Greg Muttit, author of the book Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, interviewed by Chris Nineham from Stop the War Coalition. Video by Silvana Faria.
Former Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs General Hugh Shelton Drops A Bomb On Jon Stewart: “We Were Willing to Kill a U.S. Soldier On Purpose to Start the Iraq War”
Watching the CBS Evening News on Afghanistan this week I thought for a moment that I might be watching my grandson playing one of those video war games that are so popular these days.
Reporting on the attacks that killed eight Americans, CBS turned to animation to depict what no journalists were around to witness. This is about as close to real war as most of us ever get, safely removed from the blood, the mangled bodies, the screams and shouts.
October, as you know, was the bloodiest month for our troops in all eight years of the war. And beyond the human loss, the United States has spent more than 223 billion dollars there. In 2010 we will be spending roughly 65 billion dollars every year. 65 billion dollars a year.
The President is just about ready to send more troops. Maybe 44 thousand, that’s the number General McChrystal wants, bringing the total to over 100 thousand. When I read speculation last weekend that the actual number needed might be 600 thousand, I winced.
I can still see President Lyndon Johnson’s face when he asked his generals how many years and how many troops it would take to win in Vietnam. One of them answered, “Ten years and one million.” He was right on the time and wrong on the number– two and a half million American soldiers would serve in Vietnam, and we still lost.
Whatever the total for Afghanistan, every additional thousand troops will cost us about a billion dollars a year. At a time when foreclosures are rising, benefits for the unemployed are running out, cities are firing teachers, closing libraries and cutting essential maintenance and services. That sound you hear is the ripping of our social fabric.
Which makes even more perplexing an editorial in THE WASHINGTON POST last week. You’ll remember the “Post” was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, often sounding like a megaphone for the Bush-Cheney propaganda machine. Now it’s calling for escalating the war in Afghanistan. In a time of historic budget deficits, the paper said, Afghanistan has to take priority over universal health care for Americans. Fixing Afghanistan, it seems, is “a ‘necessity’”; fixing America’s social contract is not.
But listen to what an Afghan villager recently told a correspondent for the “Economist:” “We need security. But the Americans are just making trouble for us. They cannot bring peace, not if they stay for 50 years.”
Listen, too, to Andrew Bacevich, the long-time professional soldier, graduate of West Point, veteran of Vietnam, and now a respected scholar of military and foreign affairs, who was on this program a year ago. He recently told “The Christian Science Monitor,” “The notion that fixing Afghanistan will somehow drive a stake through the heart of jihadism is wrong. …If we give General McChrystal everything he wants, the jihadist threat will still exist.”
This from a warrior who lost his own soldier son in Iraq, and who doesn’t need animated graphics to know what the rest of us never see.
So here’s a suggestion. In a week or so, when the president announces he is escalating the war, let’s not hide the reality behind eloquence or animation. No more soaring rhetoric, please. No more video games. If our governing class wants more war, let’s not allow them to fight it with young men and women who sign up because they don’t have jobs here at home, or can’t afford college or health care for their families.
Let’s share the sacrifice. Spread the suffering. Let’s bring back the draft.
Yes, bring back the draft — for as long as it takes our politicians and pundits to “fix” Afghanistan to their satisfaction.
Bring back the draft, and then watch them dive for cover on Capitol Hill, in the watering holes and think tanks of the Beltway, and in the quiet little offices where editorial writers spin clever phrases justifying other people’s sacrifice. Let’s insist our governing class show the courage to make this long and dirty war our war, or the guts to end it.
BILL MOYERS: That’s it for this week. Log onto our website at pbs.org and click on “Bill Moyers Journal.” You’ll find a web exclusive conversation with the political analyst Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com. There’s also more from economist James Galbraith and the Journal’s complete coverage of the financial meltdown and bailout.
Here’s a list of things you can investigate after you’re done crucifying ACORN for failing to recognize a fake pimp:
- Triple Canopy
- Lockheed Martin
- Federal Reserve
- Wall Street Bailout
- Goldman Sachs
- Bank of America
- CIA torture program
- Politicization of the Department of Justice
- Betsy McCaughey
- Karl Rove
- WMD in Iraq
- 9 billion dollars lost in Iraq
- Cheney’s Energy Task Force Meeting
Of course you aren’t going to investigate any of these things because you”re too busy destroying an organization that’s received 53 million dollars over 15 years and helps poor colored people.
Rachel Maddow doesn’t back down an inch in what was really a pretty amazing interview with Tom Ridge. Amazing in that we haven’t seen enough of them and how sad it was these kind of questions weren’t asked of the Bush administration by anyone in the press before we invaded that country. At the end of what was a three part interview, Rachel calls Ridge out for his attempt at revisionist history.
Rachel asks him if he still believes that Iraq had WMD and Ridge says he does not. She asks him if he really doesn’t believe that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld “had any role in skewing the intelligence to a foregone conclusion” and “an intelligence community error and not a politicized decision”. Ridge of course says that no one in the Bush administration would have done something like that and that he believed that they just wanted to keep the country safe.
Maddow: I think that is an eloquent argument and I have to tell you….I think you making, I think you making that argument right now is why Republicans after the Bush and Cheney administration are not going to get back the country’s trust on national security. To look back at that decision and say we got it wrong but it was in good faith and not acknowledge the foregone conclusion that we were going to invade Iraq that pervaded every decision that was made about intelligence, looking back at that decision making process, it sounds like you’re making the argument you would have made the same decision again.
Americans need to believe that our government would not make that wrong a decision, would not make such a foregone, take such a foregone conclusion to such an important issue that the counter, the intelligence that proved the opposite point was all discounted, that the intelligence was combed through for any bit that would support the foregone conclusion of the policy makers. The system was broken and if you don’t see that the system was broken and you think that it was just that the Intel was wrong, I think that you’re one of the most trusted voices on national security for the Republican Party, and I think that’s the elephant in the room.
I don’t think you guys get back your credibility on national security until you realize, that was a wrong decision made by policy makers, it wasn’t the spies fault.
Ridge: Well, I think you’re suggesting that it was only being driven by quite obviously, the people who made the decision knew more about the threat than you and I do, and again I think it’s a, it’s a pretty radical conclusion to suggest the men and women entrusted with the safety of this country would predicate a decision upon any other basis than to keep America safe. Late on it may have proven that some of the information was inaccurate, but there were plenty of reasons to go into Iraq at the time, the foremost were the weapons of mass destruction. That obviously had proven to be faulty. But the fact of the matter is at that time, given what they knew, they knew more than you and I did, it seemed to be the right thing to do and the decision was made in what they considered to be the best interest of our country.
We’ve been litigating it now for about five or six years. I guess we’re going to continue to litigate it and historians and the final history hasn’t been written because of Iraq. If some form of self government, some form of democracy ultimately is achieved in Iraq and it’s not going to look exactly like ours, but you know, the Muslim world does admire freedom of speech. The Muslim world does admire democracy. As difficult as it is over there, the notion that we went in improperly will be obviously reversed and the history is yet to be written. Democracy in Iraq…
Ridge: Well, yeah. Democracy in Iraq will make a huge difference not just for the men and women and the people and the families in Iraq, but for the entire region for a lot of reasons.
Maddow: If you can go back in time and sell the American people on the idea that 4000 Americans ought to lose their lives and we ought to lose those trillions of dollars for democracy in Iraq, you have a wilder imagination than I do. We were sold that war because of 9-11. We were sold that war because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction and this guy didn’t have them and our government should have known it and frankly, a lot of people believe that our government did know it and that it was a cynical decision and maybe everybody wasn’t in on it and maybe that is a radical thing to conclude…
Ridge: Well, I don’t share that point of view. I know you do. I’m not going to convince you and you’re not going to convince me, but I really appreciate the civil way we’ve had this discussion. In frankly I think it would advance our interest as a country a lot further and a lot faster if we could have the discussion such as this.
The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.
The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.
Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.
The Big Hate
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Back in April, there was a huge fuss over an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security warning that current conditions resemble those in the early 1990s — a time marked by an upsurge of right-wing extremism that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Conservatives were outraged. The chairman of the Republican National Committee denounced the report as an attempt to “segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration” and label them as terrorists.
But with the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, closely followed by a shooting by a white supremacist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the analysis looks prescient.
There is, however, one important thing that the D.H.S. report didn’t say: Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.
Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. haven’t directly incited violence, despite Bill O’Reilly’s declarations that “some” called Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Baby Killer,” that he had “blood on his hands,” and that he was a “guy operating a death mill.” But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.
And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.
Exhibit A for the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism is Fox News’s new star, Glenn Beck. Here we have a network where, like it or not, millions of Americans get their news — and it gives daily airtime to a commentator who, among other things, warned viewers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency might be building concentration camps as part of the Obama administration’s “totalitarian” agenda (although he eventually conceded that nothing of the kind was happening).
But let’s not neglect the print news media. In the Bush years, The Washington Times became an important media player because it was widely regarded as the Bush administration’s house organ. Earlier this week, the newspaper saw fit to run an opinion piece declaring that President Obama “not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself,” and that in any case he has “aligned himself” with the radical Muslim Brotherhood.
