Month: June 2003

The War Continues…

The circus lions of the US media faithfully refrained from reporting on the June 9th launch of the largest US military offensive in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, leaving Americans blissfully unaware that George W. Bush lied about more than the existence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Bush’s stage-managed victory celebration on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf was almost immediately contradicted by US military officers in the field, who’ve repeatedly told the British press and wire service reporters that the war is far from over. In fact, BBC News (6/12/03) recently reported that, since May 1 when Bush declared the war largely won, there were 85 attacks on US forces in May alone, triple the number of attacks in the previous month. The Guardian of London (6/13/03) reported that at least 10 US troops have died and 25 been injured in the two weeks since the beginning of June, with more than a dozen strikes per day against US troops in the past week alone. One horrible day last week was filled with 26 separate attacks against US troops all over Iraq.

Military spokesmen in Qatar and Washington have told reporters that the new offensive was launched to flush out Saddam Hussein loyalists in a triangular area north and west of Baghdad, the reputed “Sunni triangle,” which includes towns (like Fallujah) where US troops have come under daily sniper fire since the beginning of the occupation. But many of the attacks have been made in areas outside of the “Sunni triangle,” including Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, which US military officers recently (prematurely) hailed as a model of security.

The charge that the offensive is aimed ostensibly at Baath Party members and other Saddam loyalists would hint that there is an organized resistance to be defeated. But both US military spokesmen and reporters have pointed out that the resistance is scattered, “diverse,” and not organized into any chain of command–once again contradicting the Bush administration in Washington, which wants the American people to desperately believe that things are under control in Iraq. The official story goes like this: once the military cleans up the last vestiges of Saddam’s militias (and hopefully finds Saddam himself), these attacks will go away.

Troops on the ground, however, have reason to doubt the official line. Few of their attackers have been revealed to be Baath Party loyalists.

Diverse Iraqi groups, from Shiites in the south to Kurdish groups in the north, organized militias long before the current spate of attacks against US soldiers began to escalate in May. With the start of the war, as each successive city and town was abandoned by Saddam’s troops, tribal groups and armed gangs quickly moved in and held sway. In larger cities, including Baghdad, neighborhoods organized their own militias. The first priority of newly formed political parties has been to hire men with guns to police their “turf.” Even Iraqi exile groups returning to Baghdad–most notoriously Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress–immediately hired small personal armies. Widespread looting of police stations has made it all possible, allowing every household in Iraq to possess AK-47s or Kalishnikovs, while abandoned armed caches have provided grenade launchers and landmines to enterprising scavengers.

So far US efforts to disarm the population have failed dismally, and no wonder. Crime and looting are still rampant in most cities and towns, where the streets remain deserted at night for safety reasons. Iraqi businesses close early to avoid robberies and Iraqi truck drivers carry automatic weapons to repel looters and hijackers. Iraqi women report a huge upsurge in rapes and child disappearances. Even the head of the Iraqi oil industry is deeply frustrated by the continued looting, even today, of newly-repaired Iraqi oil infrastructure.

A host of other ills plague Iraqis. With a lack of clean water, food, and medical supplies, Iraqis are suffering an upsurge in malnutrition and disease since the beginning of the war, according to UN aid agencies. The lack of security makes it nearly impossible to remedy these problems. Few Iraqi civil servants have returned to their jobs, because the US Interim Authority hasn’t issued any paychecks. Revenue that was supposed to be coming in from Iraq’s oil fields has been stalled by continued looting–and outright sabotage–of the oil infrastructure, a nightmare scenario that may foreshadow the need for thousands of more US troops just to guard Iraqi pipelines and pumping stations.

Meanwhile, the US Interim Authority remains sequestered behind high walls in one of Saddam’s opulent palaces–a symbol not wasted on embittered and embattled Iraqis. When Paul Bremer, the US’s viceroy, travels outside of the compound, he rides in a bulletproof limousine surrounded by troops in armored vehicles. This prevents any assassination attempt, but also prevents any contact with ordinary Iraqi people and their concerns.

Even the failed search for weapons of mass destruction has frustrated Iraqis and turned them against the US Interim Authority. Most Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein and now yearn for justice. Naturally, they want a war crimes tribunal. But such a trial requires evidence, and the US military has fumbled the ball. By allowing major weapons sites and government buildings–from major ministry buildings in Baghdad down to lowly police stations in outlying villages–to be ransacked by looters who carried away file cabinets and computers, importance evidence has disappeared. US search teams tasked with finding evidence for war crimes trials in Iraq are still languishing here in the US, waiting to be dispatched overseas.

Meanwhile, relatives of the people murdered by Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime are being forced to dig up mass graves by themselves and attempt to identify the remains of their loved ones with no help from the US, Britain, or the UN. International war crimes experts have warned that valuable information that could be used to convict Baath Party officials will be lost while Iraqis disturb mass graves and move remains. The US Interim Authority has ignored this problem.

Even George Bush’s and Tony Blair’s outright lies about weapons of mass destruction have added to Iraqi hostility. While George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney attempt to soothe the US press by saying that the search is continuing and that weapons of mass destruction will be found eventually, the seven US military Site Survey Teams in Iraq are all sitting idle, having completely run out of places to look. And now the CIA has leaked information that shows the Bush administration knowingly presented false evidence to the UN and the American people. Iraqis understand the implications of this: the US attacked them for their oil, and not because Saddam Hussein was an international threat.

In the meantime, the new US military offensive is not achieving its stated goals: no huge weapons caches have been found, few Baath Party members have been captured, Saddam is still at large, and attacks against US troops continue all over Iraq. On Thursday, June 12, after three days of fighting in the Sunni triangle, the US’s main nightmare scenario in Iraq came true: the main oil pipeline between Iraq’s northern oil fields and Turkey was sabotaged near Kirkuk. While US sources claim the pipeline ignited on its own, the pipeline was not being used at the time, and nearby residents of the village of Makhoul told reporters, “some Iraqis came and blew it up” to “stop the Americans taking the oil out to Turkey.”

Clearly, the US’s new offensive has nothing to do with rooting out a few leftover Baath Party supporters. Instead, it’s a desperate bid to regain control in Iraq, where a heavily armed population is quickly turning against the US occupation.

Olympia: Crawling On Their Bellies

Last week the Legislature in Olympia wrapped up its special session on Tuesday without having voted on the Boeing bills that Gov. Gary Locke so ardently wanted to pass. So he called them back for a one-day special session to pass some tax breaks for Boeing. Naturally, with their leader having deserted them, the House Democrats caved in again and gave Gov. Bend-Over-For-Boeing everything he asked for and more.

The only thing worse than Locke’s traitorous pimping is the way Seattle newspapers reported it: as if Boeing’s whole 7E7 project hinges on our giving away the store. The most surreal experience of all was opening the Sunday, June 15 issue of The Seattle Times to see a nearly full-page, front-page spread on the 7E7. The story continued to several inside pages, where the poor, unfortunate reporters assigned to write on this dismal topic were forced to tackle such non-stories as “Will it ever be built?” and “Airline customers aren’t exactly lining up to place orders.” Well, duhhh.

So what did the Legislature serve to Boeing on a platter? Merely the biggest package of tax breaks this state has ever given to a single company. Boeing will get $3.2 billion in direct tax cuts over the next 20 years. In addition, changes made to the state’s Unemployment Insurance plan will save Boeing $5 to $7 million per year, at the direct expense of all workers who claim Unemployment, who will now receive only 26 weeks of benefits, instead of 30. The biggest losers will be seasonal workers: the folks who build the homes we live in, the people who pave our roads, and the families who pick, sort, and pack the food that fills our refrigerators.

As if that weren’t enough, the Legislature also made changes to the Worker’s Compensation system to limit claims for hearing loss; Boeing’s notoriously noisy factories will benefit the most from this change.

Add the $16 million for a new port facility in Everett, combined with an exemption from shoreline rules so it can be built quickly, and it becomes obvious that Boeing can still write it’s own meal ticket in Olympia.

How did Boeing celebrate this good news? By announcing that the company will lay off 266 more workers and send their jobs to Chile. Notably, the new port facility is being built to increase the size of containers that can be shipped through Everett, so Boeing will be able to ship in ever larger, pre-assembled airline parts from the Far East. That will mean more jobs for Japan and China, not for us.

More than 50,000 Boeing jobs have been lost in the Puget Sound, and most of those have gone overseas. Gov. Locke has admitted that the new 7E7 plant would only provide 17,000 jobs in the region, and only if Boeing uses a lot of local contractors (hah!). As The Seattle Times points out, Boeing has been forced to abandon its previous three “new” airplane designs, including the much-praised Sonic Cruiser, without even building a prototype, much less a new factory.

Right now, the airline industry is in such a tailspin that new orders for the 7E7 will be harder to find than liberal values in our so-called “Democratic” governor.

Seven Ways George Bush Helps Terrorism

While kingmaker Karl Rove attempts to spin the War in Iraq into something less momentous–a “battle in the War on Terrorism,” as he’s dubbed it–we might ask ourselves which side the US is really on.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong for Rove, and hence the Bush administration, to attempt to redefine the war. In fact, it’s a sure sign that things are unraveling fast on the ground in Iraq, that the US’s post-war plans were overly optimistic, and that Republican spin doctors are worried that the US public will put too much emphasis on democracy in Iraq as the 2004 elections draw near. The backpedaling has begun.

In the meantime, Americans are asking themselves what, if anything, the War in Iraq has to do with the War on Terrorism; hence, Rove’s attempt to make a link that most analysts now agree never existed. But, if we think about it awhile and really examine the Bush administration’s policies, we might conclude that George W. Bush & Co. have, in fact, made it much easier for terrorists to stage an attack on US soil. Here’s a list of seven such policies, in no particular order:

1. Transporting nuclear waste on our nation’s highways. As part of the deal that turned Yucca Mountain, Nevada, into the nation’s sole nuclear waste repository, the Bush administration laid out a plan to ship nuclear waste from sites all over the US via road and rail to Nevada. Most Americans are keenly aware that our crowded freeways are aging and in need of rebuilding and repair. For example, nuclear waste will be shipped on I-5 through Sacramento and Los Angeles, California, where truck accidents are common. In New York, the cities of Syracuse and Buffalo, and Erie, Pennsylvania, will see regular transports of nuclear waste on I-90, while rail lines through Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will also haul radioactive waste. And so on through virtually every city in the country that hosts a major interstate or rail route.

If 19 hijackers could steal 4 airplanes and kill thousands of Americans, what could a dozen of them do with radioactive tanker trucks or rail cars winding through major urban areas?

2. Dirty bombs from Iraq. Speaking of nuclear waste, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been having fits over the US military’s inability to guard known nuclear waste sites inside Iraq. The Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, in particular, has been the favorite target of looters. UNMOVIC seals have been broken on canisters, locks removed from storage areas, and barrels full of waste have disappeared. All of this has been going on for weeks, in spite of the IAEA’s repeated warnings to US Command. Former UN weapons inspectors have also expressed dismay at the looting of potential chemical and bioweapons sites. Let’s all write George W. a letter, thanking him for arming future terrorists.

3. Chemical weapons in your back yard. I bet you didn’t know that there are over 100 factories here in the US where an explosion or terrorist attack could create a poisonous cloud that would kill or sicken over a million people. This is in addition to the toxic stews, waiting to detonate, at poorly guarded military facilities; one of the worst, of course, is in our own state — Hanford — and Oregon’s nerve gas facility at Umatilla is also among the most potentially deadly. But the Northwest has plenty of other tempting terror targets, too, and old beer factories aren’t among them. Meanwhile, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans have bent over backwards to prevent Congress from passing any laws that would require the chemical industry or factories that handle toxic chemicals from beefing up their security.

4. Lack of port security. While the Bush administration has poured money into airport security, our docks remain largely undefended. Thousands of cargo containers pass through our ports daily without inspection. Many major cities on our coasts have their container ports within a mile (or less) of their downtown business and shopping districts and within a couple of miles of densely-populated residential areas. From Los Angeles north to Seattle, the west coast is particularly vulnerable, since many of its shipments come directly from southeast Asian nations that have large Muslim populations. Of those, the major ports closest to downtowns are Seattle and Tacoma. While our west coast Senators are pressing for a comprehensive system to inspect cargo containers, the Bush administration is actually siphoning off the small amount of funds currently available for that task and using the money elsewhere.

5. Bet you thought the airports were safe. Think again. Approximately half the security personnel who screen your luggage and man security checkpoints at our nation’s airports have still not undergone complete background checks.

6. Al Qaeda and other terror suspects are walking free. While the FBI is swamped with checking out minor immigration violators here at home, foreign governments are being forced to release known Al Qaeda operatives because of a lack of evidence. A particularly bad case of this occurred in The Netherlands in late May, where four Al Qaeda suspects on trial walked free when the FBI failed to provide a Dutch court with evidence to convict the suspects. The FBI claims that the Dutch government didn’t ask them for the info, but the Dutch court says otherwise. Given the FBI’s track record and the obvious need to prioritize the conviction of Al Qaeda suspects who are already in custody (wherever they are in the world), a picture of FBI incompetence is absolutely unavoidable. “Proactive” is still a dirty word in the FBI–except when it comes to monitoring legal, nonviolent, domestic dissenters.

7. The paramount US foreign policy goal is to alienate the world’s poor and disaffected peoples. From Iraq, where the US is bent on installing a government headed by an Iraqi exile convicted of bank fraud; to Indonesia, where the Bush administration is seeking to re-establish ties with one of the bloodiest militaries in the world (whose current project involves slaughtering civilians yearning for self-determination in Aceh province; see the following article); to the Congo, where all the other members of the UN Security Council (but not the US) are sending troops to maintain a fragile peace agreement in a nation where three million people have died from civil war; to Chechnya, where Russia has been widely condemned for egregious human rights abuses, but George W. Bush has thrown his arms around Vladimir Putin and called him his “close personal friend”…in all these places, the world is watching us. And they don’t like what they see. In fact, it infuriates them.

The US is not protecting the poor, the downtrodden, the people who yearn to breathe free. The US has joined the side of those who do the oppressing, the victors who wave at media cameras from the decks of battleships and aircraft carriers, the ones whose power is built on the blood of innocents. The Bush administration is creating a world full of people who hate us: men and women who are willing to listen when terrorists speak. That, more than anything, is how the Bush administration has helped further the cause of international terrorists.

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