By Thomas Riggins
The journalist George Packer has an article ("Planning for Defeat") about the situation in Iraq in the September 17, 2007 issue of The New Yorker. It is very informative, but unfortunately, veers from reportage into advocacy, and not just any advocacy, but advocacy of placing Iraq under semi-permanent military occupation by the US-- in fact making it an economic colony of American capitalism.
8 million Iraqis require emergency aid
About one-fourth of Iraqi children are malnourished
5 million Iraqis depend on the country's food rationing system; only 3 million have reliable access to it
3 to 4 million Iraqis are internally or internationally displaced
80% of Iraqis lack effective sanitation
70% lack sanitary water
12,000 doctors have left Iraq due to the violence
--From United Nations, International Red Crescent, Oxfam, IRIN News, United for Peace and Justice
I relate some pertinent facts about the current situation in Iraq, from Packer's article, then present my justifications for the above conclusion. He tells us that Moqtada al-Sadr (the Mahdi Army , a fearsome and powerful Shia militia is loyal to him) is "perhaps the most important political figure" in the country. A most interesting observation considering that the US has spent four years fighting in Iraq, and spent billions of dollars trying to undermine him. At one time Bush and his generals even talked about "arresting" him. The dreams of a paper tiger!
Packer's article appeared before the Petraeus-Crocker farce was performed on Capitol hill (and for Fox news) last week. He reported that everyone concerned knew in advance what they were going to say, namely "military progress, a political stalemate among Iraqis, more time needed." He got that right.
Packer, who has been to Iraq, and whose New Yorker connections has given him access to the high and mighty, is in a position to tell us what the insider thinking is about Iraq, as opposed to the pabulum dished up in the mass popular media, And that is, with reference to the "military progress" that "the inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of the Iraqis." The fact that the surge is being touted by Bush, the Republicans, most of the press, and of course Petraeus (the new Westmoreland) is because none of them ultimately give a hoot about the daily lives of the Iraqis.
And, as any freshman ROTC student could tell Petraeus, when an incompetent, but highly armed conventional army floods an area, the insurgency melts away only to return after the the invading troops have shot their wad. Thus, Packer writes, "The militias, which have become less conspicuous as they wait out the surge, are nevertheless growing in strength...."
The surge and heightened troop levels cannot be maintained. Special advisors to Gen. George Casey (Army chief of staff) have "estimated that the number of soldiers and marines who can be kept in Iraq into 2009 will be, at a maximum, a hundred and thirty thousand." That is pre-surge level. They will be facing, if what Packer said is correct about the growing power of the militias, an even more formidable insurgency that will emerge. Then, the boys playing soldier at the Pentagon will have even more problems.
Packer next discusses a report entitled "Phased Transition" put out by a think tank called the Center for a New American Security, which he calls "center-left." Only in America would this right wing pro-imperialist outfit be nominated "center-left."
It argues for a reduction of troops to 60,000 by 2009 and a "complete withdrawal by 2012. Thus not only would Iraq be the subject for next year's presidential election, but the next one after that as well. How long is Bush's albatross to be us?
The purpose of this timetable is to allow us to train the Iraqis to take care of themselves. This is an old refrain and we have already seen how likely it is that the comprador group we placed in power is likely to pull this off.
Packer talked to Colin Kahl who teaches "security studies" at Georgetown and helped write the report. "Kahl argued, President Bush needs to be forced to compromise now, or else the war will end in a precipitate, chaotic flight."
He then quotes Kahl directly, "If Bush keeps the pedal on the surge until the end of his Presidency, we will rocket off the cliff, and it guarantees that the next President will get elected on a pledge to get us out of Iraq now." But that is just what the left, and I would argue, everyone who has the real interests of the American people at heart and is not a shill for the big corporations, wants. Not a rocket off a cliff, but a pledge to get us out of Iraq now. Perhaps, however, rocketing off a cliff would be less costly in terms of human life and the erosion of our own values through this mindless warmongering of the Republicans and their allies than prolonging the agony of defeat another four years.
