Friday, July 27, 2007

Christianity, Iraq and Iran

A controversial and, in my opinion, under-reported component of the war in Iraq and what seems the almost inevitable war with Iran is the support of right-wing fundamentalist Christianity for both of these wars. While it's arguable that one cannot "hasten" God's will, their extremist views certainly do not impel these people to actively support peace in the Middle East.

As controversial as it is, the relationship between extremist Christianity and the war in Iraq is explicit and direct, and Max Blumenthal of the Huffington Post documents the connections between the war and one influential organization, Christians United for Israel. CUFI founder John Hagee has "forged close ties with the Bush White House and members of Congress from Sen. Joseph Lieberman to Sen. John McCain.

In its call for a unilateral military attack on Iran and the expansion of Israeli territory, CUFI has found unwavering encouragement from traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and elements of the Israeli government.

But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil.

I don't want to tar all Christians with the same brush. I know that most Americans and most Christians do not support the war in Iraq.

I personally am an atheist, so I have to ask: To what degree do moderate, anti-war Christians try to downplay or ignore the extremist Christian elements underlying this insane, ludicrous—and what seems to me profoundly unChristian—war? To what degree do moderate Christians target a message of true peace and tolerance directly to their extremist co-religionists?

Same book, same savior, vastly different messages. Very puzzling.

[Update: It appears that some progressive and moderate Christians are taking the right-wing extremists seriously and mounting a substantial challenge. 28 Jul 07]

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An obvious Democratic strategy

The Democratic strategy for dealing with Iraq, especially given the importance given to withdrawal by the electorate in the 2006 elections, should have been obvious. The question is, why wasn't this strategy, or something like it, pursued?

First, put pressure on Bush himself and keep it there. Don't let up. Articles of impeachment, censure, special prosecutors, investigations, throw everything but the kitchen sink at the guy. This is the most unpopular and worst President that we've ever had. The Republicans and conservative Democrats will vote down or otherwise obstruct these measures, but keep the narrative simple: "The problems in Iraq are due to Bush's lies getting us involved and his incompetence in prosecuting the occupation. And he's gutting the Constitution in the process." Whatever happens in Iraq is Bush's fault, either directly or by virtue of the buck stopping at his desk. Keep the narrative focused on Bush himself; don't put the spotlight even on Cheney (except to impeach him as well).

Second, put pressure on the commercial media. Have press conferences and talk about every lie, every distortion, every misstep. The commercial media will probably back off and become more neutral, or they will be exposed indubitably as conservative shills.

Step 1: Fail dramatically; construct a narrative.

Introduce a bill asking for everything: "Here's $10 billion, get all the troops out in 90 days." Pelosi & Reid can force it out of committee, even if a Democrat doesn't support the bill: "Although I don't support this bill, because of its importance, Speaker Pelosi/Majority Leader Reid has asked me to release it from committee so the full House/Senate can debate its merits." It gets voted down, but now the progressives have a strong tool to use against conservative Democrats in the 2008 primaries. Let the Republicans blather, and keep the narrative simple: "We're trying to end the war in Iraq. Period. The illegal/immoral/incompetent occupation prevents any other means from achieving progress."

Step 2: Ju jitsu

When things get financially critical, use ju jitsu: Tell Bush he can have anything he wants for six months, let him write the bill, and make sure it passes without debate. The narrative is then, "We weren't willing to sacrifice the troops. Bush obstructed our efforts to end the war and forced this bill down our throats using our soldiers as hostages. Anything bad that happens is his fault." Once the bill passes, nitpick every fault in the conduct of the war, past and present.

Keep up the pressure on Bush personally. Use the narrative of "holding the troops hostage" to sway fence-sitting Democrats and moderate Republicans concerned about how their support of Bush will look. Who knows, Bush might stumble so badly writing his own bill that impeachment might actually happen, or, even better, force a resignation.

Step 3: End the war

Repeat step 1. Now the narrative is even more compelling: "We tried to stop the war, we were stymied only by Bush holding the troops hostage, we have to stop the war now and any bad consequences are Bush's fault." It'll pass. Keep up the pressure on Bush personally; even if Bush hasn't resigned, the pressure will have rendered him ineffective.

End result: The Republican party is marginalized. The right-wing commercial media is neutralized. Conservative pro-war Democrats are undermined. The war in Iraq ends early in 2008. The 2008 election gives us a Democratic president (whichever of Clinton or Obama who fought most strongly) and a solid progressive Democratic majority in the legislature, which outweighs the right-wing domination of the Supreme Court.

This is not rocket science. I'm writing this now instead of eighteen months ago just because I'm not a political analyst. It's still pretty obvious, Negotiation 101 stuff. So why didn't the Democrats pursue this strategy? Why is congress's ratings so low? Why is there still some chance that fascist Giuliani or yet another damn Republican actor might be elected President in 2008? Why are we talking about Edwards' haircut and Clinton's cleavage?

I can't do much more than speculate, but here are my speculations.

One reason is the historical structural disorganization of the Democratic Party. As Will Rogers said, "I don't belong to an organized political party: I'm a Democrat." The Republicans pick up most of the authoritarian, traditionalist sheep; The Democrats get the most of the splintered counter-cultural idiots and the people who use logic and reason. Logic and reason are much more difficult to sell than conservative, traditionalist dogma.

Another reason is the role the pro-Israel* lobby, such as AIPAC, has in the Democratic party. This lobby clearly wants a hot war with the Middle-Eastern Islamic nations, thinking (erroneously, I suspect, but at least a bit more rationally than Bush & Co.) that war will enhance Israel's status and power. No Democratic politician can mount an effective bid for President without their support, and if the Democratic candidates for President don't support a political strategy, it's doomed to failure.

*Unless Israel declares itself something other than a secular democracy, pro- or anti-Israel has absolutely nothing to do with pro- or antisemitism. Most Americans who are Jewish oppose the war in Iraq. I don't know about Israeli Jews, but last I heard the U.S. government doesn't represent them.

Another reason is the love that progressives, especially progressive political bloggers have for inside baseball. Strategy and tactics, demographics, the details of political horse trading; progressives love to talk about this stuff. The progressive movement is chock full of armchair quarterbacks. The rank-and-file Republicans, and the conservative, right-wing bloggers, on the other hand, push a moral narrative. It's a rotten moral narrative, full of lies, distortion and bullshit, but it's always about good and evil, not how to squeeze out a few more votes. Progressive moralists, such as Arthur Silber and Dennis Perrin are more or less marginalized. Compare and contrast the TLB "higher beings" and the difference is obvious.

Fundamentally, though, I think the biggest reason is that most Democratic politicians are supported by the same economic elite that owns the commercial media and supports the Republican party. This elite supports Democratic politicians so as to give the appearance of dissent, not to have them actually change anything.

And both Democrats and Republicans have their eyes on the second largest oil reserves in the world.

I'm appalled by the sheer evil and suffering in Iraq, and I'm very pessimistic about the political situation here. I think if a Republican candidate is not elected outright, Clinton or Obama will eke out a narrow victory, compromised by support for war against Iran and tepid opposition to the war in Iraq. Democrats will not obtain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. At best, we'll withdraw half our troops from Iraq, leaving tens of thousands (and tens of thousands of mercenaries private contractors) acting as a permanent political irritant. Even a Democratic President will probably start yet another war in Iran, if Bush doesn't get there first.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Don't Watch This Video

From Bear Republic Action Group. This is what is being done in Iraq in your name, while Republicans continue to support George W. Bush and the Democrat controlled Congress refuses to stop funding and put an end to George W. Bush's occupation of that country:

Warning: This video is ugly, savage and without a doubt not for the kids or the squeamish….But it is what George W. Bush and his ‘Rubber Stamp Republican Party’ are doing in the full light of day. Send a link to this to anyone you know who thinks the ‘Surge’ is working or that, in fact, the people ‘running’ this brutal, illegal occupation have any fucking idea what they are doing. And I do mean any idea at all.

[Cross-Posted at Edgeing]

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George W. Obama? Or Hillary R. Bush?

[Cross-Posted at Daily Kos]

Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has written probably the most sobering article I've yet seen about the prospects for the Iraq occupation, and what can be expected from Democratic presidential candidates.

Tomgram: Ira Chernus, Democratic Doublespeak on Iraq

Start with the simplest, most basic fudge. Newspapers and the TV news constantly report on various plans for the "withdrawal of American troops" from Iraq, when what's being proposed is the withdrawal of American "combat troops" or "combat brigades." This isn't a matter of splitting hairs; it's the difference between a plan for full-scale withdrawal and a plan to remain in Iraq in a different military form for the long term. American combat brigades only add up to perhaps half of the troops we presently have in that country.

Pity the poor Democratic candidates for president, caught between Iraq and a hard place. Every day, more and more voters decide that we must end the war and set a date to start withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Most who will vote in the Democratic primaries concluded long ago that we must leave Iraq, and they are unlikely to let anyone who disagrees with them have the party's nomination in 2008.

But what does it mean to "leave Iraq"? Here's where most of the Democratic candidates come smack up against that hard place. There is a longstanding bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment that the US must control every strategically valuable region of the world -- and none more so than the oil heartlands of the planet. That's been a hard-and-fast rule of the elite for some six decades now. No matter how hard the task may be, they demand that presidents be rock-hard enough to get the job done.

So whatever "leave Iraq" might mean, no candidate of either party likely to enter the White House on January 20, 2009 can think it means letting Iraqis determine their own national policies or fate.
So the Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war -- with not too many ideologically laden ifs, ands, or buts -- while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.
It's depressing, but I'd recommend reading the entire article.

George W. Obama?
"The single most important job of any president is to protect the American people," he affirmed in a major foreign-policy statement last April. But "the threats we face.... can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.... The security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people." That's why the U.S. must be the "leader of the free world." It's hard to find much difference on foreign policy between Clinton and Obama, except that Barack is more likely to dress up the imperial march of U.S. interests in such old-fashioned Cold War flourishes.

That delights neoconservative guru Robert Kagan, who summed up Obama's message succinctly: "His critique is not that we've meddled too much but that we haven't meddled enough.... To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States." To control everything and everyone, he wants "the strongest, best-equipped military in the world.... A 21st century military to stay on the offense." That, he says, will take at least 92,000 more soldiers and Marines -- precisely the number Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended to President Bush.
Hillary R. Bush?
Hillary Clinton declares forthrightly: "It is time to begin ending this war.... Start bringing home America's troops.... within 90 days." Troops home: It sounds clear enough. But she is always careful to avoid the crucial word all. A few months ago she told an interviewer: "We have remaining vital national security interests in Iraq.... What we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of, between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region." A senior Pentagon officer who has briefed Clinton told NPR commentator Ted Koppel that Clinton expects U.S. troops to be in Iraq when she ends her second term in 2017.

Why all these troops? We have "very real strategic national interests in this region," Clinton explains.
You are being played again.

They are counting on getting your vote by default
, because they know that people are afraid that if they DON'T vote Democratic EVEN if the Democrats will not end the occupation they will end up with the rethugs back in power.

Remember all the fearmongering that Bushco did? The Democrats are now using it against you.

BUT, if they are elected next year in spite of that fact that they continue the occupation... WHAT DIFFERENCE is there between them and the rethugs?

What difference? NONE. It won't be any different from electing rethugs.

In other words by electing the Democrats next year out of fear of the rethugs, even if the Democrats won't end the occupation, EFFECTIVELY the country will have re-elected rethugs (called democrats).

Cheerful prospect, hmmm?

Think it through. Don't vote out of fear. You have the power and the dems know you have the power. So they fearmonger.

The only hope you reading this have, the only hope any of us have, is to threaten the Democrats with loss of support if they will not use the power they have to stop funding the Iraq occupation and force a COMPLETE withdrawal. Otherwise settle in for a never ending occupation if Iraq while you watch the death tolls grow.

It's the only way to change the paradigm.

Foreign Policy in a post-Bush America
On January 20th, 2009 America's new President will face a new era of foreign policy with challenges and options different than those faced by prior administrations. Many of these new challenges have been brewing for decades, but most were created or exacerbated by mistakes made since the turn of the century.
If American wants to maintain its position of influence over world affairs, and the privileges which that influence brings, we need to dramatically change our approach to foreign policy. As popular as Clinton is overseas, a return to 90's style diplomacy in a post 3/20/2003 world will not be enough. A clear rejection of the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive Strike and a return to coalition building is certainly a good start but we need to go beyond that. We can no longer expect to world to accept that our intentions are in good when they see negative consequences of our actions.

We can no longer use our military might to protect our access to resources such as oil without expecting repercussions in the form international anger and angst which expresses itself as protests, or much worse, terror. We cannot continue to negotiate trade agreements which favor our corporate interests and neglect the rights of workers abroad and needs of workers at home. As we select a new face to govern America, we must also choose a leader who is able to reevaluate America's approach to foreign affairs and establish a new doctrine of policies which can carry us forward, repairing the damage from our mistakes and building a strong foundation for our relationships with nations around the globe.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel, The Nation
End the War (On Terror)
With the 2008 elections looming, it is unlikely that the Democrats (with a few honorable exceptions) will rethink their official national security strategy in any significant way. But citizens committed to a vision of real security can launch a debate framed by our own concerns and values. If we have learned anything in the past six years, it is that even overwhelming military power is ill suited to dealing with the central challenges of the 21st century: climate crisis, the worst pandemic in human history (AIDS), the spread of weapons of mass destruction, stateless terrorists with global reach, genocidal conflict and starvation afflicting Africa, and a global economy that is generating greater instability and inequality.

A real security plan would widen the definition to include all threats to human life, whether they stem from terrorism, disease, environmental degradation, natural disasters or global poverty--a definition that makes it clear that the military is only one of many tools that can be used to address urgent threats. A last resort. This alternative security strategy would also reconfigure the US presence in the world - reducing the footprint of American military power, pulling back the forward deployments drastically and reducing the bloated Pentagon budget by as much as half.

Yes, at home, all this will take time and have to overcome the fiercest kind of political resistance. Yet this is not an impossible political goal, now that Americans have seen where the military option leads. Dealing intelligently with reality is not retreat. It is the first wise step toward restoring real national security.
Princeton Universities Wilson School has in fact been working on devising a new cogent and workable foreign policy for America that may show promise. The Princeton Project on National Security on September 29, 2006 released their final report in the form of 96 page PDF document titled "Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, U.S. National Security In The 21st Century, which according to their mission statement was developed by 400 contributors over a 2 year period, to "set forth agreed premises or foundational principles to guide the development of specific national security strategies by successive administrations in coming decades".

The Princeton Project's report is here.


In 2008 either the Democrats or the Republicans will take control of the Executive Branch and the Presidency, and therefore the administration of US Foreign Policy.

The purpose of this post is to highlight the need for, and to ADVOCATE for a drastic overhaul of US Foreign Policy.

My own politics are best described this way: I am not at all concerned with which party "wins" next year. I want the occupation ended as soon as possible so that the fewest Americans and Iraqis die. Preferably none. Period. I also see the occupation as a specific instance of the more general doctrine of preemptive war - really imperialist hegemony - that the neocons and rethugs want to pursue. I want the specific instance ended and the mindset behind the general doctrine made politically and socially unacceptable and people who hold that mindset treated as pariahs, so that no matter which party is elected it will not happen again.

A new and sensible Foreign Policy framework is something that is badly needed if America is to move forward as a respected and respectable member of a community of nations, and avoid creating terrorism and tragedies like 9/11 in future.

"Ancient History": U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly Of Intervention:
After 70 years of broken Western promises regarding Arab independence, it should not be surprising that the West is viewed with suspicion and hostility by the populations (as opposed to some of the political regimes) of the Middle East.(3) The United States, as the heir to British imperialism in the region, has been a frequent object of suspicion. Since the end of World War II, the United States, like the European colonial powers before it, has been unable to resist becoming entangled in the region's political conflicts. Driven by a desire to keep the vast oil reserves in hands friendly to the United States, a wish to keep out potential rivals (such as the Soviet Union), opposition to neutrality in the cold war, and domestic political considerations, the United States has compiled a record of tragedy in the Middle East. The most recent part of that record, which includes U.S. alliances with Iraq to counter Iran and then with Iran and Syria to counter Iraq, illustrates a theme that has been played in Washington for the last 45 years.
NOTE: Ira Chernus, besides blogging at The Smirking Chimp, is also the author of the book: Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror And Sin:
In an ambitious effort to clarify a complicated issue, Ira Chernus tackles the question of why U.S. foreign policy aimed at building national strength and security has the paradoxical effect of making the country less safe and secure. His answer: The "war on terror" is based not on realistic appraisals of the causes of conflict, but rather on "stories" that neoconservative policymakers believe about human nature and a world divided between absolute good and absolute evil. The root of the stories lies in these policymakers' terror of the social and cultural changes that disrupted American society during the sixties. The neoconservative stories portray those responsible for change not simply as political opponents, but as enemies or sinners acting with evil intent to destroy American values and morals--that is, as "monsters" rather than human beings.

Exploring both secular and religious components of this political ideology, Chernus shows that after 9/11 the Bush administration transferred the story from a domestic to a foreign stage. The goal of the war on terrorism is to keep on fighting monsters forever, to give Americans a global arena where they can show that they still believe in eternal moral values and have the strength to resist the winds of change. Traditional conservatives support the war on terrorism because its story mirrors their own stories about a war against sin. Liberals accept an endless war against foreign evil because they fought the same kind of war against communism for forty years. They act out old stories that feel familiar and safe, rather than finding new policies that would actually make us more secure. This turns the United States into a national insecurity state.

There's more: "George W. Obama? Or Hillary R. Bush?" >>

Monday, July 23, 2007

Direct Congressional Oversight

If you happen to be in Washington, DC on September 4th and you're looking for something to do and someones necks to breathe down, here's a great idea.

America Stands Watch - September 4th, 2007:

Almost a year ago, America went to the polls and sent a clear message to our government: it's time to bring our troops home from Iraq. But our responsibility does not end when we exit the voting booth. This war is being fought with our money and by our sons and daughters, and we cannot wait for the next election and hope that America's government will eventually catch up with its people.

It's time we went directly to Congress – not with letters or marches, lobbying or phone calls – we'll meet them inside the House and Senate chambers. Congress reconvenes after their summer vacation on September 4th. Let's be there to let them know that we are watching.

We are calling on Americans to join us in the Capitol on September 4th, where we will gather in the House and Senate chambers and, at a given signal, rise to our feet together to stand watch over our government.

This is not a protest – it is citizens directly overseeing their government at a time when it has refused to respond to a crisis. The machinery of our democracy is supposed to be transparent, and despite the metal detectors and the tour guides, it still is: the galleries of the House and Senate are open to the public.

This campaign was created by The Action Mill. We are artists and activists who create nonviolent actions, websites and other tools - we consult with other groups on some campaigns, and some we run on our own. We did mostly local actions until the evening of the 2004 election, when we started Turn Your Back on Bush, which organized people from 47 states to travel to Washington DC for President Bush's inaugural parade, where they took part in a simple, clear action. Turn Your Back on Bush grew from two people and a website to organizers all over the country and a full-time volunteer staff of fifteen in two months time, and simultaneous actions were organized in Brussels, London, and Mexico City. You can learn more about that campaign at, and more about the Action Mill at

America Stands Watch grew out of our work with Iraq Veterans Against the War (

[Cross-posted at Edgeing]

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