Thursday, May 17, 2007

Benchmarks: Democratic Complicity in American Empire

Matt Taibbi gets into the very thing that I griped about regarding benchmarks in the now defunct HR 1591.

Tension Mounts as Antiwar Movement Challenges Dems' Commitment to Stop the War
by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone via Alternet.

Matt writes on webpages 2 and 3:

The law, endorsed here by the Democrats, is an unusually vicious piece of legislation, an open blueprint for colonial robbery of the Iraqi nation. It is worth pointing out that if you go back far enough in the history of this business, the law actually makes the U.S. an accomplice in the repression of Saddam Hussein, the very thing we claim to be rescuing the country from. ...

Now, I live in America and have been known to drive a car occasionally and I also understand something else -- when mighty industrial countries need oil or anything else, they're going to take it. They're also unlikely to acquiesce forever to the whims of an organization like OPEC out of mere morality and decency, when military power can change the equation. Anyone who's going to be shocked, shocked by this kind of shit had better be prepared to live in a tent and eat twigs and berries instead of African cocoa or Central American sugar or any of the millions of other products we basically steal from hungry, dark-skinned people around the world on a daily basis.

But I'll tell you what I can do without. I can do without having to listen to American journalists, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, bitch and moan about how the Iraqi government better start "shaping up" and "taking responsibility" and "showing progress" if they want the continued blessing of American military power. Virtually every major newspaper in the country and every hack in Washington has lumped all the "benchmarks" together, painting them as concrete signs that, if met, would mean the Iraqi government is showing "progress" or "good faith." ...

The title of the Sun editorial, humorously, was "Small steps" -- as if such a radical decision about what may turn out to be a fourth of the world's oil reserves is a "small step."

Of course, among politicians, it was the same bullshit. "And we now have to see... a good-faith effort on the part of the Iraqi government," said Maine's Olympia Snowe, "that they're prepared to do what it's going to require to achieve a political consensus." The recently "antiwar" Chuck Hagel concurred: "We'[v]e seen the Iraqi government miss benchmark after benchmark," he said. "You have to connect consequences to those in some way."

Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, described the benchmarks as a means to "hold the Iraqi government accountable." As if their failure to pass the Oil law would make them "not accountable."

Moreover, let's just say this about the Democratic Party. They can wash their hands of this war as much as they want publicly, but their endorsement of this crude neocolonial exploitation plan makes them accomplices in the occupation, and further legitimizes the insurgency. It is hard to argue with the logic of armed resistance to U.S. forces in Iraq when both American parties, representing the vast majority of the American voting public, endorse the same draconian plan to rob the country's riches. This isn't a situation in which there's going to be a better deal down the road, after Bush gets thrown out of office. Looking at it from that point of view, peaceful cooperation with the Americans is therefore probably impossible for any patriotic Iraqi; the economic consequences are too severe.


See: Mark Twain and the Onset of the Imperialist Period. We have returned to where we were 100 years ago both economically and imperialistically. We are no better or wiser than we were then. What is worse, we are now far more fragmented making it much harder to find common cause and fellowship amid the myriad groups that purport to be about serving the common good.

Update 5-11-07

This morning Larry Wilkerson referenced the aforementioned Spanish-American War (the Mark Twain link) in an interview on NPR that was posted at

Ashbrook asked for some examples of such high crimes and misdemeanors, and Wilkerson replied: "I think that the caller was right. I think we went into this war for specious reasons. I think we went into this war not too much unlike the way we went into the Spanish American War with the Hearst press essentially goading the American people and the leadership into war. That was a different time in a different culture, in a different America. We're in a very different place today and I think we essentially got goaded into the war through some of the same means."

To which I say, yes, there are differences between then and now. But what has not changed is the degree to which power-mongers and the greedy will go to achieve their ends.