Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bomb Everyone

When you’re in a hole, stop digging. That is excellent advice and someone should really offer it to the Bush Administration who’s latest Brilliant Plan No. 246 is to bomb the Kurds!

The Herald Sun reports:

THE Bush Administration is considering air strikes, including cruise missiles, against the Kurdish rebel group PKK in northern Iraq.

The question is, who will be left in Iraq as a friend when you’ve managed to strip power away from the Sunnis, repeatedly attacked and killed the Shia in raids and finally bomb the only real ally you have with cruise missiles?

In a region that is moving rapidly towards total conflagration after being ignited by the current US Administration in what is possibly the dumbest move in political history, they continue to fan the flames and pour gasoline to feed the fire they started again and again.

The only explanation is that they WANT World War III. If anyone has a better one, please – I’m all ears.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why Cheney Hates Iran

In a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Landsdowne Virginia, Dick Cheney said the following:

The Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power is a matter of record.

That is certainly extraordinary coming from an American politician. That the United States has been attempting to destabilize the Middle East and gain hegemonic power there is not only a matter of record which goes back at least as long as I can remember, but is legendary.

The 1953 CIA led campaign to overthrow Mossadegh, the then democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister is just such a case in point. In fact it was at the behest of the British that the Americans started to poke their noses in their and at the time, the Americans were trusted by the Iranians. It was the British the Iranians could not stand. But ultimately it was the United States that paid Mullahs to openly denounce Mossadegh who, through his insistence and belief in a free press, refused to quash the movement which was completely artificial and which was being conducted by agents paid by the CIA.

The reason for this legendary overthrow was the nationalization of Iran’s oil by Mossadegh. The Shah was installed in his place and there started a reign of terror and brutality which was certainly notable, but no one in the West took notice because it served their purpose.

If anyone sees a parallel with Hugo Chavez privatizing Venezuelan oil and the raised level of invective against him by the State Department then it is not surprising. But let us return to the Middle East because the meddling in South America and the attempts at destabilizing that continent by the United States is well documented as are its hegemonic attempts and plans.

It’s not like we have to go back in history very far to see evidence of attempted manipulation of events in the Mid-East. The Iraq war, overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the Gulf War, events in Lebanon, double dealings with Saudi Arabia, the pressure on Syria. It’s all an attempt to juggle and keep seven or eight spinning knives in the air simultaneously only no one at the State Department has had the intelligence to realize that it isn’t working.

Cheney is effectively calling for a hard line if not all out war against Iran. He sees Iran as the lynchpin to stability in the region. If only Iran fell…… It’s so na├»ve and devoid of rationale that it’s hard to believe that Cheney was CEO of a company let alone that he’s Vice-President of the United States. But there we have it in Technicolor: Iran should be attacked because it does in the region it occupies what the United States has been trying to do for decades and that’s what really sticks.

Iran is successful at manipulating the forces in the region to its own ends and America has been horrible, embarrassingly unsuccessful. Iran is President Bush’s biggest nightmare because they don’t obey the US State Department. Iran is bad because Muslims and Arabs trust it more than they trust the US and lastly, Iran is the enemy because it does the job of gaining power in the Middle East successfully and without deploying a single soldier – by supporting its neighbors. And that’s why it has to be destroyed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Of Course it's About The Oil

The problem the right has is that it has to keep shifting positions to stay ahead of it’s own lies. The reason for the invasion of Iraq has always been a chimera, a changing blob of meaningless rhetoric, a series of stuttered answers that make no sense, a bunch of doubtful associations that fell apart at the first prodding by a second rate journalist. Many of us knew the reason: oil. The little word that means so much to every nation, developed or developing, rich or poor represents a colossus amongst the commodities and this country especially, needs a lot of it.

After years of ducking and weaving and hiding behind first Weapons of Mass destruction, then dubious links to Al Qaeda before jumping to “Liberation” as a just cause, the right has been desperate to avoid the word ‘oil’ when talking about Iraq.

So it will probably hurt just a little bit to know that General Abizaid, the guy who was in charge of much of the Iraq war,has been quoted by Think Progress as saying:

“Of course it’s about oil, we can’t really deny that,”

No You can’t. But you could have come clean about it a long time ago and you could have decided that it was not a valid reason for killing some 90,000 Iraqis and displacing another 4 million, not to mention killing almost 4,000 US soldiers.

