Sunday, August 07, 2005


By William Fisher

It’s only a small stretch to argue that the only thing less effective than U.S. public diplomacy in the Middle East is the pathetic effort of the Arab world to communicate anything credible to American and other Western audiences.

The reasons are numerous. Many of the people who work in the mid- to upper-levels of Arab governments are either technocrats or owe their jobs to cronyism, and are often ill equipped to carry them out. There are many bright, technically proficient men and women serving in communications-related jobs in Arab governments, but they are largely employed in putting out propaganda for domestic consumption on state-owned media. These governments do not have formal public diplomacy programs.

As a group, Arab states find it impossible to agree on much; so, for example, the Arab League has little to communicate, even if it had a public diplomacy program. Finally, Western prejudices against Arabs are huge; even if the Arabs could craft the right messages, it would take years and extraordinary strategic and tactical skills – and serious resources -- for them to be heard and believed.

Yet, absent any public diplomacy initiative from the Arabs, its conversation with the West will continue to be a dialogue of the deaf.

All the more reason Arab governments need to know about a new private-sector American program: the first-ever Master’s Degree in Public Diplomacy, just launched by the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

But how, governments may ask, can an American program help Arab public diplomacy?

One of the program’s “Toolbox” courses offers an example. "The Rhetoric of War, Peace and Religion," will look in a non-partisan way at cross-cultural rhetoric. The two professors developing this course have specialized in analyzing messages from both sides of the equation. Their research and instruction focuses on the motivations and roots surrounding conflict, American vs. Middle Eastern ways of war (from the U.S. concepts of presidential checks and balances, to motivations of national honor), to the role of rogue states as global players and the messages of their actors, how these messages are received cross-culturally vs. their intended message.

The program will also offer special topics courses. For example, a Middle East-centered course called "Media Diplomacy" looks at the role of non-state media actors in cultivating favorable images abroad, from examination of the “CNN effect” -- the impact of cable and satellite television such as Al Jazeera in shaping public opinion in and of the Middle East -- to cyber diplomacy and the role of official websites.

There are two core courses devoted to examining comparative global and historical practices of public diplomacy. And an international broadcasting course that includes guest lecturers from around the world, who discuss their strategies, tactics, successes and failures in using this tool for public diplomacy.

USC is also working to create a scholarship to fund to help Middle Eastern mid-career professionals, including government employees, to study in the Master's Program.

Joshua S. Fouts, Executive Director of USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy, says, “Because we are an academic institution, we do not have an agenda of training people to think a certain way about the U.S. or the U.S. government.”

Why should Arab governments care?

The reasons might seem obvious, but arguably are not being appreciated in the Arab world. In the West, three things are ‘known’ about Arabs: first, all Arabs are terrorists, and all terrorists are Muslims; second, Arabs care only about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and America’s failure to ‘fix it’; and, third, Arabs control the price of petrol at the pump.

People in the United States or France or Germany or the U.K. know virtually nothing about Arab traditions, civilization, scholarship, arts and literature, sense of family and hospitality.

Yet Arabs make up substantial minorities of the populations of Europe, Canada, and the U.S. Informing the indigenous populations there might help keep more Arabs and Muslims from becoming second-class citizens.

Moreover, the West is the principal investor in Arab economies and the principal customer for Middle East exports. The West pumps billions in aid into North Africa and Middle East. And, if all that were not enough, there is the issue of pride: The Middle East has much to be proud of and should feel an obligation to let others know that.

These days, it’s hard for any voice to be heard. But it’s even harder if no one is trying. And, among Arab nations, no one is really trying. Just about the only time the West hears anything about Arabs and Muslims – aside from bombs exploding – is through media reports about brutal, repressive governments, prisoners being tortured or disappeared, an election being rigged, or an Arab League Summit breaking up because of intramural squabbles. The last positive news out of the Arab world came not from a government, but from the scholars who wrote the Arab Development Reports.

As a matter of simple self-interest, it’s time to begin reversing this flow of negative information. In exactly the same way the U.S. now finds itself in a very long-term struggle to win hearts and minds in the Middle East, the Middle East faces a no less daunting challenge in getting the West to begin to understand it. It can’t be done quickly. But it can’t be done ever if someone doesn’t make a start.

