Bellum Americanum
May 23, 2003

Internal Refugees

Wolfowitz's claims to the Senate to the contrary, all is not going well in Iraq. Predicted by anti-war critics before the war and now coming true, is the expected ethnic cleansing of Arabs from areas that Saddam had previously ethnically cleansed of Kurds (or "Arabized").

May 22, 2003

Unnamed Officials

In the same Democracy Now! program I cited below, journalist Alexander Cockburn rightly made the observation that Jason Blair's transgressions at the New York Times were commited in an atmosphere where no one questions entire stories based on anonymous sources. As a perfect example of this, witness today's NYT story about bureaucratic wrangling between the CIA and the Pentagon over who's to blame for the failure to find so-called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (the premise of which presumes that it was faulty intelligence as opposed to conscious lying that was at fault, but that's not the topic of this post). All sources quoted: So there ya have it, open and accountable government as reported by the watchdog of democracy, the free press.

May 21, 2003

The War Crowd is a Frightened and Angry Beast

Nationally syndicated radio show Democracy Now! reported this morning on veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges' recent attempt to deliver a commencement speech at Rockford College in Illinois (streaming real audio: 43 minutes). Hedges, the author of the recent book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, began the speech with some observations about the War on Iraq, comparing our operations there with similar state terror unleashed by Sharon and Putin in their own "wars on terrorism" in Occupied Palestine and Chechnya, reminding his audience that "Once you master people by force you depend on force for control. In your isolation you begin to make mistakes." While the crowd had begun to get hostile at this point, the real anger only began to be unleashed towards the (hastened) end of the speech as Hedges committed his real sin, observing the effects of war on the home front and questioning the sacredness of that holy cow of current American life, 9-11 togetherness (and I would really recommend listening to the speech to get a sense of how chilling the scene was). It is worth quoting him at some length here:
"We will pay for this [war], but what saddens me most is that those who will by and large pay the highest price are poor kids from Mississippi or Alabama or Texas who could not get a decent job or health insurance and joined the army because it was all we offered them. For war in the end is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of soldiers by politicians, and of idealists by cynics. Read Antigone, when the king imposes his will without listening to those he rules, or Thucydides' history. Read how Athens' expanding empire saw it become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. How the tyranny the Athenian leadership imposed on others it finally imposed on itself." "The seduction of war is insidious because so much of what we are told about it is true -- it does create a feeling of comradeship which obliterates our alienation and makes us, for perhaps the only time of our life, feel we belong..." "Think back on the days after the attacks on 9-11. Suddenly we no longer felt alone; we connected with strangers, even with people we did not like. We felt we belonged, that we were somehow wrapped in the embrace of the nation, the community; in short, we no longer felt alienated..." "The danger of the external threat that comes when we have an enemy does not create friendship; it creates comradeship. And those in wartime are deceived about what they are undergoing. And this is why once the threat is over, once war ends, comrades again become strangers to us. This is why after war we fall into despair. "In friendship there is a deepening of our sense of self. We become, through the friend, more aware of who we are and what we are about; we find ourselves in the eyes of the friend. Friends probe and question and challenge each other to make each of us more complete; with comradeship, the kind that comes to us in patriotic fervor, there is a suppression of self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-possession. Comrades lose their identities in wartime for the collective rush of a common cause -- a common purpose. In comradeship there are no demands on the self. This is part of its appeal and one of the reasons we miss it and seek to recreate it. Comradeship allows us to escape the demands on the self that is part of friendship."
Indeed, it also allows us to "escape the demands on the self" that should come with a true allegiance to the principle of democracy itself, rather than just the shallow forms that are celebrated today. It is precisely the desperate wish to avoid these demands that so riles the crowd at Rockford college. Many supporters of the invasion of Iraq, those that consciously believe in racist arguments of "Iraqi liberation" or the farcical attempts to portray Saddam Hussein as a threat to the people of the United States, subconsciously recognize that the fragile logical structures upon which their support rests will collapse under the weight of serious thought. But to fully recognize that would be to recognize that they have not been living as full human beings attempting to take their own destiny under control. By allowing the lies of power to control their thinking, they are unable to even consider controlling their destiny and thus willingly gift the powerful their very humanity. Given that they cannot plead the ignorance of the animal, the innocence of non-self-reflecting, they are left with only the fear of the beast that thinks it should be the master of its world and cannot understand why it is pushed to and fro by angry gods.


