Thursday, May 13, 2004

A puppet government if ever there was one. 

In today’s Wall Street Journal a front page article authored by Yochi Dreazen and Christopher Cooper describes the nature of the Iraqi regime that will be in place once July 1 arrives and sovereignty is supposedly turned over to the Iraqi’s. The article is reveals what the true nature of this “sovereign Iraqi” government will be. What follows are extensive excerpts:

“Haider al-Abadi runs Iraq’s Ministry of Communications, but he no longer calls the shots there.

Instead, the authority to license Iraq’s television stations, sanction newspapers and regulate cell phone companies was recently transferred to a commission whose members were selected by Washington. The commissioners’ five year terms stretch far beyond the planned 18-month tenure of the interim Iraqi government that will assume sovereignty on June 30.

The transfer surprised Mr. Abadi, a British trained engineer who spent nearly two decades in exile before returning to Iraq last year. He found out the commission had been formally signed into law only when a reporter asked him for comment about it. “No one from the U.S. even found the time to call and tell me themselves”, he says.

As Washington prepares to hand over power, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and other officials are quietly building institutions that will give the U.S. powerful levers for influencing nearly every important decision the interim government will make.

In a series of edicts issued earlier this spring, Mr. Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority created new commissions that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries. The CPA also established an important security-adviser position, which will be in charge of training and organizing Iraq’s new army and paramilitary forces, and put in place a pair of watchdog institutions that will serve as checks on individual ministries and allow for continued U.S. oversight. Meanwhile, the CPA reiterated that coalition advisers will remain in virtually all remaining ministries after the handover…

The new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces, lack the ability to make or change laws and be unable to make major decisions within specific ministries without tacit U.S. approval, say U.S. officials and others familiar with the plan…

Currently, the coalition Provisional Authority, which answers to the Pentagon, has total control of the governance of Iraq. It can issue decrees on virtually any topic, which then immediately become law. It will formally cease to exist on June 30. The Governing Council exits largely as an advisory body. Its members can pass laws, but the legislation must be approved by Mr. Bremer. The council has no control over the U.S. military, and in practice has little influence on civil matters.

It’s unclear what powers the interim government … will have. In Theory, it will have the ability to enforce and interpret laws on its own, though it will as of now lack the ability to write new ones or make large changes to them.

One thing is clear: The government’s actions are likely to be heavily influenced by dozens of U.S. and Iraqi appointees at virtually all levels.

In March, for instance, Mr. Bremer issued a lengthy edict consolidating control of all Iraqi troops and security forces under the Ministry of Defense and its head. Ali Allawi. But buried in the document is a one-paragraph “emergency” decree ceding “operational control” of all Iraqi forces to senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq. Iraqis will be able to organize the army, make officer appointments, set up new-officer and special forces courses and policies to govern the forces. But they can’t actually order their forces into, or out of combat – that power will rest solely with U.S. commanders…. With American commanders retaining the power to order the forces into combat, Mr. Allawi or his successor will be left with only “administrative control” of the forces.

Meanwhile, the media and telecom commission Mr. Bremer created will be able to collect media licensing fees, regulate television and telephone companies, shut down news agencies, extract written apologies from newspapers and seize publishing and broadcast equipment.”

Well there you have it. The “sovereign Iraqi” government will have no ability to promulgate laws, remove U.S. appointed administrators, or even control its own military. Everything of importance will be run by U.S. “advisors” or stooges appointed by the U.S. which the Iraqi government will have no power to remove. I think even East Germany had more autonomy than this!!


Who are they killing – apparitions? 

As mentioned previously, body counts are now back in vogue in the U.S. military. Can’t say I blame them – they do need to be able to point to some signs of progress, don’t they?

Unfortunately, there is a down side to the body counts – they make the propaganda spouted by the U.S. military much more apparent. This is best shown by example.

For the past couple of weeks the U.S. army has been fighting the militia of the Shiite cleric Moktada as-Sadr in cities throughout southern Iraq. And day after day we hear that the U.S. killed 40 of his militia in one engagement, 20 in another, and 60 in still another. If one were to keep a tally of all the militia supposedly killed by the U.S. it would probably total a close to a thousand. But there is a problem with this. You see, the U.S. has always insisted that Sadr’s militia is tiny – certainly no more than a thousand or so people. If fact in an article in the New York Times today Sadr’s militia was said to number no more than “several hundred”.

