....LMB: "Iraq: How Did We Get Here?"....

October 26, 2003

One of the most important political questions running in the US these days is "what the hell are we going to do with Iraq?" I'd like to answer that question, but it seems only natural that I first try to explain where we are now and how we got there.

I guess the seeds of the latest Iraq war can be traced back to the end of Gulf War I. A number of political and military men were dissatisfied with the results of that war, that the U.S. had not gone all the way to Baghdad. They began advocating massive U.S. military intervention in the Middle East for various reasons. These folks have come to be known as "neoconservatives" or "the neocons." Their main public face was a think-tank called the Project for a New American Century.

When George W. Bush took office, he took many of the neocons with him: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and a few others. Very loud and influential voices inside the White House.

Near as I can figure, the decision to invade Iraq was made by the Bush administration in December 2001, maybe even before that. A National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq-- which would analyze all data assess it as a threat-- had not been performed for over two years, and Bush didn't ask for one to be performed till 10 months later. So at best, this decision was made on old intelligence, if intelligence was used at all.

So how did this decision get made? I'd say that it was probably 90% neocon agenda, 10% Bush ignorance and fear.

The neocon agenda is scary and idiotic at the same time. It basically calls for the use of military force to turn the nations of the world into capitalist pseudo-democracies that maintain the U.S.-dominated status quo. Of course, all nations seek to expand their power and shape the world to best suit themselves, and the U.S. has done so on a regular basis for quite some time. But the neocon plan is an huge escalation in scope, aggression, destructiveness, and, well, stupid optimism. With regards to Iraq, the rose-colored neocon theory is this:

Overthrowing Saddam Hussein and easily turning Iraq into a free market "democracy" will destabilize all of the governments of the Middle East, which will in turn also become free market "democracies," bringing peace to the region and ending terrorism.

I'm serious, that's pretty much what they've been arguing. Well, with the exception that the countries that don't "destabilize" enough might have to be invaded. Which might mean future wars against Syria, Iran, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. But since we have this force, we shouldn't be afraid to use it, they say.

A few qualifiers:

- the "democracy" envisioned by the neocons is not real democracy. As is ever the case, the U.S. government will want these new Middle Eastern governments to be U.S.-friendly. Nothing else is acceptable.

- the U.S. will not allow these governments to be Muslim theocracies, even if that is what their people want.

- "capitalist" and "free market" are terms that are largely abused to the point that their meanings are often unclear. So to clarify, the new Middle Eastern economies will likely be corporate capitalist, with heavy protections on intellectual property (especially copyrights and patents from other countries), and will allow a great deal of foreign interference.

- no matter who becomes the leader of each of these new countries, and no matter what their political actions, they will be referred to in the U.S. as "moderates" overseeing the "difficult transition" to democracy. Should they censor, repress or starve their people, they will be portrayed as well-intentioned people making the hard decisions to modernize their countries. You see a lot of this in Latin America and southeast Asia.

- in the view of many neocons, all terrorist groups receive haven and support by national governments, primarily Islamic dictatorships. Therefore in their eyes, if the governments are replaced, terrorist groups will lose their support and terrorism will shrivel on the vine. This is really, really stupid. As 9/11 showed us, you can be a terrorist for the cost of a plane ticket and a knife blade. You don't exactly need a sheikdom to afford that.

I don't know to what degree the neocons should be seen as short-sighted optimists or opportunistic cynics. On the one hand, if they believe their own rhetoric, they probably think that an American-led world with mildly democratic institutions and rampant consumerism is the best possible outcome. It would make for relatively peaceful stability and some amount of freedom.

Or, if they are opportunists, this is all pretty rhetoric to cover up their goals of rich Americans (and lucky others) running the world for their own economic benefit. The entire world transformed into a colony for their own profit, the peace and stability of total control.

Either way you look at it, I don't like philosophy, the means, or the ends.

Now when I refer to "Bush's ignorance and fear," it is just a guess, really. But I've seen Bush give a few speeches about the Iraq war where he lays out his case, and seems to sincerely believe it. His case in a nutshell is that he feels the need to protect the U.S. from another attack like 9/11. And since Iraq hates America, and might have nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, it is conceivable that these weapons could be used in an attack that is like 9/11 times one hundred. And he can't let that happen.

That's really his total argument. Iraq, weapons, terrorists, possible WMD terrorist attack, therefore we have to attack Iraq. With this mindset, it's easy to understand his unwavering support of this plan, and his never-ending attempts to link Saddam Hussein and terrorism. Nevermind that there were no real links, and no real weapons. Bush was unwilling to take that "chance".

So the decision was made. Around this time, the administration began its PR campaign to convince the U.S. and world (and maybe itself) to invade Iraq.

This led to the "stovepiping"-- taking raw intelligence data and sending it to high ranking government officials before it has been analyzed, or even examined for accuracy (not my term, it's intelligence lingo). This bypassed much of the CIA and sent information, both correct and incorrect, straight to the White House.

On one hand, this actually made a little sense, but just a little. After all, the CIA somehow failed to stop, or even really predict the 9/11 attacks. How much trust would you have put in their assessements? But on the other hand, would you trust your own knowledge of current events and geopolitics over that of teams of CIA staff? You'd have to be a genius or a fool to do so.

Or maybe I'm giving the Bush team too much credit. Maybe the stovepipe had nothing to do with trust in the CIA, and was entirely about building a propaganda case for the war.

And they had plenty of help for that. Not only did the White House have their raw, questionably accurate stovepipe data, but they also created the Office of Special Plans. The OSP was a mini-agency created inside the Defense Department with the sole purpose of gathering any and all raw data and rumor about an Iraqi threat. This served the twin purposes of providing the administration with ammunition for their rhetorical campaign, but it also allowed them to keep the CIA distracted by continually asking them to research the "leads" that they'd received from OSP.

The propagandists were also helped greatly by Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. The INC was made up of Iraqi exiles who hoped to one day take power from Saddam Hussein. The INC managed to provide much "intelligence" to the OSP and White House. But they had an extreme vested interest in convincing the U.S. to invade, and therefore any information they provided should have been treated with much suspicion. The INC were the ones who assured the White House that the Iraqi people would be thrilled when "liberated" by the U.S. troops, and shower the soldiers with flowers and sweets. Unfortunately, the INC's intel did not receive the skeptical scrutiny that it should have.

So with a mountain of faulty intelligence (endorsed by CIA director George Tenet, apparently afraid of losing his job if he did otherwise), the Bush administration tried to convince the American public about the need for war. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, many Americans were willing to put their faith in their government to keep them safe. And after a solid decade of low-level "Saddam Hussein is the devil" propaganda, it didn't take much to convince Americans that he was a threat. However the WMD "evidence" was only enough to convince the nations of the world that weapons inspectors should be sent to Iraq, not that the country needed to be invaded.

The U.S. then abandoned its efforts to get the UN to join in the anti-Iraq quest, and decided just to fight with its "coalition of the willing": the U.S., the U.K., and a handful of other countries contributing tiny amounts of money and staff. But it continued the domestic propaganda, focusing not on WMD but on defeating an evil man and bringing freedom to an oppressed people. And when portrayed as a simple morality play, the people approved.

Coming soon- Iraq: What Do We Do Now?

Posted by Jake at 04:20 PM | TrackBack (0)

Rockin' Post! I wish I could explain it as good as you do.

Posted by: Lindsey at October 27, 2003 07:58 PM

Here's another "rockin' post":


and another:


Posted by: Paul at October 28, 2003 06:36 PM

The Washington Post did an article about a year ago detailing how Dick Cheney talked Bush into following the New American Century "vision" in the spring of '01. Can't explain why they would report that and then support admininstration policy and cover the pointless arguement over WMDs. Haven't seen a single article or LTE printed yet, that talks about the Kristol's fingerprints on this policy. Amazing!

Posted by: shep at October 30, 2003 02:15 PM

That is all true.
In reality its the oil Bub.
Oilmen, like Gerogie & Dickey.
OIL!, and the control of the middle East.

Posted by: Bill at November 3, 2003 12:01 PM

no need to wonder about what we do now in iraq. . . the neocons never really planned that far ahead, all they have to do is secure the oil. now it's onto iran and the caspian! yessssssss

Posted by: Blake at November 3, 2003 09:48 PM

EMAIL: draime2000@yahoo.com
DATE: 01/26/2004 01:15:08 PM
Communism has nothing to do with love. Communism is an excellent hammer which we use to destroy our enemy.

Posted by: Niblock Jasper at February 3, 2004 01:27 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Mission: Mongolia

Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:


What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

What went wrong: still missing some ingredients, and possibly had one wrong, rice vinegar. Way too much lemon and chili.

Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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