Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rumsfeld's Bully Pulpit

Do the people of this country want the U.S. to pursue the establishment of an empire? Do we want our government to follow policies calling for global domination based on massive military buildups, aggressive military interventions, and a super-heated arms race designed to intimidate the world? Do we want to get even more deeply embroiled in the internal affairs of developing nations around the world, training their militaries and providing them with even more armaments, than presently?

These are essential questions to bring into the national dialog over the course of the next year, as a Congressionally-mandated review of defense spending and strategy gets under way. These questions also reflect the direction Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has laid out in his agenda for this review, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, and significantly by no others in the media. The Journal was provided a copy of a classified planning document that presents Rumsfeld's “vision for remaking the military” - and it's a frightening vision.

Though couched in the coded language we have become familiar with in the writings of the neo-con hawks at PNAC (Project for a New American Century), the document describes a world dominated by an increasingly aggressive, interventionist U.S. military, a world that looks very much like an American Empire. It is policy that takes the Iraq invasion as a model, explicitly prescribing military action as the method to “prevent problems from becoming crises” - which sounds good, except for the military part. Prevention of crisis has always been the role of statecraft, diplomacy, good foreign policy.

In the American model, the military is there as a backup, a line of last resort to be used when foreign policy fails. This document advances the military option as the method of first resort. This is a dramatic, values-laden shift that should receive full scrutiny, full disclosure, full discussion by the people of the country before it becomes policy. Yet it's only exposure so far has been in the Wall Street Journal. Not an auspicious beginning.

The Journal's opening paragraph characterizes the vision of military policy thus: “remaking the military to be far more engaged in heading off threats prior to hostilities and serve a larger purpose of enhancing US influence around the world.” Noting that this has not been the role of the military in the past, the Journal article reports that defense officials say “the new plan envisions more active U.S. involvement” and “on a much broader scale.

Perhaps I am just a pessimist, but the military track record doesn't recommend them for this role. Even the Journal notes that the strategy is reminiscent of Central America in the early 1900's – a truly dismal period for democracy and the people of Central America! Think Banana Republic, the Marines in not just the “Halls of Montezuma” but Honduras and Dominican Republic. Remember the CIA takeover of Guatemala. Remember “our son-of-a-bitch,” Somoza. And remember El Salvador and Nicaragua later in that century.

Further on in the article, Rumsfeld's vision is describes as one of a military that is “far more proactive, focused on changing the world instead of just responding to conflicts..., and assuming greater prominence in countries in which the U.S. isn't at war.” Sounds like an empire to me. And the Bush administration's pursuit of the entire Iraq situation is reflected in it.

In that situation, President Bush early and precipitously abandoned diplomatic, multilateral, and United Nations approaches in favor of bombastic demands, threats, baseless accusations, scare tactics, and other methods based solely on American military superiority. Like the bully on the playground, when you're convinced you can “beat up” all challengers, you don't take much care for the feelings or rights of others.

Is this the America we want to be - an America that is the bully of the world playground?

If Bush, Rumsfeld and their neo-con friends prevail in this policy review, it will be the America we become.

[An online version of the WSJ article is available, along with extensive commentary by Michel Chossudovsky, at the Centre for Research on Globalisation site. This article is presented as well on Portland Indymedia, and is discussed in a number of forums, including Veterans Against the Iraq War. It can be purchased in full at,,public_home_search,00.html
I have not been able to find any mention of the document in other mainstream news sources. Please let me know if you know of such.]


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Rumsfeld's woes may worsen...

As Secretary Rumsfeld faces ever-increasing questions from the American people, from Congress, and from the recent lawsuit, reasonable people might expect that he might at last begin to question his own wisdom and judgement, and begin to act in more circumspect ways in the pursuit of the Empire he and his PNAC friends seem to think would further the interests of America.

The events of Friday night, however indicate that he and his commanders are growing ever-further divorced from reality and humanity. The attack on the just-freed kidnap victim, Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, the latest in a string of killings or attempted killings of journalists (see previous post), now appears to have been an intentional attack meant to silence Ms. Sgrena.

Her companion, Pier Scolari, told the French press Saturday that the Italians and the Americans knew her car was approaching the airport, and that she had passed all checkpoints when the incident occurred.

"Giuliana had information, and the US military did not want her to survive," he added.

When Sgrena was kidnapped on February 4 she was writing an article on refugees from Fallujah seeking shelter at a Baghdad mosque after US forces bombed the former Sunni rebel stronghold.

In a BBC report on the incident, Ms. Sgrena says the car was driving along and suddenly came under a hail of gunfire, which killed a senior Italian intelligence officer who sheilded her from the bullets, and injured her.

Even before this incident, some were suggesting that her capture was an attempt to silence her: from Kurt Nimmo's blog "Another Day in the Empire":

It really is a no-brainer: the Pentagon is kidnapping and murdering journalists because they do not want the world to know about the war crimes they are committing in Iraq. “[Sgrena] had an appointment in a Baghdad Sunni mosque with refugees from Fallujah. A few minutes after the phone call, she was abducted,” writes Luciana Bohne. “That is all that is known at this time. However, it is noted, at least by many in Italy, that every independent journalist who attempts to investigate what happened in Fallujah is kidnapped—some, like [Enzo] Baldoni, are killed.” Baldoni and his interpreter were killed in late August of 2004, allegedly by the Islamic Army in Iraq, the same “resistance” organization that threatened to “give American civilians a taste of what civilians in our country go through,” in other words attack the United States directly..."

Nimmo has further interesting comments on the situation following the shooting:

Maria Sanminatatelli notes: “The shooting came as a blow to Berlusconi, who has kept 3,000 troops in Iraq, and was likely to set off new protests in Italy, where tens of thousands have regularly demonstrated against the Iraq war. Sgrena’s left-leaning newspaper vigorously opposed the conflict.” Sanminatatelli neglected to mention that the vast majority of Italians also oppose the “conflict” and Berlusconi sent Italian troops regardless.

Silvio Berlusconi—the richest man in Italy, whose empire includes one of the most valuable soccer franchises in the world, the largest private TV network company in Italy, a publishing conglomerate, a bank, insurance companies, and department stores—is simply doing what rich people do all over the world: lending a hand for imperial adventures in a country where there is a whole lot of oil. In order to keep up appearances, however, Berlusconi summoned the U.S. ambassador to Rome, Mel Sembler. “The United States will continue to provide all necessary assistance,” Sembler told the media. “And we are working with our Italian allies as we fully investigate the circumstances of this tragedy.” ABC News characterized the incident thus, “The United States and its staunch Iraq war ally Italy face their worst falling out in years after U.S. troops killed an Italian secret service agent and uounded (sic) an Italian reporter.” In other words, shooting journalists looks bad—especially after they are abducted by a shadowy “terrorist” organization nobody has ever heard of and will probably never hear from again.

Should the incident actually prompt the removal of Italian troop support, Rumsfeld will have yet another foul-up to explain - which he's getting pretty good at! But then, this is not new. As my Dad, a WWII veteran, used to say, Situation Normal, All Fouled Up! It's the military way. Of course, you don't need to make much sense or treat anyone reasonably when you have a military force larger than all the rest of the world combined. You just have to put some kind of sham face on it all and pull out yet another weapon.

Juan Cole's comments back in December on the German suits against Rumsfeld are also interesting:
What is interesting about the Pentagon reaction to this suit is how frantic the Department of Defense seems.

If things continue to worsen, maybe we will yet see Rumsfeld run out of office in shame. That won't stop the insanity of this administration, but it would be a start. And it would sure feel good.

This post in solidarity with Progressive Blogger Union