And then there’s Rush Limbaugh. His rants today aren’t very different from his rants in 1993. But he occupies a different position in the scheme of things. Remember, during the Bush years Mr. Limbaugh became very much a political insider. Indeed, according to a recent Gallup survey, 10 percent of Republicans now consider him the “main person who speaks for the Republican Party today,” putting him in a three-way tie with Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich. So when Mr. Limbaugh peddles conspiracy theories — suggesting, for example, that fears over swine flu were being hyped “to get people to respond to government orders” — that’s a case of the conservative media establishment joining hands with the lunatic fringe.
It’s not surprising, then, that politicians are doing the same thing. The R.N.C. says that “the Democratic Party is dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.” And when Jon Voight, the actor, told the audience at a Republican fund-raiser this week that the president is a “false prophet” and that “we and we alone are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this Obama oppression,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, thanked him, saying that he “really enjoyed” the remarks.
Credit where credit is due. Some figures in the conservative media have refused to go along with the big hate — people like Fox’s Shepard Smith and Catherine Herridge, who debunked the attacks on that Homeland Security report two months ago. But this doesn’t change the broad picture, which is that supposedly respectable news organizations and political figures are giving aid and comfort to dangerous extremism.
What will the consequences be? Nobody knows, of course, although the analysts at Homeland Security fretted that things may turn out even worse than in the 1990s — that thanks, in part, to the election of an African-American president, “the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years.”
And that’s a threat to take seriously. Yes, the worst terrorist attack in our history was perpetrated by a foreign conspiracy. But the second worst, the Oklahoma City bombing, was perpetrated by an all-American lunatic. Politicians and media organizations wind up such people at their, and our, peril.
Gen. Petraeus joined FOX News and Martha MacCallum today and gave a blockbuster interview, but probably not the one Fox expected. Once again, he called for the responsible closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He also said that mistakes were made after 9/11 and that the Army Field Manual is all that we need to use to interrogate prisoners. In addition, he said that we have to have faith in our judicial system and we should try the Khalid Sheikh Muhammads in a court of law.
Martha tried to give him the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture and he really didn’t bite. He did say maybe an Executive Order could be appropriate, but that it really wasn’t necessary. Petraeus repudiated pretty much most of what Limbaugh Republicans and the Rove/Newt/Cheney Party have been saying.
MacCallum: Where do you think those people should go?
Gen. Petraeus: Well, it’s not for a soldier to say. What I do support is what has been termed the responsible closure of Gitmo. Gitmo has caused us problems, there’s no question about it. I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has been used by the enemy against us. We have not been without missteps or mistakes in our activity since 9/11 and again Gitmo is a lingering reminder for the use of some in that regard.
MacCallum: What about the concern that a Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or anybody of that ilk might be tried here in a US court and the possibility that some of the treatments that were used on them that they could go free.
Gen. Petraeus: Well, first of all, I don’t think we should be afraid of our values we’re fighting for, what we stand for. And so indeed we need to embrace them and we need to operationalize them in how we carry out what it is we’re doing on the battlefield and everywhere else. So one has to have some faith, I think, in the legal system. One has to have a degree of confidence that individuals that have conducted such extremist activity would indeed be found guilty in our courts of law.
MacCallum: So you’re confident that they will never go free.
Gen. Petraeus: I hope that’s the case.
MacCallum: (Ticking time bomb scenario)
Gen. Petraeus: ….T here might be an exception and that would require extraordinary but very rapid approval to deal with, but for the vast majority of the cases, our experience downrange if you will, is that the techniques that are in the Army Field Manual that lays out how we treat detainees, how we interrogate them — those techniques work, that’s our experience in this business.
MacCallum: So is sending this signal that we’re not going to use these kind of techniques anymore, what kind of impact does this have on people who do us harm in the field that you operate in?
Gen. Petraeus: Well, actually what I would ask is, does that not take away from our enemies a tool which again have beaten us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion? When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions, we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it’s important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.
Wow, there was a lot in that interview. I couldn’t transcribe it all. He admits that we violated the Geneva Convention. Is he saying that the Bush/Cheney administration failed our “value system” in their leadership in the two wars and how America responded to the 9/11 attacks?
He obviously is against torture. He is also saying to let the chips fall where they may in prosecuting these detainees and use our legal system to try terror suspects. Martha didn’t go into the military commissions, but if they come here, just let them stand trial. All the conservatives and Republicans anointed Gen. Petraeus as the true leader of the wars when George Bush decided he didn’t want to take the heat on the war any longer.
Remember when to question him was sacrilegious? Will they now disavow what he is telling them today?
After the interview, the other Fox host predictably tried to intimate that Petraeus was working for Obama now so, ya know, he’s in the tank for him. Whatever happened to listening to the generals on the ground being critical to our “victory” in Iraq? He said that our values as a country do change in a time of war — a scary notion — so Bush is just all right. Don’t they ever give up with their Bush-hero worshiping?
How long will it take Rush Limbaugh to lash out at the General? What about Newt and Rove?