Backtalk, October 14, 2005

How Long Can This Go On?

I just found your Web site by reading the piece by Mr. Roberts. Will definitely check it out in the future. Last winter, I had a back injury and looked at way too much C-SPAN. During this time I saw the shabby way the Democrats were treated in the House and Senate. It has gotten even worse now. I do not think anybody who is not Republican should pay taxes because we are not represented. Taxation without representation. No vote because of the fraud. To me, it is absolutely insane to continue to support a war machine and leave the disadvantaged to take care of themselves. This could also be expanded to not viewing the propaganda on TV or buying the same in the form of newspapers and magazines. What do you think?

~ Martha Thacker

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Withholding makes tax protests ineffective.

I had a few problems with the arguments that Mr. Roberts made for his article.

First, his evidence that Bush was lying because he said, “Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces,” and that “Bush’s ’80 Iraqi battalions’ are like Hitler’s secret weapons. They don’t exist” – while Generals Casey and Abizaid said “there was only one Iraqi battalion able to undertake operations against insurgents.” I just wanted to point out that the generals were referring to Iraqi battalions that could operate independently, by themselves, without assistance from Coalition forces. While Mr. Bush was referring to the battalions that can fight, but need some degree of support (communications, helicopters, artillery support, and such) to do so effectively. Therefore it invalidated the argument – that Bush is saying one thing (80 ready battalions) vs. the generals saying something else (only one).

Next the statement: “Bush’s war has already doubled the price of gasoline and home heating,” oversimplifies the causes for the increase of fuel. I believe that most people would agree that fuel prices are affected by many different factors not just one (“Bush’s war”). And yes I can understand that Mr. Roberts may believe that “Bush’s war” is the main cause for the price increases, but he must know that the reasons are more complicated than that.

“The U.S. cannot replace the losses in Iraq.” With a population of almost 300 million (The World Fact Book 2005) and a draft system ready to be reactivated, this argument does not hold any water.

Finally, I am not sure how Mr. Roberts plans to “collect via the Internet signatures on petitions for impeachment.” I cannot see any way that any petition could be seen as valid if it was collected on the Internet due to the ease of fraud. (I mean, what is to keep someone from just going through the phone book typing names?)

I believe that the main problem was Mr. Roberts was trying to cover too many complicated matters in a very short article thereby leading to misstatements and errors.

~ John Mertins

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

John Mertins has deceived himself with faulty reasoning. Once there were three claimed Iraqi battalions that could fight. Now there is one. The 80 are on paper only. Does John really think that there are 48,000 Iraqi soldiers fighting alongside U.S. troops? John does not identify any non-war reasons for the oil price. Signatures collected via the Internet will have names, street addresses, and e-mail addresses.


Washington Democrats: No Will, No Backbone

I am glad that some Republicans are antiwar. Most have been lined up 100 percent behind the president and have not changed their point of view even today. Democrats are coming around! Please note that Robert Byrd, Jon Corzine, and others were against the war from the start. Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer have come out for a plan to end the war by end of 2006. Harry Reid and 30 other senators have sent the president a letter asking for an exit strategy.

Okay, that is hardly satisfying to a resolutely antiwar person who wants the troops out now. It’s a start. So I might ask – why aren’t you beating the Republicans as hard as the Democrats? The Republicans are in power. If any party can end the war quickly, it is the majority party.

~ Robert S.

Your premise of no backbone is true. However, there are some Democrats, many, in fact, out where the people are, that do not endorse the responses of the Democrats in Congress. I say “responses” because there are no “initiatives.” There is a large element of the Democratic Party that does not APPROVE of war, does not support the DLC (it is of the Clinton era), and has lost respect for the leadership in Washington that has given President Bush everything he wants for fear of being criticized. The congressional Democrats are frozen in time. They have assisted in “selling out the country.” What is it going to take to regenerate that body? Meanwhile, we moderates, progressives, are going our own way, speaking out, and taking action that makes sense to us at the local and state levels. Those in Washington are simply “dying on the vine.” I cringe when I say that, but I see that to be true.

~ Dott Clarke Koch,

Per Joshua Frank, “Virtually every leading Democrat in D.C. is silent.”

True. But Al Gore was right and outspoken about Iraq and right, early on, re: the validity and danger of global warming. I think we should be taking a second look at this fellow. After all, he won the office once already.

~ Jim McCormick

Joshua Frank replies:

Oh, not the Gore defense! Gore pushed Clinton to bomb Iraq in the 1990s, and supported the sanctions as well as the Iraq Liberation Act. He’s only outspoken when it is politically convenient. Big deal. That isn’t something to get too thrilled over.

Parents: The Anti-Recruiter

Dear Dr. Whitehurst,

When I went to join the Army, I was signing up for the Reserves but because of a paperwork “mistake,” I was put down for active duty and told that I have no choice but to go through with it. Instead of being a Reservist, I am in the 101st Airborne at Ft. Campbell, Ky., and since then I’ve realized that half the things told to young men and women are pure bullshit. I corrected every part that said “Active” and put reserve when I looked over the papers before I signed.

Since then, everything that was said about active duty has seemed a little distorted. They give us rooms in the barracks, but they are subject to inspection 24/7 and if they find so much as a beer can or shot glass they “smoke” you and write you up on a negative counseling statement. A smoke session is improperly done PT making you do pushups, flutterkicks, and a number of other exercises that are supposed to be limited to within the FM for physical training (but aren’t, they’ll make up humiliating exercises such as the “lizard hunter” or the “fluffer” that they’re not supposed to do). The intent of these exercises aren’t to strengthen you, but to cause pain that lasts long after you’re done. I’ve had arms remain stiff for over a day because of this, and I’ve earned the Army Physical Fitness Excellence badge. I don’t even get in trouble very often. I’ve also seen NCOs smoke the lower enlisted simply because the NCO was bored.

If you decide to use the medical care that you pay roughly $30 a month for by going to sick-call, you are called a sh*t-bag and no matter how private the reason, it’s publicized to everyone. Last May, I went for an STD check because I’d found that someone I slept with a few months before had caught something. When I returned, I found out my section chief had sounded off with “One man getting rodded!” during the morning formation and didn’t hesitate to tell anyone where I was or why. If you go to mental health for anything, even the slightest bit of depression, they look at you like you’re crazy. You can’t even use the medical system without paying a price for it.

The pay isn’t nearly as good as they make it out to be, and you have to pay money back to get a meal card so you can eat in the chow-hall or “D-Fac.” This costs around $250 a month, and you have to pay it if you live in the barracks, even if you rarely eat there. Getting rank isn’t as easy as people make it out to be. In my unit, there are a few sergeants who spent as much as 12 years waiting to be promoted from specialist. And instead of giving you BAH (basic allowance for housing), they give you that insufficient little room that you’re not supposed to even put posters in that they inspect often and freely. We’re supposed to be able to call the inspector general for these problems, but the NCOs (even the same ones who become recruiters) constantly remind us that there are more ways to “screw over Joe” than there are rules to protect “Joe” (Joe being the generic name for lower enlisted).

They promise that you’ll be able to take college courses while you’re in the service, but they overload you with after-work tasks. When we have everything done for the day, we’ll sit around the company area for hours at a time waiting to be released from work. Or we’ll be put on a work detail by a sergeant who doesn’t know what the f*ck he’s doing and won’t explain why we’re doing it. …

What really sucks is if you try to get out when your contract is up, they invoke “stop-loss.” If the military were really as good as the recruiters make it out to be, why do so many soldiers want out? Why do they have to come up with a backdoor draft to keep us from leaving? Why are soldiers like me screwed into active duty when I signed up for the reserves? Why do recruiters make it sound TOO easy? Why are recruiters given article 15s if they don’t make their quota (and they’ll deny this)? If recruiters give an accurate depiction of life in the military, then why do they have to attend training to know what to tell potential recruits? Sometimes they don’t outright lie. But I know for a fact they seriously distort the truth.

If you publicize this e-mail or any information in it, I would ask that you not include my e-mail address or full name. I’m doing this as a favor to everyone considering enlistment to save them from a mistake. I don’t want to get burned for it. If someone is that bent on joining, tell him or her to do ROTC in college or join the Air Force.

~ Name Withheld

National Endowment for Democracy: Paying to Make Enemies of America

The National Endowment for Democracy is a neocon organization. It serves the Jacobin interests of neocons at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer. The National Endowment for Democracy is one reason America is hated throughout the world. The National Endowment for Democracy was sold to the Reagan administration by neocons. In those long ago days, neocons were seen only as people who were willing to stand up to the Soviet Union. The National Endowment for Democracy was accepted by Reagan as a Cold War tool. Reagan did not realize the true motives of the neoconservatives. Reagan was no Jacobin, and he would have completely purged his administration of these terrible people if he had understood them. It is ironic that the neocons gained power because of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. They came from the Trotsky wing of the Communist Party that believed in the Jacobin form of revolution.

~ Paul Craig Roberts


I am new to the site, but I am a veteran of the Bush dynasty’s legions abroad. I served in the army (3/1 F.A., 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division out of Bamberg, Germany) during Operation Desert Storm. At the time, I was not fooled by the rhetoric that we were being sent to liberate the sovereign nation of Kuwait. As a soldier under orders I went, although some of my German friends said they would keep me hidden if I chose not to go. The general consensus – even among the troops – was that Desert Storm was mostly about keeping the Ba’athists from controlling more oil than we deemed appropriate.

When the cease-fire order was given on the final day of the ground war, I had a feeling that we would revisit the same territory sometime in the future. Of course, at that time, I was not aware the president’s son would someday occupy the Oval Office. Sitting in the driver’s compartment in my M-577 carrier, command post, I was torn between wanting to continue on to Baghdad and just getting the hell out of the region. When the coalition forces failed to help the southern Shia and the northern Kurds in their attempt to rebel against the Saddam regime, I felt that we had betrayed them. I returned to Germany, left the Army, and came home to Virginia. On the one hand, I was proud of my military service, but I also felt like I had participated in one of the most useless and expensive wars in history. I felt duped, reaching the conclusion that Operation Desert Storm was engineered as a “feel good” military campaign to help the American people “get over” the Vietnam War. Also in the back of my mind, I knew that oil was the crux of the matter.

As a combat veteran, I am qualified to analyze and comment on the utter lack of competence that the current Bush administration has displayed in all phases of the war in Iraq. I need not rehash the obvious chicanery used to manipulate popular opinion and secure congressional approval to advance the casus belli. That this president and his ruling junta would lie to the American people and their representatives is not surprising; the sad truth is that the majority of Americans wanted to believe the worst about Muslims in general and Saddam Hussein in particular. September 11th increased our paranoia. At seemingly every opportunity, Bush and company still fan the flames ignited four years ago.

It disgusts me to hear of all the troops and noncombatants killed and maimed in this war. Hopefully, the tide of public opinion seems to be turning away from the patriotic propaganda spewing from the White House, the Pentagon, and sadly, the Capitol building. We are slow learners of the lessons history teaches, but apart from those corrupted by power, the American people are not as bloodthirsty as some proclaim. We are no different than any other aggregation of people: we merely believe our way of life is better than any other. This pride in our capitalistic economy and our representative democracy makes us susceptible to unscrupulous leaders who have an agenda that runs contrary to the good of the nation. I’m afraid our political centers are rife with such people. The era of statesmen has been in decline for a long time.

In conclusion, my skepticism has turned to outright cynicism. Our government is failing us because we have let it become corrupt and self-serving. War is not the answer and democratic principles cannot be forced upon another nation down the rifled barrel of an Abrams tank. I hope we are not deluded beyond redemption and can see through the hypocrisy and underlying hubris that still holds sway.

Thank you for allowing me to bang my head against the ether. It is much softer than marble or depleted uranium.

~ Chris Noble

I write you to bring your attention to an anti-imperialism film that every American should see. (It is doing better in England, which is interesting.) I speak of Serenity. The opening scene is worth the price of admission alone. To paraphrase: The movie opens in a classroom where the teacher is explaining how the “inner planets” are the beacon of civilization. The “outer planets” are backward and barbaric. It is the duty of the inner planets to bring the joys of civilization to these backward people. The outer planets had revolted and fought a war of independence.

“Why do these people resist our humane efforts?” the class is asked.

Our heroine answers: “We meddle. We tell them what to do, and what to think, and they don’t like it.”

Teacher: “We don’t tell them what to think, but how to think.”

I, of course, do not do justice to the well-written script. Other gems:

Captain: “Half of writing history is covering up the truth.”

Also the captain: “I never did credit the Alliance [central government] with much intelligence.”

Best political movie made since at least Wag the Dog, and it is just plain excellent entertainment.

~ Bomber Byrne

I am a parent of a U.S. marine who has served two nasty combat tours in Iraq. Only by the grace of God has he returned physically unharmed, but mentally is another story. He suffers from a serious case of PTSD. He was called a coward and has had his manhood questioned. They tried to send him back for a third tour in September, but one Navy captain stepped up to the plate and said that this man was to sick to return. Thank God for him!

My son knows the score in Iraq. He says that the guerrilla war cannot be won, but Bush says that we will stay the course. These three factions in Iraq have been fighting for a thousand years, and American democracy will never be accepted. This is an oil war gone bad! Big money wants CONTROL of Middle East oil. Our soldiers and marines are the pawns in this little game. Why aren’t Americans protesting in the streets with poll numbers for support of the war similar to that of Vietnam? There is no draft! People don’t have to worry about their kids getting drafted. With recruiting numbers falling and the continued deploying of the same folks over and over, it will eventually hit the wall.

My take is that most people don’t care about what’s going on in Iraq because it doesn’t directly affect them.

~ William Weldy

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