Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Imperial Autism by Tom Engelhardt

The former Cockney flower-girl-turned-elegant- English-speaker Eliza Doolittle caught something of our moment in these lyrics from My Fair Lady: "Oh, words, words, words, I'm so sick of words…. Is that all you blighters can do?" Of course, all she had to do was be Pygmalion to a self-involved language teacher. We've had to bear with the bloviating of almost every member of Congress, the full-blast PR apparatus of the White House, and two endless days of congressional testimony from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, not to speak of the flood of newspaper, radio, and TV stories about all of the above and the bevy of experts who are hustled out to do the horse-race assessments of how the general and ambassador performed, whether they "bought" time for the president, and the like.

And – count on it – that's just the beginning. The same cast of characters will be talking, squabbling, spinning, and analyzing stats of every sort for weeks to come – with a sequel promised next spring. Everyone knows that's the case, just as everyone has known since mid-summer that we would get to this point and, when we did, that things similar to those said (and written) in the last two days would indeed be said (and written), and that nothing the blighters would say or write would matter a whit, or change the course of events, or the tide of history, even though whole forests might be pulped in the process and it would be springtime for hyperbole and breathless overstatement in the world of news.

There has been a drumbeat of growing excitement in the press, preparing us for "pivotal reports," a "pivotal hearing," "highly anticipated appearances," and "long-awaited testimony," or, as both the Washington Post on its front page and ABC World News in a lead report put it, "the most anticipated congressional testimony by a general since the Vietnam War."

Petraeus himself has been treated in the media as a celebrity, somewhere between a conquering caesar and the Paris Hilton of generals. Nothing he does has been too unimportant to record, not just the size of his entourage as he arrived from Baghdad, or the suite he was assigned at the Pentagon, or even his "recon" walk through the room in the House of Representatives where he would testify Monday, but every detail. Somehow, when he refused to give interviews before his "long-awaited" appearance, lots of Petraeus-iana slipped out anyway:

"[H]e also has taken short breaks for walks with his wife … for dinner with their daughter, who lives in the area, and for lunch with his wife's parents. On his daily jogging route he maintains a brisk, steady pace over a seven-mile route, snaking from Fort Myer, across the Potomac and through Georgetown…"


So who, exactly, was so eagerly awaiting the jogging general's testimony? If a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll is any indication, a majority of Americans weren't among that crowd. They had already discounted whatever he would say – I doubt the ambassador even registered – as "exaggerated" and "a rosier view" than reality dictated before his face and that chest full of ribbons hit the TV screens. ("Just 23 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents expected an honest depiction of conditions in Iraq.") This was simple good sense. What exactly could anyone outside of Washington have expected the general – who had a hand in creating the president's "surge" strategy, is now in charge of the "surge" campaign, and for months has been delegated the official administration front man for what was, from day one, labeled a "progress report" – to say? An instant online headline caught the mood of the Petraeus moment while his first round of testimony was still underway: "Gen. Petraeus Sees Iraq Progress." Ah, yes…

And what in the world could anyone have eagerly anticipated from our unbudgeable president? Just what occurred. And yet, in our media, and inside Washington, the drumbeat for "an anticipated moment of truth" continued, as if something were actually at stake. Take just one example. On Sunday, the Washington Post had a hard-breathing piece by no less than six of its best journalists, with the headline, "Among Top Officials, 'Surge' Has Sparked Dissent, Infighting."

It focused on a reported "clash" between Gen. Petraeus and his theoretical boss, Centcom Commander Adm. William J. Fallon. It seems that the two fell into a near end-of-the-world-style struggle because Fallon had begun "developing plans to redefine the U.S. mission and radically draw down troops." ("'Bad relations?' said a senior civilian official with a laugh. 'That's the understatement of the century. … If you think Armageddon was a riot, that's one way of looking at it.'") Naturally, Petraeus, like the president, wanted to continue to surge full-strength (as we now know – not that we didn't before – from his slow-as-molasses plan to drawdown American forces). But what did that radical Fallon have in mind that led to a "schism"? According to a source who spoke to a Post reporter, it "involved slashing U.S. combat forces in Iraq by three-quarters by 2010." Imagine a Centcom commander as a force slasher!

But hold on a moment. Combat forces make up, at best, less than half of all U.S. forces in Iraq; so if, by 2010, the good admiral wants only three-quarters of those combat troops withdrawn, then we're still left with at least 80,000 or more troops in that country three years from now.

Well, I'm with Eliza D – and so, evidently, was the technology of the House hearing room in which the general and the ambassador appeared on Monday. After chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and various other congressional representatives introduced the hearings for what seemed like hours, the general was finally given the floor for his "long-awaited" testimony. His mouth began to move but in a resounding silence. The mike had failed and (except for Code Pink protesters rising from the audience to shout and be escorted out) the room fell into just about the only Iraqi silence of these past, "eagerly anticipated" months – and what a relief that was. While Skelton fumed, the announcer on MSNBC suggested, "The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq is apparently powerless over the sound system in the hearing room."

It was a moment that had Iraq written all over it. After all, has anything worked as planned or dreamed since March 2003?

Of course, 15 minutes later the mike had been replaced (though the room lights then proceeded to flicker as if in distant communion with electricity-less Baghdad) – in Iraq, you suspect, people would have just started shouting – and the general did finally launch on his monotonal, mind-numbing, expectedly boilerplate testimony. He promised that, if all went well, American troops would be back to pre-surge levels by mid-July 2008, 10 months from now, 18 months from that plan's beginning. "Progress" indeed.

The general's testimony would be dealt with in the tones of gravitas that journalists-cum-pundits and pundits-cum-pundits reserve for moments like this. Yet, given the original expectations of the Bush administration, some of the testimony Petraeus (and later Crocker) had to offer would have been little short of hilarious if the subject weren't so grim. (Good news! Four years after the invasion of Iraq, we finally have the former Ba'athists of al-Anbar Province, whom our president used to refer to as "dead-enders," on our side! Even better, we're arming them and all is going swimmingly!)

Buying a precious extra six-plus months for the White House, the general also suggested that it would be premature to think beyond next July, when it came to "drawdown" plans, and that we should, instead, all reconvene in mid-March 2008 for more of the same.


You can, of course, already begin writing the script for that "eagerly anticipated," "long awaited," "pivotal" moment when the situation in Iraq will be predictably worse, predictably more precarious, and predictably surprising to the general and the ambassador.

As aids for his testimony, Petraeus had brought along a profusion of enormous, multicolored charts to illustrate his points. Many of them – amazingly enough – seemed to have more or less the same blue, red, or yellow lines, each of which crested about chart middle and then essentially nose-dived toward the present moment. The message was clear: Good news on the numbers! Everything's falling! You didn't need to be an expert – you essentially didn't need to know a thing – to find the confluence of those descending lines with the general's appearance in Washington a tad tidy.

As for me, I found it hard to believe that those charts hadn't been recycled from the Vietnam era, when Petraeus' equivalent, Gen. William Westmoreland, used similar brightly colored, bar-coded, son-et-lumière aids to wow visiting congressional delegations with the metrics of "progress" in his war. Now, once again, we're knee deep in the Big Metric, flooded with so many different kinds of stats that you can hardly tell one from another (though most involve dead bodies). If you remember the Vietnam era, there's a simple rule here: When the top brass hauls out the pretty charts, duck…

In the meantime – mind you, this is Iraq, where nothing has been orderly – everything was, we were assured, to proceed in an orderly fashion, summed up in the general's wonderfully tidy, if somewhat Orwellian-sounding formula, "from leading to partnering to overwatch."

Hmm… "overwatch." I wonder who first woke up in a sweat in the middle of the night with that lovely term on the brain? I wonder what it even means? I wonder where we'll be "overwatching" from? Perhaps from that monstrous embassy that we've almost completed in Baghdad, the largest on this or any other planet, or from our vast permanent-seeming base towns like the one with the 17-mile security perimeter that the president visited in Iraq's western desert, but that no reporter accompanying him even thought to describe for us. (Oh, back in November 2006, that base, as a British reporter described it, already had the requisite Subway and pizza outlets, a football field, a Hertz rent-a-car office, a swimming pool, a movie theater showing the latest flicks, and two bus routes.)

Like Eliza, I'm for skipping the words at this point. After all, what does all the talk mean if, in September 2007, the U.S. is building yet another base in Iraq, this time near the Iranian border, as the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. The military describes it as a "life support area" – don't ask me what that means – with this added definition: "[It's] not really permanent, although it will be manned 24/7 and will be used for as long as necessary."

What does all the talk mean if, as the Washington Post's indefatigable Walter Pincus noted, also on Monday, the U.S. Commerce Department is looking for a new legal adviser for Iraq with a contract running through July 31, 2008, plus two possible 12-month extensions. (There we are in 2010 again!) This adviser is to help the poor, ignorant Iraqis as "they draft the laws and regulations that will govern Iraq's oil and gas sector." After all, as the proposal makes clear, the Commerce Department (U.S., not Iraqi) "will be providing technical assistance to Iraq to create a legal and tax environment conducive to domestic and foreign investment in Iraq's key economic sectors, starting with the mineral resources sector." And "conducive" is just such a nice word! Even nicer than "sovereignty."

