Today thru May 13th, our headlines page will feature feeds from most of our usual sources, updated 24/7. There will be no e-mailed headlines during this period. Meanwhile, this home page will feature regular reports from Asia, our spring break destination this year. Hope you enjoy our new format until we return. --thanks and best, Jerry Politex
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Dictator Bush: How Bush Is Creating A Fascist Police State Under Our Noses, Naomi Wolf
...Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that. Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion....As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone....
If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps. As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."...
2. Create a gulag
Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.... But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. [Cable news has run stories about Katrina refugee camps that felt like prisons to those who resided there. Those camps appear to remain, intact and empty. --Jerry Politex] It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.
3. Develop a thug caste
When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens....his paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution. The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution....
Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny. In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.
5. Harass citizens' groups
The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone. Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list...."Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee. "I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution." "That'll do it," the man said. Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.... t is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.
7. Target key individuals
Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line.... Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them. Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job. Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.
8. Control the press
The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration. Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.
Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC....You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.
9. Dissent equals treason
Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.
...Most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.
Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)
We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.
Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.
10. Suspend the rule of law
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.
Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."
Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction....
Nepal Diary #13: One Year Later, And Counting, The Himalayan Times, Nepal News
Hope is one-year-old today, bravo!
Kathmandu: April 23 (2007) : Last year, on this day, the people of Nepal got back what king Gyanendra had taken away from them — democracy and sovereignty. The nation is set to celebrate that great event today. The Democracy Day Celebrations Organising Committee has urged people across the nation to light celebratory lamps in their residences and to participate in a celebratory programme to be organised at the Tundikhel. Much water has flown down the Bagmati since April 24, 2006 .The Maoists who had waged a bloody guerilla war for over a decade, are in the government. The king has ceased to be the head of state and the supreme commander of the army; the prime minister performs the functions of the head of state; attempts — subtle as well as brazen — to discredit the eight-party government have been made; Nepal has become a secular state and the army that was the main prop of the fallen regime has been well and truly put under civilian control.
Still, Humpty Dumpty would be the patron saint of those thinking that regressive forces would give up....Minister for Information and Communication Krishna Bahadur Mahara in a message said the Loktantra that we have achieved now is “incomplete” and cannot be complete unless the country gets a new constitution through elections to constituent assembly. “We must be clear that loktantra can only be complete when people will exercise their sovereign rights to write a new constitution,” Mahara in an unsigned statement said today. Mahara said it is time that all people get together with the commitment of accomplishing this task. “The situation is not free from challenges and conspiracies,” he said. NC (D) president Sher Bahadur Deuba, in a statement, stressed that it is the duty of all Nepalis to conduct the constituent assembly polls, which was the goal of the April movement, in a free and fair manner....
Polls likely in October, says Mahat
Associated Press, Kathmandu, April 23:
The elections for the constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution will likely be held in October, a senior government minister said today, putting the poll months behind schedule.
Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said though a new date was yet to be decided, it was likely the polls would be held after the monsoon season, which ends in September. Under a peace treaty signed last year between the Maoists and the government, a Constituent Assembly was due to have been elected on June 20 to rewrite the constitution, determine the future of the monarchy, and decide country’s political system. Election officials have sought more time to make technical preparations and for the government to pass new election laws. The officials have also said the security situation in Tarai needs to be improved before any elections take place. Violent protests and strikes in Tarai since January have stopped officials from collecting voters’ names.
The Maoists were inducted in the interim government on April 1 after having joined Parliament earlier this year. The basis of their alliance with parties was to hold constituent assembly polls by mid-June. They have locked up their weapons in seven UN- monitored camps and confined their fighters to 28 barracks.
Red Storm Rising?
A year after the successful restoration of democracy, fissures seem to be widening among the eight party alliance with the leftist forces publicly favouring a new phase of polarisation between them and the democrats. With communists in majority in the parliament and dominating the cabinet, the red forces are now closing in on Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his centrist party Nepali Congress (NC). In the aftermath of derailment of the elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA), around one dozen splinter communist outfits are now making definitive efforts to gang up against the centrist forces.
Having given free rein to Koirala since the restoration of Loktantra [democracy] last April, the communists have now started to openly doubt his efficacy. In an obvious move to tell the people that Koirala is no longer irreplaceable, the communist leaders have began a whispering campaign against the octogenarian and ailing prime minister.... The ruling eight party alliance has five communist parties – UML, Maoists, ULF, PF and NWPP. Going by the numbers the communist forces, indeed, enjoy unprecedented domination in the political front, in the parliament and in the cabinet. Of late, given the continued power-play by Koirala and high-handedness with which he deals with the communist parties, the leaders of the leftist forces have begun to come together. In togetherness, they have started smelling power close by.
Actually, there is no love-lost between Koirala and the communists. Known as a fierce communist-baiter, Koirala was hounded by the leftists all his life. In the aftermath of restoration of democracy in 1990 after which he became the first elected Prime Minister, Koirala used to lump all Male (then UML), Masale (radical leftist party) and Mandale (regressive elements) together. It was nothing but the circumstances which pushed the communist parties into accepting Koirala's leadership in the People's Movement II. The wide-ranging acceptability of Koirala – within the country and outside – pushed him as undisputed leader of the ruling alliance as well as the Maoists. The symbiotic relations between Koirala and communists have continued without any major hitch for one year. While Koirala needed them to broaden his political base, communists needed him to establish international credibility of the peace process.
