questions one asks *always* determine the answers one gets. Values and theories form the basis of all inquiry. This blog asks questions about Bush's "pre-emptive war on Iraq", the political influence of corporations, US foreign policy, the ''politically right'' media bias, developing countries, wealth distribution, and political philosophy.
Saturday, January 18, 2003
Did you know that Bush Administration officials decided to overthrow Saddam FIVE YEARS AGO, long before 9/11/01? Read this Washington Post article (Jan. 11, '03):
A small group of senior officials, especially in the Pentagon and the vice president's office, have long been concerned about Hussein, and urged his ouster in articles and open letters [many] years before Bush became president. Five years ago, the Dec. 1  issue of the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, headlined its cover with a bold directive: "Saddam Must Go: A How-to Guide." Two of the articles were written by current administration officials, including the lead one, by Zalmay M. Khalilzad, now special White House envoy to the Iraqi opposition, and Paul D. Wolfowitz, now deputy defense secretary. "We will have to confront him sooner or later -- and sooner would be better," Khalilzad and Wolfowitz wrote. They called for "sustained attacks on the elite military units and security forces that are the main pillar of Saddam's terror-based regime." In an open letter to President Bill Clinton in early 1998, Wolfowitz, Khalilzad and eight other people who now hold positions in the Bush administration -- including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- urged Clinton to begin "implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power."
[See this letter from January 1998--five years ago--by the "New American Century Project." Signers include:
Donald Rumsfeld: now Secretary of Defense (yes, that Rumsfeld).
Paul Wolfowitz: now Deputy Secretary of Defense, #2 at the Pentagon next to Rumsfeld. Israel's top newspaper, Ha'aretz, recently described him as follows: "Wolfowitz is the most senior Jewish member of the political and defense branches of the current U.S. administration. He is considered to be the architect behind the current closing in on Iraq, a clear supporter of Israel, and a leading member of the Jewish right in Washington, which includes Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, and the National Security Council adviser on the Middle East, Elliot Abrams. Wolfowitz has family, including a sister, in Israel, and is well-acquainted with many members of the government..."
Richard L. Armitage: now Deputy Secretary of State, #2 ranking, next to Colin Powell.
Richard Perle: mastermind behind much of the anti-Iraq policy. Now Chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board in the Department of Defense, "advises Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on major matters of defense policy." Perle is also a Director of the Jerusalem Post newspaper in Israel, and a Director of Hollinger International which owns the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Telegraph in London as well as the Jerusalem Post. He serves on the board of JINSA.
Zalmay Khalilzad: now Special Envoy and Ambassador at Large for Free Iraqis, where he "serves as the focal point for contacts and coordination among Free Iraqis for the United States Government and for preparations for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq"--White House. Also Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director, National Security Council, and Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan. Formerly worked for Unocal, Inc., for whom he negotiated with the Taliban in 1997, to help build an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. That pipeline is now once again underwary.
Elliott Abrams: now Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East, "including Arab/Israel relations and U.S. efforts to promote peace and security in the region." Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987.
John Bolton: now Undersecretary of State for Non-Proliferation.
Paula Dobriansky: now Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Peter W. Rodman: now Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
William Schneider, Jr.: now Chairman of the Defense Science Board in the Department of Defense.
Robert B. Zoellick: now the White House U.S. Trade Representative.
R. James Woolsey: former CIA Director. On 9/13/01, just two days after the attack, Woolsey published an article --with no basis in fact--which suggested Iraq was responsible, not Osama bin Laden. Even the White House now blames Osama, viz. the video it released.
The Washington Post continues:
On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2½-page document marked "TOP SECRET" that [...] almost as a footnote, ... directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq. On Sept. 19 and 20, an advisory group known as the Defense Policy Board [led by Richard Perle] met at the Pentagon -- with Rumsfeld in attendance -- and animatedly discussed the importance of ousting Hussein.
The previously undisclosed Iraq directive is characteristic of an internal decision-making process that has been obscured from public view. Instead, participants said, the decision to confront Hussein at this time emerged in an ad hoc fashion. Often, the process circumvented traditional policymaking channels as longtime advocates of ousting Hussein pushed Iraq to the top of the agenda by connecting their cause to the war on terrorism. The decision to confront Iraq was in many ways a victory for a small group of conservatives.
The administration has embarked on something "quite extraordinary in American history, a preventive war, and the threshold for justification should be extraordinarily high," said G. John Ikenberry, an international relations professor at Georgetown University. But "the external presentation and the justification for it really seems to be lacking," he said. "The external presentation appears to mirror the internal decision-making quite a bit."
[On 9/11, Cheney and] Rumsfeld wondered to aides whether Hussein had a role in the attacks. Wolfowitz, in public and private conversations, was an especially forceful advocate for tackling Iraq at the same time as Osama bin Laden. "I do believe certain people have grown theological about this," said another administration official who opposed focusing so intently on Iraq. "It's almost a religion -- that it will be the end of our society if we don't take action now."
Much of this activity [was] hidden from the public eye. Bush barely mentioned Iraq in his address to the nation nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks. In fact, the administration did not publicly tip its hand until Bush made his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2002. Even then, officials did their best to obscure the meaning of Bush's words. Briefing reporters at the White House, officials played down the importance of the "axis of evil." One senior White House official advised "not to read anything into any [country] name in terms of the next phase" of the war against terrorism. Yet, in this period, Bush also secretly signed an intelligence order, expanding on a previous presidential finding, that directed the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Hussein, including authority to use lethal force to capture the Iraqi president.
Then, in April, Bush approached Rice. It was time to figure out "what we are doing about Iraq," he told her, setting in motion a series of meetings by the principals and their deputies. "I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go," Bush hinted to a British reporter at the time.
Friday, January 17, 2003
Last August in the Wall Street Journal, Brent Scowcroft summarized quite nicely the reasons why invading Iraq is a bad idea. Scowcroft, a Republican, was National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. "But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq,, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence. Possibly the most dire consequences would be the effect in the region. The shared view in the region is that Iraq is principally an obsession of the U.S. The obsession of the region, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If we were seen to be turning our backs on that bitter conflict--which the region, rightly or wrongly, perceives to be clearly within our power to resolve--in order to go after Iraq, there would be an explosion of outrage against us. We would be seen as ignoring a key interest of the Muslim world in order to satisfy what is seen to be a narrow American interest."
Thursday, January 16, 2003 "Must read" article in this month's Foreign Policy magazine, which concludes that Saddam *can* be contained (even if he does have WMD, as we all assume). The article is important not just for its substance, but because of the prestige of its authors: two of the most highly-regarded security studies theorists alive. One, Prof. John Mearsheimer, is a West Point graduate who served five years as an officer in the US Air Force; he is now at the University of Chicago. The other, Prof. Stephen Walt, is at Harvard University. These guys are taken very seriously in both military and academic circles, they are tops in their field (even if they are not talking-heads on TV). Analyzing security is their life-blood; their have a reputation for being hawkish "realists" (as in realpolitik).
The article is available online (temporarily), at: www.foreignpolicy.com/wwwboard/walts.html . It is a *very* effective rebuttal of every rationale for war coming from the Bush Administration. It strengthens the case that Al Gore made in his September speech in California. Everyone in America should read it, from top to bottom.
White House press briefing, 1/13/03:
Q. A group of Republican businessmen took out a full-page ad in today's Wall Street Journal [Jan 13, 2003], and they charged that President Bush had betrayed them by first promising a more humble nation in our dealings with the world, and then turning around and preparing for preemptive wars. They say in the ad, "to President Bush, you cannot keep proclaiming peace while preparing for war. You're waltzing blindfolded into what may well be a catastrophe. Show the humility and compassion that led us to elect you." In what sense is this doctrine of preemptive war -- in what sense does that reflect the more humble nation --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think precisely in the same way that President Kennedy meant it when President Kennedy used preemption as a possible American response to the Cuban missile crisis. Preemption is actually a time honored part of America's tool of diplomatic and foreign policy devices that are used, hopefully, to defuse crises and prevent war from ever taking place. And the President approaches it in the same manner.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, Ari. Your Middlebury classmates would wonder if you flunked your history classes. Read historian Arthur Schlesinger, jr.'s powerful editorial against pre-emptive war. Schlesinger was JFK's special assistant. He explicitly points out that the Kennedy brothers *rejected* preemption as a "possible American response"; it was only Cold War loonies in the Pentagon (ahem, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith: this means you) who proposed it in the first place. Kennedy rejected it. Bush is no Kennedy, Ari; don't even try.
Schlessinger writes: During the Cold War, advocates of preventive war were dismissed as a crowd of loonies. When Robert Kennedy called the notion of a preventive attack on the Cuban missile bases "Pearl Harbor in reverse," and added, "For 175 years we have not been that kind of country," he swung the ExCom from an airstrike to a blockade. ... After the collapse of the Soviet Union, everyone thanked heaven that the preventive-war loonies had never got into power in any major country. Today, alas, they appear to be in power in the United States. Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld evidently see themselves as Steven Spielberg's "precogs" in "Minority Report," who are psychically equipped to avert crimes that are about to be committed. Certainty about prediction is an illusion. What is it that our Pentagon precogs know he is plotting to do? What is the clear and present danger, the direct and immediate threat, to justify sending the Army into Iraq? Do the administration's precogs expect that he will use his mass-destruction arsenal against Kuwait? Against Israel? Against the United States? Since Hussein is not interested in suicide, he is unlikely to do any of these things. ... The one contingency that would very probably lead Hussein to resort to his ghastly weapons would be just this invasion of Iraq by the U.S. Meanwhile, the containment policy seems to be working. ... What is so vital about getting rid of Saddam next week or next month? .... The arrogance of leaders who are sure they can predict the future invites retribution. ... Unilateral preventive war is neither legitimate nor moral. It is illegitimate and immoral. For more than 200 years we have not been that kind of country."
Will Faux News interview Schlesinger about this tonight? His LA Times editorial is well-known. If not, why not?
Monday, January 13, 2003
Matthew Engel (The Guardian) writes: Media | Bushwhacked There is a new game in town. It is not merely Bush's opponents who have failed to grasp the rules, but ordinary reporters who believe their sole job is to get at the truth. American journalists emerge from university journalism schools, which teach rigid notions of factual reporting and "objectivity". But facts can be very slippery creatures, especially when sliding through the hands of skilful politicians and their spokesmen. The journalists may see the sleight-of-hand, but in the US the conventions of their trade make it hard for them to convey it.
"It's not that the press is uncritical of the people it covers," says Steven Weisman, the New York Times's chief diplomatic correspondent, "but it's critical the way a sportswriter is critical, calling the points and measuring success or failure based on wherever the administration wants to be. So in a situation like this, when the administration is set on waging a war, is enacting its programme and is winning seats at elections, then in a funny way the press becomes like a ga-ga sportswriter. Except for scandals, the press is unable to set the agenda in this country."
This might seem desirable compared to the British situation, where national newspapers traditionally have an agenda of their own. But there are two major consequences of the American way. Most Washington reports consist of stories emanating from inside the government: these may (rarely) be genuine leaks; they may come from officials anxious to brief against rival officials, but that too is rare in this disciplined and corporately-run administration. Most of these stories, which look like impressive scoops at first glimpse, actually come from officials using the press to perform on-message spin. Whatever the category, the papers lap this up, even when it is obvious nonsense [...]
The second consequence is that this makes for very tedious journalism. One observer thinks Woodward and Bernstein may actually be to blame for all this. "It's been a post-Watergate phenomenon. We just got so sober-sided and Serious with a capital S that it drained a lot of personality out of the newspapers," says Tom Kunkel, dean of journalism at the University of Maryland. "The trend in American journalism has been to be more credible and more objective. But we've just taken all the fun out of it. Most of the time, it's just 'he said' and 'she said'. Newspapers have got kinda boring. The industry wrings its hands and asks what's wrong and beats itself up. What it never does is say: 'Well, we could make the paper a hell of a lot more interesting'."
Edward R. Murrow's classic 1958 keynote address to the Radio-Television News Directors Association. Murrow blamed the declining independence of newscasts on the search for corporate profits. Think how much worse this has become, with the the consolidation of TV networks and newspapers into the hands of a few corporations, the gutting of news budgets, and the shift to commercialized "infotainment" (all journalists are now in the entertainment industry). "Television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. ... Potentially we have in this country a free enterprise system of radio and television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise, it must be both free and enterprising. ... I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything. ... 'No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch.' I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. ... This nation is now in competition with malignant forces of evil who are using every instrument at their command... If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us. ... But we are handicapping ourselves needlessly."