A House Divided…

A. Scott Piraino

Exit polls show that “moral values“ won the election for Bush. The Republicans succeeded in distracting us from real, pressing issues, and making November 2nd a referendum on the new “culture war“. Basically, the American people re-elected George W. Bush because he is a conservative.

But he‘s certainly not a fiscal conservative, his administration has ran record trade and budget deficits. Nor is he politically conservative, enforcing a literal interpretation of the Constitution, (the Patriot Act is proof of that). No, George Bush has cast himself as a moral conservative, standing against liberals who seek to change our culture and way of life.

“Liberal“ literally means generous, or giving. Democrats believed that redistribution of wealth was right and necessary, and raised taxes, (predominantly on the wealthy), to pay for these social programs. They supported the Unions that forced capitalists to equitably share profits with workers.

Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security, and Lyndon B. Johnson gave us Medicare, Welfare, and the Civil Rights Amendment. Unfortunately, the days when Democrats thought big, and proposed legislation that benefited the working class are gone. The American people may still be liberal at heart, but they do not subscribe to the fringe issues that are passed off as Democratic values today.

This new liberalism goes by many names; multiculturalism, diversity, but it is most aptly described as being “politically-correct“. This movement is not one single issue, rather it is a way of thinking that seeks to force a left-wing ideology onto the majority. Anyone who disagrees with this ideology or dares to speak out can simply be branded as right-wing, extremist, or a bigot.

Our police officers are accused of racism when they “profile“ groups of blacks. Even though everyone knows black males commit the majority of violent crimes in this country, and the statistics prove it. This fact just isn’t discussed, because it’s not politically correct.

Most Americans oppose illegal immigration, and they resent immigrants for committing crimes, drawing welfare, using public funds for education and health care, and competing with citizens for jobs. But again, no one speaks out against illegal immigration because Republicans want cheap labor, and Democrats want votes. There are an estimated eight to twelve million people living in the United States illegally, yet the issue is simply not up for public debate.

In the recent election, the moral issue that was used to split the electorate was gay marriage. Middle America does not approve of gay marriage, but they are more offended by the gay community‘s whining about being oppressed when they don‘t get it. Again, anyone who criticizes the gay community’s endless lawsuits and courtroom theater is simply politically incorrect.

Right wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O‘Reilly, and Ann Coulter have made careers out of lambasting the excesses of the American left. These new pundits are not content to rail about old school conservative issues like gun control or abortion. In their view every perceived problem; from big government, rampant crime, ivory tower professors, civil-rights extremists, violence on television, and even our self-centered, hip hop culture is caused by…liberals, (who are of course Democrats).

These right wing pundits are very popular on television, radio, and the internet simply because many people share their views. The fact is, the majority of Americans distain these false liberals and their left-wing causes. And they disagreed with this politically correct agenda strongly enough to re-elect George Bush on November 2nd.

Unfortunately, Middle America has made a terrible mistake, because George Bush is not a conservative, he is a thief and a liar.

Now the President is free to carry out his real agenda,and with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, he just might pull it off. Already the Bush administration is proposing the privatization of Social security, more energy de-regulation, the rollback of conservation laws, and of course more tax cuts. Whether you call it the social safety net or the welfare state, the Republicans are preparing to dismantle it.

The next Bush administration is not going to prevent gay marriage, curb illegal immigration, censor the decadent media, or rationalize racial profiling. But they are going to destroy the core Democratic ideal of redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the majority. Seriously, with our budget deficits and these crooks in office, cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and other basic subsidies to middle class Americans are on the table.

The real irony, the real tragedy of this election is that Middle America, represented by the “Red States“ that voted for George bush, has suffered the worst from Republican politics. Their blue collar jobs have been shipped overseas, (Ohio is in the middle of the rust belt after all), and agri-business has destroyed the small farmers. Since they are poorer, they are more dependent on the very Federal subsidies that Bush Inc. intends to cut.

While the “Blue States” that voted Democratic have benefited from Republican policies. Their incomes have climbed above the national average, they are better educated, and they have lower unemployment rates than Middle America. They are also wealthier, and would have paid higher taxes in a Kerry administration to support programs that benefited their poorer countrymen.

The culture war has turned American politics upside down. Those who benefit from the Republican agenda vote Democrat, those who lose vote Republican. In addition, the Bush administration has not been forced to answer for their real performance during the last four years.

The United States now runs trade and budget deficits of over $400 billion a year each. There are one million fewer jobs in the US today than when Bush took office in 2000, and per capita incomes have declined. President Bush failed to capture Osama bin Laden or destroy al-Qaeda, yet one third of our army is fighting in Iraq because the President lied about WMDs to put them there.

And they got away with it by hyping the excesses of a few too-far-left liberals, and using the September 11th attacks to justify the War in Iraq. Simply put; Middle America was manipulated by an alliance of right-wing conservatives and cynical Republicans. They‘ve been duped, and now they will be discarded.

Published in: on November 14, 2004 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

The End is Near

A. Scott Piraino

I am embarrassed to be an American today, and more than that, I really fear for our future. The majority of Americans have voted to re-elect George W. Bush, knowing what this president and his administration stand for. Disregarding what they have said, their actions over the last four years make clear what we can expect from the next Bush administration.

George Bush ran on a platform of conservative “values” in the 2000 campaign, but his real agenda was tax cuts for the wealthy. He did not disappoint. The President proposed a 1.3 trillion dollar tax cut package, using the same tired, Republican/Reaganomic argument: Simply put, tax cuts would stimulate a recovery from the recession, and create jobs.

Inexplicably, there are one million fewer jobs today than when Bush took office, despite nearly two trillion dollars in tax cuts. It was no surprise that massive tax cuts without reductions in federal spending would create huge deficits. During President Bush’s first term our trade and budget deficits climbed to over $400 billion a year each.

After passing his tax cuts, the President proposed a new “energy policy”. Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was the number one contributor to the Presidents first campaign, and he got what he paid for. President Bush signed an executive order that allowed Enron and other energy trading companies to legally extort electricity. The energy crisis that bankrupted California was a direct result of outrageous price gouging by Enron and other energy brokers.

After the energy debacle and the collapse of Enron, the Bush administration faced their first foreign crisis. Most Americans don’t remember the incident because our enemy was not Afghanistan or Iraq, but China. On April 1st 2001, a Chinese fighter aircraft collided with a US surveillance plane flying in international airspace. The US plane was forced to make an emergency landing in China, and the aircrew was held captive by the Chinese armed forces for eleven days.

Our government met all of China’s demands for the release of our airmen, and issued three apologies to the Chinese. All the while, the Bush administration assured us that there would be no change in US/China relations. It may seem strange that the US would appease China while our yearly trade deficits with that country have skyrocketed to nearly $150 billion. The truth is, most Fortune 500 companies now manufacture in China, and earn huge profits from our trade deficits by importing their products into the US.

President Bush cut taxes for the rich, brought back deficit spending, enacted a corrupt energy policy, and kowtowed to China, all before September 11th, 2001.

After that horrible day, President Bush had a new mandate; win the War on Terror. The country rallied behind him, and their was a global consensus that the perpetrators of those heinous attacks must be brought to justice. But instead of fighting that war, he chose to invade Iraq.

The problem of course is that there was no reason for the United States to invade. The Bush administration manufactured all the evidence that Iraq was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction, and that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks. The President’s claim that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium in Niger, the alleged meeting between the 9/11 hijackers and Iraqi agents, the mobile chemical weapons factories, these were not mistakes, they were all lies.

By the summer of 2002 US troops were deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, our country was mired in recession, and defense spending was at an all time high. While Americans were being told that sacrifices had to be made, the Bush administration passed another 600 billion dollar tax cut package for the rich. They even had the nerve to call it “Patriotic Tax Relief“.

President Bush has not captured Osama bin Laden, or destroyed al-Qaeda. Instead his administration embroiled our Armed Forces in a futile guerrilla war in Iraq. So far that war has claimed the lives of over 1000 American servicemen, and seriously wounded another 6000.

Through it all, the President has made his allegiance very clear. He is not going to admit that he lied to invade Iraq, much less take responsibility for the disaster the war has become. The majority of Americans will pay for the War(s) on Terror, and finance our soaring deficits, while our wealthiest citizens pay a smaller share of the nation‘s tax burden.

Since this is what George W. Bush stands for, his re-election is a disaster for the United states.

So whose fault is it?

We can’t blame the Media. Although Wolf Blitzer did not come right out and call George Bush a scumbag, the press by and large reported the truth. The facts are all there: The Bush administration’s tax cuts are public knowledge, our deficits are public knowledge, Osama bin Laden is still at large, and there are still no WMDs in Iraq.

We can’t blame John Kerry, although he is a wishy-washy liberal, and a “nice” man. His campaign refused to attack George Bush over Iraq, tax cuts for the rich, and energy fraud. But we all knew these things anyway, thanks to the press.

Finally, we can’t blame the President. He and his neo-conservative lackeys are lying weasels and they make no bones about it. They haven’t been devious or particularly clever, they just lie, and then get on with their agenda.

No, we are responsible. The American people have given the most despicable President in US history another four years in office. We have no excuse for it, and we deserve what we are going to get.

Published in: on November 4, 2004 at 7:10 pm  Comments (3)  

Patriot Games

A. Scott Piraino

The Republican National Convention has served its purpose. George W. Bush is riding high and on message: The war on terror is the source of our troubles, and only he can win the war.

The fact is, the War on Terror is far from won. Al-Qeada is still dangerous, and Osama bin Laden is still at large. A recent study even concluded that al-Qaeda and other terrorist cells have grown in number since the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq.

Osama bin Laden is still at large because the Bush administration’s half-assed invasion of Afghanistan failed to capture him and thousands of other al-Qaeda operatives. There were more policemen in New York guarding the Republicans at their convention than there are troops in Afghanistan searching for al-Qaeda. The Bush administration failed to defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan because they were determined to invade Iraq.

We are not winning the War on Terror, but that does not matter. What matters is that the Bush administration has convinced Americans that the war in Iraq is the War on Terror. And they have accomplished this by lying.

Bush’s speech about Iraqi agents purchasing uranium in Niger was a lie. The President’s claims that we had evidence Iraq was developing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons was a lie. The Bush administration’s claims that Saddam’s regime was involved with al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks was also a lie.

The 9/11 attacks are the most serious failure of US national defense since Pearl Harbor, yet our military response to al-Qaeda has been tepid. There are no WMDs in Iraq, but there is plenty of evidence that our enemies are developing, and even exporting, nuclear weapons technology. However, the evidence points to North Korea, Iran, and our reluctant ally Pakistan, not Iraq.

The truth is the national unity and international solidarity we earned after the September 11th attacks has been squandered by the invasion of Iraq. One third of the US army is entrenched in Iraq, and will be pinned down fighting a growing insurgency for the foreseeable future. And the unrest and violence has increased since the handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in June.

148 US troops have been killed since the handover on June 28th, including 65 deaths and more than 1,000 wounded during the fighting in August. The Pentagon reported 87 attacks per day on U.S. forces in August—the worst monthly average of the war. In total, over 1000 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq, another 7000 have been wounded, and nearly 13,000 Iraqis have died in the war.

The news only gets worse.

In in the past week over 200 Iraqis have been killed, and several hundred more have been wounded. Recent attacks included a massive mortar barrage targeting US Headquarters in Baghdad that killed sixty. Scores of Iraqi civilians were killed in the crossfire of a firefight between US forces and insurgents. Air strikes in Fallujah killed twenty. And the latest report is a car bomb has killed 47 Iraqis and wounded 114 at a Baghdad police station.

President Bush and his cabal of advisors have no one but themselves to blame for losing control over the war, and public perceptions of the war. But placing the blame on themselves, (where it belongs), would mean taking responsibility for the lies they told to garner support for the invasion of Iraq. Instead the Bush administration has adopted a new strategy: Minimize the negative news coverage from the war, at least until after the November elections.

To that end, whole cities and regions of Iraq have been declared “insurgent enclaves”. Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra, and several other areas of Iraq are now off limits to US troops. In effect these areas have been ceded to the insurgents.

These safe havens have become staging areas where the insurgents can operate with impunity, and plan more coordinated attacks. US troops are now hunkered down and fighting off increasingly tenacious guerrillas, without being allowed to deliver a killing blow. During the heavy fighting in August, US forces defeated the Mahdi Army, but the fighting ended in negotiations that allowed the insurgents to retreat, with their weapons.

We are not winning the War in Iraq, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Bush administration has convinced us we have to keep fighting. Using simpleton slogans like “if we don’t fight them there we’ll have to fight them here”, the White House has convinced us that the war in Iraq is necessary.

The truth is we are fighting an enemy that would not exist, if we had not invaded Iraq. The Mahdi Army is our creation, as are the insurgent groups that have flocked to Iraq to battle the Americans. We are creating terrorists, not defeating them.

