The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The New Warrior Cargo Cult

The New Warrior Cargo Cult
by Troutfishing (dailykos)

In their accelerating rejection of science and their gradual loss of sophisticated skills, their growing adherence to religiously based ideologies that reject the conclusions of science, and their growing willingness to use a perhaps historically unparalleled American Global military supremacy, Americans are sliding into a warrior cargo cult mentality lacking - but for military technology - knowledge of the means by which goods are produced.

Unlike the classic cargo cults of the Pacific though, Americans are coming to employ not ritual magic to entice the delivery of cargo - they are, rather, coming to adapt a strategy for the acquisition of cargo that is more proactive, even, than those John Frum cultists who sought, once, to bribe the American president Lyndon Johnson for the magical formula, the incantation, that would cause fat planeloads of goods to float down from the skies to their long awaiting earthen landing strips.

The American, as they lose the ability to manufacture goods, are coming to realize that they can simply acquire cargo, as they please, by exerting their unparalleled military might to just grab cargo, and by less overt methods such as the social technology of blackmail whereby America's foreign debtors risk, should they seek to cash in their notes of American debt, a financial panic and collapse that might make the Great Depression look mild in comparison.

How far can American culture slide, in this trend?

If the financiers of profligate American overconsumption withdraw their capital and so refuse to prop up US government and consumer debt, what would be the result ? Imagine the rapid decay of American democratic political culture that would almost certainly ensue - would the Global peace"

Did you know: Saddam offered to surrender before the war?

Did you know: Saddam offered to surrender before the war?
by grytpype (dailykos)

Fri Apr 8th, 2005 at 21:18:39 PDT

Now that Bush's WMD stories have been proven to be 100% "dead wrong," -- even to the extent Bush has had to admit it, after struggling for months to keep hope alive...

And now that 53% of the public believes the war was not worth the cost...

I think this is an ideal moment to widely publicize the fact that Saddam offered to surrender, almost a total capitulation, before the war. He offered to let thousands of US troops into the country to search for WMD, and even offered to hold monitored elections in two years.

But Bush and Cheney both personally refused these offers and took America to war. They could have had everything the war achieved -- confirmation of no WMD and elections in two years -- for no cost, and they preferred war!

I think it's time to discuss that decision. To force Bush and Cheney to explain that decision. And that can be done, if the blogosphere picks up the story.

Source: Guardian United, Saddam's desperate offers to stave off war,2763,1079769,00.html

Saddam's desperate offers to stave off war,2763,1079769,00.html

Washington dismissed Iraq's peace feelers, including elections and weapons pledge, put forward via diplomatic channels and US hawk Perle

Julian Borger in Washington, Brian Whitaker and Vikram Dodd
Friday November 7, 2003
The Guardian

In the few weeks before its fall, Iraq's Ba'athist regime made a series of increasingly desperate peace offers to Washington, promising to hold elections and even to allow US troops to search for banned weapons. But the advances were all rejected by the Bush administration, according to intermediaries involved in the talks.


Iraqi intelligence was also offering privately to allow several thousand US troops into the country to take part in the search for banned weapons.

Baghdad even proposed staging internationally-monitored elections within two years.

"All these offers had at bottom the same thing - that Saddam would stay in power, and that was unacceptable to the administration," Mr Cannistraro said. "There were serious attempts to cut a deal but they were all turned down by the president and vice president."

Guardian United: Saddam's desperate offers to stave off war,2763,1079769,00.html

New York Times: Iraq Said to Have Tried to Reach Last-Minute Deal to Avert War

Dreamers and idiots : Britain and the US did everything to avoid a peaceful solution in Iraq and Afghanistan,3604,1082250,00.html

Republican Dictionary

Republican Dictionary (originally compiled by The Nation)

"ACTIVIST JUDGE, n. A judge who attempts to protect the rights of minorities--most especially homosexuals--against the tyranny of the majority.

ALARMIST, n. Any respected scientist who understands the threat of global warming.

ALLIES, n. Foreigners who do what Republicans tell them to do.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES, n. New locations to drill for oil and gas.

BALANCED, adj. 1. favoring corporations (a more balanced approach to the environment.); 2. favoring conservatives (fair and balanced reporting).

BI-PARTISANSHIP, n. When conservative Republicans work together with moderate Republicans to pass legislation Democrats hate.

CIVIL LIBERTIES, n. Unnecessary privileges that you aren't afraid of losing unless you are a God-hating, baby-killing, elitist liberal who loves Saddam Hussein more than your own safety.

CLARIFY, v. Repeating the same lie over and over again.

CLASS WARFARE, n. Any attempt to raise the minimum wage.

CLEAN, adj. The word used to modify any aspect of the environment Republican legislation allows corporations to pollute, poison, or destroy.

CLIMATE CHANGE, n. Global warming, without that annoying suggestion that something is wrong.

COALITION, n. One or more nations whose leaders have been duped, pressured or bribed into supporting ill-conceived, unnecessary, under-planned and/or illegal US military operations.

CONVICTION, n. Making decisions before getting the facts, and refusing to change your mind afterward.

CULTURE OF LIFE, n. A reduction of reproductive freedoms.

DEATH TAX, n. A term invented by anti-tax zealots and referring to a tax used to prevent the very wealthy from establishing a dominating aristocracy in this country.

DEMOCRACY, n. My way or the highway.

DEMOCRATIC ALLY, n. Any democracy, monarchy, plutocracy, oligarchy or dictatorship--no matter how ruthless--that verbally supports American diplomatic and economic goals.

DEREGULATE, v. To pursue greed and exploitation.

DETAIN, v. Hold in a secret place without recourse to law and treat in any manner one wishes.

ECONOMIC PROGRESS, n. 1. Recession; 2. Rising unemployment; 3. Minimum-wage freeze.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY, n. When three out of five software engineers who lost their jobs to outsourcing are able to find part-time work at Wal-Mart.

ELECTION FRAUD, n. Counting every vote.

FAIRER, adj. Regressive.

FAITH, n. The stubborn belief that God approves of Republican moral values despite the preponderance of textual evidence to the contrary.

FAITH-BASED INITIATIVE, n. Christian Right Payoff.

FAITH COMMUNITY, n. Evangelicals, because they are saved, and hawkish conservative Jews, because they are useful. Israel is the bait-on-the-hook just waiting for God to take that Rapturous bite.

FAMILY VALUES, n. Oppression of women.

FISCAL CONSERVATIVE, n. A Republican who is in the minority.

FOX NEWS, n. White House Press Office.

FREEDOM, n. What Arabs want but can't achieve on their own without Western military intervention. It bears a striking resemblance to chaos.

GIRLY MEN, n. Those who do not grope women.

GROWTH, n. The justification for tax cuts for the rich. What happens to the deficits when Republicans cut taxes on the rich.

HARD WORK, n. What Republicans say when they can't think of anything better.

HEALTHY FORESTS, n. No tree left behind.

HONESTY, n. Lies told in simple declarative sentences: "Freedom is on the march."

HUMBLE FOREIGN POLICY, n. The invasion of any sovereign nation whose leadership Republicans don't like.

HUMBLED, adj. What a Republican says right after a close election and right before he governs in an arrogant manner.

INSURGENT, n. Armed or unarmed, violent or non-violent Iraqi on the receiving end of an American rocket blast or bullet spray, regardless of age, gender or political affiliation.

JOB GROWTH, n. Increased number of jobs an individual has to take after losing earlier high-paying job.

JUNK SCIENCE, n. Sound science.

MORAL VALUES, n. Hatred of homosexuals dressed up in Biblical language.

MANDATE, n. What a Republican claims to possess when only 49 percent of the voting public loathes him instead of 51 percent.

THE MEDIA, n. Immoral elitist liberally-biased traitors who should leave Republicans alone so they can complete God's work on Earth in peace and quiet, behind closed doors.

MODERNIZE, v. To do away with, as in modernizing Social Security, labor laws, etc.

NEOCONSERVATIVES, n. Nerds with Napoleonic complexes.

OBSTRUCTIONIST, n. Any elected representative who dares to question Republican radicals on the issue of the day.


OWNERSHIP SOCIETY, n. A society in which Republican donors own the rest of us.

PARTIAL BIRTH ABORTION, n. A non-medical term invented by anti-choice zealots that refers to a broad class of abortion procedures; employed as a first step in reversing Roe v. Wade.

PHILOSOPHY, n. Religion.

POLITICAL CAPITAL, n. What a Republican president receives as a result of a razor-thin margin of victory in an election.

PRESS CONFERENCE, n. A rare event designed for the President to brag about his prowess as a leader while simultaneously dodging difficult questions.

PRIVATIZE, v. To steal the resources of the national community and give them to private business.

REFORM, v. To eliminate, as in tort reform (to eliminate all lawsuits against businesses and corporations) or Social Security and Medicare reform (to eliminate these programs altogether).

REFORM, n. Rollback of New Deal reforms, laws, standards and social protections.

RESOLUTE, adj. Pig-headed.

SIMPLIFY, tr. v. To cut the taxes of Republican donors.

SLAVE, n. A person without legal rights, e,g. a fetus.

SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, n. rich person

SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM, n. Leave no Wall Street broker behind.

STAYING THE COURSE, v., The act of being stubborn and unable to admit glaring policy mistakes; being wrong and sticking with the wrong idea regardless of the consequences.

STRICT CONSTRUCTIONIST, n. A judge with extremely conservative beliefs, who interprets laws in a manner that fits his/rarely-her own belief systems, while maintaining that this was the original intent of the law.

SUPPORT THE MILITARY, v. To praise Bush when he sends our young men and women off to die for no reason and without proper body armor.

TAX REFORM, n. The shifting of the tax burden from unearned income to earned income, or rather, from the wealthy elite to the working class.

TAX SIMPLIFICATION, n. A way to make it simpler for large US corporations to export American jobs to avoid paying US taxes.
TORT REFORM, n. Corporate immunity and impunity.

UNITER, n. A Leader who brings together his followers by fomenting hatred for anyone who disagrees with him.

VERY CLEAR, adj. Modifier used immediately before any preposterous explanation or rationale."

Robert Reich - The Rove Machine Rolls On

TAP: Vol 14, Iss. 2. The Rove Machine Rolls On. Robert B. Reich.
"The American Prospect
Another old article worth preserving. From the American Prospect

The Rove Machine Rolls On
By Robert B. Reich
Issue Date: 2.1.03

It's no accident that Karl Rove was one of Richard Nixon's moles. Using techniques developed by his first mentor, dirty-tricks strategist Donald Segretti, Rove infiltrated Democratic organizations on behalf of Nixon's infamous 1972 campaign. Rove's formidable talents came to the attention of George Bush Senior, then incoming Republican National Committee chairman, and the rest is history. Seven presidential campaigns later, Rove masterminded a deluge of disinformation against John McCain, whose upset victory in New Hampshire had given him a shot at the Republican nomination. Word was spread among South Carolina voters that McCain had fathered a black daughter out of wedlock (McCain had, in fact, adopted a Bangladeshi girl), that McCain was a homosexual, that McCain's wife had a drug problem and so on.

Now Rove is masterminding the Bush administration's press strategy, but it's far more than a press strategy. It's the central strategy for how the public understands what George W. Bush is doing to and for America. In an important sense, it is the Bush presidency. Rove's methodology largely explains why Bush's popularity remains strong despite the unremittingly awful economy (mounting job losses, weak profits and a three-year stock-market slide) and despite the shambles of the administration's foreign policy (Osama bin Laden still at large, al-Qaeda as dangerous as ever, North Korea more menacing than ever, Israelis and Palestinians as far away from the bargaining table as ever, anti-Americanism rising across the globe and a pending war in Iraq lacking clear justification).

A midterm USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll had Bush's job approval rating falling to 58 percent, dropping below 60 percent for the first time since the September 11 attacks. Under these circumstances, any other president would be in danger of losing his job. But Rove has convinced the press, and therefore the American public, that this presidency is nearly invincible. He has done it with an ingenious blend of chicanery and obfuscation, aided by the Democrats' utter incapability of devising a coherent message in response.

Use whatever excuse is available at the time to justify the administration's long-term ideological agenda. Rove is adept at framing Bush's goals as responses to immediate problems, and orchestrating Republican and right-wing policy experts to give the policies enough patina of credibility to satisfy the media. A lousy economy? We need to eliminate taxes on dividends. Never mind that this supposed remedy has nothing to do with stimulating the economy; it's a "jobs and growth plan for the long term," whatever that means. The continuing threat of terrorism? We need to invade Iraq. Forget that Saddam Hussein has for years been at odds with al-Qaeda or that North Korea is a more potent and dangerous supplier of nuclear components; we must eliminate Hussein's capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction before he uses them.

Count on the American public's (and the media's) inability to remember anything from one year to the next. The Rove machine gave Bush tough talking points on corporate fraud when the newspapers were full of Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom and Tyco, and when reporters were asking uncomfortable questions about Bush's and Cheney's own corporate dealings. Rove played for time, assuming that warmongering about Iraq (carefully orchestrated to begin just a few months before the midterm elections) would bury the issue. He was right. The administration dragged its feet on reform, and a year out almost nothing has changed. Another example: Rove sold the administration's $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001 as a way to spur the ailing economy. Obviously it had no such effect, but Rove assumed no one would remember. Right again. Now the White House is selling the administration's 2003 tax cut as a way to spur the ailing economy.

Keep everything under wraps. The only other administration in living memory as secretive as this one was -- no surprise -- Richard Nixon's. Whether it's Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, John Ashcroft's gag orders, the White House's anti-abortion strategy, its plan for gutting environmental protections and regulations, or its assault on civil liberties under the guise of homeland security, the public knows almost nothing about what's actually occurring. Leaks are rare. Information is parceled out carefully. Reporters who tell the story the way Rove would like it told (Bob Woodward) get special access. All others are kept in the dark.

Cut embarrassing players loose and pretend they're exceptions. Trent Lott was dead meat in the White House as soon as the press figured out that he meant what he said. Rove carefully let it be known that the administration supported Bill Frist for Senate majority leader. Rove also kept the attention focused on Lott and off the administration (Ashcroft's racist history as Missouri's attorney general, the administration's pending position on the Supreme Court case about affirmative action at the University of Michigan, Judge Charles Pickering's noisome record on civil rights and so on). Likewise, after Harvey Pitt dug himself into a hole at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Rove abruptly cut off his lifeline and pretended the White House had wanted vigorous regulation all along.

Karl Rove is calling the shots. Richard Nixon would be proud. The rest of us should be appalled.
Robert B. Reich

Copyright © 2003 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Robert B. Reich, "The Rove Machine Rolls On," The American Prospect vol. 14 no. 2, February 1, 2003 .

Her Beautiful Mind

Note: This story is almost a year old, but this is the first time I've read the Barbara Bush quote, so I'm posting it here for posterity.

Her Beautiful Mind
"Published on Thursday, April 29, 2004 by
Her Beautiful Mind
by Joyce Marcel

What could be behind the Bush Administration's decision to censor the photographs of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq? Could it really be, as the government says, to respect "the privacy of the families?" Or is it to hide the realities of war for political reasons? Or is it to protect the delicate sensitivities of the ruling class as Americans die to build them an empire?

As the argument over this censorship continues, I hope people remember a widely-quoted remark made by the president's mother, Barbara Bush, last year during the build-up of the war - the lying time.

"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths," Barbara Bush said on ABC's "Good Morning America" on March 18, 2003. "Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

We know this particular censorship can't be about privacy. Since the photos were made public last week, many family members have praised their publication. And since the coffins are anonymous, where is the privacy to be protected?

Were the pictures censored to prevent Americans from having a visceral understanding of the price we must pay for our aggressions overseas? Does "out of sight, out of mind" mean we will not hesitate to "stay the course"?

This thinking dates back to the Vietnam War, when some conservatives decided that the war was "lost" because of television. But those televised images were in our living rooms for years before the final fruitlessness of our effort brought the war to a close.

Most of us know that over 700 American soldiers have died in Iraq so far - and we're still counting. That means 700 extended families in mourning, 700 pictures of funerals and crying parents on the front pages of home-town newspapers, and 700 communities paying their hushed last respects. The number of people personally touched by the deaths of Americans in Iraq is growing exponentially.

Until last week, most of us didn't personally know anyone killed in Iraq. But the need to know was a force starting to hit critical mass:

* First, newspapers and magazines began to do stories about soldiers in rehabilitation - men and women learning to live with without arms and legs. From Iraq, as of this writing, there have been 2,470 Americans wounded so badly they could not return to their duty. (Another 1,394 were able to return after being hurt, according to several Web sites tracking the numbers.)
* The coffin photographs started leaking out.
* Garry Trudeau courageously allowed his "Doonesbury" character, B.D., to get his leg shot off, which brought the war home to the funny pages.
* NFL football star Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan put an even more personal face on war.

The American people, to their eternal credit, want to know the truth. The Seattle Times ran the first coffin picture, taken by a contract cargo worker in Kuwait who wanted to show the parents back home how respectfully their children's bodies were being treated. (She and her husband, who was also working in Kuwait, were fired.) The Times' editor reported that almost 100 percent of the feedback the first day was favorable. The next day, favorable comments were running 50-to-1, and the day after 30- or 40-to-1. (Many more pictures, taken by the government and released through the Freedom of Information Act, are available on-line at

To bring home the deaths even more, on tomorrow night's "Nightline," Ted Koppel will devote the entire hour to showing photographs and reading the names of the soldiers killed in Iraq.

You can argue both ways about the long-term impact of these images. Those who believe we need to be in Iraq will accept the deaths as the price we pay for "liberating" the country. Those who are adamantly opposed to the war will see it as the cost of occupation and empire.

As the discussion over the censorship of the photos continues, I hope people remember the blood-chilling arrogance of Barbara Bush's remark. None of us have beautiful minds. We all have bloody minds now, and bloody hands. Whatever our political persuasion, the pictures should make us more aware than ever that war should be a last resort, not a first.

Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in southern Vermont and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel. She can be reached at:"

Ellen Goodman - Dispensing Morality Dispensing Morality
Dispensing Morality

By Ellen Goodman

Saturday, April 9, 2005; Page A23

BOSTON -- To begin with, I don't believe that anyone should be compelled to do work he or she regards as unethical. History is full of heroes who rebelliously followed their consciences. It's also full of people who shamefully followed orders.

For that matter, I believe that companies and institutions should have a code of ethics. What is the alternative to corporate responsibility and public morality? Enron?

So I approach the subject of conscience clauses rather gingerly.

The very first such laws offered an exemption for doctors in 47 states who don't want to perform abortions on moral grounds. That seems to me a matter of common decency. Doctors are not automatons who leave their beliefs at the operating room door.

It also seems like common sense. Who would want her abortion performed by an opponent?

Gradually however, we have had the incredibly expanding conscience clause. In 10 states health care professionals can conscientiously refuse to provide contraceptives. In 12 states they can refuse to perform sterilizations.

Indeed, last year the government decided that entire hospitals and HMOs had the right to deny these services without losing federal funding. Never mind that it is not clear who owns the conscience of a hospital: A church hierarchy? A board of directors? The doctors? The community? Or the taxpayers who foot the hospital bills?

Now we have gone even further. Conscience clauses are being proposed to protect professionals who refuse to follow end-of-life directives and refuse to use treatments from stem cell research. Most notably, we have bills in a dozen states to include pharmacists who won't fill a prescription.

It's the pharmacists who are getting the most attention right now. In just six months, there were about 180 reports of pharmacists who said no. One refused to fill a college student's birth-control prescription. Another refused medication to a woman who had suffered a miscarriage.

This has led to a counter bill in California that would make pharmacists tell employers of their objections in advance and be prepared to make referrals. It's led to a rule by the Illinois governor that every pharmacy -- though not every pharmacist -- must fill prescriptions, "No delays. No hassles. No lectures." Karen Brauer, who heads a group called Pharmacists for Life International, which claims 1,600 members, compares them to "conscientious objectors." But it isn't that simple.

The pharmacist who refuses emergency contraception is not just following his moral code, he's trumping the moral beliefs of the doctor and the patient. "If you open the door to this, I don't see any place to draw a line," says Anita Allen, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "The New Ethics." If the pharmacist is officially sanctioned as the moral arbiter of the drugstore, does he then ask the customer whether the pills are for cramps or contraception? If he's parsing his conscience with each prescription, can he ask if the morning-after pill is for carelessness or rape? For that matter, can his conscience be the guide to second-guessing Ritalin as well as Viagra?

How much further do we want to expand the reach of the individual conscience? Does the person at the checkout counter have an equal right to refuse to sell condoms? Does the bus driver have a right to refuse to let off customers in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic?

Yes, we want people to have a strong moral compass. But they have to coexist with others whose compasses point in another direction. In the debate over conscience clauses, Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice says, properly, "There is very little recognition that the conscience of the woman is as important, let alone more important, than the conscience of the provider."

Pharmacists don't have the same claim to refuse filling a prescription as a doctor has to refuse performing an abortion. But there are other ways to exercise a private conscience clause. Indeed, in a conflict between your job and your ethics, you can quit. It happens every day.

When Thoreau refused to pay taxes as a war protest, remember, he went to jail. What the pharmacists and others are asking for is conscience without consequence. The plea to protect their conscience is a thinly veiled ploy for conquest.

This is not easy stuff. But in the culture wars we have become awfully enamored of moral stances. Have we forgotten that what holds us together is the other lowly virtue, minding your own business?

To each his own conscience. But the drugstore is not an altar. The last time I looked, the pharmacist's license did not include the right to dispense morality.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

" Same Committee, Same Combatants, Different Tune
Same Committee, Same Combatants, Different Tune

By Dana Milbank

Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A10

Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. is a conservative Republican from North Carolina who voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. So it jarred all the more yesterday when Jones turned his fury on Richard N. Perle, the Pentagon adviser who provided the Bush administration with brainpower for the Iraq war.

Jones, who said he has signed more than 900 condolence letters to kin of fallen soldiers, pronounced himself "incensed" with Perle. "It is just amazing to me how we as a Congress were told we had to remove this man . . . but the reason we were given was not accurate," Jones told Perle at a House Armed Services Committee hearing. Jones said the administration should "apologize for the misinformation that was given. To me there should be somebody who is large enough to say 'We've made a mistake.' I've not heard that yet."

As chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, Perle had gone before the same committee in 2002 and smugly portrayed retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who urged caution in Iraq, as "hopelessly confused" and spouting "fuzzy stuff" and "dumb cliches."

Thirty months and one war later, Perle and Clark returned to the committee yesterday. But this time lawmakers on both sides hectored Perle, while Clark didn't bother to suppress an "I told you so."

Perle wasn't about to provide the apology Jones sought. He disavowed any responsibility for his confident prewar assertions about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, heaping the blame instead on "appalling incompetence" at the CIA. "There is reason to believe that we were sucked into an ill-conceived initial attack aimed at Saddam himself by double agents planted by the regime. And as we now know the estimate of Saddam's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction was substantially wrong."

Jones, nearly in tears as he held up Perle's testimony, glared at the witness. "I went to a Marine's funeral who left a wife and three children, twins he never saw, and I'll tell you, I apologize, Mr. Chairman, but I am just incensed with this statement."

Clark, an unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, could not resist piling on Perle. Intelligence estimates "are never accurate, they are never going to be accurate, and I think policymakers bear responsibility for what use they make of intelligence," the retired general lectured.

Sometimes life imitates art. Yesterday, it imitated an episode of "Crossfire." For more than three hours, Clark and Perle reprised their confrontation before the committee in September 2002. The two men entered in twin gray suits and red ties, and took adjacent chairs at the witness table. Clark scribbled in pencil, Perle with a fountain pen. Only Perle's reading material -- he put on the witness table a copy of "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" -- suggested he was not expecting what was to come.

Perle opened by acknowledging mistakes -- though not his own. "The occupation of Iraq did much to vitiate the goodwill we earned," he said, and, "The grand ambition of the Coalition Provisional Authority was profoundly mistaken."

The two belligerents then went after each other, taking the hearing out of the control of the lawmakers. Perle wondered "why in the world" Clark would talk to Syria. Clark said Perle should learn to "eat the elephant one bite at a time." "What are you talking about?" Perle demanded.

Finally, Rep. Victor F. Snyder (D-Ark.) tried to regain the floor. "It is illegal to fight dogs in Arkansas," he said. "I'm not going to get in the middle."

Democrats lobbed softballs to Clark and fired darts at Perle, who made little effort to ingratiate himself, calling one questioner "careless" and saying another cited "substantially incorrect accounts."

"You need a few more allies," observed Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

It was not always thus. At the September 2002 hearing, GOP lawmakers joined in Perle's dismissal of Clark's argument that "time is on our side" in Iraq and that force should be used only as a "last resort."

Perle said Clark was "wildly optimistic" and called it "one of the dumber cliches, frankly, to say that force must always be a last resort." While Clark fiddled, "Saddam Hussein is busy perfecting those weapons of mass destruction that he already has."

In retrospect, Clark's forecasts proved more accurate than Perle's, and even Republicans on the committee made little effort yesterday to defend Perle or to undermine Clark. The exception was Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who pressed Clark to acknowledge that the Iraq invasion should get some credit for signs of democracy in the region.

"We've got to do a lot less crowing about the sunrise," Clark rejoined.

When Hunter's GOP colleagues didn't join his line of questioning, he took another turn grilling Clark. The chairman likened President Bush's Middle East policies to those of President Ronald Reagan in Eastern Europe.

"Reagan never invaded Eastern Europe," Clark retorted.

In another try, Hunter said Clark was "overstating" the risk in challenging other countries in the Middle East. Clark smiled and showed his trump card -- reminding Hunter of their exchange at the 2002 hearing. "I kept saying time was on our side," Clark said. "I could never quite satisfy you."

As for who proved correct, the general said, "I'll let the record speak for itself."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Friday, April 08, 2005

New York Times | The Worst of the Bad Nominees

The Worst of the Bad Nominees
The New York Times Editorial

Friday 08 April 2005

When a president picks his administration officials, the opposing political party can't expect to be thrilled with the selections. Right now, Democrats in the Senate are trying to block the nominations of three men chosen by George W. Bush for important posts: John Bolton for United Nations ambassador, Stephen Johnson for head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Dr. Lester Crawford for commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. They have excellent reasons for opposition in each case, but some reasons are more excellent than others.

Mr. Bolton stands out because he is not only bad in a policy sense, but also unqualified for the post to which he's been named. At a minimum, the United States representative to the United Nations should be a person who believes it is a good idea. Mr. Bolton has never made secret his disdain for the United Nations, for multilateralism and for consensus-seeking diplomacy in general.

When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins taking testimony on Mr. Bolton's nomination next week, it is also expected to hear other charges about his fitness, like allegations that when he was under secretary of state for arms control, he tried to distort intelligence reports by intimidating analysts who disagreed with him. After the invasion of Iraq, complaints that top advisers to the president had attempted to make intelligence reports conform to a preconceived conclusion about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs were often aimed in Mr. Bolton's direction.

All of this is very much to the point. When the country chooses an ambassador to the United Nations, it ought to avoid picking someone whose bullying style of leadership symbolizes everything that created the current estrangement between the United States and most of the world. One of the goals of Mr. Bush's second term was supposed to be rapprochement with other nations, whose assistance the United States desperately needs to curb the proliferation of the real weapons of mass destruction.

Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee are fighting to actually kill Mr. Bolton's nomination; all eyes are on Lincoln Chafee, the moderate Republican swing vote who has a record of being very supportive of the United Nations. In the case of Dr. Crawford and Mr. Johnson, a few senators are threatening to block what would be easy confirmations by putting a hold on each nomination before it goes to the Senate floor.

The right to block a nomination, like the right to filibuster a bill on the Senate floor, is one of the few tools the minority party has for affecting public policy. But it needs to be used with discretion. Mr. Johnson, in particular, seems like a bad choice for such a fight. His main drawback is that he is unlikely to put up the slightest resistance to Mr. Bush's policies, which have not been helpful in protecting the nation's clean air and water. Unfortunately, that will be the case whether this particular nomination goes through or not, and the president clearly has the capacity to find a less qualified yes-man for the job.

Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Ben Nelson of Florida are threatening to stall Mr. Johnson's confirmation unless he promises to end a suspended Florida study in which families would be paid to allow researchers to study the effects of pesticides on their children - a macabre investigation co-sponsored by the American Chemistry Council. The idea that the E.P.A. would pay families to continue exposing their children to potentially dangerous chemicals is on its face outrageous - and made worse by the study's ghoulish acronym, Cheers, for Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study. But the study has already been stopped, pending a review. It would have been a good sign of independence if Mr. Johnson had called a complete halt, but there seems little likelihood that the study will ever be revived. This seems like a weak reason to stop a Senate vote.

In the case of the F.D.A., Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington are threatening to keep the nomination from the floor unless Dr. Crawford prompts his agency to make a long-delayed decision on whether the so-called morning-after pill may be sold over the counter.

Their cause is righteous. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the pills can end unwanted pregnancies - so making them readily available could drastically cut down on the number of abortions. Two committees of expert advisers voted overwhelmingly in favor of selling the medication over the counter, but the F.D.A. has failed to do anything. Another proposal, which would limit its sale to women over 16, has also been pending.

Dr. Crawford has been the deputy or acting commissioner during a very troubled period for the drug agency. He presided over fiascos involving cox-2 painkillers, antidepressants and other drugs. He is clearly afraid to let his agency make a decision on the morning-after pill that will get him in hot water with social conservatives or with those who believe that the F.D.A. should be run on the basis of science, not theology. That timidity doesn't suggest that he would impose needed reform in other areas.

The Senate should vote on Dr. Crawford and defeat his nomination on the merits. If the Democratic senators are going to choose a disastrous Bush nomination to block, our choice is Mr. Bolton's.

Sterling Newberry - The Peace Economy Versus the War Economy

The Peace Economy Versus the War Economy
by Stirling Newberry

Fri Apr 8th, 2005 at 09:31:36 PDT

The War Economy and the Peace Economy

Europe flutters on the edge of declared recession. Since the ECB has no room to lower rates because of the inflationary pressures from the US dollar, and European governments are close to the top of deficit allowances from the requirements of monetary union, Europe is likely to enter recession. The ECB will be able to lower rates when the actual contraction is visible in lowered oil demand, but not until. This means that the Euro will deteriorate as the US is in a tightening phase.

The basic conflict here is between the American War Economy and the European Peace Economy. Which is not to be confused with militarism versus pacificim, because the only kind of peace economy that will work, is one that has a military instrument capable of being the umbrella under which nations can be built.

The typical story of a post-war recession begins "When the central bank tightens..." Yet the ECB has held rates steady for a very long time, there has been no tightening of monetary policy to combat inflation. Instead, from the perspective of Europe inflation is an exogenous effect - it isn't anything Europe is doing that is causing inflation. Nor has Europe passed regulations that will amount to tightening, so one can't argue that there has been de facto tightening of the regulatory leg of the Mundell-Fleming triad of monetary policy, fiscal policy or regulatory policy. One can also not argue that Europe has lifted regulations that would cause inflation.

In short, and this is very obvious to Europeans, the source of their current economic bind is very simple: the US is printing dollars, preventing US consumers from feeling the pinch of their borrow and squander fiscal policies, and easy monetary policies. However, Europe is also aware that the Asian central banks have more or less topped out their ability to soak up dollars, and they can no longer afford to take a bath on US bonds, which are yielding as much as 300 basis points below other completely safe currencies.

Thus free market zealots in the US are calling for Europe to Thatcherize - slash wages and benefits, slash social spending and sell off assets at fire sale prices to waiting billionaires. Europe, which is a great deal closer to Russia, the last nation to try "shock therapy", realizes just how bad an idea this is. But as yet they do not have any ideas of their own.


In the run up to World War II, it was realized by people like Winston Churchill that the German Economy wasn't really healthy, instead, Germany was borrowing vast sums of money to run what became called the "German War Economy". This lead Churchill to argue publically, and others privately, that war with Germany was inevitable, since there was only one use for the capital they were building.

In the run up to, and particularly after, World War II, the United States became a war economy - one which had a large military, and then had to develop the infrastructure to support it. The US government had to create demand for goods which supported the war economy - for example the designs of nuclear power plants from which enriched Uranium could be extracted. The 747 is a military civilian hybrid jet - which means it is not very fuel efficient, but it is very durable. One can't strap a space shuttle to the back of a jet by accident - it has to be designed to take that kind of stress.

Eisenhower would warn of the "military-industrial complex", and other Presidents would wrangle with the "iron triangle" in various ways. The defense build up that Carter began, but which Reagan accelerated tremendously, provided a new generation of war economy. It was only budgetary reality which forced the downsizing of the military during Bush's term - but it was blamed on the Democrats as a, and the parallels to post world war I Germany should be noted "a stab in the back". The urban legends of mistreatment of Vietnam veterans were used as a rhetorical substratum to blame the Democratic Party for the pain of riffing and base closings.

The essential problem is this: the world is still too unstable, particularly in its resource supplies, to do without a superpower. That superpower will have one big advantage: it will be funding a huge amount of Research and Development, and a big disadvantage: it's basic economy will be far less efficient than one designed for peace time uses.

For decades this problem was solved by having Europe and Japan form "peace economies" which were tightly linked with the United States. In the wake of decolonization in the 1950's and 1960's - Europe found it could do without having to support military infrastructure by, instead, backing the United States dollar. This lead to a small, but noticeable, spread between corporate bonds and US treasuries, which was, in effect, a sienurage tax on Europe to pay for the defense of the Free World. It was not a matter of War economy versus Peace economy - but a matter of spreading out the cost of the war economy over a larger sphere.


The hole in the bottom of a war economy is energy, military equipment is, almost by definition, bigger, heavier, more durable - and therefore more expensive to move - than equivalent civilian only equipment. Since the late 1800's the quest for energy supplies to feed military machines has increasingly dominated thinking. In the 19th century it was "coaling" and the creation of "coaling stations" around the world. The US entry into the Spanish American war and annexation of Hawaii was, in no small part, about creating coaling stations.

Churchill as First Sea Lord in Britain helped move the British fleet to oil, and then as Colonial Secretary, worked to gain access to oil for that military. The access to oil was central to Hitler's geopolitical thinking - as well as the reason for the Japanese drive to expansion in the 1930's. When FDR wanted to finally provoke the Japanese, he embargoed US oil - Pearl Harbor followed soon thereafterward.

It would be a mistake to over-emphasize this point and make it into a vast conspiracy that dominates everything - but it is a very important part of strategic thinking, which has lead to US involvement in parts of the world which we would otherwise not care about. It has also created numerous constituencies in the US which support the War Economy, because their current economic arrangements are based, directly or indirectly, on that war economy. To move the US off of a war economy means finding a means of compensating the losers, even as they are moved to other areas.

In no small measure the Clinton policy was forced down this line: both by instinct, searching for a "peace dividend", and by political reality. Increasingly the war economy constituencies were the hard core of the opposition to Clinton. This line of cleavage - not between pro-war and anti-war, but between the war economy and the peace economy in the US - became increasingly visible in the division in the electorate. The metropolitan economy is largely involved in importing and exporting, and for it, while the military is important to protect access to materials and trade relations, the war economy itself is largely a burden. This economy has voted increasingly for Democrats, particularly since the early 1990's when much of the defense research budget was pulled and far less of the metropolitan research and development engine was tied to defense. The early 1990's recession forced the metro research economy to wean itself from defense oriented research, and while this was painful, it was also, ultimately, liberating.

The exurban areas are, of course, most closely tied to the war economy, and not only the most important beneficiaries, but also the most tied to war economy infrastructure. These areas have increasingly become Republican, particularly as many have realized that they can get the largess from Washington that they need, without having to form common cause with social liberals and other metropolitan constituencies that they dislike. Once the Republicans found out how cheap appalachia was to buy, they went out and bought it. The result shifted Kentucky and Tennessee firmly into the Republican camp, and influenced Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia, North Carolina and even South Carolina and Georgia. It seems likely to move West Virginia into the Republican camp.

