Archive for May, 2008

Pens and Swords – How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

May 30, 2008

Pens and Swords – How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Dandelion Salad

by Jim Miles
Global Research, May 29, 2008

Review of Marda Dunsky’s book

In an era when American foreign policy has reached the pinnacle of unilateralism by invading other countries pre-emptively, threatening others with nuclear annihilation, and abrogating in doing so many decades if not more than a century of international law development, Marda Dunsky’s book Pens and Swords presents a very strong, well-referenced argument illuminating the bias within American media reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That bias develops under two main themes – a lack of historical context, and a lack of recognition of the effects of U.S. foreign policy. Along with those two major themes, are the related ideas of weaknesses in analysing and criticizing sources, and in not providing references for what discussion there is as the arguments already fit the generally accepted ‘Washington’ consensus. Other ideas that accompany the discussion are the use of language that biases an argument, and the desire for the “amorphous if not impossible standard of objectivity.”

Overview

The book is well organized and well developed. It begins with an introduction that presents a brief summary of some current communication theory. This is followed by a discussion of the “policy mirror” between the Washington consensus and the media. Next is a limited presentation of historical context – the nakba, international law and the right of return – in order that the reader does have some background knowledge, leading into Dunsky’s first discussion on reporting on the Palestinian refugee story. From there the main presentation works through discussions of media reporting on Israeli settlements, the violence of the second intifada, the ‘war at home’ or how the local media is perceived by various sectors. The two final sections “In the Field” and “Toward a New way of Reporting…” carry significant and well-reasoned perspectives on what is happening and what could or should be happening.

There are several points along the way that deserve emphasis for their clarity and validity.

Communication theory

First is the communication theory, which defines mainstream media as “outlets that are in harmony with the prevailing direction of influence in culture at large.” In essence, “to a significant extent American mainstream journalism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toes the line of U.S. Mideast policy.” She discusses three theoretical constructs – hegemony, indexing, and cascading – that emphasize these points respectively: “the American mainstream media…operate in the same social and economic framework as government;” “The range of discourse is exceedingly narrow…because [it] emanates from an equally narrow range of sources;” and “the mainstream media determines the level of understanding that is possible for the public and the policy makers alike.” If that does not give the mainstream media thoughts for concern, then ironically, these definitions become all that more powerful.

Refugees

The refugee problem is defined as “a root cause of the Israeli-Palestine conflict” and to omit it from context “is to omit an important part of the story.” Dunsky briefly outlines the nakba as recently viewed by ‘revisionist’ historians who deny the official Israeli narrative while using information in a large part garnered from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) archives themselves. While these ideas “depart markedly from the familiar narrative” there are other gaps in the narrative, one of the more important being “the body of international law and consensus on refugee rights in general, and Palestinian refugee rights in particular.”[1] Accompanying this is the right of return which the Israelis claim for the Jewish people of the world, but that is denied to the Palestinians in contravention of international law.

Context as a theme is obviously a major issue for any discussion of the refugee problem. American media “routinely denies its audience the contextual tools with which to assess important historical and political aspects of the issue,” and it “largely mirrors U.S. Mideast policy,” remaining “explicitly tilted in favor of Israel in the pursuit of what is officially defined as the U.S. national interest in the region.” News reports “relate what can be seen and heard, to the exclusion or relevant contextual background.” [italics in original] The message that does come across is that of the “refugees’ own transigence and the machinations of their leaders, the Arab states, and the United Nations.” While it seems almost too obvious to state, Dunsky sums up her arguments on the refugee reporting saying “if Americans had a fuller contextual understanding of the key issues…via the mainstream media, they would be better equipped to challenge U.S. Mideast policy.”

Obvious yes, but it also signifies that American culture, American society perhaps does not want to disturb its own beliefs in its exceptionalism and perfectionism that is their gift (even if by the barrel of a gun) to the world. To admit these failings of context, to examine the context in light of foreign policy would be greatly disturbing to a society educated (or inculcated) about its own greatness, exceptionalism, perfectionism, and love of democracy and freedom. And so it should be.

Israeli settlements

Similar arguments are brought forth concerning the Israeli settlements. A brief background set of information ties in the U.S. $3 billion in aid each year that supports the ability to continue the settlements. Dunsky argues, and supports, the idea that “reporting on the settlement issue bears a striking similarity to reporting on the …refugee question,” with “more weight usually given to Israeli claims and little or no reference to international law and consensus.” Also, “dramatic description is substituted for thoroughgoing analytical reporting.” And more in the same category of context: “Contextually and substantively…the stories made little or no reference to international law and consensus or to U.S. aid to Israel.”

The media references to the Israeli side generally emphasize the perspective “that Palestinian violence must be halted before negotiations can resume,” without the context of history and the idea that the very act of settlement and “its attendant military defense have been a root cause of that violence.” Frequent comments run through the text, emphasizing and referencing the lack of context and of international law and consensus in the media reports that are studied.

The intifada

The height of the intifada violence coincided with American rhetoric and anguish after 9/11 and provided a neat tie in for the Israeli government and the IDF to try and capture the argument as one of terrorism, leaving aside completely the historical context and using the American perspective of “us against them,” of democracy versus demagoguery, of “they hate us for what we are.” For the media “political discourse focused entirely on themes that were emotional, moral, and patriotic,” providing a “period of congruence for the United States and Israel.” The IDF incursions into the West Bank relied on the concept that “the campaign was to root out the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.”

Palestine was no match for the well-organized Israeli “propaganda battlefield” and as events continued, “Arafat and the PA were linked to terror” as “repeatedly impressed on U.S. government officials and the American public through the media.” Another feature of these reports is what “amounted to transparent Israeli advocacy for a U.S. war in Iraq” as well as connections through to Iran. In sum, Dunsky says

“American journalists were operating within the sphere of cultural congruence – a comfort zone where journalistic scepticism and balance were often overshadowed or displaced by the political discourse of the Bush administration, in which a “war on terror” could be prosecuted by the United States, and, by extension, its closest ally.”

Ego and Access

The chapter “In the Field” provides an intriguing perspective on the reporters/journalists (I put those two descriptors together, not really sure where the lines between a reporter and a journalist meet or overlap or coincide) themselves. The section could be subtitled “Ego and Access” as those are the two main themes in the first set of self-reports.

Dunsky allows the reporters to speak for themselves and some of what they say is self-incriminating as to why there is a bias and lack of context. It would seem that the correspondents are well aware of media competition in the sense that they need a daily story. They worry about how the editors will deal with their report and they need a story with a different view to gain publication and so that their peers will take notice: “to attempt unfiltered reporting…not only is often discouraged by newsroom culture but can also result in swift and unstinting audience censure.” That is the ego part. The access part is the consistent iteration that access to Israeli sources was very easy and well organized and that communication with the Palestinians required more effort. That could be – although denied by the correspondents – because “most…choose to live among Israelis in West Jerusalem because of its higher standard of living rather than among Palestinians.” It is a hard denial to make, that their place of living has “had little or no effect on their actual work product.” If they have no sense of context, perhaps also their sense of place is…hmm…misplaced.

Before getting into these self-examinations, examinations that reveal all too much about ego and access, Dunsky reiterates her own two “key underlying contexts: the impact of U.S. policy on the trajectory of the conflict; and the importance of international law and consensus regarding the key issues of Israeli settlement and annexation policies and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.” As a result the journalistic product “frames media discourse on the conflict in a way that reinforces and supports rather than scrutinizes and challenges U.S. policy that in many ways undergirds it.”

Context and media failure.

The final two writers provide a much clearer analysis of the world they lived in. Gillian Findlay, ABC correspondent from September 1997 to June 2002 says “when we did try to provide context, it became such a controversial thing, not only among viewers but also within the news organization.” She was surprised by “how little our audience understood about the roots of the conflict,” and says it is a “cop out in reporting” to say there is nothing the U.S. administration can do. Speaking more globally she hits upon another truth about American media, that “the lack of context applies to so much reporting these days. It’s not just this issue.”

Chris Hedges worked for the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News off and on from January 1988 to 2003. He says “Arab culture is incomprehensible to us because we’ve never taken the time to understand it. It’s a great failing of the press that when something is incomprehensible to us, we certify it as incomprehensible to everyone.” He continues this idea when discussing the suicide bombers, “we don’t understand the slow drip of oppression” that created them and further “We’ve never taken the time to understand them….[a] fundamental failure of the coverage of Palestinians.” As for the press as an institution he says, “bureaucracies…are driven by ambition and have very little moral sense. That’s true of every institution….It’s not conducive of their own advancement.”

All of which leaves me wondering, as a critical reader, what exactly are the credentials of the writers/reporters/journalists who are in the field. Certainly being there provides them with first hand observation of current events, but do they have the academic background to understand the socio-political history of the region? Are they able and willing to look at what for me is the prime contradiction in the vast majority of American and Israeli foreign affairs and those who report on it – that what you do speaks so loud I can’t hear what you are saying? That democracy does not arrive at the barrel of gun, peace does not come from pre-emptive invasions and occupations, the victim cannot be blamed for the ongoing violence against the intruders, and international law deems it all illegal? More simply put, people, nations, do not like being occupied and suppressed, and no rhetoric of any kind will make it acceptable except to an elite few cronies of the occupiers. Are the reporters able and willing to step outside of the Washington consensus, willing to take the time to provide more background information for themselves as well as their readers, or will the corporate agenda over-rule any attempts at providing context, a context that more often than not goes against the grain of the Washington consensus?

The final argument is on objectivity, seen in the introduction as an “amorphous if not impossible standard,” another argument that comes back to all media tasks being “superfluous as long as one remains within the presuppositional framework of the doctrinal consensus,” with writers well aware of “rewards that accrue to conformity and the costs of honest dissidence.”

I would hope that all journalists/writers would take the time to read Pens and Swords. The books arguments are well presented and well referenced, and the work as a whole should be placed on every journalists’/reporters’ shelf alongside similar works by other well referenced and questioning media critics [2] For any journalist who is actually wishing to pursue truth rather than ego and access, consideration and action on the ideas presented in Dunsky’s work would be a great place to start. Pens and Swords is also a great read for all mass media audiences to better inform themselves and to be able to criticize and analyze the writers/producers and their products more intelligently as well as to analyze their own place and views within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

[1] for an easily read comprehensive understanding of international law, see Michael Byers’ War Law, Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict, Douglas & McIntyre, Toronto, 2005.

[2] ]Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (2002), and Falk and Friel Israel-Palestine on Record (2007).

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© Copyright Jim Miles, Global Research, 2008
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War Immemorial Day – No Peace for Militarized U.S.

May 29, 2008

War Immemorial Day – No Peace for Militarized U.S.

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Memorial Day is not actually a day to pray for U.S. troops who died in action but rather a day set aside by Congress to pray for peace.   The 1950 Joint Resolution of Congress which created Memorial Day says:  “Requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace.” (64 Stat.158).

Peace today is a nearly impossible challenge for the United States.  The U.S. is far and away the most militarized country in the world and the most aggressive.  Unless the U.S. dramatically reduces its emphasis on global military action, there will be many, many more families grieving on future Memorial days.

The U.S. spends over $600 billion annually on our military, more than the rest of the world combined.  China, our nearest competitor, spends about one-tenth of what we spend.  The U.S. also sells more weapons to other countries than any other nation in the world.

The U.S. has about 700 military bases in 130 countries world-wide and another 6000 bases in the US and our territories, according to Chalmers Johnson in his excellent book NEMESIS: THE LAST DAYS OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC (2007).

The Department of Defense (DOD) reports nearly 1.4 million active duty military personnel today.   Over a quarter of a million are in other countries from Iraq and Afghanistan to Europe, North Africa, South Asia and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. The DOD also employs more than 700,000 civilian employees.

The US has used its armed forces abroad over 230 times according to researchers at the Department of the Navy Historical Center.  Their publications list over 60 military efforts outside the U.S. since World War II.

While the focus of most of the Memorial Day activities will be on U.S. military dead, no effort is made to try to identify or remember the military or civilians of other countries who have died in the same actions.  For example, the U.S. government reports 432 U.S. military dead in Afghanistan and surrounding areas, but has refused to disclose civilian casualties.  “We don’t do body counts,” General Tommy Franks said.

Most people know of the deaths in World War I – 116,000 U.S. soldiers killed.  But how many in the U.S. know that over 8 million soldiers from other countries and perhaps another 8 million civilians also died during World War II?

By World War II, about 408,000 U.S. soldiers were killed.  World-wide, at least another 20 million soldiers and civilians died.

The U.S. is not only the largest and most expensive military on the planet but it is also the most active.  Since World War II, the U.S. has used U.S. military force in the following countries:

1947-1949 Greece.  Over 500 U.S. armed forces military advisers were sent into Greece to administer hundreds of millions of dollars in their civil war.

1947-1949 Turkey.  Over 400 U.S. armed forces military advisers sent into Turkey,

1950-1953 Korea.  In the Korean War and other global conflicts 54,246 U.S. service members died.

1957-1975 Vietnam.  Over 58,219 U.S. killed.

1958-1984 Lebanon.  Sixth Fleet amphibious Marines and U.S. Army troops landed in Beirut during their civil war. Over 3000 U.S. military participated. 268 U.S. military killed in bombing.

1959 Haiti. U.S. troops, Marines and Navy, land in Haiti and joined in support of military dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier against rebels.

1962 Cuba.  Naval and Marine forces blockade island.

1964 Panama.  U.S. troops stationed there since 1903. U.S. troops used gunfire and tear gas to clear US Canal Zone.

1965-1966 Dominican Republic. U.S. troops land in Dominican Republic during their civil war – eventually 23,000 were stationed in their country.

1969-1975 Cambodia. U.S. and South Vietnam jets dropped more than 539,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia – three times the number dropped on Japan during WWII.

1964-1973 Laos. U.S. flew 580,000 bombing runs over country – more than 2 million tons of bombs dropped – double the amount dropped on Nazi Germany.  US dropped more than 80 million cluster bombs on Laos – 10 to 30% did not explode leaving 8 to 24 million scattered across the country.  Since the war stopped, two or three Laotians are killed every month by leftover bombs – over 5700 killed since bombing stopped.

1980 Iran.  Operation Desert One, 8 U.S. troops die in rescue effort.

1981 Libya.  U.S. planes aboard the Nimitz shot down 2 Libyan jets over Gulf of Sidra.

1983 Grenada. U.S. Army and Marines invade, 19 U.S. killed.

1983 Lebanon.  Over 1200 Marines deployed into country during their civil war. 241 U.S. service members killed in bombing.

1983-1991 El Salvador.  Over 150 US soldiers participate in their civil war as military advisers.

1983  Honduras.  Over 1000 troops and National Guard members deployed into Honduras to help the contra fight against Nicaragua.

1986 Libya. U.S. Naval air strikes hit hundreds of targets – airfields, barracks, and defense networks.

1986 Bolivia. U.S. Army troops assist in anti-drug raids on cocaine growers.

1987 Iran.  Operation Nimble Archer.  U.S. warships shelled two Iranian oil platforms during Iran-Iraq war.

1988 Iran. US naval warship Vincennes in Persian Gulf shoots down Iranian passenger airliner, Airbus A300, killing all 290 people on board.  US said it thought it was Iranian military jet.

1989 Libya. U.S. Naval jets shoot down 2 Libyan jets over Mediterranean

1989-1990 Panama.  U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy forces invade Panama to arrest President Manuel Noriega on drug charges.  U.N. puts civilian death toll at 500.

1989 Philippines. U.S. jets provide air cover to Philippine troops during their civil war.

1991 Gulf War. Over 500,000 U.S. military involved.  700 plus U.S. died.

1992-93 Somalia. Operation Provide Relief, Operation Restore Hope, and Operation Continue Hope.  Over 1300 U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces landed in 1992.  A force of over 10,000 US was ultimately involved.   Over 40 U.S. soldiers killed.

1992-96 Yugoslavia.  U.S. Navy joins in naval blockade of Yugoslavia in Adriatic waters.

1993 Bosnia. Operation Deny Flight.  U.S. jets patrol no-fly zone, naval ships launch cruise missiles, attack Bosnian Serbs.

1994 Haiti. Operation Uphold Democracy.  U.S. led force of 20,000 troops invade to restore president.

1995 Saudi Arabia. U.S. soldier killed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia outside US training facility.

1996 Saudi Arabia.  Nineteen U.S. service personnel die in blast at Saudi Air Base.

1998 Sudan. Operation Infinite Reach.  U.S. cruise missiles fired at pharmaceutical plant thought to be terrorist center.

1998 Afghanistan.  Operation Infinite Reach.  U.S. fires 75 cruise missiles on four training camps.

1998 Iraq. Operation Desert Fox.  U.S. Naval bombing Iraq from striker jets and cruise missiles after weapons inspectors report Iraqi obstructions.

1999 Yugoslavia.  U.S. participates in months of air bombing and cruise missile strikes in Kosovo war.

2000 Yemen. 17 U.S. sailors killed aboard US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Cole docked in Aden, Yemen.

2001 Macedonia. U.S. military lands troops during their civil war.

2001 to present Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) includes Pakistan and Uzbekistan with Afghanistan. 432 U.S. killed in those countries.  Another 64 killed in other locations of OEF – Guantanamo Bay, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Yemen.  US military does not count deaths of non- US civilians, but estimates of over 8000 Afghan troops killed, over 3500 Afghan civilians killed.

2002 Yemen.  U.S. predator drone missile attack on Al Qaeda.

2002 Philippines. U.S. sends over 1800 troops and Special Forces in mission with local military.

2003-2004 Colombia. U.S. sends in 800 military to back up Columbian military troops in their civil war.

2003 to present Iraq.  Operation Iraqi Freedom. 4082 U.S. military killed.  British medical journal Lancet estimates over 90,000 civilian deaths.  Iraq Body Count estimates over 84,000 civilians killed.

2005 Haiti. U.S. troops land in Haiti after elected president forced to leave.

2005 Pakistan. U.S. air strikes inside Pakistan against suspected Al Qaeda, killing mostly civilians.

2007 Somalia. U.S. Air Force gunship attacked suspected Al Qaeda members, U.S. Navy joins in blockade against Islamic rebels.

The U.S. has the most powerful and expensive military force in the world.  The U.S. is the biggest arms merchant. And the U.S. has been the most aggressive in world-wide interventions.   If Memorial Day in the U.S. is supposed to be about praying for peace, the U.S. has a lot of praying (and changing) to do.

Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  His email is quigley77@gmail.com

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

May 29, 2008

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

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Former California prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wants President Bush charged with murder.

Bugliosi – who in the early 1970s successfully prosecuted Charles Manson for the murder of Sharon Tate and six others – lays out his case against Bush in The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Perseus Books, 2008).

The book will hit book stores today – Tuesday May 27, 2008.

“My motivation for writing this book is simple – to bring about justice,” Bugliosi says in a video posted on the book’s web site (prosecutionofbush.com).

“George Bush has gotten away with murder – thousands of murders,” Bugliosi says. “And no one is doing anything about it. The American people can’t let him do this.”

Bugliosi wants one or more of the fifty state attorneys general or one of the nation’s hundreds of district attorneys to step up and prosecute Bush for murder.

“I have set forth in my book the jurisdictional basis for the Attorney General in each of the fifty states – plus the hundreds upon hundreds of district attorneys in counties within the states – to prosecute George Bush for the murders of any soldier or soldiers from their state or county who were killed in Iraq fighting George Bush’s war,” Bugliosi says in the video on his web site.

“I don’t think it is too unreasonable to believe that at least one prosecutor out there in America – maybe many more – will be courageous enough to say – this is the United States of America. And in America no one is above the law. George Bush has gotten away with murder. No one is doing anything about it. And maybe this book will change that.”

Bugliosi argues that Bush misled the nation into a war that has killed more than 4,000 Americans.

At the center of Bugliosi’s indictment of Bush is a October 7, 2002 speech to the nation in which Bush claims that Saddam Hussein was a great danger to this nation either by attacking us with his weapons of mass destruction, or giving these weapons to some terrorist group.

“And he said – the attack could happen on any given day – meaning the threat was imminent,” Bugliosi says.

“The only problem for George Bush – and if he were prosecuted, there is no way he could get around this – is that on October 1, 2002, six days earlier, the CIA sent George Bush its 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified top secret report. Page eight clearly and unequivocally says that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to the security of this country. In fact, the report says that Hussein would only use whatever weapons of mass destruction he had against us if he feared that America was about to attack him.”

“We know that Bush was telling millions upon millions of unsuspecting Americans exactly the opposite of what his own CIA was telling him,” Bugliosi said. “We know that George Bush took this nation to war on a lie. Who is going to pay for all of this? Someone has to pay. And the person who has to pay obviously is directly responsible for all of the death horror and suffering. And that person is George W. Bush.”

“The majority of the American people probably are going to find it difficult to accept that the President of the United States, the most powerful man on earth, would engage in conduct that smacks of such great criminality. You just don’t expect something like this from an American president. However, I’m very confident that once they read the book, they will be overwhelmed by the evidence against Bush. They will be convinced that he is guilty of murder and should be prosecuted. In the book, I lay out the legal architecture for the case against Bush, all of the evidence of the guilt against Bush and the jurisdiction to prosecute him. I even set forth proposed cross-examination questions of him if he takes the witness stand at trial.”

As a state prosecutor in Los Angeles, Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson and members of his “family” for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and six others.

Bugliosi says he lost only one of the 106 felony cases he tried as a prosecutor. He says he won 21 out of 21 murder cases.

He is the author of Helter Skelter – the best-selling book on the Manson trial.

Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay

May 29, 2008

Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay

By Frida Berrigan
Source: TomDispatch

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A full-fledged cottage industry is already focused on those who eagerly await the end of the Bush administration, offering calendars, magnets, and t-shirts for sale as well as counters and graphics to download onto blogs and websites. But when the countdown ends and George W. Bush vacates the Oval Office, he will leave a legacy to contend with. Certainly, he wills to his successor a world marred by war and battered by deprivation, but perhaps his most enduring legacy is now deeply embedded in Washington-area politics — a Pentagon metastasized almost beyond recognition.

The Pentagon’s massive bulk-up these last seven years will not be easily unbuilt, no matter who dons the presidential mantle on January 19, 2009. “The Pentagon” is now so much more than a five-sided building across the Potomac from Washington or even the seat of the Department of Defense. In many ways, it defies description or labeling.

Who, today, even remembers the debate at the end of the Cold War about what role U.S. military power should play in a “unipolar” world? Was U.S. supremacy so well established, pundits were then asking, that Washington could rely on softer economic and cultural power, with military power no more than a backup (and a domestic “peace dividend” thrown into the bargain)? Or was the U.S. to strap on the six-guns of a global sheriff and police the world as the fountainhead of “humanitarian interventions”? Or was it the moment to boldly declare ourselves the world’s sole superpower and wield a high-tech military comparable to none, actively discouraging any other power or power bloc from even considering future rivalry?

The attacks of September 11, 2001 decisively ended that debate. The Bush administration promptly declared total war on every front — against peoples, ideologies, and, above all, “terrorism” (a tactic of the weak). That very September, administration officials proudly leaked the information that they were ready to “target” up to 60 other nations and the terrorist movements within them.

The Pentagon’s “footprint” was to be firmly planted, military base by military base, across the planet, with a special emphasis on its energy heartlands. Top administration officials began preparing the Pentagon to go anywhere and do anything, while rewriting, shredding, or ignoring whatever laws, national or international, stood in the way. In 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld officially articulated a new U.S. military posture that, in conception, was little short of revolutionary. It was called — in classic Pentagon shorthand — the 1-4-2-1 Defense Strategy (replacing the Clinton administration’s already none-too-modest plan to be prepared to fight two major wars — in the Middle East and Northeast Asia — simultaneously).

Theoretically, this strategy meant that the Pentagon was to prepare to defend the United States, while building forces capable of deterring aggression and coercion in four “critical regions” (Europe, Northeast Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East). It would be able to defeat aggression in two of these regions simultaneously and “win decisively” in one of those conflicts “at a time and place of our choosing.” Hence 1-4-2-1.

And that was just going to be the beginning. We had, by then, already entered the new age of the Mega-Pentagon. Almost six years later, the scale of that institution’s expansion has yet to be fully grasped, so let’s look at just seven of the major ways in which the Pentagon has experienced mission creep — and leap — dwarfing other institutions of government in the process.

1. The Budget-busting Pentagon: The Pentagon’s core budget — already a staggering $300 billion when George W. Bush took the presidency — has almost doubled while he’s been parked behind the big desk in the Oval Office. For fiscal year 2009, the regular Pentagon budget will total roughly $541 billion (including work on nuclear warheads and naval reactors at the Department of Energy).

The Bush administration has presided over one of the largest military buildups in the history of the United States. And that’s before we even count “war spending.” If the direct costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Global War on Terror, are factored in, “defense” spending has essentially tripled.

As of February 2008, according to the Congressional Budget Office, lawmakers have appropriated $752 billion for the Iraq war and occupation, ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, and other activities associated with the Global War on Terror. The Pentagon estimates that it will need another $170 billion for fiscal 2009, which means, at $922 billion, that direct war spending since 2001 would be at the edge of the trillion-dollar mark.

As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has pointed out, if a stack of bills roughly six inches high is worth $1 million; then, a $1 billion stack would be as tall as the Washington Monument, and a $1 trillion stack would be 95 miles high. And note that none of these war-fighting funds are even counted as part of the annual military budget, but are raised from Congress in the form of “emergency supplementals” a few times a year.

With the war added to the Pentagon’s core budget, the United States now spends nearly as much on military matters as the rest of the world combined. Military spending also throws all other parts of the federal budget into shadow, representing 58 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government on “discretionary programs” (those that Congress gets to vote up or down on an annual basis).

The total Pentagon budget represents more than our combined spending on education, environmental protection, justice administration, veteran’s benefits, housing assistance, transportation, job training, agriculture, energy, and economic development. No wonder, then, that, as it collects ever more money, the Pentagon is taking on (or taking over) ever more functions and roles.

2. The Pentagon as Diplomat: The Bush administration has repeatedly exhibited its disdain for discussion and compromise, treaties and agreements, and an equally deep admiration for what can be won by threat and force. No surprise, then, that the White House’s foreign policy agenda has increasingly been directed through the military. With a military budget more than 30 times that of all State Department operations and non-military foreign aid put together, the Pentagon has marched into State’s two traditional strongholds — diplomacy and development — duplicating or replacing much of its work, often by refocusing Washington’s diplomacy around military-to-military, rather than diplomat-to-diplomat, relations.

Since the late eighteenth century, the U.S. ambassador in any country has been considered the president’s personal representative, responsible for ensuring that foreign policy goals are met. As one ambassador explained; “The rule is: if you’re in country, you work for the ambassador. If you don’t work for the ambassador, you don’t get country clearance.”

In the Bush era, the Pentagon has overturned this model. According to a 2006 Congressional report by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Embassies as Command Posts in the Anti-Terror Campaign, civilian personnel in many embassies now feel occupied by, outnumbered by, and subordinated to military personnel. They see themselves as the second team when it comes to decision-making. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates is aware of the problem, noting as he did last November that there are “only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers — less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group.” But, typically, he added that, while the State Department might need more resources, “Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be asking for yet more money for Defense next year.” Another ambassador lamented that his foreign counterparts are “following the money” and developing relationships with U.S. military personnel rather than cultivating contacts with their State Department counterparts.

The Pentagon invariably couches its bureaucratic imperialism in terms of “interagency cooperation.” For example, last year U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) released Command Strategy 2016, a document which identified poverty, crime, and corruption as key “security” problems in Latin America. It suggested that Southcom, a security command, should, in fact, be the “central actor in addressing… regional problems” previously the concern of civilian agencies. It then touted itself as the future focus of a “joint interagency security command… in support of security, stability and prosperity in the region.”

As Southcom head Admiral James Stavridis vividly put the matter, the command now likes to see itself as “a big Velcro cube that these other agencies can hook to so we can collectively do what needs to be done in this region.”

The Pentagon has generally followed this pattern globally since 2001. But what does “cooperation” mean when one entity dwarfs all others in personnel, resources, and access to decision-makers, while increasingly controlling the very definition of the “threats” to be dealt with.

3. The Pentagon as Arms Dealer: In the Bush years, the Pentagon has aggressively increased its role as the planet’s foremost arms dealer, pumping up its weapons sales everywhere it can — and so seeding the future with war and conflict.

By 2006 (the last year for which full data is available), the United States alone accounted for more than half the world’s trade in arms with $14 billion in sales. Noteworthy were a $5 billion deal for F-16s to Pakistan and a $5.8 billion agreement to completely reequip Saudi Arabia’s internal security force. U.S. arms sales for 2006 came in at roughly twice the level of any previous year of the Bush administration.

Number two arms dealer, Russia, registered a comparatively paltry $5.8 billion in deliveries, just over a third of the U.S. arms totals. Ally Great Britain was third at $3.3 billion — and those three countries account for a whopping 85% of the weaponry sold that year, more than 70% of which went to the developing world.

Great at selling weapons, the Pentagon is slow to report its sales. Arms sales notifications issued by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) do, however, offer one crude way to the take the Department of Defense’s pulse; and, while not all reported deals are finalized, that pulse is clearly racing. Through May of 2008, DSCA had already issued more than $9.1 billion in arms sales notifications including smart bomb kits for Saudi Arabia, TOW missiles for Kuwait, F-16 combat aircraft for Romania, and Chinook helicopters for Canada.

To maintain market advantage, the Pentagon never stops its high-pressure campaigns to peddle weapons abroad. That’s why, despite a broken shoulder, Secretary of Defense Gates took to the skies in February, to push weapons systems on countries like India and Indonesia, key growing markets for Pentagon arms dealers.

4. The Pentagon as Intelligence Analyst and Spy: In the area of “intelligence,” the Pentagon’s expansion — the commandeering of information and analysis roles — has been swift, clumsy, and catastrophic.

Tracing the Pentagon’s take-over of intelligence is no easy task. For one thing, there are dozens of Pentagon agencies and offices that now collect and analyze information using everything from “humint” (human intelligence) to wiretaps and satellites. The task is only made tougher by the secrecy that surrounds U.S. intelligence operations and the “black budgets” into which so much intelligence money disappears.

But the end results are clear enough. The Pentagon’s takeover of intelligence has meant fewer intelligence analysts who speak Arabic, Farsi, or Pashto and more dog-and-pony shows like those four-star generals and three-stripe admirals mouthing administration-approved talking points on cable news and the Sunday morning talk shows.

Intelligence budgets are secret, so what we know about them is not comprehensive — but the glimpses analysts have gotten suggest that total intelligence spending was about $26 billion a decade ago. After 9/11, Congress pumped a lot of new money into intelligence so that by 2003, the total intelligence budget had already climbed to more than $40 billion.

In 2004, the 9/11 Commission highlighted the intelligence failures of the Central Intelligence Agency and others in the alphabet soup of the U.S. Intelligence Community charged with collecting and analyzing information on threats to the country. Congress then passed an intelligence “reform” bill, establishing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, designed to manage intelligence operations. Thanks to stiff resistance from pro-military lawmakers, the National Intelligence Directorate never assumed that role, however, and the Pentagon kept control of three key collection agencies — the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Agency.

As a result, according to Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, the Pentagon now controls more than 80% of U.S. intelligence spending, which he estimated at about $60 billion in 2007. As Mel Goodman, former CIA official and now an analyst at the Center for International Policy, observed, “The Pentagon has been the big bureaucratic winner in all of this.”

It is such a big winner that CIA Director Michael Hayden now controls only the budget for the CIA itself — about $4 or 5 billion a year and no longer even gives the President his daily helping of intelligence.

The Pentagon’s intelligence shadow looms large well beyond the corridors of Washington’s bureaucracies. It stretches across the mountains of Afghanistan as well. After the U.S. invaded that country in 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recognized that, unless the Pentagon controlled information-gathering and took the lead in carrying out covert operations, it would remain dependent on — and therefore subordinate to — the Central Intelligence Agency with its grasp of “on-the-ground” intelligence.

In one of his now infamous memos, labeled “snowflakes” by a staff that watched them regularly flutter down from on high, he asserted that, if the War on Terror was going to stretch far into the future, he did not want to continue the Pentagon’s “near total dependence on the CIA.” And so Rumsfeld set up a new, directly competitive organization, the Pentagon’s Strategic Support Branch, which put the intelligence gathering components of the U.S. Special Forces under one roof reporting directly to him. (Many in the intelligence community saw the office as illegitimate, but Rumsfeld was riding high and they were helpless to do anything.)

As Seymour Hersh, who repeatedly broke stories in the New Yorker on the Pentagon’s misdeeds in the Global War on Terror, wrote in January 2005, the Bush administration had already “consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War II national-security state.”

In the rush to invade Iraq, the civilians running the Pentagon also fused the administration’s propaganda machine with military intelligence. In 2002, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith established the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the Pentagon to provide “actionable information” to White House policymakers. Using existing intelligence reports “scrubbed” of qualifiers like “probably” or “may,” or sometimes simply fabricated ones, the office was able to turn worst-case scenarios about Saddam Hussein’s supposed programs to develop weapons of mass destruction into fact, and then, through leaks, use the news media to validate them.

Former CIA Director Robert Gates, who took over the Pentagon when Donald Rumsfeld resigned in November 2006, has been critical of the Pentagon’s “dominance” in intelligence and “the decline in the CIA’s central role.” He has also signaled his intention to rollback the Pentagon’s long intelligence shadow; but, even if he is serious, he will have his work cut out for him. In the meantime, the Pentagon continues to churn out “intelligence” which is, politely put, suspect — from torture-induced confessions of terrorism suspects to exposés of the Iranian origins of sophisticated explosive devices found in Iraq.

5. The Pentagon as Domestic Disaster Manager: When the deciders in Washington start seeing the Pentagon as the world’s problem solver, strange things happen. In fact, in the Bush years, the Pentagon has become the official first responder of last resort in case of just about any disaster — from tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods to civil unrest, potential outbreaks of disease, or possible biological or chemical attacks. In 2002, in a telltale sign of Pentagon mission creep, President Bush established the first domestic military command since the civil war, the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom). Its mission: the “preparation for, prevention of, deterrence of, preemption of, defense against, and response to threats and aggression directed towards U.S. territory, sovereignty, domestic population, and infrastructure; as well as crisis management, consequence management, and other domestic civil support.”

If it sounds like a tall order, it is.

In the last six years, Northcom has been remarkably unsuccessful at anything but expanding its theoretical reach. The command was initially assigned 1,300 Defense Department personnel, but has since grown into a force of more than 15,000. Even criticism only seems to strengthen its domestic role. For example, an April 2008 Government Accountability Office report found that Northcom had failed to communicate effectively with state and local leaders or National Guard units about its newly developed disaster and terror response plans. The result? Northcom says it will have its first brigade-sized unit of military personnel trained to help local authorities respond to chemical, biological, or nuclear incidents by this fall. Mark your calendars.

More than anything else, Northcom has provided the Pentagon with the opening it needed to move forcefully into domestic disaster areas previously handled by national, state and local civilian authorities.

For example, Northcom’s deputy director, Brigadier General Robert Felderman, boasts that the command is now the United States’s “global synchronizer — the global coordinator — for pandemic influenza across the combatant commands.” Similarly, Northcom is now hosting annual hurricane preparation conferences and assuring anyone who will listen that it is “prepared to fully engage” in future Katrina-like situations “in order to save lives, reduce suffering and protect infrastructure.”

Of course, at present, the Pentagon is the part of the government gobbling up the funds that might otherwise be spent shoring up America’s Depression-era public works, ensuring that the Pentagon will have failure aplenty to respond to in the future.

The American Society for Civil Engineers, for example, estimates that $1.6 trillion is badly needed to bring the nation’s infrastructure up to protectable snuff, or $320 billion a year for the next five years. Assessing present water systems, roads, bridges, and dams nationwide, the engineers gave the infrastructure a series of C and D grades.

In the meantime, the military is marching in. Katrina, for instance, made landfall on August 29, 2005. President Bush ordered troops deployed to New Orleans on September 2nd to coordinate the delivery of food and water and to serve as a deterrent against looting and violence. Less than a month later, President Bush asked Congress to shift responsibility for major future disasters from state governments and the Department of Homeland Security to the Pentagon.

The next month, President Bush again offered the military as his solution — this time to global fears about outbreaks of the avian flu virus. He suggested that, to enforce a quarantine, “One option is the use of the military that’s able to plan and move.”

Already sinking under the weight of its expansion and two draining wars, many in the military have been cool to such suggestions, as has a Congress concerned about maintaining states’ rights and civilian control. Offering the military as the solution to domestic natural disasters and flu outbreaks means giving other first responders the budgetary short shrift. It is unlikely, however, that Northcom, now riding the money train, will go quietly into oblivion in the years to come.

6. The Pentagon as Humanitarian Caregiver Abroad: The U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department have traditionally been tasked with responding to disaster abroad; but, from Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged shores to Myanmar after the recent cyclone, natural catastrophe has become another presidential opportunity to “send in the Marines” (so to speak). The Pentagon has increasingly taken up humanitarian planning, gaining an ever larger share of U.S. humanitarian missions abroad.

From Kenya to Afghanistan, from the Philippines to Peru, the U.S. military is also now regularly the one building schools and dental clinics, repairing roads and shoring up bridges, tending to sick children and doling out much needed cash and food stuffs, all civilian responsibilities once upon a time.

The Center for Global Development finds that the Pentagon’s share of “official development assistance” — think “winning hearts and minds” or “nation-building” – has increased from 6% to 22% between 2002 and 2005. The Pentagon is fast taking over development from both the NGO-community and civilian agencies, slapping a smiley face on military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.

Despite the obvious limitations of turning a force trained to kill and destroy into a cadre of caregivers, the Pentagon’s mili-humanitarian project got a big boost from the cash that was seized from Saddam Hussein’s secret coffers. Some of it was doled out to local American commanders to be used to deal with immediate Iraqi needs and seal deals in the months after Baghdad fell in April 2003. What was initially an ad hoc program now has an official name — the Commander Emergency Response Program (CERP) — and a line in the Pentagon budget.

Before the House Budget Committee last summer, Gordon England, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, told members of Congress that the CERP was a “particularly effective initiative,” explaining that the program provided “limited but immediately available funds” to military commanders which they could spend “to make a concrete difference in people’s daily lives.” This, he claimed, was now a “key part of the broader counter insurgency approach.” He added that it served the purpose of “complementing security initiatives” and that it was so successful many commanders consider it “the most powerful weapon in their arsenal.”

In fact, the Pentagon doesn’t do humanitarian work very well. In Afghanistan, for instance, food-packets dropped by U.S. planes were the same color as the cluster munitions also dropped by U.S. planes; while schools and clinics built by U.S. forces often became targets before they could even be put into use. In Iraq, money doled out to the Pentagon’s sectarian-group-of-the-week for wells and generators turned out to be just as easily spent on explosives and AK-47s.

7. The Pentagon as Global Viceroy and Ruler of the Heavens: In the Bush years, the Pentagon finished dividing the globe into military “commands,” which are functionally viceroyalties. True, even before 9/11, it was hard to imagine a place on the globe where the United States military was not, but until recently, the continent of Africa largely qualified.

Along with the creation of Northcom, however, the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) in 2008 officially filled in the last Pentagon empty spot on the map. A key military document, the 2006 National Security Strategy for the United States signaled the move, asserting that “Africa holds growing geo-strategic importance and is a high-priority of this administration.” (Think: oil and other key raw materials.)

In the meantime, funding for Africa under the largest U.S. military aid program, Foreign Military Financing, doubled from $10 to $20 million between 2000 and 2006, and the number of recipient nations grew from two to 14. Military training funding increased by 35% in that same period (rising from $8.1 million to $11 million). Now, the militaries of 47 African nations receive U.S. training.

In Pentagon planning terms, Africom has unified the continent for the first time. (Only Egypt remains under the aegis of the U.S. Central Command.) According to President Bush, this should “enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”

Theresa Whelan, assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, continues to insist that Africom has been formed neither to facilitate the fighting of wars (“engaging kinetically in Africa”), nor to divvy up the continent’s raw materials in the style of nineteenth century colonialism. “This is not,” she says, “about a scramble for the continent.” But about one thing there can be no question: It is about increasing the global reach of the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, should the Earth not be enough, there are always the heavens to control. In August 2006, building on earlier documents like the 1998 U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020 (which called for a policy of “full spectrum dominance”), the Bush administration unveiled its “national space policy.” It advocated establishing, defending, and enlarging U.S. control over space resources and argued for “unhindered” rights in space — unhindered, that is, by international agreements preventing the weaponization of space. The document also asserted that “freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”

As the document put it, “In the new century, those who effectively utilize space will enjoy added prosperity and security and will hold a substantial advantage over those who do not.” (The leaders of China, Russia, and other major states undoubtedly heard the loud slap of a gauntlet being thrown down.) At the moment, the Bush administration’s rhetoric and plans outstrip the resources being devoted to space weapons technology, but in the recently announced budget, the President allocated nearly a billion dollars to space-based weapons programs.

Of all the frontiers of expansion, perhaps none is more striking than the Pentagon’s sorties into the future. Does the Department of Transportation offer a Vision for 2030? Does the Environmental Protection Agency develop plans for the next fifty years? Does the Department of Health and Human Services have a team of power-point professionals working up dynamic graphics for what services for the elderly will look like in 2050?

These agencies project budgets just around the corner of the next decade. Only the Pentagon projects power and possibility decades into the future, colonizing the imagination with scads of different scenarios under which, each year, it will continue to control hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Complex 2030, Vision 2020, UAV Roadmap 2030, the Army’s Future Combat Systems – the names, which seem unending, tell the tale.

As the clock ticks down to November 4, 2008, a lot of people are investing hope (as well as money and time) in the possibility of change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But when it comes to the Pentagon, don’t count too heavily on change, no matter who the new president may be. After all, seven years, four months, and a scattering of days into the Bush presidency, the Pentagon is deeply entrenched in Washington and still aggressively expanding. It has developed a taste for unrivaled power and unequaled access to the treasure of this country. It is an institution that has escaped the checks and balances of the nation.

Frida Berrigan is a Senior Program Associate at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative. She is a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus and a contributing editor at In These Times magazine. She is the author of reports on the arms trade and human rights, U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and the domestic politics of U.S. missile defense and space weapons policies. She can be reached at berrigan@newamerica.net.

[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), which has just been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture’s crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.]

Where Is Raed Now?

May 29, 2008

Where Is Raed Now?
Meet the Iraqi exile (and former Salam Pax blogger) who could foil Bush’s plans for permanent bases near Baghdad.” />

Jonathan Schwarz” />
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In 1998, 20-year-old Raed Jarrar watched from the roof of his family’s home in Baghdad as American Tomahawk cruise missiles struck government buildings close by, blowing out the windows and sending him scrambling for cover. Five years later, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition planes targeted the same buildings, as well as the nearby airport and Saddam Hussein’s palace, killing and wounding dozens of people from Jarrar’s middle-class neighborhood.

This year, Jarrar quietly celebrated his 30th birthday outside Pasadena at a retreat he was attending for his job as a consultant for the American Friends Service Committee. He now lives in Washington, D.C., a short metro ride away from the White House, the Pentagon, and the various think tanks where his country’s future has been decided for much of his life. Yet Jarrar’s become something the war’s planners did not anticipate: an Iraqi who’s thwarted their efforts by using the tools of American democracy. Through a peculiar roll of history’s dice, the young exile has helped throw a monkey wrench in the Bush administration’s attempts to lay the groundwork for a permanent American presence in Iraq. “I’m just another small example of how Iraqis would rather end the occupation through talking to U.S. legislators and the public,” Jarrar explains.

Jarrar was born in Baghdad, the son of a Shiite mother and a Sunni father, and the oldest of three boys. He attended the University of Baghdad and began graduate school in Amman, Jordan, where he studied architecture, focusing on postwar reconstruction. As the world’s eyes turned to Iraq in late 2002, a friend and fellow architect who went by the nickname “Salam Pax” started an English-language blog. Because he often had trouble reaching Jarrar, he named it “Where Is Raed?” Jarrar started blogging there as well, and to the friends’ surprise, their musings on stockpiling food and the gyrating value of the dinar were read by people all over the world looking for a glimpse of the final days of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

After the American invasion, Jarrar started an ngo named Emaar (“Reconstruction”) to support Iraqis trying to rebuild their neighborhoods. His blog posts began to reflect his growing anger at the occupation. “American foreign policy is putting people like me in a very weak position,” he wrote in March 2004. “In extreme circumstances, extreme ideologies rule and dominate. And I am, unfortunately, not an extremist.”

While traveling in southern Iraq, Jarrar was kidnapped by a militia; he was released unharmed after a few hours. With normal life in Iraq becoming “impossible,” he decided to return to Jordan to complete his master’s degree. In Amman, he met and became engaged to an Iranian American woman. In September 2005, Jarrar arrived in the United States and made plans to become a permanent resident.

That summer, George W. Bush had assured Iraqis and Americans that the United States would stay in Iraq “as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.” But Jarrar—like many Iraqis—suspected that the administration had other ideas. After witnessing Iraq’s descent into violence, he became convinced that the only solution was for the United States to leave as soon as possible. “Only a complete U.S. withdrawal that leaves no troops, bases, or private contractors behind would create the safe space for Iraqis to deal with their problems and heal their wounds,” he says. “Iraqis will never be capable of starting the process of reconciliation and reconstruction with a foreign occupation taking sides.”

Five years on, American forces remain in Iraq under a United Nations mandate subject to annual renewal by the Security Council. Last June, Iraq’s parliament, asserting its constitutional duty to ratify treaties, passed a law requiring its approval of future extensions of the mandate. But the UN and Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki, under pressure from the United States, have ignored the MPs. Late last year the mandate was renewed until the end of 2008 without parliamentary approval.

In the meantime, the Bush administration has tried to bypass the UN altogether. In late November 2007, Maliki and Bush quietly signed a Declaration of Principles that outlined the United States’ ongoing political and military relationship with Iraq, including its commitment to “defending [Iraq’s] democratic system against internal and external threats.”

In the many countries where its troops are based, the United States maintains Status of Forces Agreements, or sofas, which may be signed by the president without congressional approval. But until now, only treaties, which require Senate ratification, have authorized the use of force by American troops in host countries. No sofa has given American troops the leeway implied in the Declaration of Principles. The administration “does not want this to go to Congress,” explains former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “They’d never get the votes.”

That’s where Jarrar stepped in. He had already spent months trying to get members of Congress to make contact with Iraqi members of parliament who opposed extending the UN mandate. (More than half of Iraqi MPs have called for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal.) Shortly after the Bush-Maliki agreement was signed, Jarrar was introduced to Caleb Rossiter, an aide to Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. In Jarrar, Rossiter recognized a unique resource. Just as Arabic-speaking American officials are a rarity in Baghdad, so too are Iraqi anti-war activists in Washington who speak fluent English and can navigate the intricacies of the Iraqi government.

Rossiter took the issue to Delahunt, who has since held more than five hearings on the legality of the Bush administration’s plans for Iraq. Jarrar testified at the first hearing and is now helping Delahunt bring a handful of Iraqi MPs to the States to meet their counterparts and discuss their shared oversight role. As Rossiter explains, “Never underestimate the bonding power of legislators learning they’re both being constitutionally insulted by the same people in the same way.”

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates backpedaled on the Declaration of Principles, stating it was “not considered by our government to be a security commitment.” Gates also suggested that any future security agreements with Iraq would be subject to congressional review, although the White House is intent on finalizing its agreement with Maliki before the end of Bush’s term.

Rossiter credits Jarrar for tipping off Congress to a situation that the administration was not eager to publicize. “Without Jarrar, who knows where we’d be,” he says. “He’s been crucial in helping us think through our inquiry into this. What makes him so valuable is he understands the coin of the realm on Capitol Hill is good information. We know from experience that we can count on anything he brings us.” Congressman Delahunt concurs. “Raed’s been simply invaluable,” he says. “There’s so much about Iraq we can miss: the domestic political forces, the diversity of the society. He’s given us outstanding objective analysis on all of it.”

The secret of Jarrar’s success may be that unlike most people walking the halls of Congress, he never wanted to be there in the first place. He’d rather be back in Baghdad, putting his training rebuilding cities to use.

“I still sometimes dream that there will be opportunities after the war, like in Chicago after the great fire,” he says. “But I’m not an architect now. I didn’t have the privilege to decide that. What decided were the bombs that fell on my neighborhood.”

Moles Wanted

May 22, 2008

In preparation for the Republican National Convention, the FBI is soliciting informants to keep tabs on local protest groups

Moles Wanted

By Matt Snyders

They were looking for an informant to show up at

They were looking for an informant to show up at “vegan potlucks” throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors.

Paul Carroll was riding his bike when his cell phone vibrated.

Once he arrived home from the Hennepin County Courthouse, where he’d been served a gross misdemeanor for spray-painting the interior of a campus elevator, the lanky, wavy-haired University of Minnesota sophomore flipped open his phone and checked his messages. He was greeted by a voice he recognized immediately. It belonged to U of M Police Sgt. Erik Swanson, the officer to whom Carroll had turned himself in just three weeks earlier. When Carroll called back, Swanson asked him to meet at a coffee shop later that day, going on to assure a wary Carroll that he wasn’t in trouble.

Carroll, who requested that his real name not be used, showed up early and waited anxiously for Swanson’s arrival. Ten minutes later, he says, a casually dressed Swanson showed up, flanked by a woman whom he introduced as FBI Special Agent Maureen E. Mazzola. For the next 20 minutes, Mazzola would do most of the talking.

“She told me that I had the perfect ‘look,’” recalls Carroll. “And that I had the perfect personality—they kept saying I was friendly and personable—for what they were looking for.”

What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant—someone to show up at “vegan potlucks” throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort’s primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division’s website, is to “investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines.”

Carroll would be compensated for his efforts, but only if his involvement yielded an arrest. No exact dollar figure was offered.

“I’ll pass,” said Carroll.

For 10 more minutes, Mazzola and Swanson tried to sway him. He remained obstinate.

“Well, if you change your mind, call this number,” said Mazzola, handing him her card with her cell phone number scribbled on the back.

(Mazzola, Swanson, and the FBI did not return numerous calls seeking comment.)

Carroll’s story echoes a familiar theme. During the lead-up the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division infiltrated and spied on protest groups across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe. The program’s scope extended to explicitly nonviolent groups, including street theater troupes and church organizations.

There were also two reported instances of police officers, dressed as protestors, purposefully instigating clashes. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, the NYPD orchestrated a fake arrest to incite protestors. When a blond man was “arrested,” nearby protestors began shouting, “Let him go!” The helmeted police proceeded to push back against the crowd with batons and arrested at least two. In a similar instance, during an April 29, 2005, Critical Mass bike ride in New York, video footage captured a “protestor”—in reality an undercover cop—telling his captor, “I’m on the job,” and being subsequently let go.

Minneapolis’s own recent Critical Mass skirmish was allegedly initiated by two unidentified stragglers in hoods—one wearing a handkerchief over his or her face—who “began to make aggressive moves” near the back of the pack. During that humid August 31 evening, officers went on to arrest 19 cyclists while unleashing pepper spray into the faces of bystanders. The hooded duo was never apprehended.

In the scuffle’s wake, conspiracy theories swirled that the unprecedented surveillance—squad cars from multiple agencies and a helicopter hovering overhead—was due to the presence of RNC protesters in the ride. The MPD publicly denied this. But during the trial of cyclist Gus Ganley, MPD Sgt. David Stichter testified that a task force had been created to monitor the August 31 ride and that the department knew that members of an RNC protest group would be along for the ride.

“This is all part of a larger government effort to quell political dissent,” says Jordan Kushner, an attorney who represented Ganley and other Critical Mass arrestees. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force is another example of using the buzzword ‘terrorism’ as a basis to clamp down on people’s freedoms and push forward a more authoritarian government.”

An Appeal to Admiral Fallon on Iran

May 21, 2008

Dear Admiral Fallon,

I have not been able to find out how to reach you directly, so I drafted this letter in the hope it will be brought to your attention.

First, thank you for honoring the oath we commissioned officers take to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. At the same time, you have let it be known that you do not intend to speak, on or off the record, about Iran.

But our oath has no expiration date. While you are acutely aware of the dangers of attacking Iran, you seem to be allowing an inbred reluctance to challenge the commander in chief to trump that oath, and to prevent you from letting the American people know of the catastrophe about to befall us if, as seems likely, our country attacks Iran.

Two years ago I lectured at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I found it highly disturbing that, when asked about the oath they took upon entering the academy, several of the “Mids” thought it was to the commander in chief.

This brought to my mind the photos of German generals and admirals (as well as top church leaders and jurists) swearing personal oaths to Hitler. Not our tradition, and yet …

I was aghast that only the third Mid I called on got it right – that the oath is to protect and defend the Constitution, not the president.

Attack Iran and Trash the Constitution

No doubt you are very clear that an attack on Iran would be a flagrant violation of our Constitution, which stipulates that treaties ratified by the Senate become the supreme law of the land; that the United Nations Charter – which the Senate ratified on July 28, 1945, by a vote of 89 to 2 – expressly forbids attacks on other countries unless they pose an imminent danger; that there is no provision allowing some other kind of “pre-emptive” or “preventive” attack against a nation that poses no imminent danger; and that Iran poses no such danger to the United States or its allies.

You may be forgiven for thinking: Isn’t 41 years of service enough; isn’t resigning in order to remove myself from a chain of command that threatened to make me a war criminal for attacking Iran; isn’t making my active opposition known by talking to journalists – isn’t all that enough?

With respect, sir, no, that’s not enough.

The stakes here are extremely high and with the integrity you have shown goes still further responsibility. Sadly, the vast majority of your general officer colleagues have, for whatever reason, ducked that responsibility. You are pretty much it.

In their lust for attacking Iran, administration officials will do their best to marginalize you. And, as prominent a person as you are, the corporate media will do the same.

Indeed, there are clear signs the media have been given their marching orders to support attacking Iran.

At CIA I used to analyze the Soviet press, so you will understand when I refer to the Washington Post and the New York Times as the White House’s Pravda and Izvestiya.

Sadly, it is as easy as during the days of the controlled Soviet press to follow the U.S. government’s evolving line with a daily reading. In a word, our newspapers are revving up for war on Iran, and have been for some time.

In some respects the manipulation and suppression of information in the present lead-up to an attack on Iran is even more flagrant and all encompassing than in early 2003 before the invasion of Iraq.

It seems entirely possible that you are unaware of this, precisely because the media have put the wraps on it, so let me adduce a striking example of what is afoot here.

The example has to do with the studied, if disingenuous, effort over recent months to blame all the troubles in southern Iraq on the “malignant” influence of Iran.

But Not for Fiasco

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters on April 25 that Gen. David Petraeus would be giving a briefing “in the next couple of weeks” that would provide detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.”

Petraeus’s staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed.

Small problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian weapons they found nothing that could be credibly linked to Iran.

News to you? That’s because this highly embarrassing episode went virtually unreported in the media – like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no corporate media to hear it crash.

So Mullen and Petraeus live, uninhibited and unembarrassed, to keep searching for Iranian weapons so the media can then tell a story more supportive to efforts to blacken Iran. A fiasco is only a fiasco if folks know about it.

The suppression of this episode is the most significant aspect, in my view, and a telling indicator of how difficult it is to get honest reporting on these subjects.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate U.S. claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not information based on speculation.”

Dissing the Intelligence Estimate

Top officials from the president on down have been dismissing the dramatically new conclusion of the National Intelligence Estimate released on Dec. 3, 2007, a judgment concurred in by the 16 intelligence units of our government, that Iran had stopped the weapons-related part of its nuclear program in mid-2003.

Always willing to do his part, the malleable CIA chief, Michael Hayden, on April 30 publicly offered his “personal opinion” that Iran is building a nuclear weapon – the National Intelligence Estimate notwithstanding.

For good measure, Hayden added: “It is my opinion, it is the policy of the Iranian government, approved to the highest level of that government, to facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq. … Just make sure there’s clarity on that.”

I don’t need to tell you about the Haydens and other smartly saluting generals in Washington.

Let me suggest that you have a serious conversation with Gen. Anthony Zinni, one of your predecessor CENTOM commanders (1997 to 2000).

As you know better than I, this Marine general is also an officer with unusual integrity.  But placed into circumstances virtually identical to those you now face, he could not find his voice.

He missed his chance to interrupt the juggernaut to war in Iraq; you might ask him how he feels about that now, and what he would advise in current circumstances.

Zinni happened to be one of the honorees at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Aug. 26, 2002, at which Vice President Dick Cheney delivered the exceedingly alarmist speech, unsupported by our best intelligence, about the nuclear threat and other perils awaiting us at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

That speech not only launched the seven-month public campaign against Iraq leading up to the war, but set the terms of reference for the Oct. 1, 2002 National Intelligence Estimate fabricated – yes, fabricated – to convince Congress to approve war on Iraq.

Gen. Zinni later shared publicly that, as he listened to Cheney, he was shocked to hear a depiction of intelligence that did not square with what he knew. Although Zinni had retired two years earlier, his role as consultant had required him to stay up to date on intelligence relating to the Middle East.

One Sunday morning three and a half years after Cheney’s speech, Zinni told “Meet the Press”: “There was no solid proof that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. … I heard a case being made to go to war.”

Gen. Zinni had as good a chance as anyone to stop an unnecessary war – not a “pre-emptive war,” since there was nothing to pre-empt – and Zinni knew it. No, what he and any likeminded officials could have stopped was a war of aggression, defined at the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as the “supreme international crime.”

Sure, Zinni would have had to stick his neck out. He may have had to speak out alone, since most senior officials, like then-CIA Director George Tenet, lacked courage and integrity.

In his memoir published a year ago, Tenet says Cheney did not follow the usual practice of clearing his Aug. 26, 2002 speech with the CIA; that much of what Cheney said took him completely by surprise; and that Tenet “had the impression that the president wasn’t any more aware of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it.”

It is a bit difficult to believe that Cheney’s shameless speech took Tenet completely by surprise.

We know from the Downing Street Minutes, vouched for by the UK as authentic, that Tenet told his British counterpart on July 20, 2002, that the president had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”

Encore: Iran

Admiral Fallon, you know that to be the case also with respect to the “intelligence” being conjured up to “justify” war with Iran. And no one knows better than you that your departure from the chain of command has turned it over completely to the smartly saluting sycophants.

No doubt you have long since taken the measure, for example, of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. So have I.

I was one of his first branch chiefs when he was a young, disruptively ambitious CIA analyst. When Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey sought someone to shape CIA analysis to accord with his own conviction that the Soviet Union would never change, Gates leaped at the chance.

After Casey died, Gates admitted to the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus that he (Gates) watched Casey on “issue after issue sit in meetings and present intelligence framed in terms of the policy he wanted pursued.” Gates’ entire subsequent career showed that he learned well at Casey’s knee.

So it should come as no surprise that, despite the unanimous judgment of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran stopped the weapons related aspects of its nuclear program, Gates is now saying that Iran is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

Some of his earlier statements were more ambiguous, but Gates recently took advantage of the opportunity to bend with the prevailing winds and leave no doubt as to his loyalty.

In an interview on events in the Middle East with a New York Times reporter on April 11, Gates was asked whether he was on the same page as the president. Gates replied, “Same line, same word.”

I imagine you are no more surprised than I. Bottom line: Gates will salute smartly if Cheney persuades the president to let the Air Force and Navy loose on Iran.

You know the probable consequences; you need to let the rest of the American people know.

A Gutsy Precedent

Can you, Admiral Fallon, be completely alone? Can it be that you are the only general officer to resign on principle?

And, of equal importance, is there no other general officer, active or retired, who has taken the risk of speaking out in an attempt to inform Americans about President George W. Bush’s bellicose fixation with Iran. Thankfully, there is.

Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, took the prestigious job of Chairman, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board when asked to by the younger Bush.

From that catbird seat, Scowcroft could watch the unfolding of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Over decades dealing with the press, Scowcroft had honed a reputation of quintessential discretion. All the more striking what he decided he had to do.

In an interview with London’s Financial Times in mid-October 2004 Scowcroft was harshly critical of the president, charging that Bush had been “mesmerized” by then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger,” Scowcroft said. “He has been nothing but trouble.”

Needless to say, Scowcroft was given his walking papers and told never to darken the White House doorstep again.

There is ample evidence that Sharon’s successors believe they have a commitment from President Bush to “take care of Iran” before he leaves office, and that the president has done nothing to disabuse them of that notion – no matter the consequences.

On May 18, speaking at the World Economic Forum at Sharm el Sheikh, Bush threw in a gratuitous reference to “Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.” He said:

“To allow the world’s leading sponsor of terror to gain the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Pre-briefing the press, Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley identified Iran as one of the dominant themes of the trip, adding repeatedly that Iran “is very much behind” all the woes afflicting the Middle East, from Lebanon to Gaza to Iraq to Afghanistan.

The Rhetoric is Ripening

In the coming weeks, at least until U.S. forces can find some real Iranian weapons in Iraq, the rhetoric is likely to focus on what I call the Big Lie – the claim that Iran’s president has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.”

In that controversial speech in 2005, Ahmadinejad was actually quoting from something the Ayatollah Khomeini had said in the early 1980s. Khomeini was expressing a hope that a regime treating the Palestinians so unjustly would be replaced by another more equitable one.

A distinction without a difference? I think not. Words matter.

As you may already know (but the American people don’t), the literal translation from Farsi of what Ahmadinejad said is, “The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.”

Contrary to what the administration would have us all believe, the Iranian president was not threatening to nuke Israel, push it into the sea, or wipe it off the map.

President Bush is way out in front on this issue, and this comes through with particular clarity when he ad-libs answers to questions.

On Oct. 17, 2007, long after he had been briefed on the key intelligence finding that Iran had stopped the nuclear weapons-related part of its nuclear development program, the president spoke as though, well, “mesmerized.” He said:

“But this – we got a leader in Iran who has announced he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems you ought to be interested in preventing them from have (sic) the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.”

Some contend that Bush does not really believe his rhetoric. I rather think he does, for the Israelis seem to have his good ear, with the tin one aimed at U.S. intelligence he has repeatedly disparaged.

But, frankly, which would be worse: that Bush believes Iran to be an existential threat to Israel and thus requires U.S. military action? Or that it’s just rhetoric to “justify” U.S. action to “take care of” Iran for Israel?

What you can do, Admiral Fallon, is speak authoritatively about what is likely to happen – to U.S. forces in Iraq, for example – if Bush orders your successors to begin bombing and missile attacks on Iran.

And you could readily update Scowcroft’s remarks, by drawing on what you observed of the Keystone Cops efforts of White House ideologues, like Iran-Contra convict Elliot Abrams, to overturn by force the ascendancy of Hamas in 2006-07 and Hezbollah more recently. (Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of misleading Congress, but was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on Dec. 24, 1992.)

It is easy to understand why no professional military officer would wish to be in the position of taking orders originating from the likes of Abrams.

If you weigh in as your (non-expiring) oath to protect and defend the Constitution dictates, you might conceivably prompt other sober heads to speak out.

And, in the end, if profound ignorance and ideology – supported by the corporate press and by both political parties intimidated by the Israel lobby – lead to an attack on Iran, and the Iranians enter southern Iraq and take thousands of our troops hostage, you will be able to look in the mirror and say at least you tried.

You will not have to live with the remorse of not knowing what might have been, had you been able to shake your reluctance to speak out.

There is a large Tar Baby out there – Iran. You may remember that as Brer Rabbit got more and more stuck, Brer Fox, he lay low.

A “Fox” Fallon, still pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States, cannot lie low—not now.

Lead.

Respectfully,

Ray McGovern; Steering Group; Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Ray McGovern, a veteran Army intelligence officer and then CIA analyst for 27 years, now works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.

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Tomgram: Mark Engler, How to Rule the World After Bush

May 19, 2008

Tomgram: Mark Engler, How to Rule the World After Bush

A mere eight months to go until George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leave office — though, given the cast of characters, it could seem like a lifetime. Still, it’s a reasonable moment to begin to look back over the last years — and also toward the post-Bush era. What a crater we’ll have to climb out of by then!

My last post, “Kiss American Security Goodbye,” was meant to mark the beginning of what will, over the coming months, be a number of Bush legacy pieces at Tomdispatch. So consider that series officially inaugurated by Foreign Policy in Focus analyst Mark Engler, who has just authored a new book that couldn’t be more relevant to our looming moment of transition: How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy.

The question Engler is curious to have answered is this: If Bush-style “imperial globalization” is rejected in January, what will American ruling elites try to turn to — Clinton-style economic globalization? Certainly, as Engler points out, many in the business and financial communities are now rallying to the Democrats. After all, while John Edwards received the headlines this week for throwing his support behind Barack Obama, that presidential candidate also got the nod from three former Securities and Exchange Commission chairmen — William Donaldson, David Ruder, and Clinton appointee Arthur Levitt Jr. The campaign promptly “released a joint statement by the former SEC chiefs, as well as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, that praised Obama’s ‘positive leadership and judgment’ on economic issues.”

The United States, however, is a very different creature than it was in the confident years when these men rode high. Now, the world is looking at things much differently. Let Engler explain… Tom

Globalizers, Neocons, or…?

The World After Bush
By Mark EnglerPicture January 20, 2009, the day George W. Bush has to vacate the Oval Office.

It’s easy enough to imagine a party marking this fine occasion, with antiwar protestors, civil libertarians, community leaders, environmentalists, health-care advocates, and trade unionists clinking glasses to toast the end of an unfortunate era. Even Americans not normally inclined to political life might be tempted to join the festivities, bringing their own bottles of bubbly to the party. Given that presidential job approval ratings have rarely broken 40% for two years and now remain obdurately around or below 30% — historic lows — it would not be surprising if this were a sizeable celebration.

More surprising, however, might be the number of people in the crowd drinking finer brands of champagne. Amid the populist gala, one might well spot figures of high standing in the corporate world, individuals who once would have looked forward to the reign of an MBA president but now believe that neocon bravado is no way to run an empire.

One of the more curious aspects of the Bush years is that the self-proclaimed “uniter” polarized not only American society, but also its business and political elites. These are the types who gather at the annual, ultra-exclusive World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and have their assistants trade business cards for them. Yet, despite their sometime chumminess, these powerful few are now in disagreement over how American power should be shaped in the post-Bush era and increasing numbers of them are jumping ship when it comes to the course the Republicans have chosen to advance these last years. They are now engaged in a debate about how to rule the world.

Don’t think of this as some conspiratorial plot, but as a perfectly commonsensical debate over what policies are in the best interests of those who hire phalanxes of Washington lobbyists and fill the coffers of presidential and congressional campaigns. Many business leaders have fond memories of the “free trade” years of the Clinton administration, when CEO salaries soared and the global influence of multinational corporations surged. Rejecting neoconservative unilateralism, they want to see a renewed focus on American “soft power” and its instruments of economic control, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO) — the multilateral institutions that formed what was known in international policy circles as “the Washington Consensus.” These corporate globalists are making a bid to control the direction of economic policy under a new Democratic administration.

There is little question that the majority of people on the planet — those who suffered under both the corporate globalization of the Clinton years and the imperial globalization of George W. Bush — deserve something better. However, it is far from certain that social justice advocates who want to encourage a more democratic approach to world affairs and global economic well-being will be able to sway a new administration. On the other hand, the damage inflicted by eight years of neocon rule and the challenges of an increasingly daunting geopolitical scene present a conundrum to the corporate globalizers: Is it even possible to go back to the way things were?

The Revolt of the Corporatists

Throughout their time in office, despite fulsome evidence of failure, George Bush and Dick Cheney have maintained a blithe self-confidence about their ability to successfully promote the interests of the United States, or at least those of their high-rolling “Pioneer”-class donors. Every so often, though, the public receives notice that loyalists are indeed scurrying to abandon the administration’s sinking ship of state. In October 2007, for instance, in a front-page story entitled “GOP Is Losing Grip On Core Business Vote,” the Wall Street Journal reported that the party could be facing a brand crisis as “[s]ome business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don’t share.”

When it comes to corporate responses to the President’s Global War on Terror, we mostly hear about the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater — companies directly implicated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and with the mentality of looters. Such firms have done their best to score quick profits from the military machine. However, there was always a faction of realist, business-oriented Republicans who opposed the invasion from the start, in part because they believed it would negatively impact the U.S. economy. As the administration adventure in Iraq has descended into the morass, the ranks of corporate complainers have only grown.

The “free trade” elite have become particularly upset about the administration’s focus on go-it-alone nationalism and its disregard for multilateral means of securing influence. This belligerent approach to foreign affairs, they believe, has thwarted the advance of corporate globalization. In an April 2006 column in the Washington Post, globalist cheerleader Sebastian Mallaby laid blame for “why globalization has stalled” at the feet of the Bush administration. The White House, Mallaby charged, was unwilling to invest any political capital in the IMF, the World Bank, or the WTO. He wrote:

“Fifteen years ago, there were hopes that the end of Cold War splits would allow international institutions to acquire a new cohesion. But the great powers of today are simply not interested in creating a resilient multilateral system…. The United States remains the only plausible quarterback for the multilateral system. But the Bush administration has alienated too many players to lead the team effectively. Its strident foreign policy started out as an understandable response to the fecklessness of other powers. But unilateralism has tragically backfired, destroying whatever slim chance there might have been of a workable multilateral alternative.”

Frustrated by Bush’s failures, many in the business elite want to return to the softer empire of corporate globalization and, increasingly, they are looking to the Democrats to navigate this return. As a measure of this — the capitalist equivalent of voting with their feet — political analyst Kevin Phillips notes in his new book, Bad Money, that, in 2007, “[h]edge fund employees’ contributions to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee outnumbered those to its Republican rival by roughly nine to one.”

This quiet revolt of the corporatists is already causing interesting reverberations on the campaign trail. The base of the Democratic Party has clearly rejected the “free trade” version of trickle-down economics, which has done far more to help those hedge-fund managers and private-jet-hopping executives than anyone further down the economic ladder. As a result, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running as opponents of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and of a newer bilateral trade deal with Colombia, a country in which organizing a union or vocally advocating for human rights can easily cost you your life. The tenor of the current campaign represents a significant shift from the 1990s, when top Democrats were constantly trying to establish their corporate bona fides and “triangulate” their way into conservative economic policy.

Still, both candidates are surrounded by business-friendly advisors whose views fit nicely within an older, pre-Bush administration paradigm of corporate globalization. The tension between the anti-NAFTA activists at the base of the Party and those in the campaign war rooms has resulted in some embarrassing gaffes during the primary contest.

For Hillary Clinton, the most notable involved one of her chief strategists, Mark Penn, a man with a long, nefarious record defending corporate abuses as a Washington lobbyist. As it turned out, Penn’s consulting firm received $300,000 in 2007 to support the “free trade” agreement with Colombia. Even as Clinton was proclaiming her heartfelt opposition to the deal and highlighting the “history of suppression and targeted killings of labor organizers” in that country, a key player in her campaign was charting strategy with Colombian government officials in order to get the pact passed.

The Obama campaign found itself in similar discomfort in February. While the candidate was running in the Ohio primary as an opponent of NAFTA, calling that trade deal a “mistake” that has harmed working people, his senior economic policy adviser, University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee, was meeting with Canadian government officials to explain, as a memo by the Canadians reported, that Obama’s charges were merely “political positioning.” Goolsbee quickly claimed that his position had been mischaracterized, but the incident naturally raised questions. Why, for example, had Goolsbee, senior economist to the Democratic Leadership Council, the leading organization on the corporate-friendly rightwing of the party, and a person praised as “a valuable source of free-trade advice over almost a decade,” been positioned to mold Obama’s economic stances in the first place?

If pressure from the base of the party lets up after the elections, it would hardly be surprising to see a victorious candidate revert to Bill Clinton’s corporate model for how to rule the world. However, a return to a pre-Bush-style of international politics may be easier dreamed than done.

The Neocon Paradox

To the chagrin of the “free trade” elite, the market fundamentalist ideas that have dominated international development thinking for at least the last 25 years are now under attack globally. This is largely because the economic prescriptions of deregulation, privatization, open markets, and cuts to social services so often made (and enforced) by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have proven catastrophic.

In 2003, the United Nations’ Human Development Report (UNHDP) explained that 54 already poor countries had actually grown even poorer during the “free trade” era of the 1990s. The British Guardian summarized well the essence of this report:

“Taking issue with those who have argued that the ‘tough love’ policies of the past two decades have spawned the growth of a new global middle class, the report says the world became ever more divided between the super-rich and the desperately poor. The richest 1% of the world’s population (around 60 million) now receives as much income as the poorest 57%, while the income of the richest 25 million Americans is the equivalent of that of almost 2 billion of the world’s poorest people.”

Such findings led UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown, in a remarkably blunt statement, to call for a “guerilla assault on the Washington Consensus.”

In fact, in 2008, such an assault is already well under way — and Washington is in a far weaker position economically to deal with it. The countries burned by the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, for instance, are now building up huge currency reserves so they never again have to come begging to the International Monetary Fund (and so suffer diktats from Washington) in times of crisis. Moreover, virtually the whole of Latin America is in revolt. Over 500 million people reside in that region, and over two-thirds of them now live under governments elected since 2000 on mandates to split with “free trade” economics, declare independence from Washington, and pursue policies that actually benefit the poor.

In late April, economist Mark Weisbrot noted that, with so many countries breaking free of its grasp, the IMF, which once dictated economic policy to strapped governments around the world, is now but a shadow of its former self. In the past four years, its loan portfolio has plummeted from $105 billion to less than $10 billion, the bulk of which now goes to just two countries, Turkey and Pakistan. This leaves the U.S. Treasury, which used the body to control foreign economies, with far less power than in past decades. “The IMF’s loss of influence,” Weisbrot writes, “is probably the most important change in the international financial system in more than half a century.”

It is a historic irony that Bush administration neocons, smitten with U.S. military power, itching to launch their wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, and eschewing multinational institutions, actually helped to foster a global situation in which U.S. influence is waning and countries are increasingly seeking independent paths. Back in 2005, British journalist George Monbiot dubbed this “the unacknowledged paradox in neocon thinking.” He wrote:

“They want to drag down the old, multilateral order and replace it with a new, U.S. one. What they fail to understand is that the ‘multilateral’ system is in fact a projection of U.S. unilateralism, cleverly packaged to grant other nations just enough slack to prevent them from fighting it. Like their opponents, the neocons fail to understand how well [Presidents] Roosevelt and Truman stitched up the international order. They are seeking to replace a hegemonic system that is enduring and effective with one that is untested and (because other nations must fight it) unstable.”

Battered by losing wars and economic crisis, the United States is now a superpower visibly on the skids. And yet, there is no guarantee that the coming era will produce a change for the better. In a world in which the value of the dollar is plummeting, oil is growing ever more scarce relative to demand, and foreign states are rising as rivals to American power, the possibility of either going ahead with the Bush/Cheney style of unilateralism or successfully returning to the “enduring and effective” multilateral corporatism of the 1990s may no longer exist. But the failure of these options will undoubtedly not be for lack of trying. Even with corporate globalization on the decline, multinational businesses will attempt to consolidate or expand their power. And even with the imperial model of globalization discredited, an overextended U.S. military may still try to hold on with violence.

The true Bush administration legacy may be to leave us in a world that is at once far more open to change and also far more dangerous. Such prospects should hardly discourage the long-awaited celebration in January. But they suggest that a new era of globalization battles — struggles to build a world order based neither on corporate influence, nor imperial might — will have only just begun.

Mark Engler, an analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus, is the author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (just published by Nation Books). He can be reached via the website Democracy Uprising.

Copyright 2008 Mark Engler