Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Foreign Policy In Focus Special Report: Sorrows of Empire

FPIF Special Report
November 2003

Sorrows of Empire

By Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Johnson is the president of the Japan Policy Research Institute in California and author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. This essay is an excerpt from his forthcoming book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books; and London: Verso).

Project Against the Present Danger

Although tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

With the fall of Baghdad, America's dutiful Anglophone allies--the British and Australians--are due for their just rewards: luncheons for Blair and Howard with the Boy Emperor at his "ranch" in Crawford, Texas. The Americans fielded an army of 255,000 in Iraq, the British 45,000, and the Australians 2,000. It was not much of a war--merely confirming the antiwar forces' contention that an unchallenged slaughter of Iraqis and a Mongol-like sacking of an ancient city were not necessary to deal with the menace of Saddam Hussein. But the war did leave the United States and its two Sepoy nations much weaker than they had been before the war--the Western democratic alliance was seemingly irretrievably fractured; a potentiality for British leadership of the European Union went up in smoke; Pentagon plans to make Iraq over into a client state sundered on Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish realities; and "international law," including the Charter of the United Nations, was grievously weakened. Why the British and Australians went along with this fiasco when they could so easily have stood for something other than might makes right remains a mystery.

The United States has been inching toward imperialism and militarism for many years. Disguising the direction they were taking, American leaders cloaked their foreign policy in euphemisms such as "lone superpower," "indispensable nation," "reluctant sheriff," "humanitarian intervention," and "globalization." However, with the advent of the George Bush administration in 2001, these pretenses gave way to assertions of the Second Coming of the Roman Empire. "American imperialism used to be a fiction of the far-left imagination," writes the English journalist Madeleine Bunting, "now it is an uncomfortable fact of life."1

On March 19, 2003, the Bush administration took the imperial step of invading Iraq, a sovereign nation one-twelfth the size of the U.S. in terms of population and virtually undefended in the face of the awesome array of weapons employed against it. The U.S. undertook its second war with Iraq with no legal justification and worldwide protests against its actions and motives, thereby bringing to an end the system of international order that existed throughout the cold war and that traces its roots back to seventeenth century doctrines of sovereignty, non-intervention in the affairs of other states, and the illegitimacy of aggressive war.

From the moment the United States assumed the permanent military domination of the world, it was on its own--feared, hated, corrupt and corrupting, maintaining "order" through state terrorism and bribery, and given to megalomaniacal rhetoric and sophistries while virtually inviting the rest of the world to combine against it. The U.S. had mounted the Napoleonic tiger and could not get off. During the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, the president's chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, once reproved White House counsel, John Dean, for speaking too frankly to Congress about the felonies President Nixon had ordered. "John," he said, "once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's hard to get it back in." This homely metaphor by a former advertising executive who was to spend 18 months in prison for his own role in Watergate fairly accurately describes the situation of the United States.

The sorrows of empire are the inescapable consequences of the national policies American elites chose after September 11, 2001. Militarism and imperialism always bring with them sorrows. The ubiquitous symbol of the Christian religion, the cross, is perhaps the world's most famous reminder of the sorrows that accompanied the Roman Empire--it represents the most atrocious death the Roman proconsuls could devise in order to keep subordinate peoples in line. From Cato to Cicero, the slogan of Roman leaders was "Let them hate us so long as they fear us."

Four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative effect guarantees that the U.S. will cease to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787. First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a spreading reliance on nuclear weapons among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second is a loss of democracy and Constitutional rights as the presidency eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from a co-equal "executive branch" of government into a military junta. Third is the replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there is bankruptcy, as the United States pours its economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchanges the education, health, and safety of its citizens. All I have space for here is to touch briefly on three of these: endless war, the loss of Constitutional liberties, and financial ruin.

Allegedly in response to the attacks of al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, President Bush declared that the United States would dominate the world through absolute military superiority and wage preventive war against any possible competitor. He began to enunciate this doctrine in his June 1, 2002, speech to the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and spelled it out in his "National Security Strategy of the United States" of September 20, 2002.

At West Point, the president said that the United States had a unilateral right to overthrow any government in the world that it deemed a threat to American security. He argued that the United States must be prepared to wage the "war on terror" against as many as sixty countries if weapons of mass destruction are to be kept out of terrorists' hands. "We must take that battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge." Americans must be "ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives ... . In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act." Although Bush did not name every single one, his hit-list of sixty possible target countries was an escalation over Vice President Dick Cheney, who in November 2001, said that there were only "forty or fifty" countries that United States wanted to attack after eliminating the al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan.2

At West Point, the president justified his proposed massive military effort in terms of alleged universal values: "We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent." He added an assertion that is demonstrably untrue but that in the mouth of the president of the United States on an official occasion amounted to the announcement of a crusade: "Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, in every place."

In his National Security Strategy, he expanded on these goals to include "America must stand firmly for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity; the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property." In the preamble to the strategy, he (or Condoleezza Rice, the probable actual author) wrote that there is "a single sustainable model for national success"--America's--that is "right and true for every person in every society. ... The United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere."

The paradoxical effect of this grand strategy is that it may prove more radically disruptive of world order than anything the terrorists of September 11, 2001, could have hoped to achieve on their own. Through its actions, the United States seems determined to bring about precisely the threats that it says it is trying to prevent. Its apparent acceptance of a "clash of civilizations"--wars to establish a moral truth that is the same in every culture--sounds remarkably like a jihad, even to its basis in Christian fundamentalism. Bush seems to equate himself with Jesus Christ in his repeated statements (notably on September 20, 2001) that those who are not with us are against us, which duplicates Matthew chapter 12, verse 30, "He that is not with me is against me."

Implementation of the National Security Strategy will be considerably more problematic than its promulgation and contains numerous unintended consequences. By mid-2003, the United States armed forces were already seriously overstretched, and the U.S. government was going deeply into debt to finance its war machine. The American budget dedicated to international affairs allocates 93% to the military and only 7% to the State Department, and does not have much flexibility left for further military adventures.3 The Pentagon has deployed a quarter of a million troops against Iraq, several thousand soldiers are engaged in daily skirmishes in Afghanistan, countless Navy and Air Force crews are manning strategic weapons in the waters off North Korea, a few thousand Marines have been dispatched to the southern Philippines to fight a century-old Islamic separatist movement, several hundred "advisers" are participating in the early stages of a Vietnam-like insurgency in Colombia and elsewhere in the Andean nations, and the U.S. currently maintains a military presence in 140 of the 189 member countries of the United Nations, including significant deployments in twenty-five. The U.S. has military treaties or binding security arrangements with at least thirty-six countries.4

Aside from the financial cost, there is another constraint. The American people are totally unwilling to accept large numbers of American casualties. In order to produce the "no-contact" or "painless dentistry" approach to warfare, the Pentagon has committed itself to a massive and very expensive effort to computerize battle.5 It has spent lavishly on smart bombs, battlefield sensors, computer-guided munitions, and extremely high performance aircraft and ships. The main reason for all this gadgetry is to keep troops out of the line of fire.

Unfortunately, as the conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated, ground troops follow in the wake of massive aerial bombing and missile attacks. The first Iraq War produced four classes of casualties--killed in action, wounded in action, killed in accidents (including "friendly fire"), and injuries and illnesses that appeared only after the end of hostilities. During 1990 and 1991, some 696,778 individuals served in the Persian Gulf as elements of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Of these 148 were killed in battle, 467 were wounded in action, and 145 were killed in accidents, producing a total of 760 casualties, quite a low number given the scale of the operations.

However, as of May 2002, the Veterans Administration (VA) reported that an additional 8,306 soldiers had died and 159,705 were injured or ill as a result of service-connected "exposures" suffered during the war. Even more alarmingly, the VA revealed that 206,861 veterans, almost a third of General Schwarzkopf's entire army, had filed claims for medical care, compensation, and pension benefits based on injuries and illnesses caused by combat in 1991. After reviewing the cases, the agency has classified 168,011 applicants as "disabled veterans." In light of these deaths and disabilities, the casualty rate for the first Gulf War is actually a staggering 29.3%.

A significant probable factor in these deaths and disabilities is depleted uranium (or DU) ammunition, although this is a hotly contested proposition. Some researchers, often paid for by the Pentagon, argue that depleted uranium could not possibly be the cause of these war-related maladies and that a more likely explanation is dust and debris from the blowing up of Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons factories in 1991, or perhaps a "cocktail" of particles from DU ammunition, the destruction of nerve gas bunkers, and polluted air from burning oil fields. But the evidence--including abnormal clusters of childhood cancers and birth defects in Iraq and also in the areas of Kosovo where the U.S. used depleted-uranium weapons in the 1999 air war--points primarily toward DU. Moreover, simply by insisting on employing such weaponry, the American military is deliberately flouting a 1996 United Nations resolution that classifies DU ammunition as an illegal weapon of mass destruction.

DU, or Uranium-238, is a waste product of power-generating nuclear-reactors. It is used in projectiles like tank shells and cruise missiles because it is 1.7 times denser than lead, burns as it flies, and penetrates armor easily, but it breaks up and vaporizes on impact--which makes it potentially very deadly. Each shell fired by an American tank includes between three and ten pounds of DU. Such warheads are essentially "dirty bombs," not very radioactive individually but nonetheless suspected of being capable in quantity of causing serious illnesses and birth defects.6

In 1991, U.S. forces fired a staggering 944,000 DU rounds in Kuwait and Iraq. The Pentagon admits that it left behind at a bare minimum 320 metric tons of DU on the battlefield. One study of Gulf War veterans showed that their children had a higher possibility of being born with severe deformities, including missing eyes, blood infections, respiratory problems, and fused fingers.

Aside from the damage done to our own troops and civilians by depleted uranium, the United States military remains committed to the most devastating forms of terror bombing, often without even a pretense of precision targeting of militarily significant installations. This aspect of current American military thinking can be found in the writing of Harlan Ullman, a high-ranking Pentagon official and protégé of General Colin Powell, who advocates that the United States attack its enemies in the same way it defeated Japan in World War II. He writes, "Super tools and weapons--information age equivalents of the atomic bomb--have to be invented. As the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally convinced the Japanese Emperor and High Command that even suicidal resistance was futile, these tools must be directed toward a similar outcome." Ullman is the author of the idea is that the U.S. should "deter and overpower an adversary through the adversary's perception and fear of his vulnerability and our own invincibility." He calls this "rapid dominance" or "shock and awe." He once suggested that it might be a good idea to use electromagnetic waves to attack peoples' neurological systems and scare them to death.7

The United States government has other ways to implement its new world strategy without getting its hands dirty, including what it and its Israeli allies call "targeted killings." During February, 2003, the Bush administration sought the Israeli government's counsel on how to create a legal justification for the assassination of terrorism suspects. In his 2003 State of the Union speech, President Bush said that terrorism suspects who were not caught and brought to trial have been "otherwise dealt with" and observed that "more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries, and many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies."8

High-tech warfare invites the kind of creative judo the terrorists of al Qaeda utilized on September 11. Employing domestic American airliners as their weapons of mass destruction, they took a deadly toll of innocent American bystanders. The U.S. worries that they might acquire or be given fissionable material by a "rogue state," but the much more likely source is via theft from the huge nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia. The weapons-grade anthrax used in the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States almost certainly came from the Pentagon's own biological stockpile, not from some poverty stricken Third World country. The U.S. government has probably solved the case but is too embarrassed by it actually to apprehend those responsible and bring them publicly before a court of justice.9 Meanwhile, the emphasis on using a professional military with its array of "people-zappers" will only strengthen the identification between the United States and tyranny.

If the likelihood of perpetual war hangs over the world, the situation domestically in the United States is no better. Militarism and imperialism threaten democratic government at home just as seriously as they menace the independence and sovereignty of other countries. Whether George Bush and his zealots can ever bring about a "regime change" in Iraq or any other country is an open question, but there is no doubt that they already have done so within the United States. In keeping with the Roman pretensions of his administration, Bush often speaks as if he were a modern Caligula (the Roman emperor who reigned from 37 to 41 AD and who wanted to appoint his horse to the Senate). In the second presidential debate on October 11, 2000, Bush said, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." A little more than a year later, he replied to a question by the Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, "I'm the commander--see, I don't need to explain--I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."10

Bush and his administration have worked zealously to expand the powers of the presidency at the expense of the other branches of government. Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution says explicitly that "The Congress shall have the power to declare war." It prohibits the president from making that decision. The most influential author of the Constitution, James Madison, wrote in 1793, "In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not the executive department. ... The trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man."11 Yet, after September 11, 2001, President Bush unilaterally declared that the nation was "at war" against terrorism, and a White House spokesman later noted that the president "considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason."

During October 3 to 10, 2002, Congress's "week of shame," both houses voted to give the president open-ended authority to wage war against Iraq. It permitted the president to use any means, including military force and nuclear weapons, in a preventive strike against Iraq as soon and as long as he--and he alone--determined it to be "appropriate." The vote was 296 to 33 in the House and 77 to 23 in the Senate. There was no debate; the members were too politically cowed to address the issue directly. Thus, for example, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) spoke on the hundredth anniversary of the 4-H Club; Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky) talked about the Future Farmers of America in his state; and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) gave Congress a brief history of the city of Mountain View, California.12

Equally serious, the Bush administration arrogated to itself the power unilaterally to judge whether an American citizen or a foreigner is part of a terrorist organization and can therefore be stripped of all Constitutional rights or rights under international law. President Bush's government has imprisoned 664 individuals from forty-two countries, including teenage children, at a concentration camp in Guantánmo, Cuba, where they are beyond the reach of the Constitution. It has also designated them "illegal combatants," a concept unknown in international law, to place them beyond the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. None of them has been charged with anything: they are merely captives.

The key cases here concern two native-born American citizens--Yasir Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla. Hamdi, age 22, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but raised in Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon claimed he was captured fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, although in a more detailed submission it acknowledged that he surrendered to the Northern Alliance forces, the warlords whom the U.S. had paid to fight on its side, before he engaged in any form of combat. Padilla is a Brooklyn-born American of Puerto Rican ancestry. He was arrested by federal agents on May 8, 2002, at O'Hare Airport, Chicago, after he arrived on a flight from Pakistan. He was held for a month without any charges being filed or contact with an attorney or the outside world. On the eve of his appearance in federal court in New York, he was hastily transferred to a military prison in Charleston, South Carolina; and President Bush designated him "a bad guy" and an "enemy combatant." No charges were brought against him, and attempts to force the government to make its case via writs of habeas corpus were routinely turned down on grounds that the courts have no jurisdiction over a military prisoner.

A year and a half after September 11, 2001, at least two articles of the Bill of Rights were dead letters--the fourth prohibiting unwarranted searches and seizures and the sixth guaranteeing a jury of peers, the assistance of an attorney in offering a defense, the right to confront one's accusers, protection against self-incrimination, and, most critically, the requirement that the government spell out its charges and make them public. The second half of Thomas Jefferson's old warning--"When the government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny"--clearly applies.13

The final sorrow of empire is financial ruin. It is different from the other three in that bankruptcy may not be as fatal to the American Constitution as endless war, loss of liberty, and habitual official lying; but it is the only sorrow that will certainly lead to a crisis. The U.S. proved to be ready militarily for an Iraq war, maybe even a North Korea war, and perhaps an Iran war, but it is unprepared economically for even one of them, much less all three in short succession.

The permanent military domination of the world is an expensive business. During fiscal year 2003, the U.S.'s military appropriations bill, signed on October 23, 2002, came to $354.8 billion. For fiscal year 2004, the Department of Defense asked Congress for a 4.2% increase, to $380 billion. When the budget was presented, sycophantic Congressmen spent most of their time asking the defense secretary if he was sure he did not need even more money and suggesting big weapons projects that could be built in their districts. They seemed to say that no matter how much the U.S. spends on "defense," it will not be enough. The next largest military spender is Russia, but its military budget is only 14% of the U.S.'s total. To equal current U.S. expenditures, the military budgets of the next twenty-seven highest spenders would have to be added together. The American amounts do not include the intelligence budgets, most of which are controlled by the Pentagon, nor do they include expenditures for the Iraq war or the Pentagon's request for a special $10 billion account to combat terrorism.

Estimates of the likely cost of the war vary widely. In 2002, President Bush's first chief economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, guessed that attacking Iraq--an economy somewhat smaller than that of Louisiana's--would require around $140 billion, but this figure already looks too small. In March 2003, the Bush administration said it would need an additional amount somewhere between $60 billion and $95 billion just to cover the build-up of troops in and around Iraq, the ships and planes carrying them, their munitions and other supplies, and the fuel they will consume. These figures did not include the costs of the postwar occupation and reconstruction of the country. A high-level Council on Foreign Relations study concluded that President Bush has failed "to fully describe to Congress and the American people the magnitude of the resources that will be required to meet the post-conflict needs" of Iraq.14

The first Gulf war cost about $61 billion. However, American allies such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan, and South Korea chipped in some $54.1 billion, about 80% of the total, leaving the U.S.'s financial contribution a minuscule $7 billion. Japan alone contributed $13 billion. Nothing like that will happen again. Virtually the entire world is agreed that if the lone superpower wants to go off in personal pursuit of a preventive war, it can pick up its own tab. The problem is that the U.S. is becoming quite short on cash. The budget for 2003 forecasts a $304 billion federal deficit, excluding the costs of the Iraq war and shortfalls in the budgets of programs that are guaranteed, backed, or sponsored by the U.S. government. Virtually all of the U.S. states face severe fiscal shortages and are pleading with the federal government for bailouts, particularly to pay for congressionally mandated anti-terrorism and civil defense programs. The Congressional Budget Office projects federal deficits over the next five years of over $1 trillion, on top of an already existing government debt in February 2003 of $6.4 trillion.

In my judgment, American imperialism and militarism are so far advanced and obstacles to its further growth have been so completely neutralized that the decline of the U.S. has already begun. The country is following the path already taken by its erstwhile adversary in the cold war, the former Soviet Union. The U.S.'s refusal to dismantle its own empire of military bases when the menace of the Soviet Union disappeared, combined with its inappropriate response to the blowback of September 11, 2001, makes this decline virtually inevitable.

There is only one development that could conceivably stop this cancerous process, and that is for the people to retake control of Congress, reform it and the election laws to make it a genuine assembly of democratic representatives, and cut off the supply of money to the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. That was, after all, the way the Vietnam War was finally brought to a halt.

John le Carré, the novelist most famous for his books on the role of intelligence services in the cold war, writes, "America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War."15 His view is somewhat more optimistic than mine. If it is just a period of madness, like musth in elephants, we might get over it. The U.S. still has a strong civil society that could, at least in theory, overcome the entrenched interests of the armed forces and the military-industrial complex. I fear, however, that the U.S. has indeed crossed the Rubicon and that there is no way to restore Constitutional government short of a revolutionary rehabilitation of American democracy. Without root and branch reform, Nemesis awaits. She is the goddess of revenge, the punisher of pride and arrogance, and the United States is on course for a rendezvous with her.


Madeleine Bunting, "Beginning of the End: The U.S. Is Ignoring an Important Lesson from History--that an Empire Cannot Survive on Brute Force Alone," The Guardian, February 3, 2003.
Ewen MacAskill, "Up to 50 States Are on Blacklist, Says Cheney," The Guardian, November 17, 2001; James Doran, "Terror War Must Target 60 Nations, says Bush," The Times, London, June 3, 2002.
Tom Barry, "The U.S. Power Complex: What's New?" Foreign Policy in Focus, Special Report, November 2002, n. 11.
Madhavee Inamdar, "Global Vigilance in a Global Village: U.S. Expands Its Military Bases," The Progressive Response, vol. 6, no. 41 (December 31, 2002).
William M. Arkin, "The Best Defense," Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2002; "War Designed to Test New Weapons: Interview with Vladimir Slipchenko," Rossiyskaya Gazeta, February 22, 2003, online at .
Doug Rokke, "Gulf War Casualties," September 30, 2002, online at http://www.rense.com/general29/gulf.htm; Susanna Hecht, "Uranium Warheads May Leave Both Sides a Legacy of Death for Decades," Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2003; Neil Mackay, "U.S. Forces' Use of Depleted Uranium Is 'Illegal,'" Glasgow Sunday Herald, March 30, 2003; Steven Rosenfeld, "Gulf War Syndrome, The Sequel," TomPaine.com, April 8, 2003; "UK to Aid DU Removal," BBC News, April 23, 2003; Frances Williams, "Clean-up of Pollution Urged to Reduce Health Risks" and Vanessa Houlder, "Allied Troops 'Risk Uranium Exposure,'" Financial Times, April 25, 2003; Jonathan Duffy, "Iraq's Cancer Children Overlooked in War," BBC News, April 29, 2003.
See Ira Chernus, "Shock & Awe: Is Baghdad the Next Hiroshima?" CommonDreams.org, January 27, 2003. On the proposed Anglo-American use of such weapons as lasers that can blind and stun and microwave beams that can heat the water in human skin to the boiling point, see Antony Barnett, "Army's Secret 'People Zapper' Plans," The Observer, November 3, 2002. The United States is also sponsoring research on chemical and biological weapons that violates the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and other international treaties. One of the projects is to produce antibiotic-resistant anthrax. Julian Borger, "U.S. Weapons Secrets Exposed," The Guardian, October 29, 2002; and Thomas Fuller, "Microwave Weapons: The Dangers of First Use," International Herald Tribune, March 17, 2003.
"Complete Text of President Bush's State of the Union Address," Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2003. Also see Ian Urbina, "On the Road with Murder, Inc.," Asia Times, January 24, 2003; Ori Nir, "Bush Seeks Israeli Advice on 'Targeted Killings,'" Forward, February 7, 2003.
See Marilyn W. Thompson, The Killer Strain: Anthrax and a Government Exposed (New York: HarperCollins, 2003); and Chuck Murphy, "Not Iraq, But Anniston, Ala.," St. Petersburg Times, March 16, 2003. According to Murphy, the U.S. Army is currently storing in the United States, 873,020 pounds of sarin, 1,657,480 pounds of VX nerve agent, and 1,976,760 pounds of mustard agent.
Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), pp. 145-46.
James Madison, as quoted by Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-West Virginia), October 3, 2002, speaking in opposition to a resolution granting the president open-ended authority to go to war whenever he chooses to do so. See John C. Bonifaz, "War Powers: The White House Continues to Defy the Constitution," TomPaine.com, February 4, 2003.
Winslow T. Wheeler, "The Week of Shame: Congress Wilts as the President Demands an Unclogged Road to War" (Washington: Center for Defense Information, January 2003), p. 17.
William Norman Grigg, "Suspending Habeas Corpus," The New American, vol. 18, no. 14 (July 15, 2002). Also see "Detaining Americans," Washington Post, June 13, 2002; Nat Hentoff, "George W. Bush's Constitution," Village Voice, January 3, 2003; Benjamin Weiser, "U.S. to Appeal Order Giving Lawyers Access to Detainee," New York Times, March 26, 2003; Dick Meyer, "John Ashcroft: Minister of Fear," CBSNews.com, June 12, 2002; Edward Alden and Caroline Daniel, "Battle Lines Blurred as U.S. Searches for Enemies in the War on Terrorism," Financial Times, January 2, 2003.
Leslie Wayne, "Rumsfeld Warns He Will Ask Congress for More Billions," New York Times, February 6, 2003; Thom Shanker and Richard W. Stevenson, "Pentagon Wants $10 Billion a Year for Antiterror Fund," New York Times, November 27, 2002; Jason Nissé, "The $800 Billion Conflict and a World Left Licking Its Wounds," The Independent, March 9, 2003; Patrick E. Tyler, "Panel Faults Bush on War Costs and Risks," New York Times, March 12, 2003; David R. Sands, "Allies Unlikely to Help Pay for Second Iraq Invasion," Washington Times, March 10, 2003.
59.Edmund L. Andrews, "Federal Debt Near Ceiling; Second Time in 9 Months," New York Times, February 20, 2003.
John le Carré, "The United States of America Has Gone Mad," The Times (London), January 15, 2003, online at .

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Tale of Two Wars

A Tale of Two Wars
In Baghdad, I Hear Echoes of Saigon in '67
By Lewis M. Simons
Sunday, August 28, 2005; B01

Iwent to Vietnam a hawk. It was July 1967; I was an ex-Marine and a reporter for the Associated Press. It took only a few months before I realized I was being fed official lies on a daily basis. Now, having spent decades covering war and its aftermath around the world, I have just been through an eerily reminiscent experience in Iraq.

In the Baghdad of 2005, as in the Saigon of four decades ago, my government tells me that by staying the course, we'll cut out a vicious tumor metastasizing through the body of Western democracy.

Today's cancer is terrorism, not the red menace. But the singular constant remains this: Armies and governments at war all lie. They tell us that we're winning hearts and minds, that the troops will be home for Christmas, that the mission is accomplished. They did it then, and they're doing it now.

My hawkishness is long gone. I went to Iraq this May on an assignment for National Geographic magazine, already convinced that this war was a mistake. I found myself cloistered in a nightmare world, behind layers of 12-foot concrete barriers beyond which no thinking American strays without armed guards. I returned home a month later, certain that this war, like Vietnam, will never be won.

What would "winning" in Iraq mean, anyway? A democratic society that's free to elect an anti-American, pro-Iranian, fundamentalist Islamic government? A land of gushing oil wells feeding international oil company profits at U.S. taxpayers' expense? Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis joining hands to end terrorism around the world? Since, in my judgment, we were wrong to go in, I'm afraid there's no good way to get out.

Americans didn't know what "winning" meant in Vietnam, either. Most didn't understand the enemy, its objectives or the lengths to which it was prepared to go to attain them. We had a fuzzy notion of communist "world domination," and the "domino theory" and no realization that what the Vietnamese wanted, south and north, was independence. They didn't want to take over Southeast Asia. They didn't want to invade Los Angeles. They wanted to run their own country. They wanted us out.

Nor do we understand Iraq. The truth -- that Iraq was not a terrorist haven before we invaded, but we're making it into one today -- has been thickly painted over with unending coats of misinformation.

The enemy body-count fiasco at Saigon's daily "5 o'clock follies" -- as military briefings were dubbed by a derisive press corps -- has been replaced by meaningless claims of dead insurgents. Lyndon Johnson's vision of "light at the end of the tunnel" has evolved into Dick Cheney's embarrassing "last throes." Where 392 Americans were killed in action in Vietnam from 1962 through 1964, the first three years of the war, (and 58,000 by the time of the U.S. withdrawal in 1975), after 2 1/2 years in Iraq we have nearly 1,900 American KIAs. Where 2 million Vietnamese were killed by the war's end, we have no idea how many Iraqis have died since we unleashed "shock and awe." Is it 10,000, 20,000, 30,000? More? Who knows? Who in America cares?

This blithe American disregard for their lives infuriates Iraqis. After President Bush recently congratulated soldiers at Fort Bragg for fighting the terrorists in Iraq so that we wouldn't have to face them here at home, a Baghdad University professor told an interviewer that Bush was saying that Iraqis had to die to make Americans safe.

What we failed to understand in Vietnam -- that people who want foreign occupiers out of their country are willing and prepared to withstand any kind of privation and risk for however long it takes -- we are failing, once again, to grasp in Iraq.

I've returned repeatedly to Vietnam since the war. About 20 miles northwest of Saigon, in Cu Chi, I had one of the more harrowing experiences of my reporting career, crawling for an hour through black, airless, grave-like tunnels that spider-web for well over 100 miles beneath the jungle floor. (This was before the Tourism Ministry enlarged some of the passages, to accommodate super-size Western travelers.)

Here, entire armies and civilian communities had lived and worked and plotted attacks, through not just the American war but the earlier war against the French. With dirt dropping into my sweat-stinging eyes, my imagination raced: What must it have been like with tanks and bombers rumbling overhead? When I stumbled out, heart pounding, I told my guide that finally I understood why his side had won.

Today, Muslim suicide bombers and terrorists are our Viet Cong. We can bring 'em on, smoke 'em out and hunt 'em down from now until doomsday, but the line of committed volunteers seems only to grow longer. The world -- not just the Middle East, but South and Southeast Asia, Europe and North America -- is being populated with more and more alienated and bitter young Muslims who feel that they have nothing to lose. The ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq and across the Middle East doesn't intimidate them; it just stokes their fury.

That there is no military solution to this conundrum is clearly illustrated by a ride I took on my first day in Baghdad. The small plane I flew on from Amman, Jordan, corkscrewed into Baghdad airport early one afternoon. The South African pilot warned the 20 passengers that the stomach-heaving descent might be uncomfortable, but that it was necessary in order to avoid any heat-seeking missiles. The last time I'd made such a landing was in April 1975, on a flight into Phnom Penh as a correspondent for The Washington Post. Two weeks later, Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge.

I was bound this time for the relative security of the walled-in Green Zone, just five miles from the airport. For security reasons, we could not leave immediately. I was assigned one of two dozen canvas cots in a large tent. It was air-conditioned. (This -- along with Internet availability, 30-minute-guaranteed to-your-tent-door Pizza Hut delivery, Cuban cigars at the PX, fresh meals and regularly sanitized portable toilets -- is one of the gains the U.S. military has achieved since Vietnam.) We weren't told our departure time.

At 3 a.m. a chipper sergeant with a bullhorn voice flicked on the tent lights and told us to get up and put on body armor and helmets. Three Rhino Runner buses, painted desert-tan and heavily steel-plated, were lined up and 90 of us, mostly GIs and civilian contractors, boarded. Three armed Humvees preceded us; three followed. Overhead clattered three Blackhawk helicopters.

Again I was reminded of Vietnam, where the GIs used to say that the night belonged to the VC. In Iraq, it's the roads -- where IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, have replaced punji sticks as the guerrilla weapon of choice. If, 2 1/2 years in, you don't control the only road linking your military airport to your headquarters, you don't control much of anything.

The next day, a U.S. Marine Corps brigadier general told a televised news conference that the escalating rate of car bombings in the capital and around the country was a sure sign of the enemy's "final desperation." (Two weeks later, Cheney issued his tweaked version.) The troops on the ground in Iraq, much like the grunts in Vietnam, know better. Yet by and large they're loyal, and most told me that they believe in the mission -- at least until they're ordered back for their second or third tours. These "stop loss" soldiers are most bitter about their perception that the administration's effort to wage the war on the cheap applies only to them, while private contractors grow rich.

On the green plastic wall of a portable toilet at Baghdad military airport, I read the following graffiti, scrawled by a civilian contract employee: "14 months. $200,000. I'm out of here. [Expletive] you Iraq." Beneath it was a response from the ranks: "12 months. $20,000. What the [expletive] is going on here?" Speaking of money, the administration has never come clean about the massive debt it's piling up for us and our descendants. The nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates that the Vietnam War cost the United States $600 billion in today's dollars. Iraq, according to the center, is costing between $5 billion and $8 billion a month -- $218 billion to date. That would mean $700 billion if the guns fall silent six years from now, a modest timetable according to numerous military analysts. Other estimates predict an eventual bottom line of over $1 trillion.

So, do we cut our losses -- human and financial -- and leave? If so, when? If not, how long do we stay? If we stay, the insurgency continues; if we go, it most likely expands into an all-out civil war, the fragmenting of Iraq and the intervention of its neighbors, Iran, Turkey and Syria, followed by the collapse of promised democracy in the Middle East: a kind of reverse domino theory. What likely will happen in the short term, it's beginning to appear, will be an attempt to spin a more positive illusion: President Bush will order several thousand troops sent home in time for the 2006 midterm election campaign. He will claim that the Iraqis are taking charge of their own security (see "Vietnamization") and leave the mess to his successor.

Then what? If the bulk of the 130,000 U.S. troops are kept in Iraq for the rump of the Bush presidency and into the next administration, whether Republican or Democratic, the insurgency will go on.

The tax dollars we'll be spending on that military presence might be better spent on helping educate new generations of Iraqis, and millions of other young Muslims around the world, on the basics of running a country.They need it: "Democracy is wonderful," exclaimed a mother of two teenagers whom I met in the southern city of Basra. "It means you're free to do whatever you want." While that may be an understandable interpretation from a people who weren't free to do anything under Saddam Hussein's 35-year dictatorship, surely it's not what Americans are fighting and dying for.

The ultimate lesson of Vietnam -- one that is applicable to Iraq -- has been that once Americans declared victory and returned home, the Vietnamese went through the inevitable, sometimes brutal, shakeout that we had merely delayed. Eventually, the realities of the marketplace and the appeal of capitalism resulted in a nominally communist but vibrant nation. Today, Americans feast on low-cost Vietnamese shrimp and wear inexpensive Vietnamese T-shirts. Two month ago, President Bush welcomed Prime Minister Phan Van Khai to the White House and promised him increased trade and military cooperation.

So, what happens if we don't apply that lesson to our Iraq adventure? One of the most senior diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad told me that what he and his colleagues believed, and what kept them awake at night, was that if the United States is serious about establishing democracy in Iraq, and attempts to do so under current policies, it would take two generations of our soldiers fighting there. That's 40 years.

You may want to pass that along to your grandchildren.

Lewis Simons, a former foreign correspondent for The Post and for Knight Ridder newspapers, is a contributor to National Geographic.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bike-Deep in the Big Muddy - New York Times

August 27, 2005
Bike-Deep in the Big Muddy


W. has jumped the couch.

Not fallen off the couch, as he did when he choked on that pretzel.

Jumped it.

According to UrbanDictionary.com, "jump the couch" has now become slang for "a defining moment when you know someone has gone off the deep end. Inspired by Tom Cruise's recent behavior on 'Oprah.' Also see 'jump the shark.' "

The former stateside National Guardsman who was sometimes M.I.A. jumped the shark by landing on that "Mission Accomplished" carrier. (With Tom Cruise cockiness.)

Then, as president, he jumped the couch by pedaling through the guns of August - the growing carnage and chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He did do a few minutes of work this month, calling a Shiite leader in Baghdad a few days ago to lobby him to reach a consensus with the Sunnis, so Iraq doesn't crack apart. But the Shiites and Kurds ignored the president and skewered the Sunnis.

Iraq, it turns out, is the one branch of American government that the Republicans don't control.

W. had a barbecue for the press on Thursday night. (If only the press had grilled him instead.) He mingled over catfish and potato salad with the reporters, who had to ride past Cindy Sheehan's antiwar encampment to get to the poolside party.

Dan Froomkin wrote on the Washington Post Web site that many of the reporters "fawned over Bush, following him around in packs every time he moved." W. chatted about sports and the twins, still oblivious to the cultural shift that is turning 2005 into 1968.

As the news correspondent Dan Harris noted on ABC on Wednesday, the mood is much different now from what it was when the Dixie Chicks got pilloried for criticizing the president just before the war began.

The No. 1 music video requested on MTV is Green Day's antiwar song, "Wake Me Up When September Ends," about the pain of soldiers and their families. On Sunday, Joan Baez sang peace anthems at Camp Casey, including "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" The N.F.L. did not cancel its sponsorship of the Rolling Stones tour, even though the band has a new song critical of Mr. Bush and the war.

Gary Hart began his Washington Post op-ed piece this week by quoting from an anti-Vietnam War song, "Waist-deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on."

The former campaign manager for George McGovern's antiwar campaign in 1972 wrote: "We've stumbled into a hornet's nest. We've weakened ourselves at home and in the world. We are less secure today than before this war began. Who now has the courage to say this?"

Anxiety is growing among politicians on both sides of the aisle. More and more Americans don't want to stay-the-course on stay-the-course.

You'd think that by now, watching the meshugas in Iraq, the Bush crowd would have learned some lessons about twisting facts to suit ideology, and punishing those who try to tell the truth. But they're still behaving like Cinderella's evil stepsisters, who cut their feet to fit them into the glass slipper: butchering reality to make the fairy tale come out their way.

Eric Lichtblau reported in The Times this week that the administration was dumping the highly respected Lawrence Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001 to head the Bureau of Justice Statistics, because he refused superiors' orders to delete from a press release an account of how black and Hispanic drivers were treated more aggressively by the police after traffic stops. The Justice Department study showed markedly higher rates of searches and use of force for black and Hispanic drivers, compared with white drivers.

Fearing that the survey would give ammunition to members of Congress who object to using racial and ethnic data in terrorism and law enforcement investigations, Mr. Greenfeld's supervisors buried it online with no press release or briefing for Congress.

Mr. Lichtblau wrote that when Mr. Greenfeld sent the planned press release to the office of his supervisor, Tracy Henke, then an acting assistant attorney general, the section on the treatment of black and Hispanic drivers was crossed out with a notation: "Do we need this?" Ms. Henke herself had added a note: "Make the changes."

Like Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, John Bolton and others who helped spin reality to suit political ends, Ms. Henke was rewarded by the president. She has been nominated for a senior post in the Homeland Security Department.

I feel safer already.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Friday, August 26, 2005

Chicken Hawks roster, courtesy of Russell Banks

Russell Banks

Subject: Chicken Hawks update


Here is an updated list of the military service records of those Democratic Legislators who are often labeled in the rightwing (and it's mostly rightwing) press as "Un-American" (i.e. Democrats), compared to the military service records of the Republicans who we are APPARENTLY supposed to trust in these matters.

Take a good look at the military records of the Republicans on this list.
Not only are these men expressing an opinion on wartime issues, they are
directing our warring policies! Those of you on the right, please - heed your own stated prinicples here. Make them stop.

Military Service Records, prominent Democrats:

* Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
* David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
* Tom Daschle: 1st ! Lt., A! ir Force SAC 1969-72.
* Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
* Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
* Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
* John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts.
* Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
* Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68;
Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
* Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
* Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
* Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
* Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
* Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars,and
Soldier's Medal.
* Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart,
Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
* Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173! rd Air! borne, Purple Heart.
* Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla . Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star
with Combat V.
* Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
* Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57 * Chuck Robb: Vietnam
* Howell Heflin: Silver Star
* George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
* Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but
received #311.
* Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
* Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
* John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
* Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.

Republicans (and these are the guys sending our kids to war):

* Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments,
the last by marriage.
* Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
* Tom Delay: did not serve.
* Roy Blunt: did not serve.
* Bill Fri! st: di! d not serve.
* Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
* Rick Santorum: did not serve.
* Trent Lott: did not serve.
* John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
* Jeb Bush: did not serve.
* Karl Rove: did not serve.
* Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Max
Cleland's patriotism.
* Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
* Vin Weber: did not serve.
* Richard Perle: did not serve.
* Douglas Feith: did not serve.
* Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
* Richard Shelby: did not serve.
* John Kyl: did not serve.
* Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
* Christopher Cox: did not serve.
* Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
* Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
* George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappea! red fr! om duty.
* Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making
* B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
* Phil Gramm: did not serve.
* John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
* Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
* John M. McHugh: did not serve.
* JC Watts: did not serve.
* Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem," although continued in NFL for 8
* Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
* Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
* George Pataki: did not serve.
* Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
* John Engler: did not serve.
* Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
* Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.

Pundits & Preachers
* Sean Hannity: did not serve.
* Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F! with ! a 'pilonidal cyst.')
* Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
* Michael Savage: did not serve.
* George Will: did not serve.
* Chris Matthews: did not serve.
* Paul Gigot: did not serve.
* Bill Bennett: did not serve.
* Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
* John Wayne: did not serve.
* Bill Kristol: did not serve.
* Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
* Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
* Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
* Ralph Reed: did not serve.
* Michael Medved: did not serve.
* Charlie Daniels: did not serve.
* Ted Nugent: did not serve. (He only shoots at things that don't shoot back.)

Bringing It All Back Home - New York Times

Bringing It All Back Home - New York Times

Summer of Our Discontent - New York Times

August 26, 2005
Summer of Our Discontent

For the last few months there has been a running debate about the U.S. economy, more or less like this:

American families: "We're not doing very well."

Washington officials: "You're wrong - you're doing great. Here, look at these statistics!"

The administration and some political commentators seem genuinely puzzled by polls showing that Americans are unhappy about the economy. After all, they point out, numbers like the growth rate of G.D.P. look pretty good. So why aren't people cheering?

Some blame the negative halo effect of the Iraq debacle. Others complain that the news media aren't properly reporting good economic news. But when your numbers tell you that people should be feeling good, but they aren't, that means you're looking at the wrong numbers.

American families don't care about G.D.P. They care about whether jobs are available, how much those jobs pay and how that pay compares with the cost of living. And recent G.D.P. growth has failed to produce exceptional gains in employment, while wages for most workers haven't kept up with inflation.

About employment: it's true that the economy finally started adding jobs two years ago. But although many people say "four million jobs in the last two years" reverently, as if it were an amazing achievement, it's actually a rise of about 3 percent, not much faster than the growth of the working-age population over the same period. And recent job growth would have been considered subpar in the past: employment grew more slowly during the best two years of the Bush administration than in any two years during the Clinton administration.

It's also true that the unemployment rate looks fairly low by historical standards. But other measures of the job situation, like the average of weekly hours worked (which remains low), and the average duration of unemployment (which remains high), suggest that the demand for labor is still weak compared with the supply.

Employers certainly aren't having trouble finding workers. When Wal-Mart announced that it was hiring at a new store in Northern California, where the unemployment rate is close to the national average, about 11,000 people showed up to apply for 400 jobs.

Because employers don't have to raise wages to get workers, wages are lagging behind the cost of living. According to Labor Department statistics, the purchasing power of an average nonsupervisory worker's wage has fallen about 1.5 percent since the summer of 2003. And this may understate the pressure on many families: the cost of living has risen sharply for those whose work or family situation requires buying a lot of gasoline.

Some commentators dismiss concerns about gasoline prices, because those prices are still below previous peaks when you adjust for inflation. But that misses the point: Americans bought cars and made decisions about where to live when gas was $1.50 or less per gallon, and now suddenly find themselves paying $2.60 or more. That's a rude shock, which I estimate raises the typical family's expenses by more than $900 a year.

You may ask where economic growth is going, if it isn't showing up in wages. That's easy to answer: it's going to corporate profits, to rising health care costs and to a surge in the salaries and other compensation of executives. (Forbes reports that the combined compensation of the chief executives of America's 500 largest companies rose 54 percent last year.)

The bottom line, then, is that most Americans have good reason to feel unhappy about the economy, whatever Washington's favorite statistics may say. This is an economic expansion that hasn't trickled down; many people are worse off than they were a year ago. And it will take more than a revamped administration sales pitch to make people feel better.

Corrections: In my column last Friday, I cited an inaccurate number (given by the Conyers report) for turnout in Ohio's Miami County last year: 98.5 percent. I should have checked the official state site, which reports a reasonable 72.2 percent. Also, the public editor says, rightly, that I should acknowledge initially misstating the results of the 2000 Florida election study by a media consortium led by The Miami Herald. Unlike a more definitive study by a larger consortium that included The New York Times, an analysis that showed Al Gore winning all statewide manual recounts, the earlier study showed him winning two out of three.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Monday, August 22, 2005

Don't Prettify Our History - New York Times

August 22, 2005
Don't Prettify Our History

Correction Appended

The 2000 election is still an open sore on the body politic. That was clear from the outraged reaction to my mention last week of what would have happened with a full statewide manual recount of Florida.

This reaction seems to confuse three questions. One is what would have happened if the U.S. Supreme Court hadn't intervened; the answer is that unless the judge overseeing the recount had revised his order (which is a possibility), George W. Bush would still have been declared the winner.

The second is what would have happened if there had been a full, statewide manual recount - as there should have been. The probable answer is that Al Gore would have won, by a tiny margin.

The third is what would have happened if the intentions of the voters hadn't been frustrated by butterfly ballots, felon purges and more; the answer is that Mr. Gore would have won by a much larger margin.

About the evidence regarding a manual recount: in April 2001 a media consortium led by The Miami Herald assessed how various recounts of "undervotes," which did not register at all, would have affected the outcome. Two out of three hypothetical statewide counts would have given the election to Mr. Gore. The third involved a standard that would have discarded some ballots on which the intended vote was clear. Since Florida law seemed to require counting such ballots, this standard almost certainly wouldn't have been used in a statewide recount.

The Herald group later did an analysis of "overvotes," in which more than one choice was recorded, but this wasn't a true recount, because some of it was based on computer records rather than the ballots themselves.

In November 2001 a larger consortium, which included The New York Times, produced more definitive results that allowed assessment of nine hypothetical recounts. (You can see the results at www.norc.uchicago.edu/fl - under articles.) The three recounts that had been most widely discussed during the battle of Florida, including the partial recount requested by the Gore campaign and two interpretations of the Florida Supreme Court order, would have given the vote to Mr. Bush.

But the six hypothetical manual recounts that would have covered the whole state - including both loose and strict standards - would have given the election to Mr. Gore. And other evidence makes it clear that many intended votes for Mr. Gore were frustrated.

So why do so many people believe the Bush win was rock solid?

One answer is that many editorials and op-ed articles have claimed that no possible recount would have changed the outcome. Let's be charitable and assume that those who write such things are victims of the echo chamber, and believe that what everyone they talk to says must be true.

The other answer is that many though not all reports of the results of the ballot reviews conveyed a false impression about what those reviews said. A few reports got the facts wrong, but for the most part they simply stressed the likelihood - in some cases presented as a certainty - that Mr. Bush would have won even if the U.S. Supreme Court hadn't intervened. But even if a proper recount wasn't in the cards given the political realities, that says nothing about what such a recount would have found.

The tone of these reports may have been influenced by the timing: the second consortium's report came out just two months after 9/11. The country wanted very badly to believe in its leadership. Nobody wanted to write stories suggesting that the wrong man was sitting in the White House.

More broadly, the story of the 2000 election remains deeply disturbing - not just the fact that a man the voters tried to reject ended up as president, but the ugliness of the fight itself. There was an understandable urge to put the story behind us.

But we aren't doing the country a favor when we present recent history in a way that makes our system look better than it is. Sometimes the public needs to hear unpleasant truths, even if those truths make them feel worse about their country.

Not to be coy: election 2000 may be receding into the past, but the Iraq war isn't. As the truth about the origins of that war comes out, there may be a temptation, once again, to prettify the story. The American people deserve better.


I should acknowledge initially misstating the results of the 2000 Florida election study by a media consortium led by The Miami Herald. Unlike a more definitive study by a larger consortium that included The New York Times, an analysis that showed Al Gore winning all statewide manual recounts, the earlier study showed him winning two out of three.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town

The Observer | International | Mother tips the balance against Bush

The Observer | International | Mother tips the balance against Bush

Hey, What's That Sound? - New York Times

Hey, What's That Sound? - New York Times

Lessons for an Exit Strategy

Friday, August 12, 2005; Page A19

There have been conflicting reports about the timing of American troop withdrawals from Iraq. Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces there, has announced that the United States intends to begin a "fairly substantial" withdrawal of U.S. forces after the projected December elections establish a constitutional government. Other sources have indicated that this will involve 30,000 troops, or some 22 percent of U.S. forces in Iraq. Some high-level statements from Baghdad have indicated that the beginning of withdrawals may be delayed until next summer. On either schedule, progress is dependent upon improvements in the security situation and in the training of Iraqi forces.

A review of withdrawal strategy therefore seems in order. For one thing, how are the terms "progress" and "improvement" to be defined? In a war without front lines, does a lull indicate success or a strategic decision by the adversary? Is a decline in enemy attacks due to attrition or to a deliberate enemy strategy of conserving forces to encourage American withdrawal? Or are we in a phase similar to the aftermath of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968, which at the time was widely perceived as an American setback but is now understood as a major defeat for Hanoi?

For someone like me, who observed firsthand the anguish of the original involvement in Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and who later participated in the decisions to withdraw during the Nixon administration, Casey's announcement revived poignant memories. For a decision to withdraw substantial U.S. forces while the war continues is a potentially fateful event. It affects the calculations of insurgents and government forces alike, so that the definition of progress becomes nearly as much a psychological as a military judgment. Every soldier withdrawn represents a larger percentage of the remaining total. The capacity for offensive action of the remaining forces shrinks. Once the process is started, it runs the risk of operating by momentum rather than by strategic analysis, and that process is increasingly difficult to reverse.

Despite such handicaps, the decision to replace U.S. forces with local armies during the Vietnam War -- labeled "Vietnamization" -- was, from the security viewpoint, successful on the whole. Between 1969 and the end of 1972, more than 500,000 U.S. troops were withdrawn. American involvement in ground combat ended in early 1971. U.S. casualties were reduced from an average of 400 a week in 1968 and early 1969 to an average of 20 a week in 1972.

These measures were possible because, after the failure of Hanoi's Tet Offensive, the guerrilla threat was substantially eliminated. Saigon and all other urban centers were far safer than major cities in Iraq are today. Saigon controlled perhaps 80 percent of the country with relatively well-established front lines. Vietnamese army units were increasingly able to repel offensives from the regular forces of Hanoi.

When the Vietnamese army, with substantial U.S. air support, broke the back of the North Vietnamese all-out offensive in 1972, Vietnamization could be judged a success. Shortly afterward the North Vietnamese accepted terms that they had rejected for four years. (That they did, however, does not settle the debate over whether a different withdrawal rate -- slower, faster or none at all until after a settlement -- could have speeded that day.) Three years later, these results were reversed, not because of internal violence but because of an external attack by Hanoi's conventional military force, in violation of every provision of the Paris agreement.

America's emotional exhaustion with the war and the domestic travail of Watergate had reduced economic and military aid to Vietnam by two-thirds, and Congress prohibited military support, even via airpower, to the besieged ally. None of the countries that had served as guarantors of the agreement was prepared to lift a diplomatic finger.

All this demonstrated two principles applicable to Iraq: Military success is difficult to sustain unless buttressed by domestic support. And an international framework within which the new Iraq can find its place needs to be fostered.

History, of course, never repeats itself precisely. Vietnam was a battle of the Cold War; Iraq is an episode in the struggle against radical Islam. The stake in the Cold War was perceived to be the political survival of independent nation-states allied with the United States around the Soviet periphery. The war in Iraq is less about geopolitics than about the clash of ideologies, cultures and religious beliefs. Because of the long reach of the Islamist challenge, the outcome in Iraq will have an even deeper significance than that in Vietnam. If a Taliban-type government or a fundamentalist radical state were to emerge in Baghdad or any part of Iraq, shock waves would ripple through the Islamic world. Radical forces in Islamic countries or Islamic minorities in non-Islamic states would be emboldened in their attacks on existing governments. The safety and internal stability of all societies within reach of militant Islam would be imperiled.

This is why many opponents of the decision to start the war agree with the proposition that a catastrophic outcome would have grave global consequences -- a fundamental difference from the Vietnam debate. On the other hand, the military challenge in Iraq is more elusive. Local Iraqi forces are being trained for a form of combat entirely different from the traditional land battles of the last phase of the Vietnam War. There are no front lines; the battlefield is everywhere. We face a shadowy enemy pursuing four principal objectives: (1) to expel foreigners from Iraq; (2) to penalize Iraqis cooperating with the occupation; (3) to create a chaos out of which a government of their Islamist persuasion will emerge as a model for other Islamic states; and (4) to turn Iraq into a training base for the next round of fighting, probably in moderate Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

North Vietnamese forces possessed heavy weapons, had sanctuaries in adjoining countries and numbered at least a half-million trained troops. Iraqi insurgents number in the tens of thousands and are lightly armed. Their most effective weapon is a homemade explosive, their most effective delivery system the suicide bomber and their most frequent targets unarmed civilians.

The Iraqi population has shown extraordinary equanimity in the face of this deliberate and systematic slaughter. In the end, its perception will determine the outcome as much as the military situation does. It will know how secure it is; it will determine the sacrifices it is prepared to make.

In essence, the Iraq war is a contest over which side's assessment turns out to be correct. The insurgents are betting that by exacting a toll among supporters of the government and collaborators with America, they can frighten an increasing number of civilians into, at a minimum, staying on the sidelines, thereby undermining the government and helping the insurgents by default. The Iraqi government and the United States are counting on a different kind of attrition: that possibly the insurgents' concentration on civilian carnage is due to the relatively small number of insurgents, which obliges them to conserve manpower and to shrink from attacking hard targets; hence, the insurgency can gradually be worn down.

Because of the axiom that guerrillas win if they do not lose, stalemate is unacceptable. American strategy, including a withdrawal process, will stand or fall not on whether it maintains the existing security situation but on whether the capacity to improve it is enhanced. Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.

The quality of intelligence will be crucial. Specifically, these issues require attention: How do we assess the fighting capacity of the insurgents and their strategy? To what level must attacks on civilians be reduced, and over what period, before a province can be described as pacified? What is the real combat effectiveness of Iraqi security forces, and against what kind of dangers? To what extent are the Iraqi forces penetrated by insurgents? How will Iraqi forces react to insurgent blackmail -- for example, if a general's son is kidnapped? What is the role of infiltration from neighboring countries? How can it be defeated?

Experience in Vietnam suggests that the effectiveness of local forces is profoundly affected by the political framework. South Vietnam had about 11 divisions, two in each of the four corps areas and three others constituting a reserve. In practice, only the reserve forces could be used throughout the country. The divisions defending the provinces in which they were stationed and from which they were recruited were often quite effective. They helped defeat the North Vietnamese offensive in 1972. When moved into a different and unfamiliar corps area, however, they proved far less steady. This was one of the reasons for the disasters of 1975.

The Iraqi equivalent may well be the ethnic and religious antagonisms between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. In Vietnam, the effectiveness of forces depended on geographic ties, but the provinces did not perceive themselves in conflict with each other. In Iraq, each of the various ethnic and religious groupings sees itself in an irreconcilable, perhaps mortal, confrontation with the others. Each group has what amounts to its own geographically concentrated militia. In the Kurdish area, for example, internal security is maintained by Kurdish forces, and the presence of the national army is kept to a minimum, if not totally prevented. The same holds true to a substantial extent in the Shiite region.

Is it then possible to speak of a national army at all? Today the Iraqi forces are in their majority composed of Shiites, and the insurrection is mostly in traditional Sunni areas. It thus foreshadows a return to the traditional Sunni-Shiite conflict, only with reversed capabilities. These forces may cooperate in quelling the Sunni insurrection. But will they, even when adequately trained, be willing to quell Shiite militias in the name of the nation? Do they obey the ayatollahs, especially Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, or the national government in Baghdad?

And if these two entities are functionally the same, can the national army make its writ run in non-Shiite areas except as an instrument of repression? And is it then still possible to maintain a democratic state?

The ultimate test of progress will therefore be the extent to which the Iraqi armed forces reflect -- at least to some degree -- the ethnic diversity of the country and are accepted by the population at large as an expression of the nation. Drawing Sunni leaders into the political process is an important part of an anti-insurgent strategy. Failing that, the process of building security forces may become the prelude to a civil war.

Can a genuine nation emerge in Iraq through constitutional means?

The answer to that question will determine whether Iraq becomes a signpost for a reformed Middle East or the pit of an ever-spreading conflict. For these reasons, a withdrawal schedule should be accompanied by some political initiative inviting an international framework for Iraq's future. Some of our allies may prefer to act as bystanders, but reality will not permit this for their own safety. Their cooperation is needed, not so much for the military as for the political task, which will test, above all, the West's statesmanship in shaping a global system relevant to its necessities.

The writer, a former secretary of state, is chairman of Kissinger Associates.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Design for Confusion - New York Times

Why can't I get enough of Krugman's ironic scepticism? Read on and you will see....
Design for Confusion - New York Times

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Democrat's message by Jim Wallis, of Sojourners

August 4, 2005
The Message Thing

SINCE the 2004 election, there has been much soul-searching and hand-wringing, especially among Democrats, about how to "frame" political messages. The loss to George W. Bush was painful enough, but the Republicans' post-election claims of mandate, and their triumphal promises to relegate the Democrats to permanent minority status, left political liberals in a state of panic.

So the minority party has been searching, some would say desperately, for the right "narrative": the best story line, metaphors, even magic words to bring back electoral success. The operative term among Democratic politicians and strategists has become "framing." How to tell the story has become more important than the story itself. And that could be a bigger mistake for the Democrats than the ones they made during the election.

Language is clearly important in politics, but the message remains more important than the messaging. In the interests of full disclosure, let me note that I have been talking to the Democrats about both. But I believe that first, you must get your message straight. What are your best ideas, and what are you for-as opposed to what you're against in the other party's message? Only when you answer those questions can you figure out how to present your message to the American people.

Because the Republicans, with the help of the religious right, have captured the language of values and religion (narrowly conceived as only abortion and gay marriage), the Democrats have also been asking how to "take back the faith." But that means far more than throwing a few Bible verses into policy discussions, offering candidates some good lines from famous hymns, or teaching them how to clap at the right times in black churches. Democrats need to focus on the content of religious convictions and the values that underlie them.

The discussion that shapes our political future should be one about moral values, but the questions to ask are these: Whose values? Which values? And how broadly and deeply will our political values be defined? Democrats must offer new ideas and a fresh agenda, rather than linguistic strategies to sell an old set of ideologies and interest group demands.

To be specific, I offer five areas in which the Democrats should change their message and then their messaging.

First, somebody must lead on the issue of poverty, and right now neither party is doing so. The Democrats assume the poverty issue belongs to them, but with the exception of John Edwards in his 2004 campaign, they haven't mustered the gumption to oppose a government that habitually favors the wealthy over everyone else. Democrats need new policies to offer the 36 million Americans, including 13 million children, who live below the poverty line, as well as the 9.8 million families one recent study identified as "working hard but falling short."

In fact, the Democrats should draw a line in the sand when it comes to wartime tax cuts for the wealthy, rising deficits, and the slashing of programs for low-income families and children. They need proposals that combine to create a "living family income" for wage-earners, as well as a platform of "fair trade," as opposed to just free trade, in the global economy. Such proposals would cause a break with many of the Democrats' powerful corporate sponsors, but they would open the way for a truly progressive economic agenda. Many Americans, including religious voters who see poverty as a compelling issue of conscience, desire such a platform.

Similarly, a growing number of American Christians speak of the environment as a religious concern - one of stewardship of God's creation. The National Association of Evangelicals recently called global warming a faith issue. But Republicans consistently choose oil and gas interests over a cleaner world. The Democrats need to call for the reversal of these priorities. They must insist that private interests should never obstruct our country's path to a cleaner and more efficient energy future, let alone hold our foreign policy hostage to the dictates of repressive regimes in the Middle East.

On the issues that Republicans have turned into election-winning "wedges," Democrats will win back "values voters" only with fresh ideas. Abortion is one such case. Democrats need to think past catchphrases, like "a woman's right to choose," or the alternative, "safe, legal and rare." More than 1 million abortions are performed every year in this country. The Democrats should set forth proposals that aim to reduce that number by at least half. Such a campaign could emphasize adoption reform, health care, and child care; combating teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse; improving poor and working women's incomes; and supporting reasonable restrictions on abortion, like parental notification for minors (with necessary legal protections against parental abuse). Such a program could help create some much-needed common ground.

As for "family values," the Democrats can become the truly pro-family party by supporting parents in doing the most important and difficult job in America: raising children. They need to adopt serious pro-family policies, including some that defend children against Hollywood sleaze and Internet pornography. That's an issue that has come to be identified with the religious right. But when I say in public lectures that being a parent is now a countercultural activity, I've found that liberal and conservative parents agree. Rather than fighting over gay marriage, the Democrats must show that it is indeed possible to be "pro-family" and in favor of gay civil rights at the same time.

Finally, on national security, Democrats should argue that the safety of the United States depends on the credibility of its international leadership. We can secure that credibility in Iraq only when we renounce any claim to oil or future military bases - something Democrats should advocate as the first step toward bringing other countries to our side. While Republicans have argued that international institutions are too weak to be relied upon in the age of terrorism, Democrats should suggest reforming them, creating a real International Criminal Court with an enforcement body, for example, as well as an international force capable of intervening in places like Darfur. Stronger American leadership in reducing global poverty would also go a long way toward improving the country's image around the world.

Until Democrats are willing to be honest about the need for new social policy and compelling political vision, they will never get the message right. Find the vision first, and the language will follow.

Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine, is the author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company