A swine flu pandemic now appears inevitable. Thousands may die in USA, millions worldwide.
The virus is a new strain and no one has immunity to it. It appears highly contagious. New cases are rapidly appearing all over the globe.
It is spread from person to person (not from contact with animals). No vaccine is currently available, but one may be available by the end of the year. It is resistant to the flu drugs amantadine and rimantadine, but currently treatable with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). That may change however as the virus continues to mutate.
Recommendations: Take extra precautions to keep yourself healthy. Keep your distance from other people, especially if they appear sick, are coughing or sneezing. Do not touch handles and doorknobs in public places. Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching anything in public, and before eating or handling food. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, eyes or face unless you just washed your hands thoroughly.
Related: More from Global Guerillas. You know, I can’t help but wonder if this was intentional.
In a hyper-connected world, even small events can turn into global disasters (Mexico City’s International airport handles 70,000 travelers a day). More:
The BBC has some personal stories (this one was particularly interesting):
I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from “under control”. As a doctor, I realise that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.
Mexico has shut schools and museums and canceled hundreds of public events in its sprawling, overcrowded capital of 20 million people to try to prevent further infections… Shopping centers were hushed, restaurant reservations were canceled and everyone from waiters to churchgoers wore face masks.
..during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia… Travel curbs imposed there damaged economies throughout the region, where that virus circulated most widely. In Singapore, where 33 infected people died, gross domestic product shrank 11.4 percent in the second quarter of 2003 because of the severe acute respiratory syndrome.
UPDATE: Reuters added more data/estimates of the impact:
The World Bank estimated in 2008 that a flu pandemic could cost $3 trillion and result in a nearly 5 percent drop in world gross domestic product. The World Bank has estimated that more than 70 million people could die worldwide in a severe pandemic.
NYTimes. Hong Kong’s sensor-based measurement and indefinite detention:
Ever since the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, Hong Kong has used infrared scanners to measure the facial temperature of all arrivals at its airport and border crossings with mainland China. Visitors are required to remove any hats to ensure accurate measurement, and children are checked with ear thermometers because the scanners are less reliable in measuring their faces. ….any traveler who has passed through a city with laboratory-confirmed cases and who arrives in Hong Kong with a fever and respiratory symptoms will be intercepted by officials and sent to a hospital to await testing. “Until that test is negative, we won’t allow him out,” he said.
NOTE: Unfortunately, the current effort to prevent the global economy’s descent into depression is merely an information operation — an effort to control perception via the manipulation of information/media — rather than anything of real substance. Even a mild pandemic could wash that information facade away.
I am grown totally frustrated and impatient with the cult of Obama, with the cult of the President in all. Please don’t speak to me of “it’s only three months, give him time”. The administration has had ample time to show their course and it is clear that the course has not changed from the velocity by which we have proceeded for fifty years or more: a course of attempted conquest, imperialism, genocide, destructive and always-shifting international alliances with evil forces, and outright lying to and manipulation and exploitation of American citizens and the diverse peoples of the world.
I want to see the evidence.
The evidence that Obama is his own man. The evidence that he is dedicated to democracy. The evidence that he is in control – not beholden to the same oligarchy, corporatocracy, and fascist elements stabbing their tentacles into every vulnerable pore of a hypnotized and weary society. I need the evidence. I will show you mine – do you have it in you to show me yours? . . .
As David Swanson, a Project Board Member of Voters for Peace wrote:
“Just take a look at the memos officially attributed to Bybee, and consider whether we can maintain any sort of legitimate government without impeaching him, and whether we want him overruling decent honest judges for the next 30 years. Bybee gave President Bush, upon request, “legal opinions” that a president can ignore international laws, that laws do not apply to various groups of people, that a president can kidnap, detain, and ship off to other lands human beings with no due process, and that Congress has no power to interfere with anything a president does.”
How can the United States put this torture history behind us if we do not take the essential action of removing Judge Bybee from the bench? His actions constitute war crimes. Please act now and urge Congress to impeach Judge Bybee.
So if I understand this correctly — and I’m pretty sure I do — when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was “both legal and necessary” as well as “essential to U.S. national security,” and it was the “despicable” whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials. But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold Jane Harman’s overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist.
There is probably no more influential icon/meme of how Americans – and millions of people around the world – viewed this country in the twentieth century than that created by Walt Disney.
Disneyland popped up near Anaheim in the 1950s. A stylized Main Street of shops and attractions vaguely resembling the early 1900s. The Magic Kingdom: Cinderella, Snow White and her cute dwarfs, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and the rest. Frontierland, celebrating the growth of the country without mentioning the decimation of of those here before us, in the name of progress. Adventureland, featuring realistic jungle scenes with contrived wildlife, mechanical monkeys ignoring the disastrous conditions and anti-empire revolutions in black Africa. Tomorrowland, touting the bright future of space travel and wondrous transportation capabilities, without a peep about the damage we were already doing to our own planet.
And then there’s Fantasyland, a realm currently occupied by the hundreds of thousands of Americans who believe that President Obama will eventually fix everything and bring us back to those golden days of Mom, apple pie, and a sexually-undisturbed Congress wanting more than anything to serve the public who elected them; a time when we were all in this together to make this the greatest nation on earth; where everyone had an opportunity to be anyone and anything they worked hard for. Remember?
Just for the record, Disneyland is also the place where employees must without so much as a flinch be totally in character and on stage every second of their shift – some sweltering in the 100+ degree heat of their costumes, no matter what. The original US sweatshop for the middle class. There have been times when management has been tyrannical and ruthless – exemplifying the real America. When it first opened, Disneyland decidedly did not cater to “minority” peoples and not-so-discreetly denied entrance to openly homosexual people . . .
I’ll be taking a hiatus, as i need to do some ‘inner work’, things have gotten very dark and while it might be spring, it’s as Gil Scott -heron says,[still] “winter in America. I want to thank Dr. Menlo for the space and and catharsis. It’s been like therapy for me, even if I feel most times I have been talking in the wind. I think I needed to do this even as I am fully aware, that every keystroke I have ever typed has been recorded by entities who will use anything I say against me in a kangaroo court. In America, we may still have freedom of speech, but the Constitution says nothing about freedom of thought. It, the entity, controls our thoughts our ideals and our imaginations, our very language, it has been said, “never underestimate the power of Ideals” but if Ideals, imagination, the ‘freedom to think for yourself scmuck” the freedom to associate, in a rigged market place of ideals are herded by these entities, these non human systems run for and by hungry ghosts who feed the Leviathan and dehumanize the American citizen, mold it’s culture, manipulate it’s inhabitants and the worlds, strip it’s ideals, it’s collective integrity, –if there has been any–, (Native genocide aside) it’s foundation on the backs of slaves, aside, it’s bill of rights, it’s Civil rights, it’s liberty, it’s democracy, has now turned on itself like the proverbial double headed Ouroboros. I have tried in my small way to document the American entropy, the feeding. If for nothing else but to selfishly put it into the universe,the ether, what have you. Perhaps for my offspring some day, or others in the future. A pseudo-time capsule.
Recording this dark time has not been easy. Shadow boxing the machine as an arm chair warrior has it’s fleeting rewards, but is mostly like eating a shit sandwich and grinning about it.
When German movie director Wim Wenders wrote of America, in that, “America” always means two things: a country, geographically, the USA, and an idea of that country which goes with it. [The] “American Dream”, then, is a dream of a country in a different country that is located where the dream takes place… “I want to be in America”, the Jets sing, in that famous song from West Side Story. They are in America already and yet still wanting to get there. (Wim Wenders 1989, quoted in Morley 96, p. 94). America is dead, and it’s dream has evolved into a nightmare. Yes, my ideal of America is dead, but the tapeworm lives. Michael Ventura posits, “America is over. America is like Wile E. Coyote after he’s run out a few paces past the edge of the cliff – he’ll take a few more steps in midair before he looks down. Then, when he sees that there’s nothing under him, he’ll fall. Many Americans suspect that they’re running on thin air, but they haven’t looked down yet.” The America I thought I knew has been hollowed out like a pumpkin and the seeds spit in our face. Hollowed out like a termite infested country road bridge ready for collapse. But the machine will go on living,… for a time. As In thermodynamics, the alchemist’s search for the eternal Unity has been continued in the many efforts to construct a machine operating at 100% efficiency, the Perpetuum Mobile. A closed system.
Ventura goes on to say,
Half a century ago James Baldwin wrote: “Confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to one’s beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses.” Americans believe they’re “No. 1,” destined to lead the world. That is the America that’s over. If we insist on that illusion, then this world is in for tough times. We will neither hold on to what we have nor create what we might have, but we will wreak untold harm (if we don’t destroy the species altogether). Or we can face and embrace reality. And that reality is: There is no such thing as “No. 1” … there is no such thing as an ideal destined country that is better than any other … there is only us, doing the best we can, trying to live free and sanely, within limits that are about to become only too clear. Our glory days are done. What’s next?
Palin 2012? You betcha! But I suspect, either way, it will be the slow rot, the slow motion unraveling. I will leave the following, conceivably, a last peek from me into what I see as the machine:(Can you spot the Aesopian language?)
Hint: LexisNexis Lawyers, choice point, credit, mortgages? They own us. They own every keystroke; the business model de-mockrazy.
Highlight: John Carrol talks of the chilling effect…
Finally, the word, Samizdat . What drew me to Amsam.org is the intrigue of that word. Russian Samizdat from wikipedia:
(Russian:Samizdat ) was the clandestine copying and distribution of government-suppressed literature or other media in Soviet-bloc countries. Copies were made a few at a time, and those who received a copy would be expected to make more copies. This was often done by handwriting or typing.
This grassroots practice to evade officially imposed censorship was fraught with danger as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials.
Vladimir Bukovsky defined it as follows: “I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and [may] get imprisoned for it.”
This is what I have tried to do here, pass on vital information in the hopes that it gets disseminated.
The history of the United States is filled with stories of government repression of dissenters. While we know about the violent means of suppressing dissent, the more subtle means are harder to get a grasp on. In “Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States”, author Jules Boykoff lays out his theory on how dissent is suppressed and backs it up with historical and current examples, mostly from 20th century United States history. In many places in the world—and even here in the US—the crushing of dissent by the state is the pure violence we imagine, but overall, in “rich” countries like the US, the suppression of dissent requires a lot more cooperation from the larger population and the media. There are no tanks rolling through neighborhoods enforcing subjugation in most places in the US, but the near universal media complicity and an omni-present police force, coupled with all sorts of extra-legal rules targeting dissidents do the job.
How does suppression work? Boykoff describes the methods and gives examples. He starts with the obvious one: Direct Violence, most often used against people of color in groups like the Black Panthers, AIM, the Young Lords, and others. This involves direct assassinations and attacks, like the killing of Fred Hampton in Chicago by the Chicago police or the attack by FBI agents at Pine Ridge that Leonard Peltier was framed for. The next method he examines is Public Hearings and Prosecutions, like those used against dissidents in the 1950s to frame any radicals as “Communists.” These hearings mainly targeted labor activists who had just initiated a huge strike involving 2 million people in 1946 and Hollywood intellectuals and workers involved in the film industry. Senator Joseph McCarthy led a crusade against anyone who dared speak out against the Cold War or capitalism, framing the hearings so that only friendly witnesses were allowed to speak and dissident witnesses were routinely cut off. These hearings were a way to whip up support for the Cold War and squelch the rising labor movement by blaming it on the tiny Communist Party USA. Part of the same routine is to deny employment, or blacklist dissidents, as occurred when Angela Davis was fired from UCLA in 1970 in response to the demand of Governor Ronald Reagan. Arresting dissidents on trumped up or rarely enforced charges also saps the energy of activists. They are put on the defensive in the courtroom where resolution can take years. For example: the mass arrests of global justice demonstrators outside of the World Bank meetings in September 2002 tied hundreds of people to the courts for years, a tactic that intimidates people from expressing their opinion and puts a black mark on their criminal record.
Surveillance and Break-ins rank high in the bag of dirty tricks to suppress dissent, especially during the FBI-run COINTELPRO program which operated until the mid 1970s to smash the “New Left” . Martin Luther King and the Southern Poverty Leadership Conference were targeted as Communist-groups for neutralization to prevent the rise of “a black messiah”. From there, they turned on any Communists (active or not members) in close company with King, taped evidence of King’s affairs, and sent threatening letters demanding that King commit suicide. The FBI broke into Civil Rights organization offices many times to plant warrentless wiretaps. In general, Civil Rights leaders always knew that the FBI, with its “red” obsessed director Edgar Hoover, was watching them closely.
Actually infiltrating groups with Agent Provocateurs and trying to steer their direction, placing informants in groups, and trying to make people think that leaders of groups are actually FBI agents, a process known as “Badjacketing”, stand out as more direct ways that the FBI used and uses to suppress dissent. Douglas Durham infiltrated the American Indian Movement (AIM), and steered it towards aggressive violence, opening fighting with other left-wing groups. Within two years, Durham’s actions had fragmented AIM as a group. In the case of Anna Mae Aquash, Boycoff shows, the loss of trust by her AIM group because of FBI badjacketing directly led to her suicide. Even further, “Black Propaganda”, or false hostile mail sent by the FBI in the name of one group to another with the intent to raise conflict between the two groups, led the Black Panther Party and the United Slaves (a black nationalist cultural organization) to actually start attacking each other, leading to the deaths of several members in both groups. The FBI also mailed a fake cartoon to a mostly Black political group in DC supposedly from a mostly white group, telling them to “suck my banana, you monkeys.”
The final piece of suppression of dissent is the way the media, closely tied with corporations and the state, marginalizes and minimizes dissident movements. Most recently, protesters in 1999 against the World Trade Organization and subsequent anti-corporate globalization found that their views became news in a way that didn’t focus on the issues (as Boykoff shows in a study of major newspapers and television news). Instead, stories reported that organizers only got a few hundred people (even in cases where the number was much higher), that freaks and weirdos showed up to protests, that the message wasn’t clear, and that protesters practiced uninformed violence and often didn’t know anything about the issues (as portrayed by the media, anyway). Boykoff moves into examples of suppression of dissent in recent years, such as the “Green Scare” in which anti-terrorism laws are used against militant environmental dissidents, even to the point of having an FBI infiltrator (“Anna”) lead a group to almost bombing a cell phone tower and then giving one of the participants, Eric McDavid, a draconian prison sentence of 20 years for a crime that never happened.
An Austin-based activist named Brandon Darby has revealed he worked as an FBI informant in the eighteen months leading up to the 2008 Republican National Convention. Darby has admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and wearing a transmitter embedded in his belt during the convention. He is expected to testify on behalf of the government later this month in the trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails. Darby had recruited them and pushed them towards building the fi rebombs. Darby had been wearing a wire for years and had been known as a disruptive element in countless different radical projects including Common Ground relief effort in New Orleans post Katrina.
Darby is just one of many deep surveillance efforts targetting radical social justice organizers lately. Included in the discovery for the RNC 8 cases were photos taken of defendents in Philly during their RNC tour. It includes Philly activists who they met and some of our houses.
Brandon Darby is proud of his work in New Orleans. As one of the cofounders of the organization Common Ground, formed in the days after Katrina and the levee failures, he and the group’s volunteers were among the first to distribute water, food and essential supplies. In the months after the storm, Darby, along with hundreds of Common Ground organizers and volunteers, established health clinics in the city, provided legal services and gutted homes.
??And, at some point, Brandon Darby — once a self-proclaimed anarchist who advocated for overthrow of the U.S. government — became an informant for the FBI.
??That much is public record. But when Darby became an informant — and whether he was keeping tabs on Common Ground for the federal government — is still a mystery.
When Malik Rahim found out Brandon Darby was an FBI informant, “It broke my heart,” he says. Rahim, a New Orleans community organizer, former Black Panther and recent Green Party candidate for the U.S. Congress, formed Common Ground with Darby and Scott Crow, activists from Austin, Texas, on Sept. 5, 2005, less than a week after the levee failures. Headquartered in Rahim’s house in Algiers, Common Ground became one of the first large-scale, nongovernmental relief efforts and has had more than 22,000 volunteers work for it since.
??Darby, who says he was “very radical” when Common Ground started, served as the organization’s interim director, but left when he became disillusioned with some of the group’s anti-government leanings. According to him, he was approached by the FBI in late 2007 and asked to infiltrate a group of Austin activists planning to disrupt the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Minneapolis, Minn. Based on information Darby provided, FBI agents arrested and charged two men in a plot to firebomb a parking lot. One of the suspects, Bradley Crowder, has pleaded guilty, and the other suspect, David McKay, is scheduled for trial this month. (In an article by David Hanners in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Darby said he contacted the FBI because activists were planning violence; however, in a more recent interview with The Gambit, Darby claimed the FBI approached him and insisted “The investigation wasn’t into a threat of violence.”
??Darby says he didn’t start working with the FBI until November 2007, but Rahim and Crow suspect his spying began as early as the founding of Common Ground. Darby denies this, and says Common Ground has never been the focus of an investigation, though he adds, “However, because (Common Ground) is a large organization and there are a lot of people who have sometimes come through — just like any other organization — who may or may not be wrapped up in a separate investigation, then it’s not like investigating on [sic] Common Ground people.”
