Country Joe's Place

Essays and Opinions


Over There: Where in the World We Are | The Media’s Tragic Misunderstanding of Iraqi Domestic Politics | Suddenly, I'm an "Islamic Fascist" | Senator Byrd's Spech on the Senate Floor | Why Is There No Draft? | The Emperor’s New Consensus | Nobody Attacks Civilization | The Iraqi Road Map | An Iraqi Potemkin Village | US Military Personnel Growing Critical of the War in Iraq | The Wedge Politics of Osama bin Laden | Kerry Will Restore American Dignity | Can a Vietnamese-American Be Heard? | Eminent Diplomatic and Military Leaders Condemn Bush | The Madness of President George | "Unknown Soldier" Speaks Out To Bring Troops Home | Kerry vs. the Chicken Hawks | A Vanished Dream | Hold On to Your Humanity: An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq | Facing the Truth about Iraq | Myth and Denial in the War on Terrorism | The Occupation | Sen. Robert Byrd: The Truth Will Emerge | George McGovern: The Reason Why | US Will Lose the Iraq War, Says Scott Ritter | Statement to the Troops | The United States of America Has Gone Mad | Time to Stand Up -- A Secularist View | Rumsfeld's Style Roils Pentagon | Newsweek Interview: Mandela Calls the U.S.A. a Threat to World Peace | Representative Kucinich's Prayer for America | A Call on Feminists to Protest The War Against Afghanistan | Two Kids' Letters | Advice from a Vietnam Vet to Young Men (and Women) of Fighting Age | A Response from Barbara Sonneborn | Country Joe's Interview about the Counterattack | Excerpts from Fidel Castro's Speech | Barbara Lee's Speech to Congress | Teens Fearful of War, by Susan Lydon | A Message from Mountain Girl | Thoughts from Women's Military Historian Linda DePauw | An Insight from Country Joe | An Afghani-American Perspective | Jerry Falwell's TV Rant | Statement from the Democratic Socialist Party | An Essay on the Taliban

Over There: Where in the World We Are
Alan W. Dowd
The American Legion Magazine
February 2008

According to Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, director of operational planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “About 490,000 U.S. service personnel are forward-deployed around the world.”

Given the fluid—and sometimes classified—nature of U.S. military operations, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact size and placement of every deployment. Think of the following as a snapshot of America’s overseas commitments. This snapshot is based on available data from a variety of open-source materials, including the Pentagon’s “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country” report, the State Department’s “Country Background Notes,” Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports, information from U.S. bases, and press reports.

This map only includes deployments larger than 100 troops, which is not to minimize the danger faced by troops on smaller deployments—or marginalize their missions. Any American in uniform, no matter where he or she is based, is in harm’s way. However, displaying every deployment would require us to highlight virtually everywhere from Albania to Zimbabwe. As CRS reports, the U.S. military has a presence in 144 nations.

Southwest Asia/Middle East

Iraq  168,000
U.S. forces are fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq, training the Iraqi military and supporting the Iraqi government in its efforts to forge a sustainable political structure. In addition to the U.S., there are 26 countries with military forces deployed in Iraq, numbering 11,830 personnel. More than 4,130 coalition forces have been killed, including more than 3,830 Americans.

Afghanistan  24,800
U.S. forces are conducting counterinsurgency and stability operations in Afghanistan. In addition, U.S. forces are fighting the remnants of al Qaeda. About 20,000 non-U.S. forces are deployed in Afghanistan, mostly from NATO nations. About 700 coalition forces have been killed, including 445 Americans.

Kuwait  16,500
Thousands of U.S. forces have been based in Kuwait since its liberation during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The country is a logistical hub and staging area for U.S. operations in Iraq.

Bahrain  1,389
Bahrain has been a base for U.S. naval activity since 1947. As a recent State Department report explains, Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Qatar  512
CENTCOM’s forward headquarters is located at Camp As Sayliyah.

Egypt  425
The U.S. contributes an infantry battalion to the Multinational Force and Observers’ mission in the Sinai,[2] which also includes peacekeepers from Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand and Italy. According to the State Department, “Units of the U.S. 6th Fleet are regular visitors to Egyptian ports.” In addition, U.S. troops routinely deploy to Egypt for combined military exercises, including Operation Bright Star, the largest military exercise in the region.

Saudi Arabia  274
More than 500,000 U.S. forces were deployed in Saudi Arabia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As many as 4,500 U.S. troops remained in the kingdom in mid-2003, when Washington initiated a major recalibration of its force structure in the region.

U.A.E.   87+
According to the State Department, the U.A.E. “hosts more U.S. Navy ships than any port outside the U.S.”


Republic of Korea 27,114
U.S. forces first arrived in southern Korea in 1945 for postwar occupation. After the Korean War of 1950-1953, the United States and Republic of Korea signed a Mutual Defense Treaty. The State Department notes that the “Army’s Second Infantry Division and several Air Force tactical squadrons” are based in Korea. U.S. force levels have fallen by 9,000 in the last three years.[3]

Kyrgyzstan   1,000
The U.S. deployed personnel to this former Soviet republic after 9/11 to support operations in Afghanistan. According to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. personnel use Kyrgyzstan’s Manas International Airport to provide “air combat power projection throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility.” Elements of the French and Italian air forces also operate from the base.

Diego Garcia  240+
Home to joint Air Force and Navy units, including a U.S. Navy Support Facility, this British-administered island in the Indian Ocean has played a crucial role in U.S. force projection since 1971, with U.S. bombers and tankers flying from Diego Garcia in support of numerous operations.[4] Time magazine recently estimated that 1,700 personnel were based on Diego Garcia.[5]

Singapore  116
A Navy logistics unit was established in Singapore in 1992. As the State Department reports, “U.S. fighter aircraft deploy periodically to Singapore for exercises,” and U.S. Navy vessels are authorized to berth at the Changi Naval Base.

Thailand  114
According to the State Department, “Thailand and the United States have developed a vigorous joint military exercise program.” Under the Cobra Gold exercises, for example, U.S. forces participate in large-scale maneuvers in and around Thailand each year, along with Thai, Singaporean, Japanese and Indonesian forces.


Japan  50,000
The State Department calls Japan “the cornerstone of U.S. security interests in Asia.” According to a recent State Department report, Japan hosts a carrier battle group, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the 5th Air Force and elements of the Army’s I Corps. Approximately half of U.S. forces in Japan are based in Okinawa.

Hawaii  35,874
Major units of the U.S. military are based in Hawaii, which, due to its proximity to hotspots in Asia, is akin to a forward-deployed position.

Guam   2,828
Guam hosts a number of critical Navy and Air Force facilities and military units. As a recent analysis by Newsweek detailed, these include bombers, refueling aircraft, attack submarines and Navy SEALs, with plans in the works to deploy F-22 fighter-bombers, aircraft carriers and 20,000 additional troops.[6]

Australia  711
As the State Department notes, Australia and the U.S. conduct a variety of joint military exercises “ranging from naval and landing exercises at the task-group level to battalion-level special-forces training to numerous smaller-scale exercises...The two countries also operate joint defense facilities in Australia.”

Philippines  111
Small detachments of U.S. forces arrived in the Philippines in late 2001 to train—and in some cases, assist—the Philippine army in its fight against terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. A U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force operates on the islands of Basilan and Jolo.


Djibouti  2,038
CJTF-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) has operated out of Camp Lemonier since May 2003, conducting humanitarian, training and military operations. The area of responsibility for CJTF-HOA includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. The U.S. is expanding Camp Lemonier from its current 97 acres to nearly 500 acres, according to CJTF-HOA.A regiment of French marines is also based nearby.

Other  300+
Special-operations units have been at work across Africa since 9/11. As The Washington Post reported in 2005, programs such as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative provide training, equipment and intelligence to militaries in Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Jane’s Defense reports that elements of the 3rd Special Forces Group are in Mali. The U.S. presence in Africa is likely to increase, given the creation of Africa Command.[7]


Germany  58,894
t the height of the Cold War, nearly 300,000 American troops were deployed in Germany. Even as the number of U.S. forces in Germany falls, the country will likely remain a hub for the U.S. military, serving as a bridge to and from the Middle East. The Army and Air Force rely on permanent airbases, garrisons and hospitals throughout Germany. As Time magazine has pointed out, Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases “are the largest military communities outside the U.S.” About 20,000 British forces are also based in Germany, although they are in the midst of a drawdown.

United Kingdom 10,152
The RAF facility at Lakenheath houses the 48th Fighter Wing’s F-15Es and F-15Cs, a squadron of search and rescue helicopters,and nearly 5,700 active-duty personnel. RAF Mildenhall is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 100th Air Refueling Wing; European Command’s standing air component headquarters (16th Air Force); 501st Combat Support Wing; 352nd Special Operations Group;95th Reconnaissance Squadron; 488th Intelligence Squadron; 727th Air Mobility Squadron; and a Naval Air Facility. Hundreds of U.S. personnel and civilians are based at RAF Menwith Hill,[8] which is of growing importance to the international missile defense system (IMD).

Italy   10,216+
The U.S. Army Garrison at Vicenza includes the Southern European Taskforce and 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The U.S. Army Garrison at Livorno features military intelligence and field support units. Aviano Air Base is home to the U.S. Air Force 31st Fighter Wing and its two F-16 fighter squadrons. Naples serves as the home port for the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet. The State Department reports that U.S. military deployments in Italy range as high as 13,000 personnel.

Bulgaria  <2,500
According to the State Department, U.S. forces began deploying to Graf Ignatievo Airbase, Bezmer Airbase and a training facility as part of Joint Taskforce East in mid-2007. Deployment numbers are expected to reach as high as 2,500 U.S. troops.

Turkey  1,668
The U.S. Air Force has relied on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey since the 1950s, deploying cargo planes, fighters, tankers and bombers from this strategically located base. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that 70 percent of the U.S. military’s Iraq-bound air cargo passes through Turkey.

Kosovo/Serbia  1,395
U.S. troops operating out of Camp Bondsteel in southeastern Kosovo support a NATO-led peacekeeping force of 16,000 troops known as KFOR.[9]

Spain  1,410
The Navy reports that U.S. Naval Station Rota is strategically “located near the Strait of Gibraltar and at the halfway point between the United States and Southwest Asia.” U.S. forces are also deployed at Moron Air Base, which is home to the 712th Air Base Group and serves as a key refueling facility for Air Force assets traveling to and through Europe.

Belgium  1,379
The U.S. has a cluster of assets in Belgium, among them: NATO headquarters in Mons, where an American always serves as military commander; Chièvres Air Base, which is manned by the Army and supports the Supreme Allied Commander Europe; and the U.S Army Garrison-Belgium.

Romania  <900
Nearly 900 U.S. troops have been deployed to Romania (from bases in Germany) to support Taskforce Deep Steel, as the Stars and Stripes reported in late 2007. The U.S. is building new facilities at a Romanian airbase to accommodate up to 2,000 troops.

Portugal  865
According to the State Department, Lajes Air Base in the Azores plays an important role in supporting U.S. military aircraft engaged in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 65th Air Base Wing is stationed at Lajes, along with units such as the 729th Air Mobility Squadron. In addition, Portugal provides the U.S. access to Montijo Air Base and several seaports.

Netherlands  562
As part of the U.S. Army Garrison-BENELUX, the 80th Support Group maintains a subordinate 254th Base Support Battalion in Schinnen. In this hemisphere, the U.S. Air Force supports drug interdiction, surveillance and refueling missions from Forward Operating Location Curacao (Dutch Antilles).

Greece  354
The State Department reports that Greece allows the U.S. to operate “a naval support facility that exploits the strategically located deep-water port and airfield at Souda Bay in Crete.”

Bosnia-Herzegovina 207
In 1995, 20,000 U.S. troops were deployed to Bosnia as part of a NATO-led peacekeeping force. In December 2004, these responsibilities were handed off to the European Union, which, as CRS reports, is supported by a NATO headquarters unit where the remaining U.S. troops are based.[10]

Greenland  138
Air Force units at Thule Air Base on this Danish territory play a central role in missile warning and space surveillance. Thule Air Base promises to grow in importance as IMD comes online.

Coming soon:

Poland 200+
The IMD’s bed of ground-based interceptors, which will be based in Poland, will be manned by 200 personnel, according to Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency. In addition, it will require an unspecified number of “force protection personnel.”

Czech Republic TBD
The IMD’s midcourse radar, which will be based in the Czech Republic, will require an unspecified number of “force protection personnel.”

Latin America/Caribbean

Southern Command 5,000
As Maj. Gen. Sherlock explained in 2007, this figure is largely a function of exercises such as PANAMAX, a training exercise involving troops from19 nations. In 2007, as detailed by SOUTHCOM, U.S. units of up to 450 troops also participated in humanitarian operations in Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala and Panama.

Cuba 903
JTF-GTMO maintains the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, where an estimated 339 detainees from various fronts of the Global War on Terror are held.

Honduras  412
JTF-Bravo operates out of Soto Cano Air Base. According to the Air Force, the taskforce includes a mobile surgery team, communications specialists and a small security detail. It conducts counterdrug missions and promotes regional security.

Puerto Rico 144
The U.S. Army Garrison at Ft. Buchanan bills itself as “the only Department of Defense installation in the Caribbean Basin area.”

Colombia  124+
According to CRS, the majority of U.S. military personnel in Colombia are from the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group. Up to 200 special-operations forces are regularly deployed as trainers, with as many as 200 additional troops providing support.

North America

CONUS  876,378
If it seems the U.S. is stretching itself thin, historian Derek Leebaert reminds us that in 1963, the U.S. had a million troops “stationed at more than 200 foreign bases.” Today, 63.8 percent of America’s active-duty personnel are based in the continental United States (CONUS), and nearly 68 percent are based somewhere in the 50 states. It should be noted that some 3,000 National Guard personnel are deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of Operation Jumpstart, which supports the Border Patrol.

Alaska  19,957
Major units of the U.S. military are based in Alaska, which, due to its proximity to hotspots in Asia, is akin to a forward-deployed position.

Canada  143
The State Department notes that U.S. defense arrangements with Canada include the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, NATO commitments and cooperative continental air defense.


At sea/in port 115,800+
At any given time, there are tens of thousands of U.S. forces designated as “afloat.” According to CRS, this designation includes personnel at sea or in temporary ports.


[1] US Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “Iraq Weekly Status Report,” October 10, 2007; CNN, “US and coalition casualties,” September 2007.
[2] David McKeeby, “Sinai peacekeepers are the quiet success of Camp David Accords,” State Department Information Service, USINFO.STATE.GOV, September 19, 2007.
[3] Christian Caryl, “America's Unsinkable Fleet,” Newsweek, Feb. 26, 2007.
[4] See Daniel L. Haulman, “Footholds for the Fighting Force,” Air Force magazine, February 2006; Richard J. Newman, “Tankers and Lifters for a Distant War,” Air Force Magazine, January 2002.
[5] Massimo Calabresi, “Postcard: Diego Garcia,” Time, Sept. 13, 2007.
[6] Christian Caryl, “America's Unsinkable Fleet,” Newsweek, Feb. 26, 2007.
[7] See Ann Scoot Tyson, “US pushes anti-terrorism in Africa,” Washington Post, July 26, 2005; Nathan Hodge, “Training programmes signal deepening US ties with West Africa,” Jane’s Defense, September 7, 2007,
[8] See Royal Air Force,
[9] Defense Department, “Other Operations & Exercises,” DeployMed ResearchLINK,
[10] Defense Department, “Other Operations & Exercises,” DeployMed ResearchLINK,

The Media’s Tragic Misunderstanding of Iraqi Domestic Politics
Robert Dreyfuss
Nieman Watchdog
July 9, 2007

The conventional wisdom is that Iraqis can’t get their act together; that Iraqi politicians are hopeless squabbling, fratricidal hate-mongers; and that there’s really no use trying understand what passes for Iraqi politics. The narrative continues like this: that Iraq’s civil war is hundreds of years old, with Sunnis and Shia killing each other since the dawn of Islam;.that Iraq isn’t really even a country, since its borders were arbitrarily drawn up by a cigar-smoking Winston Churchill in the 1920s; and that there is no chance that Iraq will meet the 18 so-called “benchmarks” that were enacted by Congress earlier this year because it’s impossible that Iraqis will ever forge a consensus that can hold their country together.

Is any of that true? Even careful consumers of news about Iraq would be hard-pressed to challenge any of it, since by and large the press has failed to ask the kinds of questions that might shed light on Iraqi politics and society: Is the real cleavage in Iraqi politics between Shia and Sunni? Or is it something else? Is it possible that the real division within Iraq is not the cut along sectarian lines, but one that pits Iraqi nationalists against separatists?

There’s a case to be made that a majority of Iraqis – both on the street and in politics, including members of parliament – believe in a unified Iraq with its capital in Baghdad. Among those who support that view are the vast majority of Sunni Arabs, who don’t want to be squeezed into an oil-poor “Sunnistan,” and a significant majority of Shia Arabs, who support Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc and the important, but usually ignored Fadhila (Virtue) party. When put together with the dwindling, but still important middle class and the secular bloc of voters represented by Iyad Allawi’s party, the “nationalists” achieve or are close to majority status in the parliament. If you count the extra-parliamentary forces, including the Sunni-led Iraqi resistance and some Shia fighters who disdain parliament, the nationalists have a large majority among Iraqi Arabs.

The “separatists,” meanwhile, are represented by the Kurds, who are scheming to win U.S. support for an independent Kurdistan, and the party that used to call itself the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is pushing hard for a Shiite super-region in the south that is widely seen as the first step toward a breakaway, Iran-allied “Shiastan” in the south.

Why isn’t the press making more of this? Why aren’t they asking American officials to explain why U.S. support mostly lines up behind the separatists, i.e., the Kurds and SCIRI? Why aren’t they asking whether SCIRI (and, for that matter, Al Dawa, the small party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) have much support left among the 60 percent of Iraqis who are Shia Arabs? Many observers have concluded that, if elections were held today, large majorities of Shia Arabs would back Muqtada al-Sadr and Fadhila, which is a quasi-Sadrist party – not SCIRI and Dawa. If so, why is the United States siding with SCIRI and Dawa against Sadr? Is that why SCIRI and Dawa are dragging their feet on holding provincial elections in 2007 -- because they know they’d lose massively?

Why aren’t reporters digging more into the two stunning votes in parliament this year: the first in support of bill that demanded that the United States set a timetable for withdrawal, and the second insisting that any Iraqi effort at the United Nations to extend the mandate that allows the United States to continue to occupy Iraq be subject to approval by the Iraqi parliament? (The UN mandate, which provides the legal basis for the American occupation of Iraq, expires in December.) It’s true that polling in Iraq, under wartime conditions, has only limited usefulness; still, polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis want the United States to get out of Iraq and that a large majority also believes in a unitary, nationalist Iraqi state.

There are three “no’s” in Iraqi politics that could serve as a basis for a consensus among Iraqi factions: opposition to the occupation, opposition to Al Qaeda, and opposition to excessive Iranian influence in Iraq. Most Sunnis, most secular Iraqis, and Shia supporters of the Sadr and Fadhila parties agree on all three of those. In addition, those parties have also taken steps in recent weeks to distance themselves from the feckless Maliki regime in Baghdad, either quitting or suspending their participation in both the Cabinet and the parliament. Yet, according to the New York Times, yet another U.S. review of its Iraq policy has concluded that there is no alternative to Maliki’s faltering coalition. Why is the United States so wedded to the Dawa-SCIRI-Kurdish alliance? Don’t they realize that any Iraqi government that depends on U.S. favor by definition can’t win support from the Iraqi people?

Reporters should ask: Can any government or political party that has American support succeed in Iraq? Or is American support effectively the kiss of death for an Iraqi politician? Corrupt and venal Iraqi leaders, squatting in bunkers in the Green Zone, might welcome American support and American money – but do they have any “street cred” whatsoever?

Lately, the United States has stepped up the propaganda blaming Iran for much of the violence in Iraq – and, undoubtedly, Iran’s secret services have their fingers in a lot of pies in Iraq. But it’s also true that the two politicians with the closest ties to Iran are SCIRI’s Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, now ill with cancer and passing the torch to his son, Amar Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, and President Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Kurdish party, PUK. (In the 1980s, the Hakims were hosted by Iran, and their paramilitary force, the Badr Brigade was owned and operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the ministry of intelligence. And in the 1990s, Talabani’s PUK made common cause with Iran against the rival Kurdish bloc of the Barzani clan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party.) Why isn’t the media paying more attention to the Iranian connections of the Hakims and Talabani?

Despite recent U.S. efforts to recruit, arm and train paramilitary Sunni militia from the ranks of the Iraqi resistance, the vast majority of U.S. aid to Iraq’s police and army goes directly to the Shia forces associated with SCIRI’s Badr Brigade and the pesh merga militia of the Kurds.

Here’s a legitimate question: Is the United States arming all three sides of an Iraqi civil war? If so, rather than trumpeting U.S. support for the Sunni militia, wouldn’t it better to stop arming all sides? Why, if the United States begins to leave Iraq, should it arm one, two, or all three sides in a civil war? Why not let Iraqis sort that out?

The dénouement of America’s failed occupation of Iraq could be bloody indeed. But not enough reporters and news analysts are looking at the other possibility: In the wake of an orderly withdrawal over, say, the next year, might not Iraq’s nationalists join forces against the separatists and struggle to create a new center in Iraqi politics? As Zbigniew Brzezinski says: “The only Iraqis who want us to stay are the ones who will have to leave when we leave.”

Suddenly, I'm an "Islamic Fascist"
Jonathan Cook
August 12, 2006

It occurred to me as I watched the story unfolding on my TV of a suspected plot by a group of at least 20 British Muslims to blow up planes between the UK and America that the course of my life and that of the alleged "terrorists" may have run in parallel in more ways than one.

Like a number of them, I am originally from High Wycombe, one of the nondescript commuter towns that ring London. As aerial shots wheeled above the tiled roof of a semi-detached house there, I briefly thought I was looking at my mother's home.

But doubtless my and their lives have diverged in numerous ways. According to news reports, the suspects are probably Pakistani, a large "immigrant" community that has settled in many corners of Britain, including High Wycombe and Birmingham, a gray metropolis in the country's center where at least some of the arrested men are believed to have been born.

Britain's complacent satisfaction with its multiculturalism and tolerance ignores the facts that Pakistanis and other ethnic minorities mostly live in their own segregated spaces on the margins of British life. "Native" Britons like me – the white ones – generally assume that is out of choice: "They stick to their own kind." Many of us rarely come into contact with a Pakistani unless he is serving us what we call "Indian food" or selling us a packet of cigarettes in a corner shop.

So, even though we may have been neighbors of a sort in High Wycombe, my life and theirs probably had few points of contact.

But paradoxically, that changed, I think, five years ago when I left Britain. I moved to Nazareth in Israel, an Arab – Muslim and Christian – community on the very margins of the self-declared Jewish state. In the ghetto of Nazareth, I rarely meet Israeli Jews unless I venture out for work or I find myself sitting next to them in a local restaurant as they order hummus from an Arab waiter, just as I once asked for a madras curry in High Wycombe. When Israeli Jews briefly visit the ghetto, I suddenly realize how much, by living here, I have become an Arab by default.

Living on the margins of any society is an alienating experience that few who are rooted in the heartland of the consensus can ever hope to understand. Such alienation can easily deepen into something less passive, far more destructive, when you find yourself not only marginalized but your loyalty, rationality, even your sanity, called into question.

As we approach the fifth official anniversary of the "war on terror," the foiled UK "terror plot" has neatly provided George W. Bush, the "leader of the free world," with a chance to remind us of our fight against the "Islamic fascists." But what if the war on terror is not really about separating the good guys from the bad guys, but about deciding what a good guy can be allowed to say and think?

What if the "Islamic fascism" President Bush warns us of is not just the terrorism associated with Osama bin Laden and his elusive al-Qaeda network but a set of views that many Arabs, Muslims, and Pakistanis – even the odd humanist – consider normal, even enlightened? What if the war on "Islamic fascism" is less about fighting terrorism and more about silencing those who dissent from the West's endless wars against the Middle East?

At some point, I suspect, I joined the Islamic fascists without my even noticing. Were my name different, my skin color different, my religion different, I might feel a lot more threatened by that realization.

How would Homeland Security judge me if I stepped off a plane in the U.S. tomorrow and told officials not only that I am appalled by the humanitarian crises in Lebanon and Gaza but also that I do not believe the war on terror should be directed against either the Lebanese or the Palestinians? How would they respond if, further, I described as nonsense the idea that Hezbollah or the political leaders of Hamas are "terrorists"?

I have my reasons, good ones I think, but would anyone take them seriously? What would the officials make of my argument that, before Israel's war on Lebanon, no one could point to a single terrorist incident Hezbollah had been responsible for in at least a decade? Would the authorities appreciate my comment that a terrorist organization that doesn't do terrorism is a chimera, a figment of the president's imagination?

Equally, what would they make of my belief that Hezbollah does not want to wipe Israel off the map? Would they find me convincing if I told them that Israel, not Hezbollah, is the aggressor in the conflict: that following Israel's supposed withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, Lebanon experienced barely a day of peace from the terrifying sonic booms of Israeli war planes violating the country's airspace?

Would they understand as I explained that Hezbollah had acted with restraint for those six years, stockpiling its weapons for the day it knew was coming when Israel would no longer be satisfied with overflights and its appetite for conquest and subjugation would return? Would the officials doubt their own assumptions as I told them that during this war Hezbollah's rockets have been a response to Israeli provocations, that they are fired in return for Israel's devastating and indiscriminate bombardment of Lebanon?

And what would they say if I claimed that this war is not really about Lebanon, or even Hezbollah, but part of a wider U.S. and Israeli campaign to isolate and preemptively attack Iran?

Thank God, my skin is fair, my name is unmistakenly English, and I know how to spell the word "atheist." Chances are when Homeland Security comes looking for suspects, no one will search for me or be interested – not yet, at least – in my views on Hassan Nasrallah or the democratic election of a Hamas government for the Palestinians.

My friends in Nazareth, and those Pakistani neighbors I never knew in High Wycombe, are less fortunate. They must keep their views hidden and swallow their anger as they see (because their media, unlike ours, show the reality) what U.S.-made weapons fired by American and Israeli soldiers can do to the fragile human body, how quickly skin burns in an explosion, how easily a child's skull is crushed under rubble, how fast the body drains of blood from a severed limb.

Sitting in London or New York, the news that Gaza lost 151 souls, most of them civilians, last month to Israeli bombs and bullets passes us by. It is after all just a number, even if a high one. At best, a number like that from a place we don't know, suffered by a people whose names we can't pronounce, makes us pause, even sigh with regret. But it cannot move us to anger.

And anyway, our news bulletins are too busy to concentrate on more than one atrocity at a time. This month it is Lebanon. Next month it will probably be Iran. Then maybe it will be back to Baghdad or the Palestinians. The horror stories sound so much less significant, the need for action so less pressing, when each is unrelated to the next. Were we to watch the Arab channels, where all the blood and suffering blends into a single terrible Middle Eastern epic, we might start to make connections, and maybe suspect that none of this happens by accident.

But my Arab friends and High Wycombe's Pakistanis have longer memories. Their attention span lasts longer than a single atrocity. They understand that those numbers – 151 killed in Gaza, and in a single incident 33 blown up in a market in Najaf, Iraq, and at least 28 crushed by rubble from an Israeli attack on Qana in Lebanon – are people, flesh and blood just like them. They can make out, in all the pain and death currently being inflicted on Arabs and Muslims, the echoes of events stretching back years and decades. They see patterns, they make connections, and maybe discern a plan. Unlike us, they do not sigh, they burn with fury.

This is something President Bush and his obedient serf in Britain, Tony Blair, need to learn. But of course, they do not want to understand because they, and their predecessors, are responsible for creating those patterns and for writing that epic tale in blood. Bush and Blair and their advisers know that the plan is far more important than the rage, the "red" alert levels at airports, or even planes crashing into buildings and plunging out of the sky.

And to protect that plan – to preserve the Middle East as a giant oil pump, cheaply feeding our industries and our privileged lifestyles – those who care about the suffering, the deaths, and the wars must be silenced. Their voices must not be heard, their loyalty must be questioned, their reason must be put in doubt. They must be dismissed as "Islamic fascists."

One does not need to be a psychologist to understand that those with no legitimate way to vent their rage, even to have it recognized as valid, become consumed by it instead. They seek explanations and purifying ideologies. They need heroes and strategies. And in the end they crave revenge. If their voice is not heard, they will speak without words.

So I find myself standing with Bush's "Islamic fascists" in the hope that – just possibly – my solidarity and that of others may dissipate the rage, may give it meaning and offer it another, better route to victory.

Senator Byrd's Spech on the Senate Floor
Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-West Virginia)
February 15, 2006

Mr. President, in June of 2004, 10 peace activists outside of Haliburton, Inc., in Houston gathered to protest the company's war profiteering. They wore paper hats and were handing out peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, calling attention to Haliburton's reported overcharging on a food contract for American troops in Iraq. Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched. U.S. Army personnel at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity or CIFA, saw the protest as a potential threat to national security.

CIFA was created 3 years ago by the Defense Department. Its official role is "force-protection", that is, tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In 2003, then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON, which stands for Threat and Local Observation Notice, that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents" and feed it to CIFA.

In the case of the peanut butter demonstration, the Army wrote a report on the activity and stored it in its files. Newsweek magazine has reported that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens that has been retained in Pentagon files. A senior Pentagon official has admitted that the names of these U.S. citizens could number in the thousands.

Is this where we are heading in the land of the free? Are secret government programs that spy on American citizens proliferating? The question is not, "Is Big Brother watching?" It is "How many Big Brothers have we?"

Ever since the New York Times revealed that President George W. Bush has personally authorized surveillance of American citizens without obtaining a warrant, I have become increasingly concerned about dangers to the people's liberty. I believe that both current law and the Constitution may have been violated -- not once, but many times -- and in ways that the Congress and the people may never know because of this White House and its penchant for control and secrecy.

We cannot continue to claim that we are a nation of laws and not of men if our laws and, indeed, even the Constitution of the United States itself, may by summarily breached because of some determination of expediency or because the President says "trust me."

The Fourth Amendment reads clearly, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The Congress has already granted the Executive Branch rather extraordinary authority with changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allow the government 72 hours after surveillance has begun to apply for a warrant. If this surveillance program is what the President says it is, a program to eavesdrop upon known terrorists in other countries who are conversing with Americans, then there should be no difficulty in obtaining a warrant within 72 hours. One might be tempted to suspect that the real reason that the President authorized warrantless surveillance is because there is no need to have to bother with the inconveniences of probable cause. Without probable cause as a condition of spying on American citizens, the National Security Agency could and can, under this President's direction, spy on anyone and for any reason. We have only the President's word, his "trust me", to protect the privacy of the law-abiding citizens of this country. And one must be especially wary of an Administration that seems to feel that what it judges to be a good end, always justifies any means. It is, in fact, not only illegal under our system, but morally reprehensible to spy on citizens without probable cause of wrongdoing. When such practices are sanctioned by our own President, what is the message we are sending to other countries which the United States is trying to convince to adopt our system? It must be painfully obvious to them that a President, who can spy at will on any citizen, is very unlike the model of democracy that the Administration is trying to sell abroad.

In the name of "fighting terror" are we to sacrifice every freedom to a President's demand? How far are we to go? Can a President order warrantless house-by-house searches of a neighborhood, where he suspects a terrorist may be hiding? Can he impose new restrictions on what can be printed, broadcast, or even uttered privately, because of some perceived threat to national security? Laughable thoughts? I think not. For this Administration has so traumatized the people of this nation -- and many in the Congress -- that some will swallow whole whatever rubbish that is spewed from this White House, as long as it is in some tenuous way connected to the so-called war on terror.

And the phrase, "war on terror," while catchy, certainly is a misnomer. Terror is a tactic used by all manner of violent organizations to achieve their goals. It has been around since time began, and will likely be with us on the last day of planet earth. We were attacked by Bin Laden and by his organization Al Qaeda. If anything, what we are engaged in should, more properly, be called, a war on the Al Qaeda network. But, that is too limiting for an Administration that loves power as much as this one. A war on the Al Qaeda network might conceivably be over some day. A war on the Al Qaeda network might have achievable, measurable objectives, and it would be less able to be used as a rationale for almost any government action. It would be harder to periodically traumatize and terrorize the U.S. public, thereby justifying a reason for stamping secret on far too many government programs and activities. Why hasn't Congress been thoroughly briefed on the President's secret eavesdropping program, or on other secret domestic monitoring programs run by the Pentagon or other government entities? Is it because keeping official secrets prevents annoying Congressional oversight? Revealing this program in its entirety to too many members of Congress could certainly have unmasked its probable illegality at a much earlier date, and may have allowed members of Congress to pry information out of the White House that the Judiciary Committee could not pry out of Attorney General Gonzales, who seems genuinely confused about whom he works for -- the public or his old boss, the President.

Attorney General Gonzales refused to divulge whether or not purely domestic communications have also been caught up in this warrantless surveillance, and he refused to assure the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American public that the Administration has not deliberately tapped Americans' telephone calls and computers or searched their homes without warrants. Nor would he reveal whether even a single arrest has resulted from the program.

And what about the First Amendment? What about the chilling effect that warrantless eavesdropping is already having on those law-abiding American citizens who may not support the war in Iraq, or who may simply communicate with friends or relatives overseas? Eventually, the feeling that no conversation is private will cause perfectly innocent people to think carefully before they candidly express opinions or even say something in jest.

Already we have heard suggestions from the Attorney General and others that Freedom of the Press should be subject to new restrictions. And who among us can feel comfortable knowing that the National Security Agency has been operating with an expansive view of its role since 2001, forwarding wholesale information from foreign intelligence communication intercepts involving American citizens, including the names of individuals to the FBI, in a departure from past practices, and tapping some of the country's main telecommunications arteries in order to trace and analyze information.

The Administration could have come to Congress to address any too cumbersome aspects of the FISA law in the revised Patriot Act which the Administration proposed, but they did not, probably because they wished the completely unfettered power to do whatever they pleased, the laws and the Constitution be damned.

I plead with the American public to tune-in to what is happening in this country. Please forget the political party with which you may usually be associated, and, instead, think about the right of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a private life. Forget the now tired political spin that, if one does not support warrant-less spying, then one may be a bosom buddy of Osama Bin Laden.

Focus on what's happening to truth in this country and then read President Bush's statement to a Buffalo, New York audience on April 24, 2004:

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." That statement is false and the President knew it was false when he made it because he had authorized the government to wiretap without a court order shortly after the 2001 attacks.

This President, in my judgement, may have broken the law, and most certainly has violated the spirit of the Constitution and the public trust.

Yet, I hear strange comments coming from some members of Congress to the effect that well, if the President has broken the law, let's just change the law. That is tantamount to saying that whatever the President does is legal, and the last time we heard that claim was from the White House of Richard M. Nixon. Congress must rise to the occasion here and demand answers to the serious questions surrounding warrantless spying. And Congress must stop being spooked by false charges that unless it goes along in blind obedience with every outrageous violation of the separation of powers, it is soft on terrorism. Perhaps we can take courage from The American Bar Association which on Monday, February 13, denounced President Bush's warrantless surveillance, and expressed the view that he had exceeded his Constitutional powers.

There is a need for a thorough investigation of all of our domestic spying programs. We have to know what is being done, by whom, and to whom. We need to know if the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act has been breached, and if the Constitutional rights of thousands of Americans have been violated without cause. The question is, can the Congress, under control of the President's political party conduct the type of thorough, far-ranging investigation which is necessary? It is absolutely essential that Congress try, because it is vital to at least attempt the proper restoration of the checks and balances. Unfortunately, in a congressional election year, the effort will most likely be seriously hampered by politics.

I want to know how many Americans have been spied upon. I want to know how it is determined which individuals are monitored and who makes such determinations. I want to know if the telecommunications industry is involved in a massive screening of the domestic telephone calls of ordinary Americans. I want to know if the United States Post Office is involved. I want to know if the law has been broken and the Constitution has been breached.

Lord Acton once observed that, "Everything secret degenerates, even the Administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity."

The culture of secrecy which has deepened since the attacks on September 11 has presented this nation with an awful dilemma. In order to protect this open society are we to believe that measures must be taken that in insidious and unconstitutional ways close it down? I believe that the answer must be an emphatic "no."

Why Is There No Draft?
Barry S. Willdorf
A Gauche Press
November 7, 2005

As the war in Iraq drags on, not only regular army and Marines but Reserves and National Guard are getting second and even third calls to return to hostile territory. All too slowly, people are becoming aware of the unfair burden being placed on the backs of the few while the many, including the sons and daughters of the architects of this war escape any obligation to serve in it. This injustice has created a groundswell in calls to re-institute the draft including those who opposed it during the Vietnam War. Some suspect the reason for this call for a draft is disingenuous and founded in a belief that it would spike anti-war sentiment thus mandating a quick withdrawal from Iraq. While this may be true, it is not the reason why we do not have the draft most politicians know we need.

There is no doubt that a successful pursuit of our current adventure in belligerence requires increased manpower. All sides agree on that. In November 2003, Sen. John McCain criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Iraq, saying the United States should send at least 15,000 more troops or risk "the most serious American defeat on the global stage since Vietnam…. The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives." In addition to McCain, Senators Biden, a Democrat, and Hagel and Lugar, Republicans, (not to mention Generals Shinseki and Zinni) have all drawn the same conclusion.

Within the last year, Lieutenant General James Helmly, head of the U.S. Army Reserve, said that the Army Reserve was "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force." and retired Army General Barry McCaffrey said: "The Army's wheels are going to come off in the next 24 months. The data are now beginning to come in to support that." Even Paul Bremer has admitted that there are "not enough troops on the ground."

Why don't we have enough troops? Ann Scott Tyson, a Washington Post Staff Writer, writing on November 4, 2005, reports "newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed, rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war…. In fiscal 2005, the Army took in its least qualified group of recruits in a decade, as measured by educational level and test results." She went on to report: "(F)iscal 2005, (was) the Army's worst year for recruiting since 1999."

Despite the manpower shortage, just last week, the Pentagon announced that its forces in Iraq had increased to 161, 000 troops, the highest total to date. This is being accomplished by extending tours and by rotating back into the field troops that have previously served. Unlike in Vietnam, today a large percentage of our force, seven out of the seventeen brigades currently operating in Iraq are Guard. These are older soldiers, with families, mortgages and in many cases jobs in our communities as first responders. They are there because we do not have a draft.

So, why isn't there a draft? The superficial answer you will hear is that the citizenry would not support the Iraq war if their sons (and daughters) were being forced to fight. There would be protests, the like of which have not been seen since Vietnam. We all know that this is probable, but it is not the reason we do not have a draft. The repeat tours for Guard and Reserves have created protests, but that hasn't stopped our government's stubborn abuse of their service. The Bush Administration could easily have passed a draft measure after 9/11 when the country was united and in fear of terrorist attacks. There would have been little opposition to a call for citizen participation in the protection of the home front. But it didn't happen. The military planners didn't want it. They remember something that most of us do not. Let's revisit some little know, yet relevant history…

On Armed Forces Day in 1970, about a thousand Marines from Camp Pendleton and their supporters participated in a march for peace in Oceanside California. Approximately two weeks later, the GI meeting house, just off the base, where antiwar Marines met every night, was machine-gunned. An off-duty Marine was wounded. These were not isolated events. Indeed, during the latter years of the Vietnam War, they were typical.

During the period from approximately 1967 through 1974, there was a wide range of antiwar and civil rights protest activity in the US military. Here are some examples of what was taking place:

1. According to a State Department survey in 1972, there were more than 245 unauthorized antiwar newspapers being published by GIs and distributed on bases in the US, Germany, and the Far East.

2. There were coffeehouses located next to many of the major bases, staffed mostly by vets, where active-duty GIs were welcome.

3. Desertion and AWOL rates were sky high. Pentagon statistics show that in 1970, one out of twelve GIs was listed as a deserter. The numerical total for that year was 89,088.

4. There were fraggings - the assassination of superior officers. Some estimates put the number of attempts at between 800-1000. The Pentagon has confirmed 86 killed and 700 wounded in these incidents. The Army apparently has documentation of 563 attempts in 1969-70.

5. In 1972, our servicemen and women wrote approximately 250,000 protest letters to Congress.

6. Demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience were occurring on nearly every military installation. The following are just a handful of examples:
· 1968, a group of GIs chained themselves to a church in San Francisco; 1968 then, a group of GIs from Ft. Hood refused to perform riot duty at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and were court-martialed.
· 1969, one hundred GIs held a protest meeting at Ft. Jackson.
· 1970, 80 GIs demonstrated against Gen. Westmoreland at Ft. Bliss.
· 1971, there was an effective base-wide "sick- in" at Ft. Lewis and in one small base in Arizona 540 GIs and WACs signed an antiwar petition.

7. In one of the largest, refusals to report for war duty ever recorded, over three hundred sailors protested the sailing of the aircraft carrier Coral Sea from Alameda Naval Air Station. Many sailors jumped ship either from Alameda or later when it docked in Hawaii. Several of the protesters were officers.

8. Acts of sabotage began to occur with regularity. In one of the more notable incidents, a sailor was charged with tossing a wrench into the reduction gear of the destroyer Richard E. Anderson that put the ship out of action for two months. There were suspicious fires on several of our aircraft carriers but the Navy was never able to convict a perpetrator.

