In our encounters on various social networking sites and political blogs, we consistently encounter the faithful remnants of the “hope-and-change” believers. To combat the onslaught of evidence and opinion that leads one to the conclusion that Obama is a fraud at best and represents a hoax at worst, they point to lists of his accomplishments and the ways he has delivered on his campaign promises. Such lists, we believe, are generally misrepresentations and fail to rise to the level of credibility. They are misleading because they represent minor deeds that might very well have been accomplished otherwise. We have characterized them as delivering on promises to “sharpen the pencils in the White House --mission accomplished.” There are some notable changes, but are they commensurate with Obama’s euphuistic campaign rhetoric? We think not. We believe that Obama’s rhetoric was a complete fabrication aimed at diverting real energy for change into a cul de sac of Democratic apologetics. It was, in short, a hoax.
By “hoax” we mean that it represents a corporate takeover the dissent that bubbled up in the country against the Bush administration, including his economic but mostly his imperialist agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presenting Obama as a candidate of amorphous “hope-and-change,” the corporate sponsors of Obama intended to divert this dissent into acceptable (Democratic) channels. Some if not most of it had, indeed, arisen from Democratic channels, but the meaning of this dissent far exceeded anything that the Democratic Party represented either in its stated platform, or its actual practices, especially the consistent and over-riding support of the wars. The corporate and military backers of Obama bet on Obama’s oratorical skill and civil-rights-sounding rhetoric to effect a prestidigitation of incredible proportions. The intention of the magic was to fool tens of millions of voters, small-scale individual contributors, and campaigners into believing that Obama was the genuine article, that he represented change from the very policies and practices that had made Bush so virulently despised and vehemently opposed. These policies include first and foremost the war.That is a reposting and they recommend the full post here.
Tonight is a music theme and a number will be going with seventies albums. There are many great albums from that decade but I wanted to go with an album from this year. Kat reviewed it here and a number of us tried to get the word out on it.
Twenty miles left to the show
Hello, my old country, hello
Stars are just beginning to appear
And I have never, in my life before been here
And it's my heart, not me, who cannot drive
At which conclusion you arrived
Watching me sit here, bolt upright
And cry for no good reason at the Eastering sky
And the tilt of this strange nation,
And the will to remain for the duration
Waving the flag
Feeling it drag
Like a bump on a bump on a log, baby
Like I'm in a fistfight with the fog, baby
Step, ball-change and a pirouette
And I regret, I regret
How I said to you Honey, just open your heart
When I've got trouble even opening a honey jar
And that, right there, is where we are
I've been 'fessing, double-fast
Addressing questions nobody asked
I'll get this joy off of my chest, at last
And I will love you 'til the noise has long since passed
I love all of the above (and the rest of the song "Good Intentions Paving Co.") but it is probably "And I regret, I regret How I said to you Honey, just open your heart, When I've got trouble even opening a honey jar, And that. right there, is where we are."
I even love the title "Good Intentions Paving Co." Because good intentions pave the road to . . .?
It is a wonderful song and Joanna Newsom is my favorite new (to me) artist of the year. I just love her and her amazing songs.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
- I should remind the commission that prior to assuming my duties in Iraq I had been in the private sector for about fourteen years. In the prewar period, I was neither in the US government nor informed of governmental deliberations except through press reports. Therefore I had, and still have, no firsthand knowledge about those prewar deliberations.
- While I recognize the focus of the commission is on British government decisions involving the CPA's time in Iraq, my perspective is on American government actions with which I am familiar.
- It is impossible to exaggerate the difficulties created by the chronic under-resourcing of the CPA's efforts. This problem, and the fact that the Coalition was unable to provide adequate security for Iraqi citizens, pervaded virtually everything we did, or tried to do, throughout the fourteen months of the CPA's existence.
Three weeks after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush asked me to become Presidential Envoy to Iraq. I spent the next several weeks in a round of meetings and briefings with the relevant departments of the US government in Washington. I arrived in Baghdad on May 12, 2003 and stayed until June 28, 2004. During this period, I served as Presidential Envoy to Iraq and Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
- To provide security for the citizens of Iraq.
- To help the Iraqis rebuild their economy.
- To help the Iraqi people put their country on the path to representative government.
Pervasive Lack of Security
Rebuilding a devastated Economy
Through a combination of large-scale corruption, spectacular misallocation of Iraq's capital resources and UN-imposed sanctions, Saddam's three decade rule had destroyed one of the region's best economies. A few specifics show magnitude of the CPA's economic challenge.
- In 1980, Iraq's per capita income had been greater than Spain's. By 2002 it had fallen below Angola's.
- During the 1990s, Saddam cut healthcare spending by 90%. The World Bank estimated that Iraq had shortest life expectancy and highest child mortality in region.
- The UN reported that at least half of Iraq's schools needed to be entirely rebuilt.
- Iraq's industrial sector was dominated by 192 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), value- destroying entities dependent on politically-mandated loans, often buying goods at politically-fixed prices and making products for non-existent markets.
- The World Bank estimated that the country needed between $75 and $100 billion in new investment just to repair the country's dilapidated economic infrastructure
Even before the war, Iraq's electricity production was estimated be fulfill less than half demand. At the fall of Baghdad, the entire country was producing less than 300 MW of electricity, about a tenth of prewar levels; no oil was being exported so the Iraqi government had no revenues. Civil servants, by far the majority of the employed population, had not been paid salaries or pensions for months. Hospitals and schools were closed. The primitive banking system was shuttered. In short, Saddam's Iraq had been the equivalent of a well-armed Potemkin village.
The CPA evaluated the SOEs and found that most of them probably could not survive in a free market. The economic arguments for privatizing those that could survive and closing the rest were powerful. But because these firms employed over 500,000 people, the CPA decided that the consequences of privatizing or closing the SOEs in the midst of a growing insurgency were too risky. So the CPA did not privatize a single SOE and instead continued to pay the salaries of the all SOE employees, even of those "employed" at SOEs that were definitively closed.
Helping Iraq's Transition to Representative Government
The first step toward this goal was to deal with the overhang of Baath Party dictatorship. Saddam's party had been the primary political instrument of repression. Dissent and criticism of his rule were answered with summary brutality, torture and death. The party, consciously modeled on Hitler's Nazi party, even recruited children to spy and report on their parents.
The State Department's prewar plan, The Future of Iraq, recognized that "no member of the Baath party has any stature in the country" and urged that if Saddam were overthrown, steps should be taken "to ensure that Baathist ideology in whatever guise does not seep into the public realm" and to "block the appointment or promotion of any figure who has Baathist sympathies or loyalties of who expresses Baathist 'thought'".
Consistent with this plan, on April 16, 2003, General Tommy Franks, commander of Coalition Forces, outlawed the Baath Party and its repugnant ideology. No responsible official that I am aware of, in Washington or any other capital, nor in Iraq itself seriously suggested any other possibility. It was clear that there would be some level of de-Baathification. The questions were: how much and what would happen to Baathists.
Our intelligence estimated that the party had a membership of two and a half million. The Coalition recognized that many Iraqis had joined the party, not out of conviction, but in order to get access to jobs or favors from Saddam's regime.
So the Coalition's deBaathification decree was narrowly drawn in two respects. First, it affected only the top one percent of party members. Moreover, the only restriction placed on them was that they could not hold government jobs. Thus even top party members were free to work in the private sector, to set up businesses or newspapers, to become farmers, etc. Moreover the CPA authorized scores of exceptions even to this lenient policy, permitting many ranking Baathists to remain in high government positions. The myth that deBaathification collapsed the Iraqi government is simply unsupported by the facts.
Although the CPA's policy was intended to target a small portion of party members, it was later abused by Iraqi politicians and became a political tool with large negative consequences. In retrospect, it was a mistake for the CPA to devolve the implementation of the Debaathfication program to Iraqi politicians who then attempted to broaden the decree's effect. It would have been wiser to have set up an Iraqi judicial panel to oversee implementation. The difficulty three successive sovereign Iraqi governments have had wrestling with deBaathification illustrates the strong emotions Iraqis continue to have about the proper role for former Baath party members.
The CPA moved quickly to get a responsible interim Iraqi government in place, working with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to establish the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) in just two months. This effort benefited greatly from the professional efforts of British members of the CPA under the able leadership of Ambassador Jonathan Sawers. Hundreds of other able British officials including Ambassadors Greenstock, Sinnott and Richmond, participated in CPA activities over the next 14 months.
After considerable internal debate, the IGC deadlocked over the process by which to draft a constitution. The result was an agreement on November 15, 2003 that the Iraqis would draft an Interim Constitution as an essential step to regaining full sovereignty. This document, the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) came into being in March 2004, after months of intense negotiations among Iraqis in which the CPA paid an essential and very active mediating role.
The Interim Constitution was the CPA's most important contribution to Iraq's political future. The law established the principles of democracy, individual rights and federalism on which Iraq's permanent constitution came to be based.
The Interim Constitution laid the foundations for open, representative and legitimate government. The document established the architecture of Iraq's government, based on the separation of powers, and a balance between the executive and legislative branches. It also confirmed an independent judiciary and civilian control over the military. The Interim Constitution established basic rights for all Iraqis, irrespective of gender, sect, religion or ethnicity. It committed Iraq to the rule of law and set out principles such as the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to confront his accusers and to have legal counsel. Through the document recognized that the majority of Iraqis are Muslim, it confirmed the freedom of religion.
This document gave Iraq the political structure and opportunity to remain a united, free and democratic country. And although Iraq has been through very difficult times since 2004, the Iraqi people have remained committed to that structure.
The Coalition military had responsibility for security. This task was never adequately resourced throughout the CPA time. Lack of security impinged on the CPA's ability to deliver in the other two areas. Constant attacks on Iraq's fragile infrastructure complicated the task of restarting essential services. Two leading members of the Governing Council were assassinated in office; others subjected to shootings, bombings and harassment. The CPA itself lost staff to insurgent attacks and its work environment was far short of ideal.
Despite these handicaps, and chronic understaffing, the historic record of the CPA's accomplishments is clear. When the CPA left, Iraq's economy was rebounding smartly, not just from post war levels, but well beyond the prewar levels. And by helping Iraqis draft a modern, liberal constitution, the CPA gave the Iraqi people the political structure to define a path to representative government, a path they have followed despite severe provocation by insurgents and terrorists.
May 27, 2010, Nationwide -- This Memorial Day Weekend, Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, can speak a truth Americans need to hear.
Celeste Zappala, a member of Gold Star Families Speak Out from Philadelphia, PA, whose son was killed in Iraq and was the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman to die in combat since World War II, said,
"With great sadness my family and I recognize Memorial Day and the 7 years since we last saw my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker alive. On April 26, 2004 he died in an explosion while looking for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We are but one of the over 5,000 American families who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan; physical and spiritual casualties affect thousands more - and yet the wars that kill our young and drain our treasure do not create peace. It is long past time to bring our troops home, and find real solutions for Peace."
Earlier this month, an ABC News /Washington Post poll found that a majority of Americans are again opposed to the Afghanistan war, with 52% saying it's not worth fighting.
Military Families Speak Out members Larry and Judy Syverson, of Richmond Virginia, said,
"We are the parents of three active duty sons. Our oldest son, Branden, is in Afghanistan with the Second Infantry (our family's sixth deployment in these wars). We are disheartened by Obama's foreign policy. With the 1,000th American soldier killed in Afghanistan this past week and war spending reaching $1 trillion on May 30th, 100,000 troops are in Afghanistan chasing an illusive target that has not made us safer in this country or closer to achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. In poll after poll, the American people have repeatedly stated they want these wars to end. President Obama should honor the American people's wishes and end both wars and bring our troops home now."
Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq are available for interview over Memorial Day Weekend. To schedule an interview, contact Nikki Morse at firstname.lastname@example.org/347-703-0570 or Deborah Forter at email@example.com/617-983-0710.
ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY: Members of Military Families Speak Out will also be participating in events around the country. To arrange for an interview, contact us at the information above.
Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) is a national organization of over 4,000 families who are opposed to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and have loved ones who serve or have served in the military since the fall of 2002. Gold Star Families Speak Out is a national chapter of MFSO with families whose loved ones died as a result of these wars.
For more information about Military Families Speak Out, please visit www.mfso.org
For more information about the chapter Gold Star Families Speak Out see www.gsfso.org