Monday, April 24, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, April 24, 2006 Cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone (see below "The Worst President in History?") SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Thirty-two bodies of Iraqi police and security forces recruits discovered in two areas of Baghdad. All 32 were from the town of Ramadi in the insurgent heartland of Anbar province, which is fiercely opposed to the government, the sources said. One group of 17 were kidnapped and then shot dead after they signed up for the police force one week ago. They were found in the Baghdady district of the capital. The other 15 were found bullet-riddled in two cars in Abu Ghraib, on the western edge of Baghdad. Car bomb explodes near near U.S. military convoy in central Baghdad, wounding at least 11 civilians, including a young girl. U.S. forces closed off the area Three civilians killed and 25 wounded when car bomb explodes near police patrol near the Ministry of Health in central Baghdad. Fifteen people wounded when car bomb explodes near Criminal Evidence Directory in central Baghdad. Two car bombs explode targeting a police patrol in eastern Baghdad wounding four people -- three policemen and a civilian. Two car bombs explode near Mustansiriya University, killing five people and wounding 25. Five police commandos wounded when roadside bomb hits their patrol in southern Baghdad. Mortar hits home in southern Baghdad, killing a man and wounding two of his relatives. Drive-by shootings in a nearby district gunned down a schoolteacher outside her home and a car mechanic in his shop. Gunmen raid real estate agency in Baghdad and kill its owner, who also was a volunteer for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society relief agency. Fallujah: About 1,000 residents held a funeral procession in Fallujah for Sheik Shaukit al-Kubaisi, a Sunni cleric and imam of a local mosque who was killed by gunmen on Saturday night. Tikrit: Gunmen attack police station near Tikrit, killing four policemen. Two gunmen were also killed. Dalad (near): Gunmen kill two Iraqi soldiers near Balad north of Baghdad. Baiji: Two policemen wounded when a roadside bomb explodes near their patrol in Baiji. Roadside bomb targeting convoy carrying a provincial police commander missed him but killed two policemen and wounded another near Beiji, prompting local officials to impose a curfew. Mahmoudiya: Roadside bomb kills Iraqi driver in Mahmoudiya. The explosion also killed one Iraqi child and wounded seven others who were playing nearby. Six Iraqi soldiers and three civilians wounded when roadside bomb strikes army patrol in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad. Miqdadiya: Improvised bomb explodes in marketplace in Miqdadiya, north of Baghdad, setting a shop on fire. When firefighters arrived at the site, the police said, another bomb exploded, killing a firefighter and a civilian and wounding 15 civilians. Iskandariya: Iraqi soldier killed and two others wounded when roadside bomb hits their patrol in the main road between Latifiya and Iskandariya. NEWS Talabani expresses concern over reported Iranian and Turkish troop concentrations on borders with Iraq: Turkey has moved thousands of troops to the border region in what its military said was an offensive against Turkish Kurd guerrillas. Iran has also reportedly moved forces to the border, and last week shelled a mountainous region inside Iraq used by Iranian Kurd fighters for infiltration into Iran, according to Iraqi Kurd officials. There were no reports of casualties from Friday's artillery and rocket barrage. Talabani said that so far Iranian and Turkish forces have stayed on their sides of the border. REPORTS "You spend twenty times as much on maintenance and repair, as you spend on replacing destroyed stuff ": While dozens of vehicles are destroyed in Iraq each month, that is not the major vehicle expense. In this year and last, $550 million is being spent to replace lost vehicles and equipment. But $5 billion is being spent on vehicle and equipment maintenance in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another $6 billion is being spent on repairs (at all levels, from the unit to depot.) These costs are more than five times the peacetime level. This shows two things. First, the troops don't use their vehicles that much in peacetime. Part of the reason is cost, the other is the need to keep as many, as possible, ready for action. Second, combat vehicles, and military equipment, is designed to take a lot of punishment. But that means the stuff is built to high standards, and replacement parts are expensive. When the vehicles are used heavily, in harsh (as in hot and dusty) conditions, under combat rules (hot rodding, cross country, explosions and gunfire), lots of expensive spare parts are needed. For all those armored hummers, the extra weight and combat conditions has burned out engines and busted suspensions. Radios and other electronic gear take a beating as well. So it should come as no surprise that you spend twenty times as much on maintenance and repair, as you spend on replacing destroyed stuff. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS MALIKI FOLLOWS JAFARI
Iraq's next premier: Spot the difference: Many in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari would step down and be replaced by his right-hand-man, Jawad al-Maliki. His nomination has been endorsed by the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a Shi'ite coalition that dominates parliament (and of which he is a member), and President Jalal Talabani. Jaafari, after all, had crippled political life in Iraq by arrogantly clinging on to power since February, ignoring all calls made by Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds for him to step down. They accuse him of being weak, and his record shows that he has been highly ineffective in bringing security to the war-torn country. Jaafari leaves power with an average 25 Iraqis dying per day, and a total death toll of more than 35,000 since the war began in 2003. Maliki inherits a country that is scarred by sectarian violence, filled with mass graves created after the downfall of Saddam Hussein, and divided by political and religious ambitions as never before in its history. There is nothing in his background, however, to show that Jawad al-Maliki will be any better than Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Maliki, after all, has all of Jaafari's weaknesses and none of his strengths. Jaafari is more experienced, better connected in the Arab world, and more politically