Well, if that is case, and the body counts are to be believed, then we have most certainly killed everyone in the Sadr militia. This leaves me a little confused as to who the U.S. is still fighting in Najaf, Karbala, Basra, and Sadr city. Apparitions maybe?


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Numeritos from a gringo paper 

Today the Wall Street Journal published some numbers on Venezuelan industrial production over the past few months. What they show are the tremendous recovery the Venezuelan economy has gone through after the oppositions attempt to destroy it through their strike in late 2002 early 2003. According to the Journal the increases in industrial production are as follows:

December 2003 up 165%

January 2004 up 90.7%

February 2004 up 33.4%

Clearly the Venezuelan economy as back up and running. The first quarter GNP numbers which are scheduled to be released next week should also confirm that.

These numbers also show to be false the assertion made by some in the opposition that what damaged the economy last year was not the opposition led strike but the exchange controls put in place by the government. The government did indeed put in exchange controls at the height of the strike to prevent the foreign reserves from being depleted. However, they were clearly not the cause the of the economy’s problems. After all the exchange controls are still in place the and the economy is doing quite well.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

War is hell 

Over the past week there has been much ado about the torture and abuse of Iraqi’s being held by the U.S. military. From the halls of the Senate, to the television studios, to the editorial pages of most U.S. papers there has been a flood of crocodile tears over the recently disclosed torture. We are told this is an aberration, that it in no way represents how the U.S. military normally conducts itself and that it is a “stain” upon the U.S.

This is complete nonsense. What happened in the Abu Ghraib prison was no aberration – it is standard conduct for all military forces throughout the world. Yes the Geneva Convention exists. But it exists on paper and nowhere else. The primary law of war is not anything to do with the Geneva Convention; it is to win at all costs.

In military training in the 1970s the author was subject to a rather disconcerting simulated method of torture. It involved tying a person to a wooden plank. The plank was positioned so that the persons head was down and their feet up at more or less a 45% angle. Of course your blood goes to your head, which is plenty uncomfortable as it is. But then the real torture takes place. Water is poured by a funnel into your nostrils and given your position rapidly fills your nasal cavities. This is extremely uncomfortable and gives the person subject to it the sensation of drowning. Going through something like this most people will be willing to talk about a lot more than just their name rank and serial number.

After regaining my composure I asked the officer conducting the training about that particular torture. He responded that it was a very common method of extracting information from prisoners of war and had the added benefit of leaving no visible injuries that someone like the Red Cross could then get upset about. He further explained that it was the most effective interrogation technique that the U.S. used against the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. So much for the Geneva Convention.

War is, as Sherman put it, “unrefined cruelty”. War is where one side uses extreme violence to try to impose its will on someone else. The side which is best at inflicting extreme violence on the other side generally wins. This is why war is almost always a race to the bottom in which both sides compete to see who can be most viscous.
And while all wars tend to be this way guerilla wars tend to be this way in the extreme. This is so because in guerilla wars there is no capturing of territory or overthrowing of governments which can serve as measures of who is winning as is the case with traditional wars between nations. In guerrilla wars the stronger side generally controls all the territory and the state apparatus of the country throughout the duration of the war. The weaker side is just too week to hold territory or set up a formal government. So there is only one thing that is really being fought over – and that is casualties. The guerilla force tries to kill as many of the occupiers as possible and vice versa. You win not by conquering territory but by spilling as much of your opponent’s blood as possible. In this type of warfare rule number 1 is that there are no rules.

There are many many examples that could be used to illustrate this. The Russian occupation of Afghanistan is one. During that war the mujahadin fighters routinely tortured and executed Russian soldiers that they captured. This never seemed to bother the U.S. government which at the time was funding and training them. The Russians responded by using torture, shooting mujahadin prisoners, and massacring civilians. These outrages by both sides steadily increased as the war progressed and each side became more desperate to win.

So rest assured, what happened in the Abu Ghraib prison is taking place in many other places throughout Iraq at this very moment. There may not be digital cameras in those places to let the outside world know what is going on – but it is going on nevertheless. (In fact the one sure change in the US military that will come about as a result of this “scandal” is the banning of taking pictures inside prisons or during interrogations).

In the same way, the brutal murder of Nick Berg is no exception. We can expect to see a repeat of this type of savagery on the part of the insurgents over and over again for as long as this war goes on. They do it not because they are “animals” but because they think it will help them win the war.

