Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hannity Zero

Now there are some who would like to rewrite history - revisionist historians is what I like to call them ~ George W. Bush (b. 7/6/1946) 43rd President of the United States (1/20/2001 to 1/20/2009) revising history, and warning others not to call him on HIS revisions.

The debate is over whether we want the government to serve the needs of the bulk of the population or just the purposes of the rich and powerful. Progressives must stop helping the Right hide its real agenda ~ Dean Baker (b. 7/13/1958) American macroeconomist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, referring to the Left's acceptance of the legitimacy of the Right's belief in the "free market".

Hannity Assists Citizens United In Financial Sector Crisis History Rewrite

The Conservative spin machine went into overdrive following the economic crisis and bailout. It was obvious to (almost) everyone that deregulation, as championed by Republicans and Conservative Democrats, was what allowed the thieves on Wall Street to rob us blind. But the Republicans were determined to place the blame elsewhere. One of the ways the "popular notion" that deregulation was the culprit was countered was with a faux documentary titled "Generation Zero". According to Sean Hannity, the fact that "massive deregulation caused the economic downturn and, as liberals say, capitalism failed" is completey refuted by this film.

On 2/23/2010 Hannity invited the film's producer, David Bossie of Citizens United Productions, onto the show. He called it "A Hannity Special", and touted it as an "exclusive first look".

David Bossie, who currently serves as President AND Chairman of the conservative non-profit organization, has a long history of attacking Democrats by manipulating the facts to fit his narrative. During the Whitewater Investigation Bossie attempted to use "selectively edited transcripts" to smear President Clinton. Bossie was fired from his investigative position by Newt Gingrich, who described the episode as embarrassing. (The transcripts were culled from "tapes that were routinely recorded last year while Hubbell, Clinton's first associate attorney general, was serving a federal prison term for defrauding his Little Rock law firm").

A 4/25/2008 CBS News story reported that Mr. Bossie's GOP Dirty Tricks Dupe Media. The dirty trick was to produce political attack ads containing dubious information, then, instead of paying to air these ads, they would post them on Republican websites or YouTube. Eventually, after receiving enough exposure, the videos would be picked up by the news media and covered as if they were actual stories. The CBS News article points out that the news media "[running] the ad over and over is tantamount to giving free air time to smear machines...".

During the 2008 Democratic primaries Bossie attempted to circumvent campaign finance laws by airing an "advertisement" for "Hillary: The Movie", even though the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (also known as "McCain-Feingold") specifically prohibits the airing of "broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election". Citizens United argued that their obvious hit piece, which included clips of all the most incendiary attacks against Mrs. Clinton, was not a political ad. It was a advertisement for their "documentary", and so was not subject to McCain-Feingold. Instead of ruling against Citizens United due to their blatant violation of the law, the ultra-right leaning activist Supreme Court struck down (a portion of) McCain-Feingold as "Unconstitutional", overturning 100 years of settled case law.

With "Generation Zero" Bossie continues the Conservative propaganda campaign. Utilizing all his old dirty tricks, he, along with writer/director Stephen K. Bannon, attempt to shift the blame from the Conservative economic philosophies which unquestioningly caused the financial sector crisis to "a frightening alliance between the Democratic Party and big business". When Hannity claims that banks and insurance companies failing is a "myth", Bossie responds, saying "Certainly. It's hubris and greed at the same time that it's the cultural and social breakdown from the '60s that is really taken that 30, 40 years that led up to September 18th crisis".

According to the filmmakers it is the baby boomers who we should be blaming. Specifically, the Democratic Baby Boomers, although, in my reading of the Hannity Special transcript, I see no facts presented on which that conclusion could possibly be based. It was Liberal greed and hubris that lead to the economic collapse, and not Republican greed or hubris? Nevermind that Libertarianism holds that it is personally responsible to act in your own self-interest, and according to (Libertarian and Con hero) Ayn Rand it's a virtue. Does Bossie think that Conservative greed is good and Liberal greed is bad?

In describing the "sociopathy that is at the heart of the far-right worldview", author Tim Wise, in his Daily Kos diary explains that the Conservative "worldview holds, quite simply, that doing for others is contemptible; that doing for self is the purpose of human life; that altruism and service are somehow pathologies pushed by collectivists and should be subordinated to selfishness and greed".

And everyone knows that it is the Republican Party which is in the pockets of big business. Hannity himself points this out, in an obvious setup for Bossie, who counters by claiming that, while that WAS true, "the Democratic Party has truly taken over that position of power on Wall Street". What's going on here is that Bossie is twisting the facts, as he is prone to do. Wall Street did make significant contributions to Barack Obama's campaign, but that was because they saw how badly bush had screwed the economy. Wall Street shifting more of their contributions to the party they believe is going to win the election does not an "alliance" make. If they had thought the Republicans were going to win - their contributions would have gone to the GOP.

Republicans have been in the pocket of big business for decades. It is why they've been defending BP and referring to President Obama negotiating with Tony Hayward for a $20 billion victim's compensation escrow account as a "shakedown". It is why they objected to, and forced the removal from the financial reform bill of a provision designed to set up a $50 billion fund allowing the industry to pay for the dissolution of insolvent banks (instead of the taxpayer). Despite the fact that this fund would ensure the exact opposite, Republicans lied and said the reason for their objection is that the fund would "institutionalize bailouts".

As for the Wall Street's alliance with Democrats? It appears as though they feel the Democrats have not "put out" to their satisfaction. A 2/7/2010 New York Times story says, "in a message to Democrats, Wall Street sends cash to GOP" as part of their "campaign to thwart Mr. Obama's proposals for tighter financial regulations". According to the article, "Republicans are rushing to capitalize on what they call Wall Street's buyer's remorse with the Democrats".

Who Needs Regulation When We Have Personal Responsibility?

Regarding Hannity's claim that Republican deregulation did NOT lead directly to the economic downturn - this ridiculous claim proves that the people behind (and promoting) this propaganda film are complete idiots. Because, even if selfish risk taking Liberals ARE who we should hold responsible, wouldn't regulation have been the best method by which to stop them? Bossie suggests that those responsible lack personal responsibility. Presumably, the solution, in his mind, would be more "personal responsibility".

Wikipedia states that "moral hazard occurs when a party insulated from risk may behave differently than it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk". The Republican solution is to get rid of the moral hazard problem by refusing to engage in bailouts. Which leads to increased personal responsibility, less overly risky behavior, and a self-regulating free market. Because people realize that they, instead of the taxpayer, are on the hook if anything goes wrong.

The primary flaw in this theory is that it does not take into account greed coupled with human stupidity. The character Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone's Wall Street acted in a way that he thought was in his own self interest, and ended up in prison. Greed, aside from being a negative character trait for many other reasons, is most definitely not good (regardless of what Ayn Rand thought, or Conservative ideology holds) because it often causes people to only consider the short-term benefit and ignore any possible future risk.

Certainly BP did not act in a personally responsible way. Their risky corner cutting netted them an increase in short term profits but ended up causing the greatest ecological disaster in US history. Since the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon BP's stock has lost half it's value - and market analysts continue to speculate as to whether the company will survive.

Personally I am sick of hearing this idiotic meme that "personal responsibility" is a legitimate alternative to sensible regulation. We're supposed to cross our fingers and hope that everyone behaves themselves, because it is in their own best interest to do so? It is total insanity. Bernie Madoff's actions were hugely personally irresponsible. And Bernie Madoff was not an aberration. According to a 10/2/2009 USA Today article, "ponzi schemes are the most prevalent type of investor fraud". This, despite the fact that ponzi schemes are always eventually uncovered. The perpetrators go to prison, and the victims are left to litigate for the possible return of a portion of what they lost. Certainly ponzi schemers don't expect to be bailed out if (or when) their scams are uncovered. So, shouldn't "personal responsibility" have stopped them? That IS the Con theory, is it not?

I think that those in the financial sector making money hand over fist during the lead up to the meltdown and bailout cared as much about the possibility that everything may eventually come crashing down about as much as those arrested for running ponzi schemes. Yes, for some it may have been something they thought about, but I seriously doubt that an expectation of no bailouts would have prevented this crash. The only thing that could have prevented it was regulations enforced by competent government employees.

Free Market Fundamentalism Or Fakery?

And don't forget that it was Con hero Ronald Reagan who set up the moral hazard dilemma by deregulating the S&Ls, causing his successor to have to bail them out when they came crashing down (thanks, in part, to his sons Jeb and Neil). Economist Paul Krugman, in a 5/31/2009 article titled "Reagan Did It" points out that "Reagan-era legislative changes essentially ended New Deal restrictions on mortgage lending - restrictions that... limited the ability of families to buy homes without putting a significant amount of money down".

