Issues & Alibis

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In This Edition

Scott Ritter asks, "McChrystal Doesn't Get It, Does Obama?"

Uri Avnery says to, "Count Me Out."

Christopher Cooper sees that, "Once Again The Animals Were Conscious Of A Vague Uneasiness."

Jim Hightower counts up, "Fifty-Five Healthcare Hypocrites."

Victoria Stewart has dem ole, "Talking Blues."

John Nichols discovers, "Tea Party Activists Are The New GOP."

Paul Krugman thinks there's been, "Too Little Of A Good Thing."

Chris Floyd uncovers, "The Inhuman Stain."

Case Wagenvoord with a must read, "Humanizing The Dehumanized."

Mike Folkerth wonders, "Healthcare Crisis Or Cost Crisis?"

Chris Hedges compares, "Opium, Rape And The American Way."

Robert Scheer is, "Keeping Afghanistan Safe From Democracy."

US General Stanley H. McChrystal wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Glenn Greenwald covers, "Obama's Latest Use Of "Secrecy" To Shield Presidential Lawbreaking."

Sheila Samples returns with, "Rack'em And Screw'em, Boys!"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department 'The Onion' reports, "U.S. Continues Quagmire-Building Effort In Afghanistan" but first Uncle Ernie speculates about, "Seven Days In November."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Brian Fairrington, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Ted Rall, RJ Matson, Storm Bear, Rex Babin, P. Jamiol, MeMeGenerator.Net, Thomas Nast, Moltiflake.Com, ABC News and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

Seven Days In November
By Ernest Stewart

"And if you want to talk about your oath of office, I'm here to tell you face to face, President Lyman, that you violated that oath when you stripped this country of its muscles - when you deliberately played upon the fear and fatigue of the people and told them they could remove that fear by the stroke of a pen. And then when this nation rejected you, lost faith in you, and began militantly to oppose you, you violated that oath by not resigning from office and turning the country over to someone who could represent the people of the United States." ~~~ Seven Days In May ~ General James Mattoon Scott

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. ~~~ H. L. Mencken

"Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors." ~~~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I had a flashback the other day. No, it wasn't that free acid trip that I've heard so much about but never got to have. It came from just listening to the drool that flowed from the lips of some talking head concerning Obama and General Stanley A. McChrystal. What I flashed to was the 1964 film, "Seven Days In May."

You may recall in the movie General James Mattoon Scott (played by Burt Lancaster) had designs on a military coup d'etat against the President Jordan Lyman (played by Fredric March) because March had the intelligence to try to make peace with the Russians via a nuclear arms treaty. Burt doesn't see it that way and thinks March will destroy the country unless he keeps upping the ante and so plans a coup d'etat.

Which is exactly what General Stanley A. McChrystal, General David Howell Betrayus er, Petraeus and a few more of their bunkmates seem to be up to. Obama wants to freeze or begin pulling out some of the surge troops; the generals want the troop levels up another 40,000 in Afghanistan or McChrystal and his lackeys will make some political mischief in the House, Senate and the upcoming elections. Ergo making implicit threats against the President of the United States.

I know, you say that it couldn't happen in these here United Snakes, except of course it already did back when I was just a barefoot boy with cheeks of tan. You may recall back when General of the Army (that's a five star folks) Douglas (Dug-Out Doug) MacArthur publicly criticized President Harry S. Truman over his Korea policy. Harry, having spent his youth in the trenches of WWI as a captain in the Army, wasn't about to take that from his subordinate and promptly fired Doug.

If Obama wants to serve out his term he'd better grow himself a pair and stand up to the generals like Harry S did or we could find ourselves in the middle of a military coup d'etat and I'm pretty sure that it won't be much fun for anybody!

In Other News

Well, we've just had a new round of voting and the American people have spoken!

Up in Maine the people decided that not all people are equal, that there is one set of rules for some but another set of rules for others. Seems like I recall that we fought a great civil war about having two sets of laws? Isn't that special? I wonder what happened to, "all for one and one for all?" If you're gay in Maine you are now officially a second-class citizen as you no longer have the same rights as a heterosexual citizen and Zeus protect you if you're a transsexual! I hope these brain deads realize if you can do that to one group then you can do it to others. A simple solution would be to disallow all the benefits that heterosexuals get from marriage, the tax breaks and such, wouldn't that be fair?

Meanwhile, in New Jersey and Virginia the voters turned out to welcome back the Rethuglicans to the governor's shack. I'm guessing that memories are very short or they want more tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy and more tax burdens for everyone else. Perhaps they no longer need those extended unemployment benefits, food stamps and the like and really like sleeping in their cars or in Bush tent cities? And some folks wonder why I use the term "Sheeple?"

In both cases the people were easily programmed by some slick talking Rethuglican corpo-rat goons into stealing rights away from others and putting the foxes in charge of the hen houses. Like the Californians who elected a B movie actor with absolutely no qualifications to the governorship and now have the biggest debt in America as the old Gropenfuhrer emptied the coffers into the pockets of the ultra rich and took the rights away from gay folk. Yes they're starting to wise up in LaLaland and are now just beginning to see the folly of their ways. When those tax bills become due the chickens will have come home to roost! It will no doubt dawn on the folks in Maine, Virginia and New Jersey that they, too, got swindled and now must lie in it! Just when you thought the American people couldn't get any dumber!

Still there was one bright note. In New York's 23rd Congressional district there was an upset victory for the Dems when Bill Owens beat back the heavily favored tea bagger-endorsed Doug Hoffman in a district that hadn't gone Democratic since the 1800s. State Assembly member Dierdre Scozzafava had been the Republican candidate but was forced out by the tea baggers at the last moment for being too "liberal." She was replaced by the neo-fascist Hoffman. Scozzafava decided to back the Democrat who, until the switch, was expected to lose by a good margin. The tea baggers, led by infamous proto-nazi Richard Viguerie who thought Dick Cheney was too far liberal and had declared that, "Tea Party Activists Are the New GOP." I hope he is correct because if this is any indication of the New GOP power it could truly be a turning point in American politics and the end of the GOP!

And Finally

We'd like to welcome a new author to the magazine. This week Christopher Cooper is joining our little band of "Merry Pranksters." Chris hails from Maine and you can see him posing with his favorite chain saw for this week's article, "Once Again The Animals Were Conscious Of A Vague Uneasiness." We welcome your wit and wisdom Chris. Oh and by the way the key to the "honor bar" is under the mat!

Oh And One More Thing

For all of you who have written in over the last four years wanting to see my pet project, i.e., "W The Movie" and couldn't get to it's very limited run in the theatres or film festivals, here's your chance. "W The Movie" is now available on DVD through If you are so inclined please use the link/portal for the film, which maybe found towards the bottom of this page. That way Amazon will send me a few pennies for each purchase, which may allow the continuation of the magazine as donations have been few and far between in this year of depression and we're running at a loss that we cannot afford to sustain. Makes the perfect gift or Christmas present!


We don't sell our readers new cars, fancy homes or designer clothes. We don't advocate consumerism nor do we offer facile solutions to serious problems. We do, however, bring together every week writers and activists who are not afraid to speak the truth about our country and our world. The articles we print are not for the faint of heart.

As access to accurate information becomes more difficult and free speech and the exchange of ideas becomes more restricted and controlled, small publications and alternative presses disappear. Issues and Alibis may soon join that list.

We aren't asking for much-not thousands of dollars a month, not tens of thousands a year. What we need is simply enough money to cover expenses for the magazine. A few thousand dollars a year. A few hundred dollars a month. We cannot continue to go into debt to publish Issues and Alibis but at the same time we cannot, in good conscience, go quietly about our daily lives, remaining silent in face of the injustices perpetrated by our leaders and our government. So we need your help. We need your spare change. A dollar, five dollars, whatever you can contribute. Every penny makes a difference.

Ernest & Victoria Stewart


09-27-1917 ~ 11-03-2009
At ease!


The "W" theatre trailers are up along with the new movie poster and screen shots from the film. They are all available at the all-new "W" movie site: All five "W" trailers are available along with the trailer from our first movie "Jesus and her Gospel of Yes" at the Pink & Blue Films site on YouTube.


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


So how do you like Bush Lite so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2009 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 8 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. In his spare time he is an actor, writer and an associate producer for the new motion picture "W The Movie."

McChrystal Doesn't Get It, Does Obama?
By Scott Ritter

There is a curious phenomenon taking place in the American media at the moment: the lionization of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the American military commander in Afghanistan. Although he has taken a few lumps for playing politics with the White House, McChrystal has generally been sold to the American public as a "Zen warrior," a counterinsurgency genius who, if simply left to his own devices, will be able to radically transform the ongoing debacle that is Afghanistan into a noble victory that will rank as one of the greatest political and military triumphs of modern history. McChrystal's resume and persona (a former commander of America's special operations forces, a tireless athlete and a scholar) have been breathlessly celebrated in several interviews and articles. Reporters depict him as an ascetic soldier who spouts words of wisdom to rival Confucius, Jesus and Muhammad.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent Gen. McChrystal to "fix" the war in Afghanistan in the way that his boss, that earlier military prophet Gen. David Petraeus, "fixed" Iraq. Whether by accident or design, McChrystal's mission became a cause celebre of sorts for an American media starved for good news, even if entirely fabricated, coming out of Afghanistan. One must remember that the general has accomplished little of note during his short tenure to date as the military commander in Afghanistan. His entire reputation is built around the potential to turn things around in Afghanistan. And to do this, McChrystal has said he needs time, and 40,000-plus additional American troops. There are currently around 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. McChrystal's request would raise that number to around 110,000 troops - the same number as the Soviets had deployed in Afghanistan at the height of their failed military adventure some 20 years ago.

McChrystal, or more accurately, his staff, has authored a not-so-secret report that outlines the reasoning behind this massive increase in American military involvement in Afghanistan. Rightly noting that the American-led effort is currently failing, McChrystal argues that only a massive infusion of U.S. troops, and a corresponding "surge" of American civilians, can achieve the stability necessary to transform Afghanistan from the failed state it is today. A viable nation capable of self-government, the new Afghanistan could maintain internal security so that terrorist organizations like al-Qaida will not be able to take root, flourish and once again threaten American security from the sanctuary of a lawless land. This concept certainly looks good on paper and plays well in the editorial section. And why shouldn't it? It touches on all the romantic notions of America as liberator and defender of the oppressed. The problem is that the assumptions made in the McChrystal report are so far removed from reality as to be ludicrous.

McChrystal operates under the illusion that American military power can provide a shield from behind which Afghanistan can remake itself into a viable modern society. He has deluded himself and others into believing that the people of Afghanistan want to be part of such a grand social experiment, and furthermore that they will tolerate the United States being in charge. The reality of Afghan history, culture and society argue otherwise. The Taliban, once a defeated entity in the months following the initial American military incursion into Afghanistan, are resurgent and growing stronger every day. The principle source of the Taliban's popularity is the resentment of the Afghan people toward the American occupation and the corrupt proxy government of Hamid Karzai. There is nothing an additional 40,000 American troops will be able to do to change that basic equation. The Soviets tried and failed. They deployed 110,000 troops, operating on less restrictive lines of communication and logistical supply than the United States. They built an Afghan army of some 45,000 troops. They operated without the constraints of American rules of engagement. They slaughtered around a million Afghans. And they lost, for the simple reason that the people of Afghanistan did not want them, or their Afghan proxies.

Some pundits and observers make note of the fact that the Afghan people were able to prevail over the Soviets only because of billions of dollars of U.S. aid, which together with similar funding from Saudi Arabia and the logistical support of Pakistan, allowed the Afghan resistance to coalesce, grow and ultimately defeat the Soviets and their Afghan allies. They note that there is no equivalent source of empowerment for the Taliban in Afghanistan today. But they are wrong. The Taliban receive millions of dollars from sympathetic sources in the Middle East, in particular from Saudi Arabia, and they operate not only from within Afghanistan, but also out of safe havens inside Pakistan.

Indeed, one of the unique aspects of the Afghan conflict is the degree to which it has expanded into Pakistan, making any military solution in one theater contingent on military victory in the other. But the reality is that the more one employs military force in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, the more one strengthens the cause and resources of the Islamic insurgents in both places. Pashtunistan, once a fanciful notion built around the concept of a united Pashtun people (the population in eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan are primarily drawn from Pashtun tribes), has become a de facto reality. The decision by the British in 1897 to separate the Pashtun through the artificial device of the so-called Durand Line (which today constitutes the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan) has been exposed today as a futile effort to undermine tribal links. No amount of military force can reverse this.

Thus the solution itself becomes the problem, thereby creating a never-ending circular conflict which has the United States expending more and more resources to resolve a situation that has nothing to do with the reality on the ground in Afghanistan, and everything to do with crafting a politically viable salve for what is in essence a massive self-inflicted wound. It is the proverbial dog chasing after its own tail, a frustrating experience made even more so by the fact that any massive commitment of troops brings with it the fatal attachment of national pride, individual hubris and, worst of all, the scourge of domestic American politics, so that by the time this dog bites its tail, it will be so blinded by artificialities that rather than recognize its mistake, it will instead proceed to consume itself. In the case of Afghanistan, our consumption will be measured in the lives of American servicemen and women, national treasure, national honor, and, of course the lives of countless Afghan dead and wounded.

The manner in which McChrystal has peddled his plan for Afghanistan to the American media, and to Congress, may be politically savvy. It is certainly insubordinate. The decision to employ American military power is the sole prerogative of the American president. A general may offer advice, but any effort to engage the machinery of politics to pressure a sitting president defies the basic constitutional tenet of civilian control over the military. President Obama, once a constitutional law professor, should know as much, and would do well to severely reprimand McChrystal for his actions. Or better yet, Obama should fire McChrystal and replace him with someone who respects the rule of law and the chain of command.

Obama may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but if he allows himself to be bullied into supporting McChrystal's foray into Afghanistan, he will reveal himself as the worst kind of warmonger. True, he didn't invent the Afghan quagmire. That honor resides with George W. Bush, who also is to blame for the American fiasco in Iraq. But history will be surprisingly gentle toward America's 43rd president. Bush will share the blame for his calamitous military decisions with the mistaken policies of previous administrations, a compliant Congress, headstrong advisers, servile intelligence agencies and, of course, the shock of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Bush will be seen more as a useful idiot than a ruthless ideologue. Obama, with his obvious intelligence, soaring rhetorical skills and Nobel credentials, does not readily fit such a characterization. If he decides to reinforce failure in Afghanistan by dispatching tens of thousands more American troops to that disaster, America's 44th president will cement himself as a grand fraud, a hawk hiding in dove feathers. Given his potential for doing good, one clearly would not want such a scenario to play out.

The president's lack of military experience screams out when he calls America's involvement in Afghanistan a "good war." He would have been better off trying to make the case for a justifiable war, or even a necessary war, but to label a process that brings about the death and injury of thousands as "good" makes me wonder about Obama's fitness to be commander in chief. His seeming inexperience on national security affairs and foreign policy leave him vulnerable to domestic political pressures that emanate from these arenas. The president does possess the vision to see a world in which America stands side by side with other nations as an equal, operating with a shared notion of due process and respect for the rule of law, but that doesn't square with any decision to deploy more troops to Afghanistan. Expanding the war in Afghanistan will lend credence to the central worry about Obama: that, at the end of the day, this man of vision might in fact be little more than an Illinois politician who is willing to barter away American life, treasure and good will for political gain on the domestic front. And, in doing so, it will undermine his noble vision of an America "resetting" its relationship with the world following eight years of unilateralist militarism.

A true leader, one with substance and gravitas, would be able to stand up to the combined pressure of the military, the right-wing of Congress and the American media. He would draw the correct conclusions from the lessons of history, which prove again and again that Afghanistan is not a problem that can be solved by foreign military intervention. The fact that Obama might be compelled to alleviate the political pressure he is receiving from these sources by condemning America to another decade of death and destruction in Afghanistan and, most probably, Pakistan, reinforces any perception of his weakness as a national leader.

Afghanistan has, over the centuries, earned its reputation as the graveyard of empires. Just ask the Greeks, Mongols, British and Russians. If Barack Obama ultimately agrees to dispatch more American troops to Afghanistan, he will ensure not only that America will add its name to the list of those who have failed in their effort to conquer the unconquerable, but also that his name will join the ranks of those leaders throughout history who succumbed to the temptations of hubris when given the choice between war and peace. The Nobel committee will have failed in its gambit to motivate America's 44th president to embrace the mantle of peacemaker, and the American people will be left to sort through the detritus of war brought on by yet another failed president.

Of course, the future is not yet set in stone. The decision to dispatch more troops, although the subject of much rumor and speculation, has been delayed pending the final dispensation of Afghanistan's controversial presidential election. One can only hope that President Obama will take advantage of this timely "pause" to reconsider his options regarding Afghanistan beyond the single-minded rush to reinforce a current policy the U.S. military has acknowledged as having gone nowhere in the eight years of American military engagement.

Vice President Joe Biden had earlier proposed a policy course that would have de-emphasized military engagement with the Taliban, focusing instead on rooting out the forces of al-Qaida still operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Obama was reportedly not sold on Biden's thinking when it was first presented last March. Perhaps now, upon reflection, the president will do the right thing and reduce America's military involvement in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, either along the lines proposed by Vice President Biden, or through some other mechanism. There is no military solution to the problems facing the United States today in Afghanistan, and thus the correct course of action is to de-militarize the situation by reducing, not expanding, America's military presence.

Clearly Gen. Stanley McChrystal is not the man for this task. He should be replaced by someone within the ranks of the U.S. military who shares Obama's vision of peace, and with it the need to redefine the mission in South Asia. The legitimate requirements of American national security will not be satisfied by any massive military commitment to the region. Hopefully, President Obama will recognize this fact and get out. That would be a sign of greatness, and present to the American people and the rest of the world a leader worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
(c) 2009 Scott Ritter a former Marine Corps intelligence officer, was a chief inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books; "Target Iran," with a new afterword by the author, was recently released in paperback by Nation Books.

Count Me Out
By Uri Avnery

A YEAR before the Oslo agreement, I had a meeting with Yasser Arafat in Tunis. He was full of curiosity about Yitzhak Rabin, who had just been elected Prime Minister.

I described him as well as I could and ended with the words: "He is as honest as a politician can be."

Arafat broke into laughter, and all the others present, among them Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Abed-Rabbo, joined in.

FOR THE sake of proper disclosure: I always liked Rabin as a human being. I especially liked some traits of his.

First of all: his honesty. This is such a rare quality among politicians that it stood out like an oasis in the desert. His mouth and his heart were one, as far as is possible in political life. He did not lie when he could possibly avoid it.

He was a decent human being. Witness the "dollar affair": when his term as Israeli ambassador in Washington DC came to an end, his wife Leah left behind a bank account, contrary to Israeli law at the time. When it was discovered, he protected his wife by assuming personal responsibility. At the time, unlike today, "assuming responsibility" was not an empty phrase. He left the Prime Minister's office.

I liked even his most evident personality trait - his introversion. He was withdrawn, with few human contacts. Not a fellow-well-met back slapper, not one for lavishing compliments, indeed an anti-politician.

Also, I liked the way he told people straight to the face what he thought of them. Some of his expressions, in juicy Hebrew, have become part of Israeli folklore. Such as "indefatigable intriguer" (about Shimon Peres), "propellers" (about the settlers, meaning electric fans which spin noisily without going anywhere), "garbage of weaklings" (about people leaving Israel for good).

He had no small talk. In every conversation, he came to the point right at the start.

One might imagine that these characteristics would alienate people. Quite to the contrary, people were attracted to him because of them. In a world of pretentious, garrulous, mendacious, back-slapping politicians, he was a refreshing rarity.

MORE THAN anything else, I respected Rabin for his dramatic change of outlook at the age of 70. The man who had been a soldier since he was 18, who had fought Arabs all his life, suddenly became a peace-fighter. And not just a fighter for peace in general, but for peace with the Palestinian people, whose very existence had always been denied by the leaders of Israel.

The public memory, one of the most effective instruments of the establishment, is trying nowadays to obliterate this chapter. Throughout the country one can buy postcards showing Rabin shaking hands with King Hussein at the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, but it is almost impossible to find a card showing Rabin with Arafat at the Oslo agreement signing ceremony. Never happened.

As I have recounted before, I was an eye-witness to his inner revolution. From 1969 on, until after the Oslo agreement, we had a running debate about the Palestinian issue - at the Washington embassy, at parties where we met casually (generally at the bar), in the Prime Minister's office and at his private home.

In one 1969 conversation, he objected strenuously to any dealings with the Palestinians. One sentence imprinted itself upon my mind: "I want an open border, not a secure border" (a play of words in Hebrew). At the time, his former commander, Yigal Alon, was spreading the slogan "secure borders", in order to justify extensive annexations of occupied territory. Rabin wanted an open border between Israel and the West Bank, which he intended to give back to King Hussein. After this conversation, I wrote him that the border would be open only if there was a Palestinian state on the other side, because then the economic realities would compel both states - Israel and Palestine - to maintain close relations.

In 1975, after the start of my secret contacts with the PLO, I went to brief him (in accordance with the express wishes of the PLO). In the conversation that took place at the Prime Minister's office, I tried to convince him to give up the "Jordanian option", which I had always considered silly. He refused adamantly. "We must make peace with Hussein," he told me. "After he has signed, I don't care if the king is toppled." Like Shimon Peres and many others, he entertained the illusion that the king would give up East Jerusalem.

I told him that I could not follow the logic of this line of thought. Let's imagine that the king signed and was then overthrown. What next? The PLO would take over a state extending from Tulkarm to the approaches of Baghdad, in which four Arab armies could easily assemble. Was that, I asked, what he wanted?

In this conversation, too, one sentence imprinted itself on my mind: "I will not take the smallest step towards the Palestinians, because the first step would lead inevitably to the creation of a Palestinian state, and I don't want that." In the end he told me: "I oppose what you are doing, but I will not prevent you from meeting with them. If these meetings reveal things to you that you think the Israeli Prime Minister should know about, my door is open." That was Rabin all over. The contacts, of course, broke the law.

After that I brought him several messages from Arafat, conveyed to me by the PLO representative in London, Sa'id Hamami. Arafat proposed small mutual gestures. Rabin refused all of them.

Consequently I was all the more impressed by Oslo. Later Rabin explained to me, one Shabbat at his private apartment, how he arrived there: King Hussein had resigned his responsibility for the West Bank. The "village leagues", set up by Israel as pliant "representatives" of the Palestinians, were a dismal failure. As Minister of Defense he summoned local Palestinian leaders for individual consultations, and one after another they told him that their political address was in Tunis. After that, at the Madrid conference, Israel agreed to negotiate with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, but then the Jordanians told them that all Palestinian matters must be discussed with the Palestinian members alone. But at every meeting, the Palestinian delegates asked for a pause in order to call Tunis and get instructions from Arafat. Rabin's conclusion: if all decisions are made by Arafat anyhow, why not talk with him directly?

It has always been said that Rabin had an "analytical mind". He did not have much of an imagination, but he viewed facts soberly, analyzed them logically and drew his conclusions.

IF SO, why did the Oslo agreement fail?

The practical reasons are easy to see. From the beginning, the agreement was build on shaky foundations, because it lacked the main thing: a clear definition of the final objective of the process.

For Arafat it was self-evident that the agreed "interim stages" would lead to an independent Palestinian state in the whole of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with perhaps some minor exchanges of territory. East Jerusalem, including of course the Holy Shrines, was to become the capital of Palestine. The settlements would be dismantled. I am convinced that he would have been satisfied with a symbolic return of a limited number of refugees to Israel proper.

That was Arafat's price for giving up 78% of the country, and no Palestinian leader, present or future, could be satisfied with less.

But Rabin's aim was unclear, perhaps even to himself. At the time he was not yet ready to accept a Palestinian state. Absent an agreed destination, all the "interim phases" went awry. Every step caused new conflicts. (As I wrote at the time, when traveling from Paris to Berlin, one can stop at interim stations. When traveling from Paris to Madrid, one can also stop at interim stations - but they will be quite different ones.)

Arafat was conscious of the faults of the agreement. He told his people that it was "the best possible agreement in the worst possible circumstances". But he believed that the dynamics of the peace process would overcome the obstacles on the way. So did I. We were both wrong.

After the signing, Rabin began to hesitate. Instead of rushing forwards to create facts, he dithered. This gave the opposing forces in Israel time to recoup from the shock, regroup and start a counterattack, which ended in his assassination.

Perhaps this mistake could have been foreseen. Rabin was by nature a cautious person. He was conscious of the heavy responsibility that rested on his shoulders. He had no taste for drama, unlike Begin, nor was he blessed with a vivid imagination, like Herzl. For better and for worse, he lived in the real world. He had no idea how to change it, though he knew that he had to do just that.

BUT THESE explanations are only the foam upon the waves. Deep under the surface, powerful currents were at work. They pushed Rabin off course and in the end they swallowed him.

Rabin was a child of the classic Zionist ideology. He never rebelled against it. He carried in his body the genetic code of the Zionist movement, a movement whose aim from the beginning was to turn the Land of Israel into an exclusively Jewish state, which denied the very existence of the Arab Palestinian people and whose logic ultimately meant their displacement.

Like most of his generation in the country, he absorbed this ideology with his mother's milk, and was raised on it throughout. It shaped his ideas so thoroughly that he was not even aware of it. At the critical juncture of his life, he fell victim to an insoluble inner contradiction: his analytical mind told him to make peace with the Palestinians, to "give up" a part of the country and to dismantle the settlements, while his Zionist genetic heritage opposed this with all its might. That manifested itself visibly at the Oslo agreement signing ceremony: he offered his hand to Arafat because his mind commanded it, but all his body language expressed rejection.

It is impossible to make peace without a basic mental and emotional commitment to peace. Impossible to change the direction of a historic movement without reassessing its history. Impossible for a leader to steer his people towards a total change (as Ataturk did in Turkey, for example) if he is not completely devoted to the change himself. Impossible to make peace with an enemy without understanding his truth.

Rabin's inner convictions continued to evolve after Oslo. Between him and Arafat, mutual respect grew. Perhaps he would have arrived, in his slow and cautious way, at the necessary mental change. The assassin and his handlers must have been afraid of this and decided to forestall it.

Rabin's failure will find its expression at the memorial rally next week at the very place where we witnessed his murder, 14 years ago. The main speakers will be two of the gravediggers of the Oslo agreement, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, as well as Tzipi Livni and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who belonged to the forces that created the climate for the murder. Rabin, I assume, will turn in his grave.

Will I be there? Not me, thank you very much.
(c) 2009 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Once Again The Animals Were Conscious Of A Vague Uneasiness
By Christopher Cooper

People tell me how wrong I am in my opinions concerning important public issues. Some of this instruction I receive by reading essays and interviews, and a good deal is delivered to me personally by acquaintances or co-workers, much of it rendered in an exasperated or condescending voice. That I remain recalcitrant may simply be evidence of my perverse nature and the inability of even good pedagogy to reach and save every soul. I may be crazy. Or I may be right.

Let me tell you that I voted for George McGovern. And I have more than once voted for Ralph Nader. And I have "thrown away" my vote once or twice on Green Party candidates. On the spectrum of American political thought and alliance I was for some years a liberal, believing or hoping that good ideas and good intentions could, through activism and education and the application of law and franchise, improve the lot of persons of modest means, reduce conflict between societies and inequalities within them, and reduce or reverse our abuses of the natural world. That was, to be sure, the person I was many years ago.

I have not abandoned these principles; I probably hold them more firmly now at sixty than I did even at twenty. But I no longer imagine any candidate or party allowed to function in this society will promote legislation, regulation or taxation to materially effect these goals. This is the vein into which so many wish to inject the corrective elixirs of hope and faith.

Conservatives, reactionaries, corporatists and warmongers don't argue with me. They laugh at me and my peaceable vegetarian life, but do not imagine I am correctable; I amuse but do not irritate them. They have their beliefs in the rightness of power and money and the God-given right of the white man to take and to use. I do not read their sacred texts and attend their services, so they do not much think about me. I seem, rather, to be at odds with liberals because we start from a very similar station but climb aboard far different trains when we take our feelings out into the world.

George W. Bush, President G. W. Bush, was and is an idiot. A shallow, stupid man of crude appetites when younger, his life would have been of no consequence had not the Republican party chosen him as the public face of the Cheney government. I doubt he has to this day any coherent idea of how he found himself in the White House or who made the decisions while he lived there. He was, in the words of Mr. Bob Dylan, "only a pawn in their game." You know it and I know it as we say here in the woods of Maine. And liberals and Democrats know it. Members of the print and broadcast press know it. Bloggers are well aware of this. Hell, Republicans even have an obvious degree of contempt for the sad little creature who was the putative president for two terms recently ended. They do still love and fear Dick Cheney though. And war. And greed.

Because Al Gore rolled over and played dead and did not misbehave or act out or fight for himself and his country, the Supreme Court short-circuited the system and gave us George Bush, his stupidity, his wars, his coddling of the rich and his courting of crazies in the far fringes of Christian American Medieval backwardness.

Then, because John Kerry was an inept fool who ran a campaign that largely ran away from everything honorable he had once done and believed in, we were blessed with a second term of Richard B. Cheney and his wooden-headed puppet.

Throughout those eight long, dark years, whenever I complained about what our poor nation had become and was doing, I was advised to vote Democratic, early and often, and to contribute money to that party and its candidates. Only a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president, I was told, could reverse the terrible damage.

It came then to pass that we received those tools. The Democratic president and Congress, and after some finagling even the sixty-seat majority in the Senate. I was advised to watch for the great change to come rolling over us like a flood; we would soon be awash in progressivism. Our boys would come home from foreign wars, we would close our illegal prison camps, abandon torture and rendition. The rich would again be taxed, environmental abuses rolled back, people put ahead of corporations. We would get universal health care. Some of this would happen immediately upon Barack Obama taking office. Much would be in place in a magical, marvelous "first hundred days." What great changes a year would bring.

I don't have to tell you there is great and crushing disappointment among those who most fervently supported candidate Obama and his campaign for Change We Can Believe In. "I don't want any more Clintons," one man told me often last year. (He did not need to tell me he wanted no more Reagans, no Romneys, no Giulianis.)

We are still wasting money and lives in Iraq. We are wasting money and lives in Afghanistan at the highest rate since we blundered into that misunderstood (and, yes, "misunderestimated) country eight years ago. We keep in wire cages and steel and stone cells persons we picked up years ago; we do not try them nor do we release them. Some we send still to places where men do to other men those things both Bush and Obama have said we do not do. Our wars are not ended, they are escalated.

This new government is generous to bankers. The worst sort of bankers. Crooks. Thieves. You've read the tales, each more lurid than the other, of the wild ride Wall Street has enjoyed at your expense. Your taxes go to clean up their mess. They continue to reward themselves with bonuses. Nobody goes to jail.

Where is our new energy policy? Foundered on the fantasy of "clean coal", I fear, with mountaintop removal accelerating the devastation in Appalachia and the mile-long coal trains still snaking out of Wyoming daily, hourly.

And here we are about to receive a piece of crap that will be called health care reform but will instead be a gift to the very insurance companies, their managers and their investors, who have given us the worst system in the modern world. You may well be required to buy their bad product (as Republican Mitt Romney required of Massachusetts) and fined or taxed for failure to do so. Perhaps you'll be allowed to join with your neighbors and form a happy group to buy a bad plan together. What you will not get is anything even vaguely similar to a progressive, fair, publicly-financed system such as the rest of the civilized nations enjoy.

What you can be sure you'll get is the assurance that we have "passed a plan" because that's all that this president formerly known as the candidate of change is now promising-we will get a plan this year. It will be satisfactory to the insurance companies. It will further enrich them. Thousands will continue to suffer and die because this Congress and this Democratic president have made deals with and taken millions of dollars from the corporations that have brought us to our wretched present sickness.

And so it goes. And every so often the triangulation and dealing and selling-out is concealed by the cloak of hope and promise and we are treated to another allegedly inspiring speech, often using the same inane chant we heard so often last fall: "I'm fired up! I'm ready to go! Fired up! Ready to go!" (Great and sustained applause follows.) We were desperate for a leader; we got a motivational speaker. There is disappointment and there is disgust and there is anger. You can read well-reasoned, articulate essays every day that detail the hooks the war industry and the investment bankers and the coal and nuclear industries have so firmly set in the body of this administration, this Democratic majority administration. You can have, and I have certainly had, long conversations with intelligent, honest, decent persons who are as disturbed by the policy similarities between Bush and Obama as you are.

But don't say it out loud. Don't predict that what we see is what we get. Don't look from man to pig and pig to man and pronounce them much the same. Or do it if you like, and think it if you do, but don't be bold and say that the Democrats are not much better for us than the Republicans.

Your betters will remind you that Dick Cheney was a worse human being than Joe Biden. They will tell you that Obama is smart. He is playing a careful game. He is more progressive than his actions. He's only able to get what the Senate will allow him. He means well. He would like to do the right thing. He's fired up and he's ready to go. He's inspiring. He's not George Bush.

When we elect a selectman who proves himself inadequate, unsuitable or ill-intentioned, we say so. We complain. We tell him he misled us. We make his year in office unpleasant. We do not make excuses for him. But in that case we see only the individual, the man or the woman. We are not bound into any notions that this or that party will take us in a different direction than another. We seem to hear and see and understand better when we are not encumbered by faith, by the religion of party.

So I am neither amused nor amazed that the candidate of hope and change is doing the same dirty deals with the same merchants of death and greed as his predecessor. They are both creations of the two-party system. Whether they are ignorant dupes or are happily complicit, Republican or Democrat, white or black, may not, when the bolts are tightened and the valves adjusted and the contributions tallied and the collusion concluded, make a great deal of difference in how thoroughly you and I and the uninsured and the unadvantaged and the troops in Taliban territory and the villagers in the several countries where our taxes are turned into terror from above are screwed.

And you tell me, over and over and over again....
(c) 2009 Chris Cooper works hard and gets by. But he does not have health insurance. He cannot afford it. Therefore he does not often seek doctoring. Mandating his purchase of the deficient, dishonest products of the industry will not induce him to do so; it will likely just further piss him off and cause him to generate more unwholesome, unhelpful essays such as this. Persons wishing to contact him for whatever reason (no insurance agents, please) may write to Before he leaves this author wishes to tell you that he is one resident of the state of Maine who is not impressed with the work of Senator Olympia Snowe, political bed-partner of Senator Max Baucus. Just so you know.

Fifty-Five Healthcare Hypocrites

Sometimes, Congress gives hypocrisy a bad name.

Take Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jim Inhofe, Jon Kyle, John McCain, and Richard Shelby. Those U.S. senators are among the 55 congress critters who've recently revealed themselves to be the most baldfaced hypocrites in all of Washington - and it takes some serious effort to earn that distinction!

They are all vehement opponents of the proposal to create a non-profit, government-run health insurance program - a "public option" giving folks a real alternative to being squeezed by insurance giants. "Socialism," squawk these lawmakers, declaring that they'll fight any big, bad government intrusion into the hallowed free market.

However, these bellicose market purists never mention one little personal detail: all 55 of them are on Medicare, meaning they gladly accept government-run health insurance for their families. Not only do they accept it, they looove it - and not a single one of them has had the integrity either to give up their taxpayer-funded health coverage or to shut up about how awful it would be for the rest of us.

But wait - that's not the end of their hypocrisy. Not only do these free-market babblers have publicly-financed insurance for themselves, but they also get government-provided health care. Right inside the Capitol is a secluded medical center, fully-staffed with doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists and other professionals dedicated exclusively to the care of the 535 members of Congress. And they essentially get this privileged medical care for free - courtesy of us taxpayers.

So if any of the 55 get bilious from one of their speeches demonizing the public insurance option for you and me, they can walk to their own government doctor and get a quick fix, then go right back to spewing more hypocrisy.
(c) 2009 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Talking Blues
By Victoria Stewart

Now, if you want higher wages, let me tell you what to do
You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you
You got to build you a union, got to make it strong
But if you all stick together, boys, it won't be long
You'll get shorter hours, better working conditions, vacations with pay ... take your kids to the seashore.
Talking Union ~~~ Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell

Most people are aware of the sad state of affairs in our country and, dare I say it, the world. No matter what one's political, religious, or social orientation, the evidence that the light at the end of the tunnel is--gasp!-coming from the train barreling down the tracks is mounting. Even bank executives, insurance CEO's and shareholders, and the soft and fuzzy leaders of Big Pharma are nervous. Witness their heavy-handed money grabs.(See Barbara Ehrenreich's articleThe Swine Flu Vaccine Screw-up | for a recent example.

They know the halcyon days of American consumerism are over and are busily looting the last cache of US wealth, the government treasury, while they can.

And what I find so incredible about this is the complicity of the American people. I mean, really...why aren't we in the streets? Why aren't we boycotting (yes--boycotting!) insurance companies? Why aren't we outing lobbyists? Why are we not naming insurance company employees for what they are--collaborators? Where are the websites with the names of people--the actual people--who work as lobbyists for the big oil, big banks, big insurance, and prescription drug cartels? Why are the purveyors of religious oppression, bigotry, and hatred allowed to call themselves Christians with no opposition from the people who actually follow the teachings of Christ? What is wrong with us?

For one thing, there is no "us." Americans lack a defining American identity. (I make that distinction because I think the rest of the world has isolated some fairly specific traits that are particularly and peculiarly American.) We have no national cohesion. For decades we have been conditioned to do one thing..consume. And consumption is a competitive activity, a shop-til-you-drop-take-no-prisoners-I'll-get-mine-moonlight-madness-bluelight-special high stakes game that has turned into bloodsport. We have become so accustomed to seeing ourselves as the sum total of our possessions and so dependent upon a comparative worth model of social structure that we are isolated from one another and to some degree, from our own humanity.

We also lack a history of successful collaborative social reform movements. The major American reform movements--worker's rights, civil rights, and women's rights--have been marginalized over the past few decades, their messages diluted and distorted, their vibrancy lost. Unions, responsible in large part for the rise of our middle class, are a thing of the past, craftily dismantled by a series of presidents distanced from American workers. The Women's Movement was co-opted by a power structure which turned it into a vehicle for white career women and so it abandoned and alienated the women it purported to serve. And in a dazzling display of cunning and duplicity, the Civil Rights Movement, that last refuge for the disenfranchised and powerless, was gutted with the election of Barack Obama. Arguably the most viable extant social reform movement, the one most likely to pull together a coalition of the multi-racial and multi-ethnic working class, progressive activists and the middle and professional classes, the Civil Rights Movement was declared obsolete on November 4, 2008. Racism was dead in the US and so was the Civil Rights Movement.

What we have in abundance, however, is media. Talking, talking, talking. And despite the legitimacy of Internet news and opinion, most Americans still turn to the dominant news outlets--network television, NPR, and a smattering of print media--for information. And the representatives of those sources are comforting and reassuring. From the unflappable and moderate anchors to the combative personality shows, there is something for just about everyone. Something to lull us to quiescence. Someone to tell us about horrible things in such a reassuring tone, we have to believe it can't happen to us. Someone to remind us of the divisions that keep us safe. And the proliferation of profit-based information disbursement represents a grave danger to the future.

A few days ago voters in New Jersey and Virginia elected Republicans to state office. A big deal was made about the message that sent to Democrats. The prevailing "opinion" seemed to be that these two elections demonstrated that Americans were displeased with the what the Democrats and the President were doing. It was almost a news blitz. A wake-up call to the Democrats. Slow down. Stop. Abandon health care reform. Abandon job creation and credit reform and bank regulation. You've done enough.

A lie repeated often enough takes on the appearance of truth. Don't believe it.

The real truth is that while our government has done plenty for big business and the wealthiest Americans, it has done virtually nothing for the common citizen and it is the complete failure of the Democratic party and the Obama administration to address those problems that has created this backlash against incumbents. The real truth is that government is not doing enough for us. That is the message from New Jersey and Virginia.

As disappointing as the Democratic party has been, a worse betrayal comes from the Green Party of the United States. Presented with an unheralded opportunity to respond to grassroots disillusionment with the existing parties and to present their platform to a receptive and needful audience, what have they done? Nothing. Nothing. Check out their website. The lead story is about protests of the suppression of the Green Party in Rwanda. Now, I'm all for freedom in Rwanda but they might have a better chance of actually accomplishing something there if they had some power IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY.

And so we come back to the splintering of reform movements in this country. The left and progressives have become so attached to their pet view points, so enamored with their pissing contests with conservative and right wing personalities, that few address the concerns of the millions and millions of people who need and want a different representative voice. In the sophisticated media wars that direct our views, the left and the progressives are losing.

But wait..all is not lost.

We won't ever go back to the orgiastic splendour of unbridled consumption. Our economy is wrecked and our money is gone. But we can take this moment of dissolution and create something other than what our minders tell us. We can, with discipline, with compassion, with some f@cking humility, start talking to one another and listening..listen to the stories of the people we so quickly dismiss as other and discover the common cause that unites us...survival.
(c) 2009 Victoria Stewart is the editor of Issues & Alibis magazine.

Tea Party Activists Are The New GOP
By John Nichols

Richard Viguerie, the legendary hard-right activist who spent much of the past decade arguing that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were too liberal, now declares that the days of even the most minimal moderation are now over in the Republican Party.

"Tea Party Activists Are the New GOP," says Viguerie. ,P> There is little reason to argue with the man whose direct-mail campaigning funded the rise of the Republican right in the late 1970s and who grumbled loudly when Newt Gingrich, Bush, Cheney and Republican leaders tried to soften the party's roughest edges.

Viguerie isn't grumbling now.

He's celebrating. And rightly so.

Moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, the party's nominee in Tuesday's special election for an open New York congressional seat, has suspended her campaign. And with that move, the new "new right" -- which Viguerie describes as "Tea Party activists, town hall protesters, and conservatives across the country" -- can claim a clear victory in its struggle to define the GOP as a far more extreme party than anything envisioned by Bush, Cheney or Gingrich.

Scozzafava, a state legislator, had the Republican ballot line and support from the party apparatus in Washington. But Tea Party and Town Hall activists -- and their mentors and funders such as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and the powerful Club for Growth -- threw their support behind Doug Hoffman, a more right-wing contender running on the New York Conservative Party line.

Scozzafava took a beating for her support for gay rights and abortion rights, her alliances with organized labor and her sympathy for the plight of the unemployed.

The attacks were brutal and they dried up financial support for the GOP nominee's campaign -- even though she began as a presumed frontrunner in New York's historically Republican 23rd district, where the seat went vacant after President Obama nominated moderate Republican Congressman John McHugh to serve as Secretary of the Army.

Reactionary Republicans, led by 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, threw their support to Hoffman.

With her poll numbers tanking, Scozzafava finally gave up with just three days to go before Tuesday's election.

Now that the GOP nominee is out of the running, Hoffman is well positioned to compete with Democratic newcomer Bill Owens in a race to fill a seat that has not elected a Democrat in more than a century.

Scozzafava said she would vote in Tuesday's special election for Democrat Owens, issuing a statement that read:

You know me, and throughout my career, I have been always been an independent voice for the people I represent. I have stood for our honest principles, and a truthful discussion of the issues, even when it cost me personally and politically.

It is in this spirit that I am writing to let you know I am supporting Bill Owens for Congress and urge you to do the same. It's not in the cards for me to be your representative, but I strongly believe Bill is the only candidate who can build upon John McHugh's lasting legacy in the U.S. Congress.

No matter what its contours, the Hoffman-Owens result will be a footnote to the Scozzafava-Hoffman saga.

As GOP strategist Paul Erickson told The Washington Post with regard to the latter struggle: "This is entirely a battle over the definition and winning formula for Republican candidates going into the midterm elections of 2010 and beyond."

Erickson's point is well taken.

Republicans who have tried to move party back toward the political mainstream, after a three-year losing streak that has cost the GOP control of the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and the White House, are frustrated -- and a little bit scared. As Gingrich, who backed the decision of local Republican leaders to nominate Scozzafava, explained: "I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices."

Republican strategist John Weaver, a veteran aide to 2008 presidential nominee John McCain, echoed that theme.

"Because of what's happened, we're going to have some mischief-making, which is not positive for a party that needs to really focus on other fundamentals in order to make a comeback," explains Weaver.

But Gingrich, Weaver and other advocates for mainstreaming the GOP have been beaten. Badly.

And Viguerie and his crew get the bragging rights.

Calling the developments in the New York race "an earthquake in American politics," the right-wing strategist predicted that it would be "the first of many challenges to establishment Republicans that we will see for the 2010 elections and beyond."

Viguerie is right.

And it is not just the party of Lincoln or the old "Rockefeller Republicans" that is being broken.

Gingrich and those conservatives who argued for broadening the party's base have suffered a serious blow.

The GOP is now, as Richard Viguerie says, the party of "the Tea Parties and their candidates."

The question, of course, is whether a GOP defined by "the Tea Parties and their candidates" can compete not just in New York's 23rd district -- where the party has always won -- but across the great expanse of a country where the party has in recent years been losing.

If Viguerie and his compatriots are correct, it is not just the Republican Party but America that is about to take the most rightwing turn in its history.

If Viguerie and his compatriots are wrong, the Grand Old Party could be turning toward a permanent minority status that only the most enthusiastic Democrats dared imagine.

Gingrich, ever the wise analyst, is anticipating -- or perhaps the proper word is "dreading" -- the latter result.

Said the former speaker of the GOP: "This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this: If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we'll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama's re-election."
(c) 2009 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Too Little Of A Good Thing
By Paul Krugman

The good news is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the Obama stimulus plan, is working just about the way textbook macroeconomics said it would. But that's also the bad news - because the same textbook analysis says that the stimulus was far too small given the scale of our economic problems. Unless something changes drastically, we're looking at many years of high unemployment.

And the really bad news is that "centrists" in Congress aren't able or willing to draw the obvious conclusion, which is that we need a lot more federal spending on job creation.

About that good news: not that long ago the U.S. economy was in free fall. Without the recovery act, the free fall would probably have continued, as unemployed workers slashed their spending, cash-strapped state and local governments engaged in mass layoffs, and more.

The stimulus didn't completely eliminate these effects, but it was enough to break the vicious circle of economic decline. Aid to the unemployed and help for state and local governments were probably the most important factors. If you want to see the recovery act in action, visit a classroom: your local school probably would have had to fire a lot of teachers if the stimulus hadn't been enacted.

And the free fall has ended. Last week's G.D.P. report showed the economy growing again, at a better-than-expected annual rate of 3.5 percent. As Mark Zandi of Moody's put it in recent testimony, "The stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do: short-circuit the recession and spur recovery."

But it's not doing enough.

Suppose that the economy were to keep growing at 3.5 percent. If that happened, unemployment would eventually start falling - but very, very slowly. The experience of the Clinton era, when the economy grew at an average rate of 3.7 percent for eight years (did you know that?) suggests that at current growth rates we'd be lucky to see the unemployment rate fall by half a percentage point per year, meaning that it would take a decade to return to something like full employment.

Worse yet, it's far from clear that growth will continue at this rate. The effects of the stimulus will build over time - it's still likely to create or save a total of around three million jobs - but its peak impact on the growth of G.D.P. (as opposed to its level) is already behind us. Solid growth will continue only if private spending takes up the baton as the effect of the stimulus fades. And so far there's no sign that this is happening.

So the government needs to do much more. Unfortunately, the political prospects for further action aren't good.

What I keep hearing from Washington is one of two arguments: either (1) the stimulus has failed, unemployment is still rising, so we shouldn't do any more, or (2) the stimulus has succeeded, G.D.P. is growing, so we don't need to do any more. The truth, which is that the stimulus was too little of a good thing - that it helped, but it wasn't big enough - seems to be too complicated for an era of sound-bite politics.

But can we afford to do more? We can't afford not to.

High unemployment doesn't just punish the economy today; it punishes the future, too. In the face of a depressed economy, businesses have slashed investment spending - both spending on plant and equipment and "intangible" investments in such things as product development and worker training. This will hurt the economy's potential for years to come.

Deficit hawks like to complain that today's young people will end up having to pay higher taxes to service the debt we're running up right now. But anyone who really cared about the prospects of young Americans would be pushing for much more job creation, since the burden of high unemployment falls disproportionately on young workers - and those who enter the work force in years of high unemployment suffer permanent career damage, never catching up with those who graduated in better times.

Even the claim that we'll have to pay for stimulus spending now with higher taxes later is mostly wrong. Spending more on recovery will lead to a stronger economy, both now and in the future - and a stronger economy means more government revenue. Stimulus spending probably doesn't pay for itself, but its true cost, even in a narrow fiscal sense, is only a fraction of the headline number.

O.K., I know I'm being impractical: major economic programs can't pass Congress without the support of relatively conservative Democrats, and these Democrats have been telling reporters that they have lost their appetite for stimulus.

But I hope their stomachs start rumbling soon. We now know that stimulus works, but we aren't doing nearly enough of it. For the sake of today's unemployed, and for the sake of the nation's future, we need to do much more.
(c) 2009 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Inhuman Stain
Saying Yes to State Terror
By Chris Floyd

I've been writing about the case of Maher Arar since December 2003. He is the innocent Canadian man who was seized by U.S officials on his way back to Canada and then, at the order of the Justice Department, "renditioned" to Syria, where it was known that the authorities would torture the alleged "terrorist." They did, brutally. He was finally released, and his innocence was confirmed by the Canadian government, which paid him some $9 million for its part in his ordeal. - The United States, on the other hand, made no apologies, no restitution; instead, the government has resolutely blocked any attempt by Arar to seek justice in American courts.

Now the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed his case, ruling instead that the Executive Branch can capture and torture innocent people as they please, with no legal remedy for the victim, as long as they evoke, however spuriously, the sacred doctrine of "national security." Indeed, it is entirely accurate to say that "national security," as determined solely by the president and his designated minions, is now the actual constituion of the United States, the principle by which the state is shaped and governed. Scott Horton at Harper's has the details.

Below is the first piece I wrote on the Arar case. It should be noted that all the draconian authoritarian powers discussed in this article - almost six years and two presidential elections later - are still in force, and still being rigorously defended by the Obama Administration.

There is a horrible scandal eating away the heart of the American body politic. Among the many corrupted currents loosed upon the nation by the Bush Regime, this scandal is perhaps the worst, for it abets all the others and breeds new pestilence, new perversions at every turn.

Last month, Maher Arar of Canada detailed his ordeal at the hands of Attorney General John Ashcroft's shadowy security "organs." On his way back home from a family holiday in Tunis, the Syrian-born Arar -- 16 years a Canadian citizen -- was seized at a New York airport. Jailed and interrogated without charges, on unspecified allegations of unspecified connections to unspecified terrorist groups, he was then summarily deported, without a hearing, to Syria. When he told the Homeland Chekists he would be tortured there -- his family was marked down as dissidents by Syria's Baathist regime -- the Chekists replied that their organ "was not the body that deals with the Geneva Conventions regarding torture." They shackled him and flew him to the American-friendly regime in Jordan; from there he was bundled across the border to Damascus.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

For 10 months and 10 days, Arar was held in a dank cell in Syria: a "grave," he called it, a three-by-six unlighted hole filled with cat and rat piss falling down from the grating overhead. He was beaten over and over, often with electrical cable, for weeks on end, kept awake for days, made to witness and hear even more exquisite tortures applied to other prisoners. He was forced to sign false confessions. Ashcroft's Baathist comrades had a pre-set storyline they wanted filled in: that Arar had gone to Afghanistan, attended terrorist training camps, was plotting mayhem -- the usual template. Arar, who had spent years working as a computer consultant for a Boston-based high-tech firm, had done none of those things. Yet he was whipped, broken and tortured into submission.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Arar's case is not extraordinary. In the past two years, the Bushist organs have "rendered" thousands of detainees, without charges, hearings or the need to produce any evidence whatsoever, into the hands of regimes which the U.S. government itself denounces for the widespread use of torture. Apparatchiks of the organs make no secret of the practice -- or of their knowledge that the "rendered" will indeed be beaten, burned, drugged, raped, even killed. "I do it with my eyes open," one renderer told the Washington Post. Detainees -- including lifelong American residents -- have been snatched from the homes, businesses, schools, from streets and airports, and sent to torture pits like Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan -- even the stateless chaos of Somalia, where Ashcroft simply dumped more than 30 Somali-Americans last year, without charges, without evidence, without counsel, and with no visible means of support, as the London Times reports.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Of course, the American organs needn't rely exclusively on foreigners for torture anymore. Under the enlightened leadership of Ashcroft, Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other upstanding Christian statesmen, America has now established its own centers for what the organs call "operational flexibility." These include bases in Bagram, Afghanistan and Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean island that was forcibly depopulated in the 1960s to make way for a U.S. military installation. Here, the CIA runs secret interrogation units that are even more restricted than the American concentration camp on Guantanamo Bay. Detainees -- again, held without charges or evidentiary requirements -- are "softened up" by beatings at the hands of military police and Special Forces troops before being subjected to "stress and duress" techniques: sleep deprivation (officially condemned as a torture method by the U.S. government), physical and psychological disorientation, withholding of medical treatment, etc. When beatings and "duress" don't work, detainees are then "packaged" -- hooded, gagged, bound to stretchers with duct tape -- and "rendered" into less dainty hands elsewhere.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Not content with capture and torture, the organs have been given presidential authority to carry out raids and kill "suspected terrorists" (including Americans) on their own volition -- without oversight, without charges, without evidence -- anywhere in the world, including on American soil. In addition to this general license to kill, Bush has claimed the power to designate anyone he pleases "an enemy combatant" and have them "rendered" into the hands of the organs or simply killed at his express order -- without charges, without evidence, with no judicial or legislative oversight whatsoever. The life of every American citizen -- indeed, every person on earth -- is now at the disposal of his arbitrary whim. Never in history has an individual claimed such universal power -- and had the force to back it up.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

All of the above facts -- each of them manifest violations of international law and/or the U.S. Constitution -- have been cheerfully attested to, for years now, by the organs' own appartchiks, in the Post, the NY Times, Newsweek, the Guardian, the Economist and other high-profile, mainstream publications. The stories appear -- then they disappear. There is no reaction. No outcry in Congress or the courts -- the supposed guardians of the people's rights -- beyond a few wan calls for more formality in the concentration camp processing or judicial "warrants" for torture. And among the great mass of "the people" itself, there is -- nothing. Silence. Inattention. Acquiescence. State terrorism -- lawless seizure, filthy torture, official murder -- is simply accepted, a part of "normal life," as in Nazi Germany or Stalin's empire, where "decent people" with "nothing to hide" approved and applauded the work of the "organs" in "defending national security."

This is the scandal, this is the nation's festering shame. This acquiescence to state terror will breed -- and attract -- a thousand evils for every one it supposedly prevents.
(c) 2009 Chris Floyd

Humanizing The Dehumanized
By Case Wagonvoord

Empires need labels because they dehumanize so effectively. (Everyone labels, but empires thrive on them.) Our empire swarms with labels: Muslim, Islamofascist, terrorist, narcostate and illegal immigrant. The list goes on and on. Once a label is assigned, a human being is transformed into a subhuman "Other."

The last thing we want to hear is the voice of the Other. We tolerate only two things from the Other: to frighten us and in doing to justify its death and destruction.

What follows is a voice of the Other speaking with power and eloquence. It is a voice that reclaims its humanity and shows it to us all.

Daring To Understand
By Maryam Sakeenah

31 October,

A Suicide bomber: A grotesque, bloodthirsty monster. And this haggard, greying old man with his vacant eyes and broken slipper, like the broken spirit within as the cameras stare into his face and the headlines are splashed across interfaces: Suicide Bomber. Caught in the Act. A thrilling, juicy piece of news. It will fly. And it will sell. Fast. Fast like the sleek and swanky black limousines that whoosh past you through the Main Boulevard making the dust fly off in all directions; the dust that finally settles on the dusty roadside beggar, adding another layer to shroud him into dusty oblivion; it settles slowly, holding out against the fast limousines, the fast traffic, the fast music and the fast food. Slowly, like death. Fast and slow, making the rhythm of the city_ the thoughtlessly fast, and the resiliently slow_ fighting life's battle in the streets of my city.

The Monster returns. He's unconventional, though. Not with the horns and the fangs and all. But with dark circles, the sunken, dimmed eyes, the creased-up face with his advancing years, the silver in his hair. Sun-beaten, sun-worn, threadbare_ my definition of the Monster. The definers have hammered the definition on me with authoritative finality. I succumb_ like everybody else. I ought to believe he is dangerous. I am supposed to condemn him, get frightened of him, loathe him, spit in his face, and righteously pronounce him horrendously sinful, perverted, hideous, damned, hell-bound, with all the wealth of jingoistic and religious rhetoric at my disposal. I cannot but obey. I join the chorus. Like everybody else.

And I kill me softly. I stifle the human essence, the still small voice that resists. The voice that questions. The militant voice_ always politically incorrect. It questions 'why?' It does not allow me the comfort of following the crowd and biding my time. It discomforts me with the instinct to seek out the answers for myself. It makes me wonder why I have to buy the definition and believe that the pathetic grey man was a vile monster. It makes me wonder why, after all, he was a monster, perhaps_ or so it seems?

I do not judge. I do not allow myself the terrible privilege. I just wonder, and want my right to ask questions. I want my right to feel, to understand. I want my right to be and stay human. And I simply wonder what went wrong...

In 2001, when the United States pounded Afghanistan with their firepower just across the border on a flimsy pretext, my people here in Pakistan were hurt too, because the national boundary running through the northern tribes does not cut across eon-old tribal affiliation. With the Pashtuns on the other side of the Durand Line under occupation, the Pashtuns on this side considered it a tribal obligation and religious duty to assist. That is the ethic running in the blood of the Pathans_ the ethic they grow up with, just as their fathers, grandfathers and greatgrandfathers had grown up with it. You cannot hope to extort it from the hearts of men. The freedom they prize is a treasure they would not give up for the world. This fierce defence of their freedom is something you simply cannot hope to extricate. Not with all your arsenal, your marines armed to the teeth.

The United States and its 'non NATO ally' failed to understand this simple truth. Afghanistan bled, and Pakistani tribesmen, those once-upon-a-time heroic sons of the soil suffered with it. Yet we did not fall to brutalizing each other. The myths, on the other hand_ Terrorism, Extremism, Fanaticism, Fundamentalism, Enlightened Moderation_ continued to proliferate, and the Great Fiction encroached upon sanities. Yet we did not fall to brutalizing each other. Till, a couple of years down the line, the Former General imperiously ordered an operation in Waziristan. It came to pass. In the thick of the darkness, in the hush of the night. The country taken by surprise. In clandestine moves, the trigger-happy military men advanced and we waited with bated breath. The usual collateral damage. Men, women, children, masjids, madrassas, schools, earthen huts. With a fell sweep, on orders of a Dictator. We still did not fall to brutalizing each other.

Things took their logical course and the resistance began. A Pashtun resistance. Earlier, aggravated by their country's alliance with the US and the establishment of American military bases in the north to assist the NATO-sponsored slaughter and occupation in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns had expressed resentment. Their government had refused to budge. Now, they were cannon fodder, officially. And for Somebody Else's interests.

Faced with a guerrilla resistance in a rugged terrain by ruddy mountain dwellers imbued with the tribesman's fighting spirit, the khakis were in a quagmire soon enough. To save face, and the little that was left, they sought reconciliation with the irate tribesmen. It materialized, with pledges on both sides_ the tribesmen agreeing to put down arms and let go the foreign militants (stationed in Pakistan 'officially,' and by Washington's invitation, since the Soviet-Afghan war); and the Army agreeing to end the operation. We dared to hope.

Till the drone zeroed in on what we call Sovereignty. And on human lives_ madrassas, schools, wedding parties, followed by official apologies for 'misguided missiles' or 'intelligence failure.' Collateral Damage. Full Stop.

In 2006, before the TTP (Tehreek Taliban Pakistan) was ever heard of, right after a successful settlement between the government and the tribal leaders which promised a durable peace in the restive north, American UAV 'drones' battered a village searching 'militants', leading to several civilian deaths. And so the talks derailed, the guns were picked up again. With blessings from Washington. The TTP raised its head shortly afterwards_ a group much more militant and even violent in character than the original Afghan Taliban of yore who do not very proudly profess association with these Pakistani neo-Taliban. The TTP was a child begotten of the vicious cycle of violence and injustice.

The Pakistan govenment's complicity in the intermittent and incessant drone attacks is poorly disguised by pathetic foreign office spokespeople. First there were the official apologies. Then, the flabbergasted attempts to explain the bloody 'deal'. And soon enough there were none. Just the raining missiles and the human mincemeat. And handshakes and high-profile visits. But the victims do not forget their dead. They are not taken in with prettily phrased official apologies which cannot bring their dead back. The hurt festers. It turns poison. It maddens. It dehumanizes. It turns men into suicide bombs. It makes life pointless, worthless. It makes the world a cruel, hateful place. It ignites the sense of honour and incites a burning revenge. And it makes my maddened countrymen, brutalized by unashamed tyrants, fall to brutalizing one another.

And it is as simple as that.

Blending into the chorus, soaking up the definitions, the headlines, the jingoism and the propaganda, the simple fact gets lost somewhere in the morass of our sensibilities. We righteously condemn, we judge, we toss our heads from side to side with disapproval and nod it up and down in assent. Just where and when we are wanted to. And we harden up to this simple fact, failing to understand. Failing to question. Dehumanizing ourselves.

Journalist Hamid Mir recounted his firsthand experience of visiting the injured in a primitive hospital in Waziristan after a US airstrike. A young boy, having lost his limbs, informed that his mother too had died in a similar attack, and that, in her dying moments, she had instructed him to avenge in Islamabad_ where the decisions to maim and kill are made_ what was done to her in Bajaur. Years later, his elder brother was caught in Islamabad attempting to blow himself up in a high-security area.

It is as simple as that. It is, plainly, human nature distorted brutally out of shape. It is, plainly, the work of our own hands. And it shall come to pass.

A 'Winter Soldier' working for the US Army in Iraq decided to quit the job, among several others like him. Addressing a meeting of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, he said: 'Let me reverse the equation for a while. Let me ask you, that if a foreign force was to land in America on the excuse of democracy or freedom or whatever it may be, would not every patriotic American come out of his house with a shotgun? Would we not resist? What would you do?' His voice trailed off in the midst of uproarious applause.

It is as simple as that. It is about being able to reverse the equation, and asking oneself 'what would anyone do?' It is about overturning the definitions and refusing to buy the propaganda. It is about refusing the official amnesia imposed on us all.

And it is not about Islam. It is not about an 'Extremist Ideology' out there to take you over by storm. It is not about monsters and demons. It is not about bloodthirsty suicide bombers with an inbuilt genetic drive to bomb the hell out of you. It is about human beings like you and me. It is about human beings horribly gone wrong. It is about the sinned-against who become sinning in this dreadful mire of poverty, disease, lawlessness, corruption. It is about naked, barbaric injustice and oppression. It is about human beings being made 'as flies to the wanton boys.'

And it is as simple as that. As simple as Newton's third law of motion. An equal and opposite reaction. To every action of ours.

So I refuse to sit in judgement. I refuse to self-righteously condemn. I refuse to sing along. And I demand my humanity, my right to think for myself, my right to question, my right to reclaim the Truth. 'And if anyone of you would punish and lay the axe on the evil tree, let him see to its roots. What judgement would you pronounce on him who slays in the flesh and yet is slain in the spirit? And how persecute you him who is a deceiver and oppressor and yet in himself is aggrieved and outraged?' (Kahlil Gibran).

I stand the risk of being misunderstood and misjudged. I do not condone the ongoing violent attacks in civilian areas all over Pakistan which victimize innocents. I cannot possibly justify them, nor can any human being in his right mind. But I think I can understand why. I can dare just that much.

And this understanding is important. Because it is through understanding that you reach the heart of the matter, and it is reaching the heart of the matter that you find the solution and begin the healing process. And the heart of the matter is the simple truth about human nature. The heart of the matter is to understand. The heart of the matter is looking to the roots. It is as simple as that. <> To begin the healing, we need to set the record straight that this war never was ours, and that the critical transition from 'theirs' to 'ours' is the triumph of the mighty empire that seeks to export its wars to lands it can buy over with a few billion dollars. We need to face the wrongs we have done. We need to realize that there is no profit in the billions made out of the blood of innocents. We need to realize that violence begets violence. We need to realize that we willed this all, and that ending this vicious cycle of violence is our responsibility, because 'a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent assent of the whole tree. So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong but with the secret will of you all.' (Kahlil Gibran).

We need to realize that armies and weaponry can never win this war_ just like it never could in Vietnam, or in Iraq, or even in Afghanistan. And we need to realize that it is never too late or too impossible to sit down and talk things out with your own people, no matter how alienated they are. The troops must be withdrawn, the operation must end and we must get talking. These aren't monsters, these were my countrymen, and it is never too late to get talking_ only my enemy would tell me otherwise.

There isn't another way. The other option is to let this madness go on, making madmen of us all. The other option is the madness turning visible in all the horrors of spiraling violence_ bombs going off in the midst of my thriving cities, the gored flesh and the pools of blood, the gripping fear, the haunted, deserted roads. Just like the death and destruction reigning the dirt-streets of some unnamed village in Waziristan. It comes full circle.

Every bomb going off adds to the horrible, crippling Terror that sinks into my bones. The fear and hysteria is of far more import than the death and destruction. When I am frightened to hell, I am easily manipulated, and when I am easily manipulated, I am owned, controlled, made to do what Somebody requires of me. I lose my sovereignty, my identity, my everything. I become the etherized patient spread over the operating table. Somebody Else's operating table.

And every bomb going off strengthens the case of the Somebody Else who tries to tell us their war is ours, and that we must do their dirty work and shut up with the billions of dollars of aid doled out. Every bomb going off will be quoted in Somebody's speeches, telling us with triumphalism and authority how terribly important it is for us to stay the course, to keep on this self-destructive path. It will keep us terrorized so Somebody can promise us security with his Blackwaters and Dynacores. It will keep us impoverished so Somebody can win us with promises of aid. It will keep us enslaved so Somebody can convince us only they can truly liberate. And it will keep us repeating the ancient refrain: 'Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, and War is Peace.'

It is as simple as that.
(c) 2009 Case Wagenvoord. Some years ago, Case Wagenvoord turned off the tube and picked up a book. He's been trouble ever since. His articles have been posted at The Smirking Chimp, Countercurrents and Issues & Alibis. When he's not writing or brooding, he is carving hardwood bowls that have been displayed in galleries and shows across the country. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. His book, Open Letters to George W. Bush is available at

Healthcare Crisis Or Cost Crisis?
By Mike Folkerth

This is special addition of the King of Simple News.

I want to throw another wrench in the gears on the subject of healthcare. We don't really have a healthcare crisis; we have a healthcare COST crisis.

Millions of Americans have no healthcare insurance due to the cost. Millions more are under- insured, due to the cost. Medicare is going broke, due to the cost and due to purposely induced monetary inflation.

Keep in mind, that a person making minimum wage could not buy a good family healthcare plan with their entire gross annual income.

In Mikeronomics, that means that healthcare costs in America have outrun the total value of human labor. Now that's a problem isn't it?

So then, why don't Americans make enough money to afford American healthcare? Where did all of these people who can't afford healthcare come from? How has the value of their annual labor fallen below the annual cost of healthcare?

The sword of purposeful monetary inflation is sharp on both sides. While funded liabilities such as the "National Debt" benefit our government from monetary inflation where cheaper dollars can repay old debts; Medicare is an unfunded liability, meaning that the dollars promised to the 78 MILLION baby boomers for medical care is rising each and every day from inflationary pressures. The government has to collect those rising dollars by taxing a falling average wage.

In large part, the same government that is going to bankrupt us with healthcare solutions (ha-ha), purposely imported the problem of low wage earners in order to promote growth and at the same time import people willing to live at 3rd world standards.

As fewer and fewer people could afford healthcare under our system of exponential population growth, the burden was shifted to those who could afford healthcare. We have now reached the tipping point of mathematical possibilities and the current solution is that government will pay for the problem that they created, with borrowed money and higher taxes.

And, next November, most Americans will (out of total ignorance of basic math and economics), reelect those same dunderheads to another term on the promise of greater economic growth.
(c) 2009 Mike Folkerth is not your run-of-the-mill author of economics. Nor does he write in boring lecture style. Not even close. The former real estate broker, developer, private real estate fund manager, auctioneer, Alaskan bush pilot, restaurateur, U.S. Navy veteran, heavy equipment operator, taxi cab driver, fishing guide, horse packer...(I won't go on, it's embarrassing) writes from experience and plain common sense. He is the author of "The Biggest Lie Ever Believed."

The Quotable Quote...

"Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is."
~~~ Will Rogers

Opium, Rape And The American Way
By Chris Hedges

The warlords we champion in Afghanistan are as venal, as opposed to the rights of women and basic democratic freedoms, and as heavily involved in opium trafficking as the Taliban. The moral lines we draw between us and our adversaries are fictional. The uplifting narratives used to justify the war in Afghanistan are pathetic attempts to redeem acts of senseless brutality. War cannot be waged to instill any virtue, including democracy or the liberation of women. War always empowers those who have a penchant for violence and access to weapons. War turns the moral order upside down and abolishes all discussions of human rights. War banishes the just and the decent to the margins of society. And the weapons of war do not separate the innocent and the damned. An aerial drone is our version of an improvised explosive device. An iron fragmentation bomb is our answer to a suicide bomb. A burst from a belt-fed machine gun causes the same terror and bloodshed among civilians no matter who pulls the trigger.

"We need to tear the mask off of the fundamentalist warlords who after the tragedy of 9/11 replaced the Taliban," Malalai Joya, who was expelled from the Afghan parliament two years ago for denouncing government corruption and the Western occupation, told me during her visit to New York last week. "They used the mask of democracy to take power. They continue this deception. These warlords are mentally the same as the Taliban. The only change is physical. These warlords during the civil war in Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 killed 65,000 innocent people. They have committed human rights violations, like the Taliban, against women and many others."

"In eight years less than 2,000 Talib have been killed and more than 8,000 innocent civilians has been killed," she went on. "We believe that this is not war on terror. This is war on innocent civilians. Look at the massacres carried out by NATO forces in Afghanistan. Look what they did in May in the Farah province, where more than 150 civilians were killed, most of them women and children. They used white phosphorus and cluster bombs. There were 200 civilians on 9th of September killed in the Kunduz province, again most of them women and children. You can see the Web site of professor Marc Herold, this democratic man, to know better the war crimes in Afghanistan imposed on our people. The United States and NATO eight years ago occupied my country under the banner of woman's rights and democracy. But they have only pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. They put into power men who are photocopies of the Taliban."

Afghanistan's boom in the trade in opium, used to produce heroin, over the past eight years of occupation has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Taliban, al-Qaida, local warlords, criminal gangs, kidnappers, private armies, drug traffickers and many of the senior figures in the government of Hamid Karzai. The New York Times reported that the brother of President Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been collecting money from the CIA although he is a major player in the illegal opium business. Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world's opium in a trade that is worth some $65 billion, the United Nations estimates. This opium feeds some 15 million addicts worldwide and kills around 100,000 people annually. These fatalities should be added to the rolls of war dead.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that the drug trade has permitted the Taliban to thrive and expand despite the presence of 100,000 NATO troops.

"The Taliban's direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex and increasingly widespread," said Costa.

The UNODC estimates the Taliban earned $90 million to $160 million a year from taxing the production and smuggling of opium and heroin between 2005 and 2009, as much as double the amount it earned annually while it was in power nearly a decade ago. And Costa described the Afghan-Pakistani border as "the world's largest free trade zone in anything and everything that is illicit," an area blighted by drugs, weapons and illegal immigration. The "perfect storm of drugs and terrorism" may be on the move along drug trafficking routes through Central Asia, he warned. Profits made from opium are being pumped into militant groups in Central Asia and "a big part of the region could be engulfed in large-scale terrorism, endangering its massive energy resources," Costa said.

"Afghanistan, after eight years of occupation, has become a world center for drugs," Joya told me. "The drug lords are the only ones with power. How can you expect these people to stop the planting of opium and halt the drug trade? How is it that the Taliban when they were in power destroyed the opium production and a superpower not only cannot destroy the opium production but allows it to increase? And while all this goes on, those who support the war talk to you about women's rights. We do not have human rights now in most provinces. It is as easy to kill a woman in my country as it is to kill a bird. In some big cities like Kabul some women have access to jobs and education, but in most of the country the situation for women is hell. Rape, kidnapping and domestic violence are increasing. These fundamentalists during the so-called free elections made a misogynist law against Shia women in Afghanistan. This law has even been signed by Hamid Karzai. All these crimes are happening under the name of democracy."

Thousands of Afghan civilians have died from insurgent and foreign military violence. And American and NATO forces are responsible for almost half the civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have also died from displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war.

Joya argues that Karzai and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has withdrawn from the Nov. 7 runoff election, will do nothing to halt the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco-state. She said that NATO, by choosing sides in a battle between two corrupt and brutal opponents, has lost all its legitimacy in the country.

The recent resignation of a high-level U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Matthew Hoh, was in part tied to the drug problem. Hoh wrote in his resignation letter that Karzi's government is filled with "glaring corruption and unabashed graft." Karzi, he wrote, is a president "whose confidants and chief advisers comprise drug lords and war crimes villains who mock our own rule of law and counter-narcotics effort."

Joya said, "Where do you think the $36 billion of money poured into country by the international community have gone? This money went into the pockets of the drug lords and the warlords. There are 18 million people in Afghanistan who live on less than $2 a day while these warlords get rich. The Taliban and warlords together contribute to this fascism while the occupation forces are bombing and killing innocent civilians. When we do not have security how can we even talk about human rights or women's rights?"

"This election under the shade of Afghan war-lordism, drug-lordism, corruption and occupation forces has no legitimacy at all," she said. "The result will be like the same donkey but with new saddles. It is not important who is voting. It is important who is counting. And this is our problem. Many of those who go with the Taliban do not support the Taliban, but they are fed up with these warlords and this injustice and they go with the Taliban to take revenge. I do not agree with them, but I understand them. Most of my people are against the Taliban and the warlords, which is why millions did not take part in this tragic drama of an election."

"The U.S. wastes taxpayers' money and the blood of their soldiers by supporting such a mafia corrupt system of Hamid Karzai," said Joya, who changes houses in Kabul frequently because of the numerous death threats made against her. "Eight years is long enough to learn about Karzai and Abdullah. They chained my country to the center of drugs. If Obama was really honest he would support the democratic-minded people of my country. We have a lot [of those people]. But he does not support the democratic-minded people of my country. He is going to start war in Pakistan by attacking in the border area of Pakistan. More civilians have been killed in the Obama period than even during the criminal Bush."

"My people are sandwiched between two powerful enemies," she lamented. "The occupation forces from the sky bomb and kill innocent civilians. On the ground, Taliban and these warlords deliver fascism. As NATO kills more civilians the resistance to the foreign troops increases. If the U.S. government and NATO do not leave voluntarily my people will give to them the same lesson they gave to Russia and to the English who three times tried to occupy Afghanistan. It is easier for us to fight against one enemy rather than two."
(c) 2009 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His latest book is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle."

Keeping Afghanistan Safe From Democracy
By Robert Scheer

The most idiotic thing being said about America's involvement in Afghanistan is that the best way to protect the 68,000 U.S. troops there now is by putting an additional 40,000 in harm's way.

People who argue for that plan clearly have not read Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's report pushing for escalation. The general is as honest as he is wrong in laying out the purpose of this would-be expanded mission, which is to remold Afghanistan in a Western image by making U.S. troops far more vulnerable, rather than less so.

He is honest in arguing that American troops would have to be deployed throughout the rugged and otherwise inhospitable terrain of rural Afghanistan, entering intimately into the ways of local life so as to win the hearts and minds of a people who clearly wish we would not extend the favor. He is wrong in indicating, without providing any evidence to support the proposition, that this very costly and highly improbable quest to be the first foreign power to successfully model life in Afghanistan would be connected with defeating the al-Qaida terrorists.

As the president's top national security adviser has stated, there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida members left in Afghanistan and they have no capacity to launch attacks. These remnants of a foreign Arab force assembled by the U.S. to thwart the Soviets in their hapless effort to conquer Afghanistan are now alienated from the locally based insurgency.

As Matthew Hoh, the former Marine captain and foreign service officer in charge of the most contested area, said recently in his letter of resignation, we have stumbled into a 35-year-long civil war between rural people "who want to be left alone" and a corrupt urban government that the U.S. insists on backing. Hoh, who quit after a decade of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote that he was resigning not because of the hardships of his assignment but rather because he no longer believed in its stated purpose:

" ... [I]n the course of my five months of service in Afghanistan ... I have lost understanding and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. ... To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war. ... Like the Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people. ... I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul."

Just how unrepresentative was amply demonstrated in a very low-turnout election which the U.S.-backed candidate, Hamid Karzai, won after stealing one-third of the ballots he claimed for his victory, according to U.N. observers. In a message of congratulation to Karzai, President Barack Obama made reference to the need for reform and an end to the corruption that is endemic in the Karzai regime but then stated, "Although the process was messy, I am pleased to say that the final outcome was determined in accordance with Afghan law, which I think is very important."

What law? A runoff was avoided only when Karzai refused to accede to his opponent's demand for changes in the election commission that had stuffed the ballot boxes.

When Bob Schieffer of CBS said of the election "the thing was a fraud," White House senior adviser David Axelrod had the arrogance to defend the rigged process as having "proceeded in the constitutional way." Just what is it we are telling the world about our belief in the integrity of elections? It is no different from our having extolled those garbage elections that occurred with great regularity in Vietnam during the war there, a point made to great effect by Hoh:

"Our support for this kind of government, coupled with a misunderstanding of the insurgency's true nature, reminds me horribly of our involvement with South Vietnam; an unpopular and corrupt government we backed at the expense of our Nation's own internal peace, against an insurgency whose nationalism we arrogantly and ignorantly mistook as a rival to our own Cold War ideology."

Obama must know the truth of those words and should heed them before he marches down the disastrous path pursued by another Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson-who, we now know from his White House telephone tapes, sacrificed the youth of this country in a war that he always knew never made sense.
(c) 2009 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

The Dead Letter Office...

General McChrystal

Heil Obama,

Dear General McChrystal,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, Ralph Nader, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Clarence (slappy) Thomas.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, your demands for another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan gives us the reasons we need to keep the quagmire going, Afghanistan, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Military Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross first class with diamonds clsters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-28-2009. We salute you Herr McChrystal, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Obama's Latest Use Of "Secrecy" To Shield Presidential Lawbreaking
What was once depicted as a grave act of lawlessness -- Bush's NSA program -- is now deemed a vital state secret.
By Glenn Greenwald

The Obama administration has, yet again, asserted the broadest and most radical version of the "state secrets" privilege -- which previously caused so much controversy and turmoil among loyal Democrats (when used by Bush/Cheney) -- to attempt to block courts from ruling on the legality of the government's domestic surveillance activities. Obama did so again this past Friday -- just six weeks after the DOJ announced voluntary new internal guidelines which, it insisted, would prevent abuses of the state secrets privilege. Instead -- as predicted -- the DOJ continues to embrace the very same "state secrets" theories of the Bush administration -- which Democrats generally and Barack Obama specifically once vehemently condemned -- and is doing so in order literally to shield the President from judicial review or accountability when he is accused of breaking the law.

In the case of Shubert v. Bush, the Electronic Frontier Foundation represents numerous American citizens suing individual Bush officials, alleging that the Bush administration instituted a massive "dragnet" surveillance program whereby "the NSA intercepted (and continues to intercept) millions of phone calls and emails of ordinary Americans, with no connection to Al Qaeda, terrorism, or any foreign government" and that "the program monitors millions of calls and emails . . . entirely in the United States . . . without a warrant" (page 4). The lawsuit's central allegation is that the officials responsible for this program violated the Fourth Amendment and FISA and can be held accountable under the law for those illegal actions.

Rather than respond to the substance of the allegations, the Obama DOJ is instead insisting that courts are barred from considering the claims at all. Why? Because -- it asserted in a Motion to Dismiss it filed on Friday -- to allow the lawsuit to proceed under any circumstances -- no matter the safeguards imposed or specific documents excluded -- "would require the disclosure of highly classified NSA sources and methods about the TSP [Terrorist Surveillance Program] and other NSA activities" (page 8). According to the Obama administration, what were once leading examples of Bush's lawlessness and contempt for the Constitution -- namely, his illegal, warrantless domestic spying programs -- are now vital "state secrets" in America's War on Terror, such that courts are prohibited even from considering whether the Government was engaging in crimes when spying on Americans.

That was the principal authoritarian instrument used by Bush/Cheney to shield itself from judicial accountability, and it is now the instrument used by the Obama DOJ to do the same. Initially, consider this: if Obama's argument is true -- that national security would be severely damaged from any disclosures about the government's surveillance activities, even when criminal -- doesn't that mean that the Bush administration and its right-wing followers were correct all along when they insisted that The New York Times had damaged American national security by revealing the existence of the illegal NSA program? Isn't that the logical conclusion from Obama's claim that no court can adjudicate the legality of the program without making us Unsafe?

Beyond that, just consider the broader implications of what is going on here. Even after they announced their new internal guidelines with great fanfare, the Obama administration is explicitly arguing that the President can break the law with impunity -- can commit crimes -- when it comes to domestic surveillance because our surveillance programs are so secret that national security will be harmed if courts are permitted to adjudicate their legality. As EFF put it last July (emphasis in original), government officials:

seek to transform a limited, common law evidentiaryprivilege into sweeping immunity for their own unlawful conduct. . . . [They] would sweep away these vital constitutional principles with the stroke of a declaration, arrogating to themselves the right to immunize any criminal or unconstitutional conduct in the name of national security. . . .

For that reason, as EFF pointedly noted the last time the Obama DOJ sought to compel dismissal based on this claim: "defendants' motion is even more frightening than the conduct alleged in the Amended Complaint." Think about that argument: the Obama DOJ's secrecy and immunity theories are even more threatening than the illegal domestic spying programs they seek to protect. Why? As EFF explains

Can anyone deny that's true? If the President can simply use "secrecy" claims to block courts from ruling on whether he broke the law, then what checks or limits exist on the President's power to spy illegally on Americans or commit other crimes in a classified setting? By definition, there are none. That's what made this distortion of the "state secrets" privilege so dangerous when Bush used it, and it's what makes it so dangerous now. Back in April, 2006 -- a mere four months after the illegal NSA program was first revealed, and right after Bush had asserted "state secrets" to block any judicial inquiry into the NSA program -- here is what I wrote about the Bush administration's use of the "state secrets" privilege as a means of blocking entire lawsuits rather than limiting the use of specific classified documents:

[Q]uite unsurprisingly, the Bush administration loves this doctrine, as it is so consistent with its monarchical view of presidential infallibility, and the administration has become the most aggressive and enthusiastic user of this doctrine . . . . As the Chicago Tribune detailed last year, the administration has also used this doctrine repeatedly to obstruct any judicial proceedings designed to investigate its torture and rendition policies, among others . . . . This administration endlessly searches out obscure legal doctrines or new legal theories which have one purpose -- to eradicate limits on presidential power and to increase the President's ability to prevent disclosure of all but the most innocuous and meaningless information.

That was the prevailing, consensus view at the time among Democrats, progressives and civil libertarians regarding Bush's use of the state secrets privilege: that the privilege was being used to exclude the President from the rule of law by seeking to preclude judicial examination of his conduct. Plainly, Obama is now doing the same exact thing -- not just to shield domestic surveillance programs from judicial review but also torture and renditions. Is there any conceivable, rational reason to view this differently? None that I can see.

Note, too, how this latest episode eviscerates many of the excuses made earlier this year by Obama supporters to justify this conduct. It was frequently claimed that these arguments were likely asserted by holdover Bush DOJ lawyers without the involvement of Obama officials -- but under the new DOJ guidelines, the Attorney General must personally approve of any state secrets assertions, and Eric Holder himself confirmed in a Press Release on Friday that he did so here. Alternatively, it was often claimed that Obama was only asserting these Bush-replicating theories because he secretly hoped to lose in court and thus magnanimously gift us with good precedent -- but the Obama administration has repeatedly lost in court on these theories and then engaged in extraordinary efforts to destroy those good precedents, including by inducing the full appellate court to vacate the decisions or even threatening to defy the court orders compelling disclosure. In light of this behavior, no rational person can continue to maintain those excuses.

Is there any doubt at this point that, as TalkingPointsMemo put it in a headline: "Obama Mimics Bush on State Secrets"? Or can anyone dispute what EFF's Kevin Bankston told ABC News after the latest filing from the Obama DOJ:

The Obama administration has essentially adopted the position of the Bush administration in these cases, even though candidate Obama was incredibly critical of both the warrantless wiretapping program and the Bush administration's abuse of the state secrets privilege.

Extreme secrecy wasn't an ancillary aspect of the progressive critique of Bush/Cheney; it was central, as it was secrecy that enabled all the other abuses. More to the point, the secrecy claims being asserted here are not merely about hiding illegal government conduct; worse, they are designed to shield executive officials from accountability for lawbreaking. As the ACLU's Ben Wizner put it about the Obama DOJ's attempt to use the doctrine to bar torture victims from having a day in court: "This case is not about secrecy. It's about immunity from accountability." That's what Obama is supporting: "immunity from accountability."

What makes this most recent episode particularly appalling is that the program which Obama is seeking to protect here -- the illegal Bush/Cheney NSA surveillance scheme -- was once depicted as a grave threat to the Constitution and the ultimate expression of lawlessness. Yet now, Obama insists that the very same program is such an important "state secret" that no court can even adjudicate whether the law was broken. When Democrats voted to immunize lawbreaking telecoms last year, they repeatedly justified that by stressing that Bush officials themselves were not immunized and would therefore remain accountable under the law. Obama himself, when trying to placate angry supporters over his vote for telecom immunity, said this about the bill he supported:

I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses.

Yet here is Obama doing exactly the opposite of those claims and assurances: namely, he's now (a) seeking to immunize not only telecoms, but also Bush officials, from judicial review; (b) demanding that courts be barred from considering the legality of NSA surveillance programs under any circumstances; and (c) attempting to institutionalize the broadest claims of presidential immunity imaginable via radically broad secrecy claims. To do so, he's violating virtually everything he ever said about such matters when he was Senator Obama and Candidate Obama. And he's relying on the very same theories of executive immunity and secrecy that -- under a Republican President -- sparked so much purported outrage. If nothing else, this latest episode underscores the ongoing need for Congressional Democrats to proceed with proposed legislation to impose meaningful limits and oversight on the President's ability to use this power, as this President, just like the last one, has left no doubt about his willingness to abuse it for ignoble ends.
(c) 2009 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Rack'em And Screw'em, Boys!
By Sheila Samples

Is there anything scarier than the New York Times' Halloween treat entitled, "Documents Detail Conditions Found at Secret C.I.A. Jails"?

Pardon my Palinese, but -- You betcha! You damnbetcha!

For starters, the "conditions" the Times mentions only briefly are, in reality, depraved, corrupt, immoral, inhumane torture. According to the Times...

"F.B.I. agents who arrived at a secret C.I.A. jail overseas in September 2002 found prisoners "manacled to the ceiling and subjected to blaring music around the clock," and a C.I.A. official wrote a list of questions for interrogators including "How close is each technique to the 'rack and screw.'"

What is more frightening -- that the C.I.A. got its jollies by torturing, even murdering human beings in its secret sodomy frat-houses -- or that the F.B.I. took one look, fled the scene and remained silent for years?

Perhaps it's the two-page memo President George Bush had circulated seven months earlier wherein he determined -- under his authority as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive of the United States --

"...none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world because, among other reasons, al Qaeda is not a High Contracting Party to Geneva." (emphasis added) "...I determine that the Taliban detainees are unlawful combatants and, therefore, do not qualify as prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva. I note that, because Geneva does not apply to our conflict with al Qaeda, al Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war."

Bush then added piously that our values as a nation that we shared with many nations (?) required us to treat humanely even those not qualified as humans nor entitled to such treatment. So -- wink, wink -- rack 'em and screw 'em, boys!

According to the Times, the documents were released as a result of several Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Judicial Watch. Makes you wonder if this nation's mainstream media, both print and electronic, has no access -- nor interest -- in freedom of information, doesn't it?

The Times did provide links (see article) to the released documents -- 953 pages it knew most of us would never read. To offset that, the Times assigned two of its top investigative reporters -- Scott Shane and Charlie Savage -- to get the critical information out.

These guys hopped right on it and, after yawning through the assignment, their bland 306-word "news" article was published on page A28.

I don't know about you, but even for Halloween -- that's scary!

(c) 2009 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of

To End On A Happy Note...

The Court Of The Crimson King
By King Crimson

The rusted chains of prison moons
Are shattered by the sun.
I walk a road, horizons change
The tournament's begun.
The Purple Piper plays his tune,
The choir softly sing;
Three lullabies in an ancient tongue,
For the court of the Crimson King.

The keeper of the city keys
Put shutters on the dreams.
I wait outside the pilgrim's door
With insufficient schemes.
The Black Queen chants
The funeral march,
The cracked brass bells will ring;
To summon back the Fire Witch
To the court of the Crimson King.

The gardener plants an evergreen
Whilst trampling on a flower.
I chase the wind of a prism ship
To taste the sweet and sour.
The pattern juggler lifts his hand;
The orchestra begin.
As slowly turns the grinding wheel
In the court of the Crimson King.

On soft gray mornings widows cry
The wise men share a joke;
I run to grasp divining signs
To satisfy the hoax.
The Yellow Jester does not play
But gentle pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the Crimson King.
(c) 1969/2009 King Crimson

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Hill by hill, U.S. forces tirelessly work toward
the strategic goal of complete immobility.

U.S. Continues Quagmire-Building Effort In Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN- According to sources at the Pentagon, American quagmire-building efforts continued apace in Afghanistan this week, as the geographically rugged, politically unstable region remained ungovernable, death tolls continued to rise, and the grim military campaign persisted as hopelessly as ever. General

In fact, many government officials now believe that the United States and its allies could be as little as six months away from their ultimate goal: the total quagmirification of Afghanistan.

"We've spent a lot of time and money fostering the turmoil and despair necessary to make this a sustaining quagmire, and we're not going to stop now," President Barack Obama said in a national address Monday night. "It won't be easy, but with enough tactical errors on the ground, shortsighted political strategies, and continued ignorance of our vast cultural differences, we could have a horrific, full-fledged quagmire by 2012."

Added Obama, "Together, we can make Afghanistan into a nightmarish hell-scape Americans will regret for generations to come."

The U.S. plan to build a lasting quagmire in Afghanistan calls for the loss of at least 5,000 coalition troops, nearly 1,500 of whom have already been killed, and a wasted investment of nearly $1 trillion, a quarter of which has thus far been spent.

With more than 80 percent of the country currently under Taliban control, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that U.S. nation-dismantling efforts are actually proceeding ahead of schedule.

"We've made a complete mess of local institutions, and moving forward this substantial lack of infrastructure will be the cornerstone of our strategy to ensure long-term chaos in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region," said Gates, gesturing to a complex, 6-foot-tall wall map of what were either newly established al-Qaeda bases in Waziristan, tribal trade routes over the Hindu Kush, or perhaps U.S. military outposts of some kind. "I couldn't be happier with our progress. This place is a complete clusterfuck."

A number of Pentagon officials said they were proudly holding on to their false glimmer of hope for a victory that remains forever out of reach, and explained that waging a war that can only end in sorrow has validated all their efforts.

The U.S. effort in Afghanistan hasn't always looked so bleak. In 2004, when Afghanistan ratified a new constitution and directly elected a leader for the first time in its history, a number of government officials feared the quagmire would fail and perhaps even lead to relative peace and security. But American military and diplomatic initiatives to prop up the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai paved the way for this year's utterly fraudulent presidential election, an event which gave the quagmire-building effort a much needed shot in the arm.

"Some say the war in Afghanistan is already a quagmire, being as it's gone on for eight years and the situation on the ground continues to rapidly deteriorate," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal. "But I know we can do better. There are still dozens of tribal allies to alienate, troop morale could sink even lower, to the point of mutiny, and by continuing to fire a bunch of missiles from unmanned predator drones we have the opportunity to scare the living shit out of every last civilian in the region."

Continued McChrystal, "If we play our cards right, the word 'Afghanistan' could soon replace the word 'Iraq' as the agreed-upon successor to the word 'Vietnam' in the American political lexicon."

The loose network of warlords who rule the Afghan countryside were also optimistic about quagmire-building efforts.

"Our nation is already impossibly fragmented, but I believe the United States has the ability to make things even worse here," said a local tribal leader, who asked to speak anonymously due to his constantly shifting alliances with the two sides. "Afghanistan has a proud, ancient tradition of quagmires: Soviet Russia, the British Empire, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan. These are big shoes to fill, but if anyone can do it, these foolish Americans can."

With President Karzai's government maintaining ties to known drug traffickers, and 68,000 U.S. soldiers struggling to police a harsh, challenging landscape, all the conditions for a multigenerational quagmire seem to be in place.

For many analysts, the question now is: How will Obama ensure the U.S. entanglement in the region remains permanent? By deploying more troops, by withdrawing them and leaving behind an unspeakable disaster, by increasing sympathy for the Taliban in nuclear-armed Pakistan? There are so many options on the table that many feel a quagmire is virtually guaranteed.

"We have so much to thank the Americans for," said Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, a notorious warlord who will become vice president if Karzai wins a runoff election scheduled for Nov. 7. "Not only have they created a lawless environment that has allowed us to capture 90 percent of the opium market, but their heroin habits have made a few of us very rich."

"I love the Americans and I hope they stay for many years," he added. "Many, many, many, many years."
(c) 2009 The Onion

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 9 # 41 (c) 11/06/2009

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