Darby had an off-again, on-again history with the group he helped found. When he first arrived in New Orleans from Austin, he was an anarchist and believed in the overthrow of the government. His views changed, he says, as the community began to acccept the organization and he started to feel he could work with the government and not against it. When he left New Orleans for Austin in early 2006, he was at odds with some of those in Common Ground, but says he was asked to return in November 2006 as the group’s interim director.
??His tenure didn’t last long. Lisa Fithian, an Austin activist and early Common Ground organizer who left the group in October 2006, says she began hearing numerous complaints from personnel about Darby in December, only weeks after he took his new position. Fithian says many volunteers described Darby as a divisive force — pitting people against one another, carrying guns, verbally abusing women and purging the volunteer ranks of those who didn’t agree with his methods — and the organization started to fall apart.
??Fithian returned to New Orleans in January 2007 for an emergency meeting of Common Ground leaders. She says Darby screamed at her and Crow during the meeting and accused them of conspiring against him.
??”Man,” Fithian recalls telling a friend, “this guy’s not only crazy, but this is COINTELPRO.”
Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover started the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) in 1956. It was intended to undermine dissident political organizations by using covert operations to, as Hoover’s directive stated, “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize.” Bureau agents used the tactics against groups including the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, women’s liberation organizations and Vietnam War protest groups — and used counterintelligence techniques in order to degrade members, spread false rumors, harass and prevent exercise of the First Amendment rights of speech and association.
??The program’s activities were exposed in 1971, and the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee, named for chairman Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), held hearings on COINTELPRO. After studying more than 20,000 pages of FBI documents and testimony from agents and the program’s targets, the committee concluded in its report: “Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that. The unexpressed major premise of the programs was that a law enforcement agency has the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order.”
??Although COINTELPRO was officially terminated in 1971, many activists, including Crow, Rahim and Fithian, believe the FBI still employs similar tactics.
As another states, “Recruiting and pushing activists into criminal acts is not what an ‘informant’ does.”
It’s is entrapment! but of course, ‘laws’ are dynamic in practice, not static in theory. Always has been, but jurisprudence completely died under the Cheney Administration.
On March 17, 2009 David McKay plead guilty to possession of unregistered Molotov cocktails, charges stemming from his involvement in the protests against the Republican National Convention last September. Those of us following the case were shocked and saddened to learn of this development.
The State and, in particular, the FBI reached into their bag of dirty tricks to make examples of McKay and his co-defendant Brad Crowder.
Between the State and a Hard Place: Statement on David McKay’s Plea from the Austin Informant Working Group
The entity, the machine, it’s Clinical, Methodical, and Goddamn Systemic…
David Harvey, whose interview with n+1 on the structural underpinnings of the financial crisis came out in Issue 7, appears on Democracy Now! today to discuss the G20 summit and the continuing crisis.
“I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it.” — Gregory David Roberts (Shantaram)
John Podesta’s liberal think tank the Center for American Progress strongly supports Barack Obama’s escalation of the US wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is best evidenced by Sustainable Security in Afghanistan, a CAP report by Lawrence J. Korb. Podesta served as the head of Obama’s transition team, and CAP’s support for Obama’s wars is the latest step in a successful co-option of the US peace movement by Obama’s political aides and the Democratic Party.
CAP and the five million member liberal lobby group MoveOn were behind Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), a coalition that spent tens of millions of dollars using Iraq as a political bludgeon against Republican politicians, while refusing to pressure the Democratic Congress to actually cut off funding for the war. AAEI was operated by two of Barack Obama’s top political aids, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, and by Brad Woodhouse ofAmericans United for Change and USAction. Today Woodhouse is Obama’s Director of Communications and Research for the Democratic National Committee. He controls the massive email list called Obama for Americacomposed of the many millions of people who gave money and love to the Democratic peace candidate and might be wondering what the heck he is up to in Afghanistan and Pakistan. MoveOn built its list by organizing vigils and ads for peace and by then supporting Obama for president; today it operates as a full-time cheerleader supporting Obama’s policy agenda. Some of ussaw this unfolding years ago. Others are probably shocked watching their peace candidate escalating a war and sounding so much like the previous administration in his rationale for doing so.
On March 2, the liberal organization MoveOn.org— known for mobilizing opposition to the Bush administration through the Internet — sent an email to its membership that declared the U.S. war on Iraq effectively over:
Dear MoveOn member,
“I’m sure you’ve heard about President Obama’s plan to finally bring an end to the disastrous war in Iraq. It will bring most of our troops home by August of next year — and by the end of 2011 there won’t be any more troops left in Iraq. This is a major turning point in the fight to end the war.
We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the work that you’ve done over the last six, dark years … to thank you, sincerely, for all you have done. … This war is coming to an end in part because of the work you did.”
While the letter acknowledges that “our troops aren’t home yet. Hundreds of thousands of them are still in harm’s way, and will continue to be for longer than any of us would like,” it says the bottom line is that “now there’s a date certain for them to come home.”
Reading this, I was reminded of the final line of Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
But MoveOn is not alone. Much of the antiwar movement has folded up its tents. The Iraq War has more or less dropped out of popular consciousness altogether. And the media report less and less about the ongoing problems there.
So it’s no surprise that the fine print of President Barack Obama’s plan in Iraq has gone largely unexamined.
Rather than pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months, as most Obama voters understood his campaign pledge, the redeployment of forces from Iraq will proceed over a 19-month period and will be backloaded to take place after December 2009.
As the New York Times reported Feb. 26:
The plan would maintain relatively high troop levels through Iraq’s parliamentary elections, to be held in December, before beginning in earnest to meet the August 2010 target for removing combat forces, the officials said. Even after August 2010, as many as 50,000 of the 142,000 troops now in Iraq would remain, including some combat units reassigned as “Advisory Training Brigades” or “Advisory Assistance Brigades,” the administration and Pentagon officials said.
Obama’s plan says nothing about the private contractors and mercenaries that are an essential part of the occupation of Iraq, and whose numbers may even be increased to cover functions previously provided by active- duty troops. And it will leave in place the world’s largest foreign embassy, as well as the largest CIA foreign station, in Baghdad.
Obama calls the troops who will stay in Iraq through the end of 2011 “residual forces” and non-combat troops, but this is just doublespeak. Combat troops are simply being renamed non-combat troops through a verbal sleight of hand, but will certainly be able to use lethal force and will find themselves in combat situations.
And in accepting the logic of the Bush administration for not withdrawing the troops immediately — that they are needed to fight al-Qaeda, engage in “counter-insurgency operations,” and continue the “war on terror” — Obama has opened the door to keeping them in Iraq beyond 2011.
Indeed, in his speech about the Iraq “withdrawal” plan at the end of February, Obama retroactively endorsed the Bush administration’s stated reasons for invading Iraq in the first place, as the Wall Street Journal gleefully noted.
We know that Iraq will remain under occupation until at least the end of 2011, but there is very good reason to believe that between now and then, the Iraqi government, which owes its survival to Washington, will cut a deal to allow U.S. forces to remain longer. Such an agreement would also likely give the U.S. long-term access to military bases and access to Iraqi air space.
The fact remains that Iraq is a fulcrum of geopolitics and a vital front for U.S. military strategy in the Middle East. Washington’s goals for Iraq and the region may be less ambitious than when the Bush administration launched its 2003 invasion, but no one is reversing the fundamental policies driving U.S. policy: the goal of controlling the region’s vast energy resources and being the hegemonic foreign power there.
MoveOn should be letting its members know this — and urging far more than to “keep watching Washington” to be sure they do bring the troops home. But to do this, the group would have to take on the Obama administration more forcefully on Iraq — and on the occupation of Afghanistan, which is intimately related.
Obama has said all along that he sees Afghanistan as the “central front” in the “war on terror,” and that he would commit more troops to the war there. But Justin Ruben, MoveOn’s new executive director, told Nation correspondent Ari Melber Feb. 27 that the organization did not intend to oppose Obama’s plan to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The message being sent to the antiwar movement is: It’s over. We can “move on.” Leave it to the generals to wind it down. But if we do that, we will find ourselves without the forces we need to challenge Obama and Congress.
The year 2011 is already too late to end the occupation of Iraq, which should never have started in the first place. And shifting troops from Iraq to Afghanistan is not ending the war.
Without an antiwar movement that is loud, active, in the streets and raising its own independent demands beyond the limits set by the Democratic Party, U.S. troops will not be coming home.
The empire has not folded up its tent, and neither should we.
Obama is getting ready to appoint a Monsanto attorney to be the “food czar”. If that isn’t enough to make you spit out the kool-aid, then nothing is.