independent than Maliki. Like Jaafari, however, Maliki is a product of political Islam. Both of them are allied to the rebel-cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and both are equally sectarian in their policies, having turned a blind eye to the Shi'ite death squads that roamed the streets of Iraq and gunned down prominent Sunnis after February's bombing of a holy Shi'ite shrine in Samarra. The two men claim to oppose sectarian violence, and both call for incorporating the militias into the Iraqi army. Both are in favor of appointing sectarian officials at the ministries of Defense and Interior, a demand that is backed by their ally Muqtada al-Sadr. Both are opposed to collaborating with the strong and US-backed former secular prime minister Iyad Allawi. Both are friends of Iran, although they do not take orders directly from the mullahs of Tehran, unlike the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI) and its leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. Both want to create an Iran-like regime in Iraq but one that is politically independent from Tehran. They share three good traits in common: both respect the integrity of the country and refuse to create a Shi'ite regime in the south; both want to crush the Sunni insurgency of former Ba'athists and the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda; and both are guided by the rules and wisdom of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Bush Iraq Democracy Model: A Lebanese-Style Sectarian State: Finally, the US-Backed "Democracy" in Iraq produced a government negotiated on a purely sectarian basis. The country is now officially recognized as composed mainly of three sectarian groups: Shi'is, Sunni Arabs, and Sunni Kurds. From now on, the president is going to be a Kurd. The prime minister is going to be a Shi'i, and the speaker of parliament is going to be a Sunni Arab. Thus, Iraq has become the second sectarian Arab state in the Middle East after Lebanon. In Lebanon, the French imperialists made the president a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shi'i Muslim. When the Lebanese tried to change the imperialist formula, they couldn't and returned to it after 15 years of civil war. The rule of "Divide and Rule" has proved to be an efficient imperialist tool. Many Iraqis now realize the huge loss of the Iraqi national identity that prevailed under all Iraqi governments throughout the 20th century, until the 2003 US invasion. Americans need to realize the deep insult this formula represents to Iraqi nationalists, Arab nationalists, and Islamic activists. They need just to imagine how much retarded if we formalize the election of the US president to be only a Protestant, speaker of the House to be a Catholic, and leader of the Senate to be a Jew, for example. Just imagine how much insulting to fairness, efficiency, and competence, if we start appoint the president's cabinet members on racial basis. Americans of Western European descent should occupy the posts of the Treasury and Defense, while African Americans should occupy the posts of Human Resources and Housing. A Jew should always be the Secretary of State and a Catholic should always be the chairman of the joint-chiefs-of-staff. How are you going to calm Hispanic Americans down or be fair to the ten million Muslim and Arab Americans? Is this the Democracy that the Bush administration wants to install in the Middle East to be a model for the region? God help us!
America's Terror-war in Iraq: The failure to build support for the Iraq war has forced some dramatic changes in the Pentagon's approach to psychological operations (Psy-ops). The fictional terror-mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been jettisoned for an entirely different narrative centered on the prospect of an Iraqi civil war. The media shifted away from the Zarqawi-myth on the day of the bombing of the Golden-domed mosque in Samarra, one of the great icons of Islam. From that point on, Zarqawi, the fabricated, fanatical psychopath has been replaced by Iraq's "catalyzing event" which, like 9-11, is being used to conceal the vast devastation of the American occupation. Lt. General John Vines announced last week to a group at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that Zarqawi has admitted strategic defeat in Iraq and was "on his way out of the country". Vines added that Al Qaida "no longer views Iraq as fertile ground to establish a caliphate and as a place to conduct international terrorism". It is, of course, completely absurd to think that Vines knows what a foreign terrorist may be thinking or where he might choose to move. The real purpose of Vine's announcement was to cancel-out Zarqawi and pave the way for the Pentagon's latest fable, civil war. Earlier in the week the Washington Post had already exposed the Zarqawi ruse when Colonel Derek Harvey admitted that the military intentionally "enlarged Zarqawi's caricature" to create the impression that the struggle against occupation was really a fight against terrorism. As Harvey said, "The long term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but former regime types and their friends". Zarqawi has been an effective tool for diverting attention from the occupation, but now he is being replaced by another calculated distraction; sectarian violence. The media now focuses all its attention on the free-wheeling militias which attack mosques and marketplaces alike; disposing of hundreds of young men every week after torturing them with drills and shooting them in the backs of the head. Whether the storyline is build around elusive terrorists or civil war, the imperial puppeteers insist on controlling the narrative by spinning a tale that is faithfully reiterated in the press. Most of what we read is simply Pentagon summaries of the daily violence. The truth must be sought at an entirely different level where the realities of a savage occupation and its cynical motives are more apparent. The Iraqi resistance has never abandoned their original strategy to attack American troops, Iraqi security forces, and oil pipelines. Why would they... their strategy is succeeding? The idea that they suddenly shifted directions from guerilla warfare to sectarian violence following the demolition of the Golden-domed mosque is pure myth intended to persuade the American public that the uptick in violence is not created by the occupation but by deep-seated ethnic and religious divisions. That's not what is happening. What's really taking place is that American armed and trained death squads are attacking Sunnis and Shiite