That will require will and skill and knowledge not currently present. That’s why the California initiative is important.


By William Fisher

Hooray, a win for science!

At last, there is something nice I can say about John H. Marburger III, President Bush's science advisor.

It’s about time. I have usually found myself being critical of Dr. Marburger for either being complicit or remaining silent as the Bush White House adopts anti-science policies or spins science to pander to the President’s base of right wing religious fanatics.

I have disagreed with him on issues ranging from sex education (sex education should teach “abstinence only” and not include information on other ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy) to condom use (changing the posting on the website of the Centers for Disease Control to replace a comprehensive fact sheet on condoms with one emphasizing condom failure rates) to environmental protection (adding so many hedges to the climate change section of the EPA's report card on the environment that former administrator Christie Whitman deleted the section rather than publish one that was so scientifically inaccurate) to breast cancer (suggesting that women should be “counselled” about an alleged risk of breast cancer from abortions, while there is scientific consensus that no such link exists).

But after the commander in chief put his foot in his mouth last week by telling reporters that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution, Dr. Marburger was busily doing damage control.

He told the New York Times that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept."

But being a good team player, Dr. Marburger went on to say that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.

Social context? What is social context doing in a science class? Maybe in sociology, or comparative religion or anthropology, but in science classes?

I must confess to a certain sympathy for Dr. Marburger, however. I can’t think of a worse job for a scientist than trying to bring science to George W. Bush.

The reason has been clear for a long time. Science is about facts, and our President doesn’t care about facts. Ideology trumps every time – whether the subject is reproductive rights, HIV-AIDS, missile defense, prisoner abuse, social security, stem cells, or going to war.

I could almost be more forgiving if what we hear from George W. Bush was merely government spin. We’re used to that. We sort of expect it from our politicians, and we can deal with it.

What I find far more troubling is that the mythologies and half-truths coming out of the White House are what the media now politely refers to as ‘deeply held beliefs’. Like basing foreign policy on looking into President Putin’s soul!

Transparency notwithstanding, I almost think I’d prefer secrecy.

Stain on the White House

The article below appeared in The Village Voice on August 1, 2005.

By Nat Hentoff

The use of torture by our own government is a huge setback for human rights advocates and for the rule of the law around the world....Truth does not come from breaking people.

-- Douglas A. Johnson, executive director of Center for Victims of Torture, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 26, 2005.

You have a very hard job, because it is your job to put the soul back in the body.
-A client of the Center for Victims of Torture.

June 26 was the 20th anniversary of the Center for Victims of Torture, which provides technical assistance and training to more than 30 torture treatment centers in the U.S. and 15 others on five continents. The center also works for worldwide abolition of torture.

When the center was founded in 1985 in Minneapolis, there were-as its director, Douglas A. Johnson, noted on June 26-"only two other treatment centers in the world and little research to guide us. . . . What CVT has learned about [victims of government-sponsored] torture is from the survivors, who have taken the risk to trust us and tell us their stories. . . . [But] today our clients' belief in the safety and sanctity of their new home has been damaged. We are faced with our country's attempt to rewrite the rules of human rights and try to redefine torture."

On June 26, the center released letters to George W. Bush and to the Minnesota congressional delegation to further its mission to heal the wounds of torture and stop torture worldwide.

Bear in mind, before I quote from the letter, that as NYU law school's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice notes in its essential June 28 report, "Beyond Guantánamo: Transfers to Torture One Year After [the Supreme Court decision in] Rasul v. Bush," (on March 6 The New York Times reported):

"[E]xtraordinary renditions [by the CIA] have been carried out pursuant to a classified directive signed by President Bush a few days after September 11, 2001, that purports to grant the C.I.A. an 'unusually expansive authority' [to send terrorism suspects to countries known for torturing their prisoners]."

Thus, the ultimate responsibility for this country's continuous practice of torture stops at the White House. The June 26 letter to the president-drafted by the CVT for signatures-begins by directly reminding Bush, "One year ago, you marked United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture by declaring, 'America stands against and will not tolerate torture.' "

Speaking for myself, not for the CVT, George W. Bush-having authorized torture in that directive he refuses to declassify-is a whited sepulchre.

The letter urges Bush to issue an executive order to stop the CIA's "extraordinary renditions" and the repeated abuses of our prisoners in its and other interrogation centers. But since the president repeatedly, piously, insists that "we do not torture," this letter will not move him to obey American and international law on torture.

Nor will he respond to the letter's urging him "to support the creation of an independent commission with the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas to investigate all acts of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." (Emphasis added.)

How can George W. Bush insist on the formation of such a commission when, if it were to do its job, ultimate accountability for these crimes would ineluctably lead to the very top of the chain of command-the commander in chief?

The same demand for an independent commission is in the companion letter to Minnesota's U.S. senators and representatives. Human rights organizations have loudly and futilely called for an independent investigative commission in their messages to Congress as a whole.

So did the American Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (among other human rights and bar associations), on August 9, 2004. Like the Center for Victims of Torture's calls for an end to torture by American forces, the bar associations' vigorous attempt to shed sunlight on our shame-for the president's acts, however covert, are done in our name-has been almost entirely ignored by this nation's media watchdogs of our liberties.

The press itself has also been shamed more fundamentally. As the American Bar Association report emphasizes, "The American public still has not been adequately informed of the extent to which prisoners have been abused, tortured, or rendered to foreign governments which are known to abuse and torture prisoners. [We] urge the U.S. government to stop the torture and abuse of detainees, investigate violations of the law and prosecute those who committed, authorized or condoned these violations. (Emphasis added.)

But until U.S. torture is stopped and there are unadulterated prosecutions, not only will tortures continue but the other torturing nations and terrorists will snicker when they hear our president "denounce" torture while this country allows it.

Only an aroused American people-or enough of them-can force this Republican-dominated Congress to stop this shame of these United States. And for that to happen, the opposition party must use its organizing and communication resources to raise the consciousness, beyond party lines, of the citizenry.

However, although there are some deeply concerned members of Congress, the public leadership of the Democratic Party is somnolent on this issue, as it is on the administration's rewriting the rules of the Constitution.

What have you heard about torture from Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, and Harry Reid? The latter has even declared Alberto Gonzales qualified for a seat on the Supreme Court-the very same Gonzales who, as counsel to the president, orchestrated the "torture memos" that led to the acceleration and expansion of the American ways of torture.

How many Americans care enough to shame Congress and the one person who could stop torture right away? The man in the Oval Office.

The True Meaning of Zionism

Gershon Baskin is the Israeli CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. This article was originally published in he Jerusalem Post on July 25.

By Gershon Baskin

JERUSALEM -- I made aliyah 27 years ago from New York after being very active for 10 years in the Zionist youth movement's Young Judea. I grew up with a pluralistic attitude toward Jewish life in Israel. While I am not religious, I was taught and I taught others to have respect for religious beliefs and for religious people.

During the past years a gulf has opened up between Orthodox and nonreligious people in this state. Until recently I thought we could find an accommodation of peaceful coexistence. I am not so sure about that today.

I always believed that the true fulfillment of the Zionist dream required Israel to find the way to live with its neighbors. The Zionist dream was to create a safe haven for Jews from all over. This, by definition, means that Israel must provide shelter and security for Jews.

Political Zionism always found a way to advance the cause by being practical. But Zionism got sidetracked by the Arab-Israeli conflict. Zionism was not about conflict with our neighbors. It was about creating a just, progressive and humane society based on "Jewish values" for Jews to live and prosper, both in spirit and in substance. Real Zionism accepted the reality that non-Jews would always live within our midst. This was expressed with both eloquence and finesse in Israel's Declaration of Independence. That Declaration has always served, for me, as a kind of statement of intent and of the values upon which this state and this society rests, or should rest.

Zionism is not about occupying the West Bank and Gaza. The continuation of the settlement enterprise is an act of suicide for the Zionist dream. It is not only about demographics. It is perhaps even more so about values, morality and lessons that we, as Jews, should understand better than anyone else.

