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What happens when the rich and powerful rule the stupid? It's called America.
We're a nice people, a generous people, a kind people. And yet the policies of our government are cruel and nakedly self-interested....
Somewhere in that ocean of acute perception that we know as Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time , Proust makes the following observation. He says that the most common thing about humans is not common sense but human kindness. Unhappily, he goes on, our natural disposition to kindness is always defeated by self-interest....
We have nothing against Muslims in the abstract. We have no reason to be unkind to them. But since they happen to be sitting on a huge proportion of the world's oil resources we feel obliged to choose death and worse for them routinely. Our desire to be kind is routinely overwhelmed by our government's desire to act in what it perceives to be the self-interest (the gravely intoned "national interest") of the people it represents. Our kindness ends up expressed as violence.
Proust himself was always generous, or kind, before all else. But his native generosity became the acid of social criticism when his unflinching, unapologetic regard fell upon the cruelty of self-interest. He considered cruelty more than anything else just maddeningly, puzzlingly, infinitely stupid. The stupidity of class arrogance. The stupidity of anti-Semitism. The stupidity of homophobia. Time and again, he discovered the self-interested desire to be an aristocrat, to have wealth, or simply to get laid at the root of the most unspeakable cruelty. For the infinitely gentle Marcel Proust, deliberate unkindness, especially when motivated by self-interest, hurt him and angered him more than anything else he could name.
But I think we need to add something to Proust's intelligent observation. We need to add the further irony that we are wrong to think that cruelty functions in our self-interest. Cruelty does not work. In both the short and long run, cruel efforts to maintain self-interest have the consequence of making us conspire against ourselves. By acting cruelly in our self-interest we actually become conspirators in our own defeat....
A root problem is that all of our decisions go into a rational machinery, a social calculus of "benefit." Thus, the infamous "cost-benefit analysis." So we think, "If I clear-cut this forest I can sell the timber and plant soybeans for export to China, a very profitable move. But if I cut down the forest we may not have air to breathe or a stable climate in the future. Animals will be deprived of habitat. Species may go extinct. Oh, fuck it, why should my forest be responsible for the future when it can be profitable now?"...
The ruling order has no moral right to rule because it makes its multiform daily purpose the defeat of the future. The logic that concludes that our "interest" is about "profit" assures a future defined by cruelty (usually rationalized as "collateral damage" or "incidental take"), but in the long run it will be understood as self-defeat....
National self-interest is indistinguishable from global legalized violence aimed at humans, the natural world, and ultimately being itself, before which our captains of state stand with all the wonder of a gourmand before a steak. They're going to eat it up. What if our kindness-defeating self-interest is only, from the perspective of the future, the repeated application of a rapacious and self-defeating logic? Love America? How could we ever learn to love something that understands its interests in these ways? Not even the ever forgiving Marcel Proust, for all his desire to find kindness common among us, could possess the generosity of spirit to love or forgive such a stupid thing. --Curtis White, Village Voice, 12.03.03
facts and events from Harper's Weekly Review...
Animal-rights activists were organizing opposition to a bill in the Texas House that would define many of their activities as acts of terrorism.... U.S. Marines, in what has been called Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken, are planning to use "Poultry Chemical Confirmation Devices" as part of an early-warning system against chemical weapons; the devices, which consist of chickens in cages, will be installed on top of the Marines' Humvees before they roar off into battle....Defense Department officials told reporters that their psychological tactics were more sophisticated than ever; the Air Force, for example, has been broadcasting programs that mimic the style of local Iraqi programming....The officials were hoping to learn from their mistakes in Afghanistan, where 500 radios were air-dropped to civilians. None survived impact....The surgeon who branded the initials of the University of Kentucky into a woman's uterus before he removed it defended his actions and said he was simply marking the midline of the organ. "I felt this was honorable since it made reference to the college of medicine where I received my medical degree." Nine other women asked to join the lawsuit after discovering that they too had been branded. David Miller, a Republican state senator from Iowa, called for a creation of a "Commission on the Status of Men" to figure out what has gone wrong for the American male. --02.25.03
"The United States denied using food as a weapon against North Korea but continued to withhold approval of grain shipments....The wife of the president of the European Central Bank compared the Israeli occupation of Palestine to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.... The F.B.I. called off its manhunt for five Middle Eastern men who were supposedly smuggled into the United States for unknown sinister purposes and admitted that the story was a big lie made up by a snitch eager to ingratiate himself with the agency....President Bush revealed his new economic plan, the centerpiece of which is the repeal of most taxes on corporate dividends. The plan, which would not affect people whose stocks are in tax-sheltered retirement plans such as IRAs or 401Ks, would primarily benefit the very wealthy. "You hear a lot of talk in Washington," Bush said in response to critics, "that this benefits so-and-so or this benefits this, the kind of the class warfare of politics." Reporters noticed that the Bush Administration has quietly eliminated a Labor Department program that produced a monthly report on mass layoffs." 01.15.03
