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The 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.










 
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Elongavi Fugiens et Mansi in Solitudine
 
Friday, February 28, 2003  
Must read: "Why Pollack is Wrong: We Have Contained Saddam", Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, by Joseph Cirincione and Dipali Mukhopadhyay. E.g.:
>>>Pollack slips into the convenient historical revisionism now in fashion in conservative circles. This view looks back fondly on the "good old" days of the Cold War, when the US confronted a knowable, deterrable foe. But that was not at all how it was seen at the time. The entire basis, for example, of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), launched twenty years ago, was that the Soviets would not be deterred and that we should and could build a missile defense shield to destroy the first attack of 5,000 Soviet warheads. Typical of the view then was the Defense Department's "Soviet Military Report," of 1987: "The Soviets have developed extensive plans for using nuclear weapons first to preempt any use by other states." Saddam's aggression seems minor compared to the threat of a Soviet Union under Gorbachev still "committed to the long-term objective of establishing the USSR as the dominant world power."
[...] Pollack says, "the American, British and Israeli intelligence services believe that unless he is stopped, Saddam Hussein is likely to acquire a nuclear weapon in the second half of this decade." Putting aside the embarrassing problem of the basis for the British intelligence dossier, Pollack's presentation of their conclusions is misleading. What the CIA actually says is that "In the absence of inspections, most analysts assess that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear program-unraveling the IAEA's hard-earned accomplishments." But now inspectors are back in the country able to detect and stop any new activity. The US Department of Defense concluded that "Iraq would need five or more years and key foreign assistance to rebuild the infrastructure to enrich enough material for a nuclear weapon." But this is in the absence of any sanctions, inspections and with major help from other nations. Today, we have sanctions, inspections and no one is helping Iraq. We have stopped him, at least for now. <<<
See also Mearsheimer & Walt (Dec 2002) and their NYT OpEd.

6:19 PM

 
Saddam's son-in-law who defected in 1995 (then returned and was shot by Saddam), said this to his UNSCOM/IAEA/CIA interrogators:
"The main focus was on anthrax and a lot of studies were done. (Q: Were [biological] weapons and agents destroyed [after 1991]?) A: Nothing remained. After visits of inspection teams. You have important role in Iraq with this. You should not underestimate yourself. You are very effective in Iraq. During the Gulf War there was no intention to use chemical weapons as the Allied force was overwhelming. [...] After the Iran-Iraq war the [VX] factory was turned into civilian production. [...] We changed the [VX] factory into pesticide production. Part of the establishment started to produce medicine. [...] We gave instructions not to produce chemical weapons. I don't remember resumption of chemical weapon production before the Gulf War. Maybe it was only minimal production and filling. But there was no decision to use chemical weapons for fear of retaliation. They realised that if chemical weapons were used, retaliation would be nuclear. They must have a revision of decision to start production. All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed. (Q: why were missiles and chemical weapons kept in part while biological weapons were all destroyed?) A: In the nuclear area, there were no weapons. Missile and chemical weapons were real weapons. Our main worry was Iran, and they were against them." [p.7, bottom of p.13]
This is the same defector Bush has used as a "smoking gun" for evidence that Saddam still has stockpiles of WMD. We assume Saddam does, that he never destroyed them all (despite Kamel) and that he has produced more-- and this is not grounds for war. But Kamel's testimony is not the evidence Bush claimed it is. in 1999, in a letter to the U.N. Security Council (1/25/99), UNSCOM reported that its entire eight years of disarmament work "must be divided into two parts, separated by the events following the departure from Iraq, in August 1995, of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel."

2:05 PM

 
"The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid, the nature of human affairs can scarce admit of a remedy. But the mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit of merchants and manufacturers, who neither are, nor ought to be, the rulers of mankind, though it cannot perhaps be corrected may very easily be prevented from disturbing the tranquillity of anybody but themselves." -- Adam Smith (!), The Wealth of Nations (1776)
8:01 AM

 
20-year veteran U.S. diplomat J. Brady Kiesling resigns in protest over US policy on Iraq. Kiesling received the William R. Rivkin Award "for constructive dissent" from the American Foreign Service Association. The text of his letters follows.
Dear Mr. Secretary [Powell]:
I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.
It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.
The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.
The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to do to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?
We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.
We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials. Has “oderint dum metuant” [Let them hate, so long as they fear] really become our motto?
I urge you to listen to America’s friends around the world. Even here in Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine. Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet?
Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to defend its interests.
I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.
J. Brady Kiesling

1:51 AM

Wednesday, February 26, 2003  
Constructing counter-factuals: as evident in conservatives' attempt to pin the 9/11 disaster on President Clinton, their partisanship aims backwards in time as well as forwards. To counter this for posterity's sake, it is crucial NOW, before the US invasion of Iraq has begun, that more balanced minds construe what might have been accomplished after 9/11, and into the future, by a more informed and multilateral-oriented president (such as Clinton, Gore, Dean, etc.).
A rapid defeat of Saddam is no proof that Bush's advisors boxed him into making the right decision. Most Americans expect Saddam to be defeated relatively quickly and with a minimal loss of American lives (though probably some thousands or tens of thousands of deaths of innocent Iraqi children, women, and civilian men, as well as soldiers). However, it will not be known for decades whether the US decision "created thousands of little bin Ladens" across the Muslim world, whether it spread WMD into hands of terrorists in a last-minute handoff, whether it opened the door to pre-emptive wars by other powers (China, Russia, etc.), whether it led to the creation of a fundamental Islamic Shi'ite regime in Iraq, whether it destabilized the Kurds and exacerbated other regional conflicts and human rights violations, whether it led to quagmires in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and the support of human-rights violators; whether it was the first stepping-stone in a US-led military conquest of Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians, the Gulf States (as Norman Podhoretz urges), etc.
Imagine the counter-factual, where could the US be now, 30 months after 9/11 and 40 months after the 2000 election, if we had: used the UN inspectors to keep Saddam in a box, while we first rooted out Al Qaeda; continued the Clinton administration's negotiations with North Korea (which at least limited their acquisition of fissile material) rather than doing the opposite of everything Clinton did, made good use of the pro-US sympathy following 9/11, been supportive of our allies' concerns, organized a broader multinational coalition to go after Al Qaeda, lined up support to seal off the Tora Bora region, brought in 150,000 troops to Afghanistan (not the 5,000 Bush supplied), prohibited Pakistan's ISI from spiriting out Al Qaeda members, captured bin Laden and other top leaders, gained greater cooperation from intelligence agencies around the world to allow us to infiltrate, capture and disrupt Al Qaeda-sympathizers everywhere (Yemen, Bali, Kenya, India, Philippines, etc.), imposed a peace agreement on Israel and the PLO which removed the settlements and guaranteed a life secure from violence, worked to distance our oil dependency on Saudi Arabia and to freeze their funding of terrorism, used carrots and sticks to weed out anti-Semitic hate speech across the Muslim world, etc.
Furthermore, imagine the counterfactual that Gore had been declared the Presidential victor by the (Republican-appointed) US Supreme Court (e.g., by calling for a statewide recount in Florida). With continuity from the Clinton's Administration's concern about bin Laden--recall that Sandy Berger briefed the incoming Bush Administration on this in December 2000--and Gore's greater awareness of foreign policy issues, it is reasonable to conclude that President Gore's team would have been more receptive to the umpteen intelligence warnings coming in from countries around the world (Germany, UK, Israel, etc.) that bin Laden was planning an attack on the US, and 9/11 could have been prevented. Speculative, by definition, but quite plausible.
Imagine where we could be in future decades, rather than in the near-religious wars Bush and other fear-mongerers are leading us into. Everyone agrees that terrorists armed with WMD are a terrifying thought; the disagreement is how to prevent and thwart them. A strong US military force is a necessary element of creating peace, but no country can make lasting peace through policies and a budget which emphasize massive military strikes. We must continue to win the hearts, minds, cooperation, and respect of the world. This involves far greater expenditures on intelligence, a vast increase in Arabic and other relevant language-training (not just in the security community, but through colleges and high schools, creating a new generation to handle the new world we face), infiltration, cooperation with other intelligence agencies, and so on. And it requires real economic development, including policies to promote free markets, and to reduce trade barriers on agriculture and textiles.

2:06 PM

Monday, February 24, 2003  
Bush evades live question-and-answer sessions. Even with U.S. state governors!!! the governors have been told that most of them won't be able to directly question the president during Monday's White House gathering of the National Governors Association. The governors have been told the group as a whole will be allowed just two questions - and must submit them in writing beforehand. This sounds like something a Communist government would do! Two questions for the entire group, submitted in writing beforehand????
Washington Gov. Gary Locke, chairman of the Democratic governors, said, "There are many Democratic governors talking about not even attending under these circumstances. It's always been a very candid exchange."

12:21 PM

 
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