"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Adventure Capitalism

Why were Iraqi elections delayed? Why was Jay Garner fired? Why are our troops still there? Investigative reporter Palast uncovers new documents that answer these questions and more about the Bush administration’s grand designs on Iraq. Like everything else issued during this administration, the plan to overhaul the Iraqi economy has corporate lobbyist fingerprints all over it. You expected the oil industry lobbyists, but Grover Norquist?

In February 2003, a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a 101-page document came my way from somewhere within the U.S. State Department. Titled pleasantly, "Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Growth," it was part of a larger under-wraps program called "The Iraq Strategy."

The Economy Plan goes boldly where no invasion plan has gone before: the complete rewrite, it says, of a conquered state's "policies, laws and regulations." Here's what you'll find in the Plan: A highly detailed program, begun years before the tanks rolled, for imposing a new regime of low taxes on big business, and quick sales of Iraq's banks and bridges—in fact, "ALL state enterprises"—to foreign operators. There's more in the Plan, part of which became public when the State Department hired consulting firm to track the progress of the Iraq makeover. Example: This is likely history's first military assault plan appended to a program for toughening the target nation's copyright laws.

And when it comes to oil, the Plan leaves nothing to chance—or to the Iraqis. Beginning on page 73, the secret drafters emphasized that Iraq would have to "privatize" (i.e., sell off) its "oil and supporting industries." The Plan makes it clear that—even if we didn't go in for the oil—we certainly won't leave without it.

If the Economy Plan reads like a Christmas wishlist drafted by U.S. corporate lobbyists, that's because it was.

From slashing taxes to wiping away Iraq's tariffs (taxes on imports of U.S. and other foreign goods), the package carries the unmistakable fingerprints of the small, soft hands of Grover Norquist.

Norquist is the capo di capi of the lobbyist army of the right. In Washington every Wednesday, he hosts a pow-wow of big business political operatives and right-wing muscle groups—including the Christian Coalition and National Rifle Association—where Norquist quarterbacks their media and legislative offensive for the week.

Once registered as a lobbyist for Microsoft and American Express, Norquist today directs Americans for Tax Reform, a kind of trade union for billionaires unnamed, pushing a regressive "flat tax" scheme.

Acting on a tip, I dropped by the super-lobbyist's L-Street office. Below a huge framed poster of his idol ("NIXON— NOW MORE THAN EVER"), Norquist could not wait to boast of moving freely at the Treasury, Defense and State Departments, and, in the White House, shaping the post-conquest economic plans—from taxes to tariffs to the "intellectual property rights" that I pointed to in the Plan.

Norquist wasn't the only corporate front man getting a piece of the Iraq cash cow. Norquist suggested the change in copyright laws after seeking the guidance of the Recording Industry Association of America.

And then there's the oil. Iraq-born Falah Aljibury was in on the drafting of administration blueprints for the post-Saddam Iraq. According to Aljibury, the administration began coveting its Mideast neighbor's oil within weeks of the Bush-Cheney inauguration, when the White House convened a closed committee under the direction of the State Department's Pam Wainwright. The group included banking and chemical industry men, and the range of topics over what to do with a post-conquest Iraq was wide. In short order, said Aljibury, "It became an oil group."

This was not surprising as the membership list had a strong smell of petroleum. Besides Aljibury, an oil industry consultant, the secret team included executives from Royal-Dutch Shell and ChevronTexaco. These and other oil industry bigs would, in 2003, direct the drafting of a 300-page addendum to the Economy Plan solely about Iraq's oil assets. The oil section of the Plan, obtained after a year of wrestling with the administration over the Freedom of Information Act, calls for Iraqis to sell off to "IOCs" (international oil companies) the nation's "downstream" assets—that is, the refineries, pipelines and ports that, unless under armed occupation, a Mideast nation would be loathe to give up.

The General Versus Annex D

One thing stood in the way of rewriting Iraq's laws and selling off Iraq's assets: the Iraqis. An insider working on the plans put it coldly: "They have [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz coming out saying it's going to be a democratic country … but we're going to do something that 99 percent of the people of Iraq wouldn't vote for."

In this looming battle between what Iraqis wanted and what the Bush administration planned for them, the Iraqis had an unexpected ally, Gen. Jay Garner, the man appointed by our president just before the invasion as a kind of temporary Pasha to run the soon-to-be conquered nation.

Garner's an old Iraq hand who performed the benevolent autocratic function in the Kurdish zone after the first Gulf War. But in March 2003, the general made his big career mistake. In Kuwait City, fresh off the plane from the United States, he promised Iraqis they would have free and fair elections as soon as Saddam was toppled, preferably within 90 days.

Garner's 90-days-to-democracy pledge ran into a hard object: The Economy Plan's 'Annex D.' Disposing of a nation's oil industry—let alone redrafting trade and tax laws—can't be done in a weekend, nor in 90 days. Annex D lays out a strict 360-day schedule for the free-market makeover of Iraq. And there's the rub: It was simply inconceivable that any popularly elected government would let America write its laws and auction off the nation's crown jewel, its petroleum industry.

Elections would have to wait. As lobbyist Norquist explained when I asked him about the Annex D timetable, "The right to trade, property rights, these things are not to be determined by some democratic election." Our troops would simply have to stay in Mesopotamia a bit longer.

New World Orders 12, 37, 81 and 83

Gen. Garner resisted—which was one of the reasons for his swift sacking by Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld on the very night he arrived in Baghdad last April. Rummy had a perfect replacement ready to wing it in Iraq to replace the recalcitrant general. Paul Bremer may not have had Garner's experience on the ground in Iraq, but no one would question the qualifications of a man who served as managing director of Kissinger Associates.

Pausing only to install himself in Saddam's old palace—and adding an extra ring of barbed wire—"Jerry" Bremer cancelled Garner's scheduled meeting of Iraq's tribal leaders called to plan national elections. Instead, Bremer appointed the entire government himself. National elections, Bremer pronounced, would have to wait until 2005. The extended occupation would require our forces to linger.

The delay would, incidentally, provide time needed to lock in the laws, regulations and irreversible sales of assets in accordance with the Economy Plan.

On that, Bremer wasted no time. Altogether, the leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority issued exactly 100 orders that remade Iraq in the image of the Economy Plan. In May, for example, Bremer—only a month from escaping out Baghdad's back door—took time from fighting the burgeoning insurrection to sign orders 81—"Patents,"and 83, "Copyrights." Here, Grover Norquist's hard work paid off. Fifty years of royalties would now be conferred on music recording. And 20 years on Windows code.

Order number 37, "Tax Strategy for 2003," was Norquist's dream come true: taxes capped at 15 percent on corporate and individual income (as suggested in the Economy Plan, page 8). The U.S. Congress had rejected a similar flat-tax plan for America, but in Iraq, with an electorate of one—Jerry Bremer—the public's will was not an issue.

Not everyone felt the pain of this reckless rush to a free market. Order 12, "Trade Liberalization," permitted the tax- and tariff-free import of foreign products. One big winner was Cargill, the world's largest grain merchant, which flooded Iraq with hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat. For Iraqi farmers, already wounded by sanctions and war, this was devastating. They could not compete with the U.S. and Australian surplusses dumped on them. But the import plan carried out the letter of the Economy Plan.

This trade windfall for the West was enforced by the occupation's agriculture chief, Dan Amstutz, himself an import from the United States. Prior to George Bush taking office, Amstutz chaired a company funded by Cargill.

There's no sense cutting taxes on big business, ordering 20 years of copyright payments for Bill Gates' operating system or killing off protections for Iraqi farmers if some out-of-control Iraqi government is going to take it away after an election. The shadow governors of Iraq back in Washington thought of that, too. Bremer fled, but he's left behind him nearly 200 American "experts," assigned to baby-sit each new Iraqi minister—functionaries also approved by the U.S. State Department.

The Price

The free market paradise in Iraq is not free.

After General Garner was deposed, I met with him in Washington. He had little regard for the Economy Plan handed to him three months before the tanks rolled. He especially feared its designs on Iraq's oil assets and the delay in handing Iraq back to Iraqis. "That's one fight you don't want to take on," he told me.

But we have. After a month in Saddam's palace, Bremer cancelled municipal elections, including the crucial vote about to take place in Najaf. Denied the ballot, Najaf's Shi'ites voted with bullets. This April, insurgent leader Moqtada Al Sadr's militia killed 21 U.S. soldiers and, for a month, seized the holy city.

"They shouldn't have to follow our plan," the general said. "It's their country, their oil." Maybe, but not according to the Plan. And until it does become their country, the 82nd Airborne will have to remain to keep it from them.

Greg Palast is an investigative reporter and author of The New York Times best seller The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His new film, "Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," was released this month in DVD. For a trailer, see http://www.gregpalast.com/bff-dvd.htm

Copyright: Greg Palast

Barroso Warns of EU Crisis

Urges Parliament to accept his 24-member team

Barroso: "This Commission is worthy of your trust."

STRASBOURG, France (AP) -- Incoming European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned the European Parliament on Tuesday that it would throw the European Union into an unprecedented crisis if it rejects his 24-member team.

Barroso also told the legislators he would not change his lineup, as demanded by some of the political groups.

Barroso is facing a possible no-vote by the 732-member EU assembly on Wednesday, due mostly to controversial comments about gays and single mothers made by Rocco Buttiglione, his Italian candidate to be the EU's next justice commissioner.

The comments caused outrage and led to calls for Barroso to drop Buttiglione, who would nominally have oversight over civil liberties and anti-discrimination rules in the 25-nation EU.

Barroso told the legislature he would stick with Buttiglione and refused to change his portfolio.

"Changing the portfolios at this stage of the procedure could cause more political and institutional problems than it would solve," he said.

"This Commission is worthy of your trust," he added, even though he admitted some of the criticism was valid.

"My team may not be considered perfect by all of you, but let me ask you is there any team in any of our national governments that we can consider perfect?" he said.

His speech was met with a warm round of applause.

The former Portuguese prime minister needs a majority in the chamber to approve the five-year term of his team, which is supposed to take over from the outgoing Commission led by President Romano Prodi next Monday.

If Barroso's team is rejected, Prodi would lead a caretaker commission until a new team has been assembled.

For past EU chiefs, the confirmation vote has been a routine procedure with little opposition. But no one is predicting an easy victory for Barroso, and members of his team were lobbying legislators Tuesday in hopes of swaying the vote.

Americans Are Electing a Supreme Court Too

His cancer surgery over the weekend reminds us that Chief Justice William Rehnquist, appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon, is not going to be on the court forever.

Neither is John Paul Stevens — a Ford appointee and, like Rehnquist, a World War II veteran. Nor is the third most senior justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, who has now served through six presidential terms.

Their successors will control national policy on the most sensitive and profound political questions of our day —abortion, race, religion and gay marriage. And that means that the most important domestic issue confronting a President Bush or a President Kerry will be his appointments to the Supreme Court.

The court's current lineup hasn't changed since 1994 — the longest period without a new justice since the Marshall court of the early 1800s. In the last century, by my calculations, justices on average retired when they were 71 years old after about 14 years on the court.

In 2005, Rehnquist will be 81 and will have served on the court for 33 years. Stevens will be 85 and will have served for 30 years. O'Connor will be 75 and will have served for 24 years. Others are not far behind: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee, will be 72, with 12 years' service. Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Anthony Kennedy will be 69, with 19 and 17 years respectively. Only Justice Clarence Thomas will be below the age of 65.

Even one new justice could profoundly affect a court that is closely divided on important social issues. And two new justices could shift national policy dramatically.

Slim 5-4 majorities stand behind the decisions that have struck down prohibitions on partial-birth abortion, approved affirmative action programs in colleges and universities, allowed the use of vouchers at private religious schools and restricted use of the death penalty.

Only a one-vote margin has supported restricting Congress' regulatory power in favor of the states, which affects anti-discrimination, criminal and environmental laws.

A 5-4 majority last term agreed that the nation was at war after the Sept. 11 attacks and that the president and Congress could authorize the detention of "enemy combatants" in the war on terror.

A 6-3 margin defends the basic right to abortion first recognized in Roe vs. Wade and the expansion of gay rights in Lawrence vs. Texas that has spurred efforts for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.

With a closely divided Senate a certainty, Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the next four years could make the outrages of the Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas hearings look tame. And the filibuster, used by Democrats to block Bush's lower-court nominees, may be only the beginning of procedural shenanigans.

Just how bloody a battle might be, however, depends on which justice resigns and which candidate wins. A Bush nominee replacing the reliably conservative Rehnquist wouldn't change the court's status quo or draw a massive fight. If John Kerry wins, however, his choice to replace Rehnquist would mean major change and, most likely, a knock-down, drag-out struggle.

A more politicized nomination and confirmation process is the Supreme Court's own doing. Over the last half-century, it has arrogated power — weakening the role of states and even Congress — when it comes to many political and moral questions. The only way for interest groups and citizens to change policy on abortion, affirmative action or gay rights is to change the justices on the Supreme Court.

Despite bruising confirmation proceedings, however, history shows that it is the president who still makes the decisive choice when it comes to the court. In the last century, the Senate has confirmed 89% of the president's nominees to the Supreme Court. Twelve of the last 14 nominees have taken their seats on the court.

Both candidates are well aware of the stakes, and both are certainly readying nominees. Kerry has said he would nominate a jurist who would protect abortion rights. According to the New York Times, Bush told donors that he expected to replace one justice shortly after his reelection and that he might be replacing as many as four in a second term. His role models for nominees, he has said, are Scalia and Thomas.

But either candidate could be surprised. Republican President Eisenhower chose Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William Brennan, whose late-blooming activist tendencies caused him to consider their appointments the biggest mistakes of his presidency. The first President Bush appointed David H. Souter, who has evolved toward the liberal end of the spectrum.

By John C. Yoo, John C. Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley, is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Bush administration Justice Department official

Court Is Back in Voters' Sight

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's hospitalization was not the usual sort of October surprise. But the 80-year-old jurist's thyroid cancer is a jolting reminder, if one is needed, that shaping the federal judiciary — most notably the Supreme Court — is one of the momentous things presidents do.

Debate over terrorism and jobs has overshadowed campaign talk about the federal courts. But the next four years are all but certain to entail picking more than one Supreme Court justice. On this divided court, any single appointee could shift the balance.

The Supreme Court has been the final arbiter of the nation's most wrenching controversies, from slavery through civil rights and the 2000 presidential election. Today's battles center on the war on terror, the Bush administration's rapacious environmental policies and social issues like gay marriage, abortion and the role of religion in public life.

The decade since Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined the court has been the longest period without a Supreme Court appointment since the early 1800s. All the justices but one — Clarence Thomas — are over 65. Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens have also been treated for cancer, and in recent years there has been widespread speculation that one or another would retire.

Although the court's four-sentence statement on Rehnquist's medical condition said that the chief justice expected to return to work next week, news of his illness will only intensify retirement buzz.

During the debates, President Bush said he wanted only judges who were "strict constructionists" of the Constitution, a statement that masks his own record. He has repeatedly pointed to hyper-conservative justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as his models for a Supreme Court appointee. His 201 nominees now sitting on the nation's trial and appeals courts — 24% of all active judges — were promoted and ideologically screened by the partisan Federalist Society. Among them are men and women who have stated that homosexuality and abortion should be criminalized, that wives should be subordinate to their husbands and that God created the United States as a Christian nation.

John F. Kerry has said he would not pick judges who would overturn Roe vs. Wade. He also promises to appoint moderates to the bench. The mark of a good justice, he said, is "when you're reading … their opinion, you can't tell if it's written by a man or a woman, a liberal or a conservative, a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian." Jurists chosen more for legal skill than ideological pedigree are best able to protect this nation's principles and fairly balance competing claims. Bush's record offers little evidence of such moderation.

L.A. Times

Vatican Releases Guide to Teachings

Book Puts Focus On Social Issues

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 25 -- The Vatican on Monday issued an exhaustive guide to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on social issues, reiterating positions against abortion, same-sex marriage and preventive war waged without compelling proof of a threat. Church officials said its release a week before the U.S. election was not intended to influence the vote.

Cardinal Renato Martino told reporters that the 525-page book, "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church," took six years to compile and was written at the behest of Pope John Paul II, "who bears full responsibility" for it. The pope issued many of the documents from which the guidelines were derived, said Martino, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In one passage addressing behavior in politics, the book says that "a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political programme or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."

Asked whether American Catholics could vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights, Martino deferred to Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who said the Holy See "never gets involved in electoral or political questions directly."

In recent months, a debate has unfolded at high levels of the church over candidates who advocate policies contrary to church doctrine.

Without naming Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, some U.S. bishops have said that any Catholic who knowingly voted for a politician who supports abortion rights would be "cooperating in evil." Some have said that Kerry and other politicians who have voted in favor of abortion rights should not be given Communion.

At the same time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's chief arbiter of theological orthodoxy, sent a memo to Washington's Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick that appears to give Catholics leeway in certain circumstances to vote for candidates who favor abortion rights, if there are "proportionate" reasons to do so.

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, editor of the Jesuit monthly America, said in an interview that in the book church leaders "are not telling people what to do in specific situations. They are giving moral and ethical principles and then telling people and leaders to apply them to real life."

The Rev. John P. Langan, a Jesuit priest and professor of Catholic social thought at Georgetown University, said he believed the Vatican does not want to interfere in U.S. elections. He noted that Vatican officials had declined to do so during the news conference.

Bishops who have been vocal about withholding Communion from politicians on theological grounds, and advocating not voting for them, "are in the minority," Langan said, adding that "there has been a great deal of silence on the part of the U.S. bishops' conference and the leading bishops, I believe, because they don't believe they should interfere with the election."

In the book, abortion is called "morally illicit," a "horrendous crime" and a "particularly serious moral disorder."

Regarding war, the book says that when a state is attacked, "leaders have the right and the duty to organize a defence even using the force of arms." But it said that self-defense "must respect the traditional limits of necessity and proportionality. . . . Engaging in preventive war without clear proof that an attack is imminent cannot fail to raise serious moral and juridical questions."

In a meeting with President Bush in June, the pope expressed strong concern about "grave unrest" in Iraq.

Sarah Delaney
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, October 26, 2004; Page A19

Georgia's Supreme Court Voids Hate-Crimes Law

Georgia's justices struck down the state's law on hate-motivated crimes, saying the statute was too vaguely worded.

ATLANTA - (AP) -- The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's hate-crimes law Monday, saying the measure is so broadly worded that it could even be used to prosecute a rabid sports fan for picking on somebody wearing a rival team's cap.

The 7-0 ruling came in the case of a white man and woman convicted of beating two black men in Atlanta.

It was the first application of the 2000 law, which called for up to five extra years in prison for crimes in which the victim is chosen because of ``bias or prejudice.''

Across the country 48 states have hate-crimes laws, but Georgia's was the only one that did not specify which groups qualified for protection.

Angela Pisciotta and Christopher Botts were accused of severely beating two brothers, Che and Idris Golden, in 2002 while screaming racial epithets. They pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and the judge sentenced them to six years in prison, plus two years under the hate-crimes law.

Their lawyers argued on appeal that the hate-crimes statute should be struck down because almost any crime involving prejudice falls under its scope.

The high court said that it ''by no means'' condones the ''savage attack . . . or any conduct motivated by a bigoted or hate-filled point of view.'' But it said the law was ''unconstitutionally vague'' and so broad that it could be applied to every possible prejudice.

'A rabid sports fan convicted of uttering terroristic threats to a victim selected for wearing a competing team's baseball cap; a campaign worker convicted of trespassing for defacing a political opponent's yard signs; a performance car fanatic convicted of stealing a Ferrari -- any `bias or prejudice' ... no matter how obscure, whimsical or unrelated to the victim'' could be used to invoke the hate-crimes law, Justice Robert Benham wrote.

As originally proposed, the legislation defined a hate crime as one motivated by a victim's race, religion, gender, national origin or sexual orientation. After fights over the inclusion of sexual orientation, lawmakers removed that language and defined a hate crime only as one in which a victim or his property is targeted simply because of bias or prejudice.

''It was just terribly overbroad,'' said Pisciotta's lawyer, Brandon Lewis. ``It's an absolutely needed law; it just needs to be done in a constitutional way.''

The law's author, state Sen. Vincent Fort, said he would start working on a new version for the next legislative session, which convenes in January.