There isn’t a why and a wherefor nor is there a ‘but’. The four year campaign by the right to paint the Bush Administration as some kind of collection of Mother Teresas who are overly concerned about some Arabs in a country Far, Far Away just dissapeared in a puff of smoke that smells something like rotten eggs. There was only one reason to invade Iraq and that was to secure the oil and the ex General Abizaid has just said it plain as day.

He went on to say:

“Our message to them is: Guys, keep your pumps open, prices low, be nice to the Israelis and you can do whatever you want out back. Osama and 9/11 is the distilled essence that represents everything going on out back.”

Which is pretty much what everyone on the left has been saying since 2003.

I guess it’s time to swift-boat him too.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Gap

The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States has hit a new record high since the IRS started compiling such data. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks.

The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.

Some suggest that the 1920s were the last time the divergence of wealth in this country was so great. In fact the trend has been probably moving in this direction for several decades and so it is not entirely a Neocon fabrication, however the size of the gap has also increased at a record pace in the past five years since the Republicans took the presidency.

Between 2000 and 2005, the median tax filers’ income fell 2% between 2000 and 2005, to $30,881when adjusted for inflation whilst the income level for the top 1% grew 3%, to $364,657.

The remarkable thing is that most of those who claim that the Bush economy was good for them probably lost out in this new distribution of wealth. The economic health of the country however depends on wealth distribution. Ironically, a healthy capitalist economy depends in part upon one of the cornerstones of communism. If a country’s economy degenerates to a point where a few wealthy people effectively own everything and the poor majority own almost nothing, there is a breakdown in the ability to move cash. Everything form the local liquor store to Wal Mart depend on average Joe having moolah in his pocket to spend on frivolous stuff. It depends on average Jane being able to fork out for a bit of extra to put on the dinner table and to buy new shoes. A healthy economy does not thrive on the occasional multi-million dollar yacht sale.
This report is the clearest indicator that ‘trickle down’ does not work. Those who scoff at Europe for its wide ranging social systems and heavy taxing of the wealthier individuals will do well to hold their criticisms. If the Democratic Party cannot change the direction this ship is sailing and by all accounts they probably don’t have the guts to do it, we will be in for a major recession in the not so distant future.

Two weeks ago whilst in San Francisco I saw a Bentley Arnage, worth around $250,000 parked on Union Square in San Francisco and next to it a homeless man holding up a sign saying “please help – hungry.” I’m not suggesting that the Bentley owner should have given him the car or even helped him. I am merely saying that we are seeing signs that are reminiscent of an economy of a Third World country rather than a Western superpower and economically, those countries’ economies are rarely healthy and are not to be envied.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Forgotten Man

We’ve all heard the story of Khaled El Masri. The Lebanese born German citizen was effectively kidnapped by the CIA whilst vacationing in Macedonia. He was flown to Afghanistan where he was beaten, mistreated and by all accounts abused and tortured. The CIA released him after several months with not so much as an apology. The official stance is “It was a case of mistaken identity.”

Masri has tried hard to get some sort of compensation, some sort of apology for his treatment but to no avail. First, the Germans gave up trying to extradite the 11 CIA agents who captured Masri who is married and has children, then, when his case was taken up by the ACLU, their lawyers were rebuffed and told that trying the case would expose state secrets.

We readily accept that any form of retribution against a fascist or militaristic government in such a case would be a lost cause, but one would have hoped that in a country that professes to be an icon of freedom, cases such as this would warrant people being up in arms about what had happened. One would imagine that Justice would come down hard on the side of the plaintiff. In a country where you can be awarded eight million dollars in compensation for burning yourself with coffee from McDonalds, one would imagine that there would be some sort of ‘making good’ for the giant ‘oops’ perpetrated by representatives of that country’s Secret Services. But that is not the case as David Stout of the Washington Post reports. Masri’s case was denied by the Supreme Court:

The justices’ refusal to take the case of Khaled el-Masri let stand a March 2 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. That court upheld a 2006 decision by a federal district judge, who dismissed Mr. Masri’s lawsuit on grounds that trying the case could expose state secrets.

There is now nothing this country cannot do to you, which you would be entitled to protest against. In this era of Angst and bedwetting conservatives, this permanent state of fear experienced by the most bigoted amongst us, a man may lose everything including his dignity and he cannot demand that the perpetrators be punished; because now, in today’s Neoconservative America, state secrets are more important than freedom.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Deception by Treason

An absolutely breathtaking piece of news has just surfaced which shows that the Justice Department and in particular, Alberto Gonzalez was actually drawing up a memorandum in 2005, in which the guidelines for interrogating people included subjecting prisoners to painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures at the same time as Congress was moving to disallow “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment.

The Times article claims that the memorandum was kept secret from almost all lawmakers and that it stated that none of C.I.A. interrogation methods violated the standard set by the Congressional motion. However if one remembers correctly, the Deputy Attorney general James B. Comey resigned after repeatedly coming to verbal blows with the White House about, amongst other things, the inexcusable interpretation of the law by the Bush Administration regarding the treatment of prisoners. From the article:

Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

To refresh our memories: John Yoo originally penned the first “Torture Memo,” as it became known which basically said it didn’t matter what one did to a prisoner as long as the man was alive at the end of it. Yoo, who was called ‘Dr. Yes’ by none other than John Ashcroft for his willingness to do whatever the Bush Administration requested of him, eventually left the Justice Department after the memo was leaked. The Justice Department under John Ashcroft eventually started bucking and would not simply accept any form of mistreatment of terror suspects without clearly defining the rules. For example, if keeping a prisoner at a very cold temperature was one accepted method and depriving the man also of rest was another, was it permissible also to combine the two?

The United States Supreme Court ruled unequivocally that the Geneva Conventions applied to members of terrorist organizations just as they did to a normal soldier. This led to the Bush Administration admitting to having shipped suspected criminals overseas in what was referred to as “Special rendition” and the CIA stopped its program of waterboarding prisoners. Later however, a new Executive order was signed allowing for so-called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.” In normal speak we are talking again about torture.

To counteract the resistance within the Justice Department, Bush needed to have someone in there he could trust. Someone who would toe the line; enter, Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales effectively transformed the Justice Department into a Neocon circus and turned it into a laughing stock. Gonzales and his minions were soon able to press an embattled Comey out of the Justice Department and with Comey gone, they had free reign. Thus they managed by a series of backhanded comments, to present Congress with the impression that there was movement to ban torture whilst simultaneously ensuring the ability of interrogators to continue to use the very techniques that they were pretending to outlaw.

It’s an unfathomable display of disrespect of Congress and the American people and is the absolute epitome of treasonous conduct.

Take Away Women's Right to Vote

No, of course I don’t think it’s a good idea but it gives you a good perspective of how desperate the GOP is. Floundering like a galleon holed by enemy canon, sails shredded by a hurricane of scandals involving anything from embezzlement, through sexual harassment of page boys to tapping feet and waving hands under toilet stall partitions whilst soliciting sex in public, rudder and keel destroyed by a reef of disasters such as Katrina and Iraq, the GOP is gaping wide eyed at a 2008 election that is bound to send most of them into reclusive depressions.

What to do, what to do? Well, our favourite GOP hack Ann Coulter has a solution as reported in today's Raw Story:

"If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine….. women are voting so stupidly, at least single women."

Ann, Ann, Ann…. I knew that somewhere under that horse’s head lurked a misogynistic male cross-dresser. Or is it that you actually are a woman but hate other women who are simply happy being women? Or what is it, pray tell us? Maybe it’s just that you cannot take the frustrations of what has already happened to the GOP in 2006 and what is going to happen to the GOP in 2008 and you’ve blown a fuse?