The people of Iraq are not better off than they were four years ago, and neither are we. There are one million fewer jobs in the US than there were when George Bush took office, and the average family has lost over 1000 dollars in annual income. Our budget and trade deficits have climbed to record highs, surpassing 400 billion dollars a year, each.

The budget surpluses inherited by George Bush have been squandered, but that doesn’t matter. Because the Bush administration has convinced us that the deficits, and the recession, are caused by the war on terror. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost nearly $200 billion since the 9/11 attacks, yet the Bush administration has run up over one trillion dollars in debt.

The truth is, our budget deficits are the result of George Bush’s huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. His administration passed a tax cut bill before the 9/11 attacks, then used the war on terror as an excuse to pass another “tax relief” package. As for the stubborn recession, technically, the recession of 2001 ended over two years ago.

It is difficult for the average American to believe that because they have not seen any profits from the economy’s recovery. Since the recession officially ended in late 2001, 47 percent of the real national income growth has gone to corporate profits, and only 15 percent to wages and salaries. This is the first economic recovery since WW II where corporate profits gained at the expense of worker’s pay and benefits.

And let’s not forget the real cause of the recession. It was not the September 11th attacks, but the collapse of companies like Enron that precipitated a stock market meltdown. Enron’s CEO was the number one contributor to the Bush campaign, yet the company managed to go bankrupt after legalizing the extortion of electricity and bankrupting the State of California.

Given the facts, you’d think that anyone could defeat George Bush in November. But The collapse of Enron, the energy debacle in California, tax cuts for the rich, our soaring deficits, nuclear proliferation, none of these issues matter today. The War(s) on Terror are the issues in this election, and Americans are convinced that only George Bush can win those wars.

And that’s just not true. Whoever wins the Presidency in 2004 had better be ready to face the music, and convince the American People to do the same. George W. Bush is not that man, and our country cannot survive four more years of his patriot games.

Published in: on September 17, 2004 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Personal Reasons” The Fall of George Tenet

A. Scott Piraino

CIA Director George Tenet officially resigned last week after a tumultuous, seven year tenure. President Bush offered a conciliatory speech to the outgoing Director, and claimed Mr. Tenet had resigned for “personal reasons”. He is absolutely right.

George Tenet’s reason for resigning is his personal disgust with the White House, and the “neo-conservative” alliance that undermined the US intelligence agencies. The Bush Administration is responsible for the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, not the CIA. And George tenet knows this better than anyone.

Last week also saw the release of a Senate investigation into US intelligence failures leading up to the War in Iraq. Not surprisingly, the report blames the CIA for falsifying and overstating analyses on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. However, the Senate report only investigated the CIA’s role in the Iraqi intelligence fiasco.

The report does not address the manipulation of that intelligence by the White House and Defense department to bolster the case for war. The Republicans were determined not to undermine the President’s re-election bid, and defeated attempts to investigate the Bush administration’s shenanigans regarding Iraq. Their role in creating evidence of Iraq’s WMDs, and connections to al-Qaeda will be the subject of a separate Senate investigation.

A second report pertaining to the misuse of intelligence will be released by the end of the year, but after the election on November 2nd. This Senate Report is a whitewash, and a public relations coup for the Bush administration. They are off the hook, while George Tenet and the CIA take the fall for the faulty intelligence that justified the invasion of Iraq.

This is the last, not the first time George Tenet has been held responsible for Bush administration lies. In late 2001 forged documents were “discovered” stating that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase uranium in Niger. British Intelligence had supplied the original forged documents, and they came to the British from an unnamed foreign source.

Even though the documents did not originate from CIA sources, Vice President Cheney pressured the CIA into investigating the report. In February of 2002 retired ambassador Joseph Wilson was dispatched to Niger. After returning, he concluded that no exchange of uranium between Niger and Iraq took place, and said as much to CIA officials. George Tenet then informed the White House that the story was false.

This did not stop President Bush from using the allegations in his State of the Union address in January of 2003. When the press began investigating these reports, the notorious “yellow cake” scandal unfolded. The Bush administration saved face by forcing George Tenet to accept responsibility for the faulty intelligence. He publicly apologized by saying: “The President had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound.”

The Bush Administration would repay the CIA’s loyalty by releasing the name of a covert agent in retaliation for criticism of the White House.

In July of last year Joseph Wilson wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York times aptly titled, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa“. His piece criticized the Bush administration’s use of bogus information in the State of the Union address, and further claimed that they knew the yellow cake story was not true. In retaliation, an unknown White House official (Karl Rove), leaked the name of his wife to reporters and told them she was a CIA agent.

This is a federal crime, and a serious one. National Security laws protect the identity of covert agents, penalties for revealing classified information range from fines to up to ten years in prison. In September the CIA, with George Tenet’s approval, formally requested a Justice department investigation.

The ongoing Grand Jury investigation has questioned several high-ranking White House officials and Vice President Cheney. Three weeks ago, the investigation reached the President himself. The White House press secretary declared that, “no one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States”. However, the President had a private lawyer present during his hour long interrogation by Justice Department investigators.

The Valerie Plame affair is not the only case where the Bush administration broke the law in order to control information about Iraq. Federal Investigators are now asking questions about illegal contacts between the Bush administration and Ahmad Chalabi. The Defense Department has been secretly funding Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress for the past four years, to the tune of 33 million dollars.

Chalabi wanted the United states to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration needed propaganda about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the invasion they also wanted. According to the Wall street Journal, Ahmad Chalabi attended a secret Defense Policy Board meeting just days after September 11th. The subject of the meeting was how to use the 9/11 attacks as a pretext to invading Iraq.

In return for funding from the Bush administration, Chalabi‘s Iraqi National Congress leaked false stories to the press about Iraq’s WMD programs. Including the reports of Iraq’s mobile bio-weapons labs, which turned out to be nothing but tractor trailers. These reports were used by the Bush administration as evidence of Iraq’s WMD programs.

Again, the CIA knew these stories were false, and that Chalabi was unreliable.

After US forces had invaded Iraq, Chalabi was groomed for the role of interim Prime Minister, and given a seat on the Iraqi Governing Council. When asked by a reporter about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, weapons his INC clamed were there but had not been found, Chalabi said: “As far as we’re concerned we’ve been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important.”

Then, on May 20th, coalition forces in Iraq raided the mansion of Ahmad Chalabi. Just days before the coalition raided his house, the Bush administration cut funding to Chalabi, and distanced themselves from their new pariah. President Bush even remarked to King Abdullah of Jordan, “you can piss on Chalabi”.

