THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION

12 03 2017

It’s the Cold War all over again. Americans left and right are being accused of taking orders and money from, being the tools of, or at least harboring sympathy for, a miraculously resurrected Evil Empire headquartered in Moscow. If the accusers actually controlled the government, no doubt the political show trials would begin. The accusers–elements of our security apparatus, neo-conservatives associated with the infamous “Project for a New American Century,” virtually the entire Democratic Party, and their allies in the mainstream media–are  using the highly manipulable court of public opinion to find anyone who dissents from their doctrine of Russophobia guilty of the treasonous crime of Russophilia, as if it were some even worse perversion of pedophilia. Their aim appears to be to regain control of the government. They consider this a legitimate counter-revolution. Others call it a coup, American style.

“It’s simple,” the Democrats and their allies say. “If we take over again, everything will be fine.”

It’s not simple, and things wouldn’t be fine if the Democrats were running things, but let’s leave “if the Democrats were running things” alone for now. It’s mind-bendingly complicated, because to truly understand what’s going on in America now requires that we be free of the conditioning most Americans accept unquestioningly–and I’m not talking air conditioning, although that is a luxury that most Americans take far too for granted. I’m talking about mind conditioning–the way we subliminally learn to perceive reality by taking cues from our parents and our culture as we grow up.

As we grow up, and all through our lives, we spend a lot of time absorbing stories from movies, television, and books, and all those stories share certain common elements. There’s a hero, who is clearly a hero, at least in the end, and the hero is not you, although of course you identify with her or him. There’s a villain, and the villain’s identity is usually clear from the beginning. The hero and the villain clash, and, although the villain seems to be winning at first, the hero ultimately triumphs, and all the most pivotal moments in that struggle can be captured in an hour, or two, or maybe longer if it’s a TV series. These are the expectations we then project on real-world events.

But real-world events are not the movies, or even a long-running TV series. In real life, it is extremely rare for anyone to be a complete hero or a complete villain. I’m not, and you probably understand that you’re not 100% hero–or villain–either. Even sociopaths and psychopaths occasionally do the right thing. Well-intentioned people do terrible things. Think about it–doesn’t everybody believe their intentions are good? You betcha. What political figures do as a result of their good intentions may look good to millions of people, and simply awful to millions of others, and it can be difficult to determine in the short run just what “the greater good” really is. It can also be glaringly obvious what does or does not constitute “the greater good,” whether there are millions of people who understand what’s really going on, or just a few. Reality is not determined by popular vote. And, of course, political figures also do things for concealed, strategic reasons, and lie to the public about their motivation. As I said, it’s complicated.

So, with that in mind, I want to examine the history of what some are already referring to as “the new Cold War,” and see how the mainstream American story of what’s going on holds up under scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »





SYRIA–6,000 DEATHS AND (NOT) COUNTING

11 02 2012

Bertolt Brecht reputedly asked,”If the government doesn’t trust the people, why doesn’t it dissolve them and elect a new people?” While Robert Anton Wilson may have been the only person who knows where and under what circumstances Brecht coined this cynical bon mot, and Brecht certainly saw plenty of efforts by Nazi and Communist governments alike to put it into practice, word that a government is undertaking this program never loses its appall, and the latest place where this practice appalls me is Syria, where the government has so far killed around 6,000 people in an attempt to “continue the beatings until morale improves,” and the UN has said things are so chaotic that it is not going to even attempt to keep track of the number of dead.

Syria, like the rest of the Middle East, is no stranger to such campaigns.  When the Ottomans wanted to kill mass numbers of Armenians without having to work too hard, they just sent them out into the Syrian desert to starve.  The population of Syria’s neighbor, Palestine, has been the subject of slow-motion strangulation by the Israelis for over sixty years, and plenty of Middle Easterners would be only too happy to see that karma rebound onto the Israelis.   In classical times, the Romans crucified Maccabean rebels by the thousands, ultimately killing somewhere between a quarter-million and a million Jewish Palestinians–and now the survivors’ descendants, osmosed into Muslims through the years, are now under the heel of their brethren who remained Jewish.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

More recently, in Syria’s neighbor Iraq,  ten years of American sanctions in the 90’s resulted in the deaths of over half a million Iraqis, mostly children, termed “an acceptable cost” by Democrat Secretary of State Madeline Albright, whose own children were not among the victims.  Our government’s 2003 invasion is responsible for the deaths of a million and a quarter more Iraqi civilians.   So, from a certain perspective, a mere six thousand casualties is chump change.   Meanwhile, the U.S. won’t fund abortions because so many people in our Congress and our country profess a “respect for life.”  Do I detect a disconnect here?  “Protect the unborn, but once you’re out of your momma, tough nuggies”?  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today, either.

