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Archive for December, 2006

The Associated Press is reporting that “Palestinian gunmen killed three young sons of a senior Palestinian intelligence officer Monday, pumping dozens of bullets into their car as it passed through a street crowded with schoolchildren in an apparent botched assassination attempt that could ignite widespread factional fighting.” The boys’ father, Baha Balousheh, “a Fatah member, was a lead interrogator in a crackdown on Hamas a decade ago.” Fatah members suspect that Hamas is behind the murders, although the group denies any involvement.

The killings are a tragedy, (and they deserve condemnation) to be sure, but this may be one of the few times the Associated Press has reported on the deaths of Palestinian children in such detail; empathetic reporting is usually reserved for Israeli casualties. This article is the exception:

The car was soaked in blood. A child’s backpack, emblazoned with cartoon characters and the word ”Friend,” lay on the front seat, covered in blood. Another schoolbag was in the back.

Four more people were wounded in the attack on Palestine Street, which is lined with nine schools. The attack sent children in the area running for cover, some dropped to the ground, others fled in panic.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, 801 Palestinian minors have been killed by the IDF in the occupied territories; two died in Israel. I’m not aware of any American reporters who have extended Palestinian casualties of Israeli aggression the space, detail and ‘human impact’ they deserve. (If Israel were the aggressor, this report would never fly.) But the above serves the needs of American policy: the sectarian nature of the attack exemplifies the disunity of Palestinian government, Fatah, America’s ally, is portrayed as a victim of Hamas aggression and Hamas is presented as a criminal entity. This meets American policy objectives.

— Igor Volsky

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I missed this in my first post about the Iraq Study Group Report; it’s what I get for relying on the mainstream media. Antonia Juhasz, author of “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time” appeared on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and had this to say:

All told, the report calls for privatization of Iraq’s oil, turning it over to private foreign corporate hands, putting all of the oil in the hands of the central government, and essentially, I would argue, extending the war in Iraq to ensure that US oil companies get what the Bush administration went in there for: control and greater access to Iraq’s oil.

Both Baker and Eagleburger have spent their careers doing one of two things: working for the federal government or working in private enterprise taking advantage of the work that they did for the federal government. So, in particular, in this case, both Baker and Eagleburger were key participants throughout the ’80s and early 1990s of radically expanding US economic engagement with Saddam Hussein, with a very clear objective of gaining greater access for US corporations, particularly oil corporations, to Iraq’s oil, and doing everything that they could to expand that access.

Baker has his own private interest. His family is heavily invested in the oil industry, and also Baker Botts, his law firm, is one of the key law firms representing oil companies across the United States and their activities in the Middle East. And Lawrence Eagleburger was president of Kissinger Associates, which was one of the leading multinational advising firms for advising US companies who were trying to get contracts with Saddam Hussein and get work in Iraq.

Now, these two members of the Iraq Study Group are joined by two additional members who are representatives of the Heritage Foundation, and the Heritage Foundation is one of the few US organizations that point-blank called for full privatization of Iraq’s oil sector prior to the invasion of Iraq, as a stated goal of the invasion. And to call point-blank for full privatization, as I said, is truly radical. It’s actually a shift for the Bush administration, which has for the past about two years been working on a more sort of privatization-lite agenda, putting forward what are called production-sharing agreements in Iraq that would have the same outcome of privatization without calling it privatization.

For the Iraq Study Group, which is supposed to be, you know, the meeting of the pragmatists, the sort of middle-ground group that’s going to help solve the war in Iraq, to put forward this incredibly radical proposal and to have nobody talk about it, to me, is fairly shocking and makes clear that still the Democrats, the Republicans, the media are afraid to talk about oil, but that oil, in my mind, still remains the lynchpin for the administration and for all those in the oil sector in the United States, Baker and Eagleburger counted among them, for why US troops are being committed and committed to stay. And the report says troops will stay until at least 2008 — I think that is at a minimum — to guarantee this oil access to US oil companies.

The Iraq Study Group report, page 1, chapter one, says that the reason why Iraq is a critical country in the Middle East, in the world and for the United States, is because it has the second-largest reserves of oil in the world. The report is very clear.

The report is also very clear, however, that this isn’t a report where the recommendations can be picked and choosed. It says that all of the recommendations should be applied together as one proposal, that they shouldn’t be separated out. That means that the authors of the report are saying that oil, privatization of oil, and foreign corporate access to oil is as key as any other recommendation that they have made.

And the report also says that the US government will withhold military, economic and political support of the Iraqi government, unless the recommendations are met. That’s a pretty straightforward statement. The US government will not provide any support to the al-Maliki government, unless it advances the changes to the Iraqi constitution and changes to Iraqi national law that essentially privatize Iraq’s oil.

That is something for us in the antiwar movement to be very, very clear about, that this is their objective and that we have to, as I repeatedly say, not just call for the end of troops in Iraq, but make clear that the US corporate invasion cannot be progressed or continue, as well.

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Needless to say, the Baker-Hamilton report proved anti-climactic.

While it refused to establish a timeline for troop withdrawal, Baker-Hamilton rebuffed the President on several counts. ‘Stay the course’ is no longer a viable option. Recent violence is the result of sectarian strife, not Al Qaeda, as the President recently claimed. The Administration should engage Iran and Syria in a constructive dialogue, despite Iran’s nuclear intentions, begin to move combat troops out of Iraq by early 2008, and increase the number of military personnel supporting Iraqi units. Given this administration’s recent efforts to distance itself from the commission’s most controversial recommendations and downplay their significance, it is unclear whether the President will implement any changes. Still, even if this report fails to produce a major policy shift (this President can be stubborn), it has handed the Democrats a rhetorical victory. (The President can no longer refer to his critics as proponents of a cut-and-run strategy).

Rising sectarian violence in Iraq (which has created an unstable business environment for U.S. and foreign investors) has legitimized, at least in the eyes of the media, discussion over policy modifications. The Commission’s report proved anti-climactic precisely because their criticisms have been echoed by Democrats and progressive war critics as early as 2004. The Commission’s perceived bipartisanship legitimizes their arguments. But even this is dubious. The group was appointed by Congress and its members lack any experience in the Middle East. If anything, they serve as a political cover for Republicans, who are reluctant to take their marching orders from the opposition.

Their proposals leave much to be desired. Without setting a timetable for withdrawal, recognizing that our presence in Iraq is fueling the insurgency and inspiring global jihadists to take up arms against the United States, the commission’s recommendations legitimize a smaller long-term American presence (which, as I noted earlier, is a business friendly solution). From what I could see of the media coverage, the report makes no reference to America’s defiance of international law in the lead up to the invasion, her war crimes against Iraqi civilians in Fallujah and elsewhere or the opinions of most Iraqis (who wish to see American troops leave Iraq).

By all accounts this is a save-face measure: a means for this administration to shift from an idealistic neoconservative policy–which advocated building up Iraqi oil capability, withdrawing the country from OPEC, privatizing Iraqi industry and establishing a laissez faire liberal economic system to allow for maximum foreign profit and investment (all this cushioned in the language of freedom and democracy)– to a more practical reality-based approach focused on quelling the violence and establishing an American-friendly outpost.

Now we’ll have to wait and see if this President is willing to make that transition.

— Igor Volsky

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The Washington Post is reporting that the Democrats will relinquish on their campaign promise to fully implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. The 9/11 Commission is recommending that the House and Senate intelligence committees oversee not only the operations of this nation’s intelligence agencies but also their funding. But “the intelligence committees’ gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels’ defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf.” Congressional aids are now confirming that the Democrats were not above manipulating voters, peddling false promises or placing personal power ahead of America’s safety.

In promising that “we will make our nation safer and we will begin by implementing the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission,” Pelosi linked the Commission’s recommendations to American security and endorsed their validity. At best, her backpedaling betrays an undemocratic and regressive loyalty to a system of political patronage; at worst, it demonstrates an unwillingness to make difficult choices, (that would ‘disappoint’ powerful Democrats) to secure America.

The Democrats have erred in renouncing their liberal legislative agenda, supporting the Robert Gates nomination and allowing the President to take center stage in the debate over Iraq policy modifications. America’s disapproval with Congressional and Presidential leadership and the Democratic victory in the midterms should motivate Democratic leaders to legislate their platform. Americans are asking for change; the Democrats seek to maintain the status quo and concentrate party power and influence. Americans deserve better.

— Igor Volsky

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