US officials now suspect Chalabi of passing classified information to Iran. Apparently Mr. Chalabi has informed the Iranians that U.S. intelligence agencies have cracked their communications codes. Worse, they suspect that Defense Department officials who had frequent contacts with Chalabi leaked that information to him, and Chalabi in turn passed it on to Iran.

This information is highly classified, and Iran will surely take precautions to prevent further access to their secrets by U.S. Intelligence. The FBI has begun questioning the few Defense Department officials who had access to the information. Interestingly, both Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney deny any knowledge that the investigation is even taking place.

Warrants were issued for fifteen of Ahmad Chalabi’s associates, all INC officials. Their crimes ranged from kidnapping, fraud, running stolen car rings, illegal seizure of property, and “associated matters”. Nevertheless, Chalabi continued to protest his innocence, and even blame George Tenet for his crimes.

He publicly accused the CIA director of providing “erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction to President Bush, which caused the government much embarrassment at the United Nations and his own country.” He added that George Tenet, “was behind the charges against me that claimed that I gave intelligence information to Iran.”

George Tenet has been forced to endure this abuse, because if he spoke out he would have to admit that Chalabi is a paid stooge of the White House.

The Bush administration’s relationship with Chalabi provides a glimpse of where the real case for war in Iraq was made. The fact is, the CIA is a professional organization, ran by career civil servants. The bush administration could strong-arm the agency into reporting that Iraq was a threat to the U.S., but the White house could not just order the CIA to lie.

However, the truth can only be stretched so far, and the truth was Iraq was not a threat. So neo-conservatives in the Defense Department created the Office of Special Plans. The OSP publicized the few bits of information that showed Iraq was a threat to the US, and ignored the preponderance of data that said otherwise, thus creating propaganda to support the march towards war.

The Office of Special Plans also invented lies. This secret organization within the Pentagon, answerable to no one, funded Chalabi. The OSP also created evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime was connected to al-Qaeda.

During the buildup to war, Vice President Cheney began claiming that Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11th hijackers, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer. The alleged meeting took place in the Czech Republic in April 2001. Bush administration officials made repeated references to this meeting as evidence that Iraq was cooperating with al-Qaeda to strike at the United states.

The CIA had published contrary intelligence about Mohammed Atta as early as December 2001. FBI Evidence of Mohammed Atta‘s whereabouts place him in the United States at the time of the alleged meeting in Prague. The Senate’s 9/11 report concurred with CIA analysts, the meeting never took place.

In testimony before the 9/11 Commission George Tenet admitted that the OSP briefed white House officials on ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda without his knowledge. He also revealed a memo he sent to the Under Secretary of defense. The memo stated that Mr. Tenet did not agree with “the way the data was characterized”, pertaining to the alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta and the Iraqis.

The Defense Department issued a correction, but not before they had leaked the story to the press. During the build up to war administration officials referred to the meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officers as fact. Vice President Cheney repeatedly mentioned the alleged meeting, even after the 9/11 Commission had ruled the story a farce, by saying that the meeting “couldn’t be ruled out.”

Again the Bush administration’s intelligence was a lie, and again the CIA was not responsible. Vice President Cheney was lying, they were all lying, but Mr. Tenet could not speak out. After the Chalabi fiasco and the Intelligence Committee report, Mr. Tenet had all he could take, and he tendered his resignation.

One Democrat flatly stated that George Tenet “fell on his sword”. They failed to implicate the Bush administration for lying about Iraq, but Senate Democrats did attach nine “alternative opinions” to the report issued last week. This appendix details Bush administration pressure on the CIA to modify analyses, and provides the first official evidence of the Office of Special Plans.

People must realize that the CIA works for the White House. This has put George Tenet in a difficult position. The CIA cannot publicly condemn the President‘s propaganda campaign, because he is their boss. In addition to being double crossed by the Bush administration, the CIA has had to answer for the September 11th attacks, and the faulty intelligence that led to the war in Iraq.

We must also realize that the CIA is on record as opposing the Invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration has co-opted the CIA in order to prosecute their mad war, and they bear the responsibility. As CIA Director, George Tenet was used by the Bush administration, and discarded.

For George Tenet, this was personal.

Published in: on July 19, 2004 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Burning Bush

A. Scott Piraino

We are going to lose the war in Iraq, and by lose I mean we will not bring peace and democracy to that unfortunate country. Instead we will endure a steady trickle of American casualties until public pressure forces the U.S. to withdraw. Most Everyone knows this.

Everyone except perhaps our president, George W. Bush.

It is tempting to believe that President Bush is nothing but a paid mouthpiece for the American oligarchy. But if that were true, then there would be some logical reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There isn’t.

800 U.S. service members have died since the war began last year, over 4,500 have been wounded, at a cost approaching 200 billion dollars. Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz recently told Congress that military operations in Iraq are now costing about $4.7 billion a month. The cost of our war in Iraq is approaching the cost of the Vietnam War, after adjusting for inflation.

And for what?

Saddam Hussein’s war machine had been rendered impotent after the first Gulf War and the sanctions imposed by the United States. Iraq was not manufacturing Weapons of Mass destruction, nor was Saddam Hussein involved in the 9/11 attacks. Yet the Bush administration has still not provided any justification for the invasion, or accepted any responsibility for the bungled war in Iraq.

The only Weapon of Mass Destruction that has been found is an artillery round containing the nerve agent sarin. The shell was rigged as a makeshift explosive device, and detonated next to a passing U.S. convoy. Two Americans were treated for minor exposure to the sarin nerve agent, but there were no serious injuries. Weapons experts have dated the artillery shell to before the first Gulf War, meaning it was not produced after sanctions were put in effect.

Even some members of the Bush administration are finally admitting that somebody lied about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently acknowledged as much NBC: “The Central Intelligence Agency and other US government institutions were in some cases deliberately misled about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the war.”

If that is true, then where did the faulty “intelligence” about Iraq’s weapons programs come from? Richard Clarke served four U.S. presidents, and was chief of counter-terrorism for the Clinton and Bush administrations. After resigning in January of 2003 he published Against All Enemies, the most revealing account to date of the Bush administration’s march toward war.

Richard Clarke states matter-of-factly where the propaganda alluding to Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction came from. “The people in Rumsfeld’s office and in Wolfowitz’s operation cherry-picked intelligence to select the intelligence to support their views. They never did the due diligence on the intelligence that professional intelligence analysts are trained to do. [The OSP] would go through the intelligence reports including the ones that the CIA was throwing out.”

The Office of Special plans was the creation of Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. The purpose of this secret office was to “cherry-pick” any intelligence that hinted Iraq had WMD, and publicize that evidence. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, the office was shut down, and the blame for faulty intelligence pertaining to Iraq was placed squarely on the CIA.

Most Americans know they were deceived about Iraq’s WMD. However, few know that the propaganda about Saddam Hussein’s weapons came from an obscure office in the Defense Department. Since all the material is classified, and the CIA cannot investigate the Defense Department or the White House, the real “source” of the missing WMD goes unnoticed.

Some pundits have suggested that the real reason for the invasion was a secret plan to take control of Iraq’s oil wealth. Halliburton, the infamous company with ties to Vice President Cheney has received lucrative, non-competitive contracts for Iraqi oil. But conspiracy theorists may rest assured that if the Bush Administration invaded Iraq for oil, their plan has failed miserably.

In the months immediately after the invasion Iraqis were rationing fuel, and oil was actually imported from Kuwait, Jordan, and Turkey. Since then, Iraqi saboteurs and a crumbling infrastructure have crippled Iraq’s oil output. Data released by the US Army Corps of Engineers shows Iraqi oil exports declined from nearly two million barrels per day before the war, to 860,000 barrels per day today.

Crude oil prices worldwide, and gasoline prices in the United States have climbed to new record highs precisely because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and the Bush administration knew it before we invaded. Otherwise they would not have needed to lie. If they engineered the invasion to control Iraq’s oil supplies and give war contracts to Halliburton, they are the most despicable administration in U.S. History. But there could be another explanation, if not a proper reason.

The President and his cabal of close advisors believe in the war, and they have lied to the American people to pursue it.

On February 7th 2004, the President was interviewed in the Oval Office by Tim Russert. In a taped interview for Meet the Press, the President fielded candid, straightforward questions about the U.S. war in Iraq. Here is a brief transcript:

Russert: The night you took the country to war, March 17th, you said this: “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
President Bush: Right.

Russert: That apparently is not the case.
President Bush: Correct.

Russert: There’s a sense in the country that the intelligence that was given was ambiguous, and that you took it and molded it and shaped it — your opponents have said “hyped” it — and rushed to war.
President Bush: Yeah.

Russert: Now looking back, in your mind, is it worth the loss of 530 American lives and 3,000 injuries and woundings simply to remove Saddam Hussein, even though there were no weapons of mass destruction?
President Bush: Every life is precious. Every person that is willing to sacrifice for this country deserves our praise, and yes.

President Bush did attempt to justify his war in Iraq with this statement:

“I’m a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind. Again, I wish it wasn’t true, but it is true. And the American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is. And I see dangers that exist, and it’s important for us to deal with them.”

In other words, the President declared that we were invading Iraq because of that nation’s WMD…But there were no weapons of mass destruction, and yes, the intelligence was fudged. We give praise to those who have been killed or wounded, and yes, the war is worth their sacrifice, (their lives).

He’s a war president, and by God, he has done what must be done. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction so he could do the right thing, and invade Iraq. We the people should just accept the lies, and be grateful that our President is doing whatever it takes to defeat our enemies.

In the three months since that interview was conducted, the Iraqi insurgency has grown, and the media has revealed widespread abuse of prisoners in Iraq. Polls show most Americans are uneasy about the war, and the President’s approval ratings are well below fifty percent. Last week President Bush made another public appearance, in an attempt to allay concerns about Iraq and shore up his crumbling support among voters.

His speech at the Army War College said nothing new. The President vowed to stay the course, and promised more troops if they were necessary. Bush trumpeted the removal of Saddam Hussein as the new raison d’etre of our war. He declared that Iraq is the headquarters of terrorists who “seek weapons of mass destruction.” Instead of admitting that Iraq’s WMD do not exist.

More important than the President’s empty words is what was left unsaid. He did not offer one word of contrition for the dead and wounded American soldiers, or express any concern for the war’s escalating costs. If the President has any doubts about his war in Iraq, he did not reveal them.

The truth is, President Bush and his neo-conservative advisors did not expect the war to get so out of hand. If they had been successful, no one would care about the lies they used to justify the invasion. They planned to take over Iraq and overthrow Saddam’s regime, but they did not plan on the Iraqi insurgency.

The Bush administration has yet to admit that the war is wrong, let alone apologize to the American people. But they can never claim that the war in Iraq is a mistake. It is a lie, and it could be the biggest military debacle in U.S. history.

Published in: on June 1, 2004 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

There is no CIA

A. Scott Piraino

We don’t have a central intelligence agency. Instead we have a National Security Agency (NSA), a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), the State Department has its own Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and we have a National Security Council. Then, there is the CIA.

Despite this alphabet soup of agencies, terrorists were able to infiltrate this country and kill thousands of Americans on September 11th, 2001. The logical solution to this colossal intelligence failure would have been to centralize these separate, competing bureaucracies into one agency. Instead the Bush Administration compounded the error by forming a new organization, the “Office of Special Plans”.

This secret office was created in October of 2001 by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and answered only to the White House. Ironically, the Office of Special Plans was not created to hunt down Osama Bin Laden or the Al Qaeda network. For some inane reason, The Bush administration was determined to invade and occupy Iraq after September 11th.

Since there was no real evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or connections to the Al Qaeda network, that evidence had to be manufactured. That was the sole purpose of the Office of Special Plans. The OSP publicized the few bits of information that showed Iraq was a threat to the US, and ignored all the intelligence that said otherwise, thus creating propaganda to support the march towards war.

In the buildup to Bush’s ill fated invasion, the Office of Special Plans leaked bogus information about Iraq’s weapons programs to the press. That leaked information was then sited as proof of Iraq’s military capability by the Bush administration. This included the forged document alleging that Iraq attempted to purchase Uranium from Niger.

The document was “discovered” at an opportune time for the Bush administration, and the allegations were mentioned in the President’s State of the Union address. When the Bush administration was caught in a lie, they blamed the CIA. The Director of the CIA, George Tenet, took responsibility for the misinformation even though the intelligence community knew that the information was false.

This has put George Tenet in a difficult position. The CIA cannot publicly condemn the President‘s propaganda campaign, because he is their boss. And in addition to being double crossed by the Bush administration, the CIA had to answer to Congress and the American people after September 11th.

Congressional investigators revealed that five federal Agencies had information about Al Qaeda activities before the attacks. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI, the Federal Aviation Administration, the State Department, and the CIA all had different pieces of the terrorists plans. If instead there had been one agency, or if those competing agencies had shared that information, the attacks might have been prevented.

Technically, the CIA director is head of US intelligence, but in truth no one is in charge of all our spy agencies. The CIA was created in 1947, as part of the National Security Act that prepared our country to fight the Cold War with the Soviets. At that time the CIA was responsible for all foreign intelligence gathering, the NSA monitored world communications, and satellites did not exist.

In the fifty years since these intelligence agencies were formed, telecommunications technologies have revolutionized the art gathering information, (or spying). In addition, constellations of satellites provide worldwide coverage of troop movements, and allow US intelligence to eavesdrop anywhere. The NSA is responsible for monitoring global communications, and satellites are under various defense commands or the NRO.

The CIA does not control these assets, and therefore they do not gather most of the intelligence data collected by the United states. The CIA’s real missions are analysis, vetting foreign agents who spy for the US, and most importantly, supporting paramilitary groups that fight proxy wars for the United States. In this last mission the CIA has failed.

During the Cold War the only requirement for US support was a willingness to fight regimes allied with the Soviet Union. In the name of fighting communism, the CIA has supported brutal dictatorships worldwide, and even helped overthrow Democracies. This includes training right wing militants in Central America, overthrowing the elected government in Peru, (while George Bush the First was CIA director), and supplying both Iraq and Iran with weapons.

The CIA also supported Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban while they were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Without the CIA, these groups would not have the training, equipment, and organization to wage a war on terror against us. The truth is, the CIA is responsible for the terrorists who attacked this country on September 11th, 2001.

This policy of supporting sociopaths and ruthless regimes has backfired on us time and time again, yet the same strategy continues today in Iraq. The CIA is rebuilding the Iraqi intelligence apparatus, by recruiting agents from Saddam’s Secret Service. As the enforcers for Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, you can imagine what upstanding citizens they are. There is no way this new security apparatus will bring peace to Iraq, let alone Democracy. Nor is there an excuse for putting these murderous thugs on the US payroll.

The budget for US intelligence totals 27 billion dollars, plus an estimated ten billion dollars hidden in the “black budget“ that funds secret programs. The CIA, NSA, NRO, and other agencies are not required to share information, and there is no chain of command to force them to do so. These agencies have no incentive to cooperate with each other, and every incentive to view each other as competitors for federal funds.

The US intelligence community should be united to fight the War on Terror. Instead we have several entrenched bureaucracies that do not share information or cooperate in the field. The question is, can these disparate agencies defend our country against terrorists.

Over the New Year’s holiday the National Command Authority raised the threat level to orange, meaning an attack was likely. The United states took this threat seriously enough to cancel incoming flights from overseas, and deployed special teams in US cities to detect the presence of a “dirty bomb”. An Al Qaeda operative has already been prosecuted in an attempt to acquire and detonate a dirty bomb, and worse is yet to come.

We need a central intelligence agency. One agency that can correlate intelligence from all sources, then act on that intelligence to prevent or pre-empt a terrorist attack. The CIA cannot fail again.

Published in: on January 13, 2004 at 6:32 pm  Comments (1)  

Chasing the Dragon

A. Scott Piraino
China has grown from an agrarian backwater into the world’s third largest economy in the last twenty years. While our yearly trade deficits with China have risen from zero to over 100 billion dollars a year, their country has been the world’s fastest growing economy. China has become a colossus precisely because of these trade deficits.

The global economy has been very good to China. Their country has been industrialized with someone else’s money, ours. Throughout the 1990s US corporations increased their factory investments in China, seeking an endless supply of cheap labor.

China is not our ally. Their trade policy has always served to advance Chinese industry and technology. And with this new wealth, China has sought military parity with the United States.

However, they could not modernize their armed forces without US expertise. Several US companies wanted to sell weapons and technology to the Chinese, but the sales were prohibited by law. Economic sanctions for the Tiananmen Square massacre and restrictions on technology exports prevented US corporations from selling China the armaments they wanted.

The Chinese turned to a shadowy cast of characters that funneled millions of dollars into Democratic Party campaign coffers. These illegal donations were instrumental in re-electing Bill Clinton in 1996. President Clinton took contributions he knew came from China, and played another angle as well.

In return for campaign contributions, the Clinton administration relaxed export controls and allowed corporations to decide on their own if their technology transfers were legal or not. When easing restrictions wasn’t enough, Clinton signed waivers that simply circumvented the law. The President’s waivers allowed the export of missile technology, defense electronics, and even a communications system for the Chinese Air Force.

In one extraordinary case of corruption, the CEO’s of Loral and Hughes each donated over one million dollars to Clinton’s re-election campaign. These companies had an interest in seeing China develop reliable missiles to loft their satellites into orbit. Both companies were allowed to upgrade the launching and guidance of China’s missiles.

In June of 1995, the CIA learned that China had stolen the crown jewels of our nuclear arsenal, including the neutron bomb and the W-88 miniaturized warhead. Later that year National Security Advisor Anthony Lake was briefed on the thefts. He was quickly replaced on the Security Council by Sandy Berger, a former lobbyist for Chinese interests. In June of 1996, before Bill Clinton’s re-election, the FBI opened a formal investigation into the theft of US nuclear weapon designs.

When the press learned that China had stolen nuclear weapon designs from US research labs, the Clinton administration downplayed and even denied the reports. But this scandal was too big to ignore, and Congress began a formal investigation by forming the Cox committee. The administration was forced to reveal the extent of China’s nuclear espionage, while insisting that Clinton was not told about the thefts until 1998, three years after the fact.

The Cox Committee report was released early in 1999. It confirmed that China had stolen the neutron bomb design and the W-88 miniaturized warhead. The W-88 would allow China to field smaller, mobile missiles and carry multiple warheads on larger missiles. In addition, the Cox report proved that US corporations illegally transferred “missile design information and know-how”. Chief among the offenders were Loral and Hughes.

On October 1st, 1999, the fiftieth anniversary of China’s communist takeover, a new missile was paraded through the streets of Beijing. The DF-31 is a modern, mobile nuclear missile capable of hitting targets in the United States. The rocket motor and guidance systems were made possible by Loral and Hughes. The nuclear warhead is a copy of the W-88, stolen from the US.

The Chinese have not disguised their plans to use these weapons. In March of 1996, on the eve of Taiwan’s first democratic elections, China used the threat of force to intimidate the island nation into electing a pro-Beijing candidate. Military maneuvers included bombing runs and launching ballistic missiles that impacted within twenty miles of the island. When the United States sent an aircraft carrier into the Taiwan straits, a Chinese general threatened to “rain down nukes upon Los Angeles”.

In the summer of 1999 the pro-independence leadership of Taiwan called for talks with China on a state-to-state basis. The enraged Chinese demanded Taiwan enter unification talks or face attack. A communist Party approved newspaper published a plan to conquer Taiwan. It involved using neutron bombs against any Taiwanese resistance and a nuclear standoff with the United States.

The incoming Bush administration confronted this new China when a US Navy surveillance plane was damaged in a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter. The US aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing on a Chinese island. 24 crewmen were held for eleven days and repeatedly interrogated by PLA soldiers.

President Bush initially threatened to withdraw China’s normal trade status and block entry into the WTO if the airmen were not released. Instead the Bush administration appeased China’s demands by apologizing for the dead fighter pilot that caused the collision, and for the reconnaissance plane landing on Chinese soil without permission. Immediately after the crisis, the administration signaled that there would be no long term damage to US-China relations.

True to his word, President Bush granted China normal trade status after the spy plane incident. Nor has his administration investigated, or even mentioned, the China scandals of the Clinton era. While US warplanes were bombing Afghanistan, President Bush did not miss a chance to attend a summit in China, even appearing on national television wearing traditional Chinese robes.

The fact is, the US has very little leverage over China. In the event of an economic crisis or military confrontation, the Chinese could simply seize all US assets in their country. This would bankrupt many of our own corporations that manufacture exclusively in China.

The Bush administration has no choice but to maintain a pro-China policy, because they are in hock to the same corporate interests that corrupted Bill Clinton. American corporations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying our elected officials to pass free trade agreements and legalize technology exports. China has not been industrialized by US presidents seeking “engagement”, but by our own corporations, seeking profits.

A few American stockholders have made fortunes modernizing China’s armed forces, still more US companies have built factories in China. These factories and plenty of cheap, docile labor earn huge profits for these investors. Protecting these profits is America’s China policy.

Published in: on October 15, 2003 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  

A Bright Shining Lie

A. Scott Piraino

The President’s pretense for launching this invasion was his assurance that Iraq had, or would soon develop, Weapons of Mass Destruction. Now those accusations have been proven false, and it is impossible to believe that President Bush actually thought those weapons ever existed. The Bush administration does have overwhelming evidence of a rogue state developing nuclear weapons, but in North Korea, not Iraq.

In the weeks leading up to the invasion of Iraq, a ship loaded with North Korean Scud missiles was intercepted heading for Yemen. The Bush administration dithered, then let the ship sail to its destination. Yemen is an ally of the US after all, and it would not do to protest too loudly against the North Koreans, while beating the drums for war with Iraq.

The North Koreans took offense anyway. Angered by the ship’s seizure, they announced the next day the reactivation of a nuclear reactor capable of producing weapons grade uranium. They ordered UN inspectors out of their country, and dismantled surveillance equipment at their nuclear facilities. While UN inspectors were being evicted from North Korea, they were on the ground in Iraq, searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The UN team failed to find any illegal weapons in Iraq, even though Saddam’s regime provided a 12,000 page report detailing their weapons programs. The Iraqis allowed the inspectors to search anywhere they pleased, and were very forthcoming with information, but this did not satisfy the Bush administration. Iraq was declared in “material breech” of UN demands, and President Bush launched his invasion.

After the invasion of Iraq, North Korea became the first nation to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. North Korea probably has a few atomic bombs, but after seizing 8000 fuel rods being guarded by the UN, they will definitely have nuclear weapons within a few months. Yesterday they announced that those fuel rods have been reprocessed into weapons grade uranium, enough to produce several nuclear warheads.

The Bush administration’s only response has been to quietly unveil the Proliferation Security Initiative. Although not a proper blockade, the US will monitor North Korean ports of entry and search ships and aircraft after they’ve left the country. In effect the US is trying to prevent North Korea from exporting the nuclear weapons we now know they have.

Now the Bush administration must deal with Iran. After invading Iraq, the Bush administration began threatening Iran into allowing UN inspections of that country’s nuclear facilities. The inspectors found evidence that the Iranians were enriching uranium, a necessary process in making nuclear weapons.

The Iranians are not stupid, they have seen what Bush has done to their neighbor Iraq. They are offering to negotiate with the UN, and even with the United States, as long as negotiations are “based on mutual respect and equal footing”. But the Iranians have refused to stop their nuclear programs, and they continue to enrich uranium.

This administration is rapidly losing control of world events. Instead of dealing with North Korea and Iran, President Bush has embroiled one third of our Army in a bloody occupation of Iraq. Not only has the White House manufactured lies to justify this war, they have also ignored the truth, which is much more frightening.

Published in: on October 10, 2003 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

On the Fall of Empires

A. Scott Piraino

This is how Rome fell. First a vibrant empire comprised of wealthy citizens was reduced to an aristocracy. Then that decadent, impoverished empire was overcome by external enemies.

Roman civilization has many parallels to our own. The Roman Empire is a historical construct, contemporary Romans always referred to their country as a Republic. Of course Rome was an empire, as successive Emperors consolidated power and began ruling far flung provinces. But the republican values were an egalitarian fiction until the fall of Rome. It is interesting to note that the United States is never officially referred to as an empire, although our country has assumed many imperial characteristics.

As their empire expanded, the Romans built the greatest road network the world had ever seen so their marching legions could defend any threatened territory. These roads facilitated trade and commerce, and were necessary for the growth of the Empire. After WW II, the United States began construction of the Federal Highway system, to move tanks in the event the US was ever invaded. These highways have not just radically improved transportation, they have affected the growth of suburbs, malls, and even whole cities.

The Romans built great coliseums to celebrate sporting events and watch plays or other public entertainments. Our sports amphitheaters are actually modeled on these Roman designs. Aside from modern technology, there is very little difference between the Superdome and the Parthenon. We are also a culture that worships entertainment. Instead of plays and gladiators, we have football teams, rock bands, and movie stars.

But besides our public works, the United States shares other, more disturbing similarities with the Roman Empire.

In the early Roman period the curials were the backbone of society. These were middle class landowners who could vote, and fought in the legions during times of war. By the end of the Empire, the curials had been reduced to the status of serfs. Wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few landowners, and the curials worked the land for them.

The Fall of the Roman Empire can be traced to the demise of the republican values that created it. In modern terms we can compare this to the death of our middle class. Our country was founded not just on Democratic principles, but the idea that the people were the owners of the country.

The first Americans were predominantly small farmers who owned their land, (with the exception of the black slaves, of course). In early American history just as in Rome, voting and military service where the duties of citizenship, and ownership of property was a right. As industrialization eclipsed agriculture, rural farmers became urban factory workers. But the goal of life in America has always been the same, to own a house, buy a car, in short, to live the American dream.

