Backtalk July 11, 2004

Senate Iraq Report Said to Skirt White House Use of Intelligence

American principles (truth, justice, responsibility) anyone?

It’s been quite a while since anything I’ve read on has gotten me riled up. But today, two articles really bothered me. First, it appears the 9/11 commission has agreed not to focus on the misinterpretations of the pre-9/11 intel by the executive branch of government. Clearly the buck must stop somewhere lower than the White House. This is outrageous, since the CIA was not responsible for ordering the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.

Secondly, the subhuman soldiers who pushed the two hapless Iraqi teenage boys into the raging Tigris River (and stood there laughing as they drowned) are being given slaps on the wrist, no jail time. I am f**king ashamed to be American.

I am seriously ready to apply for English or Irish citizenship very soon. The ideals upon which this great country was founded appear to be dead, replaced by corruption and obscenity. I’d like to believe we will turn it around, but it’s very hard to be anything but cynical when no one gives a rat’s ass about law or morality.

~ Mark T. Matranga Blog

Isn’t this a noninterventionist site? Can blogger Alexia Gilmore … please stop trying to spread the gospel of look-at-how-awful-Muslims-are? Her blogs are the shrill ones which excoriate war orphans for behaving like, well, war orphans. People in Afghanistan can’t vote! Gasp! They can’t eat either, or face the winter without fear of freezing to death. It is one of the worst off countries in the world, largely because those great feminists – Communists – leveled entire villages in minutes. Why not whine about the status of women in Kosovo, Mexico, the US, the Holy See, Greenland, Africa or any other region of this very large, very violent world. Help women around you! The women in Afghanistan don’t want your help seeing as how it comes with cluster bombs and ‘Special Forces’ trained by Satanists. Or try worrying about all human beings, including those harmed by women. Right now a woman is horribly abusing a child in your own state.

~ Sam Doe

Alexia Gilmore replies:

Oh – so it’s wrong to have an opinion counter to yours? Isn’t freedom of expression something we do try to protect in the US and in the Internet world? Sorry, but women in the states you mention are not made to live in houses with the windows painted over, nor wear garments no man would tolerate for a nanosecond, nor not allowed an education (maybe parts of Africa should be excepted from this statement) – oh, and nuns do wear a kind of burqa (but you could always see their faces), don’t they, although I guess now most don’t. And if you read a bit more carefully, you’d see I’m protesting fundamentalism (of all stripes, in my book) that uses coercion over others, not Islam. Frankly, I’d think you’d want to support the brave women in places like Afghanistan who are acting on their own behalves with little help from anyone. And I do think awareness is a kind of support.

Killed in Iraq

I just came across an article on the Internet posted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, It was dated July 7 and taken from the Agency France-Presse. It was very odd that the article ended by stating that there have been “at least 644 US soldiers killed” in Iraq since the beginning of military coalition action. According to most American sources, the total is up to 873 if not higher. Why would France report such low numbers and why would Australia post the article without some editing? Very strange.

~ Jeff Morgan

Eric Garris replies:

Journalistic sloppiness is the most likely explanation.

The 644 figure is the number killed in combat in Iraq (although it is currently 653 and counting). The rest died from “non-combat” situations, like accidents.

Kerry and the ‘Antiwar’ Left

It seems Raimondo is very adept at knocking down strawmen. Of course the arguments that the Iraq war was about oil for Exxon or profits for Haliburton are garbage. I also agree the war was about intimidation. However, the only countries that will be intimidated by the military conquest per se of a hapless third world nation will be other hapless third world nations. On the other hand, an American vice grip on the Middle East is highly intimidating to the countries dependent on that region for their energy supplies, namely China, Japan and Europe – not because America might profit from the oil, but because of the implicit threat that their supplies could be easily cut off at the source. A major plank of Neocon policy is to contain aspiring great power rivals. The invasion of Iraq manages to intimidate both weak and strong countries, and oil does play a clear factor, although not in the way that Raimondo’s “leftists” are talking about. It is simple power politics.

~ Jason Elander

Great write-up on your views regarding Kerry and Edwards saving “us” from King George. We are now faced with voting for the evil of two lessers and we can thank ourselves, the media and the parties for painting all of us into a corner with no “quick” way out.

As we transition into the 21st Century we need some brilliant, ethical and future thinking people to lead us. People capable of thinking and implementing complex solutions to complex problems. But first we will need “we the people” to demand this is the kind of leadership we need and then support them.

~ Sharon A.

Back twenty or so years ago when the government was looking for a way to link up all of its computers in order to share information, etc., they approached a number of communications companies like Bell and ITT to try to get them interested in developing what would become the Internet. They got the same reaction all around – not interested, no money in it. (This was around the same time that Bill Gates was quoted as saying that 476K is all the memory that anyone will ever need.) It took Public Money from TAXES and the government to have the foresight and will to develop what would be come the ubiquitous, and to organizations like, indispensable, Internet.

So Mr. Raimondo (etc.) can rant on about stupid commies and the government all he wants but the medium he swims and breaths in was created by socialism. (Computers too of course were developed and created originally with public money.)

~ Bob Ransdell, Soquel, CA

Eric Garris replies:

Quite a silly assumption. The fact that some tax money went into the project doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have happened otherwise. That is the trap the bureaucrats and politicians use when they put money into virtually everything.

I gotta tell you, that was a great essay. Extremely funny. You most certainly capture the essence of the San Fran left. In a strange way, the piece reminds me of Orwell’s expose of the left in Homage to Catalonia, except with more humor. Perhaps even Paddy Chayefsy would have gotten a chuckle.

~ Sid Smith

1. Has Mr. Kerry promised to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, which he voted for?

2. Has he promised to de-fund and dismantle the Department of Homeland Security, which he voted for?

3. Has he promised to end the so-called War Against so-called Terrorism and the September 13, 2001 un-debated, un-discussed, un-dissented (save by one lone Congresswoman from Oakland, CA) blank check given to President Bush to do whatever he wants and needs to do, wherever and whenever he needs to do it, in order to win that so-called War, which he (Kerry) voted for?

4. Has he promised to immediately withdraw all American forces from Iraq and terminate the Occupation, which he voted for?

5. Has Mr. Kerry condemned the cover-up being perpetrated by the National Commission on 9/11, which he voted for? Has he promised to force answers to the more than 150 questions submitted by the 9/11 Family Steering Committee to the Commission that the Commission has refused to even ask, let alone answer? Has he met with the Family Steering Committee? Does he even know one exists?

6. Finally, has he condemned the philosophical foundation and strategic blueprint of the current administration, the document that calls for worldwide American domination but that acknowledged that American people probably would not support such an agenda “unless there was a new Pearl Harbor” (To download this document as a pdf file, click here)?

The constantly recurring theme at the June 28 webcast House Party with Michael Moore was that there is a dictator in the White House now, and that there needs to be “regime change” come November 2.

Unless and until Kerry does something about the above six indicators of how he really stands on the “dictatorship thing,” unless and until Kerry renounces and declares his intent to denounce and/or destroy the instruments and institutions of the Bush “dictatorship,” it is pretty obvious that all that would happen if Kerry got elected is that we would then have a Kerry dictatorship.

Which is really all the Kerry folks and seem to be hoping to accomplish anyway.

The reality is that Kerry cannot renounce USA PATRIOT, Homeland Security, the so-called War Against so-called Terrorism, the American occupation of Iraq because, if he does, he will instantaneously be branded as “SOFT ON TERRORISM.”

And that will cost him the election. Not because the American people care about the War on Terrorism, but because it will cost him the support of all the behind-the-scenes power-brokers and king-makers who suddenly made him a viable candidate this past spring in the first place.

It is for the exact same reason that he cannot denounce the fraud that is the 9.11 Commission or the PNAC blueprint to tyranny and smoking gun about who is actually behind 9.11.

Based on all this, I get the distinct impression that it is important to remember that Kerry,, and the powers behind the scenes of that organization and his campaign do not want PEACE. They want POWER.

They do not want JUSTICE. They want the JUDICIAL AUTHORITY that goes along with that POWER.

And they certainly don’t want TRUTH. They want their fair share of THE LOOT that is being doled out in the biggest grab for government power on this planet since Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Mao’s China.

One can only hope that all those bright-eyed enthusiasts at Monday’s gathering who honestly believe that there is something – anything – more important that THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT 9.11, one can only hope that one day, they will understand what they are REALLY being used for in Campaign 2004.

~ JG Moebus, Master Sergeant, US Army (Retired), Committee to Impeach for 9/11, New Orleans, LA

I have been reading for some time now, and I particularly enjoy your insightful and informative articles. …

Personally, I think there is at least a better than even chance that Kerry would be a better President than W. He has seen war firsthand, and presumably will have fewer illusions about how easy it is to impose goals through military means. I also tend to think that he will be more sensitive to public opinion.

If there is a practical way to get someone with a stronger peace platform into the White House, I would love to hear it! All we need is a candidate who can get on enough state ballots, and win enough votes, to win in the electoral college. This candidate would have to be able to convince the electorate that we can withdraw from Iraq while still appearing strong. He or she would probably have to be an expert in undoing brainwashing in millions of people. Of course it would also help if we had a congress that took it’s Constitutional duties seriously. If that isn’t feasible this time around, then do we just stay home and hand W a second term? That seems to me to be the least moral option.

You have done a great job of pointing out the negatives of Kerry-Edwards, but what is the realistic alternative to fight for in the next 4 months? If you don’t know, maybe you could open it up to the readers to propose a positive action plan. …

~ SD

I like your article, but I have to disagree with your complaints about the “antiwar left” not doing the right thing by voting for Kerry. True, Kerry wants to increase number of troops in Iraq, or so he says. I think what most of the “left” recognize on Iraq is “what’s done is done” – it’s more important that the US stop such adventures in Iraq, and not continue such stupid adventures elsewhere, like Syria, Iran, North Korea, and who knows, perhaps even China (never underestimate minds of madmen). With Bush, any of those is a possibility, with Kerry, it’s highly unlikely. Thus, it’s no point voting for the Green Party, it’ll be a wasted vote – and really a vote for Bush.

If you don’t want any more Bush/ neocon adventurism, vote Kerry.

~ Ken Newsome

Justin Raimondo dismisses, out of hand, the idea that oil is a significant motivation for the Iraq War: “… but we do get a few very interesting and sensible explanations, aside from the usual ‘it’s all about oil’ bilge.”

Earlier, on Jan. 19, 2004, Raimondo wrote: “Long before 9/11, the neocons wished and waited for their moment, and now it has come. This is truly a nightmarish world we are living in, and it shall not be made one whit better until we are rid of them, one way or another, for good.”

In this article Raimondo accepts the argument that the neo-cons are the bad guys and they caused the war. This has become the de facto argument for the war and is echoed by both old right Republicans, like Pat Buchanan, and some militant Democrats, like supporters. There can be no doubt the neocons did, starting long before 9/11, push hard for the Iraq War. But this does not mean that the motives advanced by the neocons, or attributed to them, for invading Iraq are the primary and only motives that led Bush and Cheney to attack Iraq.

There are at least four important reasons for believing that oil is a very important, if not primary, motive for the invasion on Iraq:

1. Cheney is senior to the neocons in the administration. For example, Wolfowitz and Feith were in Cheney’s defense department when they authored the now-infamous first draft of the 1992 defense planning document. Also Cheney was White House chief of staff, when Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense in the Ford administration. No doubt, many of the neocons owe their current positions to Dick Cheney and are more likely being used to advance Cheney’s ambitions than the other way around. We believe that Dick Cheney’s ambitions lie in what Gore Vidal calls the “blood for oil” junta that runs this administration.

2. Since 9/11 the U.S. has acquired many new military bases in areas that are strategically important to the control of oil supplies and the pipeline routes that bring oil to the market. These bases are located in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and other Caspian Sea countries, Iraq and the Balkan countries. These countries are all either rich in oil and gas, or strategically important for pipeline routes. Also the “very convenient” overthrow of Edward Shevardnadze in Georgia has resulted in a new government that supports the construction of the Western controlled, BTC pipeline from the Caspian that will be independent of Russian influence or Afghanistan instability.

3. The world is rapidly running out of its supply of “cheap” fossil fuel sources. Iraq and the Caspian Sea regions offer most of the remaining untapped and “cheap” energy sources. Who controls these energy sources will hold increasingly important economic and political power as supplies dwindle.

4. The control of dwindling oil supplies is absolutely necessary to the neocons’ plans for world domination.

The idea that the neocons are the sole cause of the Iraq War has, in my opinion, several unhappy consequences. First, it leads to the view that once the neocons are thrown out of power, then America will return to its status as benevolent leader of the free world. People’s outrage at the excesses of the Bush administration will be dissipated, and Americans can once again avoid facing the full extent of the evil empire.

Blaming it all on the neocons is also the basis for two rather silly answers to the question: “Why did we go to war in the first place?” Because many of the neocons have ties to the Likud party in Israel, one often hears from the right that Israel, has some how hijacked American foreign policy and taken us to war to strengthen Israel’s position in the Middle East. But how does a nation of six million people and a defense budget of several billion dollars, most of which comes from the US, hijack the foreign policy of a nation whose defense budget is almost one half trillion dollars?

Another argument, popular among some Democrats on the left, proposes that the neocons have taken us to war because of their over energetic sense of idealism, manifesting itself in a desire to see democracy spread throughout the whole Middle East and then the whole world. This argument seems even more naive than the first one. Countries don’t go to war for idealistic reasons. They only use idealistic reasons as pretexts for war. If you think this view too cynical, read a little Noam Chomsky. Pirates and Emperors, Old and New might be a good place to start.

~ Everett Thiele, Cofounder of Bring Peace to America

In Defense of Piracy

I received an article entitled “In Defense of Piracy” from a friend. I suggest that you make an effort to verify any of the contents of such an article before posting them on your site, unless you simply don’t care whether the content on has any basis in fact.

For openers, maybe the author is taking a bit of liberty, but no one in China would ever say “It’s a bunch of laowai (foreigners) here to pay the pirates a visit.” In a second city like Chengdu, he would never have to knock to find a DVD store. Pirated products would be sold in the open because in many cities in China, the vendors themselves cannot distinguish between authentic and pirated product, nor do they care.

“Chinese pirates are indiscriminate.” That is absolutely not true. Chinese pirates are merchants. Are merchants indiscriminate? No. Frankly, Chinese pirates are masters of distribution and product selection. Spaghetti Westerns? Wrong. Never. Merchants sell product that sells. They have no back catalog because as soon as it doesn’t move, they don’t take it anymore. When Troy isn’t the flavor of the week, they’ll push Harry Potter, or Spiderman 2, or whatever they think is going to move. Although occasionally one runs across a pirate that has a bit more of a selection, but I find it extremely hard to believe that there would be any demand for this kind of product in a second-city like Chengdu.

“Asia represents the rebel library of ideas and art that flourished alongside the Great Library in Alexandria,” the writer states.

Ok, here’s a quiz: with the exception of Japan, what was the last Asian country that introduced a major world innovation, and when was it? Asia, and China especially, has prospered by becoming the manufacturing floor for the rest of the world. Innovation requires research, and research requires money. Most parts of Asia don’t have much of the latter, and as a result they do little of the former.

I’ve written about technology and underground culture in China for the past eight years for the top English language publications in Asia, including the Asian Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post, Far Eastern Economic Review, and others. If there’s a rebel library of ideas and art flourishing out there, it has somehow managed to keep itself entirely concealed, as the facts of this story have somehow managed to elude your writer.

~ Steven Schwankert, Beijing

Sascha Matuszak replies:

First off, we did knock on the door and it was us saying “it’s a bunch of laowai,” not the Chinese. Also I did mention how strange it was seeing as Consulate Road has street vendors and computer city has huge floors of pirated goods. And I have been knocking on the same door for two years.

And I would have to disagree with you in terms of “indiscriminate.” There are thousands of films in one room and yes the top shelves are usually filled with the latest popular copies, but you should flip through the stacks – lots of Spaghetti Westerns, which refer to Westerns filmed in Italy with Italian actors – and other obscure films which can’t be sold anywhere else and do not necessarily sell well in Chengdu, but they exist anyway.

And the Great Library reference seems to elude you as much as the “facts” seem to have eluded me: next to the Great Library existed a knockoff shop that was intermittently tolerated, persecuted or encouraged – i.e. all those invention-less Asians you speak of are the knockoff library, while we “creative” Westerners intermittently tolerate, persecute and encourage the pirates.

You understand what you want to understand.

The rebel library of ideas flourishing in the Asian underworld does exist, perhaps not yet in China, but in Japan, India and the Koreas there are (surprise!) people who have passed through the copycat phase. The pirated DVD and music industry represents the merchants catering to aspiring rebels, who sooner or later will innovate, regardless of money and research.

Have you seen the movie Public Toilet? In all those years of being a real journalist, have you flipped through the stacks? Been to Chengdu?

You yap in absolutes – “no,” “never” – but after all these years in Asia, you must have realized that absolutes mean nothing. You’re welcome to flip through my collection any time and be amazed.

(Remember this, Steve?: “It would be easy to dismiss Beijing’s rock scene as a copy of Euro-American music. It would also be wrong. Rock in China is innovation, not imitation. Developing in a nation historically isolated from the West, China’s rock musicians are adopting a foreign concept and adapting it to their own situation.”)

Israel Unleashed

You say Israel has the “purpose of creating a buffer – Kurdistan – between Israel and the emerging Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi state, which is heavily influenced by the Iranians.” How does that work? Kurdistan is the northeast corner of Iraq, Israel is to the southwest. Kurdistan may work as a distraction to a Shiite Iraq-Iran; it could lead to civil war weakening both sides, but I cannot see how it can possibly be a “buffer.” The difference is that it is a far riskier strategy.

I also have to disagree with: “this war has been to the strategic advantage of one and only one nation on earth: Israel.” I don’t think the war has been to the strategic advantage of any nation. It has only been of any advantage to a few radical factions, including the Israeli extreme right-wing, who have no chance of achieving their aims by peaceful means, and are willing to risk everything in the hyper-risky strategy of destabilizing the region. The biggest winners of all have been the Wahabi extremists, who are for the first time in with a real chance of taking control of Saudi.

In Israel’s case, I think that the destabilizing of its large neighbors to the east is extremely dangerous to the general well-being of the vast majority of Israelis. Just like America (and to a lesser extent Britain) a hawkish clique of chancers is gambling with other people’s money and lives.

~ Ian Miller, UK

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