Poor Senator Lott fell all over himself in assuring Russert that of course we wouldn’t stand for any gay-bashing in the Russian media: why, we might even withdraw our economic aid, “and now that’s just one example of what we could do.” On Iraq, Lott is more forthcoming:
“I think we should be prepared to take very aggressive action.. . . But one of the things that really concerns me is we also have a growing dependence on Iraq for our oil supplies. We’re now getting something like 700,000 barrels a day from Iraq at a time when we’re trying to keep Saddam Hussein, you know, in the box. There’s talk about sending him more oil-producing equipment, we’re getting more oil. He’s threatening to cut off the oil at a time when he is clearly continuing his efforts to have weapons of mass destruction. We’re becoming more dependent on his oil and he has the temerity to threaten us that he would cut it off. The combination of these things is very alarming, and I think we need to work with the administration to aggressively address these problems.”
It is not very surprising to see the Leader of the Senate Republicans jumping up and down on the prostrate body of the Iraqi nation, bellowing about how “aggressive” he is but his rationalization for it, that we are in dire danger because Iraq is selling us too much oil, is beyond bizarre. At a time when the price of gasoline is barreling past two bucks a gallon, the Senator, whose gas tank is filled courtesy of the US taxpayer, seems blissfully unaware of the sheer stupidity of such a stance. It is only recently that Iraq was allowed to sell any oil at all, to anyone, on any terms: now they are barely managing to pump out 700,000 gallons a day with the antiquated and broken-down equipment that hasn’t been blown to smithereens in US bombing raids.
THE WAR ON IRAQ AND THE BIPARTISAN CONSENSUS
Those raids, by the way, continue to this day. If we ceased our relentless attempt to reduce Iraq to a smoldering pile of ruins, and stopped killing 5,000 Iraqi children under the age of five per month with our murderous sanctions, they would be shipping 3 million barrels per day more than making up for the artificially created oil “shortage” and lowering prices back down to the level set by the market. But Lott would rather gouge the American consumer than be seen as backing off from the decade-long US jihad against Iraq: on that question, Republicans and Democrats are unanimous.
Lott complains about the very limited relaxation of draconian sanctions, and denounces Saddam for having “the temerity to threaten us he would cut it off.” So Saddam is evil for selling us the oil in the first place, but damned, also, when he threatens to hold back. What’s up with that? Being a US Senator, Trent Lott is quite used to having it both ways: in Lott the Lawmaker’s world, even the laws of logic are subject to amendment or even outright repeal.
Again, none of this is too surprising: we are, after all, talking about a man who virtually embodies the conservative wing of the GOP, and watching his performance as Tim Russert’s hand-puppet last Sunday reminded me not only why I hate the Republicans but also why they call it the Stupid Party. Russert asked him about a spending bill authorizing “moneys [sic] for the operation in Kosovo and also new moneys [sic] to fight narcoterrorists in Columbia [sic!]. Will that be allowed to pass through the Senate quickly?” Lott’s reply should sink the hopes of those conservative Republican voters and grassroots activists who opposed Clinton’s dirty little war:
“Well, I’m for it. It should have already passed. I said at the beginning of the year to the president and to the leadership of our committees, we should do it quick and clean. We should address the situation of where the funds have already been spent in Kosovo. I am for it, trying to help fight the Colombian drug war. I’ve met with President Pastrana twice. And I also think we’ve got a commitment to some of the disasters around the country, but as usual, the bill has been slow and it’s been growing. The president asked, I think, for around $4.4 billion; now it’s up to $9 billion and headed even higher, and it’s beginning to interfere with other things. So I think we should do our regular appropriations bills much earlier, and put those funds in those appropriations bill. But I’d be willing to do it clean. It’s not a question of should we do it; it’s, you know, exactly how and where.
RUSSERT: “But it will pass relatively easy?”
SEN. LOTT: “It will.”
SHAMELESS IN WASHINGTON
Along with the Waco massacre, Ruby Ridge, and the Whitewater/Lewinsky scandals, the Kosovo war was seen by conservative Republicans in Congress and at the grassroots as a projection of the President’s depravity, his ruthlessness, his outrageous hubris. When the smoke cleared and the bombed-out television stations and murdered civilians were visible through the fog of war and propaganda, many reacted as they did on learning of the Starr Report‘s revelations they felt ashamed of their own country, truly mortified (if only momentarily) to be Americans. While politicians in general seem to lack any sense of shame, Lott also seems lacking in even a modicum of political acuity or common sense. Foreign aid is deeply unpopular, and the Kosovo intervention was not supported by the majority during the war, and is even less popular now. Why is the Senate Majority leader defying his base and depriving his party of a winning issue in what may turn out to be a pivotal election year?
UNDER A FALSE FLAG
While it is true that the Republicans in Congress made a big noise about their ostensible opposition to the war, they wound up giving Clinton more than enough money to carry out what they had just argued was a dangerous and foolhardy mission. Back then, they tried to justify their stance, arguing that, whatever one thought of Clinton’s war, it was necessary to back up our troops once they were committed. (Never mind that Congress had abrogated its constitutional duty, and permitted the President to act unilaterally; they didn’t stand up to Truman, and have sat on their hands in wartime ever since.) But now that the mission is already proven a failure, one that is generating a renewed and even more serious war danger, what is the Republican argument for continuing to beef up our military presence in the Balkans?
They key to understanding the Republican turnabout on Kosovo is the addition of funds for intervention in Colombia to the legislative package. These two items are bundled together because a deal has been struck between the Republican and Democratic wings of the War Party. The latter will get billions in tax dollars for meddling in the affairs of Europe, in exchange for a massive “anti-drug” military program to benefit the makers of helicopters and other such equipment as much as to prop the government of Colombia’s Andres Pastrana. Each party has its own favored quagmire in which to sink our troops and treasure, and that is how our bipartisan foreign policy of globaloney and perpetual meddling works: instead of just one war at a time, we will be treated to two. So much for the theory that democratic countries are less warlike.
A HORSE RACE
I hate the Republican Party because it has rejected the wisdom of such GOP giants as Senator Robert A. Taft, who warned against the dangers of global intervention, and replaced it with the reckless warmongering of Senator Lott. The national leadership of the GOP is now engaged in a horse race with the neo-Wilsonian Democrats to see which presidential candidate is the most militantly internationalist.
A PARTY OF HYPOCRITES
I hate the Republican Party because it is a party of hypocrites who have developed the art of double-talk beyond anything ever seen before. While Senator Lott is saying that Iraq is pumping too much oil, GOP House Whip Tom DeLay is declaring that OPEC is not pumping enough and bloviating over “the Clinton-Gore gas crisis.” According to the Conservative News Service, “members of OPEC oil-producing nations meeting in Vienna on Tuesday appeared set to raise oil production, but not enough to satisfy the Republican Party.” While DeLay accurately describes the Clintonian energy policy as “kowtowing to environmental extremists,” what he does not mention is that the oil shortage should really be called the “Clinton-Gore-Lott-Hastert gas crisis” since both parties, in both houses of Congress, have consistently collaborated in supporting the sanctions that keep Iraqi oil off the market. DeLay complains that OPEC’s decision to increase production will not make up for the 2.5 million barrel shortfall. I wonder if he even knows that, before the Gulf War, Iraq was shipping 3 million barrels a day more than enough to drive the price way, way down.
CLOSER TO HOME
With the Republicans and the Democrats functioning as “two wings of the same bird of prey,” as Pat Buchanan puts it, with both parties really two versions of the same War Party, one would think that any real threat to the national security of the continental United States would not go unnoticed. The frightening irony is that you would be wrong. It seems that an appetite for overseas adventurism, whether it be in the blood-soaked fields of the Balkans or the jungles of South America, is no guarantee against a threat much closer to home. Indeed, it seems that the globalists of both parties are afflicted with a condition analogous to farsightedness they seem almost blind to the threat emanating from the US-Mexican border. The headline in the Arizona Daily Star said it all: “Mexican troops enter N.M., shoot, go free”! We are being invaded but neither Trent Lott, who wants to invade Colombia, nor the President of the United States, who has launched more military expeditions than Alexander the Great, is anywhere to be seen. The Daily Star report has to be read to be believed:
“About 10:30 p.m., two Mexican military Humvees entered the United States in the desert south of Sunland Park, N.M, just west of El Paso. The two vehicles split up, and one followed a Border Patrol vehicle. The Border Patrol agent eventually stopped his vehicle in front of the Humvee. The agent and soldiers both disembarked, with weapons drawn. Sunland Park police arrived, and eventually the agent was able to persuade the eight soldiers and their captain that they were in the United States. The nine put down their weapons and turned themselves in to the agent. Meanwhile, the second Humvee pursued a Border Patrol agent on horseback, who ordered them to stop. But the soldiers continued drawing closer, telling the agent to stop, and the agent fled to the safety of a hiding place in a wash. As he escaped, that agent heard a gunshot.”
WHO LOST NEW MEXICO?
How is it that we went to war with Serbia, a country that never violated US sovereignty, but our leaders say nothing when Mexican soldiers start chasing down our Border Patrol and taking pot-shots at Americans on American soil? This was no mix-up. The Mexicans knew where they were, and what they were doing: they followed a Border Patrol vehicle, and openly challenged American law enforcement personnel with weapons drawn. Never mind Kosovo and Colombia we need to yank our troops out of the Balkan quagmire and put them on the American side of the Rio Grande. So that next time the heirs of Santa Ana decide to engage in a little active irredentism, instead of chasing down a Border Patrol officer on horseback, they’ll be face to face with an armored division or two. Madeleine Albright is worried that future generations will wonder “who lost Kosovo?” and the Republicans are getting ready to ask “who lost Colombia and the war on drugs,” but if this goes on the real question will be: who lost the American Southwest?
