Posted on | April 19, 2013 | No Comments
I recommend tuning in to today’s show. We try to put the events of this week into geopolitical context re: Chechnya, Putin, Saudi Arabian Wahhabis and the Caspian Sea Oil and Gas reserves.
LISTEN to the ARCHIVED link to Friday’s installment of Planet Erstwild’s “Inside the Headlines” w/the Newsvandal
Click HERE for the Boston Bombing show (and more).
Posted on | March 19, 2013 | 11 Comments
And forty-two percent.
That’s the percentage of Americans who do not believe the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq was a mistake. Even with what we knew then, it’s hard to figure that anyone would still endorse the invasion. Given what we know now, it’s a staggering and disheartening number.
But that’s not the half of it.
A closer look at a 10th Anniversary Gallup poll shows a disturbing trend. In 2008, sixty-three percent of Americans believed the invasion was a mistake. Now, with even more perspective and more information and more carnage and a growing human rights mess in Iraq, the percentage of Americans who think the invasion was wrong has dropped to fifty-three percent.
Put bluntly, since Obama first took the White House, more Americans have decided that the war was, in fact, a good idea.
How is this possible?
Although with little sense of irony or contrition, the mainstream media now openly debates the “failures” of Iraq: intelligence failures, a failure of planning, and a failure of oversight. New reports of “waste” and “fraud” only compound this sense of an epic failure. Of course, they stop short of criminality, accountability or complicity. To err is human, after all.
Some of the Neo-Con artists behind the grand pivot from 9/11 to Iraq now wax philosophical about the shortcomings of the big bait and switch. Prime mover Paul Wolfowitz told Fareed Zakaria that, although he really wasn’t an “architect,” he and the royal “they” failed to “understand the tenacity of Saddam’s regime.”
Yup, a little “failure” squirted past Paul’s dental dam of denial, although they remain firmly entrenched in the mouths of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and the cohort of chickenhawks currently biding their time at the American Enterprise Institute.
While some Democrats talk about “failures,” none dare mention the word “lies.” Many who marched lock-step to the beat of a diffident drummer prefer to regard Iraq as a problem of misallocation. The politically-attuned song they sing is a little ditty called “The Bush Administration took its eye off the ball.” They say Team Bush should’ve kept swinging away at Afghanistan rather than taking batting practice on the beleaguered, oil and target-rich nation of Iraq.
But everyone agrees—Saddam is gone. Iraq and the world are better off. Amen.
That’s how Obama modulated his “anti-war” stance as he passed through the semi-permeable “national security” barrier between “us” and “them.” He de-emphasized the mistake and “officially ended” the US part of the war with assurances that the troops left “behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”
Obama’s kinder, gentler “narrative” of what America left behind is both soothing and reassuring to a nation conditioned to conflate support of the troops with support for an unjust war.
Rest assured, America gave Iraq the gift of democracy tied with a yellow ribbon.
Be comforted, because the world and the Iraqi people are better off without Saddam.
The equation couldn’t be simpler. In some ways, the debate ended the moment Saddam’s statue came down in that famous, well-orchestrated bit of stagecraft. Years of conflation built up America’s former ally and customer into a repository of evil. He killed his own people. He tortured his own people. He thumbed his nose at the UN and international law. He invaded other countries. His name was exhaled in the same breath as Hitler’s.
The evil and tyranny of Saddam—bronzed in that statue—ended the moment it fell.
That scene evolved into a persistent orthodoxy which set the baseline for future absolution. Freedom rang. The sacrifices of the troops were justified. Democracy won.
No matter what one can say about the waste, fraud, corruption, torture, death and criminality of the war—no one can argue that Iraq and the world are not better off with one less tyrant. Right?
It turns out that the world is not better off without Saddam. The Middle East is not better off. Most tragically, neither are the majority of the Iraqi people living in the lower two-thirds of that broken, obliterated nation.
The bad things about Saddam didn’t end with the invasion. In fact, the invading army made some of those worse and brought along a host of new problems: Shock and Awe bombing, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, Abu Ghraib, armed militias, Iranian interference, Blackwater, economic privatization and tens of thousands of civilian deaths that touched almost every household.
Even now, Iraqi ex-pats note that many Iraqis miss the days of Saddam. For them, it is a simple calculation: more safety, more wealth, more roads, more water, more electricity and more education. Women in particular were better off under Saddam’s secularist regime. On the eve of the original Gulf War, Saddam’s Iraq boasted one of the Arab world’s largest, best educated middle classes. It is long gone.
And so is the original case for invading, bombing and occupying an easy target of financial opportunity.
Most of the lies were blatant. All of the connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda were obviously manufactured. The WMDs never existed.
But Saddam is gone. And the whole world is better off. Amen.
The orthodoxy not only holds fast on this 10th Anniversary, it is gaining ground.
Therein is the final lie that masquerades as absolution for this young century’s greatest crime.Tweet
Posted on | March 13, 2013 | 6 Comments
Unless your name is Bush and the plane is Air Force One.
In fact, the mainstream media has a long history of bending over backwards to help handle the Bush family’s substantial pile of baggage. Like a team of personal skycaps, they’ve dutifully stored it in the deep, dark memory hole we call “the past.”
Perhaps that is why Jeb “the Smart One” Bush expressed the utmost confidence that, despite a rather disastrous eight years under Brother George, he wouldn’t be weighed down by the Bush name if or when he makes a run at the White House.
No doubt, Jeb is counting on the media to handle the baggage.
His brother slid right by the media’s security checkpoint in 2000. Drug abuse, de facto draft evasion, National Guard hi-jinx, connections to the Bin Laden family, unbelievable financial “luck” from a failed business, bogus education reform…you name it, the media glossed over it.
Nothing seemed to stick in 2004, either. The only carry-on allowed by the gatekeepers was George’s proclamation that he answered to a “higher father,” which wasn’t really considered “baggage” by his God-fearing base of support in Red State America.
But those were just George’s “personal belongings.”
The family’s brimming baggage cart didn’t impede his ascent, nor has it troubled those who came before him.
Long-serving Senator Prescott Bush suffered no ill-effects for his role in the Union Banking Corporation, which was hit by Henry Morgenthau in 1942 for violating the Trading with the Enemy Act.
His son, the weepy, genial patriarch of the Bush clan—GHW “Poppy” Bush—never seemed weighed down by his own long, strange trip through the Cold War. Poppy is the Whack-a-Mole of post-WWII fun and games. His name “pops up” in the Bay of Pigs, the United Fruit Company, the Kennedy assassination and the assassination of Orlando Letelier, Watergate, the October Surprise, Iran-Contra, a POW-MIA cover-up, the illegal arming of Saddam’s Iraq and, most telling of all, as CIA director for less than a year.
In 1988, “the Company” broke with its “do not confirm or deny” policy to vociferously deny Poppy was ever a spook. Oddly enough, CIA headquarters in Langley would eventually be re-named “The George Bush Center for Intelligence.”
No one questioned it. Go figure.
This is exactly why it made sense for Jeb Bush to begin his nascent run for president at the Reagan Library. Really, that “library” is America’s ultimate baggage carousel. We wait and wait for the hard truths and bitter realities of Reagan’s Presidency to pop up. But, like a bad airline experience, the carousel just spins and spins—and the baggage is never delivered.
Yet, people keep on buying tickets on “Air Ronnie.”
Like the re-naming of CIA headquarters, perhaps it is no accident that Washington, D.C.’s airport was re-christened “Ronald Reagan National Airport.”
Iran-Contra, the Savings and Loan Scandal, massive deficits, Central American death squads, the October Surprise, a racially-biased War on Drugs, homelessness, the AIDS crisis—all that baggage has been mostly lost down the memory hole. As time passes and memory fades, Reagan’s approval ratings soar above 70%.
Even Democrats feel the need to occasionally bow with approbation at the political prowess of the Great Gipper in the sky.