Repealing women’s right to vote as a solution? I don’t think so. But this is the latest evidence of the Grand Oil Party, chest out, head high, arms flailing and windmilling in panic in an attempt to drag this country back to the Middle Ages where it actually never was; ban abortions, instigate a ‘Christian-Only’ rule for politicians and teachers, insist on “One Nation Under God” in the Pledge of allegiance, denounce evolution in favor of creationism and take away that icon of equality from fully one half of the American people that so many women fought so hard for: their right to vote.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Next Misstep

Global Politics is something that emerged after World War II. Prior to that, politics defined countries and maybe regions, but in the age of the Empires, it was not so much about global politics as about colonialism. What transpired after World War II was that countries were no longer at liberty to simply invade other countries. The UN had been founded and there was a capability for the Security Council to come together and draw up resolutions which would eventually empower nations to band together and sort out the offender. That never worked in the case of Israel, which has some 60 outstanding resolutions condemning it for various infractions, but it has been brought to bear on several countries more than once and in the end, it is the most effective control we have to prevent one country taking over another.

In this context, if you wanted to invade another country, you had to cook up some obscure tin-foil hat reason for doing so as the Russians did in Afghanistan back in the eighties and the United States did in Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan, just to mention a few. The pattern under the Bush Administration, because it is now growing to be a pattern, is to try and instill a sense of fear about the particular country one wants to bomb and to attempt to trigger something in the population tantamount to support for your lunatic plans. This worked wonderfully in Iraq as we saw and there are probably still a few million Americans out there who believe that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and was a threat and was responsible for 9/11.

With respect to Iran, this was the Iranian nuclear threat and the Iranian President, Ahmedinejad obligated by sounding similar to a lunatic whenever he spoke publicly. This was in part because he probably is a little wayward in some of his views and in part because his speeches would be conveniently translated in such a way that he spoke into our ‘listening’ for a madman. When the attempt to portray Iran as a possible nuclear monster failed to frighten the population of the West enough to support a war against Iran, the Neocons turned to the next tactic: Iran has been attacking our troops in Iraq and is creating havoc in Iraq – it’s the reason Iraq isn’t working and it’s the reason why so many Iraqis are dying every day, not to mention US soldiers of course!

Seymour Hersh has penned a new article in the New Yorker outlining this strategy and we may well see the Bush Administration start an Iranian war just in time for the elections next year. Hersh points out how even Petraeus’ testimony to Congress included a lot of anti-Iranian rhetoric. President Bush recently told Ryan Crocker, the American Ambassador to Iraq, that he was planning to hit select targets inside the Iranian border and that Crocker was to tell Iran that they were to stop interfering or face American retribution.

Bush and Cheney are simultaneously mobilizing the CIA to try and find a Casus Belli in Iran:

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

“Not thought it all the way through.” How unlike the Bush Administration. Really. Because in Iraq they probably thunked it all the way through, but in a wildly imaginative and totally unrealistic scenario involving sweets, flowers and dancing in the streets, followed by rampant democracy. They probably think they’ve thought it through in Iran too but I would wager everything I possess that they are so wrong again.

The problem with the Bush Administration and the Neocons in general is that they misunderstand something fundamental: if you are a relatively small Middle Eastern country and you get hit by a big bad guy like the USA and you haven’t got a chance in hell of coming out of it in one piece by fighting fair and square, you will start to fight dirty. There are a billion Muslims waiting with baited breath to see if America’s attack on Iraq was simply hegemonic or it was a well intended if phenomenally flawed attempt at righting some wrongs. Any attack on Iran would convince them that the United States has just one aim in the Middle East and the world and that is domination.

The Bush Administration would like to pretend that the British are on board with this bellicose attitude but in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The British have had long standing issues with the Iranians and they are certainly not interested in being their friends. But once again, Europe understands the consequences of a war that could unleash terrorism on a scale we have not seen before because the Islamic world would feel threatened to the core.

Hersh’s article ends with a reference to an attack in Afghanistan on an American C-130. The attackers used an SA-7 missile, similar to some that had been intercepted coming from Iran into the country.

Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. officer who has worked closely with his counterparts in Britain, added to the story: “The Brits told me that they were afraid at first to tell us about the incident—in fear that Cheney would use it as a reason to attack Iran.” The intelligence subsequently was forwarded, he said.
The retired four-star general confirmed that British intelligence “was worried” about passing the information along. “The Brits don’t trust the Iranians,” the retired general said, “but they also don’t trust Bush and Cheney.

And nor do I.