An unsettling weekend

I was struck by a sense of danger this weekend. I haven't had this sense as strongly for decades. In me, this feeling belongs to the period of the Vietnam War when, suddenly a certain combination of news stories would bring me back from work and daily life to consciousness of deepening crisis.

We who went through that war in our various ways (mine was very protected compared to many others' experiences) cannot help seeing analogies with this war, although we seem to agree widely that history never repeats itself exactly, no matter how similar personal alarm bells from within may sound. There are strong similarities between wars in which imperial powers with vastly superior armament invade foreign nations whose people must defend their lands. This sort of war seems to end up in prolonged, bloody battles with high casualties in the rubble of city streets.

Yet, American politics moves blithely on, as if it were the most important thing. Our latest new voice is Barak Obama, who announced his candidacy for president last weekend, stressing that he "listens" to the people. Those of us old enough to remember the Vietnam War also remember American political party conventions where politicians were forced to listen to the people inside and even outside the convention hall, even if all they heard outside were cries of pain, protest and anger as the people were being beaten and arrested by police. We think Chicagoan Obama is listening to Chicago Mayor Richard Daly, Jr., son of Hizzoner Richard Daly, who unleashed his police force on anti-war demonstrators at the Democratic Party convention in 1968, not long after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. We think Obama is also listening closely to Daly's brother, Bill Daly, chief lobbyist in the campaign to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement. To the extent that Obama is listening to the people as opposed to the party elite, what he is likely to hear?

· Echoes of the same sort of propaganda broadcast through corporate media that deceived the people about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

· Confusion, fear and doubt from the people who do not to believe the Bush propaganda about Iran, but do not know what to believe at a moment in which catastrophic decisions are being made in the name of the listeners.

· Or simply, the pitches of economic special interests benefitting from the present crisis?

"Elect me, I stand for your confusion, fear, doubt, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the world’s largest and most diverse derivatives exchange"?

To look at this bright, eloquent young man from this distance, with this much skepticism, is to admit one is a member of a generation -- largely but not entirely unconcious -- who lived through previous imperial wars, among them Central America.

In Iraq, the famously publicized "surge" is forcing American troops into the high command's original, announced nightmare, an urban, block-by-block street war in Baghdad. Presumably, the cynical Bush administration figures it can now take the higher casualty rate because America has become numb to the war. Or else, coupled with a full-on propaganda campaign, the regime will use it to enrage the American public into supporting war against Iran.

The insurgents have also been knocking down helicopters in increasing numbers, indicating new, better weaponry. As Tom Englehart put it,

Let's not forget that the beginning of the end of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s came when CIA-supplied Stinger missiles began to take down Russian helicopters in significant numbers.

Early reports about how the "surge" on Baghdad will be conducted indicate more American air power will be used, causing Fallujah-level destruction to many neighborhoods. The Bush regime has reached the point where it will destroy Baghdad to save it.

The Vietnam village that engendered that unforgettable phrase, was destroyed and perhaps the US will manage to destroy Baghdad, or at least large portions of it in the coming surge. One of the driving forces in this war is the defense industry, a collection of arms manufacturers who are not in business to minimize their profits and have most excellent lobbyists to persuade the federal government to spend more for their products to kill people and destroy cities. It is beginning to appear that limits of this expenditure might possibly come, not from domestic political resistance to the war, any checks by the government or limitation or greed among defense contractors, but from foreign sources.

The domestic anti-war movement seems weak and fractured at this time and unable to put enough pressure on the Democratic Party in control of Congress to even slow down the escalation, much less stop it. John Ward, an excellent reporter of domestic political dissent, covered the Jan. 29 anti-war protest in Washington. He noted the absence of Ralph Nader, Jason Raimundo, libertarian editor of the great, and Republican anti-war speakers. Apparently, it was an all-liberal Democrat event. Progressives who think they will wrest control of the Democratic Party from pro-war and empire lobbyists, including the Israeli lobby, are wandering in delusion. The anti-war movement in America this time seemed to bargain away power before they had enough to sell for a decent price. As one US Army Vietnam veteran commented to me recently, “Who would ever have thought the American people would have gone to the ballot box to oppose the war.” Yet, that is what Americans did and the Democrats are now selling them out just as dissidents – most steadily Nader – have been saying they would.

The docile protests against the Iraq War lead an American of middle age to wonder: when do the cracks begin to open, how deep will they be? What sort of fearful future are we headed toward, without benefit of strong political dissent and habeas corpus? What should we do, now? What public strategy and tactics would lead toward peace? Collaboration with the Democratic Party does not top my list.

On the international front, Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted the US policy last weekend:

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin yesterday warned that the United States' increased use of military force is creating a new arms race, with smaller nations turning toward developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking at a conference of the world's top security officials, including Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, Putin said nations "are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations".

He told the audience of 250 officials, including more than 40 defence and foreign ministers: "The US has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is very dangerous, nobody feels secure any more because nobody can hide behind international law.

"This is nourishing an arms race, with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons," he added, without singling out one nation.

Although criticized by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CN, for being "provocative," it seems that Putin had every right to speak as he did, both as president of a nation as experienced as the US was in both nuclear arms races and non-proliferation agreements, and because Russia is not now invading foreign nations. I don't regard Lieberman as a great patriot. I believe he is a reliable spokesman for the neocons and the rightwing contingent in power in Israel. Neither of these interests reflect broad-based American public opinion, Israeli public opinion, or the opinion of American supporters of Israel.

However, aside from the utter immorality of the US invasion of Iraq, we have discovered something that the least acquaintance with history would suggest: Arabs and Afghanis are very good at war in defense of their territory. They hate our guts. I don't think it takes a PhD in international relations to figure that out or some rudimentary reasons for it. If we weren't often awed to silence by the horrendous tragedy of this war, we could see through the hubris and madness of this to its nemesis. In fact, at this moment, Egyptians, Iranians and Syrians might be able to explain to the Bush regime what is happening and could happen . But the Bush regime listens only to the rightwing rulers of Israel and its American clones, the neoconservatives. It took eight centuries to produce a world leader as powerful and stupid as George W. Bush, to start a new crusade. Now, more American troops have died than died in 9/11 and many times more Iraqis and Afghanis. Bush is not conducting foreign policy; he is having a temper tantrum with the most powerful military in the world as his baby rattle.

In the constant barrage of propaganda targeted at the US population, the new demon is Iran. Patrick Cockburn, who has reported from Iraq since long before the war, comments:

The answer to this question is probably that the anti-Iranian tilt of the Bush administration has more to do with American than Iraqi politics. A fresh demon is being presented to the US voter. Iran is portrayed as the hidden hand behind US failure in both Iraq and in Lebanon. The US media, gullible over WMD, is showing itself equally gullible over this exaggerated Iranian threat.

The Bush administration has always shown itself more interested in holding power in Washington than in Baghdad. Whatever its failures on the battlefield, the Republicans were able to retain the presidency and both Houses of Congress in 2004. Confrontation with Iran, diverting attention from the fiasco in Iraq, may be their best chance of holding the White House in 2008.

The Achilles Heel of this glorious war to bring freedom and democracy to the Islamic masses could be economic. Economic columnist for Asia Times, Chan Akya, reflects on China's changing investment policies, involving $1 trillion. His argument is that investment in US Treasury bills, the strategy recommended by the IMF for developing countries, does not produce the income necessary to buy the commodities China needs to continue to grow. Therefore, China must buy oil and mineral resources in commodity markets and through direct purchase around the world. Akya draws a drastic conclusion for both the US and Iran from this:

As for the Islamic powers of the Middle East, they will sell oil to China if only to spite Europe and the US. In doing so, they will also invite more unwanted attention from the US, which is reeling from its lost campaign in Iraq. The main scenario of the US trying to consolidate its hold over the Middle East continues, and argues for getting more desperate in the light of China's growing self-sufficiency in commodities. Thus, to preserve its role, the US has no option but to attack Iran. [4] The consequences will be horrifying for both parties, and push both combatants toward an inexorable decline.

About time,too.

Some of the more forceful domestic anti-war voices come from dissenting Republicans. Former Assistant US Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts' criticism of the Bush regime continues to evolve rapidly along the lines of Kevin Phillips' and Chalmers Johnson's recent historical theses of tragic American decline due to the stupidity of Bush the Lesser’s regime.

But Roberts, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institute, is not content to describe the inexorable forces. He has a program for how the world can save itself and us from Bush:

The US is totally dependent upon foreigners to finance its budget and trade deficits. By financing these deficits, foreign governments are complicit in the Bush Regime's military aggressions and war crimes. The Bush Regime's two largest lenders are China and Japan. It is ironic that Japan, the only nation to experience nuclear attack by the US, is banker to the Bush Regime as it prepares a possible nuclear attack on Iran.

If the rest of the world would simply stop purchasing US Treasuries, and instead dump their surplus dollars into the foreign exchange market, the Bush Regime would be overwhelmed with economic crisis and unable to wage war. The arrogant hubris associated with the "sole superpower" myth would burst like the bubble it is.

The collapse of the dollar would also end the US government's ability to subvert other countries by purchasing their leaders to do America's will.

The demise of the US dollar is only a question of time. It would save the world from war and devastation if the dollar is brought to its demise before the Bush Regime launches its planned attack on Iran.

A possible consequence that does not seem to be intended by Roberts' program is that by plunging the US into a great depression, perhaps bringing down the entire world economy along with it, a slowdown of global warming might occur.

Political dissent, rather than alliances with gravediggers like the major American political parties, is a hopeful solution. Massive, unified, inclusive popular, non-violent dissent is a powerful weapon for bringing down tyrants, but only if it is used and refuses to be manipulated for political ambitions. In fact, the future of any American's political ambition may at this moment depend on it being used to preserve the political system in which those ambitions play.

Bill Hatch


Tomgram: Schwartz on Surging into Catastrophe in Iraq, Feb. 11, 2007,

Putin attacks America over nuclear arms race
David Rising (AP), Feb. 10, 2007

Nader and Libertarians Not Welcome
A Splintered Antiwar Movement
By JOHN WALSH, Feb. 12, 2007

Scapegoating Iran
It's No Use Blaming Iran for a Lost War
Patrick Cockburn, Feb. 12, 2007

Sun Tzu's art of investing
By Chan Akya, Feb. 10, 2007

Dump the Dollar!
How the World Can Stop Bush
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, Feb. 12, 2007