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Twin Town High (vol. 8)
Planning an exit strategy
Wednesday 04 January @ 20:12:17
by Ed Felien
Most analysts agree that Bush will start to bring the troops home this spring, just in time to influence the mid-term elections.
He began the Iraq war perfectly timed for the 2002 Congressional elections. He did it on such short notice and he whipped up such a patriotic fervor that it was difficult to question whether Saddam Hussein had links to Al Qaida or whether he had weapons of mass destruction. It was masterfully orchestrated with Bush touring the country over and over rallying the troops to avenge the innocents lost on 9/11 and smite “the evil ones.” The country was bamboozled and the Republicans ended up controlling both houses of Congress.
This time around Karl Rove probably has visions of Victory Parades in Smalltown, USA, with proud troops marching down Main Street to cries from an adoring crowd of “Well done, America!” Only sulking leftist spoilsports would dare interrupt that Norman Rockwell fantasy with tragic realities.
first step in the calculated withdrawal of U.S. ground troops had to be the
establishment of a “legitimate” Iraqi government. This meant calling
for a Constitutional Convention to write a Constitution and call for elections.
The first rule of meetings is that the people that call the meeting, run the
meeting. The U.S. CIA picked the people to run the meeting and set up the rules.
So the CIA ran the people that ran the meeting that ran the elections that would
eventually run the government.
But no election run by the CIA and the Republican Party would be complete without
one inspired dirty trick. The CIA’s man in Iraq has always been Ahmad
Chalabi. He’s the one that gave Bush all the great information about weapons
of mass destruction, and he’s always been on the inside track to run Iraq
for the United States and the CIA. Of course, the CIA appointed him to the Constitutional
Convention, and, of course, he was appointed to the interim government (as Oil
Minister and then as Deputy Prime Minister). Before the election it was beginning
to look as though he was too obvious a U.S. stooge. So, in a brilliant publicity
stunt—a major media manipulation—U.S. armed forces staged a raid
on Chalabi’s house supposedly looking for evidence that he’d been
trading secrets with the Iranian government. Chalabi is Shiite, but the Shiites
didn’t trust him, so the United States threatened to arrest him and publicly
disowned him for being too close to the Iranian Shiites. It cemented his Shiite
anti-American credentials and was thought to assure him a seat in the Parliament.
But Chalabi became a victim of his own ego. When the Shiite coalition of which
he was part refused to promise him the post of Prime Minister, he broke off
from the coalition and formed his own party. His party did not receive the 40,000
votes necessary to win a seat in the Parliament. They were 8,000 votes short.
Chalabi should have been outside the government, but, given his cunning and
the bales of money the United States was willing to spend, it was premature
to sweep him into the dustbin of history.
fact, this past weekend he was resurrected once again. The interim Prime Minister
appointed him interim Oil Minister. How did this happen? The official Oil Minister,
Ibrahim Bahr Uloom, went on a month vacation rather than continue to implement
the unpopular measures of raising gasoline prices. Saddam Hussein had kept gas
prices at 3 or 4 cents a gallon. The interim government raised them to 40 cents
a gallon and wanted to raise them further. This set off a wave of protests and
encouraged the insurgency. Why did the interim government decide to raise prices?
Because the International Monetary Fund demanded that Iraqi gasoline be sold
at market rates in order for the IMF to wipe out 80 percent of their debt of
$120 billion to the World Bank. In other words, they’re saying, “We’ll
give you $96 billion if you’ll raise your gas prices.” Of course,
no elected official wants the unpopular job of bankrupting an already impoverished
and unemployed electorate. So the Oil Minister went on vacation to protest.
And the United States and the Iraqi leadership used that opportunity to move
Chalabi into that coveted position. Just as a reminder, Paul Wolfowitz, the
former Deputy Defense Minister under Rumsfeld, the architect of the Iraq war
and former sponsor of Chalabi to the CIA and Defense Department, is President
of the World Bank.
It is not unreasonable to conclude that the United States is manipulating the
Iraqi government to protect Halliburton’s interest in the oil fields.
They will keep Chalabi in as Oil Minister through economic blackmail and keep
re-counting the votes until they can claim he was legitimately elected.
war against the insurgents isn’t going very well. They’ve had as
much luck finding Al-Zawahri as they had finding Osama bin Laden. Casualty rates
for U.S. troops have not diminished, and suicide bombers are making recruitment
of Iraqis difficult. But the U.S. plan is to turn the ground fighting over to
the Iraqis as soon as possible. Estimates vary widely as to how capable the
Iraqi troops are at controlling the country. If the United States were to withdraw
today, it is likely that Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party supporters would
easily defeat our Iraqi troops and, then, probably be able to squash the Al
Qaida elements and contain the Shiites in the South. Under ideal military conditions,
the Baath Party’s regular soldiers would eventually overcome Shiite strongholds
in the South and then move on Kurdish positions in the North. But the presence
of U.S. airpower makes such old-fashioned positional warfare outdated. Guerrilla
warfare doesn’t require holding positions. It’s a hit-and-run offensive.
It’s more like the war of the flea. One flea cannot kill a dog. But a
lot of fleas can exhaust him and ultimately give him a heart attack. Bush’s
hope is that when the United States withdraws its ground troops the Iraqi insurgents
won’t be able to overwhelm our Iraqi troops before the November elections.
It wouldn’t look good in October if he had to bomb Baghdad in order to
Why do the insurgents fight? Bush says it’s because “they hate our
freedom.” On the one hand this sounds like the statement of a fourth grader
wrapped in a flag and cornered by a teacher. On the other hand, of course, he’s
right. Most Iraqis do hate the U.S. freedom to invade their country, occupy
it, steal their oil, loot their national treasures and murder their men, women
and children. Yes, probably most Iraqis hate that freedom. And history will
side with those Iraqis and against George W. Bush.
Billy Bragg was right: “Don’t give me no shit about blood, sweat
tears and toil. It’s all about the price of oil.”
are our principal military bases in Iraq? They’re near the oil fields,
not near the major cities. Where did the troops immediately go when they invaded?
To protect the oil fields. Why was Halliburton originally given an open-ended
no-bid contract? To put out fires in oil wells and refineries (that never happened)
and to begin pumping that oil out to the West.
So, what is Bush’s exit strategy? Bush needs to make a public display
about bringing the troops home, but that doesn’t mean the overall number
of people on the ground in Iraq will actually be less. The public has gotten
upset about more than 2,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Most of them were soldiers
in the National Guard. They hadn’t signed up for combat. They were told
by their recruiters that they would be helping out in times of emergency, like
floods. They didn’t think they were joining the regular Army. They understood
that combat was part of the package, but no one talked about going to Iraq when
they signed on. So, Bush has to bring them home.
But he has to keep people on the ground over there. He needs advisors to the
Iraqi troops. Bush clearly intends to substitute firepower on the ground with
firepower from the air. That means fewer U.S. casualties and a lot more dead
innocent Iraqi women and children. The U.S. military believes the Iraqis can’t
be trusted to call in the targets for air strikes in their own country. They
believe there’s too great a chance that Sunnis will want to get even with
Shiites and that Kurds will want to get even with Sunnis. So, there will be
a long-term need for advisors to the military we’ve set up. Those could
be our regular military, or, more probably, the CIA.
There will be an ongoing need for private security to guard the precious oil
fields and the oil drilling machinery that actually belong to Halliburton and
Dresser. Dresser Company was managed and owned by the Bush family for three
generations dating back to Prescott Bush. They were recently bought by Halliburton
[see my “Covered
in Oil,” Pulse, Volume 9, Number 33] when Cheney was CEO. But it’s
not clear who owns whom. Does Halliburton own Dresser or does Dresser (and the
Bush family) own Halliburton? Does Bush own Cheney or does Cheney own Bush?
In 2003 8 percent of the Pentagon budget went to private contractors. That was
$30 billion. That was before the Halliburton no-bid contracts. That was before
the buildup of private security firms in Iraq. Today that number must be twice
or three times the 2003 amount, and next fiscal year it will probably be twice
is important to understand that what the military and the private contractors
are guarding in Iraq is the personal property of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
When Louis XIV said “L’etat, c’est moi” (The State is
me!), he didn’t come close to the grandiose conception of Bush and Cheney.
The Sun King was the conqueror of the world for the 17th century, but it was
a very limited world and only included some of Western Europe. Bush and Cheney’s
empire is far greater. And, with the introduction of private armies of thugs
and assassins, Bush and Cheney ultimately will be more powerful and less accountable
than the most absolute monarch of the 17th century.
The arrogance and vicious authoritarianism of these tyrants is really without
precedent in American history. They have waged war without a declaration of
war, in violation of our Constitution, which says “Only Congress shall
declare war.” They have personally and publicly supported the use of torture
against prisoners, in violation of international law and human decency (as well
as common sense). And now Bush has brazenly admitted to using wiretaps on U.S.
citizens without court orders, robbing us of our rights and reducing us to the
level of a totalitarian state.
And what does Congress have to say about these abuses of power? For the most
part they say nothing. With the possible exceptions of John Conyers in the House,
who had the courage to conduct hearings on the constitutional crisis of the
Bush presidency, and Feingold in the Senate who was the lone vote against the
Patriot Act, Congress has acted like a herd of sheep—easily led and ethically
Has the press spoken out? Most of the media in this country is not owner-occupied.
In the Twin Cities, for example, the Star Tribune is owned by someone in Sacramento,
Calif. The Pioneer Press is owned by someone in either California or Florida,
but they might sell it to that guy in Sacramento, and City Pages was owned by
someone in New York City, but they just sold out to someone in Phoenix. What
does that mean for the newspapers and the people that read them? It means that
the owners are far away and not connected to the communities where the papers
are read, and the papers tend to be treated as commodities. Bean counters will
tell the owners what the papers are worth, and worth is not measured in how
many times their paper challenged the status quo, but in how many advertisers
thought their paper was a safe investment. And, once a paper starts worrying
about whether it’s a safe investment, it tends to stop worrying about
small things like a Constitution and a Bill of Rights.
has been criticized for being too partisan. We plead guilty. We are shameless
in our advocacy journalism. We write from a point of view. But, we would argue,
all papers write from a point of view. The editorial views of a paper are not
just on the editorial page, they determine the selection and placement of news
“that’s fit to print.” It’s just that most papers write
in support of the status quo, and that makes them seem non-partisan. It also
makes them slow to criticize a President in times of war and slow to advocate
a change in policy.
The constitutional crisis we are facing in this country is greater than the
absence of a congressional debate on a declaration of war, greater than the
use of torture and secret concentration camps, and greater than the wiretapping
of private citizens. The Constitution warns against a standing army and expressly
forbids the funding of an army for more than two years. The framers of the Constitution
had in mind the precedent of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, marching into
Rome at the head of an army and ending the Republic. They understood the danger
of a standing army and its potential for tyranny. But even they, with their
fertile imaginations and broad frame of reference, could not have imagined a
Congress so weak and subservient that it would give unlimited power and money
not just to a President and a Vice President, but to a private company owned
by these two men that was not subject to international laws or accountability.
The open-ended, no-bid contracts given to Halliburton will insure that Bush
and Cheney will direct a private army of thugs, kidnappers and assassins long
after they leave office in 2008.
Bush family has a long history with the CIA. Grandpappy Prescott Bush and his
fellow Skull and Bonesmen from Yale were there at its creation. Father, George
H. W., was head of the CIA for a while. The long-time, personal relationships
with the head honchos in the CIA means that George W. won’t have trouble
getting things done even after 2008. The actions of the CIA are not accountable
to Congress, and their budget is a blank check. Combine those unsavory elements
with the army of private security thugs run by Halliburton and you have a Praetorian
Guard capable of controlling a country the size of Iraq. Cut off funding to
those people and they would return home with blood in their eyes. What would
happen when they crossed the Rubicon? Would they want to return their Caesar
to his throne?
people who wrote our Constitution tried to warn us of it. Eisenhower, our most
decorated soldier, told us to “Beware the military-industrial complex.”
Today, Bush and Cheney control a private army of gangsters who are not accountable
to Congress, international law or human decency.
Doesn’t anyone think we ought to be concerned? ||
Felien is publisher of Pulse of the Twin Cities weekly alternative newspaper.
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