The disengagement from Gaza is a Zionist act. Ending our occupation and domination over Gaza and its people is an action aimed at saving Zionism from those who have tainted the noble aspects of its cause since 1967. The Zionist dream is still in danger and the Zionist enterprise is at risk as long as we continue our occupation and domination over the West Bank and its people. The march out of the
occupied territories must continue. We must return to ourselves and build Israel from within.

The future appears ominous. Over the past months I have watched the streets of Israel and, in particular Jerusalem, turn orange. As the streets, the trees and the fashion has adopted this new symbol I have found myself confronted with the very strong visual image of a people I do not recognize.

How could these people - with their messianic vision and value system that justifies treating the "other" as less equal than Jews - and I be part of the same nation? We have the same roots, we share a common heritage, we come from the same places, yet there has been a split; for some time they and their kind have been very different from me and my kind.

I received a bumper sticker in my e-mail this week. It was two Israeli flags, one in orange and white and the other in blue and white. It said beneath the flags: "Israel -two states for two peoples."

That is a pretty good expression of my feelings toward the settlers and their supporters. We do not share values. We do not share a common view on the nature of this country or what it has to do to save itself.

Their ideology says, "Jews don't expel Jews", implying that Jews may expel non-Jews. They believe that they can subjugate the Palestinians and that the Palestinians will thank them for providing them with bread and water. Their sense of superiority disgusts me and raises questions about how we can live together.

I recognize that they are not all the same; that even within the orange world there are many shades. But the worldview, conduct and ethics of the settlers are different from mine. We both claim that our behavior is based on Jewish values, but our interpretation of what these values are, are as different as night and day.

The disengagement from Gaza is a victory for me and my kind. It is not yet a done deal, though. There may be those in the orange camp willing to use violence or provoke acts that could freeze the disengagement. Blowing up the mosques on the Temple Mount or a terrorist attack against Palestinians could provoke a new wave of
Islamic terror that could lead to halting the withdrawal from Gaza.

As their desperation grows the chances of a cataclysmic type of event-taking place increases. There are those whose motivations are so irrational that taking human lives for their cause is as easy as killing a mosquito. The toxic mixture of messianic lunatics aligned with political fanatics is explosive. If they represent Zionism and Zionist values then I am not a Zionist and my dream is not the Zionist dream.

But what I believe and want for Israel and the Jewish people is the fulfillment of the vision of the Declaration of Independence.

I want to be a free people in my nation living in peace with my neighbors both within and along our borders. I cherish diversity and appreciate the wealth of cultural pluralism that we can experience in this land and in this region. I don't want to rule over another nation and don't want their land. If important parts of my heritage and history are on the other side beyond our borders, I might want to visit them. But I don't have to be in possession of those places or rule over others in order to control them.

Many of those holy places are also holy for others who live in this land and who have other beliefs. Judaism teaches us to sanctify life, not places. The Zionist dream is a political expression of the sanctification of life. If we are worthy of living in this land we must respect all its peoples. We must recognize that our own security and prosperity is dependent on the security and prosperity of both peoples of this land. If we want dignity and respect for ourselves and our dreams, we must give dignity and respect to the others.

One day, I hope, the Israeli-Arab conflict will end. The struggle to reach that end will heighten and deepen the feeling of alienation between the two Jewish peoples of this state. We will then have to confront how we live together in peace and mutual respect.

Right now it seems like an impossible dream; right now it feels like a nightmare.

George Bush Knows Why They Hate Us

By Jason Miller

Why do they hate us? President George Bush posed this question to the American public shortly after 9/11. It is a strong affirmation of the power of propaganda that some Americans still pose this as a serious question, and are legitimately dumb-founded that such antipathy exists toward the United States. Our government, media and schools start burnishing the false notion of American moral superiority into our brains at a very young age. However, beneath the thin veneer of their white-washed accounts of history and current events, abundant sources of information reveal the true malevolence of the moneyed elite who rule America. There is a great body of evidence which obliterates the inane notion that the United States is a benevolent world leader. Despite the ready availability of contrary evidence, many Americans remain blind to the truth about our despised nation, and choose to believe the fairy tale version of “truth, justice and the American Way”. The sad reality is that America is an imperialistic, avaricious war machine ruled by the wealthy. Yes, much of the world despises this nation. Our leaders have virtually assured abhorrence of America, and what’s more, they do not care!