And many of Reagan’s more nefarious lieutenants—Elliott Abrams, John Negroponte, Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle and a host of others—not only survived, but later thrived under Jeb’s brother.
As Jeb checks his “Bush baggage” in advance of 2016, the load must seem a bit lighter.
Already, his brother’s team is largely rehabilitated. Condi Rice is widely hailed as a rising star. Imagine her on a ticket with Jeb! Dick Cheney commands attention with little scrutiny. Most of Team Bush landed on their feet—in think tanks and onto corporate boards or in the media.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of “the war formerly known as Iraq,” the media focuses more on Brother George painting 50 dogs than on the relentless suffering and carnage both he and, by extension, we all left behind in Iraq. Too bad he didn’t literally “paint 50 dogs.” The media might actually obsess on that story. They sure as shootin’ don’t want anything to do with covering the chaos and death playing out every single day in Iraq.
Here’s a news flash: America destroyed a country under false pretenses.
Sure, the “truth” is “finally out.” Nope, there weren’t any WMDs. And nope, Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. And yes, those troubling details are often treated as if they weren’t known until it was already too late. But too many asked too little as they eagerly “handled” the Administration’s press releases and left specious claims unchallenged.
Now, those mistakes are compounded daily as the mainstream media ignores the price paid by Iraqis and the toll yet to be exacted on future generations. Nor has the blatherati been bothered by the way Obama quickly said, “Move along, there is nothing to see here.”
The real baggage here—the heavy historical baggage—is not simply the few “personal belongings” left behind on Air Force One by George and his band of Neo-Con artists. Rather, it is an ongoing indictment of America as a nation. Something we will carry for a long, long time.
Like all wars of aggression, the nation that marches into folly behind a demagogue, a tyrant or a salesman must also be accountable. But in the case of Iraq, like Vietnam before it, the media, the political establishment and many Americans cannot wait to let the past fade like America’s signature on the Geneva Conventions.
So, keep this in mind when pundits and prognosticators discount the likelihood of another Bush presidency. If the last fifty years have proven anything, it’s that there is no amount of baggage that cannot be buried deep into the dark recesses of American history.
Just ask Henry Kissinger.Tweet
Posted on | March 7, 2013 | 3 Comments
Senator Wyden is a Democrat.
He’s not a New Democrat. Or Blue Dog. Or an electorally-adept Reagan Democrat in progressive clothing.
Most importantly, he is not a willing functionary of the Corporate Imperium™ that passes itself off as the two-party system.
Senator Ron Wyden actually adheres to both the small “d” and the capital “D” versions of the democratic tradition—of protecting civil liberties, preserving the separation of powers and questioning unchecked militarism. These Ghosts of Democrats Past still haunt the dreams of reflexive voters, of party loyalists and of hungry progressives everywhere.
But they are ghosts. Faint illusions and lingering specters.
Those indelible images of Henry Wallace and RFK, Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, Paul Wellstone and Robert Byrd, and, hold your breath, the ever-more prescient Jimmy Carter—they are bitter reminders of the Democratic Party we wish we had…and of the party so many still think they are voting for every two and four years.
Those ghosts were finally exorcised during Rand Paul’s teachable moment. The drone policy filibuster not only exposed the fading luster of Constitutional guarantees, but it also laid bare the worthlessness of the Democrats as an alternative to the Imperium.
Only Senator Wyden came to the floor to speak in defense of due process, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. Only Senator Wyden stood up to the prevailing orthodoxy of his own party and its growing adherence to corporate-military tropes, its use of jingoistic platitudes and reliance on military Keynesianism.
This is today’s Democratic Party—the party of kill lists, targeting “military-aged males,” messy interventionism, “defense sequester” scare tactics, expanding special ops and double-tap drone strikes.
Senator Wyden’s presence in the filibuster stood in stark contrast to those who were absent. Where were the so-called “liberals” like Boxer, Mikulski, Brown and Franken? Or the Blue State doyens like Feinstein, Schumer and Stabenow?
None came. Only Harry Reid and Dick Durbin showed up, charged with the task of derailing the question: Can the President kill Americans without due process?
But Rand Paul droned on and on, exposing the rift within his own party and highlighting the loneliness of Wyden the Democrat.
Senator Wyden is stuck in the “Good Cop” party. Its persistence is wholly dependent upon the palpable fear of the Republican “Bad Cop.” And each side uses these roles interchangeably during elections. The fear of what the other cop will do when it gets you alone in the interrogation room—that is the self-perpetuating game they play with us all. But the Imperium is the only true winner.
The Corporate Imperium™ found its great “Left” champion in Bill Clinton. He and his Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) changed the party forever, eagerly attaching their strings to the financial and defense industries.
Entering the vacuum left by the last gasp of Massachusetts liberalism, Bubba quickly erased the image of Dukakis’ bobble-headed ride into the electoral tank. Clinton methodically altered the Left-Right paradigm by co-opting key parts of Reaganomics and preserving Iraq as a future target of opportunity.
He was not anti-war. In fact, he was pro-missile, pro-bombing and pro-intervention. Bill quickly signaled his acquiescence to military-industrial complexities when he quietly ended the investigation into Iraqgate—a long-since forgotten scandal embroiling some of the future architects of the War on Terror in a criminal investigation. Imagine the disgrace of GHW Bush’s administration illegally arming Saddam prior to the invasion of Kuwait!
Well, your imagination will have to suffice.
Bubba, the future darling of Barbara and the Bushes, pulled the plug on Iraqgate before it could do any real damage. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow was all-too often predicated on quickly forgetting the past.
The “era of big government was over,” and the era of the Wall Street Democrats was nigh. But the Clinton Years’ greatest achievement was the repackaging of pro-corporate, pro-defense industry, pro-Wall Street and anti-welfare policies as “the Left” and “liberal” and “progressive.” Like hostages suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, Democratic voters still love their first captor. But he handed over the keys to that prison when he spoke for Obama at the 2012 Democratic Convention.
Now they find themselves embracing a President who has moved the bar in ways Dick Cheney only dreamed of—indefinite detention of Americans, expansion of US forces to oil and resource-rich countries around Africa, and a never-ending drone war against “suspects” and “latent enemies” everywhere.
Calling Obama a “socialist” actually makes some sense in this post-Clinton paradigm. It reflects the confusion of Republicans who’ve been pushed from conservative into reactionary as the Democrats have moved further and further to the right. In comparison, Clinton’s supposed “liberalism” made actual liberals look like latter-day Che Guevaras.
The “socialism” tag also preserves the vague notion that self-described liberals can sift through the ashes of this new Democratic Party and find the embers of progressivism and civil libertarianism still burning beneath the failure to prosecute Wall Street, to protect the environment or to truly and finally end the War on Terror.
If Obama is a “socialist,” imagine where Wallace, RFK, McCarthy and Carter would be on this new, re-imagined “Left-Right” spectrum!
They’d be where Ron Wyden stood alone during the filibuster, advocating values once thought to be the sole provenance of the Democratic Party. Perhaps the most notable fact to emerge from the filibuster is that civil libertarians on both sides are the people pushed to the margins in today’s Washington.
The consensus in the “political middle” is the same consensus that gave us the Patriot Act, the War on Iraq and the expanding, vaguely-defined “third war” being waged by remote control around the globe.
Do you want bipartisanship?
The Corporate Imperium™ is the new bipartisanship.Tweet
Posted on | March 4, 2013 | 6 Comments
There are many revolving doors in Washington, D.C.
That door is marked: “the media.”
Most become pundits, commentators and experts—the denizens of America’s blatherati.
It’s the easy way in and out, because you don’t have to pretend. You just keep on regurgitating talking points and, hopefully, you’ll score a few consulting gigs to help keep the kids in Sidwell Friends or to keep on receiving an annual invite to CPAC.
Both FOX and MSNBC provide important holding pens for some of these animals until they get invited back inside the corridors of power.