However, after one year that was full of spectacular progresses and surprising delays in the peace process, the [recent] announcement by Election Commission (EC) regarding its inability to hold the polls within June and subsequent paralysis of the political processes created severe strain on the ruling alliance. On the Lenin's birth anniversary when communist parties were publicly expressing outrage against Koirala, the latter's own party MPs, however, responded equally bitterly against what they termed as continued Maoist excesses. "Their stalling of the parliament proceedings could affect the unity of eight parties," said Benup Raj Prasai, secretary of the NC parliamentary party.
As tension develops among the ruling alliance, the communists have mulled forming a 'common front' if not 'single party' to defeat other parties. How successful they become in actually materialising such a united front is still doubtful given their history of splitting at the drop of a hat. Just in the past one year, the PF split into three factions – for no apparent ideological logic rather than ego clashes among the leaders. As such, bringing them together will be an uphill task. But the smell of power and the prospect of fulfilling the long-harboured dream of communist supremacy could prove to be too heady a reward. As the centrist and democratic forces along with the international community watch the recent developments in Nepal with trepidation, what lies ahead in Nepal's store and how soon the clouds of doubt hovering over the prime agenda of CA elections will clear up remains to be seen. nepalnews.com Apr 23 07
"A Patriotic Duty": Bush Behavior "A Clear and Present Danger" Krugman and Rich
...Never mind the political calculations. Confronting Mr. Bush on Iraq has become a patriotic duty.
...The fact is that Mr. Bush’s refusal to face up to the failure of his Iraq adventure, his apparent determination to spend the rest of his term in denial, has become a clear and present danger to national security. Thanks to the demands of the Iraq war, we’re already a superpower without a strategic reserve, unable to respond to crises that might erupt elsewhere in the world. And more and more military experts warn that repeated deployments in Iraq — now extended to 15 months — are breaking the back of our volunteer military.
If nothing is done to wind down this war during the 21 months — 21 months! — Mr. Bush has left, the damage may be irreparable. --Paul Krugman
What’s being lost in the Beltway uproar is the extent to which the lying, cronyism and arrogance showcased by the current scandals are of a piece with the lying, cronyism and arrogance that led to all the military funerals that Mr. Bush dares not attend. Having slept through the fraudulent selling of the war, Washington is still having trouble confronting the big picture of the Bush White House. Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders...
You don’t have to be a cynic to ask if the White House’s practice of bestowing better jobs on those who bungled the war might be a form of hush money. Mr. Wolfowitz was promoted to the World Bank despite a Pentagon record that included (in part) his prewar hyping of bogus intelligence about W.M.D. and a nonexistent 9/11-Saddam connection; his assurance to the world that Iraq’s oil revenues would pay for reconstruction; and his public humiliation of Gen. Eric Shinseki after the general dared tell Congress (correctly) that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to secure Iraq after the invasion. Once the war began, Mr. Wolfowitz cited national security to bar businesses from noncoalition countries (like Germany) from competing for major contracts in Iraq. That helped ensure the disastrous monopoly of Halliburton and other White House-connected companies, including the one that employed Ms. Riza.
Had Iraqi reconstruction, like the training of Iraqi police, not been betrayed by politics and cronyism, the Iraq story might have a different ending. But maybe not all that different. The cancer on the Bush White House connects and contaminates all its organs. It’s no surprise that one United States attorney fired without plausible cause by the Gonzales Justice Department, Carol Lam, was in hot pursuit of defense contractors with administration connections. Or that another crony brought by Mr. Wolfowitz to the World Bank was caught asking the Air Force secretary to secure a job for her brother at a defense contractor while she was overseeing aspects of the Air Force budget at the White House. A government with values this sleazy couldn’t possibly win a war.
Like the C.I.A. leak case, each new scandal is filling in a different piece of the elaborate White House scheme to cover up the lies that took us into Iraq and the failures that keep us mired there. As the cover-up unravels and Congress steps up its confrontation over the war’s endgame, our desperate president is reverting to his old fear-mongering habit of invoking 9/11 incessantly in every speech. The more we learn, the more it’s clear that he’s the one with reason to be afraid. --Frank Rich
Canary in a Coal Mine: Bush Is A Lying Partisan? Well, Dah! Jerry Politex
WASHINGTON - Campaigning in 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush would repeatedly raise his right hand as if taking an oath and vow to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House. He pledged to usher in a new era of bipartisanship. The dual themes of honesty and bipartisanship struck a chord with many voters and helped propel Bush to the White House in one of the nation's closest-ever elections. Americans re-elected him in 2004 after he characterized himself as best suited to protect a nation at war. Now, with fewer than two years left of his second term, the Bush administration is embroiled in multiple scandals and ethics investigations. The war in Iraq still rages. Bush's approval ratings are hovering in the mid-30s. And Democratic-Republican relations have seldom been more rancorous. --AP, 2007
"Wasn't that the best?" said a laughing Ann Richards this week, when I asked her reaction to President Bush's effort to hide behind her skirt when questioned about Enron. "It was so silly. Why didn't he just say Ken Lay was a strong supporter and gave him a half-million dollars and is a good friend, and he's really sorry Ken's in these terrible circumstances?" Good question. As the world knows now, George W. Bush told two lies when first asked about his ties to the top guy in what may prove the largest corporate flimflam in history. The president said (1) that he only "got to know" Mr. Lay in 1994, when in fact their relationship goes back at least to 1992; and (2) that Mr. Lay "was a supporter" of Governor Richards, when in fact Mr. Lay told TV's "Frontline" last year that he "did support" Mr. Bush over Ms. Richards in their Texas race. This is the president who promised to usher America into "a new era of personal responsibility"? --Frank Rich, 2002
"President Bush had business ties with Enron and its predecessor companies, and first met Kenneth Lay, its chairman, sometime in the late 1980s, according to public records and interviews. Previously, the president had not mentioned his business dealings with Enron and had said that he got to know Lay after he was elected governor of Texas in 1994. On Tuesday, White House communications director Dan Bartlett told the Tribune that Bush's relationship with Lay probably started when Bush was in Washington in 1987 and 1988, working on his father's presidential campaign. It could have started earlier, he said. "He does not recall specifics" of the first time he met Lay, Bartlett said. 'He met him through his father and through his father's political activity.'" --Chicago Tribune, 03.06.02.
