May 4, 2007
If the United States leaves Iraq things will really get bad
This appears to be the last remaining, barely-breathing argument of that vanishing species who still support the god-awful war. The argument implies a deeply-felt concern about the welfare and safety of the Iraqi people. What else could it mean? That the US military can’t leave because it’s needed to protect the oil bonanza awaiting American oil companies as soon as the Iraqi parliament approves the new written-in-Washington oil law? No, the Bush administration loves the people of Iraq. How much more destruction, killing and torturing do you need to be convinced of that? We can’t leave because of the violence. We can’t leave until we have assured that peace returns to our dear comrades in Iraq.
To better understand this argument, it helps to keep in mind the following about the daily horror that is life in Iraq: It did not exist before the US occupation.
The insurgency violence began as, and remains, a reaction to the occupation; like almost all insurgencies in occupied countries — from the American Revolution to the Vietcong — it’s a fight directed toward getting foreign forces to leave.
The next phase was the violence of Iraqis against other Iraqis who worked for or sought employment with anything associated with the occupation regime.
Then came retaliatory attacks for these attacks.
Followed by retaliatory attacks for the retaliatory attacks.
Jihadists from many countries have flocked to Iraq because they see the war against the American [censored] occupiers as a holy war.
Before the occupation, many Sunnis and Shiites married each other; since the occupation they have been caught up in a spiral of hating and killing each other.
And for these acts there of course has to be retaliation.
The occupation’s abolishment of most jobs in the military and in Saddam Hussein’s government, and the chaos that is Iraqi society under the occupation, have left many destitute; kidnapings for ransom and other acts of criminal violence have become popular ways to make a living, or at least survive.
US-trained, financed, and armed Iraqi forces have killed large numbers of people designated as “terrorists” by someone official, or perhaps someone unofficial, or by someone unknown, or by chance.
The US military itself has been a main perpetrator of violence, killing individually and en masse, killing any number, any day, for any reason, anyone, any place, often in mindless retaliation against anyone nearby for an insurgent attack.
The US military and its coalition allies have also been the main target of violent attacks. A Department of Defense report of November 2006 stated: “Coalition forces remained the target of the majority of attacks (68%).”
And here is James Baker, establishment eminence, co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, on CNN with Anderson Cooper:
Cooper: And is it possible that getting the U.S. troops out will actually lessen that violence, that it will at least take away the motivation of nationalist insurgents?
Baker: Many people have argued that to us. Many people in Iraq made that case.
Cooper: Do you buy it?
Baker: Yes, I think there is some validity to it, absolutely. Then we are no longer seen to be the occupiers.
In spite of all of the above we are told that the presence of the United States military has been and will continue to be a buffer against violence. Iraqis themselves do not believe this.
A poll published in September found that Iraqis believe, by a margin of 78 to 21 percent, that the US military presence is “provoking more conflict that it is preventing”.
Remember that we were warned a thousand times of a communist bloodbath in Vietnam if American forces left. The American forces left. There was never any kind of bloodbath.
If the United States leaves — meaning all its troops and bases — it will remove the very foundation, origin, and inspiration of most of the hate and violence. Iraqis will have a chance to reclaim their land and their life. They have a right to be given that opportunity. Let America’s deadly “love” embrace of the Iraqi people come to an end. Let the healing begin.
Some people love guns. But why should the rest of us be targets?
The massacre at Virginia Tech is the kind of tragedy that invariably produces an abundance of sociological and psychological speculation, comparisons to the violence of American foreign policy, and many other clich’s, platitudes, and truisms; a lot of ground I prefer not to walk over again. Except this one thing, as knee-reflex as it is: We should ban all guns. It should be illegal to possess any functioning firearm; those who already possess them should be obliged to turn them in for a payment. No halfway measures here. We went beyond halfway measures many massacres ago.
Last year in England and Wales (population 54 million), where there are tough restrictions on gun ownership, there were 50 shooting deaths. In Washington, DC (population half a million), there were 137 fatal shootings.
Nearly twice as many people commit suicide in the 15 US states with the highest rates of gun ownership than in the six states with the lowest rates of gun ownership, although the population of the two groups is about the same. Guns are used in only five percent of suicide attempts, but more than 90 percent of those attempts are fatal, whereas drugs account for nearly 75 percent of suicide attempts, but the fatality rate in those attempts is less than 3 percent.
Those who question the correlation between ease of gun ownership and death by gunfire should try to imagine what the Virginia Tech killer would have done if he hadn’t been able to purchase guns as easily as he had. What would he have used? A club? A knife? He would have been jumped and disarmed after attacking his first victim in the classroom.
The only exception to the gun ban should be for law enforcement. That doesn’t include the military. If the American military did not have any weapons this sad old world would be a much safer and nicer place, for American soldiers as well as their victims. So let’s perform an act of euthanasia and pull the plug on the military’s life-support machine. Let’s convert the Pentagon into affordable housing. We won’t have to worry about anti-American terrorists because our un-armed forces would not be going all over the world and creating them by the thousands with bombings, invasions, overthrows of governments, occupations, support of repressive regimes, and similar charming activities, all of which require vast amounts of firearms and bombs. Yes, the bombs would become history as well.