Hubris, avarice, over-consumption….what's not to love?

America’s Corporatacracy is leading the human race down a path of global extinction. Representing only 5% of the world population, the United States consumes 25% of the world's energy and possesses approximately 27% of its wealth. Through lobbying efforts and major campaign donations, the major oil companies ensure the implementation of government policies that ensure continued dependence on fossil fuels, a non-renewable resource (for more on this, study the theory of Hubbert Peak theory at Despite being a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect, the US Plutocracy has spent millions of dollars to create junk science (look to efforts by the Cato Institute) to "debunk" the notion of global warming, and has refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty. The United States innovated, tested (on hundreds of thousands of human beings), and possesses devastating nuclear weapons. Yet with blatant hubris and hypocrisy, our ruling Oligarchs attempt to dictate which nations can and cannot develop nuclear capabilities. America’s allies, like Pakistan, India, and Israel have developed nuclear weaponry with America's blessing, while countries like Iran are forbidden to even acquire the technology to generate nuclear power. The ruling Aristocracy of the United States has long exhibited a flagrant disregard for international law, world opinion, and most recently, for the United Nations (consider the appointment of John Bolton as America’s UN "ambassador").

While the rest of the world has many reasons to hate the United States, perhaps their most compelling motivation is the mayhem, abject poverty, and murder resulting from the imperialistic endeavors of the US military industrial complex, which includes the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Energy; the intelligence community; and the myriad private corporations which have incestuous relationships with the government (i.e. Halliburton). Spending $500 billion per year on the perpetuation of the world's largest and mightiest war machine, the US (with a mere 5% of the world's population) accounts for half of the world's military spending. Regardless of which half of the Democratic/Republican Duopoly has been in power, the ruling elite has perpetuated domination of the rest of the world through direct military intervention (think Iraq), economic warfare (i.e. the persistent yet failed policies toward Cuba), and overt or covert support of ruthless totalitarian regimes which advance the interests of US corporations (i.e. the Shah of Iran).

Not as free as we are taught we are, but still freer than most….in spite of them

Despite the ruthless devotion of our aristocratic leaders to unrestrained capitalism, the perpetuation of a majority of the wealth remaining in the hands of the few (the wealthiest 20% of Americans possess 83% of our nation's vast wealth), and the reduction of the civil liberties of "commoners", the brilliant Constitution drafted by our forefathers has maintained a semblance of a liberal democracy in the United States. The fact that I am writing this essay for publication is a testament to that fact. However, before celebrating too hard, remember that throughout American history there has been an ebb and flow of social justice, and the tide is clearly ebbing. Need evidence? Consider the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, the declaration of a perpetual state of war on terror (increasing the authority of the federal government), higher regressive taxes, lower progressive taxes, a growing concentration of political power in the hands of legalistic Christians (the Religious Right), legislated discrimination against gays, an erosion of affirmative action, and a significant decline in funding for social safety net programs (i.e. Medicaid) coupled with increases in defense spending. As Americans, we still enjoy many of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, but we enjoy them in spite of the true nature and intent of our leaders. We are taught and programmed to believe that we enjoy these freedoms because of the imperialistic endeavors of our elite leaders (like the "War to End All Wars"), which "keep the world safe for democracy". The reality is that Americans remain free because of the ongoing vigilance of many amongst us, and to some extent because allowing a degree of freedom amongst their own subjects enables the American ruling class to engage in aggression against other nations under the pretext of "spreading freedom and democracy".

Like Capra’s Potter, these “warped frustrated old men” view people as cattle….

The American ruling elite's ultimate goal of global domination precedes the well-being of its subjects. In fact, to the US aristocracy, the poor, working class, and diminishing middle class are disposable cogs in their monolithic money-making machine. They understand that they are endangering the American people by continuing to foster hatred and inspire terrorism, but it is of little consequence to them.

Concerning America’s current leadership, Noam Chomsky wrote:

For the political leadership, mostly recycled from more reactionary sectors of the Reagan–Bush I administrations, “the global wave of hatred” is not a particular problem. They want to be feared, not loved. They understand as well as their establishment critics that their actions increase the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terror. But that too is not a major problem. Higher on the scale of priorities are the goals of establishing global hegemony and implementing their domestic agenda: dismantling the progressive achievements that have been won by popular struggle over the past century and institutionalizing these radical changes so that recovering them will be no easy task.

While both parties of the bloated, corrupt Duopoly ruling the United States are guilty of blatant violations of international law and crimes against humanity throughout history, the current administration has operated more brazenly and with more impunity. Kennedy had Cuba. Johnson and Nixon shared the culpability for the deaths of over 3 million in Vietnam. Reagan bloodied his hands in Nicaragua. Clinton's bombing campaign killed thousands of innocents in Kosovo. Yet somehow, these presidents managed to maintain the United States' image of an aloof and perhaps even benevolent super-power. America's current administration has not maintained this facade nearly as well, and has led the United States down a path entailing a much more blatant disregard and disrespect for international law and the rights of other nations. There are numerous historical examples of the immoral, illegal, and repulsive US imperial dominance of other nations achieved through a variety of means, perhaps the most inclusive, perpetual, instructive, and relevant example is that of Iraq. Recognizing a nation rife with political instabilities and virtually incalculable riches through its oil reserves, the US Plutocracy has been targeting Iraq for years. Bush II finally bagged it, but got more than he bargained for in the process.

Today, staunch ally….tomorrow, sworn enemy

One of the most disturbing aspects of US involvement in Iraq has been our government’s schizophrenic relationship with Saddam Hussein. Donald Rumsfeld, an influential member of the Reagan, Bush I and now Bush II administrations made the following statements that demonstrate the gross inconsistency of the US Oligarchy’s position on Saddam and Iraq (explained by their shifting loyalties based on their shifting needs for more money and power rather than a commitment to their self-proclaimed Higher Purpose of spreading freedom):

"As with all sovereign nations, we respect Iraq's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

- Donald Rumsfeld, 1983

"This is a regime that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people."

-- Donald Rumsfeld March 21, 2003

In 1979, the year of the Iranian hostage crisis, Saddam Hussein became president of Iraq as a member of the ruling Ba'ath party, which the CIA had propelled to power in 1963. The following year, Iraq invaded Iran and the eight year Iran-Iraq war ensued. The cost was one million lives. Before Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in 1981, the Carter administration had listed Iraq as a nation which sponsored terrorism. Despite this, and despite the knowledge within the US intelligence community that Iraq had been building an arsenal of chemical weapons (WMDs) since the mid 1970's, Reagan began supporting Iraq and Hussein in the war against Iran. Under Reagan, Iraq was no longer an "official" sponsor of terrorism and quickly became a clandestine strategic ally of the United States, with full eligibility for American economic and military aid waiting in the wings. The US started funneling weaponry to support Hussein’s' war effort through third parties like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and by 1983 was selling conventional arms directly to Iraq.

In 1983, US envoy Donald Rumsfeld paid a personal visit to Hussein and restored diplomatic relations, which had been cut during the 1967 Arab-Israel War. America’s rulers resumed relations with Iraq despite their knowledge that Hussein had used chemical weapons against Iran only a few months before. They also knew that Hussein was building manufacturing facilities to produce more WMDs. Rumsfeld, one of the strongest advocates of the removal of Hussein from power under Bush II, was a strong proponent of the relationship with Hussein under Reagan. By 1984, both the US State Department and European doctors had confirmed that Iraq was using nerve gas against Iranians. After digesting this information, the US Aristocracy decided to initiate a program which forgave $5 billion worth of agricultural loans to Iraq between 1983 and 1990, freeing up more cash for Hussein to fund his war machine.

