The Anti-Empire Report #12
By William Blum – Published August 21st, 2004
This is what the Brave New World of Iraqi Sovereignty looks like
- US military bases remain, with more being built.
- Some 160,000 troops of the United States and its allies remain, the Americans for at least five years.
- US military commanders will continue to exercise final authority over not only these troops, but also all Iraqi police, security and army units.
- Immunity from Iraqi criminal charges for US military and contractor personnel continues.
- A giant American embassy is being built, to hold a thousand employees.
- Before his departure, the US administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer, issued a raft of edicts. The new interim government has very limited power to change these laws and regulations, one of which is an elections provision that gives a commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.
- Bremer also appointed at least two dozen selected Iraqis to key government jobs with multi-year terms.
- The prime-minister, Ayad Allawi, who was chosen by Bremer, is a former(?) CIA asset. (Allawi has a vicious, ruthless background, including working with Saddam Hussein, and reportedly has personally engaged in horrible, sadistic acts as prime minister.)
- The United States retains custody of Saddam Hussein.
- The United States continues to bomb the people of Iraq and smash down their doors wherever and whenever it wishes.
It gives me no pleasure to tear into the Democrats, as I’ve done on several occasions in this report, because I sorely wish there was a viable alternative to Bush. Kerry is viable, but he’s not an alternative, particularly on foreign policy where his views are indistinguishable from those of George W. Ralph Nader is an alternative, but he’s not viable because the entire electoral process is designed to make life impossible for third-party candidates. Dennis Kucinich presented himself as an alternative, but it’s no exaggeration and no cliché to say that he “sold out”, abandoning his entire anti-war platform at the Democratic convention without any public fight, calling upon his supporters to rally behind Kerry, and getting nothing in return.
Speaking for Kerry and the party establishment, Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor who served as the behind-the-scenes ringmaster of the platform process, said of his negotiations with the Kucinich team: “We didn’t give up anything.” 1
The Democratic platform committee dismissed all of Kucinich’s proposals: that the Iraq war was a mistake from the beginning, immediate withdrawal of US troops, setting a date for the withdrawal, opposing pre-emptive war, reducing the military, calling for basic national rights for the Palestinian people, creating a “Department of Peace,” a single-payer universal health care program, and getting out of NAFTA and the WTO are nowhere to be found in the Democratic Party’s platform nor in the discussions on the convention floor. Why did Kucinich doggedly remain an official candidate for months if not to remain principled on these issues? Failing to win support in the platform committee was it principled to announce for Kerry?
It’s a painfully old story. Democrats can not be trusted ideologically, not even to be consistently liberal, never mind progressive or radical, no matter how much we wish we could trust them, no matter how awful the Republicans may be. In the 1968 election, Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy of Wisconsin was the darling of the left. He ran in the Democratic primaries on an anti-war platform that excited a whole generation of protestors. Peaceniks and hippies, the story goes, were getting haircuts, dressing like decent Americans, and forsaking dope, all to be “clean for Gene” and work in his campaign. Yet, in 1980, Gene McCarthy came out in support of Ronald Reagan. 2 Who will Kucinich support in the future?
Michael Moore is another case in point. His books and films are marvelous, at least as far as they go, which for American pop culture is considerable. But the man appears more and more to be a hopeless Democrat. In April he apologized to Al Gore for supporting Ralph Nader in 2000. Then, on July 28, on Jay Leno’s show, after exulting over the fact that Jimmy Carter had invited him into his private box at the Democratic National Convention, Moore accused Nader of running only because the Democrats had shut him out of the debates in 2000. He said this without any hint of humor or facetiousness. Does he have any idea how insulting this is to Nader, implying that Ralph has no principled reasons for running? Like, duh!, corporate venality that rules over the Republicans and Democrats and the rest of America?
Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die
On September 16, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashonah, will begin, followed the week after by the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. As they have for the last thousand years, worshipers in synagogues will be reciting a prayer which includes, in part:
On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: Who shall live and who shall die … Who by fire and who by water … Who by the sword and who by wild beasts … Who by hunger and who by thirst … Who by earthquake and who by plague … Who by strangling and who by stoning … Who shall become poor and who shall become rich …
Meanwhile, at the White House, Pentagon, State Department and Treasury Department, worshipers will be deciding: Who shall live and who shall die … Who by cruise missiles and who by depleted uranium … Who by Daisy Cutter bombs and who by cluster bombs … Who by tanks and who by mortar shells … Who by torture and who by sanctions … Who by IMF structural adjustment and who by World Bank dams … Who shall become still poorer and who shall become yet richer …
“aberration”, n. A deviation from the normal or typical
The Senate committee known as the Church committee, in its Assassination Report in 1975, said: “The committee does not believe that the acts [of assassination] which it has examined represent the real American character. They do not reflect the ideals which have given the people of this country and the world hope for a better, fuller, fairer life. We regard the assassination plots as aberrations.” 3
At the time the committee wrote this, it knew of about a dozen CIA assassination plots and still could call them all aberrations. Would congressmen today, knowing of the more than 50 American attempts upon the lives of foreign political leaders since World War II call them all aberrations?
Could they explain how these “aberrations” have continued through each of the eleven presidencies, from Truman through Bush II?
Last month, the Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee a report that concluded that cases of American abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and prisons in Afghanistan were “aberrations”.
The report stands in sharp contrast to findings issued by the Red Cross, which has called the abuse it found part of a pattern. A February report concluded that detainees under the supervision of military intelligence soldiers and officers “were at high risk of being subjected to a variety of harsh treatments ranging from insults, threats and humiliation to both physical and psychological coercion, which in some cases was tantamount to torture.” 4
“This regime has to be isolated in its bad behavior.” State Department enfant terrible John Bolton 5
Given the relentless efforts by the United States to uncover evidence of Iranian preparations for producing nuclear weapons, the repeated threats to Teheran if it dares to make any move in this direction, the frequent charges of possessing intelligence proving that Iran is indeed moving in this direction, the increasing dramatic declarations out of Washington that Iran is a grave danger to the world … I wish someone at some point would ask a White House or State Department official this simple question: “Is there anything in international law that says that the United States can possess nuclear weapons but that Iran can not?”
Of course, like almost everything else the Bush administration does between now and November, this whole thing with Iran may be little more than a ploy to win votes from those suffering from terrorphobia.
“One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.” Oscar Wilde
A few months ago, seven Iraqi men came to Houston, Texas, each to be fitted with an advanced “bionic” hand, entirely free, to replace a hand that was cut off by the Saddam Hussein regime as punishment for an economic crime. The American media and government did not fail to do the obvious: squeeze full propaganda value out of the situation.
Here’s the Washington Post: “These seven Iraqis are unabashed in their gratitude, not just for their new hands, but for the U.S. role in ending what they call the ‘reign of horror’. ‘Tell the American people what all Iraqis want to tell to them,’ Salah Zinad said. ‘Tell them: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.’ The other six Iraqis were equally effusive, their appreciation undimmed by the current prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad, and other occupation worries back home. … ‘This is really who we are as a country’,” said Joe Agris, a plastic surgeon who took part in the project. 6
The New York Post spoke of the seven men thusly: “Their gentleness is such a contrast to the bitterness of so much American political talk today. From these men who suffered unspeakably, there is no rage, no spewing of anger. Compare their talk with the bitter personal attacks in Al Gore’s nonstop rant against President Bush on Wednesday. … They came to Washington to say thank you to President Bush, thanks to wounded U.S. soldiers, and to lay a wreath at Arlington Cemetery in memory of U.S. troops who died to liberate Iraq.” 7
While in Washington, they visited with the president, who told them and the world: “I’m honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein. I’m with six other Iraqi citizens, as well, who suffered the same fate. They are examples of the brutality of the tyrant. … These men had hands restored because of the generosity and love of an American citizen. … I assured them we have a plan to help Iraq achieve free elections. We’ll transfer full sovereignty. … And they’re going back to Iraq soon, and we’re so proud to have them here in the Oval Office.” 8
My point here is not to make fun of the sentimentality, as maudlin as it is. I’m certainly very happy for the seven men. Neither am I inspired to write this in order to expose the nationalistic, feel-good bragging and propaganda, which is so common as to be almost beyond mentioning. What concerns me is that this marvelous gift was given to these men only because their misfortune was caused by an ODE (Officially Designated Enemy) of the United States. There are numerous other people in Iraq and thousands more in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Yugoslavia, Kuwait, and elsewhere who are missing an arm or a leg that was blown off by an American cruise missile or conventional bomb, or sliced off by a jagged shard of molten hot metal from an American cluster bomb, or lost a leg, or both legs, to a cluster bomb turned landmine. But since their misfortune was caused by an ODG (Officially Designated Goodguy) you won’t be reading about their visits to American plastic surgeons or the Oval Office.
A corporate honesty-free diet
I follow a low-fat diet and I’ve often had the thought that I’m lucky to be in the United States where so many fat-free and low-fat food products are available, much more so than in Europe for example. I’m not so sure anymore. I discovered that the “fat-free” spray I’ve been using for years for frying is no such thing. An article I read drew my attention to the “serving size” – “1/4 second spray”; i.e., if you hold the spray button down for 1/4 of a second, what comes out will have no fat. Apart from anything else, how can one conceivably know that they’ve pressed the button for no more than 1/4 of a second; and even if one could, what could one fry with the amount of oil that would come out in that period of time? But the manufacturer gets away with it because the FDA permits calling something “fat free” if the amount of fat present in the stated serving size is less than a certain amount, even if there would be a significant amount of fat in a “normal” serving size.
And then I read the label of the “fat-free” Parmesan cheese powder, which I’ve been sprinkling on pasta even longer, and saw that the serving size is 2 teaspoonsful, enough to flavor a couple of mouthsful of spaghetti, nowhere near the two platesful that I typically eat.
For individuals with a serious health condition that necessitates a very low fat diet, such deception can be playing with life and death. And for others, can simply have an adverse affect upon their health.
Eat the rich. Send me recipes.
For the quarter ended June 30, Microsoft reported revenue of $9.3 billion with a net profit of $2.7 billion; that’s a very high net profit of 29% of gross sales. Add to that the fact that their chairman, Bill Gates, is the richest man on the planet and we arrive at the inescapable conclusion that Microsoft, probably for many years, has been charging its customers a lot more than it needs to to earn a more than decent profit.
- New York Times, July 11, 2004
- San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 1980, p.7
- The Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (US Senate), Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, November 20, 1975, p.285
- Washington Post, July 23, 2004
- State Department press release, August 17, 2004
- Washington Post, May 24, 2004
- New York Post, May 28, 2004
- US Newswire, May 25, 2004
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.