alike to facilitate a break-up of Iraq which Pentagon planners and right wing ideologues have sought from the very beginning. The media, of course, is assisting in the disinformation campaign by dumping the Zarqawi fantasy and spinning an entirely new storyline centered on the destruction of the golden-domed mosque. Readers should be sensitive to the reiteration of this theme in nearly every article appearing in the New York Times and the Washington Post; the headwaters of the American propaganda system. (…) The strategy for inciting civil war has never changed. If the United States really wanted to establish security in Iraq they would have increased the number of troops on the ground. Instead, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has convinced the White House that we are fighting "a new kind of war" that requires massive counterinsurgency operations papered over by daily infusions of propaganda. The script closely follows the directives of Henry Kissinger who summarized the current strategy in the 1980s (during the Iran -Iraq war) when he callously noted, "I hope they kill each other". That continues to be the rationale that animates the current policy in Iraq to this day. Author Max Fuller has made a major contribution in painstakingly documenting the proof of America's involvement in the terror war that is being waged against the Iraqi people. In "Crying Wolf: Media disinformation and Deaths squads in Occupied Iraq" Fuller's exposes the Interior Ministry as the hub of the clandestine death squad activity. Contrary to popular opinion, he shows that the ministry is not exclusively manned by theocratic Shiites. In fact, one of the more brutal counterinsurgency groups, the Sunni-led Special Police Commandos, is headed by a former officer in Saddam's Baath Party. (The Commandos were founded by the son of the former Iraqi Chief of Staff Falah al-Naqib, who many believed to be a CIA asset.) The connections of Interior Ministry chieftains to their CIA managers are deep and compelling. As Fuller notes, "the Police Commandos were formed under the experienced tutelage and oversight of veteran US counterinsurgency fighters, and from the outset conducted joint-force operations with elite and highly secretive US special-forces units." (Reuters, National Review Online) Fuller says: "A key figure in the development of the Special Police Commandos was James Steele, a former US Army special forces operative who cut his teeth in Vietnam before moving on to direct the US military mission in El Salvador at the height of that country's civil war.... Another US contributor was the same Steven Casteel who as the most senior US advisor within the Interior Ministry brushed off serious and well-substantiated accusations of appalling human right violations as 'rumor and innuendo'....Casteel's background is significant because this kind of intelligence-gathering support role and the production of death lists are characteristic of US involvement in counterinsurgency programs and constitute the underlying thread in what can appear to be random, disjointed killing sprees." Needless, to say, the CIA does not move major assets like Steele and Casteel into a prickly situation like Iraq to shuffle papers by a water-cooler. These are the main gears in the machinery of the Iraqi death squads and they illustrate the real motive behind Washington's campaign of terror. There is nothing either "random" or "disjointed" in the butchery produced by their labors. Fuller adds: "The Police Commando headquarters has become the hub of a nationwide command, control, communications, computer and intelligence operations centre, courtesy of the US (Defend America)." The administration has provided a "state of the art" communications network to "coordinate mass murder". "DeBaathification" is a sham. Many of the top-ranking officials in the Ministry are Sunnis, including "deputy Minister for Intelligence Affairs (also leader of the Interior Ministry's spy service) currently held by General Hussain Kamel". The intention of the Bush administration is not to promote one group over the other but to foment widespread sectarian violence that will precipitate the destruction of the state and easier control of its resources. The much-maligned Interior Ministry does not operate independently from their benefactors in Washington nor does the newly discovered 146,000 Facility Protection Service. These militias are at least somewhat functioning under Washington's auspices and, as the Tribunes' Liz Sly and Cam Simpson say in "US Arming of Iraq Cops Skates close to Legal Line", they are probably getting weaponry from the US to carry out their human rights violations. That's because As the Los Angeles Times notes, "The entire intelligence establishment is a creation of the Anglo-American secret services, which began building at least as early as the beginning of the occupation." Max Fuller clarifies this point: "What is possible is that both sides of the apparent sectarian violence are run as part of a huge CIA-lead intelligence operation designed to split Iraq at the seams. I tentatively suggest that the intelligence apparatus at the Interior Ministry is contriving attacks on Sunnis and that British and US Special Forces in conjunction with the intelligence apparatus at the Iraqi Defense Ministry are fabricating insurgent bombings of Shias." Rumsfeld, who graduated from America's counterinsurgency wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, is demonstrating his theories of warfare for the 21st century; a massive covert terror-campaign aimed at Sunnis and Shias alike. It is a shocking departure from the widely-held belief that security is required for governance. Instead, fear and chaos are being used alternately to pacify the population and achieve the occupation's overall objectives. As Fuller says in "In Iraq, the Salvador Option becomes Reality", "the bottom line in combating the hopes and dreams of ordinary people is to resort to spreading terror through the application of extreme violence." That is an apt description of America's ongoing war in Iraq. "THE GENERALS' REVOLT"
Bush as Czar Nicholas: In a short period beginning from 19 March, six retired U.S. Marine and Army generals denounced the Pentagon planning for the Iraq war and asked for the removal of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Pro-War Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who visits Iraq frequently said that the generals mirror the views of 75 percent of the officers in the field, and probably more. While America won't be defeated in Iraq militarily Rumsfeld must leave because the administration is losing the war at home and might be " forced into a hasty and chaotic retreat ".Americans have simply stopped believing the administration on Iraq and "Rumsfeld has become a symbol of that credibility gap. He is a spent force ..." (...) The Generals' Revolt is a serious crisis for George Bush. If he continues to stand by Rumsfeld, he pits himself against the generals credibility, much higher than his own today. If he dismisses Rumsfeld, the military would have carried out a figurative coup d'etat. " An alumni association of retired generals will have dethroned civilian leadership and forced the commander in chief to fire the architect of a war upon which not only Bush's place in history depends, but the U.S. position in the Middle East and the world. The commander in chief will have been emasculated by retired generals. The stakes could scarcely be higher." What ever Bush's decision it marks him as a weak if not fatally compromised president. "He will have capitulated to a generals' coup. Will he then have to clear Rumsfeld's successor with them? Bush will begin to look like Czar Nicholas in 1916." It's NOT About Rummy, Dummy: Enough said already! The mainstream media has been milking the issue of Rumsfeld's incumbency, squeezing every drop of rummy to the dryness of Chile's Atacama Desert. Perhaps that's something to be expected domestically. What does come as a surprise, however, is the amount of coverage and level of speculation in the foreign press; most particularly, the press chronicling to the peoples in the Middle East. And what comes as an even larger surprise, it's the importance attached to the possible exit, or stay, of the Pentagon's chief. Donald Rumsfeld is a colorful character, yes... but even if he is Cruella's favorite devil-son, he's politically irrelevant to the well-entrenched American foreign policy. Doesn't the international press corps know that? Hasn't it dawn on these journalists and political commentators that Rumsfeld's stay-in, or exit-from, the DOD (Department of Defense) is totally inconsequential? The damage has already been done: from the launching of an unjust and criminal invasion; to a rosary of repetitive misdeeds; now becoming an unending litany of events that Rumsfeld can neither influence, nor control. Those retired generals who have come forward to critique or criticize Rumsfeld's edicts, gross mistakes, and ineptness in how the Pentagon prepared for and conducted the war, have the right to do so; not only on their own behalf but that of other active duty staff and field officers of like mind. Just like Rep. Jack Murtha and other hawkish politicians have done. What's sad to watch is how the small anti-war movement in America, activists and pacifists alike, make these critics the rallying heroes when they are in fact only critics of their brethren-in-war. It's not the music that it's being criticized, just how it's played. And Rumsfeld is simply the conductor of this evening's event. Bush simply cannot dismiss Rumsfeld; it wouldn't make any sense. The two men clearly represent the two sides of the same coin, carrying almost identical numbers for acceptance or rejection when it comes to polling Americans' sentiment: upwards of 80% favorable job performance just after 9/11, and less than half that figure nowadays. For both gents! By hook or by crook, this ideological marriage is likely to stay together to the bitter end. In fact, this is not a monogamous relationship, but a polygamous one, involving several other high profile neocons, and also high priests of christianity (yes, with a very small c). And there is no evidence that the GOP is considering cleansing itself of these cancerous groups, preferring instead to make use of its thirty silver coins in tax breaks. Let's be real! Rumsfeld needs to be available for a possible "October Surprise"; for if things continue looking dim for GOP legislators before the next mid-term election, a proven loyalist needs to be in charge at the Pentagon to bomb the hell out of Iran, and rally the nation around the flag. And who better for that task than this articulate master of deceit? Truth be said, America is in Iraq, or its balkanized remnants, for the long haul - long after Rumsfeld. Make no mistake about that. Perhaps restricted to a fortified mega-embassy and a few well-staffed military bases. But Babylonia and its environs will remain de facto in American hands; or at least its oil will, and the freedom to operate as an international free-state. That's American policy, for now and the foreseeable future, regardless whether power remains with these neocons, or passes on to the right of center Democrats (Hillary, Kerry et al). During the past three weeks I must have come across 70 to 80 articles in the Arab (and Muslim) press, both mainstream and alternative - from Egypt to Pakistan and all points in the Diaspora, which dissected this personage in microscopic detail. His criminality, association with Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo, and general incompetence were massaged in these essays to great lengths. Perhaps the lack of perspective in much of this erudite writing was the result of having used a microscope instead of a telescope. Rumsfeld is but a soldier himself; perhaps an articulate and inept soldier, but a soldier nonetheless. To see the problem in clear focus, you cannot resort to looking at Rumsfeld through a microscope; instead one must look to the stars with a telescope. There, in front of us, is the culprit of it all. Not a man who's 50% quipster and 50% ruthless. Not Rumsfeld. The culprit lit by the starts: American foreign policy and its readiness to wage war, including preemptive war, to impose its will or vision on the world. Bush low favorable numbers, particularly on the quagmire that Iraq has become, have absolutely nothing to do with how Americans feel about war... only the conduct of this particular war. And that in a nutshell is the problem. Americans are not any more anti-war today than they were four years ago. It's not so much that we despise wars; it's just that we hate not winning them... and quickly. That's what all the criticism is about: from Murtha, from the six generals, from the disgruntled man in the street. And what better villain, or scapegoat, than Rumsfeld! But no one will dare take a poll as to how anti-war we really are. Afraid to see for ourselves, or to show the world, what our priorities are. Why all the noise about Rumsfeld? He is just an arrogant so-and-so who acts on our behalf. Why is it so difficult for the international press corps to see that?
