|Hold Him to His
Friday, 16 November 2012
By Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer,
Counterpunch | Op-Ed
President Obama declared in his victory address on election night,
“Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and
complicated . . . We want our children to live in an America that
isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that
isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
Those were powerful words. But they must be followed with action.
When he thanked his campaign workers, the former community organizer
spoke emotionally from the heart. He ran an incredible grassroots
campaign, which must now be turned into a movement to work with
Occupy and other progressive groups to effect real change.
Glenn Greenwald warned in The Guardian that progressives are bound to
be disappointed again in Obama because we will be under pressure to
conform when our demand that he not agree to cut Social Security or
Medicare as part of a “grand bargain” does not succeed.
But recall that in 1940, the great labor leader A. Philip Randolph prevailed
upon FDR to improve the conditions of blacks and workers. The President
responded, “I agree with everything you have said. Now make me do it.”
It is up to us to make Obama do it. How we get the President to do the
right things are the challenges we face. What we do know is that those
who mobilized to defeat Romney and Ryan should not demobilize. Those
progressive constituencies that supported the President must come
together to speak with one voice on key issues.
During the presidential election, many progressives were hesitant to vote
for Barack Obama. They could not forget that he bailed out the huge
banks with no accountability for the white-collar criminals who wreaked so
much havoc on our economy while at the same time providing no relief for
those whose homes were being foreclosed. Nor could they countenance
Obama’s use of drones to summarily execute untold numbers of people,
including many civilians. Progressives were upset that Obama failed to
close Guantanamo, continuing
to hold many people in indefinite detention without criminal charges. We
were outraged that the President wanted to look forward and not hold any
of those who authorized and committed torture accountable. He
neglected to mention poverty during the campaign, despite the fact that
42.6 million people live below the poverty line in the United States. Obama
also deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants and
continued the Bush policy of warrantless eavesdropping.
Before the election, Marjorie Cohn joined Daniel Ellsberg, Cornel West,
Frances Fox Piven, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jim Hightower, Norman Solomon
and Jeff Cohen in issuing a call to progressive voters who were conflicted
to ensure that we make defeating Romney a priority: “If you live in a close
state, defeat Romney and his right-wing policies by voting Obama/Biden.
If you live in a state where the outcome will be lopsided, you’re in a
position to send a loud and clear vote of protest against Obama policies
We “consistently challenged Obama policies (on civil liberties, war and
bloated military spending, environment, potential cuts to Social Security
and Medicare, to name a few)” but we knew “that the policies of a
Romney/Ryan administration would be worse on many issues and better
Consider Romney’s recent vow to ‘change course’ toward even more war-
mongering in the Middle East. Or their profound differences on abortion
rights and Supreme Court picks.”
The rest is history. President Obama was reelected handily, the only
Democrat besides Franklin D. Roosevelt to win two terms with a majority
of the popular vote. Women, gays, African-Americans, Asian-Americans,
Latinos, youth, and poor people understood the greater dangers of a
Romney presidency. Obama prevailed in eight of the nine swing states.
Although efforts to suppress the vote in communities of color in those
swing states backfired, we know voter suppression is very real. Karl Rove
& Co. used millions of dollars thanks to Citizens United to defeat Obama;
luckily those dollars turned out to be ill-spent – on ads and not a
comparable “ground game.”
Maureen Dowd put it well: “Last time, Obama lifted up the base with his
message of hope and change; this time the base lifted up Obama with the
hope he will change.” With Obama’s reelection, we must do more than
hope that Obama will change. We have a unique opportunity to demand
Obama move in a progressive direction.
The Affordable Care Act has survived so we can keep our kids on our
health insurance policies until they turn 26, people with pre-existing
conditions will not be denied insurance, and many who could not afford
insurance before will be covered. But we must push for universal health
Romney cannot pack the Supreme Court with more radical right-wingers.
But we should pressure Obama to appoint true progressives to the
highest court in the land.
Romney cannot inflate military spending even more than the 20 percent of
the U.S. budget it currently occupies. But we can demand a reduction in
military spending, which adds significantly to the deficit, makes us no
safer, and leeches money from education and health care.
Whereas Romney sees workers as expendable when it comes to
maximizing profit, Obama must see to it that union rights are
strengthened. He must also acknowledge the major role unions, union
members and union households played in organizing the ground game
and for his reelection. The President must commit himself to finding ways,
including using his executive authority, to create good jobs.
Instead of Obama’s unprecedented targeting of whistleblowers, we must
urge him to abandon the policies that led to the commission of war crimes
that people like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning have exposed.
It is one thing to be pro-choice. Obama must push to make coverage for
abortion available in all federal health insurance programs.
Obama took an important step when he issued an executive order
preventing the deportation of young people who came to the United
States before they were 16 and have lived here continuously for five
years. In his second term, Obama should end discrimination and racial
profiling by the Department of Homeland Security and the mass arrests
and detentions of immigrants. He should also work on comprehensive
immigration reform that includes a reasonable pathway to citizenship.
We must hold Obama to his pledge to protect Medicare and Social
Security no matter how tempting it may be to weaken them in the
impending deal to prevent us from going over the proverbial but not real
“fiscal cliff.” Obama should also be pressured to stick to his self-
proclaimed mandate to make the rich pay higher taxes.
To help prevent another economic meltdown, Obama ought to push for
strong regulation, especially in the banking and financial sectors of the
A financial transactions tax on Wall Street, hedge funds, etc., targeted to
job creation and infrastructure must be seriously considered.
The United States is a key player in the global economy. But the free
trade regimes we have followed have only promoted growing inequality in
this country and countries with whom we trade. We need fair trade that
includes protections for workers, human rights and the environment.
In order to work seriously to protect our environment, Obama must push
for a heavy tax on carbon emissions and major regulation of coal, oil and
gas companies. He must demand transition to renewables before it is too
late to stop the ravages of storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
During his first campaign, Obama pledged to immediately “let folks know”
whether the products they consume contain genetically modified
organisms (GMO’s) by proper labeling. He has not yet made good on that
promise despite overwhelming public support for labeling GMO’s. Large
corporations, including Monsanto, spent $50 million to defeat Proposition
37 in California, which would have required such labeling.
Although Obama has resisted Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands that the
United States draw a red line to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear
weapons capability, Obama has imposed punishing sanctions that are
devastating to the Iranian people, and not necessarily targeted to the
nuclear program, while not saying a word about Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
He must not pander to the right-wing Israeli government on Iran or
sacrifice the rights of Palestinians.
After the election, Bill O’Reilly noted, “The white establishment is now the
minority.” He was not talking about the white working class, but rather the
white elite that has run our institutions since the country’s founding. O’
Reilly continued, “And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic
system is stacked against them, and they want stuff.” These comments
betray his racism and racial stereotypes because it was clear that the
people he claimed “wanted stuff” were people of color. We need to
reaffirm that all people have a right to live in a society in which the
economy serves their interests, and that people are entitled to basic
human rights. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
human rights include economic rights – the right to a decent job, to
organize and join unions, to a good education and quality health care,
adequate housing, and to economic security when people become aged
While the President can always blame an obstructionist Congress for the
need to “compromise,” the way he sets the terms of the debate will
invariably determine the outcome.
We know that President Obama, like any president of the United States,
faces immense pressures from Wall Street (bankers), the Chamber of
the Military Industrial (Congressional) Complex, the Prison Industrial
Complex, and the insurance, fossil fuel and gun industries. All of these
lobbies seek to promote their own interests – including the rights of capital
over labor, criminalization of broad segments of society, reliance on
carbon-based energy sources and wars to obtain them. They aim to profit
from health care and privatize as much as possible, and to ensure that
people do not believe they have any entitlements to health care or social
These are the many reasons to organize to make Obama do the right
But the burden is not only on the President. The burden is on us to
organize the counter-pressure through all of the progressive
It is a challenge we must embrace.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
|PEACE ACTION FOR A SANE WORLD is the nation's largest grassroots
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network to place pressure on Congress and the Administration through write-in campaigns,
Internet actions, citizen lobbying and direct action. Through a close relationship with
progressive members of Congress, we play a key role in devising strategies to move forward
peace legislation, and as a leading member of United for Peace and Justice nd the Win
Without War coalition, we lend our expertise and large network to achieving common goals.
