Archive for May 2004
FITE Newsletter #27
Re: corruption, taxes, and gas prices
Remember all those tax cuts that “benefited American families?” Most American families saved around $450. But the gains have been more than erased by the more than $500 extra paid annually for gasoline and heating oil. Then again, they were already erased by increases in local taxes and fees in the same time period.
We have explained in previous newsletters how Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts and profligate spending caused OPEC to increase oil prices. But the price of crude is only one part of the story. Refiners are making the biggest profits in a long time, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Bush administration allowed 33 refinery mergers after the refineries dumped $3.5 million into Bush campaign coffers. The mergers translate into less competition and higher prices.
The refinery-Bush love fest will get even “better” if Bush is reelected because the new energy bill, providing some $25 billion in tax breaks, will likely pass after a Bush win.
Political chemistry lesson number one: whether it’s Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Texas or Washington, oil money and good government don’t mix. Arianna Huffington runs the numbers that reveal how our oil dependence is weakening our society and threatening our security—and comes out in favor of regime change here at home.
ULTIMATE PRICE TAG LIKELY TO BE $800 BILLION TO $1 TRILLION
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Robert Jensen nails it. Rather than restating his points in my own words, I’ll fall back on my bad habit of extensively excerpting:
Republican politicians took potshots at House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi last week after she called President Bush “incompetent” and criticized his judgment and leadership. Her conclusion — “the emperor has no clothes” — understandably made Republicans angry, because it is so obviously accurate.
Pelosi’s remarks deserve scrutiny, but not because she was too harsh on the president. The lies and distortions that Bush and his top officials used to promote the U.S. invasion of Iraq were exposed long ago, and day-by-day the disastrous consequences of the occupation are obvious to all but the most fanatical of the Leader’s faithful.
But the problem is not just that the EMPEROR is bare, but that the U.S. EMPIRE has no clothes, and in that respect mainstream Democrats stand before the world as naked as the most reactionary Republicans.
…The modalities of control change, but the game remains the same; set the terms for the world economy and derail the possibility of independent development by any means necessary, with a gargantuan military on call when violence is required.
Nor do the differences in style and tactics make Democratic administrations any less imperial than Republicans. The Cold-War liberals of the Democratic Party had no greater qualms than Republicans about using the military to extend U.S. power in the Third World…
That pattern continues up to this day. We should not forget that for all the talk of Bill Clinton’s “multilateralism,” he launched an illegal attack on Iraq in 1998 and insisted on maintaining the harshest economic embargo in modern history on that country for eight years, which killed as many as 1 million Iraqis — policies that had virtually no support in the world. In short, Clinton killed more Iraqis than Bush as he ignored international law and world opinion. I doubt the fact that Clinton is smarter and more rhetorically gifted than Bush makes much difference to the dead in Iraq.
Neither Republicans nor mainstream Democrats seem capable of admitting that the invasion of Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, or creating democracy; it was simply an intensification of the longstanding U.S. project of controlling the strategically crucial energy resources of the Middle East. That project has gone on under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, taking different forms but always with that same goal of expanding U.S. power.
It’s not just the Iraq War that is immoral. The whole rotten project of empire building is immoral — and every bit as much a Democratic as a Republican project. When politicians from both parties offer platitudes about America’s benevolent intentions as they argue about the most appropriate strategies for running the world, we should remember this trenchant comment after World War I from W.E.B. DuBois: “It is curious to see America, the United States, looking on herself, first, as a sort of natural peacemaker, then as a moral protagonist in this terrible time. No nation is less fitted for this role.”
This analysis doesn’t mean voters can’t judge one particular empire-building politician more dangerous than another. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sometimes make strategic choices to vote for one over the other. It simply means we should make such choices with eyes open and no illusions.
Here, I borrow phrases from Pelosi’s condemnation of Bush: “When are people going to face reality? Pull the curtain back.”
Indeed, Rep. Pelosi, pull the curtain back. You will see naked emperors, Republican and Democratic. You will see the cowardly legislators who chose to step aside before the war, when spirited opposition in Congress might have helped derail the disaster that is playing out in Iraq.
