OPEC thumbs nose at US economy

Ignoring for the second time pleas from President Bush to increase production OPEC asserts that the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration is to blame for high prices. Once again they refuse to increase production.

The cartel’s president on Wednesday blamed financial speculators and American economic problems, which have helped lower the value of the dollar, for the high oil prices. After the meeting, oil prices settled above $104 a barrel, a record.

With tensions rising between Venezuela and Columbia we can expect prices to rise even faster. Dependence upon foreign resources is threatening national security.

US finances attacks on its own troops

Dabbling in foreign affairs without adequate understanding of local cultures is a dangerous thing. It is proving very dangerous for our troops as detailed in this article by Gareth Porter at Asia Times. Funded by US money and supplied with weapons by the US military has further endangered our troops.

…mainstream Sunni insurgents who have been fighting al-Qaeda appear to have outmaneuvered US strategists by using the councils to pursue their interests in weakening their most immediate enemy, reducing pressures from the US military and establishing new political bases, while continuing to mount attacks on US and Iraqi government forces.

The biggest question surrounding the strategy from the beginning was whether the Awakening Councils – called Sahwa in Arabic – would be a haven for Sunni insurgents.

High-ranking US officers issued public assurances last year that former insurgents would not be allowed to enter the program, but last month, Iraqi government officials, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, began raising the specter of “infiltration” of the Awakening groups by al-Qaeda or “Ba’athists”. Those are terms which have often been used by Shi’ite leaders to refer to the mainstream Sunni insurgents.

We now appear to be aiding and abetting the Sunni insurgency that were part of the ruling Ba’ath party taken down with the fall of Saddam. Really, what was the point? What are our kids dying for and who is supplying the weapons that are killing them? Read the whole article here

Winter Soldier testimony planned

This month from the 13th to the 16th hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will testify about what the war is really about.

This year, from March 13 to 16, about 300 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, gathering for a second Winter Soldier conference, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) it will make up the largest gathering ever of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Their mission? To tell the story of the war in the terms of those who have actually lived it.

“This is a moment when veterans won’t let anyone else speak for us,” said Aaron Hughes, an Iraq veteran who initiated the new Winter Soldier effort. “We hear from the pundits, we hear from the politicians, we hear from the generals, but we don’t hear from the soldiers who’ve walked the streets, who’ve been there and know what it’s about. We’re the ones who can bring out the cruelties and dehumanization in US foreign policy.”

The event, which will accommodate about 700 veteran advocates, social workers, support staff and members of the media in addition to veterans, will combine soldier testimonies and expert panels. The panels are intended to provide a factual context for the personal stories, according to Perry O’Brien, one of Winter Soldier’s organizers. Panels and testimony will be grouped into 12 categories, including killing and wounding noncombatants, mishandling of dead, torture and abuse, sexual assault, discrimination in the military, destruction of civilian property, veterans’ benefits issues and GI resistance.

Big oil and Iraq

It has taken me two days to read this article from Asia Times. Every time I start I have to walk away because burrowed in between the details of political alliances, clever machinations and pipeline strategies lies the root of our problem in Congress

Big Oil deals in Iraq form the core of Bush’s strategy of creating a legacy for the US in the Middle East that may run for decades. Big Oil needs the assurance of a near-permanent US military presence in Iraq. And Bush is determined to provide that assurance. He is convinced that no serious American politician would defy the wishes of Big Oil. By logic, therefore, Bush is creating a historical legacy of an Iraq that will remain under American control for decades to come.

Apparently, Bush is not the only one acknowledges the control of Big Oil on Congress as country after country maneuvers to take advantage of the situation and plunder Iraq’s once nationalized but now privatized resources.

Indeed, the rest of the world has already decided that it is time to take the Bush legacy in Iraq seriously. The alacrity with which Moscow is hurrying to get onto Shahristani’s gravy train is the latest tell-tale sign. Moscow is highly unlikely to waste its time in rhetoric ridiculing the Bush administration by pointing out that the US needs assistance to save face and leave Iraq with dignity or that Russia could help stabilize the situation, and so on.

How do we the people fight this? We have to fight for energy independence. We have to end our dependence upon finite fossil fuels.

Winter Soldier 2008: March 13 -16 in DC

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Thomas Paine, 1776

Visit the IVAW website for details and to support this campaign and watch a larger version of the video above

Brain drain in Iraq perpetuates overall dysfunction

An under assessed consequence of the mass exodus from Iraq by those hoping to escape the violence, lack of water, electricity and unemployment is the loss of the technical and professional members of the former Iraq society. The very people that might be able to kluge together some sort of government, repair the infrastructure, negotiate settlements or cease fires are gone, fled, wasted. Michael Schwartz reports on this brain drain in an eloquent essay at Asia Times

The job backgrounds of an extraordinary proportion of Iraqi refugees in Syria were professional, managerial or administrative. In other words, they were collectively the repository of the precious human capital that would otherwise have been needed to sustain, repair and eventually rebuild their country’s ravaged infrastructure.

In Iraq, approximately 10% of adults had attended college; more than one-third of the refugees in Syria were university educated. Whereas less than 1% of Iraqis had a postgraduate education, nearly 10% of refugees in Syria had advanced degrees, including 4.5% with doctorates. At the opposite end of the economic spectrum, fully 20% of all Iraqis had no schooling, but only a relative handful of the refugees arriving in Syria (3%) had no education. These proportions were probably even more striking in other more distant receiving lands, where entry was more difficult.

The reasons for this remarkable brain drain are not hard to find. Even the desperate process of fleeing your home turns out to require resources, and so refugees from most disasters who travel great distances tend to be disproportionately prosperous, as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans so painfully illustrated.

These human resources are further wasted, not wanted in their temporary host countries awaiting expulsion. The management of this war has stripped Iraq of any chance of resurrecting itself.

From the vast out-migration and internal migrations of its desperate citizens comes damage to society as a whole that is almost impossible to estimate. The displacement of people carries with it the destruction of human capital. The destruction of human capital deprives Iraq of its most precious resource for repairing the damage of war and occupation, condemning it to further infrastructural decline. This tide of infrastructural decline is the surest guarantee of another wave of displacement, of future floods of refugees.

As long as the United States keeps trying to pacify Iraq, it will create wave after wave of misery.

A history lesson on US intervention in Iran's democracy

For more information visit Just Foreign Policy

UPDATE: This stuff always makes me think of the Prime Directive in Star Trek so I decided to post it here.

As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes the introduction of superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral