Adam Ash

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

When will Bush stop lying? And while he fiddles, Baghdad burns more savagely than ever

1. Honesty in Iraq -- by David Swanson

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently published an editorial that said of Bush: "His pronouncements now bear no resemblance to reality." Now? Oh, never mind.

Marc Sandalow, the Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle, recently wrote: "There is mounting evidence that the world of public Bush-speak - from his vigorous support for al-Maliki and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to his rejection of direct diplomacy with Syria and Iran - bears little relation to what goes on behind the scenes." Mounting? Forget it.

Robert Fisk recently asked about George W. Bush: "How does he do it? How does he persuade himself - as he apparently did in Amman yesterday - that the United States will stay in Iraq 'until the job is complete?'" Persuade himself? I give up.

Frank Rich writes that Bush "is completely untethered from reality. It's not that he can't handle the truth about Iraq. He doesn't know what the truth is." He doesn't? Look at a couple of well-known Bush quotes again:

"What's the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, if he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger." (Bush on why he lied about weapons of mass destruction.)

"I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer." (Bush on why he lied about keeping Rumsfeld on.)

These are the statements of a man who knew he was lying, a man who believes nobody should care whether he lies or not, a man who doesn't much care himself, but still nonetheless a sane - albeit heartless, cruel, and stupid - human being who knew he was lying.

The media's new notion that Bush is losing his sanity reflects more the media's developing its sanity than Bush losing anything. He is intent on staying in Iraq forever and lying about anything he has to lie about to do so. This has been clear for years. That journalists are surprised by it now suggests the degree to which the American media, not Bush, is out of touch with the reality of Iraq.

How often do we hear the voices of Iraqis in American journalism? How many of us know their stories? We've killed 650,000 of them, measured as "excess deaths" above the level of deaths our sanctions were causing each year before the war. Since the spring of 2004, most Iraqis have viewed America as their primary enemy. But what do we know about their lives?

The United States has for three years now been building permanent military bases all over Iraq. How present are these bases in the thinking of members of the US media? How out of touch are we with that reality? Bush strikes me as completely in touch with it.

I recently read a book called "How America Lost Iraq" by Aaron Glantz. The author reported from Iraq during the first year and a half of the occupation. Glantz's book begins with an account of the difficulty he had in persuading Pacifica Radio to use his reports in the months following the invasion. Most of the Iraqis he spoke to were grateful to the United States for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Others were engaged in uncovering mass graves and exposing the crimes of Saddam Hussein. But Pacifica wanted stories that weren't being reported by the US corporate media.

Later, as Iraqis turned against the United States and demanded that the occupation end, Glantz found himself still just reporting what most Iraqis told him, but having his work accepted and praised as unique. Other media outlets were not reporting it. And yet it was the story that would determine the course of the occupation, it was a story that had been completely predictable (and even predicted a decade earlier by Bush's father), and it was the result of complete disregard for the Iraqis. When Iraqis were overjoyed at the removal of Saddam Hussein, the new US occupiers accepted their gratitude but showed complete disdain for their needs, their allegiance or their potential threat, throwing them out of work, allowing them to sell weapons on the street, depriving them of electricity. Glantz wrote:
This is the only story in which I am confident. If there is no electricity next month when the temperature goes to 130 degrees, there will be a lot of angry, sleep-deprived Iraqis. And they will all have Kalashnikovs they bought for a few dollars at the corner market.

Later, when the United States began to try to move against Muqtada al-Sadr, Glantz described it as a "huge miscalculation," since even Iraqis who didn't like al-Sadr would rally to his defense against foreign occupiers. Glantz gradually moved over time from making excuses for the occupation - based primarily on how horrific the Saddam Hussein regime had been - to recognizing that as long as the occupation continues, the situation will go from bad to worse, and that the occupation encourages civil war, fundamentalist leaders, terrorism training, and all of the things defenders of the occupation warn will result from ending it.

But here's a fundamental question: Is aggressively attacking another nation in an illegal war something that can be done without catastrophic results if it's done right? Let's imagine that Bush told America and the world the truth about the reasons for the war, and that the reasons were not to control the Middle East and its oil while enriching cronies and winning votes, but rather to oust a dictator we regretted having installed and supported. Let's imagine that the American people insisted this be done, that the public knew Iraq was no threat to America or even its neighbors but wanted to act out of concern for Iraqis abused by a dictator. Further, let's suppose that the US occupation of Iraq announced on day one that it would end the occupation in six months, built no permanent bases, threw no one out of work, protected museums and libraries - not just oil, hired Iraqis through honest bidding to rebuild their own country, got basic services restored within weeks, randomly arrested and imprisoned and tortured no one, laid claim to no oil or resources, invested a small fraction of what the war has actually cost in real reconstruction, began peace negotiations with UN assistance, kept its promises, got out in 6 months, and announced: "Saudi Arabia, you're next!"

Even in this fantasy, the actions of the United States would have effectively eliminated international law, established the right of any nation to attack any other nation aggressively, betrayed the men and women of the US military who signed up to defend their own country and not to attack someone else's, sacrificed the lives of all those killed in the war, and by no means assured Iraq of developing a government better than Saddam Hussein's.

Back in reality, we should recognize that Nuremberg's condemnation of aggressive war was not a legal theory but a description of facts. Following the Holocaust, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg called the waging of aggressive war "essentially an evil thing ... to initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

When you attack another nation, you predictably do not just attack it. You also almost certainly engage in a number of specific war crimes: you attack civilians, target ambulances, hospitals, and journalists, use forbidden weapons, detain, torture, murder, spy, rape, steal, and destroy. You do these things because they follow from the logic of war. You avoid them not through competence or sanity but by refraining from launching aggressive wars.

(David Swanson is creator of, co-founder of the coalition, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997. His website is

2. Cautious Words Conceal the True Savagery of Life in Iraq -- by Patrick Cockburn/The Independent

The cautious words of the Baker-Hamilton report stand in sharp contrast to the savagery and terror that dominate everyday life in Baghdad. Many of the terrible disasters it fears may occur in future are in fact already happening. It states that there is a risk of "a slide towards chaos", but with almost 4,000 Iraqis being killed every month, the chaos is already here.

"Ethnic cleansing could escalate," the report warns but, in reality, it does not have to for Iraq to fragment into three hostile homelands for Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Baghdad and central Iraq has already broken up into heavily armed and hostile Sunni and Shia townships.

Some 170 individuals spoke to the Iraqi Study Group, including Tony Blair, President George Bush, Iraqi leaders and numerous ambassadors and senior officials. But the conclusions of the report at times give the alarming impression that Republicans and Democrats on the panel never really understood Iraqi politics.

The report says: "The United States should work closely with Iraq's leaders to support the achievement of specific objectives - or milestones - on national reconciliation, security and governance." The problem here is that Iraq has already fallen apart as a political entity. Supposedly national institutions such as the police, army and government ministries have been divided up between Shia, Sunni and Kurds.

These three communities are not going to come together again and can only be reconciled by specific agreements defining each other's power.

Iraq remains so divided that any supposed progress towards national security will remain an illusion. The US and Britain are training and equipping the army and police. But the real problem for the Iraqi security forces is that its units will not act against their own communities.

The report looks towards Iraqi control of its army by next April, control of the provinces by September and Iraqi security self-reliance by next December. That sounds reasonable but does not answer the question of which Iraqis will be in control.

The report says it is doubtful "whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda". That sounds innocent but gently torpedoes Tony Blair's oft-repeated mantra that the US and British mission is to build up the Iraqi security forces.

Myths systematically promulgated by US civil and military spokesmen at a thousand press briefings in Baghdad and Washington are quietly dumped by Mr Baker and his group. Again and again, the spokesmen emphasised the role of foreign fighters in the war in Iraq but the report cites US military officials as saying that al-Qa'ida in Iraq is responsible for only a small portion of the violence. It says there are only 1,300 foreign fighters in the country. It notes that the Mehdi Army of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr numbers at least 60,000 men.

There is a further blind spot in the report. The US is in part responsible for the weakness of the Iraqi government. It never wanted an Iraqi administration dominated by the Shia parties with possible sympathies with the regime in Tehran. Such an outcome was a political nightmare for Washington. The US helped create a political system in which each community can paralyse united action. It has also tried to split the Shia alliance which won the most votes in the two elections in 2005.

In terms of domestic Iraqi politics, the most positive aspect of the report is that it exposes the hollowness of claims by the White House and Downing Street that victory in Iraq is still feasible and it is all a matter of staying the course.

The Baker commission
James Baker
Secretary of State during the first Gulf War, a trusted adviser of George Bush Snr, and widely regarded as a safe pair of hands. Before co-chairing the Iraq Study Group, he helped to assemble the international coalition for George W Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Lee Hamilton
A former Democrat congressman of 34 years, Hamilton has sat on several key committees on Capitol Hill. Served as vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Robert Gates
A former director of the CIA, Gates had to resign from the Baker Commission after the White House nominated him to replace the Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the US was neither winning nor losing in Iraq.

* Sandra Day O'Connor - Former Republican Supreme Court judge and the first woman to be appointed to the court

* Lawrence S Eagleburger - Former Secretary of State under George Bush Snr

* Edwin Meese III - US Attorney General during Reagan presidency

* Alan K Simpson - Former Republican Senator for Wyoming

* Vernon E Jordan Jr - Former Clinton adviser and Washington power-broker.

* Leon E Panetta - White House Chief of Staff during Clinton presidency

* William J Perry - US Secretary of Defence during Clinton presidency

* Charles S Robb - Former Senator and chairman of Iraq Intelligence Commission

* Two people have resigned from the Commission. Rudolph Guiliani in May 2004, citing other work commitments, and Robert Gates, who had to leave once he was nominated to replace Rumsfeld as Defence Secretary. Eagleburger replaced Gates


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