Tuesday, March 25, 2008

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Of all the casualties of this sad war, the good name of the United States is certainly one. It evaporated in the desert like a shallow pool of water. I do not mean to belittle the lives lost or soldiers maimed, and I know full well that we are not a country of innocents. We've massacred prisoners of war and murdered civilians -- at My Lai in Vietnam, for instance -- but these were mostly moments of madness or terror, not a policy virtually posted outside the orderly room.
In the end, the photos taken at Abu Ghraib produced an explosion of outrage. When I visited Jordan in 2005, my driver -- Bassam was his name -- brought it up himself. Just as the military's interrogators knew the intense shame Muslim men feel when stripped naked and viewed by women, or when forced to wear women's underwear on their heads, so did Bassam deeply feel that shame himself. "We are Muslims," he said.
The firestorm over Abu Ghraib subsided. Courts-martial were held, and no one higher than a sergeant was convicted. All the rest, the officers who knew what was happening at the prison and said nothing, or the higher-ups in the field and in Washington who suggested indifference, were not touched. In fact, the Bush administration's position on torture was much like the military's on gays -- don't ask, don't tell.
This week we reached the mark of 4,000 American dead in Iraq. It is a sad milestone in a grinding war that can never be won and is already lost in so many ways. But even when this war, like Norman Bates's mother, is gussied up by its embalmers and declared a glorious effort, the shame of Abu Ghraib will forever stain George Bush and his top aides. For them, the photos from Abu Ghraib are not pictures. They're mirrors.

Lloyd notes the above, from Richard Cohen's "The Ultimate Casualty" (Washington Post).
In Friday's snapshot, we again noted Antonia Juhasz' testimony about corruption at Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier Investigation. Juhasz etched out exactly what was going on and why:

These are the exact same companies that from the end of WWII until 1970 owned all of Iraq's oil. They were given it as a war bounty at the end of WWI. They owned it, they controlled it and they controlled Iraq's fate because of owning the oil. Since they were kicked out in the early 1970s, they've been trying to get back in. This is the second or third and maybe the largest pot of oil in the world depending on who's counting. The world is running out of oil; however, oil sells for $110 a barrel. This oil is sitting there like a gleaming prize at the end of the finish line. And believe me, they have been planning and plotting to get it. These five contracts are the tip of the iceberg. The intent is to get the Iraqis to pass a law that would put everything back the way it was in the '20s, to take it from a nationalized oil system to a privatized oil system where US oil companies -- and a little bit for the French and a little bit for the British because, you know, we like them -- would own and control the oil. Now, if that happens a US government report that was leaked by ABC News said -- and just so we are using the terminolgoy, this is one of the president's benchmarks for Iraq, which the Congress adopted, passage of an oil law in Iraq. Another one of the benchmarks, by the way, was reversing the de-Baathification law that Bremer put into place that fired all of those experts. The oil law, if it is to be put into place and if US companies that are angling are Exxon, Cheveron, Conoco, Marthon, BP, Shell and Total. If they stay, they will need to be quote "underwritten by the US government." I take "underwritten by the US government" to mean you, to be underwritten by the US military. That we will have to stay to ensure their safety and the continuation of their mission which was the whole reason we went there in the first place.

David R. Baker (San Francisco Chronicle) provides the latest update on the theft of Iraqi oil:

Chevron Corp. and other international oil companies are negotiating with the Iraq Ministry of Oil to begin tapping into some of the country's largest oil fields, according to published reports.

Specifically, the companies are negotiating for two-year contracts that would help Iraq boost production at existing oil fields.
For years, the companies have had their eyes on long-term contracts to find and develop new oil fields in Iraq, which is believed to hold the world's third-largest oil reserves. The contracts under discussion are far more limited than that, but they represent an important step in opening Iraq's oil industry to foreign involvement after years of state control.

Meanwhile in the New York Times, Steven Lee Myer and Thom Shanker speak with anonymice who tell them about a top secret briefing -- via videolink -- between the White House and David Petraeus and 'discover' that Petraues will be advocating a "pause" (though no one likes the term) in drawdown of the troops sent there as part of the escalation. Not much to make for a lengthy article but they try. They also more or less bury the news of 4,000 dead. US troops who died in Iraq are the focus of a lengthy article written by Lizette Alvarez and Andrew W. Lehren which is worth reading (families and loved ones have shared some of the e-mails sent from Iraq)but is entitled "Six of the Fallen, in Words They Sent Home" and which waits until the eighth paragraph to note that the number of US service members killed since the start of the illegal war reached 4,000 Sunday night. (A tiny photo and mini-headline to the right of the article does note "Death Toll At 4,000".)

