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Archive for April, 2005

Progressive policy critics and moderate government insiders have long cautioned against a sustained American presence in the Middle East. American encroachment, they warn, radicalizes young Muslim fundamentalists and substantiates Bin Laden’s message of religious Jihad.

Administration officials dismiss these critics publicly (although rare words of candor do sometimes escape—CIA Chief Goss admitted that the Iraqi invasion has made America less safe) but concede their points privately. Ambitions of U.S. hegemony and supremacy however supersede security concerns. Ideological ambition to “maintain a lock on the world’s energy lifeline and potentially deny access to its global competitors” (like China) is priority number one for American policy makers. Control and access can be maintained in two ways—military and economically.

Great historical precedent lies with the former. A cursory examination of policy papers reveals that America’s thirst for influence and resources transcends party lines. President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 doctrine set the modern day precedent. “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

The current Bush administration has pushed this American foreign policy paradigm to its logical conclusion. Since the Persian Gulf holds two of every three barrels of world oil, sustained American presence and control of Iraq guarantees U.S. supremacy. This pronouncement is not just the conspiratorial claim of a liberal columnist; it is mirrored by the official National Defense Strategy of the United States of America report, released last month by the Defense Department. “Our role in the world depends on effectively projecting and sustaining our forces in distant environments where adversaries may seek to deny U.S. access.”

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The passing of the pope John Paul II has led to an outpouring of world emotion. Iconic-like devotion portrayed the pope as a flawless global leader and has cost him his humanity. While the pope’s accomplishments are noteworthy, his shortcomings provide critical insight.Great emphasis has also been placed on the future of the Catholic Church and the role of a to-be-name pope within it. But before we can speculate about the future, we must first evaluate and learn from the past. An honest remembrance yields mixed results. To reflect on the pope’s failures is not to disrespect his legacy. Rather such reflection comes with the recognition that his passing provides a unique opportunity for the church to learn from its past shortcomings.

By 1989, El Salvador, a postage stamp size country in Latin America was engulfed in a brutal civil war between Salvadorian government forces and leftist opposition groups. The conflict was fueled by peasant frustration over the growing disparity of wealth that stemmed from the country’s agricultural practices. Coffee cultivation, which dominated the Salvadoran economy from the latter half of the 19th century, subsidized the land-owning oligarchy but forced the majority of the Salvadorian population off their land and into poverty. By the 20th century, only two percent of the land-owning population controlled El Salvador’s wealth, and most citizens lived as poor agricultural workers. In the 1930s economic conditions deteriorated further.

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On its surface, the final report of the presidential commission on intelligence is another whitewash and rehash of previous investigations into pre-war intelligence debacles. The president appointed the commission reluctantly, delayed its final report calculatingly and “did not authorize it to investigate how policy makers had used the intelligence they received.” Yet a close read and a cursory knowledge of modern political events still confirms the President’s role in deliberate deception.

The commission outwardly concluded that, “in no instance did political pressure cause them [intelligence officials] to skew or alter any of their analytical judgment.” The very next sentence contradicts this assessment. “That said, it is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence agencies worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom.”

This conventional wisdom was sought, crafted and manipulated by the administration. Since dissenting opinion did not compliment the administration’s presupposed ideological assumptions of American foreign pre-eminence, it was conventionally expunged.
A quick reminder for the forgetful: In January of 2004, George W. Bush’s former treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill disclosed that the Bush administration had been planning an Iraqi regime change “from the very beginning.” According to O’Neill, “Saddam was topic ‘A’ ten days after the inauguration.” O’Neill’s remarks are consistent with the ideological outlook of the President’s closest advisors.

Back in 2000, as members of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (the brains of the Iraqi invasion), signed onto a “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for A New Century” memo, counseling America to “play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security.” The document suggested that, “while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” In 1998, Wolfowitz urged President Clinton to brand removal of Saddam “the aim of American foreign policy.”

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