Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Washington Post: John Doe: My National Security Letter Gag Order

One of the questions raised by the story below regarding government intrusion into the private lives of its citizens is: why would the FBI occupy so much of its resources on sending out 140,000 National Security Letters (NSLs). Is it a question of terrorism? Do they actually think they are working to prevent (Islamic) terrorism. Common sense would suggest that they know perfectly well that 99.9% of their NSLs have nothing to do with preventing terrorism.
In that case, what are they doing? Is it something simple and crude like laying the groundwork for the police state? What do we think was motivating the administrators at the Justice Dept and FBI?
In the case of the torture of prisoners known to have no intelligence information -- we now know ordered and closely monitored by Donald Rumsfeld -- we can see the sadism and his desire for power and control for its own sake.
The other important point to make is that the purpose of torture is to extract confessions where there is no guilt, as in the case of KSM which seems to have backfired big time -- in part no doubt, due to the timing, which was meant to take the edge off the Justice Dept firings scandal.
Why is there no guilt for the government to find in its thousands? tens of thousands? of torture victims? Perhaps because there is no terrorism to speak of -- outside of the State? With 9/11, Oklahoma City, WTC '93 as prime examples.
Returning to the 140,00 National Security letters. Back in the 70s we learned that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was keeping files on Congresspeople. Is there any reason to think this has ever stopped -- more than temporarily?
Thus what we see today is simply the FBI, the CIA, NSA, and others unharnessed. Now they're doing it under the cover of fighting terrorism. The difference now is that we're somewhat less shocked.

from Laura Rozen's warandpiece.com
March 23, 2007
John Doe in the Post: My National Security Letter Gag Order:

Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.

Read the whole thing. Kafkaesque and un-American. As John Doe writes:
I recognize that there may sometimes be a need for secrecy in certain national security investigations. But I've now been under a broad gag order for three years, and other NSL recipients have been silenced for even longer. At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy. In the wake of the recent revelations, I believe more strongly than ever that the secrecy surrounding the government's use of the national security letters power is unwarranted and dangerous. I hope that Congress will at last recognize the same thing.

Laura Rozen writes:
There've been 140,000 such gag orders in this country with almost no terrorism prosecutions to show for the abuses, and no probable cause established. That is just over one for every 30,000 Americans, man woman and child. Is the gag order so the FBI can avoid accountability? So the public is not the wiser for the abuses taking place? Where are the folks with honor inside the FBI raising concerns about the abuses? Is Congress going to mandate DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine to establish whether such abuses were committed intentionally or not in the next round? [emphasis added]
Update: It's against the law for the FBI to misuse NSLs and exigent circumstance letters as the DOJ IG has established it has, but a law to date violated by the law enforcers and therefore with no enforcement. What would be the result for "John Doe" to violate his seemingly unlawful gag order and appear say on 60 Minutes and blow this out of the water? For the ACLU to line up all of the recipients of NSLs it has been asked to represent? What would that be? A dozen? Twenty? A hundred? Five hundred? Or perhaps, that a TV news investigation program show them anonymously, in accordance with their gag orders, as various tools (voice disguise, etc.) would allow? Officials would be resigning and fired faster than you can say "Walter Reed," one can imagine. And let's just imagine that at some point in the next two years, not just the recipients of the unlawful NLSs, e.g. the Internet service providers, banks and telephone companies, but the targets of the illegal information requests, are identified? What will be their recourse to hold their government accountable? Most of all, how much of this will be determined to have been about issues unrelated to terrorism at all? How much of this was an excuse to spy on lots of people for whom it couldn't get warrants? 140,000 NSLs is a lot; is every one in 30,000 Americans really a legitimate subject in a terrorism investigation? That's kind of hard to believe.

Posted by Laura at 08:21 PM

Monday, March 26, 2007

Responses to War for No Oil Thread

Here are responses listmembers made to Xymphora's blog and to my comments on the topic of War for No Oil.
(This document will be posted on Bleier's Blog. )
For the original blog entry by Ronald,

SF quotes Ronald

Xymphora speaks of Leninist academics buying into the war for oil nonsense as he puts it (and I agree). Is he thinking of Chomsky, a leader of the war for oil crowd?
SF wrote:

Chomsky has been a long time critic of Leninism, and Marxism in general. He considers himself an
But I don't think there are Leninists professors in US. In the UK several Trotskyists are in academia.
US Trotskyists, including ISO which has a fair number of college student as members, is of course proponent of war- for- oil theory. Their magazine ISR often contains interviews with Chomsky.
The motives of the architects of the war (except for Cheney) have been expressed in their writings--it had to nothing to do with oil.
"there’s no oil to get or control, and the war is the reason the oil is unavailable, and will be unavailable for the foreseeable future."
Yes there would be oil if there was stability. That may have been a factor for Cheney, whose meetings with the oil companies are still classified--and will remain so. For most the war was for Empire and Israel, for Bush it was to prove he was more of a man than his Daddy, and for Cheney--we don't know. As the man is completely delusional, or else incapable of ever telling the truth, or both, we never will know/
SF quotes Ronald

Most leftists I know, academics, many of them, come to think of it, are tied to the notion that US militarism must have some self serving imperialist motive. I recall a Marxist friend of mine arguing decades ago that we were fighting in Vietnam to control Vietnamese offshore oil. For some reason he couldn't understand that Nixon like Cheney today was fighting AGAINST the self interest of the US, or Empire, or any conceivable positive national interest other than the pathological satisfaction of directing US power against a potentially defeatable enemy. The only reason Nixon wasn't Cheney is that he was so 20th Century.

Gabriel wrote:

Except for the "small detail" the oil embargo was failing not with small leaks, but was losing international support and was heading for defeat at the U.N. And except for the other fact that the oil embargo was making no money for the armament industry, which was in deep shit, and except for the other fact that the U.S, economy was about to enter a depression in 2002-3 as a result of the collapse of the NASDAQ, and there was an urgent need for deficit spending.

The theory is not Palast's. He is just the only well known journalist who actually understand economics and pays attention to arguments within the radical economics discourse, probably because he is a former accountant with a degree in economics.

Why would the Americans want to spend a trillion or two dollars to accomplish what they could have done for a tiny fraction of that (not to mention the relatively unimportant fact that no Americans would have died)?

This is just an example of why Xymphora has no clue what he is talking about. American lives are and have always be cheap. And the government is not a household. Its "expenses" are not losses. Most often they are desirable in themselves for both fiscal and corporate welfare reasons.



Alex wrote:

Xymphora is right on in many things but not this one.
The double pejorative: Leninist Academics is a crude caricature.
While Chomsky may talk about imperialism, he hardly is a Leninist.
First of all he fails to understand that modern imperialism involves the growth pains of huge monopolies. A process which in Lenin's time took the form of wars between groups of finance capitalists using nation states to either protect or reshuffle the terms of the deals that divided the economic territory of the world. Lenin believed that the dynamic of uneven economic development would constantly keep the war pots boiling, as war was the final arbitrator of international economic competition. Lenin argued that the bankers and not the industrialists were calling the shots, as they controlled the huge capital sums necessary to compete in a war between monopolies. His famous quote of Clausewitz was peace was merely a truce between wars...
In contrast Chomsky argues imperialism is a policy of corporations, (even though finance capital controls corporate policy). The crude Marxists argue that political institutions like the Israeli lobby are dwarfed or are subordinate to corporate power. They as well as Chomsky fail to see what is right in front of their eyes. The simple fact is that wealthy Jews thru their connections to the Israeli lobby
(Xymphora rightly notes this), have great influence if not control over the policies of not only the US but also the Israeli government.

Pseudo Marxists are mechanical in their analysis of the relation between the lobby and US policy. They claim Israel is an imperial watch dog. But if they were real Marxists they would be aware of the reciprocal nature of relations. They would look for and see that Israel seeks to and does define by means of the lobby, what the US interests are in the middle east.
Consider the fact that the neocons sold the Iraq war to a white house that they had intellectual control over. Any objections from oil companies about the Iraqi war...(to the effect that destabilizing the Mideast is not in their interest) was dampened by neocon promises that Iraqi oil could be used to drown OPEC and tame Russia, with things returning to the good old days of "before nationalization." Its worth noting that the oil companies kept a low profile in the beginning of the war, but when the war went south they sought to wrench control from the neocons by means of groups like Baker-Hamilton. But the bigger prize for monopolists seeking to redraw the map of the Mideast was and is taking control of not only oil production but also distribution. And in whatever form of agreement that comes out of the struggles of the Mideast, they will seek to either protect or expand on whatever advantage they have . , Marxists as well as everyone else should keep their eye on whatever role the wealthy Jewish and non Jewish high-rollers have in this game.

What is this but the Leninist thesis taking form in our times....?
It may not be to the liking of pseudo-Marxists, but so be it.

John wrote:

Hi Ronald,

I think the theory that best fits the facts about why the American ruling class is waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan and possibly Iran is that the War on Terror is primarily an Orwellian strategy of social control--control of the domestic working class in the U.S./U.K, and as well as control of the working class throughout the world. The War on Terror plays the same role in this regard as the old Cold War between Capitalism and Communism. The War on Terror makes people choose sides in a framework where both of the available choices are anti-working class: U.S. rulers and pro-U.S. governments around the world, one side, versus "Anti-U.S." rulers and governments that are ALSO anti-working class, like the Iranian government, on the other side. Even anti-working class governments like the German government get increased public support by standing up to the U.S. (or at least appearing to do so.) Elite ruling classes of the world have always appreciated the value of polarizing the world's people along NON-class lines, as the great wars (WWI, WWII, Cold War) have done in the past and the War on Terror does today.For all of the dangers that these wars entail for ruling elites, they wage them because they are MORE afraid of the development of revolutionary pro-working class and anti-elite movements that would occur were it not for these wars that put such movements on the defensive with the stigma that they are "unpatriotic."


T wrote (1st of 3)


Before you send this around all over the web with your comments attached, I’d like to help you.

Because I want to know WHAT in the argument (extremely basic argument with no facts and no supporting data) gives you any evidence whatsoever that there “is no Iraqi oil”.

Are you nuts?! (Sorry to be rude, but I’m stumped as to what on earth makes you believe this!)

Let me remind you that Greg Palast has a lot of exposure, and he’s been so wrong so many times. Certainly everything he’s written about Saudi Arabia is dead wrong and laughable. He just endorsed John Perkins’ book “Economics of a Hit Man”, which is so shallow, so void of any supporting facts at al, and almost no sources. He put his name to that?? I remember at a dinner with him in 2003, he was certain that Dick Gephardt would be the President of the US in 2004. I think I chalked Palast off at that point.

In this piece you attach, you write more in the prologue that the actual body itself. I was waiting for the bombshell...the proof that there is no Iraqi oil.... That the US wanted to REMOVE Iraqi oil from the world supply?? Why would they or anyone want to do that?

Do you know how much oil is in the world market? Produced? Extracted? Sold? Exported? For how much? To whom? How much Strategic Reserves are in the US? Why they are there? When they were originally created, and why? What happened in the 73 crisis? The oil embargo then? The oil embargo of 1979-80? The Gulf War oil crisis?

What effect would it have had, do you think, if the US had forced the oil embargo? Was there a shortage of oil in 2001? 2002? 2003?

To remove Iraqi oil from the market to force up pricing is absurd; has Palast forgotten OPEC and non OPEC countries who make the decisions? The US may control the UN and IMF and World Bank, but they do not control OPEC and never will.

What evidence anywhere to suggest that there is no Iraqi oil?

Honestly Ronald, without a lick of data, this has zero standing.


T wrote: (2nd of 3)


Just read Palast’s piece; see my comments.

>> Xymphora, a Canadian based blogger, to explain why the theory that preventing Iraqi oil from coming to market also is bogus. It's clear as he writes, that the Iraq war was NOT a war for oil, and the war, and the Zionist lobby's previous induced sanctions regime is the reason that there's relatively little oil coming from Iran and Iraq. <<

If the oil is marginal before and after the invasion, the markets weren’t affected that greatly correct? Does the world, however, need more oil? Is demand growing?

>> Xymphora speaks of Leninist academics buying into the war for oil nonsense as he puts it (and I agree). Is he thinking of Chomsky, a leader of the war for oil crowd? Most leftists I know, academics, many of them, come to think of it, are tied to the notion that US militarism must have some self serving imperialist motive. <<

Probably because it’s the academics who continually try and learn and learn and learn, increasing their intelligence on the subject, pouring through the data and sources. As opposed to relying upon blogs.

You’re going to hate my book when it comes out then!

>> I recall a Marxist friend of mine arguing decades ago that we were fighting in Vietnam to control Vietnamese offshore oil. <<

Your Marxist friend was correct. There was a division of the water space off Vietnam’s coast, prior to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Out of several divisions (I can’t recall how many, perhaps 8 or 9) spread between the different countries, to secure any oil that was ever discovered, only one spot that had been bid upon and won came up with oil and gas. Gosh....which one? The US. It had conducted secret studies based upon a report that was prepared by Herbert Hoover in the 20s (he was a geologist and mining expert before politics), and was certain that oil was to be found. During the bombings, the empty shells were dropped in the water, and no one caught on to the fact that each “splosh” was timed with the oil exploration bomblets. Had no war taken place, those off shore explorations couldn’t have taken place – everyone would have heard.

>> PS. Does anyone know what Xymphora means when he writes: there's no oil to get or control? <<

You said this blogger was smart, so why do you need to ask the question? He didn’t answer it? That’s my point.

>> The way I like to put it: if we wanted control of Iraqi oil, we would have ensured the stability of Saddam's regime. Is that all Xymphora means? <<

No. The US was not controlling Iraqi oil at all. Iraq’s contracts were with Russia, China, Japan, etc. The US was furious – they’d been cut out. If they were already controlling, goes your argument, no need to attack Iraq. It was already happening.

And how do you explain the PSA’s in place now?

No, it was not. Sanctions does not equate control.

>> The ‘war for oil’ crowd is braying, with the draft Iraqi oil law being the latest supposed evidence of the oily background to war. This is nonsense, of course, <<

Then I’m one of those braying. So why, I ask, is it nonsense? Evidence?

>> Palast...recognizes the obvious (something the oil companies knew prior to the war, but something no one else will admit): there’s no oil to get or control, and the war is the reason the oil is unavailable, and will be unavailable for the foreseeable future. <<

Has anyone here ever once read any oil industry report? Do you know production? Export? Import? Has anyone even looked at the reports on Iraqi oil “flow” in particular? Apparently not.

>> the point of the war was to remove Iraqi oil from the world supply, thus leading to increased oil prices and massive oil company profits. <<

The biggest error in this argument is that oil is a black and white industry. No oil from X = less oil for ABC. Ergo prices shoot through the roof, plummet, all depending upon who removes or supplies. No no no. Look in to the Sixth Oil Shortage in the 1980s.... OPEC had to – they thought – carry the weight of the exports. But no one counted on the massive influx to the world market by the non OPEC countries, and the glut of oil suddenly sent prices plummeting. OPEC had to cut it’s prices, drastically. At one point gas stations in the US were selling gasoline at $0 per gallon...I kid you not.

Since the 1980s, the peak oil theorists (you must subscribe to this in order to follow through that the oil companies want to horde and control; any idea how much that costs and damages them?) insist that Hubbert’s Theory remains. They refuse to account for all the variables: technology, discovery, chemical additives to the pipelines that increase quality and output, etc.

I know this for a personal fact: I know someone who invented the technology that is sold to Schlumberger et al, who in turn sell that technology (increased extraction) to the exporting countries. My informant confirmed the actual numbers to me very recently, vis a vis possible extraction in the near future, given his fibre-optic technology. I am not about to release those numbers publicly – for the book. But mind blowing.

>> Iraq was already under a largely successful oil embargo. ... Republicans were making money off the illegal oil trade, and American allies Turkey and Jordan requested that the oil be allowed to continue to be trucked over their respective borders. <<

Democrats too. See 9/11 Commissioners bios.

Your fundamental mistake is assuming that all things being equal, there is no increase in world demand.

>> stay off the world market. Why would the Americans want to spend a trillion or two dollars to accomplish what they could have done for a tiny fraction <<

And if you want to equate Nixon and Cheney, look at Reagan. Why was the world flooded with oil during his time?

Those Leninist Marxist academics know. We read. We learn. “Sweating”. But that’s technical oil talk....


T (3rd of 3)


I get absolutely furious when people assume something based on a hunch, and they take it to the web all frillied up!!! Not you, X.

If you send your reply back to the list, you’ll get others weighing in. There are, believe it or not, a couple of oil people from the Gulf there, who read because they are genuinely interested. They can answer perhaps, but more likely they’ll email me privately and pass on. They won’t want to be associated (one is a head of Aramco).

Without supporting data on anything, we must – like it or not – toss it. That goes for 9/11 theories, and all the rest.

One point I want to make privately: I went public on the debacle that an invasion of Iraq would cause internally and for the US, in 2002. Before anyone else did. Even academics I trusted weren’t as opposed. I insisted that there would be a civil war. I lost syndication for that statement; I have the termination email still. I keep it because now, when so few said it was the consequence, I’m vindicated.

I remember Chris Matthews on Hardball being on the fence, and not in favour of Iraq, not anti though either. I sent the termination letter I received to him, and made clear that one person here insists it will be a civil war....pay attention. He did nothing, said little, took no firm position. A year later he said on air – I was in the US at the time - “Why didn’t anyone say there would be a civil war? Where were all the academics?!”. I was furious, and re-sent the termination email with a reminder. No acknowledgement. Fine.

It is about oil, period. Not because people like oil and need oil. It’s because oil is more precious than gold, in the sense of value. We are in the Oil Age. We cannot do without it. Al Gore and global warming aside, we need oil to make every single thing we use and buy and trade and need for energy. Plastics? Oil based. Medicine? Oil based. Want to switch to hydro-electric cars? No problem – the batteries to charge them up? Oil based. Coal production plants as alternatives? No problem...oil powered. And so it goes.

Now, go to the Zionists: how do they get rich off this war? It’s not about love of Israel alone; why would Richard Perle be sucking up to the Saudis for millions before the war? You knew about that, I assume. They’ll take any money from anywhere.

They make their money by playing both sides: the US and Israel, loyalty to both and neither. The latter is because at the end of the day, like the Nazis post WWII, they would just escape and run to Bermuda or wherever if they needed. They would NOT go to Israel. Too dangerous, eh?

They make their money from military contracts and kickbacks. How do you make sure those keep increasing? Create war. Play up the Israel victim issue.

Cheney loves them....they are the public voice of his inner demon. They are being 100% used by Cheney and Bush. Most don’t realize it; Perle assuredly does. Gaffney? No. Adelman? Maybe. Feith? Doubtful. As long as they keep selling the war as terror and a threat to Israel, the military machine pumps. To fuel those, you need oil. Back to square one.

Oil pumps the military machines; the military machines cannot be retired or else the neocons don’t get paid. Ergo, the marriage between Cheney and they is perfect. But Cheney (and the Halliburton stats Palast cites are wrong) wants oil domination because it’s the most expensive currency in the world, changes markets, changes politics, controls the entire world.

Sadly, people don’t delve in to the oil stats and history. It’s waaaaaaay too boring; trust me!! I hate hate hate it! But I’ve no choice. I spent a week in the Eastern Province recently with the top oil ministers (Saudi, not American or foreign) and got all the off the record information on this. And it’s stunning.

So, this is all off the list obviously.

But I’d like you to respond on the list, so that others who disagree with me can weigh in, if they can. Might clear up a lot. Won’t change your mind, but at least you’ll have more data and solid opinion.


Let me clarify something regarding the Leninist academic theory:

People are becoming dangerously close to blindness when labelling in plurals. Where is the difference in the leap from “we object to Israeli policies” to “Anti-Semite! Self-Hating Jew!”, and “the war is for oil, no buts about it” to “Leninist leftist apologist!”

What’s going on with people?

Ray McGovern, ex CIA, has publicly been quite clear that it’s always been about oil. He’s a large figure in the 9/11 “inside job” theory. He’s done a great job in going out there and calling the shots, using his inside knowledge. Are people suggesting the guy is now a Bolshevik? What about Larry Johnson, the CIA agent who testified in Congress that he’s a Republican but this war is plain wrong, and spelled out his theories publicly? Now he’s a Leninist?

And from the academic side of the equation, what about the strongest proponents of the war-for-oil crowd? I’m talking none other than Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel Yergin, CEO of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Hardly left wing at all. His book, “The Prize”, written 15 years ago and weighing in at 900 pages – meaning very few people have ever read it (I have, every word, cover to cover) - clearly and unequivocally takes apart all the wars since the discovery of oil and connects those dots. I am firmly in his camp on the “no peak oil theory” notion; and it’s the Peak Oil proponents, be very aware, who advised and pressured Cheney in to starting these wars in the first place, confirming that the sky was falling, run for your life. Like they did in 1956, 1970, 1973, 1980, and ever since. They are plain wrong because the stats and facts speak to truth. But...since when did Cheney believe in facts?

Given all this, that people are jumping up and down to say, “don’t you get it? Cheney is beyond uber maniacal... He knows that the membership criterion for being the “in club” neoconservative is the Machiavellian sense of hyper intelligence, leaving all other peons in the dust. The rest of the world is simply too stupid to get what ‘we’ are saying, so lying is a Good Thing. That’s the neocon mantra. Cheney has taken that and used it masterfully, convincing Bush that in reality, let them do all the shouting and screaming about a “war on terror” while we get to work on the Big Picture: war for resources. “George my son, unless we have control of those resources we don’t have money for the military plan we have established, handily provided to us by Netanyahu and Perle (so our hands are clean), and we can’t keep the cogs churning. They’re happy because of their commissions, but George son, we have POWER. Let them spin on their axis and cry for Israel...great excuse. But never ever let them know about our Energy Policy, and always deny. Because I am, in the end, smarter and far more cunning than Machiavelli ever dreamt of.”

Mark my words, every leader in the Middle East has a copy of Machiavelli's “Little Prince” and knows exactly what Bush et al is doing. You see placating on the news; that’s not what happened behind the scenes.

So the “only for Israel” theory is totally missing the larger picture. The “Leninist academics” is idiotic and knocks out the right wing oil experts, intelligence agents, and those who still have some measure of personal principle.

It is never “your believe this so ergo you are that.” Do not fall in to that glaring trap....

I want to share something prescient, published in 1992, and almost always overlooked in all the arguments in public about the political situation we are in today.

[Oil] enables nations to accumulate wealth, to fuel their economies, to produce and sell goods and services, to build, to buy, to move, to acquire and manufacture weapons, to win wars. ... Joseph Stanislaw called the “new world oil order” the aftermath of the Gulf Crisis…

[I]n the 1990s the environmental debate [will emerge] ... Energy is the basis of industrial society.

And of all energy sources oil has loomed the largest. It will be remarkable if we reach the end of this century without the pre-eminence of oil being tested or challenged yet again by political, technical, economic or environmental crises – perhaps foreseen, perhaps coming by surprise. Nothing less should be expected in a century that has been so profoundly shared and affected by oil. For ours is a century in which every facet of our civilization has been transformed by the modern and mesmerising alchemy of petroleum.
Daniel Yergin, “The Prize” (Free Press; New York), 1992


For the original blog entry by Ronald ,



Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nicholas D. Kristof: "Iran's Operative in the White House"

Here's the operative question. Whether Bush-Cheney wanted the best for America.
The closest thing I've seen so far in the major media rasing the question.
Clearly the answer is: Bush-Cheney have been on a conscious program of destruction since the day they took office.
As Kristof says, "We ended up getting the worst."
Are these people incompetent.
They're very good at what they do.

Like Kennedy and Johnson wading into Vietnam, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney harmed American interests not out of malice but out of ineptitude. I concede that they honestly wanted the best for America, but we still ended up getting the worst.

The New York Times

March 20, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Iran’s Operative in the White House

If an 18-year-old American soldier were caught slipping obscure military paperwork to Iranian spies, he would be arrested, pilloried in the news media and tossed into prison for years.

But in fact there’s an American who has provided services of incalculably greater value to Iran in recent years. So you have to wonder: Is Dick Cheney an Iranian mole?

Consider that the Bush administration’s first major military intervention was to overthrow Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, Iran’s bitter foe to the east. Then the administration toppled Iran’s even worse enemy to the west, the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

You really think that’s just a coincidence? That of all 193 nations in the world, we just happen to topple the two neighboring regimes that Iran despises?

Moreover, consider how our invasion of Iraq went down. The U.S. dismantled Iraq’s army, broke the Baath Party and helped install a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad. If Iran’s ayatollahs had written the script, they couldn’t have done better — so maybe they did write the script ...

We fought Iraq, and Iran won. And that’s just another coincidence?

Or think about broader Bush administration policies in the Middle East. For six years, the White House vigorously backed Israeli hard-liners and refused to engage seriously in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thus nurturing anti-Americanism and religious fundamentalism. Then last summer, the White House backed Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, which turned Iran’s proxies in Hezbollah into street heroes in much of the Arab world.

Consider also the way the administration has systematically antagonized our former allies in Europe and Asia, undermining chances of a united front to block Iranian development of nuclear weapons. Mr. Cheney may nominally push for sanctions against Iran, but by alienating our allies he makes strong sanctions harder to achieve.

And by condoning torture and extralegal detentions in Guantánamo, the White House antagonized Muslims around the world and made us look like hypocrites when we criticize Arab or Iranian human rights abuses. Take Mr. Cheney’s endorsement of the torture known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning: “It’s a no-brainer for me,” he said. The torturers in Iran’s Evin prison must have cheered. They got a pass as well.

Even at home, Iran’s leaders have been bolstered by President Bush and Mr. Cheney. Iran’s hard-liners are hugely unpopular and the regime is wobbly, but Bush administration policies have inflamed Iranian nationalism and given cover to the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Why focus on Dick Cheney rather than his boss? Partly because Mr. Cheney, even more than Mr. Bush, has systematically pushed an extreme agenda that has transparently served Iranian purposes. And domestically, his role in the Scooter Libby scandal — and his disgraceful refusal to explain just what he was doing at the crime scene — ended up paralyzing executive decision-making and humiliating our government.

Is that really just one more coincidence? Or could it be another case of Mr. Cheney’s following instructions from his Iranian bosses to damage America?

O.K., O.K. Of course, all this is absurd. Mr. Cheney isn’t an Iranian mole. Nor is he a North Korean mole, though his we-don’t-negotiate-with-evil policy toward North Korea has resulted in that country’s quadrupling its nuclear arsenal. It’s also unlikely that he is an Al Qaeda mole, even though Al Qaeda now has an important new base of support in Iraq.

Like Kennedy and Johnson wading into Vietnam, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney harmed American interests not out of malice but out of ineptitude. I concede that they honestly wanted the best for America, but we still ended up getting the worst.

So what are the lessons from this episode?

Our national interests are as vulnerable to incompetence as to malicious damage. So we must identify and abandon the policies that backfired so catastrophically. The common threads of those damaging policies are clear: a refusal to negotiate with “evil”; an aggressive willingness to use military force to solve problems; contempt for our allies; and the bending of legal and moral principles to allow indefinite detention and even torture, particularly for anyone with olive skin and a Muslim name.

Whenever we’ve suspected a mole in our midst, we’ve gone to extreme lengths to find the traitor. This time, betrayed not by a mole but by failed policies, let’s be just as resolute. It’s time to uproot policies that in the last half-dozen years have damaged American interests incomparably more than any mole or foreign spy ever has in the last 200 years.

You're invited to post your comments about this column on Mr. Kristof's blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

NYT: Agents Say Fast Audits Hurt IRS

New York Times
January 12, 2007
Agents Say Fast Audits Hurt I.R.S.

Top officials at the Internal Revenue Service are pushing agents to prematurely close audits of big companies with agreements to have them pay only a fraction of the additional taxes that could be collected, according to dozens of I.R.S. employees who say that the policy is costing the government billions of dollars a year.

''It's catch and release,'' said Douglas R. Johnson, an I.R.S. auditor in Colorado for three decades who said he grew so frustrated at how large corporations were allowed to pay far less than what he thought they owed that he transferred to the agency's small-business division.

With one exception, other working agents would talk about the issue only on condition they not be identified because they feared being fired. They said a policy intended to avoid delays in auditing corporations was being pushed so rigidly that it prevented them from pursuing numerous examples of questionable corporate tax deductions.

I.R.S. officials said the complaints were misguided. In an interview yesterday, Debbie Nolan, the I.R.S. executive in charge of auditing large and medium-size businesses, denied that audits were being closed over the objections of agents who had evidence that significant additional taxes were owed. Ms. Nolan said she had not heard any such complaints from auditors.

She noted that the amount of additional tax recommended for each hour auditors spend on large and medium-size companies more than doubled, to $5,195 in 2006 from $2,394 in 2002. And she said that internal reviews of corporate tax audits showed that their quality had improved.

''On the whole, we are moving in the right direction,'' she said. ''All of our indicators tell me that we are doing the right thing.''

But auditors said they were told to limit questioning only to those specific issues that the I.R.S. and the companies had agreed in advance to examine. When other questionable deductions emerged in the course of the audit, they said, additional taxes were ignored.

Rank-and-file auditors said that the sharp rise in tax dollars collected per hour of audit was not a sign of an improved auditing system but simply reflected the fact that abusive and illegal tax shelters had become so common that it was easy to find additional taxes due.

James Lynch, who retired 18 months ago after two decades auditing large corporations in the San Diego area, said that ''of course dollars per hour are up, because they put in smaller teams and you just grab what you can and get out.''

Of roughly 50 auditors interviewed, only one said he agreed with the new policy, arguing that it was better to audit more companies lightly than a few thoroughly as a strategy to improve compliance with the tax laws. But even this agent agreed with the others that large companies were being allowed to pay far less than they owed.

Mr. Johnson and some of these agents also said that I.R.S. management reports indicate that the quality of audits was improving only because the agency did not accurately record these actions.

One longtime auditor in New York said that when ordered not to pursue an issue ''you just write 'closed per case manager' to cover yourself.''

The auditor was asked why she did not file an official memo indicating that she disagreed and that she believed it was premature or improper to close the audit.

''Why would I do that?'' the auditor replied. ''So my manager will give me a bad performance review?'' Others gave similar explanations.

Ms. Nolan said agents who believed that an important issue should have been pursued should report the matter to higher-level supervisors or go to the inspector general's office. She said she was not aware of any such complaints.

But Coleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said that Ms. Nolan should not be surprised that there was widespread unhappiness in the ranks about the quality of audits.

''We have been hearing complaints since they started the policies of short cycle time and limited-scope audits,'' Ms. Kelley said. ''These are policy decisions the I.R.S. has the right to make, whether they are right or wrong.''

She said any agent who went up the chain of command would have the complaint rejected out of hand.

''The agents are told that this is the scope of the audit and this is the time you have to deliver,'' Ms. Kelley said. ''Their professional judgment is being ignored.''

Ron McGinley said it was clear when the new policies went into effect in 2003, shortly before he retired as an I.R.S. economist in Southern California, that tax law enforcement was being weakened.

Mr. McGinley drew an analogy contrasting the I.R.S. approach to the way the government investigated John Gotti, the organized crime boss known as the Teflon Don.

''The way they limit audits,'' he said, ''is like the FBI going to the Teflon Don and saying, 'We'd like to look around, so what are you willing to let us see?' ''

Across the country, several presidents of local I.R.S. union chapters said there had been a steady flow of complaints from auditors, specialists and others who examine tax returns that they are not being allowed to do their jobs. They said some of the most highly trained and respected auditors had quit or plan to leave the moment they were eligible to retire.

''Agents in the large- and mid-sized business division complain to me constantly that what are supposed to be estimated dates to complete audits are hard deadlines,'' said Frank Heffler, president of the local in Manhattan, which has the largest contingent of I.R.S. corporate tax auditors.

The auditors said that many companies were cooperative, but others took advantage of the shortened time periods to delay turning over crucial documents until the end of the audit.

Two auditors told of corporations that when asked for a specific document, produced thousands of pages of ill-organized material in an apparent effort to waste their time and limit the issues that would be fully examined. Both auditors said they complained to supervisors, but to no avail.

Kay Rogers, the union president in Orange County, Calif., said that official I.R.S. policy calls upon auditors to ''do the right thing'' and pursue an audit beyond the deadline if the issues warrant it. But in practice, Ms. Rogers said, that does not happen.

The reason, she explained, is because supervisors receive cash bonuses, promotions and other benefits based on closing cases within the time allowed, not on the quality of audits or the dollars collected.

''When a person is rewarded monetarily for keeping to the cycle time,'' she said, they are going to close audits to get their reward.

Individual auditors in eight states, interviewed over the last seven months, told of case managers and higher supervisors ordering them to drop issues because it would prevent closing the audit by a predetermined date.

Many of these agents said they were troubled most when the sums involved pre-negotiated agreements with the I.R.S. on how much profit multinational companies could take overseas in tax havens and how much must be taken inside the United States.

''They are giving away the store,'' one agent in New Jersey said.

Agents told of being refused access to specialists, including economists, engineers and historians, because if these specialists developed an issue the audit would have to continue past the deadline.

''They are not letting us do our job, which is to enforce the law,'' said one I.R.S. auditor who handles the most complicated international cases.

Ms. Nolan, the official in charge of the division, said that such comments reflected the difficulty many I.R.S. veterans were having in adapting to new policies, not any flaws in those policies.

Mr. Lynch, the auditor who retired in California, and many others complained that the effect of the policy was to allow the Bush administration to achieve administratively a further easing of the corporate income tax burden far beyond what Congress has approved legislatively.

According to Melanie Fox, the only current auditor besides Mr. Johnson who agreed to be quoted by name, a large number of the most experienced corporate auditors plan to retire as quickly as they can because they feel their efforts are not respected.

''A lot of audit experience is about to walk out the door,'' Ms. Fox said. ''And then what will happen?''


Kurt Nimmo: KSM Deconstructed

In previous blogs Kurt Nimmo has provided links indicating that Osama bin Laden has been dead for years; that al-Zarqawi was dead long before he was "killed" by coalition forces, and that KSM has also been dead for awhile.

So how could he confess to all these crimes? asked one wag.

I confess that it had to be pointed out to me that the annoucement of KSM's confession came at the height of the uproar over the Justice Dept firings.

See below for a link to a pertinent TIME Magazine story. --R


Kurt Nimmo wrote:

KSM Deconstructed

Friday March 16th 2007, 8:43 am
Raw Story journalist Larisa Alexandrovna has noted a rather glaring problem with the KSM “confession”: he claims to have targeted the Plaza Bank in Washington state—however the bank was not founded until well after KSM was supposedly captured and interned at Camp Gitmo. “I think we can say for quite certain that whomever is being held as KSM was either caught recently or that his entire confession is a fraud,” concludes Alexandrovna.

Or, more likely, there is no KSM—certainly not as presented—as there is no longer an Osama or al-Zarqawi, and more likely the story of superman-like terror activity on KSM’s part is in fact contrived nonsense, engineered strictly for public consumption. KSM is a Muslim Freddy Krueger, the bastard son of Pentagon intelligence, the Office for Special Propaganda and Machiavellian Nightmares.

KSM is simply too much of a good thing for the Muslim-hating neocons, and that’s why he embodies cartoonish villain qualities, thus revealing the essential simplicity of the Straussian neocon philosophy with its Manichean perspective of good versus evil, light versus dark, and its exploitation of stark moral dualism. As the Straussians believe they are, like Plato, guiding the polis, who are childlike, it is probably natural the requisite myths spun, in the form of “noble lies,” are basically puerile and thus easily deconstructed. Moreover, as “philosopher kings,” the neocons firmly believe the American public, the benighted masses, really do not require more sophistication.

For those unwilling to so easily believe, although captivated by the larger Brothers Grimm story of Osama and his preternatural beings, the corporate media gives us Rosie O’Donnell. “On Thursday’s installment [of the View], O’Donnell actually said that the only reason al Qaeda terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to any of his actions is because he was being held by the CIA at Guantanamo and tortured where it is allowed,” writes Jim Brogan for the Post Chronicle.

In other words, for Rosie and the entertainment establishment, a fluffy counterpart to the corporate department of manufactured news, the existence of KSM and his fantastic deeds are not in doubt, and the issue here, for soft and squishy “liberals,” is rather the immorality of torture. Naturally, this takes away and is a diversion from the core issue: the very posture of KSM is hallucinatory and thus irrational, ascribing to one man a preternatural set of abilities and accomplishments.

But then, of course, most of us, conditioned by television and Hollywood, have bought into the cardinal rule of the entertainment realm: all who enter here must suspend credulity.


Even Time Magazine sniffs some of the odor:


Thursday, Mar. 15, 2007
Why KSM's Confession Rings False
By Robert Baer
It's hard to tell what the Pentagon's objective really is in releasing the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession. It certainly suggests the Administration is trying to blame KSM for al-Qaeda terrorism, leading us to believe we've caught the master terrorist and that al-Qaeda, and especially the ever-elusive bin Laden, is no longer a threat to the U.S.

But there is a major flaw in that marketing strategy. On the face of it, KSM, as he is known inside the government, comes across as boasting, at times mentally unstable. It's also clear he is making things up. I'm told by people involved in the investigation that KSM was present during Wall Street Journal correspondent Danny Pearl's execution but was in fact not the person who killed him. There exists videotape footage of the execution that minimizes KSM's role. And if KSM did indeed exaggerate his role in the Pearl murder, it raises the question of just what else he has exaggerated, or outright fabricated.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1599861,00.html

Friday, March 23, 2007

Xymphora: War for no oil

Without realizing it, I've been waiting for someone smart like Xymphora, a Canadian based blogger, to explain why the theory that preventing Iraqi oil from coming to market also is bogus. It's clear as he writes, that the Iraq war was NOT a war for oil, and the war, and the Zionist lobby's previous induced sanctions regime is the reason that there's relatively little oil coming from Iran and Iraq. So either our policy makers are closet global warming adherents or we're cutting off our noses to keep our Zionist ideologues happy. It's an awful thought, but just as Bush every day displays his careless sadism with his disregard for the millions and millions of Iraqi lives he's destroying, and the terrible effects millions of Iraqi refugees are having on Jordanians and Syrians and others, aren't the Zionists displaying the same cool viciousness when they look at the destruction of the civil, economic and political (not to mention military) life of so many millions of Arabs? It's yet another question, but I'm wondering if they're beginning to understand that the terrible instability in the region that this war is engendering is not gonna be good for Israel either even in the medium term, if not the short term.
Xymphora speaks of Leninist academics buying into the war for oil nonsense as he puts it (and I agree). Is he thinking of Chomsky, a leader of the war for oil crowd? Most leftists I know, academics, many of them, come to think of it, are tied to the notion that US militarism must have some self serving imperialist motive. I recall a Marxist friend of mine arguing decades ago that we were fighting in Vietnam to control Vietnamese offshore oil. For some reason he couldn't understand that Nixon like Cheney today was fighting AGAINST the self interest of the US, or Empire, or any conceivable positive national interest other than the pathological satisfaction of directing US power against a potentially defeatable enemy. The only reason Nixon wasn't Cheney is that he was so 20th Century.
PS. Does anyone know what Xymphora means when he writes: there's no oil to get or control? The way I like to put it: if we wanted control of Iraqi oil, we would have ensured the stability of Saddam's regime. Is that all Xymphora means?

Xymphora wrote:
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
War for no oil?
It remains very important for Zionists to find some reason for the unpopular attack on Iraq other than the only obvious one. The ‘war for oil’ crowd is braying, with the draft Iraqi oil law being the latest supposed evidence of the oily background to war. This is nonsense, of course, but popular nonsense as it suits both the Zionists and the Leninist academics, who see it as backing up their usual views of Empire. I want to write about this nonsense, but today I want to write about Greg Palast’s latest version of the Israel-protection theory. Palest, to his credit, doesn’t try to snow us by claiming that the war was about access to oil, or even imperial control of strategic resources. He recognizes the obvious (something the oil companies knew prior to the war, but something no one else will admit): there’s no oil to get or control, and the war is the reason the oil is unavailable, and will be unavailable for the foreseeable future.

Palast’s new alternative theory makes lemonade out of the lemons of no oil by claiming that the point of the war was to remove Iraqi oil from the world supply, thus leading to increased oil prices and massive oil company profits. He turns the ‘war for oil’ thesis on its head, and makes it a ‘war for no oil’. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds, and has the great advantage of actually paying attention to the fact that the completely predictable result of the American attack and occupation would be a civil war and insurgency which would remove almost all Iraqi oil from the world market. There’s only one tiny detail wrong with the thesis. The oil embargo. Iraq was already under a largely successful oil embargo. There were big leaks in it, as Saddam was able to smuggle significant amounts of oil out of the country. However, the Americans could easily have stopped these leaks. The only reason they didn’t was that Republicans were making money off the illegal oil trade, and American allies Turkey and Jordan requested that the oil be allowed to continue to be trucked over their respective borders. If the whole point of the exercise was merely to remove Iraqi oil from the world markets, and thus force up the price, all the Americans had to do was enforce the embargo, and make it clear that Iraqi oil was going to stay off the world market. Why would the Americans want to spend a trillion or two dollars to accomplish what they could have done for a tiny fraction of that (not to mention the relatively unimportant fact that no Americans would have died)?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

John Stauber, Sheldon Rampton: MoveOn.Org and Demcrats Effectively Support the Iraq War

March 19, 2007

A Cynical Subsidiary of the Democratic Leadership
Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. To commemorate the occasion, the online advocacy group MoveOn.org is organizing more than 1,000 candlelight vigils throughout the United States. "We'll solemnly honor the sacrifice made by more than 3,000 servicemen and women, and we'll contemplate the path ahead of us," states MoveOn's website. "We cannot send tens of thousands of exhausted, under-equipped, and unprepared troops into the middle of an Iraqi civil war. ... Honor the sacrifice. Stop the escalation. Bring the troops home."

MoveOn's 3.2 million members strongly oppose any continuation of the war, and the language above seems to suggest that MoveOn's leadership agrees. But MoveOn's organizing around Iraq has become notably ambiguous lately. Although it talks in general terms about bringing the troops home, specific timetables or meaningful steps in that direction are nowhere discussed. Most strikingly, MoveOn has adamantly refused to support the Iraq amendment from Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters, which calls for "a fully funded, and systematic, withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and military contractors from Iraq" by the end of 2007.

Politically, the Lee amendment cannot pass; fewer than 100 members of Congress are expected to vote for it. However, the same thing is true of weaker legislation that MoveOn is currently supporting, in league with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha and David Obey. The Pelosi bill merely establishes "benchmarks" of progress in Iraq, so that all Bush has to do is certify that he is making progress on those goals to keep funding flowing for the war. Instead of withdrawing troops this year, the Pelosi bill talks about beginning to withdraw them in March 2008. Even so, it faces united Republican opposition and is not expected to pass the U.S. Senate, even if it is approved by the House of Representatives. And even if it does pass, Bush has already said he will veto it. So why was the Democratic Party leadership so determined to prevent the Lee amendment from even coming to the floor - and why has MoveOn.org avoided even mentioning the Lee proposal to its members?

On Sunday, MoveOn distributed a survey asking its members to vote on three options: support the Pelosi bill; oppose it; or "not sure." MoveOn's Eli Pariser described the survey in an email as an opportunity for members to participate in "a big decision coming up this week. ... MoveOn is a member-directed organization - we believe that all of us, together, are smarter than any one of us." In fact, however, MoveOn's survey was designed to conceal from its members the option of supporting the stronger anti-war amendment put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

There are, of course, other ways of running a survey. When TrueMajority.org recently surveyed its members about the best way forward, they offered three choices: the Lee plan, the Pelosi plan, and the option of demanding that Congress reject any further war funding, period. Only 24 percent of TrueMajority's members supported the Pelosi plan - which appears to be the reason why MoveOn's survey gave their members no choice but the Pelosi plan.

Even MoveOn's rules for the war's fourth-anniversary candlelight vigils expressly exclude anything specifically aimed at ending it. "There are many ways to commemorate the war anniversary - but MoveOn and other coalition members are coming together around solemn candlelight vigils," explains their website. "Events other than vigils that honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women and their families will not be publicly posted here."

.MoveOn was not always this reluctant to demand a specific and speedy timetable for ending the war. Just last year, in fact, its organizing slogan was "Out in '06." It circulated that slogan at a time when the U.S. political environment offered less realistic opportunity to end the war than it does now. Last year, the Republican Party controlled both houses of Congress along with the White House, and when Murtha called for troop withdrawal, Republicans mocked the proposal as "cutting and running." Now Democrats have retaken Congress in a watershed election in which concern about the war was the top issue on the minds of voters. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup survey, 58 percent of Americans now want U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year.

If MoveOn were serious about ending the war, now would be an opportune moment to mobilize its millions of members and make it finally happen. Instead, its current strategy is dead weight, aimed more at fooling its members into thinking they are pushing forward when in fact they are merely lighting candles. So why has MoveOn begun to blow hot and cold at the very moment when the political winds are seemingly blowing in favor of a speedy U.S. withdrawal?

The answer boils down to some breathtakingly cynical political calculations by the leadership of the Democratic Party, with which MoveOn has aligned itself.

By now even the politicians in Washington, and certainly their advisors, understand that Iraq is a lost cause. Even the Bush administration understands it. Its much-touted current "surge" is a delaying tactic, not a serious attempt to bring order to the chaos that now exists in Iraq. "Even if we had a million men to go in, it's too late now," says retired four-star Gen. Tony McPeak, who served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. "Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again." It's not a question, therefore, of whether the U.S. leaves Iraq. It's a question of when.
Bush and his advisors are continuing the war in Iraq because politically, they have no other choice. To admit defeat now would win Bush no support at all from Americans who oppose the war, and it would erase his remaining credibility in the eyes of the 35% of Americans who continue to support him.

The Democrats, however, do have a choice, and the choice that they are making is to offer symbolic statements of opposition, while in practice allowing the war to continue, and funding it. This choice is based on their realization that the war has become a political liability for Republicans. If the war ends this year, the debate during the 2008 congressional and presidential elections will turn to "who lost Iraq." If the war continues into next year, however, Democrats will benefit as the de facto "anti-war party," no matter how feckless their opposition in the meantime.

Part of this calculation is based on a common expectation, expressed by many analysts, that a U.S. withdrawal will be followed by an explosion of Iraqi-on-Iraqi bloodletting that is even worse than the current violence. "Even in the best-case scenario," says Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, "the disaster we're seeing now is nothing compared to the disaster that we'll see after we leave. The real issue here is American interest: The longer we stay, the more people we get killed. I don't think the longer we stay, the better we make Iraq. Probably the reverse."

In the short run, a U.S. withdrawal followed by the expected Iraqi national implosion will be spinnable by conservative pundits as proof that the war should have continued, and this is what Democratic politicians fear. Instead of campaigning as the party that will end the war, they are afraid that they may be labeled responsible for allowing a bloodbath to happen. But the bloodbath is happening anyway, and the longer U.S. troops stay, the worse the ultimate reckoning.

What may seem like clever politics, therefore, produces horrible policy. When politicians and advocacy groups like MoveOn play anti-war games of political theater while effectively collaborating with the war's continuation, they merely add one more deception to the layers of lies in which this war has been wrapped. Like Bush and his supporters, they are sacrificing human lives simply for the sake of perpetuating an illusion.

As several anti-war veterans' and soldiers' families organizations noted earlier this month in an open letter, "There is a tragic parallel here with the Vietnam War. The last 28,000 troops who died in that war were abandoned to political game-playing long after Congress and the President knew that it was time to bring the troops home. This was a tragedy that you must not allow to be repeated."

John Stauber is Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sheldon Rampton is co-author (with Stauber) of Weapons of Mass Deception and The Best War Ever.

They can be reached at: john@prwatch.

Monday, March 19, 2007

NYT: Hillary: USt to stay in Iraq indefinitely --- just like Bush

First read the letters that the Times printed in response to their article where Clinton says the US will stay in Iraq indefinitely.
If we can make it to 2008 without attacking Iran, we'll have to confront all the leading candidates promising to keep us at war for the long haul.
Talk about the power of the (few) big money men in New York.

March 17, 2007
Parsing Hillary Clinton on Iraq (5 Letters)

To the Editor:

I read with alarm and dismay that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton stated that if elected president, she would continue a military presence in Iraq, albeit on a smaller scale (“Clinton Says Some G.I.’s in Iraq Would Remain if She Took Office,” front page, March 15).

She justifies this thinking by saying that the United States has “remaining vital national security interests” there, and presumably a complete exit would damage those interests. Senator Clinton goes on to say the remaining troops would not patrol the streets, leaving us in the position of merely observing the sectarian killing.

This was an interview awash in contradictions. Mrs. Clinton correctly believes that the “American people are done with Iraq.” If so, how would a continued, open-ended military presence enable the United States to extricate itself from Iraq?

Would not a continued military presence always raise the possibility of adding tens of thousands of additional troops in the face of unforeseen setbacks? Would not this policy continue this national nightmare?

Charles Apostolou
New York, March 15, 2007

To the Editor:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton says that if she is elected president, she would keep a reduced military force in Iraq “to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.” What if most Iraqis would prefer that the United States military leave?

Senator Clinton apparently believes that the president, whoever that person is, can place our military in any sovereign country if doing so serves our interests, as defined by the president. Is this not the Bush doctrine? How well has it served American interests?

Mrs. Clinton supported the Bush doctrine in the run-up to the war and is now embracing that policy as her own. We need leaders with more wisdom.

Arthur Karlin
Chappaqua, N.Y., March 15, 2007

To the Editor:

So Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would keep some United States forces in Iraq. And Senator Barack Obama would do the same?

If I didn’t know better and implicitly trust these Democratic candidates for president, I’d be tempted to say that they are not only hedging their bets on Iraq, but also planning on keeping United States troops in Iraq indefinitely. Sounds a lot like “stay the course,” doesn’t it?

Politicians always try to have it both ways. John Kerry voted for the war before he voted against it. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war, but now she is against it because she was “misled” and it has been “mismanaged.” But she still envisions keeping “some” American troops in Iraq for peacekeeping.

So can you believe her? Can you believe Mr. Obama? Sure! Just pick whatever conflicting statement from their political repertory that meets your needs.

And hold on to your hats, folks. Because over the next 18 months you are going to hear political double talk from these two the likes of which you’ve never heard before.

Patrick Curry
Irvine, Calif., March 15, 2007

To the Editor:

A salute to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for her courage in putting forth a thoughtful strategy for Iraq — one that recognizes reality on the ground, America’s national interests and its responsibilities to stability in the region and to the Kurds after its catastrophic intervention.

The simplistic pandering on both sides and the lack of sophisticated, realistic alternatives have been a disservice to the public’s need for meaningful debate on this critical issue.

Craig Conly
Oakland, Calif., March 15, 2007

To the Editor:

According to your article, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would not try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence even if it descended into ethnic cleansing. It is comforting to know up front that as president she would do no more to stop genocide in Iraq than the current president is doing in Sudan or the previous one did in Rwanda.

Apparently even though she knows now what she didn’t know then, she still would do nothing.

Let’s have a conversation.

Peter Feinman
Port Chester, N.Y., March 15, 2007
The New York Times

March 15, 2007
If Elected ...
Clinton Says Some G.I.’s in Iraq Would Remain

WASHINGTON, March 14 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.

In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.

In outlining how she would handle Iraq as commander in chief, Mrs. Clinton articulated a more nuanced position than the one she has provided at her campaign events, where she has backed the goal of “bringing the troops home.”

She said in the interview that there were “remaining vital national security interests in Iraq” that would require a continuing deployment of American troops.

The United States’ security would be undermined if parts of Iraq turned into a failed state “that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda,” she said. “It is right in the heart of the oil region,” she said. “It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.”

“So it will be up to me to try to figure out how to protect those national security interests and continue to take our troops out of this urban warfare, which I think is a loser,” Mrs. Clinton added. She declined to estimate the number of American troops she would keep in Iraq, saying she would draw on the advice of military officers.

Mrs. Clinton’s plans carry some political risk. Although she has been extremely critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the war, some liberal Democrats are deeply suspicious of her intentions on Iraq, given that she voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force there and, unlike some of her rivals for the Democratic nomination, has not apologized for having done so.

Senator Clinton’s proposal is also likely to stir up debate among military specialists. Some counterinsurgency experts say the plan is unrealistic because Iraqis are unlikely to provide useful tips about Al Qaeda if American troops end their efforts to protect Iraqi neighborhoods.

But a former Pentagon official argued that such an approach would minimize American casualties and thus make it easier politically to sustain a long-term military presence that might prevent the fighting from spreading throughout the region.

Mrs. Clinton has said she would vote for a proposed Democratic resolution on Iraq now being debated on the floor of the Senate, which sets a goal of withdrawing combat forces by March 31, 2008. Asked if her plan was consistent with the resolution, Mrs. Clinton and her advisers said it was, noting that the resolution also called for “a limited number” of troops to stay in Iraq to protect the American Embassy and other personnel, train and equip Iraqi forces, and conduct “targeted counterterrorism operations.”

(Senator Barack Obama, a rival of Mrs. Clinton, has said that if elected president, he might keep a small number of troops in Iraq.)

With many Democratic primary voters favoring a total withdrawal, Senator Clinton appears to be trying to balance her political interests with the need to retain some flexibility. Like other Democratic candidates, she has called for engaging Iran and Syria in talks and called on President Bush to reverse his troop buildup.

But while Mrs. Clinton has criticized Mr. Bush’s troop reinforcements as an escalation of war, she said in the interview, “We’re doing it, and it’s unlikely we can stop it.”

“I’m going to root for it if it has any chance of success,” she said of Mr. Bush’s plan, “but I think it’s more likely that the anti-American violence and sectarian violence just moves from place to place to place, like the old Whac a Mole. Clear some neighborhoods in Baghdad, then face Ramadi. Clear Ramadi, then maybe it’s back in Falluja.”

Mrs. Clinton made it clear that she believed the next president is likely to face an Iraq that is still plagued by sectarian fighting and occupied by a sizable number of American troops. The likely problems, she said, include continued political disagreements in Baghdad, die-hard Sunni insurgents, Al Qaeda operatives, Turkish anxiety over the Kurds and the effort to “prevent Iran from crossing the border and having too much influence inside of Iraq.”

“The choices that one would face are neither good nor unlimited,” she said. “And from the vantage point of where I sit now, I can tell you, in the absence of a very vigorous diplomatic effort on the political front and on the regional and international front, I think it is unlikely there will be a stable situation that will be inherited.”

On the campaign trail, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly vowed to bring the war to a close if the fighting were still going on when she took office as president. “If we in Congress don’t end this war before January 2009, as president, I will,” she has said.

In the interview, she suggested that it was likely that the fighting among the Iraqis would continue for some time. In broad terms, her strategy is to abandon the American military effort to stop the sectarian violence and to focus instead on trying to prevent the strife from spreading throughout the region by shrinking and rearranging American troop deployments within Iraq.

The idea of repositioning American forces to minimize American casualties, discourage Iranian, Syrian and Turkish intervention, and forestall the Kurds’ declaring independence is not a new one. It has been advocated by Dov S. Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon’s comptroller under former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Zakheim has estimated that no more than 75,000 troops would be required, compared to the approximately 160,000 troops the United States will have in Iraq when the additional brigades in Mr. Bush’s plan are deployed.

While Mrs. Clinton declined to estimate the size of a residual American troop presence, she indicated that troops might be based north of Baghdad and in western Anbar Province.

“It would be far fewer troops,” she said. “But what we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of — between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region, the ones that are going to remain for our antiterrorism mission, for our northern support mission, for our ability to respond to the Iranians, and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis.”

Mrs. Clinton described a mission with serious constraints.

“We would not be doing patrols,” she added. “We would not be kicking in doors. We would not be trying to insert ourselves in the middle between the various Shiite and Sunni factions. I do not think that’s a smart or achievable mission for American forces.”

One question raised by counterinsurgency experts is whether the more limited military mission Mrs. Clinton is advocating would lead to a further escalation in the sectarian fighting, because it would shift the entire burden for protecting civilians to the nascent Iraqi Security Forces. A National Intelligence Estimate issued in January said those forces would be hard-pressed to take on significantly increased responsibilities in the next 12 to 18 months.

“Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq,” the estimate noted, referring to the American-led forces.

Mrs. Clinton said the intelligence estimate was based on a “faulty premise” because it did not take into account the sort of “phased redeployment” plan she was advocating. But she acknowledged that under her strategy American troops would remain virtual bystanders if Shiites and Sunnis killed each other in sectarian attacks. “That may be inevitable,” she said. “And it certainly may be the only way to concentrate the attention of the parties.”

Asked if Americans would endure having troops in Iraq who do nothing to stop sectarian attacks there, she replied: “Look, I think the American people are done with Iraq. I think they are at a point where, whether they thought it was a good idea or not, they have seen misjudgment and blunder after blunder, and their attitude is, What is this getting us? What is this doing for us?”

“No one wants to sit by and see mass killing,” she added. “It’s going on every day! Thousands of people are dying every month in Iraq. Our presence there is not stopping it. And there is no potential opportunity I can imagine where it could. This is an Iraqi problem; we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves. If we had a different attitude going in there, if we had stopped the looting immediately, if we had asserted our authority — you can go down the lines, if, if, if — ”

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Letter: Ed Koch's Dual Loyalty regarding war with Iran

I was delighted to see that the New York Press, a free Upper West Side weekly, published my letter below reacting to a column by former New York City mayor, Ed Koch, attacking Iran.

I was all the more pleased because I figured they tossed my letter into the circular file when it hadn’t appeared the week earlier. About a year ago The New York Press changed editors, fired all their left oriented writers, replacing them with right wingers – as part of a national effort, apparently, by wealthy conservatives and corporations to remove left of center commentary from the print media.

Great, I thought, just what the Upper West Side needs, another right wing organ. But then lo and behold, Amy Goodman’s column appeared some weeks ago, and the paper has recently seemed somewhat more left friendly. Perhaps they realized that advertisers would no longer support a paper that West Siders no longer bothered to pick up.

It was also good to see confirmation of my previous notion that the New York Press makes the effort to print virtually all the coherent letters they receive.


February 28, 2007

To the New York Press

To the Editor:

Once again, Ed Koch displays his unabashed dual loyalty. Dual loyalty is actually a misnomer: the name suggests equal loyalty to two countries, one’s own and a foreign country. But Koch’s loyalty to Israel is much stronger than it is to the US if his latest column arguing for the hardest possible line against Iran is a fair indicator. ("Iran at War With US," 2.28.07)

Does Ed Koch think that a war against Iran would be in the US interest? Most people understand that widening the already catastrophic Iraq war would be terrible for the US even if it only imperiled already tight and expensive world oil supplies. By supporting President Bush’s reckless, pitiless militarism, Koch shows that fealty to Israel’s goal of destroying another Muslim country is more important than the effects on his fellow Americans.


Ronald Bleier

Scott McConnell: Bloggers vs the Lobby on Iran War

Here's a terrific, thoughtful article on the most important political issue that confronts us today: the threatened war against Iran. Among much else, McConnell sheds light on the power of the Lobby -- currently most decisively --over the presidential candidates, Hillary, Edwards, Rudy, et al. none of whom are able to get out from under the Lobby to reject the Bush war agenda despite its deep unpopularity. Are we in a bind or what??! One can only hope that the current scandals, notably the Justice Dept firings, etc will be a sufficient roadblock to another war.

It's hard if not impossible to fault even in a minor way the points that McConnell makes throughout. Here's a quibble for the record. McConnell correctly writes that it may be impossible to stop the "preventive" war Bush-Cheney wish to initiate against Iran. The author might have found a way to suggest that it's not a preventive war in any sense other than the propaganda that will be used to justify it. It will be, if it happens, a war to advance the Cheney permanent war agenda. Once again, the purpose of the (threatened) Iran attack is to allow Bush to stay in Iraq. The purpose of the Iraq war -- other than to destroy the country -- is to enable an attack against Iran.


March 12, 2007 Issue
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative


Bloggers vs. the Lobby

Israel’s propaganda fortress faces a surprising new challenge.

by Scott McConnell

Despite the failure in Iraq, the repudiation of the president’s foreign policy in opinion polls and the 2006 elections, and the collapse of respect for the U.S. in most other countries, support for the Bush Doctrine of preventive war remains surprisingly intact among one important slice of Americans: the presidential candidates of both major parties. New York Times columnist David Brooks recently lamented that Democratic contenders were sounding soft, crafting their foreign-policy positions to generate “applause lines in Iowa.” He needn’t have worried. The parade of White House aspirants to appear before a hawkish Israeli audience in Herzliya, and an equally hawkish AIPAC crowd in New York, is a truer gauge of where leading candidates stand.

On New Year’s Day, Israeli superhawk Benjamin Netanyahu called for an “intense international public relations front” to persuade Americans of the need for military confrontation with Iran. The sight of John Edwards addressing a conference in Israel by satellite feed, along with John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney—the latter two actually flew in to speak in person—indicated that the front already exists. All the candidates spoke as if preemptive war in the Middle East was a tried and true success. As a correspondent from Jewish Week summed it up, the U.S. presidential hopefuls were “competing to see who can be most strident in defense of the Jewish state.” The consensus choice for the competition’s winner was Romney, but the putatively liberal Edwards, who described preventing Iran from securing nuclear weapons as “the greatest challenge of our generation,” made a surprisingly strong showing. No leading presidential contender suggested that attacking Iran might be a bad idea.

This hawkishness is actually an outlier sentiment, popular only among those running for office. In Washington, it’s difficult to find a foreign-policy expert who thinks that any good would come of a strike on Iran. Even the neocons have their doubts. The Iraq War, miserable concept that it was, had far more respected backers.

American military options are poor. Surgical air strikes wouldn’t do anything decisive to Iran’s nuclear program, but they would create huge problems for Americans in Iraq and perhaps lead to a two or threefold rise in the price of oil. The U.S. lacks the troops to enforce regime change through a land invasion and has already demonstrated its inability to successfully occupy a Muslim country one-third Iran’s size. Furthermore, Iran, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, is ten years away from a nuclear weapon. Its seemingly nutty current president is losing support in the country. Those most theologically opposed to the Shia Islam that Tehran espouses are the very al-Qaeda Sunnis who set this dreadful train of events in motion in the first place.

So why do leading politicians line up for “The Bush Doctrine: Take Two”? On the Republican side, it might be explained by a desire to cater to elements of the Christian Right that believe a final showdown with Islam is called for on religious grounds, or to talk-radio listeners who want to nuke the “Islamofascists” because that’s what weapons are made for. Such groups form part of the GOP base. But what of Edwards, what of Hillary Clinton—both eager to be on the record for keeping all options on the table? It’s a question that cannot be truthfully answered without reference to the neuralgic subject of the Israel lobby.

It is a tough issue to address, as Gen. Wesley Clark, a middle-of-the-pack Democratic presidential contender in 2004, recently discovered. Upon reading an Arnaud de Borchgrave column that discussed a then incipient Israeli campaign to pressure Hillary Clinton and other Democrats to “publicly support immediate action by Bush against Iran,” he lost his cool, saying to Arianna Huffington, “How can you talk about bombing a country when you won’t even talk to them? It’s outrageous. We’re the United States of America; we don’t do that.” Pressed by Huffington to explain why he was sure Bush would attack Iran, he answered, “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

This was an awkward way to put it; the euphemism surely sounded more contentious than anything Clark might have said straightforwardly. And of course some people chose to ignore Clark’s correct assertion that the Jewish community was very divided on the Iran issue. Within days, the general was in caught in a familiar crossfire, smeared as an instigator of anti-Semitism by some Republican Jewish organizations, his remarks headlined as “Protocols of the New York Money People” by a Wall Street Journal columnist. Soon he was engaged in a humiliating apology and repentance ritual with Abe Foxman of the ADL.

At this point the story could have taken the same path it has virtually every time something similar has happened since 1970—the originator of the “anti-Semitic” gaffe apologizes, some taint remains attached to his name, and everyone is reminded once again of the perils of crossing swords with “the lobby.”

But things took a different course, for significant reasons. It hasn’t yet been established that the blogosphere has changed the nature of American politics in any fundamental way. Obviously it can quickly focus a great deal of attention on something—Trent Lott’s seemingly appreciative remarks on Strom Thurmond’s racial views of 60 years ago, for example—that might have gone completely unnoticed, thus turning Washington into even more of a fishbowl. And some minor lesson can probably be learned from John Edwards’s awkward effort to hire “edgy” left-wing bloggers, with all the unedited vulgarities they bring with them. But blogs may foment serious debate about difficult subjects and change the climate of opinion in meaningful ways. In the aftermath of Herzliya and the Clark episode, it seemed as if this was actually happening.

For within a day or two, one could read in the blogs some surprising assertions that amounted to a truth defense of Wes Clark. It seemed to come primarily from young, or comparatively young, Jewish bloggers. Observations that had been bandied about for years in private seemed to burst forth where many people could see them. This was welcome and suggests a broadening and deepening of the peace movement that so notably failed to stop the Iraq War. Suddenly there were Jewish voices talking about the Israel lobby as an established fact and, to be frank, as a bit of a problem. Significantly, these were not voices from an older and more alienated Chomskyian Left but from an American Prospect-like liberal mainstream.

In early February, Glenn Greenwald, a New York attorney who recently published a book on the Patriot Act, wrote a blog entry that focused on the New York AIPAC gathering attended by both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. Greenwald quoted an article from the New York Sun—there is no more unimpeachably right-wing Zionist source—that featured Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf’s claim that “New York is the ATM for American politicians. Large amounts of money come from the Jewish community. If … you want dollars from that group, you need to show that you’re interested in the issue that matters most to them.” The issue that matters most, the article went on to say, is Israel, and what this group most wants to hear with regard to Israel is commitment to bellicosity toward Iran. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton did their best to comply, though according to a report in the equally Likud-friendly New York Post, Clinton apparently disappointed some in attendance by suggesting that diplomacy might be attempted before war. “This is the wrong crowd to do that with,” commented one attendee.

Greenwald went on to point out that these articles made exactly the same point that Clark made, adding, “It is simply true that there are large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests for the U.S. to militarily confront Iran.”

Greenwald’s post was not the only one. Matthew Yglesias, a young writer with a blog and similar political orientation, also addressed the Clark issue, noting that while Jewish opinion was divided on Iran, “Everything Clark said, in short, is true. What’s more, everyone knows it’s true.” Yglesias pointed out that it is seemingly permissible to refer to the financial clout Jews wield in the Democratic Party if one is being supportive of America’s self-proclaimed “pro-Israel” forces, but if you’re critical of this influence, you’re denounced as an anti-Semite.

Ezra Klein, another young blogger, also referred to the Clark episode, and his post addressed the question that underlies the entire issue: the vulnerability of Israel to Iranian nuclear weapons. Did not the concentration of Jews in a small state surrounded by hostile neighbors raise questions about the usefulness of the Zionist enterprise in general, since the whole point was to make Jews more rather than less secure?

Of course any sensible person recognizes that an Iranian nuclear weapon would raise serious strategic concerns for Israel, likely forcing it into the deterrent posture of mutual assured destruction that the United States had to endure during much of the Cold War. Addressing these dilemmas, one (regrettably anonymous) commenter on Klein’s blog wrote:

I’d suggest a second conclusion: Make friends with the neighbors. We’ve got a long history of doing it. Only this time it would be from a position of strength, which is ultimately the purpose of the State of Israel. Yes, there are deep rooted, generational hostilities at play. But we Jews excel at all sorts of things that make life better for people: the practice of medicine and law, scientific research, and yes, commerce. If there were a real commitment, not just to peace, but to regional prosperity, it would happen.

However “unrealistic” this vision might seem in the near term, it deserves to be quoted at length. Its noble vision stands alone against the tremendously well-funded propaganda edifice of the Israel lobby, from AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League to the American Jewish Committee and multiple other groups, whose dank worldview reaches deep into the conservative think tanks and the upper echelons of the Bush administration. The AIPAC sensibility is expressed in cruder form by right-wing talk-radio hosts who every day try to soften up their listeners to the idea of American nuclear strikes against Muslim cities.

But this hopeless view of the world, however much it is amplified by today’s Jewish establishment, is not the only perspective of American Jews. Indeed it is not even the majority view. A poll by the American Jewish Committee revealed that support among Jews for a military strike against Iran had dropped from 49 percent last year to 38 percent at present.

One could argue that the dovish sentiment expressed by the commenter on the Klein blog is not only more grounded in history, human nature, and the particular Jewish experience than the one we hear from the American Jewish establishment before which Clinton, Edwards, Romney, and Giuliani kowtow. Is it really practical to think that Israel’s long-term security needs can be satisfied by having the United States smash the country’s potential enemies as they arise, again and again?

The blogosphere is playing a role in bringing to the fore these kinds of dissenting views—though they may be majority views—letting them circulate and evolve under the test of critical argument. But even without the blogs, there have been signs that the lobby’s edifice is cracking. How else can one interpret the amazing document published by the American Jewish Committee last month, which accused several prominent American Jews of “anti-Semitism” because of their criticisms of current Israeli policies? It is one thing to claim that Christians who criticize Israel or the American relationship to Israel are motivated by anti-Semitism; this has long been a standard rhetorical tactic. But to wield that word against Jews—several of them very prominent in journalism, culture and academia—seemed so silly as to be a symptom of something like panic, as if the traditional big powers feel the debate about Israel and American foreign policy is veering out of their control.

Perhaps the AJC’s targets really weren’t only Professor Tony Judt or playwright Tony Kushner, or even the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, the latter hardly a strident critic of Israel. As Yglesias bluntly explained it, “the idea, basically, is to scare the goyim who figure that while liberal Jews can take the heat, they probably can’t, and had best just avoid talking about the whole thing.”

Yglesias is on to something important here, though the situation is more complicated than he described. Both Jews and gentiles have been raising the volume of discussion about the American-Israeli relationship and Israeli policies. On the Jewish side, there is a profusion of important peace-oriented websites. The explosion of interest in the Walt-Mearsheimer essay and Jimmy Carter’s book evince a Christian awakening of the Mideast’s critical importance. The perilous present geopolitical context explains this: a great many people wouldn’t risk the opprobrium of the lobby for the sake of the Palestinians, who often wage their struggle far less impressively than one might wish. But letting the lobby influence American foreign policy toward Iraq raises the stakes mightily. Allowing Bibi Netanyahu and his American allies to call the tune of U.S. policy toward Iran is far too much to bear.

But it’s true that many Christians won’t enter this battle without Jewish allies or at least will join it with less enthusiasm. It’s not simply that they can’t take the heat. It’s that those who have spent much time in journalism or academia or trying to influence public policy have generally done so alongside Jews and are accustomed to having Jews play significant roles in their personal and professional lives. To fight a battle without Jewish colleagues, or even against Jewish colleagues, is likely to feel rather lonely. This is no doubt less true for hardcore Christian Zionists—curiously the most aggressively Likudnik of all segments of Christian opinion—than it is for other gentiles. But it is this sentiment that makes the new effervescence of Jewish dissent so important for the country at the present moment. It opens a door for Christians to voice opinions they might otherwise keep to themselves—not for fear of what Abe Foxman might say about them, but out of discomfort of being isolated from the urban, “cosmopolitan,” Jewish-influenced milieu of which they have long been part.

It may be beyond the American people’s power to stop George W. Bush from launching another preventive war. But even though the president and his top advisers can isolate themselves from currents of public opinion, that is less the case for top military officers. And it is far more likely that they will find ways to raise meaningful speedbumps and roadblocks on the route to an expanded war if there is a large enough public outcry against it. Right now there is not. Indeed, key Democrats and Republicans are maneuvering for applause lines in Herzliya as much as in Iowa. There remains a policy-expert consensus that attacking Iran would be very foolish, but it is hardly loud and far from powerful. It has no political force behind it.

That’s why the truth defense floated on behalf of Wes Clark was important, and that’s why the mockery that has greeted the AJC’s claim that Jews who criticize Israel are “anti-Semites” are such hopeful signs: they offer the possibility of a movement rising that could save the United States from compounding the errors it has already made. .

March 12, 2007 Issue