Your Tax Dollars at Work

Form 1040WAR (pdf)


Executive mercenaries...

Most of the following items have been covered in the past week over at Steve Perry's Bush Wars blog, but since I sent him a number of the links, I don't feel like it's cheating to post them here. Although there is little wide acknowledgement of the fact or its meaning, its obvious that one of the prime targets of the recent Riyadh bombings was a U.S. corporation named Vinnell. The vast majority of the American victims were employees of this company, "a ragtag army of Vietnam veterans [hired] for a paradoxical mission: to train Saudi Arabian troops to defend the very oil fields that Henry Kissinger recently warned the U.S. might one day have to invade." Or so Newsweek put it in 1975 when they got the contract. I expect there's a number of veterans of other American wars, overt and covert, that have since been cycled through the roster. But of course the Saudi Arabian National Guard does more than just "defend the oil wells." Like another American trained National Guard, the Nicaraguan Somocistas, their primary purpose is to defend a deeply unpopular regime against its own people. All of which of course leads to an obvious conclusion about the political message of the Riyadh bombings, and it ain't "we hate your freedoms." The message was more likely "We hate the House of Saud and its American backing." While the American press may have been fooled into thinking that moving a bunch of airplanes to Qatar constituted American disengagement with the House of Saud, these guys clearly weren't. They clearly make no distinction between public U.S. foreign policy and its shadier privatized counterpart. While we're on the subject of Vinnell, I'd also like to ask why we're letting a privatized military outfit run six Job Corps centers here at home?

...and Other Shady People

You might have noticed that talking about the bombings above I didn't once refer to the bombers as "Al Qaeda." That's because there are numerous indications that thinking about these folks as a unitary, hierarchical organization with Osama Bin Laden at the head, ripe for decapitation (the view the White House seems to hold), is fundamentally mistaken, perhaps now more than ever. Although I have no way of judging their accuracy, a couple of detailed and plausible discussions of Al Qaeda restructuring were posted at Asia Times Online on
May 15th and 20th.


More Economics Than I Like to Think About

George Soros, a man who has ruined numerous poor and weak countries through his currency manipulations, has announced that he is selling the dollar, blaming Treasury Secretary and railroad magnate John Snow's comments earlier this week suggesting that the U.S. was backing away from the "strong dollar" policy. A good friend of mine, however, is convinced that the true linkage is related to the White House's attempt to increase the national debt by $984 million, from $6.7 billion.

May 20, 2003

A Short Satire

Just where is Charlton Heston when you need him? Something has gone terribly wrong in the righteous American quest for Iraqi freedom this past week. Lt. Gen. David McKiernan has announced that Iraqis are now forbidden to own or sell guns. And I thought we were installing a democracy! Now don't get me wrong. I recognize that our valiant boys over there might be worried about all the bullets whizzing around their heads and might be somehow under the impression that these bullets are coming from sections of an armed and angry populace. However, there are at least two reasons why this couldn't possibly be the case. 1. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Since the Iraqis clearly aren't people, but some lesser form of creature akin to Native Americans, Africans, Philippinos, Vietnamese, and other brown beneficiaries of American bounty, it is clear that the first and most important law of firearm thermodynamics remains unfulfilled. 2. Iraqis are too busy dancing to fire upon their liberators. I'm sure you all witnessed, as I did, the fall of the Saddam statue there in downtown Baghdad. The tears of joy and amazement that welled up in my eyes, as the Iraqi people collectively willed the American tank to pull the Stars and Stripes swaddled Saddam down into the arms of the Virgin Rumsfeld, were shared by millions around the world. As we all know, the entire Iraqi nation was in the square on that day (Thank goodness it was right outside of the international media's hotel, or this vital piece of Iraqi history, Year 0, might have been lost). Does it make sense to you that any of those folks you saw on the news could turn weapons on their liberators? I thought not. So, you might ask, even if it is obvious that our boys are in no danger from Iraqi firearms, what purpose could those guns serve anyway? My friends, I'm glad you asked. While it is obvious that the Iraqis are absolutely no danger to their heroic benefactors, I fear there is a nefarious plot afoot, for which they need to be armed both spiritually and physically. There are great dangers facing the Iraqi populace right now, and while these are dangers that we Americans, as an older and wiser civilization, have largely defeated, latent subversive elements within our own government may be trying to foist them upon the naïve Iraqis. I have a list in my hands right now of 486 individuals in our own State Department who are advocating for free healthcare and education for Iraq! Of course they claim that it will only be temporary and that it will be paid out of the resources of the "Iraqi people" (and I thought we had already put that term to rest), but think about what free health care and education means. Free healthcare means free drugs! And think about all the free Ritalin and Prozac that will be necessary to get those kids to study! This is nothing but narco-communism, my friends, and its advocates are running rampant in the State Department. As I said, I have the list of 584 of them to prove it! Naturally, I concur with my good colleague Newt Gingrich when he notes that many of these people are terrorist sympathizers attempting to undermine Bush's holy Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL). While it is patently absurd to believe that the Iraqis would use their God-given firearms (the reports that many were given out by Hussein's government are obviously distortions of the liberal media) against the heroic soldiers of OIL, can we deny them the right to defend themselves against the godless purveyors of the narco-communist terror of free healthcare and education? I say nay! This U.N.-inspired plot to grab the guns must be opposed at all costs. And that is why I modestly propose that we immediately take drastic measures and drop Charlton Heston on Baghdad.


More Juniors, Less Democracy

It's crystal clear, to this observer at least, that domestic support for the war on Iraq was only possible with the willing distortions of the corporate-controlled media, and I'm not just talking about the "scare and malice" of Fox News. The entire spectrum of U.S. media performed absolutely miserably, all the way from Fox to the "liberal" New York Times, whose standards of hypocrisy are obvious to anyone who made the simple logical step of comparing their hysteria over Jason Blair's alleged transgressions to reporter Judith Miller's weapons of mass distraction. Consider the fact that nearly half of Americans apparently believe that Saddam Hussein was personally behind the 9-11 attacks. This is only possible because of a media that refused to do its job and question Bush's constant linking of the two, often in the same breath. A possibly more shameful performance was played out just before the war started, with numerous laudatory reports and editorials portraying Colin Powell's U.N. presentation as "convincing proof" that Saddam had massive stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. The shabbiness of the case was immediately self-evident to the rest of the world and should even be self-evident to Americans by now. While Powell serves as a valuable prop on the media stage necessary to Bush Junior's attacks on democracy, we should be paying attention to another Junior's attempts to further erode the possibilities of a press that "monitors the centers of power" (a phrase attributed by Robert Fisk to the great Ha'aretz reporter Amira Haas). I'm speaking of Colin's son Michael, appointed by the First Junior to the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. Powell has openly mocked his mandate to manage the airwaves in the public interest: "The night after I was sworn in, I waited for a visit from the angel of the public interest. I waited all night, but she did not come." A little over a year ago, a number of angels of the public interest made the attempt, but appear to have been rebuffed, as Powell is currently attempting to gut media ownership regulations by June 2nd. Long-time media critic Robert McChesney has written an excellent overview of the matter, noting: "By nearly all accounts it will lead to a wave of media mergers and market consolidation that is unprecedented in U.S. history." The further limiting of democratic dialogue that would inevitably result should be deeply worrisome to all sections of the political spectrum, save the most fascistic. Whether we'll get more and more unaccountable actors as Presidents serving the man behind the curtain (and his corporate cronies) or eventually the man behind the curtain himself is fundamentally irrelevant.


Beginnings and endings

Welcome! As White House spokesmen Ari Fleischer has announced he is resigning (although not for the reasons he should have), I felt it was an auspicious time to begin my own communications with the larger world. Hence this blog. I promise to be significantly more honest with my audience than Ari. Ok, that's a promise that shouldn't be too hard to fulfill, but I'm starting small.

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