Also interestingly is a shift in politics in the rural and frontier areas - while resource extraction in the form of minerals and oil is part of the war economy, the agricultural sector is increasingly pressured by that same war economy and its demand for standardized food products. High Diesel prices, agribusiness consolidation, higher fertilizer prices and the funnelling of credit into home building and spraw all threaten farming as a way of life. In no small part the Democratic revolt in Montana is driven by this increasing shift of agriculture away from the Republican sphere. If the Democrats can take advantage of it that is...


The European Peace economy has had a no less tumultuous history. The dismantling of the European war economies in the 1950's caused tremendous dislocation, the attempt to maintain the remains of the British War economy in the 1960's caused tremendous dislocation. The gradual creation of the European Common Market is not a smooth and continuous process, but one filled with stops and starts, good and bad decisions, political tensions. Governments have fallen over the whether to be pro- or anti- Europe, and the economic troubles in Europe now show how difficult the process has been.

The fundamental difference between a war economy and a peace economy is the question of demand. In a war economy there is both a constant demand for certain goods, from resources to machine parts. This is both a benefit, in that it generates employment, and a problem, in that that demand must be maintained at all times in order to keep both the workforce and the capital in top condition. From the New Deal forward, preserving the industrial base has been a top priority of successive American administrations. A peace economy has no such basic stream of demand, and therefore can and must create a stream for "soft demand".

A peace economy must also run a much tighter ship financially - since it cannot impose sienurage taxes to pay for military protection. It must run only manageable deficits and be able to reach surplus from time to time. As a result, the European Peace economy, even more than the American war economy, has been aggressive about forcing open developing nations to capital investment.


In the present two effects have become important. One is that the Republican Party has gained almost complete control over the top down apparatus of the War Economy in the US. It is now using this control to reverse many of the changes in society made through the Democratic version of the War Economy. While many on the left loath anything with the word "war" in it, it should be pointed out that it was the war economy's need for labor which was one of the cutting edges of the creation of civil rights: Truman integrated the military, because he had to. The War economy of the 1950's needed labor, and it drew African Americans in. The war economy of the 1960's urbanized large populations out of the need for labor. Many cherished institutions of the left, including labor unions - as opposed the older craft unions - had their bargaining power because war economies cannot afford instability. It was worth paying more to get a steady stream of labor.

The Cold War version of the war economy also acted as protectionism for labor - by putting more or less half the population of the globe out of reach, it meant that labor could demand a higher wage. By making goods which, almost by definition, had to be built locally, it created a large supply of economically nationalist demand. It had to be made in the USA, because in the event of a war, supply disruption would be lethal. The US understood the lesson of the German U-Boat blockade of Britain.

Thus the Democratic War Economy's liberalizing effects should not be tossed aside lightly. One inherent paradox in the progressive movement is a simultaneous demand for a Peace Economy in the US - and demands for returns to the kinds of protection of stability of labor supply which the War Economy generated. Consider, for example, the US jet travel system. It is not an accident that it has a strong degree of Unionization even today: because the jet travel system in the US is, to no small extent, related to the war economy and its needs to move goods, troops and other personnel and supplies, as well as finding civilian employment for former military pilots. That that unionization is being torn apart is a sign that the circle of benefits of the War Economy is contracting.

The shift from liberal to obliberal democracy in the US - where the war economy is attempting to become self-perpetuating even in the absence of a threat equivalent to Soviet Communism - has effects on Europe as well. The problem with the European Peace Economy is that it isn't. It isn't a peace economy in a self-sustaining way, but, instead, a peace economy which sells to a war economy. Europe makes capital goods and certain classes of consumer goods that the US does not make because it is busy being engaged in a War Economy. The European economy, despite almost 30 years of being weaned away from internal military demand, still is related to the US war economy.

However the rise of obliberalism in the US changes that: the US government is raising the sienurage tax on the Europeans, because it cannot effectively tax its resource suppliers any longer. Through the 1950's and 1960's the people who paid the most, in terms of lost freedom and development, for the US war economy were the oil states around the world, which had regimes that sold oil to the United States far more cheaply than a real market price would demand. With the oil shock, the tax on the populace of these nations stopped going to the US - and started going to their own elites. But it was still paid.

The obliberal state, unable to tax its upstream, is now taxing its downstream - Japan and Europe are both being squeezed by the willingness of the developing economies - particularly China - to be better subsidiaries to the American War Economy. This taxation is being paid willingly because the mechanizing economies of Asia are getting the same benefits from the American War Economy that workers in the US and Europe used to get: constant, and rising, growth and demand. China's "soft landing" is going to be 8% growth in real GDP. That's a slow down for them. The tiger economy zone is projected to grow by 5%.

That neither Japan nor Europe have managed a true Peace Economy, and that the highly managed Chinese economy is very successful shows how misguided and intellectually dishonest libertarianesque blather about free markets is. China is a protectionist, mercantile, top down thoroughly unfree market economy. It is booming. Japan is in theory capitalist. It is starving. The ideological divides between "socialism" and "capitalism" are pure nonsense and are no more relevant to the present world situation than theories about whether the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin is finite or infinite. They simply do no matter. There is no such thing as a free market War Economy - War Economies are, by definition, top down, and they are, therefore, not capitalist either. They may well have a set of owners of capital who are beneficiaries, and are therefore adamant about not pay the pareto balancing taxation - but this has been true since the days when wars were fought on horseback. War Economies are also price insentive, which divorces them from the market mechanisms signals of about resource allocation. A war economy must have whatever it must have, and will take it if need be.

What does matter is the control of the crucial forms of scarcity and the trading relationships built on them. Presently the United States, by being the designated economic loser, has the ability to consume far more than it produces. However, this is only because it is the designated loser: the Asian economies aren't helping the US by buying dollars, they are throwing an anvil to their competitors here in the US. Despite dramatic devaluation of the US dollar, American exports have not signficantly recovered above what would be expected from the ending of the financial crisis and world slow down of 1997-2003. What has happened instead is simply that goods that used to be orderd from abroad are now made here. The Republican Party has returned to its roots as the party of high protective tariffs, this time enacted by monetary policy.

What this means for the left cannot be put in blunter terms: to turn back the obliberal movement in America, and to take power and govern, there must be a coherent governing idea.

The problem in the American left, both Democrat and Green, is that there is, at present, an ideological cleavage. Much of the rhetoric of the left looks backwards to economic circumstances which are the result of the war economy. This cleavage, between war economy demands for job stability and labor stability, and peace economy demands for liberalization and nationalization of health care - are in basic conflict. The US cannot both have a war economy degree of stability for workers, and a peace economy degree of benefits. Europe is going through this right now: it must liberalize its economic structures, simply because the demand stream from the US War economy is being cut off.

However, failure to understand this shift will be lethal for the left, which ever party it backs. This is because the Republicans have sought, and are getting, complete control over the top down war economy. This means that the direct beneficiaries of that war economy are now lost to the Democratic party as supporters, and the indirect supporters are moving to the right. The reason why the Republicans have made such in roads into Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania is because, for the present, resource extraction and raw manufacturing are benefiting from the Republican War Economy. Steel is up in price, SUVs are very profitable for Detroit, mining is doing well. Fiddling with the edges of social conservatism does nothing about any of this. Social conservatism follows the attachment to the Republican War Economy, not precedes it. People get hostile and xenophobic when they need enemies because their jobs depend on having enemies.

Since this highly reved version of the War Economy is unstable - war economies at high speed must go to war to lower their input costs of labor and resources - these effects are offset by the growing number of people who are being held out of the benefits of the War Economy. The young, in particular, are getting hammeredby it. This means that the future is against the War Economy, since it must economically slag the prospects of its input sources of labor. Right now Europe and Japan are on the menu. American labor, and not just low scale wage labor, but intellectual labor, is also on the menu. As the war economy consumes its own demand base, it runs a larger and larger debt.

In short, while the temptation of returning to a liberal War Economy is almost overwhelming - after all, almost everyone in elected office grew up in the War Economy, was elected promising to protect the War Economy, and to make sure that its benefits were distributed widely, and is used to the mechanisms of the War Economy - and that is both in the US and Europe, across the political spectrum - it is also a mistake of global proportions.

This is because the threat to global stability comes not from a concentration of armed might, but from the growth of assymetrical threats and economic nationalism. The War Economy is going to, in fact, encourage economic nationalism - simply because other nations will want to offset the protectionism that a War Economy generates with protectionism of their own. Argentina, Iran, Russia, Venezuela and China are at the cutting edge of the shift to economic nationalism by those countries which can either supply their own energy, or have labor competitive advantage enough to flout the free trade rules of the WTO.

The solution to this problem is nation building. Nation building on a scale that has not been seen since the end of World War II. It is nation building, and nation building alone, that can supply the enormous void in demand that would be left by the end of the war economy. It is nation building alone that can defuse the assymetrical threats, and it is nation building, and only nation building, which will provide the market incentives to develop peace economics.

The series of Wars that was the 20th century is over. Either we can set ourselves on the course for another series of resource wars, as various nations move from economic nationalism, to war economy - since the war economy is the ultimately end of economic nationalism - or we can set ourselves on the difficult course of weaning ourselves from the heroine of the war economy.


This is not to say that there is no role for the military in this process. On the contrary, military discipline, military virtues, and military sense of self-denial for a larger cause are, in fact, going to play an essential role in any nation building system.

It is only by ending the threat of failed states, and the global plague of dictatorial or oligarchic states that the economy can be shifted away from one where the military is a cost that the general economy carries, to one where it is part of the expansion of prosperity. For all of the talk from the neo-conservative movmeent about how it is committed to creating Democracy around the world, the reality is quite different. For a stark example of this, look at the ceremonies that took place to announce the new Iraqi government. Well scripted, with flags and polished furniture, it seems that all is in order. But look again, note how all the men on that stage are fat. Now look at whatever video from the Iraqi street you can find - you will see no fat Iraqis. What has happened is the installation of soft, fat, and out of touch leaders who have lived well through the times of trouble in Iraq, and their maintenance by US power. This might work in Iraq - and the present price of oil an economy doesn't have to be that efficienty - but it will work virtually nowhere else.

It may seem ironic, but, in fact, it is the case: nation building requires the instilling of discipline and order, and the means for doing this must include a strong set of military institutions. Military institutions which are "professional, competent, loyal and patriotic". The military itself must be weaned from the War Economy, which warps its outlook towards weapons systems, and towards creating webs of industrial supply chain. The military itself would do well to be lifted from the burden of the war economy. Canada and Britain have thriving martial traditions, without having a War Economy.

But the military of nation building is very different from the military of the Cold War or of the obliberal state. Instead it is a military that can stablize an area, end civil violence, and form an umbrella for rapid redevelopment of an afflicted area. This process was seen in outline in Bosnia and Kosovo - with numerous problems and with a long list of caveats about the points of failure in those missions, which the participants themselves have been willing to point out. Not least was the amount of force needed to produce stabilization itself: the military does not have the tools to stabilize, the military instrument is still too blunt.

However it is the complete failure of this process to date in Iraq that has been the hallmark of the post-invasion period. Now with oil as expensive as it is, Iraq's new government is going to have numerous chances. More over all it needs to do is assert control over a small section of the country that produces oil and manages its export. If Iraq can produce oil at 2 million barrels a day consistently, that is almost 100 million dollars a day of free cash flow. In a nation the size of Iraq, that is a huge amount of money.

But most nations are not sitting on an ocean of oil. And the expense of rebuilding Iraq compared to the final profits to the outside world are so ruinously bad, that this is a victory that looks financially like defeat. The model provided by Iraq is simply not scalable to most other nations, because most other nations cannot be disrupted to the degree of an oil state - where most of the value can't be bombed because it is below the ground. Thus the model provided by Iraq is an invasion that is too expensive, an occupation that fails to stabilize, a development period that has failed to put basic utilities on line, and an open ended committment that is a massive drain on manpower and logistics.

This effect is seen in every component of military supply chain. M-1 tanks, while the best battlefield superiority tank every built, are taking high attrition against guerillas in urban areas. Helicopter parts are wearing out quickly - a military helicopter in Iraq is a giant vacuum cleaner in a land of sand. The warnings of a number of generals, and military analysts - including this one - were firmly repeated by one of the earliest and highest profile opponents of the Iraq invasion: General Wesley Clark in his testimony before the Armed Service Committee. The picture that General clark so forcefully outlined is that the attrition on key parts, personnel and logistical pinch points is reaching crisis proportions in the US military. His warnings are not speculative: attrition in helicopters, and crashes attributable to maintenance problems are growing.

Thus the military itself must be transformed from a machine designed to meet a large army on the battlefield, to one that can provide stabilization. It must shift its priorities away from high performance, if sexy, air superiority forces - and towards sustainability of operations. A problem which has as many technical challenges as hte ability to super-cruise a jet fighter. The military must shift its training and logistical systems to a form which will allow the secure movement of goods by ground through many kinds of terrain: the insurgency has targetted trucking with great effect in Iraq, a tactic that is sure to be repeated over and over again in the coming decades.


This process - of going to a Peace Economy, without losing the essential edge and fuction of the ability, not merely to engage in peacekeeping, but in peacemaking - is one that is the challenge before the left, simply because the right has neither a conception of how to do it, nor the will to do it. The collapse of the long standing agreement between those who run the American War Economy - and the Peace Economies of other nations that lived under the protection of that War Economy - indicates that the current world economic structure is unstable. Either real wages must collapse so that the War Economy can feed itself, or there must be a dramatic readjustment in the means by which developed nations maintain their security and economic stability, one which generates, rather than consumes, resources.

The only road to doing this is for the developed nations to aggressively drive down their own resource and energy costs - the GDP of a developed nation must be much more "energy dense" than present. As importantly, the developed world must shift the nature of its miltiary instrument from one of battlefield conflict between nations, and towards creating an interior zone of stability within which economic development can occur. It must be able to not merely defend borders, but hold territory, and do so sustainabily for long periods of time with smaller committments of manpower. The military can only do this if there is a civilian leadership committed to making this transition.


In summary:

The old system of America having a War Economy, which other developed nations paid for, and had, in return, Peace Economies, is breaking down. The United States, no longer able to extract surplus value from the states that supply it resources, is now engaged in taxing through sienurage the other developed states. The end point of this process is a dramatic drop in real wages in those states, as they race to the bottom with China as a labor provider. China, needing resources, is destined to become a war economy when it can do so, because only this will generate enough demand and social stability to hold their large population together and employed.

This process is destined to dramatically raise materials prices, and produce a large movement towards economic nationalism, first in resource states, as is already happening in Venezuela, Argentia, Russia and Iran, and then in other nations as they progressively face outside pressure on wages and currency flow. Unless halted, it will mean an end to free trade, and the establishment of nationalist states of a quasi-dicatorial form of either the right or the left around the world.

The left faces a challenge in that many of the traditional mechanisms of the left - including labor stability - are creatures of the War Economy, even socialist and green parties support these artifacts of the previous liberal War Economy. Since the war economy has now been completely coopted by the right wing and the Republican Party, these mechanisms are increasingly useless, and the people tied to them are going to continue to move to the right. Instead the left must seek a Peace Economy solution.

That Peace Economy must rest on nation building, since it is only through the ending of assymetrical threats and failed states that the developed world can continue to prosper. The War Economy model of nation building, as seen from Iraq, is an abject failure at producing stability and development at any reasonable cost - only a nation sitting on as much resource wealth as Iraq could have this model implemented.

To engage in this transition then, require a military instrument that is capable of nation building - not the dissolving, but the transforming of the military. A transition, because it will focus on martial values will, in fact, liberate the military from the corrupting role of being the industrial policy for the American economy. This military instrument must be able to control space, sustainably, for long periods, rather than being designed for rapid invasion.

The Bush syndrome: Dead wrong and proud of it

The Bush syndrome: Dead wrong and proud of it

By Max J. Castro

“Dead wrong.” That’s what the president’s own hand-picked committee on intelligence gathering said last week about the information concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration used to bamboozle Americans and attempt to browbeat the world into backing war.

“Dead wrong.” That’s what Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta – a conservative judge appointed by the president’s own father – just about said last week in a scathing opinion in which he castigated Congress and President Bush for attempting to usurp the authority of the judiciary in the case of Terri Schiavo.

The commission on intelligence gathering, which received only a narrow mandate and scant authority from a president who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into appointing it in the first place, failed to look into the crucial question of how top administration officials used and abused the information given them by the intelligence agencies. Despite the commission’s timidity, it could not avoid the inevitable conclusion that intelligence about weapons was systematically distorted so as to support a foregone conclusion. The commission only hints at the political pressures that fostered bias in the intelligence gathering and analysis process:

“It is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom.”

Notwithstanding the commission’s oblique language, the report is still a damning indictment. As the president of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero once said, you don’t go to war “just in case”. Top administration officials had to know the flimsy and contradictory nature of the evidence they sold to the public and the international community as an ironclad case for war indicating a threat so serious as to justify spilling torrents of blood. And, by reporting the fact that today the United States still knows shockingly little about the nuclear programs of potentially hostile countries, the commission undercuts the case for future adventures in regime change.

If the commission seemed intent on limiting political damage to the Bush administration, Judge Birch, on the other hand, did not mince words in exposing the blatantly political motives behind the law that gave the Schiavo parents another chance to go before the federal courts:

“When the fervor of political passions moves the Executive and the Legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene.”

Judge Birch denounced, in no uncertain terms, the overreaching actions of the president and the Republican-led Congress:

“In resolving the Schiavo controversy, it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the Legislative and Executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people – our Constitution.”

Noting that intervention in the courts by the executive and legislative branches in the Schiavo case imperils the separation of powers, Birch stated why the judiciary could not passively accept this brazen power grab:

“If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow.”

What links the intelligence fiasco and the Schiavo case is the willingness of this administration and its Republican allies in Congress to argue for and undertake the most extreme and arrogant actions in the absence of credible information and arguments to support them – and in the process demonizing anyone who opposes their schemes. Waging an illegal war and trampling all over the bedrock constitutional principle of separation of powers are variations of a single syndrome, the Bush syndrome.

Whether the subject is global warming, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, stem cell research, social security, or the Schiavo case, the Bush syndrome involves ignoring, twisting, and denying facts and reason in the interest of an extreme right ideology.

The Bush syndrome also means that those who dare question the illegitimate actions that flow from the administration’s Orwellian logic are targeted for punishment. For having said the Iraq war is illegal, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has been the object of savage attacks by Republicans led by the “moderate” Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Although for now the administration has decided to give Annan lukewarm support – probably because it needs the UN to function smoothly over the next two years so it can help stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan – this has not stopped GOP politicians like Coleman from calling for Annan’s head. Should Annan cease being indispensable to administration efforts to legitimize its interventions, Bush is likely to change his tune.

The Schiavo case, for its part, raised the profile of an old target for the Republican right: the federal judiciary. A whole litany of GOP stalwarts, including Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and House Majority Leader Tom Delay, have skewered the judges involved in the Schiavo case. Some Republicans even have threatened to punish the judicial branch through funding cuts and other means.

This time, Bush and his Republican allies were denied. But the Bush administration’s preference for believing in and acting upon its own ideologically driven delusions over reality has already produced disastrous consequences in the form of war and massive Iraqi and American casualties. More tragedy is sure to follow if Bush is allowed to implement his domestic and international agenda during the second term.

But that outcome is not inevitable. For all of the administration’s puissance, the case of Annan and the brave federal judges who in the Schiavo case stood up to demagoguery are only two of many examples of those who have said “No!” to Bush’s multiple abuses of power. The number, courage, and influence of those who resist can only grow with the latest Republican transgression against common sense and common decency.

Michael Berube - Liberals in their own words

Liberals in their own words

Warning: this is a long post about disability and abortion and end-of-life care. By “long” I mean “about three thousand words.” To all of you who came looking for the puppies and dolphins, or who were simply hoping to be this blog’s millionth visitor, hah. This blog will never write about puppies and dolphins.

Eric Cohen’s recent Weekly Standard essay, “How Liberalism Failed Terri Schiavo,” is probably the best of its genre: while opposing the removal of Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube, it acknowledges the moral complexity of the case, does not fudge the medical details, and keeps the vilification of Michael Schiavo to a bare minimum. (The contrast with Nat Hentoff’s work on the subject is stark, and not flattering to Mr. Hentoff.)

But it purchases its thoughtfulness about the case, so to speak, by means of a misunderstanding of liberalism so severe as to amount to a form of ideological ventriloquism. The pivotal passage comes in the middle of Cohen’s biting but plausible reading of the Florida court’s rationale for supporting Michael Schiavo:

Part of the problem was simply judicial incompetence—especially the court’s decision, in direct violation of Florida law, to act as Terri Schiavo’s guardian at key moments of the case rather than appoint an independent guardian to represent her interests, separate from the interests of her husband and her parents. But the problem went deeper than incompetence: It also had to do with ideology—with a set of assumptions about what makes life worth living and thus worth protecting. Procedural liberalism (discerning and respecting the prior wishes of the incompetent person; preserving life when such wishes are not clear) gave way to ideological liberalism (treating incompetence itself as reasonable grounds for assuming that life is not worth living). When the district court’s decision to allow Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube was challenged, a Florida appeals court framed the question before it as follows:

[W]hether Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo, not after a few weeks in a coma, but after ten years in a persistent vegetative state that has robbed her of most of her cerebrum and all but the most instinctive of neurological functions, with no hope of a medical cure but with sufficient money and strength of body to live indefinitely, would choose to continue the constant nursing care and the supporting tubes in hopes that a miracle would somehow recreate her missing brain tissue, or whether she would wish to permit a natural death process to take its course and for her family members and loved ones to be free to continue their lives. (emphasis added)

Now, one could surely read this as an effort to get inside Terri’s once competent mind. But more likely, it expresses the court’s own view of Terri’s now incompetent and incapacitated existence as a meaningless burden, a barrier to her husband’s freedom. The court’s obligation to discern objectively what Terri’s wishes were and whether they were clear – a question of fact – morphed into an inquiry as to whether she could ever get better, with the subjective assumption that life in her present condition was not meaningful life.

(My emphasis added in the passages in boldface.)

I call Cohen’s reading “biting but plausible” because it does seem that the court is phrasing its decision as a means of letting Michael Schiavo be all that he can be. But it’s also a crabbed and ungenerous reading, on Cohen’s part, of what spouses like Michael Schiavo – or Rose Wendland, to take someone who cannot possibly be subjected to the same kind of faux moralism that infects Schiavo’s critics – go through in the course of their decisions about end-of-life care. It’s noteworthy that both Wendland and Schiavo agreed to feeding tubes – and much, much more – for some years after their spouses’ injuries, but gradually decided that their spouses’ “lives” were little more than a legal fiction. And it’s noteworthy that commentators – even commentators so sober and restrained as Cohen – give short shrift to the moral considerations weighed by those spouses, and construe them as people who simply want to give up and get back to their lives. Surely this involves treating Mr. Schiavo, or Ms. Wendland, with something less than the human dignity to which they, too, are entitled.

But that’s an ancillary issue here. The real problem lies with Cohen’s identification of the real problem: his definition of “ideological liberalism” as “treating incompetence itself as reasonable grounds for assuming that life is not worth living.” This line will resonate with some disability rights activists, who already have good reason to believe, as Mary Johnson’s essay of last year put it, that liberals just don’t get it when it comes to disability. I was interviewed for that essay, and I was pretty harsh on liberals myself, for their reluctance to see disability rights as central to civil rights. But this time, I’ve got to come to liberalism’s defense.

Here’s why. Cohen’s distinction between procedural and ideological liberalism leads him to the following conclusion:

A true adherence to procedural liberalism – respecting a person’s clear wishes when they can be discovered, erring on the side of life when they cannot – would have led to a much better outcome in this case. It would have led the court to preserve Terri Schiavo’s life and deny Michael Schiavo’s request to let her die. But as we have learned, the descent from procedural liberalism’s respect for a person’s wishes to ideological liberalism’s lack of respect for incapacitated persons is relatively swift. Treating autonomy as an absolute makes a person’s dignity turn entirely on his or her capacity to act autonomously. It leads to the view that only those with the ability to express their will possess any dignity at all – everyone else is “life unworthy of life.”

This is what ideological liberalism now seems to believe – whether in regard to early human embryos, or late-stage dementia patients, or fetuses with Down syndrome. And in the end, the Schiavo case is just one more act in modern liberalism’s betrayal of the vulnerable people it once claimed to speak for. Instead of sympathizing with Terri Schiavo – a disabled woman, abandoned by her husband, seen by many as a burden on society – modern liberalism now sympathizes with Michael Schiavo, a healthy man seeking freedom from the burden of his disabled wife and self-fulfillment in the arms of another.

Again, the gratuitous “in the arms of another,” as if Cohen or any of his compatriots would be more sympathetic to Michael Schiavo if he had joined the priesthood. But never mind Schiavo for a moment. What are fetuses with Down syndrome doing here?

I know, it would be more politically efficient for me to ask why “early human embryos” are refashioned here as “vulnerable people.” But the assumption that liberalism will advocate the termination of pregnancies involving fetuses with Down syndrome goes to the heart of the matter, and I know a thing or two about fetuses with Down syndrome.

So let me hit the ball back into Cohen’s court: this is what ideological conservatism now seems to believe – whether in regard to the earliest or latest stages of life: that decisions should be made not by individuals or families, but by those who have decided that their moral judgments about such matters are objectively correct, and who have made those judgments enforceable by means of the power of the state.

Cohen has a point about the insufficiency of autonomy; in fact, it’s a point that Janet and I agree with, in part, in our Boston Globe essay on the subject. But doing away with autonomy altogether leads to truly monstrous conclusions, which are no less monstrous for being expressed tenderly and eloquently:

But the autonomy regime, even at its best, is deeply inadequate. It is based on a failure to recognize that the human condition involves both giving and needing care, and not always being morally free to decide our own fate.

In the end, the only alternative is a renewed understanding of both the family and human equality – two things ideological liberalism has now abandoned and modern conservatism now defends. Living in a family means accepting the burdens of caring for those bound to us in ties of fidelity – whether parent for child, child for parent, or spouse for spouse. The human answer to our dependency is not living wills but loving surrogates. And for those who believe in human equality, this means treating even the profoundly disabled – people like Terri Schiavo, who are not dead and are not dying – as deserving of at least basic care, so long as the care itself is not the cause of additional suffering. Of course, this does not mean that keeping our loved ones alive is our only goal. But neither can we treat a person’s life as a disease in need of a cure, or aim at death as a means of ending suffering – even if a loved one asks us to do so.

(My emphasis added in the passages in italics.)

Read those italicized passages again, folks. That’s right, even if you yourselves ask your life partner to refuse medical treatment on your behalf if you are severely and profoundly incapacitated, Cohen and his “modern conservatives” will overrule you. Indeed, in the name of championing “loving surrogates” over “living wills” (a euphonic but horrific line), Cohen will treat you as if you are morally incapacitated and thus ineligible to decide your own fate.

OK, now while that’s sinking in, let me explain what liberalism really believes about those fetuses with Down syndrome. In chapter two of Life As We Know It, after a long discussion of prenatal screening, I argue the following, and I aim the argument primarily at genetics counselors – among whom, I am happy to say, I have often found a sympathetic ear:

Obviously I can’t and don’t advocate abortion of fetuses with Down syndrome; indeed, the only argument I have is that such decisions should not be automatic. A fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome should not be understood, either by medical personnel or by parents, as a finding to which abortion is the most logical response. I believe this not only on humanitarian grounds but also as a matter of practicality: unlike Tay-Sachs or trisomy 13, say, Down syndrome is a disability whose effects are too various to predict and often too mild to justify abortion on “quality of life” considerations for the parents and child.

Nonetheless, although this is my belief, it is only my belief. I would not want to see it become something more than belief – something more like a coercive social expectation. There are already plenty of social forces out there telling pregnant women that they may have an abortion only if they agree to be consumed with guilt about it, and I want to do nothing to reinforce those pressures. I believe that no good is achieved by making some forms of childbearing mandatory, even in a matter so close to my heart as this. But by the same token, just as I would deny that I have the right to make other parents feel guilty for aborting a fetus with Down syndrome, so too would I deny that other parents have the right to make Janet and me feel guilty for having Jamie. This is not a “relativist” position: it is based on the ideal of reciprocity. I will not claim right of access to certain areas of your life, so long as you do not claim right of access to equivalent areas of mine. If I do not want to interfere with other people’s most intimate decisions, I also want it understood that those of us who do have “disabled” children are not selfish: we are not a corporate liability, we are not a drain on health care resources, we are not siphoning money away from soup kitchens, environmental protection, or job training and day care for single mothers.

In what one might conceivably call a “hostile” review of my book (in the pages of Books and Culture: A Christian Review), Jean Bethke Elshtain not only literally put words in my mouth (quoting me but interpolating, in brackets, a passage that was entirely her own, suggesting that Janet and I would have aborted Jamie in utero had we known that he had Down syndrome, and deliberately overlooking the fact that our decision to forego amniocentesis was based precisely on our determination to go ahead with the pregnancy regardless of whether the fetus had Down syndrome), but also accused me of “subtly but inexorably blowing out the moral lights among us, as Lincoln said of Douglas’s defense of popular sovereignty in the matter of slavery.” (The review, I have since learned, was awarded first place in the “Critical Review category” by the 1999 Evangelical Press Association Meeting. To which all I can say is, wow.) Here’s the relevant passage (I’d provide the url to the review, but Christianity Today will make you pay at least $7.95 to read the whole thing):

In his words: “If you had told me in August 1991 – or, for that matter, after an amniocentesis in April 1991 – that I’d have to feed my infant by dipping a small plastic tube in K-Y jelly and slipping it into his nose and down his pharynx into his teeny tummy, I’d have told you that I wasn’t capable of caring for such a child. [In other words, had they had amniocentesis, they would likely have opted for abortion.] But by mid-October, I felt as if I had grown new limbs and new areas of the brain to direct them.” He learned that “[y]ou can do this. You can cope with practically everything.” Many parents of children with disabilities make similar discoveries.

But, of course, my point was precisely that parents of children with disabilities make similar discoveries, and that prospective parents should be advised, by medical personnel and genetics counselors, of this fact. Elshtain’s interpolated words – in a sentence that begins “in his words,” no less – are simply dishonest, for two reasons. First, because few neonates with Down syndrome require this kind of care; amniocentesis would not have “told” us that we would need to feed Jamie with a gavage tube. More important, the bracketed sentence allows Elshtain to ignore my discussion of prenatal care information about disabilities, and the reason that’s important, in turn, is that I was trying to persuade ob/gyn practitioners and genetic counselors not to think of the detection of trisomy-21 as a search-and-destroy operation. I criticized the high abortion rate for fetuses with Down syndrome, but unlike those who rely on various invocations of divine authority to dictate the terms of life to others, I would rather decrease the abortion rate by means of persuasion than by means of state coercion.

And that’s what constitutes “blowing out the moral lights among us,” for certain moral theorists. You don’t even have to disagree with their decisions about pregnancy or end-of-life care; you simply have to point out that other people, for their own plausible reasons, might so disagree. In the case of fetuses with Down syndrome, then, it is not enough to bring the pregnancy to term, love the child unconditionally, and encourage others to do likewise in similar circumstances; in order to be properly “moral,” one has to insist that one’s own decision should have the status of a universal law. As a principle, this is clear enough, and for some it will be compelling. But there should be no mystery why liberals would regard it with skepticism, and liberals who do so are not, I repeat not, betraying their best intellectual traditions.

In the course of reading (and reviewing) Rayna Rapp’s fine book, Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America, I learned that people believe all kinds of strange things about pregnancy and disability, and that they frequently make what I would consider poor decisions, or good decisions for poor reasons, largely because they do not think the way I do. At one point in my review, I wrote:

in a more morally nebulous zone are those prospective parents who believe, as one woman puts it, that “having a ‘tard, that’s a bummer for life” or that if the baby “can’t grow up to have a shot at becoming the president, we don’t want him.” Such beliefs are qualitatively different from the belief that a fetus can “acquire” mental retardation from contact with developmentally delayed adults, since they do not involve actual misstatements of fact; but they too are based heavily on misinformation and intellectual parochialism, and they make up a crucial part of the terrain any genetic counselor must traverse. And then, yet again, there’s the question of how we should understand the administrative secretary who tells Rapp, “I don’t think I really believe in chromosomes, I mean, I could see the pictures, but I can’t believe everything is in the chromosomes.”

As ignorant (or as spiritually obvious) as this last remark may sound, the funny thing is that as a description of amniocentesis it’s actually quite right – and it points out the limits of the practical rigor and the hegemonic claims of this particular technoscientific practice. Amniocentesis will not detect autism, or cerebral palsy, or deafness; it will not protect newborns from polio, rubella, diabetes, or farm machinery. Of all the frailties to which human flesh is heir, amniocentesis can identify only Down syndrome – which “accounts for about 50 percent of the chromosome problems detected” – and a mere 800 “much rarer, arcane genetic disabilities.” Amniocentesis, in other words, sees only a tiny fraction of what can go wrong between conception and death. Genes can code for disabilities, but not all disabilities are genetic; not everything is in the chromosomes, after all.

In both the deontological and utilitarian traditions, I believe that prospective parents who say “having a ‘tard, that’s a bummer for life” or “if he can’t grow up to have a shot at becoming the president, we don’t want him” are technically known as “assholes.” And forgive me, all you mullahs and moralists out there, if to this day I remain unpersuaded of the transcendent virtue of compelling such people to bear children with disabilities. (For those of you interested in a more careful and patient response to this question, I recommend this book).

Liberals do not believe, pace Cohen, in treating incompetence itself as reasonable grounds for assuming that life is not worth living. But we do believe in granting others a zone of privacy from state scrutiny in order to allow other people to make intimate decisions about pregnancy or end-of-life care, and we believe that we are bound to honor those decisions even when we ourselves regard them as uninformed or mistaken. Those of us who are familiar with disability issues know that many of our fellow citizens – on the left and on the right – will regard incompetence as reasonable grounds for assuming that life is not worth living. While we may regret this, we do not take our regret as license to override the “living wills” of persons determining for themselves the degree of medical care they wish to receive or refuse. We do not believe that autonomy is the only or the highest good, but we do believe that the refusal to recognize the autonomy of others does violence to their human dignity. And we believe in our own autonomy just enough to resent it deeply when our ideological adversaries try to ventriloquize us in order to misrepresent us.
Posted by Michael on 04/06 at 10:58 AM

On Stopping Stop Loss

From Rox Populi

On Stopping 'Stop Loss'

Emiliano Santiago is just another one of the poor, unsuspecting souls who didn't read the fine print when he signed on for a eight-year hitch with the National Guard. Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro explains:

On June 11, 2004, two weeks before Santiago's National Guard contract was due to expire, his platoon sergeant informed him that he was subject to the Pentagon's controversial "stop-loss" policy and would not be allowed to leave the Guard. Last October, months after his contract was supposed to have ended, the Guard ordered Santiago to report to Fort Sill, Okla., for training in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. Santiago balked. Although he reported to Fort Sill as ordered and is there still, he's fighting the government in court.

On April 6, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear his case. It will be the highest level of court review for the so-called "stop-loss" policy, and Seattle will have a close-up view. The San Francisco–based court is meeting that day at the University of Washington law school, one of the periodic road trips the 9th Circuit takes.

There's alot more in Shapiro's portrait of Santiago's plight, so read the whole thing. But, I want to call your attention to this little gem [emphasis mine]:

Making it all the stranger is that the Army presented him with a new contract that extended his service until 2031. Army spokesperson Hart says the date was arbitrary, meant to allow for "wiggle room." Says Santiago, looking at another 27 years in the Army over and above the eight he signed up for: "It's crazy."

In other words, if Santiago doesn't win his case, he's an indentured servant for the bulk of his working life. And we're his masters. Fuck.

Democracy marches on.