Real change comes from the bottom up. We are committed to educating and organizing at
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merging the organization's national mission with efforts to build community peace campaign
programs, including neighborhood restoration and the arts.
Together, we have the power to be the change we wish to see in the world.
We won't wait for the bombs to drop. Sign the petition at National
to prevent war with Iran.
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|WAR IS OVER
|Palast's newest book,
includes a 48-page comic book
by Ted Rall, and a foreword by
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Palast investigates Karl Rove,
the Koch Gang and
Oct 26th, '12 Excerpt from interview with
Noam Chomsky by Amy Goodman of
NOAM CHOMSKY: In a few weeks,
we’ll be commemorating the 50th
anniversary of "the most dangerous
moment in human history."
Now, those are the words of historian,
Kennedy adviser, Arthur Schlesinger.
He was referring, of course, to the
October 1962 missile crisis, "the most
dangerous moment in human history."
Others agree. Now, at that time,
Kennedy raised the nuclear alert to the
second-highest level, just short of
launching weapons. He authorized
NATO aircraft, with Turkish or other
pilots, to take off, fly to Moscow and
drop bombs, setting off a likely
At the peak of the missile crisis,
Kennedy estimated the probability of
nuclear war at perhaps 50 percent. It’s
a war that would destroy the Northern
Hemisphere, President Eisenhower
had warned. And facing that risk,
Kennedy refused to agree publicly to an
offer by Kruschev to end the crisis by
simultaneous withdrawal of Russian
missiles from Cuba and
U.S. missiles from Turkey. These were
obsolete missiles. They were already
being replaced by invulnerable Polaris
submarines. But it was felt necessary
to firmly establish the principle that
Russia has no right to have any
offensive weapons anywhere beyond
the borders of the U.S.S.R., even to
defend an ally against U.S. attack. That’
s now recognized to be the prime
reason for deploying missiles there,
and actually a plausible one.
Meanwhile, the United States must
retain the right to have them all over the
world, targeting Russia or China or any
other enemy. In fact,
in 1962, the United—we just recently
learned, the United States had just
secretly deployed nuclear missiles to
Okinawa aimed at China. That was a
moment of elevated regional tensions.
All of that is very consistent with
grand area conceptions, the ones
I mentioned that were developed
by Roosevelt’s planners.
Well, fortunately, in 1962, Kruschev
backed down. But the world can’t be
assured of such sanity forever. And
particularly threatening, in my view, is
that intellectual opinion,
and even scholarship, hail Kennedy’s
behavior as his finest hour.
My own view is it’s one of the worst
moments in history. Inability to face the
truth about ourselves is all too common
a feature of the intellectual culture, also
personal life, has ominous implications.
Well, 10 years later, in 1973, during the
Israel-Arab War, Henry Kissinger called
a high-level nuclear alert. The purpose
was to warn the Russians to keep
hands off while he was—so we’ve
recently learned—he was secretly
informing Israel that they were
authorized to violate the ceasefire that
had been imposed jointly by the U.S.
and Russia. When Reagan came into
office a couple of years later, the United
States launched operations probing
Russian defenses, flying in
to Russia to probe defenses, and
simulating air and naval attacks,
meanwhile placing Pershing missiles
in Germany that had a five-minute flight
time to Russian targets.
They were providing what the CIA called
a "super-sudden first strike" capability.
The Russians, not surprisingly, were
deeply concerned. Actually, that led to a
major war scare in 1983. There have
been hundreds of cases when human
intervention aborted a first-strike launch
just minutes before launch. Now, that’s
after automated systems gave false
alarms. We don’t have Russian records,
but there’s no doubt that their systems
are far more accident-prone. Actually, it’
s a near miracle that nuclear war has
avoided so far.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have
come close to nuclear war several
times, and the crises that led to that,
especially Kashmir, remain. Both India
and Pakistan have refused to sign the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with
Israel, and both of them have received
U.S. support for development of their
nuclear weapons programs, actually,
until today, in the case of India, which is
now a U.S. ally.