Perhaps a more apt comparison, at least for the time being, can be found in the situation in Libya last Spring, when rebels there, with the eventual help of NATO, threw out Col. Qadhafi, at the cost of  5-10,000 lives.  By that standard, the six thousand known deaths in Syria could almost be called par for the course, but there are important internal and external differences between the two situations. There are four times more Syrians than Libyans, in a country only 1/9 the size of Libya.  The populated part of Libya is the long, narrow coastal strip, which made it easier for the initial protesters to have some territorial integrity and create an alternative government in the far east of the country right from the beginning.  The Libyan rebels were able, in effect, to barricade one end of the hall and fight with their backs to the wall of the Egyptian border.  In little, triangular Syria, the population is in the situation of a hapless amateur trapped in the wrestling ring with Hulk Hogan, who keeps attacking again and again, from any and all angles, at any time. It’s enough to get a person nervous, ya know?

Another big difference is the two countries’ standing in the international community.  Qadhafi had gone his own way, using Libya’s oil wealth to maintain its political independence.  For this reason, and because he did in fact spend a fair amount of money on social programs that actually did improve the lives of most Libyans, as long as they were willing to kowtow to him, Qadhafi had a certain cachet in international radical political circles, especially when he proposed to start asking for gold, rather than dollars, as payment for his country’s oil.  But that made him a major pariah in the West.  Threatening to deny the dollar was a far more unforgivable sin than the Lockerbie bombing or murdering his own people, and with no major power to watch his back, his fall was inevitable.

Syria, on the other hand, enjoys a fairly close relationship with several world powers.  Its relationship with Russia dates back to Soviet days, when the current dictator’s father cultivated close ties.  Many Syrians go to Russia for advanced studies, but most importantly, the Syrian army uses Russian-made weapons, purchased with their oil cash, and Russia has continued to supply Syria with killing devices even as the rest of the civilized world has attempted an arms embargo on Syria.   (Just for the record, Syria’s oil production is declining sharply.) Russia’s only military base outside the borders of the former Soviet Union is on the Syrian coast.  The Russians do not want to see this relationship upset, if at all possible, especially since they gave their Chechen population similar treatment.  If they have to do something similar to some other would-be breakaway republic, they don’t want to help set the precedent of international intervention.

China, too, is more inclined to support Syria, where it has major oil interests.  Like Russia, China also has a strong interest in discouraging internal revolts in China, where the Uyghurs and Tibetans have suffered fates similar to what Russia visited on the Chechens.  Like Russia, China does not want to give the U.N. any precedent for poking around in what it regards as its internal business, nossir.

Iran is yet a third country that is watching Assad’s back.  Iran and Syria have a longstanding close relationship, going back to Biblical days, really, but most lately renewed over the Iran-Iraq war, and Syria’s provision of a refuge for Hezbollah, which both countries employ as a proxy to keep pressure on Israel.  While the Russians provide diplomatic support, the Iranians have “boots on the ground,” providing support, training, and reputedly troops to help the Assad government kill dissenters, or anybody who lives in the same neighborhood as somebody who might be a dissenter.

Add to this the fact that Russia is the source of much of Western Europe’s fuel supply, and that China is a source of just about everything for everybody, and that makes the Europeans (and Americans) shy about jumping into a situation that might turn out to involve tightening a noose around their own necks.  Now, throw in the many similar pogroms the U.S. has countenanced–the slaughter of half a million alleged “communists” in Indonesia in the mid-sixties and the elimination of around a hundred thousand citizens of East Timor who happened to object to the seizure of their country by Indonesia are just two further examples of U.S. government-approved mass murder, in addition to the ones I mentioned above, that deny our leaders any ability to claim the moral high ground on this issue.  There are many, many more.  There is blood on Uncle Sam’s hands, and it ain’t “the blood of the lamb.”

