Posted by: quiscus | January 31, 2009

January 31, 2009

1.  “Saddam-Qaeda Conspiracy Theorist Surfaces Writing Iraq Reports For The Pentagon

It’s a truism that neoconservatives have a talent for failing upward: for repeatedly getting important things wrong and not seeing their careers suffer – for, in fact, being handed new opportunities to pursue their work (see, e.g., Kristol, Bill; and Hayes, Stephen).

Today we can add another name to that list: Laurie Mylroie, the quintessential conspiracy theorist of the Iraq War era, wrote reports about Iraq for the Pentagon as recently as Fall 2007, years after she was discredited, according to documents obtained by TPMmuckraker.

Those who follow the neoconservative movement closely are stunned that Mylroie has surfaced again — and especially that she is doing government-sponsored work on Iraq. “It’s kind of astonishing that the ONA would come even within a mile of her,” says Jacob Heilbrunn, author of They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons. “I think she is completely discredited.”

2.  “Did Mugabe Finally Croak?

This might just be the Miami in me (Castro is dead…now!nnnnow!nnnnnnnow!), but Zimbabwe suddenly nixing price controls and allowing foreign currency to be exchanged freely, with mea culpa from the finance minister and no comment from the 85-year-old dictator himself, makes me think he is either finally deposed or dropped dead. This will help a lot of common Zimbabweans, and erode the state’s grip on the economy. But maybe, as a friend pointed out, though this seems to be against Mugabe’s interests, “they don’t call them acts of desperation for nothing.”

But really, I hope he’s just dead.

3.  “It is time to end the war on terror.  Governments have always understood that the adroit use of words and phrases to define a problem can limit the options in a policy debate.  Congressional resolutions designed to bring about regime change in foreign countries are euphemistically described as establishing “accountability,” enhancing human rights, or promoting democracy.  In that context, there is no word in the American political lexicon that has been more abused than the word “war.”  America is constantly at war, both metaphorically and actually.  Ironically, when the war is a real one, as in Iraq and  Afghanistan, it is frequently described as something else, enforcement of UN resolutions in the former and a NATO stabilization operation in the latter. As war can only be declared by Congress, which has not done so since 1941, one might reasonably suggest that all the wars that have been waged by various presidents are essentially bogus, at least in constitutional terms.

The constitution aside, Washington engages in a new war every time it wants to demonstrate serious intent.  There is a war on drugs, a war on poverty, and, most recently, a war on terror, sometimes made even grander when described as a “global war on terror” or even by the acronym GWOT.  As John Edwards once noted, the GWOT is little more than a bumper sticker slogan.  It is meant to imply that the government is marshalling all its resources to extirpate evil and force its unconditional surrender.  It is also a demand that the citizens fall in line, sacrificing their children and their treasure as well as their constitutional rights as part of the noble endeavor.  Nor can there be any debate about causes and consequences when there is a war going on.  It is, in short, a blank check for the government to undermine every legal principle and do whatever is needed to win.

The war on terror has been a fiction since the phrase was first articulated by President George W. Bush nine days after 9/11.  It was subsequently used to empower the authorities and legitimize the dismantling of the constitution’s protections through the various renditions of the Patriot and Military Commissions Acts.  The need to “protect America” became the fixture around which the creation of a unitary and unaccountable executive power took place.  From the beginning, critics noted that terror has no geographic location, that it is a tactic used by militants who themselves come from many different backgrounds, have various objectives, and who have greater or lesser ability to threaten the United States.  Terrorism is not a unified movement backed by a powerful economy like Nazism or communism and, even if every group that employs terror were to somehow unite, they could not threaten to overthrow the legitimate government of any country in the world.  Terrorists in the Philippines have little or nothing to do with their counterparts in Iraq beyond a vague philosophical affinity and both can be defeated when local people rise up and say enough, not through the efforts of imperial Washington.  Indeed, Washington has more often than not been a negative force with its calls for pre-emptive war, its hidden prisons and torture, all of which has emboldened terrorists groups and motivated new recruits to join their ranks.

And the war on terror as seen by Washington and a complaisant US media is the ultimate money and power machine, requiring a huge military and intelligence commitment that is endless and not confined to any part of the world.  As terror has no capital city or national identity the war against it cannot end through capture and surrender.  As it is a secret war, it can be waged using unconventional methods, without regard for the deaths of civilians who are seen as “sheltering” the terrorists, guaranteeing that the blood of the innocent will produce new generations raised hating America.  The bleeding will continue forever and everywhere as long as there are terrorists, justifying government intrusion into the lives of the citizens at home and huge and unsustainable budgets to wage the war worldwide.  It is George Orwell’s dark vision of 1984 turned into reality.  Tyranny and bankruptcy will be the war on terror’s legacy. “

4.  Another American cover-up:

“A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll

For three days in December 2007, Kenya slid into chaos as ballot counters steadily took what appeared to be a presidential election victory for the challenger and delivered it to the incumbent.

As tensions mounted, Kenneth Flottman sat in Nairobi and grew increasingly frustrated. He had in his hands the results of an exit poll, paid for by the United States government, that supported the initial returns favoring the challenger, Raila Odinga.

Mr. Flottman, East Africa director for the International Republican Institute, the pro-democracy group that administered the poll, said he had believed that the results would promptly be made public, as a check against election fraud by either side. But then his supervisors said the poll numbers would be kept secret.

When the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, was finally declared the winner amid cries of foul, Kenya exploded in violence that would leave more than 1,000 people dead before the two sides negotiated a power-sharing deal two months later. With rioters roaming the streets, Mr. Flottman sent an e-mail message to a colleague saying he was worried that, in rebuffing his pleas to release the poll, the institute had succumbed to political pressure from American officials.

“While I have no evidence to make me believe that I.R.I. withheld the exit poll results at the request of the U.S. government,” Mr. Odinga wrote, “my supporters believe that had I.R.I. released those polls, they would have made a huge difference and even saved lives.”

5.  “Sacrificing Liberty for Safety

Many readers will immediately recognize that the title of this book comes from one of Benjamin Franklin’s many political insights: “Those who would sacrifice essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Author Robert Higgs agrees with Franklin’s judgment, but the point of his powerful and iconoclastic book is that when people turn to the state crying for safety, they will end up sacrificing their liberty in vain. They will get neither liberty nor safety. The modern state takes people’s liberty (as well as a lot of their property) but delivers to them increased insecurity.

It’s a great trick — a con job of monumental proportions. Politicians promise the people safety from everything from vicious terrorists to the rapacious greed of capitalists. The trouble is that the one tool of politics — coercion — cannot produce safety from anything. The great mass of people are being bamboozled.

Now, this is a very radical, cynical view of government and Higgs tells us that he didn’t always hold government in the low esteem he now does. In his younger days, he accepted much of the conventional wisdom about government — beliefs carefully inculcated by apologists for statism. Fortunately for us, as Higgs writes, “My lifelong learning has been a sloughing off of orthodoxy and ‘respectable views.’” He is a scholar who questions even the most deeply ingrained ideas about our history, politics, and economics. If we ever get to the point where the Supreme Court interprets the First Amendment to mean that “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of the press, unless it finds some compelling reason to do so,” this book will be put near the top of the banned list.

The first myth about government that Higgs attacks is that it exists by consent to serve the populace. Politicians and their hangers-on work assiduously to keep the idea of the social contract in people’s minds. Rulers from ancient times right up to the present have understood that their power becomes more secure and enjoyable if the masses can be made to believe that the government’s depredations against them are actually for their own good. Here, Higgs isn’t breaking new ground (and he always acknowledges his intellectual debts), but the point is crucial. If large numbers of Americans began to see that they’re being robbed blind and bossed around like children in a Dickensian orphanage just so that politicians and sycophantic interest groups can live well at their expense, the government would face a crisis of legitimacy. But it doesn’t, because hardly anyone can penetrate its innumerable layers of deception.

At the root of the problem is the fact that most people remain under the spell of politics. They can’t see through the humbuggery and in fact strongly support the government that so badly damages their interests. Most people think they’re free and prosperous. They’re unable to grasp that with a minimalist state they would have a great deal more freedom and prosperity. That is the problem we must deal with. ”


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