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, February 08, 2003
Nick Kristoff at the New York Times finally writes it: containment works! And is better than war. (Which is why we contained Stalin in the USSR, Mao in China, Kim in N.Korea, Qadaffi in Libya, etc.)
Yet as Michelle Goldberg writes, www.CPAC.org conservatives continue to paranoidly insist they are victims of a liberal bias. CPAC is no longer fringe-right, it is the base of the White House, Senate, House, Supreme Court, and powerful media publishers and editors. (Roger Ailes, the Republican hatchet-man for Presidents from Nixon to Reagan, went on to produce the Rush Limbaugh TV show and is now the CEO of Fox/Faux-TV News! In the days after 9/11, he advised President Bush to take strong measures.) The recent conference was addressed by VP Dick Cheney, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), RNC Chair Marc Racicot, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Secretary Elaine Chao, etc. The refrain was anti-immigration, anti-Islam, anti-foreigner, anti-liberal (moderates, liberals, dreaded multi-culturalists, socialists, and communists were literally lumped together), anti-environmental (British Petroleum was lambasted for being pro-green), and anti-intellectual. One panel chair said, to applause: "We'd be better off if all Harvard professors were gone." In a panel titled "Islam: Religion of Peace?", a 7th-grade teacher complained to the crowd that she was "forced" by California law "to teach Islam for 6 weeks, and spend only a week on Christianity." "What can I do?," she wailed. The panel chair received a standing ovation and cheers from the packed Marriott ballroom when he replied: "I encourage *all* of you to withdraw your children from government [public] schools!" One bumper sticker on sale there showed the view of Manhattan on 9/11 from Staten Island, as the 2nd WTC tower collapsed and smoke and debris filled the city. Superimposed are the words: "Clinton's Legacy".
Despite Republican domination of American politics, Goldberg notes:
they follow what Richard Hofstadter called "the paranoid style in American politics" in the 1964 essay of the same name. "Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated -- if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention," Hofstadter wrote. "Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes." [...] "He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish." And George W. Bush has harnessed their obsession and rage for his own political gain. To attend CPAC is to crash through the looking glass into a world where passionate worship of the president is part of a brave rebellion against government, where Sweden is a hellish dystopia and Tom Daschle a die-hard Marxist. [...]
GAO drops quest for Cheney task force records, 02/08/03. The investigative arm of Congress on Friday ended its unsuccessful effort to force Vice President Dick Cheney to reveal the energy industry's role in formulating the Bush administration's energy plan. The Bush White House refuses to reveal which industry executives and lobbyists Cheney and his aides met with in the early months of the administration. "GAO strongly believes the district court's decision is incorrect," said Walker, the GAO's comptroller general. But "further pursuit of the ... information would require investment of significant time and resources over several years," Walker said. The Cheney energy plan issued in the spring of 2001 called for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and eased regulatory barriers to new nuclear power plants. The suit asked the court to require Cheney to reveal who attended the energy task force meetings, with whom the task force met to develop its recommendations, how it determined whom to invite and how much it cost to develop the policy. Aside from a few details that the Bush administration revealed amid the collapse of Enron Corp., the White House has refused to identify the people the Cheney task force met with. Enron representatives met six times with the vice president or his aides. 2:57 AM
Friday, February 07, 2003
On the right-wing media bias led by partisan idealogues, corporate sponsors, conservative publishers/editors, right-wing foundations and the think-tanks they fund, see What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, by Eric Alterman, and the book's website, www.WhatLiberalMedia.com (which includes the first chapter.) Alterman has a PhD in history from Stanford. He writes:
Rich Bond, then the chair of the Republican Party, admitted during the 1992 election, “There is some strategy to [bashing the ‘liberal’ media] .... If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is ‘work the refs.’ Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one.” Patrick Buchanan admitted in 1996: “I’ve gotten balanced coverage, and broad coverage—all we could have asked. For heaven sakes, we kid about the ‘liberal media,’ but every Republican on earth does that.” William Kristol said. “I admit it. The liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.” Books by both Ann Coulter and Bernard Goldberg, while extremely popular with the media they attack, are so shoddily written and “researched” that they pretty much refute themselves. In fact, barely any of the major allegations in either book stands up to more than a moment’s scrutiny. The entire case is a lie, and, yes, in many instances, a slander. Although I abhor the methods of both authors, I do not feel they can go unanswered. Ideas, particularly bad ones, have consequences. The myth of the “liberal media” empowers conservatives to control debate in the United States to the point where liberals cannot even hope for a fair shake anymore.