OK, just one more example of mass deaths caused by U.S. government policy–it is now estimated that about thirty thousand Mexicans have been killed in just the last four years due to the “war on drugs” (or, in this case, the war over drug profits)–that’s a kill rate similar to what we are seeing in Syria, albeit in a country with five times Syria’s population.  The war over drug profits would be over tomorrow if marijuana were legalized and thus inexpensive enough to out-compete crack and meth.  Coca?  Talk to the Bolivians–they’ve got a plan.  But, I digress.

What the Syrian situation adds up to is a dangerous pile of kindling with the potential to spark something like World War III if it is dealt with crudely.  It looks to me like the U.S. couldn’t go in there with guns blazing to protect the civilian population without our blazing guns setting fires that cause far more damage than the intervention might prevent.  Mere hand wringing is not an acceptable alternative, either.  What would a Green foreign policy on this issue look like?

I need to preface what I am about to say by remarking that it is a  very easy for me, sitting here in the safety of America, to proclaim, and not necessarily so easy for a citizen of Homs or Damascus.

First and foremost, I believe, a Green foreign policy would support the essential nonviolence of the Syrian movement.  Bashir Assad’s brutal response to his people’s peaceful protests will, ultimately, undermine him,  but only if the protestors can maintain the moral high ground.  This is where the rubber meets the road for nonviolent resistance, the place where the bombs and artillery shells start to fall–and yet fail to instill fear in the people at whom they are aimed.  Non-violent resistance is not easy, and it is carried out with no guarantee of the personal safety, much less the success, of those who undertake it.   But if we are going to create an alternative to mass murder as a government policy, we have got to start by rejecting mass murder as a way to change governments.  That is the great challenge, and the great hope, of the situation in Syria.  A non-violent revolution there will take the wind out of the sails of Russian, Chinese, Iranian, American, Israeli and Palestinian peddlers of repression alike, and mark a new, peaceful direction for unraveling the tangled knot of Mideast tension.  Violent intervention, at best, will fuel more old scores than it settles, and at worst create a regional or even global conflagration that we can ill afford at this time of planetary environmental peril.  If the essence of the Syrian uprising can remain nonviolent, and replace Assad with a truly populist movement, it would mark a major turning point in world politics.  We need a major turning point much more than we need more violence.  It’s time for a change.

music:  Judy Collins, “Carry It On”





WORM WAR ONE

12 02 2011

A very unusual and deeply significant event happened last Fall, but largely escaped notice in the media. The significance of this story is that we have crossed a threshold, entered a new territory, and there is no telling what will happen next. Sometimes that’s a good thing. In the long run, this particular event may be beneficial, but I have a feeling it is going to raise a lot of hell along the way.

I’m not even talking about climate change here. The event was the infection of the control system for Iran’s nuclear program with a computer worm called “Stuxnet.”

Stuxnet is a very carefully designed worm. It won’t use your computer to send spam. It won’t eat your hard drive. But, if your computer is one that controls certain kinds of industrial equipment, especially nuclear centrifuges, Stuxnet will cause the centrifuges to malfunction, while it shields the malfunction from monitoring equipment. Nuclear centrifuges have to spin at a certain speed in order to properly separate out the uranium isotopes. If the speed varies, they don’t do the job right, and the end product will not function properly in a nuclear reactor–or an atomic bomb.

That is not the kind of worm that is designed by bored teenage hackers in LA.  It is a highly sophisticated computer program that could only have been designed by a very big business or a government. “Dissection” of the worm uncovered several clues that seem to point to Israeli involvement.

I’m not big on either nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons.  To me, they are both clear examples of technologies that a truly wise and intelligent species would have theorized about but not actually created, due to the inherent dangers.  But we are not a truly wise and intelligent species, and we have gone ahead and created hundreds of nuclear reactors and, according to once source, 23,000 nuclear weapons.  (Twenty-three again!  Who’s writing this script?)

