Friday, December 22, 2006

The Bush in the Bunker

As we come to close the year
It seems the choices now are clear
Iraq is as broken as the glass
That toasted victory so crass
Aboard a ship so close to shore
That Pendleton was at the door
While Neocons so hale and hearty
Sent Marines to their death party
Leave now or double down
And view the blood on Bush’s crown

In this theater of the absurd, we see George W. Bush looking for vindication for a failed preemptive war policy badly handled by like-minded Neocons. This is a war that never should have happened, but for the likes of incompetent ideologues might still have been won. Bush, ever impervious to negative information, sent Paul Bremer, an imperial pro-consul, to administer the destruction of a culture that endured decades of internal differences laid on a history of centuries of rich art, language, and custom. Qualified administrators and soldiers were summarily dismissed and the gates of hell were opened to the New Order now known gently as Disorder.

Today’s theater reminds me of the last days of Hitler in the bunker in Berlin. At that time in late April 1945, the curtain opens on a haggard unitary executive and War Leader swearing vengeance on Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering who has offered to take over the reins of power. Hitler is surrounded by only his most loyal sycophants including Propaganda Minister Goebbels and family, Martin Bormann and Eva Braun, his mistress. He still points to the map and moves his phantom divisions to counter the Russian millions moving west (as the remaining Wehrmacht) and the American and British thousands moving east. Hitler’s reality is the map and the loyalty of the dream weaver Goebbels. The bunker transforms reality from the flesh and blood of soldiers now losing a colossal preemptive war to the two dimensional markers on a map.

Now before anybody attacks me for comparing Bush to Hitler, I know several differences. Bush never used slave labor. He never denied humanity to Jews. He never invaded Poland and he is clean-shaven. I focus on the mentality of the leader in the bunker who lashes out at those who had been his allies and fails to see his own hand in the damage to his homeland and its army. I focus on the absurd creation of a new reality that is unsupported by commonly perceived fact. In November, the nation clearly told Bush to get out of Iraq. Bush saw this as an opportunity to double down his phantom brigades in an all-out attempt to prove that his ideology will provide “victory.” When Hitler finally realized that he was hearing artillery explosions in the garden over the Fuhrerbunker, he put his affairs in order, married Eva and wrote a last will and testament. He also put out an order to arrest Heinrich Himmler for attempting to negotiate with the enemy and blamed “International Jewry” for all the losses. Will Bush awaken from his dream of victory to hear the explosions of the American people over his failed leadership or will he simply dismiss those who disagree with him and continue to deploy his phantom brigades until there is no negotiation possible and no brigade remaining?

In researching for this essay, I read the Kubler-Ross model of five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance). While many of you might speculate as to exactly where Bush is in that model, I have created a new model from my own observations that may provide some insight. Leaders like Bush who are so self-centered tend to move through only three actual stages of redemption. First, they try desperately to save face. They blame everyone else except themselves and surround themselves with propagandists who can paint foreign allies or even homeland Democrats for his failed policy. Next, they try to save ass. They scramble to protect their physical family fortunes as well as their written historical legacies (the Nixon Library?). Finally, much in the model of Vietnam War Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, they try to save their souls with Mea Culpas as though divine guidance suddenly penetrated the bunker. Unfortunately, it took McNamara 25 years to try to save his soul. Bush is still trying to save face. Will it take that long for Bush to come to peace with himself? People in leadership can simultaneously be struggling with the Kubler-Ross model (Denial for Bush) while working through the stages of redemption.

All the families of the soldiers and Marines have been abruptly dumped into the Kubler-Ross model without sharing that sacrifice with fellow Americans. As recently as yesterday, Bush told us to go shopping. That is not sharing the sacrifice. We are a nation in grief and need to share that grief with those suffering the direct losses. It is time to stop ignoring our heroic dead in flag-draped coffins. It is time to put the cost of the war on the budget books and at least let Americans share the cost of the lost lives, limbs and jobs of returning veterans by providing a warm and sincere welcome home to those who have borne the burden of battle.

If Christmas is nothing else, it is the promise of sharing the pain of life and the hope of everlasting redemption. Let us pray.

George Giacoppe
22 December 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The United States of Israel?

Of all the responses to the much-anticipated Iraq Study Group’s report, none is so stunning as that emerging from the Neocon factory that brought us such hits as the Iraq war. In fact, even before the report was issued, neocon organs like the Weekly Standard and the pages of conservative publications like the Wall Street Journal and the National Review were ringing with denunciations of ISG co-chair James Baker. This is the same Jim Baker who engineered George W. Bush’s theft of the 2000 election, the same Baker who served both George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan as Secretary of State and Chief of Staff. And yet, he is now characterized as an appeaser in the mold of Neville Chamberlain, someone whom Frank Gaffney, for example, attacks as “hostile towards Jews”:

“Jim Baker’s hostility towards the Jews is a matter of record and has endeared him to Israel’s foes in the region,” wrote Gaffney, suggesting that the ISG…would recommend a regional approach that would “throw free Iraq to the wolves” and “allow the Mideast’s only bona fide democracy, the Jewish State, to be snuffed in due course.”
(Jim Lobe, “Neocons Move to Pre-empt Baker Report,” Dec. 6, 2006, Inter Press Service.)

But wait. Why this anti-Israel tirade against Baker? Clearly, it derives from the report’s recommendations 1) that any comprehensive plan for Iraq must include a major American push towards a plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; and 2) that a diplomatic initiative must be developed to include talks with Syria and Iran. Both of these recommendations are anathema to Israel, which has long sought to break up any nation in the Middle East that gains even a hint of power that might threaten Israeli dominance. Talk with Syria? Talk with Iran? Israel seeks to cripple both (as the invasion, and now imminent breakup, of Iraq did to that one-time rival. In which regard it is worth noting that that other champion of Israel, Senator Joe Lieberman, both supported the Iraq war in full, and has now attacked the ISG’s ideas about talks with Iran and Syria.). Solve the Palestinian conflict? That could only mean concessions by Israel, something it has vowed never to do.

All of which brings us to the nub of the issue: America’s corridors of power and influence now include large numbers of policy makers and pundits who seem to think—and would like us to think—that Israel is part of the United States. Or vice versa. The Neocons who brought us the Iraq war exemplify this attitude. They have no reservations about arguing, publicly, that a policy such as that suggested by the ISG would be harmful to Israel’s interests. But what about the national interest of the United States of America? Where do American policymakers and elected officials get off arguing for the national interest of a foreign power? Since when does “What’s good for Israel” take precedence over “What’s good for America?” This is precisely the point made by Anthony Sullivan in a December 8, 2006 article in The National Interest online. Commenting on a Foreign Affairs article by neocon Joshua Muravchik urging President Bush to bomb Iran before he leaves office, Sullivan writes:

"But Muravchik deserves our thanks for making the Neoconservative position crystal clear. Some might even conclude that Muravchik’s and the Neoconservative’ real concern is not the United States but Israel. Apparently, American national interests are threatened both by numerous enemies abroad and some fifth columnists at home."

How refreshing that someone finally calls it as it is: “the Neoconservatives’ real concern is not the United States but Israel,” which makes them, literally, “fifth columnists.”
There was a time when “fifth columnists” and those who put a foreign government’s interests above their own would be arrested and tried for treason. Perhaps that day, long overdue, is coming again.
Copyright 2006
Lawrence DiStasi

Saturday, December 09, 2006

You are what you eat

E.coli: A man-made problem

The latest E.coli scare at Taco Bell needs to be put in perspective.Michael Pollan, in his recent book, The Omnivore¹s Dilemma, gives us the information to do just that. Pollan points out that E.coli (Escherichiacoli), a bacterium normally found in the rumen, or gut, of cows, and hence,in their manure, has never been much of a problem for humans. As he says,"most of the microbes that reside in the gut of a cow and find their wayinto our food get killed off by the strong acids in our stomachs, since they [E.coli] evolved to live in the neutral pH environment of the rumen."However, since industrial agriculture has forced the feeding of surplus corn to cows that evolved to eat grass, today¹s corn-fed feedlot cows not only get sick on their unnatural diet (requiring massive doses of antibiotics),but now have a rumen that is "nearly as acidic as our own." It is in this new environment created by humans, specifically by industrial agriculture,that "new acid-resistant strains of E.coli have evolved." So now, what we have to contend with is a lethal strain of the bacteria, E.coli 0157:H7, that can thrive in an acidic environment. The protection that our stomach acids once provided against E.coli no longer works. Any useof cow manure for fertilizer, or runoff from the massive manure ponds that accumulate on industrial feedlots, can now contaminate the crops we eat, and thereby poison any number of humans. E.coli can also, of course, find its way into our meat supply. In this regard, Pollan points out something even more infuriating. It has recently been learned that most of the problem with E.coli 0157:H7 in meat can be eliminated by the simple measure of allowing each cow to eat hay for a few days prior to slaughter. This reduces the E.coli by nearly 80%. But, Pollan writes, grass is now "considered wildly impractical by the cattle industry and by the USDA. Their preferred solution for dealing with bacterial contamination is irradiation, essentially, to try to sterilize the manure getting into the meat." (all quotes, p. 80, The Omnivore¹s Dilemma). Could anything represent so vividly the insanity of the philosophy that now reigns supreme--not just in American agriculture, but throughout aneconomic system that consistently privileges technology and profit above nature and people.
Copyright 2006
Lawrence DiStasi

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Puppet Cut His Strings


The Decider has decided
That we should be divided
Unless you do his will
And swallow all that swill
Of Victory without a win
And justice just as spin
But all that Georgie sires
Is the mother of all quagmires
Even the Malaki puppet
Has told George to stuff it

Again, George W has failed to respond to the will of the people even while citing the will of the people in his press conferences and in his escapes from the homeland to visit Vietnam and Jordan as well as a tense few hours in Malaysia. He is rushing to make judicial appointments for the right wing reactionaries and has ignored Republicans and Democrats alike while talking of bipartisanship. He may not be trainable and has not yet learned that the people want us out of Iraq as quickly as we can leave. He speaks of progress in Iraq but continues to grind away at a “Stay the Course” approach with ever diminishing forces due to accumulating attrition of the Army through back-to-back tours in the hell that is Iraq. Retired General McCaffrey now claims that it will require $60 Billion merely to repair and replace the equipment used in Iraq. McCaffrey is no wild-eyed Socialist, but was the “Drug Czar” under GW Bush.

The platoon of Neocons that engineered this preemptive war is now a chorus of critics claiming that Bush ran the war badly. Bush did run the war badly along with at least some of the same Neocons who sacked Garner and enthroned Bremer thus enabling the insurgency to take root by instantaneously creating jobless Bathists and Iraqi Army veterans at every level who had few choices left. Doug Feith and Richard Perle have not suddenly found religion, but simply want to distance themselves from a failure that has their signatures all over it. Perhaps Paul Wolfowitz has kept his silence since he still has a job at the World Bank, but I would not be surprised if he found a way to disown the Devil Seed that has become Iraq at war with itself. Donald Rumsfeld will probably blame the disaster on “unknown unknowns,” but he is now irrelevant. Incoming Secretary Gates will probably revert to what he knows best and find a way to replicate Iran Contra in the Middle East except that Iran now has other sources for weapons.

Bush still speaks of victory in Iraq as though mere perseverance will save the day and that only a few changes in tactics are needed to turn the tide. Even while in Vietnam in the past few days, when asked to link the loss in Vietnam to the situation in Iraq, he stated that the lesson to be taken from Vietnam is that we should have stayed longer to win. We were there 10 years. Vietnam may not be the showplace of freedom and democracy, but it is now stable. Could it have been stable sooner if we had left sooner? The American people wanted us out of Vietnam and that fact is not some mere accessory to the notion of war, but is integral with waging war. If it is not the will of the people in a democracy such as ours that we wage war, especially a preemptive war, then who should do so? I seriously wonder about those of us who say that we could have won the war in Vietnam if it were not for the fact that the American populace rebelled and stopped the war. In a democracy, the will of the people is needed to wage war.

The man in the bubble lives his FOX News fantasy.
The Bush state of denial includes his insistence that Iraq is not in Civil War despite all the academic and practical evidence to the contrary. I guess that he is waiting for the statues and memorials to be built to acknowledge a civil war. Of course, if he were to admit that we were in the midst of a civil war, even he would not be able to defend the maintenance of forces in Iraq. General Officers who only last week concluded that we were in a civil war have marched about and are saying that it is not a civil war. In fact, the Pentagon (a building, remember) has indicated that we will send an additional 3500 troops to Iraq in January. This may be another sign of chaos at the Animal Farm (White House) with the Animal House Fraternity president. Bush now claims that al Qaeda has caused all this trouble with their attack on a Shiite mosque last spring. That, too, is irrelevant given that they are in their “last throes” anyway (Cheney) and never amounted to more than 3% of the forces facing American and Iraqi troops. As an ultimate sign that the Bush intelligence system is unproductive, today, Malaki refused to meet with Bush in Jordan. The puppet has not only cut his strings, but he has pooped in the lap of the puppeteer. More puppets can be made. Make your predictions.

George Giacoppe
29 November 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Election Season


What an October surprise
With Neocons caught in their lies
It’s even more funny
To follow the money
Of payoff to Power
From Florida’s flower
And Abramoff ‘s fling
To buy the West Wing
While a Puppet cuts his string
And the angels sing

The past week or two has seen severe unraveling of the Right Wing propaganda blanket. Despite some ludicrous attempts to blame the unacceptable behavior of Mark Foley on Democrats including Bill Clinton, the facts are clear that Foley used his position to thumb through pages to the point of instant messaging when he should have been voting. Susan Ralston, Rove’s aide, resigned when it became obvious that she and Abramoff had good seats for the best events. Even the venerable “Stay the Course” mantra was sharply demoted when Bush and crew suggested that it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Introduction of “benchmarks” seems to be a prelude to “stride and hide” if not “cut and run.” Al Malaki, the puppet, objected and threatened to cut his strings. Cocaine Brain personally went on the stump for Don Sherwood, who paid a settlement to a former mistress for choking her, saying that he was not trying to kill her. I guess that he is not a killer, but likes rough sex and deserves Bush support for his family values. I had to look twice to believe that Rep. Gibbons (R) of Nevada was caught choking a woman outside a bar in Las Vegas. The woman made 3 calls to 911 and then dropped charges. Maybe Gibbons was testing the emergency system for Homeland Security.

All this has a serious side, however, because it causes us to take our eyes off the tragedy that is Iraq and the fact that we are today organizing a naval exercise in the Persian Gulf that has the obvious potential to draw Iran into a fight instead of talking with our enemies there and elsewhere. Meanwhile, our national reputation for torture is promoted by Cheney’s remarks on dunking detainees as a “no-brainer.” We have a lot of work to do whether these losers lose at the polls or not. No laurels. No gloating. Win at the polls and then roll up your sleeves to put our nation on a road to positive change. Redeploy and rededicate our military to national defense. End the waste, fraud and abuse of outsourcing our logistics in Iraq. Destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Return our right of habeas corpus at home.
George Giacoppe
28 October 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Scott Ritter on Democracy Now’s Oct. 16, 2006 radio broadcast made what should be considered a critical observation. He pointed out that in the runup to the war with Iraq, and now in what he sees as a similar runup to war with Iran, the Bush administration has publicly accused a Middle East nation of having secret programs to build, store and deliver Weapons of Mass Destruction. No certifiable evidence is offered of either nation’s possession of such weapons or the programs to build them. Iraq and Iran are simply accused, with the U.S. President, Vice-President and Secretary of State repeatedly asserting that U.S. intelligence has "proof" of the violations in question. Ultimatums follow: unless the accused can provide satisfactory "proof" to the contrary, they will suffer dire consequences. In Iran’s case, for example, no amount of protestations that their acknowledged nuclear program is meant for peaceful purposes will suffice. United States officials repeat the accusations at every opportunity, insisting that Iran prove its innocence.

This pattern is notable for two reasons. First, the target nation is expected to prove a negative. In Iraq’s case, this was virtually impossible. No amount of evidence by IAEA weapons inspectors (who were, in fact, allowed to inspect Iraqi facilities) and former inspectors like Ritter was able to counter the "proof" the Bush administration claimed to have of hidden weapons. In its view, Iraq had the opportunity to build such weapons, American intelligence agencies were unanimous about its activities, and therefore Saddam Hussein and his henchmen were guilty—which, of course, they proved not to be.

Second, United States policy with regard to "suspect" entities is alarmingly consistent, even as far back as World War II. That is, the above procedure for attacking suspect nations is mirrored by what happens to suspect individuals. Individuals, singly or in whole groups, are targeted because of their affiliation with nations and/or ideologies with which the United States is in conflict. Individuals in the group are then arrested and accused of being, or potentially being "dangerous." The fortunate among them are given the opportunity, or more precisely, the requirement to "prove their innocence." If they cannot, they are incarcerated in some form of internment facility for the duration of the alleged crisis.

During World War II, for example, 600,000 Italian immigrants not yet U.S. citizens were designated as "enemy aliens" by Presidential Proclamation on December 8, 1941. This made them all suspect. Enemy aliens could be arrested for violating a series of restrictions, including movement beyond a 5-mile limit, possession of "contraband" such as short-wave radios, cameras, flashlights or weapons of any kind, and not carrying the required pink booklet identifying them as alien enemies. Their homes could be searched and they could be deported without further authority. But this was only the beginning. Those among them who had been targeted as "potentially dangerous" by the FBI in the years preceding the war were summarily arrested in the days following Pearl Harbor. The Department of Justice offered them hearings before special three-person hearing boards, at which they were expected to "prove their innocence" or face internment for the duration of the war. But these hearings were not conducted according to normal rules of American jurisprudence. The detainee was not told the charges against him or allowed to see any evidence. He or she was not allowed to face any accuser or have a lawyer examine witnesses (no witnesses came forth in any case; accusations were made in secret). The arrestee was allowed to "prove" his innocence only by asserting it, and by offering affidavits of loyalty from employers, friends and relatives. If the evidence did not convince the hearing board, the person’s danger to the public safety was assumed, and the Attorney General issued a formal order of internment. More than 3000 enemy aliens of Italian descent were arrested in this way, and between 300 and 400 interned for the duration.

Ezio Pinza, at that time the first bass at the Metropolitan Opera, was one of those who endured this ordeal. Arrested on March 13, 1942 at his home in Larchmont NY, he was booked at the courthouse in Foley Square, and then detained at Ellis Island. So distraught was he by this humiliation that at his first hearing, and completely in the dark about why he stood accused, he was unable to mount a cogent defense. In spite of letters from the likes of Nobel-prize-winning novelist Thomas Mann and Carlo Tresca, the most prominent anti-fascist of his time, Pinza was ordered to be interned. Pinza’s wife, Doris, however, refused to accept what she knew to be a gross injustice. She mounted a campaign to get her husband a second hearing, and, after five days in the Attorney General’s office, succeeded. With Pinza’s lawyer now able to determine, on the basis of questions at the first hearing, what some of the charges amounted to (the most egregious was the allegation that, in the Met’s Saturday morning radio broadcasts, Pinza had been subtly altering the tempo of his singing to send secret messages to Mussolini), the singer this time mounted a well-reasoned defense, and was paroled.

Years later in his autobiography (Ezio Pinza: An Autobiography, New York: 1958), Pinza wrote pointedly about the plight of the person deprived of his rights:
To understand the full gravity of my situation, you must bear in mind that the Bill of Rights, not always applicable to U.S. citizens in time of war, is nonexistent so far as an enemy alien is concerned. In being summoned to a hearing, he is presumed guilty until he can prove his innocence and he is expected to answer charges of which he is kept in ignorance. It is up to him to refute detractors whose identity and allegations are withheld from him, and to show that his release is not inimical to the best interests of the United States. This at a time when he has no way of knowing whether the evidence he offers is to the point or is utterly irrelevant. (p. 211)

Presumed guilty until he can prove his innocence. As every American schoolchild knows, this completely reverses the fundamental basis of American law—that every accused person must be presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty. With regard to individuals whose birth makes them members of suspect groups, however, this cardinal assumption does not apply.

Neither does it apply to American citizens caught in the same net. Yet another program imposed on those of Italian birth during World War II was the one targeting naturalized citizens. Immune from the internment program applicable only to non-citizens, these Italian Americans were targeted by an Army-run program which exiled these "potentially dangerous" individuals from vast coastal areas where it was feared they might commit sabotage or espionage. Several dozen of Italian descent were forced to leave their homes and move inland. Fortunately, Attorney General Francis Biddle disagreed with this program and commissioned the Department of Justice to do a study of its effects and value. Its conclusions, made in a 1943 DOJ report, were stunning. For the most part, the study found, American citizens were targeted for pre-war ethnic affection for their countries of origin. Further, most were removed from areas where opportunities to spy and commit sabotage were minimal, to areas where such opportunities were far greater. The report concluded with a damning indictment of the constitutional violations inherent in the exclusion orders, especially focusing on the term "potentially dangerous:"

Practically, the use of phrases such as this suggests that those who use them hold the view that a subject of an exclusion case must be excluded unless it is clear that there is no reason to exclude him. This is analogous to saying that the burden of proof is on the excludee, although the excludee, of course, cannot meet the burden, since he is not advised of the charges against him. (Preliminary Report on Study of Individual Exclusion Cases, Dept. of Justice, Alien Enemy Control Unit, August 16, 1943, p. 28)

This is the office of the Attorney General of the United States condemning the very procedure at issue here: prove that you are innocent. Innocent not just of action, but of intention; indeed, of being who you are. Though one would like to think that such a condemnation, sixty years ago during a fierce global conflict, would have offered an indelible lesson never to be forgotten by those in government, it did not.

Thus, in the days following the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, we saw the same negative assumptions being made about Americans of Middle Eastern and/or Muslim origin. Thousands were visited by the FBI, arrested, detained and eventually deported. According to a recent article by Martha Mendoza ("One Man Still Locked Up From 9/11 Sweeps," AP, 10/14/06, reprinted on, over 1200 Arab and Muslim men were rounded up, with hundreds of individuals who were not terrorists, nor associated with terrorists… temporarily taken into city, county and federal custody. They were caught in their bedrooms while they slept, pulled from the restaurant kitchens where they worked, stopped at the border, even federal offices where they had gone to seek help.

Even now, one is still being detained. Ali Partovi, a man who "is not charged with a crime, not suspected of a crime, not considered a danger to society," sits in a detention center in Arizona, unwilling to be deported to his home nation of Iran, seeking asylum which the United States apparently refuses to give, and trying to get justice by suing the U.S. Government over beatings and other tortures he claims to have suffered during his detention. Like most of those arrested in those dark days after 9/11, Partovi was arrested not for terrorism or anything like it; he and most others were jailed, and then deported for immigration violations. As Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch puts it in the Mendoza article:

"Those 1,200 were taken in on pseudo-immigration charges. It really is a black mark on the U.S. and it undermines our intelligence gathering because it creates distrust between law enforcement officials and communities where those officials should be building rapport and trust."

In the end, that undermining of trust may prove to be the bottom line. Even aside from the Constitutional violations suffered by those who are arrested and held on the flimsiest of pretexts, and then forced to prove the negative of those pretexts, there is the question of effectiveness. This is especially true when such methods are applied to nation states. If the United States comes to be seen as a nation that simply acts on the basis of wild presumptions, in the absence of definitive evidence, refusing all information to the contrary in order to "justify" its pre-emptive detentions and invasions, the distrust that Daskal mentions will continue to grow and poison every international forum. Protestations by U.S. leaders about our commitment to democracy and liberty will come to be seen, justifiably, as simply cover stories to hide the true, and truly nefarious ambitions of empire—to subjugate, control and exploit as many of the planet’s people and resources as possible.
Copyright 2006
Lawrence DiStasi

Monday, October 09, 2006

Nukes, North Korea, and Nausea

The news has elicited protests from leaders worldwide, from the UnitedNations Security Council, and of course from our President: North Korea,that charter member of the "Axis of Evil," on Sunday October 8 defied allthe world and tested a nuclear weapon. Predictably, President Bushre-asserted his longstanding threat: North Korea cannot be allowed to becomea member of our nuclear club.
Despite the fact that no one in his right mind would welcome a NorthKorea (or any other nation) armed with weapons of mass destruction, thecontext of this latest gambit in nuclear gamesmanship, historical, politicaland hypocritical, must be given its due. To begin with the massive hypocrisyinvolved, it is necessary to remember that several U.S. "allies" in the explosive Near and Far East also possess nukes‹with our blessing. Pakistan,India, and little Israel‹none of whom signed the nuclear non-proliferationagreeement which North Korea is accused of violating‹all have nucleararsenals. So the lesson here is a grim one: signing the nuclearnon-proliferation agreement puts a nation at a disadvantage relative tothose nations which simply thumb their noses at the international community.This lesson cannot have been lost on North Korea, or on Iran. Neither canthe lesson that developing nuclear weapons works wonderfully to discouragepre-emptive strikes by the United States‹witness the example of a now-brokenIraq. The historical hypocrisy is even more extreme. Americans would do wellto remember what happened during World War II, when the first atomic bombswere developed. Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin's recent biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, American Prometheus, provides stunning details of this history. First of all, nuclear scientists like Oppenheimer, Fermi and others were persuaded to work on developing this ultimate weapon because of the fear that Hitler's scientists would invent it first, and use it to enslave the world. This rationale for the bomb evaporated even before Nazi Germany surrendered in 1945: intelligence proved that German scientists were noteven close to developing a deliverable weapon. Instead, however, theAmerican military pushed development even harder so they could use the bomb on Japan.
Here is where American Prometheus disabuses us of the commonnotion that the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima to Ĺ’saveAmerican lives that would have been lost in a huge American invasion ofJapan.¹ Rather, we learn that Ĺ’Magic¹ intercepts of Japanese communications indicated that Japan's leaders knew the war was lost, and were desperately searching for a way to surrender. Moreover, even finding a target for the ultimate weapon was proving difficult. This is because Japan's major cities and military targets had virtually all been destroyed by firebombing: "On the evening of Mar 9-10, 1945, 334 B-29 aircraft dropped tons ofjellied gasoline--napalm--and high explosives on Tokyo. The resultingfirestorm killed an estimated 100,000 people and completely burned out 15.8square miles of the city. The fire-bombing raids continued and by July 1945,all but five of Japan's major cities had been razed and hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians had been killed." "The fire bombings were no secret." ("The Logic of Mass Destruction," inKai Bird and Lifschultz, eds., Hiroshima¹s Shadow, pp. 55-57, as quoted inAmerican Prometheus, p. 291. ) Necessity or no, the American military selected targets and pushed forward with plans to use the Bomb. Horrified by such irrationality, several scientists, including Leo Szilard and Oppenheimer himself, kept trying to persuade the Truman administration to refrain from using the bomb, thus proving that the United States was truly interested in keeping a lid on such a cataclysmic weapon. Under the guidance of Nobelist James Franck, scientists prepared a report for the President concluding that a surprise attack on Japan was inadvisable from any point of view, especially because: "It may be very difficult to persuade the world that a nation which was capable of secretly preparing and suddenly releasing a weapon as indiscriminate as the [German]rocket bomb and a million times more destructive, is to be trusted in its proclaimed desire of having suchweapons abolished by international agreement." (p. 297)The report recommended instead a demonstration of the bomb's power before the UN, and was sent to the President. It never got to him. The WarDepartment secretly seized the report, and had it classified. The dismayed scientists were then told that an invasion of the Japanese mainland was necessary and inevitable. What they were not told was the real reason for using the bomb was the imminent entry of Russia into the Pacific war. President Truman knew this, knew of Japan's desperation to surrrender, knew that the Russians would be entering the war on August 15 and that anAmerican invasion couldn't take place until at least November 1, and knewthat even General Eisenhower felt the use of the bomb unnecessary because the Japanese were done for. But Truman and his Secretary of State, JamesByrnes, were determined to use the bomb and end the war before Russia entered. As Byrnes later explained, " was ever present in my mind thatit was important that we should have an end to the war before the Russians came in." On July 18, 1945, Truman wrote the same thing in his diary:"Believe Japs will fold up before Russia comes in." (Truman, Off the Record, pp. 53-54.). And on August 3, Walter Brown, a special assistant to SecretaryByrnes, wrote in his diary, "President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes] agreed Japs looking for peace. Presidentafraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country likeSweden." (all cited in American Prometheus, p. 301).
All the world knows what happened next. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and another on Nagasaki two days later. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were vaporized. And what we now know is that this first and only use of nuclear weapons amounted to nothing short of a terror bombing of innocent civilians designed to, first, impel Japan to surrender immediately, second, keep the Russians from entering the war and sharing in the victory, and third, leave the Russian leaders in nodoubt as to who was now top dog on the planet.
Given all this, no sane person can observe the belligerent U.S. threats continually aimed at North Korea and Iran and not be sickened by a) the growing danger of nuclear proliferation and annihilation now facing the world, and b) the bottomless hypocrisy of the United States in condemning smaller nations for daring to develop weapons that it alone has everused‹weapons that we now know were not needed to save lives in a putativeinvasion of Japan, but rather to impress a rival with our new-foundstrength. More chilling still, that weapon was dropped not on a military target, but rather on a prostrate and already terrorized civilianpopulation. Most nauseating of all, while our President prattles on about the danger to Americans of North Korea's test, he is at the same time makingit far more likely that it will be the United States which, with its new nuclear posture review, will once again be the first to employ new, nicely-miniaturized nuclear weapons on other humans.
Lawrence DiStasi

Sunday, October 01, 2006

An Alternate to Cut and Run

What’s your Plan, man?
You seem so upset
Do you think you can
With our blood and sweat
Take Iraq to the top
With your photo-op?

There has been considerable talk of redeployment of our forces in Iraq. I hope that this essay drafts a concept that demonstrates that there are options other than “stay the course.” While I agree with critics that we are between Iraq and a hard place, we need to develop alternatives while there is still enough of our military and financial resources to create workable options. Time is critical because we are wearing our military thin through revolving assignments into a meat grinder. I will focus on future actions that can be exercised rather than the mistakes of the past three years, but in doing so, I will offer reasons for changing course rather than blindly hoping for new outcomes on old ideas.
First, we need to acknowledge that things in Iraq are not going well and we need to fire the Lincoln Group that we recently rehired to produce and distribute optimistic propaganda in Iraq for Iraqis. Iraqis are on the ground and see what is happening. Contrary propaganda by Lincoln merely annoys Iraqis and makes them think that either we are liars or that we are so stupid that we do not see the chaos around us in Iraq. That is not trivial. We essentially have a civil war in progress and doing chin-ups on defining the exact level of civil war is not productive. In fact, it slows the process for changing our strategy and tactics.
Next, we need to isolate the battlefield. Given this civil war, the entire country is the battlefield, with the possible exception of Kurdistan. Most of Iraq is mired in violence and ineffective security, energy, water, schools, courts and economic viability. Isolating this battlefield is no small order. We need to screen the long borders with Saudi Arabia from where the majority of the 9/11 aircrews came. We need to meter the flow of the ancient trade routes from Syria and Jordan to staunch the flow of foreign fighters. We need to stop the traffic with Iran, even if there are Iraqis (like Ahmed Chalabi) that want the traffic. Once we effectively isolate the battlefield and use advanced surveillance techniques to detect and respond to violations, we can call upon Iraqis to help patrol their own borders. This provides real military missions for them that do not compromise tribal or religious loyalties with the possible exception of co-opted Shiite militia that cannot be expected to control their eastern border with Iran. The longer term solution of promoting nationalism instead of sectarian or tribal loyalty requires training Iraqis out of country where they can learn to work with one another in a way similar to the way we train new soldiers away from home in federal enclaves (like Ft. Benning) where facilities are secure and no ambient wars are competing for student attention. I propose that we establish training systems in Kuwait to achieve the neutrality that is not available in Iraq. All these actions require State Department involvement in the process of negotiating with powers within and bordering Iraq. Even the concept of “hot pursuit” needs State Department work rather than arbitrary action.
Next, we establish a major strike force and regional reserve in Kuwait. This requires a base to serve as a secure home for training and maintenance. Our military equipment is beat up and needs overhaul. Since we will be in the region for some time to come, it makes sense to conduct depot maintenance there instead of a complete retrograde to the Continental United States (CONUS). We need Special Forces and Special Operations capabilities throughout the region to lead the training and the initial contact teams for medicine and simple civil engineering tasks in areas away from Baghdad. This will establish an image of helping Iraqis to help themselves and may provide a start to the flow of intelligence that we need to separate insurgents from citizens. The strike force must be airmobile with heavier capabilities such as armor to sustain operations in the event that open warfare with armed militia or external forces occurs. This is the type of operation that we do well and yet the strike force must be kept razor sharp through training and rehearsals in Kuwait. This may mean that the strike force needs frequent rotation to avoid either complacency or over-training.
Next we must systematically eliminate corporate civilian support such as Halliburton/KBR as we build up military forces that have the dual capability of combat mission work and civil engineering, etc. KBR has provided contaminated water to our troops from 63 of its 67 water treatment facilities. That is not a combat multiplier but a combat divider that provided substandard water for above standard prices and still demands security forces. We have similar issues from the Bechtel Bridge that was over budget and never completed and the recent Parsons Company debacle where it was paid to rebuild barracks that now have to be destroyed because they are so unsafe and unsanitary with urine and feces flowing through ceilings onto soldiers. Outsourcing has been a source of waste, fraud and abuse that needs to go.
Next, we need to move significant forces from inner city Baghdad to protect commercial and military airfields in order to preserve flexibility in movement. Plush appearances do not help us to identify with Iraqis who may feel that if we occupy Hussein’s palaces, that we are more like him than ourselves. Troops rotate home as troops with the new skills move into the country. In a year’s time, we should have bases established; Special Forces reconnecting the Iraqis with Americans on a lower profile basis. As they succeed, we can expand the feel-good, do-good projects by completing schools and hospitals that were promised and never delivered. We need to use Iraqi labor and military troops directly in the construction. This will provide economic help for Iraqis and may begin some trust of the American military. The troop numbers can decline significantly as Iraqis take responsibility for security, civil and economic projects. The only way to change the image of occupation is to remove troops as rapidly as possible while maintaining a strike force that will serve as an emergency combat force. There is an irony that the combat skills that gave us a rapid battlefield victory are unable to win the peace. Get over it and play by the new rules.
As I wrote this brief outline, I inhaled a little and recognized that it was long ago and far away in Vietnam that I last wrote an Administrative Order in combat. Detailed planning must be done and we have people in our military that excel at planning. They are good at what they do and even better when we assign them wisely and lead them well. Kuwait can be a staging area for both support and rotation home, but there are myriad other solutions if we start now before we destroy our forces and merely dig deeper trenches around Baghdad and run out of time.
I also thought that it might be the epitome of poetic justice, assuming that Saddam Hussein is found guilty, that he be given a life sentence to serve as President of Iraq without possibility of parole.
We could then leave and know that we provided adequate punishment for him.
George Giacoppe
1 October 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Soft Water Torture

What doth it profit man
To gain the world and lose his soul
We change the law because we can
And still it fails to cleanse the soul
The Lord is not amused
By torture, death and lies
Searing his children not accused
But drowned in harshness and mourning cries

In the world according to GW Bush, “The Constitution is just a goddamn piece of paper.” At this point, that quote coupled with Alberto Gonzales’ claim that the Geneva Conventions are “quaint” should alarm each of us to level Red or whatever Bush would use to recharge this Nation’s fear level. It is interesting that the November 2005 quote has been corroborated and that the view from the left is that the President meant every word of it. Those on the right said that it is well known that the man has a raging temper and was angry because Republican legislators were trying to bring the Patriot Act within the Constitution, but that if you asked him directly, he would not say that it was just a piece of paper. I leave it up to you to decide which is worse, the man prone to extreme tantrums or the absolute despot. In my mind, one condition leads to the other and it matters not where you start.
I mention this because some well meaning Republican Senators held out, however briefly, for reason this past week. In the end, Bush got a compromise that holds him retroactively harmless from prosecution for war crimes in US courts. I do not know if Bush has committed these crimes, but retroactive exclusion seems a bit over the top. Oddly enough, no international tribunal would feel obligated to accept our internal decision if the Geneva Conventions or the Law of Land Warfare was violated, so it seems like a futile gesture of a desperate man. What could his defense of the use of water boarding be? “We are not like the terrorists. They use hard water and we use only soft water that has been especially treated by Halliburton.” “They are evil-doers and we are defending freedom.” “If you can’t see the difference, you have a fault in your logic.” Is exile in Crawford or Kennybunkport?
Some pundits have postulated that GW Bush used this maneuver to cover up the bad news coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. I find that to be a tortured explanation. Very likely, the Red Cross will soon interview detainees in Guantanamo and learn that unsavory and illegal prisoner handling has happened at home and abroad. Bush’s PR team wants to get ahead of the wave by playing to his home audience that what he did was legal and in the interest of freedom. Explicit photographs and testimony of released detainees has already tainted international opinion. In effect, that international game is lost and we will be told that their opinion does not matter anyway.
Recently, the Senate published a report that forever shows that al Qaeda not only lacked support from Saddam Hussein, but that Saddam was so hostile to al Qaeda, that it could not survive under his regime. There are consequences to upsetting the balance in Iraq and al Qaeda’s growth is one. There are other consequences. We cut and ran from Afghanistan to Iraq, much to the delight of both al Qaeda and the Taliban. The internal balance between Shiite and Sunni is destroyed. The external balance between Iraq and Iran is destroyed because Arab Shiites in Iraq have joined forces with their Shiite Persian brethren. Afghanistan has record recruiting, poppy and heroin output with soldiers and profits flowing to the Taliban. Pakistan grasped its own Reality and has cut a deal with the Taliban and therefore protected bin Laden. Civil war in Iraq is reaping, on average, a hundred souls per day. We have collected our tactical reserves into the Bremer Box of Baghdad. Meanwhile Bush is looking for another name for “Stay the Course.” His Department of CP (Crap Packaging) is on it and will have it on the shelves before the election. There was one highlight. Colin Powell finally found his courage and decried our loss of moral high ground. Bush seems to be trying to gain the world at the loss of his soul. Let us end this pathetic tragedy by removing his majority in November.

George Giacoppe
23 September 2006

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lebanon Today: The Root Problem

In his July 28 press conference, and repeatedly since Israel invaded Lebanon, President Bush has refused to support a cease fire that fails to get to the "root" problem. In his most "teacherly" tones, he explains to us, "See, the root problem is terrorism." And he names Hizballah. And Hamas. And the worldwide terrorist "problem" which his administration is supposedly fighting in Iraq, as well as in its attempts to provoke a war with Iran and/or Syria. Citing always its firm support by Arab governments like Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, America¹s stalwart partners in the war on terrorism and in condemning Hizballah. In response to this, the press corps, and the uninformed American public nods, and dutifully parrots their president: 'yes, the root cause of the conflict in the Middle East is terrorism.' Which is meant to be understood as those inhuman Arabs/Muslims who attack innocent civilians.¹ What Americans, especially the press and America¹s so-called leaders in Congress, totally ignore is the fact that the real root of the problem is Israel¹s historic refusal to negotiate with anyone who truly represents the Palestinian people. The reason they won¹t, or can¹t, is that if they did, Israeli leaders, Zionists all, would have to talk about their illegal, criminal theft of the land of Palestine from its legitimate residents in order to make their Zionist state. In order to create Israel in the years before and just after World War II, that is, the Zionists had to become terrorists. They had to form Irgun, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Menachim Begin. They had to initiate guerilla war against the British mandate authority in Palestine; they had to attack and destroy Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin‹in all more than 400 villages--thereby terrorizing and massacring enough civilians to pressure the rest into leaving. And 750,000 Palestinian villagers did indeed leave, hoping, in the more innocent age of 1948, to return once the fighting stopped. They have never been permitted to return. And the right of return is a fundamental part of the "root" problem, which neither Bush nor Israel will ever talk about because they know that if they did, it would undermine the very legitimacy, the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state. So Israel and her supporters keep complaining that the Palestinians, the Arabs, these terrorists like Hamas, will not recognize Israel¹s right to exist. Let¹s examine this. First of all, how can a people, the Palestinians, recognize the rightness of the nation, Israel, which stole virtually their whole country, destroyed their homes, and which since 1967 has maintained a brutal occupation of the little land they have left, uprooting their trees, destroying their farms, surrounding them with walls, turning them into refugees‹and whose announced aim is to seize the rest of the country that was, and is theirs? This is the Zionist aim, never renounced: that God promised to the Jews, his chosen people, all of the land known as Palestine, which must be theirs. They call it Eretz Israel. Greater Israel. Here is what David Ben-Gurion, Israel¹s first leader, and Menachim Begin said in 1948, when accepting the U.N.-recommended partition of Palestine into two states, Israel for Jews and Palestine for Arabs:
Ben Gurion: The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan; one does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today, but the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them. Begin: The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel] will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever. (Both quotes from The Fateful Triangle, by Noam Chomsky, South End Press, 1983, p. 161.)
Secondly, even with all that, the PLO and other organizations, including Hamas, have implicitly recognized Israel as a state by agreeing to negotiate with them. It is Israel that has always been the refuser. Israel, which each time a settlement seems imminent, finds a way to destroy the process, or the leaders who agree to the process. Israel, which all along has trumpeted its willingness to negotiate with any "Arab state," i.e., Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia‹quislings and puppets all, governments which have all along, from even before Israel was a state, been willing to negotiate with what was then called the Jewish Agency in order to preserve their own territories. And thereby sacrifice the Palestinians. This was the position from the very beginning of King Abdullah of Jordan. Who, even as Israel was making formal war on the Palestinians for the first time in 1947 and 1948, in public pretended to be a part of the Arab League fighting Israel¹s takeover, and in private was dealing with Zionist leaders to allow them to decimate the other Arab armies, in exchange for allowing him to have the West Bank and use the expelled Palestinians to swell the size of his nation of Transjordan! This then‹Israel¹s refusal to negotiate with or even acknowledge the existence of Palestinians as a people‹is the "root problem." It¹s plain to see for anyone willing to read the history. (See, among many others, Ilan Pappe: The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951, I.B. Tauris: 1992.) But of course Americans, most specifically the American President, do not read. They respond to propaganda. And the propaganda insists in hundreds of ways each day that Israel is the aggrieved party in the Middle East‹poor Israel, always being attacked by lawless, Arab terrorists. And so we have the fictional "root problem." And so we have Palestinians living in hovels that are routinely destroyed by Israeli bulldozers and planes and tanks. And now we have the entire nation of Lebanon being destroyed by an unopposed Israeli Air Force‹an Air Force dependent on the $3 billion American taxpayers give them each year to… what?… to destroy children and villages and whole countries to attack the "root" problem? It is a lie. A calculated, heinous lie which can lead only to suffering, bloodshed, and, given Israel¹s known possession (not just plans, as in Iran, but possession) of nuclear weapons, continuing injustice that may end, ultimately, in a conflagration that every sane person must contemplate with horror.
Lawrence DiStasi

Fashion in Lebanon

Armageddon, the sequel
Or is it the prequel
Of Kingdom Come
And Hell on the run
With Bush crudely chewing
Grabbing Merkel for all viewing
And Condi just sitting
And waiting on fittings
While refugees struggle
And children snuggle
With parents in strife
While praying for life.

The Cradle of Civilization is rocking again. This time, Israel is destroying a rebuilt Lebanon while the civil war in Iraq raises the daily toll to a hundred or more civilians each day. Hizballah is meanwhile taking on a couple of roles that would normally be seen as incompatible. They are clearly tweaking the Israeli nose and helping refugees escape to safety in bomb shelters and even to Tyre, although that has recently become a bombing target. Incidentally, the terrorists are also feeding the Lebanese in the bomb shelters. I mention this, because, while our administration appeared to be managing a redux of Hurricane Katrina, other countries acknowledged the crisis and began early evacuation of their citizens without having them sign promissory notes.
We have seen this before, and yet there appears to be a shrill tone to the shrieking from the Fox in the Bush. Fox is calling this WW III. The administration is clearly not interested in a cease-fire while claiming that it wants only a permanent solution. It also indicates that it will not talk with Hizballah despite the fact that Israel used the two prisoners Hizballah captured as the rationale for attacking Lebanon. Neither will the Bushies talk with Syria or Iran. At about this time, you may ask, “just who are they talking with?” Try Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have a vested interest in actively avoiding Shiite power waxing in the region. Now that we have enabled a Shiite theocracy in Iraq and are struggling with the Taliban in Afghanistan again, the Saudis are engaged to protect their Sunni interests. While most diplomats would agree that the crisis is serious, I find it difficult to believe that any diplomat or statesman would try to deal with it by non-engagement. A cease-fire is not a solution, but there is no long term solution possible until the shooting slows down enough for people to sit down for negotiations, so a cease-fire is normally a pre-condition for either military insertion of peacekeepers or for negotiation. Israel blames Lebanon for not stopping Hizballah and yet has targeted Lebanese military barracks and civilian housing and business apart from Hizballah. The West has given no help to the Lebanese but Hizballah has. So if you were Lebanese and being bombed by the Israelis while Hizballah guided you to bomb shelters and gave you food, water, and medical care for your injuries, how interested would you be in pointing out Hizballah to the bombers? Strangely, that premise underlies the Bush-Rice approach. We are preparing another generation for retaliation. While all sides are talking the peace talk, nobody is walking the walk. Without praising terrorists who kill indiscriminately as a habit, we need to acknowledge that Hizballah serves a purpose for the people of Lebanon. Similarly, without praising Israel for its violent response to the capture of 2 soldiers, we need to understand that military force has protected Israel and it keeps Israelis together. We expect people to act in their immediate self-interest. We have offered Lebanon a few million dollars for humanitarian aid, while the current damage already exceeds $20 Billion (most of it in Lebanon).
The surprise is that the US is not acting in United States interest. By openly supporting Israel and not calling for a cease-fire, we have placed the UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in jeopardy. In fact, they took casualties on 23 July and needed medical evacuation. On 26 July, they suffered 4 killed. We are allowing, if not encouraging, Israel to “finish the job” before Condi puts her fashion boots on the ground to support a cease-fire. Just how much support can we expect from civilians in the region or from anywhere in the world with over 400 civilians killed on the Lebanese side and over 40 on the Israeli side. The Lebanese, Syrians, Iranians, Jordanians, Afghanis, Turks, or even continental Europeans will not see us as “honest brokers.” On an even more limited basis, if we want to gain cooperation of the majority Shiites in Iraq to help their government work, this American inaction will serve as inspiration to 15 million (Shiite) Iraqis to support the resistance. Being the bully or appearing to support a bully only generates resentment and resistance. The Sunni minority already uses the image of unfairness to recruit in Iraq. Now we encourage Shiites to do likewise. Visualize Uncle Sam pointing from a poster saying ”I want you as my enemy. “ It is our latest government promotion and smacks of Bush-n-Boots diplomacy.
The image this last week was an uncanny enactment of George Orwell’s Animal Farm with the Fox pundits repeating the message of the Pigs that WW III was here. The Pig-in-Chief was talking with his mouth full like he was in a sty instead of the White House and using barnyard language while groping a female chief of state for the whole world to see. What useful purpose does this talk of WW III serve? Perhaps this is a cover for a failed Iraq policy and civil war there? Perhaps it is the early justification for the pending nuclear attack of Iran! That attack is building unless we can turn the zealots from doing it and by telling FOX that the Armageddon of WW III and the following Rapture will have to wait. I believe in the world according to B.F. Skinner; that behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated. Let us ensure that we citizens of the Animal Farm vote out the Pigs. We cannot reward them for their incompetence, greed and callous disregard of human life any longer. Pax Condileeziana is not peace. Maybe the devil does wear Prada.
26 July 2006