And in other news, Amy Goodman still playing a journalist, less and less buying that myth. Today, she chuckles (and screws up her line readings) over the comic Sinbad while trying to copy Bill Moyers from his Friday program ( Bill Moyers Journal). I guess it beats yesterday's stale offerings with Greg Mitchell where they played nostalgia. To combat the diaper baby who should go by the tag "Brooklyn Pull-ups," this is Peter Daou's "Three Myths About the Democratic Race:"

MYTH: Barack Obama is running a positive campaign that will unite Americans.
FACT: Barack Obama and his advisers have conducted a divisive "full assault" on Hillary's character.
While talking a lot about the politics of hope, change and unity, Sen. Obama and his campaign have been conducting a relentless and singularly personal assault on Hillary's character. They have blanketed big states with false negative mailers and radio ads and have described Hillary and her campaign as
"disingenuous," "divisive," "untruthful," "dishonest," "polarizing," "calculating," "saying whatever it takes to win," "attempting to deceive the American people," "one of the most secretive in America," “deliberately misleading,” “literally willing to do anything to win,” and “playing politics with war."
This "full assault" on Hillary's integrity and character has reached a new peak since Hillary's victories on March 4th. One of Sen. Obama's top surrogates equated President Clinton with Joe McCarthy; another called Hillary a "monster;" and his campaign manager held an angry conference call claiming that Hillary is "deeply flawed" and has "character issues." That's neither unifying nor hopeful. If Sen. Obama really is the prohibitive favorite some say he is, these negative attacks make absolutely no sense. Why would a frontrunner seek to attack and divide? If Sen. Obama can't unify Democrats in a primary, how can he unify Americans in a general election?
MYTH: The delegate "math" works decisively against Hillary.
FACT: The delegate math reflects an extremely close race that either candidate can win.
"The Math" is actually very simple: with hundreds of delegates still uncommitted, NEITHER candidate has reached the number of delegates required to secure the nomination. And EITHER candidate can reach the required number in the coming weeks and months. That is indisputable. No amount of editorials, articles, blog posts, charts, graphs, calculations, formulas, or projections will change the basic fact that either candidate can win. Pundits who confidently proclaim that Hillary has no hope of winning because of "the math," have counted Hillary out of this race three times before. Each time they based their sober assessments on 'facts' and 'realities' -- and each time they were wrong.
In a campaign with dozens of unexpected twists and turns, bold prognostications should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. Look no further than Sen. Obama's "full assault" on Hillary's character to judge whether he thinks this election is over. The fact is this: Hillary and Sen. Obama are locked in a very close, hard-fought campaign and Hillary is demonstrating precisely the strength of character required of a president. Her resilience in the face of adversity, her faith in the voters, her capacity to rise to every challenge, are part of the reason she is the best general election candidate for Democrats. And it is why she is increasingly strong against John McCain in the polls at the same time that Sen. Obama is dropping against Sen. McCain.
MYTH: For Hillary to win, super delegates must "overturn the will of the people."
FACT: The race is virtually tied, the "will of the people" is split, and both candidates need super delegates to win.
The Obama campaign and Sen. Obama's surrogates have engaged in a sustained public relations effort to convince people that the election is over and that if super delegates perform their established role of choosing a candidate who they believe will make the best nominee and president, they are somehow "overturning the will of the people." They have the audacity to make this argument while quietly and systematically courting those very same super delegates. They are courting them because they know that Sen. Obama needs super delegates to win. The Obama spin is being parroted daily by pundits, but it is patently false. The race is virtually tied; the "will of the people" is split. By virtually every measure, Hillary and Sen. Obama are neck and neck -- separated by less than 130 of the more than 3,100 delegates committed thus far and less than 1% of the 27 million+ votes cast, including Florida and Michigan. Less than 1%.
An incremental advantage for one candidate or the other is hardly a reason for super delegates to change the rules mid-game. Despite the Obama campaign's aggressive spin and pressure, the RULES require super delegates to exercise their best independent judgment, and that is what they will do. Even Sen. Obama's top strategist
agrees they should. If not, then why don't prominent Obama endorsers like Senators Kerry (MA) and Kennedy (MA), and Governors Patrick (MA), Napolitano (AZ) and Richardson (NM) follow the will of their constituents and switch their support to Hillary? After all, she won their states. And if this is truly about the "will of the people," then Sen. Obama's short-sighted tactic to run out the clock on a revote in Florida and Michigan accomplishes exactly two things: it disenfranchises Florida and Michigan's voters; and it hurts Democrats in a general election. Apparently, for the Obama campaign, the "will of the people" is just words.

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And you'll never hear any of that from Goodman's lousy program. Remember her book comes out next month ("book" is generous). It will be number three and most are expecting it to continue the pattern for her clip-jobs, lowered sales. Today she pimps 'contractors' (that would be mercenaries) as the equivalent of service members ordered to Iraq. Yes, she really is that pathetic. The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.