Pull the curtain back, and step in front of the mirror.
[Kelli] ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.
BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.
I took his advice and sent a quick note to CNN. You should too.
To: Eason.Jordan@turner.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Ms. Arena and Mr. Jordan,
Your comment on “speculation” that Al Qaeda thinks it has a better chance of “winning” in Iraq if John Kerry is elected is outrageous. If you want to report on speculation, at least focus on speculation with some real basis, like the compelling speculation that Bush’s violence has served as an ideal recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. Better yet, just stick to the facts. For starters, I suggest that you report on the following article about the relationship between the Bush administration and Al Qaeda:
It’s by Seymour Hersh. In striking contrast to your network, he has a stellar reputation for credibility.
Well, I wondered where he was. Maybe he was listening.
Last night in Seattle (yes, we’re all waiting with baited breath to see if our own correspondent in that very city was lucky enough to see him and if we are, therefore, lucky enough to be able to expect a personal report on his appearance), Kerry delivered his first real speech in quite a while, and he centered it around national security, which he really needed to do. He sounded tough, which he needed to do. He threatened the terrorists, which he needed to do. He promised more reliance on negotiation and forging alliances, which he needed to do.
Alright. He did what he needed to do. He didn’t do what he could have done–talked like a statesman, talked about what it would cost, talked about why staying in Iraq was a good idea, how he expected to handle it, and what our part was. He says there’s more coming in the next few weeks; maybe he’ll address all those things then. But I doubt it.
I wanted to hear a statesman; I heard a politician. Maybe a good politician, but a politician nevertheless.
Let me now turn to a subject that I know is much on the minds of all Americans — the situation in Iraq. The stakes in Iraq could not be higher. Earlier this week, the president again said that he wanted to create stability and establish a representative government in Iraq. He did acknowledge what many have known all along; that we would be far better off if our allies were with us. What’s important now is to turn this late realization and acknowledgement from words into action.In the coming weeks, President Bush will travel to Europe and meet with members of the G-8 here in the United States. There will be speeches, handshakes, ceremonies. But will our allies promise to send troops to Iraq? Will they dedicate substantially more funding for reconstruction there? Will they pledge a real effort to aid in the transformation of the Middle East? Will they in fact become part of the stakes that are at large for all of us? That is what we need. But the day is late and the situation in Iraq is grim. Attracting international support in a situation like Iraq is a clear test of presidential leadership; it is what capable and confident presidents do. It is its own statement about this administration’s failed approach that they must so constantly be so urged to change that approach, and that they do so only reluctantly and at the last minute.
It is time for President Bush to make a sustained effort, and he should start at the summit at Istanbul by persuading NATO to accept Iraq as an alliance mission with more troops from NATO and its partners. (Applause.) He should seek help in expanding international support for training Iraq’s own security forces so that they can safeguard the rights and the well-being of their own people and allow them to come out into the streets and take part in new freedom. And he should propose the creation of an international high commissioner to work with the Iraqis in organizing elections, drafting a constitution and coordinating reconstruction.
A lot of this is what Bush is claiming to do anyway. Except for a stronger UN role, what’s really different here? He renews the old Carter pledge to lessen our reliance on foreign oil by funding options–and we know how far that’s going to get with the Pubs in charge of the Congress. Anyway, it’s an empty promise, with or without the Pubs; he has to know people wouldn’t sit still for the expense unless he convinced them there was a good reason, and he seemed to be assuming they already knew it. Maybe his audience did, but out here in Realityburg we want to see gas prices go down NOW, not watch our money flow down the spout of pie-in-the-sky ‘alternative investments’ that may pay off twenty years after we’re dead.
The high-falutin’ statesman-lite-like language will play well down here; so will the criticism of Bush which was sharp without being nasty.
More than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt defined American leadership in foreign policy.He said America should walk softly and carry a big stick. Time and again — (interrupted by applause) — time and again this administration has violated the fundamental tenet of Roosevelt’s approach. As Roosevelt described it, if a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble. (Applause.)
And that is precisely what this administration has ignored. They’ve looked to force before exhausting diplomacy; they bullied when they should have persuaded. They’ve gone it alone when they should have assembled a whole team. They have hoped for the best when they should have prepared for the worst. They’ve made America less safe than we should be in a dangerous world. (Applause.) In short, they have undermined the legacy of generations of American leadership, and that is what we must restore, and that is what I will restore.
All that is well and good and we like it, but the rest of the speech is short on specifics, especially about Iraq. Is he going to commit more troops? Sounds like it. Probably necessary. So, John, where are they going to come from? He promises them the equipment Rumsfeld short-changed them on; OK, where’s the money going to come from? Pubs can get away with vague promises undefined and without substance; Dems can’t, not when it comes to national security. And the tax-cut/increase bugaboo is going to have to be faced sooner or later.
Still, it was a good speech, forceful and even poetic at times. It’s only a beginning but it’s not a bad one and there are months to go for him to flesh it out in. But people down here are going to be a lot tougher on him that they are on Junior: they’re going to want answers to those questions I posed and a whole lot more, and he better be ready to convince them that Junior’s patented cliches aren’t good enough when he answers them. To do that, he’s going to have to lead before he’s elected.
Junior’s a lightweight. Kerry can blow him off the map, but only if he’s more JFK than Dukakis; more FDR than Mondale. He has to come across as a statesman rather than a politician, and whether he can do that is still unclear.
Vice President Al Gore delivered a blistering attack on the entire Bush Administration in a speech at NYU yesterday, calling for the resignations of six top-ranking members of Junior’s inner circle, including Rice, Rumsfeld, and his friend, George Tenet.
We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.Condoleeza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately.
George Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special word about George Tenet, because he is a personal friend and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation, but I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately.
But although that’s the part that will get headlines, probably–if any attention is paid at all–it’s the rest of the speech that deserves attention. From the opening paragraph–‘George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.’–to the closing sentence–‘I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable – and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, “We – even we here – hold the power, and bear the responsibility.”‘–Gore carefully, cogently, and angrily laid out the real Bush legacy: humiliation, deceit, broken promises, and the destruction of America’s reputation.
During Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan was accused of corruption, but eventually, after a lot of publicity, the indictment was thrown out by the Judge. Donovan asked the question, “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” President Bush has now placed the United States of America in the same situation. Where do we go to get our good name back?
It’s a question that haunts many of us. Bush’s inherent unilateralist approach–‘We don’t need anybody else else. We’re the Big Dog and we do what we want”–may have struck a welcome chord with right-wing jingoists but the rest of the world sees only unholy arrogance and a dangerous obsession with flexing our muscles at the expense of order and law.
He promised to “restore honor and integrity to the White House.” Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind.” He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.
How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words “We Are All Americans Now” and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world — to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.
To begin with, from its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of “preemption.” And what they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but rather an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat. All that is required, in the view of Bush’s team is the mere assertion of a possible, future threat – and the assertion need be made by only one person, the President.
And, he said, we are promoting that pre-emptive war on the cheap at the expense of the soldiers we are sending to die.
The war plan was incompetent in its rejection of the advice from military professionals and the analysis of the intelligence was incompetent in its conclusion that our soldiers would be welcomed with garlands of flowers and cheering crowds. Thus we would not need to respect the so-called Powell doctrine of overwhelming force.There was also in Rumsfeld’s planning a failure to provide security for nuclear materials, and to prevent widespread lawlessness and looting.
Luckily, there was a high level of competence on the part of our soldiers even though they were denied the tools and the numbers they needed for their mission. What a disgrace that their families have to hold bake sales to buy discarded Kevlar vests to stuff into the floorboards of the Humvees! Bake sales for body armor.
It’s a remarkable speech, a speech that should arguably have been made by John Kerry. So where is Kerry?
According to Adam Nagourney of the NY Times, there’s an argument going on between Democratic consultants on that very question.
WASHINGTON, May 26 — President Bush’s political difficulties have prompted a debate among Democrats and aides to Senator John Kerry over how cautious his campaign should be on a variety of issues, from choosing a vice president to differentiating himself from Mr. Bush to responding to the turmoil in Iraq.Some party officials say that with three new polls showing President Bush more embattled than he has ever been, Mr. Kerry’s wisest course would be to take few chances and turn the election into a referendum on a struggling president. “People have won a lot of campaigns by just saying, `It is time for a change,’ ” said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster.
But other Democrats warn that such a strategy entails risks of its own, banking on the proposition that Americans would be willing to fire an incumbent during war time and replace him with someone they know little about. “I don’t think anybody in their right mind is going to run for president on a strategy of `people hate the other guy and that’s enough for our guy to win,’ ” said Douglas Sosnik, the White House political director for President Bill Clinton.
So far the DLC seems to have won and Kerry has, as we’ve noted before, been keeping an awfully low profile–low to the point almost of invisibility. It’s an arguable policy for sure, especially since his numbers haven’t climbed in response to the sinking of Junior’s. But after thinking about this, I’m beginning to wonder if being in the front line, while comforting to those of us who want to hear these things said out loud, as Gore did, might only result in an even further polarization of the electorate. Things are dicey and there are a lot of people sitting on the fence; an active partisan assault by the nominee might shove them onto the other side rather than pull them onto ours.
Good thing I’m not one of the consultants. Go read the speech (it’s a great read) and decide for yourself.
Update: The Associated Press continues its right-wing slant. In reporting on Gore’s speech they characterized him as ‘Raising his voice to a scream’ a la Dean and ‘bellowing’. No other report on the speech mentioned him doing any such thing. They then dismiss the dozen outbursts of applause because they came from a ‘partisan crowd’, and quotes responses to the speech only from Jim Dyke of the RNC.
Talk about great minds thinking alike….
I was just writing a post about this when what I thought was an inoffensive little program I’d just downloaded crashed the computer. When I got back up, Seattle had beat me to it. But I’ll add a little just the same.
I originally ran into the charges that the Berg video was a fake a couple of weeks ago when La Voz De Aztlan published this story only a day or two after the video surfaced. But the Aztlan Press, while valuable, isn’t always terribly reliable, often printing rumors as if they were fact, so I waited to see if the story popped up someplace more credible. It did.
Yesterday, The Asia Times published this piece on the independent evaluations of two medical consultants.
American businessman Nicholas Berg’s body was found on May 8 near a Baghdad overpass; a video of his supposed decapitation death by knife appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda-linked website (www.al-ansar.biz) on May 11. But according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged.”I certainly would need to be convinced it [the decapitation video] was authentic,” Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said from New Zealand. Echoing Dr Simpson’s criticism, when this journalist asked forensic death expert Jon Nordby, PhD and fellow of the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, whether he believed the Berg decapitation video had been “staged”, Nordby replied: “Yes, I think that’s the best explanation of it.”
That gives Aztlan’s Hector Carreon credibility–on this issue, at least–and a few days after he wrote the first piece on the doctors, he wrote this one on a frame-by-frame analysis of the Berg video which he says shows that the staged decapitation took place within Abu Ghraib.
The evidence is mounting up that the beheading was, indeed, bogus. There are two possible explanations at this point: 1) the whole video is a fraud and NOBODY was killed; 2) it was Berg on the video but the decapitation happened after he was already dead.
Apart from Aztlan and Al-Jazeera, indications that the entire thing may be a hoax comes from the supposed linkage of terrorist al-Zarqawi who is, according to intelligence sources, dead and has been for two years.
On March 4, Brigadier-General David Rodriguez of the Joint Chiefs of staff revealed that the Pentagon didn’t have “direct evidence of whether he’s [al-Zarqawi] alive or dead”, providing commentary on the nature of prior “evidence” linking al-Zarqawi to attacks and bombings. But that same day, AP reported that an Iraqi resistance group claimed al-Zarqawi had been killed the April prior in the US bombing of northern Iraq.Speaking off the record, intelligence community sources have previously said they believe it “very likely” that al-Zarqawi is indeed long dead. Such a fact makes al-Zarqawi’s alleged killing of Berg difficult to reconcile, and there has been broad speculation that blaming al-Zarqawi is an administration ploy. Further anomalies surrounding Berg’s death have fueled added speculation.
Like the Plame Affair, this one isn’t over by a long shot.