Some Bush backers claim he's not a liar, he's just not very bright and doesn't remember things very well. That may be true, but we're sure Bush would not allow such an excuse in his "responsibility era." We're sure Bush would agree that if he's that dumb, he shouldn't be President. Other Bush backers claim that some of his lies are "technically correct" or "tailored to fit the audience," or some such circumlocution. What they're talking about are lies of omission rather than lies of commission. In lies of ommission it's what they imply, not what they say. For example, the other evening Bush told Congress and the American people that he was putting a "lock box" on Social Security. Now, it's very clear that Bush wanted us to feel secure in the belief that he was protecting all of our Social Security funds for the future. No question, right? Yet, the very next day when his budget book was released, we learned that Bush told a lie of omission. What he didn't tell Congress and the American people is that he would later take from $.6 to $1 trillion out of that "lock box" to cover his tax cuts. No doubt, Bush lied. He wanted folks to believe something that he knew was not true. Of course, politicians do this all the time. It's second nature. But the thing that really bothers us about Bush's lies is that he is also a hypocrite and pretends he's above lying. As a liar, he reinforces our assumptions about politicians. As a hypocrite, he reinforces our assumptions about his character. --Jerry Politex, 2001
American I-Dolt: The Bushjaya Era Comes To An End--Finally! Jerry Politex
There you have it. Last night the voters finally caught up with George W. Bushjaya. After year after year of really terrible singing, even Bushjaya's band of teenycons couldn't save him. What finally did him in was a tone-deaf version of the country-western hit, "Let's Hit the Sack, Just Me, You, and Iraq." Randy called it "pitchey," but the argumentative Bushjaya answered, "I've always wanted to be a baseball star." Always-positive Paula suggested he should have been allowed to continue, since many American I-Dolts are selected on the basis of celebrity, not ability. Simon called his performance "horrendous," but Bushjaya said he was willing to leave such judgements to history.
After Country-Western night those still in the running for the American I-Dolt crown included Hillary Clinton who sang a song dedicated to her husband, "I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well," Barek Obama singing, "I'm Tiger Woods, And You're Not," John Edwards wowing the voters with a Bill Clinton hit, "I Got A Close Shave And A Haircut On The Tarmac of Life, John MacCain with "My Straight Talk Express Crashed At Liar's Gulch," Mitt Romney warbling the ever-popular "All My Exes Live In Utah," Rudy Giuliano with "Howdy Doodie, I'm Rudy Kazootie," and Tom DeLay cautioning "You Can't Roller Skate In An Elephant Herd."
Breaking Newz...Impersonator Rich Little will return to the national stage, where he once held a regular place, when he appears at the Hilton Washington as headliner at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Many recall Stephen Colbert's scathing comic attack on Mr. Bush last year. Mr. Little, however, said his comic act will feature impersonations of President Garfield, Lon Cheney, and Rin-Tin-Tin, and was surprised to learn that U.S. troops were in Iraq. While approved by the White House, interviewed correspondents who will be in attendance said they thought Mr. Rich had died years ago. --Jerry Politex
Bush Neocon Corruption: Hands Off My Wolfie!, Dowd, Cavanagh, Politex, Bell
...the unfolding saga of Wolfie and Shaha. Never has a star-crossed romance so perfectly illuminated a star-crossed conflict. The weekend meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were consumed with the question of how the bank chief could fight corruption while indulging in cronyism. Who could focus on a weak yen when you had a weak Wolfie with a strong yen for Shaha? In addition to the story about Paul Wolfowitz’s giving his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza, a promotion and a $60,000 raise because he felt guilty that she had to be transferred from the World Bank to the State Department when he took over, The Times reported yesterday on more imperialist hanky-panky.
Steven Weisman and David Sanger wrote that in 2003, when Wolfie was No. 2 at the Pentagon, the office of his consigliere, Douglas Feith, directed a private contractor to hire Ms. Riza, then at the World Bank, to spend a month traveling in Iraq to study ways to set up the new government. (It was simple to get the contractor, the Science Applications International Corporation, to play along. As Vanity Fair reported, the Pentagon awarded SAIC seven contracts valued at more than $100 million before the war, without competitive bidding. Mr. Feith’s deputy was Christopher Henry, a former SAIC senior vice president.) Wolfie and Shaha did not let a little thing like World Bank rules — which barred the bank from providing economic assistance to an area under military occupation — keep them from pushing the neocon delusions.