This obscene brutality will go on for as long as this war goes on. War and savagery are synonyms. Those Americans who lived through the Vietnam war no that all to well. The French who lived through Algeria know that. And the Russians who lived through Afghanistan know it too. Today in the United States there is a large segment of the population who has no experience with these matters. They think that war is antiseptic like the video images of bombs dropped from airplanes exploding buildings. In those images there is no blood, no shredded bodies, no sign of death. To many Americans that is what war is. They don’t realize that the beheading of Nick Berg is really what war is all about because they have never lived it and no one has ever told them that. So they are just going to have to learn it the hard way.


Venezeulan economy grows at torrid pace 

The Director of the Venezuelan Central Bank, Domingo Zavalo said that the Venezuelan economy probably grew at least 12% in the first quarter of the year and may have grown at a rate of up to 20%. The spectacular growth is led by the energy sector which is expected to grow by up to 15%. But even the non-energy sector is expected to grow between 8 and 10%.

Zavalo also stated that “the manufacturing sector is recovering” and he further pointed out the private sector has also been growing.

This level of high growth comes after two years of negative growth that were largely the result of a coup attempt in April 2002 and a opposition lead strike from December 2002 through February 2003.

It was further pointed out by another director of the BCV, Armando Leon, that while inflation remains a problem in the Venezuelan economy it is being steaddily reduced. The inflation rate for 2003 was 27.1%. It is expted that by 2005 the inflation rate should be less than 20%.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Saudis Say Oil Prices Too High 

As if to prove Bob Woodward right, the Saudis today said that they would recommend that OPEC boost oil production by at least 1.5 million barrels to help lower prices. Oil prices dropped by $1/barrel after the announcement.

Of course, not too much should be read into this. After all, Saudi Arabia needs the money that high oil prices generate and can ill afford for there to be a significant and sustained decrease in oil prices. Most likely these remarks are for public relations purposes and have as their intent to deflect blame from OPEC for current high prices. When it comes to oil, rather than listening to what people say, watch what they do.


Some people are still in denial 

After five years and two elections some people still can’t accept that Hugo Chavez is President of Venezuela. Speaking today on behalf of the main opposition group, the Democratic Coordinator, the current spokesperson for the opposition Pompeyo Marquez stated “In that sense the declarations made yesterday by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez…”

Now of course Hugo Chavez is not a Lieutenant Colonel – he is not even in the Venezuelan army. He is the President of Venezuela. However, such is the spite of the opposition that they cannot even give him his due that he was freely elected twice by large majorities. No, they can not show him even that much deference.

So while the U.S. President angrily upbraids reporters who address him as sir rather than “Mr. President” the Venezuelan opposition refuses to even acknowledge that Hugo Chavez is the President of their country.


Pro-Chavez politician assasinated 

Last Thursday night a mayoral candidate of the MVR (Chavez’s political party) was shot dead as he was driving home from a conference. Giandomenico Puliti was a candidate for mayor in the small municipality of Tovar which is in the state of Merida. It was a organized hit in that several individuals on motorcycles pulled along side his car and shot him dead while he was driving.

At this point it is unclear who is responsible for the murder and what their motives were. It is quite possible that although he was a pro-Chavez politician politics played no role in the murder. And so far, no-one has implied that politics is behind the murder.

However, it bears mentioning that if it had been an opposition politician shot dead the Venezuelan media would be full of accusations that Chavez was behind the murder and that this was more evidence of Venezuela being “totalitarian” state. Unlike those who support Chavez, the opposition doesn’t need to await actual evidence to start making scurrilous accusations.

As it is, the opposition media has essentially ignored Mr. Pulitti’s death.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

"Numeritos" - Little Numbers 

The editor of Ultimas Noticias Eleazar Diaz Rangel today pointed out some interesting numbers with respect to the Venezuelan economy. The reason for referring to them as “Numeritos” – little numbers – is that the opposition to President Chavez goes to great lengths to avoid mentioning numbers that might reflect well upon his administration. This avoidance of dealing with hard numbers on the part of the opposition can really lead to some bizarre articles. For example, there are lengthy essays on the supposed decline of PDVSA that go on and on about all sorts of things but never mention whether the company is making more or less money than before. And of course there is good reason that such numbers won’t be mentioned – PDVSA is far more profitable now than it ever was before. So publishing numbers about PDVSA’s profitability would make it look like Chavez is doing a darn good job. And that is not what the opposition wants to do.

So today Mr. Diaz Rangel gave some numbers that you won’t find in any opposition controlled media. Here are some of them:

“The sale of motor vehicles went up from 17,145 in January to April 2003 to 32,429 in January to April 2004; the Stock Market climbed from 8,100 in April 2003 to 26,204 in April 2004; the deposits in the 50 largest banks went up in the last 12 months by 13 trillion bolivares (73.46%); the foreign reserves went up from $14 billion to $24.3 billion; the sale of cement went from 450,000 metric tonnes in March 2003 to 716,000 metric tonnes in March 2004; non-traditional exports went from $991 million dollars in January to March 2003 to 1.475 billion in January to March 2004”

These are just a few of the “little numbers” which show the economic recovery after the opposition led strike of 2003. The vigor of the recovery is nothing short of spectacular. And it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that while the opposition is bad for the economy, Chavez is good for the economy.


Excuses, excuses 

For the past several months as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated a constant theme has emerged amongst U.S military officials, the Bush administration, and the C.P.A.. That theme is that the increase in insurgent activity results not from a growth in the insurgency or increased support amongst the Iraqi population for the insurgency but rather from the insurgents supposed desperation at preventing the turn over of power to an "Iraqi" government on June 30th.

Of course, this is simply ridiculous. First, nothing of significance is going to change on June 30th. The U.S. will still be militarily occupying Iraq and will be the ultimate arbiter of all power. The unelected "leaders" who will form an "sovereign Iraqi" government will have no legitimacy, no support amongst the Iraqi population, and no power. Why would your average Iraqi support this new government given that they had no say in forming it? And what exactly will this new government do given that it has no ability to make laws and all military and police powers will still be carried out by the U.S.?

The new government will be nothing more than a puppet regime - no less than the puppet regime installed by the Soviets in Afghanistan or the various puppet regimes the U.S. installed in South Vietnam or the Vichy French puppet regime installed by the Nazis in France. These puppet regimes are always put in place so that the outside occupying power doesn't look like - well - an outside occupying power. And that is what the U.S. is hoping for come June 30th. They are hoping that when the daily press briefings in the Green Zone are given not by an English speaking Paul Bremmer but by an Arabic speaking Iraqi "leader" they will somehow be more palatable to the Iraqi population.

However, this will prove to be completely futile. The puppet regime installed by the U.S. will fare no better than any other puppet regime in history has. The Soviet puppet regime in Afghanistan managed to hold on for almost two years after the Red Army withdrew. And the South Vietnamese regime managed to hang on for a couple of years on its own too. However, as things stand now it is clear that the Iraqi governing council or whatever contraption they come up with on June 30th likely wouldn't last two weeks without the U.S. military backing it up.

So it is really quite clear that the insurgents, being astute people, attach no significance to the supposed "hand over of power" on June 30th. That is not what is driving the current fighting. The growing strength, military sophistication, and popular support of the insurgents are what is driving it. But of course the powers that be in the U.S. can't admit that publicly. To admit that would be to admit that, while we may being winning the battles, we are losing the war. And to admit that we are losing the war is, as Rumsfeld would put it, radioactive.

Hence the invented excuses. When it first started out the insurgency was just a few Ba'athist dead enders that needed to be mopped up. Once Saddams sons were killed there was to be a "temporary spike" in violence which would then diminish. When it didn't diminish it was because the evil Saddam was still on the loose. Once he was captured there was supposed to be another "temporary spike" in the fighting which would again recede as people realized the Ba'athists were never coming back. In fact, after the capture of Saddam we were told that the insurgency was all but finished as U.S. military forces supposedly got an bonanza of new intelligence which allowed them to break up Ba'athist cells.

But somehow the fighting has continued and even intensified. Hence the need for new excuses. And the excuse of the moment is the June 30th handover of power. Of course, June 30th will come and go and the fighting will continue and intensify so what will the excuse be then? Well, being the astute person that I am it is clear to me the new excuse will be the U.S. presidential elections. I can already hear them - "the insurgents are fighting harder than ever because they think that if they kill enough Americans before November they can influence our elections and get a new president who will pull are troops out just like what happened with the Spanish" Of course, that is complete B.S. but it will be credible to a segment of the U.S. population and hence serve its purpose of sustaining support for the war.

But, November will come and go and there will still be fighting and it will probably be still worse. So what will the excuse be then? Beats me, but I am sure they will think of something.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?