What do the words mean, if the far edge of Armageddon, as defined in Washington or in military-insider politics, leaves enough American troops in Iraq to fill a couple of baseball stadiums – or several gigantic bases – in 2010?

At some level, the situation seems remarkably uncomplicated, if you skip the words (and the words about the words). As has always been true, the top figures of the Bush administration remain completely unmoved by, and unmovable by, words which, as is well known, are only meant to move other people; the Republicans in Congress – after all this time, despite all the dismal polling figures – are still on bended knee to the Bush administration, so powerless that they feel incapable of striking off on their own. (Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who isn't even seeking reelection, recently begged the president to please, please, pretty please, send home a few thousand troops, any troops at all, and call it a day. And, in his testimony, Gen. Petraeus threw the senator a carefully gnawed bone, agreeing to do just that.)

The congressional Democrats are too weak (and divided) to change policy – and let's be honest, even if they did, this administration would undoubtedly pay no attention whatsoever to anything they mandated. The Republican candidates for president (minus the maverick Ron Paul, who isn't really a Republican at all) have bowed down low before presidential Iraq policy, as if before a pagan idol in the desert, in search of the "base vote." Democratic candidates for president (Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel excepted) are running "tough" (which means running scared and cautious) on Iraq. If, in 2008, the war actually proves good for business at the polls for Democrats, then, to their consternation, they'll find they've just inherited a disastrous war, that they're likely to be blamed for losing it, and that they're in charge of Hell, not the Oval Office or Congress. (And note that, out of kindness to all of you, I'm not even mentioning Iran… though there was that nice, giant block of type over Iranian territory on a Petraeus-displayed map labeled "Major Threats to Iraq" that said: "Lethal Aid, Training, Funding.")

Given this lineup of forces, how could it have been anything but "words, words, words" in Washington, even while it was death, death, death in Iraq?

What those words do, however, is fill all available space, reinforcing a powerful sense that Washington's importance in the scheme of things is the one unquestionable reality on our planet. The rest of the world hardly registers, except in the mode of frustration.

Is there a single ounce of humility anywhere in Washington? Can we even imagine that, somewhere on Earth, someone doesn't think about us?

Gen. Petraeus, always identified as having "earned a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton University as a young officer," is said to be a man with a high regard for his own reputation. Hasn't he noticed, then, that, for one extra star and his Warholian 15 minutes of fame, he's made himself this country's fourth commander of American forces in Iraq in less than five years? Each of those commanders had a plan. Each was confident. Each claimed "progress." And, once upon a time, each was embraced by the president as the man to give him "advice." Ambassador Crocker is similarly the fourth American civilian viceroy to head up our caliphate of Baghdad. He now has "carte blanche" there. But carte blanche to do what?

Could these men really believe that, with them, the occupation of a crucial country in the embattled oil heartlands of the planet would finally head down the IED-pocked path of success? Is the vanity of American officials as great as that? Was it really worth turning so many Iraqis into red and blue lines, into military metrics?

To grasp the Petraeus moment, you really have to re-imagine official Washington as a set of drunks behind the wheels of so many SUVs tearing down a well-populated city avenue – and all of them are on their cell phones. They hardly notice the bodies bouncing off the fenders. For them, the world is Washington-centered; all interests that matter are American ones. Nothing else exists, not really. Think of this as a form of imperial autism and the Petraeus moment as the way in which the White House and official Washington have, for a brief time, blotted out the world.

American Economy: R.I.P. By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

The US economy continues its slow death before our eyes, but economists, policymakers, and most of the public are blind to the tottering fabled land of opportunity.

In August jobs in goods-producing industries declined by 64,000. The US economy lost 4,000 jobs overall. The private sector created a mere 24,000 jobs, all of which could be attributed to the 24,100 new jobs for waitresses and bartenders. The government sector lost 28,000 jobs.

In the 21st century the US economy has ceased to create jobs in export industries and in industries that compete with imports. US job growth has been confined to domestic services, principally to food services and drinking places (waitresses and bartenders), private education and health services (ambulatory health care and hospital orderlies), and construction (which now has tanked). The lack of job growth in higher productivity, higher paid occupations associated with the American middle and upper middle classes will eventually kill the US consumer market.

The unemployment rate held steady, but that is because 340,000 Americans unable to find jobs dropped out of the labor force in August. The US measures unemployment only among the active work force, which includes those seeking jobs. Those who are discouraged and have given up are not counted as unemployed.

With goods producing industries in long term decline as more and more production of US firms is moved offshore, the engineering professions are in decline. Managerial jobs are primarily confined to retail trade and financial services.

Franchises and chains have curtailed opportunities for independent family businesses, and the US government’s open borders policy denies unskilled jobs to the displaced members of the middle class.

When US companies offshore their production for US markets, the consequences for the US economy are highly detrimental. One consequence is that foreign labor is substituted for US labor, resulting in a shriveling of career opportunities and income growth in the US. Another is that US Gross Domestic Product is turned into imports. By turning US brand names into imports, offshoring has a double whammy on the US trade deficit. Simultaneously, imports rise by the amount of offshored production, and the supply of exportable manufactured goods declines by the same amount.
The US now has a trade deficit with every part of the world. In 2006 (the latest annual data), the US had a trade deficit totaling $838,271,000,000.

The US trade deficit with Europe was $142,538,000,000. With Canada the deficit was $75,085,000,000. With Latin America it was $112,579,000,000 (of which $67,303,000,000 was with Mexico). The deficit with Asia and Pacific was $409,765,000,000 (of which $233,087,000,000 was with China and $90,966,000,000 was with Japan). With the Middle East the deficit was $36,112,000,000, and with Africa the US trade deficit was $62,192,000,000.

Public worry for three decades about the US oil deficit has created a false impression among Americans that a self-sufficient America is impaired only by dependence on Middle East oil. The fact of the matter is that the total US deficit with OPEC, an organization that includes as many countries outside the Middle East as within it, is $106,260,000,000, or about one-eighth of the annual US trade deficit.
Moreover, the US gets most of its oil from outside the Middle East, and the US trade deficit reflects this fact. The US deficit with Nigeria, Mexico, and Venezuela is 3.3 times larger than the US trade deficit with the Middle East despite the fact that the US sells more to Venezuela and 18 times more to Mexico than it does to Saudi Arabia.
What is striking about US dependency on imports is that it is practically across the board. Americans are dependent on imports of foreign foods, feeds, and beverages in the amount of $8,975,000,000.

Americans are dependent on imports of foreign Industrial supplies and materials in the amount of $326,459,000,000--more than three times US dependency on OPEC.
Americans can no longer provide their own transportation. They are dependent on imports of automotive vehicles, parts, and engines in the amount of $149,499,000,000, or 1.5 times greater than the US dependency on OPEC.

In addition to the automobile dependency, Americans are 3.4 times more dependent on imports of manufactured consumer durable and nondurable goods than they are on OPEC. Americans no longer can produce their own clothes, shoes, or household appliances and have a trade deficit in consumer manufactured goods in the amount of $336,118,000,000.

The US “superpower” even has a deficit in capital goods, including machinery, electric generating machinery, machine tools, computers, and telecommunications equipment.
What does it mean that the US has a $800 billion trade deficit?
It means that Americans are consuming $800 billion more than they are producing.
How do Americans pay for it?

They pay for it by giving up ownership of existing assets--stocks, bonds, companies, real estate, commodities. America used to be a creditor nation. Now America is a debtor nation. Foreigners own $2.5 trillion more of American assets than Americans own of foreign assets. When foreigners acquire ownership of US assets, they also acquire ownership of the future income streams that the assets produce. More income shifts away from Americans.

How long can Americans consume more than they can produce?
American over-consumption can continue for as long as Americans can find ways to go deeper in personal debt in order to finance their consumption and for as long as the US dollar can remain the world reserve currency.

The 21st century has brought Americans (with the exception of CEOs, hedge fund managers and investment bankers) no growth in real median household income. Americans have increased their consumption by dropping their saving rate to the depression level of 1933 when there was massive unemployment and by spending their home equity and running up credit card bills. The ability of a population, severely impacted by the loss of good jobs to foreigners as a result of offshoring and H-1B work visas and by the bursting of the housing bubble, to continue to accumulate more personal debt is limited to say the least.

Foreigners accept US dollars in exchange for their real goods and services, because dollars can be used to settle every country’s international accounts. By running a trade deficit, the US insures the financing of its government budget deficit as the surplus dollars in foreign hands are invested in US Treasuries and other dollar-denominated assets.

The ability of the US dollar to retain its reserve currency status is eroding due to the continuous increases in US budget and trade deficits. Today the world is literally flooded with dollars. In attempts to reduce the rate at which they are accumulating dollars, foreign governments and investors are diversifying into other traded currencies. As a result, the dollar prices of the Euro, UK pound, Canadian dollar, Thai baht, and other currencies have been bid up. In the 21st century, the US dollar has declined about 33 percent against other currencies. The US dollar remains the reserve currency primarily due to habit and the lack of a clear alternative.

