may trigger a serious response by the US and threaten to extend the potential conflict with Iran into one with the Russians.}

Unfortunately Bush has already made a case for intervention in Iraq on the ground that country would develop WMD, essentially "crying wolf." And in their lashing out at Lebanon for a cross-border skirmish, Israel has used force indiscriminately too often for its own good. Military methods cannot resolve the problems posed by terrorism, as interventions in Lebanon and Iraq show. Stopping nuclear weapon development in Iran may do little in the long-run to deter use of nuclear weapons by pan-Arab terrorists; other sources are available. If anything, military intervention could be ineffective--and embolden terrorism--or grossly undermine the longer-term cause of peace.

Removing support for terrorism requires moving away from military force, and using diplomatic tools to reconcile differences. And contrary to views dominant in US and Israeli governments, failing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is really a key motivator for terrorism. The Media's heartfelt duty to ignore the plight of Gaza and land seizures in the West Bank simply perpetuates the government's misperception concerning linkage to broader support for terror engendered by the occupation and treatment of Palestinians.

State support for terror is a political outgrowth of a gross military imbalance favoring the US and Israel, where terror is seen as the only viable alternative to the use of conventional armed forces which would be easily destroyed by the superior forces of the US and Israel.

Setting Up Iran

Dissidents in exile are a source of suspicious intelligence. Clearly there are inscrutable parties who can gain in the change of government; with Chalabi convicted of embezzlement in Jordan, he was clearly a man whose word could not be trusted. With Iraq we saw Chalabi frequently used as a source for intelligence despite clear evidence that he was an unreliable source. The Department of State and the CIA had the common sense to exclude Chalabi from any of their assessments and post-invasion planning. The Pentagon, however, run by Rumsfeld and propelled by neocon enthusiasm for the things Chalabi would say, leaned on Chalabi's every word because it helped make the case for war that their political leadership wanted made.

The desire to overlook intelligence contradictions that undermined the case for war was a small step down from manufacturing propaganda. Yet the end result of cherry picking intelligence was essentially the same as outright propaganda. People were led to believe Iraq posed a threat. Calmer heads and more veteran intelligence professionals knew the case for war was weak, as even President Bush criticized CIA director Tenet for not providing a slam-dunk on Iraq.

In some propaganda war similar to that used against Iraq, Iran is now targetted. Mention of Iranian belligerence is omnipresent in any Administration discussion of foreign policy. If Iraq was an accurate indicator of the accuracy of the Administration intelligence, its provocations concerning Iraq are largely forged evidence. If we can see how the stream of anti-Iraqi misinformation made its way from the inner cadre of the neocons to the public, through our government, we can identify the source of bias. We know the cost of believing Bush on Iraq, we don't know just how far he and his Administration went in promoting the war which is the source of so much pain.

In "Bush administration provokes open war on Iran", Larry Chin writes:

"Iran, according to the Bush administration’s Orwellian rubric, is "supplying sophisticated weapons" to forces within Iraq, and that these weapons are being used against US troops. Iranians, according to Bush-Cheney-Rice, are engaging in "violent activities", fomenting "terrorism" against the US in Iraq. Iran, according to the administration, has "ambitions" in Iraq that must be "contained". Iran is "al-Qaeda", and vice versa. The US is "defending itself". Meanwhile, the continuous Anglo-American destabilization of Iran, intense covert operations underway for years, is officially denied.

As was the case in the lead-up to the attack on Iraq, evidence supporting the Bush administration lie is being manufactured out of whole cloth, or cooked up from half-truths. Facts, words, and actions are being distorted, realities turned upside down. Lies are being repeated in drumbeat fashion, and cemented into war policy."[link]

The greatest challenge to US foreign policy today may be the loss of US credibility because of Iraq. If Iran really does pose a threat, what can the world do to stop them? We saw in North Korea that the US could do nothing; tied down in Iraq we can do little militarily. Diplomatically, the US has very low status. Our escalation in Iraq and the bloodshed in Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan have turned global opinion against us. The US appears incapable of mobilizing any type of international coalition as seen under Bush I; unilateralism appears to be both a necessity for any potential action and source of ongoing alienation.

Media Manipulation

As with the build-up to Iraq, the Media is failing its duty in its reporting on Iran. The public remains underserved; accuracy in reporting is not a priority, government statements are swallowed as hard news, and the factual basis of claims made by proponents of Administration policy go unchallenged.

The majority of Americans have been made vulnerable to distortion and misinformation by the absence of due diligence. In a large way, Media has suffered as well; profitability dwindles as news departments are treated as profit cells and ruled by corporate overseers afraid to confront potential advertizers.

Rather than see its own vital role as servant-leaders, to provide the public with unvarnished truth, for too long the MSM has been sharing the corridors of power. Pundits and Media figures rely on strong relationships with those in power to provide information. It's also vital for the personal brands of prominent Media personalities to meld with conservative Media magnates whose networks control the flow of information. In a TV episode, the author hawks his book; more sales ensue.

The Bush Administration in particular has denied the press the right of access, but rather limit openness to the Media to privileged networks. Just last week, Condi Rice was caught on a mike praising Fox news.

As the Libby trial is now showing, the two-way flow of information from/to reporters reveals at a minimum the propensity for spreading false information and the potential for far greater abuse of the public trust. Claiming that he was told about Plame's covert status by reporters, Libby's role in revealing Plame's identity may have been obscured. But the obfuscating role of cozy relations with the press may also show the lengths to which the White House went to affect what went on in the Mainstream Press.

Like any crucial environment shaping the political environment, the Media is used by all Presidential handlers. As Karl Rove has shown, perception is reality; by altering what the Media says, politicans can control how they are perceived. Accuracy and justice are inconsequential to the political organ in its efforts to achieve a political purpose, and damage political opposition to that goal.

To politicans, the Media is a tool. The attitude that Media serves a purpose not to inform but as a vehicle to send political message is prevalent throughout all levels of our government, yet the White House is better positioned to control what is said, by limiting access to power. While most politicians have simply been eager to have their opinions heard, press management today by government is far more sophisticated as sound bites have become a valuable currency in winning the heart and minds of Americans.

Americans are also busy people; the lack of time available for performing due diligence on what they see in the Media has made the few minutes the networks devote to foreign policy issues that much more important.

In talking to people who support Bush--or at least don't oppose him--I often see a strong aversion to the political; people simple don't want to know the truth, especially if it differs with the impressions they've developed. Among those less trusting of what they're told, I tend to see more criticism of Bush, so the Media plays a huge role in shaping opinion or, more specifically, in minimizing criticism. In this sense, censorship-by-omission is far more effective than outright lies. Lacking the time to assemble a body of evidence of support or criticism, most people are quick to assume they know the truth, particularly if its parroted ceaselessly in the Media over an extended period.

Mainstream Media coverage and White House opinion on Iraq in 2002 and Iran in 2006-7 both use the same method to shape popular opinion: the cultivation of fear. Without fear, the US people are not afraid and thus not angry or worried. With fear, Americans are bothered, vulnerable to what's know as "agit-prop" (agitation/propaganda.) It's been frequently said that those who are afraid tend to accept violence as a necessary step to protect themselves.

Central to understanding Media manipulation is this question: was the intelligence we gathered on Iraq erroneous or did prowar people within the Administration pursue an agenda to make war inevitable? It is clear that the White House was pushing the Iraq war on 2 fronts. First, within the Pentagon, a group of neocon consultants (Office for Special Plans) was ordered to search for any information which supported the idea that Iraq 1) had WMD or 2) was connected to WMD. And at the White House, a group of neocons under Cheney called the White House Iraq Group steered the nation to war by dispensing a stream of half-truths to build up the threat and, through that, a case for war.

Perhaps more than failing the American people on Iraq, democratic Congress will perform an even greater dereliction of duty if it fails to fully investigate the case the Bush Administration made for war. Like Watergate, the willingness to launch a war on false pretenses may uncover a even darker tapestry of misconduct, which could not only degrade whatever credibility Bush the Lame Duck may have left, but also lead to criminal prosecution for lying the nation into war.

Changing tactics on Iraq is a political necessity born out of the need to justify past lies or exaggeration. New details are emerging continuously in how the President and war supporters used their positions of authority to create a threat where none existed. Much of one's inclination to judge the intentions of the President rests on their political affinity; one person's faulty intelligence is another's propaganda.

Fear: Coin of the Realm

Bush Administration propaganda expounding the threat Hussein posed has segued perfectly into building the case for war in Iraq. Now faced with a lack of support for the ongoing war, the Administration now cultivates of fear based on the basis of nightmare scenarios of what might happen if the US were to leave.

Endless war can be justified by an endless threat. And by not ending the threat of terror, the Bush Administration has forced us to continue the battle with a foe not of our chosing, a nation which may have little to do with the source of terror. By seeding an unwinnable war that must be won at all costs, the US commits itself to occupy hostile Iraq indefinitely because it cannot end the threat terrorism poses. Will terrorism ever not be a threat? As I've said, we are still waiting for victory in the war on drugs and on poverty.

The source of so much of our problems we now have with Iran are traced to fears. We fear terrorism; they fear our military. Fear essentially produces more fear, all of which can be illusory. Fear is based on the possibility of something bad happening, and thus is a premise based not on the certainty of a future event happening, but rather the possibility of its occurance.

In an article in Op-Ed News, Crockett describes the challenge thusly:
"The American military looks like a potential invasion threat by the Iranian leadership. The Iranian nuclear program looks like a response to the perceived American military threat. Bush worries the Iranian leadership because of his record of military adventures. Bush and his Neo-Con allies look like war-mongers to most of the world. Improvements between Iran and the United States are unlikely until after a new American Democratic President is installed in office."

Fear derives its power from the way it makes those whom we fear seem more fearsome than they might really be. Suspicion builds upon mistrust, and before long two groups of people manage to convince themselves that they are hated by the other. From this morass of mass delusion rises the need to use violence--now not just a matter of resolving a dispute between to people--into a mechanism to achieve a higher goals--like defending the group, or destroying the other.

Essay: The Roots of War

It's sad that violence is often sought as a remedy for our differences with others. And when used by the State, violence assumes a darker, indiscriminate form: war. Aside from the noble intentions of the Geneva Convention and other treaties, wars for the most part degenerate into odysseys of death and destruction, with each war creating the possibility of ever more retaliatory violence.

States cannot be murdered; governments can disappear bloodlessly but people cannot. States may assume a mantle of representing the will of the people, and protecting them, but governments don't do the fighting, people do. And it's no coincidence the State is so hellbent on using war; seeing its own survival put at risk, governments feel compelled to magnify the threat posed to its continue existence. Like the machines in Terminator 3, governments become sentient and in their first independent acts seek to destroy any rivals or threats to its control over the people.

War is incitement of violence by one State upon another. One state seeks to punish another, and inflict violence by which the innocent perish. Little is achieved, at the end we usually have neither victors nor defeated but survivors. The lives of participants are forevermore tainted by the violence that they've perpetuated or been victimized by. Terrority gained is eventually relinquished. In this sense taking up the sword leads only to death by the sword.

For those who've fired their weapons in anger, and seen the consequences of so many weapons fired in anger, war is to be avoided. Unfortunately for us, none in our present leadership in Washington have participated in war, up close and personal, only from far away. Is the present status of the war in Iraq an indicator of the absence of military experience among our leaders?

There is a saying common to practitioners of karate which holds that a battle is lost if it must be fought. Avoidance of war is often the most cherished ideal of those who've fought, for good reason. They've seen the death and destruction that comes from State-inflicted violence. It's in their minds from which images of ghastly horror cannot be shaken. And it's only through the very personal experience of loss that veterans and victims of war can realize the lack of benefit to it.

War is not an advancement of society, its virtues are a step backward. While I hope to provide a fact-based approach to deal with our differences with the rest of the world, even I must admit the cause of peace is rooted in belief. We must belief in the power of forgiveness, and in love, to be truly Christian. Yet I find it quite paradoxical that from the time of the Crusades, so many Christians are willing to advocate war, which is the opposite of peace, which is the state of existence attributable to love and forgiveness.

Perhaps John Lennon was right when he talked about "...no religion too" in his seminal Imagine. If religion is a dividing force, it's an instrument not of love and reconciliation but of mistrust. And if religion feeds and encourages violence, it serves not the cause of peace and good, but of evil.

So much of the violence we now see in the world in attributable to an absence of forgiveness. A cycle of retribution guarantees an ever-ending desire to seek vengeance. It could be said that the violence continues because the past recipients of violence areunwilling to forgive.

How easy it would be to blame non-Christians for the absence of forgiveness, yet we see Christians unwilling to forgive and forget. Yet perhaps Christians can claim a higher morale ground in place like Northern Ireland. And to look at Muslims and Jews, we see a perrenial hatred and mistrust feeding ever more violence. To truly end the cycle, people must be willing to put aside past transgressions, forgive, and love even their enemies.

The Present Case

The role of perception in formulating mistrust can be traced to our present war in Iraq. Since 9/11, Americans in general have become suspicious of Arabs. While we may ignore the inherent racism and bigotry of our mistrust, it can be found fermenting below the surface.

Terrorists have been described as "hijacking a Great Religion." We've gone to great lengths to hide the underlying racism and anti-Muslim fueling the War on Terror, but it is there--seeded by the atrocity of 9/11.

We as a nation have always prided ourselves on our openness to other cultures, and our history as a melting pot. Yet the medieval worldview held by many Muslims consterns us. We feel threatened by any alternative to a secular model. And we are most greatly enraged at the concept of fundamentalism, which restrict individual liberties which we as Americans cherish.

So the grounds for mistrust were in place long before 9/11, that act of terror merely provided a window for the mistrust to devolve into a thirst for revenge. We were eager for it, we sought it; like any true evil, hate and anger saw its chance to work its way into the collective national psyche. There it would dwell, waiting to emerge from its more visceral state into more orderly form, under the State, reborn as war.

Just who and what motivated us to attack Iraq? The Media created the atmosphere of fear. The Administration bears guilt for presenting false evidence for war, which is no less than a crime against humanity according to the Nuremberg trials (see a Beinhart article on the topic here.) But perhaps we bear some of the blame, for allowing our anger and revulsion over 9/11 to act on our fundamental mistrust of Arabs, and those whom we believe perpetuated it--along with their brothers and sisters, innocent though they must be.

Ultimately all Americans are guilty for the wars we launch. We can claim that our government and media are responsible, but we have failed to contain our desire for vengeance from 9/11. Unless we can purge the demon of mistrust from our collective conscience, we are bound to serve it.

War serves not a God of love but one of hate. The two are opposities. In acknowledging this difference, we claim to make war only as a last resort, but isn't war what we ultimately wanted, to lash out at those who we felt were responsible for 9/11?

If we can't control our impulses, and lower nature, we really do the Devil's work. If we seek violence as the means to an end, then we are in the end doomed to suffer by it. If our mistrust of other cultures is so profound as to engender a thirst for reprisal, on the acts of only a few, we are bound to be ruled not by our better nature but by its evil twin.

It's only by forgiving Arab culture that we can liberate ourselves from the burdens of hate and mistrust. We need to condition ourselves not to hate but to love, an act made especially hard to do with our enemies, but one vital in destroying the control evil has over our lives.

If we can think of nothing but vengeance, we will likely close our hearts to the possibility of any reconcilliation. Without the ability to change our attitude towards the Arab world, we will be perpetually set against it, not unlike the way Israel sees itself locked in a mortal struggle with the Arab world. The only result of such an approach is more violence. To end the violence, there must be a change in heart, where we are willing to forgive and in so doing, set ourselves free. The fruits of cooperation are many and could include economic benefits, cultural advancements, sociocultural liberalization, and strengthening of alternatives to violence.

We have often criticized other nations for cultural traits and religious affiliations where they differ from ours. But only recently has the American attitude towards Islam--its fear of it--been allowed to shape our collective values. For as long as we don't know the truth about our "enemy," we dwell in fear.

Fear as Motivator

Fear is fuel for hatred; thus love, being the opposite of hatred, ends fear. Hatred grows into violence; peace, the opposite of violence must be fueled by love.

Misperceptions are the heart of fear, as fear is ultimately an emotion which needs ignorance and mistrust to survive. In keeping our relationship with Iran in the dark, we let our imagination reign. We shut our minds to the possibility that the other is like us, or understands us. We de-humanize, we sow no seed of trust, goodwill, and friendship. Thus like some mold or cancer, fear grows.

Some of opinions held by some are correct, others are merely fear-based. Yet fear has some basis in truth, in the way stereotypes build on ethnic or racial characteristics or behaviors.

Based in truth or not, our collective assumptions about other groups of people and their intentions are very real. They affect how we see the other group and define our individual opinions. So there emerges a vital need for clarifying our assumptions and acknowledging differences we share in what we think of others.

Eliminate the superstition, and assess the truth in the clear light of knowledge and curiousity, and we can learn and peel away the layers of our ignorance. Increasing our understanding is the crucial step to overcoming fear. Once we begin to learn, we can challenge our own assumptions, and open a door of cross-cultural understanding.

Ultimately, for two peoples to live in peace, fear and mistrust must be stopped. I am no theologian. I don't know the state of religion in Iranian society, but I do know there's a superordinate emphasis on love in Christianity.

Our foreign policy, like those of other nations, cannot exist independent of a set of moral and cultural beliefs. Our foreign policy praises democracy and peace; our government claim to working on behalf of our American cultural values.

In the nuclear age, hope of a better world can only come to fruition if people are willing to manage their differences.

Update on Iraq

I came across "Embattled, Bush Held To Plan to Salvage Iraq," a Washington Post article posted on opednews.com.

The article clarifies the following key points:

1) Security Plan ultimately belongs to Bush.

Talk of bipartisanship in regard to Iraq has been a flagrant lie, meant to present an impression of openness and cooperation where none existed. All talk of reconciliation--emphasized in particular by the Iraq Studies Group--has apparently been designed to reduce criticism of Bush's plan for Iraq.

The Washington Post article summarizes the deception:
"While many Democrats dismissed such talks as a facade of consultation over a decision long since made, Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said when he told Hadley at a private meeting that the president needed to make clear that the U.S. commitment was not 'open-ended,' Hadley picked up the telephone and called an aide to make sure the speech included such language."

Masters of media manipulation, the Bush Administration has made managing the press more important than the actual message. In an atmosphere of complacency and consolidation, propaganda and distortion pave the way for war with enemies chosen by the Administration.

2) Bush committed to win.

In past posts I've analyzed Bush's motives and the role of belief in shaping Iraq War policy or, more accurately, his inability to recognize that his policies have failed. Nothing is more adverse to change than the idea of perfection.

In light of Bush's deceptions with the Congress, and the lies packaged to sell the war on Iraq, it's impossible to differentiate between what Bush says is PR and what are his fundamental beliefs. By believing victory is still possible, Bush can sustain the occupation. The Media croons on about this being Bush's "last chance" to salvage Iraq, but they've hardly held the President accountable in the past--another six months won't matter.

While potentially dangerous, belief does in fact offers a kind of moral strength which many people draw on in times of fear. Al Franken's book The Truth looks at focus groups of would-be voters whose fear was triggered by images of war and violence. Their emotions trigerred, Bush scored far higher than Kerry.

The PR which has always accompanied Presidential decisions is a set of dumbed-down rhetoric meant to appeal to the masses. Terms like victory and terrorism fit neatly into a rhetorical basket, where the American audience is almost completely ignorant of the details of geopolitics, geography, and military effectiveness, especially when the comforting shawl of nationalism and patriotism is so conveniently offered as an alternative to debate over complicated issues over which the public knows little.

Traditionally, rhetoric has been separated from the meaty work of congressional politics. What is fit for public consumption is by virtue of its audience unfit for Congress and the elite. Unfortunately for Bush, he actually believes in victory. So when his generals and advisers speak to Congress they cannot provide any evidence of Bush policy methods and formulation actually working. And when they disagree with Bush, they are simply removed, as we see with the generals deposed for opposing the surge.

No wonder Congress is so irritated. Many Republicans have abandoned the Bush ship on Iraq, partly because they don't like Bush policies, but more specifically because Bush's policies appear divorced from reality. Publicly, they remain unified in supporting the troops and the Iraq effort, judging by their unaminity in applause for Bush's war policy going forward during the Jan. 23 State of the Union. {Bush looked cheerily towards those on his left--Republicans--who clapped for his war policies, while those on his right--the Democrats--received a bitter look full of contempt. So much for partisanship...}

Privately, Republican opponents of the war must be seething. Yet there is no inner track dialogue reserved for Congress and the non-corporate elite by which they can influence Bush or affect his policy decisions. Mind made up, Bush speaks to the public, setting his positions dogmatically for all to follow.

Obviously Congress is sensitive the political message sent by the Democratic victory in November, so they must scutinize Bush policies. Also, they must face a crisis of confidence when their status grants them virtually no authority in setting policy.

3) US could have lowered profile

Presented to Bush in Amman, Jordan, an opportunity to let Iraqis "stand up" denied. According to a WaPo article, Maliki and his advisers presented a plan which would have let Americans leave the capital, to secure Iraq's borders and deal with Anbar Province.

Strategically, moving the US out of harm's way makes sense. Casualties would be lower. But as with Vietnam, politics have entered the military decision-making process. To let Baghdad fall to the Shia would be tantamount to eliminating any hopes of Iraq being a democracy.

As Saddam's execution showed, Shia militia have infiltrated Iraqi government. Judging by the way the execution was handled, the Shia have little sympathy for the manner of their government, its fairness, or its management of Sunni (and by proxy Kurd) issues. Might makes right.

So the US needs to maintain a military presence not to quell violence or help stabilize Baghdad, but to prevent Shia from taking over all control of Iraq's federal government. The Saudi and other Sunni groups have voiced their intention to intervene should the rights of their fellow Sunnis in Iraq be violated.

The US military has been tasked with an impossible assignment: to repress an insurgency while preventing the ruling faction from dominating a future Iraq.

The political cost of a Shia victory are immense. First, ethnic cleansing and other atrocities are virtually assured (as ruthless as the US may have been in fighting the Sunni insurgency, the Shia militia and death squads appear much more vicious.) Second, the US might face a more organized resistance to its presence through the institution of independent government. Legally, the Shia might simply demand the US leave.

Delaying the handoff by prolonging the occupation, the US must surely lack confidence in the capacity of the Shia to restore order, or provide an environment where multinational companies can extract Iraq's oil. This is the likely reason for the US presence, as democracy has been established and the more populous Shia have emerged on top. And the war on terror appears endless, regardless of whether the Shia rule Iraq, so the US needs bases as well and has constructed them with an intention to stay.

4) Bush, not generals, make determination of troop strength needed.

Rather than let generals determine how many we need--which has been Bush's consistent rhetoric--Bush simply replaced the generals (Abizaid) who didn't agree that a surge would help.

While Bush has paid lip service to Jim Baker and the ISG, his actions on policy changes have been unilateralist, quite the opposite of Baker's--and his father's--"globalist" worldview. Bush has aligned his "way forward" policy with neoconservatives in the AEI.

When offered reasonable bipartisan recommendations from the ISG, Bush ignored them. Instead the work of a retired general--Keane--and an analyst from a right-wing think tank were allowed to shape the President's policy in Iraq.

By going outside traditional channels--no new thing for the Bush Administration--Bush has empowered fringe neocons to paint his policies. Yet Bush appears incapable of recognizing the bad advice for what it is--imperialism buried in patriotism, containing a hidden agenda meant to popularize a war for the benefit of oil and military industrial patrons of the Right-wing.

In the sense that Iraq--and virtually all Administration--policy is designed to serve one particular corporate constituency or another, Iraq is already a victory, and will continue to pay handsome benefits through the Treasury for as long as it continues.

The PR spin on Iraq, buoyed with the popular misperception that war is patriotic and intrinsically masculine and empowering, maintains an illusion for popular consumption. Remarkably, the American people have essentially bought into the propaganda and lies until they've come to discover the truth: that Iraq did not pose a threat to us and was not a sponsor of terror.

Executions Continue

In my last post I touched on the brutal execution of Saddam's co-defendants. Unlike the crude taunting of Saddam, the more recent hangings may have been better controlled by the Iraq government. While no chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada" made their way into public hands with the new video, the latter executions had managed to craft the vile spectacle of one victim's head actually being severed from his body.

I'm not alone in presuming that the references to Muqtada al-Sadr attest that the Shia have achieved a breakthrough in their control over the Iraqi government. As the sources I provided in my last post indicated, other bloggers have been following story, perhaps as a matter of necessity since the Mainstream has utterly ignored the manner of execution or its political significance.

In his lefti.blogspot space, Eli Stephens looks into facts emerging from first the Saddam execution, then that of a former judge executed shortly after Saddam that "you simply aren't going to read in the corporate media."[link] In his post he spotlights the role of the US in the trial and transfer in custody of Judge Bandar.

The attorney for the judge, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, tried to prevent the execution from occuring by filing a petition in US court to stop the handover to Iraqi authorities. She writes:
Working with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, we immediately turned to file an emergency Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus and a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by that evening in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to keep the U.S. from transferring custody of Judge Bandar to his certain death. We had an emergency TRO hearing the next day in which the United States acknowledged that it possessed custody of Judge Bandar.

The United States acknowledged that it had the defendants in their exclusive physical custody at Camp Cropper, including Judge Bandar. Only the U.S. military personnel had control over him. The prisoners could not be visited, touched, spoken to or seen--let alone murdered--without the direction and agreement of the United States.[link]

Hillard makes the argument that US is avoiding accepting legal responsibility for its occupation of Iraq. Hillard also alleges that the US exerted undue and illegal influence over the trial procedure.

She explains:
This "independent" and "sovereign" trial took place in the Green Zone, the U.S. government's garrisoned mini-state carved out of the middle of Baghdad. All participants had to rely on the U.S. government for their security—in other words, to stay alive. As such, three defense lawyers were murdered in the course of the trial, the first killed the night after the first day of trial. Another attorney was taken by men who said they were from the Ministry of the Interior. He was found the next day. He had holes drilled in his head. But this was asserted to be no impediment to a fair trial. Defense witnesses were reportedly tortured and killed. The IST ordered that such allegations not be raised at the proceedings and threatened surviving defense counsel with their own arrests.[Link
left i's blog post on the matter is here, dated January 20th. He has additional citations from the article on his site.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Violence Spreads as the War on Terror Progresses

More Barbaric Executions

This from Reuters:
"...news that the noose ripped the head from Saddam's cancer-stricken half-brother as he plunged from the gallows appalled international critics of the process and fueled fury among Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs."

Barbarism's entry into the execution room was first made clear with Saddam's hanging. Pattern established, it's no surprise others will not only die, but be humiliated by Sadr's people in the process. While the executions may have been authorized by an Iraqi court, the method of their conduct hints more at a primitive government, eager to appease the most base instincts of its populace.

As I said in my last post, the US was rightfully cautious in turning Saddam over to the Iraqis. According to one source, Saddam was moved in the middle of the night prior to his execution, and harassed through the night. Perhaps the Iraqi government had been eager to execute Saddam as quickly as possible--falling on the Eid Holiday as it did--out of fear one of Saddam's guards might have ended Saddam's life prematurely, as part of some personal vendetta.

Saddam's humiliation must have been meant to send some message to the Sunni, who've been angered over the cell phone video, which was released and made available for purchase on the streets of Baghdad.

A thorough compilation of the circumstances and reactions surrounding Saddam's death is available on mkanejeeves' blog.

A summary of provocative insights and opinions on the Saddam execution is available here.

In addition to being positively barbaric, Spiegel of Germany suggests the execution mave have been illegal. See their insights here.

The behavior of Saddam's guards may be an ominous warning sign of what is to come if the Shia have unrestricted control over Iraq. While this divide may make Sunnis less opposed to the US presence--as a counterweight to Shia domination--the US is doing what it can to empower the Iraqi army, which may mean Shias will come to use the power and resources of the new Iraqi state for ethnic cleansing and similar atrocities towards the Sunni.

Wider War

It was said here that widening the war was imminent.

The U.S. struck at allegedly escaping al Qaeda targets on the Somali-Kenyan border. Victims of the strike were guiltless herdsman gathering around a fire, according to The Independent. Over 60 died. See the Kurt Nimmo write-up here.

Spreading the range of military action helps dilute the ineffectiveness of the US in the Iraqi theater. By refocusing Media on external targets, Iraq appears to be just another state where the U.S. is militarily active.

Attacking other nations expands the ever-widening Free Fire zone alongside flexing muscle. The more frequent and wider the use of force, the more the battlefield is "shaped" for future military action. Resistance to the indiscriminate use of force--and the invariable host of civilian casualties--can be downplayed by Bush's PR, which caters to the cruder aspects of our foreign policy.

As is said in Kurt Nimmo's write-up, the Executive is acting unilaterally without respect for the sovereign rights where terrorists are allegedly present. While the geopolitical consequences might add up, Bush can appease the militarists in his base; besides, most Americans' grasp of geography is sufficiently poor as to lead most to neither know nor care where one country begins and another begins.

For the Bush base, a military statement justifying the strike based on "actionable intelligence" serves as sufficient justification for bombing. Where the bombs end up, and the actual results of such a strike, are secondary to execution of a successful attack on a target, valid or not.

While concern over civilian casualties is theoretically an issue, absent any restraint, US bombing policy continues unchanged from the days of Dresden. Through smart bomb technologies proudly displayed by the Pentagon, consideration has been paid to spatial accuracy, yet bombs compensate for accuracy through greater killing power. Still, the weapons technology itself cannot identify "organic" targets in assymetrical warfare, nor can smarter weapons lead to any meaningful assessment of the need to bomb or evaluate the benefits of bombing versus their costs.

Bombing has long been the end in itself, rather than the means to some larger goal. The Pentagon tends to view bombing as a success, regardless of who actually dies or the results--it's through the process that "shock and awe" provide an intimidation value. In the US' military's previous strike on Somalia, under Clinton, an aspirin factory was struck, now, herdsmen. The trend continues and few in the US dare to complain despite the lack of results or absence of restraint or care in choosing the targets and assessing their success. The victims of indiscriminate bombing, though, never forget.

Bombing is meant to send the message is that the U.S. is tough on terror. Using force indiscriminately may be intended to serve as a warning signal that we will lash out viciously at any foe, and ignore international law, with no consequences. Liberated of constraint, the US government is represented by its military, and military confrontation with the US and its proxies is the consequence, which completes the cycle and justifies the application of ever-more military force, solving nothing.

Sending messages has been a Bush point of pride since issuing a proclamation in the rubble of 9/11 that those responsible would soon hear from us. Dramatic, such sound bites calling Americans to action stand in clear contrast to the delayed and inadequate mechanism of diplomacy. Bush appealed to the lower nature of Americans and received tacit approval to "go get 'em, Georgie boy."

It's no coincidence warfare is the calling of the Right, as it enjoys a base drenched in nationalistic militarism. To these people, intervention provides an opportunity to show the world just how strong we are, not economically, or culturally, but in our capacity to wage war.

As the US military presence sprawls across borders, there is no apparent political force capable of confronting Bush in his reckless use of force. The US continues to use its military as a bludgeon against the restraints imposed by international law. Other nations have completely abandoned their unconditional support for the US in the unifying days after 9-11. The CIA's secret prisons, and use of rendition, has led our allies to not only not look the other way, but do what they can to stymie US methods in the war on terror.

An Italian court recently found CIA agents who kidnapped a radical iman in Milan to be guilty of kidnapping. Perhaps the most damning consequences of extrajudicial behaviors will not be felt by our enemies, but rather allies who we've turned against us.

Nowhere would an expansion of the war on terror be more devastating than in Iran. The country is positioned perfectly to disrupt oil flow into and out of the Gulf. Recently a US navy sub collided with a Japanese tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. Iran's mountainous coastlines offers ample placement for anti-ship cruise missiles, similar to those used quite effectively by Hezbollah against an Israeli patrol boat. Tankers are bigger targets, easier to hit, and would burn and obstruct naval traffic. Oil prices would surge, devastating the world's economy alongside that of the US.

More on the Surge

The Surge is not what it's made up to be. Not only are there too few troops to make a difference, they are being brought in piecemeal. Contrary to the imagery played on television shows of Americans mustering or lining up in full combat gear, preparing to board airplanes bound for Iraq, most of the surge will come from troops already there, forced to re-enlist.

Being called back to Iraq is far more than a test of patriotism. For veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the call to return forces the veteran to re-live traumatic experiences and aggravates their psychological problems. According to Michael Moore, "between Christmas and New Year's 2006, five U.S. soldiers committed suicide after being informed they'd been ordered to serve an additional tour in Iraq."

The degradation of our military was one of the chief reasons for leaving Vietnam. While our troops are constantly praised these days, the fundamental unfairness of saddling so few with so much responsibilty cannot be overlooked. Rather than share in the burdens of warfare, a relatively small group of Americans fight on our behalf. One could argue the limited direct impact of Iraq on the vast majority of Americans has made the war more tolerable, or made most Americans far more tolerant than they would otherwise be, should they have to make some form of ongoing personal sacrifice due to the war.

The Pentagon recently eliminated the ratio of home-to-foreign service, so that multiple re-deployments to Iraq are not only involuntary, but the length of deployments are unprecedented. Morale has suffered.

Now while some say our soldiers are responsible for bearing the burden of our "defense", and should just "suck it up", breaking military tradition by over-extending tours of duty indicates that our military is no longer a volunteer force. Military service has become mandatory. for those who've already served and paid their obligations to society in full.

In my post "War Strain to be Resolved by Surge," I talk about the imposition Iraq has made on the Army and Marines. Rather than using the strain as evidence of failed policies and a justification for pulling out, it's been turned into a reason for sending even more troops, although these will come too slowly and be too few in number to provide relief.

Short of a draft, simply stopping the war is the only just way to honor the sacrifice and commitment of those who've already given so much. Men of honor would let our Iraqi veterans come home to a well-deserved peace. If more war is required, let those who haven't served share in the responsibilities now relegated to soldiers in Iraq by our government.

The debate over troop strength has allowed politics to enter into the staffing needs of the military. To up the "N", Bush and war supporters have stretched the need for troops into a longer-term issues, as part of larger needs in the war of terror and not a consequence of failure in Iraq. This PR-bent approach meticulously avoids any admission of previous error, and disguises the fact troop strength had been too low in Iraq, and thus not only ensured a strain, but precluded the possibly of success. Rumsfeld's "Force Lite" approach still yields dire consequences, and will continue to do so long after the Secretary has left.

Of course the use of inadequate military force was bound to force a strain. Some would say Rumsfeld acted fully aware of the human resource limitations and simply chose to ignore the strain our inadequate strength has caused. But we see now the rhetoric of a surge, when in fact there is no real buildup. Higher casualties make the war even more intolerable to the American public.

Presiding over the Pentagon in the last days of Vietnam, Rumsfeld knew the risks of escalation and may have been seeking a viable alternative in "Force Lite." Bush's hesitancy to increase force strength attests to the political strength of the antiwar movement, and the liability of expanding a controversial war.

Continued occupation on a larger scale would make the Iraq effort unsustainable. Sustainability is a political objective, not a military one now that a clear victory over anti-American forces in Iraq is virtually impossible. Sustainability is needed to achieve the war's true long-term goal: developing Iraqi oil fields and extracting the oil. Perhaps the costs of a continued occupation will make open-ended occupation by US ground forces impossible. Sensing US aspirations for oil, the insurgents will do all they can to disrupt the infrastructure.

Former Knight Ridder military correspondent Joseph Galloway explains the surge option in a Miami Herald article. Galloway comes on quite strong, he's obviously critical of the President's plan.

End Game

How Iraqification will be implemented remains unclear outside of military plans. Talk of reconstruction is prominent in Bush rhetoric now, as it has been for years. The intent is clearly to get the Iraqis to shoulder some of the responsibilities for securing their nation. How the US can help Iraqi government acheive real independence while the US maintains an occupying military force in-country is not clear. The Iraqi government is incapable of handling the Sunni insurgency, much less preserving even the semblance of national unity, so it is dependent on the US.

Bush's strategy in Iraq contains no plan to get out. Bush has rebuilt his surge strategy around tactics and strategies which have been tried before and failed. There are no conditions for a drawdown in U.S. forces. The conditions on which can consider ourselves successful--and able to withdraw troops--remain undefined. Bush has hedged on articulating victory conditions, while acknowledging that victory will require sacrifice.

After making it clear his (or that of Keane and Kagan) plan was not open to debate, Bush has asked for alternatives from the Democrats. It's as if the critics of the President's policies are expected to somehow revise the post-invasion plan and stop the torrent of mistakes which define the Occupation.

As it is, Bush's occupation of Iraq has seeded the perfect environment for a war on terror. In trying to eliminate our enemy, Bush's dumbed-down worldview has created a massive contradiction in Iraq. The more we fight to secure democracy, the better established the more populous Shia become in Iraq's government, and the greater the Iranian influence.

According to The Economist's January 13th North American edition:
"America is losing its means of influence. Iraq has made its transition to full sovereignity...downtrodden Shias, including followers of Mr Sadr, now so dominate the government that it is no longer seen as a neutral arbiter..."

The Economist continues:
"America's real leverage over the Iraqi government is to pull out and abandon it to its fate. That is what Mr Baker's study group advocated. But Mr Bush cannot bring himself to do that."

Iraqi democracy appears to be a winner-take-all proposition. Shia rule will be for the minority Sunni what Saddam was to the Shia. By dumping Saddam, we've allowed Iranian-supported theocrats to dominate politics in Iraq.

[Correction: In the past, I've made the mistake of calling Muqtada al-Sadr part of the SCIRI, when in fact al-Sadr leads an independent faction, contributing 30 votes to al-Maliki. Al-Sadr is apparently open to dialogue with the Sunni and far from a friend to the Iranians. For an excellent essay on Iraq, please see "Petraeus! Is Baghdad Burning" by Stan Goff.]

As we saw with the barbarous executions of Saddam and his confederates, Shia rule will dispossess the Sunni. At the least Sunnis stand to become politically irrelevant in controlling Iraq's oil reserves.

Dr. Mohamed Elmasery, President of the Canadian Islamic Congress, writes:

"Sunni Iraqis have been marginalized to the point of having very little political power at all. Tariq al-Hasimi, the country's Sunni vice-president, is completely ignored in government decision-making.

Even more serious is the fact that Sunni Iraqis, who have no militias of their own, are accusing both of the dominant Shia militias -- the Mahdi army and the Badr Brigade -- of ethnic cleansing; they claim that the southern city of Basra is now empty of its former Sunni population."
Bush's plan intends to split up US soldiers and pair them with Iraqi army units. One idea is to pair an American battalion with every Iraqi brigade working one of nine districts in Baghdad.

Bush's attempt efforts to synchronize military efforts with Iraq's Shia-dominated armed forces will it appear as if we are taking sides against the Sunni, further alienating them. US military units will be forced to restrain Shia impulses to cleanse Baghdad neighborhoods of Sunnis.

For Sunnis, the US may, however, be a desirable alternative to the Shia. With Iraq lacking a strong federal government, and with dialogue between Sunnis and Shia strained, the US may serve a valuable role as mediator. Yet obstructing US efforts to broker peace is the stated policy of the US not negotiate with terrorists; this includes Iran and Syria, deemed "sponsors of terror". With those opposing the US in Iraq labelled terrorists, the US is prevented from being able to talk to Sunni insurgents, which perpetuates the marginalization of the Sunni and limits the effectiveness of alternatives to violence.

If we are in fact at war with the terrorists, how will the war end? While some wars may be indefinite--the multi-century sectarian conflicts between Sunni and Shia loom as an example--the US must win. Bush warned Americans not to expect a "surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship."

Yet how is the US to have closure, much less derive some degree of satisfaction for all its sacrifice? The defeated must be given their day to admit defeat, to give Americans a chance to move from a state of schadenfreude to a state of greater moral authority, one of reconciliation and sympathy for our former enemies. Surely World War II would have not been as glorious a victory without the signing of a truce on the decks of the Missouri, with a survivor of the Bataan Death March signing the documents.

When the war on terror ends, the public might never know. Like the war on drugs and the war on poverty, the battle goes on. Drugs don't sign off and walk off, defeated. Poverty still challenges us; as a matter of fact under Bush lower-income Americans are poorer.

Charles Sullivan, writing in Alternative Press Review, provides some insight:

"...the bogus war on terror is a contradiction in terms, as historian Howard Zinn has so aptly pointed out. War is terrorism. Terrorism begets terrorism, and nothing but terrorism. War does not, and cannot ever lead to peace." [Link]

Big Picture

Strategically, the Global War on Terror offers the President a basket of missions designed for the U.S. military to conduct in a number of countries for an indefinite period into the future. Combined with the need to act preemptively--exercised in Iraq--GWOT provides the perfect platform for wielding unprecedented Presidential authority in foreign policy.

Outside the domestic political arena, dangerous results have come with the use of force, as Iraq is demonstrating. In part, the severity of the problems we know face can be traced to the absence of planning in the headlong rush to war. In the black and white, testosterone-driven, Rambo-like urge to use violence there is no patience, merely anticipation.

Its sails filled with the winds of 9/11, the Good Ship Neo-con with its Captain Bush at its helm has steered into heart of the Middle East. Like any infant ideology innundated with ultra-nationalistic patriotic fervor, Bush and the neocons thought our war machine invincible. Like Napoleon and Hitler, Bush has been content on his marches to the East, in what must surely seem to be a crusade to those invaded and bombed.

Concentrating power in the hands of one man has always been an ideological imperative for the neo-cons. In Bush they found a man sympathetic to their ideology, someone with a single-mindedness of purpose unlimited by self-doubt in a position of nearly unlimited power.

Unerring belief in the certainty of belief brings with it a complete absence of pragmatism. People who believe that God told them what to do--as Bush has said of h(H?)is decision to invade--tend to avoid introspection over their (God's) decisions, being that they see it as their role to act as the instrument of a Higher Being, rather than question the source of their inspirations.

Bush is delaying the reckoning that the US will have to face in Iraq. Incapable of resolving problems of the scale we now face, the responsibility to extract us, restore the US military, and redeem our international prestige will fall to another. If Bush can simply wait out the pressure to get out, he believes he will succeed. Results are another matter entirely, which raises the serious issue of whom the occupation really benefits. Nothing has emerged from Iraq to indicate our policies there can succeed, so what is the ulterior motive for continuing the adventure? Oil may not fully explain why Iraq needs to be occupied; perhaps the windfall for military-industrial complex is a major villain, blood money though it is.

Policy Contradictions

The Administration's redefinition of Iraq as a war against terrorists there demonstrates the extent of manipulation of the popular perception. By blending Iraq into a broader conflict essentially targetting Middle Eastern and Central Asian states, Bush may have chosen too strong an enemy, or one simply too populous.

The broadest definition of terrorism encourages military action, but it also spotlights American duplicity when terror originates from ostensibly moderate or friendly states. With 15 of the 19 terrorists allegedly Saudi, the Bush Doctrine--that countries that harbor terrorism will be treated no differently from terrorists--misses a chief source of terror, and forces the US to delegate anti-terror responsibilities to the Saudis. If Saudi Arabia--or any state--fails to control terror, the US reserves the right to intervene. Yet the US is hamstrung by politics--cross-border raids into Pakistani supply routes, for instance, imperil Pakistan's sovereignty and Musharraf's control. So like Laos and Cambodia, the US can only take limited covert action.

And in the US, the unpopularity of the war in Iraq threatens to torpedo the war on terror. Linkage, which Bush has gone to great lengths to establish, means what is good for Iraq is good for the war on terror. Yet the opposite is true: what hurts Bush politically and in the popular perception in Iraq carries over to the broader war against terror. By this definition, Iraq is not merely a rhetorical "central front in the war on terror", but rather an all-or-nothing, increasingly desperate gambit to save the war on terror.

Other Links

In my last post I'd referred to some articles on the Iraqi oil production-sharing agreements bent in favor of multinationals. The article "The Surge to screw Iraq out of its oil" by Jerry Mazza offers insights into the oil deals, as well as Bush's "way forward."

See also, "Administration Leaving Out Important Details on Iraq" by Mark Siebel.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Desperate, Bush and Big Oil Turn to Death Squads and Sadr

Bush will go before the camera tonight, to claim the need for a troop build-up to combat terrorists. Absent from the President's plan will be any meaningful change in approach. While previous strategy have been acknowledged as not working, Bush appears incapable of accepting the fact his policies in Iraq cannot work.

Any change in Iraq strategy may be meant to discourage criticism of the war, and by proxy, Bush's management of the occupation. Judging from the President's abandonment of any recommendation offered by the Iraq Study Group, any meaningful change of course will be obstructed by the President's pride, his inability to admit his policies have been a complete failure.

Proponents of the build-up fail to mention that the use of force to unseat Saddam has created a nightmarish scenario of an Iraq overrun by terrorists. To war supporters, the consequences of invading Iraq are now meant to be borne by all Americans--regardless of their level of support for the war. The burden of preventing even greater disaster has now befallen us all. Why? Because the consequences of failure are too high, for a war they engineered.

Bush and the war supporters are desperate to justify the ongoing military effort and the strain it's caused. The US seeks to propel a security imperative for maintain a presence in Iraq--to defend it from Al Qaeda, a radical Islamic insurgency originally created by the US in its covert efforts in Afghanistan versus the Soviets.

Paradoxically, the base of support for Al Qaeda is nourished by resentment against the US occupation. By prolonging the occupation, the US encourages Al Qaeda recruitment and helps it grow. The security threat posed by Al Qaeda--and the strengthening insurgency--in turn justifies the occupation.

A security vortex may have been intentionally created, designed to lock US military forces into the strategic heart of the Middle East and atop the world's second largest reserves of oil. To some conspiracy theorists, Rumsfeld's downplaying of required force strength numbers was a nefarious plan to seed open-ended occupation and control of oil.

The only issue remaining open to debate is whether or not the occupation can be made sustainable and for how much longer.

By clamping down on the Sunni and their sympathy to Al Qaeda, the US has effectively strengthened the Shia grip on power. No where is this reality more evident in the behavior of Shia death squads operating against the Sunni, in what is know as the "El Salvador" option.

Another nasty reality is the ascendancy of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq as the barbarity of Saddam execution at the hands of Sadr supporters showed. The US can't bear to admit its occupation has ushered in an age of domination of Iraq by radical fundamentalists.

Boxed in militarily, more troops or "End-strength" can't alter the eventual outcome, which is defeat of pluralism and secularism in Iraq. The only possible benefit of continuing the Occupation is to the military-industrial complex and Big Oil, friends of the Administration.

Bush is clearly hoping the time bomb his policies have created in Iraq and Afghanistan will allow the US occupation to continue through his reign. The President's legacy will be a greatly weakened US military and greatly diminished US global stature.

Bush is still clinging to the concept of victory, which at this point must be considered to be delay in the total unravelling of all his intentions in Iraq, and the reassertion of realism in American foreign policy. Cleaning up the mess will be left to other more competent leaders, who will have to walk delicately to avoid facing the political consequences of a defeat which Bush's policies have made inevitable.

Whatever authority Bush now possesses is militaristic and antagonistic, which is politically and strategically unimplementable. Perhaps Bush will try to expand the war to other nations in a last-ditch effort to save Iraq. Iraq cannot be saved. War with Iran will only make the military and geopolitical limitations of Bush policy more evident, and push the negative consequences of the rampant use of force forward, and force a domestic political confrontation with Bush that he will lose.

Saddam Execution Follow Up

By planting sympathetic executioners, Sadr did demonstrate his political reach, at least outside the Mainstream Media, who seem completely oblivious to the political connotations of a penetration of the execution by forces loyal to Sadr.

Writing on his website Empire Burlesque, Chris Floyd brings up the new political reality:

"as both Steve Gilliard and Juan Cole note, Saddam was not actually hanged by the "sovereign" Iraqi government at all; he was turned over to the Mahdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, religious Chekists in black leather jackets and black masks -- and the very people that Bush's viceroys say are the main instigators of the murderous violence roiling the Leader's Babylonian satrapy today."[Source]

Here at Jbpeebles.blogspot.com, we anticipated the impact of the Saddam execution video. The role of Sadr's men in the execution demonstrated that Sadr's faction had established political dominance. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki alledgedly presented al-Sadr a piece of the rope used to hang Saddam.

Unlike the mainstream media, I brought up not the video's brutality but see it as the political message it was. Saddam's execution was meant to antagonize all Sunnis, not just Saddam's supporters.

The Media has grown bored of the constant "sectarian" violence. Little consideration is given to the premise that the ongoing violence is a product of the ongoing occupation. The role of the US in fermenting Shia-Sunni discord as a matter of policy has been suppressed. Naturally, the Mainstream Media has attributed much of the violence to terrorists, disguising the fact much of the violence may have been caused intentionally and directly by the US in its efforts to suppress the Sunni insurgency.

Salvador Option in Iraq

In my last post, I'd mentioned the El Salvador option, referring to the practice of deploying right-wing paramilitaries to quash popular dissent, such as that seen in El Salvador early in the eighties. The death toll from US-supported intervention in that region may have been over 100,000.

The US has both directly and indirectly funded military counter-insurgencies. Traditionally, it has supported right-wing dictatorships largely in response to the perception of a left-wing threat. Typically, the units committed acts of terror to break down support for insurgencies. These military groups successfully intimidated, with the ensuing large collateral damage tolerated.

Chris Floyd discusses the darker side of the US mission in Iraq. The intention of training Iraqi troops was not only to stand up as the US stands down, but to also develop the a cadre of paramilitaries capable of implementing a campaign of terror and oppression against the Sunni insurgency. This is what's known as the "El Salvador" option.

Waging this battle involved total committal to a "stratergy" of ethnic cleansing and systematic repression and the abandonment of human rights. In advance of Bush's policy speech on Iraq, rumors suggest a block-by-block campaign through the streets of Baghdad in an effort to root out the insurgents.

Judging from the minimal increase in troops strength, much of the chore for repressing Sunnis will necessarily fall on the Iraqis.

Many of Bush's top leaders have experience in Latin America dating from the 1980's, including Defense Secretary Gates and soon-to-be Undersecretary of State Negroponte, who earned their stripes for the Right in fighting the spread of leftism there. Bush resurrected the School of the Americas which trains Latin soldiers from Bush-friendly regimes in frequently extreme counterinsurgency tactics, and has been labelled a export center for terrorism by some critics.

Experience in repressing an insurgency like that faced by the military dictatorship in El Salvador may be applicable to Iraq. Yet in Iraq the Shia are presumably the governmental power; as the majority repression would target ethnic minorities rather than other Shia. Also, in the most restive areas where a large Sunni majority exists, Iraqi government forces under Shia control would face a broad Sunni insurgency.

A string of retaliatory outbursts by one side against the other hints at worse fates for Iraq, should the warring factions gain more military power which they would presumably use to lump casualties indiscriminately on the other.

Perhaps Iraq and El Salvador differ in all respects but for their methods, which are simply the same. Writing in Empire Burlesque, Chris Floyd in '05 talked about US efforts to train Iraqis in assassination and intimidation. See the story here.

Repressing the Sunni insurrection may be achievable through the application of the El Salvador option, with atrocities conducted by Shia militiamen within Iraq Army and police units. News reports of executed Sunnis--hands tied, all shot execution-style, hint at a force not only ruthless but systematic as well. Torture forms a core taks at the center of Salvadorian counterinsurgency strategy, not necessarily for the benefit of gathering intelligence, but rather to intimidate the public into submission.

The use of torture in Abu Ghraib, and liberalization of harsh interrogation techniques demonstrate an obeisance to the crudities of the El Salvador option, under the goal of gathering intelligence. The impact was greater aggravation of the population and rising support for the insurgency.

Tactics aimed at humiliation, and in particular sexual humiliation, hint at a deeper and darker strategy to intimidate would-be resisters. As in El Salvador, the more egregious the crimes, up to an including the murder of nuns, the stronger the resistance--eventually creating a military or socially political force of equal or greater strength.

If the use of excess force by paramilitaries is an inherently flawed strategy, then why would it be adopted? Obviously the Salvador option is attractive economically to an powerful business elite which profit by exploiting the masses and plundering public resources. By spreading fear through the indiscriminate use of force, popular guerrila movements are theoretically suppressed.

For an occupying power, the Salvador option allows occupying troops to be drawn down, as the methods of intimidation and control over dissent are outsourced to in-country providers. It must be remembered that Bush is aiming to make the occupation sustainable; the lower the US casualties, the more tolerable the occupation.

Oil Politics

The oil industry possesses the ungainly reputation as the best industry for governments with poor human rights records to do business with. The Western consumer appears less concerned about the source of gas than its availabilty in plenty, and at low prices.

Until there's a legislative effort put forth to source our energy fairly, the end consumer will be content to buy oil regardless of how it was procured, or how many lives lost to secure it. Meanwhile, in places like Nigeria, oil has become the source of considerable violence and graft. Intent on extraction and export, the large oil firms make their impact a low priority. Sporadic attacks on oil pipelines and resources has been one consequence.

The Iraqi government may prove more responsive to the needs of the general public, especially if Muqtada al-Sadr and his political authority rule the country, as Saddam's execution hinted. The Shia are likely to want the oil fields for themselves and must be less likely to want to enter into terms friendly to Big Oil outsiders. Dependent on oil revenue, the Shia may be more aware of the risks multinationals face in expanding production in Iraq, and be more sympathetic to the needs of oil developers considering the security situation.

So dealing with Shia is in the best interest of the oil companies, and stability going forward necessary to extract and export the oil. Unfortunately, the process of stabilizing Iraq--a necessity for the drawing in foreign capital for oil extraction--encourages the Sunni insurgency.

Seeds of Trouble

Under proportional representation, the hallmark of democracy, Sunnis are bound to suffer. Lacking oil fields of their own, the Sunni are at the mercy of Shia and Kurd. Why would the Shia share oil revenues with their politically marginalized weaker sisters? Like the nest of some predatory bird, the weaker ethnic groups may ruthlessly eliminated. Iraq may now be at the stage where the larger of the bird offspring (the Shia) denies its (Sunni) sibling food (oil). Later, with Mama and Papa (US) Eagle gone, the older sibling will eventually kick its weakened sibling out of the nest--the political power nexus centered on control over Iraqi oil.

Yet the Sunni and Kurds are armed and determined. The Sunni and Kurds will need to be placated, rather then left subordinate and vulnerable to the exertion of control over the oil fields by the Shia. And no matter what the state of disarray in the Sunni insurgency, support from Saudi Arabia appears continuing, which gives the Sunnis real staying power, especially in light of sympathies to Al-Qaeda's struggle against the infidel.

Al-Qaeda has assumed an anti-Shia role. Still, the presence of US troops encourages Al Qaeda. Without the US there in Iraq, perhaps Al Qaeda would lose some support in its war against America. Bush's addition of 4,000 troops to Anbar Province won't affect the strategic balance. Functioning there as a guerilla force, Al Qaeda will grow in response to the scope of military power directed against it.

The primacy of Muqtada and Iranian-backed SCIRI power reflects the political power of the majority Shia.

The US military presence may mask an urge among Shia to seize all government control, in the fashion of Saddam's rise to power, where political enemies are immediately purged in an orgy of vengeance. Saddam's execution hinted at a craving for a night of the long knives. With whatever facade remains of a plural secular society will rapidly be dismantled by the underlying Shia fundamentalist majority, so the US must back Maliki to prop up the facade.

Under Sadr, the Shia might move to remove any political forces not willing to submit in the course of a coup, followed by the prompt implementation of Sharia law and pro-Iranian doctrine. Sadr's political faction is after all the Supreme Council for Revolution in Iraq. Sound familiar? It should. The Supreme Council for Revolution in Iran currently controls that nation.

Shia extremists could emerge in Baghdad, eager to implement their regressive worldview and turn back the clock on progress. For now, the Shia appear content to wait for the Americans to leave.

Exploiting Iraq

Chris Floyd has edited his article "New Oil Law Means Victory in Iraq for Bush" for his website Empire Burlesque. The newer version, "Claiming the Prize: Bush Surge aimed at Securing Iraqi Oil," is here.

The Independent has a good article on the benefits awaiting Western oil firms here.

The roots of Iraqi exploitation are evident in other countries which have been economically liberalized. Victimized by their Right-wing business elite, these countries have lost control over their economies, and been put at the mercy of arbitrary economic influences from abroad. Impoverished by draconian controls over their currencies by the International Monetary Fund and international bankers, the countries are forced to capitulate to disadvantageous terms and lease out resources in order to prevent economic collapse.

Predatory Capitalism

Establishing US economic hegemony over Iraq has directed reconstruction projects to large military contractors, who have close relationships to government bodies like the Pentagon and White House who award the contracts. Military-industrial companies have profitted, including Cheney's former Halliburton.

Implementing hegemonic controls over Iraq benefits Big Oil, an industry also ingratiated to the Bush Administration. Preferential treatment in US govenrment policies for Big Oil predictably rewards the industry's political support for Bush. To offer up Iraq's oil, at discount, is a simple matter of progression in policy, the evolution of a process that began with the awarding of military contracts to companies friendly to the Administration.

Chris Floyd refers to an article Max Fuller wrote for the Centre for Research on Globalization. Fuller describes the economic integration process designed to extend US control over Iraq:
"In Iraq the war comes in two phases. The first phase is complete: the destruction of the existing state, which did not comply with the interests of British and American capital. The second phase consists of building a new state tied to those interests and smashing every dissenting sector of society. Openly, this involves applying the same sort of economic shock therapy that has done so much damage in swathes of the Third World and Eastern Europe. Covertly, it means intimidating, kidnapping and murdering opposition voices."[link]

The issue of Iraqi control over its oil and economy has been point of contention since the early days of the Occupation. Like some appointed ruler, Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority passed a series of illegal measures privatizing the economy, reducing obstructions to the repatriation of capital, and granting legal immunity for foreign contractors.

Fuller discusses the systemic methodology draining Iraq of its right to economic sovereignty. He looks at the coercive management of Iraq's economy and resources by outsiders, alongside the use of the military to suppress the population.

Fuller is aware that El Salvador is not another Iraq. He does however find in Colombia an excellent example of economic exploitation accompanied by strong repression by Right-wing death squads. Apparently the process is more about migrating the Salvador approach to thugs in-country, to further expedite the looting of public assets. Fuller explains:
"As a model, El Salvador is not wholly accurate either. In El Salvador US ‘advisors’ were few in number and prohibited from taking part in combat. Nevertheless, it is towards this model that the US is attempting to move, hoping to farm out the sordid business of occupation to Iraqi auxiliaries. But, in many ways it is contemporary Colombia that offers the closest analogy: not for the disposition of US forces, but because here the same process of asset-stripping, impoverishment and conquistador-like plundering is both deeply entrenched and ongoing."[Source]

The political roots of repression accompany forced liberalization:
"...internal conflict in which thousands of social activists have been murdered has butted seamlessly with the country’s exposure to economic liberalisation. In short, legitimate social demands are violently suppressed in favour of allowing foreign capital to extract super profits from Colombia’s rich natural resources and selling off its public assets for the same purpose."[Source]

Since the end of Communism, the US has demonstrated benevolence to countries who are open to neoliberal trade policies and membership in the the International Monetary Fund. As both Argentina and Thailand can attest, joining that elite club of nations may require the submission of sovereign interest to the whims of international currency flows and arbitrage. In the nineties, liberalization in international capital flows led to a drain of foreign currency reserves and rapid currency depreciation in those countries.

The lesson for a battered Iraq is clear: take the money and develop now. Longer-term issues aren't as crucial, so the reasoning would go. Also, Big Oil would claim the Iraqis lack sufficient capital or experience to develop their own fields.

Gradually, Iraq would embrace laws even more favorable to outsiders, in exchange for the development of oil fields in Iraq. Starved of any outside capital by the underlying security environment, Iraqi may have no choice but to turn to international oil companies; the only ones likely to be approved to extract Iraq's oil.

While the internationalization of the Iraqi economy benefits large oil concerns, longer-term, the contracts may be quite detrimental, as Chris Floyd points out. Just how far will Iraq go to service these outside interests remains to be seen; only time can tell how much oil can be brought to the surface and transported unmolested out of Iraq.

With the obvious security risks, Iraq is a bargain, yet at the time a risky proposition for a multi-billion dollar investment. Should the Shia take power down the road, Sunnis could retaliate by disrupting oil infrastructure and exports, if the oil flow was seen as benefitting the Shia-controlled government.

At the present, oil fields in Shia areas in southern Iraq appear to be working, so the model for further oil development under Shia control exists. The full scope of the Sunnis' capacity to retaliate remains unknown. With Iraq's infrastructure damaged is unclear how difficult it will be to maintain (or disrupt) an entire oil field grid were it constructed.

Oil Synergy

Oil is blamed for continuation of the Occupation. Bush-Cheney and their Big Oil ties have been a tired refrain for the progressive media while the Mainstream covers up an obvious motive for the invasion. Hesistant to displease fellow conglomerates, the corporate-owned media ignore the role of Big Oil in promoting an occupation of Iraq.

The energy industry can claim a large camp of support and influence under the Bush Administration, as all the players--Cheney, Bush, Rice--have directly worked for Big Oil. Rice's services to Chevron were so highly esteemed as to earn the Secretary of State an oil tanker named after her, the S.S. Rice.

Big Oil's affection for Bush & Co. is clearly well-placed: price of their product has tripled since before Bush took power. New sources of supply have been opened to extraction, albeit not without substantial risk.

In serving America, Big Oil is obligated to provide America with its energy needs. Big Oil justifies its favorable treatment in Iraq by the need to must supply America with abundant energy. In this sense, Cheney and Bush--always sympathetic to the oil industry--see what is good for the oil industry as being good for the US. Therefore whatever is good for them, is seen as good for the US.

Had the US government been truly independent, the US government would have sought better oil contracts and lease terms, as was discussed here on jbpeebles. Instead, the Interior Department, overseeing leases, recently fired a whistleblower (see the NYT article here.)

Under the Bush Administration, many lobbyists for Big Oil have found their way into high places in government; low-balled lease terms and perhaps even the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have been the payback, if the considerable energy reserves of those countries can be cheaply acquired.

The oil industry has reason to maintain the status quo. In selling to the American public, oil must not be too expensive--causing inflation--but not too cheap, either, lest profits be threatened. Most importantly, profitability must be increasing for the industry lest their stock price decline.

Motivated by the profit motive, like any other business, the oil companies have no interest in seeing their sales fall. Energy conservation is a sales inhibitor and thus purged from any policy. America's conservation movement dates to the Carter years, and has hardly been heard from since Bush took office. Whatever our national energy management plan, conservation appears suspiciously absent.

Our energy planning appears to revolve around securing new sources of oil. Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings--in which a map of Iraq's oil fields was consulted--remains off limits to public scrutiny. Will Congress investigate? The Administration has made secret access to White House visitor logs, a formerly public source of information. As a result Cheney's co-conspirators remain anonymous.

The state of energy addiction is profound that the US government has committed to expand energy production. Operating in tandem with government policies, Big Oil is expanding its drilling on public land; lease deals with the federal government--ostensibly the people's representative in these matters--has profitted Big Oil by reducing their acquisition costs, at the expense of the public who must buy their product at the pump (after government has taxed it.)

The Media will never threaten the market for energy. Keeping Americans in the dark as to the scope of their dependency perpetuates the status quo and waste. Aware of America's energy habit, Big Media avoids any mention of the inherent immorality of stealing Iraqi oil.

How deeply are the interests of Big Oil and the Administration tied? Should the scale of waste be exposed, the need for conservation would become a mandate for change. Transparency in the Media might allow us to see the scope of our government's interest in keeping oil pumping and profits rising.

To Americans, oil is as addictive as Big Macs. As our obesity epidemic shows, we've become addicted to that which hurts us. I recently saw the documentary "Supersize Me" on MSNBC, which charts the effects of Morgan Spurlock's thirty-day binge at McDonald's. One consequence of eating Big Mac's every day were the headaches Spurlock would have if we didn't eat Big Macs.

Big Oil furnishes the equivalent of Big Macs, and we become addicted to them as we are to cheap gas. Yet at the same time, our corporate "Pusher Men" feed our ever worsening addiction, which is not an addiction to Big Macs but rather a lifestyle branded for consumption.

Big Oil has generated massive profits to the rising price of oil. Simultaneously the largely artificial "terror environment" has driven the price higher. It's unclear how much terror has been the result of suggestion by Bush and Blair's governments. fear or terror undoubtedly plays to the Right's support for popular militarism. Recently we've seen quite a swing downward, yet oil still sits at price triple that of the pre-invasion price. Cheney has said that the US needs oil out of the Mideast. Also, through the use of predatory techniques, Iraqi oil resources stand to be systemically exploited by Big Oil.

As for Big Oil, should the US government embrace the needs of one vital industry as its own? Does securing America's energy future justify making war--the ultimate use of governmental authority--abroad? Big Oil should have to pay its fair share for its access to public lands, whether in Iraq or off the coasts of the US mainland. Big Oil has a vested interest in seeing the price of energy to the end-consumer rise; governments in seeing it not rise too fast.

Where do the interests of Big Oil and the US public coincide? As a for-profit entity, Big Oil must profit, and its stock price must perpetually go up to entice investor interest. By controlling the world's energy supply, Big Oil can create a monopoly. By devaluing conservation and hyping demand (despite the debt it brings), governments can maintain rising demand.

Wars become increasingly costly to the general economy. At some point maintaining the benefit of occupation for one corporate constituency cannot justify the collateral damage resulting from the ongoing use of force needed to sustain that benefit.

There is also the tendency to avoid fiscal oversight in government spending, in order to mask conflicts of interest. Funds spent in the service of corporate interest have cost the US mightily and delivered less than adequate results.
Efficiency in the provisioning of public resources should be an ideal, not demeaned by the inadequate comparisons to the corporate model, where profitability is the standard by which success is measured. The failure to restore New Orleans shows the inadequacy of privatized or commercial solutions.

The failure to rebuild Iraq may in large part be a product of no-bid contracts and sweetheart deals. The inadequacies of the reconstruction effort now spurn Bush efforts to revive reconstruction through the Iraqi government, despite all the evidence of corruption and mismanagement.

Just how far does the synergy between Big Oil and the current government go?
Are the two entities intertwined, or do the goals of one exist parasitically on the root of the other? Does our foreign policy serve our energy needs, or is our energy gluttony the result of wise business strategy in a free market?

Perhaps our federal government has melded with Big Oil. Favoring one industry redefines the nature of service to our government and nation. The rise of corporate power may hint of a time to come when wars will be fought not by countries but by companies; science fiction has plenty of examples.

In their fullest form, corporate/government synergies have been deemed fascism. So it's possible wars will still be fought between countries, on behalf of their most dominant corporations.