Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Battle for Haifa Street

This is being posted, if for no other reason, because CBS refuses to air it and all the sad and sorry truths about our media that their refusal symbolizes.

The segment in question -- "Battle for Haifa Street" -- is a piece of first-rate journalism but one that appears only on the CBS News website -- and has never been broadcast. It is a gritty, realistic look at life on the very mean streets of Baghdad and includes interviews with civilians who complain that the U.S. military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly.
"They told us they would bring democracy, they promised life would be better than it was under Saddam," one told Logan. "But they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad."

Several bodies are shown in the two-minute segment, "some with obvious signs of torture," as Logan points out. She also notes that her crew had to flee for their lives when they we were warned of an impending attack. While fleeing, another civilian was killed before their eyes.

Logan's email, with the one-word subject line of "help," was sent to friends and colleagues imploring them to lobby CBS to highlight that people are interested in seeing the piece. In it, Logan argues that the story is "not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore … It should be seen. And people should know about this."


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Straight to the Good Part

I think this AP story serves as a good follow-up to the "The" vs "A" post from a few days ago. That earlier post dealt with the use of language to control the terms of a debate, focusing on the use of indefinite article "the" to reinforce false assumptions (e.g., "What are we to do about the WMD in Iraq"). The following excerpt is an example of same technique applied this time by the use of the adjective "its"...

U.S. Warns Iran to Back Down

By Jim Krane, Associated Press Writer | January 23, 2007

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates --A second U.S. aircraft carrier strike group now steaming toward the Middle East is Washington's way of
warning Iran to back down in its attempts to dominate the region, a top U.S. diplomat said here Tuesday.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, ruled out direct negotiations with Iran and said a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran was "not possible" until Iran halts uranium enrichment.

"The Middle East isn't a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn't a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That's why we've seen the United States station two carrier battle groups in the region," Burns said in an address to the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, an influential think-tank...

So what has happened here? It seems that we have completely skipped over the most important part of the debate, the part where we actually establish as a fact the idea that Iran is attempting to dominate the region or that it's nuclear program is for anything other than energy production. We haven't bothered with that at all. Instead we've gone straight to the good part, the fun part, the part where we decide what to do about this unconfirmed threat.

This is how simple, subtle choices of words can change the entire dynamic of the debate. The US official quoted here could have warned Iran to not attempt to dominate the region. He could have made reference to Iran's suspected desire to dominate the region. He could have used any number formulations that more accurately portrayed state of knowledge on Iran's intentions, characterizing them as uncertain or unclear. But, alas, that doesn't the serve the purpose of justifying the war that's already been decided upon. So he chose not to use any of those. Instead he baselessly gave us a definitive reference to "it's attempts" to dominate the region as if they were already documented and agreed upon.

That possessive adjective, "it's", carries with it the implicit assumption that thing that is possessed actually exists. How can it be possessed if it doesn't exist, right? Good, no need to prove it then.

Naturally, it follows that the only question that remains now is what to do about "it's attempts" and it follows very nicely from there that we have our warships in place.

So, as you can see, if we accept this spokesman's framing of the issue we have unwittingly conceded the point completely. The decision to take some action against Iran has already been made for us before a single countering argument can even been made because the issue has come to us pre-packaged with a ready-made concession to the warmongers. If we accept it as-is then, just as was with Iraq, they may fire when ready.

"Can't get fooled again!"


Saturday, January 20, 2007

"Habeas Corpus, Schmabeas Schmorpus!"

I just saw this on Crooks & Liars and I'm just speechless (well, almost). It is an excerpt of an independent transcript of an exchange between your Attorney General of the United States of America, Alberto "V05" Gonzalez and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) on the writ of habeas corpus in US law. Get a load of this:

Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

As pointed out on C&L, Article 9, Clause 2 of the US Constition does read as follows:

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Still, VO5's argument is unfathomable. If the government can, without due process, reserve the right to suspend a constitutional protection on an "individual" basis, as he argues here, then there is no constitutional protection to begin with. The constitution wouldn't be worth the paper it's written on. It is impossible to argue that this position is not an inherent suspension of the writ. The writ was written for the very purpose of protecting individuals!

Again, this is the Attorney General of the United States talking. This is the man in charge of the FBI, the US Marshall Service, the DEA, the ATF and every other federal law enforcement agency. When that guy doesn't believe American citizens are constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus protections that's a problem.

Think Progess has more on this.

God help us all.

UPDATE: The video is now up on YouTube. I've placed in the original post above.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eisenhower's Farewell Address

Yesterday, January 17th, was the 46th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous farewell address, the speech most credited with introducing the Military-Industrial Complex to the American consciousness. I know this has been posted a thousand times in a thousand different blogs. But that's for good reason given the state of our world and today. This man, for all his achievements, was no prophet. But for one night in early 1961 he played one on TV.

Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961.

My fellow Americans:

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.


We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.


Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology-global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle-with liberty at stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small,there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research-these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs-balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage-balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between action of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.


A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.


Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we-you and I, and our government-must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.


Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war-as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years-I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.


So-in this my last good night to you as your President-I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find somethings worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I-my fellow citizens-need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love

Look! A Republican on my blog!


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"The" vs "A"

This is my kind of article. A psychology professor breaks down one glaring example of the use of language to control the terms of the debate. In this case he looks at the impact of the indefinite article:

American psychologist, Elizabeth Loftus, and her colleagues have shown how rhetorical tricks can make people misconceive reality. In one study by Loftus and Zanni (1975), people were shown a film of a car accident, and then asked questions about what they saw. A random half of the witnesses were asked “Did you see a broken headlight?” and the other half were asked “Did you see the broken headlight?” In the first version, 7% of the people said they saw a broken headlight. In the second version, 17% said they saw the broken headlight. In fact, there was no broken headlight. If someone uses the definite article the, then listeners and readers tend to presume that what follows actually exists.

In another study by Loftus (1975), people viewed a film and one group answered a questionnaire that included,
"Did you see the children getting on the school bus?" and the other group did not get this question. A week later, people filled out a second questionnaire that contained the question, "Did you see a school bus?" Only 6% of the people who had not been exposed the the question a week earlier recalled seeing a school bus, but 26% of those who had been exposed to the the question a week earlier said "yes" they had seen a school bus. In fact, there was no school bus.

Thus, by the simple use of
the, just one time, 10% of the people could be made to believe that something was there that was not there. With some additional details that fit, like children getting on school buses, and with the delay of a week to consolidate the false information, 20% of people could be made to believe that something was there that was not there.

Imagine the effectiveness of
the, repeated over and over and over and over, for weeks and months, by authorities whom we are trained to trust, providing lots of information that coherently fits with the false claims. For example, the Independent article quoted President Bush using the three times:

"We will disrupt
the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

There are in fact attacks on US forces (but done by anti-Iranian Sunni insurgents), and there are in fact networks providing advanced weapons for these attacks (but coming from pre-war Iraqi caches and pilfered from US supplies). Those two true facts serve to add coherence and believability to the unsubstantiated claim about “
the flow of support from Iran and Syria” for which there is in fact no evidence. Thus we come to confidently believe something is there that is not there.

The Independent is careful not to serve as a propagandist for governments bent on misleading the public in order to make new wars. When unnamed officials make claims, they are not presented as true, but as alleged, reportedly. And when there is no evidence, the Independent says that there is no evidence:

“Officials have also reportedly claimed that thousands of Shia militia fighters have been trained in Iran by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. Again, no evidence to support these claims has been made public.”

American journalists writing for US media are much less careful, and much more comfortable reinforcing beliefs for which there is no evidence, other than the repeated over and over and over. For example, ABC News headlined a report, “EXCLUSIVE: Iranian Weapons Arm Iraqi Militia”. The report quoted unnamed authorities that “smoking-gun evidence” has been found, that “
the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias” and that “the weapons have been supplied to Iraq's growing Shia militias”. But the alleged weapons and other evidence are only hearsay, never made public and not seen by the reporter. The “smoking gun” is actually smoke and mirrors made by repeated use of the definite article the.

The world is again being tricked into war by empty rhetoric and fear, unsupported by facts.

Please read the article in its entirety. I actually have nothing more to add.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Presidential Euphemisms

From Pat Begley of the Salt Lake Tribune:


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Next, After the Speech

Via Norm at OneGoodMove.Org, the programming lineup following the President's speech:

There's poetry all around you, if you just look for it.


Political Commentary Made Easy

A buddy of mine joked recently that these BushCo people are making me look like a genius. I got a good laugh out of that one but I'm here to tell you that it just ain't so. It's not them and I'm not a genius or an insider. The truth is that I simply have a fool-proof method for dead-on-balls accurate political punditocritizin' and, for a limited time, I'm willing to share my secrets with the general public.

My simple step-by-step method is guaranteed to make anyone, from any walk of life, a reliable and credible political pundit virtually instantly. Just follow these quick and easy steps:

Step #1: Listen to or read a statement from President Bush, anyone in his administration or any of their supporters in congress or the media, making careful note of their arguments and assertions.

Step #2: Assume the exact opposite to be true.

Step #3: Tell all your friends that exact opposite formulation as if it were a confirmed fact while -- and this important -- actually having no factual idea yourself. Write scalding letters to the editor sticking your neck out on these assertions. Post it in your blog if you have one. If you don't have one, start one and post it there. Accost strangers on the elevator with it. Go nuts.

Step #4: NOW (and only now) go do some research.

Step #5: Find out you were right. Laugh about it. Show your spouse or significant other.

I'm batting a thousand with this amazing system and now you can too! Be a hit at dinner parties! Amaze your friends!


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Occupation and Escalation

Following up on my previous post, I've run across two articles online that further examine the nature of the US occupation of Iraq and the coming escalation. The first comes from Michael Klare in the The Nation. Are you wondering why would the US would put a naval man in charge of the land-based CENTCOM forces in the middle-east? Klare explains:

Part of the explanation for this move, of course, is a desire by the White House to sweep away bitter ground-force commanders like Abizaid and Casey who had opposed an increase in US troops in Iraq and argued for shifting greater responsibility for the fighting to Iraq forces, thereby permitting a gradual American withdrawal. "The Baghdad situation requires more Iraqi troops," not more Americans, Abizaid said in a recent interview with the New York Times. For this alone, Abizaid had to go. But there's more to it. Abizaid, who is of Lebanese descent and served a tour of duty with UN forces in Lebanon, has come to see the need for a regional solution to the crisis in Iraq--one that inevitably requires some sort of engagement with Iran and Syria, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group


If engagement with Iran and Syria was even remotely on the agenda, Abizaid is exactly the man you'd want on the job at Centcom overseeing US forces and strategy in the region. But if that's not on the agenda, if you're thinking instead of using force against Iran and/or Syria, then Admiral Fallon is exactly the man you'd want at Centcom.

Why? Because combined air and naval operations are his forté. Fallon began his combat career as a Navy combat flyer in Vietnam, and he served with carrier-based forces for twenty-four years after that. He commanded a carrier battle wing during the first Gulf War in 1991 and led the naval group supporting NATO operations during the Bosnia conflict four years later. More recently, Fallon served as vice chief of naval operations before becoming the head of Pacom in 2005. All this means that he is primed to oversee an air, missile and naval attack on Iran, should the President give the green light for such an assault--and the fact that Fallon has been moved from Pacom to Centcom means that such a move is very much on Bush's mind.

The second is from Frank Rich of the New York Times. Using the recent media coverage of the Gerald Ford funeral as a springboard, Rich compares and contrasts Ford's presidential style with that of the current president, which is a very interesting read all by itself. But then...

It's against the backdrop of both the Hussein video and the Ford presidency that we must examine the prospect of that much-previewed "surge" in Iraq - a surge, by the way, that the press should start calling by its rightful name, escalation. As Mr. Ford had it, America cannot regain its pride by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned and, for that matter, as far as Iraq is concerned. By large margins, the citizens of both countries want us not to escalate but to start disengaging. So do America's top military commanders, who are now being cast aside just as Gen. Eric Shinseki was when he dared assert before the invasion that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops.

It would still take that many troops, not the 20,000 we might scrape together now. Last month the Army and Marines issued an updated field manual on counterinsurgency (PDF) supervised by none other than Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the next top American military commander in Iraq. It endorsed the formula that "20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents" is "the minimum troop density required." By that yardstick, it would take the addition of 100,000-plus troops to secure Baghdad alone.

The "surge," then, is a sham. It is not meant to achieve that undefined "victory" Mr. Bush keeps talking about but to serve his own political spin. His real mission is to float the "we're not winning, we're not losing" status quo until Jan. 20, 2009. After that, as Joseph Biden put it last week, a new president will "be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof." This is nothing but a replay of the cynical Nixon-Kissinger "decent interval" exit strategy concocted to pass the political buck (to Mr. Ford, as it happened) on Vietnam.

As the White House tries to sell this flimflam, picture fresh American troops being tossed into Baghdad's caldron to work alongside the Maliki-Sadr Shiite lynch mob that presided over the Saddam hanging. Contemplate as well Gerald Ford's most famous words, spoken as he assumed the presidency after the Nixon resignation: "Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule."

This time the people do not rule. Two months after Americans spoke decisively on Election Day, the president is determined to overrule them. Our long national nightmare in Iraq, far from being over, is about to get a second wind.



Sunday, January 07, 2007

Report: Israel Planning Nuclear Strike

The Sunday Times of London is reporting that Israel is planning a nuclear strike against Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities. The strike is described as involving conventional nukes to open a tunnel underground after which "tactical" nuclear weapons (that's "weapons", with an 's') are to be used to destroy the facilities.

Israel has already issued a denial of the report.

An aside: If you do a Google or Yahoo news search on this story using the terms "Israel plans nuclear Iran", for example, you'll find that the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the stories covering the original report on these plans come from media sources outside of the US. But the US media is well represented in the list of stories detailing Israel's denial of the report. I though that was interesting.

These "tactical" nukes are said to have about 1/15th of destructive force of the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the desired underground detonation is designed to limit the risk of nuclear fallout. There now, that's comforting, isn't it?

In light of the Israeli government's denials, I would be remiss if I didn't point out an earlier post on these pages where I noted Dick Cheney's foreshadowing of these very events...

Over a year ago Vice President Dick Cheney foreshadowed the end-game:

"Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked, that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."

That sounds so much like a tacit recommendation cloaked in plausible deniability that I just can't stand it. But one could argue that he didn't mean it that way at all. After all, that's what plausible deniability is all about.

But Thursday, President Bush gave us the confirmation and removed all doubt. In the same press statement cited here earlier, where he described this as "American policy", he also said:

And now's the time to address the root cause of the problem, and the root cause of the problem is terrorist groups trying to stop the advance of democracies. Hezbollah attacked Israel. I believe Hezbollah -- I know Hezbollah is connected to Iran. And now's the time for the world to confront this danger."

That's where this is going. That's what this is all for. All the rest is pretext. Israel is initiating a plan drawn up by us to facilitate a military strike, possibly a nuclear one, on Iran. This is the latest great event that we will be asked to believe will revolutionize the middle-east for the better. It is an apocalyptic vision bathed in blood. What's worse, it will fail and it will backfire on all of us. God help us all.

The point still stands.


Monday, January 01, 2007

It's an Occupation, Not a War

Every now and then I find myself in "enemy" territory.

For instance, I was invited to a small New Year's Eve gathering by some relatively new acquaintances. I understand that many of my views are hard for some folks to swallow at first glance. They cut against the "mainstream", nightly news grain so I don't walk into new environments with pistols blazing or anything. But sometime during the football game the subject of Iraq came up because of Saddam's execution -- it wasn't me, I promise. The reaction of the people there was one of celebration on the one hand and disgust that Muslims could possibly have any complaints about it on the other. So, right then and there it was clear. This is not my target audience -- but maybe they should be.

Anyway, I have nothing against these folks. They seemed damned decent to me and I liked them. They didn't strike me as partisan political junkies at all. They were ordinary folks who, like anyone else, were reacting to the news of the day. But the conversation was peppered with vintage BushCo talking points despite the fact that I didn't get the feeling these were rabid Bush supporters. Still, they were riding the "fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" horse like Willie Shoemaker. That stuff is like horseradish or dirty diapers to me -- damned near impossible to ignore. It's hard to let that stuff go unanswered.

My opening came when one of the guests mentioned that our involvement in the war was now longer than our involvement in World War II. That factoid seemed to surprise some of the others in the room and that gave me the opportunity send up my trial balloon.

"That's true," I said, "but when you really think about it, it's not really a war so much as it is an occupation," I offered helpfully.

"I mean, there's not really a line of troops with tanks, air support, attack chopper and gunships facing our guys over there," I added.

I finished it off with what I admit was a bit of superficial rhetorical camouflage, "So, if you look at it in terms of other occupations, it's not really that long at all."

Everyone reacted positively to that one, to my pleasant surprise, agreeing that it was more like an occupation than a hot war like WWII or even Vietnam.

Seed Planted

The distinction between war and occupation is an important one when it comes to people's perception of our involvement in Iraq. The Bush administration seems to realize that as long as they can keep the public locked into the war paradigm they can still kick up little dust-bunnies of support for their program. Their well-worn assortment of schoolyard taunts, accusing critics of wanting to "cut & run" or "appease the enemy" are just enough to earn them at least the grudging support of an American public that feels obligated to back their country in a war, right or wrong.

But something happened in that room when I managed to get people to acknowledge the true nature of what's happening in Iraq. Once they accepted the idea of it being an occupation instead of a war all the talk of "victory" ended abruptly. Now, one might suspect that this happened because I'd made them uncomfortable, but I don't think so. That's not the feeling I got. What I think really happened is that everyone realized that you can't win an occupation the way you can win a war.

So here we see how language, the words we choose to use, effects the direction and tone of the debate -- a fact that I promise you is not lost on the Bush Administration. The power of language is why our media establishment is so squeamish about naming the obvious civil war that is taking place in Iraq. They insist on calling it all "sectarian violence" because "civil war" just seems too damning for their tastes and those of the White House. They would be even more squeamish about labeling our presense there an occupation if any significant pressure to do so even existed.

If it's called a war then the more than 3,000 dead servicemen can be minimized as insignificant compared to other wars. But that's not a fair comparison, is it? How do those numbers stack up in comparison to other occupations? How many of our troops died in Germany? Japan? The Balkans? Somalia? Need a I go on? That simple shift of the paradigm changes the whole ballgame.

War allows people to behave like cheerleaders, cheering on our armed services as they slug it out against military adversaries who can be tangibly defeated. Victory is easily defined as the operational incapacitation of the enemy. Whoo-hah.

Occupation, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. An occupation is carried out against a civilian population and it's a lot harder to get decent, ordinary Americans cheering for military assaults on civilians.

What's more, the only possible victory that exists in the occupation of people who neither want to be occupied nor share your goals for their country is the continuance of the occupation. Victory is no longer an attractive end to be achieved but a seemingly permanent, artificial condition to maintained. As such, an occupation mind-set forces people back home, like the ones I met last night, to think and ask the only questions that matter.

"Why are we there again?" and "When are we going to leave?"

Why are we there?

Because being there is the whole point. Being there to control the oil supply; being there to threaten Iran and Syria; and being there to influence the region by our very presence are all the stated reasons outlined by top Bush Administration officials years before 9/11 ever happened.

We don't have to speculate on any this because these fools wrote it all down long ago in a series of documents dating back as early as 1992. The message was tweaked, expounded upon and polished again until it was finally published on the web at the website of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). A full year before the events of 9/11 ever happened, in a document entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (PDF file) the PNAC spelled it all out very plainly:

Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

So you mean Saddam isn't the real reason? The outlines of the same ideas described in that PNAC document can be found with even more refinement at the White House's own website in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

These are no low-level small fries I'm talking about. The PNAC is comprised of officials and advisers from the very top of our government, past and present -- names like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bush, Libby, Khalizad, Podhoretz, Bennett and Cohen just to name a few.

They're proud of this stuff. For them victory does not mean ending this conflict. For them victory means occupation and occupation means control, which brings us to the true answer to the second question.

When are we going to leave?

Never. Understand this. We don't ever intend to leave. This is why we're building 14 permanent bases and the largest foreign embassy in the world over there. This is why our President is so stubbornly opposed to any timetable for withdrawal. A timetable would mean too much pressure to actually withdraw and he doesn't really intend to ever withdraw. It's a problem for future presidents, you know.

And what about all this recent talk of a "troop surge" and an "expansion" of the military? Are these ideas being pursued for the purpose of helping to end this occupation or to facilitate its continuance? It's well-known that the military at it's current size can barely keep up it's current pace as it is. It certainly can't pursue any significant new wars without diverting resources away from Iraq. But a "troop surge" and "expansion" would make it possible to continue the occupation unabated while launching new optional wars against nations like Iran or Syria.

An aside:
For those of you doing Vietnam analogies at home:

Troop surge & expansion = escalation
Iran and/or Syria = Cambodia

This just so happens to dovetail very smoothly into the PNAC's pre-9/11 prescriptions for the US military. Quoting from PNAC's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" again, two "core missions" for the US Military are to:

• fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;
• perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security critical regions;

To accomplish these missions the PNACers most notably prescribe the following:

RESTORE THE PERSONNEL STRENGTH of today’s force to roughly the levels anticipated in the “Base Force” outlined by the Bush Administration, an increase in active-duty strength from 1.4 million to 1.6 million. [read: "Expand the military"]

REPOSITION U.S. FORCES to respond to 21st century strategic realities by shifting permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia, and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing U.S. strategic concerns in East Asia.

In the above formulation the repositioning of forces would seem to merely surround the middle-east. But in a later section describing their thoughts in greater detail, under the subheading, "Persian Gulf", they explain:

After eight years of no-fly-zone operations, there is little reason to anticipate that the U.S. air presence in the region should diminish significantly as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power... From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region.

In short, again, they have no intention of ever leaving Iraq.

Israel's methods, Israel's results

Again, this is an occupation, not a war. The war portion of our program ended within about two weeks of the invasion. Since that time we have been actively engaged in the permanent occupation of a Muslim country. To assist us in this enterprise we have enlisted the aid of world's foremost authorities on the occupation of Muslim countries, the United Kingdom and Israel. Both have extensive experience from their occupations of Palestine. But Israel in particular has occupied Muslim neighbors in Palestinian territory and the Golan Heights section of Syria continuously for the last 40 years, with stints in Lebanon sandwiched in between for good measure.

The role of Tony Blair's UK in Iraq has been well-documented and needn't be rehashed here. But less is said about Israel's role. From the very outset the US has also relied heavily on Israel's military and intelligence services. Our troops receive training from Israeli Defense Forces in their counterinsurgency efforts, drawing from "lessons learned in the conflict with the Palestinians". Israel also supplies a great deal of the intelligence on Iraq that our government relies on in its continuing operations there.

Let's think about that for a moment. We're taking advice from the Israelis on how to end an insurgency and terrorist activity. In it's 40 years of occupation in Palestine the Israeli terrorist problem has gotten nothing but worse. How are they the ones to go to for tips on how to end terrorism?

Answer: They're not. Instead, they're the ones to go to for tips on how to manage it.

That's an important distinction. In an earlier post I cited University of Southampton professor Oren Ben-Dor's explanation of how this all works. For Israel the idea is not to end the conflict in Palestine at all. Instead they seek to manage it, to contain it and to use it when needed to justify its actions. The ongoing violence resulting from their occupation are made-to-order pretexts for punitive military action, the expansion of Israeli territory and the suppression of Palestinian rights.

This too threatens to be the way of the US occupation of Iraq. Every day of violence justifies our presence and our presence engenders more violence in a self-sustaining loop. When you view the situation from that perspective, focused on the occupation, everything the Bush administration has done makes perfect sense. The permanent bases, the absolutely HUGE embassy, the refusal to enunciate a public plan for withdrawal, the close consultation with Israel and the circular nature of the operations in general all play very conveniently into an open-ended, indefinite, long-term occupation of that country. Even Bush himself is now calling it "the long struggle". Israel has kept this kind of game up for 40 years so don't hold your breath waiting for the US to leave Iraq.

However, it stands to reason that if you employ Israeli methods you're likely going to get Israeli results. Unfortunately, there's nothing in Israel's long-term counter-terrorism track record that suggests that its methods will lead to anything other than more terrorism, more local dissatisfaction and desperation, and the increased radicalization of the occupied population.

Israel's creation and its subsequent occupation of what is left of Palestinian land eventually led to the formation of the PLO in the first place, which we used to think was as bad as it gets... until we saw Hezbollah.

Hezbollah itself was created in response to Israel's occupation of Lebanon and the civil war it caused (stop me if that sounds familiar). We all thought that was uniquely bad... until we saw Hamas.

Hamas was formed in response to Israel's continued occupation and expansion into Palestine and we now, very clearly, care for them even less. It gets more radical as we go along.

With the US, like Israel, occupying a Muslim country using Israeli tactics and methods it can expect to reap the exact same results Israel is getting. Terrorism against the US, even inside the US, stands to mirror that of Israel in the future. This is true, not in spite of our occupation of Iraq, but because of it. This occupation almost guarantees it. We'll be fighting them over here much more than we otherwise might have precisely because we're occupying them over there.

Of course, the US is not Israel and there certain structural truths about Israel that don't exist in the US. However, in the eyes of the Arab world (and in our own congress apparently) the two have always been viewed as nearly synonymous. Our actions in Iraq only serve to reinforce, if not cement, that perception. We allow this at our own peril.

This is the barely-hidden truth that, if revealed convincingly to a wide audience, will unravel this whole thing politically. We are not at war with Iraq and Iraq never threatened our freedom. We are occupying Iraq and we are doing so because that's how our current leaders want it.

They only way for the American people get their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends out of Iraq is to make a significant change in our nation's leadership and to let the new leaders who take their place know that they are on the clock. That process begins by abandoning the self-serving psychological framework the current administration has crafted to justify their actions. Understand that this "war" is actually an unnecessary and wholly premeditated occupation that must end. It is imperative that we do so. The alternative is unthinkable.

I think I brought a few folks closer to this realization last night.

UPDATE: In this post I made mention of the enormous US embassy that BushCo is building in Baghdad. Today the Financial Times published a story about that embassy that, I think, underscores the reality of the situation there. Our presence there is part of a long-term occupation, not a war on terror:

At the heart of George W. Bush’s “new way forward” – which the president is expected to announce on Wednesday and involve substantial troop reinforcements – is the plan already under way to expand the US civilian presence across Iraq and complete the world’s largest embassy in Baghdad.

Construction of what critics call “Fortress Baghdad” has led to arguments inside the State Department amid fears that the overwhelming diplomatic presence will perpetuate a sense of US occupation and become a focus of local anger.


The embassy compound being built inside Baghdad’s Green Zone covers 104 acres, making it six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York. A city within a city for more than 1,000 people, it will have its own water, sewers and electricity, six apartment buildings, a Marine barracks, swimming pool, shops and some walls 15 feet thick.

The State Department has told the Financial Times that the US civilian presence in Iraq has “grown considerably beyond the numbers projected for the new embassy compound”, which is scheduled for completion by September 1 at a cost of $592m (€455m, £307m).


Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, and other officials have repeatedly sent cables to personnel around the world saying diplomats have a patriotic duty to volunteer for Baghdad and the expanding “provincial reconstruction teams”, where diplomats work out of military bases.

“Baghdad dwarfs everything else. It is becoming a monster that has to be fed every year with a new crop of volunteers,” says one diplomat.


John Brown, who resigned as a US diplomat in protest against the 2003 invasion and now teaches public diplomacy, says the embassy “will be a symbol of the US occupation and the near-total separation of US embassy staff members from the society with which they are supposed to interact”.

“Indeed, the planned embassy reminds me of the huge, cavernous buildings that housed Soviet missions in eastern Europe during the cold war. They were hated by the local population for all they stood for: secrecy, arrogance and domination.”