Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq

Tomgram

Words to Die For

... or a New Dawn in Baghdad?

By Tom Engelhardt

My aunt Hilda, whose very name came from some other century, once told me her earliest memory: She was a little girl standing under a large tree in the backyard of her house in Brooklyn, New York, and she cried out for help. Her mother (my grandmother) Celia came out to ask what the matter was. An enormous spider was descending on her, she said, and she was scared. No, my grandmother told her gently, that's not a spider; that's just the tree's shadow. There's nothing to be scared of.

This memory came back to me the other day as I was thinking about the latest round of Bush administration and military commentary on Iraq. With a bow to my long-dead aunt, all you have to do is reverse her image to make sense of America's Iraq today: A giant spider is indeed descending, while top American officials do their best to insist that it's simply 120 degrees in the shade.

Like all wars, the "war in Iraq" or "Iraq war" -- it's never gained the double caps of the Korean or Vietnam Wars -- has also been a war of words. From "homeland" and "unlawful combatant" to "extraordinary rendition" and "Global War on Terror" (aka: World War IV or the Long War), never has an administration reached more often for its dictionaries to create pretzled words and phrases. Its war in Iraq has been no exception. But recently there's been a change, hardly noticed by anyone. The administration's familiar war vocabulary and imagery, which hung in there so remarkably long, has finally disappeared down the memory hole. So many images, tailored for home-front consumption, each meant to help give just a little more time to an increasingly embattled administration, have in recent months disappeared.

When was the last time you heard that the U.S. had "turned the corner" in Iraq? (Okay, Marine commandant Gen. James Conway did return from an early April visit to al-Anbar province, saying, "I think, in that area, we have turned the corner," but old habits do die hard.) Remember those "tipping points" and "turning points" we were always reaching (or reaching for) on our way to mission accomplished? All gone. Or what about those regularly spaced "landmarks" or "milestones" -- the capture of Saddam, the "handing over of sovereignty" to the Iraqis, the "purple finger" election, the killing of Zarqawi -- on our path to success in Iraq? All missing in action.

In fact, how many times have you heard someone in this administration talk about "victory" in 2007? Our "victory" President, who in 2005 used the word 15 times (and "progress" 28) in a single speech introducing his long-forgotten National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, now speaks modestly of indeterminate hints of "success" or of "encouraging signs." Victory, when in administration speeches these days, often seems to have switched teams. Americans -- Republican or administration ones anyway -- may be "surging" in Baghdad, but not, according to most spokespeople, toward "victory." Our efforts of the moment are aimed at trying to staunch the flow of victory to our now omnipresent al-Qaedan opponents, who are being aided and abetted, of course, by the retreat-eager "Democrat" (or "cratic") Party.

George W. Bush, perhaps because the movie-style fantasy of being a victorious "commander-in-chief" was so much on his mind these last years, often admits to a familiarity with the psychology of victory, even when it has migrated elsewhere. As he told American Legion Post 177 the other week, "I also understand the mentality of an enemy that is trying to achieve a victory over us by causing us to lose our will." In last Saturday's radio address to the nation, he insisted that congressional Democrats had "passed bills that would impose restrictions on our military commanders and set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq, giving our enemies the victory they desperately want... Congress must now work quickly and pass a clean bill that funds our troops, without artificial time lines for withdrawal, without handcuffing our generals on the ground..."

(That "handcuffing" image, by the way, has a fine presidential pedigree, even if given a new twist of the wrist by our we-don't-torture President. From Richard Nixon in the Vietnam era to George H. W. Bush at the time of the first Gulf War, American presidents regularly complained that the country was being forced to fight -- or swore that it would not fight -- "with one hand tied behind our back." As the first President Bush put it at the time of our first Gulf War, "No hands are going to be tied behind backs. This is not a Vietnam." Now, a "Democrat Congress," evidently even more infernal than the one Dick Cheney experienced in the early 1970s, is actually planning a double-wristed "handcuff" maneuver. If you're not a kickboxing champion, what a way to fight a war!)

Our geopolitically fundamentalist Vice President, who remains the President's pit bull when it comes to the shrinking Republican base, is perhaps the last priestly guardian of the old language of the Iraq war. As in a recent appearance on the Rush Limbaugh show, Dick ("last throes") Cheney now regularly fulminates against Democratic advocates of "withdrawal from Iraq" whose defeatist policies simply play "right into the hands of al Qaeda… [T]hey're betting… that they can break our will, that they can, in fact, force the American people to retreat, that we'll finally get tired of the battle and go home, and then they win."

Despite the specter of the terrorists taking full possession of victory, Cheney alone seems not to have let winning loose from his grasp. "We will," he typically told the gathered grandees of the Heritage Foundation, "press on in this mission, and we will turn events towards victory."

Along with the brighter side of the administration's war in words, a darker, more fearful side, too, has fled the scene. In 2005-2006, as administration officials were coming up with one explanation after another for why a civil war visibly underway in Iraq actually wasn't, another set of images crept into officialese. Americans and Iraqis were, it was increasingly said, approaching (or prudently stepping back from) "the precipice"; they were at "the brink"; they were looking down into "the abyss"; they were dealing with a situation in which "Pandora's box" itself had been opened.

A year later, civil war is a given -- even the Pentagon has acknowledged it. And yet, on the landscape of official imagery, there's hardly a lurid or crisis image in sight. That was, after all, so last year.

In fact, with rare exceptions, the language of Bush's Washington (and Baghdad) has been swept remarkably clean of the past -- and, on the tabula rasa of no-image, in place of everything that once was there, a new set of words and images have been implanted. Consciously or not, these mine a deep strain in our national mythology: the belief in an all-American right to a second chance, to light out for the territories and start anew.

As a description of reality on the ground in a country wracked by mass killing, flight, destruction, civil war, religious strife, ethnic cleansing, vast flows of refugees, private militias, insurgents, terrorists, foreign jihadis, criminals, and kidnappers, this new language may be out to lunch, but in terms of its appeal on the "home front," it has in its cross hairs the deepest realms of the American character.

A New Dawn in Baghdad?

As this year began, the President was already touting the 2007 strategy model for Iraq, a "new plan to secure Baghdad." In his most recent radio address, he said, "The American people voted for change in Iraq [in November 2006], and that is exactly what our new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is working to achieve."

Over four years after the President officially launched the invasion of Iraq with a Disneyesque shock-and-awe spectacular over Baghdad, almost four years after he declared "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" against the backdrop of a banner that read "mission accomplished," all is again "new" in that country. If the pronouncements of his top military and civilian officials were to be believed, we are now at the dawn of a new military/political moment in Iraq, the kind of moment in which you just can't help using words like "first" and "early" and "beginning." It's so early, in fact, that no one can possibly gauge whether the President's "new plan," now two months old on-the-ground, is working -- and it will be many months more (for the fair-minded, anyway) before the rudiments of such an assessment can be hazarded.

After all, the full contingent of new "surge" combat troops won't even be in place until June. As Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, Commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, has pointed out, even thinking about thinking about the new plan is going to be inappropriate for some time to come. "I plan," he said recently, "on making a first assessment probably some time in the summer, July or August time frame, where I'll give my recommendation to General Petraeus, and then he'll take a look at that and make his recommendation up the chain of command."

President Bush has made the same point this way: "[T]his operation is just getting started"; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice similarly pointed out that the surge was still only "at the beginning"; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared this "early in the process," way too early, in fact, for any judgments. "Premature" was the word he used. "It's sort of like we keep pulling this tree up by the roots to see if it's growing... And, you know, I think General Petraeus has said the end of the summer"; General Petraeus, the much-lauded strategist running the counterinsurgency operation in Baghdad, helpfully pointed out that the operation is "still early days."

Senator John McCain, on returning from his stroll around that Baghdad market, pleaded for time for the -- to pick up on Gate's image -- sapling of strategy to grow. "It is my obligation," he told the assembled cadets of the Virginia Military Academy, "to encourage Americans to give it a chance to succeed."

This is a babe of a plan about which our top officials are being suitably cautious, as you would be with any creature that was just wobbling to its feet for the first time. However, they can't help but be optimistic. And so they are -- from the President ("there are some encouraging signs… we're beginning to see some progress toward the mission") to the Vice-President ("We've got a new commander in the field… I think we are making progress") to that commander ("encouraging indicators") to his lieutenant Odierno ("steady progress is being made") to presidential hopeful McCain ("the first glimmers of progress under General Petraeus' political-military strategy… [are] cause for very cautious optimism"), and on down through the serried ranks.

Administration-backing pundits, themselves cautiously dipping toes in water, nonetheless agree on every count, touting cautious optimism and, like Senator McCain, pleading for Americans -- and especially Democrats -- to give war a chance. As David Brooks of the New York Times put the matter on the Lehrer News Hour: "[T]here's a lot more good news than a lot of us would have expected. And the fact is, this deserves a shot to play out over a few months, until August, and then we can, I think, make other decisions." Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, in a piece entitled "The Surge: First Fruits" offered this bit of upbeat but cautious optimism: "The news from Anbar [Province] is the most promising." Like Brooks, he worries, however, that the child may be smothered in the crib by you-know-who: "How at this point -- with only about half of the additional surge troops yet deployed -- can Democrats be trying to force the United States to give up?"

And, talking about a tabula rasa world of war words, let's not forget "Plan B." The question arose early in 2007 of what -- if the surge should somehow fail somewhere down the road -- "Plan B" might be for the Bush administration. Of course, it's a passing advantage of the image itself that the President's surge strategy then becomes, by definition, Plan A. Those who bother to mention Plan A confirm this. In March, for instance, in a White House meeting with some state governors, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace spoke to the question of Plan B. "Pace had a simple way of summarizing the administration's position, Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.) recalled. ‘Plan B was to make Plan A work.'" Ah! Brilliant. No wonder Secretary of State Rice concurred. In response to a challenge from Sen. John Kerry about what might happen if Prime Minister Maliki's government didn't live up to "the assurances they gave us," Rice replied: "I don't think you go to Plan B. You work with Plan A."

Republican Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, testing the presidential waters added this gem: "When people start asking what's plan B, let's go to plan A. Plan A let's win. Plan B, let's win. If we have to come up with another plan, let's win." While Senator McCain, in a front-page New York Times interview, simply threw his proverbial hands up and admitted: "I have no Plan B. If I saw that doomsday scenario evolving, then I would try to come up with one."

No one seemed to wonder if the American playbook, now over four years old, really only consisted of the first two letters in our alphabet; nor did anyone ask what, in fact, all those other confused plans the Bush administration put in place in Iraqi occupation years one through four were. Instead Plan B, like all those firsts and earlys, those uprooted saplings and encouraging initial steps offered an all-American composite image of starting over from scratch.

All of this, of course, is an extraordinary language in which to frame events in Iraq so many disastrous years after the invasion, with history's judgment already weighing so heavily on our President's plan to take down Saddam and recreate "the Greater Middle East" in an American image. All of this is no less extraordinary -- verging on obscenity -- as a collective description of a world of death, destruction, and mayhem in which, in a completely unremarkable Iraqi day -- this Monday -- the "early" tallies showed 6 GIs and 69 Iraqis killed and 39 wounded (and we're only talking about immediately reported bodies here); while on the previous day, 5 GIs, 2 Britons, and 109 Iraqis died (with 173 were wounded), and on the day before that, 164 Iraqis were killed, 345 injured, and 26 kidnapped. In terms only of the recorded dead of those three "normal" days of "stability and security" under the President's "surge" plan, we're talking, in terms of the dead, about the equivalent of more than 12 Virginia-Tech-style massacres.

Americans, who notoriously don't put much faith in history, put a great deal of faith in newness. So the President's "surge" plan has been polished new as a gleaming apple. Forget that this isn't the first time American troops have "surged" into Baghdad and that just about every element of the plan is old as Methuselah -- and has already failed in Iraq or somewhere else. Take, for instance, the decision to turn numerous neighborhoods in Baghdad into what are now being called (in another triumph of ludicrously upbeat naming), "gated communities." These will be patterned on "gated communities" previously tested out in the cities of Tal Afar and Falluja (with grim results). Those gatings had more of the Orwellian than Californian about them and were more like incarceration centers than Century Villages. Over-elaborate as they sound, these "gated communities" are undoubtedly doomed to fail. Not only did the French try something similar in Algeria, but we lived through the rural equivalent -- "strategic hamlets" -- in Vietnam and they were a disaster.

In the end, all of this is likely to prove but another linguistic strategy for buying time and the military men tasked with carrying the plan out surely know that. Lt. Gen. Odierno, for example, commented recently: "If we're able to create the security and stability within Iraq, that then buys the time"; while Gen. Petraeus put the matter vividly indeed:

"…[T]he Washington clock is moving more rapidly than the Baghdad clock, so we're obviously trying to speed up the Baghdad clock a bit and to produce some progress on the ground that can perhaps give hope to those in the coalition countries, in Washington, and perhaps put a little more time on the Washington clock."

So think of the new Bush administration language of war as a kind of installment plan, a time-buying operation, a desperate attempt to wipe out a disastrous four years (as well as the results of the recent midterm elections and every opinion poll in sight). Don't think of it as a plan for victory, or even a plan for the security of the city-state of Baghdad. It is, in the end, an administration attempt, while the "clock" ticks less than encouragingly, to creep through at least to November 2008, or to Plan B or C or Z, anything that will keep defeat away from the door for a few months more.

Calling Names by Their Things in Iraq

Among the stranger aspects of the war is this: At least three foundational pieces of the American occupation of Iraq have essentially gone nameless. Yet, without them, the last years can make little sense. Amid the endless interviews, news conferences, press briefings, radio addresses, speeches, and talk radio and television interviews that come out of this administration in weekly, if not daily, surges -- the tens upon tens of thousands of words that pour from Washington and the Green Zone of Baghdad -- these three subjects remain largely unmentioned, largely uncovered in a media that has relied so heavily on the administration's framing of the issues. Where there is no language, of course, things exist in consciousness in, at best, the most shadowy of forms, leaving Americans tongue-tied on matters of genuine import.

Here they are in brief order:

Air Power: Consider a recent exchange between a reporter and Secretary of Defense Gates

"Q Can you talk a little bit about the bombing today in Iraq?

"SEC. GATES: I don't know much more about it than you all do."

Even if you know nothing about the actual subject of this question, you should automatically know one thing: It wasn't about American air power. In fact, the reporter was bringing up the recent suicide bombing inside a cafeteria in the Iraqi parliament building. But in both Iraq and Afghanistan, there's a simple rule of these last years: They bomb, we don't. If you Google the words "bombing" and "Iraq," you'll see what I mean.

Air power has long been the American way of war. In fact, the use of air power with all its indiscriminate terror has, in the last year, ratcheted up strikingly in Afghanistan and may now be in the process of doing the same in Iraq. (It's hard to tell without the necessary reporting.) Journalists in Baghdad evidently do not look up -- and military press briefers don't point to the skies. We have, in fact, been bombing and missiling in heavily populated urban areas of Iraq throughout the occupation years. But no descriptive language has been developed that would capture in any significant way the loosing of the U.S. Air Force on either country; and so, in a sense, the regular (if, in Iraq, still limited) use of air power has next to no reality for Americans, even though Iraq's skies are filled with attack helicopters, jets, and drones.

Permanent Bases: Every now and then some political figure mentions the possibility of, at some future moment, withdrawing American troops into the vast, multi-billion-dollar permanent bases that have been (and are still being) constructed in Iraq. Some of these are large enough to be small American towns (with their own multiple bus routes). Balad Air Base, for example, along with its 20,000 troops and its contractors, has air traffic that rivals Chicago's O'Hare Airport. At least four such mega-bases were planned before the invasion began. Early on, they were called "enduring camps" by the Pentagon, which had charm as well as a certain rudimentary accuracy. But over these years, the bases have rarely been mentioned by the administration and seldom attended to by the media. They remain a major fact-on-the-ground in Iraq -- and in Bush administration plans for that country -- but we have next to no real language for taking in their massive reality, so they remain a non-issue, nearly nonexistent in American debate about Iraq.

Most "withdrawal" plans now being offered by our Congressional representatives, for instance, only account for the withdrawal of "combat brigades," not troops guarding the bases, which means, of course, that after most imagined "withdrawals," these vast bases are to remain well staffed. Little wonder Iraqis of just about every stripe are suspicious of us and our intentions in their country. And what descriptive language is there for what Washington Post on-line columnist William Arkin calls "a Pentagon-like military headquarters in the Green Zone" or the "largest Embassy in the universe," also being built in that massively fortified citadel in the heart of the Iraqi capital. When an embassy is to have a "staff" of many thousands, along with its own water and electricity systems, and its own anti-missile defenses, the very word "embassy" no longer has much meaning. We have no word for such a symbol of (attempted) permanent domination of a country and so, most of the time, nothing much is said.

Mercenaries: When the mainstream media speaks of the approximately 170,000 troops that will be in Iraq after the surge or "plus-up" is theoretically complete, they are perpetrating a fiction. As a start, just about no one counts the support troops in Kuwait, on ships off the coast, or in the region generally, which would certainly bring the figure up closer to 250,000. And it's rare to see anyone discussing the hordes of mercenaries, known politely as "private contractors," on the ground in Iraq working for rent-a-cop corporations. These range in numbers from the Pentagon's division-sized estimate of 20,000 up to 100,000, depending on how (and who) you decide to count. As part of the privatizing of the American military, they are undertaking various military and semi-military duties and have, as a group, recently been classified, according to Jeremy Scahill, as "an official part of the U.S. war machine."

They are a force (or a rabble) beyond control, beyond the law. (Not a single hired gun has yet been brought up on charges for any of their lawless acts in Iraq.) Their numbers, like their casualties, are essentially unknown; their tasks, largely unexplored; and, as "private contractor" indicates, there is no suitable descriptive language for them either. As a result, there is little way for Americans to grasp the essential lawlessness of the American occupation of Iraq, the real numbers involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or just how far our former citizen military has gone down the path to becoming a mercenary military.

With these key aspects of the invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq -- for which language has failed us so badly -- missing in action, much in the situation remains hidden, mysterious, even incomprehensible to us, though not necessarily to the Iraqis or, in many cases, to readers and viewers elsewhere on the planet.

A Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq

The developing administration language for the President's surge plan in Baghdad (and al-Anbar Province) does several things. It manufactures "newness" from some of the older and less promising materials around; it creates a "new" plan out of ancient, failed strategies, not to say, the thinnest of air. It also strips Iraq of some of its recent horrendous past, and us of our responsibility for it. In this case at least, that is what "starting over" really means.

This new, hopeful language offers one group -- and only one -- a "second" chance: the top officials of an administration that otherwise looked to be in its last throes. It has bought a little time for George Bush, while adding some new twisted definitions to an American Devil's Dictionary of War in Iraq, all the while carefully leaving blank pages where significant definitional chunks of reality should be.

But make no mistake, whatever words may be wielded, that "clock" of General Petraeus's is indeed ticking --loudly enough to be a bomb. Sooner or later, it will go off and whether it proves to be an alarm, waking Congress and the American people, or an explosion demolishing some aspect of our world remains unknown. In June or August or October, when horrific reality in Iraq outpaces whatever the Bush administration tries to call it, we may have our answer and perhaps then reality will name us.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.

Copyright 2007 Tom Engelhardt

Top UK defense official jailed for taking bribes from US arms dealer

Senior MoD jailed for taking bribes from US arms dealer

Last updated at 17:16pm on 16th April 2007

A senior Ministry of Defence official who built a luxury villa in the sun with bribes for helping an American company win a lucrative contract has been jailed for two years.

Greedy Michael Hale's lengthy betrayal of trust saw the American company being fed so much confidential information that it was able to run circles around the competition.

In addition to backhanders of more than £217,000, the 58-year-old civil servant's five-star lifestyle featured free flights, champagne hospitality aboard an ocean-going cruiser and stays in top hotels, London's Southwark Crown Court heard.

But when his secret paymaster was taken over by another firm, "due diligence" attorneys in California uncovered a total of nine corrupt payments paid to him over the years.

The US authorities promptly informed the MoD.

During the ensuing investigation both his wife and stepson were arrested and wrongly accused of money-laundering. They were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

Hale, of Crown Mews, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, pleaded guilty to nine counts of accepting bribes from Pacific Consolidated Industries between November 1999 and July 2003.

He showed no reaction as Judge Christopher Elwen told him jail was inevitable for his life of crime.

He said the £4.5 million contract Hale was in charge of as a team leader and a senior professional technology officer was for the supply of gas and containment equipment for all three services, particularly the RAF.

He said: "The first set of payments, all of which were actually made in US dollars, was made to you using your stepson's bank account.

"The second set of payments were paid from an American account to one in Spain in relation to the purchase and building of a five-bedroom villa with swimming pool in Benidorm.

"You were well aware of the strict rules about behaviour to be avoided so as not to raise the presumption of corruption.

"In that context you got to know Pacific Consolidated Industries (PCI) in Santa Ana, California, initially on a legitimate basis.

"But the relationship with that company and in particular with one of the company's vice-presidents, one Lee Smith, became corrupt."

The judge said that if the normal tendering process had been followed, interested companies would have received only the "general specifications" of what was needed in order to "trigger and provoke innovation of solutions".

"But as a result of your intervention, that tender process became, on occasions, entirely corrupted.

"In other words, the playing field sloped considerably in favour of PCI and against everybody else who chose to enter into the competition."

He continued: "It is suggested on your behalf that nothing you did resulted in the MoD being supplied with sub-standard equipment.

"There is, however, no doubt that offences of this nature, which to put it bluntly are the taking of bribes by public servants involving breach of trust and breach of confidence, can be visited by an immediate custodial sentence.

"And sentences for public servants acting corruptly contain an element of deterrence as well as punishment."

Christopher Donnellan, prosecuting, said the investigation by MoD police revealed the full extent of Hale's life of luxury.

Apart from his five-bedroom Spanish villa, he bought another house near his home and enjoyed "lavish hospitality" from his alleged American partner-in-crime, who is still awaiting trial.

"He was taken out for meetings and dealings on Lee Smith's boat and air fares and hotel bills paid for him," said counsel.

A confiscation hearing will be held later this year.

Dare To Look Back

April 17, 2007

By Sheila Samples

"...the high office of the President has been used to ferment a plot to destroy the American's freedom, and before I leave office, I must inform the citizens of this plight." John F. Kennedy (November 12, 1963, Columbia U, 10 days before his assassination)


I cannot recall a single day since Vulcans' Godfather James Baker sent his thuggish henchman John Bolton to Florida's Palm Beach County to screw up the vote count that has not been filled with horror, anger, shame -- despair. On Dec. 9, 2000 -- three days before the Florida deadline -- the US Republic shuddered on its axis when Bolton crashed through the doors of a Tallahassee library where Miami-Dade ballots were being recounted and shouted triumphantly -- "I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count!"

In that instant we lost most of what had taken more than two centuries to build. In one fell swoop, Americans were thrust into the mire of an Orwellian World spinning out of control on the other side of the Looking Glass. What a tragedy -- not that so many failed to realize their government had just been seized in a coup de'etat -- but that the few who did refused to acknowledge it.

The sudden unconstitutional decision by five unelected right-wing activist Supreme Court justices to blatantly steal an election for one of their own -- to stop the vote count so Bush would not be "embarassed" by losing -- was a frightening assault upon the separation of powers, the American people, and upon democracy itself.

Having upset the national equilibrium, George Bush and Dick Cheney hit the deck at a dead run, trashing everything in their path. Like a couple of deranged Benny Hills with "Yakety Sax" blaring in the background, they trashed treaties, insulted other world leaders, and undermined Constitutional restraints on everything that stood between them and their goal of worldwide corporate pillage and total executive power.

Those who dare to look back will be struck by the speed at which they resurrected the zombies of the Iran-Contra era, the tyrannical neo-Straussians, and the godless right-wing evangelical warmongers, Talk about an Axis! The stage was set for their long-planned crusade to gain control of not only the world and its resources but of space and cyberspace as well. The only thing lacking was an incident to catapault them into the war for which they lusted -- an incident of such magnitude that cries of dissent would be lost in the roar for war.

Their vision of global dominance supplied them with moral justification for the filthy lies that took us into two wars and is threatening a third. "It is ironic," writes Canadian author and professor Shadia Drury, "that American neoconservatives have decided to conquer the world in the name of liberty and democracy, when they have so little regard for either." Drury has written two books on the philosophy of Leo Strauss, and she writes that Strauss believed "religion and war -- perpetual war -- would lift the masses from the animality of bourgeois consumption and the pre-occupation with 'creature comforts'. Instead of personal happiness, they would live their lives in perpetual sacrifice to God and the nation."

Neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, Irving and Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, John Negroponte, and many others, took from Strauss a doctrine of "all politics all the time" -- nasty, deceptive and repressive -- whatever it takes for the elite to exercise control over the vulgar unwashed. That would be you and me, fellow Americans, and Strauss said we could be inspired to rise above our "brutish existence only by fear of impending death or catastrophe." The lies they told, and continue to tell, according to Drury, are "noble lies for the consumption of the masses."

We are in the clutches of an evil, evil group of psychopaths -- warmongering moral cowards whose faux leader, George W. Bush, is a shallow, self-destructive little bully who deserted his military post during a time of war. Perhaps the most frightening of all is Michael Ledeen. Looking back, some might remember that Ledeen was Secretary of State Alexander Haig's advisor, a member of the National Security Council and a consultant for Ronald Reagan's Department of Defense. He played a central role in the Iran-Contra scandal. It was Ledeen who made the initial contact with Iranian arms dealers, which launched the arms-for-hostages affair and could have -- should have -- brought down the Reagan presidency.

Anyone reading Ledeen's book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, will recognize the Bush doctrine and know that the horror of 9-11 was a foregone conclusion -- a "done deal" -- the minute they seized the 2000 election. Ledeen wrote, "To be an effective leader, the most prudent method is to ensure that your people are afraid of you. To instill that fear, you must demonstrate that those who attack you will not survive."

On the evening of 9-11, Bush went before a paralyzed nation and, after a brief comment about praying, grieving and mourning for the 3,000 victims of that terrible day, he announced, "Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil." Then, warming to his subject, Bush rammed home what would become his mantra for the next six years -- "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." He then assured the masses that he would make no distinction between the "terrorists" and the regimes that harbored them. Bush's vision for revenge was to chase them all over the world and kill them all...

But a vision is not a plan. Looking back, it appears that Bush's plan for perpetual war is sending Americans to their deaths, unequipped and untrained, while bellowing, "Support the Troops!" Bush's plan is destroying an entire nation, its culture, its infrastructure -- raping, torturing and slaughtering its people for no reason other than he can. It is creating a humanitarian crisis of mind-boggling proportions -- more than 3.9 million Iraqis have fled their homes to safer areas in Iraq and in neighboring countries.

For Americans, it is more than a momentary inconvenience that 3,302 of their sons and daughters have needlessly been killed, 40 just last week, and that more than 26,000 have been wounded, broken, maimed -- their lives and those of their loved ones utterly destroyed. Stretching our military with its proud and honorable tradition of protecting this country until it breaks and then outsourcing legions of mercenaries to do our dirty work of preemptive attacks and occupation of other countries is not a plan that Americans will support.

Bush reminds us on a daily basis that our world changed on "September the 11th." That is true. But we must dare to look back even further to that dark December day when five Supreme Court judges made the ghastly decision that spawned the horrors of not only 9-11, but of the carnage in which we are embroiled today.

Before that bleak day, I had never used the f-word nor uttered the Lord's name in vain. However, as this nation teeters on the cusp of spiritual, physical and political death, I can only pray that God will damn them. Every last fucking one of them. Please God. Damn them all.


Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at: rsamples@sirinet.net

Articles of Impeachment To Be Filed On Cheney: Dennis Kucinich

Looks like he's reached his boiling point.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the most liberal of the Democratic presidential candidates in the primary field, declared in a letter sent to his Democratic House colleagues this morning that he plans to file articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kucinich has made ending the war in Iraq the central theme of his campaign. He has even taken aim at the leading Democratic presidential candidates in the field for their votes on authorizing the war.


Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution
gives Congress the authority to impeach the president, vice president and "all civil Officers of the United States" for "treason, bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Sources tell the Sleuth that in light of the mass killings at Virginia Tech Monday, Kucinich's impeachment plans have been put on hold. There will be no action this week, they say.

Kucinich's office had no comment on the Congressman's "Dear Colleague" letter -- which apparently was drafted over the weekend, before the school massacre -- or on what the focus of articles of impeachment against Cheney would be.

But Kucinich shouldn't hold his breath on getting anywhere with his impeachment plan. "We'll see a Kucinich Administration before we'll see a Cheney impeachment," quipped one Democratic aide.


Here is the text of his letter, a copy of which was forwarded to the Sleuth:


April 17, 2007

Dear Colleague:

This week I intend to introduce Articles of Impeachment with respect to the conduct of Vice President Cheney. Please have your staff contact my office . . . if you would like to receive a confidential copy of the document prior to its introduction in the House.

Sincerely,

/s/

Dennis J. Kucinich

Member of Congress

By Mary Ann Akers | April 17, 2007; 10:09 AM ET

Truth or tricks?

According to Shin Bet, a Hamas-inspired suicide bombing in Tel Aviv was narrowly averted last month. But the details of the story scarcely stack up.

April 17, 2007 8:15 PM

Conal Urquhart

The message in last week's Israeli press was clear. Tel Aviv had just avoided a bloodbath and Hamas were back in the business of launching suicide attacks against Israel.

Anyone exposed to the Israeli media would have been left in no doubt that a tragedy had been averted and Hamas, after a three-year moratorium on suicide attacks against Israel, had reverted to type.

The problem is that the Shin Bet press release that led to blanket coverage raises far more questions than it answers - none of which were asked by the Israeli media, or passed onto the Israeli public.

According to a press release from the prime minister's office last week on behalf of Shin Bet, a Hamas terrorist drove a 100kg car bomb to Tel Aviv with the aim of blowing it up over the Passover holiday. The driver got past a large Israeli checkpoint and then drove through the towns of Kfar Sava and Herzliya before reaching Tel Aviv. For some reason, the "suicide-terrorist" had second thoughts and returned home to the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, where he parked the vehicle in a "backyard", according to Ha'aretz.

By this time, Shin Bet awoke to the threat and, with the help of the army, arrested 19 suspects in Qalqiliya. According to the press release: "During the aforesaid wave of arrests, the vehicle exploded in a 'work accident'."

The bomb would have had a devastating effect on Tel Aviv. According to Shin Bet, the vehicle was loaded with "powerful explosives" and "considerable shrapnel". It is fair to guess the effect on Qalqiliya, where it exploded on March 14 or 15 according to the prime minister's office which deals with the public affairs of Shin Bet, would have been equally damaging.

Qalqiliya is a small, densely-populated town of 33,000, which is almost completely surrounded by a 30-foot concrete wall. However, no one in Qalqiliya could recall any kind of explosion in the town in recent months.

Ahmed Abu Hazar, a resident of Qalqiliya and Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said he first heard of the arrests and the bomb plot from Israeli media. "Qalqiliya is a very small place and everyone know or hears what happens. I have asked my children, neighbours and friends, but they have heard nothing. When there was a small gas explosion a few months ago, everyone rushed to the scene, but about this we have heard nothing," he said.

Riad Amr, the Qalqiliya correspondent for the Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency, said that he had reported on the arrest of 19 men in Qalqiliya, but had not been able to substantiate rumours of an explosion.

Some might say that Palestinians have an interest in covering up the handiwork of their compatriots, but the confusion in Qalqiliya was mirrored by the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. When first asked about the explosion, Miri Eisen, the spokeswoman, commented that the explosion of 100kg of TNT would be hard not to notice. After seeking clarification of the exact location of the explosion from Shin Bet, Ms Eisen could only reiterate that the explosion had occurred in Qalqiliya.

If it was difficult to find the site of the explosion in Qalqiliya, it was easy to find the identity of the "suicide-terrorist". Mr Abu Hazar said the suspect was a distant relative and organised a meeting with his father, Yusef Obeid. Mr Obeid said his son, who carried an Israeli identity card, was arrested by the army on March 28, but the family were given no reason for the arrest.

Shin Bet specified that the "suicide-terrorist" carried an Israeli identity card and drove an Israeli-licenced vehicle. Ms Eisen said she could not state the name of the suspect but confirmed that he was the only one of the 19 men detained who carried an Israeli identity card.

Ali Obeid's Israeli-registered vehicle is still parked outside his house. It looks freshly painted and completely intact. Shin Bet did not state directly that it was Ali Obeid's vehicle that carried the explosives to Tel Aviv and later exploded, but other Israeli media did. The statement says that Ali Obeid's vehicle's "temporary Israeli licence plates facilitated its use by the Hamas terrorists".

It is possible that Shin Bet have more information, which they are unwilling to share, and that there is a destroyed Israeli-registered commercial vehicle in a devastated area of Qalqiliya somewhere. But why were they so quick to implant a fear in the Israeli public without the details to back it up? Why did the Israeli media fail to demand those details?

Ms Eisen explained that the details of the attack were still vague. "We cannot be exact on these things as the investigation is still ongoing."

The investigation continues, and may or may not lead to a trial. The only certain effect of the story is that many Israelis will have their suspicion and fear of Palestinians revived and reinforced.

Cif editor note: the headline on this blog was changed at 10pm to better reflect the piece

Conal Urquhart is a correspondent for the Guardian based in Israel.

North Korea: U.S. lies exposed

"Charges by the U.S. Treasury Department that a small bank in Macau knowingly laundered counterfeit U.S. currency on behalf of North Korea have no basis in fact,..."
---
Posted on Tue, Apr. 17, 2007

Report challenges U.S. allegations against Macau bank

BY KEVIN G. HALL

Charges by the U.S. Treasury Department that a small bank in Macau knowingly laundered counterfeit U.S. currency on behalf of North Korea have no basis in fact, according to a confidential audit ordered by the government of the Chinese enclave.

The audit, obtained by McClatchy News Service, also suggests that the Treasury overstated claims that the bank laundered ''hundreds of millions'' in ill-gotten gains through Banco Delta Asia.

On the basis of the allegations, the Treasury Department on March 14 blacklisted the tiny, family-controlled bank, which now is on the verge of being driven out of business.

The Bush administration now says it approves the release of $25 million originally frozen in Macau at Washington's behest, but portions of this Banco Delta Asia money tied to North Korea apparently have not been received by the regime's leaders. Consequently, they missed Saturday's deadline to begin dismantling a nuclear reactor as agreed to on Feb. 13 as part of an agreement with the United States and four other nations.

''From our investigations it is apparent that . . . the Bank did not introduce counterfeit U.S. currency notes into circulation,'' the Ernst & Young audit said, noting that large cash deposits from North Korea were routinely screened for counterfeits by the Hong Kong branch of an unidentified bank with U.S. operations.

CASTING DOUBT

The audit's conclusions about the laundering of counterfeit currency are significant because they cast doubt on Bush administration claims that North Korea has engaged in state-sponsored counterfeiting and introducing these fake bills via Banco Delta.

Moreover, the audit confirmed that the only time Banco Delta knowingly handled counterfeit U.S. notes was in 1994 when its inspectors discovered 100 counterfeit $100 bills and turned over $10,000 to local authorities. That $10,000 is far from the $15 million in counterfeit U.S. currency the Bush administration in 2005 said North Korea was manufacturing annually.

Ernst & Young presented the audit to Macanese banking regulators in December 2005 in response to concerns raised in Treasury's Sept. 20, 2005, proposed action against Banco Delta. The bank's lawyers offered to present the report to Treasury officials in October 2006 but insisted that it be excluded from access under the Freedom of Information Act -- in other words kept secret from the media. Treasury refused the offer.

The copy of the audit obtained by McClatchy News Service excises the names of North Korean entities and officials to protect their identities. The names of some banks with U.S. ties are also redacted.

Until now, the story of Banco Delta's travails has played out behind a wall of secrecy imposed by U.S., Chinese and Macanese regulators. But the audit, aspects of which were reported earlier by McClatchy News Service, for the first time spells out exactly what Treasury's concerns were and what international auditors discovered.

SMALL OPERATION

Banco Delta Asia is a private, family-run bank whose major shareholder is Stanley Au. Its deposits were only about $318 million before Treasury took action against it in 2005, and by last July its deposits had dwindled to $205 million. The audit reveals that Banco Delta handled North Korean accounts for decades.

For reasons not stipulated in the audit, Macanese monetary authorities in September 2004 asked Banco Delta to strengthen its internal controls over North Korea-related accounts or end the risky business of transferring North Korea's cash deposits and gold bullions. The bank apparently did not heed that advice.

The audit is hardly a clean bill of health for Banco Delta, finding the small enterprise lacked sufficient information about the underlying nature of the business for which North Korean companies or their partners in Macau were depositing large sums of cash.
© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

Um Noor: Inside Iraq

April 16, 2007

Is there a proverb that says everything unpredictable happens in the morning?

A knock on the front door at seven in the morning is not predictable; I jumped. What now?

I look out the entrance window hesitantly to find a small lady covered in black from head to toe, standing outside.


Um Noor!


Um Noor (mother of Noor) is a sweet soul in a tiny frame, who used to come help me with household duties once a week, from 2000 until I went away in Feb, 2003.


I am ecstatic! I have been trying to find her ever since I came back; she is so energetic and so proud of her faultless work.


I open the door with a cry of welcome on my lips, and she comes in. She looks at me and bursts out crying.


And the story comes pouring out.


She was happily married for twenty years, when Iraq was occupied.


After a while strange, little used words start flying around.


Sunni … Shiite … Sunni … Shiite … Then fighting started breaking out because of this long submerged difference. In her neighborhood, as in the greater majority of Baghdad's neighborhoods, no one is really sure who on their bloc is Sunni, or Shiite; and nobody really cares.


Soon after, the IEDs and car bombs started taking their toll from people still bewildered as to: Why is this happening?


BOOM! She loses her husband, on his way to work, a Shiite.


Being a Sunni herself, she is urged - very strongly - to move away; their part of Amil is Shiite controlled.


Having nowhere to go, she stays.


A car stops in front of their home.


BANG, BANG, BANG! She loses her son (20), her brother, and nephew

She takes her remaining children and flees, finding no haven - except in Abu Ghraib, (Sunni controlled) where she lives in perpetual fear lest her dark secret be uncovered: that her kids are – of course – Shiite.


Her two remaining sons (16 and 10) live imprisoned in their hut; she has buried all their IDs and tells everyone that they got lost …………and as a result they cannot receive rations.


They are starving to death.


How, and why, has it suddenly become important, this Sunni – Shiite business; and since when did Iraqis care?


I myself had not even heard the terms until I was an adult.

How to help????????


Can anyone see a light at the end of this dark, dark, tunnel?

Separatism becomes the only way to save U.S. ideals from the North American Union

April 17, 2007

by Darryl Smith

The elite driven political-military-industrial complex is pursuing an agenda to create a North American Union (NAU), in which capitalism can flourish, without being interfered with by the democratic aspirations of "ordinary Americans". NAU is essentially a project to create a new continental government run by elites, "freed" of having their commercial profits "improperly dampened" by labour rights "inconveniences" like minimum wages, other basic human rights considerations, or environmental protection legislation. States and other local organizations have passed resolutions against the NAU agenda. Anti-NAU resolutions have reportedly been launched by states which include Arizona, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, South Dakota, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Georgia. However, these resolutions have no effective constitutional authority, relative to elite interests that seek via their influence over the central government, to create a "super-state", which is not inspired by democracy. As a result, the only effective way which Americans can protect the spirit which lies within local communities across the nation, is to at least "temporarily" become democratically-inspired independent countries.

The "Republic of Cascadia" website stipulates the following within this spirit:

Why do we Cascadians [comprising of the current states of Oregon and Washington which used to be 'Oregon Country'] remain in this economic tragedy? We pay more in federal taxes and get back less. We have more national guard casualties than most parts of this corporatist system. Our lands and forests (our Mother) are seen as the profits of others. Our resources and commons are bottled, plastic wrapped, packaged, exported-to-be-imported and remarketed to be sold to us as something "owned" by filthy rich elite often from outside of Cascadia. We fear that our rights as states will be usurped by people who do not value our way of life or worldview.

America's current plight under elites that are purusing an apparent agenda of perpetuated war, have historical origins in the very Revolutionary War that occurred at the inception of America. Intellectually, that Revolution was partially inspired by democratic ideals. However, the culture of violence associated with that Revolution spawned an ensuing militaristic expansionist agenda from the Thirteen Colonies across the continent to the Pacific. Indeed, the consolidation of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, was not executed by persuading aboriginal peoples and colonizing settlers of the 'virtues of American democracy'. The consolidation of America and the birth of states was done through the same kind of coercion which America now carries with it in many different parts of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The whole "raison d'ĂȘtre" concerning America's existence has become too closely aligned to a consciousnesses of jingoism and militarism, which inevitably brings with it, oppression-driven and greed-driven operation by elites.

The spirit of American democracy exists at the local level, in America's neighbourhoods, cities, aboriginal societies and state-regions, which had historically operated within distinctive governments, before being taken over by the Washington D.C. by connected elite generals, and by Yankee industrialists who rebelled against Britain. However, America, as a society today, exists primarily as a "national security state" under a demonic consciousness which seeks to take-over the world, as they took over "Indian country", the colonies of New France, Oregon Territory, and other territories.

Re-affirming America as a democracy would require totally re-inventing America. How? Americans would need to literally separate themselves in temporary independent countries, based upon vibrant democratic ideals and constitutions. These initiatives include establishing countries within the current borders of America, where citizens can finally get the kind of policies passed by responsive democratic legislatures, which the current elite-driven political economy now deprives them of. These policies include universal public healthcare, and other policies which safeguard local social fabric and vital environmental heritages, which all Americans rely on for their quality-of-survival. The Alaska Independence Party, and Cascadia (which is a movement to essentially re-establish the sovereignty of the former colony of the Oregon Country), are examples of grassroots attempts to separate from a perceived context of oppressive centrally executed power, that is in the control of anti-democratic elites.

The current "United States of America" has become "a project" of elites, which seek to continue a path of military expansionism that crossed Indian country and colonized settlements to engulf the whole of North America; and toward the sought engulfing of the whole world under a fascistic "New World Order". These elites are pursuing a course to end America anyways through their project to create the NAU.

Americans can either choose to become oppressed under this elite driven NAU scheme, or to revive the American spirit in such de-centralizing political movements like Cascadia or Alaksan Independence; and these can forge new countries, which can re-inspire a "new United States of America". This new United States would be driven by the American, people themselves, and not by various large corporations in association with capitalism. Capitalism in America is currently over-concentrating political economic power into a handful of corporation, at the expense of the ability of American people to freely control their own destiny.

The reforming of America, inspired through a voluntary association of newly forged "countries" i.e. Vermont, Alaska, Cascadia, or Texas, whose citizens voluntarily elect to join re-join America, would help "wash away" an apparent "demonic consciousness" in America identified by Dr. Ray Griffin, which now threatens to consume America and the rest of the world. America would then be re-born away from an elite-driven Empire, and into a peaceful and voluntary driven association which embraces progressive democratic ideals.

Elite-driven pretensions of Empire, identified by Richard M. Dolan, are undermining the fruition of America as a constitutional democracy. America must be re-born by re-defining the constitutional basis of America through a process which is freed of the underlying militaristic-driven context to America's formation. America, as a society, needs to evolve beyond barbaric notions of the "right to bear arms" as well as to conquer and subjugate others while operating under flag waving bombast, and into becoming a matured society, driven by wisdom, peace, and social responsibility for each other and toward a truly great society.

The NAU, which is driven by a secretive cabal of large corporations and jingoists, shows that capitalism in today's America has become a "communism of private corporations". America, under the NAU project, is literally being destroyed by the demonic consciousness of private corporations that seek to replace American constitutional protections, with the instigation of a shadow government, which seeks to consolidate totalitarian control.

The NAU has forced the current American polity into a crossroads which seeks to replace America with an unconstitutional entity. Ironically, separatist movements in America may be the only way of saving American constitutional ideals toward the rejuvenation and eventual revitalization of American society.

Continentalism of a Different Stripe

Are Canadian provinces and the blue states in the U.S. quietly forging a radical new North American Union ? This American says, “Yes.”

by Jeremy Rifkin


There is an old saying in real estate—location, location, location. No sooner had the 2004 presidential election been decided than maps began appearing all over the Internet, recasting the North American landscape into two distinct political and cultural regions, with Canada and the Northeast, upper Midwest, and West coast states all coloured in blue, and the rest of the continental United States coloured in red. Although the intent was sardonic, what if the jest did indeed have political legs and there was a very real possibility of redrawing the political map of the continent?

In fact, it is already happening, behind the scenes, in myriad subtle ways, and the long-term implications for the future of North America are profound and far-reaching. Welcome to the incipient rise of the first regional transnational space—a grouping of Canadian provinces and American states whose commercial and political interests and shared vision make them increasingly more compatible with each other than the blue states are with their own neighbours in the American heartland. What is beginning to emerge is a North American Union, combining Canada and the so-called blue states of the US that, in time, may become more semi-autonomous and detached from the rest of America, at least de facto, if not formally.

Of course, trade liberalization advocates (on both sides of the border) have long maintained that Canada, the US, and Mexico ought to expand and deepen the North American Free Trade Agreement (nafta), further integrating their respective economies while maintaining their national sovereignties. However, many Canadians deeply oppose strengthening nafta, arguing that Canada is already being absorbed into the larger US economy and is losing its political sovereignty in the process. These Canadians also worry that “nafta+” will mean having to go along with the dominant American ideology, with its emphasis on an older American Dream, the central tenets of which are at odds with Canada’s deeply held cultural and social values. They fear that the new “continentalism” is merely coded language for erasing the forty-ninth parallel, having a customs union, a common currency, and a fully integrated economy protected by continental security agreements, including President Bush’s missile defence initiative. In short, they fear that it is a front for a twenty-first-century high-tech American colonialism designed to grab hold of Canada’s rich resources and remake its citizenry in the American image.

Critics of nafta, and of international trade-liberalization treaties in general, argue that such mega-initiatives often overlook particulars, and cite the ongoing softwood lumber and “mad cow” disputes as examples of the clumsy and often unjust consequences of such agreements. Opponents of the “one container fits all” approach to continentalism also worry that Canada is becoming so dependent on exports to the US (currently 86 percent of Canadian exports flow south) that the country may eventually be forced to accept whatever commercial and political terms the US chooses to impose. This is why Canada’s nafta critics insist on trade, investment, and fiscal policies that encourage the growth of a robust internal market and overseas trade, on reforms to safeguard Canadian industries from US protectionism, and on measures to redress the current trade imbalance between Canada and the US.

There is, however, another option. According to former Canadian Minister of External Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, the 1990s saw the emergence of a spider’s web of regional cross-border networks. In the US, owing to both its tradition of states’ rights and a Supreme Court looking askance at “commandeering” (i.e., the use of state legislatures for the implementation of federal initiatives), states are mostly free to determine economic agreements. And during the 1990s, significant steps were taken by border states to increase ties with Canadian provinces—a development that found a receptive audience in the north. In 1999, then-Ontario Premier Mike Harris, in a speech to American governors, said, “We really see you as very strong allies, more so than many parts of Canada, something far more significant than perhaps my national government understands.” Indeed, regional associations from coast to coast (e.g., the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers; Ontario and Quebec and the Council of Great Lakes Governors; the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region) have all signed mutually beneficial memoranda of understanding covering issues such as trade, border security, and the environment, all with an eye to harmonization.

The aftermath of 9/11 placed a temporary chill on this activity. With Canada being wrongfully accused of having porous borders and being a safe haven for terrorists, and with Washington asserting its authority over all aspects of domestic life, state administrations felt hamstrung and more deferential to the central government. At the same time, power in Canada was devolving from the centre to the provinces, a trend, based on statements by provincial premiers following Canada’s new health care accord, that appears now to be accelerating. In a November speech to his provincial Liberal party, Quebec Premier Jean Charest stated flatly, “If Alberta can get rich selling oil, why not Quebec with its hydroelectricity?”

While Canadian nationalists may bristle at such an assertion of provincial rights—to say nothing of Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams’ insistence on maintaining full equalization payments on top of 100 percent of the revenues from offshore oil—Charest’s statement clearly resonates through the halls of US state administrations, especially in those states hungry for energy security. The irony of the current situation, however, is that as Prime Minister Martin awaits the next salvo from this or that provincial premier, in his second term President Bush is consolidating power in Washington. US citizens can look forward to a national sales tax, an ultra-conservative judiciary and, in Alberto Gonzales and Condoleezza Rice, an approach to justice and national security that places Washington’s interests at the top of the heap. Despite the diplomatic niceties uttered by Bush during his Canadian visit last December, he is unmistakably a man on a mission, and foreign countries, as well as blue-state governors, are expected to fall in line.

Within hours of President Bush’s re-election, Canadian immigration offices were flooded with inquiries from Americans seeking information on Canadian citizenship requirements. On November 3, 2004, Immigration Canada’s website registered 116,000 hits from the US, up from a daily average of roughly 20,000. While traffic on the Web site returned to normal by mid- to late November, a series of December 2004 seminars in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles conducted by Vancouver immigration lawyers Rudolf Kischer and Joshua Sohn on how to move to Canada, attracted hundreds. Reports from these meetings suggest that the election produced a new kind of refugee in search of “cultural asylum,” people hoping to escape the clutches of a heartland way of life that makes them feel like aliens in their own land.

Indeed, the US election results provided a stark picture of two Americas: one whose views about human nature, morality, and political beliefs are locked into an older frontier past; another whose perspective is more cosmopolitan and tied to a global consciousness. The latter group is concentrated almost exclusively in the clusters of Northeastern, Great Lakes, and Pacific states that border on, or are near, Canada.

For the most part, the anti-Bush voters share a greater cultural camaraderie with their Canadian neighbours than with heartland America. Canada’s Supreme Court ruling allowing for gay-marriage legislation came shortly after the US election, and one of the subgroups attending the seminars were gay Americans whose partners happened to be foreigners. As it currently stands—and with voters in eleven states favouring a constitutional ban on same-sex unions, there is no reason to anticipate any change—such foreigners cannot claim “family ties” in order to gain permanent U.S. residency status. Intriguingly, only two blue states (Michigan and Oregon) passed the anti-gay-marriage initiative. Polls also suggest general blue-state support for the other hot-button social issue, the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, an area in which Canada is again taking a progressive position.

George Bush was re-elected in part because he promised a safer America. But blue-state skeptics see US unilateralism and aggressive military adventures, including pre-emptive strikes, as creating a situation that will only provoke further attacks on Americans. American liberals prefer multilateral initiatives and international covenants—the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations rules on what is considered acceptable military intervention—i.e., positions such as those adopted by the Canadian government.

Recall that just after the presidential election, political pundits were quick to jump on values issues ranging from human-embryo research to gay marriage as the reason why President Bush won. What’s clear, however, is that, on a deeper level Bush supporters saw the president as the keeper of the American Dream, which has long been regarded as the social glue that has united the country. The American Dream, with its emphasis on individual opportunity, the pursuit of self-interest and personal success in an unfettered marketplace, faith in God and love of country, and belief in a strong military presence in the world, is what brought droves of Americans to the polls to re-elect the president. But many of the voters who cast their ballots for Senator John Kerry have lost the faith. First, there are the millions of Americans who, despite hard work and sacrifice, have failed to advance in a society that increasingly favours the interests of its wealthiest families. The US currently ranks a dismal twenty-fourth among industrial nations in income inequality. (Only Mexico and Russia rank lower.) Then there are the many other Americans who are upwardly mobile but find that US society’s overemphasis on individual self-interest and material success is far too limited to fulfill their deeper needs and aspirations.

Although they have not abandoned the American penchant for individualism, many supporters of Senator Kerry realize that even the most self-reliant American is vulnerable to foes such as a sars epidemic, a computer virus, a terrorist attack, a stock-market scandal, or global warming. These Americans seek a broader global vision more compatible with an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. While much of the American heartland is blind to events north of the border, a growing number of disenfranchised Americans in the blue states are looking north and cocking their ears to the fact that “liberal” is not a dirty word in Canada.

Not since the Vietnam War, when, between 1970 and 1975, roughly 120,000 Americans fled north, has there been such sustained interest in the Canadian option. Currently, fewer than 6,000 US citizens take up residency in Canada each year, but with America on a permanent war footing, the spectre of a draft being raised, and President Bush set to nominate more conservative Supreme Court judges, many are predicting a spike in US emigration north. One result from such an influx into Canada will be the growth of associational ties between our two countries.

an opposite dream
While for the majority of Americans Canada still remains an unacknowledged alternative, the US is witnessing the emergence of a model across the Atlantic that is proving the “American way” is not the only way. In Europe, twenty-five nations, representing 455 million people, have joined together to create a “United States of Europe.” The European Union’s gdp now rivals that of the US, making it the world’s other great superpower. The EU is already the world’s leading exporter and largest internal trading market, and the euro is now stronger than the dollar. Moreover, much of Europe enjoys a longer lifespan and greater literacy rate, and has less poverty and crime, less blight and sprawl, longer vacations, and shorter commutes to work than Americans experience. In terms of what makes a people great and what constitutes a better way of life, Europe is now surpassing America.

Equally important is the European Dream. While the American version emphasizes unrestrained economic growth, personal wealth, and the pursuit of individual self-interest, the European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and the nurturing of community. We Americans live (and die) by the work ethic and the dictates of efficiency. Europeans place more attention on balancing work and leisure. America has always seen itself as a great melting pot. Europeans prefer to preserve their rich multicultural diversity. Americans place a premium on property rights and civil rights. Europeans favour social rights and universal human rights. Americans put their faith in God and country. Europeans put their faith in social welfare and civil society. Americans believe in maintaining an unrivalled military presence in the world. Europeans, by contrast, emphasize co-operation and consensus over go-it-alone approaches to foreign policy. The European Dream is the first attempt at creating a global consciousness for a shrinking world.

All of this does not suggest that Europe has suddenly become a utopia. Its problems are complex and its weaknesses are glaringly transparent. And, of course, Europeans’ high-mindedness is often riddled with hypocrisy. The point, however, is not whether Europeans are living up to the dream they have for themselves. We have never fully lived up to the American Dream. Rather, what’s crucial is that Europe is articulating a bold new vision for the future of humanity that differs in many of its most fundamental aspects from America’s.

