Friday, November 23, 2007

Not So Good Post Thanksgiving News

Having not written for the blog for a while, I thought I would take
stock of recent events that I have looked at in the past as mass media
particularly has portrayed them.
First, there is Pakistan. The Musharraf dictatorship continues to
make a mockery of the rule of law with a wink and nothing more from
the Bush administration. A new Supreme Court(the leadership of the
old one is under arrest) has approved the dictator's new election
plans, thousands remain in jail as Musharraf proclaims the necessity
of having an unfree election in order to protect "democracy," and mass
media here continues to portray Musharraf as someone whom Bush has
personal loyalty to and trust in, a buddy, like Rove or Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, former ambassadors to Pakistan, policy planners who are
good imperialists all, are commenting in the media that it is time to
rethink Musharraf, to dump him given his huge liabilities, since, as
one former ambassador noted, the U.S. government has a relationship
with "the Pakistani army and people," but not Musharraf.

The last statement is very telling. Pakistan has been essentially a
military dictatorship through most of its history, on the model that
the U.S. actively supported in Latin America through the twentieth
century and sought to export to Africa in the cold war period.
Musharraf is by no means the wost of these thuggish tyrants(compared
to General Zia, in the late 1970s and 1980s, who played a leading role
in the attack against Afghanistan when it was led by Communists
seeking to carry out a socialist revolution, he might be considered a
"democrat") but the Pakistani people are fed up with his regime and
the longer the Bush administration, his principle supporter in the
world, continues to run interference for his regime, the worse it will
be for both the Pakistani people and peace in the region. On a
positive note, Pakistan has been suspended from the British
Commonwealth. Progressives in the U.S. should keep this story
alive(since it is beginning to fade from the headlines here) and
demand an immediate end of U.S. economic and military support for

The occupation of Iraq continues to cost more and more Iraqi, U.S. and
other lives every day, more than two thirds of the American people
now oppose the war(a percentage in the polls similar to what Richard
Nixon faced in the Vietnam War when he launched his phoney
"Vietnamization" policy aka sharply reducing the number of U.S. troops
in Vietnam while greatly expanding both bombing and widening the war
into Cambodia)and the war has already cost more than one half a
trillion dollars(not counting for inflation, which of course has been
very substantial since the 1970s, the Vietnam War cost an estimated
150 billion from the 1965 escalation to the 1975 collapse of the
Saigon regime).

Mass media today, while it is more pervasive, with cable TV and the
Internet, than it was during the Vietnam War(press and network
television were the media sources) is if anything less critical than
it was of the Vietnam war, at least in the post 1968 period, although
Nixon was able to deflect much of that criticism with his "peace with
honor" propaganda.

Bush on the other hand is still talking about winning the war, even
though it is an occupation whose purpose should be winning the peace.
The media is still talking about the successes of the "surge," and
how to train Iraqis to do the fighting, as there is no policy or
blueprint for U.S. withdrawal. Although I feel like biting my tongue
when I say this, Bush's policy is a lot dumber than Nixon's, not more
brutal in what was in Vietnam a war and a much bigger conflict than
the present one in Iraq, but far less purposeful.

Nixon was playing for time, seeking to improve relations with the
Soviets and Chinese to limit their support for the Vietnamese, drop
more bombs than had been dropped in WWII and Korea to force the
Vietnamese to accept a settlement on U.S. terms, namely, the survival
of the South Vietnamese state that the U.S. had created in the 1950s.
That policy increased greatly the casualties in Indo-China and failed
miserably to sustain the Saigon regime, but didn't undermine the
larger Nixon-Kissinger detente policy, which sought to restructure the
cold war and de-emphasize U.S. unilateral military interventions

Bush in Iraq really has no policy or any apparent understanding of what a
policy would be. The U.S. military is literally doing its own thing,
the Iraqi government, such as it is, is doing its own thing, the U.S.
private contractors are doing their own thing, the U.S. diplomatic
corps seems separate from the U.S. military, everybody is cutting
deals with everybody else, and millions of Iraqis, the so-called
"middle class" on which the "American Dream" of making the world free
and democratic has long rested, have fled the country.

In the Vietnam war,the Right hypocritically blamed both the anti-war
movement and the "liberals" in Washington for "tying the hands of the
military" and losing the war. Incredibly, the Bush administration
and the Right generally is doing the same thing today, even though
this war and occupation was entirely the result of the Bush
administration's policy and Bush has done everything he has wanted to
do over the last four years with no real Congressional oversight and
restrictions. The Vietnam War, progressive historians often note, was
an example of the disastrous consequences of cold war ideology and
policy, that is, the demonization of "international Communism," the
accompanying denial of the rights of colonial peoples to
self-determination if that self determination led to socialist
victories, and the belief that the right combination of economic and
military power could solve all problems.

The Iraq occupation so far is an example of the contempt that Bush
administration has for U.S. public opinion, a contempt so great that
it has failed to even pretend to modify its policies as Johnson and
Nixon did when faced with comparable opposition, its apparent belief
that it can do whatever it wants regardless of the consequences and
make real whatever it says is real.

When people act that way, it is usually seen as an example of mental
illness rather than strength of purpose. Unlike Vietnam, where the
cumulative effects of disastrous policies mobilized greater actions
and protests, there is a danger that the disasters in Iraq will have a
numbing effect, that people will get used to passively opposing what
is happening and doing little as more and more death and destruction
is carried forward on a daily basis. Progressives should not only
seek to heighten protest, but connect protest with policy, push the
Democratic majority in Congress in a presidential election year to act
boldly(as an admittedly much larger majority did in in ending the
draft, repealing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and enacting the War
Powers Act during the Nixon administration)and prepare the war for
both the rapid end of the Iraq occupation and the abandonment of the
policy which produced it to begin with.

There is one under reported piece of bad news which may be most
important in this post Thanksgiving period. Both Japan and China, the
leading purchasers of dollars and holders of the American debt, are
diversifying their holdings, moving away from dollar purchases, as the
U.S. economy and currency becomes less and less attractive. Time is
money and one of the hidden effects of the Vietnam War was that it
permitted U.S. competitors, Japan particularly, to begin to out
compete the U.S. in areas like automobiles and consumer electronics
where the U.S. has been virtually unchallenged in global markets
previously. A decade after the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S.,
thanks largely to the Reagan administration's spectacular increase in
military spending(to end the "Vietnam syndrome") and equally
spectacular tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy("supply side
economics" to provide incentives for investment that would solve all
economic problems) had gone from being the leading creditor nation in
the world to being the leading debtor nation in the world.

Today, a good deal of the American debt is held by foreign governments
and investors. Time is still money and the Bush administration's
disastrous policies have more than doubled that debt, which today is
in excess of 10 trillion, undermined government support for scientific
research in a wide variety of areas that impact negatively on the U.S.
economy, from stem cell research to questions of energy and global
warming, and in effect made the U.S. economy less competitive and the
U.S. more vulnerable to the very "free markets" and unregulated global
economy which it literally worships as much as its religious
supporters worship God.

To end on a "positive note"(my tongue is very deep in its cheek)
concerning a topic which I have written about in the past, the federal
government has indicted Barry Bonds for lying to a federal grand jury
investigating the use of steroids in professional sports, where
deregulation and a lack of restriction on individual initiative to out
compete and out produce all rivals is subject to prosecution(where
there must be a "level playing field," as nineteenth century liberals
used to say, in support of the sort of economic and social reforms the
Bush administration rejects everywhere else). Although a progressive
friend of mine has called the Bush administration, "Reagan on
Steroids," I doubt the indictment will extend to the White House.
Norman Markowitz

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