The people who claim “the surge is working”

It is actually difficult to fathom what historians are even going to be able to say when they compile the statements and representations of our country’s political leaders over the past four years. It all reads like some caricatured cartoon of a country ruled by compulsive liars and two-bit cons — like some college freshman’s attempt to write a science fiction account of a country ruled by leaders who continuously manipulate the citizenry with the most unabashed, simplistic and transparent lies on the gravest of matters. And no matter how many times it is exposed, they just continue to remain in power, openly engaging in exactly the same behavior without any consequences.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon

When Myths Take Priority Over Facts

Philip Cooney, longtime chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, saw hundreds of scientific reports coming across his desk warning of global warming. That was a problem, because in Republican mythology, global warming is itself a myth.

So Cooney, a man with no scientific background, simply rewrote the reports. He recently told Congress that he saw his job as trying to make science conform to administration policy.

That’s an amazing statement, because it completely reverses rational policy-making. A normal administration would try to make its policy conform to science, not the other way around. But this is not a normal administration.

Jay Bookman | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Thank God we invaded Iraq

“Experts … believe the fighting in Iraq will produce future Qaeda leaders,” the Times reports. Robert Richer, a former associate director of operations for the CIA, puts this fine point on the matter: “The jihadis returning from Iraq are far more capable than the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets ever were. They have been fighting the best military in the world, with the best technology and tactics.”

Translation: We’re fighting them in Iraq so that we can fight them again somewhere else.

Tim Grieve | Salon 

George Bush’s Land Mine

If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5’s of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing “benchmark” Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.

The legislation pending now in Washington requires the President to certify to Congress by next October that the benchmarks have been met-specifically that the Iraqi hydrocarbon law has been passed. That’s the land mine: he will certify the American and British oil companies have access to Iraqi oil. This is not likely what Congress intended, but it is precisely what Mr. Bush has sought for the better part of six years.

It is why we went to war.

Richard Behan | 

How Analysts in The Arab World See The Iraq War

The news from my Iraqi friends – leaders in quasi-governmental and nongovernmental organizations – was grim. These were people who (on human rights grounds) had supported the US invasion in 2003, and who then worked hard to build an effective, democratic order in their country. Now, I found them downhearted – but thoughtful, as they tried to pinpoint the worst of many US mistakes in Iraq. They told piercingly tragic stories about the violence and sectarianism that affects everyone there.

I asked one of these friends what he thought would happen if US forces leave Iraq in the near future. He said there’s a possibility this would concentrate the minds of his countrymen on the need to find a workable reconciliation. “But if the Americans stay, we can expect the situation to remain bad,” he said. This man was visiting Jordan for only a few days. But he was planning, soon, to return for much longer. After four years of trying to build strong public-sector institutions in Iraq, he was giving up the effort and preparing to join the 2-million-plus other Iraqis who have fled their country since the war began.

 Helena Cobban | The Christian Science Monitor

Conversion for Survival

The corruption and depletion of our resources – indeed our souls – must come to an end. Time is long overdue to engage the conversation about how to move from a permanent war economy to a permanent peace economy. Seymour Melman’s 2003 article “In the Grip of a Permanent War Economy” clarifies this reality. He then tells the story of the New York City Transit Authority effort to spend between $3 billion to $4 billion on subway cars. City government put out a request for bids and not a single American company responded. The industrial base in this country no longer manufactures what is needed to maintain, improve, or build our infrastructure. Instead, the city contracted with companies in Japan and Canada to build its subway cars. Melman estimated that such a contract could have generated, directly and indirectly, about 32,000 jobs in the U.S. Imagine an American production facility and labor force that could deliver six new subway cars each week, 300 subway cars each year, replacing in 20 year cycles the 6,000 rail car fleet of the New York subway system. Why can’t that happen here in the U.S.A.?

Another story: A shipyard in the town of Ringkobing, Denmark went broke in 1999. Vestas Wind Systems, a private company, moved in and converted the facilities to make windmills. In April of 2001, Business Week Online reported that the company had doubled its initial workforce, and that all the shipyard workers had become employed making windmills. Vestas leads a cluster of companies that have made Denmark, with a population of 5 million people, the world’s top producer and exporter of windmills. Wind industry supplies about 13 percent of Denmark’s power, and in 2001 controlled about 50 percent of the $4.5 billion global wind market. The company sees that wind is gaining ground over other renewable sources, and may very well become the green power of choice for the 21st Century.

It is possible to create industries, here on our own soil, that build something other than weapons. Other countries can figure out how to make consumer goods that serve the greater community, keep their workforce productive, and work to prevent global warming. The U.S. can surely do the same.

Mary Beth Sullivan | 

The American Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

During the discussion/debate, Sen. Graham seemed to be speaking in support of virtually everything that we opposed – and that had been exposed in the documentary – throwing all reason out the window. He dropped a bombshell when he began defending the practice of torture itself, using the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as an example. He cited the “good stuff” gleaned from treating him that way, as if to say, “it works!”

This raised again the question in my mind about just what kind of person professionally tortures somebody, and what kind of mentality would approve of it? (I found myself almost wishing such people could hear the screams – almost, because I would not wish that on my worst enemy.)

The obvious answer is: Sadists. Which is what the administration called the military police in the infamous photographs. And what was seen in them was small stuff compared to what else happened – and continued to happen even after the abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed.

Sam Provance | Consortium News 

Americans Face A Moral Reckoning

The simplest truth is that the economic system that so benefits you is steadily eroding democracy by transferring the power to shape the future, both within states and among them, to ever smaller elites. At the same time, wealth multiplies and concentrates itself, while impoverishing more and more human beings. Everything from US oil consumption, to global trade structures, to the iron law of cheap labor, to immigration policies, to the psychology of the gated community, to the gated idea of national sovereignty, to the distractions of celebrity culture — all of this supports what is called the American way of life. Yours. If finally seen to be the source of multiple sorrows at home and abroad, can this way of life prompt a deeper confrontation with its true costs and consequences? You need not reduce social ills to personal morality — or let Bush off the hook for his wholly owned war — to acknowledge the complicity attached to mere citizenship in a war-making, imperial nation. In that case, can you measure your sorrow against the word’s other meaning, which is contrition?

James Carroll | The Boston Globe

Are We Politicians or Citizens?

Timetables for withdrawal are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed everything in sight, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical. If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite—provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence—they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home.

It is four years since the United States invaded Iraq with a ferocious bombardment, with “shock and awe.” That is enough time to decide if the presence of our troops is making the lives of the Iraqis better or worse. The evidence is overwhelming. Since the invasion, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, and, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, about two million Iraqis have left the country, and an almost equal number are internal refugees, forced out of their homes, seeking shelter elsewhere in the country.

Howard Zinn | The Progressive

Reality-Based Legislation

The Founding Fathers did not want even so much as a standing army, much less a standing war. It was the clear intent of the Constitution that any funding for any military effort be strictly limited in time. The idea that Bush could take the country to war for 4 years and never face any Congressional scrutiny or limits on funding is wholly antithetical to the US constitution.

What Pelosi and the Democrats did is not only constitutionally permitted, it is required. That is why McCain and other opponents of the legislation are attempting to muddy the waters by claiming that it micromanages the war. If it did so, the legislature really would be treading on a prerogative of the president. But the Congress hasn’t said that the military should attack Ramadi on October 8. What it is saying, it has the right and duty to say.

Juan Cole | Informed Comment