All this guff about the world’s Sole Superpower, the would-be “hegemon” of the earth, is the kind of hubris that brings down empires, and America is no exception. What this incident reveals is the inner weakness of this supposed “superpower,” which cannot even guard its own borders: it exposes the corruption that permeates the imperial heartland even while American centurions push the boundaries of the empire ever outward. The following dramatizes the crisis percolating on our southern border in the starkest possible terms:
“The [Mexican] soldiers in the Humvee then saw a second mounted agent, whom they pursued until they became stuck in sand. As some soldiers worked to free the vehicle, others began walking back south, and the agent shone a flashlight on them. One of those soldiers then fired another shot. The remaining soldiers freed the Humvee, and all returned to Mexico. That left the Border Patrol agents with nine soldiers who had not fired the shots, so they questioned them for a few hours before sending them back to Mexico on the order of El Paso Sector Chief Luis Barker. The other soldiers were never apprehended.”
DUAL LOYALTY ALONG THE RIO GRANDE
According to Arizona Daily Star, the craven release of Mexican lawbreakers-in-uniform was deemed necessary by officials because “it helped preserve relative peace in a tense border zone.” As Border Patrol official Paul M. Berg put it: “If the soldiers had been detained longer, these tensions would have increased along the border, not only in El Paso, but also throughout the United States” side of the border. “This would have put the lives of many agents at risk.” The unspoken but clear implication is that the US government has lost control of the southern borderland, many of whose inhabitants owe as much emotional and political allegiance to Mexico as to the US if not more. The uncontrolled immigration both legal and illegal that has changed the demographic profile of the American Southwest raises the question of whether the US is vulnerable to the claims of Mexican irredentism. But the danger is more immediate than the growing question of dual loyalty among the large immigrant population. . . .
ON THE TAKE
If we are going to go all the way to the jungles of Colombia to fight the drug war, why haven’t we awakened to the daily incursions of the drug lords onto US territory helped along by their invaluable allies, the Mexican police? Mexico is a country where virtually every public official up to the President and every law enforcement agency is on the take, with daily reports of corruption at the highest levels. As the Daily Star reports:
“Often when an incursion arises, [Border Patrol agents’] first suspicion is that the soldiers or police officers were guiding a drug load. That suspicion is based on dependable intelligence, said Ron Sanders, former chief of the Tucson sector, who retired last year. The question that arises in the agents’ minds, Sanders said, is: ‘Are they trying to arrest the drug smugglers and put them in jail, or are they trying to shake them down and take the drugs for their personal gain?'”
THE INVASION OF AMERICA
As the US gets ready to invade South America in the name of a phony “war on drugs,” the Mexican authorities and the Mexican Mafia (or do I repeat myself?) have launched a counter-invasion into the American Southwest and so far have encountered no resistance.
MEXICO A ROGUE NATION?
Oh, the bitter ironies of history! Why, just about a year ago, the Senator from Arizona who was also a presidential candidate was blustering in front of the TV cameras that “we’re in it, so we’ve got to win it.” Well, we’re certainly in it a war for control of our own borders but apparently the US lacks the will to win it. Wasn’t it John McCain who demanded a ground invasion of Yugoslavia, on the grounds that American values and honor were supposedly at stake? How is it, then, that the Senator’s own region of the country has been invaded by the armed soldiers of a foreign country and we have yet to hear a peep out of the great military leader and rising star of the War Party? We must liberate Kosovo, we are told but what about your neighboring state of New Mexico, Senator? Before we engage in “rogue state rollback” as far away as Iraq and North Korea, as you propose, why not start with Sunland Park, New Mexico, and surrounding areas where we are under sustained attack from a “rogue nation” directly on our southern border?
THIS JUST IN
Oh, how quickly they turn: we have a report, just in, that Lott "promised Tuesday to try to block a $9 billion that includes money for US activities in Colombia and Kosovo, dampening prospects that Congress will provide the money quickly." The key words here are "try" and "quickly" the question is, how hard will he try to block it, and how quickly will Clinton get the money, anyway? Both parties have been piling on "extras" into this bill, to the point where it has practically doubled in size from the original $5 billion. Naturally Republicans have larded the "emergency" spending request with all kinds of goodies for their military contractor buddies, while the Democrats have added on $253 million more to the package. The money would be for HIV care, summer jobs for teenagers, and a whole host of pork barrel items. Lott is under tremendous pressure from conservative budget-cutters, like Phil Gramm, as well as from opponents of the Kosovo intervention.
A DELAY, NOT A REPRIEVE
This is a delay, but not a reprieve: Gramm and other budget hawks don’t object to the bill on any principled foreign policy grounds, but simply because it is too expensive. As a result, the bill will likely survive in something much more like its original form: $5.2 billion on an "emergency" basis for Kosovo and Colombia. The good news is that, now, the chances of it being rushed through without debate or time for opponents to lobby are almost nil. There is still time before the US jumps, simultaneously, into two quagmires at once but not much. Keeping track of the manipulations and machinations of Trent Lott is, in itself, a full-time job, and this is one slippery character who merits some very close watching. Just be sure to let him know how you feel about this issue. I won’t bother directing you to his rather messed-up website: it looks as though the Senator is not quite ready for the Dot-com Era. But you can phone or fax him at the following numbers, whatever your view of the Kosovo-Colombia "aid" package: 202.224.6253, or 202.224.2262 (fax).