War threats in the Middle East, which
could become reality very soon, once
again escalate the dangers. Well,
a way out of this, a simple way. There’s
a way to mitigate, maybe end, whatever
threat Iran is alleged to pose. Very
simple: move towards establishing a
nuclear-weapons-free zone in the
Middle East. Now, the opportunity is
coming again this December. There’s
an international conference scheduled
to deal with this proposal. It has
overwhelming international support,
including, incidentally, a majority of the
population in Israel. That’s fortunately.
Unfortunately, it’s blocked by the United
States and Israel. A couple of days ago,
Israel announced that it’s not going to
participate, and it won’t consider the
matter until there’s a general regional
peace. Obama takes the same stand.
He also insists that any agreement
must exclude Israel and even must
exclude calls for other nations—
meaning the U.S.—to provide
information about Israeli nuclear
The United States and Israel can delay
regional peace indefinitely.
They’ve been doing that for 35 years on
Israel-Palestine, virtual international
isolation. It’s a long, important story that
I don’t have time to go into here. So,
therefore, there’s no hope for an easy
way to end what the West regards as
the most severe current crisis—no way
unless there’s large-scale public
But there can’t be large-scale public
pressure unless people at least know
about it. And the media have done a
stellar job in averting that danger:
nothing reported about the conference
or about any of the background, no
discussion, apart from specialist arms
control journals where you can read
So, that blocks the easy way to end
the worst existing crisis, unless people
somehow find a way to break through
World-renowned political dissident,
linguist, author, and professor emeritus
at the Massachusetts Inst of
Technology, Noam Chomsky
Finish piece by entering link below
New York Times-bestselling
Author...Freelance journalist for the
British Broadcasting Corporation and
the British newspaper The Observer.
His work frequently focuses on
corporate malfeasance but has also
been known to work with labor unions
and consumer advocacy groups.
Notably, he has claimed to have
uncovered evidence that Florida
Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Secretary of
State Katherine Harris,
and Florida Elections Unit Chief Clay
Roberts, along with the ChoicePoint
corporation, rigged the ballots during the
US Presidential Election of 2000 and
again in 2004 when, he argued, the
problems and machinations from 2000
continued, and that challenger John
Kerry actually would have won if not for
disproportional " spoilage" of
|Must reads. Scroll down for.
Vietnam Veteran Mike Hastle
Arrested at Vietnam Veterans
Hold Him to His Progressive
Pledges. Make Obama Do It
You can Vote But Can You Vote
for Democracy? Robt Shetterly
Afghanistan: The Who Cares
War? (Not Exactly, But It Fails the
Real Definition of a Just War)
Kevin Martin, Truthout|
|"No matter how cynical you
get, it's almost impossible
to keep up." - Lily Tomlin
|A Law Unto Itself -
Decades of Political Tyranny at the IRS
by KARL GROSSMAN May 16, 2013
President Barack Obama got it right and wrong Monday when he stated,
“If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan
way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.”
He was right in declaring it was “outrageous” for the IRS to target
conservative organizations for tough tax treatment.
But he was incorrect in saying “it is contrary to our traditions.”
For the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has for decades gone after
organizations and individuals that take stands in conflict with the federal
government at the time. This has been a tradition, an outrageous tradition.
It is exposed in detail by David Burnham, longtime New York Times investigative
reporter, in his 1991 book A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power.
He relates how President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely “set the stage for the use
of the tax agency for political purposes by most subsequent presidents.”
Burnham writes about how a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, banker Andrew
Mellon, was a special IRS target under FDR. During the presidencies of Lyndon
Johnson and Richard Nixon, he recounts, the focus of the IRS’s efforts “at
political control” were civil rights organizations and those against the U.S.
engaging in the Vietnam War.
Nixon’s “enemies list” and his scheme to use the IRS against those on it
is what the current IRS scandal is being most compared.
History Professor John A. Andrew III in his 2002 book Power to Destroy:
The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon—its title drawn from U.S.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s dictum “The power to tax is the
power to destroy”—focuses further on this tradition. He tells of how John F.
Kennedy administration’s “Ideological Organizations Project” investigated,
intimidated and challenged the tax-exempt status of right-wing groups including
the John Birch Society. Then, with a turn of the White House
to the right with Nixon came investigations, he writes, of such entities
as the Jerry Rubin Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism and
the Center for Corporate Responsibility.
During the Reagan administration, I had my own experience with the IRS—
ostensibly because of a book I wrote. Nicaragua: America’s New Vietnam?
involved reporting from what was then a war zone in Nicaragua and in Florida—
where I interviewed leaders of the contras who were working with the CIA to
overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government—and Honduras, being set up as
a tarmac for U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. I visited a U.S. military base there.
The book warned against a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua (subsequently decided
against by the Reagan White House after the Iran-contra scandal). The book
was published in 1985 and soon afterwards I was hit with an IRS audit. It would
be more, I was informed, than my showing up at an IRS office. The IRS was to
come to my house for a “field audit.”
The investigator sat on one side of our dining room table and on the other side
was me and my accountant, Peter Berger of Shelter Island. What would be an all-
day event started with the investigator asking me to detail how much my family
spent on food each week and then, slowly, methodically, going through other
expenses. Then he went through income. He obviously was seeking to
determine on this fishing expedition whether income exceeded expenses.
He went through receipts for business expenses including
restaurant receipts, asking who I ate with. He sorted through receipts for office
supplies. By mid-afternoon, he had gotten nowhere. At that point, having been
hours together, a somewhat weird relationship had been formed. And he began
to tell me how his dream in college was to become a journalist. He expanded on
that, and then asked:“Have you ever faced retaliation?”
“What do you think this is?” I responded.
He was taken back—insisting my name had come up “at random.”
In the end, all he did was trim some of what was listed as business
use of my home phone .Was I being retaliated against for the book I had
written? One would never know. Recently, I ran into accountant Berger, now
retired, and he commented about how that day at my house was the strangest
IRS audit he had ever been involved in.
The IRS has been beyond reform. Burnham writes in A Law Unto Itself:
The IRS and the Abuse of Power that a “political imperative of not messing with
the IRS” has become “close to being a law of nature almost as unbending as the
force of gravity.” It is “rarely examined by Congress.”
President Obama announced yesterday that the acting commissioner of the IRS
was asked and agreed to tender his resignation as a result of the scandal.
That’s a small start. Far more important is somehow ending the
tradition of IRS political tyranny. Fundamental change in the IRS is called for.
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New
York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff:
The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet.
Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama
and the Politics of Illusion.
|Friday, May 24, 2013 The Guardian
Another Memorial Day
in This Endless War
As we pause to remember those who died for our freedoms,
we are faced with the possibility of a 'forever war'
by Amy Goodman
Barack Obama salutes the coffin of a US soldier killed in Afghanistan at Dover
Air Force Base in Delaware, October 2009. (Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty
Images)In a remarkable but little-noticed oversight hearing last week, the
Senate Armed Services Committee looked at "The Law of Armed Conflict,
the Use of Military Force, and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force".
The 2001 AUMF is the act passed by Congress on 14 September, three days
after the al-Qaida attacks on the United States.
Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, opened his questioning of the
military officials before him by stating: "Gentlemen, I've only been here
five months, but this is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing
hearing that I've been to since I've been here. You guys have essentially
rewritten the Constitution here today."
King's statement followed the questioning by longtime South Carolina
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who recently pushed to have the Boston
bombing suspect – a U.S. citizen accused of a violent crime on U.S. soil –
named an "enemy combatant," denying him his constitutional rights. Graham
enjoyed unanimous agreement from the panelists to his series of questions:
Do you agree with me that when it comes to international terrorism, we're talking
about a worldwide struggle? Would you agree with me the battlefield is
wherever the enemy chooses to make it? And it could be anyplace on the
planet, and we have to be aware and able to act.
The message was clear from the Pentagon: The world is a battlefield.
The AUMF reads, in part, "the president is authorized to use all necessary
and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he
determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks
that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or
persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against
the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
Only one member of Congress voted against that 2001 bill. Barbara Lee,
a California Democrat, said from the floor of the House of Representatives:
"I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of
international terrorism against the United States. ... Some of us must urge the
use of restraint ... and think through the implications of our actions today,
so this does not spiral out of control."
Clearly, Senator Angus King thinks things have spiraled out of control.
As does journalist Jeremy Scahill, whose new book, "Dirty Wars," is subtitled,
"The World Is a Battlefield." Scahill told me: "The concept of 'The World Is a
Battlefield' actually is ... a military doctrine called 'Operational Preparation of the
Battlespace,' which views the world as a battlefield. [If] the military predicts that
conflicts are likely or that war is a possibility, [they] can forward deploy troops to
those countries to prepare the battlefield. And under both Bush and Obama,
the world has been declared the battlefield." His film "Dirty Wars," based on the
book and directed by Richard Rowley, opens in theaters nationally this June.
Close to 12 years later, the AUMF remains in force, giving the
Obama administration and the Pentagon carte blanche to wage war, to occupy
nations, to kill people with drone "signature strikes," based not on guilt but on a
remote analysis of a suspect's "patterns of life". As these wars become
increasingly hidden, it becomes even more important for journalists to go to
where the silence is, to hold those in power accountable.
Which is why the Obama administration seems to be waging low-intensity
warfare on journalists at home, with dragnet surveillance of reporters to uncover
protected sources, and targeting of whistle-blowers with unprecedented use of
the espionage act. More than 100 prisoners at the US base on Guantanamo
are engaged in a life-threatening hunger strike. Most of them have never been
charged and are cleared for release, but remain in that American gulag,
with no hope, no change.
Memorial Day, while for many not much more than a three-day weekend, will be
marked by many solemn ceremonies. At the time of this writing, the most
recent US deaths in Afghanistan were two soldiers from the Pacific island of
Guam, Sgt Eugene M Aguon, 23, and Spc Dwayne W Flores, 22, killed by
a so-called improvised explosive device on 16 May.
Unreported by the Pentagon are the hundreds of soldier and veteran
suicides, which now account for more deaths than combat. The backlog at
Veterans Affairs, as of May 20, was more than 873,000 benefits claims pending,
584,000 of which were pending for more than 125 days.
Thomas Paine wrote in the March 21, 1778, edition of his pamphlet The Crisis,
"If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of willful and offensive war ...
he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens
a vein that bleeds a nation to death."
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column
|Way Worse Than a Dumb War:
Iraq Ten Years Later
Phyllis Bennis on March 18, 2013 - The Nation
Editor’s Note: This statement on the tenth anniversary of the launch of
the Iraq War was signed by Phyllis Bennis, John Cavanagh and Steve
Cobble (Institute for Policy Studies); Judith LeBlanc and Kevin Martin
(Peace Action); Laura Flanders (GritTV); Bill Fletcher (The Black
Commentator); Andy Shallal (Iraqis for Peace); Medea Benjamin (Code
Pink); Michael T. McPhearson and Leslie Cagan (United for Peace
and Justice); Michael Eisenscher (US Labor Against the War) and
David Wildman. All organizations for identification only.
It didn’t take long for the world to recognize that the US invasion and
occupation of Iraq constituted a dumb war, as then Senator Barack
Obama put it. But “dumb” wasn’t the half of it.
The US war against Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. It violated the UN
Charter, the Geneva Conventions and a whole host of international
laws and treaties. It violated US laws and our Constitution with impunity.
And it was all based on lies: about nonexistent links between Iraq and
Al Qaeda, about never-were ties between Saddam Hussein and
Osama bin Laden, about Iraq’s invisible weapons of mass destruction
and about Baghdad’s supposed nuclear program, with derivative lies
about uranium yellowcake from Niger and aluminum rods from China.
There were lies about US troops being welcomed in the streets with
sweets and flowers, and lies about thousands of jubilant Iraqis
spontaneously tearing down the statue of a hated dictator.
And then there was the lie that the US could send hundreds of
thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons across
the world to wage war on the cheap. We didn’t have to raise taxes to
pay the almost one trillion dollars the Iraq war has cost so far, we could
go shopping instead.
But behind these myths the costs were huge—human, economic and
more. More than a million US troops were deployed to Iraq; 4,483 were
killed; 33,183 were wounded and more than 200,000 came home with
PTSD. The number of Iraqi civilians killed is still unknown; at least
121,754 are known to have been killed directly during the US war, but
hundreds of thousands more died from crippling sanctions, diseases
caused by dirty water when the US destroyed the water treatment
system and the inability to get medical help because of exploding
And what are we leaving behind? After almost a decade the US finally
pulled out most of its troops and Pentagon-paid contractors. About
16,000 State Department-paid contractors and civilian employees are
still stationed at the giant US embassy compound and two huge
consulates, along with unacknowledged CIA and FBI agents, Special
Forces and a host of other undercover operatives. The US just sold
the Iraqi government 140 M-l tanks, and American-made fighter jets
are in the pipeline too. But there is little question that the all-
encompassing US military occupation of Iraq is over. After more than
eight years of war, the Iraqi government finally said no more. Their
refusal to grant US troops immunity from prosecution for potential war
crimes was the deal-breaker that forced President Obama’s hand and
made him pull out the last 30,000 troops he and his generals were
hoping to keep in Iraq.
But as we knew would be the case, the pull out by itself did not end the
violence. The years of war and occupation have left behind a
devastated country, split along sectarian lines, a shredded social fabric
and a dispossessed and impoverished population. Iraq remains one of
the most violent countries in the world; that’s the true legacy of the US
war. We owe a great debt to the people of Iraq—and we have not even
begun to make good on that commitment.
The US lost the Iraq War. Iraq hasn’t been “liberated.” Violence is
rampant; the sectarian violence resulting from early US policies after
the 2003 invasion continues to escalate. Of course we didn’t bring
democracy and freedom to Iraq—that was never on the US agenda.
The failure to “liberate” Iraq cannot be the basis for assessing the war.
The real assessment must be based on whether the war achieved the
goals that the Bush administration and its neo-conservative, military
CEO and Pentagon profiteering partners established for this war:
Consolidating permanent US control over Iraq’s oil. Nope, US oil
companies are just some of the myriad of foreign oil interests in Iraq’s
Leaving behind a pro-US, anti-Iranian government in Baghdad. Hardly,
Prime Minister al-Maliki is barely on speaking terms with anyone in
Guaranteeing permanent access to US bases in Iraq. Not even close,
all but two of the 500 plus US bases and outposts were either closed
down or turned over to the Iraqi military.
Ensuring that a post-war Iraqi government would allow the US to use
Iraq as a jumping off point to attack Iran. No way, despite continuing
billions of dollars of our tax money, the Iraqi government today is allied
more closely to Iran than the US.
In the buildup to the war, too many media, government officials,
academics and others allowed fear to curb their tongue or their
eagerness to curry favor with those in power to stifle their speech. This
remains a crucial lesson as we stand up to the escalation of Obama’s
drone war and continue to challenge those who call for war against
The war in Iraq began with significant support, with many people
accepting the false claims that this new war would bring security to a
still-frightened US public. But that support did not last long. Within the
first years, pro-war assumptions had been reversed, and by the end,
the anti-war movement and escalating casualties had turned around
public opinion so thoroughly that overwhelming majorities admitted the
war in Iraq was wrong and should never have been fought in the first
And this war showed us our power. It proved the possibility of
globalizing opposition even before the war began. The mobilization of
February 15, 2003, when the broad United for Peace and Justice
coalition joined with allies around the world on the day the world said
“No to War!” February 15 created what The New York Times called
“the second super-power,” ready to challenge the US drive towards
empire. Our movement changed history. While we were not able to
prevent the invasion of Iraq a month later, that mobilization proved the
illegality of the war. It demonstrated the isolation of the Bush
administration, pulled governments and the United Nations into a
trajectory of resistance, helped prevent war in Iran and inspired a
generation of activists, including some of those who, eight years later,
would create the Arab Spring in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The US troops left behind a devastated, tortured Iraq. What they didn’t
leave behind is one dollar for reparations or compensation. That battle
still lies ahead. The US war in Iraq may be over, but we owe an apology
to all those who suffered from the war. And that apology must be
grounded in recognition of our enormous debt to the people of Iraq, a
debt for which compensation and reparations are only a start. Our real
obligation, to the people of Iraq and the region and the rest of the
world, is to transform our government and our country so that these
resource-driven wars, shaped by lies and fought for power and for
empire, whether in Iran or somewhere else, can never be waged again
Read more: http://www.thenation.com/blog/173396/way-worse-dumb-