The data used in this article is freely available. It can be found at two official US government sites: and

The jobs data and the absence of growth in real income for most of the population are inconsistent with reports of US GDP and productivity growth. Economists take for granted that the work force is paid in keeping with its productivity. A rise in productivity thus translates into a rise in real incomes of workers. Yet, we have had years of reported strong productivity growth but stagnant or declining household incomes. And somehow the GDP is rising, but not the incomes of the work force.

Something is wrong here. Either the data indicating productivity and GDP growth are wrong or Karl Marx was right that capitalism works to concentrate income in the hands of the few capitalists. A case can be made for both explanations.
Recently an economist, Susan Houseman, discovered that the reliability of some US economics statistics has been impaired by offshoring. Houseman found that cost reductions achieved by US firms shifting production offshore are being miscounted as GDP growth in the US and that productivity gains achieved by US firms when they move design, research, and development offshore are showing up as increases in US productivity. Obviously, production and productivity that occur abroad are not part of the US domestic economy.

Houseman’s discovery rated a Business Week cover story last June 18, but her important discovery seems already to have gone down the memory hole. The economics profession has over-committed itself to the “benefits” of offshoring, globalism, and the non-existent “New Economy.” Houseman’s discovery is too much of a threat to economists’ human capital, corporate research grants, and free market ideology.

The media have likewise let the story go, because in the 1990s the Clinton administration and Congress permitted a few mega-corporations to concentrate in their hands the ownership of the US media, which reports in keeping with corporate and government interests.

The case for Marx is that offshoring has boosted corporate earnings by lowering labor costs, thereby concentrating income growth in the hands of the owners and managers of capital. According to Forbes magazine, the top 20 earners among private equity and hedge fund managers are earning average yearly compensation of $657,500,000, with four actually earning more than $1 billion annually. The otherwise excessive $36,400,000 average annual pay of the 20 top earners among CEOs of publicly-held companies looks paltry by comparison. The careers and financial prospects of many Americans were destroyed to achieve these lofty earnings for the few.

Hubris prevents realization that Americans are losing their economic future along with their civil liberties and are on the verge of enserfment.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow
Vice President.

The Petraeus Report By STAN GOFF

In military drill there is something called the preparatory command and the command of execution. These were the two commands, followed in lockstep by the press yesterday:

Prepare to kiss ass.

Kiss ass.

Or should I say David Petraeus' ass, followed by a whole raft of retired generals who were immediately featured on the television "news" to re-spin the Petraeus' spin, where he used the terms "al Qaeda Iraq" and "ethno-sectarian" about 2,000,000 times apiece in the space of a few hours.

Members of Code Pink and Iraq Veterans Against the War, who had infiltrated the hearing room, were serially arrested when they took their turns shouting things like "How long will you listen ot these people?" and "Liar!" from the back of the room. God bless 'em.

The articulate, level-voiced General, though he only went to combat when Bush invaded Iraq, has more fruit salad on his chest than any veteran of three previous wars.

Cheney's input was in evidence in the psyop, mantra-like repetition of the key phrases as a form of mass mesmeric suggestion... "al Qaeda Iraq" ... "ethno-sectarian"... "al Qaeda Iraq" ... "ethno-sectarian"... "al Qaeda Iraq" ... "ethno-sectarian"... "al Qaeda Iraq" ... "ethno-sectarian"...

All designed to instill the same refrain we heard in the runup to the war, Iraq associated with 9-11…oh, that's tomorrow! Surprise!

...and of course, the war is an affair of those ethno-sectarian primitives (the former guerrillas who were handed Anbar Province have been re-spun into "tribal" leaders and sheiks"). The US occupation force (therein referred to as "coalition forces") is just there trying to keep them from slaughtering each other, provoked as they have been by who? Oh yeah, "al Qaeda Iraq."

Rumsfeld's ghost made its early appearance with the charts and graphs. Metrics, anyone? The Commander-in-Chief, in rallying the most revanchist sectors of his diminishing base, recently invoked Vietnam and the betrayal thesis: that liberal press and those left-wing hippies undermined the war effort, and if we could have killed just a million more Vietnamese, goddamit, we'd have won. With Rumsfeld's metrics in Petraeus' mouth yesterday, we have squared the circle with the simultaneous reincarnation of Robert MacNamara and William Westmoreland.

Light at the end of the tunnel, anyone?

No Cheney-Rumsfeldian tableau is complete without its diabolus ex machina -- Iran naturally. Petraeus invoked Iran early and often, beginning with the now widely accepted and completely unsupported claim that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi "insurgents." This is one that provoked the arrest of a Code Pinker in the back benches, when she shouted "That's a lie!"

She was right, of course. This phony claim, originated out of the Public Affairs offices of the Pentagon, has nonetheless become an article of faith with the "journalists" of the American corporate fourth estate.

The most enjoyable and potentially redemptive aspect of the whole dog-and-pony show were the handful of Congress members who -- under pressure from war-weary constituents and the polls showing rock-bottom approval ratings for the newly-empowered Democrats -- lit into Petraeus with a vigor seldom seen in the hallowed halls of hearingdom.

Congressman Tom Lantos (D - California) assaulted the credibility of the administration with an unusual enthusiasm, with -- of course -- a ritual denunciation of Iran, and called for immediate withdrawal of US forces. Fellow Californian Loretta Sanchez as much as called Petraeus and his co-conspirator Crocker liars.

Others weighed in, along partisan lines mostly. Nothing shocking there, though my gut tells me that the California Democratic Party -- holding within its embrace Barbara Lee, the sole Congressional dissenter against the resolution granting the Bush administration war-making powers -- is thinking about its besieged national Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, now facing an electoral challenge from Cindy Sheehan.

Unfortunately, this is the backdrop. The 2008 elections, not the charnel house of American occupation in Iraq.

Behind all the panting about the "heroism" of US troops, and the "sacrifices" of military families who see that dreaded military in the driveway, this is mostly about political ambition and the family feud over which party will run the executive committee for Wall Street and the defense industries.

Not a single member of Congress yesterday cited the most recent extrapolation of Lancet Report showing that around a million Iraqis have been "sacrificed" by the occupation. In a typical US neighborhood with families averaging four, this would be represented by a funeral in every sixth house.

'Spose I've said this before, but the target of our misbehaviors (at least Code Pink and IVAW were on hand to disrupt yesterday) must be the Democratic Party. They can ignore another protest on the National Mall, but they can't ignore people occupying their local Congressional offices. These occupations to end the occupation need to become ubiquitous.

Last year, I shocked many colleagues by recommending they vote for Democrats across the board in 2006, but folks didn't read the fine print. We needed to put these people in power to expose them. They were taking cover in the "we're-just-a-minority" bunker. Now they are in the open, and the institutional rot as well as the class loyalties of the Democratic Party are on vivid display.

What we saw o Monday, aside from the Petraeus-Crocker Show, in the loss of good manners by a few Democrats, was a display of the latent power of a wakeful people. The Code Pinkers and Iraq Veterans Against the War represent a minority in American politics right now, just as anti-slavery advocates once were. But let there be no confusion; this minority -- which numbers now in the millions -- has the power to put its principles into action in an instrumental way: by threatening the fortunes of one of the ruling class parties in the United States on the issue of a criminal imperial war.

Misbehavior works. Delegitimate. Disobey. Disrupt.

Stan Goff is the author of "Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press, 2000), "Full Spectrum Disorder" (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and "Sex & War" which will be released approximately December, 2005. He is retired from the United States Army. His blog is at

Goff can be reached at:


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow

Anti-Empire Report - Refuse To Fight - The world is very weary of all this and wants to laugh again By William Blum

Okay, Bush ain't gonna get out of Iraq no matter what anyone says or does short of a)impeachment, b)a lobotomy, or c)one of his daughters setting herself afire in the Oval Office as a war protest. A few days ago, upon arriving in Australia, "in a chipper mood", he was asked by the Deputy Prime Minister about his stopover in Iraq. "We're kicking ass," replied the idiot king.[1] Another epigram for his tombstone.

And the Democrats ain't gonna end the war. Ninety-nine percent of the American people protesting on the same day ain't gonna do it either, in this democracy. (No, I'm sorry to say that I don't think the Vietnam protesters ended the war. There were nine years of protest -- 1964 to 1973 -- before the US military left Vietnam. It's a stretch to ascribe a cause and effect to that. The United States, after all, had to leave sometime.)

Only those fighting the war can end it. By laying down their arms and refusing to kill anymore, including themselves. Some American soldiers in Iraq have already refused to go on very dangerous combat missions. Iraq Veterans Against the War, last month at their annual meeting, in St. Louis, voted to launch a campaign encouraging American troops to refuse to fight. "Iraq Veterans Against the War decided to make support of war resisters a major part of what we do," said Garrett Rappenhagen, a former U.S. Army sniper who served in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005.

The veterans group has begun organizing among active duty soldiers on military bases. Veterans have toured the country in busses holding barbeques outside the base gates. They also plan to step up efforts to undermine military recruiting efforts.

Of course it's a very long shot to get large numbers of soldiers into an angry, protesting frame of mind. But consider the period following the end of World War Two. Late 1945 and early 1946 saw what is likely the greatest troop revolt that has ever occurred in a victorious army. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American soldiers protested all over the world because they were not being sent home even though the war was over. The GIs didn't realize it at first, but many soon came to understand that the reason they were being transferred from Europe and elsewhere to various places in the Pacific area, instead of being sent back home, was that the United States was concerned about uprisings against colonialism, which, in the minds of Washington foreign-policy officials, was equated with communism and other nasty un-American things. The uprisings were occurring in British colonies, in Dutch colonies, in French colonies, as well as in the American colony of the Philippines. Yes, hard to believe, but the United States was acting like an imperialist power.

In the Philippines there were repeated mass demonstrations by GIs who were not eager to be used against the left-wing Huk guerrillas. The New York Times reported in January 1946 about one of these demonstrations: "'The Philippines are capable of handling their own internal problems,' was the slogan voiced by several speakers. Many extended the same point of view to China."[2]

American marines were sent to China to support the Nationalist government of Chang Kai-shek against the Communists of Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai. They were sent to the Netherlands Indies (Indonesia) to be of service to the Dutch in their suppression of native nationalists. And American troop ships were used to transport the French military to France's former colony in Vietnam. These and other actions of Washington led to numerous large GI protests in Japan, Guam, Saipan, Korea, India, Germany, England, France, and Andrews Field, Maryland, all concerned with the major slowdown in demobilization and the uses for which the soldiers were being employed. There were hunger strikes and mass mailings to Congress from the soldiers and their huge body of support in the States. In January 1946, Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado declared "It is distressing and humiliating to all Americans to read in every newspaper in the land accounts of near mutiny in the Army."[3]

On January 13, 1946, 500 GIs in Paris adopted a set of demands called "The Enlisted Man's Magna Charta", calling for radical reforms of the master-slave relationship between officers and enlisted men; also demanding the removal of Secretary of War Robert Patterson. In the Philippines, soldier sentiment against the reduced demobilization crystalized in a meeting of GIs that voted unanimously to ask Secretary Patterson and certain Senators: "What is the Army's position in the Philippines, especially in relation to the reestablishment of the Eighty-sixth Infantry Division on a combat basis?"[4]

By the summer of 1946 there had been a huge demobilization of the armed forces, although there's no way of knowing with any exactness how much of that was due to the GIs' protests.[5]

If this is how American soldiers could be inspired and organized in the wake of "The Good War", imagine what can be done today in the midst of "The God-awful War".

Iraq Veterans Against the War could use your help. Go to:

William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at


[1] Sydney Morning Herald, September 6, 2007

[2] New York Times, January 8, 1946, p.3

[3] New York Times, January 11, 1946, p.1

[4] Ibid., p.4

[5] For more information about the soldiers' protests, see: Mary-Alice Waters, "G.I.'s and the Fight Against War" (New York, 1967), a pamphlet published by "Young Socialist" magazine.


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow

Bin Laden is Right? The Unwarranted Influence of America’s Global “Defense” Corporation

By Brian Bogart

You know your country’s “democratic” leadership and rationale for war are in trouble when the anointed most-evil enemy makes more sense than they do.

Although for all we know Bin Laden’s “annual message to Americans” originated below Dick Cheney’s office where Bin Laden is living in luxury chained to a pool table, its contents ring with refreshing logic relative to what usually passes for truth in and around the White House.

Analyzing his message alongside bipartisan excuses for war -- and juxtaposed with President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s keep-an-eye-on-the-defense-industry speech of January 1961 -- only Bin Laden’s words and Eisenhower’s warnings stand up to current United States Department of Defense statistics.

Outsourcing trends, hugely accelerated in the 1990s, have made the Department of Defense the largest corporate entity in history. Few big corporations in the world don’t have a handy cash-cow D contract, and small businesses and schools are especially welcome to apply. ($900 per toilet seat? Let’s sell those!)

DoD contracts get dished out everyday for everything from children’s books, cosmetics, organic dinners, and movie theater tickets to good old-fashioned nano weaponry.

Defense is the world’s top user of fossil fuels, contributor to climate change, and most financially alluring industry. All considered, the industry has the strongest lobby power in Washington and everywhere else. Defense is also the world’s foremost motivator of advanced science and technology, a global network capable of an entirely new direction in economics -- dependent, of course, on whether it’s a good D policy or a bad D policy.

That’s where We the People come in, at least according to President Eisenhower, who particularly worried about our universities.

Said Ike: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”

Judging by DoD’s own stats, we’re way past that point. More than 1,100 colleges and universities have had prime contracts with the Department of Defense in the last six years. Around 950 of those are in the United States, with the rest spread across 33 countries.

Although the number of DoD general assistance contracts to schools remained relatively constant between 2000 and 2006, the 900% increase in defense-applied research contracts and total dollar amounts awarded to schools during that period would’ve made Ike toss his lunch on TV. The total number of defense-applied research contracts to schools rose from 5,887 in 2000 to 52,667 in 2006. Total dollars to schools rose from $4.4 billion in 2000 to $46.7 billion in 2006.

Hundreds of thousands of companies in at least 198 nations and territories have held prime contracts with DoD in this century, including companies in China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria.

There were none in Iraq until 2003.

DoD contract trends with companies are at all-time highs, with more than 300,000 prime contractors in the United States alone (“prime” doesn’t count subcontractors and contracted individuals), a 6,000 companies-per-state average. Between 2001 and 2006, the total amount of defense dollars to companies in most states doubled. For fiscal year 2001, companies in Texas received $9.5 billion. For fiscal year 2006, the total was $27 billion.

Between the end of World War II and December 2006, US armed forces served abroad in 159 instances. These operations increased in frequency each decade, with 6 in the 1950s, 8 in the 1960s, 11 in the 70s, 22 in the 80s, 66 in the 90s, and 44 so far this decade.

It doesn’t take a bright citizen to make the case that peace is a healthy idea. But then there are politicians. With a bad policy, presidential candidates who don’t promise to increase defense spending have no legitimate chance in any party, thanks to big media’s industrial role. Money runs campaigns on strong defense for a reason: reelection. Defense is by far the largest job creator and money spender in all fifty states.

The problem is the bad policy excessively gives businesses our taxes to invest in their own financial growth. We pay for defense, defense showers that money on schools and companies, and top executives buy yachts and build stadiums. State and local leaders then raise taxes to cover what taxes should cover: the people’s health and prosperity.

Good folks put their faith, families, careers, and lives on the line for what they’re told by government. They don’t have time to investigate. Every September 11 our leadership bows its collective head before reminding us to keep shopping in “the wealthiest nation” while its infrastructure crumbles.

This year the enemy told us to think about that. With a graduate program untangling defense statistics, Bin Laden has a point that makes me wonder. Which “side” in this supposedly black and white world has the most evil to hide? Why does this man sound more like Ike than anyone in government?

It would better serve the people to hear Eisenhower’s speech every year instead of hollow tales about a bad guy our leaders tell us to fear yet, conveniently for their personal-wealth club, don’t see fit to chase down. Exploiting September 11 for profit has (among other things) legitimized the largest-ever expansion of the military industry using a nation that had nothing to do with it. That perpetuation does indeed smell like bipartisan imperialism.

Whether you’re a student or selling ice cream, teddy bears, tennis balls or shovels and oil rigs, chances are you’re part of the defense industry. And in this age of confrontation with Earth’s definition of diversity, truly hard-working diverse Americans -- workers, students, parents, soldiers -- are harnessed with a national brand of business-friendly diversity that makes them equal low-income slaves for an old-fashioned, wealthy white man’s profit scheme. Ike called it unwarranted influence. Our founders called it tyranny.

Diversity is an awareness of the human family returning to unity after a long and tortuous journey, celebrating its products of division while embracing its single origin and destiny. The next logical step for humanity is a leap beyond human-centric diversity to perceiving and promoting the human family as a fully responsible component of biodiversity.

As Ike feared, economic dependence on defense growth by the perpetuation of tensions since World War II explains the existence and growth of nearly every problem we face today. Undoubtedly, he would agree that economic dependence on defending Earth’s essential diversity is a far more lucrative and lasting prospect.

Our taxes pay for a defense that doesn’t defend our future. Our taxes go to companies that make profits we will never see. The real threat President Eisenhower spoke of is a drug that poisons society, spreads like a virus, and numbs the roots of consciousness. The American dream has become a nightmare wherein justice is irrelevant, and dishonest leaders both shun and cite hard, courageous work.

The defense industry juggernaut is not a widespread corporate conspiracy; it’s a bad-policy business trend running on inertia. Instead of calling for contractors to give up profits, change the policy, keep the network, and invest in a healthy planet.

But peace will not make money until it becomes the policy for defense, and that won’t happen without a tax rebellion, general strike, or similar surge in popular demand. (1,100 schools sounds like a student movement network.) Until the day we have a good D, the bad D pays our leaders. The people’s business is making that day arrive, because lazy government won’t surrender without a confrontation with the governed.

Meanwhile, “we must stop the terrorists in Iraq!” Terrorists, communists, whatever. Business-wise, Vietnam never ends.

That’s where we are.

At a 1992 University of Oregon event discussing the American people and their government, author Ken Kesey declared, “There are times when you gotta stand up in church and shout ‘bullshit!’”

That’s what time it is.

Sources: Statistical Information Analysis Division, Department of Defense; FY2000 through FY2006 CASE Multi-year Educational Nonprofits Prime Contracts, ST25 Multi-year States and Territories Prime Contracts, ST26 Multi-year Foreign Country Prime Contracts; and “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2006,” updated January 8, 2007 by Richard F. Grimmett, Specialist in National Defense, US Congressional Research Service.

Brian Bogart is a peace studies graduate student, diversity scholar, and defense statistics analyst at University of Oregon. His thesis project follows the 60-year trend of acquiring what President Dwight Eisenhower termed the “unwarranted influence” of the defense industry by government. Contact Brian at

(Excerpt from Eisenhower’s speech)

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

As we peer into society’s future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent, I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment.

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

Brian Bogart -Diversity Scholar - Defense Statistics Analyst - M.A. Candidate, Peace Studies; University of Oregon - Research Associate, Institute for Policy Research and Development; London


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

"We're Dealing with a Christian Taliban"

Interview with Mikey Weinstein

09/07/07 - --- WASHINGTON, Sep 7 (IPS) - Last month, the Pentagon pulled the plug on a plan to dispatch so-called "freedom packages" to U.S. troops in Iraq that included Bibles, proselytising materials in English and Arabic, and an apocalyptic computer game in which "soldiers for Christ" battle satanic "Global Community Peacekeepers".

The scheme was derailed in part because of the efforts of Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which seeks to protect the wall separating church and state in the United States armed forces.

Weinstein, in his own words, is no "bleeding-heart liberal". He is a 1977 honor graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, and spent 10 years in the Air Force as a "JAG" or military attorney serving as both a federal prosecutor and criminal defence attorney.

A registered Republican, he also spent over three years in the Ronald Reagan administration as legal counsel in the White House, where he helped investigate the Iran-Contra scandal.

St. Martins Press in New York recently released Weinstein's new book, "With God On Our Side," an expose on the systemic problem of religious intolerance throughout the United States armed forces.

Eli Clifton recently spoke with Weinstein about Operation Straight Up, which designed the "freedom packages", and the Pentagon's growing coziness with fundamentalist evangelical religious groups.

IPS: What is it about the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs that has made it a breeding ground for Christian Dominionists?

MW: Well, first we thought it was that there was this nexus of what I refer to as the "Protestant Vatican" -- in fact many people refer to it as that. Colorado Springs has over 100 of this nation's largest evangelical fundamentalist Christian organisations centred right there for some reason. Just like a moth to a flame these organisations have been attracted there. That was our initial theory before we found out that this imperious contagion of constitutional triumphalism, this fanatical Dominionist Christianity had swept like a tsunami all the way through all 737 US military installations that the Pentagon admits that we have -- but it's really closer to a thousand -- in 132 countries around the world. Seventy of those are in Europe of and 11 of those house nuclear weapons.

Let me make this clear. I'm doing this Q&A with you guys today as a man at war with the gun smoke in my face. We are not at war with Christianity or evangelical Christianity. We have many evangelical or non-evangelical Christians who massively support what our organisation, the Military Religious Freedom Centre, is doing. We are at war with a small subset of evangelical Christianity [known as] "Dominionist Christianity" and it represents about 12.6 percent of the American public or about 38 million people.

And at every one of those 737 US military installations that are scattered in 132 countries around the world -- as we garrison the globe -- we have one or more of those organisations. They're called the "Officers Christian Fellowship" for the officers and "The Christian Military Fellowship" for the enlisted folks and these organisations have a tripartite, or three level goal, which they view as much more important than the oath that they all swear to protect and preserve, support and defend the constitution of the United States.

The first goal -- and they're unabashed about it, it's right on their website -- is they want to see a "spiritually transformed U.S. military..."

Second, "...with ambassadors for Christ in uniform..." which, parenthetically, hasn't worked out too well for the world for the past 2,000 years.

And then thirdly, "...empowered by the Holy Spirit."

IPS: Could you talk a bit about Operation Straight Up and the Christian Ministry? How do they gain access to soldiers in Iraq or film promotional videos in the halls of the Pentagon?

MW: Well we hope to have the full answers to these questions shortly as we are nearing the filing of our massive lawsuit against the Pentagon for these very reasons.

The Christian Embassy was a little known, under the radar, extreme right-wing fundamentalist organisation that was operating in Washington DC and ministering, if you will, only to the glitterati and cognoscenti -- that is to say the senior people at the State Department, members of Congress, and political appointees, specifically in the Pentagon.

If you go you'll see their slick, 11-minute video. It opens up with the Christian Embassy stating that there are 25,000 men and women in the corridors and rings of the Pentagon and through the use of daily prayer breakfast and bible studies and outreach events the Christian Embassy is "mustering all of them into an intentional relationship with Jesus Christ." It's really astonishing to see. To see senior members of the U.S. military and political appointees prostituting themselves with regard to the oath they took to the constitution and supporting the biblical worldview of just this one particular group.

IPS: What steps has the Defence Department taken to limit proselytising within the ranks? Where has the DoD fallen short?

MW: They are encouraging this. They aren't stopping it. The report that the DoD IG (Inspector General) came out with was ludicrous. It immediately exempted itself from something called DoD directive 1300.17 which is entitled "Accommodation of Religious Practices within the Military Services". They say that anyone who appeared in that video was not really trying to proselytise or express their religious views. They say that the directive is just dictating when you may or may not wear your uniform.

This is a complete lie. If you look at that video again you'll see that if the people at the Pentagon had been doing a video like that for the Ford Mustang there'd be no doubt in your mind that these people were pushing Ford Mustangs as the best cars around. So the IG report is terrible. It doesn't provide any remedial action.

Let me make it clear. We are dealing with a Christian Taliban. They hate when I say that but that's too bad. If you look at Chris Hedges Book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" you'll see that the Christian Right is a fascistic organisation. And remember, I'm not a bleeding heart liberal -- not that there's anything wrong with that. I know the Christian Right would love it if I were a tree-hugging, Chardonnay-sipping, Northern California Democrat. I'm not. I come from a conservative military family. My youngest son just graduated three months ago from the Air Force Academy. He's the sixth member of my family to go there including myself. We have three consecutive generations of military academy graduates and over 128 years of combined active duty military service in my immediate family. I spent three and half years in the West Wing of the Reagan White House as one of his lawyers. I've been Ross Perot's general counsel. I didn't want to have to get into this fight. But when I say the Christian Taliban I frickin mean the Christian Taliban.

IPS: What consequences do whistleblowers within the armed forces face?

MW: They're terrified. Look, in many aspects the military controls their lives. We are closing in on having our 6,000th active member of the U.S. military contact us not as claimants but as tormentees. And the amazing thing is that it stays remarkably constant that roughly 96 percent of these tormentees coming to us are Christian themselves.

Roughly three-fourths of that group are going to be traditional Protestant -- that is to say Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and Episcopalians. We even get Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Baptists and sometimes Southern Baptists. The other one-fourth of that 96 percent are generally Roman Catholic. And that leaves four percent who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Shinto, Jain, Wickan and atheists and agnostics.

Basically what we're facing are Fundamentalist, Dominionist Christians that are preying --- P-R-A-Y and P-R-E-Y -- on non-Fundamentalist Christians including in many respects other evangelical Christians that are just not fundamentalist Christians, telling them that, "you may think you were Christian enough for us but you're not. And as a result, you will burn eternally in the fires of Hell along with the Jews."

And that's why I've got to be here to take the calls around the clock from our troops. Many times they will not give me their name, sometimes they will. Often times they will give me the contact information for their supervisors or their commanders and what unit they're in. Then my job is I go call these people and make it clear that this is happening and suggest they make it stop or make them the next star on CNN.


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

Reporting From Baghdad By Scott Ritter

09/08/07 "Truth Dig" -- -- It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration’s newest military-man-of-substance-turned- political lapdog, General Petraeus, maintains that the situation in Iraq is not only salvageable, but actually improving, due to the “surge” of U.S. combat troops into Iraq over the past year. All the president and his collection of GI Joe hand-puppets ask for is more time, more money and more troops.

There is no reason to believe that the compliant war facilitators who comprise the “anti-war” Democratic majority in Congress will do anything other than give the president what he is asking for. No one seems to want to debate, in any meaningful fashion, what is really going on in Iraq.

Why would they? The Democrats, like their Republican counterparts, have invested too much political capital into fictionalizing the problem with slogans like “support the troops,” “we’re fighting the enemy there so we don’t have to fight them here,” and my all-time favorite, “leaving Iraq would hand victory to al-Qaida.”

There simply is no incentive to put fact on the table and formulate policy that actually seeks a solution to a properly defined problem. Like the Republicans before them, the Democrats today seek not to govern with the best interests of the people in mind, but rather to game the system in order to consolidate political power. Political sloganeering has so trumped reality that any political backlash that is generated from the so-called “Petraeus Report” will be limited to how the Democrats could better sustain a conflict that kills American troops, since no mainstream Democratic leader has expressed a true “get out of Iraq now” policy.

Nearly 4 1/2 years after President Bush’s ill-fated (and illegal) decision to invade and occupy Iraq, few people in a position to influence policy formulation and implementation in America have actually grasped the horrible truth about what has transpired, and what is transpiring, in Mesopotamia today. As the United States places the finishing touches on Fortress America, the new half-billion-dollar Embassy complex in the heart of the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad, and more troops pour into mega-bases throughout Iraq, the reality (and futility) of permanent occupation has yet to sink in. What could be going through the minds of those members of Congress who keep signing blank checks for the president? Is there no oversight of how and why this money is spent? How can someone fund permanent infrastructure one day, then speak of the need to get out of Iraq the next?

The compliant mainstream media, of course, is no help. The war in Iraq has become a major generator of advertising revenue for these corporations, so there is no incentive to actually report the truth, but rather manipulate the fiction. Iraq has become a prestige destination for every aspiring journalist or struggling anchor, determined to get “the big story.” The most recent manifestation of this syndrome is CBS News anchor Katie Couric, who earlier this week traveled to Iraq because she was (in her own words), “Curious about very basic questions regarding living conditions, about how much fear there is in the street, about how the soldiers really are doing.” That the situation in Iraq has been boiled down to these three big, burning issues (living conditions, fear in the streets, and how the troops are really doing), and that CBS is sending their multi-million-dollar investment to investigate, speaks volumes about the truly degenerate state of American journalism today.

The real big three she should be addressing are “Why do Americans keep dying?” “Who is killing them?” and “Why?” Of course, answering these questions would undermine the very fantasy world Couric is being sent to cover, one where Americans are doing good deeds in the name of peace and justice for downtrodden Iraqis. Couric’s jaunt is fraud on a massive scale. Ironically, she herself acknowledged this when she admitted that her upbeat reports from Iraq were reflective of what the U.S. military wanted her to see, and not honest “reporting” on her part.

If Couric and her ilk won’t answer these questions, I will. “Why do Americans keep dying?” Simple: Because we are in Iraq. We don’t belong there. Our presence is derived from our own violation of law, not someone else’s, and as such any effort to sustain our presence is tainted by this same foundation of illegitimacy. In short, Americans will keep dying in Iraq as long as we remain in Iraq. If Katie wanted to really get to the bottom of this story, she could venture out on her own to any one of the villages and towns where Americans have been killed recently. Of course, she would probably end up dead herself, which would defeat the purpose of trying to report the story.

“Who is killing them?” Another easy answer: Iraqis. We are occupying their homeland. We are violating their sovereignty. We are butchering, abusing and torturing their citizens. Our continued presence is an affront to the socioeconomic-political fabric that is (or was) Iraqi society. If someone occupied my hometown in the same manner Americans occupy Iraq, I’d be killing them any way I could. And I would be called a hero by my own people, not a terrorist. The Bush administration, in an effort to deflect public attention away from this reality, has created the fiction of a massive al-Qaida presence in Iraq, working in parallel with a similarly large Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command presence, which apparently is responsible for the majority of anti-American violence and dead U.S. troops.

Rhetoric aside, however, American officials who make these claims have been unable to back them up with hard facts and figures. There is an al-Qaida presence in Iraq. However, the majority of what is known as “al-Qaida in Iraq” is composed of Iraqis, not foreigners. The whole phenomenon is a direct result of the American occupation of Iraq, and would dissipate the moment America left the country. Likewise, the accusation of direct Iranian involvement in anti-American violence is questionable. Iranian political support of Iraqi Shiite groups who violently oppose the American occupation of Iraq is real, but then again we know this: We invited the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to join us in toppling Saddam. Based out of Iran, functioning as a de facto arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command, SCIRI did as we asked. Why, then, are we shocked when SCIRI maintains ties with the very entity that created and nurtured it? It is Iraqi Shiites who are killing Americ
ans, not Iranians. And they would kill us with or without the support of Iran.

Now we come to the third and perhaps most difficult question: “Why?” In some odd way, Katie Couric’s jaunt to Iraq answers that question: Because Americans truly don’t care. Oh, we care about vague softball issues, such as “conditions in the street,” “fear,” and of course, “how the American troops are really doing,” especially when they are fed to us in 30-second sound bites or three-minute “in-depth” stories. Little feel good segments planted in between commercials, designed not to infringe on our intellectual curiosity for more than 30 minutes so we don’t loose our focus watching the latest “reality” show or made-for-television drama.

The fact is, Couric’s made-for-television news is to what is really happening in Iraq as “CSI: Las Vegas” is to what is really happening on the streets of Sin City. CBS knows that, which is why they are packaging Katie in this fashion. The shame is that for most Americans watching, they think they’re getting the real deal. They are not, but will continue to wallow in their ignorant indifference. Katie will struggle to tell us that our kids keep dying in Iraq to “improve the quality of life” and “reduce the level of fear” on the streets of Baghdad. She solemnly informs us that “our boys and girls” are suffering, but they know it is in support of a just and noble cause. Katie will continue to report the story in Iraq from the perspective of an American political dynamic, not Iraqi reality.

She won’t go visit one of the American mercenary units in Iraq, the private military contractors who challenge the American military for numerical supremacy. She won’t burrow into the never-never land of legal ambiguity that allows these mercenaries to commit murder at will, to treat Iraq (and Iraqis) as second-class citizens in their own nation, and whose continued abuse of Iraq results in a deep and undying hatred for all things American. Katie may catch a movie in a hardened underground theater on one of the Pentagon’s mega-bases, or go shopping in a PX inside the “Green Zone” to get a “feel” of life for our troops, but she won’t venture up north, into Kurdistan, where other secure outposts of foreign occupation sit, out of sight and mind. If Couric would visit the Iraqi Oil Ministry, she might be shocked to witness the legal maneuvering and exploitation carried out by foreign oil companies (including, directly or indirectly, American oil companies).

Working with local Kurdish officials, small oil exploration and drilling camps are sprouting up all over northern Iraq, where they siphon off the wealth of the Iraqi people. Shipped out of Iraq via Turkey and (surprisingly) Iran, using long-established smuggling routes, these illegal ventures are generating billions of dollars in income for oil companies, and because these ventures aren’t supposed to exist, this income goes unreported. You can’t miss these sites. Any review of Google-Earth imagery would show these facilities springing up like mushrooms over the last few years. The U.S. military knows about them, and yet does nothing. Note to Richard Kaplan (Katie Couric’s producer): If you want to investigate this story, I’ll provide you with the geographic coordinates. Drive up and try to talk your way into the security perimeter. Position Katie well for the camera shot and demand answers. Just look out for the Canadian, South African or American mercenaries who are charged by “Bi
g Oil” to keep this dirty little secret “secret.”

Instead of going to Iraq to report on why Americans keep dying, Katie could just stay here, in America. There are any number of corporations whose boardrooms she could visit. Or she could smooth-talk her way into a number of country clubs, to interview the human face of the “military industrial complex” that President Eisenhower warned us about a half-century ago. She might take a look at congressional campaign financing, where the profits from these corporations fund the campaigns of the politicians who continue to do nothing about Iraq. Then, and just then, would Katie come close to answering the question of “Why?”

But she won’t. Or should I say, she can’t. CBS is owned by General Electric. GE is working hard to get favorable trading status with any number of foreign trading partners. The U.S. trade representative is working hard on GE’s behalf. Hard-nosed “reporting” by the likes of Couric would not go over well in the bowels of the White House, where instructions to the U.S. trade representative are issued. “I’m Katie Couric,” her broadcast could begin. “Tonight I am declaring independence from corporate control over how I report (i.e., read) the news.” Answering the “why” of Iraq requires confronting the layers of corruption and corporate domination of America on so many levels that even if Katie wanted to, she couldn’t—at least not from her perch as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

In a way, Iraq is a manifestation of all that ails America today. A complete breakdown of fundamental societal checks and balances brought on by greed and hubris. From General Petraeus who will give it, to the mindless corporate-owned minions who populate much of Congress who will receive it, to the entertainment-as-news media which will report on it, and to the American people who will consume it with no foundation upon which to evaluate it, the “Petraeus Report” will have little relevance to what is really going on in Iraq. Once again, Americans will be searching for a solution to a problem they have yet to properly define.

Just ask Katie Couric. Or better yet, watch her.


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

The erasing of Iraq by Naomi Klein

It's a tried-and-tested torture technique: strike fear into your victims, deprive them of cherished essentials and then eradicate their memories. In 2003, the US applied this on an enormous scale for its invasion of Iraq. And then, after Saddam's regime crumbled, Washington set out to rebuild the traumatised country through a disastrous programme of privatisation and unfettered capitalism, as Naomi Klein shows in this exclusive extract from her new book

When the Canadian citizen Maher Arar was grabbed by US agents at JFK airport in 2002 and taken to Syria, a victim of extraordinary rendition, his interrogators engaged in a tried-and-tested torture technique. "They put me on a chair, and one of the men started asking me questions ... If I did not answer quickly enough, he would point to a metal chair in the corner and ask, 'Do you want me to use this?' I was terrified, and I did not want to be tortured. I would say anything to avoid torture." The technique Arar was being subjected to is known as "the showing of the instruments," or, in US military lingo, "fear up". Torturers know that one of their most potent weapons is the prisoner's own imagination - often just showing fearsome instruments is more effective than using them.

As the day of the invasion of Iraq drew closer, US news media outlets were conscripted by the Pentagon to "fear up" Iraq. "They're calling it 'A-Day'," began a report on CBS News that aired two months before the war began. "A as in airstrikes so devastating they would leave Saddam's soldiers unable or unwilling to fight." Viewers were introduced to Harlan Ullman, an author of the Shock and Awe doctrine, who explained that "you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes". The anchor, Dan Rather, ended the telecast with a disclaimer: "We assure you this report contains no information that the Defense Department thinks could help the Iraqi military." He could have gone further: the report, like so many others in this period, was an integral part of the Department of Defense's strategy - fear up.

Iraqis, who picked up the terrifying reports on contraband satellites or in phone calls from relatives abroad, spent months imagining the horrors of Shock and Awe. The phrase itself became a potent psychological weapon. Would it be worse than 1991? If the Americans really thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, would they launch a nuclear attack?
One answer was provided a week before the invasion. The Pentagon invited Washington's military press corps on a special field trip to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to witness the testing of the Moab, which officially stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blast, but which everyone in the military calls the "Mother of All Bombs". At 21,000lb, it is the largest non-nuclear explosive ever built, able to create, in the words of CNN's Jamie McIntyre, "a 10,000ft-high mushroom-like cloud that looks and feels like a nuclear weapon".

In his report, McIntyre said that even if it was never used, the bomb's very existence "could still pack a psychological wallop" - a tacit acknowledgement of the role he himself was playing in delivering that wallop. Like prisoners in interrogation cells, Iraqis were being shown the instruments. "The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there's an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained on the same programme.

When the war began, the residents of Baghdad were subjected to sensory deprivation on a mass scale. One by one, the city's sensory inputs were cut off; the ears were the first to go.
On the night of March 28 2003, as US troops drew closer to Baghdad, the ministry of communication was bombed and set ablaze, as were four Baghdad telephone exchanges, with massive bunker-busters, cutting off millions of phones across the city. The targeting of the phone exchanges continued - 12 in total - until, by April 2, there was barely a phone working in all of Baghdad. During the same assault, television and radio transmitters were also hit, making it impossible for families in Baghdad, huddling in their homes, to pick up even a weak signal carrying news of what was going on outside their doors.

Many Iraqis say that the shredding of their phone system was the most psychologically wrenching part of the air attack. The combination of hearing and feeling bombs going off everywhere while being unable to call a few blocks away to find out if loved ones were alive, or to reassure terrified relatives living abroad, was pure torment. Journalists based in Baghdad were swarmed by desperate local residents begging for a few moments with their satellite phones or pressing numbers into the reporters' hands along with pleas to call a brother or an uncle in London or Baltimore. "Tell him everything is OK. Tell him his mother and father are fine. Tell him hello. Tell him not to worry." By then, most pharmacies in Baghdad had sold out of sleeping aids and anti-depressants, and the city was completely cleaned out of Valium.

Next to go were the eyes. "There was no audible explosion, no discernible change in the early-evening bombardments, but in an instant, an entire city of 5 million people was plunged into an awful, endless night," the Guardian reported on April 4. Darkness was "relieved only by the headlights of passing cars". Trapped in their homes, Baghdad's residents could not speak to each other, hear each other or see outside. Like a prisoner destined for a CIA black site, the entire city was shackled and hooded.

Next it was stripped. In hostile interrogations, the first stage of breaking down prisoners is stripping them of their own clothes and any items that have the power to evoke their sense of self - so-called comfort items. Often objects that are of particular value to a prisoner, such as the Qur'an or a cherished photograph, are treated with open disrespect. The message is "You are no one, you are who we want you to be," the essence of dehumanisation. Iraqis went through this unmaking process collectively, as they watched their most important institutions desecrated, their history loaded on to trucks and disappeared.

The bombing badly injured Iraq, but it was the looting, unchecked by occupying troops, that did the most to erase the heart of the country that was.

"The hundreds of looters who smashed ancient ceramics, stripped display cases and pocketed gold and other antiquities from the National Museum of Iraq pillaged nothing less than records of the first human society," reported the Los Angeles Times. "Gone are 80% of the museum's 170,000 priceless objects." The national library, which contained copies of every book and doctoral thesis ever published in Iraq, was a blackened ruin. Thousand-year-old illuminated Qur'ans had disappeared from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which was left a burned-out shell. "Our national heritage is lost," pronounced a Baghdad high-school teacher. A local merchant said of the museum, "It was the soul of Iraq. If the museum doesn't recover the looted treasures, I will feel like a part of my own soul has been stolen." McGuire Gibson, an archaeologist at the University of Chicago, called it "a lot like a lobotomy. The deep memory of an entire culture, a culture that has continued for thousands of years, has been removed".

Thanks mostly to the efforts of clerics who organised salvage missions in the midst of the looting, a portion of the artefacts has been recovered. But many Iraqis were, and still are, convinced that the memory lobotomy was intentional - part of Washington's plans to excise the strong, rooted nation that was and replace it with their own model. "Baghdad is the mother of Arab culture," 70-year-old Ahmed Abdullah told the Washington Post, "and they want to wipe out our culture."

As the war planners were quick to point out, the looting was done by Iraqis, not foreign troops. And it is true that Rumsfeld did not plan for Iraq to be sacked - but he did not take measures to prevent it from happening either, or to stop it once it had begun. These were failures that cannot be dismissed as mere oversights.

During the 1991 Gulf war, 13 Iraqi museums were attacked by looters, so there was every reason to believe that poverty, anger at the old regime and the general atmosphere of chaos would prompt some Iraqis to respond in the same way (especially given that Saddam had emptied the prisons several months earlier). The Pentagon had been warned by leading archaeologists that it needed to have an airtight strategy to protect museums and libraries before any attack, and a March 26 Pentagon memo to coalition command listed "in order of importance, 16 sites that were crucial to protect in Baghdad". Second on the list was the museum. Other warnings had urged Rumsfeld to send an international police contingent in with the troops to maintain public order -another suggestion that was ignored.

Even without the police, however, there were enough US soldiers in Baghdad for a few to be dispatched to the key cultural sites, but they weren't sent. There are numerous reports of US soldiers hanging out by their armoured vehicles and watching as trucks loaded with loot drove by - a reflection of the "stuff happens" indifference coming straight from Rumsfeld. Some units took it upon themselves to stop the looting, but in other instances, soldiers joined in. The Baghdad International Airport was completely trashed by soldiers who, according to Time, smashed furniture and then moved on to the commercial jets on the runway: "US soldiers looking for comfortable seats and souvenirs ripped out many of the planes' fittings, slashed seats, damaged cockpit equipment and popped out every windshield." The result was an estimated $100m worth of damage to Iraq's national airline - which was one of the first assets to be put on the auction block in an early and contentious partial privatisation.
Some insight into why there was so little official interest in stopping the looting has since been provided by two men who played pivotal roles in the occupation - Peter McPherson, the senior economic adviser to Paul Bremer, and John Agresto, director of higher education reconstruction for the occupation. McPherson said that when he saw Iraqis taking state property - cars, buses, ministry equipment - it didn't bother him. His job, as Iraq's top economic shock therapist, was to radically downsize the state and privatise its assets, which meant that the looters were really just giving him a jump-start. "I thought the privatisation that occurs sort of naturally when somebody took over their state vehicle, or began to drive a truck that the state used to own, was just fine," he said. A veteran bureaucrat of the Reagan administration and a firm believer in Chicago School economics, McPherson termed the pillage a form of public-sector "shrinkage".

His colleague John Agresto also saw a silver lining as he watched the looting of Baghdad on TV. He envisioned his job - "a never-to-be-repeated adventure" - as the remaking of Iraq's system of higher education from scratch. In that context, the stripping of the universities and the education ministry was, he explained, "the opportunity for a clean start," a chance to give Iraq's schools "the best modern equipment". If the mission was "nation creating," as so many clearly believed it to be, then everything that remained of the old country was only going to get in the way. Agresto was the former president of St John's College in New Mexico, which specialises in a Great Books curriculum [which emphasises an education based on broad reading]. He explained that although he knew nothing of Iraq, he had refrained from reading books about the country before making the trip so that he would arrive "with as open a mind as I could have". Like Iraq's colleges, Agresto would be a blank slate.

If Agresto had read a book or two, he might have thought twice about the need to erase everything and start all over again. He could have learned, for instance, that before the sanctions strangled the country, Iraq had the best education system in the region, with the highest literacy rates in the Arab world - in 1985, 89% of Iraqis were literate. By contrast, in Agresto's home state of New Mexico, 46% of the population is functionally illiterate, and 20% are unable do "basic math[s] to determine the total on a sales receipt". Yet Agresto was so convinced of the superiority of American systems that he seemed unable to entertain the possibility that Iraqis might want to salvage and protect their own culture and that they might feel its destruction as a wrenching loss.

This neo-colonialist blindness is a running theme in the war on terror. At the US-run prison at Guantánamo Bay, there is a room known as "the love shack". Detainees are taken there after their captors have decided they are not enemy combatants and will soon be released. Inside the love shack, prisoners are allowed to watch Hollywood movies and are plied with American junk food. Asif Iqbal, one of three British detainees known as the "Tipton Three," was permitted several visits there before he and his two friends were finally sent home. "We would get to watch DVDs, eat McDonald's, eat Pizza Hut and basically chill out. We were not shackled in this area ... We had no idea why they were being like that to us. The rest of the week we were back in the cages as usual ... On one occasion Lesley [an FBI official] brought Pringles, ice cream and chocolates; this was the final Sunday before we came back to England." His friend Rhuhel Ahmed speculated that the special treatment "was because they knew they had messed us about and tortured us for two and half years and they hoped we would forget it".

Ahmed and Iqbal had been grabbed by the Northern Alliance while visiting Afghanistan on their way to a wedding. They had been violently beaten, injected with unidentified drugs, put in stress positions for hours, sleep deprived, forcibly shaven and denied all legal rights for 29 months. And yet they were supposed to "forget it" in the face of the overwhelming allure of Pringles. That was actually the plan.

It's hard to believe - but then again, that was pretty much Washington's game plan for Iraq: shock and terrorise the entire country, deliberately ruin its infrastructure, do nothing while its culture and history are ransacked, then make it all OK with an unlimited supply of cheap household appliances and imported junk food. In Iraq, this cycle of culture erasing and culture replacing was not theoretical; it all unfolded in a matter of weeks.

Paul Bremer, appointed by Bush to serve as director of the occupation authority in Iraq, admits that when he first arrived in Baghdad, the looting was still going strong and order was far from restored. "Baghdad was on fire, literally, as I drove in from the airport. There was no traffic on the streets; there was no electricity anywhere; no oil production; no economic activity; there wasn't a single policeman on duty anywhere." And yet his solution to this crisis was to immediately fling open the country's borders to absolutely unrestricted imports: no tariffs, no duties, no inspections, no taxes. Iraq, Bremer declared two weeks after he arrived, was "open for business". Overnight, Iraq went from being one of the most isolated countries in the world, sealed off from the most basic trade by strict UN sanctions, to becoming the widest-open market anywhere.

While the pickup trucks stuffed with loot were still being driven to buyers in Jordan, Syria and Iran, passing them in the opposite direction were convoys of flatbeds piled high with Chinese TVs, Hollywood DVDs and Jordanian satellite dishes, ready to be unloaded on the sidewalks of Baghdad's Karada district. Just as one culture was being burned and stripped for parts, another was pouring in, prepackaged, to replace it.

One of the US businesses ready and waiting to be the gateway to this experiment in frontier capitalism was New Bridge Strategies, started by Joe Allbaugh, Bush's ex-head of Fema [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. It promised to use its top-level political connections to help US multinationals land a piece of the action in Iraq. "Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products would be a gold mine," one of the company's partners enthused. "One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country."

Like the prisoners in Guantánamo's love shack, all of Iraq was going to be bought off with Pringles and pop culture - that, at least, was the Bush administration's idea of a postwar plan.
Ewen Cameron was a psychiatrist who performed CIA-funded experiments on the effects of electric shock and sensory deprivation on patients, without their knowledge, in the 1950s. When I was researching what he did I came across an observation made by one of his colleagues, a psychiatrist named Fred Lowy. "The Freudians had developed all these subtle methods of peeling the onion to get at the heart of the problem," he said. "Cameron wanted to drill right through and to hell with the layers. But, as we later discovered, the layers are all there is." Cameron thought he could blast away all his patients' layers and start again; he dreamed of creating brand-new personalities. But his patients weren't reborn: they were confused, injured, broken.

Iraq's shock therapists blasted away at the layers too, seeking that elusive blank slate on which to create their new model country. They found only the piles of rubble that they themselves had created, and millions of psychologically and physically shattered people - shattered by Saddam, shattered by war, shattered by one another. Bush's in-house disaster capitalists didn't wipe Iraq clean, they just stirred it up. Rather than a tabula rasa, purified of history, they found ancient feuds, brought to the surface to merge with fresh vendettas from each new attack - on a mosque in Karbala, in Samarra, on a market, a ministry, a hospital. Countries, like people, don't reboot to zero with a good shock; they just break and keep on breaking.

Which, of course, requires more blasting - upping the dosage, holding down the button longer, more pain, more bombs, more torture. Former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who had predicted that Iraqis would be easily marshalled from A to B, has since concluded that the real problem was that the US was too soft. "The humane way in which the coalition fought the war," he said, "actually has led to a situation where it is more difficult to get people to come together, not less. In Germany and Japan [after the second world war], the population was exhausted and deeply shocked by what had happened, but in Iraq it's been the opposite. A very rapid victory over enemy forces has meant we've not had the cowed population we had in Japan and Germany ... The US is dealing with an Iraqi population that is un-shocked and un-awed." By January 2007, Bush and his advisers were still convinced that they could gain control of Iraq with one good "surge". The report on which the surge strategy was based aimed for "the successful clearing of central Baghdad".

In the 70s, when the corporatist crusade began, it used tactics that courts ruled were overtly genocidal: the deliberate erasure of a segment of the population. In Iraq, something even more monstrous has happened - the erasure not of a segment of the population, but of an entire country; Iraq is disappearing, disintegrating. It began, as it often does, with the disappearance of women behind veils and doors, then the children disappeared from the schools - as of 2006, two-thirds of them stayed home. Next came the professionals: doctors, professors, entrepreneurs, scientists, pharmacists, judges, lawyers. An estimated 300 Iraqi academics have been assassinated by death squads since the US invasion, including several deans of departments; thousands more have fled. Doctors have fared even worse: by February 2007, an estimated 2,000 had been killed and 12,000 had fled. In November 2006, the UN High Commission for Refugees estimated that 3,000 Iraqis were fleeing the country every day. By April 2007, the organisation reported that 4 million people had been forced to leave their homes - roughly one in seven Iraqis. Only a few hundred of those refugees had been welcomed into the United States.

With Iraqi industry all but collapsed, one of the only local businesses booming is kidnapping. Over just three and a half months in early 2006, nearly 20,000 people were kidnapped in Iraq. The only time the international media pays attention is when a westerner is taken, but the vast majority of abductions are Iraqi professionals, grabbed as they travel to and from work. Their families either come up with tens of thousands in US dollars for the ransom money or identify their bodies at the morgue. Torture has also emerged as a thriving industry. Human rights groups have documented numerous cases of Iraqi police demanding thousands of dollars from the families of prisoners in exchange for a halt to torture. It is Iraq's own domestic version of disaster capitalism.

This was not what the Bush administration intended for Iraq when it was selected as the model nation for the rest of the Arab world. The occupation had begun with cheerful talk of clean slates and fresh starts. It didn't take long, however, for the quest for cleanliness to slip into talk into "pulling Islamism up from the root" in Sadr City or Najaf and removing "the cancer of radical Islam" from Fallujah and Ramadi - what was not clean would be scrubbed out by force.
That is what happens with projects to build model societies in other people's countries. The cleansing campaigns are rarely premeditated. It is only when the people who live on the land refuse to abandon their past that the dream of the clean slate morphs into its doppelgänger, the scorched earth - only then that the dream of total creation morphs into a campaign of total destruction.

The unanticipated violence that now engulfs Iraq is the creation of the lethally optimistic architects of the war - it was preordained in that original seemingly innocuous, even idealistic phrase, "a model for a new Middle East". The disintegration of Iraq has its roots in the ideology that demanded a tabula rasa on which to write its new story. And when no such pristine tableau presented itself, the supporter of that ideology proceeded to blast and surge and blast again in the hope of reaching that promised land.

· Extracted from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein, published by Allen Lane on September 20, priced £25. © Naomi Klein 2007. To order a copy for £23 with free p&p go to or call 0870 836 0875.

· Naomi Klein will be discussing The Shock Doctrine at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London SE1 this Thursday at 7.30pm. Alfonso Cuarón will also be introducing his short film which is a companion to the book, which will be screened.


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano