Pox Americana

Though it’s difficult to decide on a “worst legacy” of the Bush years — so many candidates to choose from — the utter lack of accountability is my current choice. Libby’s commutation is just the latest example of a Bush official let off the hook, and ultimately well-rewarded, for monumental screw-ups.

But it’s not just Bush officials. We’ve also had a long line of pundits who have made god-awful predictions and given horribly foolish advice and yet who continue to pen best-selling books and speak regularly from their TV perches, with nary a nod to their past mistakes.

Such as Thomas Friedman, he of “the world is flat” pro-globilization nonsense that assured us all that the invasion of Iraq was a nifty way to democratize the Middle East. Stephen Marshall’s new book — Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing — holds Friedman accountable when no one else will:

Writing from Dakar, Senegal, where he runs the Third World Forum, Samir Amin’s thesis is essentially that liberalism, if allowed to continue on its path of creative destruction, will lead to an apocalyptic end. He likens the globalizing force of liberalism to a virus that has destroyed all ideological competitors and that is now making its final assault on its host species. According to Amin, the ethic of liberalism — “Long live competition, may the strong win” — is now ravaging societies of the Third World, causing further “social alienation and pauperization of urban classes.”

In Liberal Virus, he argues that liberalism’s most decisive effect will be to divide the world into an apartheid system that sees 3 billion peasant farmers pushed from their land and forced into the cities where they will die. This, he explains, will result from the implementation of a 2001 World Trade Organization (WTO) mandate that all agricultural markets be opened to the expansion of commercial agribusiness producers. Without the ability to make a subsistence living from their own land, half the world’s population will have to migrate to the urban centers where there is no work for them. And thus, he concludes, they will be trapped in an “organized system of apartheid” on a global scale.

It’s just this sort of “viral competition” that I write about in Thinking Peace. Friedman is like a carrier of a deadly disease blithely travelling about the world, leaving a trail of infected communities.

In Bush America, he’s a star, with no need to answer for his actions.

Michael Sky

Rich Guy Rules

The commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence is just the latest in a long series of “it surely can’t get any worse than this” events that have plagued the nation since Bush was appointed president. The biggest surprise this time was how many people were surprised; we should all know by now that Bush doesn’t care what anyone thinks and, with no more elections before him, is likewise above political polling.

Nothing more dangerous than a lame duck with a rocket launcher in his hands. Our president.

Keith Olberman has been one of the sharper voices opposing Bush’s reign of error, and this last outrage has him especially pissed off:

The twists and turns of Plamegate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the “referee” of prosecutor Fitzgerald’s analogy, these are complex and often painful to follow and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush, and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal, the average citizen understands that, Sir.

It’s the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the prearranged lottery all rolled into one, and it stinks.

The fact that all of this happened pre-fourth of July is particularly irksome.

It is nearly July Fourth, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a king who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them — or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them — we would force our independence and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time — and our leaders in Congress, of both parties — must now live up to those standards which echo through our history. Pressure, negotiate, impeach: get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our democracy, away from its helm.

And for you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed on August 9th, 1974.


Michael Sky

monumental stupidity

The ever-professorial Juan Cole almost loses it after Bush’s latest foray into decider-speak:

In Israel, terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it’s not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that’s a good indicator of success that we’re looking for in Iraq.

Cole doesn’t mince words in showing his exasperation with Bush, and gives the kind of cogent analysis that, apparently, has not occurred at the White House for 6+ years:

These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal.

The US political elite just doesn’t get it. Israel is not popular in the Middle East, and it isn’t because Middle Easterners are bigots. It is because Israel is coded as the last European colonial presence in the region, an heir to French Algeria, British Egypt, and Dutch Indonesia– and because the Israelis pugnaciously continue to try to colonize neighboring bits of territory. (This enmity is not inevitable or eternal; in 2002 the Arab League offered full recognition of Israel in return for its going back to 1967 borders, but the Israeli government turned down the offer.) But for the purposes of this analysis it does not really matter why Israel is unpopular. Let us just stipulate that it is. Why would you associate American Iraq with such an unpopular project, if you were trying to do public diplomacy in the region?

Really, the only reasonable explanation for Bush’s words is that he is a serious Christian-Rapture-Nut who thinks causing an all-out conflagration in the Middle East is doing God’s work. Because conflagration is what we’re going to get:

Even if it were true that an Israel-Palestine sort of denouement were in Bush’s mind for Iraq, was it wise for him to make it public?

That sort of scenario is precisely the propaganda message broadcast by the Jihadi websites in Iraq and the Arab world! They say that the US military occupation of Iraq, in alliance with Shiites, has turned the Sunni Arabs into Palestinians! Bush could not have handed the guerrillas a better rhetorical gift. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that DVD’s of Bush’s comments will be spread around as a recruiting tool for jihadis, and that US troops will certainly be killed as a result of this speech. You could say that the US military presence is already pretty unpopular in the Sunni Arab areas. But what of the progress in al-Anbar Province? Will Bush’s speech help or hurt Sunni Arabs who want to ally with the US against the foreign Salafi Jihadis? Hurt, obviously.

Michael Sky

Way Past Time to Worry

Before our idiot invasion of Iraq, there was Afghanistan, the “good invasion.” Since the Taliban were harboring Bin Laden and other planners of the 9/11 attacks, invading Afghanistan made sense to most folks (not me). Unfortunately, the Bushies undertook the project with their trademark incompetence, and six years later Bin Laden remains at large, the Taliban are on the rebound, and our continuing presence in the country is just bad news:

U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces fighting insurgents in Afghanistan have killed at least 236 civilians so far this year — surpassing the 178 civilians killed in militant attacks, according to an Associated Press tally.

Insurgency attacks and military operations have surged in recent weeks, and in the past 10 days, more than 90 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and artillery fire targeting Taliban insurgents, said President Hamid Karzai.

Separate death toll figures from the U.N. and an umbrella organization of Afghan and international aid groups show that the numbers of civilians killed by international forces is approximately equal to those killed by insurgents.

“Burning the village to save it” worked so well in Viet Nam it is now America’s prime export to the Middle East. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and soon, we fear, Iran, we blunder on, killing way more good guys than bad.

On Saturday, [President Hamid] Karzai accused NATO and U.S.-led troops of carelessly killing scores of Afghan civilians and warned that the fight against resurgent Taliban militants could fail unless foreign forces show more restraint.

“Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as such,” Karzai said angrily.

Mr. Karzai meet Mr Bush, for whom ALL non-fetal life is cheap.

Michael Sky

Impeachably Offensive

Seems the only good news any more is that each new day means one less day of Bush and his crew:

Yesterday, George W. and Laura Bush hosted Ruffins and his band, the Barbeque Swingers, at the annual Congressional Picnic. Bush’s remark to Ruffins is the ultimate symbol of his disdainful attitude towards the culture of New Orleans that he allowed to drown under the floodwaters of the Mississippi:

MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.

THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We’re glad to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: Proud you’re here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it’s over. (Laughter.)

Coming from the man who totally trashed America and its reputation………….

Michael Sky

The American Crazies

When historians look back on the staggering incompetance of the Bush years they will surely conclude that if not for Tony Blair much of the insanity would never have happened. Especially regarding the whole sorry mess in Iraq, if Tony Blair and the British had stood with rest of the world instead of with Bush, it’s unlikely the invasion would ever have happened.

Though we can’t fix the past we can hope that Blair’s replacement, Gordon Brown, has the sense to, as Anatole Kaletsky writes,  “break with the American Crazies”:

There is now strong evidence that President Bush didn’t even know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims when he decided to attack Iraq – and that dissenting opinions were simply blocked by Mr Cheney before they could reach the President’s desk.

The State Department had prepared to send hundreds of diplomats and private sector construction experts with Arab-language skills and Middle East experience to help to rebuild Iraq. But less than a month before the war started, all these people were “stood down” on orders from Mr Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, as their Middle East experience would bias them towards an “Islamist” and defeatist worldview. The peremptory disbandment of the Iraqi Army and the Baath party, now regarded as the worst mistake of the immediate postwar period, was decided at the “highest level” in Washington and was then imposed against the advice of the US military governor Jay Garner, who quickly understood the anarchy that this would unleash.

The list of misjudgments and mistakes could go on and on, but my point should by now be obvious. The question Mr Brown must now ask himself is whether he can still allow himself to remain publicly allied to a US Administration that is so recklessly belligerent in its diplomatic conduct, so demonstrably incompetent in warfare and so irresponsibly dangerous to the peace of the world.

Michael Sky

Oil Wars

As the situation in Iraq continues its tragic decline, the war’s advocates have reduced expectations for “progress” to one item: if the Iraqi government can just pass a new law that would privatize most of its oil production, then its American masters would proclaim a huge victory for the surge. But it’s hardly a sure thing that Iraqi lawmakers will enact the new law since it means signing over their country’s primary resource to foreign corporations:

The law would transform Iraq’s oil industry from a nationalized model closed to American oil companies except for limited (although highly lucrative) marketing contracts, into a commercial industry, all-but-privatized, that is fully open to all international oil companies.

The Iraq National Oil Company would have exclusive control of just 17 of Iraq’s 80 known oil fields, leaving two-thirds of known — and all of its as yet undiscovered — fields open to foreign control.

The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire Iraqi workers or share new technologies. They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country. The vast majority of Iraq’s oil would then be left underground for at least two years rather than being used for the country’s economic development.

This has been the main reason for the war from the very beginning. Way back before 9/11, Dick Cheney was convening secret meetings with energy bigwigs in which Middle Eastern oil was understood as not just a prize, but an imperative. Give Cheney some credit for recognizing that if the American Way were to continue mindlessly motoring on, it would need absolute control of the world’s major petroleum resources.

So it was that within hours of the attacks on 9/11, Bush and his supporters were already planning the invasion of Iraq. Too bad about the non-existent WMD, too bad that the “wave of liberating democracy” thing didn’t work out, but the point was always getting control of Iraq’s oil and that mission is almost accomplished.

Michael Sky

The American Way

Joe Lieberman says we should invade Iran because we have “incontrovertible evidence” that someone in Iran is supplying weapons to Iraq, and some Iraqis are using those weapons to kill Americans.

Given the “incontrovertible evidence” of Iraqi WMD that turned out to be false, we have good reason to just ignore all such nonsense from war hawks. But even if it’s true that Iran is sending weapons to Iraq, how does that justify invading a sovereign nation?

To absorb the full force of how criminally insane Lieberman’s statement was, suppose we adopted the following proposition:

“The United States should launch airstrikes against any country which is supplying weapons or other support to insurgents in Iraq.”

Who would we have to bomb?

Of course we would have to bomb Syria. There’s no question that Syria could be doing more to stop the flow of weapons and fighters across the Syrian-Iraqi border. They could, for example, construct a 20-foot high electrified fence along the entire border, with a shark-infested moat. Since they aren’t doing this, we’d have to bomb them. But we would also have to bomb Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who could also be doing more to stop the flow of fighters and money from their territory to Sunni insurgents.

But, to be fully consistent, we couldn’t stop there. We would also have to bomb the United States.

Because, as it turns out, we are now intentionally sending weapons to Iraqi factions that will inevitably end up aimed at Americans:

With the four-month-old increase in American troops showing only modest success in curbing insurgent attacks, American commanders are turning to another strategy that they acknowledge is fraught with risk: arming Sunni Arab groups that have promised to fight militants linked with Al Qaeda who have been their allies in the past.

They do it: a crime so bad to warrant the destruction of a nation.

We do it: the American Way.

Michael Sky

Joe Bomberman

How anyone can look at the middle east and all that’s gone wrong these past six years and opine that high altitude bombing of yet another country makes sense is beyond me. Says Joe Lieberman:

I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And to me, that would include a strike into… over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.

Now, Joe is smart enough to realize that, for multiple reasons, we can’t invade Iran. Must be very frustrating for him. But, not to worry, let’s just drop a few thousand bombs on them:

I think you could probably do a lot of it from the air.

Since the first Gulf Slaughter this has increasingly been the golden rule of war-think: Why risk the deaths of American soldiers when you can destroy the enemy at little risk with high altitude bombers. True, it means that most of the people you kill are innocent civilians. If they didn’t want to be bombed they should have thought of that before they were born in a small third-world country with leaders that piss off America.

Michael Sky

Bush in Fantasyland

Joseph Cirincione deconstructs Bush’s recent attempts to start a new arms race:

President Bush is rushing to deploy a technology that does not work against a threat that does not exist. Iran is at least 5 to 10 years away from the capability to build a nuclear weapon and at least that far from having a missile that could hit Europe let alone the US. And anti-missile systems are still nowhere near working despite $150 billion spent since the 1983 Star Wars program started and years of phony tests staged to demonstrate ‘progress’ and ‘success.

As in the past when Bush has gone after non-existing threats — those missing WMD in Iraq — we are once again being told one thing and sold another. In Iraq, the purpose all along was to get rid of Saddam and install a permanent US presence in the region to control Iraq’s oil. Reviving Star Wars has less to do with keeping America safe than with keeping weapons manufacturers busy and prospering. And, rhetoric aside, it has nothing to do with helping the Europeans or anyone else.

The fact is the Czechs don’t want the radar, the Europeans don’t trust his explanations and deplore his unilateralism, the Congress has already cut the funds on purely programmatic grounds. This was a dumb idea before, now it is yet another foreign policy disaster.

But a potential golden feather in the cap of Bush and his corporate cronies, a policy that will go on paying huge dividends long after he’s out of office.

Michael Sky