When she returned, Ms. Riza briefed members of the executive board of the World Bank on her trip, giving them a sanguine account of Iraq’s future and the fate of women there. “The bank was under a lot of pressure at the time to do something in Iraq very quickly,” Jean-Louis Sarbib, a former bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, told The Times. But some of the bank’s directors, he said, were “very concerned about why she was briefing the board, under which authority and with whom she had gone there. I did not know anything about this at the time, and I was the vice president, and she was reporting to me.”
As they rushed to war, the neocons delighted in blowing off international treaties, international institutions and diplomats, treating them as impediments and whiners. So it only made sense that Wolfie wouldn’t hesitate to blow off rules he didn’t like once he began running an international institution himself. Sometimes you’ve got to break some rules and tell some half-truths to help the world.
Despite fears among the bank’s member governments that Wolfie’s smug and stupid behavior is impairing the bank’s credibility, he has dug in his heels and said he will stay put. The president has backed him up. Astonishingly, W., Wolfie, Dick Cheney and Richard Perle have learned nothing from their mistakes of blindness and hubris, except to sweep them under the bed and indulge in more blindness and hubris... --Maureen Dowd
Top 10 Reasons Why Paul Wolfowitz Made a Good World Bank President, John Cavanaugh, with Jerry Politex
1. It prompted him to reward his lover with a promotion and big bucks. --Politex
2. He followed in the great tradition of World Bank president Robert McNamara, who also helped kill tens of thousands of people in a poor country most Americans couldn’t find on a map before getting the job.
3. It helps to be a good liar when you run an institution with employees who earn over $100,000 a year to pretend to help billions of people who live on less than $1 a day.
4. With all his experience helping U.S. companies grab Iraq ’s oil profits, he had just the right experience for doling out lucrative World Bank contracts to U.S. businesses.
5. After predecessor James Wolfensohn blew millions of dollars on "consultations" with citizen groups to give the appearance of openness, Wolfowitz's tough-guy style was needed to rid the World Bank of those irritating activists.
6. Unlike former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, another one of the four leading candidates, at least Wolfowitz hadn't failed at running a Fortune 500 company.
7. Unlike the Treasury Department’s John Taylor, another leading candidate, at least Wolfowitz didn't want to get rid of the institution he headed.
8. While earning a University of Chicago Ph.D. , he was exposed to the tenets of market fundamentalism that have reigned at the World Bank for decades.
9. He had experience in constructing echo chambers where only the advice he wants to hear is spoken.
10. He was able to consider a pre-emptive poverty doctrine where the World Bank could invade countries that fail to make themselves safe for U.S. business, modeled on the U.S. pre-emptive war doctrine he helped craft.
Don't Wack My Wolfie!!, Steve Bell
Bush "Democracy": "You Got A Problem?", Dana Milbank
Those wondering why the Bush administration has failed to spread democracy across the globe might find a clue in yesterday's meeting of the State Department's "Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion."
About a third of the way through the meeting, and not long after Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky boasted to the television cameras that "our entire session today is open to the public" and attended by the press, State Department officials ordered reporters to leave.
"This is the way they wanted it to happen, and this is the way it's going to be," explained department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos. "They seem to have wanted you all out." The spokesman declined to say who "they" were. "You got a problem?" Gallegos challenged. "Write a letter."
So much for promoting the values of a liberal democracy.
Nepal Diary #12: Birthday in Kathmandu, (Conclusion), Jerry Barrett
After a difficult hour spent in search of computer parts (the streets have no numbers), we found ourselves in front of the Royal Palace again. Ill-clothed boys with afternoon newspapers were rushing between cars waiting for the light to change, banging on their windows in search of a sale. Two kids on the street, and then on the sidewalk were wrestling over a butcher knife, as pedestrians carefully walked by. The taller of the two finally twisted the knife out of the hand of the smaller one, and ran away past a watching Napoli cop standing in front of the entrance to U.S. Embassy grounds. The light changed and we continued on our way to the Tibetan Book Store in Thamel on Tridevi Marg, a few blocks away (see map).
While Christine visited the Tibetan Book Store to purchase a birthday gift for me of Karen Armstrong's BUDDAH, an excellent and informative biography, I went a few doors down to another book store and bought VIDEO NIGHT IN KATHMANDU, by Pico Iyer, and two collections of short stories by the city's Samrat Upadhyay, ARRESTING GOD IN KATHMANDU and THE ROYAL GHOSTS. Iyer's book was published in 1988 and it was wrapped as though it were a rare, unread copy. The owner, blowing a layer of dust off the plastic wrapper, quoted a new book price to me, but we bargained it down to a a fair used book price. It turned out to be a used book, reminding me that in Kathmandu negotiation almost always is expected.
Meeting Christine back at the Tibetan Book Store, we saw that the three turbained musicians in native costume, referred to as "the snake charmers" in one travel guide, were tuning up for the evening's street entertainment. As we walked back to the van, I saw two thin boys of 12 or 13, shirtless and shoeless, sleeping in the narrow hallway that marked the entrance to the Holiday Inn Guest House. One of the sleeping boys brushed away flies as they buzzed around his head. On the way out of town on a busy main street that featured auto parts and bathroom fixture stores, Christine saw the body of a woman laid in the narrow median with a cloth over her face, but by the time I looked back to see, our van had rounded a corner. previous "Nepal Diary" entries
Nepal Diary #11: Birthday in Kathmandu, Part 3, Jerry Barrett
Back into Central Kathmandu, we had my birthday lunch at Moti Mahel, an Indian restaurant on Durbar Marg not far from the Royal Palace (see map). Described in one travel guide as having a "semi-delux setting," a sign in English outside the second floor restaurant advertises itself as an "executive family restaurant." We went past a tall, saluting middle-aged man in an ill-fitting royal blue uniform, up cracked marble stairs, and found ourselves inside a wedding cake: white, ornate pillars holding up the low ceiling of a whipped cream landscape with little circular mirrors inserted at random. While the furniture had seen better days, the seedy formality of the room, the chef behind a glass wall, and the somber, English speaking Indian waiters suggested a serious dining experience to come. We were not disappointed with the excellent Northern India Mughlai food, described by one reviewer as being as "sophisticated as French cooking," and at unbeatable prices. Myah Sherpa, our charming guide, (that's really her last name, in spite of 35,000 members of that ethnic group in Nepal) was particularly pleased with the sag paneer.
From there we made our way past the Royal Palace on Naxal to our next destination, the Apple store in the basement of the Mercantile Traders building on Kanti Path. Across from the Royal Palace, behind a one-story plus high wall of bricks guarded by the Nepali police in blue camouflage unforms, sits some of the American Embassy offices. Unseen behind the restaurants, travel agencies, and high-end shops on parallel streets Durbar Marg and Kanti Path, the American government complex appears to extend a good part of a long city block, the only indication of its presence on a city map being the outline of a long building called "American Club." Across the street from the Apple store on Kanti Path we noticed a Sony store and a Honda dealership. The actual American Embassy is supposedly housed in a nearby hotel while a large embassy is being constructed on "Embassy Road" in the Lazimpat neighborhood, directly North of the Royal Palace. The price of laptops at the Apple store were the same as in, say, Amsterdam, putting them out of the reach of most Nepalis, not to mention the local government's 10% import tax. previous "Nepal Diary" entries
GOP Watch: Infiltration Of Government By Theocrats Far From Over, Paul Krugman
In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement — the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right — suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. “Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure,” he wrote, “and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.” Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide “Christian leadership to change the world,” boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration. Unfortunately for the image of the school, where Mr. Robertson is chancellor and president, the most famous of those graduates is Monica Goodling, a product of the university’s law school. She’s the former top aide to Alberto Gonzales who appears central to the scandal of the fired U.S. attorneys and has declared that she will take the Fifth rather than testify to Congress on the matter.
The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists. But this conspiracy is no theory. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party pledges to “dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.” And the Texas Republicans now running the country are doing their best to fulfill that pledge. Kay Cole James, who had extensive connections to the religious right and was the dean of Regent’s government school, was the federal government’s chief personnel officer from 2001 to 2005. (Curious fact: she then took a job with Mitchell Wade, the businessman who bribed Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham.) And it’s clear that unqualified people were hired throughout the administration because of their religious connections.
For example, The Boston Globe reports on one Regent law school graduate who was interviewed by the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Asked what Supreme Court decision of the past 20 years he most disagreed with, he named the decision to strike down a Texas anti-sodomy law. When he was hired, it was his only job offer. Or consider George Deutsch, the presidential appointee at NASA who told a Web site designer to add the word “theory” after every mention of the Big Bang, to leave open the possibility of “intelligent design by a creator.” He turned out not to have, as he claimed, a degree from Texas A&M.
One measure of just how many Bushies were appointed to promote a religious agenda is how often a Christian right connection surfaces when we learn about a Bush administration scandal. There’s Ms. Goodling, of course. But did you know that Rachel Paulose, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota — three of whose deputies recently stepped down, reportedly in protest over her management style — is, according to a local news report, in the habit of quoting Bible verses in the office? Or there’s the case of Claude Allen, the presidential aide and former deputy secretary of health and human services, who stepped down after being investigated for petty theft. Most press reports, though they mentioned Mr. Allen’s faith, failed to convey the fact that he built his career as a man of the hard-line Christian right.
And there’s another thing most reporting fails to convey: the sheer extremism of these people. You see, Regent isn’t a religious university the way Loyola or Yeshiva are religious universities. It’s run by someone whose first reaction to 9/11 was to brand it God’s punishment for America’s sins. Two days after the terrorist attacks, Mr. Robertson held a conversation with Jerry Falwell on Mr. Robertson’s TV show “The 700 Club.” Mr. Falwell laid blame for the attack at the feet of “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians,” not to mention the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way. “Well, I totally concur,” said Mr. Robertson.
The Bush administration’s implosion clearly represents a setback for the Christian right’s strategy of infiltration. But it would be wildly premature to declare the danger over. This is a movement that has shown great resilience over the years. It will surely find new champions. Next week Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at Regent’s Executive Leadership Series.
Nepal Diary #10: Birthday in Kathmandu, Part 2, Jerry Barrett
From New Road we cut across to Durbar Marg (see map), drove by the Royal Palace, and went past Mike's Breakfast into Naxal, en route to Chabahil, a suburb of Kathmandu to the northwest. Each neighborhood we went through had its own stalls for groceries, cell phone cards, printer and fax services, restaurants, DVD's, and CD's. Near noon, we crossed Ring Road, with surprising little traffic. Being a Hindu holiday Tuesday, perhaps many were headling for places like Dakshinkali to engage in ritual sacrifice. Myah was visiting the second floor home her Sherpa family had sold to another Sherpa family whose son was a young monk at the Buddhist Center back in Pharping. Our battered Suzuki van suddenly veered off the crowded main road, horn blaring, into an alley filled with people and stalls, the rutted road covered with dirt, cinders, and debris, and bounced and jolted a block or so through narrow passageways with walled apartment houses on either side. Our driver backed the van into a narrow, walled courtyard, we closed the tall, heavy gates, and went up to the apartment which had, typically, bars on all the windows.
While Myah and the lady of the house spoke in Napoli, we held a conversation in English with the older of two sisters, a nurse at a local hospital. Drinking Chai, we were introduced to the younger sister who attended a nearby college and her young brother, resplendent in a schoolboy's private school uniform of white shirt, gray pants, maroon blazer, and backpack. Napolis who can afford it send their children to private school, in part so they can learn English. Before leaving and putting our shoes back on outside the apartment, we were shown one its larger rooms, filled with Buddhist religious art and lit candles on an altar. From there, we drove down more narrow alleys and arrived at the one leading to Myah's niece's house, only to be blocked by a three-wheeled jitney with a broken axel. Seeing no way around it, the niece shouldered a large sack of rice and hiked the block down to her family's apartment. We continued on our way to the next errand: the delivery of ten Tibetan religious texts to a nearby monastery.
While the monastery we eventually arrived at was large and very well kept, with beautiful grounds, it was situated in a maze of narrow alleys that didn't look like they were going anywhere in particular. The roads were rutted and trash-strewn, just able to accomodate a four-wheeled vehicle and a motorcycle going the other way. Our only clue that we were nearing a monastery is that the stalls became more numerous and groups of westerners were walking around. As we waited in an intersection for a small pick-up to pass in the opposite direction, we saw a couple more curious than most. She was a very Nordic looking blond, 5:7 or 8 in her mid-twenties, wearing skimnpy shorts and a matching halter top. While the ensemble featured a pattern in shades of maroon and orange, monk's colors, Nepalis find women in shorts shocking. He was in his 40's or 50's, dark and much shorter than she, wearing a backpack and a tight alligator shirt stretching over his well-established pot belly. As they stood in the middle of the intersection, oblivious to the traffic around them, he turned around, she pulled suntan lotion out of his backpack, and he reached up and proceeded to smooth the lotion over her red neck and shoulders. previous "Nepal Diary" entries
Kurt Vonnegut Dies: chapter 28: mayonnaise, Kurt Vonnegut
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
While Miss Faust and I waited for an elevator to take us to the first floor, Miss Faust said she hoped the elevator that came would not be number five. Before I could ask her why this was a reasonable wish, number five arrived.
Its operator was a small ancient Negro whose name was Lyman Enders Knowles. Knowles was insane, I’m almost sure – offensively so, in that he grabbed his own behind and cried, “Yes, yes!” whenever he felt he’d made a point.
“Hello, fellow anthropoids and lily pads and paddlewheels,” he said to Miss Faust and me. “Yes, yes!”
“First floor please," said Miss Faust coldly.
All Knowles had to do to close the door and get us to the first floor was to press a button, but he wasn’t going to do that yet. He wasn’t going to do it, maybe, for years.
“Man told me,” he said, “that these here elevators was Mayan architecture. I never knew that till today. And I says to him, ‘What’s that make me – mayonnaise?’ Yes, yes! And while he was thinking that over, I hit him with a question that straightened him up and made him think twice as hard! Yes, yes!”
“Could we please go down, Mr. Knowles?” begged Miss Faust.
“I said to him,” said Knowles, “This here’s a re-search laboratory. Re-search means look again, don’t it? Means they’re looking for something they found once and it got away somehow, and now they got to re-search for it? How come they got to build a building like this, with mayonnaise elevators and all, and fill it with these crazy people? What is it they’re trying to find again? Who lost what? Yes, yes!”…
“Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes.
And every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes.”
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.”
People did not like it here.
Nepal Diary #9: Birthday in Kathmandu, Jerry Barrett
Yesterday was my birthday (don't ask), so we decided to join Myah, the Buddhist Center's major domo, and her niece and brave the mountainous trip to Kathmandu. Since it was Tuesday, the narrow main road outside the path to the center was filled with Hindu holiday celebrants (buses, motorcycles, cars, taxis, and vans, many spewing black smoke) ascending the hill into Pharping on the way to Dakshinkali, Kathmandu Valley's place of animal sacrifice to Kali, "The Black One" of red eyes and protruding tongue, wearing a necklace of skulls. While waiting for our driver, taxis on the way back to Kathmandu would stop and offer travel bargains. With traffic particularly heavy, negotiating hairpin turns on cliffs on the narrow, one-lane road with vehicles going the other way was no fun. (We drove by an accident on the way down.) Myah sang Buddhist mantras until we reached the lowlands 12 miles and 30 minutes later outside of Kathmandu.
First stop was the Central Post Office next to the Bimsen Tower right off Kanti Path (see map). People on the railing at the top of the six-story tower looked down upon the scene below. Both sides of the street were filled with bare footed shoe repair men, practicing their craft on small blankets filled with equipment and parts. Women, mostly in traditional dress, men, mostly in modern dress, and teenagers and younger in private school uniforms of various kinds passed by. Thirty minutes later Myah came out of the post office empty-handed, not having the correct letterhead on the letter needed to give her permission to pick up the package sent from China. While in the post office, our youthful driver found a leak in a semi-bald front tire and replaced it with another semi-bald front tire.
Next, we went through the throngs and vehicles up Kanti Path to New Road, a street featuring computer and camera shops, ending at Durbar Square, filled with 50 monuments and 12 squares, some going back to the 12th century. One narrow alley, with clothing shops on both sides, ended in a walled, dirt parking lot of a large cinema. We waited there while Myah and Christine ran an errand nearby. The alley was a hangout for a group of barefooted boys in shorts, 10-15 years old, carrying sacks over their shoulders and aggressively sticking their hands in open car windows or pounding on those that were closed, asking for money. At the airport a government sign asks tourists not to give money to such boys, many having left their families and come into Kathmandu from sorrounding villages, seeking to earn a living by begging. While the government wants to discourage such boys and force them to return home, others say that past Maoist uprisings have cut off social services for the poor in some rural areas, exacerbating the problem. --to be continued... previous "Nepal Diary" entries
Mission Almost Accomplished: 3,200 Americans Died To Provide Bush-Cheney Corporate Oil, Richard Behan
George Bush has a land mine planted in the supplemental appropriation legislation working its way through Congress. The Iraq Accountability Act passed by the House and the companion bill passed in the Senate contain deadlines for withdrawing our troops from Iraq, in open defiance of the President’s repeated objections.
He threatens a veto, but he might well be bluffing. Buried deep in the legislation and intentionally obscured is a near-guarantee of success for the Bush Administration’s true objective of the war-capturing Iraq’s oil-and George Bush will not casually forego that. This bizarre circumstance is the end-game of the brilliant, ever-deceitful maneuvering by the Bush Administration in conducting the entire scenario of the “global war on terror.” The supplemental appropriation package requires the Iraqi government to meet a series of “benchmarks” President Bush established in his speech to the nation on January 10 (in which he made his case for the “surge”). Most of Mr. Bush’s benchmarks are designed to blame the victim, forcing the Iraqis to solve the problems George Bush himself created.
One of the President’s benchmarks, however, stands apart. This is how the President described it: “To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.” A seemingly decent, even noble concession. That’s all Mr. Bush said about that benchmark, but his brevity was gravely misleading, and it had to be intentional. The Iraqi Parliament has before it today, in fact, a bill called the hydrocarbon law, and it does call for revenue sharing among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. For President Bush, this is a must-have law, and it is the only “benchmark” that truly matters to his Administration. Yes, revenue sharing is there-essentially in fine print, essentially trivial. The bill is long and complex, it has been years in the making, and its primary purpose is transformational in scope: a radical and wholesale reconstruction-virtual privatization-of the currently nationalized Iraqi oil industry.
If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5’s of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing “benchmark” Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.The legislation pending now in Washington requires the President to certify to Congress by next October that the benchmarks have been met-specifically that the Iraqi hydrocarbon law has been passed. That’s the land mine: he will certify the American and British oil companies have access to Iraqi oil. This is not likely what Congress intended, but it is precisely what Mr. Bush has sought for the better part of six years. It is why we went to war.
For years President Bush has cloaked his intentions behind the fabricated “Global War on Terrorism.” It has long been suspected that oil drove the wars, but dozens of skilled and determined writers have documented it. It is no longer a matter of suspicion, nor is it speculation now: it is sordid fact. (See a brief summary of the story at http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/47489/ . ) Planning for the two wars was underway almost immediately upon the Bush Administration taking office–at least six months before September 11, 2001. The wars had nothing to do with terrorism. Terrorism was initially rejected by the new Administration as unworthy of national concern and public policy, but 9/11 gave them a conveniently timed and spectacular alibi to undertake the wars. Quickly inventing a catchy “global war on terror” theme, the Administration disguised the true nature of the wars very cleverly, and with enduring success.
The “global war on terror” is bogus. The prime terrorist in Afghanistan and the architect of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, was never apprehended, and the President’s subsequent indifference is a matter of record. And Iraq harbored no terrorists at all. But both countries were invaded, both countries suffer military occupation today, both are dotted with permanent U.S. military bases protecting the hydrocarbon assets, and both have been provided with puppet governments. And a billion dollar embassy in Baghdad is under construction now. It will be the largest U.S. embassy in the world by a factor of ten. (To see it, go to http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20070124&articleId=4579 .) It consists of 21 buildings on 104 acres, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York city, larger than Vatican City. It will house a delegation of more than five thousand people. It will have its own water, electric, and sewage systems, and it is surrounded by a fortress wall of concrete fifteen feet thick. For an Administration committed to fighting terrorism with armies and bombs, that’s far more anti-terror diplomacy than a tiny country needs. There must be another purpose for it.
In the first two months of the Bush Administration two significant events took place that preordained the Iraqi war. Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force was created, composed of federal officials and oil industry people. By March of 2001, half a year before 9/11, the Task Force was poring secretly over maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipe lines, and tanker terminals. It studied a listing of foreign oil company “suitors” for exploration and development contracts, to be executed with Saddam Hussein’s oil ministry. There was not a single American or British oil company included, and to Mr. Cheney and his cohorts that was intolerable. The final report of the Task Force was candid: “… Middle East oil producers will remain central to world security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy.” The detailed meaning of “focus” was left blank. The other event was the first meeting of President Bush’s National Security Council, and it filled in the blank. The Council abandoned abruptly the decades-long attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and set a new priority for Middle East foreign policy instead: the invasion of Iraq. This, too, was six months before 9/11. “Focus” would mean war.
By the fall of 2002, the White House Iraq Group-a collection not of foreign policy experts but of media and public relations people-was cranking up the marketing campaign for the war. A contract was signed with the Halliburton Corporation-even before military force in Iraq had been authorized by Congress-to organize the suppression of oil well fires, should Saddam torch the fields as he had done in the first Gulf War. Little was left to chance. The oil industry is the primary client and top-ranked beneficiary of the Bush Administration. There can be no question the Administration intended to secure for American oil corporations the rich petroleum resources of Iraq: 115 billion barrels of proven reserves, twice that in probable and possible resources, potentially far more than Saudi Arabia. The Energy Task Force spoke to this and the National Security Council answered.
A secret NSC memorandum in 2001 spoke candidly of “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields” in Iraq. In 2002 Paul Wolfowitz suggested simply seizing the oil fields. These words and suggestions were draconian, overt, and reprehensible-morally, historically, politically and diplomatically. The seizure of the oil would have to be oblique and far more sophisticated. A year before the war the State Department undertook the “Future of Iraq” project, expressly to design the institutional contours of the postwar country. The ”Oil and Energy Working Group” looked with dismay at the National Iraqi Oil Company, the government agency that owned and operated the Iraqi oil fields and marketed the products. 100% of the revenues went directly to the central government, and constituted about 90% of its income. Saddam Hussein benefited, certainly-his lavish palaces-but the Iraqi people did so to a far greater extent, in terms of the nation’s public services and physical infrastructure. For this reason nationalized oil industries are the norm throughout the world.
The Oil and Energy Working Group designed a scheme that was oblique and sophisticated, indeed. The oil seizure would be less than total. It would be obscured in complexity. The apparent responsibility for it would be shifted, and it would be disguised as benefiting, even necessary to Iraq’s well being. Their work was supremely ingenious, undeniably brilliant. The plan would keep the National Iraqi Oil Company in place, to continue overseeing the currently producing fields. But those fields represent only 19% of Iraq’s petroleum reserves. The other 81% would be flung open to “investment” by foreign oil interests, and the companies in favored positions today-because of the war and their political connections-are Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell. The nationalized industry would be 80% privatized.
The investment vehicle would be the “production sharing agreement,” a long-term contract-up to 40 years-that grants to the company a share of the oil produced; in exchange, the company underwrites the development costs and oilfield infrastructure. Such “investment” is touted by the Bush Administration and its puppets in Iraq as necessary to the country’s recovery, and a huge benefit, accordingly. But it is not unusual for these contracts to grant the companies more than half the profits for the first 15-30 years, and to deny the host country any revenue at all until the investment costs have been recovered. The Iraqi oil industry does very much need a great deal of investment capital, to repair, replace, and upgrade its infrastructure. But it does not need Exxon/Mobil or any other foreign company to provide it. At a reduced level, Iraq is still producing oil and hence revenue, and no country in the world, perhaps, has better collateral against which to float bond issues for public investment. Privatization of any sort and in any degree is utterly unnecessary in Iraq today.
The features of the State Department plan were inserted by Paul Bremer’s Provisional Coalition Authority into the developing structures of Iraqi governance. American oil companies were omnipresent in Baghdad then and have been since, shaping and shepherding the plan through the several iterations of puppet governments-the “democracy” said to be taking hold in Iraq. The package today is in the form of draft legislation, the hydrocarbon law. Only a handful of Iraqi officials know its details. Virtually none of them had a hand in its construction. (It was first written in English.) And its exclusive beneficiaries are the American and British oil companies, whose profits will come directly from the pockets of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people do, however, benefit to some degree. The seizure is not total. The hydrocarbon law specifies the oil revenues-the residue accruing to Iraq-will be shared equally among the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regions, on a basis of population. This is the feature President Bush relies upon exclusively to justify, to insist on the passage of the hydrocarbon law. His real reasons are Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell.
No one can say at the moment how much the hydrocarbon law will cost the Iraqi people, but it will be in the hundreds of billions. The circumstances of its passage are mired in the country’s chaos, and its final details are not yet settled. If and when it passes, however, Iraq will orchestrate the foreign capture of its own oil. The ingenious, brilliant seizure of Iraqi oil will be assured. That outcome has been on the Bush Administration’s agenda since early in 2001, long before terrorism struck in New York and Washington. The Iraqi war has never been about terrorism. It is blood for oil. The blood has been spilled already, hugely, criminally. More than 3,200 American military men and women have died in Iraq. 26,500 more have been wounded. But the oil remains in play. The game will end if the revenue-sharing “benchmark” is fully enforced. The land mine will detonate.
Mission almost accomplished, Mr. President.
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