During my recent travels in Canada, I was struck by how Canadian values resemble those of the new Europe. Indeed, the European Dream could just as easily be called the Canadian Dream. The more global dream that many Canadians and Americans in the blue states share with Europeans is likely going to propel Canada and the blue states closer together in the decades to come, transforming the region into a new transnational configuration—a North American Union—with ever closer ties to the European Union. The process is already well advanced, although woefully unacknowledged in both public-policy circles and the media.

regional autonomy: follow the money
The commercial ties between the blue states and Canada, already strong, are increasing with each passing day. Six of the ten states leading in exports to Canada are blue states, while eight out of the ten states leading in imports of Canadian goods and services are blue states. These statistics become even more significant when we consider that Canada is the US’s major trading partner and accounts for one-fifth of all US exports and imports. In 2003, the US sold $203 billion (Cdn.) worth of goods and services to Canada and received $326 billion worth of goods and services from Canada. The blue states make up much of the US commercial relationship with Canada.

Some of the commercial relationships between Canada and the blue states have become nearly seamless. For example, although threatened by the rise of the Canadian dollar and a resentful US-based lobby, Vancouver and Toronto are still known as “Hollywood North,” with a large percentage of the US industry reliant on Canadian shooting, editing, and processing talent. The centre of the North American automobile industry now runs from Detroit to Oshawa, Ontario. Most of the electricity exported by Canada is used in the northeastern US, the upper midwest, and the Pacific coast states. And although Americans are certainly worried about the prospects of oil supplies being cut off from the Persian Gulf, few realize that Canada is America’s third-largest supplier of crude oil. In 2003, Canada shipped $53.5 billion in energy exports and more petroleum products than Saudi Arabia to the US. Canada is also America’s main supplier of natural gas, most of it going to blue-state economies.

The close commercial relationship between blue states and Canada has been accompanied by ever closer political ties. In fact, the political integration of northeastern, upper midwest, and Pacific coast states with Canada has, in many ways, begun to eclipse the blue states’ traditional political links with some of America’s heartland red states.

The Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (neg/ecp), founded in 1973 and made up of six blue states and five Canadian provinces, has been steadily moving toward a regional transnational approach. The governors and premiers meet annually to “discuss issues of common interest and concern and enact policy resolutions that call on actions by the state and provincial governments, as well as by the two national governments.” Between these summits, the neg/ecp convenes meetings of state and provincial officials to implement policies, organize workshops, and prepare studies and reports on issues of regional impact. The conference’s many accomplishments include “the expansion of economic ties among the states and provinces; the fostering of energy exchanges; the forceful advocacy of environmental issues and sustainable development; and the coordination of numerous policies and programs in such areas as transportation, forest management, tourism, small-scale agriculture, and fisheries.” Current neg/ecp initiatives include tightening cross-border security and creating an information technology corridor that would improve broadband connectivity, link regional and educational networks, and bolster the IT skills of the region’s workforce in order to establish a world-class IT commercial zone.

In 1998, New England governors and Canadian premiers passed a resolution creating the International Northeast Biotechnology Corridor (inbc), a non-profit corporation with the goal of turning the region into the largest biotechnology centre in the world. Judging by the level of activity (e.g., international trade missions advancing its biotechnology interests, collaboration between university researchers and student exchanges between Canadian and US institutions, the growth of the industry, and an impressive array of conferences scheduled for 2005), the inbc is clearly realizing its mandate. Embedded in its “vision statement” is “the creation of a regional identity,” something that the neg/ecp will also promote as they work towards establishing the IT commercial zone and the entire region as a knowledge-based economy.

Recently, another cross-border political group, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, representing eight states, plus Ontario and Quebec, has proposed rules to regulate water use in the Great Lakes which, critics argue, could open the door to massive diversion schemes. While the group insists that its proposal will protect and improve this “precious natural resource” for the region’s 45 million people, others believe that, in toto, it represents a “water for sale” agreement. Meetings are scheduled over the next few months in what might be a test case of cross-border governance.

A similar transnational political region to the neg/ecp exists in the Pacific Northwest and includes five US states and two Canadian provinces. Established in 1991, the Pacific North-West Economic Region’s (pnwer) mission is “to increase the economic well-being and quality of life for all citizens of the region.” The pnwer website boasts an annual “gross regional product” of nearly $700 billion (US), and supposes, somewhat provocatively, that “if it were a nation,” it would rank tenth amongst the world’s leading economies.

At least as active as its eastern counterparts, the pnwer group is attempting to harmonize approaches in the fields of agriculture, environmental technology, forest production, government procurement, recycling, telecommunications, tourism, trade and finance, and transportation. pnwer subcommittees are looking at a regional energy strategy, methods for states and provinces to reduce soaring health-care costs, best practices for sustainable development, border-security issues, foreign investment, and sharing information to upgrade workforce skills. The group lobbied hard for an end to the Alberta beef ban and all member states supported Vancouver’s Olympic bid.

Fast on the heels of a similar arrangement between Ontario and New York State, in 2002 Michigan and Ontario signed a memorandum of understanding that calls for close co-operation in the crucial areas of trade, tourism, transportation, border issues, and the environment. The Ontario/Michigan Tourism Action Group has been set up to “explore new tourism products and marketing opportunities for the Ontario/ Michigan area.”

All three of these transnational political groupings represent a new chapter in North American governance, with both Canada and the blue states bringing powerful assets to the partnership. Canada’s vast energy reserves (including hydro, natural gas, oil from the Alberta tar sands, and, potentially, Newfoundland’s offshore reserves, as well as wind power across the Prairies) provide the kind of energy security that is essential to make transnational political regions semi-autonomous.

A wealth of natural resources give provincial governments considerable leverage, but the bargaining chips don’t end there. Canada also sports a highly educated workforce and relatively low production costs. For example, American employers save on health-care costs by locating production facilities in Canada or outsourcing to Canadian firms because workers in Canada are covered by national health-care insurance.

The blue states, in turn, have some of the best universities and research facilities on the planet. With world-class business schools like Wharton, Harvard, Kellogg, and Stanford, and research universities like mit, Carnegie Mellon, and the California Institute of Technology, the blue states’ vast intellectual resources, combined with Canada’s university centres of excellence and groups like the Toronto-based Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, give the budding partnerships a leg up on other regions of the world in cutting-edge commercial development. Silicon Valley, Route 128 in Boston, and the Washington-Baltimore corridor—i.e., the most advanced high-tech industrial clusters anywhere—are all located in blue states eager to establish cross-border zones of commercial and intellectual activity.

If such a transnational regional political entity were to mature, it would likely seek closer commercial and political ties with the European Union, whose values and vision it shares. The European Union would provide an emerging North American Union with an alternative economic arena that has commercial clout approaching that of the U.S., thus giving the region the leverage it would need to establish at least a partial breakaway from the iron grip of the American market. The EU and Canada have already laid the foundation for such a union in the 1996 Joint Political Declaration on EU-Canada Relations. The declaration was designed to create a relationship between the EU and Canada in economic and trade relations, foreign security issues, and other transnational issues.

The EU’s success is, in no small measure, attributable to the distributive nature of power exercised in Europe. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is said to have remarked, “If I pick up the phone and call Europe, who answers the line?” The EU represents a new network form of governance, a non-hierarchical governing model made up of myriad interests including nation states, regions, civil society organizations, and transnational corporations, in which no single player is powerful enough to completely dominate the game. It’s pure “process politics,” a continuous dialogue among all of the interests in which compromise and consensus between all of the parties is integral to success.

The North American transborder governing experiments share much in common with the EU model. But what makes these new political arrangements so attractive is that their respective citizens tend to have a shared world view and a common dream about the kind of future they would like to have for themselves. Like many Canadians, blue-state citizens worry about being absorbed into an agenda increasingly at odds with their own values, beliefs, and hopes for the future. And, I should add, they are becoming increasingly angry about their taxes being redistributed to support what they perceive to be a flawed and faded American Dream.

The American people are deeply and irreconcilably polarized—like partners in a marriage who have drifted apart over the years and now find they have little in common. Meanwhile, people of the blue states and Canada are beginning to pursue the making of a new romance, born of shared values and mutual interests. Is it possible that a new North American Union might be in the offing in the not-so-distant future.

- Published March 2005

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (Penguin Canada, 2004).