Saturday, May 29, 2004
America deserves better # 18
After I posted letter # 18, which follows, I received a very emotional reply from one of my friends. (At least I hope she is still one of my friends.) Her note and my response follow, and then continue to the original Letter # 18.
Subject: Re: America deserves better # 18
I cant believe you are writing this kind of stuff!
I didn't write it, I just passed along the parts that I really agree with. I do find an imperialistic policy for America repugnant. I do believe we have lost credibility, influence and standing internationally, and indeed have been humiliated. I do believe that Bush is incompetent to be President, and that the Pentagon civilians have been incompetent in the conduct of a war we should never have been in, and worse in the aftermath. I do believe that now the world is a more dangerous place, especially for Americans. I have already contacted my 2 Senators and asked them to call for the resignations of Rumsfeld and his civilian staff. I have already said in one of my letters that Condi is incompetent for the post she occupies. I do believe that Bush has betrayed the nation's trust. I was kind of glad to see Gore expressing my feelings. Murray
Dear Friends, 5/28/04
The day before yesterday Al Gore made a very appropriate speech. I know that some of you prefer not to listen to anything Gore has to say, but given the state the present administration has brought us to, it behooves all of us to listen. The key excerpts of the speech follow.
Mr. Gore began the speech by focusing on the policy of domination which pervades the Bush Administration:
"George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world,"
"An American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does." "Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens -- sooner or later -- to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul."
"The unpleasant truth is that President Bush's utter incompetence has made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically increased the threat of terrorism against the United States. Just yesterday, the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported that the Iraq conflict " has arguably focused the energies and resources of Al Qaeda and its followers while diluting those of the global counterterrorism coalition." The ISS said that in the wake of the war in Iraq Al Qaeda now has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks."
"One of the strengths of democracy is the ability of the people to regularly demand changes in leadership and to fire a failing leader and hire a new one with the promise of hopeful change. That is the real solution to America's quagmire in Iraq. But, I am keenly aware that we have seven months and twenty five days remaining in this president's current term of office and that represents a time of dangerous vulnerability for our country because of the demonstrated incompetence and recklessness of the current administration."
He than called for the resignations of the principle authors of our failed foreign policy.
"It is therefore essential that even as we focus on the fateful choice, the voters must make this November that we simultaneously search for ways to sharply reduce the extraordinary danger that we face with the current leadership team in place. It is for that reason that I am calling today for Republicans as well as Democrats to join me in asking for the immediate resignations of those immediately below George Bush and Dick Cheney who are most responsible for creating the catastrophe that we are facing in Iraq."
"We desperately need a national security team with at least minimal competence because the current team is making things worse with each passing day. They are endangering the lives of our soldiers, and sharply increasing the danger faced by American citizens everywhere in the world, including here at home. They are enraging hundreds of millions of people and embittering an entire generation of anti-Americans whose rage is already near the boiling point."
"We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense. Condoleezza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately."
And, at the end, he called for us to hold Bush accountable in November:
"I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands."
"I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable -- and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, 'We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility.'"
To read the whole speech and watch video highlights of the best moments, go to:
America deserves better. Vote this administration out of office in November,
Sincerely yours, Murray
America deserves better # 17
I have just stumbled (with a little help) across another interesting web site. Several times I have referred to the fascist tendencies of this administration. Now note this article at http://www.progressive.org/mcwatch04/mc051904.html. When you have finished this one read some of the others at the McCarthy Watch. Could the Bushies be running scared? Or is it that they just can't permit even the remote possibility of criticism?
The good news is that they won't win any new recruits this way.
Is this the kind of America you want? I didn't think so. Defeat this administration, as the first step in taking back the Republican party. America deserves better.
Best regards, Murray
America deserves better # 16
A few of you seem to have been won over to opposition to this administration, perhaps helped by my letters. (I like to think so). However, most seem to question the alternative, and I must confess I have my questions also. I can overcome my questions easily because I believe firmly that ABBC (Anyone But Bush and Cheney) is justified. That is probably not good enough for most of you. Some people who oppose Bush see Bush and Kerry as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, both committed to the idea that "we cannot fail in Iraq", and fail to see the important differences in what that means to them, and to how they would go from here. Many more have been swayed by the Bush label of "flip-flopper", evidenced mostly by the famous Yes vote on the Iraq War Resolution. The flip-flopper thing has been my biggest concern also, until now, and is what I want to deal with here.
I just came across the following piece. Note that it dates to 10 Dec. '03. I have again shortened it a lot, but kept the main message intact. It fully satisfies me on the Yes vote flip flop issue. My e-mail program doesn't seem to let me underline or italicize things, so let me clip a few comments from this article in order to highlight them:
Kerry - "I believed we needed to get the weapons inspectors back in. I believed Bush needed this resolution in order to get the U.N. to put the inspectors back in there. The only way to get the inspectors back in was to present Bush with the ability to threaten force legitimately. That's what I voted for."
My comment - There is no doubt in my mind that the reason Saddam let the inspectors back in was because we had overwhelming force sitting on his border, so this was the right decision.
Kerry - "The way Powell, Eagleberger, Scowcroft, and the others were talking at the time, I felt confident that Bush would work with the international community. I took the President at his word. We were told that any course would lead through the United Nations, and that war would be an absolute last resort. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake."
My comment - Isn't that a Hell of a note? I chose to trust the President, and that was a terrible mistake!!
The author - When Iraq opened itself to the inspectors, accepting the terms of 1441 completely, the administration was caught flat-footed, and immediately began denigrating the inspectors. The promises made to Kerry and the Senate that the administration would work with the U.N., would give the inspectors time to complete their work, that war would be an action of last resort, were broken.
My comment - We know that this observation is factually true. It is not a question of taking someone's word.
The author - Kerry nodded, bowed his head, and said, "You're right. I was wrong to trust him. I'm sorry I did." In the end, that is perhaps the greatest obstacle for Kerry to overcome, that Kerry trusted Bush.
My comment - No comment needed.
This account of a "trial" by the press illustrates two things. The main one is that this administration is totally deceitful in pursuit of their hegemonistic policy, completely characteristic of the true ideologue. The second is that the alternative is better than we may have thought.
Please read the entire edited piece below. It has the ring of honesty to it, and raises my confidence in the choice we have before us. America deserves better, and we have a clearly better alternative. Defeat this administration. Hopefully yours, Murray
The Trial of John Kerry Truthout Perspective
by William Rivers Pitt
December 10, 2003
Yet today, John Kerry teeters on the edge of total irrelevancy in the race for the White House. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean holds a double-digit lead over Kerry in New Hampshire, and is leading or surging elsewhere.
How did this happen? Kerry has all the components of a flat-out frontrunner. When did the wheels come off?
Ask virtually anyone who accounts themselves a member of the Democratic base, and they'll answer in a heartbeat. The wheels came off on October 11, 2002, the day John Kerry voted 'Yes' on George W. Bush's Iraq War Resolution. The occupation of Iraq, the mounting American casualties, the skyrocketing cost of the conflict, and the still-missing weapons of mass destruction have become a significant liability to Bush. Amazingly enough, however, the Iraq situation has been far more damaging to Kerry than to Bush.
Any politician who voted for the resolution was of no account to these people, worse than useless, an enabler of Bush's extremist agenda and not at all to be trusted. The fact that Kerry had served in Vietnam, and then become an anti-war activist, was an added twist of the knife for those working against the invasion of Iraq, a betrayal of his own history and his people.
There are but a few weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Time has grown short. In an effort to galvanize the message Kerry wants to deliver in the time remaining, he convened a powerful roster of journalists and columnists in the New York City apartment of Al Franken last Thursday. The gathering could not properly be called a meeting or a luncheon. It was a trial. The journalists served as prosecuting attorneys, jury and judge.
We sat in a circle around Kerry and grilled him for two long hours. In an age of retail politicians who avoid substance the way vampires avoid sunlight, in an age when the sitting President flounders like a gaffed fish whenever he must speak to reporters without a script, Kerry's decision to open himself to the slings and arrows of this group was bold and impressive. He was fresh from two remarkable speeches - one lambasting the PATRIOT Act, another outlining his foreign policy ideals while eviscerating the Bush record - and had his game face on. He needed it, because Eric Alterman lit into him immediately on the all-important issue of his vote for the Iraq War Resolution. The prosecution had begun.
"Senator," said Alterman, "I think you may be the most qualified candidate in the race, and perhaps also the one who best represents my own values. But there was one overriding issue facing this nation during the past four years, and Howard Dean was there when it counted, and you weren't. A lot of people feel that moment entitles him to their vote, even if you have a better record and would be a stronger candidate in November. How are you going to win back those people who you lost with your vote for this awful war?"
There it was. Your record is the best, Mr. Kerry. But you voted for the war. Explain yourself.
For over a year now, Kerry has struggled to respond to that question. His answers have seemed vague, overly nuanced and evasive. On Thursday, seated before the sharpest knives in the journalistic drawer and facing the unconcealed outrage of Alterman, the Senator from Massachusetts explained why he did what he did. The comments below reflect Kerry's answers over the course of a long conversation and debate on the matter.
"This was the hardest vote I have ever had to cast in my entire career," Kerry said. "I voted for the resolution to get the inspectors in there, period. Remember, for seven and a half years we were destroying weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In fact, we found more stuff there than we thought we would. After that came those four years when there was no intelligence available about what was happening over there. I believed we needed to get the weapons inspectors back in. I believed Bush needed this resolution in order to get the U.N. to put the inspectors back in there. The only way to get the inspectors back in was to present Bush with the ability to threaten force legitimately. That's what I voted for."
"The way Powell, Eagleberger, Scowcroft, and the others were talking at the time," continued Kerry, "I felt confident that Bush would work with the international community. I took the President at his word. We were told that any course would lead through the United Nations, and that war would be an absolute last resort. Many people I am close with, both Democrats and Republicans, who are also close to Bush told me unequivocally that no decisions had been made about the course of action. Bush hadn't yet been hijacked by Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney and that whole crew. Did I think Bush was going to charge unilaterally into war? No. Did I think he would make such an incredible mess of the situation? No. Am I angry about it? You're God damned right I am. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake."
History defends this explanation. The Bush administration brought Resolution 1441 to the United Nations in early November of 2002 regarding Iraq, less than a month after the Senate vote. The words "weapons inspectors" were prominent in the resolution, and were almost certainly the reason the resolution was approved unanimously by the Security Council. Hindsight reveals that Bush's people likely believed the Hussein regime would reject the resolution because of those inspectors. When Iraq opened itself to the inspectors, accepting the terms of 1441 completely, the administration was caught flat-footed, and immediately began denigrating the inspectors while simultaneously piling combat troops up on the Iraq border. The promises made to Kerry and the Senate that the administration would work with the U.N., would give the inspectors time to complete their work, that war would be an action of last resort, were broken.
Kerry completed his answer by leaning in close to Alterman, eyes blazing, and said, "Eric, if you truly believe that if I had been President, we would be at war in Iraq right now, then you shouldn't vote for me."
Pointing out Bush's mistakes is relatively simple, but what of solutions to the Iraq mess? Kerry was questioned at length on this, and gave the same answers delivered during his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on December 3: "Our best option for success is to go back to the United Nations and leave no doubt that we are prepared to put the United Nations in charge of the reconstruction and governance-building processes. I believe the prospects for success on the ground will be far greater if Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority are replaced by a UN Special Representative for Iraq."
Alterman, for one, was sold. In his MSNBC blog report on the meeting, he wrote, "It was all on the record and yet, it was remarkably open, honest and unscripted. Let's be blunt. Kerry was terrific. Once again, he demonstrated a thoughtfulness, knowledge base and value system that gives him everything, in my not-so-humble-opinion, he could need to be not just a good, but a great president."
The most revealing moment of the entire event came as it was breaking up. Kerry was slowly working towards the door when he was collared by Art Spiegelman. Though Kerry towered over him, Spiegelman appeared to grow with the intensity of his passion. "Senator," he said, "the best thing you could do is to is to just come out and say that you were wrong to trust Bush. Say that you though he would keep his promises, but that you gave him more credit than he deserved. Say that you're sorry, and then turn the debate towards what is best for the country in 2004."
Kerry nodded, bowed his head, and said, "You're right. I was wrong to trust him. I'm sorry I did." And then he was gone.
In the end, that is perhaps the greatest obstacle for Kerry to overcome, that Kerry trusted Bush, and trusted him enough to ignore Senator Robert Byrd's dire warnings of constitutional abrogation of Congressional responsibilities which was inherent in the resolution.
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.
America deserves better # 15A
Good news. This anti-environment, pro-big business smuggler,
anti-civil liberties, quasi-fascist administration just suffered
another defeat. Thank heavens for a sensible judiciary and for
confirmation of how misguided the administration is! Now let's
defeat them at the polls. America deserves better. Murray.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 19, 2004
GREENPEACE ACQUITTED: JUDGE FINDS GREENPEACE NOT
GUILTY IN LANDMARK FREE SPEECH CASE
Miami, FL -- The Bush administration's attempt to use an obsolete
"sailormongering" law to prosecute Greenpeace failed today when
Judge Adalberto Jordan dismissed the charges in the midst of the
trial. Shortly after the Justice Department rested its case, the judge
granted Greenpeace's motion for acquittal, ruling that there was
insufficient evidence to send the case to the jury. Greenpeace was
the first organization to be prosecuted for the free speech activities
of its supporters.
"America's tradition of free speech won a victory today but our
liberties are still not safe," said Greenpeace Executive Director John
Passacantando. "The Bush administration and its allies seem bent
on stifling our tradition of civil protest, a tradition that has made this
country stronger throughout its history. Greenpeace is grateful to
everyone who stood with us -- from former vice president Al Gore
and NAACP Chair Julian Bond to the citizens of Miami and people
around the world. We will never give up the struggle to protect our
forests, our air, and our water and to build a green and peaceful
The case stems from a protest that took place several miles off the
coast of Florida in April 2002. Two Greenpeace activists peacefully
boarded a ship that was carrying illegal mahogany wood from the
Brazilian Amazon into the Port of Miami. The activists, who clearly
identified themselves as Greenpeace, intended to hang a banner
that read "President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging." The individuals
involved in this nonviolent protest were arrested, and misdemeanor
charges against them were settled later that year.
However, instead of intercepting the illegal mahogany and
prosecuting the smugglers, the Justice Department filed criminal
charges against Greenpeace on July 18, 2003. Greenpeace was
charged under an obscure 1872 law against "sailormongering,"
aimed not at protestors but at unscrupulous 19th-century innkeepers
who would attempt to lure sailors to their establishments.
Numerous leaders, legal scholars and groups publicly criticized the
prosecution, including Al Gore, Senator Patrick Leahy, the NAACP,
the ACLU of Florida, People for the American Way, the Sierra Club,
the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Miami Herald, the San
Francisco Chronicle and the Denver Post.
America deserves better # 15
I expect all of you are ready for a break from Iraq and Abu Ghraib. So let's take a look at the environment and civil liberties. The administration is on the attack again. Imports of illegal timber are ok. Protesting same is not ok. And so we get a step closer to a police state. America deserves better. defeat this administration.
Published on Friday, May 14, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times
Ashcroft Fishes Out 1872 Law in a Bid to Scuttle Protester Rights
by Bill McKibben
In April of 2002, a cargo ship, the Jade, was steaming toward Miami
carrying a cargo of mahogany illegally cut from the Brazilian Amazon.
Two Greenpeace activists tried to clamber aboard the ship and hang a
banner that read "President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging." None of which
The trees of the Amazon are logged day after day, year after year,
despite a host of treaties and laws and despite the fact that scientists
agree that an intact rain forest is essential for everything from
conserving species to protecting the climate. And Greenpeace, day after
day, tries to call attention to such crimes. It pesters rich, powerful
interests about toxic dumping and outlaw whaling and a hundred other
topics that those interests would rather not be pestered about. The
Miami activists were arrested, spent a weekend in jail, pleaded guilty
and were sentenced to time served. All in a day's work.
But here's where it starts getting weird: More than a year after the
ship boarding, the Justice Department indicted Greenpeace itself.
According to the group's attorneys, it's the first time an organization
has been prosecuted for "the speech-related activities of its
How far did the government have to stretch to make its case? The law it
cited against boarding ships about to enter ports was passed in 1872 and
aimed at the proprietors of boardinghouses who used liquor and
prostitutes to lure crews to their establishments.
The last prosecution under the "sailor-mongering" act took place in
1890. The new case could be like something straight out of "Master and
The matter goes to trial next week in a federal district court in Miami,
and if Greenpeace loses, the organization could be fined $20,000 and
placed on probation. The money's no big deal; outraged supporters would
probably turn such a verdict into a fundraising bonanza. But the
probation would be. The group might well be prevented from engaging in
any acts of civil disobedience for years to come. If it crossed the
line, the group's officers might be jailed and its assets seized. Since
civil disobedience is what Greenpeace does best, the Justice Department
might in effect be shutting the group down.
That would be too bad, and not just for Greenpeace. The potential
precedent here — that the government can choke off protest by shutting
down those who organize it — undermines one of the most important
safety valves of our political life.
During the civil rights era, Southern sheriffs used every law they could
think of to jail protesters — loitering was a favorite charge. Imagine
some group being put on probation because it had helped organize
sit-ins. But even J. Edgar Hoover didn't try to criminalize the NAACP.
As the veteran civil rights campaigner Julian Bond said recently, "If
John Ashcroft had done this in the 1960s, black Americans would not be
voting today, eating at formerly all-white lunch counters, or sitting on
bus front seats."
As is the norm, this attack on political liberties is excused by the
need for "port safety" in the wake of 9/11. But I've watched Greenpeace
for years, and its members are the furthest thing from terrorists;
according to the group, "no Greenpeace activist has ever harmed another
individual," despite a record of direct action dating to its founding.
If port safety truly were the issue, the federal government would have
made far more progress toward inspecting cargo arriving by sea.
Confidence in the vigor of governmental scrutiny was not enhanced when
it managed not to find the Jade's illegal mahogany and let it sail on
from Miami. Two days later it unloaded 70 tons of the wood in
The real threat Greenpeace represents is that its members tell the
truth, and do it obnoxiously, out in public, where it can't be missed.
The Bush administration knows its environmental record is poor, and it
knows that hanging banners matters. (That's why the White House printed
up the "Mission Accomplished" flag for the president's May 1, 2003,
aircraft carrier photo op). To spare itself embarrassment, the
administration is willing to endanger core political freedoms that go
back to the very founding of the republic.
How far back? Dec. 16, 1773, at least, when a crew of patriots disguised
as Mohawks illegally boarded three ships in Boston Harbor and dumped
overboard all the cargo of tea. As the raiders paraded away from the
docks, British Adm. John Montague shouted: "Well, boys, you have had a
fine pleasant evening for your Indian caper, haven't you. But mind, you
have got to pay the fiddler yet."
Now 230 years later, it's Atty. Gen. Ashcroft playing the part of the
British officer, and the words are just as chilling.
Bill McKibben, a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, is the
author of many books on the environment, including "Enough: Staying
Human in an Engineered Age" (Times Books, 2003).
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Friday, May 28, 2004
America deserves better # 14A
Upon reflection and further reading, the Abu Ghraib situation looks worse and worse, and the responsibility moves higher up. Following is a quote from one of you, with which I heartily concur.
I personally believe that we have set the stage for the abuses in Iraq with our deliberate disregard of civil liberties in this country: throwing 1200 people in jail after 9/11 with not one, as far as I know, ever charged with terrorist activities; our detention of the two Americans in the US without any access to an attorney; and even the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. They were placed there in a kind of legal limbo, so that we could call them "enemy combatants" and justify their not having the same legal rights as anyone else. I can't remember how many we have already released (at least 50), so we obviously captured innocents as well. If these people are guilty, they should have the right to be charged and tried.
And remember, it is this administration that has flaunted and formalized the disregard for civil liberties.
Following is an excerpt from Seymour Hersh's article that brought these shameful abuses to public attention.
As the international furor grew, senior military officers, and President Bush, insisted that the actions of a few did not reflect the conduct of the military as a whole. Taguba’s report, however, amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority.
The mistreatment at Abu Ghraib may have done little to further American intelligence, however. Willie J. Rowell, who served for thirty-six years as a C.I.D. agent, told me that the use of force or humiliation with prisoners is invariably counterproductive. “They’ll tell you what you want to hear, truth or no truth,” Rowell said. “‘You can flog me until I tell you what I know you want me to say.’ You don’t get righteous information.”
Under the fourth Geneva convention, an occupying power can jail civilians who pose an “imperative” security threat, but it must establish a regular procedure for insuring that only civilians who remain a genuine security threat be kept imprisoned. Prisoners have the right to appeal any internment decision and have their cases reviewed. Human Rights Watch complained to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that civilians in Iraq remained in custody month after month with no charges brought against them. Abu Ghraib had become, in effect, another Guantánamo.
Note the charge in the last sentence. Rumsfeld was aware of systematic violations of the Geneva Conventions, but did nothing. And Bush appointed and supports Rumsfeld. Please recall letter #12. America, under this administration, has become a nation that ignores civil liberties, tortures prisoners at random, violates the Geneva Conventions at will, and wages war under false pretenses. Lady Liberty can now extinguish her beacon of freedom. I am outraged, and I hope you are too.
America deserves much much better. Make Rumsfeld resign now, and defeat this administration. Murray
America deserves better # 14
Also you might want to read another column from a conservative at http://www.counterpunch.org/ home page today. In fact there are a load of opinion pieces at Counterpunch that are well worth reading. Several of these denigrate Kerry also with references like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. On Iraq, so far, the characterization seems unfortunately apt. On most other issues like ethics, the environment, the economy, foreign relations, etc., Kerry is still a much better choice. There may be another choice soon. If conservatives in growing numbers come to see this administration as spinning out of control, I can see a "dump Bush" movement growing for the Republican Convention this summer. Now there's a happy thought. Murray
When I first heard about our abuses of Iraqi prisoners, my first reaction was "How could these damn Military Police be so dumb and brutal? Why wouldn't they know that this would make America look worse, and would make the job in Iraq more difficult?" My secong reaction was that these guys should be severely punished. I also wondered how a group of "bad apples" came to be concentrated at one location.
Then last night I saw Larry King interviewing Colin Powell and I was surprised when Colin Powell raised the My Lai massacre as another example of a few bad apples bringing disrepute on the entire American army. I hadn't made that connection. The result was that I did some googling, and I found the following abbreviated version of a letter. That led me to google on "The Stanford Prison Experimsnt" Wow! What an eye-opener.
What we have done is create a group of "bad apples" from normal ordinary citizens. Yes we have people like the one that ended the My Lai massacre, and the ones that blew the whistle, that resist this degradation, but it is very likely that those who choose to be Military Police are predisposed to such a "conversion". What we have done in Iraq is feed their predisposition, and now that they have succumbed we are going to scapegoat them and punish them, and the higher-ups that engineered this situation (even if unwittingly), will make pious protests and get off free. Worse, like Colin Powell, they will probably fail to learn the lesson of My Lai, and Stanford and now Abu Ghraib.
What, you may fairly ask, has this got to do with "America deserves better"? Wouldn't any administration fall victim to the same problem under similar circumstances? Fair questions, and the answer to the second one is probably "yes". However any other administration wouldn't have gotten us blithely into this contradictory situation in the first place. Here we are trying to rescue the Iraquis and lead them to democracy, and we are doing it with soldiers who are taught to dehumanize their "enemies" so that it will be easier to kill them, - - or to torture them. But these enemies are the people we are befriending. Well uh!?
This is one more way in which this administration failed to appreciate the gravity of what they were getting into, failed utterly to realize the seriousness and risks and unintended consequences of war.
I read this weekend that we have had about 7 of our soldiers wounded for every one killed, an unprecedentedly high ratio, resulting mainly from the use of body armor. Of the wounded, we have also had an unprecedentedly high number of lost limbs, eyes etc., resulting largely from bombs and RPGs instead of bullets, and from body armor. So in addition to 750+ dead, we have about 5000 wounded, an unusually high number of whom are severely maimed. And now we have added another huge black eye for America, and a much smaller number of poor buggers who have been psychologically bent and will now be punished. And all of this because of the paradoxical, but inevitable and predictable fact that the only way we can befriend the poor Iraqi victims of repression is by making enemies of them.
Do you remember the addage about the "road to Hell being paved with good intentions"? The good intentions that Powell so sincerely protests are surely proving to be Hellish. We have no businees being in Iraq, and the longer we stay, the worse it is likely to get. But Colin Powell demonstrated clearly last night that this administration can't see the paradox, can't understand that our soldiers are trained to see and will create enemies, can't admit that this is another (but less justifiable) mistake like Viet Nam. America deserves better. Let's send these people home.
Sincerely and sadly, Murray
Another Open Letter to the Troops in Iraq
By STAN GOFF
In 1994, I was running an A-Detachment in 3rd Special Forces.
I had a communications sergeant on my team named Ali Tehrani. His
father was an expatriate Iranian who'd married a German, and Ali spoke English, German, Spanish, and French. A year before we were sent to Haiti with the 1994 invasion, Ali had been sent to the camps constructed by the United States military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the purpose of detaining tens of thousands of Haitians. Ali had spent six months "working the camps" at Guantanamo in 1993.
When we received word of our mission to invade Haiti in 1994, he
reacted violently. His revulsion toward Haitians was visceral and
white-hot. When we talked, we fairly quickly concluded together that his aversion to Haitians had something to do with the role he had been
thrown into against the Haitians at the camps, the role of jail-boss.
The point I'm getting to is this. The antagonism that Ali
experienced as an individual toward Haitians was structured by the
institutional antagonism built into the jailer-and-jailed
relationship. Ali had internalized the external reality that he was a
prison guard and they were the prisoners. His job was to dominate, to
bend Haitians to his will, and every exercise of human agency by the
Haitians threatened that. Their very humanity--that combination of
independent consciousness and will--was structured by the prison-camp
phenomenon to be an enemy force in relation to Ali and the other
In 1971, Stanford University Professor of Psychology Phillip Zimbardo
designed an experiment that would come to be known as the Stanford
Prison Experiment. Subjects were recruited and paid a modest stipend,
whereupon they were separated into "prisoners" and "guards," and
placed in a mock prison built in a Stanford basement. The prisoners
were stripped, deloused, shackled, and placed in prison clothes,
while the guards were given authoritative uniforms, sunglasses, and
batons. Long story short--within two days there was a near prison
riot, psychosomatic illness began to break out, white middle-class
kids in the role of guards became rapidly and progressively more
sadistic and arbitrary, and the two-week experiment had to be
abandoned after only six days... before someone was badly hurt or
“Although the intent of the experiment was to examine captivity, its result has been used to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support.”
The experiment seemed to support the truism that "absolute power
corrupts absolutely." But that conclusion serves as a description,
not an explanation. It describes what happens to the individual, but
it fails to account for the role of rationalization that legitimates
the domination, and it completely fails to account for institutional
support of that domination.
When one uses the term "systemic," she is saying that the source of
this abuse is not individual moral failure, but a predictable
expression of the system and its structures.
The abuses of detainees, by US troops, by CACI International and
Titan Corporation mercenaries, and by the CIA in Iraq, is "systemic."
But in the same way that the system found an expression in the
thoughts and emotions of Ali Tehrani, in the same way that the
structure of domination and subjection pushed him to rationalize away
his shared humanity with his Haitian captives, we can now see in the
leering grins of the Abu Ghraib prison guards, who are regular people-
-like the experimental subjects in the Stanford Prison Experiment--
who quickly learned to behave as sadistic torturers. The military has
admitted that 60% of these detainees are neither combatants nor
As this is written, the US military is about to release hundreds of
detainees who fall in that category, and there will be more horror
stories coming, because it was systemic.
People were not only humiliated and forced to pose in degrading
positions with each other naked. Some were sodomized with foreign objects. It appears that some were also beaten to death during interrogation.
Now the cover stories are being spun out like webs.
We are being asked to believe that:
(1) The only abuse that occurred against anyone detained by American
forces in Iraq was photographed and reported.
(2) No abuses occurred anywhere that were not photographed or
(3) The one percent of US troops who are the "bad apples" all happen
to serve together in the same unit... the unit that is the only one
guilty, and that happened to get caught because of the photographs.
(4) The aggressive investigation now being proclaimed by everyone
from George W. Bush to CENTCOM, about abuses that were already on
record in the military (an internal investigation had already been
launched in February by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, but was kept
from the public), would have happened had the photographs and story
not been aired on national television.
(5) The military was not attempting to cover up their own
investigation, and that they would have informed the public of these
abuses even had Seymour Hersh not put the whole miserable episode
(6) The military did not cover anything up in the two weeks between
the time CBS warned them that they were going to air an expose and
when they actually did air it.
(7) No one in the chain of command above Brigadier General Janis
Karpinski is responsible for the failure to halt these abuses, even
though Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez was informed of the
investigation of these abuses, complete with sworn statements and
photographs, by General Taguba last February.
There has never been a Stanford Military Occupation Experiment to
complement the Stanford Prison Experiment, unless we just count the
military occupations themselves. There is a structured, systemic
antagonism between an occupying military and the people whose land
they occupy. And there will be no investigations of any of it,
because there never are, unless and until the American public is
confronted with them.
The National Command Authority and its cheerleaders cannot say out
loud... this is what we are doing, and it can't get done unless we
dehumanize the occupied. This reality, this system, will express
itself in the thoughts and emotions of you, the troops who carry it
out, because this military occupation is in a sense making a prison
of Iraq and making you, the troops, its turnkeys.
It will only be those exceptional individuals among you in the
military who refuse to surrender their humanity--no matter how little
you may understand the big picture--and who will witness. You who do
break with the system and witness are very important people,
important to history, because your refusal to surrender your own
moral integrity to the system may lead to our collective salvation by
ending this felonious occupation. The troops who filed reports about
the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison were such exceptions.
What these images of the Abu Ghraib humiliation and torture have done
in the United States is collide with the "exalted image and the
pseudo-event" of the Bush propaganda apparatus. That collision between the reality and the real image of war startles civilians here in the La-La Land of wide screen TV and suburban SUV's, and it shakes them out of their opiated shopper dream-state.
My Lai is what General Colin Powell was remembering when he
implemented "the Powell Doctrine" for the military, which includes a
co-opted press and a vigorous attempt to keep things like flag-draped
coffins off of those wide screen TVs.
Most of you don't remember My Lai.
On March 16, 1968, units of the Americal Division, to which Powell
was assigned as a staff officer in Chu Lai, entered a Vietnamese
village called My Lai and spent four hours raping women, burning
houses, then finally massacring men, women, and children--including
infants who dying women tried to shield with their own bullet-riddled
bodies. The massacre was stopped by a Georgia-born helicopter pilot
named Hugh Clowers Thompson who landed his chopper between the few
surviving Vietnamese and the blood-intoxicated soldiers, and ordered
his door gunners to open fire on the Americans if they failed to
A few weeks later, General Creighton Abrams, then commanding general
in Vietnam, received a letter from a young Specialist-4 in the
Americal Division named Tom Glen. Glen's letter was forwarded from Abrams' office to the Americal Division and ended up with Major Colin Powell in Chu Lai.
Powell himself admitted war crimes in his memoir, My American
Journey, where he wrote, "I recall a phrase we used in the field,
MAM, for military-age male... If a helo spotted a peasant in black
pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot
would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was
judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in
front, but at him." Powell would also come to the defense of
Brigadier General John Donaldson who had the door gunners on his own
helicopter shoot Vietnamese for sport. Donaldson was exonerated,
naturally, in a military investigation.
Powell not only developed as a skilled cover-up artist, he would
eventually incorporate this ability to manage public perception about
war as a key element in the "Powell Doctrine," which he imposed on
the military and the press. He never forgot My Lai, and he has always
believed that exposure of My Lai and other atrocities were
responsible for the US defeat in Vietnam.
Donald Rumsfeld shares these beliefs with Colin Powell. They are both
wrong. The two phenomena that collide with this Powell-Rumsfeld
orientation were and are (1) the decision of their 'enemy' never to
quit, and (2) the inevitability that someone who is part of the
occupation force will be confronted with these contradictions
between "the exalted image and the pseudo-event" and the real
character of war--and that this someone will expose it in an attempt
to rescue his or her own humanity.
The war in Vietnam was lost by the French then the Americans because
they didn't belong there, and the resistance endeavored to do
whatever was necessary to make that point. This is also the situation
So I'll leave to others the analysis of whether the troops facing
courts martial are scapegoats (they are, and they are also probably
guilty as hell), and whether or not the military is letting the
officers off with reprimands and walking papers to prevent the fire
spreading (which it is). I'll just emphasize that the war in Iraq
cannot be won. Not because of the inability of US troops to fight,
but because we don't belong there. And since that's the case (which I
firmly believe it is) every life--Iraqi, American, or otherwise--that
is lost or ruined... is wasted.
All this talk of whether Military Intelligence or the mercenaries
working for CACI International or the CIA or the MP commanders were
responsible is diversionary bullshit so we won't see how Iraq itself
has become the Stanford Military Occupation Experiment. Because if we conclude that the problem is systemic, then the only thing to do to stop this is to walk away.
Every troop that comes forward with accounts of the inhumanity of
this war--while jeopardizing his or her career--is serving to hasten
an end to this criminal enterprise. These troop/witnesses will serve to hasten an end to the suffering of Iraqi families and the suffering of the families of the occupying orces. They will serve to prevent more torture, more humiliation, more suspicion and hatred, and more lives being thrown away on this imperial folly.
Let me also add an excerpt from http://www.counterpunch.org/rejman05012004.html
Even Kimmitt admitted, "I'd like to sit here and say these are the only prisoner abuse cases we're aware of, but we know there have been other ones since we have been here in Iraq." I just don't believe soldiers do any of this on their own. But let me go beyond this and discuss what I have heard and read about part of the training our government provides our young people. The word is: DEHUMANIZATION. It happened in Vietnam. It's still happening. For a soldier to call an Iraqi a human--unacceptable. Can you even train a person to kill other humans rather haphazardly? I don't think so. But if you turn those people into gooks or ragheads, or whatever non-human assignment you can think of, the soldier is no longer murdering human beings. No, they are killing things, bugs, irrelevant living creatures. Isn't this the attitude reflected in these photos?
America deserves better # 13
My apologies for the length of this one. I have edited out about 1/2 of the original text to make it as short as I could. This is perhaps the most serious failing of this administration that I have been made aware of yet. Just note the introductory paragraph and the last sentence.
By ignoring advice on Iraq they have made almost every choice wrong, permitted the early anarchy and looting that damaged the infrastructure and delayed getting things back to normal, as well as costing American credibility, increased the cost and lives lost so far in the transition, and certainly jeopardized long term success. Worse they forbade the military to publicize their advice because it could have been used as a reason to not start the war.
In every thing we do in life we have a choice among 4 options, - do the right thing right, do the right thing wrong, do the wrong thing right, or do the wrong thing wrong. After they had decided to do the wrong thing, they still had 2 choices, and by ignoring an abundance of very knowledgable advice they decided to do it wrong. Bush of course was not involved. He makes the big decisions and doesn't get involved in how they are carried out, - management by negligence.
In addition to the failures described in this article, we learn that Prince Bandar advised these turkeys to give the Iraqi army 3 months back pay, to secure their cooperation early on. The cost would have been $200M, or 0.1% of our now minimum cost for this debacle. That advice too was ignored.
Intelligent people can behave stupidly, and arrogant intelligent people are the ones most likely to do so. The arrogant stupidity of this administration is one of the major reasons why we have to get rid of them. America deserves better. All the best, Murray
Blind Into Baghdad
The U.S. occupation of Iraq is a debacle not because the government did no planning but because a vast amount of expert planning was willfully ignored by the people in charge. The inside story of a historic failure
BY JAMES FALLOWS.....
On a Friday afternoon last November, I met Douglas Feith in his office at the Pentagon to discuss what has happened in Iraq. Feith's title is undersecretary of defense for policy,. To opponents of the war in Iraq, Feith is one of several shadowy, Rasputinlike figures who are shaping U.S. policy. Feith offered a number of specific illustrations of what he considered underappreciated successes. Some were familiar —the oil wells weren't on fire, Iraqis didn't starve or flee—but others were less so. For instance, he described the Administration's careful effort to replace old Iraqi dinars, which carried Saddam Hussein's image ("It's interesting how important that is, and it ties into the whole issue of whether people think that Saddam might be coming back"), with a new form of currency, without causing a run on the currency.
But mainly he challenged the premise of most critics: that the Administration could have done a better job of preparing for the consequences of victory. No one contends that Donald Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz, or Douglas Feith, or the Administration as a whole is dumb. The wisdom of their preparations for the aftermath of military victory in Iraq is the question "The notion that there was a memo that was once written, that if we had only listened to that memo, all would be well in Iraq, is so preposterous," Feith told me.
The notion of a single memo's changing history is indeed farfetched. The idea that a substantial body of knowledge could have improved postwar prospects is not. The Administration could not have known everything about what it would find in Iraq. But it could have—and should have—done far more than it did.
Almost everything, good and bad, that has happened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime was the subject of extensive pre-war discussion and analysis. This is particularly true of what have proved to be the harshest realities for the United States since the fall of Baghdad: that occupying the country is much more difficult than conquering it; that a breakdown in public order can jeopardize every other goal; that the ambition of patiently nurturing a new democracy is at odds with the desire to turn control over to the Iraqis quickly and get U.S. troops out; that the Sunni center of the country is the main security problem; that with each passing day Americans risk being seen less as liberators and more as occupiers, and targets.
All this, and much more, was laid out in detail and in writing long before the U.S. government made the final decision to attack.
The Administration will be condemned for what it did with what was known. The problems the United States has encountered are precisely the ones its own expert agencies warned against and its missteps have come at a heavy cost. And the ongoing financial, diplomatic, and human cost of the Iraq occupation is the more grievous in light of advance warnings the government had and willfully ignored..
. A military planner inside the Pentagon later told me that on September 13 his group was asked to draw up scenarios for an assault on Iraq, not just Afghanistan.
In his first State of the Union address, on January 29, 2002, President Bush said that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were an "axis of evil" that threatened world peace.
By the time of this speech efforts were afoot not simply to remove Saddam Hussein but also to imagine what Iraq would be like when he was gone. It was in keeping with a surprisingly well established U.S. government tradition of preparing for postwar duties before there was a clear idea of when fighting would begin, let alone when it would end. Before the United States entered World War II, teams at the Army War College were studying what went right and wrong when American doughboys occupied Germany after World War I. Within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor a School of Military Government had been created, at the University of Virginia, to plan for the occupation of both Germany and Japan. In 1995, while U.S. negotiators, led by Richard Holbrooke, were still working at the Dayton peace talks to end the war in the Balkans, World Bank representatives were on hand to arrange loans for the new regimes.
In late October of 2001, while the U.S. military was conducting its rout of the Taliban from Afghanistan, the State Department had quietly begun its planning for the aftermath of a "transition" in Iraq. At about the time of the "axis of evil" speech, working groups within the department were putting together a list of postwar jobs and topics to be considered, and possible groups of experts to work on them. Thus was born the Future of Iraq project, whose existence is by now well known, but whose findings and potential impact have rarely been reported and examined. The State Department first publicly mentioned the project in March of 2002.
Whatever may have been unrealistic or factional about these efforts, even more of what the project created was impressive. The final report consisted of thirteen volumes of recommendations on specific topics, plus a one-volume summary and overview. These I have read—and I read them several months into the occupation, when it was unfairly easy to judge how well the forecast was standing up. (Several hundred of the 2,500 pages were in Arabic, which sped up the reading process.) The report was labeled "For Official Use Only"—an administrative term that implies confidentiality but has no legal significance. The State Department held the report closely until, last fall, it agreed to congressional requests to turn over the findings.
Most of the project's judgments look good in retrospect—and virtually all reveal a touching earnestness about working out the details of reconstructing a society. For instance, one of the thickest volumes considered the corruption endemic in Iraqi life and laid out strategies for coping with it. (These included a new "Iraqi Government Code of Ethics," which began, "Honesty, integrity, and fairness are the fundamental values for the people of Iraq.") The overview volume, which appears to have been composed as a series of PowerPoint charts, said that the United States was undertaking this effort because, among other things, "detailed public planning" conveys U.S. government "seriousness" and the message that the U.S. government "wants to learn from past regime change experiences."
For their part, the Iraqi participants emphasized several points that ran through all the working groups' reports. A recurring theme was the urgency of restoring electricity and water supplies as soon as possible after regime change. The first item in the list of recommendations from the "Water, Agriculture and Environment" group read, "Fundamental importance of clean water supplies for Iraqis immediately after transition. Key to coalition/community relations." One of the groups making economic recommendations wrote, "Stressed importance of getting electrical grid up and running immediately—key to water systems, jobs. Could go a long way to determining Iraqis' attitudes toward Coalition forces."
A second theme was the need to plan carefully for the handling and demobilization of Iraq's very sizable military. On the one hand, a functioning army would be necessary for public order and, once coalition forces withdrew, for the country's defense. ("Our vision of the future is to build a democratic civil society. In order to make this vision a reality, we need to have an army that can work alongside this new society.") On the other hand, a large number of Saddam's henchmen would have to be removed. The trick would be to get rid of the leaders without needlessly alienating the ordinary troops—or leaving them without income. One group wrote, "All combatants who are included in the demobilization process must be assured by their leaders and the new government of their legal rights and that new prospects for work and education will be provided by the new system." Toward this end it laid out a series of steps the occupation authorities should take in the "disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration" process. Another group, in a paper on democratic principles, warned, "The decommissioning of hundreds of thousands of trained military personnel that [a rapid purge] implies could create social problems."
Next the working groups emphasized how disorderly Iraq would be soon after liberation, and how difficult it would be to get the country on the path to democracy—though that was where it had to go. "The removal of Saddam's regime will provide a power vacuum and create popular anxieties about the viability of all Iraqi institutions," a paper on rebuilding civil society said. "The traumatic and disruptive events attendant to the regime change will affect all Iraqis, both Saddam's conspirators and the general populace." Another report warned more explicitly that "the period immediately after regime change might offer these criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting." In the short term the occupying forces would have to prevent disorder. In the long term, according to a report written by Kanan Makiya, they would need to recognize that "the extent of the Iraqi totalitarian state, its absolute power and control exercised from Baghdad, not to mention the terror used to enforce compliance, cannot be overestimated in their impact on the Iraqi psyche and the attendant feeling of fear, weakness, and shame." Makiya continued, "These conditions and circumstances do not provide a strong foundation on which to build new institutions and a modern nation state."
Each of the preceding themes would seem to imply a long, difficult U.S. commitment in Iraq. America should view its involvement in Iraq, the summary report said, not as it had Afghanistan, which was left to stew in lightly supervised warlordism, but as it had Germany and Japan, which were rebuilt over many years. But nearly every working group stressed one other point: the military occupation itself had to be brief. "Note: Military government idea did not go down well," one chart in the summary volume said. The "Oil and Energy" group presented a "key concept": "Iraqis do not work for American contractors; Americans are seen assisting Iraqis."
As combat slowed in Afghanistan and the teams of the Future of Iraq project continued their deliberations, the U.S. government put itself on a wartime footing. In late May the CIA had begun what would become a long series of war-game exercises, to think through the best- and worst-case scenarios after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. According to a person familiar with the process, one recurring theme in the exercises was the risk of civil disorder after the fall of Baghdad. The exercises explored how to find and secure the weapons of mass destruction that were then assumed to be in and around Baghdad, and indicated that the hardest task would be finding and protecting scientists who knew about the weapons before they could be killed by the regime as it was going down.
The CIA also considered whether a new Iraqi government could be put together through a process like the Bonn conference, which was then being used to devise a post-Taliban regime for Afghanistan. At the Bonn conference representatives of rival political and ethic groups agreed on the terms that established Hamid Karzai as the new Afghan President. The CIA believed that rivalries in Iraq were so deep, and the political culture so shallow, that a similarly quick transfer of sovereignty would only invite chaos.
Representatives from the Defense Department were among those who participated in the first of these CIA war-game sessions. When their Pentagon superiors at the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) found out about this, in early summer, the representatives were reprimanded and told not to participate further. "OSD" is Washington shorthand, used frequently in discussions about the origins of Iraq war plans, and it usually refers to strong guidance from Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, and one of Feith's deputies, William Luti. Their displeasure over the CIA exercise was an early illustration of a view that became stronger throughout 2002: that postwar planning was an impediment to war.
Because detailed thought about the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems, and thus weakened the case for launching a "war of choice" (the Washington term for a war not waged in immediate self-defense), it could be seen as an "antiwar" undertaking. During the months when the Administration was making its case for the war—successfully to Congress, less so to the United Nations—it acted as if the long run should be thought about only later on.
Phebe Marr, an Iraq scholar retired from the National Defense University, told the committee that the United States "should assume that it cannot get the results it wants on the cheap" from regime change. "It must be prepared to put some troops on the ground, advisers to help create new institutions, and above all, time and effort in the future to see the project through to a satisfactory end. If the United States is not willing to do so, it had best rethink the project." Rend Rahim Francke, an Iraqi exile serving on the Future of Iraq project (and now the ambassador from Iraq to the United States), said that "the system of public security will break down, because there will be no functioning police force, no civil service, and no justice system" on the first day after the fighting. "There will be a vacuum of political authority and administrative authority," she said. "The infrastructure of vital sectors will have to be restored. An adequate police force must be trained and equipped as quickly as possible. And the economy will have to be jump-started from not only stagnation but devastation." Other witnesses discussed the need to commit U.S. troops for many years—but to begin turning constitutional authority over to the Iraqis within six months. The upshot of the hearings was an emphasis on the short-term importance of security, the medium-term challenge of maintaining control while transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis, and the long-term reality of commitments and costs. All the experts agreed that what came after the fall of Baghdad would be harder for the United States than what came before.
Before the war the Administration exercised remarkable "message discipline" about financial projections. When asked how much the war might cost, officials said that so many things were uncertain, starting with whether there would even be a war, that there was no responsible way to make an estimate. In part this reflected Rumsfeld's emphasis on the unknowability of the future. It was also politically essential, in delaying the time when the Administration had to argue that regime change in Iraq was worth a specific number of billions of dollars.
In September, Lawrence Lindsay, then the chief White House economic adviser, broke discipline. He was asked by The Wall Street Journal how much a war and its aftermath might cost. He replied that it might end up at one to two percent of the gross domestic product, which would mean $100 billion to $200 billion. Lindsay added that he thought the cost of not going to war could conceivably be greater—but that didn't placate his critics within the Administration. The Administration was further annoyed by a report a few days later from Democrats on the House Budget Committee, which estimated the cost of the war at $48 billion to $93 billion. Lindsay was widely criticized in "background" comments from Administration officials, and by the end of the year he had been forced to resign. His comment "made it clear Larry just didn't get it," an Administration official told The Washington Post when Lindsay left.
In September the United States Agency for International Development began to think in earnest about its postwar responsibilities in Iraq. It was the natural contact for nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, from the United States and other countries that were concerned with relief efforts in Iraq.
USAID's administrator, Andrew Natsios, had additional teams working on plans for Iraq. Representatives of about a dozen relief organizations and NGOs were gathering each week at USAID headquarters for routine coordination meetings. Iraq occupied more and more of their time through 2002. On October 10, one day before Congress voted to authorize the war, the meetings were recast as the Iraq Working Group.
The representatives of the NGOs would say, "We've dealt with situations like this before, and we know what to expect." The U.S. government representatives would either say nothing or else reply, No, this time it will be different.
The NGOs had experience dealing with a reality in Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. To the NGO world, these and other modern wars (like the ones in Africa) are not the exception but the new norm: brutal localized encounters that destroy the existing political order and create a need for long-term international supervision and support. Within the U.S. military almost no one welcomes this reality, but many recognize that peacekeeping, policing, and, yes, nation-building are now the expected military tasks. The military has gotten used to working alongside the NGOs—and the NGOs were ready with a checklist of things to worry about once the regime had fallen.
"Our initial messages were like those in any potential crisis situation," Mitchell said, "but the reason we were so insistent in this case was the precarious situation that already existed in Iraq. The internal infrastructure was shot, and you couldn't easily swing in resources from neighboring countries, like in the Balkans." The NGOs therefore asked, as a first step, for a presidential directive exempting them from the sanctions. They were told to expect an answer to this request by December. That deadline passed with no ruling. By early last year the NGOs felt that it was too dangerous to go to Iraq, and the Administration feared that if they went they might be used as hostages. No directive was ever issued.
The power vacuum that led to looting was disastrous. "The looting was not a surprise," Sandra Mitchell told me. "It should not have come as a surprise. Anyone who has witnessed the fall of a regime while another force is coming in on a temporary basis knows that looting is standard procedure.
And again the question arose of whether what lay ahead in Iraq would be similar to the other "small wars" of the previous decade-plus or something new. If it was similar, the NGOs had their checklists ready. These included, significantly, the obligations placed on any "occupying power" by the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was signed in 1949 and is mainly a commonsense list of duties—from protecting hospitals to minimizing postwar reprisals—that a victorious army must carry out. "But we were corrected when we raised this point," Sandra Mitchell says. "The American troops would be 'liberators' rather than 'occupiers,' so the obligations did not apply. Our point was not to pass judgment on the military action but to describe the responsibilities."
In the same mid-October week that the Senate approved the war resolution, a team from the Strategic Studies Institute at the Army War College, in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, began a postwar-planning exercise. Even more explicitly than the NGOs, the Army team insisted that America's military past, reaching back to its conquest of the Philippines, in 1898, would be a useful guide to its future duties in Iraq. As a rule, professional soldiers spend more time thinking and talking about history than other people do; past battles are the only real evidence about doctrine and equipment. The institute—in essence, the War College's think tank—was charged with reviewing recent occupations to help the Army "best address the requirements that will necessarily follow operational victory in a war with Iraq," as the institute's director later said in a foreword to the team's report. "As the possibility of war with Iraq looms on the horizon, it is important to look beyond the conflict to the challenges of occupying the country."
The study's principal authors were Conrad Crane, who graduated from West Point in the early 1970s and taught there as a history professor through the 1990s, and Andrew Terrill, an Army Reserve officer and a strategic-studies professor. With a team of other researchers, which included representatives from the Army and the joint staff as well as other government agencies and think tanks, they began high-speed work on a set of detailed recommendations about postwar priorities. The Army War College report was also connected to a pre-war struggle with yet another profound postwar consequence: the fight within the Pentagon, between the civilian leadership in OSD and the generals running the Army, over the size and composition of the force that would conquer Iraq.
The war games run by the Army and the Pentagon's joint staff had led to very high projected troop levels. The Army's recommendation was for an invasion force 400,000 strong, made up of as many Americans as necessary and as many allied troops as possible. "All the numbers we were coming up with were quite large," Thomas White, a retired general (and former Enron executive) who was the Secretary of the Army during the war, told me recently. But Rumsfeld's idea of the right force size was more like 75,000. The Army and the military's joint leadership moderated their requests in putting together the TPFDD, but Rumsfeld began challenging the force numbers in detail. When combat began, slightly more than 200,000 U.S. soldiers were massed around Iraq.
The longer-term problem involved what would happen after Baghdad fell, as it inevitably would. This was distinctly an Army rather than a general military concern The military's fundamental argument for building up what Rumsfeld considered a wastefully large force is that it would be even more useful after Baghdad fell than during actual combat. The first few days or weeks after the fighting, in this view, were crucial in setting long-term expectations. Civilians would see that they could expect a rapid return to order, and would behave accordingly—or they would see the opposite. This was the "shock and awe" that really mattered, in the Army's view: the ability to make clear who was in charge. "Insights from successful occupations suggest that it is best to go in real heavy and then draw down fast," Conrad Crane, of the Army War College, told me. That is, a larger force would be necessary during and immediately after the war, but might mean a much smaller occupation presence six months later.
The heart of the Army's argument was that with too few soldiers, the United States would win the war only to be trapped in an untenable position during the occupation.
The military-civilian difference finally turned on the question of which would be harder: winning the war or maintaining the peace. According to Thomas White and several others, OSD acted as if the war itself would pose the real challenge. As White put it, "The planning assumptions were that the people would realize they were liberated, they would be happy that we were there, so it would take a much smaller force to secure the peace than it did to win the war. The resistance would principally be the remnants of the Baath Party, but they would go away fairly rapidly. And, critically, if we didn't damage the infrastructure in our military operation, as we didn't, the restart of the country could be done fairly rapidly
Through the 1990s Marine General Anthony Zinni, who preceded Tommy Franks as CENTCOM commander, had done war-gaming for a possible invasion of Iraq. His exercises involved a much larger U.S. force than the one that actually attacked last year. "They were very proud that they didn't have the kind of numbers my plan had called for," Zinni told me, referring to Rumsfeld and Cheney. "The reason we had those two extra divisions was the security situation. Revenge killings, crime, chaos—this was all foreseeable." "We went in with the minimum force to accomplish the military objectives, which was a straightforward task, never really in question and then we immediately found ourselves shorthanded in the aftermath. We sat there and watched people dismantle and run off with the country, basically."
THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE WAR
There had still been few or no estimates of the war's cost from the Administration—only contentions that projections like Lawrence Lindsay's were too high. When pressed on this point, Administration officials repeatedly said that with so many uncertainties, they could not possibly estimate the cost. But early in December, just before Lindsay was forced out, The New York Review of Books published an article by William Nordhaus titled "Iraq: The Economic Consequences of War," which included carefully considered estimates. Nordhaus, an economist at Yale, had served on Jimmy Carter's Council of Economic Advisers; the article was excerpted from a much longer economic paper he had prepared. His range of estimates was enormous, depending on how long the war lasted and what its impact on the world economy proved to be. Nordhaus calculated that over the course of a decade the direct and indirect costs of the war to the United States could be as low as $121 billion or as high as $1.6 trillion. This was a more thoroughgoing approach than the congressional budget committees had taken, but it was similar in its overall outlook. Nordhaus told me recently that he thinks he should have increased all his estimates to account for the "opportunity costs" of stationing soldiers in Iraq—that is, if they are assigned to Iraq, they're not available for deployment somewhere else.
On the last day of December, Mitch Daniels, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, told The New York Times that the war might cost $50 billion to $60 billion. He had to backtrack immediately, his spokesman stressing that "it is impossible to know what any military campaign would ultimately cost." The spokesman explained Daniels's mistake by saying, "The only cost estimate we know of in this arena is the Persian Gulf War, and that was a sixty-billion-dollar event." Daniels would leave the Administration, of his own volition, five months later.
In the immediate run-up to the war the Administration still insisted that the costs were unforeseeable.
When Administration officials stopped being vague, they started being unrealistic. On March 27, eight days into combat, members of the House Appropriations Committee asked Paul Wolfowitz for a figure. He told them that whatever it was, Iraq's oil supplies would keep it low. "There's a lot of money to pay for this," he said. "It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money.
Planning for the postwar period intensified in December. The Council on Foreign Relations, working with the Baker Institute for Public Policy, at Rice University, convened a working group on "guiding principles for U.S. post-war conflict policy in Iraq." Leslie Gelb, then the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the group would take no position for or against the war. But its report, which was prepared late in January of last year, said that "U.S. and coalition military units will need to pivot quickly from combat to peacekeeping operations in order to prevent post-conflict Iraq from descending into anarchy." The report continued, "Without an initial and broad-based commitment to law and order, the logic of score-settling and revenge-taking will reduce Iraq to chaos."
By the end of the month the War College team had assembled a draft of its report, called "Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario." It was not classified, and can be found through the Army War College's Web site.
The War College report has three sections. The first is a review of twentieth-century occupations—from the major efforts in Japan and Germany to the smaller and more recent ones in Haiti, Panama, and the Balkans. The purpose of the review is to identify common situations that occupiers might face in Iraq. The discussion of Germany, for instance, includes a detailed account of how U.S. occupiers "de-Nazified" the country without totally dismantling its bureaucracy or excluding everyone who had held a position of responsibility
The second section of the report is an assessment of the specific problems likely to arise in Iraq, given its ethnic and regional tensions and the impact of decades of Baathist rule. Most Iraqis would welcome the end of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, it said. Nonetheless,
Long-term gratitude is unlikely and suspicion of U.S. motives will increase as the occupation continues. A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders should an unwelcome occupation continue for a prolonged time. Occupation problems may be especially acute if the United States must implement the bulk of the occupation itself rather than turn these duties over to a postwar international force.
If these views about the risk of disorder and the short welcome that Americans would enjoy sound familiar, that is because every organization that looked seriously into the situation sounded the same note.
The last and most distinctive part of the War College report is its "Mission Matrix"—a 135-item checklist of what tasks would have to be done right after the war and by whom. About a quarter of these were "critical tasks" for which the military would have to be prepared long before it reached Baghdad: securing the borders so that foreign terrorists would not slip in (as they in fact did), locating and destroying WMD supplies, protecting religious sites, performing police and security functions, and so on. The matrix was intended to lay out a phased shift of responsibilities, over months or years, from a mainly U.S. occupation force to international organizations and, finally, to sovereign Iraqis. By the end of December copies of the War College report were being circulated throughout the Army.
Early in January the National Intelligence Council, at the CIA, ran a two-day exercise on postwar problems. Pentagon representatives were still forbidden by OSD to attend. The exercise covered issues similar to those addressed in the Future of Iraq and Army War College reports—and, indeed, to those considered by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: political reconstruction, public order, border control, humanitarian problems, finding and securing WMD.
On January 15 the humanitarian groups that had been meeting at USAID asked for a meeting with Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz. They never got one. At an earlier meeting, according to a participant, they had been told, "The President has already spent an hour on the humanitarian issues."
On January 30 the International Rescue Committee, which had been participating in the weekly Iraq Working Group sessions, publicly warned that a breakdown of law and order was likely unless the victorious U.S. forces acted immediately, with martial law if necessary, to prevent it. A week later Refugees International issued a similar warning.
At the regular meeting of the Iraq Working Group on January 29, the NGO representatives discussed a recent piece of vital news. The Administration had chosen a leader for all postwar efforts in Iraq: Jay M. Garner, a retired three-star Army general who had worked successfully with the Kurds at the end of the Gulf War. The NGO representatives had no fault to find with the choice of Garner, but they were concerned, because his organization would be a subunit of the Pentagon rather than an independent operation or part of a civilian agency.
Garner assembled a team and immediately went to work. What happened to him in the next two months is the best-chronicled part of the postwar fiasco. He started from scratch, trying to familiarize himself with what the rest of the government had already done. On February 21 he convened a two-day meeting of diplomats, soldiers, academics, and development experts, who gathered at the National Defense University to discuss postwar plans. Garner had heard about the Future of Iraq project, although Rumsfeld had told him not to waste his time reading it. Nonetheless, he decided to bring its director, Thomas Warrick, onto his planning team. Garner, who clearly does not intend to be the fall guy for postwar problems in Baghdad, told me last fall that Rumsfeld had asked him to kick Warrick off his staff. In an interview with the BBC last November, Garner confirmed details of the firing that had earlier been published in Newsweek. According to Garner, Rumsfeld asked him, "Jay, have you got a guy named Warrick on your team?" "I said, 'Yes, I do.' He said, 'Well, I've got to ask you to remove him.' I said, 'I don't want to remove him; he's too valuable.' But he said, 'This came to me from such a high level that I can't overturn it, and I've just got to ask you to remove Mr. Warrick.'" Newsweek's conclusion was that the man giving the instructions was Vice President Cheney.
This is the place to note that in several months of interviews I never once heard someone say "We took this step because the President indicated ..." or "The President really wanted ..." Instead I heard "Rumsfeld wanted," "Powell thought," "The Vice President pushed," "Bremer asked," and so on. One need only compare this with any discussion of foreign policy in Reagan's or Clinton's Administration—or Nixon's, or Kennedy's, or Johnson's, or most others—to sense how unusual is the absence of the President as prime mover. The other conspicuously absent figure was Condoleezza Rice, even after she was supposedly put in charge of coordinating Administration policy on Iraq, last October. It is possible that the President's confidants are so discreet that they have kept all his decisions and instructions secret. But that would run counter to the fundamental nature of bureaucratic Washington, where people cite a President's authority whenever they possibly can ("The President feels strongly about this, so ...").
. Wolfowitz offered a variety of incidental reasons why his views were so different from those he alluded to: "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq's reconstruction," and "We can't be sure that the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators ... [but] I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." His fundamental point was this: "It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine."
None of the government working groups that had seriously looked into the question had simply "imagined" that occupying Iraq would be more difficult than defeating it. They had presented years' worth of experience suggesting that this would be the central reality of the undertaking. Wolfowitz either didn't notice this evidence or chose to disbelieve it. What David Halberstam said of Robert McNamara in The Best and the Brightest is true of those at OSD as well: they were brilliant, and they were fools.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE WAR
At the beginning of March, Andrew Natsios won a little-noticed but crucial battle. Because the United States had not yet officially decided whether to go to war, Natsios had not been able to persuade the Office of Management and Budget to set aside the money that USAID would need for immediate postwar efforts in Iraq. The battle was the more intense because Natsios, unlike his counterparts at the State Department, was both privately and publicly supportive of the case for war. Just before combat he was able to arrange an emergency $200 million grant from USAID to the World Food Programme. This money could be used to buy food immediately for Iraqi relief operations—and it helped to ensure that there were no postwar food shortages.
ONE WEEK BEFORE THE WAR
On March 13 humanitarian organizations had gathered at USAID headquarters for what was effectively the last meeting of the Iraq Working Group. Wendy Chamberlin, the senior USAID official present, discussed the impending war in terms that several participants noted, wrote down, and later mentioned to me. "It's going to be very quick," she said, referring to the actual war. "We're going to meet their immediate needs. We're going to turn it over to the Iraqis. And we're going to be out within the year."
On April 9 U.S. forces took Baghdad. On April 14 the Pentagon announced that most of the fighting was over. On May 1 President Bush declared that combat operations were at an end. By then looting had gone on in Baghdad for several weeks. "When the United States entered Baghdad on April 9, it entered a city largely undamaged by a carefully executed military campaign," Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, told a congressional committee in June. "However, in the three weeks following the U.S. takeover, unchecked looting effectively gutted every important public institution in the city—with the notable exception of the oil ministry." On April 11, when asked why U.S. soldiers were not stopping the looting, Donald Rumsfeld said, "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here."
This was a moment, when Rumsfeld crossed a line. His embrace of "uncertainty" became a reckless evasion of responsibility. He had only disdain for "predictions," yes, and no one could have forecast every circumstance of postwar Baghdad. But virtually everyone who had thought about the issue had warned about the risk of looting. U.S. soldiers could have prevented it—and would have, if so instructed.
The looting spread, destroying the infrastructure that had survived the war and creating the expectation of future chaos. "There is this kind of magic moment, which you can't imagine until you see it," an American civilian who was in Baghdad during the looting told me. "People are used to someone being in charge, and when they realize no one is, the fabric rips."
On May 6 the Administration announced that Bremer would be the new U.S. administrator in Iraq. Two weeks into that job Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army and other parts of the Baathist security structure.
If the failure to stop the looting was a major sin of omission, sending the Iraqi soldiers home was, in the view of nearly everyone except those who made the decision, a catastrophic error of commission.
The case against wholesale dissolution of the army, rather than a selective purge at the top, was that it created an instant enemy class: hundreds of thousands of men who still had their weapons but no longer had a paycheck or a place to go each day. Manpower that could have helped on security patrols became part of the security threat. Studies from the Army War College, the Future of Iraq project, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to name a few, had all considered exactly this problem and suggested ways of removing the noxious leadership while retaining the ordinary troops. They had all warned strongly against disbanding the Iraqi army. The Army War College, for example, said in its report, "To tear apart the Army in the war's aftermath could lead to the destruction of one of the only forces for unity within the society."
"This is not something that was dreamed up by somebody at the last minute," Walter Slocombe—who held Feith's job, undersecretary of defense for policy, during the Clinton Administration, and who is now a security adviser on Bremer's team—told Peter Slevin, of The Washington Post, last November. He said that he had discussed the plan with Wolfowitz at least once and with Feith several times, including the day before the order was given.
Here is the hardest question: How could the Administration have thought that it was safe to proceed in blithe indifference to the warnings of nearly everyone with operational experience in modern military occupations? Saying that the Administration considered this a truly urgent "war of necessity" doesn't explain the indifference. Even if it feared that Iraq might give terrorists fearsome weapons at any moment, it could still have thought more carefully about the day after the war. World War II was a war of absolute necessity, and the United States still found time for detailed occupation planning.
The President must have known that however bright the scenarios, the reality of Iraq eighteen months after the war would affect his re-election. The political risk was enormous and obvious. Administration officials must have believed not only that the war was necessary but also that a successful occupation would not require any more forethought than they gave it.
It will be years before we fully understand how intelligent people convinced themselves of this.
One factor is the nature of the President himself. Leadership is always a balance between making large choices and being aware of details. George W. Bush has an obvious preference for large choices. This gave him his chance for greatness after the September 11 attacks. But his lack of curiosity about significant details may be his fatal weakness. When the decisions of the past eighteen months are assessed and judged, the Administration will be found wanting for its carelessness. Because of warnings it chose to ignore, it squandered American prestige, fortune, and lives.
America deserves better # 12
The following text is an excerpt from Newsweek. It illustrates this administration's attitude to American justice as we have known it. So here we have Padilla, who is suspected of discussing or thinking about a terrorist act against America, and who is alleged to have met with "a Qaeda operative", but on whom we do not have enough evidence to charge him with anything. And so, because of a suspicion and an allegation, an American citizen is held, indefinitely, without accusation, legal representation, potential trial or other protection of law. Guilty until proved innocent? Is this our America?
And this suspension of our rights is done at the whim of one man, the President, doing whatever he feels he needs to do "to protect the country". To protect the country from what? From the embarrassment of a fair trial? Hey, if the guy is found guilty, and if it's appropriate treatment under law, let's lock him up and throw away the key. But let's not do it until he has been tried.
The implication of this approach to law is that, if an FBI agent reads my letters and alleges that I am anti-American, I can be locked up, without charge, or representation, or trial, or limit on the term of incarceration. All it takes is the allegation, no evidence necessary. Maybe it could happen to you for reading my letters.
For an interesting 30 second clip on what this means go to http://www.bushin30seconds.org/view/03_large.shtml . This is not the justice I thought we had in "my country".
America deserves better. Defeat this administration. Best regards, Murray
BY MICHAEL ISIKOFF AND DANIEL KLAIDMAN
IN SEPTEMBER 2002, JUST BEFORE- the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a group of senior Bush administration officials convened for a secret videoconference to make a difficult decision: what to do with six americans suspected of conspiring with Al Q,aeda. The Yemeni-born men from Lackawanna, N.Y., were accused of training at a camp in Afghanistan, where some had met Osama bin Laden. The president's men were divided. For Dick Cheney and his ally, Donald Rumsfeldt, the answer was simple: the accused men should he locked up indefinitely as 'enemy combatants," and thrown into a military brig with no right to trial.or even to see a lawyer. Thats what authorities had done with two other Americans, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. "They are the enemy, and they're right here in the country," Cheney argued, according to a participant. But others were hesitant to take the extraordinary step of stripping the men of their rights, especially because there was no evidence that they had actually carried out any terrorist acts. Instead, John Ashecroft insisted he could bring a tough criminal case against them for providing 'material support" to Al Qaeda.
The administration hadn’t anticipated that U.S. citizens might occasionally turn up in the mix. In the months after 9/11 there were fierce debates-and even shouting matches inside the White House over the treatment of Americans with suspected Qaeda ties. On one side, Ashcroft, perhaps in part protecting his turf, argued in favor of letting the criminal-justice system work, and warned that the White House had to be mindful of public opinion and a potentially wary Supreme Court. On the other, Cheney and Rumsfeld argued that in time of war there are few limits on what a President can do to protect the country.
Before long, administration officials would extend the battlefield to Chicago's O'Hare airport, where agents picked up Jose Padilla on May 8, 2002. The Muslim convert was arrested while returning home from Pakistan, where he had allegedly met with a top Qaeda operative and planned to set off a dirty bomb in the United States. He was named a material witness and appointed a lawyer. But prosecutors soon realized they didn't have enough evidence to charge him with any crime. To avoid releasing him, Bush decreed on June 9 that Padilla, too, was an enemy combatant. He was sent to a military brig in South Carolina.
At first, administration officials saw no problems with Padilla’s treatment. But as the months wore on, justice lawyers became increasingly uneasy about holding him indefinitely without counsel. Solicitor General Ted Olson warned that the tough stand would probably be rejected by the courts. Administration lawyers went so far as to predict which Supreme Court justices would ultimately side for and against them. But the White House, backed strongly by Cheney, refused to budge. Instead, NEWSWEEK has learned, officials privately debated whether to name more Americans as enemy combatants including a truck driver from Ohio and a group of men from Portland, Ore.
Last month, as the Supreme Court arguments approached, the White House backed off slightly and allowed Padilla to speak with his lawyer but only in the presence of military handlers. Padilla wasn't even allowed to tell his lawyer how he was being treated. The administration hoped the meeting would show the court that it isn't indifferent to the rights of Americans, even those suspected of terrorism. The justices will have to decide if the concession was too little, too late.