Hussein's relationship with the United States came into full bloom in 1985. Protecting the flow of US weapons and money to Saddam, the Reagan administration pressured a member of Congress to drop a proposed resolution that would have reclassified Iraq as a supporter of terrorism. The US Commerce Department began a five year pattern of approving sales of US computers to Iraq for use in weapons labs. 1985 marked the advent of the Reagan administration supplying Hussein with biological weapon precursors like botulism and anthrax. By 1988, the US had made 70 shipments of these precursors to fuel Saddam’s WMD program.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the hypocrisy of the US Oligarchs in Iraq occurred in 1988. In March, Hussein launched a poisonous gas attack and killed 5,000 Kurds in the Iraqi town of Halabja. In July, one of the Corporatacracy's own, Bechtel (Secretary of State George Shultz’s' company), won a contract to build a petrochemical plant, which Hussein could use to manufacture more WMDs. Besides continuing to support Iraq and to enable its corporate darlings (like Honeywell, Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, and DuPont) to profiteer from the war, the Reagan administration crushed a Congressional attempt to sanction Hussein for committing genocide against Iraqi Kurds.

Fall from grace

Saddam Hussein committed political suicide in 1990 when he invaded Kuwait. With the Iran-Iraq conflict over, our ruling elite no longer needed Hussein. Having the chutzpah to violate international law, which America's leaders hold to be sacrosanct when it suits their purposes, Hussein gave the US a justification for starting a war with him. The Gulf War served several purposes for the US Aristocracy. It enabled them to flex their military might as the Soviet Union, the world's other super-power, was collapsing. The victory over Saddam erased the American public’s memory of the embarrassing defeat in Vietnam. Most importantly, it enabled the Plutocracy to reap the bountiful harvest of corporate profits fueled by a war. America’s ruling elite class knows the true bounties of war, particularly if the opponent is relatively weak and hapless.

Estimates vary widely, but hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died during the Gulf War and the period of harsh economic sanctions which followed. On August 6, 1990 (shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait), the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, imposed "comprehensive" economic sanctions on Iraq. These sanctions remained in place after the US-led coalition forces drove Hussein from Kuwait a year later. Before the Gulf War, Iraq was one of the most highly developed countries in the Middle East, offering a majority of its people electricity, potable water, free education, sewage treatment, and according to the World Health Organization, access to health care. Since the UN originated the use of economic sanctions in 1945, Iraq was the first (and only) nation to suffer under comprehensive sanctions, in which the UN controls virtually all of the exports and imports of a nation. The US, as the most powerful member of the UN Security Council, was instrumental in delaying or choking off imports of food, medicine, and other necessities. Again, estimates vary, but anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the economic sanctions. The mortality rate for children under five tripled between 1989 and 1997. From 1990 to 1995, the infant mortality rate doubled. Safe drinking water availability was down 50% from pre-Gulf War levels. Malaria and other diseases became epidemics. School enrollment for Iraqis from ages 6-23 dropped by 53%. While some of the statistics and numbers are subject to debate, what is indisputable is that the severe economic sanctions (spear-headed by the United States) resulted in suffering, misery and death for many innocent civilians, while Saddam Hussein, the target of America's wrath, continued to prosper.

It is worthwhile to note that while Iraqis were suffering under brutal economic sanctions driven by the US, Dick Cheney (a poster child for America's ruling Plutocracy) was the CEO of Halliburton Corporation (from 1995 to 2000), and was prospering nicely. When he left to become Vice President, they bestowed him with a parting gift of $34 million. The Washington Post reported that during Cheney's tenure as CEO, Halliburton sold $73 million worth of services and equipment to Iraq to rebuild its oil infrastructure. Cheney, a true capitalist, was not about to let Hussein’s enemy status stand in his way of making a profit.

The business of America WAS business….now it is war

When Bush II assumed office in 2000, US leadership took its obsession with Hussein and Iraq to a new level. Surrounding himself with men like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz, three Neocons who were veterans of the reign of Bush I, Bush crafted the "Bush Doctrine". Under the Bush Doctrine, the United States proclaimed its indisputable right to engage in pre-emptive war against those they deemed to be terrorists or rogue states, and asserted the US right to act unilaterally (without regard for international law or the UN). Two other aspects of this hubristic, bellicose, machismo-driven set of principles included the US intent to keep its "military strengths beyond challenge" and the US objective that it would actively seek to promote "democracy and freedom in all regions of the world". The members of America’s military industrial complex were elated. America was (and still is) the largest war machine in the history of humanity. To ice their cake, the profit hungry Capitalists now had publicly-stated policy that its government partners were going to “unleash the beast” on the world. After seeing the "democracy and freedom" the US Oligarchy helped perpetuate in Iraq when Hussein was our ally (not to mention numerous similar examples in Latin America), do Americans really need to ask why many in the world hate us?