The Worst President in History? One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history. From time to time, after hours, I kick back with my colleagues at Princeton to argue idly about which president really was the worst of them all. For years, these perennial debates have largely focused on the same handful of chief executives whom national polls of historians, from across the ideological and political spectrum, routinely cite as the bottom of the presidential barrel. Was the lousiest James Buchanan, who, confronted with Southern secession in 1860, dithered to a degree that, as his most recent biographer has said, probably amounted to disloyalty -- and who handed to his successor, Abraham Lincoln, a nation already torn asunder? Was it Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, who actively sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction? What about the amiably incompetent Warren G. Harding, whose administration was fabulously corrupt? Or, though he has his defenders, Herbert Hoover, who tried some reforms but remained imprisoned in his own outmoded individualist ethic and collapsed under the weight of the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression's onset? The younger historians always put in a word for Richard M. Nixon, the only American president forced to resign from office. Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant. (...) Even worse for the president, the general public, having once given Bush the highest approval ratings ever recorded, now appears to be coming around to the dismal view held by most historians. To be sure, the president retains a considerable base of supporters who believe in and adore him, and who reject all criticism with a mixture of disbelief and fierce contempt -- about one-third of the electorate. (When the columnist Richard Reeves publicized the historians' poll last year and suggested it might have merit, he drew thousands of abusive replies that called him an idiot and that praised Bush as, in one writer's words, "a Christian who actually acts on his deeply held beliefs.") Yet the ranks of the true believers have thinned dramatically. A majority of voters in forty-three states now disapprove of Bush's handling of his job. Since the commencement of reliable polling in the 1940s, only one twice-elected president has seen his ratings fall as low as Bush's in his second term: Richard Nixon, during the months preceding his resignation in 1974. No two-term president since polling began has fallen from such a height of popularity as Bush's (in the neighborhood of ninety percent, during the patriotic upswell following the 2001 attacks) to such a low (now in the midthirties). No president, including Harry Truman (whose ratings sometimes dipped below Nixonian levels), has experienced such a virtually unrelieved decline as Bush has since his high point. Apart from sharp but temporary upticks that followed the commencement of the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein, and a recovery during the weeks just before and after his re-election, the Bush trend has been a profile in fairly steady disillusionment. (...) Much as Bush still enjoys support from those who believe he can do no wrong, he now suffers opposition from liberals who believe he can do no right. Many of these liberals are in the awkward position of having supported Bush in the past, while offering little coherent as an alternative to Bush's policies now. Yet it is difficult to see how this will benefit Bush's reputation in history. The president came to office calling himself "a uniter, not a divider" and promising to soften the acrimonious tone in Washington. He has had two enormous opportunities to fulfill those pledges: first, in the noisy aftermath of his controversial election in 2000, and, even more, after the attacks of September 11th, when the nation pulled behind him as it has supported no other president in living memory. Yet under both sets of historically unprecedented circumstances, Bush has chosen to act in ways that have left the country less united and more divided, less conciliatory and more acrimonious -- much like James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Herbert Hoover before him. And, like those three predecessors, Bush has done so in the service of a rigid ideology that permits no deviation and refuses to adjust to changing realities. Buchanan failed the test of Southern secession, Johnson failed in the face of Reconstruction, and Hoover failed in the face of the Great Depression. Bush has failed to confront his own failures in both domestic and international affairs, above all in his ill-conceived responses to radical Islamic terrorism. Having confused steely resolve with what Ralph Waldo Emerson called "a foolish consistency . . . adored by little statesmen," Bush has become entangled in tragedies of his own making, compounding those visited upon the country by outside forces. No historian can responsibly predict the future with absolute certainty. There are too many imponderables still to come in the two and a half years left in Bush's presidency to know exactly how it will look in 2009, let alone in 2059. There have been presidents -- Harry Truman was one -- who have left office in seeming disgrace, only to rebound in the estimates of later scholars. But so far the facts are not shaping up propitiously for George W. Bush. He still does his best to deny it. Having waved away the lessons of history in the making of his decisions, the present-minded Bush doesn't seem to be concerned about his place in history. "History. We won't know," he told the journalist Bob Woodward in 2003. "We'll all be dead." Another president once explained that the judgments of history cannot be defied or dismissed, even by a president. "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history," said Abraham Lincoln. "We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation." And We Think We Are Free: I have often asked myself why human beings have any rights at all. I always come to the conclusion that human rights, human freedoms, and human dignity have their deepest roots somewhere outside the perceptible world. These values are as powerful as they are because, under certain circumstances, people accept them without compulsion and are willing to die for them. - Vaclav Havel The following notice was nailed to the gate of the American prisoner-of-war camp at Babenhausen/Darmstadt in 1946:
"When you, SS-man Willi Schulze, or you, Corporal Rudi Muller, stride out through this gate, your steps will lead you to freedom. Behind you lie months and years of slavish obedience, years of bloodshed, years in which human individuality suffered incredible humiliations, all of which was caused by a criminal regime whose adherents will not escape due punishment. You yourself are not to blame. Deluded, you blindly followed the call of a false doctrine. From now on your life in your family circle can unfold free and undisturbed. You have been freed from accursed military service, from guilt-laden German militarism. Never again will a shrill command chase you across the barracks courts or drive you to the battlefield. The ashes of your army ID card have mingled with those of Buchenwald and Dachau. The victorious United Nations which, through their great sacrifice, have freed you and your descendants forever from military service, have assumed the responsibility of protecting your freedom. But in exchange for that great sacrifice you are duty-bound to make sure that never again in your homeland will a desire for military service arise, that never again will young Germans sacrifice the best years of their lives to the hankerings of the Prussian nobility and their war-thirsty general staff, but that they will, from now on, dedicate their strength and their gifts to peaceful ends. - Signed: U.S. War Department"
How times have changed! How things have remained the same! 50 years after this sign was posted we no longer have a U.S. War Department; we Americans now have a Department of Defense. However, the sameness comes in considering that for we Americans "Behind us lie months and years of slavish obedience, years of bloodshed, years in which human individuality suffered incredible humiliations, all of which was caused by a criminal regime whose adherents will not escape due punishment". The irony of the comparison to our own situation in America is easily seen if one substitutes "Bush nobility" for "Prussian nobility" and is further magnified by considering that those who suffered most (the Jews) from the "criminal regime" in Nazi Germany are today most responsible for engineering and fomenting the suffering and humiliation of others (the Arabs and Palestinians) through Israeli aggression and the same type suppression they suffered under Hitler. Israeli purchase and exploitation of the entire American political system [1][2] for the purposes of financial aide and fighting their wars and then spying on and working against their benefactors, the United States, [3] only adds to the bitterness of the irony. In 1946, we Americans could see that the suffering of millions of people and the death of 6 million Jews was the fault of Nazi Germany's leaders. Today we see that it is the fault of the Rudi Muller's and the Willie Schulze's of our armed forces who are responsible for the suffering of their prisoners. It is the Rudis and Willies who are responsible for using "Willie Pete" for night- time "illumination" of civilian areas and snipers to establish "free fire" zones in Falluja. It is "they" who are responsible for the radioactive contamination of an entire country and the radioactive contamination of themselves and their comrades with depleted uranium. It is "they" who decided to drop cluster bombs on civilian targets. It was not OUR LEADERS who were responsible for the disappearance of 8.8 billion dollars in Iraqi reconstruction funds or the 60 percent increase in world oil prices since the invasion of a virtually powerless country. It was not OUR LEADERS who invaded and destroyed a sovereign nation on false pretenses. It is not OUR LEADERS who are responsible for the rendition of real, imagined and purchased enemies using carefully camouflaged CIA planes for their transport into the nether world of carefully hidden CIA prisons. It is not OUR LEADERS who are preparing to invade Iran because it wants to exercise the same freedom of choice OUR LEADERS made for us when WE began the Manhattan Project. How can we spoiled Americans have forefathers who fought a world war to stop the slaughter of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and Communists and then wind up with a president whose grandfather helped Hitler rise to power and invested in the company which manufactured the Zyklon B Gas used to kill these "undesirables"? This is a mystery that shows many things about turning wheels and the "smallness" of the world. This is a study of how we Americans changed from a proud people into a herd of sheep that are only waiting for the order to "strip and step into the showers. What happened to us? Why do we refuse to learn from history? How similar are we to those who put their clothes and valuables into neat piles before stepping into the "showers" of the 40's? What dichotomy allows our American military to act like Hitler's SS troops and their parents to be so weak that they allow their president to assume dictatorial powers without giving so much as a whimper? How can we believe the 9/11 fantasy constructed for us by our leaders (sic) and not believe we are presently living in a land with little freedom and no privacy from government surveillance? How can we listen to a demagogue like Alan Dershowitz extol the necessity of using torture on our "enemies" while trumpeting the fact that he lost 40 family members in the holocaust? To reach some answers, this article will go back to pre-war Nazi Germany and examine the character and the way of life of 10 average German citizens living in Germany who were caught up in or volunteered for the Nazi movement and assumed roles in the movement as it germinated under Hitler and grew to the ending described by the 1946 sign over the gate at Babenhausen/Darmstadt. This examination and comparison will use as reference the 1955 Milton Meyer book, "They Thought They Were Free". Then: One of the more telling aspects of the transition from "normal" German life into the world of German Nazism was the realization by "our" 10 German citizens that there were no clear-cut dramatic changes in German life. Life changed imperceptibly as rules were gradually changed. There was a widening gap between the government and the people. People became very gradually accustomed to government by surprise, to receiving decisions deliberated in secret, to believing that situations were so complicated that "normal" people couldn't properly understand or that the "situation" had to be handled in secret for "national security reasons". Additionally, each step in the transformation of German life was disguised to create the illusion of a common, grand threat to all which could only be discovered, interpreted and handled by the government. In Germany, the government gradually increased the "required" participation by the individual in the government's grand design(s). There was required attendance at various government functions, forms to be completed, lists to be compiled, etc, etc. There was no time to think or reflect. Now: In today's America, required participation in government- sponsored activities is not the central aspect of family life. Our participation in the life of the community and in the life of the family is a part of the ever increasing speed of the "squirrel's exercise wheel". Today's "soccer mom" is forced to run faster and faster just to remain "in place". The result of these phenomena (coupled with today's mind-destroying television) is and was that for even those who were and are prone to "think" for themselves, there is and was less and less time for such a luxury. For those few who tend and tended to think about the basics of life, there is also the government created diversions concerning national enemies to distract from any serious effort in that direction. Germans as well as Americans cannot be relied upon to tolerate activities that outrage the normal sense of decency unless the selected victims are stigmatized in advance. Governments can be relied upon to perform this function and thereby mobilize its citizens toward the government's desired goals. There are always red, yellow or purple alert levels to keep us "in the mood" because uncertainty is a very important part of the "plan". Then: Then as now, if one accidentally finds one to whom he can express his fears, he is labeled an "alarmist" or told that he "is seeing things" or that "things aren't so bad". One tends to have fewer and fewer friends in whom he can confide or converse freely. Besides, how does one oppose? What is his reason? Opposition depends upon circumstances. "The few who tried to kill Hitler in '44, certainly . . . 'opposed' But why? Some hated the dictatorship of National Socialism, some hated its democracy, some were personally ambitious or jealous, some wanted the Army to control the country, maybe some could escape punishment for crimes only by a change of government. Some, I am sure, were pure and noble. But they all acted . . . Well, we had twenty thousand people . . . If you ask me how many did something in secret opposition, something that meant great danger to them, I would say, well, twenty. And how may did something like that openly and from good motives alone? Maybe five, maybe two. That's the way men are". [4] Living in this environment of uncertainty it is impossible to notice change. Each step is so small and inconsequential that change goes unnoticed. "When the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing, and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something -- but then it was too late". [5] Then and Now: Uncertainty is very important to the government. One doesn't see where or exactly how to move. One keeps waiting for the one "great event" that will trigger an appropriate response within oneself. But the "big event" never comes. One doesn't want to talk or act alone. Standing alone is not the only restraining factor; uncertainty is certainly an important factor. Life is not a series of isolated events; life is more a flow of continuing events and change comes very slowly. We no longer see spying on Americans inside the United States as an important event. It is just one of a series of outrages that seems no larger than the hundreds that went before. One lie is no larger than the ones that went before and brought us into a war of aggression aimed at another country's resources. Today we are outraged by the "news" that our government has been spying on Americans in the United States for the last year or so. (The truth is that spying on Americans is so commonplace to our government and has been going on so long that "spying" hardly even rates a raised eyebrow at this point). Another factor common to Nazi Germany and our present American Way is the small number of people required to change a whole country from a free, prosperous land envied by all into one hated and despised by the whole world - but not for our prosperity. How many people did it take to change our country's goals and its perception by others: Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Luty, Perle, Rumsfeld, and a few "movers and shakers in the business world. How many "do nothings" did it take to allow this to happen? Answer. At last count, 535 members of Congress and almost 290 million Americans. And how many Americans have resisted our slide into totalitarianism and oblivion? At last count there were two - Kevin Benderman and Cindy Sheehan. (Oh yes, there have been more who have protested in marches and others who have hurled "word bombs" from the safety of "our" computer keyboards at the criminals guiding our descent into chaos and oblivion, but only these two have taken their convictions "to the mat" or more correctly, "to the jails and prisons" for all of us). Conclusions: And after the war - the Big One - WWII. What did the average German feel? Was it remorse? shame? guilt? Yes, some Germans felt all three. But within the majority was an underlying hypocrisy. Although some confessed that their government's actions were terrible, few were able to say that the actions of their government "violated the precepts of Christian, civilized, lawful life"[6] and even fewer were able to say that "I" knew it was wrong when it was happening and "I" knew it was un-Christian, uncivilized and unlawful and "I" pretended it wasn't. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Did Abu Ghraib sound un-Christian, uncivilized and unlawful to we Americans or did it sound like a sophomoric college prank? Did the second set of photos from Abu Ghraib, which were finally released to the public after having been screened and judged by our lawmakers to be so graphically horrific that the American public should not be allowed to see them, goad we Americans into finding who was REALLY responsible, impeaching the responsible party and trying his underlings for war crimes? Did the description of the destruction of Fallujah seem right to us? Did we Americans try to pry open the CIA's rendition operation and prosecute all the way to the gas chamber those responsible for rendition and torture and black prisons? No, because we know that those responsible would not be able to wage wars of any type - aggression, defense or entertainment - in the future in our names. We know that wars of aggression are "necessary" for our comfort and survival. We know that without the occasional, necessary war we won't be able to take the family on the annual vacation in the safety of the family SUV. Fighting the terrorists "over there" is better than having to drill off our own pristine coasts and find our own oil. Is this realization one of hypocrisy, self-delusion, convenience or self-preservation? IRAN Thirteen of the nation's most prominent physicists have written a letter to President Bush, calling U.S. plans to reportedly use nuclear weapons against Iran "gravely irresponsible" and warning that such action would have "disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world." The physicists include five Nobel laureates, a recipient of the National Medal of Science and three past presidents of the American Physical Society, the nation's preeminent professional society for physicists. The letter echoes a petition signed by over 1800 physicists and scientists across the US and the world Join Dr. Jorge E. Hirsch, Professor of Physics, UCSD To deliver the letter to President Bush Wednesday April 26, 5 PM, Lafayette Park, opposite the White House, Washington, DC Letter to President Bush The Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: Recent articles in the New Yorker and Washington Post report that the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iran is being actively considered by Pentagon planners and by the White House. As members of the profession that brought nuclear weapons into existence, we urge you to refrain from such an action that would have grave consequences for America and for the world. 1800 of our fellow physicists have joined in a petition opposing new US nuclear weapons policies that open the door to the use of nuclear weapons in situations such as Iran's. These policies represent a "radical departure from the past", in the words of Linton Brooks, National Nuclear Security Administration director. Indeed, since the end of World War II, US policy has considered nuclear weapons "weapons of last resort", to be used only when the very survival of the nation or of an allied nation was at stake, or at most in cases of extreme military necessity. Instead, the new US nuclear weapons policies have significantly lowered the threshold for the potential use of nuclear weapons, as clearly evidenced by the fact that they are being considered as another tool in the toolbox to destroy underground installations that are "too deep" to be destroyed by conventional weapons. This is a major and dangerous shift in the rationale for nuclear weapons. In the words of the late Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Peace Prize recipient for his efforts to prevent nuclear war, "the danger of this policy can hardly be over-emphasized". Nuclear weapons are unique among weapons of mass destruction: they unleash the enormous energy stored in the tiny nucleus of an atom, an energy that is a million times larger than that stored in the rest of the atom. The nuclear explosion releases an immense amount of blast energy and thermal and nuclear radiation, with deadly immediate and delayed effects on the human body. Over 100,000 human beings died in the Hiroshima blast, and nuclear weapons in today's arsenals have a total yield of over 200,000 Hiroshima bombs. Using or even merely threatening to use a nuclear weapon preemptively against a nonnuclear adversary tells the 182 non-nuclear-weapon countries signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that their adherence to the treaty offers them no protection against a nuclear attack by a nuclear nation. Many are thus likely to abandon the treaty, and the nuclear non-proliferation framework will be damaged even further than it already has, with disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world. There are no sharp lines between small "tactical" nuclear weapons and large ones, nor between nuclear weapons targeting facilities and those targeting armies or cities. Nuclear weapons have not been used for 60 years. Once the US uses a nuclear weapon again, it will heighten the probability that others will too. In a world with many more nuclear nations and no longer a "taboo" against the use of nuclear weapons, there will be a greatly enhanced risk that regional conflicts could expand into global nuclear war, with the potential to destroy our civilization. It is gravely irresponsible for the U.S. as the greatest superpower to consider courses of action that could eventually lead to the widespread destruction of life on the planet. We urge you to announce publicly that the U.S. is taking the nuclear option off the table in the case of all nonnuclear adversaries, present or future, and we urge the American people to make their voices heard on this matter. Sincerely, Philip Anderson, Michael Fisher, David Gross, Jorge Hirsch, Leo Kadanoff, Joel Lebowitz, Anthony Leggett, Eugen Merzbacher, Douglas Osheroff, Andrew Sessler George Trilling, Frank Wilczek, Edward Witten QUOTE OF THE DAY: "In one respect, we are more fortunate than you in the west. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and watch on television, nothing of the official truth. Unlike you, we have learned to read between the lines, because real truth is always subversive." --- Dissident Czech novelist Zdenek Urbánek speaking in the 1970s, during the Stalinist dictatorship, to journalist John Pilger


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