The so-called "liberal" Washington Post now has the most hawkish, pro-Bush editorial stance on Iraq of any major paper in America! 10:07 AM
Thursday, February 06, 2003
A British "intelligence report" praised by Colin Powell was partly written in 1997 by a journalist and partly last September by a graduate student who published it in the Middle East Review of International Affairs, drawing on data from 1991, twelve years ago! This is hardly grounds for war. Powell praised the report: "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed... which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities." Both of the original authors have now attacked Tony Blair for using their reports to call for war against Iraq; both are opposed to the looming war. Six paragraphs are plagiarized almost verbatim, including the same typographical mistakes. The wording has been made more sinister, e.g. "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes" was changed to "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes." Other examples are online.
But the Bush Jr. Administration wouldn't deliberately lie to the American public on such a crucial issue, would it? Oh, wait--Bush Sr.'s admin did just that, just prior to the Gulf War of 1991! It claimed that satellite images showed 250,000 Iraq troops amassed on the Saudi border. But, as the St. Petersberg Times and Christian Science Monitor and many other reputable media sources later reported, commercial satellite photos showed the desert to be empty. The Bush Sr. admin also trotted out the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador who lied before Congress that she had seen Iraqi soldies rip babies from hospital incubators and leave them to die on the floor. Both stories were propaganda. Bush lied to the American public on a *far* more important issue than anything ever alleged about President Clinton, and has never been held accountable for it. Most Americans remain blithely unaware of this deceit. Like father, like son? Was Powell crying wolf? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice--"won't get fooled again."
As addressed below, no-one doubts that Saddam has chemical and biological weapons and is working to acquire nuclear weapons. The question is whether or not he can be deterred from using them against the US (as the USSR and China are deterred), and the consensus among the vast majority of analysts (in the security, intelligence, and international relations fields) is: "Yes, he can be deterred."
Monday, February 03, 2003 Al Gore would not have led the US into war against Iraq. Take a minute and think for yourself: if the White House had not led this charge into war, would YOU have been arguing in favor of war, against President Gore? Unlikely. So don't be a sheep, now. Take confidence in your ability to think and draw your own conclusions, independently of the White House and the press corps it feeds. (The fact that many more people voted for Gore than Bush is moot, but not irrelevant.)
The "threat" posed by Saddam is in fact *constructed* by the Bush Administration. [See John Ruggie and others, on "constructivism" in international relations].
CIA and FBI can find no meaningful links between Al Qaeda and Iraq (despite political pressure from the White House and DOD). Yet 70% of the American public wrongly believes there is a link--because the White House has said so, and the press has repeated this propaganda. Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Feith even set up a special unit inside DOD to find links, and cannot. See NYT 02/02/03, "Split at C.I.A. and F.B.I. on Iraqi Ties to Al Qaeda," by James Risen and David Johnston. Selections:
Some analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency have complained that senior administration officials have exaggerated the significance of some intelligence reports about Iraq, particularly about its possible links to terrorism, in order to strengthen their political argument for war, government officials said. At the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some investigators said they were baffled by the Bush administration's insistence on a solid link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's network. "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there," a government official said. In the interviews, two officials, Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy defense secretary, and Stephen J. Hadley, deputy national security adviser, were cited as being most eager to interpret evidence deemed murky by intelligence officials to show a clearer picture of Iraq's involvement in illicit weapons programs and terrorism. Their bosses, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, have also pressed a hard line, officials said.
Mr. Bush asserted in his State of the Union address this week that Iraq was protecting and aiding Qaeda operatives, but American intelligence and law enforcement officials said the evidence was fragmentary and inconclusive. "It's more than just skepticism," said one official, describing the feelings of some analysts in the intelligence agencies. "I think there is also a sense of disappointment with the community's leadership that they are not standing up for them at a time when the intelligence is obviously being politicized."
[...] But despite Mr. Abu Mussab Zarqawi's earlier presence in Baghdad, American officials have no evidence linking Iraqi officials to Mr. Foley's killing, or direct evidence that Mr. Zarqawi is working with the Iraqi government. "All they know is that he was in the hospital there," one official said. Some administration officials, particularly at the Pentagon, have argued that Ansar al-Islam has close ties to the Iraqi government, but other intelligence officials say there is only fragmentary evidence of such a link.
Similarly, British intelligence denies there is a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda:
There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaeda network, according to an official British intelligence report seen by BBC News.
The classified document, written by defence intelligence staff three weeks ago, says there has been contact between the two in the past. But it assessed that any fledgling relationship foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideologies. "His [Bin Laden's] aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq". ... It says al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden views Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party as running contrary to his religion, calling it an "apostate regime". "His aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq," it says. ... [I]ntelligence sources have told the BBC there is growing disquiet at the way their work is being politicised to support the case for war on Iraq. "This almost unprecedented leak may be a shot across the politicians' bows."
New York Times, February 2, 2003
Keeping Saddam Hussein in a Box
By JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER and STEPHEN M. WALT
The United States faces a clear choice on Iraq: containment or preventive war. President Bush insists that containment has failed and we must prepare for war. In fact, war is not necessary. Containment has worked in the past and can work in the future, even when dealing with Saddam Hussein. The case for preventive war rests on the claim that Mr. Hussein is a reckless expansionist bent on dominating the Middle East. Indeed, he is often compared to Adolf Hitler, modern history's exemplar of serial aggression. The facts, however, tell a different story.
During the 30 years that Mr. Hussein has dominated Iraq, he has initiated two wars. Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, but only after Iran's revolutionary government tried to assassinate Iraqi officials, conducted repeated border raids and tried to topple Mr. Hussein by fomenting unrest within Iraq. His decision to attack was not reckless, because Iran was isolated and widely seen as militarily weak. The war proved costly, but it ended Iran's regional ambitions and kept Mr. Hussein in power. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 arose from a serious dispute over oil prices and war debts and occurred only after efforts to court Mr. Hussein led the first Bush administration unwittingly to signal that Washington would not oppose an attack. [Secretary of State James Baker instructed the US ambassador to Iraq (April Glaspie) to tell Saddam: "we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." It was a green-light.] Containment did not fail the first time around — it was never tried.
Thus, Mr. Hussein has gone to war when he was threatened and when he thought he had a window of opportunity. These considerations do not justify Iraq's actions, but they show that Mr. Hussein is hardly a reckless aggressor who cannot be contained. In fact, Iraq has never gone to war in the face of a clear deterrent threat.
But what about the Iraqi regime's weapons of mass destruction? Those who reject containment point to Iraq's past use of chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iran. They also warn that he will eventually get nuclear weapons. According to President Bush, a nuclear arsenal would enable Mr. Hussein to "blackmail the world." And the real nightmare is that he will give chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to Al Qaeda. These possibilities sound alarming, but the dangers they pose do not justify war. [They are alarmist.]
Mr. Hussein's use of poison gas was despicable, but it tells us nothing about what he might do against the United States or its allies. He could use chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iranians because they could not retaliate in kind. The United States, by contrast, can retaliate with overwhelming force, including weapons of mass destruction. This is why Mr. Hussein did not use chemical or biological weapons against American forces or Israel during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Nor has he used such weapons since, even though the United States has bombed Iraq repeatedly over the past decade. The same logic explains why Mr. Hussein cannot blackmail us. Nuclear blackmail works only if the blackmailer's threat might actually be carried out. But if the intended target can retaliate in kind, carrying out the threat causes the blackmailer's own destruction. This is why the Soviet Union, which was far stronger than Iraq and led by men of equal ruthlessness, never tried blackmailing the United States.
Oddly enough, the Bush administration seems to understand that America is not vulnerable to nuclear blackmail. For example, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, has written that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction "will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration." Similarly, President Bush declared last week in his State of the Union address that the United States "would not be blackmailed" by North Korea, which administration officials believe has nuclear weapons. If Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal is "unusable" and North Korea's weapons cannot be used for blackmail, why do the president and Ms. Rice favor war?
But isn't the possibility that the Iraqi regime would give weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda reason enough to topple it? No — unless the administration isn't telling us something. Advocates of preventive war have made Herculean efforts to uncover evidence of active cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and senior administration officials have put great pressure on American intelligence agencies to find convincing evidence. But these efforts have borne little fruit, and we should view the latest reports of alleged links with skepticism. No country should weave a case for war with such slender threads.
Given the deep antipathy between fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden and secular rulers like Saddam Hussein, the lack of evidence linking them is not surprising. But even if American pressure brings these unlikely bedfellows together, Mr. Hussein is not going to give Al Qaeda weapons of mass destruction. He would have little to gain and everything to lose since he could never be sure that American surveillance would not detect the handoff. If it did, the United States response would be swift and devastating.
The Iraqi dictator might believe he could slip Al Qaeda dangerous weapons covertly, but he would still have to worry that we would destroy him if we merely suspected that he had aided an attack on the United States. He need not be certain we would retaliate, he merely has to think that we might.
Thus, logic and evidence suggest that Iraq can be contained, even if it possesses weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, Mr. Hussein's nuclear ambitions — the ones that concern us most — are unlikely to be realized in his lifetime, especially with inspections under way. Iraq has pursued nuclear weapons since the 1970's, but it has never produced a bomb. United Nations inspectors destroyed Iraq's nuclear program between 1991 and 1998, and Iraq has not rebuilt it. With an embargo in place and inspectors at work, Iraq is further from a nuclear capacity than at any time in recent memory. Again, why the rush to war?
War may not be necessary to deny Iraq nuclear weapons, but it is likely to spur proliferation elsewhere. The Bush administration's contrasting approaches to Iraq and North Korea send a clear signal: we negotiate with states that have nuclear weapons, but we threaten states that don't. Iran and North Korea will be even more committed to having a nuclear deterrent after watching the American military conquer Iraq. Countries like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia will then think about following suit. Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons will be difficult in any case, but overthrowing Mr. Hussein would make it harder.
Preventive war entails other costs as well. In addition to the lives lost, toppling Saddam Hussein would cost at least $50 billion to $100 billion, at a time when our economy is sluggish and huge budget deficits are predicted for years. Because the United States would have to occupy Iraq for years, the actual cost of this war would most likely be much larger. And because most of the world thinks war is a mistake, we would get little help from other countries.
Finally, attacking Iraq would undermine the war on terrorism, diverting manpower, money and attention from the fight against Al Qaeda. Every dollar spent occupying Iraq is a dollar not spent dismantling terrorist networks abroad or improving security at home. Invasion and occupation would increase anti-Americanism in the Islamic world and help Osama bin Laden win more followers. Preventive war would also reinforce the growing perception that the United States is a bully, thereby jeopardizing the international unity necessary to defeat global terrorism.
Although the Bush administration maintains that war is necessary, there is a better option. Today, Iraq is weakened, its pursuit of nuclear weapons has been frustrated, and any regional ambitions it may once have cherished have been thwarted. We should perpetuate this state of affairs by maintaining vigilant containment, a policy the rest of the world regards as preferable and effective. Saddam Hussein needs to remain in his box — but we don't need a war to keep him there.
John J. Mearsheimer is professor of political science at the University of Chicago [and served as an Air Force officer for five years; after graduating from West Point]. Stephen M. Walt is academic dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
In 1988, Iraq received $700 million in US aid, and battle-field assistance against Iran. With US-supplied technology, Iraq used chemical weapons on Kurdish rebels, killing over 3,000 innocent people and causing hundreds of thousands to flee. Al Gore (along with Claiborne Pell and Jesse Helms) introduced the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988, which would have imposed sanctions on Iraq for using chemical weapons. The Senate passed it unanimously, the next day.
However, the Reagan/Bush/Quayle White House pulled out all the stops to defeat the bill, and did so.
In addition to clearing the way for new financial aid, senior Bush aides as late as the spring of 1990 overrode concern among other government officials and insisted that Hussein continue to be allowed to buy so-called "dual use" technology -- advanced equipment that could be used for both civilian and military purposes. The Iraqis were given continued access to such equipment, despite emerging evidence that they were working on nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. ...
White House pressure on Congress in 1989 and 1990 to give Hussein crucial financial assistance and maintain his access to sophisticated U.S. technology were not isolated incidents. Rather, classified documents obtained by The L.A. Times [in 1992!] show, they reflected a long-secret pattern of personal efforts by Bush [Sr.] -- both as President and as vice president -- to support and placate the Iraqi dictator. Repeatedly, when serious objections to helping Hussein arose within the government, Bush and aides following his directives intervened to suppress the resistance. (Frantz and Waas, "Bush Secret Effort Helped Iraq Build its War Machine," Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1992)
Sunday, February 02, 2003 Ask the Right Question!
Bush and his shrewdness have managed to use the bully-pulpit to shift the agenda, subtly seducing the media (hence the public) into asking the wrong question. Beware this week, as Colin Powell trots out "smoking-guns".
The question is *not* "does Saddam have WMD?" He does. Everyone knows this, and we've known it for years. (He has chemical and biological capabilities, and is working on nuclear capabilities.)
The *right* question, which editors with a brain and conscience will insert above-the-fold on p.1 in the lead paragraph, until the war-mongering is over, is this: "WOULD SADDAM USE W.M.D. AGAINST THE U.S. (and/or supply others)?" The answer is "No" (unless we attack first). The USSR and China posed a *far* greater threat, and were led by mad men who were cut off from accurate news and who murdered tens of millions of their own people, yet were contained and stabilized.
Etc. (Watch, and ask: did Colin Powell present any evidence about this, the right question?)
Yet Bush has snookered people into asking the wrong question. This is partly because Bush has had fewer *real*, live question-and-answer sessions with the open press than any president on record. He has threatened to cut off reporters who do not toe his party-line. He has used spokeschimp Ari Fleischer as a screen. He has ruthlessly exploited patriotism for partisan interests (as evidenced yesterday in Cheney's talk to the www.CPAC.org conference). He has hidden behind pseudo-interviews with favored journalists or pre-selected audiences. He has stone-walled the press, so that he can set the agenda. (Bush asserts: "After September the 11th, the doctrine of containment just doesn't hold any water, as far as I'm concerned." Perhaps he was reading Clausewitz, all those years in the Ranger bleachers?)
Now is the time to ignore Bush's bullying and to ask the right questions, yourself. Whoever controls the questions controls the answers. Speak up.
(Other relevant questions: who mailed anthrax to Daschle, Leahy, and others? What progress has been made in this investigation? Why not more progress? What resources are being devoted to it? Why did White House staff start taking Cipro on 9/11/01, when the first anthrax letter was not mailed until a week later, on 9/18/01, and was not widely known until Oct 2? If we have been as effective in routing out Al Quada as Bush claimed in his SOU address, why have the number of attacks increased, from Bali to Yemen to Kenya? There are only 24 hours in a day, and limited budgets: how could a 250,000 person war against Iraq possibly *not* distract us from the war on terror? Etc.)
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