The President and his general are telling us that the surge is working, especially in Anbar province where the Sunnis are "working with us." But, Packer points out, "without a functioning state in Iraq, U.S. support of these Sunni forces could easily lead to renewed violence and warlordism."
That the Iraqi "state" is nonfunctioning, a joke really, was recently demonstrated when it attempted to expel the U.S. State Department''s murderous mercenary private army, Blackwater, from the country. One phone call from Condoleezza Rice put Prime Minister al-Malaki in his place and let him know who really runs the show in Iraq: Blackwater stays.
So, what are the options for solving the problems we have created for ourselves and the Iraqis by Bush's criminal intervention. Since Congress won't impeach him and turn him and his accomplices over to an international war crimes tribunal and then pay for the reconstruction of Iraq and compensate the Iraqi victims of this mass murderers assault upon them (the only just solution), some less satisfying resolution is necessary.
How about "partition"? This is Senator Biden's solution. He thinks he is playing Risk. "But," Packer reminds us, "the idea of partition can't be imposed by outsiders [sorry Senator] and, so far, has no support from Iraqis [except the Kurdish minority]."
There has been a positive development, from the secular point of view. That is that "Civil war and sectarian rule have tarnished the prestige of religious parties and increased the appeal of a nonsectarian government." One of the weaknesses of this article is the lack of any comprehensive discussion of the role of the labor movement, or the Communist Party and other secular forces (the women's movement for example) in the current struggle to rid the country of the illegal occupation.
But what if there is no good way to exit Iraq? What it the choice is either build up more troops and fight to the finish, or immediate withdrawal a la our flight from Saigon and the rest of Vietnam? Packer quotes Stephen Biddle (Council of Foreign Relations) who says all the step by step withdrawal plans involve a reduction of combat forces, but it is our forces that are protecting us and "capping violence around the country" so gradual withdrawal "means that the violence is only going to increase." This increase will fuel demands to just get out entirely. So why not just "do it sooner" and save all the lives that would be lost in the meantime. An excellent argument for an immediate withdrawal.
Packer also gives us the opinions of David Kilcullen who was an advisor on General Petraeus's staff. The issue for him is "What do we want Iraq to look like" once we are on the way out and finally gone. The question shows the problem of imperialism. It doesn't matter what we want. Its up to the Iraqis to do what they want.
As long as we are in the "we want" mode the killing will go on. Kilcullen also participated in a "strategic-assessment team" (these people have no idea what they are doing) that at least put the lie to Bush's version of what is going on in Iraq (democracy and freedom). The team decided that we should work, over the next two years, on attaining "sustainable security" but it also appears that most of the team "believed that it was too late to achieve this goal." Nice.
We must work for "core American interests" in Iraq. Kilcullen lists six which he gave to the State Department and White House. We are really in a bad way if they hadn't figured these out on their own. They are all either outrageous and/or ridiculous and are unattainable because of the war not attainable as a result of it. Here they are, with suitable comments of my own.
1. Keep the oil and gas flowing. The real purpose of the war-- to steal the
Iraqi oil, as even Greenspan now tacitly admits. It will flow after we leave.
2. No safe haven for Al Qaeda. The evidence is that Iraqis will get rid of Al
Qaeda on their own. Al Qaeda gets more powerful because we are in Iraq.
3. Contain Iranian influence. Forget it.
4. Prevent a Rwanda scale humanitarian catastrophe. He's got to be
Kidding. We have already caused a humanitarian catastrophe that
is greater that Rwanda.
5. Restore American credibility. Get out of Iraq, stop threatening Iran, and
put the screws on Israel until it makes an honest deal with the
Palestinians, gets out the West Bank, and returns the Golan Heights.
Otherwise, forget it.
