Archive for May 6th, 2010

Loose Lips on Iran Can Sink America

Loose Lips on Iran Can Sink America

http://original.antiwar.com/mcgovern/2010/05/05/loose-lips-on-iran-can-sink-america/

 

Posted By Ray McGovern On May 5, 2010

The omnipresent World War II-era poster with the words “Loose Lips Sink Ships” served as a warning to members of the U.S. military to take heed lest they divulge information that could tip off the enemy and result in defeat in battle.

I believe we need a new poster, because loose lips can also sink whole countries — including our own.

This is a lesson that members of Congress and Washington’s media honchos should have learned from the disastrous invasion of Iraq; especially the ones whose lips helped President George W. Bush portray Saddam Hussein as a monster bristling with “weapons of mass destruction.”

In that time frame, of course, cooperating with Bush was “the smart play” for one’s career, even for many Democrats and liberal opinion leaders.

But those politicians and pundits now should share responsibility for having allowed Bush to mislead the nation into a war that has maimed and killed thousands of American soldiers, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, with millions more driven from their homes into fetid refugee camps.
 
The complicit lawmakers also helped sail the American ship of state into a vast iceberg of debt.

However, holding such powerful people accountable has become what former White House counsel and then Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, would call “quaint” or “obsolete” — like adhering to the Geneva Conventions.

But wait; unless our Constitution has been relegated to the same status, we do have a chance every two years to make a judgment about politicians, whether they should continue to represent us or be driven from office. (Sadly, there’s less public leverage over the fate of pundits.)

Yet, recently I have been looking on in disbelief as some of the same Democrats (and media personalities) who helped grease the skids for the unnecessary, unprovoked attack on Iraq, are doing a reprise — changing the script from Iraq to Iran.

The same kind of macho language (by no means limited to testosterone-prone men) is coming from lips of lawmakers who think that hyping the “threat” from Iran will position them well in winning an election (or perhaps buy some street cred with some campaign funders or the media mainstream).

‘Real Men Go to Tehran!’

Think back seven years and recall the Blackwater-style bravado from the lips of neoconservatives like Donald Rumsfeld’s crony Kenneth Adelman — the fellow who assured us all that Iraq would be a “cakewalk.”

Even as this proved to be a fantasy, his neoconservative colleagues were beating their breasts like Tarzan and setting their eyes on Iran. The neocon joke at the time questioned what the next target should be – Syria or Iran? – with the punch line, “Real men go to Tehran!”

Both then and today, however, it was not just Tarzans who were spoiling for a fight in the Middle East, but some Janes, in particular – Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat who was a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee at the time of the Iraq invasion.

From her position on the Intelligence Committee, Harman was better positioned than most of her colleagues to know that Bush was hyping or inventing the evidence of Iraq’s alleged WMD, but she still joined the stampede to war.

After the invasion and an exhaustive investigation, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller concluded that the Bush/Cheney administration “presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”

However, back in 2003, it would have taken some political courage to call out Bush and his team on their flimsy “evidence” or their outright lies. Career-wise, there was plenty of upside – and no discernable downside – to go along.

But why am I reprising this history now, you ask? Because it turns out Jane and some of the Tarzans are at it again, hyping the “threat” from Iran, where “real men” — and apparently some “real women” — still want to go.

Speaking on the floor of Congress on April 22, Harman said:

“I am often asked to name those countries I think pose the greatest threat to the security of our country and the world. … My answer every time is Iran, Iran, Iran. … Given its myopic obsession with the destruction of Israel …  and its implacable, duplicitous march toward a nuclear weapons capability, in my view no other country comes close.”

(More objective observers might say, “Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan,” an unstable Islamic nation that actually acquired nuclear weapons with the acquiescence of the Reagan administration in the 1980s and is today the home for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including the trainers of alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Shahzad’s father, Bahar Ul Haq, was a former Pakistani air vice marshal reportedly with some responsibility over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.)

Iran Obsessed

But Harman is focused on Iran, which is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has renounced any intention of having nukes, and is considered years away from building one even if it wanted to.

To punish Iran for its speculative interest in nuclear weapons, Harman called for sanctions to “cripple Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products.” (As a Harvard-educated lawyer, she should be aware that, under international law, such a blockade would be an act of war. It also would inflict widespread hardship on the Iranian people.)

But Israel’s right-wing Likud government and America’s neocons have identified Iran as the new enemy. So, in line with that assessment, Harman ended her oration thusly:

“Iran with nuclear weapons not only poses an existential threat to Israel; it poses an existential threat to us [vocal emphasis hers] and to countries everywhere which espouse democratic values.”

Not even hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton goes that far. At a formal press conference in Qatar, she said, “Iran doesn’t directly threaten the United States,” though she added that Iran was a threat to U.S. friends in the region.

Clinton’s momentary deviation from the more alarmist rhetoric that Official Washington favors when discussing Iran came while answering a question at a formal press conference in Doha, Qatar on Feb. 14.  (Check it out; last time I looked, it was still on the State Department’s Web site.) Clinton said:

“Part of the goal … we were pursuing was to try to influence the Iranian decision regarding whether or not to pursue a nuclear weapon. And, as I said in my speech … the evidence is accumulating that that [pursuing a nuclear weapon] is exactly what they are trying to do, which is deeply concerning, because it doesn’t directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners here in this region and beyond.”

When his turn came, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Al-Thani did not join in the fear mongering, even when asked directly about “the danger that the Secretary just alluded to … if Iran gets the bomb.” 

In answer, he implied, diplomatically but clearly, that he was at least as much afraid of what Israel and the U.S. might do, as what Iran might do. [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Is Iran Really a Threat?“]

Unspoken Friend

The chief unspoken “friend” that Secretary Clinton claims is “directly threatened” by Iran is, of course, Israel, a nation which already has 200-300 nuclear weapons, has refused to sign the NPT and won’t even acknowledge its own nuclear arsenal in defiance of U.S. policy favoring adherence to the NPT and greater transparency on nuclear weapons..

The Israeli arsenal could easily incinerate Iran – if Iran does manage to build one or two nukes and is eager to commit suicide by attacking Israel.

But let’s just assume, for argument’s sake, that the Israeli leaders really do consider non-nuclear Iran an “existential threat” to Israel. Should American lawmakers and opinion leaders hype a theoretical threat to Israel as a threat to the United States?

On one level, Clinton’s candor that Iran is not threatening the United States was refreshing. She seemed to be following the example of the Director of National Intelligence and his subordinates, who are carefully hewing to the judgments of the most recent formal National Intelligence Estimate, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” approved unanimously by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies in November 2007. 

That Estimate began with these words: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons…

“We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons…

“Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.”

That National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is now being updated, but recent congressional testimony by senior intelligence community officials has been consistent with the judgments of late 2007.

Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Gen. James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed these issues in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 21.

Answering the question as to how soon Iran could have a deliverable nuclear weapon, Gen. Cartwright said:

“Experience says it is going to take you three to five years” to move from having enough highly enriched uranium to having a “deliverable weapon that is usable.”

The NIE of 2007 stated that if Iran does decide to pursue nuclear weapons, “We judge with moderate confidence that Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU [highly enriched uranium] for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.”

It appears if anything the time line for the hypothetical Iranian “threat” is slipping backward, not leaping forward.

According to press reports, the NIE-update will not be ready until August, and the Obama administration won’t release its key judgments, as was done in late 2007. It is a safe bet, though, that we shall learn of the revisions in due course and thus have a better take on any changes in Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions.

Getting Played Again

What concerns me greatly, however, is that the American people are being played again by those both in government and the media who wish to zap Iran.

“Do you think Iran currently has nuclear weapons, or not?” Americans were asked in a CNN poll taken earlier this year (Feb. 12-15). Seventy-one percent of Americans polled answered incorrectly, Yes. 

That’s very close to the percentage of Americans misled into believing that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons before the attack on Iraq in March 2003. Only later was the Bush administration forced to admit that its claims about an active Iraqi nuclear program were bogus.

Of equal concern to me are the statements of politicians who apparently believe we have forgotten the hype that got us into the Iraq mess — and are trying again to stoke a confrontation with Iran.

The front-burner question today is whether loose lips and looser thinking will lead to an even more disastrous war with Iran BEFORE the intelligence community finishes its update on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions.

Given the consistency of the recent testimony of top intelligence officials, I will be much surprised if the NIE update comes to conclusions that differ substantially from the judgments of November 2007.

Ironically, that possibility provides more incentive for those who wish to attack Iran sooner rather than later, much as President Bush pushed United Nations inspectors out of Iraq in March 2003 and rushed ahead with the invasion before Americans woke up to the fact that the inspectors weren’t finding any Iraqi WMD stockpiles because none existed.

I worry that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will take the initiative now and provoke hostilities with Iran, judging that political realities in the United States would then leave President Barack Obama little choice but to “finish the job.”

No Confidence in the FCM

Another concern is that the Fawning Corporate Media remains as easily manipulated by the neocons and other hardliners as it was in 2003. Again, there are plenty of career rewards for talking tough about Iran and none for showing moderation.

In this overheated climate of anti-Iran hysteria, politicians also will be tempted to ratchet up their rhetoric to come across as tough and “realistic.” That, in turn, might convince Netanyahu that the time is right to force Obama’s hand.

One might have hoped that after the Iraq fiasco, American voters would be smarter – and more resistant to clever propaganda – but the CNN poll on their misplaced confidence about Iran having nukes provided little reassurance.

As for Harman, she is facing a strong Democratic challenger, progressive Marcy Winograd, in the June 8 primary for California’s 36th district.

Because Harman has a personal fortune of about a half-billion (that’s right, billion) dollars from which to draw – and Winograd says she is accepting “not one dime” of corporate money – the race is viewed as a test of whether it is possible for candidates to win without heaps of money for ad buys and other expenses.

The race also could measure whether Democratic voters will demand some accountability for lawmakers who sided with President Bush and the neocons in rushing the United States off to war in Iraq – and who now are spoiling for another fight with Iran.

I don’t know how those tests will work out, especially given the continued sludge of one-sided propaganda that flows from the FCM.

What I do know is that incendiary rhetoric from lips like Harman’s about the option of a military strike on Iran, her strident advocacy of an act of war (blockade), and her pretense that Netanyahu’s claim of an “existential threat” from Iran applies also to the United States is a highly flammable mix. 

It is just the kind of rhetoric that could give Netanyahu confidence that he can take matters into his own hands.

This will go in spades if Harman proves to be correct in deeming that her constituents are just as gullible as the ones who answered CNN pollsters in mid-February.

(Consortiumnews.com)

Read more by Ray McGovern


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A Timetable For War (with Iran)

A Timetable For War

http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2010/05/05/a-timetable-for-war/

Posted By Philip Giraldi On May 5, 2010

Readers of my articles will know that I am extremely pessimistic about the prospects for peace in the Middle East.  I do not believe for a second that the leaders of Israel actually consider Iran to be an “existential” threat but the fact that they have cried wolf so often has convinced the Israeli public that it is so.  Worse still, Israel’s friends in the US have convinced the American public of the same thing even though Iran does not threaten the United States at all.  Relying on a complaisant media that has fully embraced the fabricated narrative of fanatical Mullahs brandishing nuclear weapons shortly before handing them over to al-Qaeda, a majority of Americans now believes that Iran must be dealt with by force and that it already has a nuclear weapon.  As in the case in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the fictitious threat has taken on an ominous reality because the lie has been repeated often enough to appear to be truth.

I believe several things must be understood in relationship to the likely formula for initiation of such a conflict.  First, in spite of the increasingly bellicose language coming from Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton, I do not believe that the Obama Administration wants a war.  On the contrary, I believe that the language is designed to convince Tel Aviv that the US is getting tough with Iran to preempt any possible military action.  The principal advocates of war in the United States are not in the White House.  They continue to belong to the Israeli lobby as given voice through its acolytes in Congress and the media.

Second, the Israeli government having sold the “existential threat” fiction does want a war, but its options are limited.  It knows it can only do temporary damage to Iran and wants the United States to do the heavy lifting.  That will require contriving a situation that will bring about US entry into the conflict, otherwise an Israeli attack will have only limited value, possibly slowing down Iran’s nuclear program but not stopping it while also guaranteeing that the Mullahs will make the political decision to develop a weapon.

Third, Washington has no real ability to put pressure on Israel as the White House has already made clear that it will not cut aid to Tel Aviv and will continue to use its veto to protect Israel in international fora like the United Nations.

Fourth, once the shooting begins, even if Israel starts it, both Congress and the media will demand that Washington intervene to support brave little democracy Israel.  One can be sure that on the day after Tel Aviv starts a conflict Congress will overwhelmingly pass a motion approving the Israeli action and also calling on the White House to have American forces join in.  The Washington Post, FOX news, and The New York Times will be beside themselves with joy.

Putting the four premises together, what does it all mean?  It means that Israel will seek to start a conflict with Iran and pull the United States in.  It will ignore any US calls for restraint and will attack the Mullahs with or without a pretext, whether or not Iran remains in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime (which I believe it will), and whether or not Tehran does anything aggressive.  In the lead-up to such an attack, Israel will intensify its propaganda efforts and is quite prepared to lie to make a case against Iran and its friends in the Middle East region.  The recent total fabrication of a case that Syria had given Scud missiles to Hezbollah is a case in point.  Israel sees everyone in the region as an enemy or a potential enemy and it works very hard to make Washington see things the same way.  Once the fighting starts, Washington will inevitably be drawn in with Congress and the mainstream media cheerleading the process.

So let us assume that Israel will attack Iran.  After all, it is a win-win situation for them in that they will demonstrate once again to the Muslim world that they are not to be trifled with and will leave the serious fighting to the United States.  I believe they will attack Iran by the shortest route, which is over Iraqi airspace.  Iraqi airspace is controlled by the United States Air Force, which would undoubtedly be under orders not to shoot down the Israeli planes lest Obama find himself facing a furious AIPAC, Congress, and the press immediately thereafter.  A shoot down order is just not possible given Congressional democrats’ fear of how Jewish political donors would react, not to mention the danger that the usual voices in the media would turn against the Obama administration on the eve of the midterm elections.  Unless the Iranians were to react in an extremely restrained fashion, they would consider the US complicit in the attack due to the passage over Iraq and their retaliation would bring Washington into the war, which is precisely what Israel expects to happen.

The only joker in the deck for Israel is the possible unintended consequences.  If the war were to go badly, with Iran, for example, using its Chinese supplied cruise missiles to sink a US aircraft carrier, the role of Israel in starting the conflict might well be challenged by many in the US, so many that even the media and Congress would have to take notice.  But Israel probably considers that a remote possibility given the huge military advantage that the United States enjoys over Iran so they likely believe it to be it a risk worth taking.  Also, one must consider that the hard right Israeli government of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is not necessarily a rational player that will weigh up all the pluses and minuses.  Netanyahu is driven by racism, intellectual arrogance, and a belief that he can control events in the United States, all of which will be part of his decision making.

Which leads to the question of timing.  There has been some talk in the media that Israel would likely “do something” by November.  Why that date is being selected is not completely clear, but I believe it will be sooner and this is why:  as noted above, the United States controls Iraqi airspace currently.  But that control will be ceded to the Iraqi government in August when the US presence in Iraq is due to be reduced to a “garrison non-combatant” level of 60,000 soldiers and airmen.  At that point, the US Air Force will no longer have autonomous authority to engage in Iraqi airspace, but the Iraqi government will be empowered to request US assistance to do so.  Imagine for a moment what it would do to US credibility in the Arab world if Baghdad were to ask the US to help defend its airspace against an Israeli incursion and the US were to refuse to do so.  So I think the Israelis will make their move before August.  They want to entangle the United States into fighting on their behalf but they will not necessarily want to humiliate Obama while doing so.

So what can Obama do to stop this?  There has been some speculation that he might send a private emissary to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu with the message that the United States does not support an Israeli attack and that Washington will both denounce the action and not back Tel Aviv.  I believe that Obama has already told Netanyahu both privately and through diplomatic channels that the US opposes military action but the Israeli government no doubt regards such a warning as toothless, particularly as both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have asserted that Israel has a right to make its own security decisions.  Any move to punish or pressure the Israelis would be blocked by Congress, so the Obama warning can be brushed off.  The only option that I believe would actually work is for Obama to go public preemptively on the issue and proclaim that there is no casus belli with Iran, that any Israeli attack will not be supported by the United States and that furthermore the United States will take the lead in condemning such an act in the United Nations and in all other appropriate international fora.  Is that likely to happen?  I think not.  And that is precisely the reason why I think a new war in the Middle East is inevitable and will take place this year, probably by August.

Read more by Philip Giraldi

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No One Cares

No One Cares

Posted on May 3, 2010

By Chris Hedges

We are approaching a decade of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is in its eighth year. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands more Afghans and Pakistani civilians have been killed. Millions have been driven into squalid displacement and refugee camps. Thousands of our own soldiers and Marines have died or been crippled physically and psychologically. We sustain these wars, which have no real popular support, by borrowing trillions of dollars that can never be repaid, even as we close schools, states go into bankruptcy, social services are cut, our infrastructure crumbles, tens of millions of Americans are reduced to poverty, and real unemployment approaches 17 percent. Collective, suicidal inertia rolls us forward toward national insolvency and the collapse of empire. And we do not protest. The peace movement, despite the heroic efforts of a handful of groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Green Party and Code Pink, is dead. No one cares.

The roots of mass apathy are found in the profound divide between liberals, who are mostly white and well educated, and our disenfranchised working class, whose sons and daughters, because they cannot get decent jobs with benefits, have few options besides the military. Liberals, whose children are more often to be found in elite colleges than the Marine Corps, did not fight the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and the dismantling of our manufacturing base. They did nothing when the Democrats gutted welfare two years later and stood by as our banks were turned over to Wall Street speculators. They signed on, by supporting the Clinton and Obama Democrats, for the corporate rape carried out in the name of globalization and endless war, and they ignored the plight of the poor. And for this reason the poor have little interest in the moral protestations of liberals. We have lost all credibility. We are justly hated for our tacit complicity in the corporate assault on workers and their families.

Our passivity has resulted, however, in much more than imperial adventurism and a permanent underclass. A slow-motion coup by a corporate state has cemented into place a neofeudalism in which there are only masters and serfs. And the process is one that cannot be reversed through the traditional mechanisms of electoral politics.

Last Thursday I traveled to Washington to join Rep. Dennis Kucinich for a public teach-in on the wars. Kucinich used the Capitol Hill event to denounce the new request by Barack Obama for an additional $33 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The Ohio Democrat has introduced H. Con Res. 248, with 16 co-sponsors, which would require the House of Representatives to debate whether to continue the Afghanistan war. Kucinich, to his credit, is the only member of Congress to publicly condemn the Obama administration’s authorization to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and cleric living in Yemen, over alleged links to a failed Christmas airline bombing in Detroit. Kucinich also invited investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, writer/activist David Swanson, retired Army Col. Ann Wright and Iraq war veteran Josh Stieber to the event.

The gathering, held in the Rayburn Building, was a sober reminder of our insignificance. There were no other Congress members present, and only a smattering of young staff members attended. Most of the audience of about 70 were peace activists who, as is usual at such events, were joined by a motley collection of conspiracy theorists who believe 9/11 was an inside job or that former Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash, was assassinated. Scahill and Swanson provided a litany of disturbing statistics that illustrated how corporations control all systems of power. Corporations have effectively taken over our internal security and intelligence apparatus. They run our economy and manage our systems of communication. They own the two major political parties. They have built a private military. They loot the U.S. Treasury at will. And they have become unassailable. Those who decry the corporate coup are locked out of the national debate and become as marginalized as Kucinich.

“We don’t have any sort of communications system in the country,” said Swanson, who co-founded an anti-war coalition (AfterDowningStreet.org) and led an unsuccessful campaign to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. “We have a corporate media cartel that overlaps with the war industry. It has no interest in democracy. The Congress is bought and paid for. It is absolutely corrupted by money. We kick ourselves for not being active enough and imposing our demands, but the bar is set very high for us. We have to try very, very hard and make very, very big sacrifices if we are going to influence this Congress prior to getting the money out and getting a decent media system. Hypocritical Congress members talk about money all the time, how we have to be careful about money, except when it comes to war. It is hypocritical, but who is going to call them on that? Not their colleagues, not their funders, not the media, only us. We have to do that, but we don’t in large part because they switch parties every number of years and we are on one team or the other.”

Scahill—who has done most of the groundbreaking investigative reporting on private contractors including the security firm Blackwater, renamed Xe—laid out how the management of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is being steadily transferred by the Pentagon to unaccountable private contractors. He lamented the lack of support in Congress for a bill put forward by Rep. Jan Schakowsky known as the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, H.R. 4102, which would “responsibly phase out the use of private security contractors for functions that should be reserved for U.S. military forces and government personnel.” 

“It is one of the sober realities of the time we are living in that you can put forward a bill that says something as simple as ‘we should not outsource national security functions to private contractors’ and you only get 20 members of Congress to support the bill,” Scahill said. “The unfortunate reality is that Rep. Schakowsky knows that the war industry is bipartisan. They give on both sides. For a while there it seemed contractor was the new Israel. You could not find a member of Congress to speak out against them because so many members of Congress are beholden to corporate funding to keep their House or Senate seats. I also think Obama’s election has wiped that out, as it has with many things, because the White House will dispatch emissaries to read the riot act to members of Congress who don’t toe the party line.”

“The entire government is basically privatized,” Scahill went on. “In fact, 100 percent of people in this country that make $100,000 or less might as well remit everything they owe in taxes to contractors rather than paying the government. That is how privatized the society is, that is how much of government has been outsourced in this society. There are 18 U.S. intelligence agencies on the military and civilian side and 70 percent of their combined budget is outsourced to for-profit corporations who simultaneously work the United States government as well as multinational corporations and foreign governments. We have radically outsourced the intelligence operations in this country because we have radically outsourced everything. Sixty-nine percent of the Pentagon’s entire work force, and I am not talking only about the battlefield, is now privatized. In Afghanistan we have the most staggering statistics. The Obama administration is infinitely worse in Afghanistan in terms of its employment of mercenaries and other private contractors than the Bush administration. Right now in Afghanistan there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors alongside 68,000 U.S. troops. There is almost a 2-to-1 ratio of private-sector for-profit forces that are on the U.S. government payroll versus the active-duty or actual military forces in the country. And that is not taking into account the fact that the State Department has 14,000 contractors in Afghanistan.”

“Within a matter of months, and certainly within a year, the United States will have upwards of 220,000 to 250,000 U.S. government-funded personnel occupying Afghanistan, a far cry from the 70,000 U.S. soldiers that those Americans who pay attention understand the United States has in Afghanistan,” Scahill said. “This is a country where the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, said there are less than 100 al-Qaida operatives who have no ability to strike at the United States. That was the stated rationale and reasoning for being in Afghanistan. It was to hunt down those responsible for 9/11.”

Josh Stieber spoke at the end of the event. Stieber was deployed with the Army to Iraq from February 2007 to April 2008. He was in Bravo Company 2-16, which was involved in the July 2007 Apache helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians depicted on the video recently released by WikiLeaks. Stieber, who left the Army as a conscientious objector, has issued a public apology to the Iraqi people.

“This was not by any means the exception,” he said of the video, which showed helicopter pilots nonchalantly gunning down civilians, including a Reuters photographer and children, in a Baghdad street. “It is inevitable given the situation we were going through. We were going through a lot of combat at the time. A roadside bomb would go off or a sniper would fire a shot and you had no idea where it was coming from. There was a constant paranoia, a constant being on edge. If you put people in a situation like that where there are plenty of civilians, that kind of thing was going to happen and did happen and will continue to happen as long as our nation does not challenge these things. Now that this video has become public it is our responsibility as a people and a country to recognize that this is what war looks like on a day-to-day basis.”

I was depressed as I walked from the Rayburn Building to Union Station to take the train home. The voices of sanity, the voices of reason, those who have a moral core, those like Kucinich or Scahill or Wright or Swanson or Stieber, have little chance now to be heard. Liberals, who failed to grasp the dark intentions of the corporate state and its nefarious servants in the Democratic Party, bear some responsibility. But even an enlightened liberal class would have been hard-pressed to battle back against the tawdry emotional carnivals and the political theater that have thrust the nation into collective self-delusion. We were all seduced. And we, along with thousands of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond, will all be consumed.