Tripped Up on the Road to Freedom; Good Demos: Bad Demos; No More Euphemisms: It's the War Department; The World Needs a New Kind of War Bonds; Reigns of Terror: In Iraq and in the US; Assassinations Are Us; Democracy Can Wait: First Let's Rubuild...
August 1, 2003
All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in propaganda for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be extended in this direction.
-- Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf
I used to be against the war, but the more I listen to Dan Rather, the more I believe we have to do it.
-- An American woman quoted in the US press.
Tripped Up on the Road to Freedom
Under increasing criticism for misleading the country into attacking Iraq, George W. Bush responded "I know there's a lot of revisionist history going on, but he [Saddam Hussein] is no longer a threat to the free world." The important thing, Bush insisted, was that "the people of Iraq are free."
|We stoop to conquer. "US troops check a schoolgirl in Baghdad for weapons." ©Saurabh Das / AP|
The edition of the San Francisco Chronicle that quoted Mr. Bush was accompanied by a large full-color AP photo captioned "US troops check a schoolgirl in Baghdad for weapons." Two heavily army soldiers look on as the little girl stands apprehensively while a third soldier stoops and inspects her shoes! One must surmise this is just another "price of freedom."
Good Demos. Bad Demos
On June 16, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher declared that the US "endorsed" the student demonstrations in Iran demanding that the country's religious rulers "join the modern world." Is there a list of other demonstrations that the US has endorsed? So why has the US failed to endorse demonstrations in the US? Instead, the White House dismissed millions of anti-war marchers worldwide as nothing more than "a focus group."
No More Euphemisms: It's the War Department
I am one of many patriotic Americans who prefers to call George W. Bush, Resident Bush, since he was not elected to the Oval Office but was installed (like a tacky piece of furniture) by the intervention of the Supreme Court.
Similarly I count myself among a growing number of linguistic refusniks who can no longer deign to refer to the Pentagon crowd as members of the Defense Department.
The US has not defended itself against a foreign power since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. (If we're talking about responding to actual ground assaults on the continental US, America's generals have not defended the nation against foreign aggression once in our country's 227-year history.)
Since WW II, the US has bombed or invaded more than 40 different countries. Not one of those countries attacked the US nor did any of those countries pose a direct military threat to the security of the US homeland.
The Bush Era has been a boom-time for Doublespeak but it's time to start liberating our lexicon by rejecting the military's euphemisms for war-mongering. Let's call a howitzer a howitzer. It's not a "pre-emptive strike," it's an illegal act of armed aggression. Blast through the Matrix of feel-good militarism. Free your mind.
Let's all say it together: "It's the War Department and Don Rumsfeld is the Secretary of War."
The World Needs a New Kind of War Bonds
There outta be a law. Before the Pentagon embarks on the next preemptive invasion of a sovereign foreign country, it should be required to (a) file an environmental impact statement on the potential damage the attack could cause and (b) post a bond sufficient to cover the costs of remediation and restoration.
This is only good business practice. You wouldn't ask a building contractor to tear down your garage and start building a new structure without knowing that the builder was fully bonded. Posting a bond is an act of simple prudence to assure that the work will be completed and done to expectations.
No country should be allowed to start a war without posting a bond sufficient to repair the expected damage that its actions may cause. And, if Congress doesn't have the spine to debate the Constitutionality of the next invasion, perhaps the public will demand accountability before their children are driven even further into fiscal insolvency.
Reigns of Terror: In Iraq and in the US
In the April 24 Washington Post, reporter Peter Finn recounted how Iraqi dissidents were targeted by Saddam Hussein's Baath political machine. In one instance, Finn reported, a teenage student named Mazen Salman Kahachi "vanished with most of his senior class in November 5, 1981 after one of them wrote an anti-government message on the blackboard." The class was turned in by the school principal.
With Hussein's fall, Iraqis are "pouring out memories of their terror and helplessness as an all-powerful state swept up its victims at the slightest utterance of dissent and gagged those left behind."
The horrors of Iraq's Mukharabat have been documented in frightening detail in the aftermath of the collapse of the Baath Party government. Political spying, intelligence operations against civilians, people encouraged to tattle on one another and identify dissidents, citizens taken off the streets, detained without charge and held incommunicado for years without hearings on legal representation.
But what is really chilling is the realization that each of these techniques of state-imposed terrorism are now also operational inside the US under the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.
Here is the multiple-choice question of the day: The Mukhabarat is the equivalent of:
(A) the CIA
(B) the FBI
(C) The Department of Homeland Security
(D) All of the above.
Assassinations Are Us
In a chilling Los Angeles Times feature, John Daniszewski recounted how Iraq's feared intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, methodically assassinated the Baathist regime's domestic and foreign opponents. According to Daniszewski, "The Iraqi Intelligence Service established a unit to assassinate Saddam Hussein's enemies at home and abroad that claimed 66 successful Ôoperations' between 1998 and 2000."
The tools included "poisonous gas distinguished as perfume or explosives that would detonate when the car of the target passed by." The use of poisoned perfume suggests that some of the Mukhabarat's targets may have been women. Some of the intelligence papers discovered after the fall of Baghdad date from "a time when prominent Shiite clerics were killed in suspicious circumstances inside Iraq." These documents also corroborated the "long-standing accusation that Hussein sanctioned assassinations of his opponents abroad."
The Mukhabarat plotted to assassinate George HW Bush in Kuwait in 1993 using "silencers for guns and remote-control explosives." (The Times article fails to mention that in this global game of tit-for-ratta-tat-tat, it was GHWB who "started it" by attempting to kill Saddam Hussein with a special "bunker-buster" bomb designed by scientists working for the University of California.)
What is really chilling is the recognition that these same tactics have been employed for years by America's CIA, which has been plotting the murders of foreign leaders for longer than Hussein's Baath Party has been in existence.
Like the Makhabarat, the CIA's kit-bag of deadly tools has included remote-controlled explosives, poisons, weapons with silencers, chemical agents and, in the case of Fidel Castro, exploding cigars and booby-trapped clams.
The CIA has been authorized to murder civilian and political opponents in other countries (including members of Afghanistan's Taliban government). The Pentagon has been authorized to murder the leader of a foreign government (President Hussein of Iraq) and members of his family. While Mr. Bush has empowered the CIA to murder US citizens overseas (one US citizen was killed by a Hellfire missile in an attack in Yemen), there is still no evidence that the CIA has been given the go-ahead to murder citizens inside the US.
That kind of activity traditionally rests in the hands of the FBI and the ATF. While the stand-offs, sieges and massacres at Waco and Ruby Ridge are well-known, the FBI has a long history of targeting political dissidents inside the US. In the turbulent 1960s, the FBI, acting under the secret Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTEPRO) engineered the murder of Black Panther Leader Mark Hampton. When Hampton's family sued the FBI in a Chicago trial, the government was forced to pay Hampton's family $1.2 million for staging the assassination.
Democracy Can Wait: First Let's Rebuild Iraq's Political Terror System
The New York Times revealed on July 22 that the US "has moved to resurrect parts of Iraq's once-feared intelligence service the Mukhabarat." In a reversal of the US' stated policy to ban from power all former members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party, Washington is secretly reaching out to Saddam's former spies, torturers and hitmen (perhaps, including some of the men who masterminded the attempted assassination of Bush's father in 1991).
The operation is being handled through back-channels via the Iraqi National Congress. The INC is fronted by Iraqi expatriate and escaped convict Ahmad Chalabi, the man who had the CIA's nod to become the puppet-ruler of "liberated" Iraq. Officially Washington is not supposed to know of the operation but the Times reports that Iraqi intelligence officers "contend that the United States is orchestrating the effort."
Abdulaziz Kubaisi, the INC official tasked with rebuilding the Mukhabarat, told the Times without hesitation that "we are sending back information to the Pentagon, to people who are responsible. They know the nature of what we're doing. There is coordination. We have representatives of (US Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld (at the Congress)." Kubaisi was referring to the Iraqi National Congress, the supposedly independent body of US-vetted Iraqis.
Officials in Washington told the Times the idea of reviving the hated Mukhabarat is only in the discussion stage but the Times reports that "recruitment efforts began two months ago." The reason cited for reviving the Mukhabarat is that it could prove useful in monitoring Iran's attempts to influence events inside Iraq.
Edward Walker, president of the Middle East Institute and a former US Ambassador to Egypt warned the Times that rebuilding Iraq's spy agencies before restoring Iraq's sovereign government was an ill-conceived scheme that could easily backfire. "This sets a bad precedent because you don't' have a government in place," Walker said. In addition, entrusting control of the Mukhabarat to Chalabi's INC was dangerous "because Chalabi's party is a minority [that] doesn't represent the majority of the Iraqis."
America the Booty-full
Many Americans see their country as a Christian, peace-loving, giving nation. Many people around the world, meanwhile, see the US as an immoral war-loving, taking nation. In a new book of collected essays, Spiritual Perspectives on America's Role as Superpower (Skylight Paths Publishing), evangelical Christian Tony Campolo offers the following observation:
"Americans do not realize that the wealth we have gained since the middle of the 20th century has slowly made us into a very selfish people. We know that after WW II we helped rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan, and we still think that the same kind of generosity marks our present-day foreign policy. That is not the case. Of the 22 industrialized nations of the world, the US is dead last in per capita giving to the poor peoples of the world. On a per capita basis, for every dollar that America gives to the poor of the world, the people of Norway give 70."
Affluenza ad Aspera
The copywriters at CitiBank have produced a new string of print ads designed to promote mindless self-aggrandizing consumption. Stripped of its cute visuals (one features a photo of a little kid ogling shelves of expensive toys through a store window), the naked ad copy reads as follows:
Wouldn't it be nice if occasionally the things you really wanted came before the things you needed? That's where we come in, offering tools like online banking and free checking with direct deposit. All so you can live happily within your budget. And then when something comes along that you've gotta have, you can.
CitiBank. Live Richly.
A Prayer for Waroholics
Alcoholics Anonymous has popularized the Serenity Prayer, which was composed by Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It reads:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
In his new book, The Wisdom of Serpents Reflections on Religion and Foreign Policy (Forward Movement Publications), Roland S. Homet Jr. offers a Serenity Prayer for the Military. This revised prayer reads as follows.
God, grant us the serenity
To tolerate conduct that does not threaten us,
To focus on real threats as priorities for response
And to understand what motivates other people.
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