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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wake Up America! (edited 1-26-05 7:01 pm)

I am angry and I am alienated from American society right now. Our ill fated adventure in Iraq is going from bad to worse and we promote the architect of the policy, Condolezza Rice, to Secretary of State?! We retain the services of the prime implementer, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and rid ourselves of a voice of reason and moderation, now former Secretary of State Colin Powell. How does this make sense? Are we trying to encourage tunnel vision in our effort not to improve things? Meanwhile society remains asleep with what can best be described as an aw-shucks attitude of "well the people voted for is the way things got to be even though it ain't gonna work and we gotta support our Commander in Chief." The media largely continues to report the Pentagon party line and dissenters are deemed unpatriotic while their marches and rallies, as on inaguration day, are confined to parks blocks away from the event, or unbelievably as during the Democratic National Convention, to a metal cage. Subsequently, of course, the media reports the protesters as a few isolated troublemakers (see Boston Globe January 21, 2005) All this while the President stakes the future of his administration and our country on a quest for universal freedom! Rather Orwellian, no?

We hold these truths to be self evident that the war in Irak is an unjust and illegal one with tens of thousands of dead iraquis already (100,000+ according to an independent study released late 2004) and many continuing to die (a majority are noncombatants) and thousands of americans (35 today give or take a few grieving mothers) die in the name of a lie- that Iraq posed a threat to our national security and possessed chemical and biological weapons it might use to arm terrorists. We hold the US responsible, and by extension its citizens including myself. The US invaded Iraq unilateraly and destroyed the existing order; in our haste to "debathify" -rid Iraq of structures formerly associated with Saddam Hussein's Bathist regime- we dissolved their security forces. Now we attempt to hastily create new Iraqui security forces while we scapegoat them for the problems in Iraq conveniently overlooking that thousands have died! You cannot make this stuff up! The so called terrorist attacks are the result of a struggle for liberation by a Sunni minority that perceives its freedom at stake -they believe the Shiites will win power for the first time in decades and opress them in retaliation for Saddam Hussein's regime. The interests of the Iraqui Sunni, at times, intersect with those of America's foes (Al Qaeda) but to categorize all Sunnis rising up against the American occupation as terrorists is a self serving tall tale. The only way out of this quagmire is a negotiated peace with those opposed to our occupation and the elections as currently structured. The US ought to seriously consider encouraging autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni areas while bringing to the table a plan for a phased and coordinated withdrawal of American forces from Iraq (yes, an exit strategy). The attacks in Iraq are encouraged by our unwanted presence. This coming April will mark two years since our entry into Baghdad. It is time for us to go. The mechanism of a properly sequenced withdrawal can be worked out with the input of the Iraquis, the United Nations and other concerned parties. If we refuse to go we will eventually be run out but the needless suffering and useless expenditure will be magnified.

It is incorrect to describe Iraq's upcoming elections as free and fair because of the existing level of violence. If the United States held elections and important segments of the population were too scared to vote because a bomb might go off in front of their polling station would one characterize the elections as free and fair? If Iraquis living outside their country fear violence and register to vote in low numbers what does that say about the level of fear in large areas of Iraq.

The Iraq fiasco, combined with the Bush Administration's fiscal policy of "spend don't tax" (i.e., the "Argentina Model") may be taking a toll on Americans' standard of living. Can it be a coincidence that we are experiencing record deficits when the costs of the Iraq war by next year will have totalled US$ 300 billion? Yesterday we learned to expect a deficit of US$ 427 billion for the coming fiscal year largely the product of wartime expenditures and their close relatives pork belly politics and profiteering. Short term deficits might be justifiable during a Great Depression as a means of stimulating demand but these current deficits lack such a rationale. Meanwhile, European and Asian economies are able to allocate an increasingly larger share of government expenditures relative to ours to education and thereby bolster their competitiveness.

In addition, who can guarantee that our creditors will continue to finance our deficits by purchasing our Treasury Bills (US Bonds)? Our creditor nations such as China and Japan may begin to require higher interest rates in exchange for lending us money to, in effect, finance this war. Are we prepared to assume the consequences further increases in interest rates would involve as they work their way through the economy leading to higher inflation rates? The first casualty will be the real estate market but what about the impact on investment and jobs? Are we not concerned that confidence in our economy both internationally, as evidenced by the falling dollar, and at home (Wall Street) seems to be eroding? Ignoring the mounting evidence/problems is folly. Other stories we read in the newspaper tell us the National Guard is looking to offer active-duty soldiers US$ 15,000 bonuses to join the guard in an attempt to bolster its thinning ranks. Wars are expensive we would be better served by remembering George Washington's statement upon leaving office that we avoid unecessary entanglements abroad.

It is at the very least deserving of consideration to what if any degree we are in Iraq in order to benefit our trusted regional ally Israel. Vice President Cheney last week went as far as suggest the United States may have to take action in Iran in order to ensure we avoid Israel taking unilateral action. American foreign policy ought to be predicated on American interests and we have to consider the distinct possibility that our mainstream media is failing to draw a sharp distinction between Israeli and American interests. Let us remember the words of another former President, General Eisenhower, who upon leaving office cautioned against the US falling prey to a military industrial complex which would require ever increasing funds for military expenditures.

As Americans we should insist that our Government reflect the common sense values that have made our country great. We are not an imperialist nation and no Government of ours should utilize the deaths of thousands of Americans at the hands of terrorists to justify imperialist power grabs, all the while couched in lofty and beautiful political rhetoric about freedom for the Iraqui people. A globalized world with globalized threats does not obviate our inherent distaste for imperialism. If we want to encourage freedom we ought to end our purchase of oil from one of the more repressive regimes in the world (Saudi Arabia) and limit our foreign aid to others (Egypt). We ought to take a more proactive role in seeking to end the slaughter of innocent human beings in Darfur lest we find ourselves at the movies in ten years watching "Hotel Darfur". Above all we must act in as impartial a matter as possible, always taking into account our own interests, to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a manner that helps stabilize the region and end the plight of the Palestinian people and its use by terrorists to gain new recruits, funding, and converts.

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