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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

JO’D response to article:  “Ninety Percent of Captured ‘Taliban’ Were Civilians” by IPS News, 6/12/11

This story should surprise no one who has closely followed Petraeus’ career.  He’s ALWAYS been more of a political operative than a military one.

He first caught the media’s eye when he was just a colonel in Iraq, responsible for training the Iraqi National Police in 2006 (sold to the press as “The Year of the Police”).  How’d he do?  In 2007, the GAO and Gen. James Jones reported that the National Police was so rife with death squads (many beholden to Iran) that it should be disbanded outright.

In 2007, after the Republicans’ midterm drubbing, Bush needed a perception shift, something dramatic.  Ignoring the advice of his commanding officer in Iraq, Bush went with the AEI’s plan:  SURGE!

Bush fished downstream until he could find an officer willing to deliver a POLITICAL victory:  David Petraeus.  Gen. Casey was out, and Petraeus was in.

Petraeus paid the entire insurgency to chill out for a while (100,000 insurgents at $300/month each), and used the death squad-ridden police to conduct the ethnosectarian cleansing of Baghdad’s Sunnis (Baghdad went from 65% Sunni to 85% Shiite, and a million new refugees were created).

Billed as “reducing” civilian casualties, the Surge delivered the deadliest year of the war for Iraqi civilians and the U.S. military, too!

But it was a POLITICAL success, as was Petraeus.  The fawning media put the icing on the cake when they essentially quit covering the war.

Thus, was a “hero” born.

JO’D response to HuffPo article (6/10/11) regarding Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s proposal that IRAQ pay us for everything we’ve done “for” them:

Rohrabacher wouldn’t dare utter such nonsense if the media functioned as anything other than a Neoconservative propaganda machine.  But the truth is the MSM has basically glossed over the historic crimes America perpetrated in Iraq.

REALITY:  It’s very likely that over a MILLION Iraqis are dead as a result of Washington’s recklessness and greed.  That figure is based on the Johns Hopkins/MIT study, its methodology praised by many experts, including the top science official in Tony Blair’s government.  (Rather than disputed, that study has simply been ignored.  That’s the kind of “free press” America enjoys these days.)

But these are realities we must confront if we’re ever to defeat al Qaeda, whose cause has been well served by U.S. atrocities (a profound insult to those killed on 9/11):

– We looted Iraq for billions, destroyed a functioning power grid, and made fuel, sanitation, and potable water inaccessible to millions;

– America and our Iranian-backed allies tortured thousands of Iraqis, primarily Sunnis (more than 80% of whom were innocent, per quietly released Pentagon reports);

– The “Surge” employed sectarian death squads and air strikes to transform Baghdad, a city of five million, 65% Sunni, into a city 85% populated by Shiites (in the process, creating a million NEW refugees in addition to the four million we’d already created).

To much of the world America has become the very face of Evil.  It’s high time WE began to make amends.

Any other arrangement would be perverse.

This article represents yet another sorry entry in the NYT’s coverage of the Iraq war. EIGHT YEARS IN, the average report in this newspaper still repeats the same tired canards about Iraq and Moqtada al-Sadr.

Some background:

– Sadr’s movement is the most popular INDIGENOUS force in the country (which is why he has been such a problem for the occupier). His faction has essentially won every major election cycle dating back to January 2005 — but we have worked hard with our former-exile allies to thwart the will of Iraqis, consistently marginalizing al-Sadr (getting al-Maliki to betray him after Sadr delivered the votes that made him prime minister in the first place — something al-Sadr has done TWICE now). After years of providing services and security to millions of Iraq’s most impoverished Shi’ites, Sadr is the only Iraqi leader who can put scores of thousands of followers on the streets at a moment’s notice. He has proven a formidable opponent for this reason, as well as the fact that his movement has demonstrated intelligence, discipline, and restraint (many of the worst crimes attributed to his militia were actually committed by the Badr Brigades, operated by America’s chief Shi’ite ally in Iraq, the Iranian-born Supreme Council).

– Of the main Shi’ite factions, Sadr’s is the LEAST beholden to Iran. It is our allies, the Supreme Council and DAWA, who have much stronger ties to Tehran — in fact, the Supreme Council is entirely an Iranian creation: birthed, constituted, and trained in Iran. The chief reason we have vilified and twice tried to assassinate al-Sadr isn’t that he’s an “Iranian agent” (like the NeoCons’ pal, Chalabi); it’s that he has repeatedly pushed for a timeline for U.S. withdrawal.

– The chief reason we have allied ourselves with SCIRI and DAWA is that they share our interest in carving the country into three semi-autonomous blocks. Because they would split the country in three (contrary to the will of most Iraqis), we tolerate their torturing, secret-policing, corruption, and other anti-democratic conduct, no matter that their government increasingly resembles that of Saddam Hussein. (We didn’t even complain too vociferously when al-Maliki targeted some 600 leaders of the Sunni “Awakening” movement that had routed al Qaeda the previous year, despite the fact that we considered them some of our best allies of the entire war.)

– Far from the worst sectarian leader in the country, Sadr has repeatedly demonstrated solidarity with Iraq’s Sunnis — most notably when his “Mahdi Army” clashed with the U.S. in 2004, protesting Bush’s politically-motivated, militarily-foolish assault on Fallujah, in which U.S. bombing killed upwards of 250 civilians (early reports indicated more than 600 people killed, prompting al-Sadr to act). The U.S. military had advised against the assault on this Sunni city of 250,000 residents, but Bush wanted blood (and theater) after some Blackwater mercenaries were hung off a bridge to cheering crowds in an incident reminiscent of the 1990s fiasco in Somalia.

– Probably the most ludicrous thing Mr. Schmidt writes is that al-Sadr’s militia was “largely defeated” a few years ago. This claim is pure nonsense. The campaign to which Schmidt refers was a complete debacle for the Iraqi military, which was routed in a matter of days. Sadr’s JAM, assisted by Fadhila, controlled every checkpoint in Basra (Iraq’s key oil port and second largest city) in less than a week. American military commanders expressed frustration at the lack of coordination by the army units deployed by the IUG, not to mention the mass defections (funny: Iraqi Shi’ites turned out to be disinclined to go to war with their fellow Iraqi Shi’ites). The end result, U.S. forces moved in and Sadr’s forces melted away, as they had before, to fight another day.

Like it or not, Moqtada al-Sadr is one of the most important players in Iraq and will likely remain so. If we really want peace and stability for that country — which we certainly OWE it — then we need to stop caricaturing its true leaders in our leading newspapers. I’m not saying we need to sing Moqtada’s praises, but we should at least stop reiterating the propaganda that serves as an impediment to working with him in the future.

America has lost an incalculable amount in this war, in terms of lives, treasure, credibility, and moral standing. We should stop fighting the will of the Iraqi people, including in our power-servicing news outlets. Iraqis will determine what happens with their oil. They’ve already decided that their relationship with Iran is at least as important as their relationship with us. With no less than 100,000 Iraqis dead — and possibly several times that figure — as a result of the Bush administration’s greed, recklessness, and mendacity, it’s time for Americans to start being reasonable and HONEST.

The time for cardboard-cutout “bad guys” is past. At long last, it’s time to be halfway decent human beings. There’s still a chance to reclaim our honor… but it will require our humility.

The CRISES we face:

1) Joblessness in America

2) Crumbling infrastructure, roads-dams and education-broadband

3) Imperial national security state with dwindling moral stature and eroding civil liberties

4) Energy paradigm feeds terrorist states and risks global calamity, re: CO2 (per 95% of climate scientists; there’s NO controversy among experts about this dire threat)

Note: The deficit is a priority, but FAR from the first order of business.

The SOLUTION to ALL of these crises: Learn from history!  America, with a greater debt problem than the one we face today, SPENT our way out of the Depression — and frankly, we have areas that desperately need investment.

While our credit’s still good, we need to commit REAL money (not the “Stimulus” bill’s paltry $120 billion for transportation/infrastructure, but something on the order of $1 trillion) to INFRASTRUCTURE modernization. Greening our infrastructure will create JOBS, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels (depriving terrorist states of money AND curtailing our “vital security interests” in oil-producing nations, allowing us to end our counterproductive wars); and reduce CO2 — a priority for any sane, informed human being.

Shifting our energy paradigm and modernizing our infrastructure will create MILLIONS of jobs, reviving consumer activity and growing revenue (reducing our debt).  We will end our immoral wars of plunder and reap huge savings.

This is how we create a 21st-Century economy and bright future for America… if only the fossil-fuel and defense lobbies would allow it (too bad they run our government).

December 2010 through April 2011 denotes an important chapter in the history of the relationship between Barack Obama and progressives:  this period marks the moment when the president lost the last remnants of the faith that liberals had once invested in him (many of us saw it coming – only we never dreamed it would be quite this bad).

The final stake in Hope’s heart:  the president’s atrocious (ludicrous and cruel) “deal” to avert a government shutdown. 

The Republicans had begun the negotiations demanding some $32 billion in “draconian” cuts (Harry Reid’s phrase), mostly to social services, the poor, and regulatory agencies. 

The president, instead of talking them down some (or countering with cuts to military pork or subsidies to highly profitable corporations), managed to lose another $7 billion in cuts to the EPA, Medicaid, etc. by the time he was done “bargaining.”

This latest (hopefully final) wave of disillusionment with the president began in December, when Obama, with control of the House and Senate, extended the Bush tax cuts without a hint of a fight (these cuts are among the most regressive in history, with 42.5% going to the top 1% of earners; and, at a cost of $4 trillion, the Bush tax cuts are also the single largest driver of deficits over the next decade). 

That capitulation couldn’t have been easy for Obama.  He had to break a campaign promise for that one… something he has only done 30 or 40 times, at this point. 

Here are just a few of the most egregious examples:

Failing to close GITMO; reviving Bush’s “fascism-light” military tribunals; accepting rendition and indefinite detention as new legal norms; torturing Bradley Manning; attacking press freedom (WikiLeaks); threatening Julian Assange with assassination or execution; perpetuating war in Iraq and Afghanistan (Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia…); deploying drones that kill ten times as many civilians as militants (Brookings Institution); allowing huge corporate mergers, including in the media and financial sectors; shielding Wall Street crimes from investigation; threatening Net Neutrality; using black sites to hide prisoners from the Red Cross (a la Bush); continuing the practice of attaching Signing Statements to laws; asserting secrecy and immunity for official misdeeds; making backroom deals with corporations (PhRMA and AHIP); filling his administration with corporate insiders; genuflecting to the fossil fuel industry, nuclear power, and the military-industrial-security complex…

Endless war (as the infrastructure crumbles).  Endless pain for the poor.  Endless tax cuts for the richest (and least taxed) individuals and corporations in America’s history.

Barack Obama is no Democrat.

This is the Left’s moment of despair.  Anger.  Desolation.  Liberals feel betrayed (as well we should; Obama never even tried to live up to his campaign promises.  From the start, he treated his mandate for REAL CHANGE like a plague-infested cootie-sandwich left out in the sun for a few days).

Lick your wounds, my friends.  Sulk a little, I understand.  But don’t throw in the towel yet. 

Because very soon, it will be our turn.

NEXT:  The SOLUTION – How the Left can assert our relevance and make the Tea Party look like the make-believe “movement” (brought to you by NewsCorp) that it is.

(and after reading Krugman’s column, “The Mellon Doctrine,” check out my lengthy, informative, insightful, and broadly pithy post to the NYT, reproduced below)

THANK YOU, Prof. Krugman, for once again presenting a clear-eyed view of economic REALITY in America and refusing to peddle the establishment “Kool-Aid” embraced by Republican and Democratic politicians across the country (including our timorous, visionless president, Mr. Obama): the Tea-Party driven notion that draconian austerity and the “confidence fairy” will solve America’s economic woes.

(As most of us realize, the only hope for the country’s economic recovery lies in: 1) major investment in our crumbling infrastructure, 2) transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable forms of energy; 3) restoring a robust public education system with proven measures like reduced class size, decent salaries to attract talented teachers, and modern resources and facilities; 4) bringing healthcare costs under control — I’d say by adopting a single-payer system; 5) reforming our trade pacts to include environmental and labor standards, thereby making American workers and businesses more competitive; and 6) ending the fatally counterproductive, immoral, and hugely wasteful (often fraudulently so) “War on Terror” with its civilian-slaughtering drones, mercenary blunderers, “kill team” military culture, extralegal assassinations, indefinite detentions, and the whole global military-security complex that is bankrupting America and making us less secure and less free.)

But returning to Mr. Krugman’s excellent column…

Economically speaking, considering that 70% of our economy is derived from CONSUMER ACTIVITY, it is 100% moronic for policymakers to further depress the wages (purchasing power) and employment of America’s working class with huge, across the board spending cuts.

But that’s just what our elected officials are doing. They are eviscerating wages and benefits while laying off hundreds of thousands of teachers, healthcare workers, sanitation workers, firefighters…

Further depressing consumer activity, these corporate patsies (Walker, Kasich, Scott, Cuomo, Obama…) are also demolishing services to the POOR — money for healthcare, food stamps, and home heating oil subsidies – affecting both the chronically unemployed and the working poor (for “working poor” see Wal-Mart — heavily subsidized by taxpayers, in terms of food stamps and other social services extended to their impoverished “associates”).

As most economists understand, such spending cuts lead to far more expensive problems in the future (increased crime, disease, etc.).

But let’s forget the economy for a moment…

MORALLY speaking, it is deeply WRONG to force the bottom 80% of earners to bear the $20 TRILLION cost of the calamity that Wall Street wrought on our economy — a virtual Ponzi scheme well understood by the bankers, regulators, and politicians who pushed their fantasy about as far as it could go (not that they aren’t trying to reboot it in time for “Too-Big-Too-Fail 2.0”).

Instead of investing in the industries of tomorrow (that “future” Obama claims he wants to “win”), our elected officials are locking in the permanent contraction of the U.S. economy.

They’re letting American manufacturing and agriculture evaporate while Wall Street continues to siphon wealth from Uncle Sam and the poor suckers tricked into subprime mortgages (though more than a third qualified for prime).

They’re letting the fraudsters consolidate their ill-gotten gains in the form of millions of people’s confiscated HOMES — depressing real estate markets across the country and further crippling our economy (evicting families from houses the banks can’t even prove they own).

And while throwing the middle class to the wolves, the politicians are doubling down on inequality: eliminating the tax burden of the nation’s wealthiest and handing out hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks, royalty exemptions, and corporate welfare to the most powerful corporations in the history of the world.

The Tea Partiers are right about one thing: America does increasingly resemble the old Soviet Union, with its corrupt oligarchs, mass poverty, broken infrastructure, and kleptocratic rulers (turns out “crony capitalism” looks a lot like “crony communism” did).

If only they understood that their heroes (and sponsors) — the Koch brothers, Glenn Beck, Rush, Michelle Bachmann, and many of the other Birther-brained dopes they consider “ideologically pure” — are the precise culprits most aggressively leading the way to an American Politburo (and the main defect of Obama isn’t that he’s a “socialist,” but that he, too, answers to the corporate mob that’s been dismantling our democracy over the past few decades).

A JOKE: A billionaire, Tea Partier, and union worker sit down at a table with a platter filled with a dozen cookies. The billionaire takes 11 cookies and then whispers to the Tea Partier, “That union guy wants your cookie.”

(Okay, it would be funnier if it weren’t true.)

