Saturday, April 01, 2006

Words of Power #15: Bring Me the Head of Osama, Nero Fiddles while the Planet Burns, Religion as the Crystal Meth of the People, & The Democrats' Plan

NOTE: Words of Power is published on a bi-weekly basis, and alternates with the GS(3) Intelligence Briefing, also posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. "Words of Power" commentary will explore a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit. The GS(3) Intel Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Global and Cyberspace. Each issue will provide insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters, and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. For more information, go to

KEVIN PHILLIPS: …in the course of the last couple of days, as my book tour started, I’ve talked with a number of conservatives, people running conservative publications, old aides from the Republican campaigns back in the 1960s and 1970s, and everybody agrees, and some are even starting to say it semi-publicly: this man is a national embarrassment.
AMY GOODMAN: Conservatives?
KEVIN PHILLIPS: Conservatives….some just because they know him and don't think anybody with his lack of qualifications should be president, others that think that the country has a black eye, others that think that conservatism is now being threatened as much as liberalism was in the late 1960s by the Johnson administration. This is just a convergence of the ineptitude of one man, of the complicity of a number of other senior people in the administration -- I don't know their exact motives -- and a horrible situation for the Pentagon, because the Pentagon realizes that the American soldiery in Iraq is being brutalized in a way that then casts disrespect on the American army, that interferes with recruitment…

Amy Goodman Interviews Fmr. GOP Strategist Kevin Phillips on American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Democracy Now!, 3-21-06

The 21st-Century security crisis confronts the human race with unique challenges, unprecedented in history, and demands that we deal with security, sustainability and spirit as interdependent issues.
Here are some real world, 21st-Century security imperatives for the U.S. and its once and future allies, drawn from the news of the last few days.

Bring Me The Head of Osama Bin Laden
Perhaps the false notion of George W. Bush as a strong leader, one who has the security of the US populace as his main focus, has finally been discredited, except, of course, for the most irrational among his supporters.
Consider the facts.
It has been over 1650 days since George W. Bush vowed to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, and bring him to justice “dead or alive” and over three years since George W. Bush said, “I don't know where he is…I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you…I'll repeat what I said: I truly am not that concerned about him.”
Terrorism has soared throughout the world.
The US homeland has not been secured.
The US military is stranded in the Mega-Mogadishu of Iraq.
The nation’s coffers have been looted for wasteful, ill-timed tax cuts.
US prestige is already at an all-time low, and the worst of the images and videos from Abu Ghraib have yet to be released.
The Western alliance is seriously fractured.
Nuclear proliferation is spinning out of control.
The US Constitution is, in Bush’s words, “just a goddamn piece of paper” (Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue, 12-9-05)
A strong leader, a real leader, would have risked the lives of thousands of US military to hunt down Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora (yes, we knew he was there), instead of sending them to die in Iraq for a neo-con wet dream.
A strong leader, a real leader, would have understood that the nation needed the head of Osama Bin Laden. Capturing or killing him would have boosted the US psychologically, and sent a powerful message to the world.
But Bush is not a strong leader, or a real leader. Instead of relentlessly pursuing Bin Laden and Zawahiri, he diverted the attention of the nation, and much of its vital resources, to an unnecessary, ill-conceived and tragic military adventure in Iraq; a war which also ushered in the Iranians and Al Qaeda (hitherto, they had both been shut out).
As of March 31, 2006, the US has suffered at least 2326 military fatalities in Iraq ( If 2326 US military personnel had died in a successful manhunt for Bin Laden in Tora Bora, would the US populace have deemed it worth the terrible sacrifice? Yes, unhesitatingly. If an unsuccessful attempt to kill or capture Bin Laden in Tora Bora had resulted in 2326 US military deaths, would the US populace have accepted the losses? Yes, unflinchingly. Because it would have understood what those young men and women sacrificed their lives for, i.e., to vanquish the perpetrators of 9/11.
Would terrorism have ended if Bin Laden had been killed or captured? No, but Al Qaeda would have been weakened, psychologically. There would have been less terrorism in the ensuing years, and less innocent people would have died. A strong leader, a real leader, would have known this…
But, of course, a strong leader, a real leader, would have kept Saddam Hussein boxed in. A strong leader, a real leader, would have made certain that negotiations with North Korea stayed on track. A strong leader, a real leader, would have resuscitated the Middle East peace process, instead of belittling and marginalizing Arafat and the PLA. And such a leader would have been in an excellent position to rally the world community to confront Iran, and other nations not yet singled out, on their pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Iran, after all, is not the only problem, or even the worst problem. It is simply the next easiest for Bush-Cheney to demonize. There are even more troubling scenarios. How many US citizens know that the Saudis have a nuclear weapons program, which the Pakistanis are helping them with? (Remember, Bin Laden is a Saudi, and is probably being harbored in Pakistan.)
Consider this recent story from Forbes AFX:
Saudi Arabia is working secretly on a nuclear program, with help from Pakistani experts, the German magazine Cicero reported in its latest edition, citing Western security sources. It says that during the Haj pilgrimages to Mecca in 2003 through 2005, Pakistani scientists posed as pilgrims to come to Saudi Arabia. Between October 2004 and January 2005, some of them slipped off from pilgrimages, sometimes for up to three weeks, the report quoted German security expert Udo Ulfkotte as saying. According to Western security services, the magazine added, Saudi scientists have been working since the mid-1990s in Pakistan, a nuclear power since 1998. Cicero, which will appear on newstands tomorrow, also quoted a US military analyst, John Pike, as saying that Saudi bar codes can be found on half of Pakistan's nuclear weapons 'because it is Saudi Arabia which ultimately co-financed the Pakistani atomic nuclear program.' The magazine also said satellite images indicate that Saudi Arabia has set up a program in Al-Sulaiyil, south of Riyadh, a secret underground city and dozens of underground silos for missiles. According to some Western security services, long-range Ghauri-type missiles of Pakistani-origin are housed inside the silos.
Saudia Arabia working on secret nuclear program with Pakistan help – report, Forbes, 3-28-06
The Bush-Cheney regime’s blundering abroad is sadly matched by its blindness at home.
Consider two recent examples of the degree to which the US is still vulnerable to attack, even now, five years after the flashpoint of 9/11.
A terrorist attack on a chlorine plant could put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. Yet, incredibly, the federal government has failed to enact reasonable safety standards for chemical plants… Many plants lack perimeter fencing, lights and security guards. Too often, they use extremely dangerous chemicals close to high-density populations, when safer substances could be substituted. It should be obvious to anyone concerned about public safety that the nation needs strong, mandatory government rules to reduce these dangers.
New York Times Editorial, Secretary of Homeland Insecurity, 3-24-06
Congressional investigators successfully smuggled into the United States enough radioactive material to make two dirty bombs, even after it set off alarms on radiation detectors installed at border checkpoints, a new report says.
Investigators say they were able to smuggle small amounts of radioactive material over the Canadian and Mexican borders, even though they set off detectors….In both cases, they showed the agents from the Customs and Border Protection agency forged import licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, based on an image of the real document they found on the Internet.

Eric Lipton, Testers Slip Radioactive Materials Over Borders, New York Times, 3-28-06

The New Nero Fiddles While the Planet Burns
The Bush-Cheney regime has succeeded, with the help of its enablers in the Republican-controlled Congress (and the complicity of the US mainstream news media), in effectively exploiting the dangers of terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation, despite being inept and negligent in dealing with them. But there is another danger that this triumvirate of denial refuses to come to even acknowledge. And consequently, we have lost six precious years we could not afford to lose.
This week, one major news organization, Time Magazine, finally faced up to its responsibility (although it certainly couldn't be considered courageous journalism), with an overdue cover story, “Be Worried, Be Very Worried”:
No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us. It certainly looked that way last week as the atmospheric bomb that was Cyclone Larry - a Category 5 storm with wind bursts that reached 180 m.p.h. - exploded through northeastern Australia. It certainly looked that way last year as curtains of fire and dust turned the skies of Indonesia orange, thanks to drought-fueled blazes sweeping the island nation. It certainly looks that way as sections of ice the size of small states calve from the disintegrating Arctic and Antarctic. And it certainly looks that way as the sodden wreckage of New Orleans continues to molder, while the waters of the Atlantic gather themselves for a new hurricane season just two months away….
Jeffrey Kluger, Polar Ice Caps Are Melting Faster Than Ever... More and More Land Is Being Devastated By Drought...Rising Waters Are Drowning Low-Lying Communities... By Any Measure, Earth Is At ...The Tipping Point, Time, 3-26-06
We have already lost a major American city because of the Bush-Cheney regime’s dismantling and dumbing down of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, mixed with its obstinate refusal to acknowledge and act upon the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming. It is a potent cocktail.

Fundamentalism, The Crystal Meth of the Masses
Although according to the Bard, “patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings,” it is not just cheap lapel pin patriotism, but also Bible-thumping religious fanaticism, behind which this would-be Emperor, and his Richelieu seek to hide their nakedness, and huddle with the sheep.
Karl Marx was wrong about both the efficacy and the superiority of “communism,” but he was right about the socio-economic role of religion.
In his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, he wrote: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.”
But today, in the US and in the Middle East, religion has become the crystal-meth of the masses. Fundamentalist strains, in both Christianity and Islam, are being used to stir populaces to aggression, rather than to sedate them.
Consider some recent developments in the US, which was established on the separation of church and state, by revolutionaries, like Jefferson, Washington, Paine, and others, who were predominantly Dieist (i.e., not Christian):
In American Theocracy, Phillips describes Bush as the founder of "the first American religious party"; September 11 gave him the pretext for "seizing the fundamentalist moment"; he has manipulated a "critical religious geography" to hype issues such as gay marriage. "New forces were being interwoven. These included the institutional rise of the religious right, the intensifying biblical focus on the Middle East, and the deepening of insistence on church-government collaboration within the GOP electorate." It portended a potential "American Disenlightenment," apparent in Bush's hostility to science….Within hours of its publication, American Theocracy rocketed to No 1 on Amazon. At US cinemas, V for Vendetta - in which an imaginary Britain, ruled by a totalitarian, faith-based regime that rounds up gays, is a metaphor for Bush's America - is the surprise hit. Bush has succeeded in getting American audiences to cheer for terrorism.
Sidney Blumenthal, Apocalyptic president, Guardian/UK, 3-23-06
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Cecelia Fire Thunder says a clinic on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation could provide abortions if South Dakota’s new abortion ban goes into effect….“This is a free-choice issue. If I were in that situation, I’d want somewhere to go where I’d be taken care of.” The new South Dakota law bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother — with no exceptions for rape or incest. Fire Thunder said the state law would not apply to the reservation. “We’re a sovereign nation,” she said. Fire Thunder has worked as a licensed practical nurse, and she has helped set up community health clinics in Los Angeles….“Of course, in our culture, children are sacred, but women are sacred too, and somebody who has been victimized by rape or incest should have options.”
Bill Harlan, Pine Ridge: Tribal leader rallies for abortion clinic on reservation, Rapid City Journal, 3-26-06
Well, at least the Ogala Sioux have strong leader, a real leader.

Real-World Security Imperatives
The Democratic Party recently proposed a comprehensive plan for Real Security,” with bold proposals in five areas: 21st Century Military, War on Terror, Homeland Security, Iraq, and Energy Independence. The plan’s proposals directly address some glaring examples of the failure and neglect indulged in over these past five year by the Bush-Cheney regime, and its enablers in the Republican-controlled Congress, including the following:
Eliminate Osama Bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan and end the threat posed by the Taliban.
Secure by 2010 loose nuclear materials that terrorists could use to build nuclear weapons or "dirty bombs."
Immediately implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission including securing national borders, ports, airports and mass transit systems.
Screen 100% of containers and cargo bound for the U.S. in ships or airplanes at the point of origin and safeguard America's nuclear and chemical plants, and food and water supplies.

The Democratic Party’s “Real Security” plan also acknowledges, in two of its other proposals, the criticality of addressing the sustainability issue (e.g., energy security), and getting to the roots of religious extremism:
Eliminate terrorist breeding grounds by combating the economic, social, and political conditions that allow extremism to thrive; lead international efforts to uphold and defend human rights; and renew longstanding alliances that have advanced our national security objectives.
Increase production of alternate fuels from America's heartland including bio-fuels, geothermal, clean coal, fuel cells, solar and wind; promote hybrid and flex fuel vehicle technology and manufacturing; enhance energy efficiency and conservation incentives.

Internationally, it is imperative that the US commit to both the Kyoto Accords and the Millennium Goals in meaningful and substantive ways. Domestically, it is also imperative that, like Cecilia Fire Thunder, people of good will embrace the culture war, and wage it as fiercely as the extremists and those that exploit them.
Unfortunately, the plan’s authors wimped out on what to do about the invasion and occupation of Iraq; they should have included the re-deployment proposal of Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) as a one of its essential elements.
They did, however, stress accountability in all aspects of the debacle:
Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.
And, of course, accountability followed to its logical conclusions would result in impeachment, war profiteering investigations and war crimes tribunals.
The Democratic Plan is serious, realistic, worthy of respect.
Of course, the US mainstream media largely ignored its content and the ways in which it underscores the negligence and nefariousness of the Bush-Cheney regime and its cronies in Congress.
Everything, for the US and its once and future allies, is now riding on the US mid-term elections in November 2006. If the US electorate has learned the lessons of Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Belarus, if it refuses to accept another debacle like Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004, then perhaps there is still hope.