Saturday, June 9, 2007

Just WHO are we fighting in Iraq?

Nine out of 10 times, when it names a foe it faces, the U.S. military names al-Qaida in Iraq. President Bush says Iraq may become an al-Qaida base to "launch new attacks on America." ... (MG) As if al-Qaida needs a new base to launch attacks on America .... 9/11 was launched from inside the U.S. .... nothing the U.S. military is doing in Iraq is making us safer on U.S. soil .... The U.S. ambassador here suggested this week al-Qaida might "assume real power" in Iraq if U.S. forces withdraw.

Critics say this is overblown and possibly a diversion.

"Such speculation is unrealistic," Amer Hassan al-Fayadh, Baghdad University political science dean, said of the U.S. statements.

Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, strong Kurdish ethnic minority, secularist Sunni Muslims and others would suppress any real power bid by the fringe Sunni religious extremists of al-Qaida, al-Fayadh said.

(MG) The Iraqis do not want al-Qaida in Iraq - neither did Saddam Hussein

"The people who are fighting al-Qaida in Iraq are the Sunnis themselves," he said.

Since Iraqis rose up against the U.S. occupation in 2003, the insurgency has spawned a long roster of militant groups - the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Islamic Army in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunnah and the Mujahedeen Army, among others - drawing on loyalists of the ousted, Sunni-dominated Baathist regime, other nationalists, Islamists, tribal groups and militant Shiites.

Some 30 groups now claim responsibility for attacks against U.S. and government targets, said Ben Venzke, head of the Virginia-based IntelCenter, which tracks such statements for the U.S. government.

Despite this proliferation of enemies, the U.S. command's news releases on American operations focus overwhelmingly on al-Qaida.

During the first half of May, those releases mentioned al-Qaida 51 times, versus five mentions of other groups.

(MG) because the cheney administration conflated Saddam and Iraq with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida to get the gAp to support the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it might raise questions if the military (or the press) were to suggest that we are fighting the Iraqi people, the ones we liberated from Saddam, the ones to whom we are brining "freedom"

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Kucinich hits the cover off the ball

(MG) The following was released on the Kucinich 2008 web site. If I were ever to be elected POTUS, I'd get a new cabinet post, Secretary of Peace, and I'd annoint Representative Kucinich to it.

(MG) I know, Respresentative Kucinich will never be considered a viable candidate, he can't raise enough money (apparently the office of POTUS is one which must be bought, as I'm sure the founding fathers envisioned ... well, actually, they envisioned the office going to "one of their own") and what's worse, he was SO marginalized in campaign 2004 that even John Pilger, a war correspondent and documentary film maker, didn't seem to know that Kucinich was a Democratic candidate for President.

(MG) But harkening back to those halycon days leading up to the 2004 elections, only Kucinich and the Reverend Al Sharpton had the integrity or courage (or both) to oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq. And this was at a time when things looked like, virtually "mission accomplished"

Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said Sunday he would definitely participate in a September debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and scheduled to be broadcast on the Fox Television Network. Kucinich said for Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama to skip the debate simply because it was to be broadcast on Fox was a snub of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"This is particularly troublesome because the concerns of African Americans should take precedent over what network is broadcasting the debate," Kucinich said, "There are matters relating to employment, health care, education, jobs, rebuilding our cities, environment and civil rights that all presidential candidates have an obligation to address and debate. Those candidates planning to skip this debate clearly are trying to avoid a forum where there will be hard-hitting questions from people who may not agree with them. But taking questions from all sides is part of politics, and part of being President. I'm running to be President for all people in this country."

"America needs a President with the ability and willingness to unite people of diverse political views," Kucinich said, "Let us never forget that the symbol of our country, the American eagle, needs two wings to fly--a left wing and a right wing. I'm prepared to reach out to all Americans. We all deserve to be heard. and we all deserve to be represented."

"Certainly many Fox viewers are not part of the traditional Democratic base," Kucinich said, "but they have a right to hear from the Democratic candidates and we as candidates have an obligation to reach out to them. Families who view Fox News have lost loved ones in Iraq, lost their jobs to NAFTA, and lost their homes to medical bills, just as have the viewers of other networks."

Kucinich said the refusal of the three senators to participate in the debate raises questions about whether or not they really have the ability to be President.

"First Sens. Clinton and Edwards were tricked by George Bush into voting for the war. ... (MG) I'd say their war votes were politically calculated ... there were plenty of voices contradicting the lies told by the cheney administration to raise the war-gasmic fevers of the gAp (great American public) ...Then they and Sen. Obama voted most of the time to support funding the war. All three have said all options are on the table with Iran, meaning they are ready to go to war against Iran. This raises questions about their judgment, about who they are they, who they represent? African-Americans -- and Fox viewers -- have a right to know."

"I know some people object to Fox News," Kucinich said, "and they take issue with Fox coverage, and the way Fox covers the news. I've taken issue with Fox on many occasions, but I don't hesitate to be questioned by Fox or any of its affiliates. I've also taken issue with the New York Times -- which, after all, was largely responsible for selling the Bush war plans to the American people. ... (MG) the NYT was responsible as well as for the press corps "War on Gore" which catapulted the cheney sock-puppet to the office of POTUS in 2000 .... the truth hurts, but until one faces it, running from and turning away from the truth can kill .... But this will be a live debate. The issue here is not what questions Fox broadcasters will ask, but how the candidates for President will answer them. The issue is not what the commentators will say after the debate is over, but what we as candidates say during the debate."

"The questions asked by the Congressional Black Caucus will be just as important, and our answers just as telling, on Fox as on any other network," Kucinich said.

The Ohio congressman, who is an avid baseball fan, also noted that "Fox broadcasts the World Series, too, but is it any less of a World Series because it's on Fox? Ask the fans in St. Louis, or Anaheim, or Boston."

"Lets face it, the race for the presidency is the World Series of politics, and here you have three candidates for President who are admitting that not only can they not hit right-handed pitching, they're even afraid to step up to the plate and take a swing. ... (MG) geez, I really love this metaphor .... Well, I'm one candidate for President who can hit any pitch anyone throws at me. And I'll be taking the field in Detroit this September with the Congressional Black Caucus."

"When the Cleveland Indians get into the World Series, and Fox broadcasts the games, I assure you I'll be there," Kucinich said, "and when Fox broadcasts a debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, I'll be there, too."

SCOTUS - out to lunch

A racist gets it right on Iraq

(MG) U.S. State Representative Ron Paul (R-Tex) has offered a number of good ideas about what to do in Iraq. He's been against the invasion and occupation from the inception.

(MG) Rep. Paul however, is a racist, and has pandered to that crowd for years. Here's documentation (from Dave Neiwert's invaluable Orcinus blog) of his racist writings and a listing of his racist supporters over the years.

... what all of us need to know before we run out and sign on for a summer of Ron Paul Love Feasts -- is that Paul has some long-standing ties to early-90s Patriot groups -- and some ugly attitudes on race and equality -- that should give us all long and serious pause. Diarist phenry at Daily Kos lays out the particulars here and here.

According to phenry, Paul's newsletter, The Ron Paul Political Report (renamed The Ron Paul Survival Report in 1993, in a bid to pander to the militia audience that was peaking that year) was a Patriot movement must-read, full of helpful advice on tax protest, gold-backed currency, urban race war and other pet legal and social theories of the extremist right. While content is very hard to come by now (Paul has scrubbed much of what was on the Web, and refuses to release the newsletter to the media), phenry dug up a few choice samples, including:

* A 1992 screed on African-American"racial terrorism" in Los Angeles, in which Paul insists that "our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin."

* Another 1992 article, this one asserting that "complex embezzling" is "100% white and Asian;" and noting that young black male muggers are "unbelievably fleet-footed."

* A Houston Chronicle citation from 1996, in which he asserts that Barbara Jordan was a "fraud." Paul wrote: "Everything from her imitation British accent, to her supposed expertise in law, to her distinguished career in public service, is made up. If there were ever a modern case of the empress without clothes, this is it. She is the archetypical half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism."

In the second post, phenry outlines Paul's connections to various white supremacists groups. In 1996, Paul was one of only two candidates endorsed by Christian Identity leader Larry Pratt (who had previously worked with David Duke, and resigned from Pat Buchanan's team when his Identity role became public). Paul refused to repudiate the endorsement; and Pratt has stepped forward again with a quasi-endorsement of Paul's current campaign.

Through the 90s, Paul was also a regular on the far-right talk circuit. He spoke to Texas secessionists in 1995 on the "once and future Republic of Texas"; has appeared on a radio program affiliated with the Council of Conservative Citizens; and is a frequent speaker at John Birch Society functions -- the group has given him a perfect 100 in its legislative rankings. These days, those who monitor CCC, David Duke, and Stormfront say they can't get enough of him. They know he's one of their own.

Those of us who are interested in getting to a sane and functional immigration policy should also reflect on the fact that he stands right next to Tom Tancredo on that issue.

Which brings us to the Big Question: How can someone who's been such a darling of the extremist right for over 20 years now become the Next Big Thing on the left as well?

Straight talk is powerful. Americans are addicted to it -- and, too often, addled by it. We've seen this before with Ross Perot and John McCain, two other right-wing candidates who charmed us with their apparent penchant for telling us uncomfortable but necessary truths. (And to give the man his due: pointing out that 9/11 was the inevitable outcome of decades of monstrous US foreign policy was a very necessary truth.)

But -- as we learned the hard way on both those earlier occasions -- just because someone can cut through the political drivel and speak with some clarity now and again, it doesn't mean they're someone we should dump our principles and better judgment out the window for, and rush right out and follow. The fact is that Ron Paul has built a political career pandering to the far fringes of the proto-fascist right. There's twenty-plus years of documentary evidence that he does not believe in democracy as we progressives understand it. No amount of disarming straight talk should blind us to that core fact.

Update: Several apologists note that Paul now claims that the newsletter was written by a ghostwriter -- as though this somehow absolves him of responsibility for over a decade of hate speech.

This argument, all on its own, should be enough to disabuse anyone of the idea that Paul is a "straight talker." The newsletter went out under his name. If he didn't read the copy first, he should have. He owns the words in it -- either because he wrote them, or he bought and paid for them to be written for his own purposes. To claim now that he's somehow not responsible is like a politician saying, "That thing I said? I don't really believe it -- it's just something my speechwriter cooked up." Or a businessman claiming he's not party to a contract because his lawyer, acting as his agent, signed it for him.

Either argument would be laughed out of court. Paul deserves to be laughed off the public stage: either he means what he says, or he doesn't.

You may think you like what you see today. But, given what we already know, it may be wise to do your homework before you decide this man is worthy to hold power in America. And the media needs to be asking serious questions about his past, probing him to see if he's still committed to bringing about that New World Order he spent so much of his early career promoting.


(MG) It's worth noting what Paul has said about Iraq, because sometimes, we must give the devil his due. The following analysis comes from a June 1, 2007 article in Salon:

He's the only Republican candidate who

wants to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and

withdraw the U.S. Navy from the waters off the Iranian coast.

He wants America to pull out of the United Nations, NATO, the International Criminal Court, and most international trade agreements.

He wants to abolish FEMA,

end the federal war on drugs,

get rid of the Department of Homeland Security,

send the U.S. military to guard the Mexican border,

stop federal prosecutions of obscenity,

eliminate the IRS,

end most foreign aid,

overturn the Patriot Act,

phase out Social Security,

revoke public services for illegal immigrants,

repeal No Child Left Behind, and

reestablish gold and silver as legal tender.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Democrats' War

(MG) Writing in the June 5, 2007 edition of the online e-zine Counterpunch, David Vest commends Dennis Kucinich's indictment of Democrats' failure to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Nothing much was happening in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate Sunday night, until Rep. Dennis Kucinich fired the rhetorical equivalent of a cruise missile across the bow of his party. The leading contenders may have pretended not to hear the shot, but don't be fooled. They heard it, all right. They just hope you didn't.


The only candidate to draw real blood in the debate was Kucinich, who horrified liberals everywhere by saying that Iraq is now "the Democrats' war."

... Digby's Hullabaloo quickly accused Kucinich of "undermining the single most important rationale for a Democratic president, which is that the Republicans are responsible for the mess in Iraq," adding that "it takes almost nothing to gain currency in the MSM and that particular notion is a very dangerous one."


The very real danger is that the top Democrats will be caught in a withering crossfire, with Republicans accusing them of wanting to "cut and run" from Iraq, and the rest of America saying, "if only they would!"

Mike Gravel underscored the risk by pointing out that most of the people onstage with him were "part of the leadership right now in the Congress, and could end the war if they want to."

If Kucinich and Gravel aren't included in future debates, look no further for the reason.

The notion that Republicans -- and not Democrats -- are responsible for Iraq is the straw house in which all Democratic prospects for 2008 abide.


Dennis Kucinich isn't the big bad wolf. Neither is Mike Gravel. What the two of them said can hardly be called unthinkable, if most of the country is already thinking it.

It's only a matter of time before people also start asking, where were the Democrats on Katrina? Did they do anything to save the people of New Orleans, or were they content to sit back and enjoy the effects of the debacle on Bush and the GOP? Have you heard any of the leading candidates talking about the Right of Return for displaced residents of the Crescent City?

Instead of trying to convince people to unthink what's already been thunk -- instead of endlessly jockeying to avoid "ownership" of the war -- it's high time for the Democrats to step up and claim it -- and end it.

They need to stop seeing the war as something they can use to regain the White House, and begin to see it as something they must stop at all costs.

Otherwise, if the single most important rationale for putting a Democrat in the White House is Iraq, then there is no rationale. People who live in straw houses shouldn't run for president, when the truth is blowing in the wind.

(MG) If U.S. troops haven't had an orderly withdrawal from Iraq before the 2008 elections, do not count on seeing them withdraw in an orderly fashion for 20 or more years. Which of the top three democratic contenders will have the courage to cut their financial umbilical cord to the defense industry, the military-industrial-infotainment complex. In addition, "the big three" all have apparently bought into Iran being the biggest threat to U.S. national security, and the rational for "staying the course" in Iraq will be that a base of operations is needed to "neutralize" the Iranian "threat."

(MG) Such rationales and arguments are specious. Iran is NOT a threat to U.S. security UNLESS the U.S. attacks Iran.

(MG) In 1971, John Kerry told the U.S. senate how to end the war - just stop funding it. I guess he just forgot about how to do that, in the interim. No - wait, he RAN on a platform of prosecuting the war more effectively than the Bush administration. Politics.

(MG) End the occupation. Get out of Iraq immediately. Bring the troops home. Repair America's reputation around the world - and it will take one hell of a lot of good will and righteous deeds, and also acts of sincere contrition. Rebuild America. Stop playing policeman to the world.

The ascension of fundamentalism in the U.S.

(MG) Mike Huston is a professional bridge player and a labor arbitrator. He formerly taught English literature at a small liberal arts college in Michigan. His teaching gig ended a few years after the college applied for some federal grant money to start a nursing program. Eventually, the nursing program consumed the liberal arts program and the staff of its English literature department was reduced from seven to two.

(MG) Mike is as avid a reader as I know, and acrobatically digests about five books at a time. My greatest pleasure from tournament bridge is to share a meal with Mike to get his book / author recommendations. At the 2006 Chicago Summer National Bridge Tournament, Mike recommended the author Karen Armstrong to me, saying, "You can trust her."

(MG) Every Armstrong book I read put me several steps closer to my eventual conversion to Islam. I'm presently reading her 2002 book, The Battle for God, an eye-opening treatise on the history of fundamentalism. It's introduction begins thus:

One of the most startling developments of the late twentieth century has been the emergence within every major religious tradition of a militant piety popularly known as "fundamentalism." Its manifestations are sometimes shocking. Fundamentalists have gunned down worshippers in a mosque, have killed doctors and nurses who work in abortion clinics, have shot their presidents, and have even toppled a powerful government. It is only a small minority of fundamentalists who commit such acts of terror, but even the most peaceful and law-abiding are perplexing, because they seem so adamantly opposed to many of the most positive values of modern society. Fundamentalists have no time for democracy, pluralism, religious toleration, peacekeeping, free speech, or the separation of church and state. Christian fundamentalists reject the discoveries of biology and physics about the origins of life and insist that the Book of Genesis is scientifically sound in every detail. At a time when many are throwing off the shackles of the past, Jewish fundamentalists observe their revealed Law more stringently than ever before, and Muslim women, repudiating the freedoms of Western women, shroud themselves in veils and chadors. Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists both interpret the Arab-Israeli conflict, which began as defiantly secularist, in an exclusively religious way. Fundamentalism, moreover, is not confined to the great monotheisms. There are Buddhist, Hindu, and even Confucian fundamentalisms, which also cast aside many of the painfully acquired insights of liberal culture, which fight and kill in the name of religion and strive to bring the sacred into the realm of politics and national struggle.

(MG) The following passages which begin on page 171 caught my eye, and helped explain how "we" got where "we" are in this political age in which the Rove machine has so effectively roused up ire, wrath, and rage to mobilize the Christian fundamentalists to get out and vote. The seeds of this particular political trend have been planted and sown for some time, in America, we can trace the roots back to World War I.

... [D]uring the Great War, an element of terror entered conservative Protestantism and it became fundamentalist. Americans had always had a tendency to see a conflict as apocalyptic, and the Great War confirmed many of them in their premillennial convictions. The horrific slaughter, they decided, was on such a scale that it could only be the beginning of the End. These must be the battles foretold in the Book of Revelation. Three big Prophecy Conferences were held between 1914 and 1918, when participants combed through the Scofield Reference Bible to find some more "signs of the times." Everything indicated that these predictions were indeed coming to pass. The Hebrew prophets had foretold that the Jews would return to their own land before the End, so when the British government issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), pledging its support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the premillennialists were struck with awe and exultation. Scofield had suggested the Russia was "the power from the North" that would attack Israel shortly before Armageddon; the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), which made atheistic communism the state ideology, seemed to confirm this. The creation of the League of Nations obviously fulfilled the prophecy of Revelation 16:14: it was the revived Roman empire that would shortly be led by Antichrist. As they watched world events, the premillennial Protestants were becoming more politically conscious. What had been in the late nineteenth century a purely doctrinal dispute with the liberals in their denominations, was becoming a struggle for the future of civilization. They saw themselves on the front line against satanic forces that would shortly destroy the world. The wild tales of German atrocities circulating during and immediately after the war seemed to prove to the conservatives how right they had been to reject the nation that had given birth to the Higher Criticism.

Yet this vision was inspired by deep dread. It was xenophobic, fearful of foreign influence seeping into the nation through Catholics, communists, and Higher Critics. This fundamentalist faith shows a profound recoil from the modern world. Conservative Protestants had become extremely ambivalent about democracy: it would lead to "mob rule," to a "red republic," to the "most devilish rule this world has ever seen." Peace-keeping institutions, such as the League of Nations, would henceforth always be imbued with absolute evil in the eyes of fundamentalists. The League was clearly the abode of Antichrist, who, St. Paul had said, would be a plausible liar whose deceit would take everybody in. The Bible said that there would be war in the End-times, not peace, so the League was dangerously on the wrong track. Indeed, Antichrist himself was likely to be a peacemaker. The fundamentalists' revulsion from the League and other international bodies also revealed a visceral fear of the centralization of modernity and a terror of anything resembling world government. Faced with the universalism of modern society, some people instinctively retreated into tribalism.

This type of conspiracy fear, which makes people feel that they are fighting for their lives, can easily become aggressive. Jesus was no longer the loving savior preached by Dwight Moody. As the leading premillennialist, Isaac M. Haldeman, explained, the Christ of the Book of Revelation "comes forth as one who no longer seeks either friendship or love. ... His garments are dipped in the blood of men." The conservatives were ready for a fight, and, at this crucial moment, the liberal Protestants went on the offensive.

The liberals had their own difficulties with the war, which challenged their vision of a world progressing inexorably toward the Kingdom of God. The only way they could cope was to see this as the war to end all wars, which would make the world safe for democracy. They were horrified by the violence of premillennialism, and its devastating critique of democracy and the League of Nations. These doctrines seemed not only un-American but a denial of Christianity itself. They decided to attack, and, despite their Gospel of love and compassion, their campaign was vicious and unbalanced. In 1917, theologians at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, the leading scholastic institution of liberal Christianity in the United States, began to attack the Moody Bible Institute on the other side of town. Professor Shirley Jackson Chase accused the premillennialists of being traitors to their county and of taking money from the Germans. Alva S. Taylor compared them to the Bolsheviks, who also wanted to see the world remade in a day. Alfred Dieffenbach, the editor of the Christian Register, called premillennialism "the most astounding mental aberration in the field of religious thinking."

By linking the devout teachers of the Moody Bible Institute with foes who were not only their political enemies but whom they regarded as satanic, the liberals had hit below the belt. The conservatives struck back, hard. The editor of the Moody Bible Institue Monthly and president of the Institue, James M. Gray, retorted that it was the pacifism of the liberals which has caused the United States to fall behind Germany in the arms race, so it was they who had jeopardized the war effort. In The King's Business, a premillenial magazine, Thomas C. Horton argued that it was the liberals who were in league with the Germans, since the Higher Criticism which they taught in their Divinity School had caused the war and was responsible for the collapse of decent values in Germany. Other conservative articles blamed rationalism and evolutionary theory for the alleged German atrocities. Howard W. Kellogg of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles insisted that the philosophy of evolution was responsible for "a monster plotting world domination, the wreck of civilization, and the destruction of Christianity itself." This acrimonious and, on both sides, unchristian dispute had clearly touched a raw nerve, and evoked a deep fear of annihilation. There was no longer any possibility of reconciliation on the subject of the Higher Criticism, which, for the conservatives, now had an aura of absolute evil. The literal truth of scripture was a matter of the life and death of Christianity itself. The critics' attacks on the Bible would result in anarchy and the total collapse of civilization, the Baptist minister John Straton declared in a famous sermon entitled "Will New York City Be Destroyed If It Does Not Repent?" The conflict had got out of hand and it would become almost impossible to heal the rift.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Mercenaries can turn on us

(MG) Writing in the Philadelphia Enquirer, Chris Hedges, former war correspondent issues a warning about US funded mercenaries.

Armed units from the private security firm Blackwater USA opened fire in Baghdad streets twice in two days last week. It triggered a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi forces, a reminder that the war in Iraq may be remembered mostly in our history books for empowering and building America's first modern mercenary army.

There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 armed security contractors working in Iraq ... and some estimates run much higher. Security contractors are not counted as part of the coalition forces. When the number of private mercenary fighters is added to other civilian military "contractors" who carry out logistical support activities such as food preparation, the number rises to about 126,000. (MG) logistical support activities such as food preparation -- means we have mercenaries making meals, riding security detail with convoys -- stuff the U.S. military used to be able to do (in times of war) ... Donald Rumsfeld's wet dream of a lighter more dynamic military devolves to this -- corporate whores sucking from the military budget teat of the federal government's seemingly bottomless money trough -- oh, that would be money collected from we the people ... our tax dollars at work; mercenaries are making six-figured salaries, which has to give our troops pause --

(MG) nor are deaths of mercenaries counted as deaths of coalition forces, nor are war injuries to mercs counted as war injuries

"We got 126,000 contractors over there, some of them making more than the secretary of defense," said House defense appropriations subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D., Pa.). "How in the hell do you justify that?"

The privatization of war hands an incentive to American corporations, many with tremendous political clout, to keep us mired down in Iraq. But even more disturbing is the steady rise of this modern Praetorian Guard. The Praetorian Guard in ancient Rome was a paramilitary force that defied legal constraints, made violence part of the political discourse, and eventually plunged the Roman Republic into tyranny and despotism. Despotic movements need paramilitary forces that operate outside the law, forces that sow fear among potential opponents, and are capable of physically silencing those branded by their leaders as traitors. And in the wrong hands, a Blackwater could well become that force.

(MG) The war machine has unsatiable profit motive to perpetuate perpetual war

American taxpayers have so far handed a staggering $4 billion to "armed security" companies in Iraq such as Blackwater, according to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.). Tens of billions more have been paid to companies that provide logistical support. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) of the House Intelligence Committee estimates that 40 cents of every dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors. It is unlikely that any of these corporations will push for an early withdrawal. The profits are too lucrative.

(MG) remember how our troops went over without armor, without kevlar vests?

Mercenary forces like Blackwater operate beyond civilian and military law. They are covered by a 2004 edict passed by American occupation authorities in Iraq that immunizes all civilian contractors in Iraq from prosecution.

(MG) licensed to commit war crimes - they do, they will continue to do so

Blackwater, barely a decade old, has migrated from Iraq to set up operations in the United States and nine other countries. It trains Afghan security forces and has established a base a few miles from the Iranian border. The huge contracts from the war - including $750 million from the State Department since 2004 - have allowed Blackwater to amass a fleet of more than 20 aircraft, including helicopter gunships. Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, points out that Blackwater has also constructed "the world's largest private military facility - a 7,000-acre compound near the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina." Blackwater also recently opened a facility in Illinois ("Blackwater North") and, despite local opposition, is moving ahead with plans to build another huge training base near San Diego. The company recently announced it was creating a private intelligence branch called "Total Intelligence."

(MG) and the reason we have the CIA, military intelligence, DIA, FBI, etc etc etc ... is once again, because? I'm supposed to believe the private sector can do this better? Remember, a merc is a merc - a person who fights other people's wars for money ... LOTS more money than a soldier makes ... LOTS more

Erik Prince, who founded and runs Blackwater, is a man who appears to have little time for the niceties of democracy. ( MG - one could say the same thing about Rove, Gonzalez, etc etc etc .. it seems to be part of the membership requirements to get into the GOP political hierarchy) He has close ties with the radical Christian Right and the Bush White House. He champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. His employees, in an act as cynical as it is dishonest, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. But what he and his allies have built is a mercenary army, paid for with government money, which operates outside the law and without constitutional constraint.

Mercenary units are a vital instrument in the hands of despotic movements. Communist and fascist movements during the last century each built rogue paramilitary forces. And the appearance of Blackwater fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, may be a grim taste of the future. In New Orleans Blackwater charged the government $240,000 a day.

(MG) the mercs themselves hated it ... only made about half as much per diem as they made in Iraq

" 'It cannot happen here' is always wrong," the philosopher Karl Popper wrote. "A dictatorship can happen anywhere."

The word contractor helps launder the fear and threat out of a more accurate term: "paramilitary force." We're not supposed to have such forces in the United States, but we now do. And if we have them, we have a potential threat to democracy. On U.S. soil, Blackwater so far has shown few signs of being an out-and-out rogue retainer army, though they looked the part in New Orleans. But were this country to become even a little less stable, outfits like Blackwater might see a heyday. If the United States falls into a period of instability caused by another catastrophic terrorist attack, an economic meltdown that triggers social unrest, or a series of environmental disasters, such paramilitary forces, protected and assisted by fellow ideologues in the police and military, could ruthlessly abolish what is left of our eroding democracy. War, with the huge profits it hands to corporations, and to right-wing interests such as the Christian Right, could become a permanent condition. And the thugs with automatic weapons, black uniforms and wraparound sunglasses who appeared on the streets in New Orleans could appear on our streets.

(MG) another example of not calling a thing by its true and rightful name - "contractors" is a term used to obfuscate - mercenaries - hired guns for war, with no political allegiance to any nation; no rules; when the bodies of four mercenaries were hung and burnt to a crisp on the bridge in Fallujah, the US response was swift and devastating - the white house laid siege to and destroyed Fallujah - pay back. Bush gave more support to the mercs than he have given to wounded US troops or battle-scarred troops

The Folly of Maximalist Objectives

(MG) William S. Lind writing at the Defense and the National Interests web site offers the following bleak insights into the U.S. occupation of Iraq

... the goals or objectives of states at war tend to change over time. In 18th Century cabinet wars, princes who were losing wisely reduced their objectives to what was attainable, while those who were winning were usually sufficiently prudent not to want too much. Wise statesmen such as Prince Bismarck kept their governments' objectives in check even during successful wars in the 19th Century.

But the advent of total wars between peoples, ... let loose the folly of maximalist objectives. Worse, leaders and states that were losing tended to inflate rather than trim their objectives, largely as sops to public opinion. This led to ruinous wars and equally ruinous peace treaties. ... As World War I dragged on, both sides' war objectives expanded, preventing the compromise, reconstructive peace Europe needed and ending in the catastrophic Diktat of Versailles. The ultimate extension of maximalist objectives, the Allies' demand for unconditional surrender in World War II, turned half of Europe over to Communism for half a century.

Now, it seems, the Bush Administration insists on extending the folly of maximalist objectives from total war into cabinet wars, and moreover into cabinet wars it is losing (or more accurately has lost). In public, it blathers on about democracy for Iraq, a war objective that reaches beyond maximalism into pure fantasy. In private, its real objectives, unchanged since long before the war began, are no less disconnected from reality. It seeks an Iraq that is a willing American satellite, a bottomless source of oil for America's SUVs, a permanent site for vast U.S. military bases from which Washington can dominate the region, and an ally of Israel. The skies will be darkened by winged swine long before any of these objectives are attained.

At this point, for those who want to continue the Iraq war, only one objective makes any sense: restoring a state in Iraq before we leave, or more likely as we leave. A state, any kind of state, under any government; to try to specify anything more is, in the face of our military failure, maximalism and unreality.

... If anyone can [restore a state in Iraq], it is probably Muqtada al-Sadr. According to the May 26 Birmingham (Alabama) News ...

The influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr publicly emerged Friday for the first time in months, calling for U.S. forces to leave Iraq and vowing to defend Sunnis and Christians. His appearance, and remarks, seemed part of an ongoing tactical shift by al-Sadr to recast himself as a nationalist who can lead and occupy a post-occupation Iraq.
... Al-Sadr has maintained communications, and perhaps more, with some Sunni resistance groups all along. ... He knows what the idiots in Washington seem not to know, namely that only a leader who has opposed the occupation and America can hope to have sufficient legitimacy to restore an Iraqi state.

What all this means, in concrete terms, is that America should facilitate al-Sadr's rise to national power. That does not mean embracing him; to do so would be to destroy his legitimacy. ... staying out of his way, avoiding fights with his Mahdi Army, selectively picking off challengers to him within his own movement ... and letting our hopeless, worthless puppet government in Baghdad's Green Zone fall into history's wastebasket when the time is right.

None of this will ensure al-Sadr can restore a state in Iraq. Again, the odds are that no one can. But he seems to be the last, best hope.

The White House, of course, will accept none of this. Bush’s maximalism is part and parcel of his defining break with reality. But our commanders on scene, Admiral Fallon and General Petraeus, may see it. If they do, they have a moral responsibility to act on it, the White House be damned. At this point in a lost game, we must take whatever route might, just might, lead to restoring an Iraqi state. The alternative, a stateless Iraq, will represent such a vast victory for Islamic Fourth Generation forces that any real Iraqi government, however unfriendly to the United States, is infinitely preferable.

If the folly of maximalist objectives instead remains our guide, we will know soon enough. The U.S. will go to war with the Mahdi Army, do a Fallujah on Sadr City (for which the U.S. military has already drawn up plans) and try to capture or kill al-Sadr himself. At that point the war in Iraq will effectively have no strategic objective at all, beyond being a gift beyond price to old Osama.