At this point in his article Packer ceases to be a reporter and becomes an advocate for the failed imperialist policies of US monopoly capitalism. He also, if he really believes what he says, shows he has learned nothing about the causes and consequences of US policy.
"The notion," he writes, "that Iraq and the Middle East will be more stable without an American occupation, as the Center for American Progress claims, misunderstands the role that America has come to play in Iraq: as a brake on the violent forces let loose by the war."
Let me get this right. The US starts the war, it becomes violent, and the US is the brake to stop the violence. Mr. Packer should be a contestant on "Do You Know More than a Fifth Grader." But he better not take the Middle East as one of his subjects. This is the argument the Germans gave after taking over Poland and other areas of Europe. Gott in Himmel, we can't leave now, look at the violence that would breakout.
If we don't remain an occupier, Packer says, "Iraq's predatory neighbors will take advantage of the power vacuum to pursue their own interests." Well, all the neighbors have said, and it is objectively true, that their best interests would be a free, independent and stable Iraq free of a foreign occupation. The only predator is the US who has invaded and taken over (or is still trying to) a country in a, lets hope, vain attempt to control its oil and set up a government to its liking regardless of the interests and desires of the people.
It is incredible both that Packer can advocate for such a brazen criminal continuation of war and murder and that The New Yorker would give him the pages to do so.
Packer also says, "the burden of proof lies on anyone who claims that Iraqis without Americans around won't be substantially worse off and might even fare better." This simple minded attempt to shift "the burden of proof" away from the warmongers to the peace movement and the critics of Bush's folly won't stand up.
The millions of Iraqi dead and wounded, the displacement of millions more as both internal and external refugees, the destruction of the country's infrastructure, its medical and educational systems, the barbarous treatment of the civilian population by the occupation forces and its mercenary contingents, the attempts to privatize and loot its natural resources, the creation of sectarian violence, the murder of hundreds of thousands of its children, all this is the gift of the Americans and the continued occupation promises more of the same.
In the face of this The New Yorker has the cheek, and the moral insensitivity to publish an article that says that those who advocate peace and the cessation of war and occupation "have the burden of proof" that the Iraqi people would be better off without us. Well, just ask them. Every poll shows they want us gone, one way or the other gone, and they don't want to be occupied. There has never been an imperialist power that didn't think the "natives" were better off under its control than on their own.
Packer could care less for the Iraqi people. What is important is that "Iraq still matters to the United States, whoever is in the White House, and it will for years to come." The reason? Iraq sits "in the geographical heart of the Middle East, on top of all that oil"-- don't forget that OIL (we want it desperately-- it should be ours). Oh yes, there is "radicalism" too. Where does that come from? Could people be radical because we occupy their country? Let's occupy their country to prevent radicalism.
Packer knows all of this by the way. But national (corporate) interest will out. "Whenever," he writes, "this country decides that the bloody experience in Iraq requires the departure of American troops, complete disengagement [Iraqis be damned!] will be neither desirable nor possible [!]. We might want to be rid of Iraq, but Iraq won't let it happened." Not as long as it is "on top of all that oil."
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What do we need to know?
The papers have some good election stuff running this morning, including Slate's Is it time for Obama to panic? I'm thinking "no", but clearly his campaign needs to step it up. John Dickerson notes the transformation that Obama has undergone, from fresh-faced campaigner to a much more seasoned presidential candidate, and I agree. He's had his stumbles - the nuclear chatter about Pakistan was one that particularly irked me - but he's coming along.
I should probably disclose that I've pretty much settled on casting my ballot for Barack on Super Tuesday. Whatever "Super Tuesday" might be worth in this era of accelerated primary schedules.
So that's one Democratic voter they can add to their count list. No reason to panic at all...
At Attytood, Will Bunch makes a strong case for tasering lazy student journalists. I'm all for it. In fact, I think those adults among us who hang out in bars and coffee shops oughta have the right to tase at will when the frat boys show up. Seriously. Nothing spoils the party like a bunch of uber-entitled 21-year-old white boys. Get 'em Will. (He actually wasn't arguing that at all.)
The NYT, newly liberated from the oppressive capitalist tyranny it was living under, offers up a rather engaging piece on Mitt Romney's experience as head of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. It made me think that he could make a decent president, but then again, the last six or seven years have left the bar so low that I'd happily vote for a cadre of muppets to guide our nation at this point. On that note, it appears that we can add muppets to the list of groups that George Bush doesn't care about. Oh yeah! I guess they don't vote Republican either.
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Part of the candidate blogger series for Obama - I'm a supporter unaffiliated with the campaign Populista has already written up a nice summary of the tax reform plan Obama released today. I thought I would expand on one of the smaller provisions[...]
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Comedian Dan Barton talks politics, family and dogs on today's show.
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(Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich will be visiting Daily Kos tomorrow to answer questions about his new book, . If you've read it, or if you've read one of his earlier books like , or if you've listened to Dr. Reich's commentaries on public radio, this is your chance to discuss his ideas. So be sure to stop by.)
Who doesn't love a bargain? For the last few months, I've been fighting the lure of those big, flat LCD televisions. I'm no great videophile, they all look great to me (compared to the old set I have), and best of all, every time I walk in a store, they're cheaper. It's amazing, really. It' a wonder of the free market.
Only, as it turns out, the free market isn't. Free, that is.
In Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life, Robert Reich agrees that global capitalism had made goods both cheaper and more plentiful. However, the price tag at the store doesn't represent the full price we pay for this consumer bounty. In creating not just a market, but an international culture, driven almost entirely by price, we've sacrificed much of our ability to control the actions of corporations or even the quality of our own lives.
The tendency when looking at globalization is to blame the giant international corporations, but Reich has another villian at the center of the story. You. You and me. You and me and our constant search for a cheaper pair of socks, a better deal on a car, that beautiful cheap 47" TV. The consumer culture we've built creates an enormous pressure on price -- a pressure that far outweighs every other factor shaping the actions of corporations. Reich's picture of the people serving up those child-labor sneakers and lead-painted toys isn't one of corporate Snideley Whiplashes rubbing their hands together in glee. It's of corporations desperately trying to keep up with the demands of consumers for more, more, more delivered cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.
But whether they're driven by greed, survival, or a mixture of the two, the result is the same. Price trumps everything. Pass a law that protects labor? Good for you, but the corporations will find another place to make their goods cheaper. Pass a law against pollution? How nice. They'll go somewhere else not so particular. And when they've found that place where they can operate without scrutiny, for the cost of a few bribes, will you turn up your nose at the products they put on your local shelves? Of course not. You've got to make a good impression at work. You've got to get your ever-growing kids outfitted for the new school year.
To deliver that new television at such a great price, the company making it will chop their payroll, move assembly off shore, buy their parts piecemeal from companies you've never heard of, and sell it directly to select "big box" stories, leaving your local retailers (if you still have any) out in the cold. Will they tell you about the safety record of the factory in Bangladesh? Will they talk about the metallic salts spilled over east Africa while mining for all those elements it took to make the electronics? No. What they will tell you is that their set is $200 cheaper than their competitors. Consumers will turn out in droves.
Not only does Reich hold consumers responsible for many of the ills brought by international corporations, he turns other pieces of conventional thought on their head. He looks back on the monopolies and near monopolies that many corporations had after World War II, and doesn't present this as an entirely bad thing. Our world in the 1960s was controlled by many fewer companies, and those companies were much more highly regulated. The result was much less corporate innovation and relatively higher prices. But the result was also more stability, jobs that were more dependable, and corporations that -- while in some ways having more power -- were less able to shape our politics.
Not all of Reich's reversals are easily swallowed. He's quick to forgive the high salaries awarded corporate CEOs, looking at them as an aspect of the less stable market. But in doing so he ignores how much higher US executive salaries are than those elsewhere, and forgets that every corporate worker is sharing that risk -- often to a much greater extent -- even though the ratio between their pay and that of the people a the top has grown enormously.
In the end what Reich has to say is that both left and right are wrong in their view of capitalism. Corporations are not people. They're not moral or immoral. They just are. And if that sounds too corporate friendly, Reich makes a terrific case for why corporations should not be given the political clout and legal protections of human citizens. In his view, a corporation should have both the responsibilities and rights of a table lamp.
The right is at least as wrong in viewing the market as some kind of self-correcting "natural" system that always tends to produce an overall benefit. There's no evidence of this now, or ever. In fact, history shows that the market needs constant adjustment and correction -- often involving huge amounts of government support that the "free market" advocates are quick to forget when the numbers are going up.
And both sides are wrong in the assumption that democracy requires, or is even related to, free market capitalism. The new global capitalism, the Supercapitalism that shrugs off national boundaries in that eternal search for a lower price, not only shares nothing in common with democracy it's the enemy of democracy.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch my blurry old 19" TV.
I swear; I couldn’t make this one up if I TRIED…From The [ahem… oftentimes, characterized as the “traitorous“] New York Times:In Olympics Success, Romney Found New EdgeSALT LAKE CITY ? Mitt Romney walked onto the Olympic stage in 1999 a rich businessman still smarting from losing his first bid for public office. He walked off, [...]
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Tim & Jane-- no hocus pocus
Monday Arianna debuted a new section at Huff Po, Mind.Body.Soul as part of her Living Now page. The link I just provided goes to a story by my doctor, Timothy Brantley and a story he did for Arianna called "New Miracle Cure Found: It's You!"
I met Tim a few years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer. Rather than go with any of the radical treatments favored in the U.S.-- surgery, chemotherapy or radiology-- I decided on a holistic approach. Tim had me all fixed up and rockin' in just a few months. And my life was TOTALLY changed... for the better. He covers it succinctly and elegantly in his recently released best-seller, The Cure: Heal Your Body, Save Your Life.
So when my friend Jane had some health issues I convinced her to meet Dr. Brantley. And I convinced him to take some time out of his busy non-seeing-patients-anymore schedule to see her-- and to write a post for Arianna. Jane and Tim clicked like magic and I felt like I had just done a mitzvah. As for his post at Huff Po... do yourself a favor and click through.
Tim's approach to health care isn't like Hillary's or Edwards' or similar to the Democratic approach, let alone to Giuliani's or the GOP's. When people ask about reforming the health care system he likens it to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The magic pills that we were promised would give us quick-fix solutions are simply failing. Almost every major disease has increased over the last century despite trillions of dollars spent on research and treatment. 1 out of every 3 adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. Roughly one out of every two men and one out of every three women will get some form of cancer in their lifetime. Statistics show that over two-thirds of the people in our nation are overweight and a large percentage of them are considered clinically obese. One third of children born after 2000 will contract type II diabetes and the increase in the incidence of diabetes is directly proportional to the increasing rates of obesity. Even the American Cancer Institute says about one-third of cancer deaths in 2006 were related to improper nutrition, physical inactivity and being overweight-- and could have been prevented.
...My message-- and the dedication of my life-- is to show you how to be your own first line of defense, to re-connect your body with the natural resources that have always been there, and to teach the simple yet extraordinarily effective ways you can reverse disease and restore vibrant health. Remember, you were born into a body that possesses the innate intelligence to heal itself, cure itself and care for itself. Simply understanding this message is your first step to powerful health. The more you understand the truth, the more empowered you will be.
- US religious schooling to "bend them back to our will" - "We are a mouthwatering prize" - Turks keep military options open A surprising glut of Iraq stories, with most papers jumping on allegations of corruption against the State Department's inspector general over shenanigans in Iraq.
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