Over the past twenty years, the ability of the average American to live that dream has all but disappeared. Per capita income continues to climb only because a small number of Americans have grown much wealthier. Incomes for the working poor and middle class Americans have stagnated, and even declined. The average American is increasingly a renter, not an owner.

Twenty years ago a high school graduate in Akron Ohio could look forward to a lifetime of factory employment, and earn enough from his wages to buy a house and a car. Today Akron Ohio consists of ghettos and boarded up factories. Those jobs have moved to China and Mexico, and what were once middle class neighborhoods are now tenements for the poor.

How did this happen? To answer that, we must address the issue of leadership.

The first Roman Emperors were crusaders for the Glory of Rome. After the initial conquests of France, Britain, and the Mediterranean, the Roman borders remained essentially unchanged for three hundred years. The later Emperors maintained the trappings of the earlier heroic period, but they served themselves, not the greater good of Rome.

Our founding fathers were idealists. They can rightfully be compared to Caesar, and the early Romans. But though our present leadership uses the same slogans, and shrouds their policies in the same idealism, it is clear they don’t believe in anything. It is said that Nero fiddled while Rome fell, our leadership has fiddled as well, while our country has descended into mediocrity.

The source of our economic decline can be traced to Ronald Reagan and his successors. Reaganomics was nothing more than an excuse to cut taxes for the rich. Just as free trade is an argument for exporting manufacturing jobs to foreign nations where our corporations can pay much lower wages.

In 1981 the United States was the largest creditor nation in history. Today our national debt stands at over six trillion dollars and growing. In addition, our country has exported over three trillion dollars to foreign producers. The US posted a trade deficit of over 400 billion dollars last year, a new record high.

Our budget deficits transfer wealth from taxpayers to bondholders. Our trade deficits transfer wealth from American consumers to offshore producers. These huge transfers of wealth are responsible for the death of our middle class.

Ronald Reagan was either a demented fool or a corrupt servant of the rich, depending on whether he believed his own agenda or not. But there can be no doubt about his successors. George Bush the First called Reagan’s policies “voodoo” economics while campaigning against him, then carried on the same policies during his four years in office.

In 1992 when the Democrats returned to office, our country had an opportunity to reverse the corrupt policies of the Reagan era. Instead we elected a cheap whore named Bill Clinton. His administration continued the same policies, only in a trendier, more liberal guise.

George Bush II has wasted no time getting back to Reaganomics, passing two tax cut packages into law that favor the wealthy, and supporting more free trade agreements. The difference of course is that our country is already over six trillion in debt, and we are the biggest debtor nation in history.

We are also at war.

The Roman Empire did not fall to one superior enemy. Rather the Empire died the death of a thousand cuts, suffering repeated attacks against her frontiers and invasions by increasingly larger and better organized enemies. By the end of the Empire, Roman citizens were loathe to join the legions and defend their country.

The dangerous job of soldiering was left to slaves, and foreign mercenaries. The date for the fall of the Roman Empire is commonly noted as 476 A. D. The year a Germanic mercenary commanding Roman armies deposed the last, enfeebled Roman Emperor.

Today’s US servicemen are predominantly poor whites and poor blacks, even foreign citizens are allowed to enlist to fill the ranks. Our youth increasingly distain the armed forces, preferring a more relaxed urban lifestyle. For those young Americans who do opt for military service, there is plenty of action.

After September 11th, President Bush ordered an invasion of Afghanistan, seeking the terrorists responsible for the attacks. Osama Bin Laden has not been found, nor has the Al Qaeda terrorist network been eliminated. But 8000 US troops are still in Afghanistan, enduring ambushes, bombings, and fighting an elusive enemy.

No one could question our right to attack Afghanistan after September 11th, but that moral authority has been squandered by the reckless invasion of Iraq. 150,000 US troops are now attempting to occupy the country against increasing resistance from indigenous guerrillas. One third of our standing Army is now committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the War on Terror is far from won.

President Bush’s imperial ambitions have scattered our Armed Forces across the globe. Now his administration has publicly threatened Iran, as if occupying the entire Middle East will somehow eliminate terrorism. Rather these unwarranted attacks are winning over Arabs to a radical form of Islam, while providing targets to those militants by sending US troops into their midst.

The occupation of Iraq is unraveling, and showing signs of becoming a full fledged guerrilla war. North Korea will certainly have nuclear weapons within a few months, and they have missiles that can reach Alaska and our bases in Asia. Nor can we discount China. That nation is now the world’s third largest economy, thanks to our trade deficits, and no friend of the United States.

The American people have good reasons to fear for the future, and nowhere to turn for answers. Roman civilization faced this uncertainty as well, and by searching, found new answers. The end of the Roman Empire was also the end of the ancient world, and the rise of a monotheistic religion known as Christianity.

Roman civilization was so much more advanced than anything before it, so much wealthier, more comfortable and safe, that people’s view of the universe began to change. In the early Roman period pantheons of gods like Zeus and Apollo were worshipped, and great temples were built to honor them. But after centuries of peace and prosperity sacrificing to these old gods seemed superstitious, even quaint.

As the old ways declined Romans sought cults, astrology, and mystic traditions to address their spiritual needs, before the Empire converted to Christianity. The first Christians were young, urban, educated Romans. The rural people held to the old ways the longest, sacrificing to the old gods, maintaining shrines to local spirits, and keeping up the sacrifices. The word “pagan” is Latin for rural person, with the connotation of hillbilly or hick.

Just as the old gods made no sense to the late Romans, Christianity makes no sense in the modern world. The new generations of Americans, baby boomers and their progeny, don’t look to the Christian faith anymore. Younger, more modern Americans seek new age bookstores and any number of wonkish solutions to their spiritual questions.

The last vestiges of Christianity in our country can be found predominantly in rural America. There you can still find people who go to church on Sundays and read, or even believe, the Bible. They are the pagans, the rural people holding to the old ways.

The cynicism and moral relativity of these times is part of this change in the way we view our universe.

We have called the future post-modern, the information age, the space age, and the nuclear age. Whatever this new age is, we are seeing its birth in our time. Part of that change is a new morality, a new spirituality if you will.

But faith that all will end as it should is no excuse for the incompetence and corruption of our national leadership. Historians will look back on the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations as an era of decadence and decline. Our economy is left tottering, our enemies are plotting our destruction, and we are left with an inevitable sense of fatalism about the future.

This too shall pass.

Published in: on October 8, 2003 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment