Saturday :: Mar 20, 2004

Making The Grade - Or Not


by pessimist

One of the major campaign points of the Bush Re-Selection Campaign will be the "great victory" in Iraq over the evil monster Saddam 'Saruman' Hussein. Today on the anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq by BushCo Multinational Economic Development Corp., as subcontracted primarily to the US military, and further subbed out to the Coalition of the Swilling, I thought I'd take a look at how well BushCo has really done in the realization of their predictions.

The Washington Post reminds us:

A year ago tonight, President Bush took the nation to war in Iraq with a grand vision for change in the Middle East and beyond. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, his administration predicted, would come at little financial cost and would materially improve the lives of Iraqis. Americans would be greeted as liberators, Bush officials predicted, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein would spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East.

On April 23, 2003, Andrew S. Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, laid out in a televised interview the costs to U.S. taxpayers of rebuilding Iraq.

"The American part of this will be $1.7 billion," he said. "We have no plans for any further-on funding for this."

That turned out to be off by orders of magnitude. The administration, which asked Congress for another $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction five months after Natsios made his assertion, has said it expects overall Iraqi reconstruction costs to be as much as $75 billion this year alone.

All well and fine, if the top 1% were still paying taxes. So what have we gotten for this profligate expenditure of or grandchildren's future?

The "coalition has been unable to ensure a safe and secure environment within critical areas of Iraq," concluded a Council on Foreign Relations task force led by former defense and energy secretary James R. Schlesinger and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Thomas R. Pickering. "This lack of security has created widespread fear among Iraqis, inhibited growth of private sector economic activity, distorted the initial development of a robust and open civil society, and places important limitations on the normal routines of life for most Iraqis," said its report, "Iraq: One Year After."

So how does this play in the neighboring nations of Iraq?

A poll released this week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that Muslim countries are highly skeptical that the ouster of Hussein will make the Middle East more democratic.

Does anyone know if there is a 'lemon law' that covers political usurpers?

The LA Times today made the following comments:

The first anniversary of the war in Iraq provides an inevitable and appropriate time for reflection.

President Bush on Friday took his turn, telling diplomats from scores of countries gathered in the East Room of the White House that Iraqis are better off now and that the world at large is safer than it was a year ago. At least the president might score a debatable point in asserting that life in Iraq is far better without Saddam Hussein.

But he's the president of the United States and leader of the free world. So it's fair to ask whether the war has made life better for this nation and its allies. In our assessment, it has not.

In March last year, before the invasion, this editorial page agreed that Iraq would be better without Hussein. We still believe that.

But we worried that the war would do far more harm than good. We were concerned that combat would fuel a myth of American bullies come to wreak havoc on Muslims, would cost us billions of dollars, not to mention the rebuilding costs, and would divert attention from attempts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We desperately hope to be wrong in our trepidation about the consequences here and abroad," we said then. Today we regret that our fears are being realized.

Of course, we all know that those pointy-headed Godless Commie Pinko lib'ruls in LaLaLand would fail to hail the greatness of Ower Leedur. What, then, is to be made of this item?

Support for the war in Iraq declines in Texas, poll finds

Support for the war in Iraq has eroded significantly in President Bush's home state since the conflict started almost a year ago, with nearly 60 percent of Texans registering disapproval with the way things are going, according to a statewide survey released today.

58 percent disapproved of the way the war is going for the United States, reflecting apparent concern over continued attacks on U.S. troops and almost daily bombings aimed at derailing attempts to stabilize the country. Thirty-eight percent approved.

The survey showed growing skepticism over Bush's central justification for launching the war -- ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. In the June survey, 56 percent predicted that the weapons would eventually be found, but only 34 percent made that prediction in the latest poll. While 59 percent of those surveyed believe that Bush was justified in launching the war on March 20, the finding reflects a 13 percent drop over the past nine months.

Other survey categories also suggest that support is waning for the president's Iraq policy since the last poll in June. "What we saw in the poll is declining support for the war in Iraq," said Ty Meighan, director of the Texas Poll. "It's still a high number, but you can see that there is less support for the war. It's very clear that Texans are more concerned about our role in Iraq."

Why do Texans hate America? Are they not hearing the stirring words of triumph spoken by Ower Leedur because that lib'rul media isn't presenting The Truth (TM)(C)BushCo.? It has to be run by lib'ruls, for what else would explain this article?

‘An Enormous Waste of Money’

Security Expert Bruce Schneier:

We have built a geopolitical situation where more people dislike America, more people hate us, and in that respect we have made the world a more dangerous place. In terms of the aftermath, we are more prepared. [But] in terms of whether we’ve made the world safer in the past two years, most of the things we’ve done have been irrelevant and some have been harmful.

We’re still living in a world where politics trumps security. The things that tend not to work are the broad surveillance measures. We are spending $10 billion on a program to fingerprint foreigners, for example. As a consumer, I need to ask, is that $10 billion being well spent? I think it is an enormous waste of money. The amount of security I’m getting is not nearly worth that cost. I’d much rather take that money and see it spent elsewhere.

We also have to look at the underlying policies that bring about the situation. You can imagine living in a community where the landlord keeps hornets’ nests, and he keeps whacking the nests. And then he keeps telling you, you need to buy protective clothing. He’s right, but I wish he’d stop whacking the nest. In a sense that’s what we are doing.

Far better for our security would be to deal with the underlying geopolitical situations that cause the problem. That may be politically untenable, but as a security professional, that is the best way to spend your money. Politicians tend to prefer security countermeasures that are very visible, to make it look like they’re doing something. So they will tend to pick things that are visible even if they are less effective. Training FBI agents in Arabic is a really good idea, but no one is going to see it. Fingerprinting foreigners at the border is a very visible thing that, even if it is less effective, is going to look like we’re doing something. What I push for is more balanced approaches toward security. It is just one of the goals of our country. If we took every single person in this country and locked each of them in a box, we would be more secure, but it wouldn’t be a better society. I would much rather live in a country that people run to than run from.

The U.S. in Iraq plays into the terrorists’ hands. It gives them more people to kill. It proves we’re an occupying nation. What Al Qaeda wants is to cause a holy war. They wanted us to invade Iraq. By denying liberties for thousands of Americans, by moving our nation toward a police state and rattling sabers throughout the world, we proved them right. We legitimized them by claiming we were at war with them.

And how goes The War? As Matthew Yglesias states, "The problem isn't that George W. Bush hasn't done enough in the war on terrorism -- it's that he's hardly fought it at all."

Media mythology has it that the military campaign was a stunning success, due to its short duration and low casualty count. This theory conveniently ignores the fact that the president and his team failed to accomplish the actual goals of the war: Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and other top leadership elements got away, and no stable government was introduced in their stead. To this day, the Taliban is conducting military operations in the southern portion of the country.

Our main objectives stymied in Afghanistan, the president did not do the sensible thing and redouble our efforts; instead, he chose to take the country on a two-year detour from al-Qaeda to invade Iraq. At the time, we were repeatedly assured that preparations for war were not detracting from efforts in the war on terror, an assertion that's hard to square with the March 13 announcement that we are only now stepping up efforts to capture bin Laden and his top deputy. It appears, moreover, that in exchange for permission to deploy troops into Pakistan, Bush has agreed to let that government continue to turn a blind eye to the global arms bazaar run by its top nuclear scientist.

The focus on Iraq also led the administration through a mind-boggling series of flip-flops regarding North Korea, Pakistan's main rival as the world champion of weapons proliferation. Bush's efforts to keep the public focused on the Iraqi "threat" have placed the United States in the position of accepting the reality of the DPRK as a nuclear power.

Meanwhile, the one thing we can be quite sure terrorists won't do with any nuclear weapons they manage to buy is load them on top of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Nevertheless, the 2005 budget request for missile defense stands at a staggering $10.2 billion. This might be at least vaguely defensible were it not for the fact that the system in question doesn't work.

Under the circumstances, it's hard to deny that the money would be better spent trying to do something about America's dangerously understaffed Army.

For all the big talk, then, 9-11 appears to have changed nothing for the Bush administration. Their priorities remain the same as before the attacks: missile defense and Iraq, symptoms of a state-centric worldview incapable of really grasping global terrorism. The only difference was that they started saying their policies were directed at counter-terrorism. When bad things happen under a government's watch, the officials responsible ought to be held accountable. The American right is quite correct to say that the terrorist threat remains serious; this is, however, less a reflection of our enemies' strength than of the simple fact that the Bush administration hasn't bothered with doing much of anything about it, preferring to offer tough talk as a rhetorical smokescreen for an unrelated agenda.

Don't they know there's a war on?

Certainly someone knows that this is so, for their war isn't so much against terrorism as it is against the causes of terrorism. As the Chicago Tribune states: Major Protests Mark Iraq War Anniversary. The turnout wasn't so large as last years pre-war protests, but maybe they feel as I do - a bit frustrated that nothing we do seems to have the desired effect of creating awareness of the BushCo complicity in people who currently refuse to see.

But I have to keep reminding myself that the nation has seen dark times before and has in the end triumphed through perseverence. I recall Valley Forge and the dark days of 1942, just to pick two at random, two times in our nation's history when the "obvious" facts would indicate that it might be best to surrender to the inevitable. To be assimilated, as the Borg of Star Trek might put it.

But we Americans are a stubborn, tenacious bunch. We fired the Shot Heard 'Round The world and stared down the world's (then-)most powerful country. We held the walls in pitifully small numbers against the might of Santa Ana at the Alamo. We charged a strong defensive position at San Juan Hill and won the day. We ended the stalemate of the Western Front, bringing a horrible war to a quicker end than it might otherwise. We reclaimed the world from The Axis, fought the Chinese in 30-below winter, and held little mud forts in the Delta in squad strength against full companies of North Vietnamese regulars. We are a strong people who will fight hard if the cause is just. We merely need to remember what 'just' really means.

'Just' is not making the world safe for multinational corporations at the cost of individual liberty.

There are many wrongs that need righting in the world. Creating new wrongs is not the way to go about rectifying those situations. The Bush (mis)Administration has stolen the future from our children, and theirs; taken away the comfortable retirement most Americans worked for, and were promised, for many years; taken away the peace and safety most of the world enjoyed through their rash militarism; destroyed a somewhat-functional world forum designed to reduce the frequency of wars, and are even in the process of destroying the economic strength of the country which made it all possible.

It's your money being promised for years into the future. It's your country whose liberties are being squandered. It's your world that's being made into an unsafe place for children and other living things. Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is your world?

The road to peace will not be quick or easy, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Send George Bush back to clearing Midland brush. Permanently.

pessimist :: 8:39 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!