"It was reported that Condoleezza Rice is sometimes teased by her colleagues in the White House for speaking in complete sentences. A new study found that autism is on the rise....President George W. Bush, who spent much of his holiday clearing brush down at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, mentioned North Korea on his way to grab a cheeseburge....Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was inaugurated as President of Brazil; the United States snubbed the celebration of Brazil's first leftist, working-class president by sending the U.S. trade representative, Robert Zoellick, whom Lula dismissed as "the subsecretary of a subsecretary of a subsecretary," after Zoellick warned that Brazil would be exporting its products to Antarctica if it didn't support President Bush's economic policies....Prozac was approved for children." 01.07.03
"A coalition of Canadian peace groups announced that it will send weapons inspectors to the United States....Iraq shot down an American Predator drone, and allied jets bombed a command-and-control post near Tallil....The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency announced that it will solicit proposals for a device to identify people by means of smell; the scheme is based on a theory, so far unproven, that every person has a unique, genetically determined odor. A Delta Airlines....The American Peace Corps was told that it is no longer welcome in Russia. --01.02.03
"The Department of Justice added Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Armenia to the list of countries whose adult male citizens residing in the U.S. must register with federal authorities but later dropped Armenia after it was pointed out that most Armenians are Christian..... The United States, which edited Iraq's weapons declaration before distributing it to other members of the U.N. Security Council, removed the names of 150 companies that were listed as contributors to Iraq's arms programs." --12.24.02
"Thousands of gentoo and Magellanic penguins were found paralyzed and dying on the beaches of the Falkland Islands. Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Fish fell from the sky in northern Greece." --12.17.02
"Prominent American writers such as Richard Ford, Michael Chabon, and Billy Collins contributed to a State Department anthology on what it means to be an American writer. The collection is banned in the United States under the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which prohibits the domestic dissemination of American propaganda meant for foreign audiences." --12.10.02
What's Wrong And What's Right With Sunday's Anti-Bush "Cause Celebre"
On Sunday morning the Internet was buzzing with the latest report of Bush's hawkish proclivities. According to Neil Mackay of Sunday Herald, a newspaper in Glascow, Scotland, "Bush planned Iraq 'regime change' before becoming President." That's what the headline read, and Mackay apperared to imply that he based this belief upon what he read in a think tank study published in September, 2000, "Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century," by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). One other source is mentioned in the story, an unnamed document written by Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz prior to the PNAC study, which may have been the extent of their participation in the study. (See below.) The piece concludes with a reaction quote by a British MP.
Since no url was provided by Mackay, I Googled the web address for the PNAC, quickly visited the site, and skimmed the pdf file of the study. The file is 78 pages long, and it became clear that the site would have to be revisted when I had more time to consider Mackay's contentions more fully. Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby were identified as having participated in the PNAC study, as did Bill Kristol, who was not mentioned in the Mackay story. I found no evidence that the study was "a secret blueprint for US global domination," having been able to view it almost immediately upon visiting the PNAC site, nor did my brief viewing of the pdf file reveal "that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change' even before he took power in January 2001." Unfortunately, when I had the time to return to the PNAC site later in the day, it could not "be displayed"; same with the the pdf file. Perhaps now it really is secret. (See update at end.)
Fortunately, Norm Dixon's Counterpunch story on the exploitation of 9/11, posted last Wednesday, provides us with a history of PNAC and the study in question, the latter having roots back to 1992 and Cheney's activities in the first Bush administration. Dixon doesn't mention "that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change' even before he took power in January 2001." Personally, when the two pieces were read side-by-side, I found Dixon's report of the PNAC study to be more instructive and more measured. (Mackay reports that the "secret blueprint for US global domination... [was] uncovered by the Sunday Herald." Uncovered for the second time in 5 days?) The relevant section of the Dixon piece follows here. --Politex, Sept. 15, 2002
Update. A reader sent me a link to the first half of the study from a Google cache source outside the PNAC site. Click here
In 1997, the PNAC was established to promote ``American global leadership''. Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld (now US defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (now deputy defence secretary) and Jeb Bush (Bush junior's brother) were signatories to the PNAC's founding ``statement of principle''. It stated bluntly: ``[Conservatives] seem to have forgotten the essential elements of the Reagan administration's success: a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposely promotes American principles abroad; and a national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities .
``America has a role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.''.
The PNAC argued that the US must ``increase defense spending significantly'' and ``modernize our armed forces if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today'' ; ``strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values''; ``promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad''; and ``accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles''..
``Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today'', the PNAC conceded. ``But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.''.
In September 2000, the PNAC fleshed out its imperial vision with the release of a report, Rebuilding America's defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. The project's participants included Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby (now Cheney's chief of staff) and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol..
The report's introduction noted that the US ``is the world's only superpower, combining preeminent military power, global technological leadership and the world's largest economy At present the US faces no global rival. America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible''. To preserve this ``desirable strategic situation'', the report stated, the US ``requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future''..
The report's authors admitted that they had built upon the 1992 draft of the Pentagon's Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), which was prepared for Cheney, who was then US defence secretary in the Bush senior administration, Wolfowitz and Libby..
This document stated bluntly that the US must continue to ``discourage ... advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or ... even aspiring to a larger regional or global role ... [To achieve this, the US] must retain the preeminent responsibility for addressing ... those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends, or which seriously unsettle international relations.''.
This was an admission that the massive build-up of US military might in Europe, Asia and the Middle East after 1945 was not simply directed at containing ``Soviet expansionism'', crushing Third World revolutions and controlling natural resources such as Middle Eastern oil -- as vital to US interests as they were. It was also aimed at enmeshing its potential capitalist rivals -- Britain, France, Germany and Japan -- within US-dominated military alliances designed to prevent them developing independent armed forces..
The PNAC report endorsed the DPG's ``blueprint for maintaining US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests... The basic tenets of the DPG, in our judgment, remain sound.''.
The PNAC report recommended that the US turn around the 1990s ``decade of defence neglect'' and boost war spending to a minimum of 3.5-3.8% of GDP (up from around 3%) by adding US$15 billion to US$20 billion annually; increase the numbers of active-duty military personnel from 1.4 million to 1.6 million; and ``reposition US forces ... by shifting permanently based forces to southeast Europe [the Balkans] and Southeast Asia [preferably the Philippines and/or Australia], and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing US strategic concerns in East Asia [meaning the `containment' of China and the `defence' of Taiwan]''..
The report also urged Washington to develop the capability to ``fight and win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars'' and at the same time ``perform the `constabulary' duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions''; maintain ``nuclear strategic superiority'' by developing smaller ``bunker-buster'' nuclear weapons and resuming nuclear testing; develop the ``star wars'' global ``missile defence system''; and ``control the new `international commons' of space and `cyberspace' and pave the way for the creation of a new military service -- US Space Forces -- with the mission of space control[!]''..
As all the above indicates, the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz cabal have had a long-standing program for the expansion of US hegemony. What it lacked was the ``trigger'' to implement it or the existence of a serious enough ``threat'' that would convince the US people to abandon their desire for a ``peace dividend'' and their opposition to US war casualties abroad.
REMBER THE WWII JAPANESE-AMERICAN INTERNMENT CAMPS? "Are we headed toward martial law? Last week Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said in Detroit that he envisions a situation in which the public will demand internment camps for Arab Americans. If terrorists attack the U.S. for a second time and if "they come from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you can forget about civil rights," he said." --Village Voice, July 24, 2002
"Pravda.Ru sources in the Gulf have confirmed that the military build-up by the US Forces has begun, with “tent cities” being built in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, while in Washington military sources have confirmed that operations have started. The new French Foreign Minister, Dominique Villepin, told French diplomats that she expected the military action from the USA against Iraq to come “soon” after a meeting with US National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice. Military strategists in Washington have leaked to the press reports that the first strike would be with special forces, possibly Delta Force and CIA operationals, together with British SAS and SBS, setting up blockades along Iraq’s road arteries, while aircraft carried out punitive missions and advanced bases were set up in Mosul, in the north and Basra in the south. This, according to Major Charles Heyman, spokesperson for Jane’s Information Group, could take place “much sooner than expected”, in August or September. These bases would be used in a second phase next Spring with a large invading force of some 250,000 troops liaising with Kurdish and Shi’ite guerrillas." --Pravda RU, July 24, 2002
One of the methods al Qaeda used to examine its network's status was to leak information to various operatives and see what got back to the CIA and FBI. Since the information was always about pending attacks, and the United States had adopted a policy of publicizing threatened attacks, al Qaeda was able over a period of months to map out at least some of its vulnerabilities and deal with them.
Obviously, U.S. intelligence began to realize what al Qaeda was doing months ago. It also was stepping up its penetration of the network during that time. When it came upon a threat from a source known to be compromised, the public announcement of the threat forced al Qaeda to suspect loyal elements. Thus, just as the United States was confused about al Qaeda, al Qaeda wound up profoundly confused about which of its assets were secure and which weren't. This has forced them to postpone planned operations.
Finally, al Qaeda did not want to act before it had to. It may be global, but its members number in the thousands and its effective operatives are in the hundreds. With those numbers, operations are carried out only when they must be. And given the fact that the United States was making certain that no one doubted al Qaeda's existence and effectiveness, the need did not arise.
What al Qaeda did instead was reinvent its organization. It transferred authority from senior officials who were isolated in Afghanistan and Pakistan to junior officials whom they believed were not known to the CIA -- or at least not compromised. Then they carried out systematic tests of the system to identify potential traitors. They dispersed this force around the world, to deny the United States a single, clear target. Finally, they loaded U.S. intelligence sensors with endless streams of information about potential operations, so that real operations could be shielded in the morass of lies.
From al Qaeda's point of view, the relative disappointment of Sept. 11...the attack on the Pentagon failed to destroy the U.S. military's command and planning center; the attack on the White House ended in a Pennsylvania field....has been to some extent reversed. The Islamic world knows not only that al Qaeda is alive, but also that the United States is obsessed with it. This demonstrates al Qaeda's intrinsic power throughout the Islamic world.
Further, as al Qaeda disperses, U.S. operations must disperse. This leads to greater friction between the Islamic nations and the United States. A possible Indian attack on Pakistan, even with nuclear weapons, also would fit right into al Qaeda's plans. Chaos in Pakistan would allow al Qaeda to carve out a secure base of operations and create sanctuary for Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan. Finally, and most important, it would allow al Qaeda to argue that Christians, Jews and Hindus had formed an alliance to crush Islam. From al Qaeda's point of view, the devastation of Pakistan would be a small price to pay.
Therefore, al Qaeda sees itself in a strong position in the long term. It has taken steps to make certain that U.S. intelligence can never shatter the network in a single, effective operation. They have created serious credibility problems for the Bush administration by forcing it to issue regular alerts for operations that were never seriously planned or that were aborted once the threat was announced. Tensions within the U.S. alliance have not been decisive but they have been there. And al Qaeda has demonstrated, in India, their ability to draw major powers in desired directions.
This last point is the key. In the long run, al Qaeda's ability to force the United States not only to focus on it, but also to affirm its power and danger is what will make the group effective in the Islamic world. Therefore, its thinking is that as long as the United States is prepared to underwrite its credibility publicly, it can preserve resources and protect against security failures simply by biding its time.
This is not what we expected it to do. It is, however, what al Qaeda has chosen to do in response to U.S. policy. Now it appears to be moving toward a sustainable operational tempo. While undoubtedly building up to a new attack in the United States, al Qaeda also is beginning operations against softer targets outside the country, using tactics that do not use up operatives in suicide attacks.
Al Qaeda never ceases to surprise. However, when we look through its eyes, we can begin to see the reasons behind its relative inaction over the past months and the reason why it will not take massive risks until it has to. It is building credibility in the Islamic world and creating tension between the United States and Muslim countries. --Stratfor 06.17.02
"Which Presidents asserted the most influence on the political process after they left office? Thomas Jefferson and George H.W. Bush....Working through his trusted associates Dick Cheney and Brent Scowcroft, Bush virtually directed his son's Presidential campaign and helped select his Cabinet. Cheney remains the primary political link between the Bush's." Walter Scott, PARADE, June 16, 2002
"Hey, remember that wacky joyride the U.S. Navy gave last February to a bunch of Texas oil men and big contributors to a foundation chaired by former President George Bush Sr.? Remember how the submarine, with the fat cats playing around at the controls, surfaced into a Japanese fishing boat and killed nine people, including four teenagers? Well, little George was really sorry about his and Daddy's pals killing those Japanese kids and all, so he promised to salvage the boat from the bottom of the sea and send the bodies home to Japan at last. Little George was so sorry, in fact, he put aside $40 million for the project, Reuters reports. So guess which private company got the big contract to haul the boat away? The Halliburton Corporation! You remember, that's where little George's bestest buddy, Bang-Bang Cheney, used to work, the place that paid Cheney $36 million last year as a going-away present for manipulating his old contacts from Daddy's administration to land great big government contracts for the company. Now guess what? The salvage project has hit a few glitches, so it looks like it will cost even more than $40 million now, and that means lots more federal money in Halliburton's coffers! Ah yes, friends and family, that's all that really matters, isn't it?" --Chris Floyd, 9/4/01
Since, As Prez, Poppy Approved Barrick $10 Billion Gold Scheme, And Barrick Later Gave Poppy A Job And Junior $148,000 In GOP Campaign Money, Will The Barrick Merger Get Approved By Junior?
"Speaking of giving people the business, our old friends Barrick Gold Corporation won a great victory for freedom last week. That's corporate freedom, of course. The Canadian mining conglomerate used a U.K. court to force an American journalist to remove material from his Web site because it contained an article criticizing the company, CBS.com reports. As Eye readers will recall, Barrick has been using Britain's loosey-goosey libel laws to pressure the U.K.'s Observer newspaper into censoring Gregory Palast's reports on the company's political activities. Last week, facing massive costs from Barrick's deep-pocketed, long-term legal siege, the newspaper capitulated - and Palast's offending piece was summarily removed from his American Web site. Palast's crime was detailing Barrick's use of an obscure 19th-century U.S. law to gobble up prime public land for a mere $10,000 - from which they extracted $10 billion in gold. The scheme was approved in the waning days of President George H.W. Bush's administration. Daddy George then went on to a bit of richly rewarded consultant work for Barrick, schmoozing various dictators to cut sweetheart deals for the company. Barrick later reciprocated by pumping $148,000 into GOP coffers during Baby George's presidential run. There's nothing technically illegal about this kind of civic lubrication, of course (see above item); as Ross Perot would say, it's just "interestin.'" But Barrick claimed the reporting of these indisputable facts caused them "great embarrassment and distress." Palast also had the temerity to mention public allegations made by Amnesty International that a Barrick subsidiary in Tanzania had used death squads to kill 50 independent miners when they refused to get off company land. Barrick denied these allegations and said they didn't own the subsidiary at the time of the killings; Amnesty International said it couldn't verify the allegations because the Tanzanian government is blocking an independent investigation. By reporting the indisputable fact that the allegation had been made and the indisputable fact that Barrick had denied it, Palast and the Observer had, the lawsuit said, "seriously damaged" the poor, suffering billion-dollar behemoth - which, by the by, is set to become the world's second-largest gold-mining firm later this year if its merger with American-based Homestake Mining is approved by the, er, Bush Administration. Gee, wonder if the merger will go through? We may never know, of course - if Barrick doesn't want us to." --Global Eye, 8/13/01
"Russia is actually much closer to developing an effective anti-ballistic missile defense system than the United States. Russia's latest S-400 surface-to-air missile system is currently in its final stage of testing and is due to enter service in 2001-2002. The S-400 is the only SAM system in the world that has been designed from the very start with anti-ballistic missile capability in mind. Development of such systems became possible following the 1997 correction to the 1972 ABM treaty accepted by the US and Russia during negotiations in New York. The correction made a more accurate distinction between strategic and non-strategic ABM defenses. While the S-400, its predecessor - the S-300 and its anti-ballistic adaptation designated "Antey" - are unmatched by any other long-range SAM system in the world, there is already the S-500 in the final stages of development. Successful export of S-300 systems made Russian SAM manufacturers highly productive and competitive. In addition, when the ABM treaty was modified to allow only one ABM system for each the USSR and America, the USSR deployed a limited ABM system to protect its capital, Moscow." --Area 51, 7/30/01
"Here's a proven formula for human disaster: Take one part avarice from Monsanto corporation, add one part arrogance from federal officials, mix, spray on a small foreign country, then cover up the mess with official secrecy. This is the formula used in Vietnam, where Pentagon officials liberally doused the countryside (and people) with a monsoon of Monsanto's toxic defoliant, Agent Orange. At the time, corporate and government officials both claimed that while this stuff would strip a jungle's foliage bare, it posed no health threat to humans. They lied -- as we learned after 50,000 birth defects, hundreds of thousands of cancers, and untold numbers of deaths from Agent Orange exposure. Now, Monsanto and our government are applying their disastrous formula to Colombia, where hundreds of thousands of gallons of Monsanto's toxic herbicide, Roundup, are being sprayed on the jungles and the people. Once again, our government claims that while this stuff will decimate a field of coca (from which cocaine is made), it poses no risk to humans. And, once again, they're lying. Indeed, Monsanto's own label warns that Roundup is a deadly threat to plants, pets, people, and all other living things. Plus, the Roundup being sprayed in Colombia is supercharged, creating toxic exposure 100 times higher than allowed in the U.S. Not to worry, say the officials, for our satellite-directed planes are so precise that only the coca is getting sprayed. Yet the people who live there testify that their villages, water supplies, vegetable crops, and even school yards are routinely drenched, causing widespread sickness. The official Monsanto-government lie was embarrassingly exposed last December when Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., went to Colombia to witness the pinpoint accuracy of our spraying. Standing well away from the coca field, the senator was drenched in Roundup on the very first flyover. Oops." --Jim Hightower, 7/27/01
Many have been having fun calling Bush's Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "Dr. Strangelove," both for the weird faces he makes during his photo ops as well as his weird policy throwbacks to the Cold War. Imagine our surprise last week, when we learned from Nicholas Lemann in his New Yorker story about Bush and his RMA defense plan, that one of the thinkers behind Bush's plan, Herman Kahn, was actually the model for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove character in Kubrick's film prediction of world-wide nuclear destruction. The connection between Kahn, the original Dr. Strangelove, and Bush is that a colleague of Kahn's at the Rand think tank in the 50's was Andrew Marshall (now, age 79), Bush's speechwriter on matters of military defense and the head of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. Indeed, the very conservative and very paranoid Marshall is really the man Bush is using to conduct a broad review of the military, not Rumsfeld. Indeed, Rumsfeld and his lieutenants, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, and James Roche, are all protegees of Andrew Marshall, and it's Marshall's crackpot cold war scenario that is the Bush playbook for our nation's new military strategy. In short, be afraid, be very afraid. How in the world has this happened? To get a fuller story, you'll have to read Lemann's piece and an overview of the available documents. In the meantime, here are a few observations to suggest why this subject demands your further attention.
This past week both Congress and military leaders have voiced concern that the Bush administration has been keeping them out of the loop about what is going on in the higher reaches of Pentagon planning. Here's what Lemann writes about that: "New technology makes it possible to hope for the great reduction, or even the elimination, of Carl von Clausewitz's "fog of war," the enveloping confusion of the battlefield. Maybe there would be no battlefield, no "closing with the enemy"—just people at terminals launching missiles.To the R.M.A. crowd, the end of the Cold War means that the main threat to the United States in the next few decades will come from smaller nations that have acquired the new missiles and computers, not to mention chemical and biological weapons. (Marshall and his followers also believe that the next world power will be China, but not for a while; one of Marshall's summer studies involved war games set in the future against "a large Asian country.") Rather than attacking traditional military targets, these "street-fighter states" could aim at American water supplies, or oil wells, or forests. In response, instead of our stationing large conventional forces abroad, R.M.A. strategists want us to be able to respond instantaneously to enemies who might be attacking from any direction, with no warning. The R.M.A. isn't overtly ideological, but it makes for a good fit with a foreign policy that is suspicious of international alliances and prefers to see the United States act mainly alone and mainly to protect itself. (It makes for a good fit, too, with the Administration's other leading military cause, missile defense.) The R.M.A. is supposed to be an appropriate defense policy for a time of public intolerance for drawn-out conflicts, since engagements would theoretically play themselves out rapidly." Are you getting the sense that democratic institutions such as Congress and the voice of the people are being taken out of the mix? See any good science fiction war films lately? Apparently, they were documentaries.
The question, then, for Bush and his Strangeloves is how to keep this information from the citizens and their elected representatives until it's too late to change the plan? William Crow, "the retired admiral who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the George H.W. Bush Administration and who still moves in military circles," would like to think that Marshall, Rumsfeld, and Bush have already exposed themselves too much, but perhaps that's thinking too rationally: "There's going to be a storm. Somebody once told me that if you want to change things you say, 'It's perfect,' and then you start changing. By the time they discover what you're doing, it's too late. If you announce it ahead of time, all the forces muster, and you'd be amazed by how effective they can be. They all have congressional lobbies. See, they're too late. They've already made the mistake. The perception has gotten out of control." Perhaps. But look how far along the Strangelove Administration is: "A summary of the main ideas of the R.M.A. leaves out something important: how maximally threatening it is to the bureaucratic interests of the three departments of the American military—the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. Each service organizes itself according to big "platforms," expensive pieces of equipment on which weapons are mounted. The Navy is divided into carrier battle groups, the Army partially into armored divisions, and the Air Force partially into tactical fighter wings. The most prestigious slots in each service are those offering command of the big platforms, especially in direct combat. The defense-contracting industry is also oriented around building the big platforms, and so is the relationship between the Pentagon and Congress, since contractors try to spread production of the platforms across as many congressional districts as possible. In addition to the three services, there are regional commands, oriented around large permanent overseas military bases that the United States has maintained for decades. Over all, the United States' defense posture is based on the idea that we should be equipped to fight two "major theatre wars" simultaneously. The R.M.A.'s supporters are skeptical about every single item on that list. They want to do away with the two-major-theatre-wars defense posture because they believe it locks the armed forces into their present form, and there probably won't be major theatre wars on the Persian Gulf model in the future anyway. They don't like overseas bases and other "forward deployments," because the troops are too vulnerable to attack from enemy missiles. (The Gulf War, in R.M.A. circles, was not the harbinger of the military future, because it involved an elaborate forward deployment, Operation Desert Shield, that took six months to complete.) The R.M.A. would greatly de-emphasize the big platforms, because they're vulnerable, too, and because advances in long-range-missile technology make them unnecessary. R.M.A. thinkers don't like the defense-contracting process, because it locks us into particular weapons systems for decades at a time. In fact, most of them are suspicious of the basic division of the armed forces into three services (because the services resist the coördination that is at the heart of the R.M.A.). One study produced by Marshall's Office of Net Assessment in 1993 says, 'Our initial research indicates that the most difficult part of the transition will come in the area of organizational innovation. Large-scale organizations—especially military organizations—are often highly resistant to change.'"
Look for Bush and his Strangelove Administration to fight our traditional military setup in the name of Reform, but the fact is, like corporate monoplies that Bush appears to favor, the end result would be to centralize life and death military decision-making into the hands of fewer people, most of them being political appointees with highly questionable credentials and motives. Bush's RMA plan is moving away from our democratic procedures and towards a dictatorial structure of Cold War throwbacks sitting with their fingers on launch buttons in front of computers. Yet, Bush is totally behind such a scenario, as he indicated in his RMA speech at the Citadel: "Our military is still organized more for Cold War threats than for the challenges of a new century," Bush said. "He said we'll never be able to mount another Gulf War, because we probably won't have time. He called for such concepts as long-range and unmanned aircraft, 'arsenal ships' (as opposed to carriers), which would be 'packed with long-range missiles to destroy targets from great distances,' and, on land, 'smaller, more agile formations, rather than cumbersome divisions,'" Lemann quotes Bush as saying. Of course, these are Marshall's words, and Bush is simply the sock puppet reading them to the citizens. Lemann holds out the hope that Congress and the military will head off the Bush Administration's very dangerous plans, but, frankly, I'm not as sanguine, knowing how Bush so often gets his way by throwing our money at his problems, making the results our problems. --Politex, 7/16/01 Reprinted from Bush Watch (www.bushwatch.com) (c)2001
At the end of 1997, I spent two months at the DC Metropolitian Police Department on a computer contract. With the talk about the Condit/ Levy case and the DC Police, I want to defend the MPDC. The Congress of the US has funded DC Police to the lowest level I have ever seen. I met a number of wonderful people there and enjoyed my limited contract but it was a run down place to work.
1) In Jan of 98, I would guess 50% of the people in the headquarters STILL used rotary dial telephones.
2) I worked in the Head of IS office, under the director and there were three other people in the three office suite. We had TWO phone lines we shared. Nobody had voice mail because nobody (except the top people) HAD their own phone number.
3) The mainframe computer used by the MPDC was 18 years old. The version of the IBM Operating System on the computer was 12 years beyond the last date of support from IBM. The MPDC barely made Y2K, and only because the Congress at the last minute gave them a "grant" to update their computer.
4) There were 8 elevators in the six story building and at times only ONE worked.
5) To get to the "Snack Bar" in the basement of the building you had to walk across water that was always coming out of a men's room.
6) Most of the Headquarters building was open to the Public. On my first day there, I was given a key to the Men's room. But also told at the same time I would not need it because all the locks were broke.
7) If you were so lucky to get a underground parking permit, there was one problem. They parked the cars three deep. So one of my friends was the mainframe System Programmer. He got to work at 7:00. At 4:00 when he wanted to leave he had to get two other drivers to move their cars so he could get out.
8) From what I was told, only the Chief's Office and Payroll had their own copier. EVERYBODY else had to go to the "copy center" and get copies. The copy center had one self serve machine. If you had a large amount of work, you submitted to be done.
The DC Police Department is not a City Police department, not a state police and not a Federal, it is a mixture of the three. Good people but working under very very poor conditions with strange demands coming from the White House and Congress that they had to do. Levy has probably good people working on her case but with very very limited resources. --Bill, 7/9/01
Q. Do C.I.A. officers tell their families about their work?
A. James Risen, a Washington correspondent who writes about the C.I.A., responds:
"The White House is better protected than it looks, in ways the Secret Service, sensibly enough, will not talk about. While there is always some reason to fear shoulder-fired missiles or similar types of attacks, clearly the first worry — especially after Oklahoma City — is a car or truck bomb. That is why the Clinton administration closed off Pennsylvania Avenue for a three-block stretch, running from the Treasury Department, across the north front of the White House, and extending to the end of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and Blair House, where foreign dignitaries stay. (Pedestrians still walk freely in front of the White House, and teenagers have turned that stretch of the avenue into an in-line skating track.)
"But quietly, bit by bit, the protections have tightened. Over the last year, new barriers have appeared on all the roads leading toward the north side of the White House, and Lafayette Park, on the opposite side of Pennsylvania Avenue, has been surrounded by decorative posts that act as truck barriers. There are other protections. Drive a panel truck anywhere in the vicinity of the White House and expect to get pulled over by the Secret Service, which has grown more aggressive about inspecting loads. Other agents cruise the streets on bicycles, and there are always surveillance teams on the White House roof. There is unconfirmed talk of a sophisticated radar system, but it is unclear what it provides beyond early warning: maybe when the Pentagon builds a prototype for its missile shield, it will start at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"I discovered one more layer of protection quite by accident last year. One morning I was given a sophisticated medical test that involved an injection of radioactive gallium. That afternoon I had an appointment to see President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger. Walking through the entrance hall of the West Wing of the White House, I heard a few beeps. It turns out that there are radioactivity detectors buried in the walls of all approaches to the Oval Office — presumably to warn of small nuclear devices — and the Secret Service was all over me. We got it sorted out, but Mr. Berger joked later that when White House officials treated reporters as if they were radioactive, it was not just a metaphor." --David Sanger