Oh, one more thing. Before the gun ban goes into effect, a posse should be formed to go and shoot up the National Rifle Association‘s headquarters. The NRA loves to cite the Second Amendment to the Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” What militias, in the 21st century, are the NRA gun-lovers thinking of? And what state? I’d guess that most NRA members are fervent libertarians who hold a lot of paranoia and no love for any state. It’s time for another constitutional amendment to abolish the Second Amendment, like the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments changed the Constitution to abolish slavery.
Because of Virginia Tech’s location and the fact that several of the victims came from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, where I live, the Washington Post gave book-length coverage to the event. I found myself choking up, at times with tears, repeatedly, each day as I read the stories of the stolen young lives. Two days after the massacre, the Supreme Court issued a ruling making certain abortions illegal. This led to statements from celebrating anti-abortion activists about how the life of “unborn children” would be saved, and how the fetus is fully a human being deserving of as much care and respect and legal protection as any other human being.
But does anyone know cases of parents grieving over an aborted fetus the way the media has shown parents and friends grieving over the slain Virginia Tech students? Of course not. If for no other reason than the parents choose to have an abortion. Does anyone know of a case of the parents of an aborted fetus tearfully remembering the fetus’s first words, or high school graduation or wedding or the camping trip they all took together? Or the fetus’s smile or the way it laughed? Of course not. Because — to those who support abortion on demand — the fetus is not a human being in a sufficiently meaningful physical, social, intellectual, and emotional sense.
But the anti-abortion activists — often for reasons of sexual prudery, anti-feminism, religion (the Supreme Court ruling derived from the five Catholic members of the court), or other personal or political hangups — throw a halo around the fetus, treat the needs and desires of the parents as nothingness, and damn all those who differ with them as child murderers. Unfortunately, with many of these activists, their perfect love for human beings doesn’t extend to the human beings of Iraq or Afghanistan.
A conservative’s idea of a random act of kindness is cutting the capital gains tax
Michael Scheuer is a former CIA officer who headed the Agency’s Osama bin Laden unit. He’s also the author of “Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America”, and “Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror”.
In last month’s edition of this report, in my section on Washington’s war on terrorism, quoting from the Sydney Morning Herald I wrote that when Scheuer was told that the largest group in Guantanamo came from custody in Pakistan, he said: “We absolutely got the wrong people.” This sentiment is in keeping with the point I was making, that a significant portion of “terrorists” held in US custody are no such thing.
But then the editor of DissidentVoice.org, which reprints my report each month, received a letter from Mr. Scheuer, saying in part:
“Regarding the quote attributed to me in Mr. Blum’s column. I do not recall ever making such a statement, and if I did make it, I spoke mistakenly. I have no reason to believe that any one in the Guantanamo Bay facility does not deserve to be there. I have objected to the facility only because it forces the United States to be subject to the pacifist whinings of human rights advocates and EC [presumably European Community] officials.”
I replied to Scheuer, asking him if his remark — “I have no reason to believe that any one in the Guantanamo Bay facility does not deserve to be there” — referred only to “the present prisoners, those held as of the time of your alleged remark in February 2006, or any and all of the prisoners who’ve been held there the past 5 years? If the last, that would be quite a remarkable statement to make given all that we know about the very faulty criteria employed in deciding who to send to Guantanamo, a portion of which I discuss in my article. Even if you’re referring to the first or second time period, your statement would still be most surprising. How could you possibly know that? Or even hazard a guess? As I mention, even the prison commanders didn’t believe that.”
Scheuer has not yet replied. I had also wondered about his use of the term “pacifist whinings”. Then, in a review of former CIA Director George Tenet’s new book, Scheuer takes his former boss to task as well as Bill Clinton for not attacking Afghanistan enough in the late 1990s to kill Osama bin Laden and his followers, accusing the former president of “cowardly pacifism”. Scheuer writes: “I did not — and do not — care about collateral casualties in such situations, as most of the nearby civilians would be the families that bin Laden’s men had brought to a war zone. But Tenet did care. ‘You can’t kill everyone,’ he would say. That’s an admirable humanitarian concern in the abstract, but it does nothing to protect the United States. Indeed, thousands of American families would not be mourning today had there been more ferocity and less sentimentality among the Clinton team.”
It should be noted that in 1993 Clinton ordered the firing of missiles into Iraq, killing and injuring many, as retaliation for Iraqi involvement in a plot to assassinate former president George H.W. Bush who was due to visit Kuwait. (Both the plot and the Iraqi involvement in it should be filed away under “alleged”.) In 1998 the president ordered the firing of several missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan in an attempt to take out suspected terrorists and their facilities, instead hitting “collateral casualties”. And the following year, Clinton, wearing a NATO mask, dropped bombs on the people of Yugoslavia for 78 consecutive days.
