October 2006


Special Comment: Advertising terrorism
The key to terrorism is not the act — but the fear of the actSPECIAL COMMENT

By Keith Olbermann

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15392701/

Tonight, a special comment on the advertising of terrorism – the commercial you have already seen.

It is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks.

It is from the Republican National Committee;

It shows images of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri;

It offers quotes from them—all as a clock ticks ominously in the background.

It concludes with what Zawahiri may or may not have said to a Pakistani journalist as long ago as 2001:  His dubious claim that he had purchased “suitcase bombs.”

The quotation is followed (by sheer coincidence no doubt) by an image of a massive explosion.

“These are the stakes,” appears on the screen, quoting exactly from Lyndon Johnson’s infamous nuclear scare commercial from 1964.

“Vote—November 7th.”

There is a cheap “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” quality to the whole thing, and it also serves to immediately call to mind the occasions when President Bush dismissed Osama bin Laden as somebody he didn’t think about—except, obviously, when elections were near.

Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time, have laughed out loud.

But—not everyone.

And therein lies the true threat to this country.

The dictionary definition of the word “terrorize” is simple and not open to misinterpretation:

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.” 

Note please, that the words “violence” and “death” are missing from that definition.

The key to terror, the key to terrorism, is not the act—but the fear of the act.

That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotaped statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them?

Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; The Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home.

Only the Republicans have a bigger bank roll. 

When, last week, the CNN network ran video of an insurgent in Iraq, evidently stalking and killing an American soldier, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, branded that channel, quote, “the publicist for an enemy propaganda film” and that CNN used it “to sell commercials.”

Another California Republican, Rep. Brian Bilbray, called the video “nothing short of a terrorist snuff film.”

If so, Mr. Bilbray, then what in the hell is your Party’s new advertisement?

And Mr. Hunter, CNN using the video to “sell commercials”?

Commercials!

You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee!

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.”

By this definition, the people who put these videos together—first the terrorists and then the administration—whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking—they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaida.

But the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

Eleven Presidents ago, a chief executive reassured us that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

His distant successor has wasted his administration insisting that there is nothing we can have but fear itself.

The vice president, as recently as this month, was caught campaigning with the phrase “mass death in the United States.”

Four years ago it was the now-Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, rationalizing Iraq with “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

Days later Mr. Bush himself told an audience that “we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

And now we have this cheesy commercial—complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud, and implications of “mass death in America.”

This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror.

It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and that only you can save them.

Lyndon Johnson used it to bury Barry Goldwater.

Joe McCarthy leaped from obscurity on its back.

And now the legacy has come to President George Bush.

Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President?

And thus more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror.

After last week’s embarrassing Internet hoax about ‘dirty bombs’ at football stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described “former CIA operative” named Wayne Simmons, cited the fiasco as “the, and I mean the, perfect example of the President’s Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA terrorist eavesdropping program – how vital they are.”

Frank Gaffney, once a respected assistant secretary of defense and now the president of something called the Center for Security Policy, added, “one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this, is not only that they’re gunning for us not just in a place like Iraq—but truly, worldwide.”

Of course, the “they” to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake—a kid, trying to one-up some other loser in an Internet game of chicken.

His “threat,” referenced seven football stadiums at which dirty bombs were to be exploded yesterday. It began with the one in New York City – even though there isn’t one in New York City. And though the attacks were supposed to be simultaneous, four of the games were scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET and the others at 4 p.m. ET.

More over, the kid said he’d posted the identical message on 40 websites since September.

We caught him in “merely” about six weeks, even though the only way he could have been less subtle, less stealthy, and less of a threat was if he’d bought an advertisement on the Super Bowl broadcast.

Mr. Bush, this is the—what? – 100th plot your people have revealed, that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding, or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a water board in Eastern Europe?

If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work that your new ad implies that only you and not the Democrats can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions.

The real question of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release this information in the first place?

It was never a serious threat. Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting “strong skepticism”—the kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards.

So that leaves two options, Mr. President.

The first option: you and your department of Homeland Security don’t have the slightest idea what you’re doing. Thus, contrary to your flip-flopping between saying “we’re safe” and saying “but we’re not safe enough,” and contrary to the vice president’s swaggering pronouncements about the lack of another attack since 9/11, the last five years has been just an accident.

Or there’s the second option: your political operatives leaked this nonsense for the same reason your political operatives put out that commercial—to scare the gullible.

Obviously the correct answer, Mr. Bush, is all of the above.

There are some of us who could forgive you for trying to run your candidates on the coattails of the Grim Reaper, for reducing your party’s existence to “Death and Attacks Us.”

It’s cynical and barbaric.

But, after all, it may be merely the natural extension of the gutter politics to which you have subscribed since you sidled over from baseball, and the business world of other people’s money.

But to forgive you for terrorizing us, we would have to believe you somehow competent in keeping others from doing so.

Yet, last week, construction workers repairing a subway line in New York City, were cleaning out an abandoned manhole on the edge of the World Trade Center site, when they stumbled on to the impossible:  human remains from 9/11.

Bones and fragments.

Eighty of them.

Some as much as a foot long.

The victims had been lying, literally in the gutter, for five years and five weeks.

The families and friends of each of the 2,749 dead—who had been grimly told in May of 2002 that there were no more remains to be found—were struck anew as if the terrorism of that day had just happened again.

And over the weekend they’ve found still more remains.

And now this week will be spent looking in places that should have already been looked at a thousand times five years ago.

For all the victims in New York, Mr. Bush—the living and the dead—it’s a touch of 9/11 all over again.

And the mayor of this city, who called off the search four-and-a-half years ago is a Republican.

The governor of this state with whom he conferred is a Republican.

The House of Representatives, Republican.

The Senate, Republican.

The President, Republican.

And yet you can actually claim that you and you alone can protect us from terrorism?

You can’t even recover our dead from the battlefield—the battlefield in an American city—when we’ve given you five years and unlimited funds to do so!

While signing a Military Commissions Act so monstrous that it has been criticized by even the John Birch Society, you told us, Mr. Bush, “there is nothing we can do to bring back the men and women lost on September 11th, 2001. Yet we’ll always honor their memory, and we will never forget the way they were taken from us.”

Except, of course, for the ones who’ve been lying under a manhole cover for five years.

Setting aside the fact that your government has done nothing else for those five years but pat yourselves on the back about terror, while waging pointless war on the wrong enemy in Iraq, and waging war on the cherished freedoms in America;

Just on this subject of counter-terrorism, sir, yours is the least competent government, in time of crisis, in this country’s history!

“These are the stakes,” indeed, Mr. President.

You do not know what you are doing.

And the commercial—the one about which Zawahiri might say “hey, pretty good—we love your choice of font style”?

All that need further be said is to add three words to Shakespeare.

Mr. President, you, and that advertisement of terror, are full of sound and fury—signifying (and competent at) nothing.

Currently reading :
Leni Riefenstahl: A Life
By Jurgen Trimborn
Release date: By 23 January, 2007
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A response to the Bush Secret Service article going around…


Okay – this will probably get me dropped by one or two folks but nevertheless, here we go.

Below and between the asterisks you will find an article that has been making the rounds in the Truth Movement. I received it about 5 times today. If you have not read it, please do. IF YOU HAVE READ IT, please skip to my response at the bottom.

I really do understand the impulse to jump on this sort of thing and shout “police state, police state!” etc. But, well, read my response.

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—————– Bulletin Message —————–
Thanks to: RoadRunner Legal Enemy Combatant
Date: Oct 14, 2006 12:19 PM

If you had any doubt, any thought that you were just TOO paranoid, let this dispell those doubts. Big Brother IS watching and much more evidently.

Credible threat? Feds question teen over Web page
By LAUREL ROSENHALL and RYAN LILLIS – The Sacramento Bee – 10/14/06
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The latest Sacramento resident to be questioned by federal agents for threatening President Bush is a 14-year-old girl with a heart on her backpack and braces on her teeth, a freckle-nosed adolescent who is passionate about liberal politics and cute movie stars.

Her name is Julia Wilson, and she learned a vivid civics lesson Wednesday when two Secret Service agents pulled her out of biology class to ask about comments and images she posted on MySpace.

Beneath the words ”Kill Bush,” Wilson posted a cartoonish photo-collage of a knife stabbing the hand of the President. It was one of a few images Wilson said she used to decorate an anti-Bush Web page she moderated on MySpace, the social networking Web site that is hugely popular among teenagers.

The Secret Service refused to answer questions about the case or even confirm an investigation. Eric Zahren, a Secret Service spokesman, said the agency does not discuss its work ”due to the sensitivity of our mission.”

But Wilson’s mother, Kirstie Wilson, and an assistant principal at McClatchy High said two agents showed them badges stating they were with the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

Federal law prohibits making true threats against the President, and Julia and her parents say what she did was wrong.

The couple are disturbed however, that federal agents questioned a child at school — without her parents present. And First Amendment lawyers question whether the Secret Service over-reacted to a 14-year-old’s comments on a Web site made for casual socializing.

”I don’t condone what she did but it seems a little over the top to me,” said Julia’s father, Jim Moose. ”You’d think they could look at the situation and determine that she’s not a credible threat.”

Here is how Julia Wilson’s family tells their story:

Two Secret Service agents arrived at their home around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, Kirstie Wilson said. They told her they wanted to speak with her daughter about threats to the President that she had posted on MySpace.

”She was in molecular biology and I said I really didn’t want to take her out of class for this,” Kirstie Wilson said. ”I said I’d make sure she came right home from school.”

She asked the agents to come back in an hour, and they left.

Then Wilson sent her daughter a text message instructing her to come straight home from school.

”… there are two men from the secret service that want to talk with you. Apparently you made some death threats against president bush. Dont worry youre not going to jail or anything like that but they take these things very seriously these days,” Kirstie Wilson wrote.

”Are you serious!?!? omg. Am I in a lot of trouble”? her daughter replied, using common text message shorthand for ”Oh my god.”

Kirstie Wilson called her husband. While they were on the phone, she received another text message from her daughter: ”They took me out of class.”

It was a 15- to 20-minute interview, Julia said. Agents asked her about her father’s job, her e-mail address, and her social security number. They asked about the MySpace page she had created last year as an eighth-grader at Sutter Middle School.

”I told them I just really don’t agree with Bush’s politics,” Julia said Thursday. ”I don’t have any plans of harming Bush in any way. I’m very peaceful, I just don’t like Bush.”

The MySpace page under question was a group page, similar to an online club.

OH MY GOD! The Brownshirts are here. It is NOT a threat but a reality.

REPOST THIS REPORT THIS REPOST THIS REPOST THIS REPOST THIS

RR

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MY RESPONSE;

[I’ve omitted the name of the first person I addressed this letter to so they don’t have to take my heat.]

You know I saw this story coming at least a year ago. And the sad part is I’m sort of on the side of the Secret Service.

In case it needs saying – I despise this administration, everyone still working for it and all of its policies, foreign & domestic.

But “zero tolerance” is really the only way to handle that job. If it was a President we liked (or, at least could tolerate) I’d want them to be just as zealous.

And making a teenage girl cry for a couple of minutes for threatening the life of the President (or anybody for that matter) isn’t like tossing her in Gitmo and taking away her habeus rights.

It’s actually a rare example of a “measured” response. Fifteen minutes to check on a presidential death threat is serious slack compared to what these guys CAN do.

Another example I might give was I deleted some IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE song from my page for advocating the same thing. I understand the impulse to write those songs but if you give it a platform it looks like “advocacy” to the Secret Service and I like the idea of being able to fly when I want to.

This might seem like “caving in” to pressure but not having your life threatened is a basic human right that I’m even willing to say Bush deserves. But just barely – and only on a technicality.

– Dannelke

Fireinacrowdedtheatre, PA.

Currently reading :
Diogenes The Cynic: The War Against The World
By Luis E. Navia
Release date: By 30 July, 2005

A story not found on Lou Dobbs

There was a period last year for about two weeks where I was watching Lou Dobbs regularly and was sort of / kind of guardedly liking him.

Those days are long gone. I’m now at a point where I have gotten well and truly tired of his three talking points.

One: there is a war being waged on the middle class.
Two: our southern border is a myth and nobody seems to care.
Three: this is a know nothing/do nothing corrupt congress.

I grant him all three of his points but jesus christos, could you hammer me about the head and shoulders some more, please? And could you pretty please yammer on in the sort of tone that family patriarchs reserve for the particularly slow and willfully ignorant.

And the viewer response poll questions are insulting.

But not half as insulting as the conversational talking-point “closers” to his “co-anchor”, Kitty Pilgrim. Which sounds like a pornstar name, which is apt, except pornstars usually don’t have to swallow so much.

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Where this is going is that Lou is constantly talking about how Latino culture is this tide that is going to wash over Western culture until… until, I dunno, TV LAND stops showing Leave It To Beaver I suppose.

And I’m down here posting a box of books to Amazon pretty evenly divided between Japanese culture and Latino culture. First, I learned (or rather was reminded) that many MANY books about Japanese culture – particularly those about Japanese business and education practices (guys like Ezra Vogel) are “no-price” and must be tossed or shredded for mulch while any book about latin/latino culture in English or Spanish is usually $6.00 and up. I did about 30 books and averaged about $12.00 each.

So, with Lou Dobbs babbling away in the background I’m down here in my basement bookstore, the whitest of white guys, selling Spanish culture back to Lou’s nemesis while the success of the Rising Sun culture is quickly being forgotten. Go figure.

– Barney Dannelke

Currently reading :
Network Movie Script Screenplay
By Paddy Chayesky
Release date: By 1976

Nine Paradoxes of a Lost War By Michael Schwartz

Thanks to “Dav|d” for bringing this article to my attention. While a number of “bad news from Iraq” articles have a brief half-life the issues in this one are going to be with us for some time yet.

– Dannelke
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Nine Paradoxes of a Lost War
By Michael Schwartz
TomDispatch.com

The more force you use, the less effective you are.

Recently, the New York Times broke a story suggesting that the U.S. Army and the Marines were about to turn the conceptual tide of war in Iraq. The two services, reported correspondent Michael R. Gordon, “were finishing work on a new counterinsurgency doctrine” that would, according to retired Lt. Gen. Jack Keane, “change [the military’s] entire culture as it transitions to irregular warfare.”

Such strategic eureka moments have been fairly common since the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003, and this one – news coverage of it died away in less than a week – will probably drop into the dustbin of history along with other times when the tactical or strategic tide of war was supposed to change. These would include the November 2004 assault on the city of Falluja, various elections, the “standing up” of the Iraqi army, and the trench that, it was briefly reported, the Iraqis were planning to dig around their vast capital, Baghdad.

But this plan had one ingenious section, derived from an article by four military experts published in the quasi-official Military Review and entitled “The Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency.” The nine paradoxes the experts lay out are eye-catching, to say the least, and so make vivid reading; but they are more than so many titillating puzzles of counterinsurgency warfare. Each of them contains an implied criticism of American strategy in Iraq. Seen in this light, they become an instructive lesson from insiders in why the American presence in that country has been such a disaster, and why this (or any other) new counterinsurgency strategy has little chance of ameliorating it.

Paradox 1: The More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You Are

The military experts offer this explanation: “[The] counterinsurgent gains ultimate success by protecting the populace, not himself.” It may seem like a bland comment, but don’t be fooled. It conceals a devastating criticism of the cardinal principle of the American military in Iraq: that above all else they must minimize the risk to American troops by setting rules of engagement that essentially boil down to “shoot first, make excuses later.” Applications of this principle are found in the by-now familiar policies of annihilating any car that passes the restraint line at checkpoints (because it might be a car bomber); shooting at pedestrians who get in the path of any American convoy (because they might be trying to stop the vehicles to activate an ambush); and calling in artillery or air power against any house that might be an insurgent hiding place (because the insurgents might otherwise escape and/or snipe at an American patrol).

This “shoot first” policy has guaranteed that large numbers of civilians (including a remarkable number of children) have been killed, maimed, or left homeless. For most of us, killing this many innocent people would be reason enough to abandon a policy, but from a military point of view it is not in itself sufficient. These tactics only become anathema when you can no longer ignore the way they have made it ever more difficult for the occupying army to “maintain contact” with the local population in order “to obtain the intelligence to drive operations and to reinforce the connections with the people who establish legitimacy.”

Paradox 2: The More Force You Use, the Less Effective You Are

Times’ reporter Gordon summarizes the logic here nicely: “Substantial force increases the risk of collateral damage and mistakes, and increases the opportunity for insurgent propaganda.” Considering the levels of devastation achieved in the Sunni city of Falluja (where 70% of structures were estimated to be damaged and close to 50% destroyed in the U.S. assault of November 2004) and in other Sunni cities (where whole neighborhoods have been devastated), or even in Shiite Najaf (where entire neighborhoods and major parts of its old city were destroyed in 2004), the word “substantial” has to be considered a euphemism. And the use of the word “propaganda” betrays the bias of the military authors, since many people would consider such levels of devastation a legitimate reason for joining groups that aim to expel the occupiers.

Here again, the striking logic of the American military is at work. These levels of destruction are not, in themselves, considered a problem – at least not until someone realizes that they are facilitating recruitment by the opposition.

Paradox 3: The More Successful Counterinsurgency Is, the Less Force That Can Be Used and the More Risk That Must Be Accepted

Though not presented this way, this paradox is actually a direct criticism of the American military strategy in the months after the fall of the Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. In those early days, active resistance to the occupation was modest indeed, an average of only six violent engagements each day (compared to 90 three years later.) But American military policy in the country was still based on overwhelming force. American commanders sought to deter a larger insurgency by ferociously repressing any signs of resistance. This strategy included house-to-house searches witnessed by embedded reporter Nir Rosen and described in his vivid book, In the Belly of the Green Bird. These missions, repeated hundreds of times each day across Iraq, included home invasions of suspected insurgents, brutal treatment of their families and often their property, and the indefinite detention of men found in just about any house searched, even when U.S. troops knew that their intelligence was unreliable. Relatively peaceful demonstrations were forcibly suppressed, most agonizingly when, in late April 2003, American troops killed 13 demonstrators in Falluja who were demanding that the U.S. military vacate a school commandeered as a local headquarters. This incident became a cause célèbre around which Fallujans organized themselves into a central role in the insurgency that soon was born.

The new counterinsurgency strategy acknowledges that the very idea of overwhelming demonstrations of force producing respectful obedience has backfired, producing instead an explosion of rebellion. And now that a significant majority of Iraqis are determined to expel the Americans, promises of more humane treatment next time will not get the genie of the insurgency back in the bottle.

Paradox 4: Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Best Reaction

This paradox is, in fact, a criticism of another cardinal principle of the occupation: the application of overwhelming force in order to teach insurgents (and prospective insurgents) that opposition of any sort will not be tolerated and, in any case, is hopeless. A typical illustration of this principle in practice was a January 2006 U.S. military report that went in part: “An unmanned U.S. drone detected three men digging a hole in a road in the area. Insurgents regularly bury bombs along roads in the area to target U.S. or Iraqi convoys. The three men were tracked to a building, which U.S. forces then hit with precision-guided munitions.” As it turned out, the attack killed 12 members of a family living in that house, severely damaged six neighboring houses, and consolidated local opposition to the American presence.

This example (multiplied many times over) makes it clear why, in so many instances over these last years, doing nothing might have been better: fewer enemies in the “hood.” But the developers of the new military strategy have a more cold-blooded view of the issue, preferring to characterize the principle in this way: “If a careful analysis of the effects of a response reveals that more negatives than positives might result, soldiers should consider an alternative.” That is, while this incident might well be an example of a time when “doing nothing is the best reaction,” the multiple civilian deaths that resulted could, under at least some circumstances, be outweighed by the “positives.” Take, for a counter example, the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia, in an air strike that also caused multiple civilian deaths.

Paradox 5: The Best Weapons for Counterinsurgency Do Not Shoot

The Times’ Gordon offers the following translation of this paradox: “Often dollars and ballots have more impact than bombs and bullets.” Given the $18 billion U.S. reconstruction budget for Iraq and the three well-attended elections since January 2005, it might seem that, in this one area, Bush administration efforts actually anticipated the new counterinsurgency doctrine.

But in their original article the military strategists were actually far more precise in describing what they meant by this – and that precision makes it clear how far from effective American “reconstruction” was. Money and elections, they claim, are not enough: “Lasting victory will come from a vibrant economy, political participation and restored hope.” As it happened, the American officials responsible for Iraq policy were only willing to deliver that vibrant economy, along with political participation and restored hope, under quite precise and narrow conditions that suited the larger fantasies of the Bush administration. Iraq’s new government was to be an American ally, hostile to that axis-of-evil regional power Iran, and it was to embrace the “opening” of the Iraqi economy to American multinationals. Given Iraqi realities and this hopeless list of priorities (or inside-the-Beltway day-dreams), it is not surprising that the country’s economy has sunk ever deeper into depression, that elected officials have neither the power nor the inclination to deliver on their campaign promises, and that the principle hopes of the majority of Iraqis are focused on the departure of American troops because of, as one pollster concluded, “the American failure to do basically anything for Iraqis.”

Paradox 6: The Host Nation Doing Something Tolerably Is Sometimes Better Than Our Doing It Well

Here is a paradoxical principle that the occupation has sought to apply fully. The presidential slogan, “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” has been an expression of Bush administration determination to transfer the front-line struggle against the insurgents – the patrols, the convoys, the home invasions, any house-to-house fighting – to Iraqi units, even if their job performance proved even less than “tolerable” compared to the rigorous execution of American troops.

It is this effort that has also proved the administration’s most consistent and glaring failure. In a country where 80% of the people want the Americans to leave, it is very difficult to find soldiers willing to fight against the insurgents who are seeking to expel them. This was evident when the first group of American-trained soldiers and police deserted the field of battle during the fights for Falluja, Najaf, Mosul, and Tal Afar back in 2004. This led eventually to the current American strategy of using Shia soldiers against Sunni insurgents, and utilizing Kurds against both Shia and Sunni rebels. (Sunnis, by and large, have refused to fight with the Americans.) This policy, in turn, has contributed substantially to the still-escalating sectarian violence within Iraq.

Even today, after the infusion of enormous amounts of money and years of effort, a substantial proportion of newly recruited soldiers desert or mutiny when faced with the prospect of fighting against anti-American insurgents. According to Solomon Moore and Louise Roug of the Los Angeles Times, in Anbar province, the scene of the heaviest fighting, “half the Iraqi soldiers are on leave at any given time, and many don’t return to duty. In May, desertion rates in some Iraqi units reached 40%.” In September, fully three-quarters of the 4,000 Iraqi troops ordered to Baghdad to help in the American operation to reclaim the capital and suppress internecine violence there, refused deployment. American officials told the LA Times that such refusals were based on an unwillingness to fight outside their home regions and a reluctance to “be thrust into uncomfortable sectarian confrontations.”

As the failed attempts to “stand up” Iraqi forces suggest, the goal of getting Iraqis to fight “tolerably” well depends upon giving them a reason to fight that they actually support. As long as Iraqis are asked to fight on the side of occupation troops whose presence they despise, we cannot expect the quality of their performance to be “tolerable” from the Bush Administration point of view.

Paradox 7: If a Tactic Works This Week, It Will Not Work Next Week; If It Works in This Province, It Will Not Work in the Next

The clearest expression of this principle lies in the history of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the anti-occupation weapon of choice among Iraqi resistance fighters. Throughout the war, the occupation military has conducted hundreds of armed patrols each week designed to capture suspected insurgents through house-to-house searches. The insurgency, in turn, has focused on deterring and derailing these patrols, using sniper attacks, rocket propelled grenades, and IEDs. At first, sniper attacks were the favored weapon of the insurgents, but the typical American response – artillery and air attacks – proved effective enough to set them looking for other ways to respond. IEDs then gained in popularity, since they could be detonated from a relatively safe distance. When the Americans developed devices to detect the electronic detonators, the insurgents developed a variety of non-electronic trigger devices. When the Americans upgraded their armor to resist the typical IED, the insurgents developed “shaped” charges that could pierce American armor.

One solution not under consideration might work very well: abandoning the military patrols themselves. But such a tactic would also require abandoning counterinsurgency and ultimately leaving Iraq.

Paradox 8: Tactical Success Guarantees Nothing

This point is summarized by Gordon of the Times this way: “[M]ilitary actions by themselves cannot achieve success.” But this is the smallest part of the paradox. It is true enough that the insurgency in Iraq hopes to win “politically,” by waiting for the American people to force our government to withdraw, or for the cost of the war to outweigh its potential benefits, or for world pressure to make the war diplomatically unviable.

But there is a much more encompassing element to this dictum: that guerrilla fighters do not expect to win any military battles with the occupation. In the military strategists’ article, they quote an interchange between American Colonel Harry Summers and his North Vietnamese counterpart after the U.S. had withdrawn from Vietnam. When Summers said, “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,” his adversary replied, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

A tactical victory occurs when the enemy is killed or retreats, leaving the battlefield to the victor. In guerrilla war, therefore, the guerrillas never win since they always melt away and leave their adversary in charge.

But in Iraq, as in other successful guerrilla wars, the occupation army cannot remain indefinitely at the scene of its tactical victories – in each community, town, or city that it conquers. It must move on to quell the rebellion elsewhere. And when it does, if the guerrillas have successfully melted away, they will reoccupy the community, town, or city, thus winning a strategic victory and ruling the local area until their next tactical defeat.

If they keep this up long enough and do it in enough places, they will eventually make the war too costly to pursue – and thus conceivably win the war without winning a battle.

Paradox 9: Most of the Important Decisions Are Not Made by Generals

Because guerrilla war is decentralized, with local bands deciding where to place IEDs, when to use snipers, and which patrols or bases to attack, the struggle in different communities, provinces, or regions takes very different forms. Many insurgents in Falluja chose to stand and fight, while those in Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, decided to evacuate the city with its civilian population when the American military approached in strength. In Shia areas, members of Muktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army chose to join the local police and turn it to their purposes; but Sunni insurgents have tried, instead, to disarm the local police and then disband the force. In every city and town, the strategy of the resistance has been different.

The latest American military strategists are arguing that what they call the “mosaic nature of an insurgency” implies the necessity of giving autonomy to local American commanders to “adapt as quickly as the insurgents.” But such decentralization cannot work if the local population supports the insurgent goal of expelling the occupiers. Given autonomy under such circumstances, lower level U.S. military officers may decide that annihilating a home suspected of sheltering an insurgent is indeed counterproductive; such decisions, however, humane, would now come far too late to convince a local population that it should abandon its support of a campaign seen as essential to national independence.

There may have been a time, back when the invasion began, that the U.S. could have adopted a strategy that would have made it welcome – for a time, anyway – in Iraq. Such a strategy, as the military theorists flatly state, would have had to deliver a “vibrant economy, political participation, and restored hope.” Instead, the occupation delivered economic stagnation or degradation, a powerless government, and the promise of endless violence. Given this reality, no new military strategy – however humane, canny, or well designed – could reverse the occupation’s terminal unpopularity. Only a U.S. departure might do that.

Paradoxically, the policies these military strategists are now trying to reform have ensured that, however much most Iraqis may want such a departure, it would be, at best, bittersweet. The legacy of sectarian violence and the near-irreversible destruction wrought by the American presence make it unlikely that they would have the time or inclination to take much satisfaction in the end of the American occupation.

——–

Michael Schwartz, Professor of Sociology and Faculty Director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University, has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency, as well as on American business and government dynamics. His work on Iraq has appeared on numerous internet sites including Tomdispatch.com, Asia Times, Mother Jones.com, and ZNet; and in print in Contexts, Against the Current, and Z Magazine. His books include Radical Protest and Social Structure, and Social Policy and the Conservative Agenda (edited, with Clarence Lo). His email address is Ms42@optonline.net.

Currently watching :
Syriana (Widescreen Edition)
Release date: By 20 June, 2006

Everytime he let’s loose with one of these I expect the picture to turn to snow and then the MSNBC logo to pop up with some horrible muzak in the background. Or, just a big blinking eye. Amazingly that failed to happen once again.

I’m sure the YouTube video will be along any moment, or is already making the rounds – but here’s the text. I like words. Words are important. Twenty years from now Keith’s tie will look dated or silly but these words will still resonate. That is of course if we can still find them.

– Dannelke

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‘Beginning of the end of America’
Olbermann addresses the Military Commissions Act in a special comment
SPECIAL COMMENT
By Keith Olbermann

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived as people in fear.

And now—our rights and our freedoms in peril—we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight have we truly become the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before—and we have been here before led here—by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use those acts to jail newspaper editors.

American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote about America.

We have been here when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as “Hyphenated Americans,” most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.

American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said about America.

And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9066 was necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use that order to imprison and pauperize 110,000 Americans while his man in charge, General DeWitt, told Congress: “It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen—he is still a Japanese.”

American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did, but for the choices they or their ancestors had made about coming to America.

Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And each was a betrayal of that for which the president who advocated them claimed to be fighting.

Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased.

Many of the very people Wilson silenced survived him, and one of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900,000 votes, though his presidential campaign was conducted entirely from his jail cell.

And Roosevelt’s internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States to the citizens of the United States whose lives it ruined.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

In times of fright, we have been only human.

We have let Roosevelt’s “fear of fear itself” overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said, “the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass.”

We have accepted that the only way to stop the terrorists is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

Or substitute the Japanese.

Or the Germans.

Or the Socialists.

Or the Anarchists.

Or the Immigrants.

Or the British.

Or the Aliens.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And, always, always wrong.

“With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?”

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly—of course—the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But even within this history we have not before codified the poisoning of habeas corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that “the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values” and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens “unlawful enemy combatants” and ship them somewhere—anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an “unlawful enemy combatant” and ship you somewhere – anywhere.

And if you think this hyperbole or hysteria, ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was president or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was president or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was president.

And if you somehow think habeas corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an “unlawful enemy combatant”—exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this attorney general is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope he has not lied about how he intends to use it nor who he intends to use it against?

“These military commissions will provide a fair trial,” you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush, “in which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney and can hear all the evidence against them.”

“Presumed innocent,” Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain “serious mental and physical trauma” in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

“Access to an attorney,” Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

“Hearing all the evidence,” Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions Act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies that imperil us all.

“One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks,” you told us yesterday, “said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America.”

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The moral force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be “the beginning of the end of America.”

And did it even occur to you once, sir — somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11 — that with only a little further shift in this world we now know—just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died — did it ever occur to you once that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future president and a “competent tribunal” of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of “unlawful enemy combatant” for — and convene a Military Commission to try — not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, Sir, all of them—as always—wrong.
© 2006 MSNBC

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15321167/