30 June 2007

Time for a New Pentagon Papers

Time Is Right for New Pentagon Papers
By Amy Goodman

06/30/07 "ICH" -- - Of the Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Mike Gravel is probably the least well recognized. His dark-horse candidacy may be the butt of jokes on the late-night comedy shows, but that doesn’t faze former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg: “Here is a senator who was not afraid to look foolish. That is the fear that keeps people in line all their lives.”

The famed whistle-blower joined Gravel this past weekend on a panel commemorating the 35th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the Beacon Press, a small, nonprofit publisher affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association. It was this publisher that Gravel turned to in 1971, after dozens of others had turned him down, to publish the 7,000 pages that Ellsberg had delivered to Gravel to put into the public record.

The story of the leak of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times is famous, but how they got published as a book, with Gravel’s face on the jacket, reads like a John Grisham novel.

Ellsberg was a military analyst working for the RAND Corp. in the 1960s when he was asked to join an internal Pentagon group tasked with creating a comprehensive, secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg photocopied thousands of documents and leaked them to The New York Times, which published excerpts in June 1971.

President Richard Nixon immediately got a restraining order, stopping the newspaper from printing more. It was the first time in U.S. history that presses were stopped by federal court order. The Times fought the injunction, and won in the Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. United States. Following that decision, The Washington Post also began running excerpts. Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the Post on the condition that one of its editors, Ben Bagdikian, deliver a copy to Gravel.

Gravel recalled the exchange, which he set up at midnight outside the storied Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.: “I used to work in intelligence; I know how to do these things.” Gravel pulled his car up to Bagdikian’s, the two opened their trunks and Gravel heaved the boxes personally, worried that only he could claim senatorial immunity should they get caught with the leaked documents. His staff aides were posted as lookouts around the block.

Thwarted in his attempt to read the Pentagon Papers into the public record as a filibuster to block the renewal of the draft, Gravel called a late-night meeting of the obscure Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds, which he chaired, and began reading the papers aloud there. He broke down crying while reading the details of Vietnamese civilian deaths. Because he had begun the reading, he was legally able to enter all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, once top-secret, into the public record.

Though ridiculed by the press for his emotional display, Gravel was undaunted. He wanted the Pentagon Papers published as a book so Americans could read what had been done in their name. Only Beacon Press accepted the challenge.

Robert West, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association at the time, approved the publication. With that decision, he said, “We started down a path that led through two and a half years of government intimidation, harassment and threat of criminal punishment.” As Beacon weathered subpoenas, FBI investigations of its bank accounts and other chilling probes, Gravel attempted to extend his senatorial immunity to the publisher. The bid failed in the U.S Supreme Court (the first time that the U.S. Senate appeared before the court), but not without a strongly worded dissent from Justice William O. Douglas: “In light of the command of the First Amendment we have no choice but to rule that here government, not the press, is lawless.”

Which brings us to today. Sitting next to West and Gravel, Ellsberg repeated the plea that he is making in speeches all over the United States: “The equivalent of the Pentagon Papers exist in safes all over Washington, not only in the Pentagon, but in the CIA, the State Department and elsewhere. My message is to them: Take the risk, reveal the truth under the lies of your own bosses and your superiors, obey your oath to the Constitution, which every one of those officials took, not to the commander in chief, but to the Constitution of the United States.”


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Kick Out the Corporate Bastards

Kick Out the Corporate Bastards: Toward a New Environmental Movement

The environmental movement is on life support. Some would say it is already dead. Even though climate change and Al Gore are fast becoming the conversation du jour around the American dinner table, it also happens to be the rallying cry for do-gooder conservationists and corporations alike.

Call it the eco-economy. Virtually all major corporations now claim they are going "green". Toyota dealerships cannot keep the hybrid Prius in stock. Apple, after heavy lobbying from Greenpeace and others, declares they are going to make their computers environmentally friendly. Genetically modified corn, which produces ethanol fuel, is being hawked by Monsanto as an alternative to petroleum based gasoline. Ethanol advocates are calling their program "Fuels for Profit", while they sip McDonald's organic coffee. The environmental movement has been corporatized.

Big green groups are not helping the situation. Their hands are tied by both the large foundations that pay their rent and the Democratic Party to which they are attached at the hip. They long ago gave up on challenging the system. Most groups today are little more than direct mailing outfits who have embraced a sordid neoliberal approach to saving the natural world. The true causes of planetary destruction are never mentioned. Industrial capitalism is not the problem, individuals are. Not the government's inability to enforce its weak regulations. Not big oil companies, or coal fired plants. These neoliberal groups argue ordinary people are to blame for the impending environmental catastrophe, not those who profit from the Earth's destruction.

Meanwhile, on the ground, grassroots environmentalists engaging in arson as a response to unfettered sprawl and our car addicted culture are dubbed terrorists by the Federal government. Despite their extreme and counter-productive methods, the cases are quite informative. In our post-9/11 world young eco-radicals are viewed by the FBI and corporations as if they are as dangerous as bin Laden. All activists, no matter their cause, should take heed. It is the first step in cracking down on radical activism.

Torching SUVs in the middle of the night, unfortunately, will not bring about any massive radical change, except, perhaps, in our "anti-terrorism" legislation. There are militant direct actions that are prevailing, however, from Paul Watson's crusade to protect the wild creatures of the sea, to the environmentalists who stake out in trees for weeks at a time, to the grandmothers who chain themselves to logging trucks, despite the dangers.

Such actions, coupled with the organization of the working class, could help steer the environmental movement in the right direction. The philosophy of the great wilderness advocate Bob Marshall may prove to be quite prescient in the age of foundation driven conservationism. Marshall believed wilderness was for the regular folks. He believed wilderness was a "minority right" and argued that elitism inside the movement would be inherently corrupt. He's right. The burdens of a corporatized society are great, not only for our forests and rivers, but to the workers who are consistently exploited and poisoned for profit.

Marshall believed the radical trade unions and socialized forestry was one answer to countering the destruction of the wild places he loved so much. Now is the time to once again embrace such an environmental ethic. Wilderness, that living symbol of freedom, exists for all to enjoy. It is not ours to exploit. The salmon and grizzly bears deserve better.


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Noticeably Poorer

Up the Down Staircase: Fakery, Inflation and the Housing Market

The British sitcom, "Upstairs Downstairs" was a comedy of manners, of the rich and their servants, which is come to think of it, how the Federal Reserve and Wall Street's stylized dialogue on inflation will appear to historians, in retrospect.

Over the past decade we've had Wall Street wagging its tail to the Fed's "growth recession", "low" inflation, we've had "worries about higher inflation". Meanwhile, Americans in the vast majority are noticeably poorer.

It is not just the pocket book: it is also quality of life. The growth economy based on suburban sprawl--now flat on its face--has been a nation killer, sold like tobacco or sugar as 'what the market wants'.

But, always, the bottom line is the pocketbook. And there, the incredibly narrow bandwidth on government propaganda on inflation, and the timidity of most economists, Americans for the most part have meekly bought into the rosy scenarios.

Americans on fixed incomes, though, may wonder indeed if they have been inflicted with an unreported kind of disease--because inflation to them has been real and rampant.

"Thanks to 20 years of inflation, $1 million today has just 54% of the purchasing power of $1 million in 1987." (from The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Clements, June 27, 2007)


Countless Americans responded to the pressure of inflation, emptied of meaning and relevance by government statistics, by investing far more in housing than historical precedent or reason would prudently allocate.

When a significant percentage of the nation's homeowners are investing 40 to 50 percent of disposable income on housing, and home values have fallen 30 percent off purchase prices (as they are, in the nation's most overheated areas), who needs an exogenous shock to threaten the economy?

Until 2005, real and unreported inflation was matched by consumers of mortgages in housing, matching inflation with inflation, sucking up many purchasers of subprime mortgages, but also, hard working middle and upper middle class.

As paper value of individual investments in housing went up, up, up, the real value of mortgages packaged and sliced into financial derivatives disappeared into pension funds, insurance pools, and hedge funds providing leverage for even more speculative investments.

Today there is a slow motion earthquake trembling through markets for financial derivatives, whose cumulative float is approximately ten times the value of stocks traded on public exchanges in the US.

It doesn't matter whose liquidity is keeping US stock markets uplifted or high: it is an entirely different scene down in the boiler rooms where government economists and statisticians and Fed board members are keeping the engines running: the denial is remarkable.

Read the rest here.

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29 June 2007

Stupidest Words Ever Uttered by a US Prez

From Informed Comment

Bush Turns Iraq into Israel/Palestine; Gaffe endangers US Troops

Bush said in a speech on Thursday that he hopes Iraq will be like Israel, a democracy that faces terrorist violence but manages to retain its democratic character:

' In Israel, Bush said, "terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq." '

These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal.

The US political elite just doesn't get it. Israel is not popular in the Middle East, and it isn't because Middle Easterners are bigots. It is because Israel is coded as the last European colonial presence in the region, an heir to French Algeria, British Egypt, and Dutch Indonesia-- and because the Israelis pugnaciously continue to try to colonize neighboring bits of territory. (This enmity is not inevitable or eternal; in 2002 the Arab League offered full recognition of Israel in return for its going back to 1967 borders, but the Israeli government turned down the offer.) But for the purposes of this analysis it does not really matter why Israel is unpopular. Let us just stipulate that it is. Why would you associate American Iraq with such an unpopular project, if you were trying to do public diplomacy in the region? Bush had just announced a new push to get the American message out to the Muslim world, the day before.

Let's just take the analogy seriously for a moment. Israel proper is a democracy of sorts, though its 1 million Arab citizens are in a second class position. But it rules over several million stateless Palestinians who lack even the pretence of self-rule. It is hard to characterize a country as a democracy when it has millions of disenfranchised subjects. Bush manages to only think about Jewish Israelis in the above analogy, wiping out millions of other residents of geographical Palestine who don't get to participate in 'democracy' or exercise popular sovereignty.

It is true that the Israelis managed to blunt the terror attacks of Islamic Jihad, the Qassam Brigades, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades over the years after the eruption of the 2nd Intifada. But there are still attacks, including by rocket. The reason for those attacks is that the Palestinians had mostly been driven from their homes and off their land, and were militarily, politically and economically subjected to the Israelis. The Israelis reduced the terror attacks by essentially imprisoning millions of stateless Palestinians in the territories, further restricting their movements, destroying their trade and livelihoods. The Israeli government continues to grab Palestinian land and put more colonists on it, even as we speak.

Israel-Palestine is among the world's hottest trouble spots, and the conflict has poisoned politics throughout the Middle East. It was among the motives for Bin Laden's attack on the US on September 11, so it has spilled over on America, too. A second one of those would be a good thing?

So who would play the Palestinians in Bush's analogy? Obviously, it would be the Sunni Arabs, who apparently are meant to be cordoned off from the rest of Iraqis and put behind massive walls and barbed wire, and deprived of political power. That is not a desirable outcome and is not politically or militarily tenable in the long run.

And, let's just stop and think. Even if it were true that an Israel-Palestine sort of denouement were in Bush's mind for Iraq, was it wise for him to make it public?

That sort of scenario is precisely the propaganda message broadcast by the Jihadi websites in Iraq and the Arab world! They say that the US military occupation of Iraq, in alliance with Shiites, has turned the Sunni Arabs into Palestinians! Bush could not have handed the guerrillas a better rhetorical gift. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that DVD's of Bush's comments will be spread around as a recruiting tool for jihadis, and that US troops will certainly be killed as a result of this speech. You could say that the US military presence is already pretty unpopular in the Sunni Arab areas. But what of the progress in al-Anbar Province? Will Bush's speech help or hurt Sunni Arabs who want to ally with the US against the foreign Salafi Jihadis? Hurt, obviously.

If Bush had said something like that in 2002, you could have written it off as inexperience and lack of knowledge of the Middle East. But he has been the sitting president for so many years, and has had so much to do with the Middle East that this faux pas is just inexcusable. I don't know the man and can't judge if he is just not very bright. I can confirm that he says things that are not very bright. And, worse, he says things that are guaranteed to put more US troops into the grave in Diyala, Baghdad, Salahuddin and al-Anbar Provinces.

I don't know whether to sob in grief or tear my hair out in frustration. How much longer do we have to suffer?


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28 June 2007

Medical Care Is a Human Right

Two Models of Health Care Rationing: Sick and Sicker

Everyone knows that Canadians live longer and have lower infant mortality rates than Americans. In Sicko, Michael Moore suggests that a Canadian-style medical system would solve this problem. Surprisingly, the evidence indicates that it would not.

A cross-border team of 17 researchers (including high-profile supporters of the Canadian system) examined a variety of medical problems, including cancer, coronary artery disease, chronic illness and surgical procedures. With the single exception of end-stage kidney disease, where Canadian patients fared better, they found no consistent difference in patient outcomes between the two nations.1 As I have argued elsewhere, the United States has the worst health statistics in the industrialized world because it is the most unequal society in the industrialized world.2

Although Canada's medical system does not produce generally better patient outcomes, it is more equitable and far more economical. In 2003, the average American spent almost twice as much for medical care as the average Canadian. Exorbitant medical bills are a constant worry and a major cause of personal bankruptcy. Profit-taking is responsible for the high cost of American medicine. However, the Canadian system is also subject to market forces.

Contrary to popular belief, Canada does not have a single-payer medical system. Government pays about 70 percent of medical costs, including most hospital and physician care. Individuals and private insurance companies pay the remaining 30 percent for prescription drugs, dental and vision care, ambulance, medical devices, home care and other services.

To contain costs, both the United States and Canada ration medical care, but they do this in different ways. In the U.S., more than 47 million people have no medical insurance at all. The Institute of Medicine estimates that 18,000 people die every year as a result. In Canada, lack of access is more equitably spread across the population in the form of long waits for assessment and treatment. We don't know how many Canadians die while waiting for treatment, because no one is counting the bodies.3 The Canadian model of rationing is sick, and the American model is sicker because it unfairly discriminates against those who cannot pay. Neither is good enough. Medical care is a human right and should not be rationed at all.

Disgust with the American medical system has built support for HR 676--The United States National Health Insurance Act--a single-payer system where medical care would be publicly financed and privately delivered. Winning HR 676 would be a tremendous victory. However, the Canadian experience shows that private delivery of medical care opens the door to parasitical profit-taking.

The Canadian experience

Until the 1960's the American and Canadian medical systems were nearly identical. Those with the highest incomes obtained the lion's share of medical services even though those with the lowest incomes experienced the most illness. The logical solution was a government-run system to provide medical care for all, but doctors and private insurers rejected what they called "state medicine and socialism."

During the upturn of the 1960s, the pressure grew for universal health care. To contain demand, the federal government launched a Royal Commission to "study" the problem. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) made its preference clear.

"We favor a system of public health care that will be universal in application and comprehensive in coverage. We favor a system that will present no economic barrier between the service and those who need it. We are opposed to any provision which will require some people to submit themselves to a means test in order to obtain service. We look to a system of health care that will be regarded as a public service and not as an insurance mechanism."4

The public-service model, where government is both payer and provider, was rejected. Instead, the Medical Care Insurance Act of 1966 established a publicly-financed system that would be administered and delivered by the private sector, "free of government control or domination."

The province of Quebec took a different route. Pressured by workers' demands that culminated in the 1972 General Strike, Quebec incorporated medical services into a broad social benefits system, paid for and provided by the provincial government. The Quebec working class is rarely credited for producing the most comprehensive medical system in North America.

Read the rest here.

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Keep People Away From Their City

Lessons from Katrina: How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps

Step One. Delay. If there is one word that sums up the way to destroy an African-American city after a disaster, that word is DELAY. If you are in doubt about any of the following steps--just remember to delay and you will probably be doing the right thing.

Step Two. When a disaster is coming, do not arrange a public evacuation. Rely only on individual resources. People with cars and money for hotels will leave. The elderly, the disabled and the poor will not be able to leave. Most of those without cars--25% of households of New Orleans, overwhelmingly African-Americans--will not be able to leave. Most of the working poor, overwhelmingly African-American, will not be able to leave. Many will then permanently accuse the victims who were left behind of creating their own human disaster because of their own poor planning. It is critical to start by having people blame the victims for their own problems.

Step Three. When the disaster hits make certain the national response is overseen by someone who has no experience at all handling anything on a large scale, particularly disasters. In fact, you can even inject some humor into the response--have the disaster coordinator be someone whose last job was the head of a dancing horse association.

Step Four. Make sure that the President and national leaders remain aloof and only slightly concerned. This sends an important message to the rest of the country.

Step Five. Make certain the local, state, and national governments do not respond in a coordinated effective way. This will create more chaos on the ground.

Step Six. Do not bring in food or water or communications right away. This will make everyone left behind more frantic and create incredible scenes for the media.

Step Seven. Make certain that the media focus of the disaster is not on the heroic community work of thousands of women, men and young people helping the elderly, the sick and the trapped survive, but mainly on acts of people looting. Also spread and repeat the rumors that people trapped on rooftops are shooting guns not to attract attention and get help, but AT the helicopters. This will reinforce the message that "those people" left behind are different from the rest of us and are beyond help.

Step Eight. Refuse help from other countries. If we accept help, it looks like we cannot or choose not to handle this problem ourselves. This cannot be the message. The message we want to put out over and over is that we have plenty of resources and there is plenty of help. Then if people are not receiving help, it is their own fault. This should be done quietly.

Step Nine. Once the evacuation of those left behind actually starts, make sure people do not know where they are going or have any way to know where the rest of their family has gone. In fact, make sure that African-Americans end up much farther away from home than others.

Step Ten. Make sure that when government assistance finally has to be given out, it is given out in a totally arbitrary way. People will have lost their homes, jobs, churches, doctors, schools, neighbors and friends. Give them a little bit of money, but not too much. Make people dependent. Then cut off the money. Then give it to some and not others. Refuse to assist more than one person in every household. This will create conflicts where more than one generation lived together. Make it impossible for people to get consistent answers to their questions. Long lines and busy phones will discourage people from looking for help.

Step Eleven. Insist the President suspend federal laws requiring living wages and affirmative action for contractors working on the disaster. While local workers are still displaced, import white workers from outside the city for the high-paying jobs like crane operators and bulldozers. Import Latino workers from outside the city for the low-paying dangerous jobs. Make sure to have elected officials, black and white, blame job problems on the lowest wage immigrant workers. This will create divisions between black and brown workers that can be exploited by those at the top. Because many of the brown workers do not have legal papers, those at the top will not have to worry about paying decent wages, providing health insurance, following safety laws, unemployment compensation, workers compensation, or union organizing. They become essentially disposable workers--use them, then lose them.

Step Twelve. Whatever you do, keep people away from their city for as long as possible. This is the key to long-term success in destroying the African-American city. Do not permit people to come home. Keep people guessing about what is going to happen and when it is going to happen. Set numerous deadlines and then break them. This will discourage people and make it increasingly difficult for people to return.

Read the rest here.

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Democracy Is Always Frightening to Power Centers

Imminent Crises: Threats and Opportunities
by Noam Chomsky
June 27, 2007, Monthly Review

Regrettably, there are all too many candidates that qualify as imminent and very serious crises. Several should be high on everyone’s agenda of concern, because they pose literal threats to human survival: the increasing likelihood of a terminal nuclear war, and environmental disaster, which may not be too far removed. However, I would like to focus on narrower issues, those that are of greatest concern in the West right now. I will be speaking primarily of the United States, which I know best, and it is the most important case because of its enormous power. But as far as I can ascertain, Europe is not very different.

The area of greatest concern is the Middle East. There is nothing novel about that. I often have to arrange talks years in advance. If I am asked for a title, I suggest “The Current Crisis in the Middle East.” It has yet to fail. There’s a good reason: the huge energy resources of the region were recognized by Washington sixty years ago as a “stupendous source of strategic power,” the “strategically most important area of the world,” and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”1 Control over this stupendous prize has been a primary goal of U.S. policy ever since, and threats to it have naturally aroused enormous concern.

For years it was pretended that the threat was from the Russians, the routine pretext for violence and subversion all over the world. In the case of the Middle East, we do not have to consider this pretext, since it was officially abandoned. When the Berlin Wall fell, the first Bush administration released a new National Security Strategy, explaining that everything would go as before but within a new rhetorical framework. The massive military system is still necessary, but now because of the “technological sophistication of third world powers”—which at least comes closer to the truth—the primary threat, worldwide, has been indigenous nationalism. The official document explained further that the United States would maintain its intervention forces aimed at the Middle East, where “the threat to our interests” that required intervention “could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door,” contrary to decades of fabrication.2 As is normal, all of this passed without comment.

The most serious current problem in the minds of the population, by far, is Iraq. And the easy winner in the competition for the country that is the most feared is Iran, not because Iran really poses a severe threat, but because of a drumbeat of government-media propaganda. That is a familiar pattern. The most recent example is Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was virtually announced in September 2002. As we now know, the U.S.-British invasion was already underway in secret. In that month, Washington initiated a huge propaganda campaign, with lurid warnings by Condoleezza Rice and others that the next message from Saddam Hussein would be a mushroom cloud in New York City. Within a few weeks, the government-media propaganda barrage had driven Americans completely off the international spectrum. Saddam may have been despised almost everywhere, but it was only in the United States that a majority of the population were terrified of what he might do to them, tomorrow. Not surprisingly! , support for the war correlated very closely with such fears. That has been achieved before, in amazing ways during the Reagan years, and there is a long and illuminating earlier history. But I will keep to the current monster being crafted by the doctrinal system, after a few words about Iraq.

There is a flood of commentary about Iraq, but very little reporting. Journalists are mostly confined to fortified areas in Baghdad, or embedded within the occupying army. That is not because they are cowards or lazy, but because it is simply too dangerous to be anywhere else. That has not been true in earlier wars. It is an astonishing fact that the United States and Britain have had more trouble running Iraq than the Nazis had in occupied Europe, or the Russians in their East European satellites, where the countries were run by local civilians and security forces, with the iron fist poised if anything went wrong but usually in the background. In contrast, the United States has been unable to establish an obedient client regime in Iraq, under far easier conditions.

Putting aside doctrinal blinders, what should be done in Iraq? Before answering, we should be clear about some basic principles. The major principle is that an invader has no rights, only responsibilities. The first responsibility is to pay reparations. The second responsibility is to follow the will of the victims. There is actually a third responsibility: to bring criminals to trial, but that obligation is so remote from the imperial mentality of Western culture that I will put it aside.

The responsibility to pay reparations to Iraqis goes far beyond the crime of aggression and its terrible aftermath. The United States and Britain have been torturing the population of Iraq for a long time. In recent history, both governments strongly supported Saddam Hussein’s terrorist regime through the period of his worst crimes, and long after the end of the war with Iran. Iran finally capitulated, recognizing that it could not fight the United States, which was, by then, openly participating in Saddam’s aggression—something that Iranians have surely not forgotten, even if Westerners have. Dismissing history is always a convenient stance for those who hold the clubs, but their victims usually prefer to pay attention to the real world. After the Iran-Iraq war, Washington and London continued to provide military equipment to their friend Saddam, including means to develop weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems. Iraqi nuclear engineers were even being brought to t! he United States for instruction in developing nuclear weapons in 1989, long after Saddam’s worst atrocities and Iran’s capitulation.

Immediately after the 1991 Gulf War, the United States and the United Kingdom returned to their support for Saddam when they effectively authorized him to use heavy military equipment to suppress a Shi’ite uprising that might well have overthrown the tyrant. The reasons were publicly explained. The New York Times reported that there was a “strikingly unanimous view” among the United States and its allies, Britain and Saudi Arabia, that “whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country’s stability than did those who have suffered his repression”; the term “stability” is a code word for “following orders.”3 New York Times chief diplomatic correspondent Thomas Friedman explained that “the best of all worlds” for Washington would be an “iron-fisted military junta” ruling Iraq just the way Saddam did. But lacking that option, Washington had to settle for second-best: Saddam himself. An unthinkable option—then and now—is that ! Iraqis should rule Iraq independently of the United States.

Then followed the murderous sanctions regime imposed by the United States and Britain, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, devastated Iraqi civilian society, strengthened the tyrant, and forced the population to rely on him for survival. The sanctions probably saved Saddam from the fate of other vicious tyrants, some quite comparable to him, who were overthrown from within despite strong support from the United States and United Kingdom to the end of their bloody rule: Ceausescu, Suharto, and quite a rogues gallery of others, to which new names are being added regularly. Again, all of this is boring ancient history for those who hold the clubs, but not for their victims, or for people who prefer to understand the world. All of those actions, and much more, call for reparations, on a massive scale, and the responsibility extends to others as well. But the deep moral-intellectual crisis of imperial culture prevents any thought of such topics as these.

The second responsibility is to obey the will of the population. British and U.S. polls provide sufficient evidence about that. The most recent polls find that 87 percent of Iraqis want a “concrete timeline for US withdrawal,” up from 76 percent in 2005.4 If the reports really mean Iraqis, as they say, that would imply that virtually the entire population of Arab Iraq, where the U.S. and British armies are deployed, wants a firm timetable for withdrawal. I doubt that one would have found comparable figures in occupied Europe under the Nazis, or Eastern Europe under Russian rule.

Bush-Blair and associates declare, however, that there can be no timetable for withdrawal. That stand in part reflects the natural hatred for democracy among the powerful, often accompanied by eloquent calls for democracy. The calls for democracy moved to center stage after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so a new motive had to be invented for the invasion. The president announced the doctrine to great acclaim in November 2003, at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington. He proclaimed that the real reason for the invasion was not Saddam’s weapons programs, as Washington and London had insistently claimed, but rather Bush’s messianic mission to promote democracy in Iraq, the Middle East, and elsewhere. The media and prominent scholars were deeply impressed, relieved to discover that the “liberation of Iraq” is perhaps the “most noble” war in history, as leading liberal commentators announced—a sentiment echoed even by critics, who objected ! that the “noble goal” may be beyond our means, and those to whom we are offering this wonderful gift may be too backward to accept it. That conclusion was confirmed a few days later by U.S. polls in Baghdad. Asked why the United States invaded Iraq, some agreed with the new doctrine hailed by Western intellectuals: 1 percent agreed that the goal was to promote democracy. Another 5 percent said that the goal was to help Iraqis.5 Most of the rest took for granted that the goals were the obvious ones that are unmentionable in polite society—the strategic-economic goals we readily attribute to enemies, as when Russia invaded Afghanistan or Saddam invaded Kuwait, but are unmentionable when we turn to ourselves.

But rejection of the popular will in Iraq goes far beyond the natural fear of democracy on the part of the powerful. Simply consider the policies that are likely to be pursued by an independent and more or less democratic Iraq. Iraqis may have no love for Iran, but they would doubtlessly prefer friendly relations with their powerful neighbor. The Shi’ite majority already has ties to Iran and has been moving to strengthen them. Furthermore, even limited sovereignty in Iraq has encouraged efforts by the harshly repressed Shi’ite population across the border in Saudi Arabia to gain basic rights and perhaps autonomy. That is where most of Saudi Arabia’s oil happens to be.

Such developments might lead to a loose Shi’ite alliance controlling the world’s major energy resources and independent of Washington, the ultimate nightmare in Washington—except that it might get worse: the alliance might strengthen its economic and possibly even military ties with China. The United States can intimidate Europe: when Washington shakes its fist, leading European business enterprises pull out of Iran. But China has a three-thousand-year history of contempt for the barbarians: they refuse to be intimidated.

That is the basic reason for Washington’s strategic concerns with regard to China: not that it is a military threat, but that it poses the threat of independence. If that threat is unacceptable for small countries like Cuba or Vietnam, it is certainly so for the heartland of the most dynamic economic region in the world, the country that has just surpassed Japan in possession of the world’s major financial reserves and is the world’s fastest growing major economy. China’s economy is already about two-thirds the size of that of the United States, by the correct measures, and if current growth rates persist, it is likely to close that gap in about a decade—in absolute terms, not per capita of course.

China is also the center of the Asian Energy Security Grid and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes the Central Asian countries, and just a few weeks ago, was joined by India, Iran, and Pakistan as observers, soon probably members. India is undertaking significant joint energy projects with China, and it might join the Energy Security Grid. Iran may as well, if it comes to the conclusion that Europe is so intimidated by the United States that it cannot act independently. If Iran turns to the East, it will find willing partners. A major conference on energy last September in Teheran brought together government officials and scholars from Iran, China, Pakistan, India, Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, Georgia, Venezuela, and Germany, planning an extensive pipeline system for the entire region and also more intensive development of energy resources. Bush’s recent trip to India, and his authorization of India’s nuclear weapons program, is part of the jockeying over how ! these major global forces will crystallize. A sovereign and partially democratic Iraq could be another contribution to developments that seriously threaten U.S. global hegemony, so it is not at all surprising that Washington has sought in every way to prevent such an outcome, joined by “the spear carrier for the pax americana,” as Blair’s Britain is described by Michael MccGwire in Britain’s leading journal of international affairs.6

If the United States were compelled to grant some degree of sovereignty to Iraq, and any of these consequences would ensue, Washington planners would be facing the collapse of one of their highest foreign policy objectives since the Second World War, when the United States replaced Britain as the world-dominant power: the need to control “the strategically most important area of the world.” What has been central to planning is control, not access, an important distinction. The United States followed the same policies long before it relied on a drop of Middle East oil, and would continue to do so if it relied on solar energy. Such control gives the United States “veto power” over its industrial rivals, as explained in the early postwar period by influential planners, and reiterated recently with regard to Iraq: a successful conquest of Iraq would give the United States “critical leverage” over its industrial rivals, Europe and Asia, as pointed out by Zbigniew Brzezinski, an i! mportant figure in the planning community. Vice President Dick Cheney made the same point, describing control over petroleum supplies as “tools of intimidation and blackmail”—when used by others.7 He went on to urge the dictatorships of Central Asia, Washington’s models of democracy, to agree to pipeline construction that ensures that the tools remain in Washington’s hands.

The thought is by no means original. At the dawn of the oil age almost ninety years ago, Britain’s first lord of the admiralty Walter Hume Long explained that “if we secure the supplies of oil now available in the world we can do what we like.”8 Woodrow Wilson also understood this crucial point. Wilson expelled the British from Venezuela, which by 1928 had become the world’s leading oil exporter, with U.S. companies then placed in charge. To achieve this goal, Wilson and his successors supported the vicious and corrupt dictator of Venezuela and ensured that he would bar British concessions. Meanwhile the United States continued to demand—and secure—U.S. oil rights in the Middle East, where the British and French were in the lead.

We might note that these events illustrate the actual meaning of the “Wilsonian idealism” admired by Western intellectual culture, and also provide the real meaning of “free trade” and the “open door.” Sometimes that is even officially acknowledged. When the post-Second World War global order was being shaped in Washington, a State Department memorandum on U.S. petroleum policy called for preserving absolute U.S. control of Western hemisphere resources “coupled with insistence upon the Open Door principle of equal opportunity for United States companies in new areas.”9 That is a useful illustration of “really existing free market doctrine”: What we have, we keep, closing the door to others; what we do not yet have, we take, under the principle of the Open Door. All of this illustrates the one really significant theory of international relations, the maxim of Thucydides: the strong do as they can, and the weak suffer as they must.

With regard to Iraq today, talk about exit strategies means very little unless these realities are confronted. How Washington planners will deal with these problems is far from clear. And they face similar problems elsewhere. Intelligence projections for the new millennium were that the United States would control Middle East oil as a matter of course, but would itself rely on more stable Atlantic Basin reserves: West African dictatorships’ and the Western hemisphere’s. But Washington’s postwar control of South America, from Venezuela to Argentina, is seriously eroding. The two major instruments of control have been violence and economic strangulation, but each weapon is losing its efficacy. The latest attempt to sponsor a military coup was in 2002, in Venezuela, but the United States had to back down when the government it helped install was quickly overthrown by popular resistance, and there was turmoil in Latin America, where democracy is taken much more seriously than in! the West and overthrow of a democratically elected government is no longer accepted quietly. Economic controls are also eroding. South American countries are paying off their debts to the IMF—basically an offshoot of the U.S. Treasury department. More frightening yet to Washington, these countries are being aided by Venezuela. The president of Argentina announced that the country would “rid itself of the IMF.” Rigorous adherence to IMF rules had led to economic disaster, from which the country recovered by radically violating the rules. Brazil too had rid itself of the IMF, and Bolivia probably will as well, again aided by Venezuela. U.S. economic controls are seriously weakening.

Washington’s main concern is Venezuela, the leading oil producer in the Western hemisphere. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that its reserves might be greater than Saudi Arabia’s if the price of oil stays high enough for exploitation of its expensive extra-heavy oil to become profitable. Extreme U.S. hostility and subversion has accelerated Venezuela’s interest in diversifying exports and investment, and China is more than willing to accept the opportunity, as it is with other resource-rich Latin American exporters. The largest gas reserves in South America are in Bolivia, which is now following much the same path as Venezuela. Both countries pose a problem for Washington in other respects. They have popularly elected governments. Venezuela leads Latin America in support for the elected government, increasing sharply in the past few years under Chávez. He is bitterly hated in the United States because of his independence and enormous popular support. Bolivia just had! a democratic election of a kind next to inconceivable in the West. There were serious issues that the population understood very well, and there was active participation of the general population, who elected someone from their own ranks, from the indigenous majority. Democracy is always frightening to power centers, particularly when it goes too far beyond mere form and involves actual substance.

Commentary on what is happening reveals the nature of the fears. London’s Financial Times warned that President Evo Morales of Bolivia is becoming increasingly “authoritarian” and “undemocratic.” This is a serious concern to Western powers, who are dedicated to freedom and democracy everywhere. The proof of his authoritarian stance and departure from democratic principles is that he followed the will of 95 percent of the population and nationalized Bolivia’s gas resources, and is also gaining popularity by cutting public salaries and eliminating corruption. Morales’s policies have come to resemble the frightening leader of Venezuela. As if the popularity of Chávez’s elected government was not proof enough that he is an anti-democratic dictator, he is attempting to extend to Bolivia the same programs he is instituting in Venezuela: helping “Bolivia’s drive to stamp out illiteracy and pay[ing] the wages of hundreds of Cuban doctors who have been sent to work there” among the p! oor, to quote the Financial Times’ lament.10

The latest Bush administration’s National Security Strategy, released March 2006, describes China as the greatest long-term threat to U.S. global dominance. The threat is not military, but economic. The document warns that Chinese leaders are not only “expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow ‘lock up’ energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up.”11 In the U.S.-China meetings in Washington a few weeks ago, President Bush warned President Hu Jintao against trying to “lock up” global supplies. Bush condemned China’s reliance on oil from Sudan, Burma, and Iran, accusing China of opposition to free trade and human rights—unlike Washington, which imports only from pure democracies that worship human rights, like Equatorial Guinea, one of the most vicious African dictatorships; Colombia, which has by far the worst human rights record in Latin America; Central Asian states; and other paragons of virtue. No respectable person woul! d accuse Washington of “locking up” global supplies when it pursues its traditional “open door policy” and outright aggression to ensure that it dominates global energy supplies, firmly holding “the tools of intimidation and blackmail.” It is interesting, perhaps, that none of this elicits ridicule in the West, or even notice.

Read the rest here.

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27 June 2007

Stopping the War Machine

Pacific Northwest anti-war activists up the ante by blocking military shipments to Iraq
by Linda Averill
June 25, 2007, socialism.com

A new breed of struggle is flowering in the Northwest anti-war movement. Its aim: to stop public ports from being used for export of war materials. Activists in Washington state are evolving from demonstrators and lobbyists into direct actors against the war masters, blocking streets and facing arrest as needed.

This development isn't happening in a vacuum. A product of anger over congressional inaction on the war and repulsion at the militarization of U.S. society, it is also inspired by a rising resistance movement among GIs.

A statement from the Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) puts it this way: "The weapons shipments, and the use of our public property to prolong and supply the war in Iraq, have made us complicit in crimes against humanity. We refuse to be complicit any longer."

The first action took place last year in Olympia, near Fort Lewis. Participants blocked entrance to their port to stop the Army from shipping war materials.

In 2007, activists declared victory when the Army announced it was going elsewhere. The new location turned out to be Tacoma, 30 miles north of Olympia. Students from the nearby University of Puget Sound, military veterans, teachers, a city councilman, and many others quickly sprang into action, aided by organizers of the blockades in Olympia. As Tacoma protester Leah Coakley said, "We will not serve as a pit stop for the war machine."

A cause catches fire

Campaign stalwart Molly Gibbs offers insight into the shift in thinking of those involved. Gibbs, who works in high schools to counter military recruitment efforts, is no newcomer to politics. On the war, she has emailed, lobbied and written letters to congressional representatives like Adam Smith, she tells the FS, "until I'm blue in the face."

But this year, Fort Lewis was the scene of the high-profile case involving Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to openly refuse to serve in Iraq. His defiance, amplified by an effective defense effort, inspired many anti-war activists, including Gibbs.

In January, she helped organize a tribunal to publicize his case. She then left for Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress again. When her group tried to meet with U.S. Senator Patty Murray and got the runaround, it was the last straw. "I was so disgusted, so angry," Gibbs says.

From that experience, she concluded that a different strategy was needed. "I'm done dealing with my congressional representatives," she says. "It is in our hands. We have to do something."

Opportunity came in March, when the military moved its port operations to Tacoma. Members of several groups mobilized, including Students for a Democratic Society, United for Peace of Pierce County, and the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace. They held rallies, publicized their actions to the media, and lined the streets to take a stand.

On March 10, police used violence to break their lines, firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd. Protesters refused to back down, and Gibbs was among several people arrested for stepping over police lines to deliver a "Citizens' Injunction to Halt the Shipment of Military Material to Iraq." When soldiers with the Stryker Brigade rode by one evening, many of them waved and gave the thumbs-up to the anti-war contingent.

On to Aberdeen

The Army ship sailed, but when the dust had cleared, Tacoma had spent $500,000 on police protection. Who would pay — the port or the Pentagon?

While that question lingered, the military moved its shipping operations to Aberdeen, 50 miles from Olympia near the Pacific Coast. PMR quickly spread word and headed west.

Military officials cordoned off neighborhood streets and called in police reinforcements from across the region. The military racked up another huge bill and angered local residents, who resented seeing their town become an armed camp.

Sparked by these examples, similar efforts and solidarity actions are spreading. In March, 100 students occupied a military recruitment office in New York City to express support and, in April, resisters blocked a port in Oakland, California.

Many campaigners have been charged with crimes. In the Northwest, a mistrial was declared on March 29 in the case of the "Oly 22," who were arrested in 2006. Public support is being mobilized now for those arrested in Tacoma.

Grow the resistance

How strongly this movement will take root is uncertain. Those who are part of it harbor no illusions about the challenges ahead. The Army is operating in greater secrecy, keeping protesters on their toes. There are court battles ahead, and police violence to face. Gibbs mentions the need for more community training, strategy development, and reinforcements.

However, she is motivated by knowing one thing for certain: as long as the war continues, "the death and destruction is only going to get worse."

Information about how to help the campaign is available on several websites, including http://www.omjp.org and http://www.ufppc.org


[+/-]

Such a Level of Ignorance and Willful Stupidity

From Another Day in the Empire

Poll: Even More Americans Blame Saddam for 9/11
Monday June 25th 2007, 3:46 pm

As distrustful as I am of polls conducted by the corporate media, I had to take note of the following. “A new Newsweek poll out this weekend exposed ‘gaps’ in America’s knowledge of history and current events,” writes Josh Catone for Raw Story. “Perhaps most alarmingly, 41% of Americans answered ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Do you think Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001?’ That total is actually up 5 points since September 2004.”

I wouldn’t call this lack of knowledge a “gap” but rather a chasm, the result of years of brainwashing—indeed, a process instituted from grade school onward, right up the present as millions of Americans sit idly before the tube with their brains disengaged, absorbing the incessant propaganda dispensed by Fox News and CNN.

Of course, there is no evidence Saddam had anything to do with the events of September 11, 2001, and the Bush neocons never bothered to provide any, although several absurd theories, passed off as truth, appeared in the wake of the attack. Hands down, my favorite came from the installed neocon puppet government of Iraq. “Iraq’s coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist,” the Telegraph reported back in December, 2003.

It is safe to assume Nidal worked for Israeli intelligence, an assertion with more validity than the claim nine eleven was the responsibility of Saddam Hussein. “Before dismissing the idea that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency could be so devious as to deliberately help an Arab terrorist group in order to further its own agenda, consider this: when investigators probed the collapse of the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International in 1991, they found not only evidence that Mossad was banking with BCCI, but also that payments had been made from the Mossad accounts to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers rebels and the Abu Nidal Organization,” write Ben Vidgen and Ian Wishart for Investigate magazine.

In addition to catering to the elite—Lord Callaghan, Britain’s former Prime Minister, Pakistan’s President Zia, former President Jimmy Carter, current resident George W. Bush, Clark Clifford, an adviser to presidents starting with Harry Truman, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the drug dealing Manuel Noriega, all banked with BCCI—the bank “catered to all sorts of clients, ranging from the CIA and Israel’s Mossad to the Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Nidal,” Adam Shore told an Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship Colloquium.

Of course, you’ll never hear such speculation on Fox News or MSNBC. In fact, any such speculation is considered a thought crime in many parts of the world, as it is “antisemitic” and thus illegal to attribute nefarious motives and acts to Mossad or any other Israeli organization.

Moreover, as additional evidence Israel conducts black ops and attributes the result to its enemies, consider the allegation, confirmed by a British diplomat, that the “state of Israel [by way of Shin Bet] was behind the hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe in 1976, and cooperated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in staging the affair,” according to Yedioth Internet. “The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO’s standing in France and to prevent what they see as a growing rapprochement between the PLO and the Americans.”

It should be noted, according to Wikipedia, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Wadie Haddad, aka Abu Hani, collaborated with “non-PFLP organizations such as the Abu Nidal Organization and the West German Red Army Faction” and “also employed [Haddad’s] PFLP protégé, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (’The Jackal’).”

Of course, a large percentage, if not a majority of Americans know absolutely nothing about such things. In addition, according to Raw Story, most Americans are unable to keep the official fairy tale straight, never mind incessant propaganda, as “a majority of people couldn’t identify Saudi Arabia as the country of origin of most of the 9/11 hijackers, even given the question in multiple choice format. 20% answered Iraq, while 14% believed the hijackers came from Iran.”

Considering such a level of ignorance and willful stupidity, no doubt, when the neocons finally get around to attacking Iran—neocon grand master Normal Podhoretz promises this before Bush leaves office—the American people will buy whatever flimsy pretext is invented and, five years down the road, they will fudge the official version again, as is apparently their unfortunate yet predictable habit.


[+/-]

The Children of Iraq

Look if you dare:

Children of Iraq

The Nuremberg Principles

Principle I. Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.

Principle II. The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle III. The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV. The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle V. Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.

Principle VI. The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

(b) War Crimes:

Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave-labour or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(c) Crimes against humanity:

Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII. Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.

[+/-]

Iraqi Women Resist the Sectarian Tide

Iraqi Women Resist Return to Sectarian Laws
by Ellen Massey

As Iraq struggles to define its future, there is one important group that has been largely left out of the process: women.

But they are refusing to be left behind. With little international support or media attention, a network of more than 150 women's organizations across Iraq is fighting to preserve their rights in the new constitutional revision process.

As part of a campaign to garner international support, the Iraq Women's Movement sent a letter in May to U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and another to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressing concern over the constitutional review process taking place and calling for international support for their effort to preserve women's rights in Iraqi law.

"As women face escalating violence and exclusion in Iraq, they have been marginalized in reconciliation initiatives and negotiations for government positions," the letter noted.

"Even with the shy and insignificant pressure exerted by the UN and other international donors/players on the Iraqi government and politicians to fulfill minimum obligations of Security Council Resolution 1325, the action taken has been a sequence of disappointments…."

Passed in 2000, Resolution 1325 emphasizes the importance of women's participation in conflict resolution and peace-building processes. A second resolution, 1483, applies this conviction specifically to Iraq.

More than three years ago, the United States was instrumental in overturning an amendment to the interim constitution that would have lifted protections for women and children. U.S. and international pressure, and Iraqi women who took to the streets, succeeded in defeating the provision, which was contradictory to many other parts of the constitution.

Following that triumph, women turned out in record numbers for the 2005 election. They secured 33 percent of the seats in the National Assembly but remain woefully absent from other influential branches of the government, according to a 2006 report from the Iraq Legal Development Project.

The effectiveness of previous international pressure has spurred the women's movement in Iraq to call the world's attention to this issue once again, but there has been little acknowledgment of their effort so far. The office of the UN secretary-general has released only a very general statement about the review process since the Iraqi Women's Movement sent their letter on May 21. Pelosi's office has not yet recognized the letter publicly.

Hanaa Edwar is a leader of the Iraqi Women's Movement and founder of the Iraqi al-Amal Association, a national civil society group based in Baghdad. She is campaigning against Article 41, a provision buried in the text of the draft constitution that places personal status laws under the influence of religion, sect, or belief. These are the laws that administer marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, and how religious courts settle disputes among Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

But "there is no unity across sects or even within sects" on the rules that govern family and women's status, Edwar noted.

Warning that the current language could "deepen the sectarian issues in this society," Edwar added: "We feel that this is not a women's demand, it is a national demand. This is important for national security."

"National security" is a term that the U.S. Congress knows well, and the Iraqi women appealed to the issues that are keystones of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Their letter to Pelosi asks for "help in preventing Iraq from taking the identity of a religious state," and includes a reminder that, "any destabilization in the state of law, economy, and security in Iraq can reflect on the security and stability of the whole region."

Mary Trotochaud, an activist who has worked both on the ground in Iraq and with lawmakers in Washington, told IPS, "This movement originates from three generations of women who had really strong rights."

Iraq's progressive women's rights laws began when the "personal status laws" were included in the 1959 Constitution. In 1970, women were formally guaranteed equal rights and additional laws ensured their right to vote, attend school, run for office, and own property.

Iraq has also ratified a series of international treaties that guarantee equal rights for all, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights that protect the pluralistic nature of Iraqi society and offer unprecedented protections to women in an Arab country.

Yet Iraqi women still faced considerable historical obstacles to their political participation, including Ba'ath policies that disenfranchised them and Saddam Hussein's strengthening of Islamic and tribal traditions in an effort to consolidate power in the 1990s.

"These are human rights issues that we're talking about that we should be advocating all the time in all countries," Trotochaud said. "We shouldn't be shy about saying that."

The most recent campaign to preserve these rights began in 2003 in the wake of Hussein's fall and the dissolution of Iraq's existing legal, political, and economic systems. Women's groups began springing up around the country and organizing to advocate for their rights and participation in the new constitution and government.

The network of groups held regional and national meetings and met with parliamentarians and officials across sect and party lines. "When the time for constitutional conventions came, women were already organized," said Trotochaud, who was living in Iraq at the time.

However, the spiraling violence has taken its toll on the campaign. "The sectarian divide has gotten big enough that people who have worked together in the past don't work together now," she added.

The constitutional review process has labored on for the past six months with few signs of progress. Debate remains bogged down in issues like the disposition of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city in the northern, Kurdish-dominated region; the distribution of national wealth; and de-Ba'athification.

Article 41, which places family law under religious and tribal traditions, is still in the drafts of the constitution, and women's rights in the process remain a backstage issue.

Edwar said that the Constitutional Review Committee has been granted another month to complete its work. Refusing to be discouraged by the lack of international attention, she looks at the delay as an opportunity to advance the movement's goals of ensuring that women's rights and family law will be included in her country's new constitution and that civil society will be a part of the process.

The Iraqi Women's Movement has submitted its own language to the review committee for consideration to replace the objectionable Article 41. It says that, "The Iraqi state should ensure that personal status laws should be organized according to law." Edwar said they were often met with support for the Movement's appeal but that "women's issues are one of the compromise issues among politicians."

There is likely little that will stop the political maneuvering in the run-up to the referendum on the new constitution. But Edwar made clear that the Iraqi Women's Movement will continue its campaign to preserve human rights until the very last moment and she represents a political force that will keep women's rights on the political agenda for years to come.

As stated in their letter to Pelosi, "Our hopes in our nation are big, but our trust in our women's resilience has no boundaries."


[+/-]

26 June 2007

Junior's Ongoing Wreckage

After 4 years, electricity still luxury: Iraqi struggles endure despite billions spent
By James Janega, Tribune staff reporter. Nadeem Majeed in Baghdad contributed to this report
Published June 25, 2007

BAGHDAD -- Surviving without electricity in the simmering Baghdad summer poses an unwelcome choice for 22-year-old Ferrah al-Caisy.

With the limited amperage of her family's generator, she can use their second-rate air cooler to battle temperatures pushing 120 degrees, or she can switch on the pump to pull water to their fourth-floor shower.

But neither the timid cooler nor the tepid water really cools her off, she says, and it takes full-blown city power to run an air conditioner -- a forgotten luxury now that electricity is available barely two hours a day.

"Sometimes I cry, I swear," she said as a fan churned hot air through her apartment. "This stuff? It doesn't help that much, you know."

This is about as good as it gets for Baghdad residents, who have waited four years since the U.S. invasion for the lights to come back on -- and will have to go on waiting into the foreseeable future.

Under pressure to find an endgame for American involvement in Iraq, U.S. officials ordered a surge of troops to open the broad offensive last week against insurgents. At the same time, officials are wrapping up once-ambitious efforts to restore Iraq's electricity, far short of original goals.

The U.S. is within months of exhausting its $4 billion reconstruction fund for Iraq's electrical sector, meaning the end of American efforts to underwrite what had been the signature reconstruction mission of the initial occupation.

Nowadays, when American electrical advisers in Baghdad discuss projects to "generate capacity," they refer not to new power plants but to training Iraqis to take over the complicated rebuilding effort.

Fuel problems, sabotage, regional disputes and overdue maintenance dogged the first months of 2007, contributing to average generation of 3,877 megawatts of power, less than the estimated 4,300 megawatts produced before the war. Though outlying provinces gained more electricity than they had under Saddam Hussein, feeble production and surging demand have meant far less for Baghdad, and it is reliable nowhere.

Within the next year, fixing the problem will fall to Iraq's government ministries. And under the best of conditions, Electricity Minister Karim Hasan says, it will be years before supply reaches demand -- 2010 at the earliest.

Read it here.

[+/-]

The True Cost of Junior's Folly

High survival rate for wounded in Iraq presents new challenges: Health-care cost may total $650B, an economist says

More than 3,500 Americans have died in Iraq, but tens of thousands more are coming home, some tragically wounded. This week The Associated Press begins the first of an occasional series that looks at those who survived, the scars that they bear and what their long-term care will mean.

More than 800 of them have lost an arm, a leg, fingers or toes. More than 100 are blind. Dozens need tubes and machines to keep them alive. Hundreds are disfigured by burns, and thousands have brain injuries and damaged minds.

These are America’s war wounded, a toll that has received less attention than the 3,500 troops killed in Iraq. Depending on how you count them, they number between 35,000 and 53,000.

More of them are coming home, with injuries of a scope and magnitude the government did not predict and is now struggling to treat.

“If we left Iraq tomorrow, we would have the legacy of all these people for many years to come,” said Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and an adviser to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “The military simply wasn’t prepared for its own success” at keeping severely wounded soldiers alive, he said.

Survival rates today are even higher than the record levels set early in the war, because of body armor and better care. For every American soldier or Marine killed in Iraq, 15 others have survived illness or injury there.

Unlike in previous wars, few of them have been shot. The signature weapon of this war - the improvised explosive device, or IED - has left a signature wound: traumatic brain injury.

Soldiers hit in the head or knocked out by blasts - “getting your bell rung” is the military euphemism - sometimes have no visible wounds but a fog of war in their minds. They can be addled, irritable, depressed and unaware they are impaired.

Read the rest here.

[+/-]

25 June 2007

Ending the Iraq War - Hayden and Rudd

Tom Hayden and Mark Rudd (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Ending The War In Iraq - Hayden On Organizing Against Permanent War
June 24th, 2007 by Thomas Good

New York, NY - June 18, 2007. On Monday, June 18th, Tom Hayden spoke at Barnes and Noble in the Village to promote his new book: Ending The War In Iraq. Hayden has formulated a theory of the origins of the war: the US ‘Machiavellian State’, and what sustains it; ‘pillars of support’. Part of this formulation is the need to “build a
long-term anti-empire, pro-democracy movement as permanent force” to end the present war and prevent future relapses {1}. The talk given at B&N, from an obviously exhausted Hayden (jet lag), discussed his personal bitterness at how the two major wars that haunt modern US memory have stolen years of his life (and diverted his attention from other struggles), how essential it is to stay focused on attainable goals and how it’s ok to win. He also offered a strategy to attain victory. Although he described himself as a “politician” several times - as opposed to characterizing himself as a “Movement person” (which is the term he employed a year ago) he seemed to do so with a certain wry humor. Humor permeated the event - which, like the new book, drove home the point that the long struggle ahead requires well trained organizers - and a thoughtful approach.

Hayden arrived late to the event - it was announced that he was stuck in traffic. When he walked to the podium he remarked that he was very jetlagged and may not have answers to the question of ending the Iraq War but immediately began addressing the issue in his usual sardonic and erudite manner. Hayden expressed his own frustration that the US war on Viet Nam had interrupted his organizing efforts in another war - the war on poverty. He remarked that the Iraq War produced similar feelings. But he also noted that we have to make a commitment to ending this obscene war - not just for humanitarian reasons but “because we can win” - and that winning can help us prevent future wars. He went on to note that there were many similarities to the US war on Viet Nam but many differences too and that this latest manifestion of Capital’s war on civilization could be ended without “blood in the streets”. He commented that the Peace Movement was far more successful in mobilizing against this war than it was mobilizing against the Viet Nam war, forty years ago. Hayden cited a number of developments that indicated that while George Bush the first may have announced a cure for the “Vietnam Syndrome”, reports of its demise were premature. The evidence is to be found in the emergence of a number of related phenomena: people in the streets before the war started; the rise of alternative media - Democracy Now being one example; the effect of the internet on organizing as evidenced by Howard Dean and MoveOn.org; and the ousting of the morally bankrupt Republican majority in November, 2006. Hayden spent some time reminding the large crowd that, just as activists in the 60s felt they were ineffective our own feelings of impotence are not accurate. The problem, according to Hayden, is that we don’t know how to accept that we have won occasional victories. He joked that anytime we win, as with last November’s trouncing of the Republicans, we have an “identity crisis” - asking ourselves “have we sold out - by getting majority status?” (in public opinion) rather than reveling in a victory - and learning from it. “That leaves one question: if you agree with me that we’ve come a long way - how do we end the war?” he asked.

The answer, he argued, is contained in the question - what does it take to sustain a war? By removing the “pillars” essential to keeping the war going, he mused, we can effectively end it.

Recruiters try to hustle the working class “by offering war in Iraq disguised as a college education.”

Hayden listed several of the “pillars” of support for the war, familiar to most who have followed the development of his argument in articles on tomhayden.com and in workshops:

Public Opinion - which has shifted against the war, both in the US and in Iraq
Committed Soldiers - most of whom have been alienated by the back door draft and ’stop loss’ programs that keep them indentured servants of the Empire.
Bipartisan Support in Washington - all but evaporated by all accounts
Global Support - The ‘Coalition Of The Willing’, in terms of international support, has disintegrated as European nations have pulled their troops out of Iraq
Military Recruitment - in dismal shape as evidenced by the Pentagon now targeting their fiercest enemy: Parents
“The Iraqi state is more a fiction than not.” - Hayden

The way forward, according to Hayden, is to force politicians seeking office to be “as antiwar as possible” in a presidential election. Hayden revealed that MoveOn.org has 90 paid organizers working to make this happen. The Bush/Hamilton plan, designed to leave 30,000 US ‘trainers’ in Iraq and fashion an oil law that would allow US and UK oil companies to return to Iraq must be confronted and declared unacceptable - by forcing politicians to face the fact that the pillars of support for the war are gone and the best they can hope for, as emmissaries of a “Machiavellian State” is to save face by getting out while the getting is good. The way to do this, according to Hayden, is to (1) work towards creating an Iraqi government that will invite us to leave (as opposed to installing and propping up a “harsh, sectarian, repressive state”); (2) setting a “date certain” by which all US troops will be withdrawn, and; (3) by seeking international assistance to help stabilize Iraq once the US is out. Hayden argued that a “face saving” peace is what a “Machiavellian Superpower” must have in order to prevent a drawn out blood bath - and antiwar activists must pressure politicians to accept the need for a face saving peace and to work towards realizing it. This task is getting easier, according to Hayden: “(As) the pillars go down, the politicians will support ending the war,” he said.

“Politicans are human beings, I have carefully concluded…but their incentive is to stay in power.” - Hayden

Hayden urged activists to stay focused and to keep their eyes on the prize - the goal of ending the System that produces wars like Viet Nam and Iraq cannot be attained overnight but by ending the war a serious defeat can be handed to the Machiavellians who would pursue a policy of permanent war. So, as Bush suffers “impeachment by a thousand cuts”, activists must continue to press those politicians who have jumped off his sinking ship to support ending the war.

Hayden’s scholarly examination of the etiology of the war - and his prescription for ending it are elaborated in his new book. Chapter Four, in particular, will be useful to organizers. Hayden lists eight “pillars” in separate sections with each section being concluded by a laundry list of what actions antiwar activists can take to knock down these pillars of greed and avarice.

Hayden’s TODO List for Antiwar Activists

The following items are drawn from the book {2} and presented here not in terms of the pillars formulation but by a broader theme each grouping holds in common. What struck me on reading the book was that the tasks are very good - well thought out - but not every group or oraganizer has the same electoral approach as Hayden. However, even those who do not share Hayden’s electoral focus can find things in the book that are very useful. The book is a good read, informative in many ways and full of good strategic and tactical advice for organizers - some of which is presented below. The speech was not Hayden’s best but many parts of it were fascinating. And the book is a worthy complement to Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals and Randy Shaw’s Activist’s Handbook.

Here is what antiwar activists must do to end the war, according to Hayden…

Confront The Media’s Complicity In The War:

Demand the media (and politicians) report on Iraqi public opinion polls.
Hold accountable the elites who control mass-media (and politics).
Lobby the mainstream media to demand better Iraq coverage.
Expand the independent media to all corners of society. Create community based outlets whose purpose is to expose and publicize the stories marginalized by mainstream media.
Demand that Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health figure of 655,000 Iraqi war-related civilian deaths (between March 2003 and July 2006) be acknowledged as the most credible.
Confront The Politicians’ Complicity In The War:

Demand hearings on taxpayer funding for Iraqi ministries “filled by militias and death squads.”
Demand to know why American troops are supporting the Shi’a-Kurdish side in a civil war - rather than a transitional government that could set a deadline for the U.S. departure in an orderly way.
Work on the fencesitting voter to end the war. Do grassroots outreach in congressional districts.
Isolate and divide President Bush from Republicans by threat of greater political defeat if his administration deepens the quagmire any further.
Establish local coalitions to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to be elected president in 2008 without a pledge and a plan to withdraw.
Demand all candidates for public office refer to the costs of war in their platforms and public presentations.
Demand accountability, indictments for fraud, and new policies for dealing directly with Iraqis for reconstruction.
Demand the new Congress hold hearings on torture, rendition, repression, and domestic spying.
Support Representative Henry Waxman’s hearings on war profiteering by Halliburton et al.
Coalition Activism:

Build links with labor/fair trade coalitions around anti-privatization issues, using Iraq as an example; and with environmental groups citing Iraq as one of the worst oil-pollution sites in world.
Support the ACLU in their opposition to the Patriot Act.
Build coalitions with inner-city, labor, senior, health, education, and environmental groups, along with local officials.
Encourage clergy and people of faith to take the lead in denouncing the immorality of the war, refusing taxes for torture, and countering pro-war stands among Christian and Jewish neoconservatives.
Apply pressure on the (UN) Security Council members by creating links between movements, NGOs, and parliamentarians - through the Internet and in venues like the World Social Forum.
Grassroots Organizing:

Oppose the resumption of a military draft.
Identify soldiers and military families petitioning against the war as potential spokespeople.
Demand funds for protective equipment, veterans’ benefits, health treatment, and peer counseling for soldiers.
Distribute and organize community forums around films like Arlington West and The Ground Truth.
Bring home the costs of war using data from sources like the National Priorities Project to reveal the impact on education, health care, housing, and the environment.
Increase counter-recruitment and anti-contractor campaigns.
Set a goal of doubling the active group membership every year.
Build an ongoing and expanding e-mail alert list.
Develop the capacity to intervene with endorsements, volunteers, and funding in contested political races, including party committee races.
Work with online groups to publicly oppose pro-war or compromised candidates for office.
Assign a liaison to every high school and community college campus to oppose military recruiters.
Assign a liaison to veterans opposed to the war and veterans’ benefits advocates.
Assign liaisons to local groups facing budget cutbacks on domestic programs.
Develop the capacity to carry out effective civil disobedience.
Local groups should position themselves where they can be effective without putting unrealistic strains on their own resources.

{1} www.tomhayden.com/strategy.htm
{2} pp 173-217, Ending The War In Iraq, Tom Hayden ISBN-13: 978-1933354453


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Amerikkkan Bankruptcy?

And to Its Fabled Economy: Goodbye to the City on the Hill

"We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us." -- John Winthrop

America is being destroyed. Many Americans are unaware, others are indifferent, and some intend it.

The destruction is across the board: the political and constitutional system, the economy, social institutions including the family itself, citizenship, and the character and morality of the American people.

Those who rely on the Internet for information are aware that the Bush regime has successfully assaulted the separation of powers and civil liberty. Both Bush and Cheney claim that they are not bound by laws that impinge on their freedom of action or that interfere with their ideas of the power of their offices. Bush has issued presidential directives that permit him to make himself a dictator by declaring a national emergency. Cheney asserts that his handling of secret documents is not subject to oversight or investigation or bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information.

The foundation of social organization--marriage, family, and parental control over children--is disintegrating.

Mass unassimilated and illegal immigration has destroyed the meaning of American citizenship and forced large numbers of Americans into unemployment. For example, Steve Camarota at the Center for Immigration Studies reported on June 20 that state employment data show that in the first six years of the 21st century 218,000 high school graduates in the state of Georgia have been employment-displaced by immigrants. Moreover, wages have stagnated, putting the lie to the claim that there is a shortage of workers. If there were a labor shortage, wages would be bid up and rising.

Many Americans are unconcerned that the US government in behalf of an undeclared agenda has invaded two countries, killed hundreds of thousands of foreign civilians, produced 4 million Iraqi refugees, rejected the Geneva Conventions and reverted to medieval torture dungeons. It does not trouble them that their government blocked ceasefires and UN resolutions so that Israel could bomb and murder Lebanese civilians and destroy the country's infrastructure.

Americans, whose ethical behavior toward others was once reinforced by having to look oneself in the mirror, now have a different ethos.
Many cannot look themselves in the mirror unless they have pulled a fast one and advanced themselves at someone else's expense. It is not only crooked prosecutors, such as Michael Nifong, who get their jollies from destroying their fellow citizens.

A google search will call up enough information to make the case for these points many times over. However, the destruction of the US economy, though far advanced, is still largely unknown. It is to this subject that we turn.

For a number of years Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services and I have documented from BLS nonfarm payroll jobs data that the US economy in the 21st century no longer creates net new jobs in tradable goods and services. In the 21st century, job growth in "the world's only superpower" has a definite third world flavor. US job growth has been limited to domestic services that cannot be moved offshore, such as waitresses and bartenders and health and social services.

These are not jobs that comprise ladders of upward mobility. Income inequality is worsening, and education is no longer the answer.

The problem is that middle class jobs, both in manufacturing and in professional occupations such as engineering, are being offshored as corporations replace their American workforces with foreigners. I have called jobs offshoring "virtual immigration."

The latest bombshell is that even those professional jobs that remain located in America are not safe. There is a vast industry of immigration law firms that enable American corporations to replace their American workers with foreigners brought in on work visas.

For years Americans have been told that work visas are only issued in cases where there are no Americans with the necessary skills to fill the jobs. Americans have been reassured that safeguards are in place to prevent US companies from using the work visas to replace their American employees with foreigners paid below the prevailing US wage. Now, thanks to a video placed on "YouTube" by a US law firm, Cohen & Grigsby, marketing its services, we now know that it is easy for US companies to legally evade the "safeguards" and to replace their American employees with lower paid foreigners.

The video shows Lawrence Lebowitz, Vice President for Marketing for the law firm of Cohen & Grigsby, together with a panel of the law firm's attorneys, explaining to an audience of employers how to use loopholes in the laws governing the work visas to hire foreign workers in place of Americans. Lebowitz says, "our goal is clearly, not to find a qualified and interested US worker."

Cohen & Grigsby's legal experts describe the strategy for ensuring that no American firm has to hire an American. The advertising requirements can be met by advertising the job in obscure or ethnic newspapers in locations where there are no likely job candidates. If a qualified American candidate turns up, "have the manager of that specific position step in and . . . go through the whole process to find a legal basis to disqualify them for this position--in most cases there doesn't seem to be a problem."

The "prevailing wage" requirement is evaded, for example, by making the offered salary and raises contingent on receipt of the green card, usually 3 or 4 years away, or by disguising the job by understating the job requirements. For example, a job requiring an advanced degree can be listed as requiring a bachelor's degree, but filled with a foreigner with a higher degree. As the higher degree is not listed as a job requirement, the employer is able to secure the foreign employee below the prevailing wage.

University of California computer science professor Norman Matloff has an excellent presentation available at his online site about the lack of impediments to the ability of US firms to replace their American employees with foreigners. Matloff says to keep in mind that Cohen & Grigsby "is NOT a rogue law firm." The advice provided by Cohen & Grigsby is the standard advice given by the hoards of immigration attorneys who are personally cleaning up by putting Americans out of work.

Except for Lou Dobbs on CNN, the US TV and print media have so far ignored the astounding story. Where are the headlines: "US Jobs: No American Need Apply"?

Chances are high that economists will ignore the story also.
Economists have made fools of themselves with their hyped claims that jobs offshoring is a great benefit to America and that any attempt to stop it would bring hardship, failed companies, and lost American jobs. When a profession gets egg all over its face, it closes ranks and goes into denial.

Unlike the post-depression generation of US economists, recent generations of economists have been indoctrinated with confidence in business. They believe that business knows best and that the free market will prevent or correct any mistakes. Many economists today are well paid shills for special interests. Others, simply careless, have assumed that statistical measures of high rates of US productivity and GDP growth were indications of the benefits that offshoring was bringing to Americans.

Only a few economists, such as myself and Charles McMillion, noticed the inconsistency between alleged high rates of productivity and GDP growth on one hand and stagnant real median incomes and rising income inequality on the other. Somehow the US economy was having GDP and productivity growth that was not showing up in growth in the incomes of Americans.

Thanks to economist Susan N. Houseman and the March 22 issue of Business Week, we now know, as I reported in the print edition of CounterPunch (June 1-15, 2007) and on online at vdare.com, that much of the growth in US productivity and GDP was an illusion created by statistics that mistakenly attributed productivity gains achieved abroad to the US economy.

With the ladders of upward mobility for Americans dismantled by offshoring and work visas, with the very real problems in mortgage and housing markets, with the very real stress put on the US dollar's reserve currency role by Bush's trillion dollar war that is financed by foreigners, with the downward revisions in US GDP and productivity growth that are now mandatory, and with a variety of other problems that I haven't the space to deal with, the fabled US economy is a thing of the past.

Just like America's prestige. Just like the world's goodwill toward America. Just like American liberty.

The eyes of all peoples are still upon us, only for different reasons. Whom will we attack next? When will we be bankrupt? What good is the American consumer market when the mass of the people are employed in third world jobs? How much longer will those trillions of dollars held by foreign governments be worth anything? How long before Americans will be knocking on European doors claiming political asylum.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com


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Understanding the After Effects of Wartime

Reflections of a Vietnam War Widow: It Doesn't End When They Come Home
By Penny Coleman, AlterNet. Posted June 25, 2007.

The Department of Defense recently announced that it was hiring additional mental health professionals to deal with the stream of traumatized vets returning from the occupation of Iraq. A widow of an earlier war warns that the effort may be too little and too late.

Daniel and I met at a campground in the Rocky Mountains six months after he got home from Vietnam. It was 1970, and I had just graduated from college. I had helped Abbie Hoffman levitate the Pentagon and turn it orange. I had listened to Jimi Hendrix make love and war to "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock. I had helped organize the campus shutdown when we found out that Nixon had secretly been bombing Cambodia.

But in my world, people got deferments. I didn't actually know any veterans. And here was this sweet, pretty boy who had seen the war up close. He suggested that if I brought over my wine, he would share his marijuana. We sat up talking by the campfire all night, and by morning I thought I might be falling in love.

We had one glorious summer on the back side of Vancouver Island, camping on the beach, playing in the water and in each other. By the end of the summer, we had made plans. It was not an easy marriage. He was hurt in ways I didn't understand. I can't know whether he would have been able to tell me where his sadness lived, but I was high on righteousness and he was high on everything else. Perhaps if I had been more open-minded, he would have felt safe enough to talk. I wish I had been able to listen better, but I was 22. And I had no idea what I was up against.

Daniel and I would have fights, the kind of fights that most couples have, but his rage was explosive and frightening, and after it burned out, he would take to his bed with the blinds drawn. All he would tell me was that he wasn't sure whether or not he wanted to live. I took on the job of saving him. I read him poetry, held his hand, played him meaningful songs.

Six years later, when things were really coming apart, I came home one night and found him in the back yard, mostly dead from the fistfuls of pills he had swallowed. The swirling red lights and the ambulance ride and the hospital scene were a brutal and abrupt end to my childhood. He screamed at me from his hospital bed that he would do it again as soon as he was released. I decided that was extortion and left. When his sister called to tell me he had made good on his promise, the guilt and shame I felt made it impossible to grieve.

I tell the story today because I believe one of the reasons the occupation of Iraq has been allowed to continue for as long as it has is that, beyond the relatively small circle of military families, the individual costs have been so successfully obscured. With the exception of the appalling images from Abu Ghraib (which were e-mailed home by soldiers themselves), we have been insulated from a war that is being fought in a manner that would sicken most of us if we had access. Vietnam-era images, like the naked child trying to outrun her own burning skin, or the anguished women and children waiting their turn to be executed at My Lai, were catalysts that helped turn public opinion against that war. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Pentagon issued a directive to the media forbidding any coverage of returning American coffins. No coffins, no funerals, no wounds, no tears. We've been deprived of the opportunity to check in with our consciences and our compassion.

We have also been deprived of an honest appraisal of what the future mental health care needs of veterans will be. Inconvenient truths have been buried about the ways in which war predictably damages soldiers' minds. Those who are coming back from these new wars have already been changed. Some may discover places in their psyches where their combat memories will not be overly disabling, but far too many have been seriously injured by their experiences, their futures irreparably diminished.

At some point, years later, I began to understand how insidiously my experiences after Vietnam had poisoned my life. I was afraid to begin relationships and afraid to end them. Every time one of my children got a C on a chemistry test, I would be thrown into a state of panic. The fear of suicide followed me around like a deer fly, always on the edge of my consciousness.

When the news reports claiming that the number of Vietnam vets who had killed themselves after coming home from the war exceeded the number of names on the Wall, a different understanding began to penetrate. What if Daniel's death had not been my fault? What if it was, in fact, the war and not some personal failure?

Having entertained the possibility that perhaps I was a war widow and not a black widow, I started looking for other women who had also lost their husbands to suicide after the war. My book Flashback is the result of that outreach. The years of research, the interviews, and the soul-searching that went into that effort have begun some kind of healing process. I have a bit more compassion for that young woman who failed to save the man she had tried so hard to love. In my less healthy moments, I still struggle to believe it was not my fault.

In the wake of the Iraq war, a new generation will struggle with similar problems. Thirty-five percent of returning vets have already sought out mental health treatment since coming home, and, as the symptoms of PTSD often take years to manifest themselves and the stigma still discourages many from asking for the help they need, these numbers are only the ominous beginning. Moreover, every war not only creates its own casualties, but reignites the symptoms of veterans of previous wars. The Washington Post reported a year ago that 'Vietnam veterans are the vast majority of VA's PTSD disability cases--more than 73 percent." Ten thousand of those were new claims filed by veterans who were entering the system for the first time, more that thirty years after their war came to an end.

Read the rest here.

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