Further deregulation shepherded through Congress by former Republican Congressman and McCain Campaign financial advisor Phil Gramm blew away the remaining FDR era protections.

There is a reason the Cons keep pushing the laissez faire fairy tale of deregulation and personal responsibility leading to a self-regulating free market, and it isn't because they actually believe in this nonsense. The real reason they continue to insist that economic liberalization is the pathway to nirvana is that they want to turn our economy over to the wealthy elites. They believe that our economic system should not exist for the benefit of everyone, but only serve to make the rich richer. It is about time people wise up and realize that, whatever position the Republican part takes, it is always because that position will best serve the interests of the wealthy and corporations.

Unfortunately a lot of people have been fooled by the Con's insincere rhetoric concerning their "opposition" to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Even though a Republican president signed the bill into law, they were actually against it. Baloney. They knew that the Democrats, being the responsible party, would make sure the bailout went though. Because a collapse of the financial sector would have been extremely bad for the country.

The bailout, claims economist Paul Krugman, saved us from a second great depression by "averting the worst". And, it should be noted, that the Republican solution of eliminating the moral hazard problem (the one that Reagan set up) by allowing the financial sector to fail and thus virtually guaranteeing a depression - would only work (if it did) the next time. This time we would have suffered the dire consequences. In essence the Republicans were "demanding that the government stop standing in the way of a possible depression".

But it isn't as if they would have actually let this happen. Economist Dean Baker points to irrefutable proof that the Republicans are faking their allegiance to the free market with an essay titled "Free Market Fundamentalism Is an Invention of Progressives". It seems that the House Republicans recently put forward legislation to "discourage" strategic defaults.

Even though it many states non-recourse loans - which allow you to discontinue payment after turning your property over to the bank - are completely legal. Obviously the goal of the Republicans was to protect the banks from the terms of their own contracts. So much for letting the free market do it's thing.

Bottom line when it comes to "Generation Zero" or any instance of a Republican politician, pundit, or other insider lecture regarding the "free market" - is to not take anything they say at face value. Any argument put forward is most likely a deception or twist of the truth designed to help out their wealthy constituency while pulling the wool over the eyes of the average voter - and convince them that they should vote Republican even though it isn't in their best interest to do so.

The goal of "Generation Zero" is just that. Defend the wealthy elites and argue that they should be left to run our economy as they see fit (with no oversight), shift blame to the Democrats, and make money telling deluded voters what they want to hear.

Notes, Clarifications, & Additional Points
[1] Thanks to Sue, who brought this "documentary" to my attention with a post on her blog. A Conservative calling himself "Silverfiddle" said, "It's all true, and verifiably so. Of course, you can argue with his conclusions, but he uses facts to make his case". Seeing as the "documentary" is a huge lie I felt obligated to respond.
[2] Regarding Wall Street's "alliance" with Democrats - I stand by what I wrote above, even though the financial sector IS receiving favors in return for their contributions to Democrats (The Goldman Sachs-Obama Administration association is particularly troublesome). The financial regulation that is about to pass Congress has been watered down in an effort to gain a few Republican votes - but it wasn't strong enough to begin with. I still would not characterize this as an "alliance", but a very unfortunate reality of the political system as it is. The real alliance was and still is between Wall Street and the Republican Party.
[3] In the GWB quote at the top of this post ex-president doofus was referring to his illegal invasion of Iraq and the fact that Saddam Hussein posed zero threat to the US, although I think it can very easily be applied (ironically) to his entire presidency.
[4] In regards to the financial sector bailout, you may have surmised that I am a fan. You would be wrong. While acknowledging that the government did need to take action, and that the action they took did work (to a certain degree), I disagree with exactly how they went about it. (See "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008: Alternate Proposals for more information).

Further Reading
[1] Bernie Madoff, Free at Last: In prison he doesn't have to hide his lack of conscience. In fact, he's a hero for it. By Steve Fishman, New York Magazine 6/6/2010.
[2] Profiling CEOs and Their Sociopathic Paychecks by Thom Hartmann, The Huffington Post 7/27/2009.

SWTD #47

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Grassroots Organizing Business

There are three critical ingredients to democratic renewal and progressive change in America: good public policy, grassroots organizing and electoral politics ~ Paul Wellstone (7/21/1944 to 10/25/2002) a two-term U.S. Senator from the state of Minnesota and member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

...there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies... bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up ~ Saint Peter (ascribed) referring to false prophets (2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV).

Why is the Left so afraid of Glenn? Could it be because he's shining a light where they don't want it to be shined?

This question was asked in the 7/6/2010 edition of Glenn Beck's "newsletter". Why should the Left be afraid? Because of the soon to be launched "Beck University". Motto of the online "university" is "Revolution Against Tyrants; Submission to God". Obviously Barack Obama is the "tyrant". Because he stole the 2009 election with the help of ACORN, presumably. But now, with ACORN's corruption revealed and it's funding cut, the people of American will "take our country back" starting this year.

The Tea Party morons have been a gold (line) mine for Beck. "Beck U" is another in the growing list of scams devised by Beck (or his advisers) to separate Right-wing fools and their money.

Other topics covered in the newsletter were President Obama's appeasement of our enemies (which started with his "apology tour"). Now, after cutting the space program, Obama has tasked NASA with making Muslim countries "feel better about themselves". The email didn't include details, just a link to a Beck radio program transcript.

He also trashed President Obama's "spin" regarding the touted "recovery". I'm not going to go into either of those topics. I've already established that Beck is an greedy hypocritical opportunist who is ripping off the "movement" he is pretending to lead - with God's help. He's a snake oil selling huckster, racist and false prophet. In my opinion, in any case. He's the one who is going to have to answer to the God he professes to believe in.

Finally, the Beck email contained a link to the self-proclaimed grassroots organization "FreedomWorks". defines "grassroots" as "of, pertaining to, or involving the common people, esp. as contrasted with or separable from an elite".

In a 9/2/2009 post (Who Opposes Healthcare Insurance Reform), I noted that FreedomWorks contributors include foundations controlled by the conservative Scaife family. An organization run by foundations representing the interests of the wealthy elite is fake grassroots (or Astroturf). The purpose of FreedomWorks is to dupe low information voters and idiots into electing Republicans. Because the Republican Party has completely sold out to the interests of the wealthy.

Referring to grassroots organizing as a "business", which Glenn Beck and FreedomWorks do, shows just how stupid they believe the "common people" who watch Beck's show, listen to his radio program, buy his products, and show up at their rallies to "take America back" - on behalf of the wealthy elite - are. They are programmable pawns to be used to achieve their goals.

I clicked on the link and ordered their "Take America Back Action Kit". The kit includes... "a detailed strategy DVD video laying out how FreedomWorks plans to turn these many protests into electoral results this November, and a Don't Tread on Me souvenir flag. Because it was free. For me that is - of course it will cost them something. Next they asked me for a $20.10 contribution, and I told them to fu*k off. I said this not via email, but only in my mind. Which worked out OK, because they probably wouldn't send me an action kit otherwise.

Although, they did previously send me an "impeach Obama" bumper sticker. That was after I filled out an online poll of their's, selecting all the answers which clearly indicated that I am a Progressive. Obviously they did not match up the answers to the names and addresses, otherwise they would have realized that sending me the bumper sticker was a waste of money.

Also, they must have made a mistake, because a short while after I received the bumper sticker, they mailed me a second one (I only filled out the poll once). I did NOT attach either sticker to a bumper. I took some magnets and stuck it to my refrigerator. Because I find it hilarious! It was the last president who should have been impeached, not Barack Obama.

So, if you too want to screw with FreedomWorks by requesting a free action kit from Freedomworks and waste their money as I did - click the link below. However, as a tree hugging Liberal I must implore you not to order the kit if you intend to throw it in the trash as soon as you receive it. Personally, I could not resist. I'll keep ordering free items from them as long as they keep offering them. It's a way to amuse myself while I wait for Glenn Beck's swift destruction.

Get Your Take America Back Action Kit

9/26/2014 Update: The Freedomworks "free action kit" is no longer available. Clicking the link takes you to a "page not found" error message on the FreedomWorks site.

Also, Glenn Beck's "swift destruction" obviously has not come quite yet. Instead he has become fabulously wealthy fooling conservative morons, earning $40 million in 2012 with subscriptions topping 300k to his TheBlaze TV (according to The Wall Street Journal).

Meanwhile, Keith Olbermann has left the world of Progressive punditry and returned to his old gig of sports commentating. Proof that pandering to stupidity pays (and pays big). *Sigh*.

SWTD #46

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Abolishing The Fourth of July Holiday

That's the ultimate pornography ... There's nothing more pornographic than glorifying war ~ Tom Clancy, (b. 4/12/1947) an American author, best known for his technically detailed espionage, military science and techno thriller storylines set during and in the aftermath of the Cold War.

I'm a far Left Liberal, and thus a pacifist (and an atheist, although that has nothing with the point I am about to make). The Fourth of July holiday glorifies war, and should be abolished. The genius Liberal Documentary Filmmaker Michael Moore agrees, and being a far-left Liberal and blind partisan, I agree with whatever Michael Moore says.

Initially I learned of Mr. Moore's campaign to end the holiday during a Starz free preview weekend, during which an incisive docudrama titled "An American Carol" aired. The film starred Kevin Farley (Chris Farley's younger brother) as Michael Moore, although for some reason they changed his name in the film to "Michael Malone".

In addition to being a proponent for the abolishment of this holiday because it glorifies war, I also a support getting rid of the implements of war. According to what I've heard, President Obama may institute the U.N. gun ban in America, which would dissolve our Bill Of Rights and begin confiscation of all US civilian guns. It's a Liberal wet dream come true!

Hopefully an executive order will be issued soon. (I have never heard of this "U.N. gun ban", but it sounds awesome! Also, seeing as the "the right to bear arms" is only one of ten amendments that make up the Bill Of Rights, I'm not sure how a getting a gun ban dissolves them all... I'm just telling you what I heard. Check the link for further details).

Actually, I'm yanking your chain. "An American Carol" is a parody, albeit not a good one. It is a horrible film that portrays a man I admire as an America-hating terrorist-appeasing fool. Unbelievably I watched this terrible movie to the very end, thinking that it might, perhaps, be (unintentionally) funny in its extreme use of every Left-wing stereotype. By the time I realized what a piece of unredeemable crap it was, I was more than half way though.

So I decided that I might as well finish watching. As a fan of previous Zucker/Nielsen outings (notably "Airplane!"), I was extremely disappointed that either had chosen to associate themselves with this "jaw-droppingly awful" Con propaganda "film". It is indeed "about as not-funny as a comedy can get" (review by Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer). The film lost approximately 13 million dollars.

One thing the screenwriters got unintentionally right is the "stereotypical" Conservative. Intensely patriotic with zero tolerance for any criticisms of American foreign policy, unquestioning reverence for the military which includes equating supporting war with supporting our soldiers, the theft and history revisionist conversion of Democratic icons like JFK, appropriation of the Founding Fathers (George Washington in this case), intolerance and hatred for minorities (Muslims, African Americans and Homosexuals) - all the Conservative stereotypes are "parodied" in this film. But this movie is meant to parody Liberals - the Con stereotypes in the film aren't parodies but how they actually see themselves!

Another review that described the movie as "singularly inept and downright unfunny" elicited the following response (the website allowed reader comments) from a reviewer of the review: The reviewer is an idiot, reacting to his Hollywood leftist radical bosses. I hope you saw the movie and laughed as hard as I did at seeing Michael Moore get his well-deserved, long overdue comeuppance. It must be hitting the target, since some movie theaters are under reporting attendance numbers, and some even changed the rating (in their ads) from PG to R to discourage attendance! Big brother is alive and well in Hollywood! (Review: An American Carol by William Goss, Cinematical 10/4/2008. Reader comment #5 by "john" 10/08/2008)

This comment exemplifies the delusional paranoia of your typical Con. Information which does not reinforce what they already believe is dismissed as a Liberal conspiracy designed to conceal "the truth".

The following two observations extracted from an "Ain't it Cool News" review also sum up the Con mentality fairly well...

"It's a bunch of rich and arrogant people making fun of free speech, dissenting opinions, minorities and being middle class", and "[The director] equates criticism of America, the desire to see the country improve or discuss its mistakes, as heresy. [the film] takes complex issues that involve shades of gray and distills them into black and white, right wing and wrong. You watch this film and seriously wonder about the filmmaker's IQ" (We've Got Another Review Of "An American Carol", And This One's Gonna Make Dr. Hfhurrhurr Cry! by "Moriarty" 9/30/2008).

Now that I think about it, instead of wondering about David Zucker's IQ, I'm wondering if he may be suffering from brain damage. According to Wikipedia Zucker was "once a longtime liberal Democrat" who has completely flipped and now considers himself a Conservative Republican. This reminds me of Con hero Ronald Reagan. Reagan's Wikipedia page states that he "began as a liberal Democrat, admirer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and active supporter of New Deal policies". Then something (brain damage?) warped his mind, and he switched to the Republican Party.

Anyway, the reason I'm bringing up an (almost) 2 year old movie is because I think this film illustrates quite clearly that not all is right with the Conservative brain. A Left-wing parody similar to "An American Carol" wouldn't work, because they'd view it as an accurate depiction of the ideal Conservative. We rebut their positions using the truth, while their counter-arguments consist mainly of lies. Lies that many of them are deluded into believing are true. Cons have suggested that progressivism is a mental illness or a disease (Glenn Beck), but only because our side said it first. It's the "uh-uh you are!" defense typical of a young child.

Read the quote below by Reagan and then explain to me what the hell happened to this once sane individual. Maybe mental illness is the cause, maybe not. Whatever it was, the inanity of "An American Carol" shows that the same thing happened to David Zucker. An article by Ronald Bailey titled, "Pathologizing Conservatism", concludes with the claim that, "academic researchers have surely amassed enough evidence of psychopathology that conservatism can listed in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders".

(Strangely enough, this article is from the "Reason" website. "Reason" is a Libertarian publication. I've posted regarding my thoughts on Libertarianism before, so if you've read my blog in the past you know I'm no fan. Libertarianism is as loony as Conservatism, or possibly even more so. For that reason I debated as to whether or not I should cite this article, but perhaps it takes one nut to recognize another? Who knows. Read the article and judge for yourself - the claims, research, and conclusions sound solid to me).

Following are some quotes from Washington and Kennedy that prove their appropriation by the Right is outrageous historical revisionism at it's worst. BTW, I do not support abolishing the 4th of July, which a celebration of the birth of our nation, not a holiday glorifying war.

[the Republicans promised] ...a real increase in income for everybody. But what actually happened? The profits of corporations have doubled, while workers' wages have increased by only one-quarter. In other words, profits have gone up four times as much as wages ... the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, which reported a net profit of $210 million after taxes for the first half of 1948; an increase of 70% in one year. ...high prices have not been caused by higher wages, but by bigger and bigger profits. ... Tax-reduction bills have been passed to benefit the higher-income brackets alone ~ Ronald Reagan (2/6/1911 to 6/5/2004) speaking against the Republican controlled 80th United States Congress (nicknamed the "do nothing Congress") and in favor of the re-electing the 33rd President of the United States, Democrat Harry Truman (Reagan Campaigns for Truman in 1948: Complete Transcript, and YouTube video).

As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality ~ George Washington, (2/22/1732 to 12/14/1799) 1st president of the United States (4/30/1789 to 3/4/1797).

If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal" ~ John F. Kennedy, (5/29/1917 to 11/22/1963) 35th president of the United States (1/20/1961 to 11/22/1963) accepting the New York Liberal Party nomination (10/14/1960).

SWTD #45

Saturday, July 03, 2010

GOP Propaganda Campaign Turns Failed Petraeus Iraq Surge Into Success

With the passage of time, President Bush's decision to champion a new counterinsurgency strategy, including sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq when most Americans were bone-weary of the war, will be seen as one of the most impressive and important acts of political courage in our lifetime. And those who fiercely opposed the so-called surge were not only wrong in their judgment; in some instances their actions were shameful ~ Peter Wehner, former bush speechwriter (and butt kisser), revising the bush legacy.

You were probably unaware that the Petraeus Iraq surge failed. The reason being that the Con propaganda campaign has largely been a success. Even our President (the current one, not the "courageous" unelected war criminal), has been taken in by the Con disinformation exemplified by the factually inaccurate Peter Wehner quote. Even though he originally criticized the surge, correctly stating, "the surge is not working", now, according to General Petraeus, "President Barack Obama acknowledged that the troop surge in the Iraq war was a success". Sadly this erroneous conclusion was cited "during deliberations over whether to enact a troop surge in Afghanistan".

According to Robert Woodward's book, "The War Within", the decline in violence can be attributed to three factors (none of which is an increase in US troop strength). First, "the Sunni rejection of al-Qaeda extremists in Anbar province". This was the so-called "Sunni Awakening", and it isn't that big of a surprise that they "laid down their arms against coalition forces, patroled neighborhoods, and fought against other Sunni insurgents", since we paid them to do these things (although some of the Sunni militia decided two monthly paychecks were better than one, and "moonlighted" with the insurgency).

The other two factors contributing to the decline in violence, according to Woodward's book, were "the surprise decision of al-Sadr to order a ceasefire", and "the use of new highly classified U.S. intelligence tactics that allowed for rapid targeting and killing of insurgent leaders". (This information is from the 6/29/2010 article "Gen. Petraeus and the Surge Myth by investigative journalist Robert Parry. See also "Iraq War troop surge of 2007: Opposition", on Wikipedia).

There is also the fact that a civil war was fought in Iraq, unlike in Afghanistan. The Shia and Sunni were fighting and killing each other, and so had less resources to devote to fighting and killing American troops. But when then Senator Biden suggested dividing Iraq into a loose federation of three ethnic states, thus quelling the sectarian violence, the bush administration (and Iraq's majority Shia government) rejected a partitioning of the country, deciding to allow the bloodbath to continue. The level of violence went down because the numerically superior Shia (55% of Iraq's population versus 18.5% Sunni) eventually either killed or displaced enough of their enemies to effectively win the war.

More than 1.3 million Iraqis have lost their lives since the start of the war. 4.7 million Iraqis lost or were forced to flee their homes (16% of the population). What portion of each of these estimates can be attributed to the US invasion and what portion can be attributed to the civil war isn't known, as the bushies certainly had no motivation to look into the matter.

The majority Shia government rejected partitioning because they deemed that it was payback time for their former Sunni oppressors. Under Saddam Hussein's Baathist dictatorship, which was Sunni-led, the Shia and Kurds were mercilessly persecuted. The Saddam regime also convinced their fellow Sunnis that they were not a minority - which explains why, when the US sponsored elections resulted in the Sunni netting "only a modest minority of seats", many Sunnis suspected fraud. This suspicion became one of the primary forces that fueled the insurgency. (They also overwhelmingly rejected the new Iraq constitution).

The bush administration knew that a civil war would produce an eventual victor, and then they could claim success when the violence decreased. Which explains why they worked so hard to deny one was taking place. This course of action resulted in a high of 3000 murders per month (according to a 2007 report issued by retired US Army General Barry McCaffre) - but the price was deemed quite acceptable. My opinion is that the bushies believed that if Iraqi ragheads wanted to kill each other there is no reason they should not allow it to happen, especially when the result was to make the war effort appear to be going better than it was.

An article published by "The Economist" on 6/17/2010 reports, "sectarian animosity still prevails", and that "Iraq's fledgling democracy remains frighteningly fragile" due to there being "little sign of a genuine cross-sectarian consensus". Despite these facts victory has been declared in Iraq, news coverage has dropped to virtually nill, and focus has shifted to the other war. The ouster of McChrystal and the installation of Petraeus led John Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey CA to remark, "It's kind of sad and ironic that the fall of McChrystal will result in the reaffirmation of a highly problematic strategy".

On Friday 7/2/2010 (a day after General Petraeus won Senate confirmation) the House approved $37 billion in Afghan war spending and a 30,000 troop surge. Both the President and Congress are still fully behind the war, even though a poll in March revealed that "American support for the war in Afghanistan has ebbed to a new low", with "42% of respondents saying the United States made a mistake in sending military forces to Afghanistan" (Americans who considered the war a mistake was only 6% in January of 2002).

The President, who, on 12/1/2009 explained to the American people that we would give the war one last shot, and then begin a draw down in July 2011 (with a goal of withdrawing most U.S. forces by January 2013), is now walking back that promise, calling people who keep bringing up the draw down date "obsessed", and insisting "his focus is on making sure the mission there is successful".

Translation? The withdraw will be delayed to allow the new commander a chance to achive results. Even though the strategy isn't changing. How many more US soldiers will lose their lives or their limbs, and how many more billions will be wasted (money which could be used here to improve our economy) before Congress pulls funding and forces an end to this debacle? The Karzai government is corrupt. Accepting the results of Afghanistan's last "election" was the final nail in the coffin. If we ever had a chance of successfully completing the mission, any possibility of that happening ended when we allowed the former Unicol (Union Oil Company of California) consultant to steal the Afghan presidency.

The bushies hand picked Hamid Karzai to be Afghanistan's figurehead, installing him so that he could approve the proposed Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (The pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India).

Following the 8/20/2009 elections in Afghanistan, former President Jimmy Carter announced, "Hamid Karzai has stolen the election", and that "now the question is whether he gets away with it". (Incidentally, Mr. Carter was also right about the Petraeus Iraq surge, correctly noting that "it wasn't the surge of American troops that had caused an increase in calm, but General David Petraeus' willingness to pay bribes and pay Iraqi soldiers").

There were some brief grumblings from the Obama administration regarding the legitimacy of the Afghan elections, but in the end Karzai was allowed to get away with it. I'm positive that if bush were still in power the election would have been heralded as a victory for democracy and the Afghan people - the same purple-finger nonsense they pulled in Iraq. The Obama Administration, knowing that contesting the election would be very bad for the war effort, stopped it's grumbling, and instead congratulated Karzai on "winning" a second term. President Obama, while visiting the country, told Karzai "Although the process was messy, I'm pleased to say that the final outcome was determined in accordance with Afghan law".

Unfortunately Obama's proclamation was complete baloney. He knows the election was stolen. The American people and the Afghan people also know that Karzai's win was illegitimate (Karzai has been president since being "chosen" as interim president in 2002, served one five year term beginning in 2004, but will be ineligible to run again in 2014 due to term limits). How in the hell can we expect to win Afghan hearts and minds when they see our government give it's blessing to a corrupt administration's theft of it's supposedly democratic election?!

President Karzai (who says the US has undermined his legitimacy with the ballot stuffing allegations, even though they were made by independent monitors) is seeking to make his "own deal with the Taliban and the country's archrival, Pakistan, the Taliban's longtime supporter". A 6/11/2010 story in the New York Times reports that, when presented of evidence that the Taliban were behind a "spectacular rocket attack on a nationwide peace conference earlier this month", president Karzai said "he believed the Taliban were not responsible" and then suggested that Americans were behind the attack.

58% of Americans favor a timetable for withdrawl of US troops. 73% of Afghans opposed the Obama surge (according to a 2009 poll). The Taliban are united in their opposition to our military (unlike, as I pointed out earlier, there being multiple factions fighting each other). And the corrupt Karzai government is seeking to make deals with the Taliban and "blocking corruption probes [regarding the theft of] huge amounts of foreign aid" (a 6/30/2010 Huffington Post article alleges that "Afghan powerbrokers are moving millions of dollars out of the country").

Karzai will use the money he has stolen from the US, the proceeds from the Unicol pipeline (what this war was really all about in the first place), and eventually, the estimated 1 trillion in mineral wealth to create a "coalition government" by bribing the Taliban, cementing the country's status as a criminal and oppressive oligarchy. Foreign corporations will move in to build the pipeline and extract Afghanistan's mineral wealth. The rich will get richer, the corrupt will retain power, and the poor of Afghanistan will remain poor and oppressed. Mission accomplished. BTW, these things will happen regardless of when we pull out.

Continuing on this path is complete insanity. We either need to begin an orderly withdrawal as soon as possible, or come up with a plan for a negotiated peace. This isn't ideal solution, especially with Karazi still in charge for at least another 4 and a half years. I don't think it matters, as this war was lost some time ago (certainly before Obama's surge). That is, if it was ever winnable. Unfortunately, with the Republicans set to gain seats in the upcoming election, the prospect of a draw down anytime soon is looking quite dim.

Further Reading
[1] Petraeus: We Are In This To Win in Afghanistan by Deb Richman, AP 7/4/2010.
[2] Is Karzai punking Obama, yet again? by Laurence Lewis, The Daily Kos 6/11/2010.
[3] Afghanistan, the Taliban and the Bush Oil Team by Wayne Madsen, 1/2002.

7/6/2015 Update: The Libertarian blogger Willis Hart asks "if the surge was so damned successful, then why did it all come apart as soon as we took our finger out of the dike". Answer: gwb (and John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman and anyone else who claims the surge was a success) were/are lying.

SWTD #44