19. March 2005 · Comments Off on Looking Better for the Kurds · Categories: Politics · Tags: , ,

I caught an interview on CSPAN with Qubad Talabany, a representative from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to the US, this morning. It was a reminder that there are some very positive results of US actions in the area. The Kurds were severely mistreated by the Baath regime, as anyone can see by reading about the Halabja genocide. It wasn’t until the US-lead coalition of forces, which included Britain AND France stepped into Iraq in 1991, that the Kurds were protected from this brutal persecution and given their own de-facto independence.

That’s right… 1991.

I think one of the reasons why it’s hard for many people like myself to join the applause as Bush takes bows is because credit is being donated without much qualification. It’s 100% true that regardless of what motivated the neo-conservatives to orchestrate an invasion in 2003, the results for the Kurds are positive… I recognize this fully. But, I think there is much more to understand.

First of all, we have to look beyond Saddam Hussein to find the cause of trouble for the Kurds. It’s not as simple as Saddam Hussein being a “mean guy”. A starting point for the problem can be located at the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 which was signed by many countries including the United States. This treaty set the modern borders between countries in the area that before WW1 was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Kurdistan, a province of the empire, was supposed to be made a nation on it’s own just like many of the other provinces including Iraq, but it was later decided to ignore them and the province was divided with parts given to Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

So if we fast forward to 1987, we can see the problem that occurred when two countries, each with it’s own share of Kurdistan went to war. I certainly don’t believe this gave CIA-asset, Saddam Hussein, the right to gas those villages in northern Iraq but I can see why he may have suspected a breach in the front between Iraq and Iran and it’s just a matter of fact that even “civilized” countries take leave of decency and do some horrible things in the face of a war*.

A little later, in 1991, the US-led coalition stepped in to defend Kuwait from Iraqi invasion and consequently established military protection over the oil-rich south and the Kurdish areas of the north which contained another important resource, the land through which US oil companies were planning a pipeline from the Caspian fields to a terminal on the coast of Turkey. It’s hard not to suspect ulterior motives on our part, especially when you look at the obvious influences of the oil industry in our government, the obvious oil interests in Iraq and the sad fact that we do nothing about genocides elsewhere in the world such as central Africa where oil isn’t a factor. I think the people that deny these suspicions are really stretching.

Regardless of ulterior-motive, the contribution that Bush has made to the Kurds is a chance to upgrade their de-facto independence which relied on US and UK military support to a legitimate representation in a self-supporting democracy. So I think the US self-interests is more of a problem for US tax payers than it is for the Kurds. Bottom line for the Kurds is that it’s better to be used by the US than to be persecuted by the Iraqis, the Iranians or the Turks… at least for now.


* Americans seem appalled that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds, but there are reports that reveal that the Reagan administration supplied those chemical weapons. usatoday

sources for map:

Wikipedia

Baku-Ceyhan Campaigne

13. March 2005 · Comments Off on Snow Job 2005 · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , , , , , , ,

Lately, mainstream media has been filling it’s “news” channels with wonderful success stories of democracy spreading throughout the middle-east and consequently the emergence of a president who was previously misunderstood and now proven to have been right. The image of bully America is giving way to the image of an America who is steering the world in the right direction. Once again, I find my own insights about the Bush administration buried under mainstream stories.

Most people who speak out against the Bush administration are rhetorically categorized as one and the same with the anti-war crowd. Indeed, I have always been critical of the Bush administration and I still am, but a historical look through my blog will reveal that I’ve always been more reserved with my opinions about the war in Iraq. Unlike the vast majority of Americans on both sides of the argument, I actually knew something about the Baath regime back in the 80’s before we ever crossed Saddam Hussein. I was one of those few Americans that actually paid attention to the Amnesty International reports on Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in Iraq while Republican hero’s like President Reagan supported him and his activities. Indeed, I have always recognized the value of destroying the Baath regime. But I also recognize that destroying the regime would be the easy part. Now let me get to the part of the Bush policy on Iraq that has always been the basis of my opposition…

First of all, Bush lied to us. He lied about WMD and about Hussein’s links to the 9/11 attacks. As Bill Mahr said, “maybe you have to lie to sell a war.” Perhaps you do. But if America is really a democracy, representative or otherwise, then the leaders will ultimately have to deal with the disappointment of a population that doesn’t want a war. If such wars are truly a function of humanity, then maybe our leaders need to learn that the American people really are good at heart and only need to be educated about the truth, of course it’s hard for a government to appeal to our sense of humanity with the truth on one hand while violating humanity on the other. Maybe what Bill Mahr should have said was that you have to lie to sell a war when you’re a power hungry sack of shit.

Secondly, there was no exit strategy. All there was were the lies used to hurry Americans into a hasty commitment. Of course, you can’t just go into a country, tear it apart and then leave, but this is why an exit strategy is so important. The invasion itself was a no-brainer, Iraq was never big enough to stand up the United States in the first place let alone after it’s military was weakened by a previous encounter with international forces and never allowed to recover while in the vice-grips of military no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Who’s going to deny that marching to Baghdad was like cutting through butter? Indeed the vast majority of casualties have occurred after we got there. So really, the challenge would have been an exit strategy and that should have been something we should have spent some time on and there would have been nothing wrong with letting us know about it.

Third, there didn’t seem to be any dialog with the Iraqi people to see if this is really what they wanted or to invite them in the planning of an exit strategy and subsequent democracy. I mean really, if exchanging Iraqi oppression for Iraqi democracy was the plan, wouldn’t this have been an important step? And there was plenty of capable Iraqis living outside the influence of Saddam Hussein in America and Europe to talk to so, don’t even go there.

Does any of this matter now that we’re committed and the brush-fire of democracy is spreading through the middle-east? I think it does for two reasons.

the first reason is that this is an age of globalization and the pressure has been on since the end of the cold-war for countries to join the global market which wears the friendly mask of democracy to hide the hideous intentions of corporatism. One of the many risks that come with globalization is the loss of indigenous culture and for better or worse, the Islamic world has been a hold-out in this struggle against Freidman’s Lexus* which is exactly what Bush and his neo-conservatives have been pushing for. From this perspective all the “rhyme and reason” that seems to be missing from the “fight for democracy” picture suddenly appears as plain as day. So I think before we celebrate the Bush-led revolution of democracy we really need to assess if it’s social democracy or corporate globalization that’s spreading like a brush-fire, and it’s important to know the difference between them. Another thing to keep in mind is that none of these countries in the middle east have done much to prove an interest in democracy as much as simply showing signs that they don’t like the system they have. It’s just as likely that the people in these nations will be trading one form of oppression for another, perhaps another dictator or now that the cold war with it’s “domino effect” is over then perhaps it’s more likely that the new oppression will be of the corporate variety. Again, this will only make sense for those that can tell the difference between the will of the people and the will of the corporation.

Secondly, I don’t think that the lies and the ill-intentions of a president should be forgotten simply because the consequences of his actions have the appearance of being favorable. We need to remember how Bush lied to us and because of that we need to think about the possibility that his true intentions are nothing like what he is actually telling us, maybe we need to be a little more suspicious and less willing to fall for the snow jobs, wishful thinking and the outward appearance of people demonstrating in the streets of Lebanon.

* Thomas Freidman, in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, describes the materialistic attraction of globalization as the Lexus which is often at odds with cultural values represented by the Olive Tree.

07. February 2005 · Comments Off on Elections in Iraq · Categories: Politics, Uncategorized · Tags: ,

So the elections in Iraq went well… or at least it has that appearance. That’s nice, at least the Bush people have something to cheer about… Well, let’s be honest; isn’t it more about jeering than cheering? In the rhetorical battle between the conservative right and the liberal left, the Iraqi elections finally presents a chance for the pro-Bush conservatives to shove a victory in the faces of their opponents (I guess)… But what about the Iraqi people? Is there a real victory for them?

There are lots of arguments to suggest that the elections are a farce or even illegal under the international law but I’m going to put all that aside and assume for the sake of argument that the Iraqi elections are a real and valid expression of democracy.

I still have to ask the question… Does the election, however pretty it may look, really mean that the Iraqi people are better off? And how are we even qualified to know the answer? American people in general hardly know anything about the Iraqi people. We only think we’re experts because of our mainstream media reports about our war in that country. Before we invaded Iraq in 1991, most American high school students couldn’t even locate Iraq on the map. Iraq was like Tajikistan, Albania, Sierra Leone, Burma and many other countries suffering from tyranny that we Americans in general don’t give a rat’s ass about. But when we invade a country, all of a sudden we become experts.

What we seem not to notice is that out of the mainstream coverage of Iraq, surprisingly few reports are honestly focused on the realities of the Iraqi people. Most accounts of the conditions in Iraq are brief supporting arguments for or against our actions in that country. In general, the stories we hear aren’t really about the Iraqi people, they are about us. That is what we are interested in… ourselves. So it just seems a bit presumptuous for us to say the Iraqis are better off now, perhaps we should finish the sentence and explain what we are really trying to say… “The Iraqi’s are better off now thanks to us and our fabulous president.”

The point I am making is that we cannot know about the true condition of the Iraqi people, who’s culture is so different than our own, if most of our perceptions are based on our military actions there and the battle between factions of our own politics. How can we even compare the condition of their lives now to the condition of their lives back when we weren’t even paying attention?

Also, it maybe worth noting that elections don’t say a whole lot on the surface anyway. Lot’s of countries have elections that are nothing more than the cosmetics that make tyrannies look like democracies. Freedom House rates The Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan, North Korea and many more countries as “Not Free” and yet all of them hold elections. We of all people should know about the long distance between holding elections and securing a good government… In a nation that proclaims itself to be the most democratic nation on earth, the tenant of votership (at least among the minority of Americans that feel voting is even worth their time) seems to be “to choose the lesser of two evils”. Ultimatley, we don’t even pick our leaders, we choose between candidates that essentially, the government choose for us and even then, our votes are not direct, the electoral college sits in the way of that and even then, once a president is elected, he chooses the rest of the cabinet members without any further input from the voters and of course there is always the question of who the “elected” government is really working for, the people that provided the votes or the special interest groups that provided the money? This maybe hard to avoid in the third most populous nation in the world but the point is simple… The holding of elections does not automatically equate to freedom or even a real democracy.

I agree, it’s nice to think that we have improved the lives of the Iraqi people, but I think all we can say, in all honesty, is that we changed things for them… whether it’s for better or worse cannot be proven by the existence of an election… such proof can only come from the real changes in Iraqi life that comes from the government that comes from the election, not to mention the costs of these changes, such as the inevitable and violent reaction to a US-built democracy in an Islamic region of the world.

13. November 2004 · Comments Off on Who are the Insurgents? · Categories: Politics, Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Have you ever noticed that the White House tells us that the Iraqis are fighting on our side against foreign insurgents? Are the insurgents really foreign or are they simply the Iraqis that don’t agree with our solution? If the later case is true then why are we referring to them as if they aren’t Iraqis at all?

Roughly 37% of the Iraqi people are Sunni Muslim and 60% are Shia Muslim. The media seems to produce enough evidence to suggest that the Sunnis, in particular, are not happy with what we’ve done and are fighting back. Nevertheless, the Bush administration seems to push such evidence aside while emphasizing reports that some insurgents from neighboring countries are coming in to join the fight. Then there is the selective use of terms.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the conflict in Iraq qualifies as a civil war, but civil wars tend to have a neutralizing effect on public opinion. So I’m sure for the purpose of generating public support for a ‘just’ war, it’s better to portray the mostly Sunni Iraqi’s that we are fighting as non-Iraqis. So what do you call them? Well, we could call them ‘rebels’ but that term has a close association with our own history and is often seen in our popular language in a positive light. The term ‘insurgents’ seems to fit the purpose… It’s a word that describes people that rise up against authority and has no association with anything in American popular language that can be held in a positive light. But to really complete the illusion it may be better to simply call the Iraqi’s that agree with us, ‘Iraqis’ and the Iraqis that disagree with us, ‘foreigners’. Ah, there we go… So we have liberated Iraq from an evil dictatorship and are now protecting Iraq from foreign invasion.

Our politicians have always been able to rely on the flexibility of language to achieve desired illusions.

11. May 2004 · Comments Off on The Endless War · Categories: Politics · Tags: , ,

I’ve just emerged from an online discussion where some people were suggesting that we are loosing the war on terrorism while others were slamming these naysayers for being unpatriotic of course, but also for being dead wrong. Elsewhere on the Internet I’m seeing lots of suggestions that we are winning the war.

Those suggesting the failure seem to support their arguments with the negative impressions that others have of our actions, such as the prisoner abuse and large numbers of killed civilians. They seem to suggest that we have ourselves become terrorists, which may in itself be a valid suggestion, but is that a direct corollary to loosing the war on terrorism? Does it make sense to fight fire with fire?

The people on the other side of the argument seem to take a more concrete and perhaps a more narrow-minded approach to the argument, producing lists of key terrorists that have been captured.

So which is it? Are we winning or are we loosing?

I’m starting to think neither is true, and more significantly, I’m starting to think that the absence of conclusive success or failure is precisely the intention.

To me declaring war on “all the terrorists in the world and on anyone who helps them” seemed to be a pretty clear message that the Bush administration wasn’t looking for an end but for a process. If you really think about this, you can see that only an idiot could actually believe that we can put an end to terrorism around the globe. I think the Bush administration was not only aware of the impossibility, but that they were betting on this impossibility to guarantee the legnth of the process. So really this is more like Batman fighting crime in Gotham city, it’s a career not a task.

Another clue came when Bush flew in on an airplane with a big smile and declared the end of major operations in Iraq. This announcement created an incremental victory that invoked a feeling of winning a war. Like a sugar substitute that allows people to continue drinking coffee without real sugar, this incremental victory allows people to continue to bear the war without a real victory.

The human violations by U.S. soldiers is an indication that this process is in full swing and the mission is anything but lost. Bush and Rumsfeld are right, the offenses do not reflect the moral conduct of the U.S. armed forces per se. What it reflects is the disturbed sentiments of a significant part of the American population. It just so happens that some of this population serves in the armed forces, resulting in direct access to those they have conditioned themselves to hate. I think many more Americans at home would do the same things if they had the same chances. This conditioned hatred is being fed by the process that we call “a war on terrorism”. The hatred reverberates in our culture and feeds back into the process.

So while I agree that the immoral behavior of a few soldiers compromises the support we get from the international community, it nevertheless feeds the hatred on both side of the war and perpetuates the process. Understanding this, it’s easy to see that the mission is coming along quite well. So there you go, we aren’t supposed to loose and we aren’t supposed to win. If either of those things happened it would mean an end to the process of war.

05. December 2003 · Comments Off on The Corporate war on Democracy (another post on the Hannity site) · Categories: Politics · Tags: , , ,

Bravo – My last post was *way* too long for people to read. I was trying to respond to all of your points. It was also way too late at night. Allow me to consolidate our argument and reinforce my position.

Essentially, there are two related arguements.

#1 – you are challenging my suspicion that our presence in Iraq is primarily corporate motivated.

#2 – you are challenging (or perhaps just questioning) my assertion that corporations are at war with democracy, which is a rhetorical way of saying that the objectives of corporations and democracies are frequently at odds. This covers my observation that Bush is on the side of the corporation and is effectivly shifting power to them.

I won’t belabor #1 anymore, I’ve already laid out the arguments in my previous posts along with government sponsered statistics that support my argument. I *will* stress that I never said anything about a conspiracy. I think the American public is ill-informed but that doesn’t make any of this a conspiracy. The information isn’t hidden from us, it just isn’t blasted out in the top 40, so Americans have to look for it, something they aren’t always willing to do.

I’ll follow up on #2, because this is where your strongest arguments are. My primary challenge is that corporations don’t give you a voice and you responded with the popular right-wing response, that we do have a voice through consumerism. I’ll admit that this makes sense on the surface, but this is assuming the best of conditions.

Here are some reasons why conditions may be different:

1. Monopoly: Our power as consumers, weakens in the presence of a monopoly. There are many people that were concerned about Bill Gates for example, cornering the market and forcing the competition out, leaving us with no choices and as far as consumerism goes, no choice, no voice. The Anti-trust laws are government devices that interfere with corporate success and I think there were a lot of conservatives that are thankful for that.

2. Diversity: I presented this argument in my last post, but essentially a consumer has the right to boycott, but in the end, a large diverse corporation has a lot more staying power than a consumer.

3. Not always about shopping: Corporations make decisions that affect people regardless of whether or not they depend on them for revenue. For instance, there is a Canadian company that produces MBTE and sells it to the American oil companies who then add the stuff to gasoline. In CA people complained to their state government because MBTE is a serious health hazard and it doesn’t matter what kind of gas you pump, it’s always in there, all the gas stations have it, so there goes your “choice” argument. The government, the democracy that represents the people, motioned to stop the practice to protect the health of the people per their request. The Canadian company, brought up a free-trade agreement signed earlier by corporate influenced government officials without public consent, (remember what I said about free-trade and the Fast Track law?)and said look, according to this agreement you can’t tell us not to sell the stuff. It’s obstructive. So the federal government held up their hands and shrugged. Sorry, people.

This is a clear case of the democratic power of our voices being over-ruled by the power of the corporate profit margin (the war on democracy) and the invalidates the “voice through market” argument.

4. Sometimes we are forced to consume: Many conservatives have a problem with excessive taxes, but funny enough, most of our taxes support government programs that they support such as national defense. Now let me be the first to admit, we need a national defense and I’m willing to pay for it, but if you look at the Pentagon which runs a huge clearing house for government contracts, you’ll notice that they are using tax money that people are forced to pay and most of the contracts are going to private industry. Again, the fairness of contract bidding is irrelevant to my argument. I’ll let the dems squabble that one with you. My point is that people are not given a say in what products to buy or what price they are willing to pay. Now, I tend to think the people in the Pentagon know a bit more about buying fighter jets that the average voter at home so it makes sense that we have this system, but I mention it because it’s another case of people, not having a choice, which means that when a company with a government contract processes rocket fuel in CA and leaks toxic poison into the water table and decides not to clean it up, and the government says don’t worry about it despite the fact that local hospitals are reporting an impact, the people being poisoned can’t just say let’s put them out of business and not buy their product, they are being forced by the government to buy the stuff by collecting tax money and giving it to offenders. I remember the story, I just wish I remember the name of the company – I’ll try to find that.

In conclussion, I’m not just throwing slogans around and trying to rally up a protest. I’m not saying “all corporations are evil” I’m simply stating that corporations are much to powerful to be so casual about them. They are driven by profit, not ethics and when/if a person’s symbiotic relationship with a corporation goes bad, odds are very slanted that it will be the person that suffers not the corporation. Finally, the idea that we have a voice in corporate America is a little bit like beleiving in Santa Clause. It’s a nice idea for those who don’t know any better.
_________________
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither”
– Ben Franklin, 1759