But an intrepid few actually try to navigate the door between politics and journalism. George Stephanpoulos is one of them.
The Oath sounds familiar: “First, do no harm”—to your friends, your colleagues, your access and your long-term status as an insider. In other words, don’t “drop bombs” on your dinner plate.
His strict adherence to Washington’s all-encompassing oath was on full display when Dennis Rodman, fresh off of his quirky visit to North Korea, went on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Talk about “hard-hitting” journalism!
And oh boy, did George go after Rodman, slamming him with “tough questions” about Dennis cozying up to a vile dictator who put thousands of his own people in prison camps. George, the ever-prepared political hack turned news personality, even waved a copy of a report by Human Rights Watch at the jovial, cartoon-like Rodman.
Although Rodman countered with “we do the same thing here,” he wasn’t prepared to wave a copy of a report by the same Human Rights Watch on the world’s largest prison population right here in the U.S.A., or to talk about the privatization of American prisons and the “injustices” that keep ’em filled.
Why was he unprepared? Because he’s Dennis Rodman!
Sporting prodigious sunglasses, a colorful array of painted fingernails and more piercings than an artisanal pickle-making convention in Portland, the flamboyant Rodman simply laughed off most of Boyish George’s charges.
Rodman has always been an interesting mix of self-aggrandizement and sincerity, but the way Stephanopoulos went at him exposed far more about George than it did about Dennis or the young leader of the bizarre regime in Pyongyang.
Perhaps the vertically-challenged mop-top simply couldn’t pass up his first and only opportunity to slam dunk over someone of Rodman’s stature. He shot repeatedly, but no points were scored. Although the “stature” of the two seemed strangely more equal as the interview wore on.
The stark reality of these “hard-hitting” questions stood out in bas relief—an example of exactly what George wouldn’t do if he was one-on-one with an actual policymaker, or a person with real power and real impact on the real world.
Rodman and North Korea are easy targets for Boyish George’s journalist chops, such as they are, but if Stephanopoulos really wants to sink his baby teeth into the hard work of journalism, he has two glaring targets of opportunity: ask Secretary of State John Kerry about his visit to Saudi Arabia and President Obama about his upcoming visit to Israel.
Like he did with Rodman, he can use Human Rights Watch reporting on the excesses and abundant abuses of those regimes. Alas, Saudi Arabia and Israel are two of America’s strongest allies, most reliable consumers of US-made weapons and, in the mainstream media, practically untouchable geopolitical partners.
Imagine journalist George asking Kerry about cozying up to a dictatorship that executes people for witchcraft, has an abysmal, Taliban-like record on women’s rights, has been a decades-long source of funds for terrorists, an exporter of jihadism around the world and engages in various types of human trafficking.
Either before or after Obama’s trip, George could ask about Israel’s violation of the Geneva Convention on settlements, deplorable conditions in the de facto prison camp of Gaza, its long-standing practice of incarcerating Palestinian children, use of food aid as a weapon, growing racial backlash against African refugees or its questionable sterilization policy.
Unlike Rodman’s “peace, love and understanding basketball” tour of North Korea—the decades-long relationships with both the Saudis and the Israelis have actual domestic consequences for the people who live in those countries, in the Middle East generally and, based on recent history, Americans who serve in the US military.
If Stephanopoulos really wants to be taken seriously as a “journalist,” he should seriously and directly take on CIA Director-to-be John Brennan on real issues, like the nuclear double-standard that punishes Iran for (supposedly) pursuing nukes, while Israel’s pseudo-secret nukes are never mentioned.
That’s one shot that gets blocked before it’s ever taken.
Perhaps that’s not surprising for a nation armed with the world’s most-powerful nuclear arsenal—the only nation to not only use nuclear weapons, but also to use them on civilian populations. Purveyors of American hypocrisy are rarely challenged the way Stephanopoulos challenged Dennis Rodman.
But, then again, hypocrisy is the lubricant that keeps the revolving doors “in” and “out” and “within” the Beltway spinning so efficiently.Tweet « go back — keep looking »