But by Michael Scheuer’s standards, Bill Clinton was a pacifist.
If it’s difficult for you pacifists — of the whining, cowardly, or any other variety — to appreciate or understand the mind or heart or soul of a Michael Scheuer, if you think he’s out of touch with reality, amoral, and scary, take a look at a recent get-together between George W. and a group of neo-conservatives. Compared to these guys, Scheuer should quickly seek out the nearest Friends Meeting House. And the rest of us should seek out another country. Or planet.
Salon.org reported on the February 28 luncheon between Bush and the leading lights of American neo-conservatism. You have to read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet: “The most critical priority [of the neo-cons] is to convince the President to continue to ignore the will of the American people and to maintain full-fledged loyalty to the neoconservative agenda, no matter how unpopular it becomes. To do this, they have convinced the President that he has tapped into a much higher authority than the American people — namely, God-mandated, objective morality — and as long as he adheres to that (which is achieved by continuing his militaristic policies in the Middle East, whereby he is fighting Evil and defending Good), God and history will vindicate him. … Finally, the neoconservatives left Bush with the overarching instruction — namely, the only thing that he should concern himself with, the only thing that really matters, is Iran.”
Has there ever been an empire that didn’t tell itself and the world that it was unlike all other empires, that its mission was not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate? And that it had God on its side?
Will America’s immune system be able to rid itself of its raw-meat conservatives?
The biggest lie of all is never mentioned
Bill Moyers’ recent documentary “Buying the War” does an excellent job of showing how the preeminent members of American mainstream journalism failed woefully in their duty to the public and their profession by not properly questioning the great falsehoods of the Bush administration in the leadup to the invasion of Iraq. The media did not expose the fallacies of White House claims that Saddam Hussein possessed all manner of weapons of mass destruction, that he had close working ties to Osama bin Laden and/or al Qaeda, that an Iraqi agent had met with Mohammad Atta, the reputed leader of the 9-11 hijackers, and other stories put forth by the Bush-Cheney gang to create the belief that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States.
But the biggest lie of all about the war in Iraq, one that I’ve discussed before in this report, one that the mainstream media never pursue, one that Moyers doesn’t mention in his documentary, but one that has been clearly implied during five years of news and discussions, is this: If in fact Saddam Hussein had possessed all those terrible weapons he would have been a threat to use them against the United States, even without provocation. This is so preposterous that I doubt that even Bush or Cheney held such a belief. To attack the United States, Hussein would have had to be imbued with nothing less than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide. I do not know of any evidence that he was insane.
Nor the leaders of Iran. But that counts for nought when the empire knows that you are a non-believer in the empire.
Moreover, having exposed the administration’s stated excuses for war as fraudulent, the documentary inexplicably presents no discussion whatsoever as to what might have been the real reasons for the war, though the program undoubtedly left many viewers wondering just that — “So why did they lie so much? To cover up what?” Most TV journalists tend to tread rather lightly in a field full of mines labeled “oil” or “Israel” or “defense corporations”.
I’m a fan of Amy Goodman and her morning radio program “Democracy Now”. It consistently covers a wide range of issues of interest to the progressive community and undoubtedly recruits many new members to the cause. But perhaps their range is too wide to expect the Democracy Now! staff to have done all of their homework on all of the issues. Cuba is one such issue where the program tends to stumble. The latest example was on April 26. In the opening news report, Amy informed us: “In Cuba, six dissidents have been released from prison nearly two years after they were jailed. The Cuban government had drawn international condemnation after the jailings in the summer of 2005.”
That was it. CBS or NPR couldn’t have followed the State Department script any better. There must be many thousands in American prisons who could be called “dissidents” for having at one time or another expressed serious disgust with what the US was doing in some part of the world and who had taken part in a protest; or done the same in regard to some vital economic, civil rights, or civil liberties issue at home. “Oh,” you declare, “but they were not imprisoned because of their dissidence.” Yes, that’s true about almost all of them. But it’s also true about almost all Cuban prisoners.
To grasp this, one must first understand the following: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. Since the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba greater damage and greater loss of life than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Cuban dissidents typically have had very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government officials, particularly in Havana through the American Embassy (the United States Interests Section).
Would the US government ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and/or engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization inside the United States? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States, evidence gathered by Cuban double agents.
 CNN, December 6, 2006
 World Public Opinion Poll, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland,
“The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq”, September 27, 2006, p.5
 Washington Post, April 24, 2007, p.18
 Study by Harvard School of Public Health, Associated Press, April 16, 2007
 The title of this section and some thoughts on the Constitution are taken from an excellent article on the subject of gun control by Jonathan Safran Foer in the Washington Post, April 22, 2007, p. B5
 Washington Post, April 29, 2007, p.B1
 Glenn Greenwald: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/03/14/roberts_lu
 Transcript: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/btw/transcript1.html
William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire