Friday, May 18, 2007

Your Lyin' Eyes


In this strange new land of OZ
The image is the cause
Reality is equated to a story
While myth becomes the glory
Trust ME and not your lying eyes
Enjoy the dark behind the curtain
Where truth is twisted into lies
And lies are all that’s certain

If Animal Farm were written today, it would appear to be a documentary of the Bush Administration instead of allegory. In our last installment, we outlined some of the lies proffered by Paul Wolfowitz to explain away his unethical behavior at the World Bank. He claimed innocence because “everybody” knew about his decision to hire his “domestic partner.” Further, he stated that he was advised that the hiring was legitimate. Robert Danino, the World Bank General Counsel disputed that, saying that he personally advised Wolfowitz not to hire Riza for obvious ethical reasons and prohibitive rules. Wolfowitz countered that a man and wife both worked at the bank. Rules permitted nepotism through marriage but not through a demon domestic partnership. Xavier Coll, VP for human resources, testified that Wolfowitz asked him (Coll) to keep the hiring secret from Danino. That was uncovered as a double lie by the overpaid and oversexed Wolfowitz who then had the temerity to demand that his resignation be accompanied by “everybody made mistakes” and “I achieved great things as World Bank President.” I hope the bank issued barf bags at that press conference.
We knew Wolfowitz as the Iraqi War architect that sketched out the neocon “strategy” that depended on the Iraqis to greet us as liberators instead of invaders. His lies, leading up to and after the war began, are legend, but they are beginning to pale compared to the whoppers being told by Alberto Gonzales in recent weeks. The video clips of the AG’s testimony before Congress are astounding. Three weeks ago, he specifically exempted his deputy McNulty from knowledge of who made the decision to fire the eight (or is it 26?) federal attorneys. On 17 May, a day after McNulty resigned, Alberto suddenly recalled that it must have been McNulty since only McNulty had the intimate knowledge required. McNulty tried to protect the administration by claiming that he needed to resign in order to afford college tuition for his kids. As Jon Stewart noted: that is what each of us would do…quit a job when the kids need tuition.
I will concede that the obvious lies by the nation’s top law enforcement officer are disturbing, but they are less disturbing than the Gonzales assault on the Constitution on the night that he attempted to get John Ashcroft to sign a document to authorize domestic eavesdropping despite the Constitutional restriction to the same without court authority. That was doubly disturbing, because James Comey was acting AG and Ashcroft was in a serious postoperative and drugged condition in an ICU. This was at about the time that GW Bush made a Buffalo, NY presentation on 20 April 2004. “Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, Constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.” At that time, GW Bush had already authorized illegal wiretaps in flagrant violation of the Constitution that he swore to defend. Bush’s bosom buddy Gonzales was desperately trying to retro some authority as though that would preserve the Constitution. This was a clear attempt by Bush to deceive and a shameful attempt by Gonzales to cover GW’s tracks. I wonder why Bush named Gonzales as the replacement for Ashcorft? Could it be their shared deep disregard for the Constitution? Perhaps it was their shared love for the “unitary executive?”
Bush talks as the champion of the Constitution but walks as the guardian of secrecy. According to Henry Waxman “The records at issue have covered a vast array of topics, ranging from simple census data and routine agency correspondence to presidential and vice presidential records. Among the documents that the administration has refused to release to the public and members of Congress are (1) the contacts between energy companies and the Vice President’s energy task force, (2) the communications between the Defense Department and the Vice President’s office regarding contracts awarded to Halliburton, (3) documents describing the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib, (4) memoranda revealing what the White House knew about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and (5) the cost estimates of the Medicare prescription drug legislation withheld from Congress.” Make no mistake. Bush has an image generator that is essentially a smoke screen to cover up the reality of the hidden images. He has prohibited disclosure of even the most ordinary information not only now, but long after his death. Even his library will contain only the puff pieces and “breaking news” from FOX.
The problem with this arrangement is that we may never live long enough to know the truth. If the truth shall make us free, and we may never learn the truth, then we may never be free. Even this week, Bush rejected a pay raise for soldiers and recommended a lesser one; increased individual medical payments by the soldier and otherwise made a mockery of “supporting the troops.” Twenty percent of enlisted qualify for food stamps, but the pay raise was too high for George W., the compassionate fraud. Don’t peek behind the curtain. I think that Cheney is there and I don’t want to shatter the illusion.

George Giacoppe
19 May 2007

Saturday, May 05, 2007

American Mercenaries

The word “mercenary” evokes unsavory images—first of individuals who care only about money—as much money as they can wheedle out of whatever job they perform, no matter how repulsive; second of hired guns—professional killers who do the lethal work of soldiering not out of patriotism or honor, but, again, for the greenbacks. No wonder, then, that the Bush Administration and its Pentagon have been so careful to describe the current incarnation of the type as “contractors.” The implication then becomes: Iraq needs American know-how, and our 130,000 “contractors” are doing the necessary and dangerous work of nation-and-infrastructure building.
Trouble is, it’s all a sham, a cover story we wouldn’t know much about were it not for Jeremy Scahill’s recent book, Blackwater. Blackwater is a name familiar to many Americans, but again, with connotations of innocent Americans, “contractors,” four of whom were viciously attacked, killed, mutilated, and strung up from a bridge in Fallujah. This outrage became an instant cause celebre, an act for which the whole city was righteously punished, destroyed by righteously vengeful American marines. Yea for our side! Only that Jeremy Scahill explains that the cruelty and disproportionality of that response really marked the beginning of the full-scale insurgency that has turned Iraq into a graveyard of American hopes. In doing so, he portrays a reality that most Americans would rather deny.
America is, after all, the good guy nation fielding not just a good guy military, but one so lean and efficient and high-tech that it can conquer an entire country with only 140,000 troops, all volunteers, not a draftee among them, hence no need for complainers, no need for big mouth, pampered, college-educated draft dodgers with pampered parents and friends to demonstrate against the good and just wars that must be fought.
Except that, once again, the “good boy lean mean military” sham fails. It fails because there’s Blackwater, Scahill tells us, one of more than 100 private “security forces” operating in Iraq. And these are decidedly not volunteers, or patriots. These are mercenaries—paid thugs, as many as 100,000 of them, who do the sensitive jobs the military either cannot or will not do. Guarding the VIPs who come to see Iraq’s progress themselves. Guarding, when he was our bumbling pro-Consul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. Guarding, even today, the Commanding General in charge of the surge, General Petraeus.
Wait? Is this a joke? The head of our vaunted military, the putatively most powerful military machine ever assembled, being guarded by private mercenaries?
That’s right. The land of the free, the land of the liberty-loving patriot willing to die for his country, the land distinguished by a military which is, because of its control by civilians and its corps of citizen-soldiers, the fairest and most intelligent and inventive armed force in the world—that land has become the land of the mercenary. Where once our revolutionary founders condemned the nations of Europe as despotisms headed by cruel monarchs who led their huddled masses into war and death for their own profit and glory, now our putative leaders betray that tradition by “privatizing” their vicious little wars for profit and glory. And they privatize for the same reasons monarchs once did: citizens soon grow sick of dying for the exclusive benefit of their rulers. Only by paying their troops can kings and emperors maintain their military machines. Hence the term, “mercenary.” It was, and is a term of opprobrium, a term that conjures up images of cold-hearted killers engaging in slaughter purely for the money.
So we have Blackwater. An army for hire. An army of ex-special forces, green beret, navy seal rejects who now command salaries many times that of a poor volunteer in our all-volunteer army. And they have roamed free of oversight and accountability not only in Iraq, though that is their defining mission. They also showed up on the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, strutting their stuff as self-defined protectors of property allegedly endangered by the riff-raff rendered homeless and desperate. According to Scahill, these Blackwater guards were making $350 a day, while their blackguard company was picking up $950 a day from the United States Government for their services.
A nice little windfall for their founder and CEO, Erik Prince—as well as for George W. Bush, one of Prince’s major beneficiaries, along with the Christian Right’s Gary Bauer and James Dobson. All of which makes for a nice circular windfall. Because it’s not only that our American empire now hires mercenaries to bilk the public into thinking its military’s losses are less than they are, its footprint smaller than it is, its war expenses orders of magnitude less than they really are. It’s that the circle of nepotism and collusion and privatization and political payoffs runs deep into the heart of the entire crooked, putrefying enterprise. Including the fact, Mr. and Mrs. America, that this private mercenary army includes not just the profiteers siphoned from our own military, but also gangs of imported killers trained by our infamous allies in places like Colombia and Chile. Chile, which refused to participate in our disastrous venture into Iraq, but whose support is secured through the back door by the now-rejected military spawn of Disgusto Pinochet—all hired and cozy with Blackwater.
So beware. When a republic is transformed from a citizen army to an army of mercenaries—as Rome was late in the days of its rotting empire—the end is near.
PS: a late news story on Friday April 27 in the McClatchy newspapers reported that “House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri and Rep. David Price of North Carolina, both Democrats, asked the Government Accountability Office to provide details on the use of private security contractors in Iraq,” this because Congress has literally no idea what these people are doing.

Background Notes:

Both foreign and domestic—New Orleans, Iraq, Afghanistan.
Protect Gen. Petraeus and Nancy Pelosi.
Bertelli, hired by Schwarzenegger.
130 K private contractors in Iraq and CA. 48,000 armed. 100 private armies.
Eric Prince head of it Christian fundamentalist. Father funded Bauer, Dobson.
CA $4 billion spent on these guys so far.
In New Orleans, paid $350/day, but govt paying Blackwater $950/day.

Fallujah—4 blackwater guys killed and strung up—Marine response, 2nd, which devastated the city, effectively started the insurgency.
Have hired Chileans (Pinochet killers) and Colombians (right wingers) as well. Chile especially refused to support Bush in Iraq (90% opposed), and so this gets around that inconvenience.
Just launched new private intelligence company, Private Intelligence Solutions.

Questions: no accountability. Can’t be tried by military courts. No civilian control either.
Main: can pretend to have this small military force. Contractors do all the things that in previous wars were done by GIs like cooking , laundry, cleaning barracks, and god knows what else, which is why so many were required.
Compare to pinkertons.
From Wikipedia:

Pinkerton guards escort strikebreakers in Buchtel, Ohio, 1884

The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was a private U.S. security guard and detective agency established by Allan Pinkerton in 1850. Pinkerton had become famous when he foiled a plot to assassinate President-Elect Abraham Lincoln. Pinkerton's agents performed services ranging from security guards to private military contracting work. During its height, the Pinkerton Detective Agency employed more agents than the standing army of the United States of America, causing the state of Ohio to outlaw the agency due to fears it could be hired out as a private army or militia.
During the labor unrest of the late 19th century, businessmen hired Pinkerton agents to infiltrate unions, and guards to keep strikers and suspected unionists out of factories. The most notorious example was the Homestead Strike of 1892, when Pinkerton agents killed several people in a battle with strikers, who also injured several agents, while enforcing the strikebreaking measures of Henry Clay Frick, acting on behalf of Andrew Carnegie, who was abroad. The agency's logo, an eye embellished with the words "We Never Sleep" inspired the term "private eye." The "Pinkertons" were also used as guards in coal, iron and lumber disputes in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as the railroad strikes of 1877.
Formed mainly in response to businessmen trying to control employees.
In the 1870s, Franklin B. Gowen, then president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad hired the agency to investigate the labor unions in the company's mines. A Pinkerton agent, James McParlan, infiltrated the Molly Maguires using the alias James McKenna, leading to the downfall of this secret organization.
In July 2003, Pinkerton's was acquired along with longtime rival, the William J. Burns Detective Agency (founded in 1910), by Securitas AB to create Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., one of the largest security companies in the world.

Lawrence DiStasi