Monday, January 16, 2006


Vice President Cheny's former company, Halliburton, has made billions from the occupation of Iraq
(This column will appear in the January 19, 2006 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)

"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety, and will end up losing both.”

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, circa 1759.

“The furor over the National Security Agency wiretapping without court approval is stirred by thoughtless people intent on criticizing the president.... the U.S. Constitution provides for broad powers when it comes to national security.... It’s forgiveable that Americans might be alarmed when hearing that their president had authorized eavesdropping on private telephone calls.... we must for our own security. Eavesdropping on terrorists is not only the right thing to do, it is logical. The president has ordered it for our national security.”

Unsigned editorial, January 15, 2006 The Albany Herald.

As my son- my only child- prepares for his second tour of duty in Iraq, I can only shake my head at the nefarious villains and complete idiots who, alternately, want to steal our freedom and give it away. All in the name of “national security” to save us from mysterious, mostly anonymous, suicidal Islamic fanatical terrorists who are portrayed as being as different from us as the night is from the day.

How many Americans, exposed to the Bush Administration’s constant litany of words intended to evoke hate and fear, the conflation of “Terrorism and Iraq” and “Islam and Fascism” (great irony there in the inclusion of the “F” word by those most likely to institute it here), are scared, angry, and confused? Well, that’s just the way the villains want you to feel. And when you do, the next steps are easy as you surrender the liberties won through the precious blood and sweat of our forefathers.

Those who oppose the Bush Administration’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, the violations of International Law, the implementation of policies which caused the murder and torture of human beings, and the open violations of the United States Constitution, including illegal wiretapping and detention of Americans, wonder why our government is so dysfunctional that Congress won't even investigate the President's admitted lawbreaking, let alone draw up a bill of impeachment.


And those who consider themselves on the '"right" who support the President- like the Herald’s editorialist- will say that these criticisms hurt the morale of the troops, are unpatriotic and anti-American. But anyone with a smidgeon of an appreciation of history knows that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Today’s self-proclaimed patriots are no exception. Their primary goal has nothing to do with our freedom, national security, defeating international terrorism, or promoting democracy and peace abroad. Their quest is for power, money, or both, and their method of obtaining and keeping them is to keep the American population in a constant state of fear of a powerful external enemy who may have infiltrated the United States.

Filmmaker Eugene Jarecky recently released a documentary, Why We Fight, in which he interviewed Americans in 30 states, asking them why we are at war. The first word that springs to their lips is “Freedom,” but most have doubts about the true reasons for this war. Jarecky’s film includes quotes from Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican two term President, who presciently warned America of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” that would take our nation to war for profits if we didn’t reign them in.

Our largest defense contractor, Lockheed-Martin, raked in an extra $4.9 billion dollars in defense contracts, from $17 billion to $21.9 billion, a 29 percent increase, the year we invaded Iraq. Not coincidentally, Lockheed provided a corporate Vice President for marketing, Bruce Pitcairn Jackson, to head up President Bush’s “Coalition for the Liberation of Iraq” in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. Jackson was a Bush delegate to the 2000 Republican convention whose Lockheed job was to leverage huge weapons sales to foreign countries.

Jackson’s job on behalf of his employer and the President? To drum up support for the war and put out false information from the likes of Achmed Chalabi, an Iraqi “nationalist” who was secretly an Iranian agent and who was previously convicted in Jordan of looting a bank. During the 2003 State of the Union address, Chalabi was the President’s gallery guest when Bush uttered the infamous “sixteen words,” falsely accusing Iraq of attempting to obtain yellow cake uranium in the African nation of Niger.

Halliburton went from off the charts ($500 million, #37) to the top ten of defense contractors ($3.5 billion, #7) within 12 months of the onset of the war. Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton’s former CEO, is still receiving tens of thousands of dollars from the company. A complacent Republican Congress has refused to investigate the no bid contracts, outrageous overpricing, and outright thefts of billions of dollars which have occurred during the “reconstruction” of Iraq, much of it attributed to Halliburton.


But the President and the chief architects of the war dare not admit the true reasons they aren’t interested in winning the “War on Terror” or why they didn’t have an exit strategy for Iraq. Instead, they explain our invasion and continued occupation of Iraq by saying “American Troops are fighting for our freedom” and “Americans are fighting to ensure Iraqis can have freedom and democracy.” Even the Pentagon’s euphemism for the war is “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

And how do the Iraqis feel about their newly granted freedom? Here’s a recent dispatch from Iraq, courtesy of Dahr Jamail:

"Nobody will allow us to leave our homes now," 17 year-old student Salam said after a roadside bomb exploded just blocks away from his home in central Baghdad. "Everybody is afraid they might be kidnapped just like our relative who had been kidnapped for two weeks."

Salam said his relative was released after 4,000 dollars ransom was paid. Now, he said, no one will allow children to leave the house.

Salam's uncle who had traveled from Amman had his car robbed at gunpoint. "They held guns to me and my mother's heads," the uncle said. "They then pushed both of us out of the car along with my daughter, and took our car."

It is certainly more than theoretically possible for a Fascist takeover of the United States. But it won’t come from foreign troops or an Islamic enemy outside or inside the U.S. We are perfectly capable of destroying our own freedom in the name of national security. Our recent history is no comfort- the World War II unlawful imprisonment of a whole people (Japanese Americans) who committed no crimes, based solely on racial differences and our fears of the "Yellow Peril," and the McCarthy era of the early 1950's when we were closer to Fascism than any time before or since, with blacklisting and paranoia being the order of the day.

But the real question is: do we truly want to be a nation of laws, where no one is above the law, where we do not murder, torture, or arbitrarily imprison, where Presidents who are lawbreakers are answerable in the Courts and in Congress? Anyone who has read history knows that war mongering self-proclaimed “patriots” in 2006’s America are nothing new under the sun. Every Fascist and totalitarian government in history has claimed to be acting on behalf of the people, for their security, against outsiders and enemies who were demonized and whose dangerousness was blown out of proportion (for Hitler it was the Communists and Jews).

For my part, I prefer to live in a free country where dissent is not only tolerated but welcomed, where debates are about ideas and not about personal attacks, where respect for human life and due process of law trumps an inchoate irrational fear of enemies camped outside the gates and Fifth Columnists within them.

And for the life of me, growing up in the 1950's and 1960's, I never dreamed I would be writing the above paragraphs in the United States of America about my own country.


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