Military punishment, though initially severe did little to quell the revolt. In 1967, two black Marines at Camp Pendleton got six and ten years respectively, just for discussing the war. In 1968, two Army privates received four years each for handing out antiwar leaflets. In 1969, an Army private was sentenced to two years for refusing to participate in riot training. But the anti-war activity persisted. With brigs and stockades bulging by 1970, a Marine who deserted to Sweden got only one year. And by 1971, the revolt was so pervasive that the military was starting to drop courts-martial and opt for administrative discharges in lieu. Estimates of Vietnam era personnel who received less than honorable discharges range from between 560,000 and 790,000. In 1972, contemporaneous with the "Vietnamization" of the war, the Navy initiated a wholesale purge of its ranks and many protesting sailors received "early outs" with honorable discharges for the convenience of the government.

Our founding fathers and Jeffersonian republicans in particular recognized that in a democracy a popular militia is a bulwark against tyranny. A military organization made up of citizen-soldiers, by its very nature, they believed, would reflect the diversity of political expression found in society at large. As such it would naturally resist military adventurism in general and foreign entanglements in particular. It was for that reason that Jeffersonian republicans demanded the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution, which speaks of a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.

For the first one hundred and fifty plus years of our existence, we remained faithful to those principals. Except during times of war, our country had a tiny standing army, but a much larger militia. That only changed with the post-World War II peacetime draft which created a "citizen army." Still, given a reasonably universal draft, the Jeffersonian principal of the citizen-soldier who would resist abuse of his service in foreign adventures, held true.

However, the GI revolt during the Vietnam war demonstrated to military planners that a conscripted army is not politically reliable in controversial wars. In other words, the Constitutional check upon presidential adventurism that was a militia-based national defense worked. It forced an unwilling government to withdraw from a misguided war and, had it been in existence in 2003, would have prevented the rush to war in Iraq as well.

But the lesson learned from the Vietnam experience by the neocons was something apart from Jefferson's prescient wisdom. They decided to disregard the admonitions of our founding fathers and instead of retaining the draft and foreswearing controversial conflicts, to create a large professional army that would be at their disposal for any venture that suited their whims.

For the ruling elite of this country today, the lesson of the GI revolt stands as a major deterrent to the reinstitution of the draft. The policy-makers simply don't want a citizen army but rather want a compliant military that will go anywhere and do anything they ask. So they further their agenda by means of a large professional standing armed force that violates the spirit, if not the letter of our Constitution.

Today we have precisely the kind of tyranny our founding fathers sought to protect us against when they drafted the Constitution. The policy-makers squander our national treasury, enriching themselves and their friends at the expense of true national security. Their scheme, however, did not foresee the consequences of protracted war which it is the fundamental reason that we have insufficient troop strength in Iraq. Thus, the burden of this war falls mostly upon young people who have no other employment prospects and older people who signed contracts believing that they would be the "citizen-soldiers" who would serve and protect our homeland.

We hear a lot about "original intent" from these policy-makers when it comes to domestic policy but they can't apply that theory to the defense of this country because it would subvert their grand imperial design.

Barry S. Willdorf © 2005

The Emperor’s New Consensus
Scott McConnell
The American Conservative
October 10, 2005

Like individuals, countries can benefit from seeing themselves through the eyes of others. Many Americans would ignore a European view; the supposed jealousy of “Old Europe ” for our dynamism has been baked into a national cliché and digested. Views from the Middle East, in light of current military deployments, would not be objective either. But what of South Asia, itself hit by a catastrophic natural disaster this year, a region where gratitude for Washington’s tsunami assistance remains very much alive?

Early this month, the International Herald Tribune published a story based on attitudes in that region at the time of Katrina, views jolted by the gap between the image of America that locals had in their minds and what Katrina presented on their TV screens. “How is it possible?” asked one Indonesian journalist. “How is it possible that in an advanced society like the United States it is so difficult to provide help or rescue people? How is it possible this breakdown in law and order could happen? Let’s just say that it is noted that America sends troops to try to maintain order in distant places, but it seems to have difficulty to do it in their own back yard.” Or as a Philippine government official put it, “It’s so heartbreaking to see how helpless America has become. You’re not strong any more. You can’t even save your own countrymen and there you are, out there trying to control the world.”

Such statements don’t come configured with neo-Marxian accoutrements about hegemony and imperialism—they are, rather like the child’s response to the emperor’s new clothes, a conclusion drawn from obvious visual evidence. Variations of this reaction swept the globe in the early days of September, at the beginning of Osama bin Laden’s second term.

The underlying cause of this turnabout in world thinking was America’s inability to tame the Iraq insurgency, two and half years after George W. Bush initiated a war of choice against Saddam. That war is not yet over for American troops or the Iraqis, but its basic strategic outcome is clear: as a vehicle for transforming the political culture of the Arab world in a pro-American direction, it is an utter failure.

The open question is whether America, as a society and as a government, is capable of recognizing this and making the necessary adjustments. That was the implicit subject of an important conference held in Washington on Week Two of Katrina—scheduled months before to mark the fourth anniversary of 9/11. The event brought together much of the county’s national-security elite—academics and policymakers (though few from the current Bush administration), politicians from both parties, figures as disparate as George Soros and Grover Norquist. The politically eclectic New America Foundation served as main sponsor.

Its director, Steven Clemons, spoke of an “emerging consensus” that held that while “military response to 9/11 was necessary,” it was not sufficient as a long-term anti-terrorism strategy.

In the language of Washington, phrases like “emerging consensus” are vital currency. As much as some (like myself) might wish the architects of the Iraq War would be put on trial, American policy will likely change through subtle shifts in establishment attitudes, such as an “emerging” view that sending 150,000 troops to occupy an Arab country that had nothing to do with bin Laden was not the wisest way to protect the United States from a terrorist threat. The etiquette of making a consensus emerge requires that one pretend to forget that many who now hold forth confidently on the unwisdom of Operation Iraqi Freedom two years ago spouted with equal certainty opinions molded by super-hawk Norman Podhoretz.

But is there really an emerging new consensus? In one sense, yes. This was a conference that could not have been held two years ago. A key panel during the first morning was devoted to “addressing legitimate grievances” in the Muslim world. For official Washington, which had gobbled up Bush’s talk about evildoers who hate our freedom, this was long an off-limits topic. No longer. Nir Rosen, author of the much admired New Yorker essay “Letter from Fallujah,” said, “they hate us not for what we are but what we do.” He noted that the city had become, courtesy of the U.S. Marine assault, a symbol of resistance and defiance throughout the Muslim world, with t-shirts and coffee mugs on sale from Mogadishu to Islamabad celebrating those who martyred themselves in its defense. Rosen added, “an American withdrawal from Iraq and Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories would do more to fight terrorism than any military action ever could.”

The University of Chicago’s Robert Pape affirmed this analysis, pointing out that suicide terrorism was a political tactic designed to force democratic regimes to withdraw from what the attackers consider their core territory. This kind of interpretation is hardly novel—after all, one left-wing organization ran ads prior to the Iraq invasion proclaiming, under a photograph of Osama bin Laden, “I want you to invade Iraq.” But until recently, to be associated with such views was—for those close to government or aspiring to be—a kind of career suicide.

The New Orleans debacle may have liberated the debate in the press as well as the intelligentsia. Because this wound was self-inflicted—the warnings about the levees ignored by the Bush administration, the ineptitude of the early relief effort—the veil of deference accorded the White House was pierced. As The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner put it, New Orleans had given many members of the mass media—particularly television correspondents on the scene —permission to ask impolite questions. Gone was the fear—for a press corps that had been acting as if it was embedded in the White House—that to be too critical was to be taken as “liberal” or “soft.”

And so at the conference one could hear rumblings of outrage that evoked the 1960s. Anne-Marie Slaughter, a dean at Princeton, denounced the administration’s policies at Guatanamo and Abu Ghraib with such passion and eloquence that one could only conclude that regardless of what heights she might reach in academia, her true calling lies in giving speeches (on the Mall perhaps) that would move millions.

But while this conference signaled a kind of elite consensus that the Bush response to terrorism was inadequate and counterproductive and received the endorsement of foreign-affairs specialists and retired heavyweights from both parties (Warren Rudman and Sam Nunn), it is not clear that this consensus touches the political system sufficiently to force a change of course.

If one wanted to despair about the prospect of the Democrats providing a meaningful alternative to the Bush foreign policy, one could do no better than Sen. Joseph Biden. He praised Bush’s second inaugural for revisiting the themes of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 address; it was as if he were in a time warp, untroubled by knowledge that anything had changed in the ensuing 44 years—the country’s share of world economic production, for instance—that might impinge on America’s capacity to “bear any burden” to secure for the world the blessings of liberty.

For Biden, Europeans who fail to enthuse about Bush were still culpable: he derided in typical Euro-bashing terms a German newspaper’s reaction to the Bush speech—“Bush Threatens More Freedom.” (In fact, the headline, if translated correctly, goes far to undermine the cliché about the nonexistent German sense of humor.)

For former Attorney General John Ashcroft, it was still a time for American-flag lapel pins and rhetoric about those not with us being against us; like the president, Ashcroft, when asked, could not come up with a single decision that might have been made differently in the War on Terror.

The one elected official who did embrace the new consensus was Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, who intersperses relatively banal internationalist observations with real insights. In a dinner speech during which he explained that America needed more cultural bridges to the world like student exchanges, he allowed, almost as an afterthought, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The packed room burst into applause: could it have been the first time a Republican senator had acknowledged this fact?

Hagel is sometimes touted as a future president. Under more normal circumstances, his Council on Foreign Relations views would come across as tepid and uninspiring. But after eight years of George W. Bush, Hagel’s worldliness and consciousness of America’s very real limits seems, by comparison, Metternichian. It remains problematic for such a figure—Vietnam vet though he is—to get through the gauntlet of neocons and talk-radio chickenhawks he would face during the Republican primaries.

The New Orleans aftermath showed that most Democratic politicians are more comfortable with their golden oldies—accusing the Republicans of racism, for instance, after the black looting—than they are with raising any serious questions about imperial overstretch. Jesse Jackson might notice a link between troops in Iraq and a lack of sufficient troops in New Orleans, but not Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi.

Of course, the political stasis could be broken by the 2006 congressional elections—but it is probably optimistic to think so. In fact, there is no guarantee America will adjust to the changed circumstance. Democracy, while desirable, hardly guarantees effective government —as anyone who knows the British and French record during the 1930s can attest. The world perceived that something decisive had changed in September 2005, but political Washington may be the last to know

Copyright © 2005 The American Conservative

Nobody Attacks Civilization
Charley Reese
July 7, 2005

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush went into their standard routine after the London bombings. This was an attack against civilization and all civilized nations, they said.

That's bosh and hokum, and it does a disservice to the people. The first step always in solving any problem is to define the problem correctly. There are no terrorists anywhere in the world whose goal is the destruction of civilization, Western or otherwise.

The terrorist attacks against the U.S., Great Britain and Spain are motivated exclusively by Western policies toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the presence of Western military forces in Islamic countries. Al-Qaeda, the ideological source of these attacks, has always been crystal-clear and specific about its reasons for declaring war against the United States.

You can't win a war unless you know who your enemy is, know why he is your enemy and know what his objectives are. Only then can you properly direct your military and political forces to combat him successfully.

Unfortunately, very early on, President Bush decided to create a mythical enemy of vague and ambiguous proportions and irrational motives. This was done to give carte blanche to the government to pursue policies that really had nothing to do with fighting al-Qaeda -- e.g., invading Iraq, putting North Korea and Iran in the "axis of evil" and including groups on the enemies list that were in fact not our enemies.

The confusion this causes was illustrated by television coverage of the London attacks. Several commentators lumped together the terrorist attacks against public transport in Moscow, Madrid and London. However, the Moscow attack had nothing to do with the attacks in Madrid and London, or with us. Moscow is fighting Chechen rebels who want independence for Chechnya. Chechen attacks against Russia, like Palestinian attacks against Israel, are not directed at us. They are motivated by specific political objectives. Chechens and Palestinians have no desire to destroy civilization; they simply wish to take their place in the family of nations as independent countries.

You can't have a war against terrorism because, as many people have pointed out, terrorism is a tactic employed by people who have no real military power. It is not an entity. There is no worldwide terrorist organization.

Terrorist tactics work because we live in a wired world. Ten or 12 people can set off a few bombs in London, and the world turns its electronic eyes on the story and chats, discusses and shows video clips until some other event distracts it. The media attention and the inflated rhetoric of politicians magnify the terrorist act far beyond its actual import.

These attacks -- pinpricks, really, in terms of any damage they do to national power -- cannot be completely stopped. A few malcontents inspired by someone's rhetoric can get together and set off a bomb or two or shoot some people. Terrorists should be considered criminals, and their acts as ordinary crimes. Physically dealing with terrorists is properly ordinary police work. There is no war involved.

What the United States should be doing, instead of invading and occupying countries, is re-examining its foreign policy vis-à-vis the Islamic world. There is no natural conflict between the West and Islam. The followers and true believers of Osama bin Laden are a tiny minority. The best way to cut the ground out from under him is to develop and pursue policies that treat all of the Islamic countries with fairness and respect.

We don't do that at the present time. Because of the power of the Israeli lobby to skew our policy to benefit Israel, our Middle East policies are riddled with double and triple standards and reek of hypocrisy. Because of that, we are the best recruiter Osama bin Laden has.

But in the meantime, remember that terrorist attacks are primarily media events. You still have more to fear from the flu or accidents than you do from terrorists.

The Iraqi Road Map
Raed Jarrar
Raed in the Middle
June 8, 2005

The ongoing post-war-Iraq plan is not working. When the US administration stops lying to their people, they’ll start searching seriously for an "Exit Plan." The US administration and other governments that took or still taking a part of the collapsing coalition should adopt a three-point Iraq Roadmap to stop the on going crisis from their side and guarantee the safety of their troops, and give the space for Iraqis to work on healing Iraq from their side too.

1. Issue a Public Apology and Hold Responsibility for the Destruction of Iraq. A public apology is important for both launching a new start point in the Iraqi-International relationship, and paying respect to victims’ families. A public apology is very important to prove to the world and to Iraqis that the US-led occupation is honest in changing its strategy this time, unlike the half dozen of strategy changes that weren’t fruitful. A public apology is the best way to start a new page and try to start fixing the big mistake called "War of Liberation." Without even mentioning the international laws and treaties that were violated during and after the war, the war of occupation was proven to be a big lie when the very phony reason given to the world by the US-UK administrations justifying the war was confirmed to be incorrect, once no WMD were found at all.

2. Announce A Schedule For Complete Military Pullout From Iraq; a full withdrawal that leaves no permanent bases behind. I think a timetable of one year is more than enough for all the troops to leave safely without being attacked by the resistance. There are around 100 existing temporarily military bases in Iraq, the US administration is in the process of building at least 4 permanent bases around the country, using permanent building materials and methods (i.e. reinforced concrete slabs). These permanent bases are a part of the original plan of occupying Iraq, the plan that should be forgotten. Some small steps of asking the bush administration to start a full withdrawal are steps in the right direction, like what happened a couple of weeks ago with the Woolsey proposal.

3. Start fixing the mess caused by the war and occupation by both Paying Compensation And Bringing War Criminals To Justice. Iraq is paying 5% of its oil revenue for the last decade or more because of the unjustified war and occupation of Kuwait in 1990. Iraq should continue paying compensation to Kuwait and Kuwaitis because of the big mistake committed by Iraq, and the US led coalition should pay compensation to Iraq and Iraqis because of the big mistake committed by the so called "coalition of the willing." A national Iraqi government should fight for the rights of Iraq and Iraqis in getting compensation, and even stop paying compensation for Iraq’s mistakes until Iraq and Iraqis start receiving compensation that they deserve. In addition, the war crimes committed by the US led coalition won’t be forgotten or forgiven by Iraqis, Arabs, and Muslims until all war criminals are brought to justice.

Isn’t this easy? Wallahi it is really easy. Just three points, then Iraqis will start participating in solving the crisis and everything will be fine, instead of the current situation where the US-Hakim-Jaafari-Talbani administration are stumbling their way in Iraq with no public support. Can anyone believe that out of 81 Iraqi Army Battalions, there are 3 rated "green," which means they’re able to conduct operations independently? 25 months of occupation and three out of eighty one! What a failure!

How can it get any worse? I’ll tell you: Of the 26 larger brigades’ headquarters formed so far, only one earned the green rating. Yes, one!

The ongoing post-war-Iraq plan is not working, this fact is as clear as the sun. Anyone who doesn’t see it is either blind or Republican. When the US administration stops lying to their people, they’ll start seriously searching for an "Exit Plan." This Iraqi Road Map plan makes it safer for the invaders to pull-out their troops with minimum humiliation. Why wait to be kicked out while you can simply leave safe and sound?

The invaders can stop their daily casualties; tens of thousands of soldiers have been already killed and injured. Most of those are innocent people with no political opinions, why should we wait till more people are left to die for no reason?

Furthermore, the invaders can stop wasting their people’s money on nothing. The US people, living in a developing patriarchal conservative society, need this money to work on their own problems, and believe me they have a lot of problems. They need the hundreds of billions of dollars that are being spent on killing people worldwide to develop their education system, their health system, and the rest of their infrastructure systems. They even need the money for non-infrastructure issues like developing their human rights, racial and minorities’ rights, and women rights. The number of racial and gender crimes is unbelievable in the United States, men and women are not equal in the constitution, and gender and coloring are still significant factors that decide citizens’ opportunities. The development and life quality in the US is better than many countries in the Middle East, yet it’s not comparable to the achievements of many European countries. The US people and government should look up to some European countries and try to understand the meaning of freedom, democracy, and equality. The US has a long way to go through, and US citizens deserve a better administration that thinks more about enhancing the local conditions.

On the other hand, Iraqis will solve their local problems and rebuild the country by themselves, the same way they did many times in the past. Iraq and Iraqis have enough human resources and knowledge to manage their country, and they have a unique experience in post-war reconstruction which the rest of the world should learn from. Iraq and Iraqis don’t need any training or governance support; they don’t need any foreign assistance at the time being to help them stop the mess caused by the US led occupation. The best way in helping Iraqis is to leave them alone. Yet, a boost of some trillions of dollars of compensation from the murderers who attacked Iraq would make our life even easier.

Stopping the current cycle of violent and leaving Iraq is better than waiting until we lose this option. Admitting mistakes is better than going on and on to keep a false self-pride, right?

It’s a better scenario than another humiliating-Somalia-Style-Kick-Out when some dozens of US soldiers got killed and dragged through the streets… It’s a better scenario than another humiliating-Lebanese-Style-Kick-Out when hundreds of US soldiers were killed… It’s a better scenario than another humiliating-Vietnam-Style-Kick-Out when tens of thousands of US soldiers were killed.

Isn’t the idea of pulling-out with some dignity better for international image of the US and other countries in the coalition? Doesn’t that guarantee a better reputation for the always-condemned US Foreign Policy? I’m sure it is. The US people should work hard to enhance their government’s foreign policy.

So why should we ask the occupation troops to stay in Iraq? To prevent Iraqis from having a civil war? The answer is: NO.

For those who support the idea of keeping the occupation troops in Iraq under the excuse of "preventing Iraqis from having a bloody ethnic war," you don’t know what you’re talking about. Iraqis never had a civil war or any ethnic clashes; they know how to solve their problems by themselves and live in peace and harmony. The very hard experiences of the last month proved how Iraqi leaders have the capability of solving the most critical ethnic tensions in peaceful ways. We never had ethnic tensions before the occupation, we never identified ourselves depending on our ethnicity or religion before the occupation, and we never felt the sharp edges of our demographic partitions before the occupation. Iraqis will forget these imposed political partitions after the damned occupation ends. Even if there was a negligible possibility for an Iraqi civil war to happen, it will be under the US led occupation and because of it.

If any foreigner is worried about Iraqis and their country, just support pulling out the occupation force.

So why should we ask the occupation troops to stay in Iraq? To prevent other 9-11s in the future? The answer is also: NO.

The anti-US feelings are the strongest ever in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The best environment for extremists is the occupied Iraq. Pulling out from Iraq will decrease the extremism and anti-Americanism in the entire area. Staying in Iraq makes is more possible to increase the possibility of further attacks against the US and coalition countries. We should work together, as individuals and non-governmental groups, to fix the relationships between our populations and build more personal bridges to reduce the space of hatred and extremism in both sides.

The Jaafari-Hakim-Talbani government and their militias won’t stay "in control" for more than some days or weeks without the US troops support, this fake and imposed government will fall apart as soon as the occupation troops leave Iraq (whether they leave voluntarily or by being kicked out). Authentic Iraqi leaders with real public support will figure out their way to lead and rebuild the country, no help is needed from anyone outside. Even the expected minor clashes between Iraqi Kurds and Iraqi Arab in the north of Iraq will be contained in a way or another; the Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds can and will find a way to live under the national Iraqi flag, unlike the current corrupt and separatist political leaders that refuse even being around Iraq’s flag.

The US led coalition still has the time to pull out their forces. They can have a public amnesty with the Iraqi National Resistance and the Iraqi political leaders to make sure no side would attack the other. Why wait until bigger disasters happen and other thousands of US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis get killed for no reason?

Three simple steps:
Sorry, Bye-Bye, then some War Crimes Tribunals and lots of Compen$ation.

Iraq is for Iraqis; they're free to do whatever they want after the foreign occupiers go away.

An Iraqi Potemkin Village
Justin Raimondo
April 13, 2005

As we approach the second anniversary of the "liberation" of Iraq -- marked by the much-touted toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad's main square -- a simple juxtaposition of photos reveals the utter phoniness of the American project in the Middle East. Of course, was all over that particular deception as it was happening, but in revisiting it two years later, it is instructive to note that the same square was filled the other day by tens of thousands of Iraqis demanding that the U.S. leave Iraq forthwith. The myth and the reality are not merely divergent -- they are completely opposed to each other in every conceivable way, and nothing illustrates this more dramatically than the rhetoric of our deluded president, who recently addressed U.S. troops in Ft. Hood, Texas:

"As the Iraq democracy succeeds, that success is sending a message from Beirut to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a crushing defeat to the forces of tyranny and terror, and a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."

As radical Islamists-- in league with Iran -- tighten their grip on Iraqi society, George W. Bush's glorious "global democratic revolution" marches on. What baloney! Our president, however, is undeterred by the facts: "The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad will be recorded," he averred, "alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall, as one of the great moments in the history of liberty."

The toppling of the statue was a staged event, from start to finish, pulled off with tight camera angles (masking the paucity of the crowd) and the logistical and military support of American troops, who had just rolled into Baghdad. The fall of the Berlin Wall, on the other hand, was not brought about by an American invasion: it was a genuinely spontaneous revolution made possible by the German people themselves and the self-dissolution of the Communist parties of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

These two events, the fall of Baghdad and the toppling of the Berlin Wall, are not merely different: they are opposites in a dichotomy. What happened in Berlin, in 1989, was a revolution from below: what occurred in Iraq was a revolution from above, albeit one tarted up to look like a spontaneous popular uprising in support of the Anglo-American conquest.

This weird reversal demonstrates a useful general rule when trying to understand the utterances of our rulers and the course of American foreign policy these days: whatever officials say, the only way to translate it into meaningful terms is to turn it upside down. Thus, the only way to interpret the president's words, cited above, is to apply the inversion principle, so that it comes out something like this:

"As we draw down our troops and get ready to cut and run, just like Bob Novak predicted, the delivery of Iraq into the hands of radical Shi'ites aligned with Iran has proved to be a total disaster. So much for Iraq as the centerpiece of our vaunted 'global democratic revolution.' Oh well, back to the drawing board--"

After months of wrangling, the Iraqi government is finally in place, but, like the Frankenstein monster it is, the places where the body politic has been hastily stitched together are all too apparent. The creature is coming apart at the seams, as reported in this account of the ascension of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani to the Iraqi presidency:

"The irony of Talabani's rise from secessionist to president was underscored by the backdrop for his speech: the Iraqi flag, flown during Saddam's rule and still favored by many Iraqis. He and other Kurdish leaders refuse to fly it in Kurdistan. 'It is not a problem,' Talabani said after the session. 'Our brothers in the national assembly will adopt a new flag for the Iraqi people.' He noted that Iraq had changed flags with regimes in the past but said that if Iraqis insisted on keeping the current flag, 'we will bow in respect to their will.'"

What kind of a nation is it that cannot even agree on the design of its flag? This is a sore subject for the War Party, which doesn't like to be reminded of the various permutations undergone by the Iraqi government's chosen banner: first it was supposed to be a blue Islamic crescent on a white field and two bands of blue representing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, interspersed with a streak of yellow symbolizing the Kurds. That didn't go over all that well, and was quietly junked. The current design is, as Wikipedia points out, "unclear" -- although it may be the flag displayed in the photo here.

In any case, the Iraqi flag -- whatever it looks like -- doesn't fly in Kurdistan, and won't any time soon. There is too much history there: too much blood has been spilled. After all, soldiers marching under that flag killed countless Kurds in a series of relentless attacks launched by Saddam Hussein, with support from his local allies and hirelings -- including, at one point, Mr. Talabani.

As the BBC tells it, Talabani and his ally Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party were in the midst of fighting Saddam's troops, when, all of a sudden:

"Mr. Talabani's pragmatism again broke surface. One night in the spring of 1991 when staying at his camp in a ruined school in Mawat -- a mountain village north of Sulaymaniyah where he had taken refuge during earlier struggles with the rival KDP in the 1960s -- he disappeared, and nobody would say where he had gone. Then he popped up on television from Baghdad, kissing Saddam Hussein on the cheeks. Far from being outraged, the Kurds danced in celebration. They thought reconciliation with Baghdad must mean the war was over. As he embraced Saddam Hussein, little can he have imagined that one day he would be taking his place as president of the Iraqi republic."

Some would call this Talabani's "pragmatism," while others would describe it as backstabbing. Whatever terminology is used, one thing is clear: in Kurdistan, the U.S. is treading in some treacherous waters, where the flagship of Mr. Bush's "global democratic revolution" may well be wrecked on the rocks of ethnic separatism, overwhelmed by the rising tide of Kurdish nationalism.

Talk of Kurdish secession is "at a fever pitch," according to this Knight-Ridder report. Clearly buoyed by their second-place finish in the recent elections -- made possible by massive voter fraud as well as the Sunni boycott -- the Kurds are aggressively moving to consolidate their victory, taking over provincial governments and pushing out the Arab and Turkmen minorities, who they claim are occupying land and housing that really belongs to Kurds.

The northern city of Kirkuk, which is the center [.pdf] of Iraq's oil-producing region, is the focus of a looming struggle pitting Kurds against the rest of the country. The Kurds claim it as their historic "holy city," a kind of Kurdish Jerusalem, while the majority Arab and Turkmen population resists Kurdification measures imposed by the "democratically" elected authorities, who are committed to carrying out an ethnic-cleansing program on a massive scale. Lt. Col. Anthony Wickham, the U.S. Army's liaison to the Kirkuk council, puts it this way:

"Worst-case scenario is a civil war. The threat is out there. There are armed Arab groups, Turkomen groups that say they need to arm themselves, and the Kurds say, 'We know how to keep the peace, we'll deploy the peshmerga,' a militia that numbers in the tens of thousands."

The source of the problem is Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law, imposed by the U.S. at gunpoint, which, as conservative constitutional scholar Bruce Fein puts it, "seeks to restore Kirkuk to its pre-Saddam character." A bit of social engineering that even the most militant neocon would shy away from, but a concession granted nevertheless to the Kurds as the price of their cooperation. Article 58 instructs the transitional government:

"Expeditiously to take measures to remedy the injustice caused by the previous regime's practices in altering the demographic character of certain regions, including Kirkuk, by deporting and expelling individuals from their places of residence, forcing migration in and out of the region, settling individuals alien to the region, depriving the inhabitants of work, and correcting nationality. --

"With regard to residents who were deported, expelled, or who emigrated; [the Iraqi Transitional Government] shall, in accordance with the statute of the Iraqi Property Claims Commission and other measures within the law, within a reasonable period of time, restore the residents to their homes and property, or, where this is unfeasible, shall provide just compensation."

In an effort to break up the Kurdish opposition to his rule, Saddam Hussein sought to "Arabize" sections of Iraqi Kurdistan, and large numbers of Arab Iraqis were encouraged by the regime to relocate over a period of some 20 years: today, Kirkuk is no longer populated chiefly by Kurds. But the Kurdish politicians plan to regain their majority by bringing in their own people, who are claiming to be the "true" inhabitants and owners of Kirkuk and environs.

How this de-Arabization process can ever be fairly implemented, even under the most favorable circumstances, is a question hardly anyone seems prepared to answer. Our confidence, at any rate, should not be bolstered by the knowledge that the head of the committee in charge of implementing Article 58 appears to be an official of the Iraqi Communist Party. Let's hope they don't model their relocation plans after Joseph Stalin's.

Kirkuk, and the whole of Kurdistan, is a cauldron of ethnic hatred and incipient violence that threatens to overflow at any moment. The Kurdish-dominated town councils and police are busy carrying out their own "de-Arabization" program, just as ruthlessly as the Shi'ites are intent on carrying out their "de-Ba'athification" process, i.e., purges of the police and the armed forces. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on a surprise visit to Iraq, yesterday warned against the dangers of the latter -- but all indications point to the helplessness of the U.S. occupiers in the face of the winning Shi'ite coalition's determination to cement its own power in place permanently. Rumsfeld was clear about the administration's impatience in dealing with any roadblocks to a relatively quick draw-down of American troops levels: we aren't going to wait for "perfection" in the political process, he averred, even as he warned of the deleterious effects factional and sectarian purges might have on the ability of the Iraqi government to keep order.

The great danger is that America's Iraqi Potemkin village could collapse before the Bush administration convinces itself that our "victory strategy" -- as opposed to our "exit strategy," which Rummy claims we don't have -- has succeeded. This crisis, too, is rooted in the Transitional Administrative Law, which contains a whole section devoted to disqualifying ex-Ba'athist leaders of any standing from running for or holding office, effectively disenfranchising most of the Sunni elite. It is a case of the American-hatched chickens coming home to roost. In the meantime, the terrors of "democratic" Iraq are unfolding before our eyes--

When a roadside bomb went off near a truck carrying Kurdish police en route to a fellow policeman's funeral, no leads could be found. The next day, police returned to the scene of the crime and rounded up "potential witnesses" (i.e., anybody and everybody in sight):

"Among them were two Turkmen vegetable vendors. While in custody, both vendors were beaten and tortured by a Kurdish officer who pushed lit cigarettes into their bodies, lashed them with cables and punched and kicked them in their faces, according to family accounts verified by U.S. military officials.

"The two vendors were cousins of Tahsin Mohammed Kahya, a Turkmen who's the chair of the Kirkuk council and an immensely popular local politician."

The "global democratic revolution" -- ain't it lovely?

In Baghdad, hundreds of thousands of radical Islamists demand the U.S. get out, while in Basra and the south of Iraq, Christians fear for their lives, women don't dare go out on the street unveiled, and Islamic law is enforced by fundamentalist goon squads that roam the streets in search of heretics and infidels -- as the Brits and the "secular" authorities look on helplessly.

If this is a "victory strategy," one shudders to think what a defeat would look like.

US Military Personnel Growing Critical of the War in Iraq
Georg Mascolo and Siegesmund von Ilsemann
Der Spiegel
January 17, 2005

The war is over, at least as far as Darrell Anderson is concerned. Anderson, a 22-year-old GI from Lexington, Kentucky, deserted a week ago, heading across the US' loosely controlled border with Canada. When his fellow soldiers in the First US Tank Division, stationed in Hessen, Germany, ship out to Iraq for their second tour of duty, he'll be in Canada.

Anderson spent seven months in Iraq last year as a part of a unit assigned the dangerous mission of guarding police stations in Baghdad. He was wounded by grenade shrapnel during an insurgent attack, was awarded the Purple Heart and allowed to spend Christmas at home in the United States. But instead of returning to duty, Anderson fled to Toronto.

Now he's a deserter and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. If apprehended, he faces several years in a US military prison. In justifying his desertion, Anderson says: "I can't go back to this war. I don't want to kill innocent people." He talks about the constant pressure soldiers face to make decisions in the daily grind of war. Once, when a car came too close to their Baghdad checkpoint, his commanding officer ordered him to shoot, even though Anderson could only make out a man and children in the vehicle. The soldier refused. "Next time you shoot," his commanding officer barked.

On another occasion, the safety on his automatic weapon was all that prevented Anderson from losing control. "I was holding a heavily injured comrade in my arms, there was blood all over the place, and Iraqis were cheering all around us," he recalls. "I was so furious that all I wanted to do was kill someone, anyone."

Anderson has now applied for political asylum in Canada. His attorney, Jeffry House, was once one of the 50,000 draft dodgers who fled to Canada to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. Deserters who are now fleeing to Canada to avoid the Iraq war have reawakened memories of an exodus that took place more than thirty years ago. House says: "Every day I get calls from at least two soldiers looking for a way out."

Revolt no longer Rare

Deserting US recruits -- once a rarity -- are not alone in their search. Three months after being reelected and immediately prior to what is expected to be a triumphant inaugural party to mark the start of his second term, US President George W. Bush will be hard-pressed not to reevaluate the strategy for the deployment of US troops in Iraq. He faces massive doubts among the members of his own military, who are becoming increasingly vocal in their opinion that the US war with Iraqi insurgents is being conducted with insufficient manpower and equipment. Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, warns that his troops in Iraq have "deteriorated into a broken force."

A revolt seems to be taking place within the ranks. Even though daily bomb attacks in Iraq and the latest death toll of 1,361 US soldiers have yet to trigger any significant reversal in US public opinion, and even though President Bush reiterated last week that the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein, Bush's soldiers and officers seem increasingly convinced that the opposite is true. Almost without warning, America's armed forces, superior to any of the world's other militaries but faced with severe personnel shortages, are suddenly encountering almost insurmountable obstacles -- politically, strategically and financially.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld particularly faces growing criticism. In light of the disastrous situation on the ground in Iraq, even fellow Republicans are quietly demanding his removal and calling for a change in strategy. Rumsfeld bears the brunt of the blame for the precarious situation in which the US military now finds itself. The Iraq war has cost US taxpayers more than $150 billion to date, with the Pentagon spending $4.5 billion a month on its campaign in Iraq.

And there appears to be no end in sight, at least for the time being. Rumsfeld, in an attempt to boost morale among his frustrated troops, has said that he expects the Americans to withdraw from Iraq within his second four-year term as Secretary of Defense. However, only the most optimistic of the president's closest advisors believe that the situation in Iraq will improve in the wake of the January 30 elections.

Retired general D. Brent Scowcraft, national security advisor under the first President Bush, sees the election as providing nothing but "substantial potential for expanding the conflict." Last week, Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, commander of US ground forces in Iraq, openly admitted that regular elections are no longer a likely scenario in four of Iraq's 18 provinces. Because a quarter of the Iraqi population lives in these provinces, the question arises as to how meaningful this election, now called into jeopardy by increasingly violent attacks, can be.

Even though the 125,000-strong Iraq security forces are not even remotely capable of keeping the peace in their own country, politicians in Washington have already begun debating the possibility of a withdrawal of US forces. During Congress' Christmas recess, many lawmakers were forced to respond to questions from their constituents who wanted at least some indication of whether there is an end in sight to the US' bloody adventure in Iraq. Last week, outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell confessed that he hopes the withdrawal will get underway this year.

Retired four-star general Gary Luck has been sent to Iraq to determine how and how quickly the United States can withdraw from the Iraqi conflict without losing face. Within a few weeks, he is expected to provide Rumsfeld with an unfiltered assessment of the current situation and of the overall US Iraq strategy. According to retired general Sir Michael Rose, the well-respected former commander of Britain's contingent of UN peacekeepers in Bosnia, "the Americans' current strategy clearly isn't working."

Recruitment Getting Tougher

The Pentagon's original plans called for the withdrawal of US forces by September 2003. After that, a small protective force was to remain behind to guaranty security in postwar Iraq. Until now, however, only US allies have withdrawn their troops, including Ukraine, which announced its plans to withdraw just last week.

The increasingly heated debate in the United States over withdrawal from Iraq is being fueled by the fact that US forces stationed in and around Baghdad have long since ceased to consist entirely of professional military personnel. 40 percent of the 150,000 US troops in Iraq are army reservists or members of the National Guard. These troops, whose service normally consists of occasional weekend drills and yearly exercises, are people who have long since turned to other more or less successful careers. Now, they have been forced to temporarily abandon those careers to serve in Iraq, an obligation hardly any of these part-time soldiers had expected.

As a result, both the Army Reserves and National Guard are having trouble recruiting new members. "It's the mothers who are warning their kids about going to war," complains Sergeant Kevin Hudgins, a Tennessee recruiter. "In the past, the kids saw it as an easy way to pay for college," says Curtis Mills, a veteran who was severely wounded in Iraq. The National Guard is currently 30 percent shy of its recruitment goals. To make up for the difference, it is introducing an incentive system under which new recruits will receive up to $10,000 to join the National Guard.

Indignation is growing, especially among reservists once derided as weekend warriors. Although national guardsmen and reservists are generally assigned to support positions, their jobs as mechanics, drivers and cooks are also dangerous, as demonstrated by last month's suicide attack on a military mess hall near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

National Guard commander Steven Blum has asked the Pentagon for $20 billion, with the bulk of the requested funds earmarked for re-outfitting his troops, who were previously treated as second-class soldiers when it came to equipment. "I would have felt safer in a Volvo than in our Humvee," complains Richard Murphy, who was compelled to serve for 15 months in Iraq. In Alabama, veterans and schoolchildren even forged home-made armor to protect jeeps when their local National Guard troop was given its marching orders.

The regular armed forces will also find their patriotism severely tested in coming months as the Pentagon uses every trick it knows to extend tours of duty by up to one year. A new rule, for example, prohibits soldiers from leaving the service if their unit is scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq within three months' time.

How Can Security Be Improved?

Proposals being considered to improve the security situation in Iraq also show signs of desperation. For the first time, regular soldiers are being offered training to fight insurgents. Until now, such special training was reserved for members of the elite forces and for marine infantry troops. Part of the training includes a marines' training manual written in 1940. Some is helpful, but parts are completely antiquated. For instance, there is a section labeled "working with animals," (mules, mostly) and another on "mixed-race" companies. According to the manual, such companies are unusually "unmanageable due to a lack of strong character."

Models that have long since been discarded as failures are hectically being revived. For example, US military advisors are to be embedded as supervisors and support personnel within units of the new Iraqi army, who have the dubious but well-deserved reputation of fleeing the minute they come under fire.

Precisely the same recipe was incapable of stopping the Vietnam debacle 40 years ago. Military officials are also talking about forming death squads, whose job would be to track down and eliminate the insurgents within the territory they control or to which they normally withdraw. This would include foreign territory beyond the borders of Iraq. It's a strategy that was largely discredited during civil wars in Latin American in the 1970s.

These experiences have led military personnel in particular to call for a rethinking of Washington's strategy. The Pentagon's civilian leadership has not been faced with so much criticism from within its own ranks since the Vietnam War. Retired general D. Barry McCaffrey is even concerned that "the army will lose its base in the next 24 months." General Peter Schoomaker, the current Chief of Staff of the US Army, has already warned Congress against drastic consequences, saying that "it may be necessary to augment the regular armed forces," something that Rumsfeld wants to avoid at all costs, mainly for budgetary reasons.

To maintain a security force of 150,000 troops in Iraq in the longer term, the United States will in fact need three times as many soldiers. According to military planners, a third of these troops would be preparing for deployment, a third would actually be deployed, and a third would be involved in post-deployment work or on vacation.

This approach would thus require 450,000 troops to be available for Iraq at all times. However, the entire US armed forces, which would provide the lion's share of this military force, currently comprises only 500,000 troops. It's mainly because of these anticipated personnel needs that US military commanders are opposed to Rumsfeld's pet project -- converting the US armed forces into a relatively small but highly mobile high-tech commando force designed for lightning missions throughout the world. Military commanders argue that although this concept may have ensured the US a rapid initial victory over Iraq, it cannot guarantee peace in Iraq.

But it is precisely the military's desire for more troops that could unleash a public debate over the reintroduction of compulsory military service -- a discussion that no Washington politician of any stripe truly wants to tackle. The threat of a general draft could trigger a massive exodus to Canada which, until now, has only been an option occasionally resorted to by American opponents of the war. But even the few deserters that have already fled have put the Canadian government into an embarrassing bind.

Until now, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has responded evasively to asylum requests filed by US soldiers. "We are a nation of immigrants and I have no intention of discriminating against anyone," he explained. But even though the Iraq war is as unpopular in Canada as US President George W. Bush himself, Martin knows full well that Washington would view Canada's granting asylum to GIs from south of the border as an open insult.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

The Wedge Politics of Osama bin Laden
Patrick J. Buchanan
November 3, 2004

To the workers, peasants and soldiers of a war-weary Russia in 1917, Lenin promised "peace, land and bread." To Germans of the Great Depression, Hitler promised an end to war reparations and the overturning of the injustices of Versailles.

Now, Osama bin Laden, with his remarkable videotape on the eve of the U.S. election, seeks to embed his cause – overthrow of the regimes of the Arab world, expulsion of the Americans and the re-establishment of an Islamic caliphate – with the causes of Arab nationalism and independence.

He is also attempting a transformation of himself – a la Ben Bella, Kenyatta, and Mandela – from terrorist and guerrilla into elder statesman.

Asserting authorship of 9/11, for which he may have been only the financier, Osama claims the idea of bringing down the towers of the World Trade Center came to him in a vision, as retribution, as he watched Israel, with the aid of the U.S. 6th Fleet, destroy the towers of Beirut during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Osama is fabricating here an ex post facto justification for mass murder. But, more than that, by invoking the causes of the Lebanese and Palestinians, by altering his dress and demeanor, he is trying to redefine himself as no longer an Islamist terrorist, but a visionary, the leader of a great and historic cause.

That he is lying, that there is nothing in his personal history to suggest he came upon the idea of dropping the World Trade Center towers in 1982, is irrelevant. For, to Osama, the truth is irrelevant. After all, Lenin never intended to give the Russian people land or peace, and Hitler's agenda was somewhat broader than he let on to President Hindenburg in 1933.

But Osama's fabrications serve his purposes, one of which is to drive wedges between Arab peoples and their rulers, and Western peoples and their rulers.

Taking a page out of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, bin Laden suggests that the seven minutes during which President Bush sat listening to the reading of My Pet Goat after he learned the second tower had been hit enabled Al Qaeda to succeed.

Such mockery and insult is designed to rally an impatient and impotent "Arab Street," and convert this conflict in Arab eyes into a great climactic struggle, with Bush as leader of the Crusaders and bin Laden as a taunting Saladin. By attacking Bush personally, bin Laden puts himself on a plane with the leader of the world's greatest power.

He goes on to attack the "sons of kings and presidents" who rule in the Arab world as arrogant and greedy collaborators and moral kinsmen of the Bush dynasty, and writes directly to Americans:

"Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands. Each state that doesn't mess with our security has automatically secured their security." If you wish to be as safe as Sweden, bin Laden is saying, all you need do is act like Sweden and end your interventions in our Middle East.

What bin Laden is saying here is in conscious echo of what many have said: The terrorists of 9/11 were over here because we were over there. We are not hated for our principles. We are hated for our policies. The neo-imperial presence of U.S. troops on Arab soil, our support of Israel's dispossession of the Palestinian people, our backing of regimes in the Arab world that deny their people freedom and rights we champion before the world – this is why we are hated; this is why we were attacked.

So says Osama bin Laden.

His grand vision, of course, is not at all about freedom as we know it. It is about the overthrow of existing Arab regimes and resurrection of a caliphate where militant Islam – i.e., universal submission to the will of Allah – is the established faith of the superpower destined to rule the world.

The problem with Osama's message is the messenger, a man complicit in the murder of 3,000 innocents. He can never escape it. It is as though we were given a moderate message against the injustices of Waco and Ruby Ridge from Timothy McVeigh, after Oklahoma City.

Osama's moderate words, his appearance – the robes and turban, with no AK-47 – suggest he is also making his case to history. Should his end come at America's hands, he wishes to be remembered as one who had to resort to extreme methods to rectify extreme injustices, a man who died fighting in a great and noble cause.

Unfortunately, that is probably how he will be remembered by hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims. And we should not cease to ask ourselves why.

[Read the full text of bin Laden's speech.]


Kerry Will Restore American Dignity
Editorial, The Lone Star Iconoclast
(George Bush's hometown paper)
September 28, 2004

Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:
- Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.
- Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans' benefits and military pay.
- Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.
- Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.
- Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.
- Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and
- Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.

The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.

Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry, based not only on the things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to normality that Kerry says our country needs.

Four items trouble us the most about the Bush administration: his initiatives to disable the Social Security system, the deteriorating state of the American economy, a dangerous shift away from the basic freedoms established by our founding fathers, and his continuous mistakes regarding terrorism and Iraq.

President Bush has announced plans to change the Social Security system as we know it by privatizing it, which when considering all the tangents related to such a change, would put the entire economy in a dramatic tailspin.

The Social Security Trust Fund actually lends money to the rest of the government in exchange for government bonds, which is how the system must work by law, but how do you later repay Social Security while you are running a huge deficit? It's impossible, without raising taxes sometime in the future or becoming fiscally responsible now. Social Security money is being used to escalate our deficit and, at the same time, mask a much larger government deficit, instead of paying down the national debt, which would be a proper use, to guarantee a future gain.

Privatization is problematic in that it would subject Social Security to the ups, downs, and outright crashes of the Stock Market. It would take millions in brokerage fees and commissions out of the system, and, unless we have assurance that the Ivan Boeskys and Ken Lays of the world will be caught and punished as a deterrent, subject both the Market and the Social Security Fund to fraud and market manipulation, not to mention devastate and ruin multitudes of American families that would find their lives lost to starvation, shame, and isolation.

Kerry wants to keep Social Security, which each of us already owns. He says that the program is manageable, since it is projected to be solvent through 2042, with use of its trust funds. This would give ample time to strengthen the economy, reduce the budget deficit the Bush administration has created, and, therefore, bolster the program as needed to fit ever-changing demographics.

Our senior citizens depend upon Social Security. Bush's answer is radical and uncalled for, and would result in chaos as Americans have never experienced. Do we really want to risk the future of Social Security on Bush by spinning the wheel of uncertainty?

In those dark hours after the World Trade Center attacks, Americans rallied together with a new sense of patriotism. We were ready to follow Bush's lead through any travail.

He let us down.

When he finally emerged from his hide-outs on remote military bases well after the first crucial hours following the attack, he gave sound-bytes instead of solutions.

He did not trust us to be ready to sacrifice, build up our public and private security infrastructure, or cut down on our energy use to put economic pressure on the enemy in all the nations where he hides. He merely told us to shop, spend, and pretend nothing was wrong.

Rather than using the billions of dollars expended on the invasion of Iraq to shore up our boundaries and go after Osama bin Laden and the Saudi Arabian terrorists, the funds were used to initiate a war with what Bush called a more immediate menace, Saddam Hussein, in oil-rich Iraq. After all, Bush said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction trained on America. We believed him, just as we believed it when he reported that Iraq was the heart of terrorism. We trusted him.

The Iconoclast, the President's hometown newspaper, took Bush on his word and editorialized in favor of the invasion. The newspaper's publisher promoted Bush and the invasion of Iraq to Londoners in a BBC interview during the time that the administration was wooing the support of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Again, he let us down.

We presumed the President had solid proof of the existence of these weapons, what and where they were, even as the search continued. Otherwise, our troops would be in much greater danger and the premise for a hurried-up invasion would be moot, allowing more time to solicit assistance from our allies.

Instead we were duped into following yet another privileged agenda. Now he argues unconvincingly that Iraq was providing safe harbor to terrorists, his new key justification for the invasion. It is like arguing that America provided safe harbor to terrorists leading to 9/11.

Once and for all, George Bush was President of the United States on that day. No one else. He had been President nine months, he had been officially warned of just such an attack a full month before it happened. As President, ultimately he and only he was responsible for our failure to avert those attacks.

We should expect that a sitting President would vacation less, if at all, and instead tend to the business of running the country, especially if he is, as he likes to boast, a "wartime president." America is in service 365 days a year. We don't need a part-time President who does not show up for duty as Commander-In-Chief until he is forced to, and who is in a constant state of blameless denial when things don't get done.

What has evolved from the virtual go-it-alone conquest of Iraq is more gruesome than a stain on a White House intern's dress. America's reputation and influence in the world has diminished, leaving us with brute force as our most persuasive voice.

Iraq is now a quagmire: no WMDs, no substantive link between Saddam and Osama, and no workable plan for the withdrawal of our troops. We are asked to go along on faith. But remember, blind patriotism can be a dangerous thing and "spin" will not bring back to life a dead soldier; certainly not a thousand of them.

Kerry has remained true to his vote granting the President the authority to use the threat of war to intimidate Saddam Hussein into allowing weapons inspections. He believes President Bush rushed into war before the inspectors finished their jobs.

Kerry also voted against President Bush's $87 billion for troop funding because the bill promoted poor policy in Iraq, privileged Halliburton and other corporate friends of the Bush administration to profiteer from the war, and forced debt upon future generations of Americans.

Kerry's four-point plan for Iraq is realistic, wise, strong, and correct. With the help from our European and Middle Eastern allies, his plan is to train Iraqi security forces, involve Iraqis in their rebuilding and constitution-writing processes, forgive Iraq's multi-billion dollar debts, and convene a regional conference with Iraq's neighbors in order to secure a pledge of respect for Iraq's borders and non-interference in Iraq's internal affairs.

The publishers of the Iconoclast differ with Bush on other issues, including the denial of stem cell research, shortchanging veterans' entitlements, cutting school programs and grants, dictating what our children learn through a thought-controlling "test" from Washington rather than allowing local school boards and parents to decide how young people should be taught, ignoring the environment, and creating extraneous language in the Patriot Act that removes some of the very freedoms that our founding fathers and generations of soldiers fought so hard to preserve.

We are concerned about the vast exportation of jobs to other countries, due in large part to policies carried out by Bush appointees. Funds previously geared at retention of small companies are being given to larger concerns, such as Halliburton -- companies with strong ties to oil and gas. Job training has been cut every year that Bush has resided at the White House.

Then there is his resolve to inadequately finance Homeland Security and to cut the Community Oriented Policing Program (COPS) by 94 percent, to reduce money for rural development, to slash appropriations for the Small Business Administration, and to under-fund veterans' programs.

Likewise troubling is that President Bush fought against the creation of the 9/11 Commission and is yet to embrace its recommendations. Vice President Cheney's Halliburton has been awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts without undergoing any meaningful bid process -- an enormous conflict of interest -- plus the company has been significantly raiding the funds of Export-Import Bank of America, reducing investment that could have gone toward small business trade.

When examined based on all the facts, Kerry's voting record is enviable and echoes that of many Bush allies who are aghast at how the Bush administration has destroyed the American economy. Compared to Bush on economic issues, Kerry would be an arch-conservative, providing for Americans first. He has what it takes to right our wronged economy.

The re-election of George W. Bush would be a mandate to continue on our present course of chaos. We cannot afford to double the debt that we already have. We need to be moving in the opposite direction.

John Kerry has 30 years of experience looking out for the American people and can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America the dignity she so craves and deserves. He has served us well as a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and has had a successful career as a district attorney, lieutenant governor, and senator.

Kerry has a positive vision for America, plus the proven intelligence, good sense, and guts to make it happen.

That's why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country.

The Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry.

Copyright 2004 The Lone Star Iconoclast.

Can a Vietnamese-American Be Heard?
Tiana Thi Thanh Nga
Common Dreams
September 9, 2004

Vietnam is a country, not a war. Our people have survived foreign invasions for thousands of years. With all these charges and counter charges on the Swift Boat Race, let's have some understanding for the Vietnamese who gave so much for their independence and reunification. To lance our wounds, we have to examine and reconcile with the past, so all sides can participate in a healing that has only just BEGUN.

John F. Kerry earned my deep gratitude when he demonstrated such compassion for both Vietnamese and Americans in his courageous stand against the injustices of the war 30 years ago. It is a sad reflection on the American political process that he should be torn away from important current issues and forced to defend his record. Why is the media extending full blown coverage to an unprecedented dispute over war medals precipitated by the dirty politics of Karl Rove and company?

It is tragic that to this day, most American soldiers did not know why they were sent halfway across the world on missions to kill for 10,000 days. Americans should care how survivors on BOTH sides are still coping with the damage. Like in the media coverage of the war, the voices and experiences of my native Vietnamese continue to be not heard.

Kerry's critics are selectively using their Vietnam experiences today as they did then, to justify a brutal war that most Americans turned against and prefer to forget. Their false charges are being widely debunked.

But who is remembering the millions of Vietnamese non-combatants who died in that conflict? They have become non-persons once again in this debate. Their families live in Apocalypse Forever, and the reasons why remains in America an argument without end. Vietnam's TV war memories are etched in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. Just go to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington and witness a daily parade of the bereaved. The same is true in Vietnam where I have met and cried with Vietnamese veterans on all sides of the conflict. This includes American vets who returned to Vietnam to help rebuild what their government forced them to destroy.

John Kerry was one of these pro-active vets who demonstrated humane concern for my people. I filmed him on three occasions in Vietnam on trips that brought healing and reunification to both sides. One was on an emotional bicycle ride from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City with disabled Vietnamese and American vets. Senators Kerry, John McCain and Chuck Robb invited me to show my film at a Capitol Hill event they hosted for Vet Congressmen and Senators.

What many Americans don't know is that these two Johns (Kerry and McCain) who fought in Vietnam, turned US-Vietnam relations around for the better. For example, both worked tirelessly to convince President Clinton to lift the trade embargo, thereby preventing future deaths of malnourished Vietnamese babies in need of antibiotics. It took a great deal of personal courage for these two United States Senators to debunk the myths of thousands of POW's and MIA's and take a stand for reconciliation. Well aware that the Vietnamese still have over one hundred thousand MIA's, they presided over ceremonies bringing American bones back to their loved ones.

What has President Bush done? There is so much more yet to be addressed. Agent Orange research, for one, before it is too late. VN is the laboratory since we sprayed the toxic chemicals there. I have filmed Vietnamese postwar survivors living among the rubble in post war Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos with serious Agent Orange related illnesses. Innocent children still die every year from landmines -- a persistent daily reminder of a war we want to simply forget.

Next April 30th marks the 30 year anniversary of the war's official end. Here we have the opportunity to mark the past in a manner that positively affects future generations. The Swift Boat controversy has brought Vietnam back to the front pages but for the wrong reasons. Yet, this critical juncture presents the opportunity to reclaim the skeletons so that we may learn from the past and take essential steps to separate reality from myth.

Look in the mirror, America, before you rewrite history again: Our ghosts are there alongside yours. We are not extras in The Deer Hunter, a Hollywood movie showing us in black PJ's playing Russian roulette with your innocent young boys. Many of us are Americans now, and along with the 80 million Vietnamese in Vietnam, we all share a common bond: we want the truth from our leaders.

Tiana (Thi Thanh Nga Transparent Moon) is a filmmaker, actor and performer. She made the critically acclaimed award winning "From Hollywood to Hanoi" filmed all over Vietnam, available from Indochina Film/Arts.

Eminent Diplomatic and Military Leaders Condemn Bush
Committee of Diplomats & Military Commanders for Change
June 16, 2004

[Our current featured essay is short and to the point. Its list of signatories is long and even more to the point.]

The undersigned have held positions of responsibility for the planning and execution of American foreign and defense policy. Collectively, we have served every president since Harry S. Truman. Some of us are Democrats, some are Republicans or Independents, many voted for George W. Bush. But we all believe that current Administration policies have failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership. Serious issues are at stake. We need a change.

From the outset, President George W. Bush adopted an overbearing approach to America’s role in the world, relying upon military might and righteousness, insensitive to the concerns of traditional friends and allies, and disdainful of the United Nations. Instead of building upon America’s great economic and moral strength to lead other nations in a coordinated campaign to address the causes of terrorism and to stifle its resources, the Administration, motivated more by ideology than by reasoned analysis, struck out on its own. It led the United States into an ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain. It justified the invasion of Iraq by manipulation of uncertain intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, and by a cynical campaign to persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al Qaeda and the attacks of September 11. The evidence did not support this argument.

Our security has been weakened. While American airmen and women, marines, soldiers and sailors have performed gallantly, our armed forces were not prepared for military occupation and nation building. Public opinion polls throughout the world report hostility toward us. Muslim youth are turning to anti-American terrorism. Never in the two and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted. No loyal American would question our ultimate right to act alone in our national interest; but responsible leadership would not turn to unilateral military action before diplomacy had been thoroughly explored.

The United States suffers from close identification with autocratic regimes in the Muslim world, and from the perception of unquestioning support for the policies and actions of the present Israeli Government. To enhance credibility with Islamic peoples we must pursue courageous, energetic and balanced efforts to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and policies that encourage responsible democratic reforms.

We face profound challenges in the 21st Century: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, unequal distribution of wealth and the fruits of globalization, terrorism, environmental degradation, population growth in the developing world, HIV/AIDS, ethnic and religious confrontations. Such problems can not be resolved by military force, nor by the sole remaining superpower alone; they demand patient, coordinated global effort under the leadership of the United States.

The Bush Administration has shown that it does not grasp these circumstances of the new era, and is not able to rise to the responsibilities of world leadership in either style or substance. It is time for a change.

The Honorable Avis T. Bohlen
Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, 1999
Ambassador to Bulgaria, 1996
District of Columbia

Admiral William J. Crowe, USN, Ret.
Chairman, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Committee, 1993
Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, 1993
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1985
Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Command

The Honorable Jeffrey S. Davidow
Ambassador to Mexico, 1998
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, 1996
Ambassador to Venezuela, 1993
Ambassador to Zambia, 1988

The Honorable William A. DePree
Ambassador to Bangladesh, 1987
Director of State Department Management Operations, 1983
Ambassador to Mozambique, 1976

The Honorable Donald B. Easum
Ambassador to Nigeria, 1975
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1974
Ambassador to Upper Volta, 1971

The Honorable Charles W. Freeman, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs, 1993
Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1989
Rhode Island

The Honorable William C. Harrop
Ambassador to Israel, 1991
Ambassador to Zaire, 1987
Inspector General of the State Department and Foreign Service, 1983
Ambassador to Kenya and Seychelles, 1980
Ambassador to Guinea, 1975
New Jersey

The Honorable Arthur A. Hartman
Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1981
Ambassador to France, 1977
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, 1973
New Jersey

General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC, Ret.
Commander in Chief, United States Central Command, 1991
Deputy Chief of Staff, Marine Corps, 1990
Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, 1987

The Honorable H. Allen Holmes
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, 1993
Ambassador at Large for Burdensharing, 1989
Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs, 1986
Ambassador to Portugal, 1982

The Honorable Robert V. Keeley
Ambassador to Greece, 1985
Ambassador to Zimbabwe, 1980
Ambassador to Mauritius, 1976

The Honorable Samuel W. Lewis
Director of State Department Policy and Planning, 1993
Ambassador to Israel, 1977
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, 1975

The Honorable Princeton N. Lyman
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, 1997
Ambassador to South Africa, 1992
Director, Bureau of Refugee Programs, 1989
Ambassador to Nigeria, 1986

The Honorable Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987
Director for European and Soviet Affairs, National Security Council, 1983
Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, 1981

The Honorable Donald F. McHenry
Ambassador and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1979

General Merrill A. (Tony) McPeak, USAF, Ret.
Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, 1990
Commander in Chief, Pacific Air Forces, 1988
Commander, 12th Air Force and U.S. Southern Command Air Forces, 1987

The Honorable George E. Moose
Representative, United Nations European Office, 1997
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1993
Ambassador to Senegal, 1988
Director, State Department Bureau of Management Operations, 1987
Ambassador to Benin, 1983

The Honorable David D. Newsom
Secretary of State ad interim, 1981
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, 1978
Ambassador to the Philippines, 1977
Ambassador to Indonesia, 1973
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1969
Ambassador to Libya, 1965

The Honorable Phyllis E. Oakley
Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, 1997
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, 1994

The Honorable Robert Oakley
Special Envoy for Somalia, 1992
Ambassador to Pakistan, 1988
Ambassador to Somalia.1982
Ambassador to Zaire, 1979

The Honorable James D. Phillips
Diplomat-in-Residence, the Carter Center of Emory University, 1994
Ambassador to the Republic of Congo, 1990
Ambassador to Burundi, 1986

The Honorable John E. Reinhardt
Director of the United States Information Agency, 1977
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, 1975
Ambassador to Nigeria, 1971

General William Y. Smith, USAF, Ret.
Chief of Staff for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, 1979
Assistant to the Chairman, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1975
Director of National Security Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary
of Defense for International Security Affairs, 1974

The Honorable Ronald I. Spiers
Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Political Affairs, 1989
Under Secretary of State for Management, 1983
Ambassador to Pakistan, 1981
Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, 1980
Ambassador to Turkey, 1977
Ambassador to The Bahamas, 1973
Director, State Department Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, 1969

The Honorable Michael E. Sterner
Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, 1974
New York

Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN, Ret.
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1977
Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (NATO), 1975
Commander, U.S. Second Fleet, 1974

The Honorable Alexander F. Watson
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, 1993
Ambassador to Brazil, 1992
Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1989
Ambassador to Peru, 1986

The Madness of President George
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
April 16, 2004

Bush should hold more press conferences, to provide us with ever more windows into the mind of one of the most dangerous men ever to occupy the White House.

Why must we watch? We don't want to end up like pathetic George – blind to reality, muttering clichés, oblivious to the wreckage and evil for which he is responsible. We need to know the truth, and the truth that this man is dangerous came out in spades in his press conference.

Why is he dangerous? He is willfully ignorant of what is going on in Iraq but cocksure that not only is he doing the right thing, but that God is blessing and directing his every decision, even to the point that he imagines himself to be infallible (or, rather, if he is not infallible, he cannot generate any evidence of fallibility when asked).

Why is he one of the most dangerous? Because he autocratically heads the most powerful and well-armed state in the history of the world. He not only has his finger on the button. He has access to many thousands of weapons of mass destruction, and has shown himself to be willing to use them against anyone he regards as a foe. By comparison to his predecessor in the White House, Bush is alarming, the kind of president who seems capable of blowing up the world and calling it good.

(I know that articles like this are supposed to be dispassionate in order to be more persuasive. I am supposed to recite the facts without rhetoric to provide a kind of slowly burning buildup in order to convert those who think George is nothing but a godly man heading the free world’s efforts to protect itself against barbaric enemies. But the situation in which we live is so desperate, it seems to call forth more frank talk. People who are still defending George don't need patient argument; they need shock therapy.)

If you doubt that what I say here is true, see the transcript. In much of what he says, he gets the truth exactly backwards in ways that anyone who reads the news can discern. He admits (for the first time?) that the US is militarily occupying Iraq but claims that those who resist are rejecting "freedom" and "self government." This is like the rapist giving sermons on the need to respect the physical integrity and dignity of his victims.

The occupier who announces to the people through a bullhorn "Submit or Die!" has some chutzpah claiming to be a liberator. This is beyond Orwell. It's evil, crazy, or both. The officer who said this ought to have his badges of rank ripped off. The president who ignores this ought to be impeached. The politicians who are ablaze in the face of it ought to be voted out of office. Websites that reviewed that speech the way they review a movie or play (yes, that's you NRO) ought to suffer everlasting disgrace.

We must first deal with the problem that George seems genuinely mad. There was a riddle in nearly every sentence. He spoke like someone dramatically out of touch with what everyone else knows. The whole scene was a bit wacky, as if the uncle who everyone knows is crazy came to the family reunion and was humored because he is family. People were going easy on George just because he seemed like he was speaking about another planet.

Now, here we have a "war" that has proven to be a complete calamity in every conceivable way. The blood and violence are ghastly. It started as a war for democracy and American values and it is ending in body bags, a radicalized population, hundreds of billions wasted, and an emboldened horde of terrorists from all countries. The original rationales for the war are proven hoaxes. The soldiers hate it. The Iraqis hate the soldiers. US trained Iraqis are AWOL. We are talking here about a war disaster of historic proportions, even for the aggressor state.

The press, though, seemed somehow reluctant to point this out, as if George had his finger on a button he could push that would blow them all up. Instead, the press, very gingerly, put him on the couch. What mistakes had he made? Are there things he would do differently? Just asking, George. Not hinting at a thing. Don't take this wrong. Just a normal sort of question every president is asked. Do you think there have been any judgment errors at all? Everyone makes mistakes, you know; nothing to be ashamed of.

Nope, said George, nothing he can think of. It was almost cartoonish. But in real life, it is extremely scary. The press was evidently confused by the whole scene, their eyes darting back and forth to each other in bemusement. The efforts to report on the event the next day were similarly strained. The headlines could have run: "President Bush Has Gone Off the Rails." But since press etiquette demands he be treated with great deference, the stories were all variations of: "George Bush today pledged to continue the offensive in Iraq, while denying his administration has made errors in judgment…"

George isn't the first and certainly won’t be the last crazy president. Power tends to do this to people. The sin of mass murder also does it. It makes them callous, nuts, dangerous. The answer is not to replace him with Kerry, or Clinton, or Carter, or some other person who seems more peaceful in some way. Bush also seemed rather peaceful during the election.

The urgent moral priority of our time is to dismantle the warfare state, disarm the nukes, roll back the empire from every corner of the globe. We want to live in a country even a crazy man can head and not have it be dangerous for us or the world. If George or his successors want to play violent games, someone could just bring them a set of plastic army men and they could have at it all day in the West Wing. Let them live out their fantasies of death and dominion with toys rather than the real world.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of and author of Speaking of Liberty.

Copyright © 2004

"Unknown Soldier" Speaks Out To Bring Troops Home
Daniel Redwood
Intervention Magazine
March 4, 2004

Because members of the military are limited in their ability to speak out publicly, the soldier interviewed here must remain anonymous. A military medic who served in the Gulf War in the early 1990s, he is a member of the Reserves who was called up to serve in the current war in Iraq. His primary role is to deliver medical care to U.S. military personnel as well as Iraqis.

Profoundly patriotic and committed to protecting his country, he is deeply concerned that the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths of over 500 American soldiers and uncounted thousands of Iraqis, may now be edging toward disaster. He believes that the troops have done their job and should be brought home.

In this interview, he notes that the troop rotations currently underway (between now and June) will place into the Iraq combat zone a significantly higher percentage of Reserves than has been deployed in any previous war. Because Reserves receive far less extensive training than active duty forces, he warns that the summer of 2004 may be a particularly dangerous time for U.S. forces in Iraq.

Stationed in the area of the Baghdad Airport at the time of President Bush’s Thanksgiving 2003 visit to the troops there, he also recounts that on the day before the president’s visit, the troops were given a questionnaire that asked them whether they “supported the president.” Those who did not declare their support with sufficient enthusiasm were not permitted to take part in the Thanksgiving meal, and had to make do with MREs (meals ready to eat, referred to by the soldiers as “meals refused by Ethiopians”) in their quarters.

This interview offers a rare, unfiltered report from a first-hand participant in the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq.

Why did you decide to join the U.S. military?

It’s one of the things my family does. I was taught by my parents that there were two things we had to do: go to college and serve in the military. We believe in this country wholeheartedly and being in the military is very important to me. It’s part of my life.

Do you think the American public is well-informed about what is happening in Iraq?

No, I really don’t. I see young people on my medical table all the time, people who have lost their legs or arms or had other terrible injuries. No one back home sees any of that. I’ve been home for a month and I haven’t seen a casualty yet on television. I’m still waiting. Where are the casualties? It’s as if it doesn’t exist, as if it doesn’t happen.

What about Iraqi deaths and injuries?

We don’t care about Iraqi deaths. It’s something that does not even count. The hospital was told not to keep count. The Iraqi infrastructure does not keep an account of the deaths anymore.


The American government told them not to. We do always keep a list of the Americans injured and the number that die. But here in America you don’t see anything about these soldiers coming back. You don’t read anything about the funeral. It’s like it’s a secret, like these people didn’t exist.

Was it like this in previous wars?


What brought about the change?

From what I gather, it used to be that the president would go out to the area to meet the [deceased] soldiers coming in. They would drape the caskets and they would actually watch and give a moment of silence as the coffin came by. The Bush Administration felt that was too much for Americans to handle, so they secured that part of the ceremony so that no one knows when that fallen soldier comes home. It’s an injustice to the military, because you gave your life to the country and the country should give something back to you. Even just a moment of silence. Every day that someone dies, the flag should be lowered to half staff. Not just because a politician died.

Those guys are good people. They work hard. They do anything and everything that is asked of them. And they gave the ultimate sacrifice. It should not be that you have to go to a website to find out who died.

What’s it like being a medical corpsman?

I’m thinking about a 19-year-old who was on my table. This guy could have been your next door neighbor. Smart kid, excited kid. But his life as he knew it was basically over. His legs were gone. It’s hard for these soldiers to believe. I’ve seen lots of people with severe, permanent injuries. They’re going to need a lot of help when they get back home, because their lives are going to change forever. And to have the guy [President Bush] cutting billions from the VA [Veterans Administration] budget, at a time when you’ve got all those guys coming back from overseas with major injuries, that’s disgusting! That hurts every person who ever served this country. I don’t understand how someone can stand up and say, “I’m pro-military,” when you want to cut $16 billion from the VA and close VA hospitals.

We’re going to need those hospitals. The veterans are going to need medical help and psychological training. They’re not going to be able to walk out of that environment and just go back to their normal jobs. They’re going to need therapy, they’re going to need help. And where do you go to get that help? You go to the VA. If there’s no VA, where do you go? We don’t have insurance. The military doesn’t provide health insurance for you after you leave the military. So they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
What do they do? How are they going to get the medical attention they need if the VA hospital is closed down? Some of these guys may be traveling 100 to 200 miles to get to the nearest VA. They’re going to have a real rough life when they get back.

How do the people currently serving in Iraq feel about this?

Most of them don’t think about it. They think about the here and now. They’ll worry about that when they get home. Their major goal right now is to stay alive and see their families again. It won’t hit them until they get back and get settled, and they notice they don’t have anything around to support them.

Can you describe the people you work with?

Hard working, dedicated, wanting to bring everybody back. They will do anything and everything to make sure everybody comes back safe.

What’s it like when one of them is shot?

Wounded I can handle. Killed is a different story. You remember faces. You think about the life this person could have had. Being older, you know that 19-year-olds are not supposed to die for something like that. We have wars; they’re gory and there’s blood and they’re nasty. But a 19-year-old should have more of his life to enjoy before he makes the ultimate sacrifice.

I went to one funeral where I cried the whole time. I don’t normally cry for anything. It takes a lot to make me cry. I was crying because I knew this guy. I talked to him all the time. We used to joke together. He was a Marine. To see him lifeless and know that I would never see him again, that is hard to handle. There’s no need for us to be dying like this. Yes, we love the military and we will do anything for this country. But don’t kill us just to be killing us. These men are good people. They work hard, they have jobs and loved ones. They have kids. You talk about people having families. How hard is it to have a family when the father is not there? It breaks your heart to know that someone is going to grow up without a father, and never know their dad.

Are the men and women in the U.S. military in Iraq sufficiently trained before going over there?

No. I am extremely concerned about the major shift that is taking place right now, between now and June, where there’s going to be a much higher percentage of the troops being Reserves rather than full-time, active duty military. The difference is that the active duty go through far more training than Reserves. Up to now, we’ve had a mix of about 20 percent Reserves and 80 percent active duty. With the change going on now, they are rotating out tens of thousands of active duty troops and replacing a lot of them with Reserves. We’ve heard that could be 80 percent Reserves and 20 percent active duty. Some sources say it could be 50/50. But the main point is, nothing like that has ever been tried before, and these Reserves are being sent into a war zone. Many of them are people who would be fine driving a truck or working on a base in some support capacity, but they’re going to be out there on the streets with M-16 rifles. It took me a long time to become skilled with my M-16. You have to learn about dope and windage. It takes time to get it right.

What are dope and windage?

Windage is about taking into account the effect that the wind will have on the course of the bullet. Dope is about the way you elevate your sight to lock in on a target.

What else is lacking in terms of training?

The type of training that you need for guerilla warfare. Some units get it and some don’t. Urban training is real tough. You’ve got to pick the enemy out before he picks you out, and you’ve got to know what spot to look for. OJT is not going to work.

What’s OJT?

On-the-job training. It’s not going to work. And that’s what we’re going through now. It’s completely OJT. These guys are learning as we go along.

To what extent do you feel that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have the proper equipment for what they face there?

We were supposed to have bulletproof vests, where we actually put the plates inside our flak jackets. We never got those. The money had been paid for those things, but we never got them. My brother had to send me a flak jacket. There’s all sorts of stuff that we had to buy on our own before we left. The types of canteens you need, water pouches that go on your back.

These were not provided, or not sufficiently?

Right. We were given canteens that you hold on your side, but the kind that hold a lot of water, you need them, too. It can get unbelievably hot over there and you need to drink a lot of water. Also, the pack doesn’t work.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s top-heavy. All the weight sits above head level. It doesn’t work. The weight should be set in the middle of your back, not above your neck. So you had to go out and buy another pack.

Why on earth didn’t someone figure this out beforehand?

The military buys stuff from the cheapest dealer. We had to go out and buy boots. Not that the military boots are that bad, but they’re not the greatest boots in the world for what you’re going to be doing. And when you’re going to spend hours and hours and hours in a pair of boots, you want something that’s comfortable. So you have to go out and buy your own boots. To buy all of these things, of course, assumes that you or your family can afford to buy them, and a lot of recruits come from poor families.

How is the overall morale of the troops in Iraq?

It depends on the day. When somebody dies, it’s really tough. It’s tough on everybody, because everybody knows it could have been them. Some days we have a good time. We’re Americans; we’re always going to find a way to have fun. We tried to play football one time, which is crazy in a war zone.
We’ve also had a lot of visitors come over and entertain us. Those days are great. But you never lose that thought in your mind that, hey, we’ve got to take care of business in a few hours.

What did you think about President Bush’s Thanksgiving visit to Iraq?

I was there when President Bush came to the [Baghdad] airport. The day before, you had to fill out a questionnaire and answer questions, that would determine whether they would allow you in the room with the President.

What was on the questionnaire?

“Do you support the president?”



Members of the military were asked whether they support the president politically?

Yes. And if the answer was not a gung-ho, A-1, 100 percent yes, then you were not allowed into the cafeteria. You were not allowed to eat the Thanksgiving meal that day. You had an MRE.

What’s an MRE?

Meals ready to eat. We also call them “meals refused by Ethiopians.”

About this questionnaire, it raises a serious question about whether military personnel, or civil servants for that matter, should ever be asked questions by their supervisors about their political beliefs. It also raises the whole question of freedom of speech. In particular, the circumstances under which members of the military have freedom of speech.

There is none.

Is a soldier free, for example, to speak to the media if it is in support of the president and his policies, but not free to do so if in opposition or if raising uncomfortable questions?

If you are spouting good things about the president, you are allowed to speak. If you are saying anything negative, you are not allowed to speak.

Is it your sense that official visitors, such as Administration figures, members of Congress, and the like, are shown what’s really happening in Iraq? Or are they shown a sanitized version of what’s happening?

It’s cleaned up before they get there. It’s really cleaned up before they get there. We are not going to take them on local runs in the local village.


Because they may end up dead. And you know how that would look back in the States, to have a member of Congress or a Senator killed in Iraq.

So there’s a sense that you’re in constant danger?

You’re on guard 24/7. I know a guy that got killed at a Coke machine, just buying a Coke.

Does the military, and particularly those members who have served in combat zones, have a higher than average rate of suicide?


Have you seen any of these?

Yes. They’re normally the younger ones. The older guys who have been around, like myself, we know that life is too short to end like that. But the younger guys are the ones you have to worry about. There are signs – major depression, they want to get killed, they want to get shot – you can tell.

If, as a medical corpsman, you see a soldier exhibiting those characteristics, how do you handle it?

I grab him. I talk to him. I spend a lot of time talking to people. I’m kind of like the chaplain, too. I’m the one that people tell their problems to. If they can’t go to the CO [commanding officer] or the XO [executive officer] or the sergeant, they come to “doc.” Doc’s not going to tell anybody their secrets.
It’s not just suicides. We also have a 70 percent divorce rate in my unit. People change when they’re on deployment.

Is that more true for younger people, who haven’t been married as long?

It’s true for both. My first sergeant hung himself at Fort Lejeune. His wife divorced him. The crazy thing about it was that he stepped off a chair, and if he had just put his legs down he wouldn’t have killed himself. But when we walked into the room, his legs were still pulled up. So he really wanted to kill himself. This was when we got back from Iraq. There were four suicides since we got back.

Four suicides in a group of how many?

About 600. Suicide is wild. You make it back safe, without a scratch. And then you kill yourself.

For those who survive, return, and try to carry on with their lives, is it difficult to blend back into civilian life?

It’s very difficult to adjust to the change. Most really need counseling. This is my second rodeo, second time around, so I feel that I’m handling it better. But counseling is really important. Also, family members should know that when someone is just back from the war zone, it can take a while to adjust to the idea that your life is not constantly in danger. If you wake someone up quickly, you may get struck.

In what other ways are people changed by being in a war?

Many people who fight in wars come back and complain about them the most. Because you never want to put another person in that situation if you can possibly prevent it. You never forget when you go into a building and everyone there is dead. Like the information building [Iraq Ministry of Information]. All the people there were dead. Bodies bloated, stuff like that.

Do you feel that you have been hardened by experiences like these?

Video games did that already. The average American sees death how many times per day on TV and video games? I don’t play video games anymore.

Do you think it matters that so many of the top people in the Bush Administration never served in combat?

Yes. It’s quite a list. Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, and many more. I’m still trying to figure out how Cheney managed to get five draft deferments. They say there is not one person in Congress today that has a son or daughter in combat. Neither house of Congress.

What do you think about that?

I think they would make different decisions if their sons and daughters had to go or if they had been there themselves. I really do. If Barbara and Jenna [Bush] had to put on a pack and go to war, I think Daddy would make different decisions. But there’s never going to be a draft because rich people don’t want it. You know, most of the kids in the military are not rich kids. As a matter of fact, most of them are poor. The reason they joined the military was to try to get ahead. So you have the lower class and middle class kids fighting, while the upper class kids, I don’t know what they’re doing. Hanging out at the beach, something like that.

How did you feel when you saw President Bush arrive in a flight suit on the aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego, with the banner “Mission Accomplished”?

We laughed.


We have a saying about people who dress up in military uniforms, like Idi Amin or Mussolini. People like that have something to hide. The reason they wear the uniform is to make themselves feel big, feel proud.

How did you feel when the President said to the Iraqis, to the insurgents, “Bring it on!”

Being a medical person, I take an oath to try to protect my troops at all times. Anything that puts them in danger, alarms me. And that was unnecessary.

Did the soldiers in Iraq think they were going to find weapons of mass destruction?


How come they didn’t find them?

My feeling is that they were never there. As Wolfowitz said, if you don’t tell the American people that there are weapons of mass destruction, they won’t go along with the idea that [going to war is justified because] Saddam was a bad guy. That’s not enough. After 9/11, you’ve got to tell the American people that they’ve got weapons and they can hit the United States any time they want to.

Whether or not it’s true?

Truth is in the eye of the beholder.

What’s it like to be serving in Iraq, on a typical day?

There’s lots of waiting. Lots of time to wait around and think about things. It depends on what your job is. If you’re on patrol, of course, there’s real danger. You don’t know who’s the enemy and who’s your friend. They don’t wear uniforms and we don’t speak the language. I could be treating an Iraqi family on my medical table during the day, and who knows, maybe one of them is going to be trying to kill me or someone in my unit that night.

Do you have enough Arabic interpreters?

No way. Not even close. We didn’t have enough when we came in and we don’t have enough now. It’s unbelievable. And they don’t even encourage us to learn the language. Without being able to speak the same language, we’re worlds apart from the Iraqis.

So you don’t know any words in Arabic?

They teach us a few words and phrases.

Such as?

Stop. Get down. Kneel. Shut up.

No friendly words?

Not that I can remember.

President Bush said on Meet the Press, “We are welcome in Iraq” because “they realize what a free Iraq will be.” What have you concluded about the feelings of Iraqis toward the Americans?

They think we did a good job getting rid of Saddam. Now they want us to get out so they can run their country. It’s not so different from our war with England. We were glad the French helped out, but the French didn’t come in and say, “Okay, now we’re going to occupy you for the next 20 or 30 years.” They want to do their own thing like we did our own thing. That’s one thing that we haven’t figured out  they don’t want us there! They feel that they can solve their own problems, just like we solved ours.

Do the troops currently serving in Iraq have a sense of how long the U.S. military is likely to remain there?

Yes. We know it’s going to be a minimum of ten years.

Based on what?

Based on our government telling us that. A minimum of ten years.

So even if there is an Iraqi government of some sort formed …

We will still be there, to make sure the government thrives. If you know anything about the British occupation of Iraq, the British people after a few years pulled their soldiers out. They said, “We’re tired of this, we don’t want to do this any more.” The British government set up an Iraqi government. In a very short time, that government was dead, and the Baath Party came into being.

So are you, therefore, not terribly optimistic about peace, freedom, and democracy taking root in Iraq very soon?

As soon as the Ayatollah [Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani] says go to war, the people will go to war. When he tells them to go home, they go home. When he tells them to get up, they get up. And he’s going to be our worst nightmare because he controls over 60 percent of the people [the Shi’a] in that country.

There was an attempt on this Ayatollah’s life recently.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was us who tried it.


Yes. Because he will mess up our plans. We don’t want to turn Iraq into another Iran.

By another Iran, you mean a radical Islamic state?

[Run by] ayatollahs. We dropped leaflets promising them that you will have elections, you will have a democracy, you will be able to choose your own leaders. Sistani is going to hold us to it. They will have elections. One man, one vote.

But the United States is currently…

Balking at that idea.

Saying that for one reason or another, direct elections with one man, one vote are not possible, or not yet.

Correct. Because if they allow one man, one vote, he will win in a landslide.

He being Ayatollah Sistani, or candidates that he designates?


And these caucuses that have been proposed by the American occupation authorities and the Iraqi Governing Council they appointed?

They’re not going to fly.

Because there would be American control over them?


Which is what people like Ayatollah Sistani are questioning.

Dead against. He thinks the Governing Council they have now is phony. They will not survive if an election happens. Many of those people are from Virginia, New York, and London. They spent the last 20 years in the United States and England.

Do you feel the Bush Administration has honestly and fully explained why they went into Iraq and why the U.S. military is still there?

No, and I don’t think they ever will. There’s no one to hold them accountable. Congress is a joke. We laugh at Congress. They come over and want to get their pictures taken. That’s nice. But what are they doing? They’re not helping us. They gave this man [President Bush] carte blanche to do whatever he wanted, and he’s doing exactly what he wants.

Is it true that the American invasion of Iraq acted as a magnet, to bring in foreign fighters who weren’t there before?

Yes, because they don’t want Iraq to become a haven for the United States. They want it to be an Arab country. You’ve got to remember, what we’re installing is actually against the way of life they’ve always known. It would be like somebody coming into this country and installing a dictatorship. We would fight that with everything we had. See, freedom for one person is not freedom for another person. If you’re going to take over their religion, take away their culture.

In what way is the American occupation taking away their religion or their culture?

Because they don’t control their own country. It’s an Arab country being run by, as they call us, heathens.

Do you feel that the Iraqi insurgency can be defeated militarily?

It would take a long time, because we are breeding more of them every day, because of the way we are treating the people.

How are they being treated?

We kick in their door, take the children and the women and put them in another place. Then we take the men out of the home.

And do what with them?

We interrogate the men about participation in the insurrection against the United States.

What’s that like?

I don’t do that.

My understanding is that Americans are also doing things to try to rebuild Iraq. How is that going?

There are efforts, but it’s not easy. One example I’m familiar with is that we’ve built a lot of playgrounds. They don’t last long. It would be great in a stable community, but in Iraq people tear them all down for the scrap metal.

What’s the current situation with electrical power?

It’s basically horrible by American standards. We have electricity on the base at times when they don’t have it in the town. It’s going to take a long time to get to the point where electricity is working well. I’ll tell you, I don’t think we should be paying for that.

What else is happening in the military that we should know?

One thing that’s really important, and that makes no sense, is that they are cutting 10,000 people in the Navy from active duty right now.

Why? To save money?

Yeah, and during a war. It said in the Navy Times that from October 1, 2003 to October 1, 2004, something like 10,000 sailors are going to go. They’re going to try to run some of the ships with far fewer people than they’ve always used.

How is that going to work?

It looks like they are going to try to cut the Navy down to the size of the Marine Corps and have people doing more jobs. Just wait until the first time they have a real “general quarters” on a ship, an actual emergency. Because you need everybody on board to work as a team, to handle a crisis aboard ship. It’s not like you can walk back to shore. So I’m waiting for the first crisis that occurs when they don’t have enough people. And it will come. It’s astonishing that they’re letting those 10,000 people go in wartime. If you get hurt, they’ll let you go. If your “fit rep” is not as high as they want it to be, they’ll let you go.

But wait, at the same time, in certain parts of the military, they’re ordering Reservists to stay on for much longer than they expected.

The Reserves are different.


Because Reservists are not paid yearly. Reservists don’t make as much money as active duty people do. They don’t require housing; you don’t have to move the entire family to the base in order to ship them out. The whole idea is to get more people on as Reservists, so that they can use them to replace active duty. It’s great for them [the government], they’re saving money.

Without meaning disrespect to anyone who is serving in the Reserves, it occurs to me that this is like a corporation getting rid of full-time, experienced workers, and bringing in temps. It’s great for the bottom line, and potentially very destructive in a whole host of other ways.


How long must Reservists stay in?

It depends. They’re already staying for much longer than any of them expected. If you are in what is defined as a “critical billet,” it could potentially be for many years. If it was decided that my position was in a critical billet, then theoretically I could be kept on almost indefinitely, in my case until about the year 2030. If they decide to extend it to 2030, I will accept that.

So it’s a real sense of commitment and honor that you have about this.

It is.

What do you think of the United States remaining in Iraq now that Saddam Hussein has been overthrown and there are apparently no weapons of mass destruction?

We need to come home. We did our job.

So this whole notion of staying for the extra 10 years or whatever . . .

Why? What’s the purpose? There is no military purpose there. We’re not the police. We have pressing needs in our country. We are spending money like it’s going out of style over there. Companies like Halliburton are gouging the American people over there. We protect them also. Part of our job now is actually to protect Halliburton employees. So, if we really want to cut off the spigot, we need to come home.

You’re not too impressed with the corporate military contractors.

No. You know, they actually come up to you and offer you jobs. They say, “Once you get out [of the military], go to this company to apply and you can come back over. We can use people like you.” I don’t think it’s worth any amount of money to be in a combat zone. You know, over 100,000 soldiers were offered $10,000 to re-enlist. Hardly anyone took it. I do not want to go back. I will do it if those are my orders, but I do not want to go back. It’s not a winning situation for us. You’re going to lose more people this summer than you did last year, I guarantee it.


For one thing, people going over there with inadequate training, like I said before. Heat, for another. It’s unbelievably hot there in the summer. When it gets hot, people get upset. When April, May, June, and July roll around, watch how it spikes up again.

What do you expect to happen with the large numbers of soldiers coming back from Iraq?

Mass exit from the military. Mass!

Do you feel it is possible for American citizens to support the troops without supporting the policies under which the troops are acting?

Yes. Most definitely.

Any parting words?

We did our job. We need to come home.

© 2004 by Daniel Redwood

Kerry vs. the Chicken Hawks
Robert Poe
February 19, 2004

It was an unscripted scene, nothing like the polished photo ops the Bush team, plundering the resources of the government, liked to put together. Near the end of the Iowa caucus campaign, former Green Beret Jim Rassmann stood on a Des Moines stage and quietly described how John Kerry had saved his life in Vietnam. By the time he was finished, something remarkable had happened: a presidential challenger had, as the world watched, grown larger than the incumbent president.

But something even more important happened as well: In that moment, Vietnam veterans, with characteristic modesty, claimed their long-overdue seat at the head table of American politics. And that brought an unexpected threat to the Bush team's reelection plans, which relied on beating up liberals who didn't know how to fight back. Standing beside Kerry at campaign stops, working the phones, or simply filling the front rows, the veterans, powerless but for the witness they bore, took aim to blow those plans away.

Their presence made the election itself larger. The contest became more than a choice between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. It became a referendum on whether Vietnam still matters to us, and perhaps on whether it ever did. And thus it became our best, and perhaps last, chance to use the Vietnam War to make ourselves a better nation, rather than allow it to make us a worse one.

Like Dylan's thin man, the Bush team knew something was happening, but they didn't know what it was. Almost without thinking, they reached for the weapon they'd used to eviscerate Clinton and everyone in his vicinity: character. Though it has multiple uses, in the context of war "character" is a code word for courage and patriotism, just as "states' rights," "soft on crime" and "quotas" are for race. It lets a skilled attacker pretend to be above the fray by refraining from directly calling others unpatriotic, while making clear that they are.

The character weapon has been particularly useful to neoconservatives, the right-wing hawks who form the heart of the Bush administration -- and who avoided military service in Vietnam. Having declined the opportunity to prove themselves the traditional way, they desperately needed to establish that they alone have the character -- that is, the honesty, integrity, courage and especially patriotism -- to guide the nation morally and lead it militarily. Lacking proof of their own character, their only option was to attack their rivals'.

So Team Bush could hardly do less when the veterans' threat dawned. Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie was soon intoning that "John Kerry's record of service in our military is honorable. But his long record in the Senate is one of advocating policies that would weaken our national security." Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said virtually the same thing the next day. When Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe slugged back, claiming that Bush had been AWOL from his National Guard duty, a fierce three-part counter-counter-attack from Gillespie, White House press secretary Scott McClellan and Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot let the world know that Republicans were shocked and outraged at the accusations.

Perhaps only the Bush team was surprised when the attack went wrong. The weapon that had won them the White House, and was supposed to help them keep it, blew up in their faces, like a claymore mine a sapper on the perimeter had aimed back at the defenders. Talk of Kerry's voting record failed to catch fire, while interest in the president's National Guard record, which the rapid-fire response was supposed to suppress, exploded. Bush himself was soon promising on "Meet the Press" to release records to prove he'd never been AWOL. And the incoming only intensified after that, to the point that the White House, in a rare cave-in to the press, actually did release some 400 pages of Bush's military records less than a week later. What new information they contained proved little and did nothing to shelter Bush from the questions that were increasingly finding their mark.

The skirmish conjured the ghost of Tet, of doing all the right things to win according to the rules of the game, only to realize with a sinking heart that you were losing a bigger game you'd never suspected you were playing. Only this time it was American soldiers who were playing the bigger game.

The vets supporting Kerry aren't the only ones with a stake in his campaign. Some 30 years after the war ended, Vietnam veterans as a group were the only members of their generation still missing from the political mainstream. The Des Moines moment dropped them into the center of the action. It fused their strengths and needs with those of the candidacy and provided a glimpse into the energy source at the core of democracy. If the campaign fulfills its potential, it will so enlarge the political presence of Vietnam vets that even those who don't agree with Kerry on issues will become more than they otherwise could be.

But veterans didn't flock to the Kerry campaign aiming to create the stuff of civics textbooks. According to John Hurley, national director of Veterans for Kerry, they began volunteering in significant numbers last summer in response to growing concerns that the Bush administration, while boasting of its support for America's fighting forces, was stiffing veterans in areas like pensions, disability compensation and medical care. And they didn't show up just to stand onstage. They also worked phone banks, or simply phoned from their homes, reaching out to veterans of all wars to bring them on board.

The gathering of veterans in his camp made Kerry the Bush team's nightmare opponent. They turned its greatest advantage, its flag-bedecked character costume, into its greatest weakness. They didn't go out of their way to attack neocons for having avoided combat service -- Vietnam vets have always been the most nonjudgmental members of their generation. Rather, simply by showing their faces in politics, as veterans supporting a veteran, they invited comparisons unflattering to Bush and his friends.

When Jim Rassmann talks about Kerry in public, even a skeptical viewer finds it hard to avoid the thought: The candidate is a better man than the president he seeks to replace. The more veterans appear in political settings, the more neocons will find themselves facing the kinds of questions they've managed to dodge for most of their adult lives.

The questions take a lot of forms, but stripped to the basics, they add up to what the press apparently considers an outrageously in-your-face, emperor-has-no-clothes verbal assault: If you believe that patriotism should be wholehearted, and should transcend politics and selfish concerns, what does it say about your patriotism that you didn't volunteer for Vietnam? (That wasn't so hard, was it?) Or, as a vet might be tempted to put it: If you're such a great patriot, why didn't you go fight like we did?

Bush and Co. have been enormously successful in avoiding such questions. We know that Dick Cheney famously "had other priorities," but that's no answer. What does the public know about John Ashcroft's reasons for not serving in Vietnam? Richard Perle's? Paul Wolfowitz's? Not to mention all their comrades in Congress and the right-wing media. Were they all believers in the patriotism of dissent, as draft resisters were? Or did they have some other rationale for their actions? The central question is not whether they did anything illegal to avoid military service. It is how they justified their avoidance in the first place. That so many leaders have given so few answers to such important questions must set some sort of record for a democracy. If so, it's one we shouldn't be proud of.

The rare, reluctant answers that have dribbled out from various neocon stars, in books and interviews and on talk shows, are far from reassuring. Collectively, they sound like this: Vietnam was Johnson's political war, so it was a mess. Besides, I knew the weak-kneed liberals and peaceniks would never let us win it. And as an anti-big-government conservative, I believe the government has no right to force anyone to perform any service against their will. Not to mention my physical condition that for some reason hasn't slowed me down since. And don't forget, I didn't actually break any laws, or at least none that anyone can prove, to avoid military service. I would have gone if called, but I wasn't called, because I was doing other things that by the way made me exempt from the draft. And, last but not least: I didn't do anything Clinton didn't do.

On close inspection, the answers point to the most unflattering conclusion of all: that, based on their own actions during their generation's greatest test of character, neoconservatives are no more courageous or patriotic than the liberals they so despise.

Bright career-minded lads that they were, they recognized from the start that if this truth got out, it would cripple them politically. That's what kept them in stealth mode for so long, emerging to strut their patriotism only after Clinton had proven that dodging the Vietnam draft was no obstacle to the presidency. And that delay gave them plenty of time to plan their damage-control campaign.

The campaign had two parts. The first was to attack the liberals' character before anyone figured out the embarrassing truth about their own. Thus did they build their careers -- indeed, their very identities -- around preemptive attacks.

The second was to attack the character of any who might ask embarrassing questions that could reveal the truth later. And that meant attacking the mainstream media, both directly and through surrogates. To that end, some of them impersonated objective journalists, just as their political team impersonated war heroes, preemptively attacking everyone to their left (which meant almost everyone) as "biased" -- the media-specific code word for unpatriotic.

An exchange from the now-famous "Meet the Press" encounter between President Bush and Tim Russert this month illustrates how this media intimidation works. After stating that he would release his National Guard records, Bush added: "What I don't like is when people say serving in the Guard ... may not be a true service."

Russert hadn't said that, but he got the skillfully unstated message: If you question my actions, you're insulting the patriotism of the good Americans in the National Guard who are now serving in Iraq, and that calls your own patriotism into question. Russert's failure to register shock as Bush appropriated the heroism of the guardsmen he had sent into harm's way, to mask the opposite of heroism of his own safe-haven Guard service, should earn case-study status in broadcast journalism schools. And subsequent questions by the preemptively slapped Russert could stand as a model for media timidity in questioning neocons:

Russert: Were you favor of the war in Vietnam?
Bush: I supported my government. I did. And would have gone had my unit been called up, by the way.
Russert: But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go.
Bush: No, I didn't. You're right. I served. I flew fighters and enjoyed it, and we provided a service to our country.

A few sentences later, Russert signaled surrender: "Let me turn to the economy."

Intimidating journalists by hinting (or by using surrogates to scream) that they are not patriotic works, of course, only because most of the media themselves avoided military service -- there are almost no Vietnam veterans at the top of the profession.

But Kerry's vets spoiled the party. By confiscating the character weapon from the Bush campaign, they freed liberals and perhaps even the media to more boldly challenge the administration's claims of character. And they themselves raised the most embarrassing questions merely by showing their faces in politics, as veterans supporting a veteran.

That leaves Bush and his supporters with a single, shaky defense: insisting that Vietnam doesn't matter. Not that they often say it out loud. But their belief in the message is as clear as their need for it. And they have different ways to get it across.

The cleverest, and most widely used, is the women-and-cripples argument. It goes like this: If military service were a prerequisite for being a good wartime leader, it would disqualify all women, as well as physically handicapped leaders like Franklin Roosevelt, from ever becoming president. And that would be discrimination. It would also deprive us of some of our greatest leaders.

The argument brings us full circle, from hiding behind Clinton to hiding behind women to hiding behind Roosevelt. It also carefully glosses over the most important fact: There's a big difference between not having the opportunity to serve one's country and actively avoiding doing so. In its own way, it's as large as the gap between courage and cowardice.

The least subtle expression of "Vietnam doesn't matter" sentiment seems a specialty of up-and-comers we might call baby neocons. Represented by conservatives like CNN's Tucker Carlson and Wall Street Journal Web columnist James Taranto, they are too young to have dodged the Vietnam draft, but are such fierce and faithful defenders of neocon positions as to leave little doubt they would have if they could have. Immune (they think) to criticism for never having served their country, they excoriate Kerry for repeatedly mentioning that he did. As far as it's discernible, their main criticism appears to be that they're tired of hearing his macho boasting.

But in their intrepid insistence that, unlike themselves, real soldiers should be seen and not heard, these keyboard soldiers and combat commentators inadvertently reveal something else. The frequency and aggressiveness of their attacks on Kerry make clear how much neocons fear him and his veterans. Yet their potshots miss the target. Simply by standing their ground in public, unashamed of their uniforms, veterans say everything they have to. Their very presence argues that whether one had the courage to face combat defines one's character in such a deep and important way that it should be our most important criterion in selecting our leaders.

More broadly, the attack of the baby neocons illustrates one of the most striking characteristics of neocons in general: the way they virtually advertise their fears and vulnerabilities by the intensity of their assaults and their choice of targets. It's a side effect of having built their identities around preemptive attacks. And it's a superb tool for tracking the progress of Team Bush through the minefield that the character-and-patriotism issue represents.

The detonation of the AWOL issue was only the beginning. More explosions are likely as they intensify their assault. For example, attacks on Kerry's national-security credentials -- ranging from the gutter-variety attempts by surrogates to link him with Jane Fonda to the alarmed "analyses" of his defense voting record -- represent an argument that what one did after the Vietnam War means more than what one did during it: a variation on the "Vietnam doesn't matter" theme.

But if they step over the line and argue that Kerry's antiwar activism overshadows his war service, and proves that, on balance, he's unpatriotic, they may find themselves at odds with some formidable Republican Vietnam vets. For example, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has said that Kerry's honorable service earned him the right to protest the way he did. And Sen. John McCain of Arizona has come to like and respect Kerry despite their early differences over Kerry's antiwar activities.

As their attacks set off more blasts, the Bush team will begin to sense the bigger game that is closing in around them, transforming them from hunter to hunted. And the rest of the world will begin to wonder whether the neocon patrol is going to make it to the other side in one piece.

If Kerry's war record removes the personal-character attack from the Bush campaign's arsenal, the veterans standing beside him give him the power to take out the institutional version of the same weapon. Republicans have successfully used this weapon of mass denigration for decades. Its technique is simple and familiar: to paint all Democrats as deficient in patriotism and courage, and the Republicans as the only party unafraid of war.

The tactic is a key part of the Bush team's reelection strategy. To make it work, they have to sell the Republican/Democrat contest like a TV script depicting an epic struggle between pro-war and antiwar forces, and thus, through long-practiced implication and innuendo, a battle between heroes and cowards, patriots and traitors. The presidential combatants become mere characters in this larger drama, their personal qualities fading to irrelevance.

The war with Iraq makes it all possible, because it lets the Republicans stake out the most extreme pro-war territory available. If the public buys their script, it means no one with less extreme positions -- that is, no one else -- can match their aura of heroism and patriotism. The Republicans win the character competition by default, and so does the president. No wonder, then, that Bush most seemed to be reciting pre-written lines when, during the "Meet the Press" interview, he told Russert: "I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind."

The administration's success in selling its story is evident. Almost without realizing it, America has obediently hauled its favorite Vietnam-era rhetoric out of the attic and sent it to the Middle East, even though the old terminology doesn't begin to fit the new territory. What does it mean to be pro-war or antiwar with regard to Iraq? Is it about favoring or opposing liberating the Iraqis from oppression? Is it about favoring or opposing working through international organizations? Is it about simply opposing the timing and the manner of the war effort, but not its goals? There is no clear answer -- the mothers of all political buzzwords have become meaningless.

Indeed, almost no Democratic candidate except Rep. Dennis Kucinich has said outright that we should simply bring the troops home -- a staple anti-Vietnam War position. But no matter, everyone from pundits and politicians to ordinary citizens almost instinctively slaps one of the two labels -- pro-war or antiwar -- on everyone they see. And Gov. Howard Dean played right into the administration's hands, by making opposition to the Iraq War the central theme of his candidacy. No wonder they hoped he would be the nominee, and no wonder Democratic voters sensed he might have trouble getting elected.

Kerry is well-positioned to fight the tactic in two ways. First, even the silent presence of veterans beside him shouts that, Democrat or not, he's neither coward nor traitor; should he wish to, he could even question the courage and patriotism of Bush and Co. And he didn't vote against the Iraq War resolution, which deprives them, through their imagined link between Saddam and Osama, of the opportunity to call him soft on terrorism. By saying he's not necessarily against the use of force in Iraq or elsewhere but against the way it was used in this case, he prevents Bush from painting him as either pro-dictator or pro-terror.

Second, he and his veterans can launch an assault on the Republican weapon itself. Rather than agreeing to define the election in oversimplified pro-war/antiwar terms, they can insist that we define it, and our role in the world, in terms of America's integrity and credibility, on the grounds that those are the true key to security.

Vietnam veterans have the authority to argue that by trying to sell Americans such a simplified, divisive worldview, the administration is doing the nation a huge disservice. It is not helping us get over the Vietnam era, as it claims to be, but rather dragging us back into the Nixonian heart of it, by reviving the polarized thinking that tore America apart during that war. Back then, one was either pro-war or antiwar, pro-communist or anti-communist, courageous or cowardly, moral or immoral, pro-America or anti-America. It was all black and white, you were either one or the other, and the pairs of opposites were all rigidly connected.

Perhaps only those whose lives floated serenely above the turmoil of Vietnam -- such as the Bush conservatives -- can utterly fail to understand, or care, how damaging and fundamentally incorrect such a simplified, divisive worldview is. That is, perhaps only such people can utterly fail to grasp the lessons of Vietnam.

Vietnam veterans understand those lessons best. They suffered the most damage -- to their bodies in Vietnam, and to their souls after they returned -- without ever painting themselves as victims. And they witnessed, more intimately than any others, the fundamental defects of the politics of oversimplification.

More credibly than anyone else, veterans can testify that fighting in a war doesn't automatically mean supporting it, that supporting it doesn't automatically equal heroism, that opposing it doesn't automatically equal cowardice, and that fighting a global enemy doesn't automatically require taking every global opportunity to go to war.

More authoritatively than anyone else, they can argue that an oversimplified view of war and foreign policy wasn't right during Vietnam, when the global enemy was easy to identify, and had the weapons to annihilate all Americans hundreds of times over, and it's not right now, when the enemy is far harder to pin down, and the mix of political and cultural conflicts is even more complex than during the Cold War.

If Kerry and his vets fully engage in this larger game and begin to make the case against the oversimplification of American policy, they will shake the foundations of the privileged neocon world. Realizing that their political survival is at stake, the Bush team will fight back with every tactic they can dredge up. Their impugning of war hero Max Cleland's patriotism in Georgia's 2002 Senate campaign shows how low they will stoop.

Years ago, the epithets of similar children of privilege, protesting the war from behind college deferments, stunned veterans into decades of silence, driving them out of the national conversation. Today, attacks like those of the baby neocons and the Republican smear machine still try to keep them mute. But this time, nothing can keep them out of the debate, because even in silence, the veterans speak volumes. And they don't plan to be silent.

In the end, the biggest objection to the oversimplified us-or-them mentality isn't just the pain it caused America during the Vietnam era. It's not even that it made America safe for the practitioners of the patriotic smear, who are making such a comeback today. What's worst is the central role such thinking played in getting us into Vietnam in the first place. Blinding us to any possibilities that didn't fit its preconceived patterns, that simplistic mentality sternly assured us that military action was a fail-safe, one-size-fits-all solution, and that there was no other option -- the only choice was between war and global surrender. It serves us no better now than it did then.

If the veterans of Vietnam, as they quietly file into the hall of American politics, help eject the politics of oversimplification from the room once and for all, they won't just be helping us get over Vietnam. They'll be making us better and wiser than we were before Vietnam. And thus, once again, they will be doing their country a greater service than any others of their generation ever have, or ever will.

A Vanished Dream
John Brand, D.Min., J.D.
Yellow Times
December 10, 2003

The time was a balmy spring Sunday afternoon in Vienna, Austria in 1936. The incident took place in front of the Bristol Hotel across the street from the Vienna Opera House. The tableau consisted of two groups of people. In the first were several American tourists. The other group consisted of several Austrian boys and girls, including myself. We were on a chaperoned Sunday afternoon stroll along the Ringstrasse.

We knew that the members of the first group were Americans. Their dress, their language, their general appearance made us realize who they were. They represented messengers from a world about which we could only dream.

America was the land of opportunity. In spite of the worldwide depression, we believed that hard work and strength of moral character provided Americans with the possibility of a brighter future. In our very rigid and regimented class system, opportunities were limited or non-existing.

We knew that in that far off Eden there was freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion. In Austria, you could be put in jail for criticizing the Chancellor. Roman Catholicism was the official state religion. Other religions only existed if the government sanctioned them.

We belonged to a regimented society. Freedom was a dream belonging to another, far-away world. We, who had come into close proximity to these messengers from Utopia, thought we stood in the presence of divine messengers.

Worldwide, America was respected and envied. Of course, we knew there were problems in America. However, we believed that its ideals far outweighed its difficulties.

I came to America in 1938 filled with excitement that I know was part of the dream. My goal was to embrace the values, the beliefs, the opportunities that presented themselves. Many people helped me to fulfill the vision in my personal life.

It was with great pride that I joined the U.S. Army. In the fall of 1945, the 103rd Infantry Division drove up the Rhone Valley to relieve the 3rd Division which had been on the line for 105 consecutive days. In every village through which our convoy passed, we were warmly greeted by elated Frenchmen. The 3rd Division had brought them freedom from tyranny. We were on our way to finish a war that would lead to an ennobling future for humankind.

In our heart of hearts, we believed that our fight was for the high and noble purpose of freedom and justice. Some of my comrades now lie buried in foreign soil. Some of us made it back without disabilities. Some of us, over fifty years later, are suffering from combat related injuries and problems. Yet all of us served gladly. We accepted our burdens as a price that had to be paid to protect freedom.

But some years ago, storm clouds began to gather in America. The dream came under attack.

The first sign that the foundations of freedom were cracking occurred in the early 1950s. Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee were the first signs that something very serious was amiss in our nation. A crazed fear that communism was about to take over America swept the nation. We came to believe that a Communist was hiding behind every bush and underneath every rock. In the frenzy to destroy our perceived enemies, constitutional rights were abrogated. Lives were destroyed and careers were ruined. A corrosive agenda started to dissolve the fibers of America's tapestry.

We began to fear ideas! We were alarmed that another ideology might destroy the dream of the Fathers. But instead of combating ideas with ideas, we fought the perceived enemy by bringing to ruin anyone suspected of harboring beliefs alien to our tradition. We were so frenzied that we forgot that an idea can only be overcome with a better idea.

We forsook the ideals of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. More than that, another insidious "bug" infected America. That vicious infection was materialism for the sake of materialism.

Those of us who fought World War II were children of the Depression. That era left an indelible mark on us. We would make certain that our children would not go through the hard times that marked our own childhood. After the war, we rolled up our shirtsleeves and built a nation flowing with milk and honey.

But over time, our possessions, our stock options, our assets became more important than the dream for which our forebears gave their lives, their honor, and their possessions. To them, ridding a newly born nation from the tyranny of government was more important than the Dow Jones average, GNP, or any other economic indicator.

We forged the good life from the ruins of WWII. We were not about to let any damned Commies take it away from us. We forgot that the fuel for the torch of freedom requires sacrifice and vigilance. But our hearts began to freeze at the altar of materialism. Our minds, grown cold, rejected anything that hinted that we might have to give up that second bathroom or the two-car garage. Our glacial spirits were only concerned with making money and more money.

Slowly, but ever so surely, we gave up our heritage and traded it in for a mess of lentils. We ripped the torch from the hand of the Statue of Liberty.

We put a P&L statement, audited and certified by the Anderson accounting firm, into her outstretched hand.

Corporate aggrandizement became more important than the Constitution. Financial reports overshadowed our concern for freedom. Selfishness drowned out the call to sacrifice.

What was the result of our newly found religion presided over by the god Mammon?

America is hated in most of the world. What is worse, we do not even understand the reason for the hatred. For decades, the leaders of our nation developed a foreign policy supporting dictators and destroying people's movements to bring justice and equity to their nations. We support an Israeli government that has learned nothing from the Holocaust.

Both Israel and America claim to be a people of the Book. But the prophetic message of righteousness and justice has been ripped from the pages of the Bible. A narrow-minded, provincial dogmatism has replaced the calls of the prophets "to let justice roll down like the waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream."

Our president had to fly to Buckingham Palace under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night while tens of thousands in the street proclaim the injustice of a war fought over nothing more than dominance over Iraqi oil reserves. Our president did not even address Parliament for fear that he might be shouted down. Just think of it! America's president having to scurry through the cover of darkness like a furtive prey being chased by its predator!

We think we can fight ideas we do not like with tanks and bombs. The more we rely upon Mars, the more intense will be the opposition to our rampant materialism. The more we worship the gods of war, the stronger will be the opposition to our forces.

We have yet to learn that ideas cannot be destroyed with weaponry.

I fear that the scene that took place in Vienna in 1936 cannot be repeated today. It might well be that visiting Americans might be the subjects of jeers and sneers.

John Brand is a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry veteran of World War II. He received his Juris Doctor degree at Northwestern University and a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry at Southern Methodist University. He served as a Methodist minister for 19 years, was Vice President, Birkman & Associates, Industrial Psychologists, and concluded his career as Director, Organizational and Human Resources, Warren-King Enterprises, an independent oil and gas company.

Hold On to Your Humanity: An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq
Stan Goff (US Army, Retired)
November 14, 2003

Dear American serviceperson in Iraq,

I am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you--some more extreme than others--are changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up in the language to which you are accustomed.

In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all.

The essence of all this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland. We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part in finally bringing that crime to a halt.

When I started hearing about weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including me.

When that bullshit story about weapons came apart like a two-dollar shirt, the politicians who cooked up this war told everyone, including you, that you would be greeted like great liberators. They told us that we were in Vietnam to make sure everyone there could vote.

What they didn't tell me was that before I got there in 1970, the American armed forces had been burning villages, killing livestock, poisoning farmlands and forests, killing civilians for sport, bombing whole villages, and commiting rapes and massacres, and the people who were grieving and raging over that weren't in a position to figure out the difference between me--just in country--and the people who had done those things to them.

What they didn't tell you is that over a million and a half Iraqis died between 1991 and 2003 from malnutrition, medical neglect, and bad sanitation. Over half a million of those who died were the weakest: the children, especially very young children.

My son who is over there now has a baby. We visit with our grandson every chance we get. He is eleven months old now. Lots of you have children, so you know how easy it is to really love them, and love them so hard you just know your entire world would collapse if anything happened to them. Iraqis feel that way about their babies, too. And they are not going to forget that the United States government was largely responsible for the deaths of half a million kids.

So the lie that you would be welcomed as liberators was just that. A lie. A lie for people in the United States to get them to open their purse for this obscenity, and a lie for you to pump you up for a fight.

And when you put this into perspective, you know that if you were an Iraqi, you probably wouldn't be crazy about American soldiers taking over your towns and cities either. This is the tough reality I faced in Vietnam. I knew while I was there that if I were Vietnamese, I would have been one of the Vietcong.

But there we were, ordered into someone else's country, playing the role of occupier when we didn't know the people, their language, or their culture, with our head full of bullshit our so-called leaders had told us during training and in preparation for deployment, and even when we got there. There we were, facing people we were ordered to dominate, but any one of whom might be pumping mortars at us or firing AKs at us later that night. The question we stated to ask is who put us in this position?.

In our process of fighting to stay alive, and in their process of trying to expel an invader that violated their dignity, destroyed their property, and killed their innocents, we were faced off against each other by people who made these decisions in $5,000 suits, who laughed and slapped each other on the back in Washington DC with their fat fucking asses stuffed full of cordon blue and caviar.

They chumped us. Anyone can be chumped.

That's you now. Just fewer trees and less water.

We haven't figured out how to stop the pasty-faced, oil-hungry backslappers in DC yet, and it looks like you all might be stuck there for a little longer. So I want to tell you the rest of the story.

I changed over there in Vietnam and they were not nice changes either. I started getting pulled into something--something that craved other peole's pain. Just to make sure I wasn't regarded as a "fucking missionary" or a possible rat, I learned how to fit myself into that group that was untouchable, people too crazy to fuck with, people who desired the rush of omnipotence that comes with setting someone's house on fire just for the pure hell of it, or who could kill anyone, man, woman, or child, with hardly a second thought. People who had the power of life and death--because they could.

The anger helps. It's easy to hate everyone you can't trust because of your circumstances, and to rage about what you've seen, what has happened to you, and what you have done and can't take back.

It was all an act for me, a cover-up for deeper fears I couldn't name, and the reason I know that is that we had to dehumanize our victims before we did the things we did. We knew deep down that what we were doing was wrong. So they became dinks or gooks, just like Iraqis are now being transformed into ragheads or hajjis. People had to be reduced to "niggers" here before they could be lynched. No difference. We convinced ourselves we had to kill them to survive, even when that wasn't true, but something inside us told us that so long as they were human beings, with the same intrinsic value we had as human beings, we were not allowed to burn their homes and barns, kill their animals, and sometimes even kill them. So we used these words, these new names, to reduce them, to strip them of their essential humanity, and then we could do things like adjust artillery fire onto the cries of a baby.

Until that baby was silenced, though, and here's the important thing to understand, that baby never surrendered her humanity. I did. We did. That's the thing you might not get until it's too late. When you take away the humantiy of another, you kill your own humanity. You attack your own soul because it is standing in the way.

So we finish our tour, and go back to our families, who can see that even though we function, we are empty and incapable of truly connecting to people any more, and maybe we can go for months or even years before we fill that void where we surrendered our humanity, with chemical anesthetics--drugs, alcohol, until we realize that the void can never be filled and we shoot ourselves, or head off into the street where we can disappear with the flotsam of society, or we hurt others, esepcially those who try to love us, and end up as another incarceration statistic or a mental patient.

You can ever escape that you became a racist because you made the excuse that you needed that to survive, that you took things away from people that you can never give back, or that you killed a piece of yourself that you may never get back.

Some of us do. We get lucky and someone gives a damn enough to emotionally resuscitate us and bring us back to life. Many do not.

I live with the rage every day of my life, even when no one else sees it. You might hear it in my words. I hate being chumped.

So here is my message to you. You will do what you have to do to survive, however you define survival, while we do what we have to do to stop this thing. But don't surrender your humanity. Not to fit in. Not to prove yourself. Not for an adrenaline rush. Not to lash out when you are angry and frustrated. Not for some ticket-punching fucking military careerist to make his bones on. Especially not for the Bush-Cheney Gas & Oil Consortium.

The big bosses are trying to gain control of the world's energy supplies to twist the arms of future economic competitors. That's what's going on, and you need to understand it, then do what you need to do to hold on to your humanity. The system does that; tells you you are some kind of hero action figures, but uses you as gunmen. They chump you.

Your so-called civilian leadership sees you as an expendable commodity. They don't care about your nightmares, about the DU that you are breathing, about the lonliness, the doubts, the pain, or about how you humanity is stripped away a piece at a time. They will cut your benefits, deny your illnesses, and hide your wounded and dead from the public. They already are.

They don't care. So you have to. And to preserve your own humanity, you must recognize the humanity of the people whose nation you now occupy and know that both you and they are victims of the filthy rich bastards who are calling the shots.

They are your enemies--The Suits--and they are the enemies of peace, and the enemies of your families, especially if they are Black families, or immigrant families, or poor families. They are thieves and bullies who take and never give, and they say they will "never run" in Iraq, but you and I know that they will never have to run, because they fucking aren't there. You are.

They'll skin and grin while they are getting what they want from you, and throw you away like a used condom when they are done. Ask the vets who are having their benefits slashed out from under them now. Bushfeld and their cronies are parasites, and they are the sole beneficiaries of the chaos you are learning to live in. They get the money. You get the prosthetic devices, the nightmares, and the mysterious illnesses.

So if your rage needs a target, there they are, responsible for your being there, and responsible for keeping you there. I can't tell you to disobey. That would probably run me afoul of the law. That will be a decision you will have to take when and if the circumstances and your own conscience dictate. But it perfeclty legal for you to refuse illegal orders, and orders to abuse or attack civilians are illegal. Ordering you to keep silent about these crimes is also illegal.

I can tell you, without fear of legal consequence, that you are never under any obligation to hate Iraqis, you are never under any obligation to give yourself over to racism and nihilism and the thirst to kill for the sake of killing, and you are never under any obligation to let them drive out the last vestiges of your capacity to see and tell the truth to yourself and to the world. You do not owe them your souls.

Come home safe, and come home sane. The people who love you and who have loved you all your lives are waiting here, and we want you to come back and be able to look us in the face. Don't leave your souls in the dust there like another corpse.

Hold on to your humanity.

Stan Goff

Facing the Truth about Iraq
James Carroll
Boston Globe
September 2, 2003

THE WAR IS LOST. By most measures of what the Bush administration forecast for its adventure in Iraq, it is already a failure. The war was going to make the Middle East a more peaceful place. It was going to undercut terrorism. It was going to show the evil dictators of the world that American power is not to be resisted. It was going to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. It was going to stabilize oil markets. The American army was going to be greeted with flowers. None of that happened. The most radical elements of various fascist movements in the Arab world have been energized by the invasion of Iraq. The American occupation is a rallying point for terrorists. Instead of undermining extremism, Washington has sponsored its next phase, and now moderates in every Arab society are more on the defensive than ever.

Before the war, the threat of America's overwhelming military dominance could intimidate, but now such force has been shown to be extremely limited in what it can actually accomplish. For the sake of ''regime change,'' the United States brought a sledge hammer down on Iraq, only to profess surprise that, even as Saddam Hussein remains at large, the structures of the nation's civil society are in ruins. The humanitarian agencies necessary to the rebuilding of those structures are fleeing Iraq.

The question for Americans is, Now what? Democrats and Republicans alike want to send in more US soldiers. Some voices are raised in the hope that the occupation can be more fully ''internationalized,'' which remains unlikely while Washington retains absolute control. But those who would rush belligerent reinforcements to Iraq are making the age-old mistake.

When brutal force generates resistance, the first impulse is to increase force levels. But, as the history of conflicts like this shows, that will result only in increased resistance. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has rejected the option of more troops for now, but, in the name of force-protection, the pressures for escalation will build as US casualties mount. The present heartbreak of one or two GI deaths a day will seem benign when suicide bombers, mortar shells, or even heavier missile fire find their ways into barracks and mess halls. Either reinforcements will be sent to the occupation, or present forces will loosen the restraints with which they reply to provocation. Both responses will generate more bloodshed and only postpone the day when the United States must face the truth of its situation. The Bush administration's hubristic foreign policy has been efficiently exposed as based on nothing more than hallucination. High-tech weaponry can kill unwilling human beings, but it cannot force them to embrace an unwanted idea. As rekindled North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs prove, Washington's rhetoric of ''evil'' is as self-defeating as it is self-delusional. No one could have predicted a year ago that the fall from the Bush high horse of American Empire would come so hard and so quickly. Where are the comparisons with Rome now? The rise and fall of imperial Washington took not hundreds of years, but a few hundred days.

Sooner or later, the United States must admit that it has made a terrible mistake in Iraq, and it must move quickly to undo it. That means the United States must yield not only command of the occupation force, but participation in it. The United States must renounce any claim to power or even influence over Iraq, including Iraqi oil. The United States must accept the humiliation that would surely accompany its being replaced in Iraq by the very nations it denigrated in the build-up to the war.

With the United States thus removed from the Iraqi crucible, those who have rallied to oppose the great Satan will loose their raison d'etre, and the Iraqi people themselves can take responsibility for rebuilding their wrecked nation. All of this might seem terribly unlikely today, but something like it is inevitable. The only question is whether it happens over the short term, as the result of responsible decision-making by politicians in Washington, or over the long term, as the result of a bloody and unending horror.

The so-called ''lessons'' of Vietnam are often invoked by hawks and doves alike, but here is one that applies across the political spectrum. The American people saw that that war was lost in January 1968, even as the Tet Offensive was heralded as a victory by the Pentagon and the White House. But for five more years, Washington refused to face the truth of its situation, until at last it had no choice.

Because American leaders could not admit the nation's mistake, and move to undo it, hundreds of thousands of people died, or was it millions?

The war in Iraq is lost. What will it take to face that truth this time?

Copyright © 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Myth and Denial in the War on Terrorism
William Blum
August 17, 2003

It dies hard. It dies very hard. The notion that terrorist acts against the United States can be explained by envy and irrational hatred, and not by what the United States does in and to the world -- i.e., U.S. foreign policy -- is alive and well. The fires were still burning intensely at Ground Zero when Colin Powell declared: "Once again, we see terrorism; we see terrorists, people who don't believe in democracy..." [1]

George W. picked up on that theme and ran with it. He's been its leading proponent ever since September 11 with his repeated insistence, in one wording or another, that "those people hate America, they hate all that it stands for, they hate our democracy, our freedom, our wealth, our secular government." (Ironically, the president and John Ashcroft probably hate our secular government as much as anyone.)

One of Bush's many subsequent versions of this incantation, delivered more than a year after 9-11, was: "The threats we face are global terrorist attacks. That's the threat. And the more you love freedom, the more likely it is you'll be attacked." [2] In September 2002, the White House released the "National Security Strategy," purported to be chiefly the handiwork of Condoleezza Rice, which speaks of the "rogue states" which "sponsor terrorism around the globe; and reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands."

As recently as July of this year, the spokesman for Homeland Security, Brian Roehrkasse, declared: "Terrorists hate our freedoms. They want to change our ways." [3] Thomas Friedman, the renowned foreign policy analyst of the New York Times, would say amen. Terrorists, he wrote in 1998 after terrorists attacked two U.S. embassies in Africa, "have no specific ideological program or demands. Rather, they are driven by a generalized hatred of the U.S., Israel and other supposed enemies of Islam." [4] This idée fixe -- that the rise of anti-American terrorism owes nothing to American policies -- in effect postulates an America that is always the aggrieved innocent in a treacherous world, a benign United States government peacefully going about its business but being "provoked" into taking extreme measures to defend its people, its freedom and democracy. There consequently is no good reason to modify U.S. foreign policy, and many people who might otherwise know better are scared into supporting the empire's wars out of the belief that there's no choice but to crush without mercy -- or even without evidence -- this irrational, international force out there that hates the United States with an abiding passion.

Thus it was that Afghanistan and Iraq were bombed and invaded with seemingly little concern in Washington that this could well create many new anti-American terrorists. And indeed, since the first strike on Afghanistan, there have been literally scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific, about a dozen in Pakistan alone: military, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States, the latest being the heavy bombing of the U.S.-managed Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the site of diplomatic receptions and 4th of July celebrations held by the American Embassy.

The word "terrorism" has been so overused in recent years that it's now commonly used simply to stigmatize any individual or group one doesn't like for almost any kind of behavior involving force. But the word's raison d'etre has traditionally been to convey a political meaning, something along the lines of: the deliberate use of violence against civilians and property to intimidate or coerce a government or the population in furtherance of a political objective. Terrorism is fundamentally propaganda, a very bloody form of propaganda. It follows that if the perpetrators of a terrorist act declare what their objective was, their statement should carry credibility, no matter what one thinks of the objective or the method used to achieve it.

Let us look at some actual cases. The terrorists responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 sent a letter to the New York Times which stated, in part: "We declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel, the state of terrorism, and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region." [5]

Richard Reid, who tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe while aboard an American Airline flight to Miami in December 2001, told police that his planned suicide attack was an attempt to strike a blow against the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan and the Western economy. In an e-mail sent to his mother, which he intended her to read after his death, Reid wrote that it was his duty "to help remove the oppressive American forces from the Muslims' land." [6]

After the October 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, which destroyed two nightclubs and killed more than 200 people, one of the leading suspects told police that the bombings were "revenge" for "what Americans have done to Muslims." He said that he wanted to "kill as many Americans as possible" because "America oppresses the Muslims." [7]

In November 2002, a taped message from Osama bin Laden began: "The road to safety begins by ending the aggression. Reciprocal treatment is part of justice. The [terrorist] incidents that have taken place ... are only reactions and reciprocal actions." [8] That same month, when Mir Aimal Kasi, who killed several people outside of CIA headquarters in 1993, was on death row, he declared: "What I did was a retaliation against the U.S. government" for American policy in the Middle East and its support of Israel. [9] It should be noted that the State Department warned at the time that the execution of Kasi could result in attacks against Americans around the world. [10] It did not warn that the attacks would result from foreigners hating or envying American democracy, freedom, wealth, or secular government.

Similarly, in the days following the start of U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, there were numerous warnings from U.S. government officials about being prepared for retaliatory acts, and during the war in Iraq, the State Department announced: "Tensions remaining from the recent events in Iraq may increase the potential threat to US citizens and interests abroad, including by terrorist groups." [11]

Another example of the difficulty the Bush administration has in consistently maintaining its simplistic idée fixe: In June 2002, after a car bomb exploded outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, killing or injuring more than 60 people, the Washington Post reported that "U.S. officials said the attack was likely the work of extremists angry at both the United States and Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for siding with the United States after September 11 and abandoning support for Afghanistan's ruling Taliban." [12]

George W. and high officials of his administration may or may not believe what they tell the world about the motivations behind anti-American terrorism, but, as in the recent examples just given, other officials have questioned the party line for years. A Department of Defense study in 1997 concluded: "Historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States." [13]

Jimmy Carter told the New York Times in a 1989 interview:

We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers -- women and children and farmers and housewives -- in those villages around Beirut. ... As a result of that ... we became kind of a Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of our hostages and that is what has precipitated some of the terrorist attacks. [14]
Colin Powell has also revealed that he knows better. Writing of this same Lebanon debacle in his 1995 memoir, he forgoes clichés about terrorists not believing in democracy:
The USS New Jersey started hurling 16-inch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would. [15]
The ensuing terrorist attacks against U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon took the lives of 241 American military personnel. The assault upon Beirut in 1983 and 1984 is but one of many examples of American violence against the Middle East and/or Muslims since the 1980s. The record includes:
  • the shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981;
  • the furnishing of military aid and intelligence to both sides of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, including materials for chemical and biological warfare to Iraq, so as to maximize the damage each side would inflict upon the other;
  • the bombing of Libya in 1986;
  • the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987;
  • the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988;
  • the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989;
  • the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991;
  • the continuing bombings and sanctions against Iraq for the next 12 years;
  • the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, the latter destroying a pharmaceutical plant which provided half the impoverished nation's medicines;
  • the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people;
  • the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this;
  • the abduction of "suspected terrorists" from Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Albania who are then taken to places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia where they are tortured;
  • the large military and hi-tech presence in Islam's holiest land, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region;
  • the support of anti-democratic Middle East governments from the Shah to the Saudis.
"How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America?" asked George W. "I'll tell you how I respond: I'm amazed. I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am -- like most Americans, I just can't believe it because I know how good we are." [16]

To what extent do Americans really believe the official disconnect between what the U.S. does in the world and anti-American terrorism? One indication that the public is somewhat skeptical came in the days immediately following the commencement of the bombing of Iraq on March 20 of this year. The airlines later announced that there had been a sharp increase in cancellations of flights and a sharp decrease in future flight reservations in those few days. [17]

In June, the Pew Research Center released the results of polling in 20 Muslim countries and the Palestinian territories that brought the official disconnect into question even more dramatically. The polling revealed that people interviewed had much more "confidence" in Osama bin Laden than in George W. Bush. However, "the survey suggested little correlation between support for bin Laden and hostility to American ideas and cultural products. People who expressed a favorable opinion of bin Laden were just as likely to appreciate American technology and cultural products as people opposed to bin Laden. Pro-and anti-bin Laden respondents also differed little in their views on the workability of Western-style democracy in the Arab world." [18]

The Washington mentality about alleged terrorist motivations also manifests itself in current U.S. occupation policy in Iraq. Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld has declared that there are five groups opposing U.S. forces -- looters, criminals, remnants of Saddam Hussein's government, foreign terrorists and those influenced by Iran. [19] An American official in Iraq maintains that many of the people shooting at U.S. troops are "poor, young Iraqis" who have been paid between $20 and $100 to stage hit-and-run attacks on U.S. soldiers. "They're not dedicated fighters," he said. "They're people who wanted to take a few potshots." [20] With such language do American officials avoid dealing with the idea that any part of the resistance is composed of Iraqi citizens who simply do not like being bombed, invaded, occupied, and subjected to daily humiliations, and are demonstrating their resentment.

Some officials convinced themselves that it was largely the most loyal followers of Saddam Hussein and his two sons who were behind the daily attacks on Americans, and that with the capture or killing of the evil family, resistance would die out; tens of millions of dollars were offered as reward for information leading to this joyful prospect. Thus it was that the killing of the sons elated military personnel. U.S. Army trucks with loudspeakers drove through small towns and villages to broadcast a message about the death of Hussein's sons. "Coalition forces have won a great victory over the Ba'ath Party and the Saddam Hussein regime by killing Uday and Qusay Hussein in Mosul," said the message broadcast in Arabic. "The Ba'ath Party has no power in Iraq. Renounce the Ba'ath Party or you are in great danger." It called on all officials of Hussein's government to turn themselves in. [21]

What followed was several days of some of the deadliest attacks against American personnel since the guerrilla war began. Unfazed, American officials in Washington and Iraq continue to suggest that the elimination of Saddam will write finis to anti-American actions.

Another way in which the political origins of terrorism are obscured is by the common practice of blaming poverty or repression by Middle Eastern governments (as opposed to U.S. support for such governments) for the creation of terrorists. Defenders of U.S. foreign policy cite this also as a way of showing how enlightened they are. Here's Condoleezza Rice:

[The Middle East] is a region where hopelessness provides a fertile ground for ideologies that convince promising youths to aspire not to a university education, a career or family, but to blowing themselves up, taking as many innocent lives with them as possible. ... We must address the source of the problem. [22]
Many on the left speak in a similar fashion, apparently unconscious of what they're obfuscating. This analysis confuses terrorism with revolution.

In light of the several instances mentioned above -- and others can be given -- of U.S. officials giving the game away, in effect admitting that terrorists and guerrillas may be, or in fact are, reacting to perceived hurts and injustices, it may be that George W. is the only true believer among them, if in fact he is one. The leaders of the American Empire may well know -- at least occasionally when they're sitting alone at midnight -- that all their expressed justifications for invading Iraq and Afghanistan and for their "War on Terrorism" are no more than fairy tales for young children and grown-up innocents.

Officialdom doesn't make statements to represent reality. It constructs stories to pursue interests. And the interests here are irresistibly compelling: creating the most powerful empire in all history, enriching their class comrades, remaking the world in their own ideological image.

As I've written elsewhere: If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize -- very publicly and very sincerely -- to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce that America's global military interventions have come to an end. I would then inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but -- oddly enough -- a foreign country. Then I would reduce the military budget by at least 90 percent and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings, invasions and sanctions. There would be enough money. One year of our military budget is equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That's one year. That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House.

On the fourth day, I'd probably be assassinated.

[William Blum is a former State Department official. He is the author of three books: Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power, and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.]

1. Miami Herald, September 12, 2001
2. Agence France Presse, November 19, 2002
3. Washington Post, August 1, 2003, p.4
4. New York Times, August 22, 1998, p. 15
5. Jim Dwyer, et al., Two Seconds Under the World (New York, 1994), p.196; see also the statement made in court by Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who planned the attack, New York Times, January 9, 1998, p.B4
6. Washington Post, October 3, 2002, p.6
7. Washington Post, November 9, 2002; Agence France Press, December 23, 2002
8. Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2002, p.6
9. Associated Press, November 7, 2002
10. Ibid.
11. Voice of America News, April 21, 2003
12. Washington Post, June 15, 02
13. U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Science Board 1997 Summer Study Task Force on DOD Responses to Transnational Threats, October 1997, Final Report, Vol.1., p.31
14. New York Times, March 26, 1989, p.16
15. Colin Powell with Joseph E. Persico, My American Journey (New York, 1995), p.291
16. Boston Globe, October 12, 2001, p.28
17. Washington Post, March 27, 2003
18. Ibid., June 4, 2003, p.18
19. Pentagon briefing, June 30, 2003
20. Washington Post, June 29, 2003
21. Ibid., July 24, 2003, p.7
22. Ibid., August 8, 2003, p.13

The Occupation
Max Rodenbeck
The New York Review of Books
August 14, 2003


It was late April, and the pink roses in Chemical Ali's garden were in fragrant bloom. The new, self-anointed governor of this region had requisitioned the riverside villa for his headquarters. I asked him if he knew the whereabouts of its owner, a cousin of Saddam Hussein best remembered for gassing the Kurds. My host frowned thoughtfully.

"Chemical Ali, no," he said. "But I do know where others are hiding. Why don't I tell the Americans? Because I am a son of Iraq and my children will be raised here. Perhaps in future I would be judged a traitor."

He paused, pushing away an empty coffee cup. "Look, fugitives from the old regime are being sheltered by tribes that owe them favors. It is not simply a matter of honor, or fear of retribution. The real problem is that the Americans won't say what they plan to do with their 'pack of cards.' Will they send them to Guantánamo? Will they just let them go? If we knew that these bloody criminals would be tried here by an Iraqi court, it would be a different story."

We left the villa after sunset. Our driver, who had spent the afternoon drinking tea at the gatehouse, told us that the governor's guards had revealed something interesting. Late the previous night, a car had come to the villa. A stooped, thin, balding man was released from the trunk of the car, spent several hours with the governor, and departed at dawn in the same manner. The midnight guest, they swore, was none other than Ezzat Ibrahim, the king of clubs in the Pentagon's Most Wanted deck, a former ice merchant who had served as Saddam Hussein's most loyal deputy since the 1968 coup that brought his party to power.

The governor who was helping to harbor this man had spent many years in exile, hounded by Saddam's agents. His joy at the toppling of the Baath Party was apparent. He gushed about the debt of gratitude which he said all Iraqis should feel toward America. He professed deep respect for the local American commanding officer, a man he met with regularly. But did he trust the Americans? No.

A hundred days after Iraq's liberation, many questions persist. The occupying power has still not revealed what it plans to do with wanted Baathists, although it has posted an almost comically large reward, $25 million, for the biggest fish. America has still not explained, to general Iraqi satisfaction, what the goals of its occupation are. It has not set a time limit for its presence. Nor has it restored public services to the meagre standard Iraqis have long had to suffer, let alone improved them. The world's most powerful military machine has not even provided basic security.

For the coalition forces themselves, security is in many ways worse than it was during the war. Then, at least, the enemy was fairly recognizable, and if a few civilians got in the way of returning fire, that was excusable. How things have changed. The coalition troops killed since the end of major combat do not represent a large number, among an occupying force of 160,000: more troops have died in accidents (although for each person killed there have been several wounded). It is also a fact that most attacks have occurred in what has become known as the Sunni Triangle, a region stretching north and west of the capital along the Tigris and Euphrates valleys that was specially privileged under Saddam's rule. The Kurdish north and the Shiite deep south, which between them contain most of Iraq's people and land, have been relatively subdued.

But low casualties and a limited fighting "box" belie the growing boldness and frequency of armed attacks. These were running at a dozen a day by early July, including assaults by mortar, sniper fire, hand grenades, land mines, RPGs, and, most chillingly, close-range shots to the back of the head in the midst of the noonday crowds in central Baghdad. Moreover, reports from Iraq suggest that the pool of "resistance" recruits and sympathizers is growing larger. Coalition troops now face not just renegade fedayeen, but tribesmen bent on vengeance, disgruntled ex-officials and soldiers, Islamist mujahideen, and simple criminals.

The inescapable impression is that the occupation is confronting a rising insurgency that is likely to drag on for months. Not only does the daily menace tie down and demoralize troops, it exacerbates frictions with ordinary Iraqis, who are subject to intensified searches and roadblocks as well as the unpredictable risk of wandering into crossfire. Acts of sabotage, meanwhile, continue to delay reconstruction, and so perpetuate Iraqi frustrations.

The potential for a protracted, low-intensity conflict was always inherent in America's Iraq gamble. Some in the Bush administration have asserted that the very speed of the American advance, with its leapfrogging of pockets of resistance in order to secure greater strategic prizes, allowed die-hard Baathists to survive to fight another day. Others say that Saddam's inner circle had long planned to fight a rearguard war of attrition and sabotage. Hence the plundering of bank vaults, the secreting of arms across the country, and the persistence of subtle, vicious, and surprisingly effective whispering against America that hints at an organized propaganda campaign.

America has not yet lost the peace. Slowly but steadily, Iraqi grievances are beginning to be addressed. The repair of infrastructure in Baghdad itself has lagged, but progressed elsewhere. In mid-July, Paul Bremer, the American proconsul who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority, initialed a half-year budget that doubles the expenditure level of Saddam's government. A rush of new goods and fresh opinions has begun to give Iraqis a taste of the potential rewards of freedom.

Still, the fact remains that America's first one hundred days have been far from glorious. The path so far has been marked by multiple failures, many of them avoidable. Failure to articulate coherent goals, both before and after the war, for example. Failure to invest in and build on initial Iraqi goodwill. Failure to understand the nature of Iraqi suffering, or to recognize the part America itself has played in it. Failure to apply appropriate instruments and adequate resources to the problems at hand. Failure to appreciate the gravity of needs for things like justice, self-respect, and compassion. Failure to encourage and embrace outside help.

Much of this litany describes intangible things, the kinds of things that are difficult for a large army and hastily assembled bureaucracy, approaching out of a starkly alien culture, to deliver. Yet it is a fair bet to say that the present simmering guerrilla war would never have reached its current heat if some of these things had been properly considered. Iraq may still be "turned around," but the squandering of its people's trust has made the whole process slower, more painful, and far costlier than it need have been.

In Iraq today there are plenty of scenes to warm American hearts: Marines graciously losing soccer games or performing magic tricks for delighted street kids; civilians being treated with skill and kindness in American field hospitals. For most Iraqis, however, the experience of contact with the occupiers is one of small humiliations.

"They smash ours and then we have to watch them chatting away on their own," muttered a Baghdad matron within my hearing, seeing a foreign reporter laughing into his sat phone on a street corner in the upscale Mansour district. A friend "embedded" with US troops west of Baghdad was appalled to witness an officer tossing MREs to children: if you don't know how to use their flameless heat packets, it's easy to get scalded. In Mosul, I saw a worried father with his young son, trying to explain to an impatient American foot patrol that there was an unexploded bomb in his garden. "We're not authorized to leave the patrol route," was the answer I had to translate for the man. He would have to go to US headquarters in Mosul's fortified municipality building, stand behind coils of concertina wire with the daily heaving mob of citizens hoping for jobs or information, and shout for the unlikely attention of the blank-faced soldiers inside.

Sadly, many Iraqis have by now concluded that the reason for their postwar misadventures is American ill will. Contrasting their own condition with the scale of the coalition's military effort—the convoys of huge new vehicles rumbling through streets, the multiple choppers rattling overhead, the costly equipment and endless bottles of mineral water supplied to every soldier—it is easy to understand why.

Obviously, the impression is wrong. There is little American ill will toward Iraq, except perhaps the grudge felt by increasingly bored and frightened soldiers. The messiness is more a result of prewar misconceptions, wartime miscalculations, and postwar misrule.

Much ink has flowed concerning the willful swaying of intelligence regarding Iraq's purportedly vast arsenal of poison weapons and the Baathists' alleged complicity with Osama bin Laden.[1] Less has been said about the wishful thinking that pervaded pre-war assessments of Iraqi society. One source of this was the rosy picture painted by well-placed Iraqi exiles, such as Ahmed Chalabi and Kanan Makiya. Many of these people had not seen Baghdad for decades; in the case of Chalabi, not since 1958, when he was thirteen years old. Yet their repeated assertion was that Iraq was largely modern, educated, urbanized, and middle-class. Moreover, its people would greet their liberators with open arms.

Ideology provided another source of misconception. Having spent a decade defending the sanctions regime imposed by the UN Security Council following the 1991 Gulf War, US officials appear to have resisted acknowledging the deep distress and misery inflicted by it. Accounts of rising child mortality, malnutrition, and disease were routinely dismissed as exaggerations.[2] The wiping out of Iraq's middle class, with many reduced to hawking their possessions on street corners, was assumed to be a passing phase, redressed after 1996 by the launch of the UN's Oil-for-Food program. Reports of civilian deaths from sporadic bombing, in "defense" of the No-Fly Zones imposed in 1992, were described as fabrications. Besides, Saddam himself was to blame, not us.

Inside Iraq, Saddam was indeed loathed for causing the initial mess, as well as for cruelty, corruption, and other evils. But as one distinguished exile warned me shortly before the war, "Lurking one centimeter below Iraqi hatred for Saddam is hatred for America." Small wonder. However justified the 1991 war, American bombing killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilians. It destroyed an estimated $170 billion worth of infra-structure: bridges, power plants, communications networks, water treatment and distribution systems: the works. Subsequent sanctions, however milked for propaganda and spoils by Saddam's regime, effectively hindered repairs. The denial of even a small cash component in the Oil-for-Food program meant that when goods were delivered, there was often no money to pay for the nuts or bolts or workers needed to install them. During the five-year life of the program, Iraqis each received something like $200 a year worth of food rations, yet for most families this accounted for most of their income.

Iraqis still have a glazed, resentful expression when they talk about "the siege." Every schoolchild knows what Madeleine Albright told an audience in Ohio in 1996: "We think the price is worth it." In the Shiite south, the resentment turns to anger when they recall that the No-Fly Zone, resulting in a trickle of dead, was always described as having been established to protect civilians from the regime. This was despite the fact that it was imposed after the regime had finished slaughtering tens of thousands of them, crushing the 1991 uprising while the first President Bush abandoned the Shiites to their fate.

It did not require great intelligence to understand the impact of all this. In 1999, a panel charged by the UN Security Council itself reported disturbing trends such as an

increase in juvenile delinquency, begging and prostitution, anxiety about the future and a lack of motivation, a rising sense of isolation bred by absence of contact with the outside world, the development of a parallel economy replete with profiteering and criminality, cultural and scientific impoverishment, and disruption of family life.[3]

As recently as last November, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that Iraq's farm output had fallen by half since 1990. Other reports told of the collapse of industries, the creaky infrastructure, the disintegration of institutions such as hospitals and universities, and the 50 percent unemployment rate. There was no shortage of observers on the ground to note the shabby, squalid look of Iraq's streets, the growth of fetid slums, or the spread of petty corruption and thievery.

Before the war, virtually every foreign policy think tank warned of the difficulty of reconstruction.[4] Congressional panels were told bluntly that planning was inadequate. Yet despite the fact that the State Department had, of its own accord, spent months conducting working groups on different reconstruction tasks, it was not until late January that any executive authority was established to carry them out, and this was in the Defense Department. All the previous work of the State Department was discarded. Even so, the new Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance did not begin to deploy to Kuwait until two days before the war. Its chief, Jay Garner, did not reach Baghdad until two weeks after the city's fall. Little more than three weeks later, he was removed.

Then there was the war itself. There is no denying the efficiency of America's invasion or the totality of Iraq's defeat. It was an unequal match. Coalition casualties were extremely light.

Even so, some wartime decisions entailed heavy costs in its aftermath. Often, the scale of force applied was not appropriate to the level of resistance. For example, the bombing campaign has been held up as an example of "clean" warfare. Of the 30,000 bombs dropped on Iraq between March 19 and April 18, two thirds were guided munitions. Sixty percent were counted as "servicing" their targets.[5] From the ground in Iraq, it was clear that most had indeed been efficiently dropped. Approach roads to Baghdad are littered with incinerated Iraqi equipment that is often adjacent to untouched trees, bridges, lampposts, and the like.

Yet the choice of targets is more questionable. While power plants were not generally struck, transmission lines across the country were downed, a fact that has hampered efforts at repair. Silencing Iraqi propaganda may have seemed a legitimate goal, but when we consider that US forces were already close to capturing the capital when Iraq's broadcasting facilities were totally destroyed, it seems to have been unnecessary. It has certainly reduced the ability of the occupiers to communicate with the Iraqi public. For weeks after the war, the only TV channel available to most Iraqis was al-Alam, a slick, Arabic-language news service beamed from Iran that spews out slander against the occupation forces.

The destruction of the telephone system, which also happened well into the war, has proved even more disastrous. It has not simply frustrated Iraqis who are unable to check on relatives and friends—an urgent need in the ongoing chaos. It has severely crippled the reconstruction effort. How, for example, do you inform a provincial switching station that you are about to send thousands of watts surging down a fixed power line? How can an official of the Coalition Provisional Authority, sitting in the Republican Palace in Baghdad, arrange to meet with an Iraqi counterpart?

The choice of munitions was also occasionally odd. At least 1,200 cluster bombs were dropped from the air, and many thousands more lobbed by artillery. (The effect of this was particularly devastating at Baghdad's airport, where US troops feinted, withdrew, and then crushed six battalions of counterattacking Iraqis.) Each of the aerial bombs contained 200–300 bomblets, of which, on average, some 5 percent failed to explode. The dud rate for artillery-fired munitions was triple that figure. In other words, an absolute minimum of 15,000 such deadly objects are now scattered across Iraq, not to mention all the other forms of lethal discarded ordnance.

The number of Iraqi soldiers killed will probably never be known. Accounting for the civilian dead is not easy, either. Scant record-keeping, the Muslim tradition of speedy burial, and the fact that many Iraqi fighters were not in uniform add to the difficulty. According to Reuters, one NGO, relying on a mix of news reports and spot surveys, recently put the likely tally at 5,000–7,000.[6] Even assuming the number is half the lower figure, this represents ten times the human toll of September 11, relative to Iraq's population.

One much-voiced criticism of the US military is that troop strength has been too low. More pertinent, perhaps, is the question of appropriate equipment and training. In numerous situations, Iraqi civilians have been killed either because American soldiers were unable to communicate such simple instructions as Stop, or because troops answered perceived threats with lethal gunfire rather than crowd control measures. Giant tanks, massive self-propelled artillery, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, with their 25-millimeter chain guns firing up to five hundred rounds a minute, are not much good for peacekeeping. On the other hand, thin-skinned Humvees offer little protection from the self-propelled grenades that are ubiquitous in Iraq. Until the occupation army is more appropriately equipped, casualties on both sides will continue to be higher than necessary.


Immediately after the war, Iraqis frequently expressed wonder at their occupiers' counterintuitive behavior. "Its like they don't know how to take over a country," said a bemused lawyer, sitting on the sidelines of one of the sweaty, chaotic early gatherings at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, where exhilarated Iraqis struggled, unsuccessfully, to make sense of the new order. "What you do is impose an immediate curfew. You protect all public buildings. You shoot looters on sight. You issue edicts to reassure people. You set up credible tribunals to air grievances and punish Saddam's thugs."

Following the initial, catastrophic period of looting, the perplexity deepened. The occupation force was clearly big and powerful, but it seemed more intent on protecting itself than on providing general security. Reports from the provinces were replete with tales of undermanned units, with few or no resources at their disposal other than guns, struggling to field a barrage of demands for aid, many of which they could not understand for lack of translators. And this despite the extraordinary American outlay on maintaining its troops: $1 billion a week, or $25,000 a month per soldier, a sum easily equal to the annual income of ten Iraqi families.

In Baghdad, American civilian administrators were nowhere to be seen. The few who had arrived were closeted inside the vast Republican Palace compound (where the choice of personnel, many of whom appeared to have been selected for ideological reasons, gave the name new meaning).[7] Security rules allowed them to leave the premises only in armed convoys. Poor cooperation from the military meant that trips were often delayed or canceled. Unable to communicate with each other even by telephone, Iraq's new rulers made virtually no effort to address the Iraqi public.

With the arrival of Paul Bremer in mid-May, the sense of dither and drift abated. The head of the newly named Coalition Provisional Authority seemed determined. Yet the desire to appear decisive appears to have taken precedence over the need to weigh decisions carefully. Sweeping proclamations announced the disbanding of the entire 400,000-man army, the barring of all senior-ranking Baath Party members from administrative functions, the banning of firearms, and the postponement of the Iraqi opposition's plans to hold a congress to hash out their future political role, to select ministers, and to convene a broader group to draft a constitution. Local polls in some fully pacified provincial cities were abruptly called off.

There were sound reasons for each of these decisions, but they happened to go against the advice not only of many Iraqis but of informed Americans, too. For example, back in November 2002, a workshop of seventy Iraq experts at the National Defense University warned against demobilizing the army too rapidly. Such a move would swell the ranks of the unemployed, and create an armed and trained pool of resentful people. It would also reinforce the impression that America was seeking to perpetuate its rule, for how could Iraq now defend itself without American troops stationed here for years to come?

Plenty of Iraqis welcomed the firing of some 30,000 higher-ranking Baathists. Yet even among those who had suffered most from the party's rule, the firing smacked of collective punishment. What of those who had joined the party solely for the purpose of advancement, many of them highly competent and untainted by any crime? What of the thousands of former POWs from the 1980–1989 Iran–Iraq war who were granted senior party rank in com-pensation for the years they spent in desert prison camps? Following the original decision, it was quickly realized that a more selective vetting process was needed, but the damage was done.

The banning of guns proved to be more farce than tragedy. First the edict had to be weakened to allow Iraqis to keep Kalashnikov assault rifles, the Model T of self-defense in a country as gun-crazed as the United States. The three-week national amnesty that followed, when citizens were meant to turn in heavier weapons, netted a mighty total of 499 pieces. Considering that the price of many of these on the open market was less than $100, it would have been more effective to offer cash in exchange, and then furnish the equipment to a reconstituted Iraqi army.

The decision to stall on democratization was a more delicate matter. The move initially infuriated the former exiles in the opposition, who had long been promised a greater role, and rightfully believed this was their moment to exert lasting influence. From Bremer's perspective, however, it was clear that the core group of parties (Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, Iyad Alawi's Iraqi National Accord, Adnan Pachachi's Democratic Alliance, the two main Shiite Islamist parties, and two Kurdish ones) were not fully representative. Giving them a measure of authority now, before other forces took coherent shape (such as Sunni Arab groups that would fill the void of the Baath Party, and secular Shiites who would challenge the Islamists), risked associating American power with a possibly tainted process. He may also have judged that the moment was not ripe for the airing of difficult questions, such as the future constitutional relation between religion and the state, or the boundaries and responsibilities of future federal regions—such as Iraqi Kurdistan.

But the undercutting of these American allies was unnecessarily clumsy. The Kurds received scant assurance that they would receive continued funding after the end of the Oil-for-Food program that has kept their fragile economy afloat. Shiites were left wondering whether the Americans intended to evade the political implications of the fact that they represent a 60 percent majority. Iraqis outside the immediate political maneuvering saw the promise of democracy, and with it the reclaiming of national pride, slip away. Bremer argued, reasonably, that elections were premature, given the lack of a census, the absence of districting, and other technical obstacles. Yet a very public effort to address such matters would have cost little and gone far to assuage the Iraqi public.

Not surprisingly, Bremer has once again been obliged to modify his initial impulse. Pressure has come not only from the deteriorating security situation, which many Iraqis see as a result of frustration at their sense of disenfranchisement. In late June, the most revered and authoritative Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani, ended months of haughty disengagement from politics with a stunning rebuke to Bremer (whom he has refused to meet, even while cordially receiving Sergio de Mello, the United Nations' special representative in Iraq). Sistani's fatwa described as "fundamentally unacceptable" the idea that the Americans might appoint a constitution-drafting committee and called for national elections to choose delegates to a constitutional congress. Given the 15 million Shiites' cautious acquiescence to American rule so far, despite calls from radicals for active "resistance," the ayatollah's expression of impatience represented a serious challenge.

It is to Bremer's credit that he responded gracefully. In early June, he announced the intention to appoint a council of Iraqis to advise the occupation authority. By early July, this body was being described as having a governing, not merely an advisory, role. Its first meeting in mid-July was not entirely smooth, as members bickered over whether to term America "liberator" or "occupier." Yet at least it gave the impression of momentum for change. Meanwhile, some of the more unsavory early American appointees to figurehead governorships were removed. District and municipal elections were held in several cities, including Baghdad. At every level, newly installed Iraqi officials were beginning to be more visible.

The reforms have come amid other signs of a more enlightened approach. American officials now say it would be a good idea to consider trying members of the former regime before Iraqi courts. Donald Rumsfeld himself has called openly for drawing on the expertise of other countries, including even the dreaded French.[8] Diplomatic pressure is being exerted on US allies, especially in the region, to contribute peacekeeping troops. Of course, such changes will ultimately dilute America's "ownership" of Iraq. That could be a good thing.

—July 16, 2003


[1] For example, this double whammy from The Washington Post of December 12, 2002: "US Suspects Al Qaeda Got Nerve Agent from Iraqis," by Barton Gellman.

[2] The very lowest of many estimates of child deaths between 1990 and 2000, caused by the rise in mortality rates from pre–Gulf War levels, is 100,000. See "Iraq Sanctions: Humanitarian Implications and Options for the Future," Global Policy Forum, New York, August 6, 2002. According to UNICEF, during the decade of the 1990s mortality rates for infants and children under five doubled, while the ratio of children not attending school and the rate of maternal mortality tripled. See "The Situation of Children in Iraq," UNICEF, Baghdad, February 2002.

[3] UN Document S/1999/356, Annex II.

[4] Here is a partial listing: Iraq at the Crossroads: State and Society in the Shadow of Regime Change, edited by Toby Dodge and Steven Simon (Oxford University Press/International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2003); Karen Guttieri, "Post-War Iraq: Prospects and Problems," Center for Contemporary Conflict, February 2003; "A Wiser Peace: An Action Strategy for a Post-Conflict Iraq," edited by Frederick Barton and Bathsheba Crocker, Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 2003; "Winning the Peace: Managing a Successful Transition in Iraq," joint policy paper, American University/Atlantic Council, January 2003.

[5] "Operation Iraqi Freedom—by the Numbers," US Central Air Forces Assessment and Analysis Division, April 30, 2003 (unclassified).

[6] "Iraq War Civilian Death Toll Past 6,000-Group," Reuters, July 9, 2003.

[7] For example, see Michael Massing, "Appoint the Best to Iraq, Not the Best-Connected," The Washington Post, July 6, 2003. "For a Town Council in Iraq, Many Queries, Few Answers," by Amy Waldman, The New York Times, July 5, 2003, describes the pro-American mayor of a large town who has yet to meet a single American official.

[8] The French firm Alcatel, for example, installed much of Iraq's phone system, and knows best how to fix it. Yet its initial approaches to help in reconstruction were rebuffed.

The Truth Will Emerge
Sen. Robert Bird
Speech to the US Senate
May 21, 2003

Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again, - -
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers.

 Truth has a way of asserting itself despite all attempts to obscure it.  Distortion only serves to derail it for a time.  No matter to what lengths we humans may go to obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out through the cracks, eventually.

 But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter.  The danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized.  The reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue.  We see a lot of this today in politics.  I see a lot of it -- more than I would ever have believed -- right on this Senate Floor.

 Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this Senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises.  There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda who masterminded the September 11th attacks, to Saddam Hussein who did not.  The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ laden death in our major cities.  We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms.  The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 911.  It was the exploitation of fear.  It was a placebo for the anger.

 Since the war's end, every subsequent revelation which has seemed to refute the previous dire claims of the Bush Administration has been brushed aside.  Instead of addressing the contradictory evidence, the White House deftly changes the subject.  No weapons of mass destruction have yet turned up, but we are told that they will in time.  Perhaps they yet will.  But, our costly and destructive bunker busting attack on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in.  It seems also to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so derided.  As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find such weapons, if they do, indeed, exist.  Meanwhile Bin Laden is still on the loose and Saddam Hussein has come up missing.

 The Administration assured the U.S. public and the world, over and over again, that an attack was necessary to protect our people and the world from terrorism.  It assiduously worked to alarm the public and blur the faces of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden until they virtually became one.

 What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the U.S.  Ravaged by years of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us.  Iraq's threatening death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and string.  Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range.  Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well trained troops.

 Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons, and the occasional buried swimming pool.  They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk.  But, the Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion  has become more than embarrassing.  It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power.  Were our troops needlessly put at risk?  Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary?  Was the American public deliberately misled?  Was the world? 

 What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are "liberators." The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves.  True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but "liberation" implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people.  In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of "liberation," we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years.

 Despite our high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is scarce, and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed, historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven knows where, while U.S. troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the oil supply.

 Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies, without benefit of competitive bidding, and the U.S. steadfastly resists offers of U.N. assistance to participate.  Is there any wonder that the real motives of the U.S. government are the subject of worldwide speculation and mistrust?

 And in what may be the most damaging development, the U.S. appears to be pushing off Iraq's clamor for self-government.  Jay Garner has been summarily replaced, and it is becoming all too clear that the smiling face of the U.S. as liberator is quickly assuming the scowl of an occupier.  The image of the boot on the throat has replaced the beckoning hand of freedom.  Chaos and rioting only exacerbate that image, as U.S. soldiers try to sustain order in a land ravaged by poverty and disease.  "Regime change" in Iraq has so far meant anarchy, curbed only by an occupying military force and a U.S. administrative presence that is evasive about if and when it intends to depart.

 Democracy and Freedom cannot be force fed at the point of an occupier's gun.  To think otherwise is folly.  One has to stop and ponder.  How could we have been so impossibly naive?  How could we expect to easily plant a clone of U.S. culture, values, and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial, and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of U.S. motives, and so at odds with the galloping materialism which drives the western-style economies?

 As so many warned this Administration before it launched its misguided war on Iraq, there is evidence that our crack down in Iraq is likely to convince 1,000 new Bin Ladens to plan other horrors of the type we have seen in the past several days.  Instead of damaging the terrorists, we have given them new fuel for their fury.  We did not complete our mission in Afghanistan because we were so eager to attack Iraq.  Now it appears that Al Queda is back with a vengeance. We have returned to orange alert in the U.S., and we may well have destabilized the Mideast region, a region we have never fully understood.  We have alienated friends around the globe with our dissembling and our haughty insistence on punishing former friends who may not see things quite our way. 

 The path of diplomacy and reason have gone out the window to be replaced by force, unilateralism, and punishment for transgressions.  I read most recently with amazement our harsh castigation of Turkey, our longtime friend and strategic ally.  It is astonishing that our government is berating the new Turkish government for conducting its affairs in accordance with its own Constitution and its democratic institutions.

 Indeed, we may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S. which claims the right to hit where it wants.  In fact, there is little to constrain this President.  Congress, in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered this President to wage war at will.

 As if that were not bad enough, members of Congress are reluctant to ask questions which are begging to be asked.  How long will we occupy Iraq?  We have already heard disputes on the numbers of troops which will be needed to retain order.  What is the truth?  How costly will the occupation and rebuilding be?  No one has given a straight answer.  How will we afford this long-term massive commitment, fight terrorism at home, address a serious crisis in domestic healthcare, afford behemoth military spending and give away billions in tax cuts amidst a deficit which has climbed to over $340 billion for this year alone?  If the President's tax cut passes it will be $400 billion.  We cower in the shadows while false statements proliferate.  We accept soft answers and shaky explanations because to demand the truth is hard, or unpopular, or may be politically costly. 

 But, I contend that, through it all, the people know.  The American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials.  They patiently tolerate it up to a point.  But there is a line.  It may seem to be drawn in invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark colors, tinged with anger.  When it comes to shedding American blood - - when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent men, women, and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable.  Nothing is worth that kind of lie - - not oil, not revenge, not reelection, not somebody's grand pipedream of a democratic domino theory.

 And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long.  Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge.  And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall.

The Reason Why
George McGovern
From The Nation
April 21, 2003

Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" (in the Crimean War)

Thanks to the most crudely partisan decision in the history of the Supreme Court, the nation has been given a President of painfully limited wisdom and compassion and lacking any sense of the nation's true greatness. Appearing to enjoy his role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces above all other functions of his office, and unchecked by a seemingly timid Congress, a compliant Supreme Court, a largely subservient press and a corrupt corporate plutocracy, George W. Bush has set the nation on a course for one-man rule.

He treads carelessly on the Bill of Rights, the United Nations and international law while creating a costly but largely useless new federal bureaucracy loosely called "Homeland Security." Meanwhile, such fundamental building blocks of national security as full employment and a strong labor movement are of no concern. The nearly $1.5 trillion tax giveaway, largely for the further enrichment of those already rich, will have to be made up by cutting government services and shifting a larger share of the tax burden to workers and the elderly. This President and his advisers know well how to get us involved in imperial crusades abroad while pillaging the ordinary American at home. The same families who are exploited by a rich man's government find their sons and daughters being called to war, as they were in Vietnam--but not the sons of the rich and well connected. (Let me note that the son of South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is now on duty in the Persian Gulf. He did not use his obvious political connections to avoid military service, nor did his father seek exemptions for his son. That goes well with me, with my fellow South Dakotans and with every fair-minded American.)

The invasion of Iraq and other costly wars now being planned in secret are fattening the ever-growing military-industrial complex of which President Eisenhower warned in his great farewell address. War profits are booming, as is the case in all wars. While young Americans die, profits go up. But our economy is not booming, and our stock market is not booming. Our wages and incomes are not booming. While waging a war against Iraq, the Bush Administration is waging another war against the well-being of America.

Following the 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the entire world was united in sympathy and support for America. But thanks to the arrogant unilateralism, the bullying and the clumsy, unimaginative diplomacy of Washington, Bush converted a world of support into a world united against us, with the exception of Tony Blair and one or two others. My fellow South Dakotan, Tom Daschle, the US Senate Democratic leader, has well described the collapse of American diplomacy during the Bush Administration. For this he has been savaged by the Bush propaganda machine. For their part, the House of Representatives has censured the French by changing the name of french fries on the house dining room menu to freedom fries. Does this mean our almost sacred Statue of Liberty--a gift from France--will now have to be demolished? And will we have to give up the French kiss? What a cruel blow to romance.

During his presidential campaign Bush cried, "I'm a uniter, not a divider." As one critic put it, "He's got that right. He's united the entire world against him." In his brusque, go-it-alone approach to Congress, the UN and countless nations big and small, Bush seemed to be saying, "Go with us if you will, but we're going to war with a small desert kingdom that has done us no harm, whether you like it or not." This is a good line for the macho business. But it flies in the face of Jefferson's phrase, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind." As I have watched America's moral and political standing in the world fade as the globe's inhabitants view the senseless and immoral bombing of ancient, historic Baghdad, I think often of another Jefferson observation during an earlier bad time in the nation's history: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

The President frequently confides to individuals and friendly audiences that he is guided by God's hand. But if God guided him into an invasion of Iraq, He sent a different message to the Pope, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the mainline Protestant National Council of Churches and many distinguished rabbis--all of whom believe the invasion and bombardment of Iraq is against God's will. In all due respect, I suspect that Karl Rove, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice--and other sideline warriors--are the gods (or goddesses) reaching the ear of our President.

As a World War II bomber pilot, I was always troubled by the title of a then-popular book, God Is My Co-pilot. My co-pilot was Bill Rounds of Wichita, Kansas, who was anything but godly, but he was a skillful pilot, and he helped me bring our B-24 Liberator through thirty-five combat missions over the most heavily defended targets in Europe. I give thanks to God for our survival, but somehow I could never quite picture God sitting at the controls of a bomber or squinting through a bombsight deciding which of his creatures should survive and which should die. It did not simplify matters theologically when Sam Adams, my navigator--and easily the godliest man on my ten-member crew--was killed in action early in the war. He was planning to become a clergyman at war's end.

Of course, my dear mother went to her grave believing that her prayers brought her son safely home. Maybe they did. But how could I explain that to the mother of my close friend, Eddie Kendall, who prayed with equal fervor for her son's safe return? Eddie was torn in half by a blast of shrapnel during the Battle of the Bulge--dead at age 19, during the opening days of the battle--the best baseball player and pheasant hunter I knew.

I most certainly do not see God at work in the slaughter and destruction now unfolding in Iraq or in the war plans now being developed for additional American invasions of other lands. The hand of the Devil? Perhaps. But how can I suggest that a fellow Methodist with a good Methodist wife is getting guidance from the Devil? I don't want to get too self-righteous about all of this. After all, I have passed the 80 mark, so I don't want to set the bar of acceptable behavior too high lest I fail to meet the standard for a passing grade on Judgment Day. I've already got a long list of strikes against me. So President Bush, forgive me if I've been too tough on you. But I must tell you, Mr. President, you are the greatest threat to American troops. Only you can put our young people in harm's way in a needless war. Only you can weaken America's good name and influence in world affairs.

We hear much talk these days, as we did during the Vietnam War, of "supporting our troops." Like most Americans, I have always supported our troops, and I have always believed we had the best fighting forces in the world--with the possible exception of the Vietnamese, who were fortified by their hunger for national independence, whereas we placed our troops in the impossible position of opposing an independent Vietnam, albeit a Communist one. But I believed then as I do now that the best way to support our troops is to avoid sending them on mistaken military campaigns that needlessly endanger their lives and limbs. That is what went on in Vietnam for nearly thirty years--first as we financed the French in their failing effort to regain control of their colonial empire in Southeast Asia, 1946-54, and then for the next twenty years as we sought unsuccessfully to stop the Vietnamese independence struggle led by Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap--two great men whom we should have accepted as the legitimate leaders of Vietnam at the end of World War II. I should add that Ho and his men were our allies against the Japanese in World War II. Some of my fellow pilots who were shot down by Japanese gunners over Vietnam were brought safely back to American lines by Ho's guerrilla forces.

During the long years of my opposition to that war, including a presidential campaign dedicated to ending the American involvement, I said in a moment of disgust: "I'm sick and tired of old men dreaming up wars in which young men do the dying." That terrible American blunder, in which 58,000 of our bravest young men died, and many times that number were crippled physically or psychologically, also cost the lives of some 2 million Vietnamese as well as a similar number of Cambodians and Laotians, in addition to laying waste most of Indochina--its villages, fields, trees and waterways; its schools, churches, markets and hospitals.

I had thought after that horrible tragedy--sold to the American people by our policy-makers as a mission of freedom and mercy--that we never again would carry out a needless, ill-conceived invasion of another country that had done us no harm and posed no threat to our security. I was wrong in that assumption.

The President and his team, building on the trauma of 9/11, have falsely linked Saddam Hussein's Iraq to that tragedy and then falsely built him up as a deadly threat to America and to world peace. These falsehoods are rejected by the UN and nearly all of the world's people. We will, of course, win the war with Iraq. But what of the question raised in the Bible that both George Bush and I read: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul," or the soul of his nation?

It has been argued that the Iraqi leader is hiding a few weapons of mass destruction, which we and eight other countries have long held. But can it be assumed that he would insure his incineration by attacking the United States? Can it be assumed that if we are to save ourselves we must strike Iraq before Iraq strikes us? This same reasoning was frequently employed during the half-century of cold war by hotheads recommending that we atomize the Soviet Union and China before they atomize us. Courtesy of The New Yorker, we are reminded of Tolstoy's observation: "What an immense mass of evil must result...from allowing men to assume the right of anticipating what may happen." Or again, consider the words of Lord Stanmore, who concluded after the suicidal charge of the Light Brigade that it was "undertaken to resist an attack that was never threatened and probably never contemplated." The symphony of falsehood orchestrated by the Bush team has been de-vised to defeat an Iraqi onslaught that "was never threatened and probably never comtemplated."

I'm grateful to The Nation, as I was to Harper's, for giving me opportunities to write about these matters. Major newspapers, especially the Washington Post, haven't been nearly as receptive.

The destruction of Baghdad has a special poignancy for many of us. In my fourth-grade geography class under a superb teacher, Miss Wagner, I was first introduced to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the palm trees and dates, the kayaks plying the rivers, camel caravans and desert oases, the Arabian Nights, Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (my first movie), the ancient city of Baghdad, Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent. This was the first class in elementary school that fired my imagination. Those wondrous images have stayed with me for more than seventy years. And it now troubles me to hear of America's bombs, missiles and military machines ravishing the cradle of civilization.

But in God's good time, perhaps this most ancient of civilizations can be redeemed. My prayer is that most of our soldiers and most of the long-suffering people of Iraq will survive this war after it has joined the historical march of folly that is man's inhumanity to man.

US Will Lose the Iraq War, Says Scott Ritter
From RTE (Irish Public Radio)
March 25, 2003

Scott RitterScott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector and author of the book Endgame. Ritter, a ballistic missile technology expert, worked in military intelligence during his 12-year career in the U.S. armed forces. In 1998, Ritter resigned from the U.N. Special Commissions team to protest Clinton Administration policies that he said subverted the weapons inspection process. In an interview with Irish radio, Mr. Ritter said that the conflict would become an "absolute quagmire," and the US-UK advance would stall outside Baghdad and fail to capture the city.

Vincent Browne: Scott Ritter... are you surprised by how the assault in Iraq is going?

Scott Ritter: No actually, I wrote a paper that was published last fall, that predicted just this. And i'm a little disturbed in listening to some of the analysis going along here. I think that one of the reasons the Americans find themselves in such difficulties in Iraq, is that so many in the Pentagon have listened to the... blithering of Iraqi expatriates who have spoken out -- rightly so -- against Saddam Hussein, and who think that it's a) the role of the United States to liberate Iraq; and b) think that the Iraqi people want us to liberate them from Saddam.

And I think that the harsh reality is that in buying off on the expectations of being greeted in the streets of Iraq with song and flowers... we now find we are being greeted with bullets and bombs.

And it's the Shia in the south who are fighting us. They're not doing it because Chemical Ali is down there with his death squads threatening to execute 'em. They're doing it because, the American Crusader Infidel has invaded and violated Holy Iraq, and they will resist us, and they will resist us strongly.

And no matter how many Iraqis we kill and slaughter, I predict that America will lose this war and ultimately the American military will leave Iraq with its tail between its legs.

Unfortunately, we're going to inflict a tremendous amount of death and destruction on the people of Iraq; the American soldiers and Marines will also pay a price.

And all those who sit outside of Iraq and courageously encourage Americans to go in and slaughter Iraqis should be ashamed of themselves.

Vincent Browne: ...You think the Americans will lose this war?

Scott Ritter: We lost Vietnam.... Remember we can kill many, many Iraqui's and we will do so. But I am telling you right now, that we do not have sufficient combat power in Iraq --as we speak-- to win this battle. So we will have to reinforce considerably.

The current posture, in terms of American deployment, is predicated on a presumption that the Iraqi Army would surrender; that the Iraqi people would welcome; that the international community would support.

The exact opposite is happening.

And now we find ourselves with fewer than 120,000 boots on the ground; facing a nation of 23 million, with armed elements numbering around 7 million -- who are concentrated at urban areas.

We will not win this fight. America will lose this war.

Saddam Hussein may die... But you know what?

I'm betting that Saddam's gonna be around a lot longer than anyone can predict.

I'm betting that we don't capture Bhagdad.

I'm betting that we stall outside Bhagdad.

I'm betting that this becomes an absolute quagmire.

I hope I'm wrong, for the sake of the American lives that are going to be lost. Remember I'm a 12 year veteran of the Marine Corps. I fought in the first Gulf War. I know what war is about. I know what defending my country is about.

This is a bad war, because it has nothing to do with the defense of the United States of America. Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration has pulled an enormous lie to the international community; to the American people.

And now we're in Iraq -- carrying out the right-wing neo-conservative motives of a handful of people; the Richard Perles, Paul Wolfowitzs, the Dick Cheneys. And we've allowed them to hijack our foreign policy.

And they've been cheered on by these Iraqi expatriates, who have zero credibility in my eyes. They're so brave and they want Iraq liberated... Then my goodness man, go to Iraq... fight and die for your country... But don't ask Americans to do it.

Statement to the Troops

We are veterans of the United States armed forces. We stand with the majority of humanity, including millions in our own country, in opposition to the United States' all out war on Iraq. We span many wars and eras, have many political views and we all agree that this war is wrong. Many of us believed serving in the military was our duty, and our job was to defend this country. Our experiences in the military caused us to question much of what we were taught. Now we see our REAL duty is to encourage you as members of the U.S. armed forces to find out what you are being sent to fight and die for and what the consequences of your actions will be for humanity. We call upon you, the active duty and reservists, to follow your conscience and do the right thing. In the last Gulf War, as troops, we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We destroyed much of Iraq from the air, killing hundreds of thousands, including civilians. We remember the road to Basra -- the Highway of Death -- where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We bulldozed trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium weapons left the battlefields radioactive. Massive use of pesticides, experimental drugs, burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires combined to create a toxic cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and Gulf War veterans today. One in four Gulf War veterans is disabled.

During the Vietnam War we were ordered to destroy Vietnam from the air and on the ground. At My Lai we massacred over 500 women, children and old men. This was not an aberration, it's how we fought the war. We used Agent Orange on the enemy and then experienced first hand its effects. We know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder looks, feels and tastes like because the ghosts of over two million men, women and children still haunt our dreams. More of us took our own lives after returning home than died in battle.

If you choose to participate in the invasion of Iraq you will be part of an occupying army. Do you know what it is like to look into the eyes of a people that hate you to your core? You should think about what your "mission" really is. You are being sent to invade and occupy a people who, like you and me, are only trying to live their lives and raise their kids. They pose no threat to the United States even though they have a brutal dictator as their leader. Who is the U.S. to tell the Iraqi people how to run their country when many in the U.S. don't even believe their own President was legally elected?

Saddam is being vilified for gassing his own people and trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. However, when Saddam committed his worst crimes the U.S. was supporting him. This support included providing the means to produce chemical and biological weapons. Contrast this with the horrendous results of the U.S. led economic sanctions. More than a million Iraqis, mainly children and infants, have died because of these sanctions. After having destroyed the entire infrastructure of their country including hospitals, electricity generators, and water treatment plants, the U.S. then, with the sanctions, stopped the import of goods, medicines, parts, and chemicals necessary to restore even the most basic necessities of life.

There is no honor in murder. This war is murder by another name. When, in an unjust war, an errant bomb dropped kills a mother and her child it is not "collateral damage," it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a child dies of dysentery because a bomb damaged a sewage treatment plant, it is not "destroying enemy infrastructure," it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a father dies of a heart attack because a bomb disrupted the phone lines so he could not call an ambulance, it is not "neutralizing command and control facilities," it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a thousand poor farmer conscripts die in a trench defending a town they have lived in their whole lives, it is not victory, it is murder.

There will be veterans leading protests against this war on Iraq and your participation in it. During the Vietnam War thousands in Vietnam and in the U.S. refused to follow orders. Many resisted and rebelled. Many became conscientious objectors and others went to prison rather than bear arms against the so-called enemy. During the last Gulf War many GIs resisted in various ways and for many different reasons. Many of us came out of these wars and joined with the anti-war movement.

If the people of the world are ever to be free, there must come a time when being a citizen of the world takes precedence over being the soldier of a nation. Now is that time. When orders come to ship out, your response will profoundly impact the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and here at home. Your response will help set the course of our future. You will have choices all along the way. Your commanders want you to obey. We urge you to think. We urge you to make your choices based on your conscience. If you choose to resist, we will support you and stand with you because we have come to understand that our REAL duty is to the people of the world and to our common future.

Name, Branch, Years

Terry Scott Adams, Army, 1964-1966
Kelly A. Allison, Navy, 1975-1979
Arvid Antonson, Air Force, 1942 - 1945
Ed Armas, Army, 1962-1965
Beatrice Arva, Army, 1985-1986, 1991-1993
Stephanie R. Atkinson, Army, 1984-1990
Paul L. Atwood, Marine Corps, 1965-1966
Niall Aslen, Royal Air Force, 1962-1986
Aram Attarian II, Air Force, 1965-1966
Henry Ayre, Coast Guard, 1942-1945
Collin Baber, Air Force, 1994-1998
Eric Bagai, Marine Corps, 1958-1961
Mack Bailey, Marine Corps, 1964-1966
David E Baker, Army, 1988-1991
Norman Balabanian, Army Air Corps, 1943-1946
Jack Barbour, Air Force, 1966-1970
Chester V Berry, Navy, WW2
Therese Bissen Bard, Army, 1951-1956
Thomas E. Barden, Army, 1968-1971
Michelle L. Bastian, Army, 1976-1979
Russell Bates, Navy, 1967-1970
George Batton, Marine Corps
Victor H. Bausch, Army, 1966-1968
Philip L. Bereano, USPHS, 1966-1970
Patricia Berry, Army, 1979-1988
Anton Black, Navy, 1977-1984
Dave Blalock, Army 1968-1971
Michael Blankschen, Army, 1972-1973
David Bledsoe, Air Force, 1987-1997
Louis Block, Army, 1966-1972
David Blodgett, Navy Reserve, 1943-1946
Yoon Bok-dong, Marine Corps, 1972-1973
Blase Bonpane, Marine Corps Reserve, 1948-1950
Charlie Bonner, Marine Corps, 1963-1972
Ronald L. Bontsema, Navy, 1943-1946 & Navy Reserve; 1946-1951
Fr. Bob Bossie, SCJ, Air Force, 1955-1959
Allan Bostelmann, Army, 1953-1955
Roy Bourgeois, Navy, 1962-1966
Norman Angus Bowen, Air Force, 1962-1967
Kathleen Boyd, Army 1974-1975 & 1984-1989
Todd Boyle, Navy, 1970-1972
Horace R. Boykin, Marine Corps, 1979-1982
William P. Brandt, Army
Don Broadwell, Marine Corps, 1960-1966
Jerry Brooks, Air Force, 1956-1959
Geoffrey Brown, Army, 1969-1971
Roger W Brown, Marine Corps, 1957-1960
Peter Brush, Marine Corps, 1966-1968
Bill Burkett, Army, 1971-1999
Greg Busby, Air Force, 1980-2000
Paul Busby, Navy, 1956-1958
Larry Bush, Army, 1968-1971
Michael Busich Sr, Marine Corps, 1965-1970
Dan Butts, Army, 1960-1963
Scott R. Cade, Army, 1968-1971
Kevin A. Cahalan, Marines, 1967-1970
Rick Campos, Air Force, 1969-1971
James Michael Case, Navy Reserve, 2.5 yrs
William J. Cavanaugh, Army, 1951-1953; Army Reserve, 1953-1982
Brian Chambers, Army, 1968-1971
Fredy Champagne, Army, 1965-1966
David Chelimer, Army, 1954-1956
Guy Chichester,USN 1952-1956
Gary A. Chipman, Army, 1970-1972
Elwood A. Chirrick, Navy, 1970-1972
Russ Christensen, Army, 1950-1954
Debra J. Clark, Army, 1976-1984
John Clarke, Air Force, 1951-1955
Rich Cohen, Army, 1963-1966
Rockney Compton, Army, 1967-1974
Howard R. Conant, Army, 1943-1946
David Connolly, Army, 1967-1971
Graham Conrad, Texas Army National Guard, 1995-2001
David Coombs, Navy, 1995-1999
Frank Corcoran, Marines Corps, 1968-1969
Willis Cornes, Army, 1966-1969
Roger D Corvin, Coast Guard, 1971-1975
Scott Cossette, Marine Corps, 1999-2001
James Coty, Army, 1959-1962
Dave Coull, Scotland, British Royal Air Force,1959-1964
Davey Coull, Scotland SNP, 1939-1945
Carrol B. Cox, Air Force, 1951-1955
Mark Cox, Marine Corps, 1989-1992
Charles Craig, Navy, 1963-1965
James M. Craven, Army, 1963-1966
Charlotte Critcher, Army, 1964-1971
Gary Phillip Crosby, Air Force, 1966-1970
Jack L. Cross, Air Force, 1942-1946
Milton Cunningham, Navy 1943-1945
Diane Curran, Army, 1969-1975
Gerald Curtis, Army 1953-1955 & Air Force 1955-1974
Robert Danko, Army Reserve, 1964-1970
Daniel N. Daugherty, Air Force, 1976-1980
Candice Davis, Navy, 1975-1979
Herbert Davis, Army, 1965-1967
Patrick Davis, Army, 1970-1971
William Davis, Navy, 1967-1971
Frank M. DePaul, Navy, 1958-1961
Ed Desmond, Navy, 1967-1971
Carl Dix, Army, 1968-1972
Burwell Dodd, Army, 1956-1958
Pete Doktor, Army, 1986-1989
Harold P. Donle, M.A., Marine Corps, 1966 to 1969
Barry Donnan, British Army, 1987-1993
Colleen Donovan-Batson. Army. 1978-1981
Thomas W. Donovan. Army. 1981-1992
Pat Driscoll, Navy, 1972-1975
John DuBois, Army, 1962-1965
Kenneth Dugan, Navy, 1984-1988
John Dunker, Army, 1964-1968
Fred Duperrault, Army Air Force, 1944-1946
Dan Duvelius. Army. 1968-1972
John P. Echavarria, Air Force, 1965-1969
Thomas Eck, Army, 1970-1972
Stephen R. Edwards, Army, 1963-1965
Joe Eldred, Army, 1985-1998
David Eldredge, Navy, 1953-1955
Jake Elkins, Marine Corps, 1965-1969
Daniel Ellsberg, Marine Corps, 1954-1957
Marcus Eriksen, Marine Corps, 1985-1991
Orlando Espino, Marine Corps
Edward A Everts, Air Force, 1941-1946
Joseph C. Farah, Army, 1960-1963
Bob Fehribach, Navy, 3 yrs
Mike Ferner, Navy, 1969-1973
Robert L. Fields, Army, 1966-1969
T. Patrick Foley, Navy, 1997-2000
David J. Fonda, Army, 1968-1971
William P Foran, Coast Guard, 1965-1971
Frank D. Ford, Air Force, 1950-1953 & 1961-1964
Joe Forgy, Army, 1944-1945
Dr. Ray Foster, Army, 1972-1975
Lou Fox, Army, 1965
Robert Freis, Navy, 1951-1955
Dean Friend, Marine Corps, 1981-1985
Joseph P. Furayter, Army, 1938-1940 & 1942-1945
John M. Gallagher, Air Force, 1967-1969
India Mahdi Gamboa, Air Force, 1985-1987
Carl Gant, Air Force, 1965-1986
Alfonoso Garcia, Army, 1970-1972
John Gear, Navy, 1978-1989
Michael B. Gehl, Army, 1973-1976
Jim Gibson, Army, 1968-1970
Stanley A. Goff, Army, 1970-1996
Ernest Goitein, Army, 1943-1945
Jay R. Goodman, Army, 1969-1970
Amy C. Goodrich, Army, 1997-2002
R. Thomas Goodwin, Marine Corps, 1969-1971
Darrell L. Gray, Army, 1948-1952
Jerry Greenberg
Todd Greenwood, Marine Corps, 1993-2001
Warren R. Greer, Navy Reserve, 1943-1945
R. C Guerrero, Marine Corps, 1964-1968
Edmonde Haddad, Air Force, 1951-1954
Steven Haines, Navy, 1963-1966
Linda J. Halford, Army Nurse Corps, 1968-1969
Kev Hall, Navy, 1973-1978
Robert Charles Hamilton III, Navy, 1986-1990
Jane D. Hamm, Marine Corps, 1943-1945
James Hamon, Air Force, 1954-1956
Robert Hanegan, Army, 1966-1969, & Air Force, 1981-1989
John Hanscom, Air Force, 1968-1990
Bob Hanson, Army Signal Corps, 1954-1956
James F. Harrington, Air Force, 1966-1967
David Harris, Air Force, 1965-1967
Mike Hastie, Army, 1969-1972
William T. Hathaway, Army, 1964-1967
Mike Hazard, Coast Guard, 1970-1976
Rev. Richard K. Heacock, Jr., Navy, 1944-1946
Glenn Helkenn, Army, 7 yrs
Dud Hendrick, Air Force, 1963-1967
Edwin H. Hennesey, Marine Corps, 1957-1967 & Air Force 1971-1975
Rodger Herbst, Army, 1969-1971
Andres Hernandez, Navy Reserve, 1979-1985
Cesar F. Hernandez, Marine Corps, 1967-1970
Steven A. Hessler, Air Force, 1973-1975
Douglas Higgs, Army, 1969-1971
Oliver Hirsch, Air Force, 1966-1968
John Hockman, Army, 1963-1965
Larry Holmes, Army, 1971-1972
Arthur M. Howard, Army Air Force, 1944-1947
Walter Hrozenchik, Navy, 1951-1955
James Patrick Hynes, British Army, 1940s
A. S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, Air Force, 1961-1969
David M. Ionno, Army, 1970-1971
Aaron Isom, Marine Corps, 1994-2000
Leo Jacobs, Army, 1942-I946
Arthur James, Army, 1969-1970
Charles Jannuzi, Army National Guard, 1980-1988 & Army Reserve, 1988-1989
Allen L. Jasson, Australian Army, 1972-1974
Harold B. Jamison, Air Force, 20 years
Joseph A. Jennings III, Army, 1967-1970
Michael L. Job, Army, 1968-1970
Ralph Johansen, Army, 3 years
Eric Edward Johansson, Army, 1989-1992
Jewel R. Johnson, Navy, 1944-1946
Lance Johnson, Army, 1992-1996
James C. Johnston, Army, 1966-1968
Mike Jordan, Navy, 1966-1970
Laurie Josue, Air Force, 1986-1990
Eric Joyal, Army, 1989-1996
Olaniyan Kanissa'ai, Navy, 1972-1974
Thomas V. Karlin, Navy, 1956-1960
James Michael Kearney, Army, 1963-1965
Shelly R. Kekes, Army & OH National Guard, 1978-1982
Ray Kell, Army, 1945-1946
Gerald Keller, Army, 1977-1981
Keith Keller, Air Force, 1966-1972
Elizabeth A. Kelly, Navy, 1975-1977
Harold E. Kelly, Jr., Air Force, 1977-1984
George M. Kesselring, Air Force, 1942-1963
Gerald Kessler, Air Force, 1940-1945
Talat Khan, Air Force, 1986-1992
Peretz Kidron, Israeli Defense Force, 1954-1957
Richard L. Kilgore, Marine Corps, 1965-1967

Name, Branch, Years

Charles Kilmer, Army, 1967-1970
Harold LM Kimball, Army, 1990-2001
Robert A. Kinsey, Marine Corps, 1955-1961
Robert Kirkconnell, Air Force, 1967-1994
Ralf Klein, German Airforce, 1974-1986
Ronald Knarr, Marines Corps, 1950-1952
Ron Kovic, Marine Corps, 1964-1968
Raymond Krauss, Marine Corps, 1969-1972
Robert Krezewinski, Navy, 1973-1977
Marty Kunz, Navy, 1970-1976
Krystal Kyer, Navy, 1993-1997
Mike Ladich, Marine Corps, 1943-1946
Edwin Lainhart, Navy, 1964-1968
Jack A. Lancaster, Navy, WW2
Michael Lawton, Navy, 1962-1965
Bryan J. Ledoux, Army, 1976-1980 & 1988-1999
Kenneth M. Lee, Army, 1970-1973
Tim Lennon, Army, 1965-1968
Lew Levenson, Navy, 1948-1985
John L. Levy, Naval Reserve, 1942-1946
Brian Lewis, Air Force, 1982-1988
Dan Lewis, Navy Reserve, 1976-1995
Janet Marie Lewis, Army, 1989-1993
Neal Liden, Navy, 1965-1969
Janine Lockwood, Army, 1975-1978
Tom Lorenz, Air Force, 1967-1989
Charles Luce, Air Force, 1955-1959
Larry Lugar, Army, 1960-1966
Jerome M Lui, Army, 1944-1946
Keth Luke, Army, 1967-69
Fred W. MacArthur, Jr., Air Force, 1958-1983
Anthony Mallin, Navy 1943-1945 & Navy Reserve 1950-1951
Donald F. Maple, Navy, 1945-1946
George Mariscal, Army, 1968-1970
Roger N. Matherly, Navy, 1972-1976
Rela Mazali, Israel Defense Force, 1966-1968
Mark McCleary, Navy, 1996-2002
O'Kelly McCluskey, Navy 1944-1946 & Air Force 1953-1957
Paul James McCoy, Navy, 1943-1945
Bruce McFarland, Navy, 1982-1986
C. Andrew McGuffin, Marine Corps, 1990-1994
Jim McWatt, Army, 1.5 yrs
Teresa Media, Navy, 1972-1977
Lloyd D. Mercer, Army, 1965-1968
Nathaniel I. Merwin, Army, 1993-2001
Dale Miller, National Guard, 1978-2003
Greg Miller, Army, 1966-1968
Norman S. Miller, Army, 1939-1946
Ronnie D. Miller, Army, 3 yrs
Will Miller, Army Security Agency, 1957-1962
Dr. Dennis W. Mills, Army, 1966-1969
Jack Minassian, Army, 1943-1945
Joshua Minchen, Army, 1997-2000
Rob Moitoza, Navy, 1965-1971
George Molina, Marine Corps, 1968-1970
James W. Moore, Air Force, 1950-1954
Michael Moore, Army, 1975-1979
Paul S. Moorhead, Navy, 1943-1946
Austin Moran, Navy, 1978-1985
Dale L. Morgan, Air Force, 1956-1960
David Rees Morgan, British Royal Air Force, 1948-1950
Catherine Morris, Marine Corps, 1981-1985 & Army National Guard, 1989-1996
Rob Morris, Army, 1965-1969
Bryan Morrison, Air Force, 1994-1998
Paul Pat Morse, Air Force, 1965-1968
Steve Morse, Army, 1969-1971
Charles F. Munat, Army, Navy, 1979-1985
Carlos Munoz Jr., Army, 1959-1962
Joanne Murphy, Army Corps of Engineers, 2 years
John L. Murray, Army, 1971-1973
Germane Nachious, National Guard, 1994-2000
Greg Nees, Marine Corps, 1969-1971
John Niemi, Army, 1968-1970
Stan Nishimura, Army, 1964-1967
Jim Northrup, Marine Corps, 1961-1966
Tom Norwood, Army, 1952-1954
Edward J. Novicki, Marine Corps, 1973-1978
Robert Nuzum, Navy, 1950-1953
Jerome P. O'Mara, Army, 1966-1968
Greg A. O'Neill, Navy 1970-1974; Army 1979-1983
John L. Opperman, Navy, 1951-1970
T. E. Origer, Marine Corps, 1967-1969
Victor L. Ortiz, Army, 32 yrs
Ralph Osbon, 1969-1971
Clyde J. Oskins, Navy, 1944-1946
Doug Osmond, Army, 4 years
Wayne Evan Packwood, 1964-1968
John J. Pagoda, Air Force, 1965-1968 and 1985-1998
Todd A. Papasadero, Army, 1983-1989
John Pappademos, Naval Reserves, 1943-1946
Jeff Paterson, Marine Corps, 1986-1990
Norman L. Pearman, Army, 1950-1952
Richard Pedersen, Naval Reserve 1955-1959
Joe Peitte, Air Force, 1966-1969
Robert Perrotta, Army, 1966-1968
James Perry, Marine Corps, 1966-1968
Joseph W. Potts, Marine Corps, 1970-1972
Wilson M. Powell, Air Force, 1950-1954
Joseph M. Powers, Army, 1970-1971
William Arthur Raab, Navy Reserve, 1943-1946
Keith Rashall, Air Force, 1964-1967
Douglas Reeves, Army, 1990-1995
John Regan, Army, 1990-1991
Dana Richter, 1967-1971
Jerry D. Riley, Army 1953-1955
Ervine M. Rips, Army, 1942-1946
Douglas Robbins, Air Force, 1952-1956
Don Roberts, Navy, 1978-1988
Marcia Furayter Roberts, Army, 1983-1991
Robert J Rogers, Air Force 1951-1953
James H. Romer
Irwin A Rose, Navy, WWII
Robert L. Rosenberg, Army, 1944-1946
Samuel M. Ross, Merchant Seaman, 1941-1946
Randy Rowland, Army, 1967-1970
George Rubin, Army Air Force, 1943-1945
John Rueckert, Marine Corps, 1967-1969
Felix Rusnak, Army, 2 yrs
Rodney A Rylander, Air Force, 1962-1967
Steven E. Saelzler, Army, 1969-1971
Emile E. Sander IV, Marine Corps, 1980-2000
Kenna E. Sander, Army, 1982-1985
Lee Santa, Army, 1965-1968
Luis Manuel Santiago, Army, 6 yrs
William F. Santelmann, Jr., Marine Corps, Air Force Reserves, 1954-1957
Patrick Santy, Air Force, 1966-1970
Dan Scaarlett, Army, 1943-1945
Paul Schaefer, Air Force, 1960-1964
Richard Hermann Schmidt, Navy, 1957-1960
Louis Anthony Schmittroth, Jr., Army, 1943-1956
Ken Schneider, Air Force, 1960-1964
Nikko Schoch, Army, 1968-1970
Allen T. Schwartz, Navy, 1990-1991
Steven R. "Kim" Scipes, Marine Corps, 1969-1973
Betty R. Scott, Navy, 1943-1945
Walter M. Scott, Army, 1960-1962
George Seaman, Army, 1971-1975
Burt Shachter, Air Force, 1944-1946
Richard Shaffer, Marine Corps, 1956-1959
Peter B. Shaw, Marine Corps, 1951-1954
Paul A. Sheehan, Air Force, 1988-1992
James Shockley, Army, 1975-1978
Larry Shute, Army, 1952-1954
Vern Simula, Army, 1954-1956
William O. Slayman, Navy, 1943-1946
Bob Slentz-Kesler, Army, 1990-1992
Bradley Smith, Navy, 1974-1980
Charles T. Smith, Army, 1969-1971
Douglas C. Smyth, Army Security Agency, 1961-1964
Tracey William Snyder, Navy, 1994-1998
Robert Sorrell, Navy, 1963-1967
John Steinbach, Coast Guard, 1965-1969
Robert Stephens, Marine Corps, 1966-1970
Joe Stern, Air Force, 1941-1946
John D. Stickle, Air Force, 1966-1970
Harold L. Stokes
Ted Stolze, Air Force, 1979-1980
William B. Strange Jr., Army, 1967-1970
Roy L. Streit, Navy, 1967-1968
Harold Strom, 25 years
Darnell S. Summers, Army, 1966-1970
Amos Sunshine, Army
Charles W. Sweet, Army, 1942-1946
Thomas Swift, Army, 1953-1955
Harold Taggart, Air Force, 1959-1964
Toby Tahja-Syrett, Army, 1992-1996
Bruce William Taylor, Navy, 10 years
d'andre Teeter, Navy, 1965-1966
Elliott Teters, Army, 1977-1980
Joe Thompson, Army, 1958-1961
Edward L. Tonningsen, Army, 1943-1946
Robert Travaline, Air Force, 1968-1972
Tom Trigg, Army, 1967-1975
Stanley Ray Turpin, Army, 1987-1992
Peggy Tuxen-Akers, Army Nurse Corps, 1969-1972
Joe Urgo, Air Force, 1966-1970
Tom Urgo, Army, 1968-1970
Michael Vaughan, Navy, 1976-1980
Frederick J. Vermillion, 1951 to 1955
Robert Vreeland, Army, 1967-1969
Gerald Waite, Army, 1967-1982
Paul J. Walker, Air Force, 1974-1978
Robert Lee Jimmy Ward, Air Force, 1954-1963
Tom Ward, Air Force, 1959-1963
William H. Warrick III MD, Army Security Agency, 1968-1971
John Warriner, Air Force, 1964-1969
Eric Wasileski, Navy, 1993-1999
Brian G. Watko, Army, 1992-1996
Cora Tula Watters, Marine Corps, Korean Era
Carl Webb, Army, 1982-present
Kenneth Weeks, Marine Corps, 1960-1966
Chris Welch, Air Force, 1984-1988
Joel Wendland, Army, 1991-1993
Jerry West, Marine Corps, 1965-1970
Phillip Whitaker, Air Force, 1973-1981
Chris White, Marine Corps, 1994-1998
Tim White, Air Force, 1966-1970
Roy W. White, Air Force, 1949-1953
Darrell Widner, Navy, 1977-1981
David Wiggins MD, Army, Gulf War
E. Duane Wilkerson, Air Force, 1969-1973
Sonny Williams, Army, 1966-1970
John P. Wirtz, Army, 1943-1946
Robert J. ``Woody'' Woodruff, Army, 1966-1970
James Wojtkowski, Navy, 1969-1972
Mike Wong, Army, 1969-1975
Paul Wright, Army, 1983-1987
William Yates, Navy, 1943-1946
Leonard Zablow, Army, 1945-1946
Luis Zamora, Army, 1948-1971
Jeff Zamrzla, Marine Corps, 1974-1976
Eddie Zawaski, Navy, 1967-1968
Howard Zinn, Air Force, 1943-1945
Greg Zolad, Army, 1967-1969

The United States of America Has Gone Mad
John le Carre
Times Online
January 15, 2003

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world's poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer's pocket? At what cost - because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people - in Iraqi lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are with the enemy. Which is odd, because I'm dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam's downfall - just not on Bush's terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America's Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

God also has pretty scary connections. In America, where all men are equal in His sight, if not in one another's, the Bush family numbers one President, one ex-President, one ex-head of the CIA, the Governor of Florida and the ex-Governor of Texas.

Care for a few pointers? George W. Bush, 1978-84: senior executive, Arbusto Energy/Bush Exploration, an oil company; 1986-90: senior executive of the Harken oil company. Dick Cheney, 1995-2000: chief executive of the Halliburton oil company. Condoleezza Rice, 1991-2000: senior executive with the Chevron oil company, which named an oil tanker after her. And so on. But none of these trifling associations affects the integrity of God's work.

In 1993, while ex-President George Bush was visiting the ever-democratic Kingdom of Kuwait to receive thanks for liberating them, somebody tried to kill him. The CIA believes that "somebody" was Saddam. Hence Bush Jr's cry: "That man tried to kill my Daddy." But it's still not personal, this war. It's still necessary. It's still God's work. It's still about bringing freedom and democracy to oppressed Iraqi people.

To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell us which is which. What Bush won't tell us is the truth about why we're going to war. What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil - but oil, money and people's lives. Saddam's misfortune is to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and who helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who doesn't, won't.

If Saddam didn't have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart's content. Other leaders do it every day - think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.

Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, if he's still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes' notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America's need to demonstrate its military power to all of us - to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair's part in all this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can't. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can' t get out.

It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked himself against the ropes, neither of Britain's opposition leaders can lay a glove on him. But that's Britain's tragedy, as it is America's: as our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way. Blair's best chance of personal survival must be that, at the eleventh hour, world protest and an improbably emboldened UN will force Bush to put his gun back in his holster unfired. But what happens when the world 's greatest cowboy rides back into town without a tyrant's head to wave at the boys?

Blair's worst chance is that, with or without the UN, he will drag us into a war that, if the will to negotiate energetically had ever been there, could have been avoided; a war that has been no more democratically debated in Britain than it has in America or at the UN. By doing so, Blair will have set back our relations with Europe and the Middle East for decades to come. He will have helped to provoke unforeseeable retaliation, great domestic unrest, and regional chaos in the Middle East. Welcome to the party of the ethical foreign policy.

There is a middle way, but it's a tough one: Bush dives in without UN approval and Blair stays on the bank. Goodbye to the special relationship.

I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect's sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can't explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar.

"But will we win, Daddy?"

"Of course, child. It will all be over while you're still in bed."


"Because otherwise Mr Bush's voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him."

"But will people be killed, Daddy?"

"Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people."

"Can I watch it on television?"

"Only if Mr Bush says you can."

"And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?"

"Hush child, and go to sleep."

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: "Peace is also Patriotic". It was gone by the time he'd finished shopping.

Time to Stand Up
Richard Dawkins

Written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Madison, Wisconsin, September 2001.

"To blame Islam for what happened in New York is like blaming Christianity for the troubles in Northern Ireland!" Yes. Precisely. It is time to stop pussyfooting around. Time to get angry. And not only with Islam.

Those of us who have renounced one or another of the three "great" monotheistic religions have, until now, moderated our language for reasons of politeness. Christians, Jews and Muslims are sincere in their beliefs and in what they find holy. We have respected that, even as we have disagreed with it. The late Douglas Adams put it with his customary good humor, in an impromptu speech in 1998 (slightly abridged):

Now, the invention of the scientific method is, I'm sure we'll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked. If it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn't withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn't seem to work like that. It has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, "Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not?--because you're not!" If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says 'I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday,' you say, "I respect that."

The odd thing is, even as I am saying that, I am thinking "Is there an Orthodox Jew here who is going to be offended by the fact that I just said that?" But I wouldn't have thought "Maybe there's somebody from the left wing or somebody from the right wing or somebody who subscribes to this view or the other in economics" when I was making the other points. I just think "Fine, we have different opinions." But, the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody's (I'm going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say "No, we don't attack that; that's an irrational belief but no, we respect it."

Why should it be that it's perfectly legitimate to support the Labor party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows--but to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the Universe . . . no, that's holy? What does that mean? Why do we ring-fence that for any other reason other than that we've just got used to doing so? There's no other reason at all, it's just one of those things that crept into being and once that loop gets going it's very, very powerful. So, we are used to not challenging religious ideas but it's very interesting how much of a furor Richard creates when he does it! Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you're not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be.

Douglas is dead, but I think he would join me in asking people now to stand up and break this absurd taboo. My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the "Day of Prayer" in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say "Enough!" Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.

Notwithstanding bitter sectarian hatreds over the centuries (all too obviously still going strong), Judaism, Islam and Christianity have much in common. Despite New Testament watering down and other reformist tendencies, all three pay historic allegiance to the same violent and vindictive God of Battles, memorably summed up by Gore Vidal in 1998:

The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal--God is the Omnipotent Father--hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is not just in place for one tribe, but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.

In The Guardian of 15th September, I named belief in an afterlife as the key weapon that made the New York atrocity possible. Of prior significance is religion's deep responsibility for the underlying hatreds that motivated people to use that weapon in the first place. To breathe such a suggestion, even with the most gentlemanly restraint, is to invite an onslaught of patronizing abuse, as Douglas Adams noted. But the insane cruelty of the suicide attacks, and the equally vicious though numerically less catastrophic 'revenge' attacks on hapless Muslims living in America and Britain, push me beyond ordinary caution.

How can I say that religion is to blame? Do I really imagine that, when a terrorist kills, he is motivated by a theological disagreement with his victim? Do I really think the Northern Ireland pub bomber says to himself "Take that, Tridentine Transubstantiationist bastards!" Of course I don't think anything of the kind. Theology is the last thing on the minds of such people. They are not killing because of religion itself, but because of political grievances, often justified. They are killing because the other lot killed their fathers. Or because the other lot drove their great grandfathers off their land. Or because the other lot oppressed our lot economically for centuries.

My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a "they" as opposed to a "we" can be identified at all. I am not even claiming that religion is the only label by which we identify the victims of our prejudice. There's also skin color, language, and social class. But often, as in Northern Ireland, these don't apply and religion is the only divisive label around. Even when it is not alone, religion is nearly always an incendiary ingredient in the mix as well.

It is not an exaggeration to say that religion is the most inflammatory enemy-labelling device in history. Who killed your father? Not the individuals you are about to kill in 'revenge.' The culprits themselves have vanished over the border. The people who stole your great grandfather's land have died of old age. You aim your vendetta at those who belong to the same religion as the original perpetrators. It wasn't Seamus who killed your brother, but it was Catholics, so Seamus deserves to die "in return." Next, it was Protestants who killed Seamus so let's go out and kill some Protestants "in revenge." It was Muslims who destroyed the World Trade Center so let's set upon the turbaned driver of a London taxi and leave him paralyzed from the neck down.

The bitter hatreds that now poison Middle Eastern politics are rooted in the real or perceived wrong of the setting up of a Jewish State in an Islamic region. In view of all that the Jews had been through, it must have seemed a fair and humane solution. Probably deep familiarity with the Old Testament had given the European and American decision-makers some sort of idea that this really was the 'historic homeland' of the Jews (though the horrific stories of how Joshua and others conquered their Lebensraum might have made them wonder). Even if it wasn't justifiable at the time, no doubt a good case can be made that, since Israel exists now, to try to reverse the status quo would be a worse wrong.

I do not intend to get into that argument. But if it had not been for religion, the very concept of a Jewish state would have had no meaning in the first place. Nor would the very concept of Islamic lands, as something to be invaded and desecrated. In a world without religion, there would have been no Crusades; no Inquisition; no anti-Semitic pogroms (the people of the diaspora would long ago have intermarried and become indistinguishable from their host populations); no Northern Ireland Troubles (no label by which to distinguish the two 'communities,' and no sectarian schools to teach the children historic hatreds--they would simply be one community).

It is a spade we have here, let's call it a spade. The Emperor has no clothes. It is time to stop the mealy-mouthed euphemisms: 'Nationalists,' 'Loyalists,' 'Communities,' 'Ethnic Groups.' Religions is the word you need. Religion is the word you are struggling hypocritically to avoid.

Parenthetically, religion is unusual among divisive labels in being spectacularly unnecessary. If religious beliefs had any evidence going for them, we might have to respect them in spite of their concomitant unpleasantness. But there is no such evidence. To label people as death-deserving enemies because of disagreements about real world politics is bad enough. To do the same for disagreements about a delusional world inhabited by archangels, demons and imaginary friends is ludicrously tragic.

The resilience of this form of hereditary delusion is as astonishing as its lack of realism. It seems that control of the plane which crashed near Pittsburgh was probably wrestled out of the hands of the terrorists by a group of brave passengers. The wife of one of these valiant and heroic men, after she took the telephone call in which he announced their intention, said that God had placed her husband on the plane as His instrument to prevent the plane crashing on the White House. I have the greatest sympathy for this poor woman in her tragic loss, but just think about it! As my (also understandably overwrought) American correspondent who sent me this piece of news said:

"Couldn't God have just given the hijackers a heart attack or something instead of killing all those nice people on the plane? I guess he didn't give a flying fuck about the Trade Center, didn't bother to come up with a plan for them." (I apologize for my friend's intemperate language but, in the circumstances, who can blame her?)

Is there no catastrophe terrible enough to shake the faith of people, on both sides, in God's goodness and power? No glimmering realization that he might not be there at all: that we just might be on our own, needing to cope with the real world like grown-ups?

Billy Graham, Mr. Bush's spiritual advisor, said in Washington Cathedral:

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands those feelings that you may have.

Well, that's big of God, I must say. I'm sure that makes the bereaved feel a whole lot better (the pathetic thing is, it probably does!). Mr. Graham went on:

I have been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a "mystery."

Less baffled by this deep theological mystery were two of America's best-known televangelists, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. In a conversation on Robertson's lucrative television show (religion is tax-exempt), they knew exactly where to put the blame. The whole thing was obviously caused by America's sin. Falwell said that God had protected America wonderfully for 225 years, but now, what with abortion and gays and lesbians and the ACLU, "all of them who have tried to secularize America . . . I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen." "Well, I totally concur," responded Robertson. Bush, to his credit, swiftly disowned this characteristic example of the religious mind at work.

The United States is the most religiose country in the Western world, and its born-again Christian leader is eyeball to eyeball with the most religiose people on Earth. Both sides believe that the Bronze Age God of Battles is on their side. Both take risks with the world's future in unshakeable, fundamentalist faith that He will grant them the victory. Incidentally, people speak of Islamic Fundamentalists, but the customary genteel distinction between fundamentalist and moderate Islam has been convincingly demolished by Ibn Warraq in his well-informed book, Why I Am Not a Muslim.

The human psyche has two great sicknesses: the urge to carry vendetta across generations, and the tendency to fasten group labels on people rather than see them as individuals. Abrahamic religion gives strong sanction to both--and mixes explosively with both. Only the wilfully blind could fail to implicate the divisive force of religion in most, if not all, of the violent enmities in the world today. Without a doubt it is the prime aggravator of the Middle East. Those of us who have for years politely concealed our contempt for the dangerous collective delusion of religion need to stand up and speak out. Things are different now. "All is changed, changed utterly."

Richard Dawkins is professor of the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford, and author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and Unweaving the Rainbow.

Rumsfeld's Style Roils Pentagon
Vernon Loeb and Thomas E.Ricks
The Washington Post, Thursday, October 17, 2002

WASHINGTON -- When Marine Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold was preparing earlier this year to leave his position as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his boss, General Richard Myers, nominated an air force officer to succeed him.

But when Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Lieutenant General Ronald Keys would be the next director of operations, or "J-3," one of the most important jobs in the U.S. military, he got a rude surprise. Not so fast, said Rumsfeld, who in a sharp departure from previous practice personally interviews all nominees for three-star and four-star positions in the military. Give me someone else, Rumsfeld told Myers after twice interviewing Keys.

Myers complied and came up with a selection more to Rumsfeld's liking, Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz of the air force, ending a long-standing practice of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs naming his own top subordinates.

Senior military officers now recount Keys's demise to illustrate a pronounced civilian-military divide at the Pentagon under Rumsfeld's leadership. Numerous officers complain bitterly that their best advice is being disregarded by someone who has spent most of the last 25 years away from the military. Rumsfeld first served as secretary of defense from 1975 to 1977, in the Ford administration.

Indeed, nearly two dozen current and former top officers and civilian officials said in interviews that there was a huge discrepancy between the outside perception of Rumsfeld - the crisp, no-nonsense defense secretary who became a media star through his briefings on the Afghan war - and the way he is seen inside the Pentagon. Many senior officers on the Joint Staff and in all branches of the military describe Rumsfeld as frequently abusive and indecisive, trusting only a tiny circle of close advisers, seemingly eager to slap down officers with decades of distinguished service. The unhappiness is so pervasive that all three service secretaries are said to be deeply frustrated by a lack of autonomy and to be contemplating leaving by the end of the year.

Rumsfeld declined to be interviewed for this article.

His disputes with parts of the top brass involve style, the conduct of military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and sharply different views about how and whether to "transform" today's armed forces. But what the fights boil down to is civilian control of a defense establishment that Rumsfeld is said to believe had become too independent and risk-averse during eight years under President Bill Clinton.

What makes this more than a bureaucratic dispute, however, is that it is influencing the Pentagon's internal debate over a possible invasion of Iraq, with some officers questioning whether their concerns about the dangers of urban warfare and other aspects of a potential conflict are being sufficiently weighed - or dismissed as typical military risk aversion.

The dispute also promises to have an impact in the coming year on the fate of expensive weapons systems, with Stephen Cambone, a top Rumsfeld deputy, now recommending more than $10 billion in savings by cutting or delaying the air force's F-22 stealth fighter, the navy's next generation aircraft carrier, and three army programs, the Comanche reconnaissance helicopter, the Stryker wheeled combat vehicle and the Future Combat System.

Rumsfeld These tensions were straining relations between the uniformed military and Rumsfeld prior to Sept. 11, 2001, but were partially submerged by the Afghan war and other counterattacks on terrorism. They have now reemerged as the Pentagon plans for a possible war in the Gulf and for a fiscal 2004 budget that is in danger of being swamped by war costs and long-deferred expenditures on modernization, new weapons and Rumsfeld's desire to transform the military into a 21st-century force.

"There is a nearly universal feeling among the officer corps that the inner circle is closed, not tolerant of ideas it doesn't already share, and determined to impose its ideas, regardless of military doubts," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute who has close ties to defense contractors and the military.

"All of the bad blood of last year is coming back in a very big way," said one former Pentagon official.

All three service secretaries were recruited from private industry to bring "best business practices" to the Pentagon and promised autonomy in making management reforms. But all three find their actions constrained by Rumsfeld and what is referred to as his small "palace guard," according to Pentagon insiders.

The air force secretary, James Roche, has felt he lacked input on decisions about the service's centerpiece program, the F-22, senior officers and defense contractors say. The navy secretary, Gordon England, has expressed an interest in a top job at the proposed Department of Homeland Security, and the army secretary, Thomas White, a former executive at Enron Corp., has been tarnished by the Enron scandal, his failure to promptly divest his Enron holdings, and a controversy over his use of army aircraft for personal business.

In Congress and elsewhere in Washington, some now are questioning whether the military feels free to give its best advice to the administration - or whether that advice is being welcomed.

"I've heard repeatedly about the lack of trust between the secretary and the uniformed officers," said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a former army officer who commanded an infantry company in the 82d Airborne Division. "That, I think is a problem," particularly, he added, with the administration contemplating an invasion of Iraq.

"If there is an atmosphere where contrary views aren't well received, you may move into an operation that isn't well-advised," a three-star officer warned.

Myers, in an interview, denied that he or any other senior officers felt constrained in speaking their minds to Rumsfeld or raising objections about pending military operations. "It has never been easier to express our opinion, our thoughts, with any secretary," Myers said.

Victoria Clarke, Rumsfeld's spokeswoman, cited a series of "spectacular accomplishments" at the Pentagon - a new defense strategy, a nuclear posture review, a restructured missile defense program, far more realistic budgeting procedures, and an ambitious agenda for "transforming" the military - and said they simply could not have happened without close civilian-military relations.

"It's extraordinary that those things got done, in the face of amazing resistance to change, at the same time we were prosecuting the war on terrorism," she said, adding that Rumsfeld "not only welcomes, but encourages, dissent."

Newsweek Interview: Mandela Calls the U.S.A. a Threat to World Peace
Newsweek, Sept. 10, 2002

NEWSWEEK: Why are you speaking out on Iraq? Do you want to mediate, as you tried to on the Mideast a couple of years ago? It seems you are reentering the fray now.
        Nelson Mandela:
If I am asked, by credible organizations, to mediate, I will consider that very seriously. But a situation of this nature does not need an individual, it needs an organization like the United Nations to mediate. We must understand the seriousness of this situation. The United States has made serious mistakes in the conduct of its foreign affairs, which have had unfortunate repercussions long after the decisions were taken. Unqualified support of the Shah of Iran led directly to the Islamic revolution of 1979. Then the United States chose to arm and finance the [Islamic] mujahedin in Afghanistan instead of supporting and encouraging the moderate wing of the government of Afghanistan. That is what led to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the most catastrophic action of the United States was to sabotage the decision that was painstakingly stitched together by the United Nations regarding the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. Because what [America] is saying is that if you are afraid of a veto in the Security Council, you can go outside and take action and violate the sovereignty of other countries. That is the message they are sending to the world. That must be condemned in the strongest terms. And you will notice that France, Germany Russia, China are against this decision. It is clearly a decision that is motivated by George W. Bush’s desire to please the arms and oil industries in the United States of America. If you look at those factors, you’ll see that an individual like myself, a man who has lost power and influence, can never be a suitable mediator.
       What about the argument that’s being made about the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s efforts to build a nuclear weapons. After all, he has invaded other countries, he has fired missiles at Israel. On Thursday, President Bush is going to stand up in front of the United Nations and point to what he says is evidence of ...
       … Scott Ritter, a former United Nations arms inspector who is in Baghdad, has said that there is no evidence whatsoever of [development of weapons of] mass destruction. Neither Bush nor [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair has provided any evidence that such weapons exist. But what we know is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody talks about that. Why should there be one standard for one country, especially because it is black, and another one for another country, Israel, that is white.
       So you see this as a racial question?
        Well, that element is there. In fact, many people say quietly, but they don’t have the courage to stand up and say publicly, that when there were white secretary generals you didn’t find this question of the United States and Britain going out of the United Nations. But now that you’ve had black secretary generals like Boutros Boutros Ghali, like Kofi Annan, they do not respect the United Nations. They have contempt for it. This is not my view, but that is what is being said by many people.
       What kind of compromise can you see that might avoid the coming confrontation?
There is one compromise and one only, and that is the United Nations. If the United States and Britain go to the United Nations and the United Nations says we have concrete evidence of the existence of these weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we feel that we must do something about it, we would all support it.
       Do you think that the Bush administration’s U.N. diplomatic effort now is genuine, or is the President just looking for political cover by speaking to the U.N. even as he remains intent on forging ahead unilaterally?

       Well, there is no doubt that the United States now feels that they are the only superpower in the world and they can do what they like. And of course we must consider the men and the women around the president. Gen. Colin Powell commanded the United States army in peacetime and in wartime during the Gulf war. He knows the disastrous effect of international tension and war, when innocent people are going to die, young men are going to die. He knows and he showed this after September 11 last year. He went around briefing the allies of the United States of America and asking for their support for the war in Afghanistan. But people like Dick Cheney … I see yesterday there was an article that said he is the real president of the United States of America, I don’t know how true that is. Dick Cheney, [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, they are people who are unfortunately misleading the president. Because my impression of the president is that this is a man with whom you can do business. But it is the men who around him who are dinosaurs, who do not want him to belong to the modern age. The only man, the only person who wants to help Bush move to the modern era is Gen. Colin Powell, the secretary of State.
        I gather you are particularly concerned about Vice President Cheney?
        Well, there is no doubt. He opposed the decision to release me from prison [laughs]. The majority of the U.S. Congress was in favor of my release, and he opposed it. But it’s not because of that. Quite clearly we are dealing with an arch-conservative in Dick Cheney.
        I’m interested in your decision to speak out now about Iraq. When you left office, you said, “I’m going to go down to Transkei, and have a rest.” Now maybe that was a joke at the time. But you’ve been very active.
       I really wanted to retire and rest and spend more time with my children, my grandchildren and of course with my wife. But the problems are such that for anybody with a conscience who can use whatever influence he may have to try to bring about peace, it’s difficult to say no.
       © 2002 Newsweek, Inc.

Representative Kucinich's Prayer for America
Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Editor's Note: The following is a speech that Dennis Kucinich, U.S. Congressman from Cleveland, Ohio, gave in February, 2002 at the University of Southern California. Rep. Kucinich is the leader of the Progressive Caucus and a longtime defender of free speech, civil liberties and international peace. This speech makes him the first member of the United States Congress to openly repudiate President Bush's war rationale.

I offer these brief remarks today as a prayer for our country, with love of democracy, as a celebration of our country. With love for our country. With hope for our country. With a belief that the light of freedom cannot be extinguished as long as it is inside of us.

With a belief that freedom rings resoundingly in a democracy each time we speak freely. With the understanding that freedom stirs the human heart and fear stills it. With the belief that a free people cannot walk in fear and faith at the same time.

With the understanding that there is a deeper truth expressed in the unity of the United States. That implicit in the union of our country is the union of all people. That all people are essentially one. That the world is interconnected not only on the material level of economics, trade, communication, and transportation, but interconnected through human consciousness, through the human heart, through the heart of the world, through the simply expressed impulse and yearning to be and to breathe free. I offer this prayer for America.

Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving for civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask, why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?

How can we justify in effect canceling the First Amendment and the right of free speech, the right to peaceably assemble?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, and allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment?

We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it. We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant. We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups. We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data which may exist in any system anywhere such as medical records and financial records.

We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance. We cannot justify a government which takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy. The Attorney General recently covered up a statue of Lady Justice showing her bosom as if to underscore there is no danger of justice exposing herself at this time, before this administration.

Let us pray that our nation's leaders will not be overcome with fear. Because today there is great fear in our great Capitol. And this must be understood before we can ask about the shortcomings of Congress in the current environment. The great fear began when we had to evacuate the Capitol on September 11. It continued when we had to leave the Capitol again when a bomb scare occurred as members were pressing the CIA during a secret briefing. It continued when we abandoned Washington when anthrax, possibly from a government lab, arrived in the mail. It continued when the Attorney General declared a nationwide terror alert and then the Administration brought the destructive Patriot Bill to the floor of the House. It continued in the release of the Bin Laden tapes at the same time the President was announcing the withdrawal from the ABM treaty. It remains present in the cordoning off of the Capitol. It is present in the camouflaged armed national guardsmen who greet members of Congress each day we enter the Capitol campus. It is present in the labyrinth of concrete barriers through which we must pass each time we go to vote. The trappings of a state of siege trap us in a state of fear, ill equipped to deal with the Patriot Games, the Mind Games, the War Games of an unelected President and his unelected Vice President.

Let us pray that our country will stop this war. "To promote the common defense" is one of the formational principles of America. Our Congress gave the President the ability to respond to the tragedy of September the Eleventh. We licensed a response to those who helped bring the terror of September the Eleventh. But we the people and our elected representatives must reserve the right to measure the response, to proportion the response, to challenge the response, and to correct the response.

Because we did not authorize the invasion of Iraq. We did not authorize the invasion of Iran. We did not authorize the invasion of North Korea. We did not authorize the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan. We did not authorize permanent detainees in Guantanamo Bay. We did not authorize the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention. We did not authorize military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus. We did not authorize assassination squads. We did not authorize the resurrection of COINTELPRO. We did not authorize the repeal of the Bill of Rights. We did not authorize the revocation of the Constitution. We did not authorize national identity cards. We did not authorize the eye of Big Brother to peer from cameras throughout our cities. We did not authorize an eye for an eye. Nor did we ask that the blood of innocent people, who perished on September 11, be avenged with the blood of innocent villagers in Afghanistan. We did not authorize the administration to wage war anytime, anywhere, anyhow it pleases. We did not authorize war without end. We did not authorize a permanent war economy.

Yet we are upon the threshold of a permanent war economy. The President has requested a $45.6 billion increase in military spending. All defense-related programs will cost close to $400 billion. Consider that the Department of Defense has never passed an independent audit. Consider that the Inspector General has notified Congress that the Pentagon cannot properly account for $1.2 trillion in transactions. Consider that in recent years the Dept. of Defense could not match $22 billion worth of expenditures to the items it purchased, wrote off, as lost, billions of dollars worth of in-transit inventory and stored nearly $30 billion worth of spare parts it did not need.

Yet the defense budget grows with more money for weapons systems to fight a cold war which ended, weapon systems in search of new enemies to create new wars. This has nothing to do with fighting terror. This has everything to do with fueling a military industrial machine with the treasure of our nation, risking the future of our nation, risking democracy itself with the militarization of thought which follows the militarization of the budget.

Let us pray for our children. Our children deserve a world without end. Not a war without end. Our children deserve a world free of the terror of hunger, free of the terror of poor health care, free of the terror of homelessness, free of the terror of ignorance, free of the terror of hopelessness, free of the terror of policies which are committed to a world view which is not appropriate for the survival of a free people, not appropriate for the survival of democratic values, not appropriate for the survival of our nation, and not appropriate for the survival of the world.

Let us pray that we have the courage and the will as a people and as a nation to shore ourselves up, to reclaim from the ruins of September the Eleventh our democratic traditions. Let us declare our love for democracy. Let us declare our intent for peace. Let us work to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our own society. Let us recommit ourselves to the slow and painstaking work of statecraft, which sees peace, not war as being inevitable. Let us work for a world where someday war becomes archaic. That is the vision which the proposal to create a Department of Peace envisions. Forty-three members of congress are now cosponsoring the legislation. Let us work for a world where nuclear disarmament is an imperative. That is why we must begin by insisting on the commitments of the ABM treaty. That is why we must be steadfast for nonproliferation.

Let us work for a world where America can lead the way in banning weapons of mass destruction not only from our land and sea and sky but from outer space itself. That is the vision of HR 3616: A universe free of fear. Where we can look up at God's creation in the stars and imagine infinite wisdom, infinite peace, infinite possibilities, not infinite war, because we are taught that the kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

Let us pray that we have the courage to replace the images of death which haunt us, the layers of images of September the Eleventh, faded into images of patriotism, spliced into images of military mobilization, jump cut into images of our secular celebrations of the World Series, New Year's Eve, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the strobic flashes which touch our deepest fears, let us replace those images with the work of human relations, reaching out to people, helping our own citizens here at home, lifting the plight of the poor everywhere. That is the America which has the ability to rally the support of the world. That is the America which stands not in pursuit of an axis of evil, but which is itself at the axis of hope and faith and peace and freedom.

America, America. God shed grace on thee. Crown thy good, America. Not with weapons of mass destruction. Not with invocations of an axis of evil. Not through breaking international treaties. Not through establishing America as king of a unipolar world. Crown thy good America.

America, America. Let us pray for our country. Let us love our country. Let us defend our country not only from the threats without but from the threats within. Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good with brotherhood, and sisterhood. And crown thy good with compassion and restraint and forbearance and a commitment to peace, to democracy, to economic justice here at home and throughout the world. Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good.

Dennis Kucinich is a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Cleveland, Ohio. Email responses here.

Rape and Violence Against Women Have Always Been Terrorism: Are We So Keen To Go to War for All Women?
A Call on Feminists to Protest The War Against Afghanistan

Part I
Nikki Craft
November 8, 2001

Stop the presses, the feminist revolution is finally happening! Some liberal and moderate American feminists are actually calling for war to end women's oppression. In light of the crimes committed against Afghan women by the Taliban, they say, decisive military action is the only recourse. Some are even chiding their more radical sisters (those, say, who are participating in peace marches and anti-militarism protests) for their lack of enthusiasm.

The newly militant liberal feminists say that under the circumstances, the radical feminists have misplaced their loyalty -- their "pacifism" is incomprehensible and indefensible. It almost looks as if the radicals and the moderates have switched places: all of a sudden it's the mainstream feminists who are ready to defend women's lives, rights, and dignity with armed force.

Some feminist leaders are offering very public support for the U.S. government invasion of Afghanistan. On C-Span, I recently saw Feminist Majority president Ellie Smeal testify before Congress about the oppression of women in Afghanistan. She spoke eloquently of the need for women to have a role in the reconstructed post-war government. Mavis Leno, another Feminist Majority representative, reiterates that the Taliban must be "collapsed," that women must have a place at the table to form the new government. Neither of these women calls for an end to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. Nor in any of their frequent TV appearances have I heard either one even acknowledge that their government is terrorizing and dropping bombs on the heads of the same women they care so much about.1 Nor have I heard either one acknowledge the brutal rape and other terrorism against women practiced by the warlords in the Northern Alliance, the faction the US is currently backing.

Look who all else is talking about women's rights now! Newt Gingrich, a self-proclaimed "hawk," says that to win the military war, first the U.S. must win the "moral arguments"; among other things, he says, we must show that "we are against the side who would oppress women."2 On the Fox evening news, Haron Amin, a spokesman for the Northern Alliance, accused the Taliban of practicing "misogyny," "gender apartheid," and the "feminization of poverty." The next day, a Fox talking head threw his arms up right in the middle of a broadcast and cried out in frustration, "Don't you see what they are doing to women?!" Later the same commentators, so concerned about women being excluded in Afghanistan, defended the overall invisibility of women in most discussions about the war; that it's only rich, white all male generals and militarists being showcased by the U.S. media. With the exception of token Condoleezza Rice, our government's recent global round-table meetings look as segregated at the Taliban's.

Then there's George W. Bush's expressed concern. I never even knew his limited vocabulary included the word "oppression" until he used it several times last week when talking about the "evil-doers" oppressing women. But I don't trust him to have any real compassion for, or comprehension of, women's oppression in Afghanistan--or anywhere. When Bush said women in this country shouldn't have to be afraid he was speaking against racism, against harassment of Muslim women. But when he added that women shouldn't be afraid to be under the veil in this country, it sent a shudder down my spine. Among the millions of propaganda flyers the US is scattering over Afghanistan there is one that shows the Taliban hitting a woman with a stick. It reads, "Do you want your [emphasis mine] women to live this way?"

All this government and media hand-waving about 'women in Afghanistan' is a day late and a dollar short after such a conspicuous, and lengthy, lack of concern; the Taliban has been murdering, imprisoning and dispossessing, disenfranchising and dehumanizing Afghan women for almost a decade. It's also manipulatively, transparently selective: we're all upset about the oppression of women by the Taliban "bad guys," but similar restrictions and abuses are fine when it's the Saudi "good guys" who are doing it. In the propaganda carnival surrounding Mr. Bush's war, women are being used for a specific agenda, not defended in their own right and for their own sake.

Show me how bombing Afghanistan has thus far improved, or is likely to improve, the material conditions of life for any Afghan woman. Show me how Bush's closing of the country's borders helps women--it keeps them trapped in Afghanistan between American bombs and two armies of male thugs. Show me how the US, with its fundamentalist and patriarchal allies, is challenging "fundamentalism" in this campaign---particularly, how are we challenging the oldest fundamentalism of all?

Systematic male privilege is the first fundamentalism. Has anyone wondered where the women fire fighters and cops were in all that "brotherhood" in the aftermath of 9.11? Why were, according to the Red Cross, eighty percent of those killed in the World Trade Center men? Didn't Cantor Fitzgerald, and the other corporations in the upper echelons of those buildings, hire very many women? It's not just the burqa and the Taliban that can make women invisible.

The ill-treatment of women occurs not only in "radical Islamist" countries, but in most countries on Earth. Women are statistically about 50 percent of the world population, but they work 2/3 of all the world's working hours, receiving only 1/10 of world income, and owning less than one percent of all world property. When was the last time any US politician made changing these conditions a top national priority? Are we sending in the Marines to enforce land reform? To protect women's right to unionize? To bust the traffickers who betray refugee women's hopes of a better life, steal their passports, reduce them to indentured sexual servants?

Filipina and Bangladeshi migrant laborers work as "maids" under conditions described as "modern-day slavery" in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and worldwide, but we never hear about them on Fox news. The World Health Organization estimates 200,000 to 400,000 women die worldwide every year from illegal, incompetently-performed abortions. The women in Nigeria who are stoned to death in the streets weren't mentioned by the press, or anyone else, during the recent visit there by George W. Bush. Female infanticide, rigorously suppressed by Mao's regime, has made a comeback in China. We don't notice U.S. politicians getting all bent out of shape about it.

Millions of women in Africa are infected with AIDS, not because they are promiscuous or careless, but because their husbands or boyfriends are promiscuous and refuse to use condoms, or because they are raped by male acquaintances or strangers who are infected. There are insurance companies in South Africa which sell "rape insurance" because the incidence of rape is so high. Rape in an AIDS-infected country is not just about pain and humiliation--it can be a death sentence. But we don't hear U.S. politicians railing about this, or demanding that South African women have representation in government.

Many women come to the U.S., the "land of freedom," only to be used as indentured, captive labor in sweatshops no different from the ones they worked in back home. You can find captive women in the U.S.--women afraid of a husband's fist or of the sweatshop boss, women who have to ask permission to go to the bathroom, who are threatened with violence if they complain about health hazards in their workplace, who can't get their passports back from the thugs who run the operation.

Even women born here might merit our attention. Our tens of thousands of prostituted women and girls -- in Des Moines IA, Los Angeles CA, Portland OR, Your Town USA -- beaten and threatened by their pimps, abused by their "customers," what about them? Their deaths go uninvestigated, their lives undocumented--when did the US government last get all concerned about these oppressed and endangered women? In NYC, the cops traditionally don't even start to investigate until numerous prostitutes are killed in one month. We apply a different standard to ourselves and our allies, and not just the brute squad that calls itself the Northern Alliance. Women are not allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia, but we don't hear men lamenting about this discrimination on the news every night.

In 1987 the Turkish government enacted its so-called "Anti-Terror Laws." Amnesty International informs us that under these laws, women prisoners and detainees in Turkey have been subjected to genital electroshock, "virginity testing," rape (including rape with objects), and other forms of torture and sexual assault while in official custody. Now that Turkey is "with us" against the Taliban--are we likely to hear criticism of these atrocities against women any time soon? Don't hold your breath.

Bearing all this in mind, can anyone really believe the U.S. is invading and bombing yet another country, threatening millions of refugees with starvation and who knows what else,4 just because Afghan women are being subjected to patriarchal persecution and violence?

When our boys drop airline meals5 into mine fields, or intentionally target Red Cross hospitals, is it all in the service of our grand humanitarian mission to liberate the women of Afghanistan? To free the women of Afghanistan from those stifling garments so frighteningly similar to body bags? Of course it isn't.

Our national leaders, the ones aching to be the policemen of the world and most recently the great protectors of womankind, won't be the ones to liberate the women of Afghanistan. They aren't the "good guys." In war (and peace) these gentlemen will rape and plunder women as their war booty, strip them in "gentlemen's clubs," and buy and sell them in prostitution. A goodly number of them beat their girlfriends and wives. They write sexist, misogynist messages on the heads of their bombs. Eight percent of female Persian Gulf War veterans in one survey reported being sexually abused during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. That's how much U.S. soldier-boys care about women. They beat, rape and sexually harass even their wives, their lovers, and their sisters in arms; consider what Afghan women have to look forward to, under U.S. occupation. Ask the women and girls of Okinawa, if you can't figure it out for yourself.

Let's get real here. Women don't matter now any more than they did when the Northern Alliance was raping them. The U.S. media paid no attention to the abuse of women then. Along came the Taliban, our "freedom fighters" against the Godless Commies, and what they did to women still didn't matter much -- except in the frantic email petitions feminists were spamming each other with on the Internet. Now the U.S. is buying the rapists guns, dropping them ammo, feeding them, training them to be even more effective killers and helping them to regain control of 'their country'--does anyone imagine this won't include regaining control of 'their women'?

The human rights of the women in Afghanistan don't matter any more now than they did when CNN showed, for the first time in the beginning of September, the extraordinary documentary "Beneath the Veil." It appeared briefly and sank without a trace; only outraged feminists reviewed it, made videotape copies, and mentioned it in their petitions and letters to editors. It's one of the most brave and important documentaries I've ever seen in my life, but it made the very tiniest splash on the slick surface of U.S. media culture.

It wasn't until we needed some wartime propaganda that 'Beneath the Veil' suddenly started being aired multiple times per day on CNN, over several weekends. All of a sudden, in October, it re-emerged and it became terribly important that everyone in America see this essential documentary--if not on CNN, then excerpted on all their affiliates many times over. One article referred to it as "heavy rotation".

Though they may be temporarily first in the soundbites, women are the very last item on the agenda. If the U.S. could still 'make the Taliban obey' like a kept woman or an obedient wife, we would still be funding the Taliban. If the U.S. could "own" the Taliban, their treatment of women would have remained irrelevant, as it has been for the last several years; as it has been for every other dictator, king, shah, sheik, geek, tyrant or tinhorn terrorist we've ever backed.

But the Taliban is biting the hand that fed it for so long, and now its misdeeds are suddenly all hand-wringingly shocking and dreadful, where before they were mere boyish pranks or temporary rough spots in the transition away from Godless Communist rule. In fact, Afghani women will be fortunate if they get any say in the new government at all. By the time the war is over and the Great Powers once again sit down to impose a government on the defeated party, a focus on women's rights will no longer be strategically advantageous to the U.S.

No nation on earth has ever gone to war for women's rights. We are not likely to be the first.

To be continued...

1. Tim Wise, an activist and anti-racism educator, points out the contradiction. He writes: "Not only does she [Smeal] appear to support the overthrow of the Taliban by the same U.S. government that funded it and cared not a whit for the women there until six weeks ago, but she also seems to trust that patriarchy can be pounded into rubble by exploding phallic symbols, dropped and fired by guys whose view of feminism is probably not much better than Mullah Omar's. Talk about irony." Tim Wise, "Who's Being Naive? War-Time Realism Through the Looking Glass." October 28, 2001.

2 "U.S. Anti-Terrorism Efforts." American Enterprise Institute Conference. October 29, 2001. C-Span.

3. Kim Ghattas, "Much Needed, Much Abused."

4. Since the press coverage is strictly controlled and censored.

5. Western junk food in yellow packages the same size and shape as U.S.-made cluster bombs.

From the Berkeley Daily Planet, November 28, 2001

The Daily Planet received the following letter to the president. (Spelling has not been edited.)

Dear Bush the President,

What you are doing is very disrespectful to most of the people in Afghanistan who are very poor and minding just there own business and trying there best to stay alive while your just going ahead and boming them for nothing.

Look I now how you feel. Upset right.

If people from a differnt contry that I didn't know or even if I new them were crashing or landing planes on really importen bildings of my contry, state, or city I'd be not only be upset but really mad.

But I wouldn't just start boming a hole contry or I wouldent even start trying to kill the people who did it. I would call the people who I think did it to the world court.

Molly Levy
8 years old

From the St. Louis Dispatch, December 1, 2001

I am nine years old. The war is ugly. Millions of Afghans have been forced to be refugees by the Talliban. Mean Osama gave the Taliban money. They allowed him to control the country so that he could have terrorist camps to train other mean people to kill Americans and Jews. Jews live near my family. They are nice people. Osama crashed planes into New York. But our brave soldiers are chasing the bad people into caves. Soon the mean Taliban will surrender and the refugees can come back to their home when Osama is gone or in jail.

Osama was developing chemical and biological weapons to bring to America to hurt us. He is trying to buy a a small nuclear weapon to detonate aboard a ship- maybe in San Francisco. If he does that nice people will die. He will kill Country Joe McDonald and everyone in Berkeley. Our brave soldiers are fighting to keep Country Joe from dying. I am happy that the mean people are not killing Americans and Jews. They are hiding in cold dark from our soldier and airplanes.

Jill O'Toole, Age 9

Advice from a Vietnam Vet to Young Men (and Women) of Fighting Age
Dr. Shepherd Bliss
October 22, 2001

I come from a fighting family. We gave our name to Ft. Bliss, Texas. I enlisted and became on officer in the U.S. Army during Vietnam.

When you kill someone, it is forever. They die, but the killing continues, inside you. When your nation kills people, especially innocent women and children, it is forever. The killing can continue, within you, when it is done in your name.

Our nation is still not over Vietnam, the war of my generation, or Iraq, the war of another generation. Now your generation, those of you of fighting age, has its own war.

You will be defined by that war and what you do during it, as my entire life was defined by the Vietnam War, and what I did during it. What you do in the days to come in response to this war will determine who you will become. You can support the war, try to deny it, or work for peace with justice.

Whatever you do, you will live with it for the rest of your life, your choice. I implore you not to make the same mistake that I made and enlist in a war that kills innocent civilians. Don't get caught up in a war hysteria that you could regret for the rest of your life. War trauma creates guilt, shame, and post traumatic stress syndrome.

At my vets group I listen to combat vets, which I am not. 30 years later, they are still trying to heal from the people they killed, still haunted by those they murdered. War wounds go deeply.

Since Sept. 11 we Americans have felt vulnerable, helpless, fearful, and angry. But America's appropriate grief after the Sept. 11 attack was transformed into a war frenzy.

I have no sympathy for the unjustifiable Sept. 11 suicide attack, nor for the ruthless Taliban, nor for any terrorism. But I am concerned about killing innocent people. I think our focus should be on finding the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 crime and bringing them to justice.

As a young man, testosterone pumping through my body, the thought of war was exciting. It was a challenge, something big enough for my big energy. I'm an old man now, as are those who would send you into war. War is no longer exciting to me. My main message to you is simple, War is Hell.

I will be forever grateful to the Student Peace Union that finally reached this young soldier. The SPU organized me out of the army. They saved my soul, before I killed anyone, but I came so close. Don't lose your soul. During Vietnam the enemy was "the communists."

Now it is "Terrorism." But terrorism is a symptom. Terrorism has no country. You cannot wage war on terrorism, because it is a methodology. Terrorism is transnational and global. You cannot use terrorism to end terrorism.

The U.S. did not win the Vietnam War and will probably not win in Afghanistan. Most scenarios would probably not lead to a moral or political victory for the U.S.

The U.S. military attack on foreign soil that has killed civilians will worsen rather than improve our national security, uniting more people against us. What we need is real defense. Our Department of Defense has too often been a War Department on other people's soil.

Lets focus on defending ourselves. Our security system failed. It is focused too much out there, rather than here at home. We need protection, not provocation.

May we mourn the innocent dead, wounded, and homeless and see beyond our borders to develop a species-wide identity that transcends narrow nationalism. May the innocent people who happen to live in Afghanistan and the Middle East not be punished for the crimes of others.

May this tragedy open our eyes to our larger international context and our responsibilities as U.S. citizens to work for peace. May we condemn without reservation all terrorism, including that used by governments. May this tragedy not shut us down, which terrorism too often does. A broken heart can be an open heart.

I would like to close with two brief poems, the first from Deena Metzger - "There are those who are trying to set fire to the world,/ we are in danger,/ there is time only to work slowly,/ there is no time not to love."

The second is from Rumi, a Muslim poet who was born in what is today Afghanistan, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,/ there is a field./ I'll meet you there."

And as the old book says, "Thou shalt not kill."

Shepherd Bliss is a Vietnam Era vet and peace activist. He taught college for 20 years, is now an organic farmer, and can be reached at

Starting War is Easy. Ending War is a Whole Other Story. From Ground Zero

A Response from Barbara Sonneborn
Founding President, WarWidows International Peace Alliance

September 15, 2001

I think of the American flag lying folded on a shelf in my house. It is large. Large enough to cover my first husband's coffin when his young and broken body came home from Vietnam in 1968. I have tasted war. I know that it's terrible legacy goes on for generations, if not centuries.

Flags are springing up amidst the rubble. It is September 15th in New York. Four days after the terrorist attack.

A food stand rests at an odd angle on the sidewalk, its windows piled high with cut bagels and kaiser rolls sprinkled with poppy seeds, waiting for a coffee break that would never happen. My eyes move to the blown out window of a news and magazine store, now looking like a site for archeologists to dig through, searching for the lost meaning of a civilization.

Down this street-- gray smoke and steam, a jagged, gray mound of rubble, barely four stories high. Twisted steel, crumbled like honeycomb. A line of firemen and rescue workers, gray with grime, gray with exhaustion, gray with grief, forming a line on top of this mass of steel, concrete, desks, chairs, computers, and broken human beings, all now dust.

I look up at the blue sky grayed by smoke, here, where the words, ground zero, have new meaning for Americans.

My mind fills with celebrations at Windows on the World, meetings, just going to the World Trade Center on a clear day to watch the sun set, to see the lights of New York turn on, to feel on top of the world.

I cough. My eyes sting. The acrid smell of burning plastic. And something else. My husband and I clutch hands, yet again in tears.

A small village in Somalia, Kosovo, Panama, Vietnam... All bombed.

October 8, 2001

Now we are watching television. The U.S. is bombing Afghanistan. Scattered between the voices of commentators and politicians, we catch glimpses of another ground zero that is too vast to be measured in city blocks. More smoke. The gray is replaced by shades of brown. There is an absence of color, absence of life. The images on the screen creep into all of my senses. The same smells of burn and decay, the dust in my lungs.

Since September 11, we see with new eyes. We see the pain that much of the rest of the world has had to endure, and we must see, truly see, through our own hearts the pain that we, too, as a nation, have caused as we enter this new era.

In my heart, a forked road, the path to war, and the path to peace. How can I become a lantern on the right path? What do we value most deeply in times like this? What is justice, and how is justice served? How do we find a way to halt terrorism and bring to justice those who perpetrate it without being terrorists ourselves? How do we halt terrorism without doing exactly what the terrorists want us to do, which is to polarize the Muslim world, and bring a great holy war down on the West?

I am inspired by the humanity of so many human beings in the aftermath of this despicable crime, by the clamoring of voices not to take the lives of the innocent as we seek the perpetrators of terrorism. I do know that we, as a nation, must proceed with great wisdom and restraint, with utter moral maturity, with ideas of retribution banished from our hearts and minds. We must counsel our leaders to build a world community that will work together against all terrorism. It is a time to listen more deeply than we ever imagined we could. We must seek to understand our world, the roots of this terrible act, all of its implications for our future. A clarifying quote on NPR: "To plan for the future without understanding the past is as effective as planting cut flowers."

Between 1988 and 1998 I made a film, Regret to Inform, to try to transform my husband's death in the war in Vietnam, into as powerful a statement against war as I could make. The film tells the stories of widows of the war in Vietnam from both sides of the war. But beyond that, Regret to Inform is about all war, everywhere, showing the suffering on all sides at the same time, humanizing the people that we have seen as enemies, drawing a portrait of our shared humanity against our common enemies -- violence and war.

At the United Nations, on March 8, 2000, International Women's Day, Regret to Inform was shown in a special session of women from around the world, a beautiful rainbow of humanity. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, opened the session speaking these words: "Men know how to build walls and women know how to build bridges. Peace in the 21st century will be in the hands of women." The standing ovation shook the walls. It is the time for women, for all human beings, to become bridge builders.

In this spirit, an organization of war widows has grown out of Regret to Inform. WarWidows International Peace Alliance calls particularly on war widows, and above all, on women and men everywhere to join together across all borders, to break through all racial, religious, and national boundaries to celebrate our common humanity and work together to build a peaceful world.

WarWidows International Peace Alliance is reaching out now to build bridges between women in Muslim and non-Muslim communities, to build understanding, to avoid creating an enemy, "The Other," in order to justify war and violence.

We are deeply committed to peace education. We are introducing a curriculum using the film, Regret to Inform, in high schools around the country this fall. Simultaneously we are bringing the film to colleges and universities to create dialogue about the meaning of war and peace in our lives. The film is being used internationally as a tool to foster discussions about peace and compassion across borders. We recognize the power of storytelling to effect how people see their world. We urge you to share your personal stories-- stories of war and armed conflict, stories of compassion and humanity-- on our web-site, the Widows of War Living Memorial, We who have personally known war must speak out as witnesses.

Where are women's voices in this dialogue, in the decision-making process as we build our world? Using media and 21st century tools of communications, we seek to bring the voices of women to the forefront of public consciousness as we shape the future.

Over the years, I have reflected on a statement of Ghandi's, "Be the change you want to see." In suffering, in crisis, there is also opportunity for awakening. This is a critical time in all of our lives.

Country Joe's Interview about the Counterattack
Leah Garchik, San Francisco Chronicle
October 8, 2001

Feeling bummed out by things? Hey, cheer up. Listen to
how I plan to survive the crisis.

In RealAudio.

Country Joe McDonald was just getting back from a trip to the store when The Chronicle ("TIC" seems inappropriately trivial) called to ask what he thought about the U.S. action against Afghanistan. He hadn't yet heard the news; for a few seconds, he was speechless.

"I was just reading the Sunday paper," he said a bit later. "I read the word 'imminent.' That's the word they like to use, those commanders in chief. When Dick Cheney was running for the vice presidency, he was asked why he hadn't served in Vietnam. " 'I had other priorities,' he said. Well, I had other priorities today rather than turning on the TV."

McDonald's "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die" rag was the anti-war anthem during the Vietnam era. He served in the Navy before the Vietnam War was in full flame, and since the end of that war has been an advocate for veterans' rights and special needs.

"I can tell you I'm just one of 10 million Vietnam-era military veterans that exist. And no one asked us a thing before." If The Chronicle wants to find out something, "I think you should ask your neighbors who are veterans, your brothers, your sisters, your mothers and fathers and uncles and cousins, all the people who have been ignored up to this moment. No one has wanted to talk to military veterans up to this point."

McDonald said Osama bin Laden and George Bush have something in common. "They are both civilian commanders in chief who were raised in millionaire families. They wear civilian dress. And they give orders down the chain of command. They never will die in battle."

He said he has been e-mailing people and talking to friends, asking why coverage hasn't given so much as a nod to the military veterans' community, "which is another thing quite different from what we have been seeing, and the reason I don't want to watch the TV. What I have been seeing is white men in suits and ties talking about military things. Almost all of them have never been in the military. . . . If you want to find out what's going to happen to those people who are fighting for us, if you want to do something that will help you cope besides waving your flag and singing 'God Bless America,' find a war veteran who wants to talk right now."

Yesterday's bombing was shocking to McDonald, but he'd obviously been pondering the issues. "It occurred to me yesterday that people never change churches just for a day. That's a stupid idea, isn't it? People spend years and years and years learning to do the right ceremonies and things, but they never change. . . .

"I can honestly say this is the scariest moment of my life, and I don't think I'm going to turn on the TV. I just bought my son some new shoes for his skateboard. Now, we'll learn something that I learned from Vietnam veterans: Life goes on."

Country Joe's Web site features a page of new lyric suggestions submitted by correspondents; "Afghanistan" fits neatly into the rhyme scheme where "Vietnam" used to be.

Letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, October 16, 2001:

Editor -- If you had to find a spokesman for veterans, why did you seek out Joe McDonald (The In Crowd, Oct. 8)? He is a veteran only in the strictest sense. He served in the Navy between 1959 and '62 but has never spent a day in combat. Worse still, this individual, whose only claim to fame is writing protest songs, spent the Vietnam War years excoriating and sneering at the poor suckers who were fighting. He was right up there with Jane Fonda. A few years ago, good ol' Joe did a much-publicized mea culpa and has been wallowing in a smug sense of atonement ever since. There are hundreds, even thousands, of real veterans in the Bay Area, men who spent time "in country" who know from personal experience the hell of war, but who have not seen the necessity of writing puling, self-pitying "songs of protest."

San Francisco

Excerpts from Fidel Castro's Speech
[Unofficial translation]

Today is a day of tragedy for the United States. You know very well that hatred against the US people has never been sown here. Exactly due to our culture, lack of prejudice, and to our feeling of full freedom –with a homeland and without a master- this is the country where American citizens are treated more respectfully. We are so strong because we have never preached any kind of national hatred, or any feeling similar to fanaticism, and because our conduct is based on principles and ideas, and we treat–and they have noticed that- every American citizen who visit us with great respect.

Furthermore, we cannot forget the American people that put an end to the Viet Nam war with its overwhelming opposition to that genocidal war; we cannot forget the American people that –in an excess of 80%- supported the return of Elián González to his homeland (APPLAUSE); we cannot forget either how much idealism, usually affected by deception –as we have said many times- has been used to lead an American citizen to support and unjust cause or war. First, this citizen has to be misled. The classical method used in the policy of that huge country is that of deception first, and then they have the support of the people. When it is the other way around and the citizen realizes that something is unjust, due to his tradition of idealism, he opposes what he has been supporting, which is usually a very bad cause that he has been supporting with a conviction that what he is doing is fair.

Therefore, we –not knowing the exact number of casualties but seeing those moving scenes and remaining loyal to the path we have always followed- have felt grief and sadness together with the American people.

We do not flatter any government or ask for forgiveness or favors, and not even a single atom of fear is harbored in our hearts. The history of our Revolution has proven its capacity to stand up to challenges, its capacity to fight and its capacity to resist whatever it has to resist; that is what has turned us into an invincible people. These are our principles. Our Revolution is based on ideas, persuasion and not on the use of force. I hope there isn't any insane person in the world capable of saying that 1.2 million citizens were compelled or forced to march along the sea front drive.

That has been our reaction, and we wanted our people to see the scenes and watch the tragedy. We have not hesitated to say it publicly, and right here I have a statement, which was handed out to the international media around 3:00 PM. In the mean time, our media was immersed in divulging the facts, and the statement will be published tonight.

I want to anticipate and read it here and let you know the Official Statement by Government of Cuba on the events that took place in the United States:

"The Government of the Republic of Cuba has learned with grief and sadness of the violent, surprise attacks carried out this morning against civilian and official facilities in the cities of New York and Washington – which have caused numerous deaths.

"Cuba's position against any terrorist action is known." Our history proves that, and those who know the history of our revolutionary struggles know it well. "It is not possible to forget that for over 40 years our country has been a victim of such actions fostered from within the territory of the United States. Both for historical reasons and ethical principles, the Government of our country strongly rejects and condemns the attacks against the aforementioned facilities and hereby expresses its most heartfelt sympathies to the American people for the painful, unjustifiable loss of human lives resulting from such attacks.

In this bitter hour, our people commiserate with the people of the United States and express their full willingness to cooperate – to the extent of its modest possibilities – with the health institutions and any other medical or humanitarian organization of that country in treating, caring for and rehabilitating the victims caused by this morning's events. (APPLAUSE)

This has not only been made public, but has also been officially transmitted, especially when we started to hear of the impressive numbers of possible casualties, and knew that hospitals were full of injured.

Although it is not known whether the casualties are 5000, 10 000, 15 000 or 20 000, it is known that the planes that crashed against the Twin Towers or against the Pentagon were carrying hundreds of passengers, and we have offered what we can, if necessary.

That is a country with great scientific and medical development and resources, but at some point in time it could need blood of a specific group or plasma –any other product that we could donate, we would give it with pleasure- or medical support or paramedics. We know many hospitals are short of specific technicians and professionals. In other words, we want to express our attitude and willingness in relation to these tragic events.

It all has some antecedents, as I told we have been affected by terrorism for more than forty years; we have even published that on specific occasions. We have informed the US government of important risks. This is an example; it's a page and a quarter of a page long.

After the terrorist attacks against our hotels by the terrorist mafia that organized and paid for the terrorist attacks against Cuba and like dozens of assassination plots organized against me when I have needed to travel, a group headed by the monster of Posada Carriles –when we started to capture some of his accomplices, who were alien mercenaries- intended to use a sophisticated procedure in which they planted bombs in hotels or in La Bodeguita del Medio Restaurant that could burst 99 hours after being planted. They could come here, plant the bomb, party for three days and go back to their country before the bomb exploded. There was one person who laid five bombs and attempted to make them blow up almost simultaneously, one after the other. You can see up to where they have gone.

We got in contact with the US Government more than once through confidential channels, and here I have one of the direct messages that we sent to the President at that time. These were messages sent through confidential channels, not official ones, through friends of ours who were also friends of his, and we explained everything that we wanted them to convey. Part of this information was used once, but I will mention an example:

"An important issue:

"Number one: Plots for terrorist acts against Cuba are still in place. The Cuban American National Foundation is paying for them, and they are using Central American mercenaries. Two new attempts to make bombs explode in our tourist centers have been carried out before and after the Pope's visit to Cuba.

"In the first case, the people responsible managed to escape and returned to Central America by plane, without accomplishing their goal, and the technical devises and explosives they left behind were seized.

"In the second attempt, three mercenaries were arrested, and we seized the explosives and technical devises; they are Guatemalans. They would receive 1500 dollars per every one of the four bombs they had to explode. These were the first that we captured, and not the one that planted more bombs.

Let me check and don't become impatient because there is no much left.

"In both cases, they were hired and equipped by agents of the network set up by the Cuban American National Foundation; now they are planning and developing steps to explode bombs on aircrafts from Cuban or any other foreign airline flying to Cuba, which carries tourists to and from Latin American countries.

"The method is similar: they plant a small devise in a hidden place on the plane, use powerfully detonating explosive controlled from a digital watch that can be programmed up to 99 hours prior to its blast, and leave the aircraft normally at its destination; then the explosion would take place while on the ground or in the middle of the flight. These are really devilish procedures: easy to assemble mechanisms, components almost impossible to be detected, minimal training for their use, almost total impunity, extremely dangerous for airlines, tourist or any other kind of facility. These are instruments that can be used for very serious crimes.

"If those possibilities get to be divulged and known –and we opposed to divulging the technology they used- they may turn into an epidemics, as happened with the hijacking at some other time. Other US-based extremist groups of Cuban origin are starting to move in that direction.

"The US police and intelligence agencies have enough and reliable information on the main people responsible. If the United States really wants it, this new form of terrorism can be frustrated on time. If the US does not comply with the fundamental duty of fighting it, it cannot be stopped. The responsibility to do so cannot be only faced by Cuba; any other country of the world could be the victim of that very soon.

We informed this, they paid so much attention that they even consulted with us about the convenience of sending a text issued by the US Government to Airlines.

They sent us the text in which the airlines were informed the following: "We have received non confirmed information on a plot to plant explosive artifacts on board of civilian aircrafts operating in Cuba and Latin America. People involved are planning to plant a small explosive artifact on board." In other words, they explained what we had told them.

"We cannot discard the possibility that the threat could include international air cargo operations from the United States.

"The US Government continues to compile further information to clarify, verify and turn down that threat."

We express our opposition to making that kind of warning because one of the objectives of those individuals was to create panic. We also explained that there were other procedures that we used –we set up the appropriate guard systems wherever there was any risk of bombs, we searched and knew who could plant them and who were involved. We kept watching, which is what has to be done, if you don't want to grow panic or make a scandal or grant the perpetrators the possibility to meet their objective, which was to impinge on the economy of the country and sow terror.

Anyway, they published the information. That's OK, we had already strengthened our mechanisms to capture those individuals, they have not even been able to plant a small bomb ever since, and the guard system is still in place. When they plotted the assassination attempt in Panama, we knew more than what they were planning, and more than what they knew. That is very clear.

There is the Miami mafia making efforts to release them. They have already planned how to do it, or the country through which they will evacuate them and how. There, they will pretend to be sick and will move, and will freely receive visitors from Miami. We even know that they participated in an infiltration through Santa Clara some months ago.

Thanks to many friends that we have everywhere and to men like the ones who are here, the country has been able to defend itself against terrorism (APPLAUSE).

I point out this here because there is a reality, there are more papers and notes, and we have sometimes sent verbal messages, and sometimes we have left written evidence, and one of the arguments that we have used is undeniable –the United States is the country with the largest number of extremist organized groups, out of which 400 hold weapons.

The hijacks –a method used against Cuba- became a universal plague, and it was Cuba, which solved this problem at the end when –after repeated warnings- we sent back two hijackers. It's painful because they were Cuban citizens but we warned them, they came and we returned them. We complied with our public oath, yet they never again provided us with any information about them to give to their relatives. They have their own way of acting. Nobody knows. I know they were sentenced to 40 years imprisonment, and that put an end to those hijacks.

But listen, you have 800 groups … Sometimes they have locked themselves in a place due to a certain reason, they have burned themselves and died. They have groups, which –due to political or sometimes religious reasons- are given to the use of force or to prepare poisons and products to act against the US authorities themselves. I am talking about the mafia people. I am talking about hundreds of extremist organized groups, acting within the United States. They blew up that building in Oklahoma not so long ago.

The country that is most vulnerable to terrorism is the United States; it is the country with more planes, more dependable on technical resources, electric grids, pipelines, and etcetera. Many of the components of these groups are fascist; they don't care about killing. Mentally speaking, they must be closer to madness than to a balanced intelligence. We have told them that it's necessary to avoid the dissemination of these methods, we use that argument because they are easy to use and a danger for you.

Right now, when I was coming here, there was no element of judgment to say who could explode those bombs, because it may have been an action planned and carried out by any of these groups, which have already done it, like in the case of Oklahoma, or it may have been done by groups from abroad. However, it is evident –due to the details received- that it was effectively organized, in other words, with sufficient organization and synchronization, by people who have the knowledge, the training and by pilots who were able to drive these sizable Boeings, by people who coordinated the exact times at which they were going to act. They undoubtedly hijacked the planes, detouring them from their air route, and had the pilots who could drive the planes directly against one tower, some minutes later against the other, and nearly at the same time, a third plane collided against the Pentagon.

In other words, they are people who are very well trained and organized, and they do not necessarily require using large groups. Nobody can imagine the damage that can be caused by a small group of 20, 25 or 30 people, who are extremist fanatics committed to certain ideas, and the place they can damage the most is the United States. You can notice how they studied the time in which more people would be in the place –around 9:00 AM, the damage they could make, and the thousands of casualties they could cause.

Actually, they now have to look for clues because this event has special characteristics. That is the reason why I believe the most important duty of American leaders is to fight terrorism, and these tragedies are partly the result of the use terrorist methods against other countries, like in the case of Cuba for loads of years. The idea of terrorism has been disseminated, and there is no power in the world today, however its size, that can avoid events of this nature because they are carried out by fanatics, people who are totally indifferent to death. Therefore, the struggle against such methods is difficult.

A lesson can be drawn from that: none of the problems affecting today's world can be solved with the use of force, there is no global, technological or military power, which can guarantee immunity against such acts, because they can be organized by small groups, difficult to detect, and what's more complicated, used by suicidal people. Therefore, the general effort of the international community must be to put an end to a number of conflicts affecting the world, at least in this area, we must put an end to world terrorism (APPLAUSE) and raise a world awareness against terrorism. I speak on behalf of a country, which has lived through more than 40 years of Revolution, and has gained much experience, a country, which is united and has a high cultural level. It is not a people of fanatics; it has not sown fanaticism, but ideas, convictions and principles.

We could be in a better position to defend ourselves, and we have demonstrated it: how many lives have we managed to save in the face of so much money and resources used to sow terrorism in our homeland! We have 40 years of experience, so we are ten times more prepared than the United States.

It is very important to which the reaction of the US Government is going to be. Dangerous days for the world may approach in the days to come, and I don't speak about Cuba. Cuba is the quietest country in the world due to several reasons: due to our policy, our kind of struggle, our doctrine, and also, comrades all, and due to the total lack of fear.

Nothing troubles us. Nothing intimidates us. It would be very difficult to put together a package against Cuba, not even its inventor and the patent holder would believe it, this is very difficult and today, Cuba is not a little thing in the world. (APPLAUSE) Cuba has a very high moral position, and a very sound political position in the world. It does not even come through my mind, although there is one of those mafia fools attempting to arouse intrigues, and I think he even mentioned Venezuela and Cuba; one of the so many mafia members, one of those big mouth. No one will pay the slightest attention, but there will be tension and risks, depending on how the US Government acts.

The days to come will be tense both inside and outside the United States; I don't know how many people will start to express their views.

Whenever there is a tragedy like this one, -no matter how difficult to avoid it may be, I see no other way, and if at some point I am allowed to make suggestion to the adversary who has been tough with us for many years, but knows we are tough, knows we resist, and knows we are not stupid and there is a little respect for our people- there are many problems in many places. However, if -under specific circumstances- it were correct to suggest something to the adversary, for the well being of the American people and based on the arguments that I mentioned, we would advise the leaders of the powerful empire to be sober, to act with calmness, not to be carried away by a fit of rage or hatred and not to start to try to hunt people down by throwing bombs everywhere.

I reiterate that none of the world problems –not even terrorism- can be solved with the use of force, and every act of force, every imprudent act of use of force anywhere is going to aggravate the world problems.

The path should not be the use of force; I say this with the full conviction of having always talked honestly, a sound conviction of a person who has outlived what we have lived through. Only by being right, and by having an intelligent policy of becoming strong and united… I think this unusual event must be used to create an international front against terrorism. However, this international front against terrorism cannot be solved by sanctioning a terrorist here and another one there. It is resolved, inter alia, by putting an end to State terrorism (APPLAUSE), by putting an end to genocide and by faithfully pursuing a policy of peace. The world cannot be saved unless a path of international peace and cooperation is pursued.

Nobody must imagine that we are trying to buy a ton of any thing. We have proven that we can survive, live and make progress, and everything seen here today is an expression of an unprecedented progress in history (APPLAUSE). Progress is not achieved only through the manufacturing of automobiles; progress is made by developing intelligence, providing knowledge and culture, and looking after human beings accordingly –that is the secret of the tremendous strength of our Revolution.

The world cannot be saved, and by that I refer to the situations of violence. Let us look for peace everywhere to protect all the people from that plague of terrorism, which is one of the plagues (APPLAUSE), because there is horrible plague today, which is called AIDS, for instance. There is another plague, which kills tens of millions of children, adolescents and people in the world of starvation, diseases and lack of medicine.

In the political area, there are absolutist ideas, which a single way of thinking that they try to impose on the world, and they promote rebellious attitudes and irritation everywhere.

This world cannot be saved –and it does not have anything to do with terrorism- if this unfair economic and social order continues to be developed and applied; an order, which leads the world into catastrophe, into a blind path for the 6.2 billion people who live today in this planet increasingly more destroyed, and into more poverty, unemployment and despair. The masses in different historical places like Seattle, Quebec, Washington and Genova have proven that.

Barbara Lee's Speech to the House of Representatives, 14th September 2001
September 20, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Only the most foolish or the most callous would not understand the grief that has gripped the American people and millions around the world.

This unspeakable attack on the United States has forced me to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction.

September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.

I know that this use-of-force resolution will pass although we all know that the President can wage war even without this resolution. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be some of us who say, let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today--let us more fully understand their consequences.

We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety, intelligence gathering, economics, and murder. Our response must be equally multifaceted.

We must not rush to judgment. Far too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children, and other non-combatants will be caught in the crossfire.

Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslims, Southeast Asians, and any other people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.

Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.

In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to "take all necessary measures" to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.

At that time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, "I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States ... I believe that within the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake."

Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I fear the consequences. I have ago- nized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."

Teens, their parents fearful of possible war

Susan Lydon
September 18, 2001

The first thing my sister said when she called me after the attack on th e World Trade Center was, ``Do you think there'll be a war? Because we have a lot of boys in our family of draftable age.'' I hadn't thought of that immediately, but in the days since Tuesday, I've heard that sentiment expressed by every parent of a teen-age son I know. And by many of the teen-agers themselves .

Two days before the planes crashed into the towers, HBO debuted their massive mega-blockbuster miniseries about World War II, ``Band of Brothers.'' If you didn't know it before, you would have realized after Sunday that wars are fought by very young men, boys really. When the major loses his first man, he tells the other soldiers, ``He wasn't even old enough to buy a beer.''

In the days of the Vietnam War, young men talked of nothing else. They compared their numbers in the lottery, discussed student deferments and conscientious objector status, burned their draft cards, signed up for officer training school, went to Sweden or Canada, lay down on the tracks in front of troop trains, watched their buddies blown to smithereens before their eyes, came home with drug addictions and post-traumatic stress disorder, felt guilty or fortunate that they hadn't gone or sorry or proud that they had. Sometimes they li ed about their actual role or involvement, but they always knew where they had stood in relation to the draft.

What land mines couldn't accomplish, Agent Orange sometimes did. Later o n, veterans of the Gulf War would complain of a mysterious set of symptoms that assailed them after they came home. Many British women in the early part of the century remained unmarried because an entire generation of men had been wiped out by the Great War. Our own Civil War was a bloodbath of unprecedented p roportions. Among the declining ranks of World War II veterans are many who couldn't speak of their experiences for thirty or forty years afterward.

Most of them were fresh out of high school when they volunteered or were drafted. They came from farms and city streets. There were African Americans and whites, Christians and Jews who had never socialized outside their ethnic groups. They knew little or nothing about the world outside their communities. Even if they survived the battles they fought, none of them was ever the same.

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has been compared to Pearl Harbor. An invasion of our shores. A threat to our freedom a nd our way of life. An unimaginably savage waste of life. When the smoke settles and the rubble is cleared, few of us will remain personally untouched. Americans are angry and hungry for revenge. Amidst the devastation, there is an up surge of patriotism, a new unity among people, a willingness to help.

The same feelings ran high after Pearl Harbor. But Pearl Harbor happened at a more innocent time in our nation's history. Not that we didn't make horrific mistakes, rounding up American citizens and imprisoning them for their ethnic origins. But in those days we weren't as aware of our global connectedness . We hadn't yet realized our universal vulnerability as citizens of the same biosphere. We hadn't recognized the psychological devastation war inflicts on i ts soldiers for the remainder of their lives. We hadn't yet considered instruments of war as part of an ongoing environmental catastrophe.

Our particular corner of the East Bay has long been a haven of pacifism and antiwar sentiment. We've led the country in recycling and ecological awareness. Our children have grown up seeing bumper stickers saying ``War is not good for children and other living things.'' They have participated in Earth Day celebrations and Coastal Cleanup days. They know about global warming and the Greenhouse Effect. They worry about endangered species. They've been trained t o have ethics and a social conscience.

One young man I know, a senior at Skyline High, says he would rather cu t off his own hand than go to war. An elementary school teacher I ran into the other day said she had joined the Quakers so that her younger son could claim a religious exemption from military service.

The Gulf War wrought devastation on the environment of that region. Oil mixed with precipitation fell on the Himalayas as black snow. The catalogue of birth defects in Iraq is as horrifying as the gruesome descriptions of body parts littering the streets of Lower Manhattan. How can we possibly wage another war without considering its human and environmental consequences? Will sacrificing another generation of young men and women make up for the thousands of lives lost in New York and Washington, D.C.?

I don't have answers, only questions. My heart goes out to the families of the dead and missing. And I fear for the young and the future of the planet .

A Message from Mountain Girl
September 18, 2001

We have to find ways to avert the imminent military response now. The root causes of the terrorism must be addressed and understood by the people of our country. To kill Ben Laden and his allies now is to martyr them. They must be brought to justice, yes, and at the same time a free discussion of past U.S. policy in the Middle East must be brought to the public attention.

This will be a near thing.

We are on the brink of an active military campaign that could easily last the remainder of our lives. The 40 billion or so this will cost could be used in a much more socially constructive fashion and save a entire people from lives of conflict, displacement and suffering. A billion bucks could build a thousand schools or medical clinics, could restore land to refugees, drill wells, build small businesses, create better lives for the women and children. If the Islamic peoples of the world are pushed into coalescing and cooperating against a common enemy that has no respect for them and their culture, we will be in a war with a world of over a billion people. People we have been training, and selling weapons to, so that our warplanes, guns and missiles will be used against us. Sticky. sticky, sticky. And the price of energy will go where? The folks behind the folks in Washington D.C. are looking forward to a scrap. It will give them the leverage they need to sway the liberals and public toward the lock-up mentality. Then we, as cultural gadflies and caring creatives, shall have lost the revolution all over again. Bleak , yes. Happening right now this minute. Call or fax your congress people. Ask them to slow down, breathe, and look at the alternatives. Promote compassion and good works in the world. Love to you all - may wisdom prevail.

Carolyn Adams Garcia
Peacelover and Deadhead

My personal agony this week which has given me insomnia and stomach cramps comes from knowing far too much and thinking too much about war. I have memories of World War II; I went to kindergarten with children who were refugees. I remember one who had hysterics when we gave her a surprise party. I first studied military history at a Quaker institution. I don't see war as glory but as an exquisitely sad story in which short-sightedness and stupidity cause good people to do diabolical things, injuring themselves as they attempt to punish their enemies.

I spent over a decade writing my most recent book Battle Cries and Lullalbies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present. I had a very difficult time writing the final chapter without having it pervaded by a tone of despair. Urban Guerrilla Warfare is one section of the chapter, followed by sections on Humanitarians and Warriors for the New Millennium in which I trace best-case scenarios. The cover of the book shows an Afghan militia woman, with a Kurdish mother and child.

Since I established the MINERVA Center in 1983, I have followed the dozens of third world wars in which both women and children are front line combatants. All of this tears at my gut. Reversing this decline into barbarism is what I see as the great need. Killing more people and causing more ecological damage do not address the root problems. This week we started to slide into that scenario.

I am profoundly ambivalent about seeing the stars and stripes used as the symbol for the crusade to eliminate terrorism. Like the Confederate battle flag, its symbolic meaning in the world is ambivalent. America stands for much that is good, including freedom of speech and religion. It stands for the best form of government ever devised by our species. But it has a dark side stretching from the original conquest of America to the present. When Americans wave their flag, many others on the planet react emotionally as we would to a swastika. An editorial in a British newspaper briefly summarizes why.

To truly lead a crusade to eliminate terrorism by striking at the root rather than individuals I crave a different symbol. Justice means more than punishing individuals. Executing individual psychopathics does not slow the creation of psychopathic personalities. Sadly their numbers are growing in a world where war and other catastrophes have disrupted bonding between infants and parents. Four year olds in Palestine have been heard to say their ambition when they are grown is to be suicide bombers to avenge their families. With the proliferation of small scale wars globally since World War II the planet is full of such toddlers who are now grown not just to adulthood but to middle age.

What is needed in the 21st century is a rapid evolution of human nature--an evolution which is possible because alone among the species of our planet we have brains that can create culture. Just as we can create rapid spreading fads for clothing styles and music, we could conceivably, create a culture that turns radically away from fear toward love. We need a therapeutic approach to the individuals who have turned to the dark side of religion. We urgently need to protect and nurture the children. We have very little time.

If I speak of these ideas to ducks, I know what will happen to me. During wars civil liberties are suspended and those who preach peace are guilty of sedition or treason. I am afraid even now of expressing my deviant thoughts. I am horrified to hear individuals I thought were decent people painting lurid pictures of the devastation they would like to see rain on other members of our species and the torture they wish could be inflicted in individuals.

Are any other swans feeling this way? Knowing too much and feeling too intensely? We may not have much longer to discuss this subject freely.

God Bless Planet Earth
Linda Grant De Pauw, Ph.D.

I am remembering that old Star Trek adventure where the Enterprise space ship picks up two people who are fighting each other. They cause a lot of trouble on the space ship so Spock tries to talk with one of them. He asks, "why are you two fighting?". The person answers, "can't you see! My face is black on the LEFT SIDE and white on the other side. My enemy's face is black on the RIGHT SIDE and white on the other side. So that is why we are fighting." Spock of course says: "interesting".

At the end of the episode the two humanoids beam themselves down on their destroyed planet, them being the last two survivors, and they continue their battle to the death. The crew of the Enterprise decides that there is nothing they can do to stop them from fighting so they just take off and leave them there.

As the great Los Angeles philosopher and victim of police brutality Rodney King said after the Los Angeles riots of a few years ago: "CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?"

Since we have no other planet to go to and don't even have a beaming device I dare say we better start making a real effort to get along ... this might involve some sharing and cooperating ... scary, eh!?

-- Cheers, Country Joe McDonald, Berkeley, California, Planet Earth

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio [San Francisco] today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done." And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing. I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.

There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters. But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country.

Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan-a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban. We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that. New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban-by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time. So what else is there? What can be done, then?

Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going.

We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West. And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants. That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, that's even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the War would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

-- Tamim Ansary

Ron Cabral wrote: Joe,You said a lot of people are mad at us. This article purports that God is mad at us...

God Gave U.S. 'What We Deserve,' Falwell Says

By John F. Harris, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, September 14, 2001

Television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most prominent voices of the religious right, said liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals and abortion rights supporters bear partial responsibility for Tuesday's terrorist attacks because their actions have turned God's anger against America.

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said Falwell, appearing yesterday on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," hosted by Robertson.

"Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson responded. "I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."

Falwell said the American Civil Liberties Union has "got to take a lot of blame for this," again winning Robertson's agreement: "Well, yes."

Then Falwell broadened his blast to include the federal courts and others who he said were "throwing God out of the public square." He added: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "

People for the American Way transcribed the broadcast and denounced the comments as running directly counter to President Bush's call for national unity. Ralph G. Neas, the liberal group's president, called the remarks "absolutely inappropriate and irresponsible."

Robertson and others on the religious right gave critical backing to Bush last year when he was battling for the GOP presidential nomination. A White House official called the remarks "inappropriate" and added, "The president does not share those views."

Falwell was unrepentant, saying in an interview that he was "making a theological statement, not a legal statement."

"I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist," he said. But he said America's "secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord's [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture . . . the result is not good."

Robertson was not available for comment, a spokeswoman said. But she released a statement echoing the remarks he made on his show. An ACLU spokeswoman said the group "will not dignify the Falwell-Robertson remarks with a comment."

[The following statement was issued by the Democratic Socialist Party on September 13, 2001.]

Socialists unequivocally condemn the September 11 terror bombings in the United States. The killing of thousands of ordinary working people is absolutely criminal and has nothing whatsoever to do with the struggle for a better world. Indeed, this atrocity will undoubtedly make this struggle more difficult and aid the forces of capitalist reaction.

Popular struggles throughout history have often involved the killing of oppressors, tyrants, police torturers and the like. Such actions may or may not be politically expedient. But the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was of a fundamentally different kind. It was a deliberate act of mass murder. The perpetrators made no political demands, they had no goal except to kill indiscriminately and inflict pain, suffering and devastation. It showed an astonishing callousness and brutality. Our sympathy and solidarity are completely with the innocent victims of these terrorist acts not with their perpetrators.


But our solidarity with the victims should not blind us to the absolutely breathtaking hypocrisy of George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon and other imperialist spokespeople and their lackeys in the always-accommodating capitalist media. The outrage in the US may be described as the greatest act of terror of all time only with severe reservations. While it is certainly the greatest act of non-state terror, many acts of governmental terror have far surpassed it.

At the end of World War II, for example, the US leaders cold-bloodedly carried out the nuclear annihilation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki solely to demonstrate their power and intimidate the Soviet Union; several hundred thousand men, women and children were killed to make this point.

During the long Cold War with the USSR, Washington propped up scores of blood-soaked Third World dictatorships and helped them torture and murder their opponents with impunity, and helped cover up their crimes. In 1965, for instance, the US helped aspiring Indonesian dictator Suharto organise a pogrom against the left and progressive forces which massacred at least one million people. The long US intervention in Vietnam against the liberation forces there killed and maimed millions of people and inflicted massive material devastation on the country.

Saddam Hussein's murderous regime was another US client, being particularly favoured during the Iran-Iraq war of the early 1980s. Then the wheel turned and, for various reasons, he became a liability. Since the Gulf War, US- and British-backed sanctions against Iraq have led to the deaths of more than a million Iraqis through starvation and disease and politically strengthened Saddam's hold on power.

Afghanistan's brutal Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime is a product of the US-backed war of the reactionary Mujahadeen "freedom fighters" against the Soviet-backed secular, leftist People's Democratic Party government. This was also the origin of the Saudi Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden, Washington's current world "public enemy number one" and suspected organiser of the US attacks.

Ever since the 1959 Cuban Revolution removed Cuba from the US sphere of influence, Washington has organised numerous ? terrorist ? attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Furthermore, the US has imposed a ruinous economic blockade on the island for over 40 years. And right now, the US authorities are resisting Cuban calls for them to extradite the CIA-linked counter-revolutionary terrorist responsible for the 1976 midair bomb-destruction of a Cuban airliner off Barbados in which 73 people died.

And then there is the misery and slow death to which the mass of the world's people have been condemned by Western capitalism's ruthless drive for profit, regardless of the costs to the planet and its people. Each year, for instance, millions of children in the Third World die of absolutely preventable diseases, victims of an implacable and merciless economic regime imposed on their countries by imperialism and its agencies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation.

Who are the major "enemies of civilisation"? If Osama bin Laden is a terrorist we would have to conclude that he is a relatively minor one. If there was any justice in this world, Western capitalist leaders like George Bush senior, Bill Clinton, Blair and Bush junior would be on trial for crimes against humanity. The Saddam Husseins, Suhartos and Bin Ladens would feature simply as their junior accomplices.

Roots of terrorism

It is still not clear who organised the terrorist operation in the US. But where would any terror organisation recruit people who were so embittered and without hope of the future that they could contemplate such a pointless atrocity and be willing to sacrifice themselves to implement it? The answer is no great mystery.

The massive misery which Western capitalism ? led by the United States, the world's only superpower ? has imposed on the majority of the world's people has created the seedbed for the very terrorism which its leaders so piously condemn. Oppression breeds hatred, desperation and despair. In such a climate, when the enemy seems so powerful, carrying out suicide bombings against the population of the oppressor country can seem to some like the only option.

In occupied Palestine, for instance, there is apparently no shortage of young men willing to sacrifice themselves as human bombs against the Israeli population. However, apart from being morally repugnant, such indiscriminate acts are a complete political dead-end. Each suicide bomber who carries out his mission in an Israeli town, is actually weakening the Palestinian struggle and helping strengthen the hand of the Israeli regime and its US backers. Each bomb blast against the civilian population drives the Israeli masses towards Sharon and inhibits the development of any internal oppositional forces.

Throughout the history of the modern socialist movement, Marxists have carried out a fierce polemic against the political strategy of "individual terrorism" ? that is, the killing of hated figures of an oppressive regime. Our objection to this kind of terrorism is not based on morality but on the grounds that it simply does not work. The ruling class can always replace individuals.

Furthermore and most importantly, employed as a strategy, such terrorist acts actually demobilise the mass movement. Only the struggle of the masses can change society. The combat of a small band of terrorist-avengers relegates the masses to the sidelines and makes them mere spectators of a contest between the terrorists and the regime, rather than participants in their own liberation.

However, the US attacks represent a completely different kind of terrorism: the wanton and indiscriminate killing of civilians is part of the methodology of imperialism and its accomplices, not of the progressive forces fighting for liberation from this inhuman system.

Reactionary agenda

The terror bombings will be used by Bush and the US ruling class to create a more favourable political climate in which to implement their reactionary agenda. This tragedy is a heaven-sent opportunity for them and they will take it with both hands. They will push forward their arms buildup and sabre-rattling foreign policy.

Under the guise of "fighting terrorism", civil liberties will come under increased pressure at home, there will be a campaign for more cops and increased police powers, and the previously growing movement against the death penalty will operate in a much less favourable environment. The scandal of Bush's stolen election and the rotten US electoral system will fade away in the glare of the patriotic spotlight.

Xenophobia will be strengthened; anti-Arab racism will become stronger and it will be harder to build a movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Socialists oppose any "war on terrorism". Military attacks by the US and its imperialist allies on the alleged terrorists and/or states that allegedly harbour them will not end acts of terrorism. To the contrary, such a war will only result in more loss of innocent lives, and deepen the nationalist hatred of Americans that has provided a recruiting ground for the organisers of terrorist acts of the World Trade Center type.

Socialists are struggling for a world that is free of violence, oppression and exploitation. This means struggling against imperialism and capitalism which is raping our planet and condemning the mass of its people to an increasingly miserable and desperate existence and replacing it with a socialist society. The only force which can accomplish this tremendous historic task is the working class and oppressed masses of the world. Terrorism has no part in this struggle; we are fighting against the system which breeds terror and which freely uses it to defend itself.

Dear Friends: We have all been touched by the recent events that have occured in the east coast, directly or indirectly. No matter which way, it has hurt us all very deeply, and even more (of course) the people who were killed. The last thing we need is more death. Of course we need to do something about Osama Bin Laden, but to go so far as what George W. Bush is planning will just cause more anger and greif and loss in the world. He is going to tell afghanistan to hand over Bin Laden, and if they don't, he's going to start a war. He's already said that this was an act of war, but what i think was it was an act of terrorism. And what do I mean by terrorism? I mean someone was so afraid of their life, so scared that no one would listen to them, that they had to do something this drastic to hurt our country. Not only do I not want people here in our own country to die, but I don't want more innocent people to die in Afghanistan or whichever other countries might be involved. Just because an organization from their country killed thousands of innocent people, doesnt mean we have the right to kill more. Everyone, even George Bush, should now the basic kindergarten rule: two wrongs don't make a right. The point of this letter was not to tell you everything you already know, but to get you to help in saving the human race from more pain. Please help by writing a letter to the Bush and telling him your thoughts. You can help make a difference in thousands of peoples lives. Please send this to everyone you know so they can help too.

Love Always, Alice M. Bacon, 13

You don't need to read this whole article but it might help you understand more.

Taliban Plead for Mercy to the Miserable in a Land of Nothing

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 12 - If there are Americans clamoring to bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age, they ought to know that this nation does not have so far to go. This is a post-apocalyptic place of felled cities, parched land and downtrodden people. The fragility of this country was part of the message the Taliban government conveyed in a plea for restraint issued late tonight. It said in part, "We appeal to the United States not to put Afghanistan into more misery because our people have suffered so much." Whatever Afghanistan's current cataclysm, its next one seems to require little time to overtake it. Wars fought by sundry protagonists have gone on now for 22 consecutive years, a remorseless drought for 4. Since 1996, most of the nation has been ruled by Taliban mullahs whose vision of the world's purest Islamic state has at least as much to do with controlling social behavior as vouchsafing social welfare. The accused terrorist Osama bin Laden has found a home here, angering much of the world. In 1998, America fired a volley of more than 70 cruise missiles at guerrilla training camps reportedly operated by the Saudi multimillionaire. Now, there seems to be the prospect of another barrage, with Afghan hospitality to the same man as the cause. As fear of an American attack mounted, the Taliban's senior spokesman in Kandahar, Abdul Hai Mutmain, called the few foreign reporters here to issue the statement, which in part defended Mr. bin Laden: "These days, Osama bin Laden's name has become very popular and to an extent it has become a symbol. These days, even to the common people, Osama bin Laden's name is associated with all controversial acts. Osama bin Laden does not have such capabilities. We still hope sanity prevails in the United States. We are confident that if a fair investigation is carried out by American authorities, the Taliban will not be found guilty of involvement in such cowardly acts." The statement also said, "Killing our leaders will not help our people any. There is no factory in Afghanistan that is worth the price of a single missile fired at us. It will simply increase the mistrust between the people in the region and the United States." Whatever else there is to say about this entreaty, one part that is indisputably true is that this land-locked, ruggedly beautiful nation is in absolute misery. Here in Kabul, the capital, roaming clusters of widows beg in the streets, their palms seemingly frozen in a supplicant pose. Withered men pull overloaded carts, their labor less costly than the price of a donkey. Children play in vast ruins, their limbs sometimes wrenched away by remnant land mines. The national life expectancy, according to the central statistics office, has fallen to 42 for males and 40 for females. The prolonged drought has sent nearly a million Afghans ó about 5 percent of the population ó on a desperate flight from hunger. Some have gone to other Afghan cities, others across the border. More than one million are "at risk of starvation," according to the United Nations. Famine is the catastrophe Afghans are used to hearing about. Few yet know of the threat of an American reprisal. The Taliban long ago banned television, and the lack of electricity keeps most people from listening to radio. The nation's 100 or so foreign aid workers suffer no such telecommunications handicaps, however, and today many of them began to flee their adopted home, fearing either the havoc of American bombs or the wrath of subsequent Afghan outrage. Around noon, a special United Nations flight evacuated the first of the expatriates. The remaining foreigners are expected to leave on Thursday, as will three, and perhaps all four, of the American parents here to observe the trial of their children, among eight foreign aid workers accused by the Taliban of preaching Christianity. As foreigners left, the Taliban took unusual precautions: they began searching every vehicle entering government compounds. Visitors were carefully frisked. But however much the Taliban hierarchy was beginning to fret, streets and bazaars were a picture of normality. Word has spread slowly about the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. And even when everyday Afghans heard the news, there were no accompanying video images to sear the horror into their memories. Personal conversations only carried the dull stimuli of abstract words: hijacked planes and collapsed buildings. Khair Khana, a man selling fertilizer in a market, knew just a bit about the attack. He thought a plane had crashed into the White House. And he considered the perpetrators, whoever they are, to be "enemies of God," though he also felt "Americans should look into their hearts and minds about why someone would kill themselves and others" in such a way. He had not thought much about an American retaliation against Afghanistan. When he did consider it, standing in a ramshackle collection of stalls, he shrugged and said: "Americans are powerful and can do anything they like without us stopping them." Nearby, a tailor, Abdul Malik, saw God's justice in America's pain because, as he understands it, the United States has armed the Afghan resistance to fight against the Taliban. "So they at least now know how it feels in their own country," he said. As for Mr. bin Laden, the tailor considered judgment of him to be God's affair. "If Osama is Islam's enemy, he should be gotten rid of," he said. "But if he is a good Muslim and wants Islam to prosper ó and if America wants him dead ó then we hope he destroys America." The common people of Afghanistan are often circumspect with their opinions. As one man said today: "Nobody here talks wholeheartedly any more; it can be dangerous." The Taliban are credited with improving safety. They disarmed the population, they put an end to banditry. But the security has come at a steep price. Women have been forced into head-to-toe gowns known as burqas and evicted from schools and the workplace. Men are obligated to wear long beards or face jail. Banned are musical instruments, chessboards, playing cards, nail polish and neckties. Cheers at soccer matches are restricted to "Allah-u-akbar,"or God is great. Freedom of speech has bowed to religious totalitarianism. Various Taliban police forces patrol the streets. Today, in a derelict building that is used as a precinct office, one 25-year-old constable sat on the floor beneath a single dangling light bulb. His name was Muhammad Anwar. He had heard something about the attack in America but he had no idea how many were killed or what cities were involved. Indeed, it seemed unlikely that he had ever heard of New York. "Attacks like these are not a good thing because Muslims live all over the world and Muslims may have been killed," Mr. Anwar said hesitantly. By his reckoning, Americans were enemies of Afghanistan, as were Jews and Christians. He thought about this a bit more and retracted it partially. "There must have been all kinds of people in the building, not just bad Jews but good Jews, not just bad Christians but good ones." He remembered something he had learned in his madrassa, or religious school. "It is un-Islamic to kill innocent people," he said.


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