Lies and consequences…..

The weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein had created with materials supplied by the US under the Reagan administration had been destroyed or rendered harmless under UN supervision by 1996. However, for over a year prior to the March, 2003 invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq, the Aristocracy governing America bombarded the “commoners” with a stream of propaganda designed to prey on fears fostered by 9/11. With little to support their pathetically flimsy arguments that Saddam Hussein (their own creation and former ally) had somehow amassed a cache of WMDs after his disarmament in 1996, and that Hussein (a secular leader) had formed close ties with Osama bin Laden (a radical Muslim), they utilized the power of the herd mentality to gain popular support for the war they craved. Growing bodies of evidence, including the absence of WMDs in US-occupied Iraq, the findings of the 9/11 Commission, and the Downing Street Memos, indicate that the US Oligarchs lied to Congress and to the American people to garner support to launch their war (in defiance of the UN).

As of 8/4/05, 1,827 US soldiers had died in combat and 13,559 had been wounded. Estimates of civilian casualties caused by the US invasion vary from 25,000 to the 100,000 reported in the reputable British medical journal, The Lancet. Discrepancies aside, an obscene number of innocents have been slaughtered. Human Rights Watch notes that a significant number of the civilian casualties resulted from the decision of the US military to use cluster munitions in highly populated areas, a violation of international humanitarian laws of war. These laws oblige armed forces to "refrain from attacks that are indiscriminate or where expected civilian harm exceeds the military gain." America entered the war in defiance of the UN and riding on Congressional and public support based on the lies of the Bush Administration. Thousands and thousands of people have died. They have wasted billions of dollars. American leaders have defied international law by using cluster munitions and torturing prisoners of war. What was that question again? Why do they hate us?

Get on the gravy train……

Now that the military industrial complex has torn Iraqi infrastructure down, someone will need to rebuild it. Who could possibly be up to such a task? With an estimated price tag of over $100 billion to rebuild post-war Iraq, the Corporatacracy is lining up for the contracts. Bechtel was at the head of the line as they received a $680 million contract in April of 2003. As Dick Cheney continues to receive deferred compensation from Halliburton at the rate of $1 million per year, Halliburton's subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root secured a 10 year contract (with an open-ended budget) to provide support services to the US military starting in 2001, and is heavily exercising that contract in Iraq. The US government paid KBR $3.6 billion in 2003 and $5.4 billion in 2004 for Iraq-related work. As the number two US contractor in Iraq, Bechtel's war-related revenue was over $4 billion in 2004. Halliburton is under investigation for charges of over-billing to the tune of $1 billion, while Bechtel has been plagued by problems related to shoddy work. While flag waving propaganda may fool some Americans into believing the war in Iraq is "making the world safe for democracy", many in the rest of the world see the profit motive that has led to so much human suffering. I cannot imagine what could possibly motivate detestation of the Red, White, Blue, and Green(backs).

Terrorist acts and acts of military aggression are morally repugnant. Those committing these crimes deserve to face justice. Regrettably, as evidenced by the poignant example of Iraq, the leaders of the United States have been committing war crimes and acts of terrorism for years without consequence. While the US has rendered justice upon its attackers throughout its tenure as the world’s superpower (and has rendered a grossly misplaced justice on the “terrorists” by invading Iraq), the rest of the world has had little choice but to turn the other cheek when it comes to the profiteering, imperialism, and state-sponsored terrorism perpetrated by America’s Oligarchy. Acting with impunity and arrogance, America’s leaders have an unprecedented military might at their disposal, possess a nuclear arsenal powerful enough to destroy the world thousands of times over, ignore international law but impose it on others, use the UN to inflict damage on other nations but openly defy its rules, hoard the world’s riches and resources, defile the Earth which sustains us, support ruthless dictators, and employ terrorism through the CIA. George Bush knows why they hate us, and he likes it……