James O’Donnell III

For some, including (I imagine) practitioners of the faith under which I was raised, today is about four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, corned beef and cabbage, rainbows, and binge drinking.  But for me this day has always been about the color green, the color of Hope.

So here’s my “green” for the day:  I’m going to share with you my list of journalists, authors, and documentarians who stand out as beacons of hope.  

Here are some of the voices of reason — and vital sources of information — in our world today.  These are the folks who inspire me and help me get through the dark times when Despair seems to lurk around every corner.

Amy Goodman — Amy’s DemocracyNow! is quite simply the best news program in America today, cutting through the propaganda, Monday through Friday;

Bill Moyers — an exemplar of sharp, principled journalism for decades, Moyers has earned the trust of millions of Americans who still recognize integrity when they see it;

Glenn Greenwaldwriting for, Glenn has provided perhaps the fiercest, most articulate defense of civil liberties and the Constitution in the post-9/11 period;

Matt TaibbiRolling Stone is fortunate to have such a pithy, sharp analyst of 21st Century American politics and the colossal fraud committed by Wall Street;

Paul Krugman — Thanks to Paul Krugman’s brilliant analysis, integrity, and ability to translate arcane economic issues into layman’s speech, I have been ahead of the national learning curve on everything from the Bush tax cuts to systemic mortgage fraud, the potential fallout of which Krugman was reporting years before the crash;

David Cay JohnstonJohnston has done an excellent job detailing the extent to which our system is rigged to favor the richest parasites in world history;

Simon Johnson — the author of Thirteen Bankers, this former chief economist to the IMF has done an excellent job of exposing the crimes of the “banksters” who crashed the global economy and the desperate need to reform our financial system;

Scott HortonScott Horton has been vigilant in exposing America’s use of mercenaries in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the Bush-Obama assault on freedom, including the persecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks;

Jeremy Scahill — a veteran of DemocracyNow! Jeremy has become, perhaps, the leading authority on private contractors, especially Blackwater, exposing their lawless, reckless conduct at home and abroad;

Juan Cole — Prof. Cole’s views on the Middle East are invaluable, especially when it comes to debunking NeoConservative warmongering and alarmist claims;

John Nichols — writing for The Nation, Nichols is an astute political observer and principled progressive (no Democrat in progressive’s clothing), who has done much to expose the recent attempt by several U.S. governors to curtail American democracy;

Randall Robinson — if there is a more informed source of information on Haiti, from Haiti’s slave-uprising to the present period (including the U.S.-engineered coups of recent decades and stranglehold on relief funds), I have yet to encounter him/her;

Noam ChomskyChomsky deserves every bit of the legendary stature attributed to him; there is no one more capable of elucidating America’s foreign and domestic policy;

Norm Finkelstein — Prof. Finkelstein remains one of the most articulate, informed, and passionate voices advocating for justice in the Middle East;

Naomi Kleinthe author of The Shock Doctrine (the most timely, relevant book in existence today) continues to shine the light on the practitioners of “disaster capitalism” (still thriving under President “Hopey-Changey”);

John Perkins — The author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John continues to work for a more just and sustainable world with his unique perspective as a former Corporatocracy insider;

Charles Ferguson — I recently watched Ferguson’s excellent documentary Inside Job, exposing Wall Street criminality and the thoroughly corrupt political and regulatory environment that permitted a handful of banks to destroy the global financial system and economies the world over;

Alexander Gibney — another superb documentarian, I will always be grateful for his film, Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room and, more recently, his Taxi to the Dark Side, an unflinching look at the Bush administration’s embrace of systemic torture.

Honorable Mentions to this list would have to include:

Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, Antonia Juhasz, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, Chris Hedges, Tom Tomorrow (creator of This Modern World), Christian Parenti, Juan Gonzalez, Robert Reich, Dean Baker, Robert Scheer, Arundhati Roy, Gore Vidal, Norm Solomon, and… probably a few others I’m simply failing to recollect at the moment.

(Now go pick on someone else, ya’ bullies, with yer lobster-like pinchers!)