The lack of oversight characterizing both the Bush administration and crony capitalism have bankrupted the U.S. and created the need for perpetual war. With Cheney stirring up trouble over Iran, we can't wait until November 2008 to fight back.
Take the Fed's recent $30 billion bailout of Bear Sterns. Why throw taxpayer dollars at a company with massive amounts of "toxic waste" on its books, created largely through reckless behavior chasing short-term profits?
Reigning in Wall Street would make more sense. Force investment banks to disclose off-balance-sheet risks and put aside substantial reserves, at minimum.
But no, the Fed instead hands Wall Street taxpayer dollars. Moral hazard be damned.
Bear Sterns won't be the only bailout - the precedent has been set. We are looking at the start of a wealth transfer from normal Americans to large and unaccountable financial institutions.
And the cancer is spreading. In the same way that subprime mortgages have become toxic for major investment banks, the U.S. dollar has become toxic for overseas creditors.
The greenback has been falling against the euro and other currencies since 2002 and is widely expected to plummet further this year. Doesn't help that the Fed stopped releasing M3 money supply data in March 2006, making it impossible to tell how many dollars are being dumped on the global market.
The Bush administration's irresponsible fiscal policies have led central banks abroad to see "coupling" with the US as a moral hazard. It's no surprise that, for example, Japan's war chest of treasury securities fell $40 billion from January 2007 to January 2008.
Bottom line, the U.S. public's lack of trust in Bush's economic policy (if he even has one) is shared by global creditors.
And that leaves just one area of influence for this administration: war, war and more war.
All roads lead to Tehran
In the past two weeks, the White House approach to Iran has become increasingly schizophrenic. While Bush gave two radio interviews emphasizing the possibility for a US-Iran reconciliation, Cheney crisscrossed the Middle East pushing for war.
Maybe they're playing good cop/bad cop. Or else Cheney's taking matters into his own hands.
As The Global News Service of the Jewish People (JTA) observed, a U.S. strike on Iran is unlikely unless, "the Democratic presidential candidates appear to be far ahead of their Republican rival and Bush senses a 'now or never' strike option." Since even that scenario may be doubtful, " the Israelis are hoping that the hard-line Cheney will push the envelope - a role he reportedly played vis-a-vis the U.S. invasion of Iraq. One official said Cheney is seen as 'a significant player' who could influence 'serious issues that cannot wait.'"
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem-based site DEBKA reported that "at the last minute" before Cheney's recent visit, the White House asked Israel to prepare for "exhaustive and lengthy discussions on Iran." As a result, ministers were convened to decide which of Israel's military plans of action were to be presented to Cheney."
DEBKA also noted: "The vice president's choice of capitals for his tour is a pointer to the fact that the military option, off since December, may be on again. America will need the cooperation of all four Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey - to mount a military attack on Iran."
Intriguingly, Cheney's visit to the Middle East coincided with a U.S. nuclear submarine crossing the Suez Canal to join the massive Navy fleet already stationed in the Persian Gulf.
As the Russian news service RIA Novosti reported this weekend, "the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003." RIA quoted a high-ranking official
as saying, "The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran." Here we go again
True to form, Cheney made numerous unfounded allegations against Iran during his Middle East trip. Contrary to U.S. intelligence reports, for example, he declared that Tehran is "heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels."
Interesting coincidence that the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni just wrapped up a U.S. speaking tour beating the same war drum.
In a phone call to Barack Obama, for example, Livni stressed that "there is a direct connection between terror and Iran" which requires the "firm steadfastness of the international community against terror and against Iran." Obama reportedly reassured her that Iran will not have nuclear weapons.
Just last week General David Petraeus claimed that Iran was behind a rocket attack against the US-controlled Green Zone in Iraq. Petraeus insisted that the rockets "were Iranian-provided, Iranian-made" and that Iran's actions were "in complete violation of promises made by President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and the other most senior Iranian leaders to their Iraqi counterparts."
We've been down this road of trumped up allegations before.
So what happens after November 2008?
It's obvious that McCain would be a foreign policy disaster. His "Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran" performance speaks for itself, as does his claim that it "is fine with me" if the US stays in Iraq for 100 more years.
He's also dangerously uninformed. Just weeks ago, McCain told reporters that Iranian operatives were "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back." He said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate."
Small problem: Shia Iran does not support Sunni al-Qaeda. You'd think that after five years of war in Iraq McCain would have figured that out. Only when Sen. Joseph Lieberman quietly corrected him did McCain say: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda." Whatever.
McCain will keep the US at war indefinitely.
So why, for the first time in 14 years, are defense contractors throwing their money behind the Democrats? Since 2000, for example, they've given roughly 63% of their election contributions to Republicans, but in the 2008 election cycle, a full 52% of defense industry funding has gone to the Dems.
Maybe it's because Clinton and Obama can also be expected to keep defense contractors happy. Both speak of peace but have repeatedly voted to fund war. Both have plans for limited troop withdrawal once in office but neither has strongly argued against keeping tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq for years to come. Neither has fought to stop construction of the gigantic US embassy in Baghdad or to scale back the heavily-fortified Green Zone.
Perhaps more importantly, both Clinton and Obama have said that all options (code language for nuclear weapons) must be on the table for dealing with Iran.
Shadow economy, shadow government
So who would profit from broader-based war? Weapons manufacturers for one. In fiscal 2006 alone the Pentagon was involved in arms sales agreements of $21 billion. And from 2001 to 2005, the US provided developing nations with 2,099 surface-to-air missiles plus ten "major surface combatants," including aircraft carriers and destroyers.
Of course, taxpayers fund the bulk of many of these weapons agreements, through direct corporate subsidies or foreign military aid linked to weapons purchases. Yet defense industry profits remain private. Another wealth transfer.
Having apparently done quite nicely in Iraq, Big Oil could also profit from further unrest. The Iraqi government is soon expected to sign "technical support" contracts with five major oil companies (BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, Total and Chevron). Iraq will not only pay the five up to $2.5 billion to increase oil production but also fast-track them for bidding on future oil contracts. The oil majors might be hoping to pull off a similar coup when the smoke eventually clears in Iran, or at minimum, to scuttle the proposed Iran-Russia gas cartel.
The Republicans would clearly benefit from a wider war come November. McCain could flash his military credentials and emphasis would be taken off issues most likely to garner Democrats votes, such as the economy.
While the American people have no stomach for further conflict, it's debatable if their opinion even matters any more. In the same way that Wall Street's shadow economy is now sticking US taxpayers for billions in bailouts, the shadow government is setting us up for war.
No one really knows, for example, what Cheney is cooking up or what new justification for an attack on Iran will be thrown at us next. False flag perhaps?
In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans against "the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power" from the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower said: "Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together."
Now is the time for an alert and knowledgeable citizenry to take action.
Now is the time to dump the hero worship and ask very tough questions of our presidential candidates. Some basics include:
- Will you commit to never using the so-called bunker-buster or any other kind of nuclear weapon against Iran? Will you take that option "off the table" right now?
- Will you insist on a full briefing to the US public and congressional approval before any attack on Iran?
- When will you stop funding the war in Iraq? In Afghanistan?
- When will you bring all troops home? Will you commit to removing Blackwater and other private security companies too?
Now is also the time to ask a very tough question of ourselves. If there is some kind of attack on US interests and the administration insists Iran did it, yet supplies little in the way of viable proof, will we take action? If so, why wait?
Action Ideas1. Have Fallon testify before Congress
Admiral William Fallon, head of the US Central Command, left his job recently over differences with the White House regarding an attack on Iran. As CODEPINK notes: "The Bush Administration will not let Admiral Fallon testify before Congress in April; it only wants Congress to hear the voice of General Petraeus, the 'feel good' military man who says the surge is working. This is a travesty. Congress needs the perspective that Fallon's deep and reasoned knowledge of the situation in the Middle East brings. During a time when military endeavors in both Afghanistan and Iraq have failed miserably, we can't afford to let our President start a third catastrophe in Iran."
Call Senator Biden (202-224-4651) or email the Foreign Relations Committee today to urge them to have Fallon testify.
2. Learn more about Iraq Town Halls and make your voice heard.
Democrats.com has an important initiative called http://www.democrats.com/iraq-town-halls"> Iraq Town Halls : "In April, Congress will vote to give George Bush another $102 billion blank check for Iraq - unless we finally persuade our Representatives to Just Say No. One of the best ways to persuade a Representative is to hold a Town Hall Meeting and fill the hall with people who care and are willing to speak passionately. That gets their attention!"
3. Impeach Cheney Do you think Cheney should be impeached? The People's Email Network has made it easy for you to take action. The one-click form on their site "will send your personal message to all your members of Congress, with your vote on the question 'Should Vice President Cheney be impeached?' At the same time it will send your personal comments only as a letter to the editor of your nearest local daily newspaper, if that option is selected below."
While you're at The People's Email Network site, consider creating your own issue action petition. It costs nothing and enables you to start your own movement using their dedicated submission server.
4. Find out if there are WMD facilities in your area
Weapons manufacturers have had a bonanza under Bush, and often the public isn't aware that a domestic WMD lab is nearby.
Curious about where the nation's nuclear weapons plants are located? Then check out the Federation of American Scientists at: "Where the Bombs Are"
Is a university or military facility in your area involved in biological weapons research? One resource to help you locate biodefense projects is Project Sunshine's "Map of High Containment and Other Facilities of the US Biodefense Program," under "Biodefense" on the Project Sunshine site.
If your group would like to conduct its own PR-generating "inspection" of a domestic WMD facility, check out the Citizen Weapons Inspection Teams site for materials, pointers and a 5-page Citizen Inspection Team Event Checklist, covering everything from budgeting resources to issuing a declaration.
5. Put the media to work
Progressive Democrats of America has put together a terrific resource to help you contact the media with your comments, complaints and suggestions.
Heather Wokusch is the author of The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now, which went to #1 on Amazon's political activism charts in December 2007 (www.progressiveshandbook.com). Heather can be reached at (more...)