Warning: political discussion ahead.

At book group last night, conversation eventually drifted from the book (the strange and wonderful At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien) to the situation in the Middle East. (The progression made sense in the context of our discussion, though I’m hard-pressed to reproduce it now.)

The group — mostly liberal, mostly Democrat — wondered: would a hypothetical President John Kerry have a substantially different Middle East policy than President George W. Bush? I’m not sure Kerry would — or could — have a different policy at this point. The United States is in the thick of things now; the time for alternate approaches may have already passed.

The book group spent some time discussing what other choices might have been possible, what actions might have appeased the “terrorists”. I mentioned the research I did in the days following the attacks on September 11th. I always meant to share that research here, but my weblog was young at that point, and I was in shock, so it never saw the light of day.

While sorting through cruft on my hard drive today, I found those notes I wrote in the days after September 11th. They were meant to help me organize my thoughts, to put the attacks on the World Trade Center in perspective. I didn’t share them then; I’m sharing them now.

I was raised a pacifist. I once got knocked unconscious in a “fight” because I would not defend myself. My personal pacifism translates to a desire for global pacifism. When required to register with the selective service, I made it clear that I am a conscientious objector. When the Gulf War occurred, I marched through the streets of Oregon’s capital carrying placards and chanting anti-war slogans. This was not because I’m a hippie or some liberal nutcase — I’m as independent as they come — but because I’m a pacifist. I understand there are complex moral problems with a pacifist ideology. That’s fine. I’m not here to argue the merits of my personal beliefs.

I was as shocked as anyone on September 11th. I was devastated. My heart ached for the people trapped in the World Trade Center, for the people held hostage on the hijacked planes. But my first reaction wasn’t, “Let’s bomb the terrorists who did this.” My first reaction was, “In order for someone to have murdered thousands of people in this fashion, they must hold some pretty strong convictions. I wonder what those are?”

While everyone else was watched the news and discussed how many ways we could nuke Afghanistan, I spent my time on the internet researching the history of the Middle East, exploring the genesis of the attacks. For whatever reason, many of the sites and pages I found are now gone. Fortunately, I printed out the pages I found most useful. I compiled a binder filled with information.

What follows was my attempt to distill that information. I wrote these notes on September 13th, two days after the attacks. The notes are incomplete, but they represent what I was able to find in my research. Throughout the process, I tried not to judge anyone, neither the U.S. nor the attackers. I tried to ignore my political feelings. I noted when I didn’t understand the implications of particular events, or could not find a particular piece of information. I tried to summarize what I had read over the previous 48 hours.

Here are those notes.

How did we get here?
The 11 Sept 01 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were shocking, in part because they seemed to occur with no warning. Our news media and our government officials have treated the attacks as isolated terrorist attacks. They’ve failed to provide a historical context for the events. The attacks were actually a piece of a great war that has been raging for centuries.

Discuss ancient history of Middle East: Romans, etc. [Note: I never completed this section.]

At the end of World War II, the British found themselves occupying the area around Jerusalem, the traditional homeland of both the Jews and the Palestinians. The Jews had been wandering for centuries. They had no homeland since being deposed by the Romans. After the end of the second World War, the Allies said, “Aha! We occupy this land that used to be your homeland. Why don’t you share it with the Palestinians?” So, the area was divided into Israel and Palestine. This, of course, did not sit well with the Palestinians who lived there. They were forcibly moved, and the Jews took up residence in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Over the next few decades, they fought several wars (most notably with Egypt) over the area. Tensions remain high to this day.

After World War II, during the Cold War, the USSR was more concerned with foreign policy than with domestic policy. Money and attention was lavished on foreign relations, while concerns at home were neglected. The Soviet republics in the southwest had large Muslim populations. Afghanistan, on the boarder with the USSR, saw an opportunity to goad a Muslim insurgence while the USSR’s attention was focused elsewhere. This brought Soviet attention to bear on Afghanistan, and the Soviets invaded. The mujahadeen, or God’s Warriors, were Islamic fundamentalists who opposed the Soviets. Osama bin Laden was one of the mujahadeen. The United States provided funds and weapons for the mujahadeen and the Afghans in the war with the Soviets. However, the Soviets were able to march though and to capture the Afghan capital, Kabul. They set up a puppet government. They then retreated to take care of more pressing matters. This puppet government fell to the Taliban. Afghanistan’s leaders became intertwined with the Islamic fundamentalists.

The United States and Iran had been allies for decades. Iran’s Shah was a great friend of the U.S., and relations were good. Relations with Iraq were not so good, though I’m not sure whether they were considered an enemy. Iran was a valuable source of oil for the U.S., and held a key strategic position bordering the Soviet Union. The Shah, however, was not popular in his homeland; his regime was oppressive, and this fomented revolt. During the mid- to late-seventies, his people rose up (led, in part, by Islamic fundmantalists) and deposed him. In the process, they took hostages at the American embassy.

Meanwhile, Iran and Iraq went to war. Though Iraq, and Saddam Hussein, had never been a great friend of the U.S., they became uneasy allies now. With the loss of Iran as an ally, U.S. influence in the region was diminished, and oil supplies were in danger. Iraq provided a mid-East ally and a source for oil. The U.S. provided money and arms for the Iraqis, supporting their war on Iran. The Soviets, in turn, provided support for the Iranians.

As part of this war, Iraq protected Kuwait (which it actually still considered a part of Iraq — Kuwait and Iraq, once part of the same country, had been divided by a British fellow earlier in the century). When the war ended, Iraq found itself with large debts which it serviced largely through oil sales. During the late eighties, Kuwait began a policy of lowering oil prices. This pleased the U.S., of course, but it violated the OPEC charter and, among other states, Iraq became angry with Kuwait. Iraq needed the money from oil in order to stay financially stable. Kuwait ignored the concerns of its larger neighbor.

Iraq became incensed for several reasons: a) Kuwait was cutting oil prices, b) it still considered Kuwait as part of Iraq, and c) Kuwait had annexed a major oil field from Iraq. These problems led to a deterioration in relations between the two countries. Also during this period, Iraq began to believe itself an important power in the region.

During 1990, Saddam Hussein (still on favorable terms with the United States) prepared to invade Kuwait. He met with a representative of the Bush administration. Reports vary as to what occurred at the meeting. Hussein, however, came away from the discussion believing that the United States would, at the very least, not interfere with his actions, and possibly even support them. He invaded Kuwait. To his utter surprise, the U.S. leapt to Kuwait’s defense and the Gulf War occurred.

Osama bin Laden
During the Gulf War, the United States used Saudi Arabia as a base of operations. The Saudis are U.S. allies, though uneasy ones at times. Saudi Arabia is the site of several Islamic holy sites. (I’m unclear as to whether the U.S. bases of operations were actually located near these holy sites.) Conservative Mulsims were outraged at U.S. presence in what it considered holy lands. This outrage increased when, after the Gulf War, the U.S. did not remove its bases, but instead made them permanent installations.

Osama bin Laden was one of the leaders of the outraged. Bin Laden’s father was a billionaire construction magnate. Osama was one of fifty-two children, and a devout Muslim. (I think he may have become a Muslim cleric.) He had left Saudi Arabia to fight with the mujahadeen, receiving U.S. support in the Afghan fight against the Soviet Union. He retuned to Saudi Arabia sometime in the late eighties or early nineties, and became outraged at the U.S. presence on the Islamic holy lands. He was vocal demanding that the U.S. leave. I’m unclear as to whether he began attacks against the U.S. at this point or not. In any event, the U.S. did not like bin Laden and asked the Saudis to exile him, which they did.

Osama bin Laden went to Somalia, from which he began his attacks on U.S. interests. Later, he moved to his current base of operations in Afghanistan. Why is Osama bin Laden so powerful among conservative Moslems? He has wealth, he is a religious leader, and he is a war hero. These three things give him tremendous power. Why does he hate the United States? To some extent, he hates the U.S. because it is there. This isn’t the only reason, though, and it trivializes his beliefs to focus on it as the sole motivation for his behavior. More to the point, he hates the United States because: a) the U.S. is one of Israel’s closest allies, b) the United States will not leave the holy lands in Saudi Arabia, and c) he considers the United States to be a great force for evil in the world, a perpetrator of wanton terrorism (bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fighting in southeast Asia, and carpet-bombing Iraq).

U.S. foreign policy does seem to have been conducted without regard for the feelings and beliefs of the Moslem people. (This is understandable, of course. The United States’ primary concern is itself.) It is impossible to please everyone, and the U.S. has made a decision (whether conscious or not) that Islam is not important enough to be considered in its foreign policy decisions. Whether this is right or wrong is debatable. Regardless, there are consequences to this behavior. Whether these consequences are out of proportion with the U.S. foreign policy is also debatable.

To many Moslems in the Middle East, the Gulf War is not over. The United States marched in, stomped Iraq, and then left. The war was over for the U.S., but not for Iraq, and not for certain Islamic fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden. To them, the war has continued for the past decade. But, it’s a war in which they must fight using unconventional attacks.

The United States is too large and too powerful, and the Muslim resources too insignificant, for a traditional attack on the U.S. Of course, geography is also an important factor; it’s simply impossible to launch a direct assault on The United States. Instead, the war has continued on the Muslim’s terms: through acts of what we consider “terrorism”, but the Muslims consider legitimate warfare. The attack on U.S. soldiers in Somalia, the bombing of the World Trade Center, the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and the attacks on September 11th are all salvoes in this war. They are not isolated incidents of terrorism, but part of a larger war that has been playing out for centuries, and into which the United States has placed itself largely, though not solely, due to its dependency on oil.

Whether the U.S. should be involved in this war is debatable, and it’s not for me to say. I’m merely trying to provide background information to explain how we got here. What will happen now? I’m sure we’ll attack somebody, but I just don’t know who.

[Error corrections welcome. Additional information — especially on ancient history of the Middle East — also welcome.]

Two-and-a-half years later, the results of this research still form the basis for my understanding of the situation in the Middle East. My opposition to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq isn’t so much because I think our actions are evil — though I do think this — as I think they don’t address the core issues. The people we’re fighting are only going to be satisfied if we remove all of our presence from the Middle East and if we decrease our support for Israel.

Some of the book group members noted — correctly, I think — that a U.S. withdrawal is not going to appease anyone now. We’ve gone over and thrown our weight around too many times; now people might just fight back for the sake of fighting back. This is true. But at one time, it would have been a significant step toward pacifying the anger fomenting against our country.

The Middle East has been a source of cultural turmoil not just for decades, not just for centuries, but for millennia. Think about that. Millennia.

It’s ignorant to think that we can go over there with our military might and moral rectitude and somehow make things right. We’re better off worrying about our own neighborhood.

Imperfect reproduction of a joke told by Joel last night, as he had heard it earlier in the day on Garrison Keillor’s annual Joke Show: “The government knows Iraq has weapons of mass destruction — the Pentagon has the receipts.”


On 19 April 2004 (08:47 AM),
J.D. said:

I’m going through my two-inch binder of information, the stuff I collated on the days following September 11th, trying to find links that are still active. (I’ve also added a few links collected in the years since the attacks.) Here are some of those links:

Middle East History
Arab civilization [good]
Dialog from political-islam list on Islamic fundamentalism
The challenge of inclusion in the Middle East [excellent]
A brief history of Palestine [biased, but informative]
Middle East peace process, historical background [a timeline — when I found this on 9/13/01, it only went to The Mitchell Report — this site has a Muslim bias]
History of Middle East conflict [BBC site — not updated since 9/11]

Teheran students seize U.S. embassy and hold hostages [archived news article]
Time Magazine’s person of the year 1979: Ayatullah Khomeini [must read — excellent and important — read this article with the knowledge of twenty-five years of history]

Background to the Gulf War and the Iraq-Kuwait frontier question [another excellent article including much history of the region from the past century]
Set-up of Iraq [biased article, but provides a certain perspective — has now been incorporated into the Iraq resource information site — a lot of info from Iraq’s perspective can be found here]
Iraq’s grievances with Kuwait [again: biased, but informative]
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait: an eyewitness account [excellent but long]

Note: I didn’t research Saddam Hussein after September 11th because there seemed no need to do so. Hussein had not link to the attacks. To this day, there still is nothing linking Hussein to the attacks.

A lot of the info on Afghanistan that I found on Sept.13 is now gone. I’m not saying this is some attempt to obfuscate facts, but the pages have simply vanished.

Afghanistanian history
The Soviet war in Afghanistan: history and harbinger of future war? [a U.S. military document?]
The cost of an Afghan ‘victory’ [excellent article from 1999 — biased (it’s from The Nation, after all]

Osama bin Laden
The challenge to crush bin Laden [a 9/15/01 article from BBC]
In Islamic world, bin Laden’s esteem rises
Osama bin Ladin: wealth plus extremism equals terrorism
The U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia fuels Osama bin Laden’s jihad [CNN article from early 2001 — points directly to bin Laden’s anger over U.S. military occupation of Muslim holy lands — important
Osama bin Laden: portrait of a militant
Who is Osama bin Laden [BBC News]
Talks with Osama bin Laden [again from The Nation, so watch for bias]
Why they hate us [how about bias in the other direction? National Review article that, in my opinion, misses the boat]
Hunting bin Laden [a March 2000 episode of Frontline — great background info]

Miscellaneous articles
Falwell blames gays, liberal groups for terrorist attacks [I can’t find my original source, but this is the entire text of the article — just so we remember the nutcases in our own midst]
Bush set sights on Saddam after 9/11, never looked back [from Mar 2003 — makes me sick]
A quick introduction to Islam [pro-Islam bias]
Islam: a religion of terror? [pro-Islam bias]
Teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [great resource, but overwhelming]
Brutality smeared in peanut butter: why America must stop the war now [opinion by author Arundhati Roy]
The war in Afghanistan talking points: 47 questions and answers

On 19 April 2004 (09:05 AM),
Emily said:

I think “It’s ignorant to think that we can go over there with our military might and moral rectitude and somehow make things right. We’re better off worrying about our own neighborhood.” says it all.

On 19 April 2004 (09:38 AM),
Tammy said:

Waaa! This entry’s too long. I’ll never find time to read it!

On 19 April 2004 (01:22 PM),
Dave said:

There are several things at work here that are interesting. First, I must tell everyone that although I am not in favor of the current war in Iraq, unlike JD, I am clearly not a pacifist and I am not opposed to taking military action against other nations so long as it is justified. That said, what would an election of John Kerry change in terms of the war in Iraq?

For starters, one of the things that really irritates the rest of the world is a sense of American arrogance. Several of JD’s links mention this. It is hard to see most anyone as being more arrogant than George Bush. Kerry claims that he will be more conciliatory to the rest of the world, but then again, Bush claimed to be the “Great Uniter”, too.

If Kerry were to take a more inclusive role in determining foreign policy, by which I mean providing a greater amount of deference to other nation’s views, then he might resolve some of this. Second, if the rest of the world saw him as being willing to flex on the inclusion of additional nations in the benefits as well as the responsibilities in Iraq, then perhaps we would get a different result than we are getting with Bush. Certainly a genuinely more inclusive force in Iraq would, if nothing else, share the pain a little. The down side of this is that there is an element of blackmail in this. Most other countries really want to be included in the rebuilding phase (funded by American tax dollars), and are willing to commit a token amount of troops to ensure that their version of Halliburton gets some contracts.

The other thing to remember, however, is that Muslim anger at the US serves a very valuable purpose for nations in the Middle East. Very few of the Middle Eastern nations are genuinely democratic and as such most of the population has very little say in the way their government is run and the way they are governed. If all of these people are angry with the US and blame the US for the fact that they live in less than perfect conditions, they’re not looking at their own government as a source of at least some of their woes.

Consider Saudi Arabia. Huge oil reserves, huge cash inflow, low general standard of living, women don’t get to vote, are told what to wear and not allowed to exercise what we would consider to by fairly essential civil liberties, like driving without a male escort (or at all). This is not the fault of the US. We have had no say in the Saudi’s laws. However, as long as the general Saudi population is angry with us, and out protesting because of our Palestinian/Israeli policy, they’re not protesting their own government. A government which is extraordinarily wealthy by any standard, but yet does relatively little for it’s people. This would be something like a wealthy minority ruling our country, directing a foreign policy that exploits our innate prejudices and dissatisfaction in order to control potential unrest here at home.


Well, at any rate, in order to accomplish true change in the Middle East we would have to essentially turn the majority of people against their own governments. The only way to do this is to show those people what the benefits are of a true, oil fueled, democracy with the freedom to provide for it’s people. Iraq can be that example. Obviously it’s not in the interests of the majority of the oil producing nations in the Middle East to let us do this. And, as JD mentions, these people have been unhappy for many, many, many years and it probably ain’t gonna happen any time soon.

To assume, however, that this is Bush’s strategy gives a significantly greater amount of credit than is probably deserved. I’d be willing to believe that there was someone else pulling the strings, but I honestly don’t believe that anyone there has a long term vision of America that would be sufficient for that type of analysis. There’s too much ideological, short term thinking going on for that to be the case.

On 19 April 2004 (01:46 PM),
Dana said:

Excellent post, JD.

A few comments on your summation of events:


I find the US foreign policy to be most understandable as being a modern form of the Roman Imperial system or the British Colonial Empire. All of the Cold War was largely publicly justified as a war of Ideologies, but I think it was really far more a war of influence and control. Witness the large number of fascist or dictatorial governments we were in bed with in order to promote our interests in virtually all parts of the world.

If the Ideological War with the USSR was won at the conclusion of the Cold War, why did the US continue to maintain military installations all over the world if not to maintain their political and economic influence in the regions the bases were established?


There is a worldwide commodoties market in Oil Futures. This market operates using the US Dollar as it’s core trading currency. This is one of the (many) reasons the dollar tends to be a stable currency — because Very Important Resources like Oil are bought and sold using it. It’s in everybody’s interest to sort of stabilize the market, which in turn stabilizes the currency.

Sadam Hussein decided, in the late 90s, to stop selling Iraqi Oil using dollars. He switched to the Euro. This made all the papers and news outlets at the time. Why was this a big deal? Well, the Euro is already a common interchange for a large chunk of nations in Europe. By trying to promote the Euro as a currency for international Oil Trading, he was making a play to challenge the dominance of the dollar as the primary stable worldwide currency, and thus at the same time make US monetary policy and economic influence that much less important globally.

Not long after, we invaded him and kicked him out. And what do you think Iraqi Oil is priced in now that the US is running the show there?


I disagree with you about pulling out. No, pulling out is not enough to satisfy Middle Eastern interests — we’ve stirred up the hornet’s nest — but it is a good first step. And there are diplomatic ways of approaching it as a step which can go a long ways towards opening up a dialog with the leaders and, more importantly, the people of the Middle East.

The people of the middle east, taken as a heterogenous whole, have been trying to say they disagree with us on a whole host of moral, ethical, diplomatic, and economic issues. We’ve been doing the diplomatic equivalent of sticking our fingers in our ears and going, “La la la can’t hear you” for decades now.

So, eventually, they bop us on the nose, crying, “Are you going to listen to us now?”

Do I agree with their methods? Of course not. I’m as much, if not more, of a pacifist than JD is. But I understand the frustration they feel, and I think it’s justified.


The US does not own the world, as much as our nation seems to like to act like it does. Every once in awhile the rest of the world has to grab us by the lapels and shake us around to remind us of this. But we’re kinda dopey, and keep forgetting. And we don’t take the hint very well — requiring more and more serious wake up calls to happen.

Our response to this is to fight back. “Oh yes, we do own the whole world!” So far, we’ve beaten back all the serious threats to global influence that we’ve faced. But eventually we won’t be so lucky. Even if we do continue to exert worldwide domination, we’ve never deserved that position from a moral point of view.



Some illuminating quotes from the current administration:

Is Bush qualified?

“You know I could run for governor but I’m basically a media creation. I’ve never done anything. I’ve worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business. But that’s not the kind of profile you have to have to get elected to public office.” George W. Bush, 1989

Cheney’s role

“Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole? It’s a nice way to operate, actually.” — Dick Cheney, VP of the US

Bush and Fascism, part I

“You don’t get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier.” Describing what it’s like to be governor of Texas.(Governing Magazine 7/98)
— From Paul Begala’s “Is Our Children Learning?”

“I told all four that there are going to be some times where we don’t agree with each other, but that’s OK. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator,” Bush joked.
— CNN.com, December 18, 2000

“A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it, ” [Bush] said.
— Business Week, July 30, 2001

There ought to be limits to freedom.
— George W. Bush, complaining about a website (www.gwbush.com) critical of him, at an Austin Press Conference, May 21, 1999

It’s not a dictatorship in Washington, but I tried to make it one in that instance. — George W. Bush, discussing Faith-based initiatives authorized by executive order

Dissent is Treason

September 20, 2001 – “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” President George W. Bush

To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. — John Ashcroft, 2001, defending the USA Patriot Act

Mr. Rumsfeld did not mention any of the domestic critics by name. But he suggested that those who have been critical of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and its aftermath might be encouraging American foes to believe that the United States might one day walk away from the effort, as it has in past conflicts. — NY Times article, 2003, summarizing Donald Rumsfeld

War is Peace

“The cause of peace requires the full force and might of our military” — George W. Bush, “Ultimatum” speech to Iraq, March 17, 2003

Bush and Fascism part II

Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.
George W. Bush

On September 11 2001, America felt its vulnerability even to threats that gather on the other side of the Earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat from any source that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.
George W. Bush

The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war.
George W. Bush

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Hermann Goering, president of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief, is attributed with making the statement at the Nuremburg trials

Ignorance is Strength

“The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our Number One priority, and we will not rest until we find him!”
George W. Bush, September 13, 2001

“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and I really don’t care. Its not that important. It’s not our priority.”
George W. Bush, March 13, 2002

Repeating History

“An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein � and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans.” — David Frum, Speechwriter for George W. Bush

Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. … O people of Baghdad, remember that for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants who have endeavoured to set one Arab house against another in order that they might profit by your dissensions. This policy is abhorrent to Great Britain and her allies, for there can be neither peace nor prosperity where there is enmity and misgovernment. — Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude, as he marched into Baghdad in 1917

“Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators.” Adolf Hitler, February 27, 1933, on the occasion of the Third Reich�s invasion of Austria.

We come as an army of liberation, and we want to see the Iraqis running their own affairs as soon as they can. — Paul Wolfowitz

Freedom is Slavery

I don’t think our troops should be used for what’s called nation-building.
— spoken during a nationally televised debate, October 11, 2000.

As freedom takes hold in Iraq, the Iraqi people will choose their own leaders and their own government. America has no intention of imposing our form of government or our culture. — George W. Bush

We will leave Iraq completely in the hands of Iraqis as quickly as possible. — Condoleeza Rice

If you’re suggesting, how would we feel about an Iranian-type government with a few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is: That isn’t going to happen. — Donald Rumsfeld

We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will capture or, if necessary, kill them until we have imposed law and order upon this country. — Paul Bremer

“You’ll see the celebrations and we will be happy Saddam has gone, but we will then want to rid ourselves of the Americans and we will want to keep our oil and there will be resistance and then they will call us ‘terrorists'”. — Citizen of Baghdad on the day it fell to US forces

Bush and Fascism III

I want to thank all my citizens for coming. — George W. Bush, Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota, Oct. 31, 2002

I was disappointed that the Congress did not respond to the $3.5 billion we asked for. They not only reduced the budget that we asked for, they earmarked a lot of the money. That’s a disappointment, a disappointment when the executive branch gets micromanaged by the legislative branch. — George W. Bush, discussing one of the Checks and Balances of the US Constitution, Congresses “Power of the Purse”

Far be it from the American President to get to decide who leads what country. — George W. Bush, ITN interview

I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go. — Georege W. Bush, same ITN interview

I’m the commander — see, I don’t need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation. — George W. Bush

Just plain weird

See, free nations do not develop weapons of mass destruction. — George W. Bush (apparently forgetting that the US has more WMD than any other nation on Earth)

First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren’t necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn’t mean you’re willing to kill.
— George W. Bush, Washington, DC, May 19, 2003.

All of us here in America should believe, and I think we do, that we should be, as I mentioned, a nation of owners. Owning something is freedom, as far as I’m concerned. It’s part of a free society… It’s a part of — it’s of being a — it’s a part of — an important part of America.
— George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., October 15, 2002.

You can fool some of the people all of the time and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.
— George W. Bush, Washington, DC March 31, 2001

This is an impressive crowd, the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base. — George W. Bush, Al Smith Memorial Dinner, New York, NY, October 19, 2000

No Mistakes

I don’t want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I’m confident I have. I just haven’t N you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one — George W. Bush

“He that makes war without many mistakes has not made war very long.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

On 19 April 2004 (02:02 PM),
J.D. said:

Owning something is freedom…

Best. quote. ever! Hours of laughter.

On 19 April 2004 (02:12 PM),
Dana said:

Yeah — it took awhile to put that list together, but as soon as I saw that quote I knew I had to include it. It’s just…Wow. (shake head)

On 19 April 2004 (02:33 PM),
Dave said:

Dana, what’s the citation for the “you can fool some of the people…” quote?

On 19 April 2004 (02:53 PM),
Dana said:

Wow, it looks like Ownership isn’t just freedom!

And we began to recover from the attacks on September the 11th because we’re a strong people. We’re resilient because there’s an ownership society, a culture of ownership in America. George W. Bush, Bakersfield, California, Mar. 4, 2004

The march to war affected the people’s confidence. It’s hard to make investment. See, if you’re a small business owner or a large business owner and you’re thinking about investing, you’ve got to be optimistic when you invest. Except when you’re marching to war, it’s not a very optimistic thought, is it? In other words, it’s the opposite of optimistic when you’re thinking you’re going to war. War is not conducive to — for investment. George W. Bush, Springfield, Missouri, Feb. 9, 2004

We want to make sure our wallets all across the country are healthy. — George W. Bush, Philadelpia, Pennsylvania, Jan. 31, 2004

To serve the economic needs of our country, we must also reform our immigration laws. Reform must begin by confronting a basic fact of life and economics. Some of the jobs being generated in America’s growing economy are jobs American citizens are not filling. This past week, I proposed a new temporary worker program that would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. If an American employer is offering a job that American citizens are not willing to take, we ought to welcome into our country a person who will fill that job. — George W. Bush, President’s Radio Address, Jan. 10, 2004

Yeah, because we wouldn’t want those businesses to generate jobs American citizens would actually be willing to take! Huh?

See, when a person has more money in their pocket, they’re likely to come to Home Depot. — George W. Bush, Halethorpe, Maryland, Dec. 5, 2003

Brian Stowell is here. …He says the tax cuts helped a lot. That’s his words, not mine. …He’s going to buy a new router, made in North Carolina. There’s a router worker who’s going to be a — benefit from his decision caused by tax relief. — George W. Bush, Manchester, New Hampshire, Oct. 9, 2003

Tax Relief allows employers to buy routers!

When somebody has more money in their pocket, they’re more likely to demand a good or a service. And in our society, when you demand a good or a service, somebody is going to produce the good or a service. — George W. Bush, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oct. 3, 2003

As opposed to in all those other societies, where demands for goods and services are never met.

Higher productivity means that workers earn more. — George W. Bush, Richfield, Ohio, Sep. 1, 2003

Worker productivity accelerated last year at the fastest rate in more than a half century. This higher productivity means our workers receive higher wages. — George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 30, 2003

The snide comments practically write themselves.

We got attacked in 9/11. And then corporate scandals started to bubble up to the surface, which created a — a lack of confidence in the system. And then we had the drumbeat to war. Remember on our TV screens — I’m not suggesting which network did this — but it said, “March to War,” every day from last summer until the spring — “March to War, March to War.” That’s not a very conducive environment for people to take risk, when they hear, “March to War” all the time. — George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 1, 2003

Gosh, why would the media be reporting that? And who is friends with all those CEOs?

We said loud and clear [to corporate scoundrels], if you cheat the shareholder and your employees, you will be held responsible for those decisions. The world is now more peaceful because we acted. — George W. Bush, Fridley, Minnesota, Jun. 19, 2003

So, wait. Wasn’t it winning the War on Terror that would make the world more peaceful?

The crux of the plan I laid out said that if a person has more money in their pocket, they’re likely to demand an additional good or a service. In our type of economy, when you demand a good or a service, somebody is going to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces that good or a service, it’s more likely a fellow citizen will find work. — George W. Bush, Chicago, Illinois, Jun. 11, 2003

You know, because all that stuff we buy in the US is manufactured right here by our own citizens, except for those jobs we aren’t willing to take, which are being offered to our new legal immigrant worker class.

We got into deficit because the economy went into the recession — is how we got into deficit.
— George W. Bush, Little Rock, Arkansas, May 5, 2003

Yeah, that’s it. It has nothing to do with spending more money than we had.

Twenty-three million businesses will receive over $2,000 in income tax relief. Now, that means a lot when you start thinking about the implications. I mean, you’ve got a one-man shop. $2,000 may mean the capacity to buy a machine, leverage the money to buy a machine, which means another job. — George W. Bush


So I met a guy today named Joe…. He said, by allowing businesses to expense up to $75,000, it means somebody is more likely to buy a copying machine, or in this case, an architectural fancy machine.
— George W. Bush, St. Louis, Missouri, Jan. 22, 2003

I’m guessing that’s a technical term there…

If you put your mind to it, the first-time home buyer, the low-income home buyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else. — George W. Bush

This is — an ownership society is a compassionate society. — George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2002

Wow, that ownership stuff sure is powerful. I ought to get me some of that.

We need people up there who understand that if Congress overspends it will serve as an anchor to economic vitality and growth. — George W. Bush

So, deficit spending is good?

We’ve got some challenges that face our economy, there’s no question about it. I mean, the first three quarters of my presidency we were in recession. That means the economy was going backwards, it was negative growth. The next three quarters we’ve had positive growth. But about halfway through that time, the enemy hit us, and it affected our economy. — George W. Bush, Central Point, Oregon, Aug. 22, 2002

I think one of the things you’ll hear is that even though times are kind of tough right now, that we’re America. — George W. Bush, Economic Recovery and Job Creation Session, President’s Economic Forum, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, Aug. 13, 2002

So, being in a recession doesn’t make this a different country?

If you welcome trade into your country, it creates the notion of freedom. It gives people, consumers, the opportunity to demand product, which is part of a free society. — George W. Bush, White House, Apr. 4, 2002

Right. Freedom is demanding product.

Look, I don’t care about the numbers. I know the facts. — George W. Bush, St. Petersburg, Florida, Mar. 8, 2002

Ah, well, that’s alright, then.

America is, the harder you work, the easier the middle class ought to become, and the more money you get to keep. — George W. Bush, National Newspaper Association 40th Annual Government Affairs Conference, Washington, D.C., Mar. 22, 2001

They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it’s some kind of federal program. — George W. Bush, St. Charles, Missouri, Nov. 2, 2000

On 19 April 2004 (03:00 PM),
Dana said:

Dave, I get this:

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”
—George W. Bush (joking at a Gridiron Club dinner, Washington, DC March, 2001)

On 19 April 2004 (03:30 PM),
J.D. said:

On a related note: Easter in Fallujah, a harrowing tale of the peace-fire on Easter Sunday (via frykitty).

On 20 April 2004 (06:08 AM),
dowingba said:

J.D., in a war, soldiers are your targets. Whether the Gulf War was “over” for the Middle-east or not, 9/11 were terrorist attacks.

Would the Democrats have done anything differently after 9/11? I doubt it. The question is: How would the Republicans have reacted to the Dem’s decisions?

Unfortunately, since the Dems want to get elected — that is their job, and their #1 priority — they have to “disagree” with Bush’s decisions, even if they are the very decisions a Dem would have made had they been in office.

Something people seem to forget, is that there is nothing definitively “conservative” about this war. There’s no reason to think a Democrat would have made any different decisions. Democrats have been in office during wars, you know. The only difference? A Democrat would have raised taxes instead of cut taxes to help stimulate the war-slammed economy.

On 20 April 2004 (06:51 AM),
Paul said:

I agree with dowingba’s last comment about the Democrats following a very similar policy post 9/11. The saying goes, “Politics stop at the waters edge.”

During the months following 9/11 I tried to imagine how Gore would have handled the situation. I can’t imagine that it would have been different up to a point: I don’t think we would have begun the long, seemingly inevitable march toward Bagdad. Gore had the benefit of the intelligence briefings of the Clinton regime and it’s knowledge of Bin Laden. Gore might have pursued Bin Laden just as aggressively and not been so fixated on Saddam.

Have any of you read (or have any interest in) Bob Woodward’s latest book about the planning for Irag? I’m amazed/stunned that Bush agreed to the interviews with Woodward. Bush’s white house has been one very insular and secretive and to let Woodward in the door with his Watergate history is astounding.

On 20 April 2004 (07:11 AM),
Jeff said:

Tammy Said: Waaa! This entry’s too long. I’ll never find time to read it!

Tammy, if there is one entry that you need to find time to read, it is this one. If there is one entry that all of America needs find time to read, it is this one.

But then I guess most of America doesn’t really want to know the truth. How sad.

On 20 April 2004 (08:20 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Dowingba raises some interesting points.

In a war, soldiers are your targets. Whether the Gulf War was “over” for the Middle-east or not, 9/11 were terrorist attacks.

While it is true that conventional warfare is waged between militaries, I’m not sure that’s true of nonconventional warfare. I think that the term “terrorist” is a convenient label applied to anyone with whose military tactics we disagree.

First of all, let’s note that under Dowingba’s delineation, the United States’ conduct then cannot be considered wholly non-terrorist. The Easter in Fallujah story is a first-hand account of U.S. soldiers targeting non-soldiers. Does that make our military terrorists? Also, what of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These most certainly did not target soldiers. They targeted civilians, and tens of thousands of them. Were these terrorist attacks? I think it’s pretty clear that throughout history, the civilian population has often been a military target, from ancient Rome until the present. It’s not a new tactic. It’s only terrorism if you’re the country being attacked.

Still, I agree that wars ought to be fought between armies. In what way, though, could Osama bin Laden or Timothy McVeigh or Theodore Kaczynski directly attack the U.S. military? They couldn’t, of course. Such an act would have been suicide, not war. When a person or group is powerless but still feels compelled to wage war upon a nation, they choose a target they feel they can attack without risk. And even if the 9/11 attacks had been against our military (and the attack on the Pentagon was, to an extent, on our military), would they have had the moral impact as a symbolic attack? I don’t think so.

Would the Democrats have done anything differently after 9/11? I doubt it.

While the overall outcome might have been the same (war against Osama bin Laden), I think the details might have been different. And I don’t think the U.S. would have gone to war with Iraq. Remember that the war against Iraq has no basis in 9/11. It has, in fact, no basis in anything, apparently. If anyone can prove to me that it’s anything more than a personal vendetta, I’ll be happy to moderate my position.

On 20 April 2004 (10:12 AM),
Dana said:

JD: If anyone can prove to me that it’s anything more than a personal vendetta, I’ll be happy to moderate my position.

Well, there’s always The Rise of the Vulcans (no, that’s not a Star Trek reference…)

An excerpt from that review:

The Reagan administration planning suggests strongly that policy-makers such as Cheney and Rumsfeld talk the talk about invading other nations to impose democracy but find democracy a nuisance at home.

Neoconservative (Who they are and what they believe)

And, on a slightly different note:

Planet of Slums (Chilling predictions about the future of human population growth)

Anyway, the upshot is that I don’t think it’s just revenge — I suspect it’s more about Oil and Empire, at least for most of the administration.

On 20 April 2004 (12:04 PM),
Desiree said:

Wow… JD and Dana you have both put so much time and research into this, well done.

As Jeff said “If there is one entry that all of America needs find time to read, it is this one.”

On 20 April 2004 (08:45 PM),
Sheilah said:

WOW!!!! I came in at the very end, and can’t believe it. Great job, JD, and Dana.

But, JD -I have an off the subject question….when I am posting into another persons site like this…how do I do the highlighting that you do? That would be really helpful to know. If you don’t want to post it on here because its’ off the subject, I’d love it if you’d email me the answer! Thanks

On 20 April 2004 (08:47 PM),
Sheilah said:

Oh…and JD…I’d love to invite you over to my sight, especially for todays post, as I be you have some really neat answers! I’d love to hear them. 🙂

On 20 April 2004 (09:07 PM),
dowingba said:

J.D. can you prove to me that it was some personal vendetta? The Bush administration (and allies) are trying to end terrorism (or at least, snuff it out as a major problem on the world stage), not just react violently to 9/11 attacks. They took care of Afghanistan, and are working on Al Queda. They are taking care of Iraq as we speak. Other countries in the region have offered to disarm as a result. Iraq is a pretty major player in the Middle-east, if you haven’t noticed. They are one of the most advanced, powerful and influential Middle-eastern states. Do you really not see the benefit in converting them from a violent, war-mongering dictatorship into a (more) peaceful democracy? Has Bush’s new foreign policy not shown the world that the West means business?

Such an act would have been suicide, not war.

It was suicide…

On 20 April 2004 (09:17 PM),
dowingba said:

Oh, and I would like to add, in reference to the bombs dropped in Japan…

While those bombs played an integral part in ending that seemingly endless war, I, for the life of me, can’t understand why they decided to drop them on civilians. The original intent of the Manhattan Project was to drop a bomb somewhere outside Germany, in an unpopulated area, just to demonstrate the power of said bomb, and force the Germans to surrender.

‘Twas certainly a black mark on American history, and human history as a whole.

On 20 April 2004 (10:37 PM),
nate said:

dowingba: While those bombs played an integral part in ending that seemingly endless war, I, for the life of me, can’t understand why they decided to drop them on civilians.

The best I ever been able to come up with when answering that same question is that with the Japanese already proving dedicated enough to use kamikaze tactics, the US felt they might not respond to a mere demonstration, instead opting to show they had the balls to actually use the bomb — and twice.

I do know why the second bomb was dropped — common thinking was that any country had only enough resources to build and drop one bomb, and with our trump card played, we wouldn’t be in as good a negotiating position. By dropping two, we were bluffing that we could keep up the bombing until there was nothing left of Japan to negotiate with.

On 21 April 2004 (07:15 AM),
Jeff said:

I’m not JD, but I would like to address some of dowingba’s comment.

can you prove to me that it was some personal vendetta?

No WMD’s, no evidence of terrorist cells (before we got there, anyway), just finishing what his Daddy started. To go in with only the support of a few allies is pretty much a personal vendetta.

The US government welcomed Sadam into power in the early ’80s and turned a blind eye while he killed thousands of his own people. It was only after Sadam realized that the US had been supporting both Iraq and Iran during their war that he turned on us (can you really blame him?). Bush Sr. thought he would just go back to being a good puppet dictatorship, but 10 years later he was still a bit of a thorn in Bush Jr’s side – thus the Bush empire rolls on.

The Bush administration (and allies) are trying to end terrorism (or at least, snuff it out as a major problem on the world stage), not just react violently to 9/11 attacks.

You cannot end terrorism by doing the very thing that caused terrorism in the first place. Iraq was not a terrorist threat before we got there, but it sure is now. If we really want to end the threat of terrorism, we need to quit shoving our version of freedom down every other nations’ throats.

They took care of Afghanistan, and are working on Al Queda.

Took care of? “Still taking care of” is more appropriate. Look beyond the US approved mass media.

They are taking care of Iraq as we speak.

That is a matter of opinion. They may have eliminated most of Sadam’s loyalists, but they have opened up a whole new can of worms with the Shiites. This is going to take years to resolve.

Other countries in the region have offered to disarm as a result. Iraq is a pretty major player in the Middle-east, if you haven’t noticed. They are one of the most advanced, powerful and influential Middle-eastern states.

Why do we need other countries to disarm? Any nation should have the right to defend itself with conventional weapons.

Do you really not see the benefit in converting them from a violent, war-mongering dictatorship into a (more) peaceful democracy?

Yes, there is a huge benefit. Oh… you weren’t talking about getting rid of the Bush administration.

Sadam was basically a de-clawed cat when Bush Jr. rolled into Iraq. Dumbya should have waited until he had the support of the world behind him.

Has Bush’s new foreign policy not shown the world that the West means business?

Yeah. Big business. Halliburton.

Bush’s foreign policy has shown the world that we have no regard for what they think. It has shown the world that we are out to police the globe, invading other nations as we see fit. It has shown the world that we would rather offer our own form of terrorism to other nations than try to achieve peaceful solutions through diplomacy. It has shown the world that we are now overt about our removal and installation of puppet dictatorships, rather than covert as we were during the Cold War.

You see dowingba, the Bush administration and the mass media have twisted what terrorism is all about. Terrorists do not hate freedom – they simply want freedom in their own lands – without the USofA dictating what that freedom is.

I cannot offer a perfect solution, as there is no easy way out. But I can assure you that more war and suffering is not going to end terrorism, it will only fuel it.

On 21 April 2004 (08:50 AM),
Jeff said:

So, how did we get here?

To answer this question, we must first realize that this is all just an extension of the Cold War and, to a certain extent, World War II (specifically the Yalta Conference of 1945).

As Stalin repeatedly went back on his word, it became more evident that the US needed to do something to stop the spread of communism. The Korean War (which took place just 5 years after Yalta) and the Vietnam War were the most obvious, overt battles against communism, but there were many more covert battles taking place in different parts of the world.

The Shah of Iran (an oppressive dictator) was one of the US’ most important allies during the Cold War, mainly because of Iran’s proximity to the USSR. When the Shah fell from power, we needed a new ally in the region, so we made friends with another oppressive dictator, Mr. Sadam Hussein. The rest is history.

See also: Iran-Contra

While this was going on, the Soviets were trying to invade a dusty, rugged region called Afghanistan (see JD’s notes about the Mujahadeen and OBL), and we were there.

In Chile, a Marxist by the name of Salvador Allende was democratically elected into power (in 1970). Nixon and the CIA had a hand in overthrowing Allende and bringing General Pinochet into power. Pinochet’s coup ended the lives of thousands of innocent civilians (for more info, go here and here).

Then there was the afformentioned aid of Contra rebels against the democratically elected (socialist) Sandanista government.

The list goes on and on.

If you want to know about the world and understand and educate yourself, you have to dig;
dig up books and articles, read and find out for yourself.
-John Stockwell, former CIA official and author

Can you handle the truth?

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