"The United States military has been covertly involved in the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a US parliamentary subcommittee has been told. Intelligence specialist Wayne Madsen, appearing before the US House subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, also said American companies, including one linked to former President George Bush Snr, the father of the current US President, are stoking the Congo conflict for monetary gains. In a prepared testimony seen by Sunday Vision, Wayne Madsen, an American investigative journalist, said on May 17 that US Special forces have been training troops on both sides of the Congo war. He said US defence has at times been using Private Military Contractors (PMCs) to engage in these covert operations because PMCs are far from the reach of congressional investigators." --All Africa, 6/19/01
Well, it certainly seemed clever at the time, and they are quite striking in the air in a Buck Rogers kind of way, but our Air Force's Stealth aircraft are now useless pieces of very expensive scrapmetal. Why? The British have discovered that the Stealth planes are easily tracked, accurate to within 10 meters, by observing the deflections made by the planes as they fly through the grid of cell-phone transmissions that cover any modern country. Anyone with a laptop can plug into the system of cell-phone towers, and using GPS as a reference, pinpoint the planes. So enough already with the B-2's at two billion a pop, every teen hacker from Beijing to Bombay will know where they are anyway. --Kent, 6/14/01
For years it has been the subject of bitter controversy, its existence repeatedly claimed but never officially acknowledged. At last, the leaked draft of a report to be published next week by the European parliament removes any lingering doubt: Echelon, a shadowy, US-led worldwide electronic spying network, is a reality. Echelon is part of an Anglo-Saxon club set up by secret treaty in 1947, whereby the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, divided the world between them to share the product of global eavesdropping. Agencies from the five countries exchange intercepts using supercomputers to identify key words. The intercepts are picked up by ground stations, including the US base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, and GCHQ's listening post at Morwenstow in Cornwall. In the cold war, eavesdropping - signals intelligence, or Sigint as it is known in the trade - was aimed at military and diplomatic communications. Helped by increasingly sophisticated computers, it has now switched to industrial, commercial targets - and private individuals. Echelon computers can store millions of records on individuals, intercepting faxes, phone calls, and emails. The MEP's report - which faced opposition from the British and American governments and their respective security services - was prompted by claims that the US was using Echelon to spy on European companies on behalf of American firms....
"More disturbing, as...the MEPs pointed out, was the threat Echelon posed to privacy. "The real issue is whether Echelon is doing away with individual privacy - a basic human right," he said. The MEPs looked at statements from former members of the intelligence services, who provided compelling evidence of Echelon's existence, and the potential scope of its activities. One former member of the Canadian intelligence service, the CSE, claimed that every day millions of emails, faxes and phone conversations were intercepted. The name and phone number of one woman, he said, was added to the CSE's list of potential terrorists after she used an ambiguous word in an innocent call to a friend. "Disembodied snippets of conversations are snatched from the ether, perhaps out of context, and may be misinterpreted by an analyst who then secretly transmits them to spy agencies and law enforcement offices around the world," Mr Bamford said. The "misleading information", he said, "is then placed in NSA's near-bottomless computer storage system, a system capable of storing 5 trillion pages of text, a stack of paper 150 miles high". Unlike information on US citizens, which officially cannot be kept longer than a year, information on foreigners can he held "eternally", he said." --Guardian, 5/26/01
Bush wears on Secret Service... With Bill Clinton's overextended travels and late-night partying finally done with, you might think the Secret Service would be happy campers. But nooo. Seems they're working just as hard but with less money, and agents (who cost $240,000 to train) are quitting after just a few years. "Our people are tired and that's not good," says Director Brian Stafford. "In the business we're in you cannot be tired." What's wrong with this picture? First, President Bush not only didn't pony up the needed $45 million to hire enough agents and buy the technology to handle the job but he shorted the service $19 million needed to police the 2002 Olympics. Result: Agents will still work 85 to 90 hours of overtime a month. They'll get paid, but the fatigue factor will be a bear. And that's not all. While Bush and his wife, Laura, are homebodies, the prez and his veep have an extended family, resulting in 20 "protectees" needing 24/7 protection. That's the largest number ever. Then there's a new ex-president and ex-first lady. The complaint of departing agents: "What they tell us," says Stafford, "is that they don't have a life." --U.S. News, 5/14/01
EU row bursts over US spying A group of European parliamentarians has cut short a fact-finding mission to the United States after Bush administration officials refused to meet them. The Europeans are investigating persistent reports that the United States government is passing on commercial secrets gleaned from its Echelon electronic evesdropping network to benefit American companies. The head of the European group, Carlos Coelho, said they were concerned and dismayed that scheduled meetings in Washington with the Commerce and State Departments had suddenly been cancelled at the last minute. Echelon - an intelligence-gathering network set up during the Cold War with the co-operation of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - has grown into a complex international system capable of intercepting billions of phone calls, faxes and e-mails around the world. --BBC, 5/10/01
"US deports general who could expose ambassador's dark history...John Negroponte, the administration's pick as ambassador to the United Nations, is rumored to have been involved in the establishment and training of right-wing death squads in Honduras in the 1980s, when he served as ambassador to the Central American country. The one man perhaps most likely to shed light on Negroponte's role, however, was summarily deported from the US just three weeks before Negroponte was tapped for the UN post. Honduran Gen. Luis Alonso Discua helped the US form an "intelligence" squad that is believed to have killed more than 100 Hondurans during Negroponte's tenure there." --Mother Jones, 5/10/01, more from LAT
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