Iran claims its nuclear program is intended for peaceful uses only.  But most of its neighbors have nuclear arsenals–the Russians on the north, the Pakistanis to the east, the Israelis to the west, (although we’re supposed to act as if they don’t!), and the US on its south, in the Persian Gulf.  When you’re surrounded by mean monkeys with big sticks, it’s a natural monkey reaction to grab the biggest stick you can and look as threatening as you can.  If the US really wants Iran not to reach for a big stick, we should stop harassing them.  That, however, is unlikely to happen.

There has been a great deal of speculation that, via its proxy, Israel, the US would act to take out Iran’s nuclear program with an air strike, similar to the Israeli attacks on an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and a mysterious target in Syria last fall.

Iran, however, is a much more problematic target for this kind of violence.  It’s further away from Israel than Syria or Iraq and has  more sophisticated air defense systems, leading to a greater possibility of failure.  With its superior resources and the experience of Israel’s attacks on its neighbors, Iran has doubtless “hardened” its nuclear facilities, making them less vulnerable to bombing.  Because the facilities are up and running, attacking them would also be more likely to involve considerable loss of life and widespread nuclear contamination, not to mention condemnation.  And then there’s blowback; Israel has repeatedly beat the crap out of Syria, so that its response to the Israeli attack was largely bluff and bluster; but Iran has much more capacity and willingness to retaliate.  An Israeli air strike on Iran could well have the same effect as throwing a lit match into a very large pool of gasoline.

So, attacking Iran’s nuclear program with a computer worm is, in many ways, a far more sensible choice than sending in the bombers.  And, from a realpolitik viewpoint, the accompanying assassinations of several top Iranian nuclear scientists is more compassionate, or maybe just less uncompassionate, than dropping a bunker-buster on the site and spreading radioactive debris all over the surrounding countryside.

I can understand Israel’s skittishness.  There is a genocidal holocaust in their past, and they want to do all they can to make sure there isn’t another, nuclear, holocaust in their future.  If they’re serious about that, maybe they should just give up on Palestine and move to Nevada or Utah.  But that’s another story.

My guess is that we have not heard the last of this exchange.  You can be sure Iran is looking for a way to retaliate, some back-door, plausible-deniability m.o. that will cripple US and/or Israeli infrastructure without being blatant.  China is apparently actively researching ways to cripple American computer networks.  Perhaps Iran can serve China in the same way that Israel serves America?

It doesn’t have to be high-tech.  It’s long been known that a few tons of gravel, launched into the same low-earth orbit as communications and spy satellites, would rapidly take out every one of those vital links in our communication network.  Bye-bye internet, bye-bye cell phones, bye-bye credit card transactions, bye-bye military communications. Sure, putting gravel in outer space is “rocket science,”  as well as a bad pun, but it’s pretty simple rocket science.  The North Koreans could probably pull that one off.

The worm war is on.  Its campaigns are  well disguised and waged in secret, and there’s no telling when, or what, the next attack will be.  Make hard copies of your favorite data and keep plenty of cash on hand.  Things could get primitive in the blink of an eye–or the launch of a rock.  Taking down communications satellites with rocks–back to the stone age, eh?

music:  Medeski, Martin, and Wood, “Bloody Oil”





TRUTH IN STRANGE PLACES…GOLDEN OLDIES DIVISION

9 05 2010

Our “Truth in Strange Places” award this month is a bit of a golden oldie, as it was uttered as part of a college commencement address in 1969.   According to my source, the speaker

repudiated an “acquisitive and competitive corporate life” in her class address at Wellesley College. She called for “a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.”

The speaker was Wellesley’s valedictorian that year, Hillary Rodham, our future first lady.  Damn it, woman, you should have inhaled and ingested a whole lot more than whatever you did!  Maybe it would have helped…not that it seems to have helped our current President all that much, but… How far we have fallen!

We, not just she, not just Hillary Rodham-Clinton.  We, the children of “The Greatest Generation,” the Americans who overcame the Great Depression AND the Nazi-Japanese attempt at world domination, we saw our calling as we came out of the starting gate with a clear, acid-etched understanding of our parents’ failings and a strong determination to take America and the world to the next level.

At first it all seemed to go so well.  We stopped the war on Vietnam, toppled a corrupt President and replaced him with a guy who cheerfully posed for pictures with Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band.  (I’m sorry, that photo seems to have vanished from the archives!)  We started a nationwide network of radical newspapers, alternative radio stations, food co-ops, head shops, communes, ashrams for dozens of Eastern spiritual teachers.  We delivered our own babies and nursed each others’ babies, shared childcare among husbands, wives, and family friends, started our own schools based on the philosophies of A.S. Neill or Rudolf Steiner or Maria Montessori.  We blew the lid off the idea that marriage meant one man, one woman, their children, forever, by experimenting with open marriages and multiple marriages, and by accepting same-sex relationships, which ought to be marriages, already!.  We lived simply, sharing cars, homes, gardens, tools and televisions.  We produced shelves of books touting our way of life–Small is Beautiful, Diet for a Small Planet, Foxfire, Voluntary Simplicity, the Whole Earth Catalogues, just to name a few.  We started “Earth Day,” and got Martin Luther King’s birthday recognized as a national  holiday.

That’s the tip of another of the icebergs of my generation’s early accomplishments.  We declined to accept the tacit segregation of our parents’ generation.  Not only did we date and marry across racial lines, many of us ignored ghetto lines in cities and created racially mixed inner city neighborhoods.

We raised hell about nuclear energy and nuclear weapons and the cold war and Israeli repression of the Palestinians, white repression of native South Africans and Native Americans.  We pushed Richard Nixon, one of our creepiest Presidents, to create an Environmental Protection Agency, a Council on Environmental Quality, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a Federal Products Safety Commission,  and to pass a Clean Air Act, a National Environmental Policy Act, and a Water Pollution Control Act.

We were on a roll…then, somehow, it all started falling apart.  Perhaps blackmailed by Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter granted asylum to  the newly deposed Shah of Iran, the enraged Iranians took over the US embassy, our secret rescue mission failed.  The President who had called energy conservation and independence “the moral equivalent of war” lost his bully pulpit in a reactionary landslide and Ronald Reagan, the great miscommunicator, steered America into a trance.  Our movement melted away, as former radicals sought the apparent safety of professional careers, suburban homes, and safe investments for retirement.  Many of us traded bulk foods for fast foods, community engagement  for televised distraction, political passion for sports fandom, LSD for CGI, and pot for prozac.

How did this happen?  As far as I can tell, there was a lot of pressure from a lot of directions.  Early on, the record companies whose ads were a major source of finance for the “underground press,” withdrew their support and started the papers’ slide into “entertainment weeklies.”  Somewhere in her voluminous output, Barbara Ehrenreich reports that a cabal of network executives and advertising agencies determined that hippiedom and communal living would never be shown in a positive light on national television, because the ideal of sharing was bad for business.

There was financial pressure.  In 1974, median income peaked; although the average has gone up since, this has been due to the rich getting richer while the poor and middle class get poorer.  This has resulted in people having less time for leisure and non-income producing pursuits like social change.  College education became much more expensive, saddling students with debt and giving them a strong disincentive to rock the boat.  Did the barons of finance put the squeeze on us because they didn’t like what we were doing with our leisure time, or was our loss of leisure, AKA time to think and dream.  just an unintended consequence of being wrung dry?  We may never know

I believe there were internal pressures, as well.  The ideals that we held and shared were, for many of us, largely intellectual constructs that were not deeply anchored in our psyches.  What lurked in the depths  of all too many of us was the unreconstructed insecure materialist conditioning our parents had burned into us, and all it took was stress–whether from financial pressure, interpersonal turmoil, or the shocks that came as our cute little kids turned into sexual, independent-minded teenagers–to unleash that conservative parental programming and turn legions of once airy hippies into mainstream American zombies who would just die if their kids ever found out what they had done in their foolish youth–and who would completely go postal if those kids ever dared try any such stunts themselves.

That’s what I saw going on around me, anyway.  I’m not sure what I (and the mother who raised me) did right, but somehow I seemed immune to the pressure that was causing people all around me to cave in.  Not that I (and my kids) didn’t have some baggage to deal with–but somehow I seem to have ended up one of the last hippies standing.

I’m tooting my own horn way too much here.  I may be alive and more or less well and idealistically intact, still pumping for local food, local industry, and local control, but the Hillary Clinton I once saw eye to eye with about the dangers of,  as she put it ,”acquisitive and competitive corporate life” is now one of the lead spokespeople for corporate life.  I’m not picking on Hillary personally–she’s just a symbol for millions of members of my generation who sold out for what I’m sure they thought were all the right reasons.

Meanwhile, the promises of corporate America ring hollower and hollower to more and more people, and we’re not just talking furriners here.  As George Carlin famously said, “They call it ‘the American dream’ because you have to be asleep to believe it.” Formerly middle-class Americans are falling out of their cocoons and waking up with a bang on the sidewalk in front of what used to be their homes, their dream derailed by job losses, medical bills, and sucker mortgages among other things.  Maybe it’s not too late for a national reawakening.

music:  James McMurtry, “Jaws of Life”  (actually played “Paris“–two different songs on the same subject, different points of view..





JIM COOPER, WAR CRIMINAL?

18 04 2008

A couple of years ago, my friend Ginny Welsch ran for US Congress here in the 5th District, which, unlike many bizarrely gerrymandered districts in this state, neatly encompasses Nashville and its near suburbs, and is known as an island of Democratic Party dominance in a sea of rural, redneck Republicanism. Ginny thought she would get a lot of traction with her left-wing challenge to our blue dog Democrat congressman, Jim Cooper, who is widely known as a strong supporter of the Iraq war and the Bush administration, but Ginny couldn’t get no respect. She tried renouncing her Green Party endorsement, she tried pointing out that Cooper’s nominal Republican opponent was a flat-earth type who was way out of the mainstream and couldn’t possibly win a serious three-way race, but nothing seemed to work for her. She got little media coverage and financial support, and precious few votes, considering the growing depth of antiwar sentiment even two years ago. She reported that even the most seemingly liberal people were strongly defensive of Cooper, as a nominal Democrat.

This year, the Green Party’s John Miglietta is preparing to take up the David-and-Goliath task of challenging Jim Cooper, so when I stumbled across the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s page on Cooper, I was delighted to discover a massive cache of pebbles for John’s slingshot.

Here”s the executive summary: out of 65 legislative proposals that the FCNL supports, Cooper has been willing to co-sponsor only three. One of those supports punitive sanctions against Iran. Another proposes measures against illegal immigrants, and is supported by more Republicans than Democrats. I don’t pretend to understand or support everything FCNL does, but overall I think they’re a good standard for the more liberal wing of the Democratic party, and Cooper flunks it big time.

Here’s a partial list of the proposals he doesn’t support:

He doesn’t support habeas corpus for prisoners at Guantanamo.

Not only does he support continuing US aggression in Iraq, he is against insisting on Congressional oversight of the war effort, and wants to give the NSA a pass to go around the FISA courts. Guess he just trusts the Cheny-Bush junta to do the right thing. He’s not willing to allow more Iraqis who have worked for the US to seek asylum in this country. That’s just plain mean. Meaner still, he has refused to support any additional aid for Iraq’s four million refugees, who would not be refugees if the US had not invaded their country. Well, they shouldn’t take it personally. Jim doesn’t want to take better care of formerly interned Japanese-Americans, either. I guess it’s a compassion thing–he doesn’t have any.

He has refused to support efforts to find a diplomatic solution to this conflict.

He has refused to support legislation that would hold mercenaries (aka “contractors”) to the same standards of conduct expected of American soldiers. Considering how many wrist slaps have been issued for serious crimes, and how some low level soldiers have been severely punished for following the illegal orders of their superiors (who were not held accountable) that’s not even asking much, but hey, it’s something–but Jim ain’t buying it.

He has refused to push for a ban on cluster bomb use in the vicinity of civilians. Hey, with the planet this crowded, civilians are everywhere, and that would practically mean we couldn’t use cluster bombs at all. Can’t have that, now, can we, Jim? Just leave enough o’ them cluster bomblets laying around populated areas, and it’ll thin the population down some–is that it? Can we try it in your neighborhood, Jim?

He has refused to sign on to legislation that would investigate and probably reign in WHINSEC, the US government’s notorious training school for torturers and terrorists. We ain’t even talking banning it, here, just shining a light on it…not for Jimbo. Ignorance is bliss, eh?

He has refused to support the “Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007,” which would make “significant changes to provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 by restoring the writ of habeas corpus for individuals held under U.S. jurisdiction, narrowing the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant, preventing the use of evidence gained through torture and coercion, and requiring the U.S. to live up to its Geneva Convention obligations.” Our Congressman, Jim Cooper, has declined to sign on to legislation that requires the US to live up to the Geneva Conventions. Got that? I’m going to get back to it in a minute.

He won’t support legislation to close Guantanamo, a bill that was introduced by Jane Harman, who I have characterized elsewhere in this chronicle as a lapdog of the CIA. The CIA wants to close it, the junta wants to keep it open, and lookie where Jim Cooper stands. What loyalty!

He won’t support legislation that would ban the so-called “outsourcing” of torture. Helping preserve American jobs, Jim? Nor will he act to preserve habeas corpus for American citizens, and he’s not interested in repealing the so-called “Real ID” act. In case you hadn’t heard, “Real ID” is a neocon job that was slipped through without debate a few years ago. It gives states a very expensive unfunded mandate to create a national ID card, and many privacy experts see the data base it is supposed to create as an invitation to snooping and identity theft.

And don’t get me started on his apparent support for an attack on Iran, or his lack of support for strong environmental measures–and that’s “strong” by Congressional standards, not even by the standard of what needs to happen to prevent catastrophe.

Now, about those Geneva Convention violations that our boy Jim supports. The last time a Western democracy suspended habeas corpus and allowed the executive branch to rule without oversight or input from the legislative branch was in 1933 when the Reichstag passed “The Enabling Act” that turned the government over to Cheney and Bush…excuse me, I mean Hitler. Hitler, of course, went on to violate the Geneva Conventions and kill millions of civilians. In part because they abdicated responsibility so early in the history of the Nazi regime, members of the Reichstag were not held responsible for war crimes and tried at Nuremburg.

Here in the US, however, we have a different situation. Congress has, at least technically, retained its power, and has passed legislation to fund US aggression in Iraq, as well as declined to investigate its excesses or whether it was warranted at all. This suggests to me that, unlike members of the Reichstag, members of the US Congress who have been actively complicit in the war effort are culpable in the event of some Nuremburg-type trial convened to punish those responsible for the widespread, unprovoked devastation that has resulted from US aggression in the Middle East. That means you, Jim Cooper, not to mention you, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and Hillary Clinton and all the other Democrats who have failed in their sworn duty to protect the Constitution, uphold international treaties, and enforce the law, even if it means impeaching the President.

As for all the “good Americans” who have kept Jim “War Criminal” Cooper in office with their votes and their blind allegiance to his party label, all I can say is, “Wake up! It’s almost midnight! Do you know where your conscience is?”

music: James McMurtry, “God Bless America”





TURNING THE CORNER IN IRAQ

2 04 2008

Oops, wrong corner…from the Asia Times…

Muqtada’s fight puts US to flight
By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON – As it became clear last week that “Operation Knights Assault” in Basra in south Iraq was in serious trouble, the George W Bush administration began to claim in off-the-record statements to journalists that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had launched the operation without consulting Washington.

The effort to disclaim US responsibility for the operation in which government forces battled with the Shi’ite – Mahdi Army – militias is an indication that it was viewed as a major embarrassment just as top commander General David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker are about to testify before Congress.

Behind this furious backpedaling is a major Bush administration miscalculation about Muqtada and his Mahdi Army, which the administration believed was no longer capable of a coordinated military operation. It is now apparent that Muqtada and the Mahdi Army were holding back because they were in the process of retraining and reorganization, not because Muqtada had given up the military option or had lost control of the Mahdi Army.

****
The ability of Mahdi Army units in Basra to stop in its tracks the biggest operation mounted against it since 2004 suggests that Shi’ite military resistance to the occupation is only beginning. Through the strength of the Mahdi Army’s response just before Petraeus’ testimony, Muqtada has posed a major challenge to the Bush narrative of military success in Iraq.





RUMORS OF WAR

30 03 2008

Russian Intelligence Sees U.S. Military Buildup on Iran Border


By RIA Novosti

29/03/08 — – MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran’s borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

“The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran,” the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran “that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost.”

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf.

The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.

The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.

(from Information Clearing House)








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