RAD: It takes a Texan to know a Texan:
By Jim Hightower, Monday, May 21, 2007
No wonder George W's approval rating has fallen below that for Mad Cow disease – he keeps treating the public like we have the cognitive ability of turnips!
He recently insulted the public's intelligence with two blatantly false claims about his disastrous Iraq policy. First was Bush's comical assertion that he's the agent of change in this war. He declared that voters last November said they "wanted change in our strategy in Iraq. I listened. Today, General David Petraeus is carrying out a strategy that is dramatically different from our previous course."
Hoo boy! Bush previously told us he was "The Decider," then "The Commander Guy," but now he's reinvented himself as "The Listener." Well, listen up, George – we were born at night, but it wasn't last night! Your so-called "surge" strategy is the same old failure with a new coat of PR on it. People were voting last November to bring the troops home, not to send more to Iraq. Two-thirds of Americans oppose your surge.
Then, when congressional Democrats dared to express the will of the people by setting deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq, Bush shamefully tried to wrap his bad policy in a military cloak. The Democrats' bill, he wailed, would mean that "America’s commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, DC."
Yoo-hoo, George... You're a politician! Everyone knows that you and your neo-con political cohorts designed every aspect of this war – against the best advice of the commanders. You chose to go there, you fumbled the planning, you bumbled the occupation, you got America’s military stuck in Iraq's vicious civil war – and now you want to dump responsibility for this mess on the military commanders?
While the time of Bush's presidency is dwindling, Bush himself is shrinking in front of our very eyes.
RAD: One of the oldest games in the politico's handbook is passing the buck. Dubya aka Dumbo is passing the buck to the generals while wrapping himself in the flag. What he doesn't realize is that the flag is a see-through type, so everyone knows "The Decider" is naked and alone!
RAD: It takes a Texan to know a Texan:
The LA Times editorialized about the Senate's version of immigration reform. But as it says - "The Senate reaches a creative compromise, but that doesn't mean it'll ever become law."
LAT: "THERE HAVE BEEN many "breakthroughs" on immigration reform over the last two years, but the one reached by Senate negotiators Thursday came with at least two things we haven't seen before: a realistic, bipartisan plan for legalizing illegal immigrants and a meritocratic overhaul of the haphazard system for awarding visas. But this hopeful moment, like previous ones, may come to naught, pushing long-overdue reform back at least two years."
RAD: I've argued before in this blog that immigration reform is impossible. Whatever version one comes up with will help some immigrants and punish others. In addition, any reform defies historical and economic realities. Traditional boundaries between nations are meaningless in a global economic village, especially the boundary between the USA and Mexico which has been a movable line since the 1800s if not before!
LAT: "The agreement's controversial centerpiece is the new "Z visa" for undocumented residents. If the compromise eventually becomes law, all who came to the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2007, could obtain probationary legal status by passing a criminal background check, submitting fingerprints and filling out an application."
RAD: How can you administratively carry out criminal background checks et al on 12 million or more illegal immigrants? Have our federal leaders learned nothing from the fiasco of the Department of Homeland Security? The merging of over 40 different government agencies has been a bureaucratic nightmare. INS which is now part of this department would become an even more Byzantine mess than it is already!
LAT: "Longer-term Z visas would be handed out after applicants pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees, pass tests in English and civics and demonstrate continuous employment. Heads of households would be required to return to their country before obtaining a green card, and Z visa holders would be ineligible for upgrading their status until all the existing immigration backlog is cleared away."
RAD: How can poor immigrants who are working below the radar screen at less than minimum wage jobs possibly pay "thousands of dollars in fines"? If you have been living within the irregular economy how can one prove "continuous employment"? And who is going to teach these millions of immigrants English and civics? This latter amounts to an unfunded mandate which would bankrupt local school districts and community colleges!
LAT: "After years of bruising debate over "amnesty" — the misleading term preferred by legalization opponents — it's remarkable that the Z visa gained bipartisan acceptance. There seems to be mounting appreciation for the fact that 12 million people living in legal shadows is corrosive to the rule of law."
RAD: It's more than "corrosive to the rule of law" that 12 million or more illegal immigrants live in the "shadows" of the US economy and legal system - it's immoral! But this Rube Goldberg plan will only drive many of the 12 million even further underground. They can't and won't go home and the industry's which depend on them won't change their ways.
LAT: "Also encouraging is the agreement's point system for green cards, attempting to quantify the attributes most desirable among would-be immigrants. Factors such as education, work history and English ability would be scored to determine who gets priority for green cards, rather than just the usual family connection or employer endorsement."
RAD: This turns the tradition of US immigration policy on its head. Have we forgotten the words of the Statue of Liberty in NY harbor - "give me your huddled masses, yearning to be free"? This policy would change the rules of the game from a "family values" context to a meritocracy.
LAT: "Although deemphasizing family unification goes against historic U.S. policy, the point plan would align policy more closely to another American ideal — meritocracy. And those family members already in line would be helped by nearly half a million visas a year for people who applied before the spring of 2005. Visas for farm workers and high-tech talent also would be increased."
RAD: When has American society ever been considered a meritocracy? Did the immigrants from SE Asia after the Vietnam War "merit" their immigrant status by having a certain skill set? How about the Cuban refugees who now dominate Miami? Or the refugees from Central Europe behind the Iron Curtain who came here in the 1950s?
Did Polish, Jewish and Italian immigrants "merit" inclusion? No, they came here pursuing the American Dream and hoping to see those streets paved with gold - only to find economic misery, political isolation in ethnic ghettos and discrimination at the hands of those who came before them!
Did the victims of the Irish Potato Famine "merit" coming to our shores? How about the Scandinavians who were recruited here to work in Minnesota's Iron Range? And let's not forget those who were recruited on the West coast from China and Japan! The only merit one recognizes is the merit of being willing to work hard, often for nothing!
What about those who came here in slave ships? Or as indentured servants? Or those Native Americans whose ancestors came thousands of years ago over the Bearing Straits connecting Asia and the New World? Merit has never been the basis of immigration to the New World. The LATimes' editors are reinventing American history!
The famous words of the Declaration of Independence tell the real story - people have come here to claim those "inalienable [natural] rights" denied them in their homelands in Europe or Asia - "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". They came here to be a part of that shining "city on a hill".
They "merited" these rights because of their humanity recognized by "God's Law and the Laws of Nature" as Jefferson noted - not by a socially constructed status founded on class, race, gender et al. To argue otherwise is to savagely contort the very foundation of American society!
LAT: Other elements of the plan are more dubious. A proposed guest worker program could prove too rigid by being renewable only twice, with a one-year gap in between. Care would have to be taken to avoid creating a new population of illegal immigrants."
RAD: Yes but what's more dubious about the plan is the bias against keeping families together. As with previous immigration streams from Europe and Asia - Latinos have large extended families on both sides of the border. To ignore this fact is to set up a policy which deliberately separate families much as we did during the slave trade. To change the rules of the game now is simply to institutionalize "racism" under the guise of merit.
LAT: "But the single most objectionable aspect of the plan is that it probably won't pass. The Senate has been here before, but the House has never embraced comprehensive reform. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has already expressed "serious concerns" about the bill, and the freshman class of Democrats does not seem enthusiastic."
RAD: The bill should fail. It's not worth the paper it's printed on. For the Democratic party leadership of the Senate to come up with this plan shows you how much out of touch the "Millionaires" club of the US Senate really is! Now to be fair Nancy Pelosi et al in the House will do no better.
LAT: "The consequences of failure this spring would be catastrophic — not only would serious reform likely be put off until after the 2008 election, but few of the presidential candidates seem eager to tackle the issue. The country can't wait until 2009."
RAD: This is pure bunk. It's better to stay with the devil we know (the status quo) than this jury-rigged plan which has more holes than Swiss cheese. After all, these are the same folks who voted for the War and for the Department of Homeland Security without reading what they were passing.
What is needed is a grant of total amnesty for immigrants who are here BUT contingent upon developing a regional plan with our Latin American neighbors - not just Mexico - to improve their economies so we remove the incentive to move to El Norte.
Once that plan is in place, then migration across the border for economic reasons should be as routine as crossing the border between Oregon and California. Anything less simply flies in the face of the reality that in a global economy borders have no meaning.
If Fred Thompson throws his hat in the presidential ring it could be a Reaganesque moment since Thompson as an ex-US GOP Senator from Tennessee currently has a career as a hard nosed politically savy DA on TV's Law & Order. `
Given the disarray and desperation within the ranks of the GOP faithful over their current choices for '08, it's ironic that the party might go for someone with screenplay credentials. Could it be that the rank and file of the Grand Old Party prefer fiction to reality?
Reagan invented the doctrine of plausible deniability during the Iran/Contra scandal so the GOP's embrace of fiction is ironically consistent - however intellectually bankrupt and moribund. One trusts the voters in '08 have learned their lesson that it's dangerous to let fiction trump reality. Just remember who was in charge on 9/11 and the number 3300 and counting!
EDITOR'S NOTE: My Canadian Connection (WM) sent me Stanley Kutler's recent Nation's article, While We Slept which documents the folly and duplicity of our involvement in Iraq. We need to be reminded of the history of our involvement in this quagmire to understand the depths of our political depravity as a superpower. As the iconic Sargent Joe Friday from TV's old Dragnet show would say, "Nothing but the facts..." Here are the facts - read 'em and weep:
- For Barry Lando, in his useful new book Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, sanctions were the weapon of mass destruction used against the Iraqi people to starve and reduce them to a Third World level of poverty.
- History doesn't change much as he invokes Col. T.E. Lawrence's well-known injunction of that moment: "The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour.... We are today not far from disaster.
- The British preferred Winston Churchill's imperial ambitions. We chose Bushes, a Clinton and their respective entourages. Either way, disaster was not far behind.
- Iraq floats on a sea of oil, reputedly with the world's third-largest reserves. The Great Powers naturally have been drawn to it, but they have cared nothing for the country that might nominally exist. Churchill, Allen Dulles and the CIA, Donald Rumsfeld, our two George Bushes:
- All assisted the Sunni minority's oppression of the Shiite majority; they imposed a "royal" family of dubious lineage that never really had popular support; and they financed and encouraged a ruthless dictator who (among his other crimes) most assuredly gassed his own people and tens of thousands of Iranians. The iconic image of Rumsfeld in the 1980s embracing and supporting Saddam Hussein speaks well of American complicity.
- The United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq as part of the run-up to the first Gulf War. The Security Council severed all imports and exports between Iraq and the world--from food and vaccines to hospital equipment and medical journals... The UN's writ is not meaningless--not when the United States and Great Britain rigorously enforced the sanctions. And to underline for the Iraqis where the muscle was, the two powers regularly bombed the country.
- We estimate between 500,00 to 1 million Iraqis died in the 1990s, a very large proportion being children. To what end? Not, Lando maintains, to destroy Saddam Hussein's WMDs but to force him out. Bush I wisely listened to his military counselors and stopped short of occupying Iraq. His momentary good sense has inflated his reputation; make no mistake, he was passionately committed to Saddam's overthrow--whatever the cost.
- On his watch, the United States encouraged revolts by the Kurds and Shiites. Then Bush abandoned both and allowed Saddam to exact a terrible revenge on both groups. Yet all the while, he insisted that there would be no "normalized relations with the United States...until Saddam Hussein is out of there." And thus American policy took a new, more disastrous direction with Bush II's invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
- The CIA badly miscalculated that sanctions, coupled with Iraq's devastating defeat, would result in a military coup, toppling Saddam. Anything but. The sanctions and Saddam's heightened repression insured his survival--much to the frustration of Western leaders.
- During that first war, Secretary of State James Baker told the Iraqi foreign minister that "we will return you to the pre-industrial age." Baker's words were prophetic. The American-led coalition delivered 88,000 tons of bombs, equivalent, Lando notes, to seven Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs.
- The bombing unquestionably set out to destroy the civilian infrastructure, leveling oil refineries, electrical plants and transportation networks. And all this, Lando emphasizes, resulted in further civilian suffering. Seventeen of twenty electrical generating plants were seriously bombed, and eleven totally destroyed.
- After one plant near Basra had been demolished early on, American bombers returned another dozen times. "We're not going to tolerate Saddam Hussein," one Air Force planner said, and the bombing sent a message: "Fix that [Saddam], and we'll fix your electricity."
- Three-fourths of Iraq's population lived in cities, dependent on electricity for their factories, homes, water treatment plants and sewage treatment facilities. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney vigorously defended the "perfectly legitimate" bombing action. "If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing," he said. Clearly, Cheney means what he says.
- The sanctions worked only as partly intended: They imposed untold suffering on the population. Americans at the UN blocked a request to ship baby food because adults might use it. They vetoed sending a heart pill that contained a milligram of cyanide because tens of thousands of such pills could become a lethal weapon. The banned list included filters for water treatment plants, vaccines, cotton swabs and gauze, children's clothes, funeral shrouds. Somehow, even Vietnamese pingpong balls found their way to the proscribed list.
- Sanctions devastated the country's medical system, once one of the best in the region. Sanctions insured that malnutrition would morph into virtual death sentences, as Lando notes. Babies died in incubators because of power failures; others were crippled with cerebral palsy because of insufficient oxygen supplies. As early as May 1991, a visiting Harvard medical team concluded that Iraq had a public health catastrophe.
- Meanwhile, Bush's strategy of playing for a coup miserably failed. Conditions dramatically deteriorated. Streetcorners became barter bazaars, with people selling their possessions for food and medicine. Crime, prostitution, smuggling and kickbacks flourished. People merely wanted survival; political paralysis, not a coup, was the result. And Americans knew it. Lando quotes the ubiquitous "senior US official" who privately admitted that any popular uprising "is the least likely alternative." And yet the sanctions persisted.
- Iraqis hoped for a better day with the new President, Bill Clinton. Alas! Clinton's background and his political calculus determined that he had to establish his macho credentials and his credibility with the right. He authorized a Tomahawk missile attack against Baghdad, supposedly in retaliation for Saddam's alleged plot to assassinate former President Bush. (The Kuwaiti-provided evidence, many believe, is quite tenuous.) In any event, Clinton's attack went off track and killed eight civilians, including a gifted artist.
- His UN Ambassador, Madeleine Albright, carefully monitored the ever-tightening sanctions. In late 1994 the New York Times reported on children in filthy hospitals, dying with diarrhea and pneumonia, people desperately seeking food, and Iraq's inability to sell its oil--the country faced "famine and economic collapse." Without doubt, the sanctions consolidated Saddam's power. UN Administrator Denis Halliday wrote that the people blamed the United States andthe UN for their travails, not Saddam Hussein. Halliday resigned, refusing to administer a program that he called "genocide."
- The promised relief from the UN-sponsored (and US-tolerated) Oil for Food program delivered little to stanch the suffering. Meantime, the West played its familiar games as corruption permeated the program, corruption well-documented in the Volcker Report. Iraq sold $64.2 billion of oil and received $34.5 billion worth of humanitarian goods. Iraq gained something, but the old habit of clandestine support for Iraq's regime continued as oil companies provided kickbacks of at least $1.8 billion to the Iraqi dictator. At the moment, Chevron is negotiating a "settlement" that would cost it $25-30 million in fines--and, of course, admit to no wrongdoing. What a bargain.
- The present Iraq War and occupation is but another chapter in our melancholy, misguided and decidedly bipartisan relations with Iraq. Lando painfully underscores how we knew--and deliberately enforced--such policies just to heighten that civilian suffering. The chimera of Saddam's imminent overthrow only tightened the screws for the Iraqis.
- And then Tony Blair, in March 2003, with outrageous chutzpah cited the dramatic increase in infant mortality as a justification for the new invasion of Iraq. Sanctions apparently no longer existed in his mind; the children had "died because of the nature of the regime under which they are living. Now, that is why we're acting." George Orwell would not have said it better.
- Blair faithfully echoed what Bush II earlier said as he sought Congressional authorization for the use of force. He blamed the sorry plight of Iraqis on Saddam's search for WMDs. "The world has tried economic sanctions," he said, "and watched Iraq use billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues to fund more weapons purchases, rather than providing for the needs of the Iraqi people." Did he mean sanctions were a failure?
- When in March 2003, the Bush Administration launched its inevitable invasion, American forces confronted an empty shell of defenses and a dispirited, devastated and despairing populace. The invasion was a cakewalk. But our not-so wise policy-makers wanted more, and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz promised our troops garlands of flowers as Iraqis would welcome their liberators. Some welcome.
- The American and British sanctions' policy had done its work quite well--painfully, devastatingly well. Remember: Much of this was pursued by the Clinton Administration, anxious to show that its statesmanship credentials could match any Bush. So the last word properly belongs to Secretary Albright. Although she belatedly disavowed her comments after the Iraq disaster was obvious to all except George W. Bush, nevertheless, she said of sanctions and bombings: "It was worth it."
- Was it? Public figures rarely acknowledge their mistakes; they write self-serving memoirs instead. We would be hard-pressed to find any military and diplomatic strategy that so utterly failed as did the Iraq policy of the 1990s. And the unintended consequences are yet to be figured.