THE RECONSTRUCTION OF IRAQ
Friday, May 23, 2003
Noah T. Winer, Editor
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SPECIAL FEATURE: GRASSROOTS INTERVIEW WITH U.S. SENATOR BYRD
Two weeks ago, we introduced a new feature: the Grassroots Interview. Over one hundred MoveOn members posted their questions for our first interviewee, Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat from West Virginia), and many more ranked those questions. This week, Senator Byrd responds to the top-ranked questions. Here's an excerpt:
"There is a power which can serve as a check against abuses by a government or by government officials and that power is the power of the informed citizen -- one who has read enough, who understands enough, who has developed a base of knowledge against which to judge truth or falsehood. Participation in the great debates of our time must not be relegated to the power elites in Washington. An informed citizenry has to participate, ask questions, and demand answers and accountability to make a country like ours work."
The rest of Senator Byrd's responses follow this week's bulletin.
1. Introduction: Tear it Down, Build it Up
2. Two Links
3. Life in Iraq
5. Interim Government and Nation-Building
6. Sanctions and Oil
7. Company Contracts
9. Grassroots Interview: Senator Robert Byrd
10. About the Bulletin
INTRODUCTION: TEAR IT DOWN, BUILD IT UP
The war is over, but the most crucial phase of intervention in Iraq is only beginning. The justness and competency of the American and British military occupation will determine the health and safety of Iraqi civilians. Disease, looting, and starvation could take as many lives as the bombings and worsen the misery caused by 13 years of UN economic sanctions.
On the political front, will Saddam Hussein's authoritarian rule be replaced by true self-determination or a hegemonic occupation? The choices about decision-making power are now being made and it matters who's making them. There are struggles going on within the Bush administration, within the international community, and within Iraqi society for power. Is power being shared by all citizens of Iraq or are certain elements, either foreign or domestic, dominating the debate? Can an open societal debate over forms of governance occur when poverty and sexism persist?
Lastly, the military-industrial complex that made the weapons to decimate Iraqi infrastructure is being awarded contracts to rebuild it. Not only are the contracts being awarded to companies with ties to the Bush administration, they're being awarded to non-indigenous companies, preventing business development within Iraq and denying good jobs to Iraqis.
If you read nothing else in this week's bulletin, read these two articles. The first, from Asia Times, is a clear exposition of why the occupation of Iraq is already headed in the direction of Vietnam-like quagmire. Includes a discussion of secularism, UN involvement, and the hubris of conquest.
In the second article, Salon.com reports on the fight between Pentagon neo-conservatives, State Department realists, and the UN to select and train the interim government. Includes a thorough discussion of Project for the New American Century participants Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, and Ahmad Chalabi. Well worth the Salon registration.
LIFE IN IRAQ
Concerns about looting and lack of public services abound. Here are several reports to give a sense of the conditions in Iraq since the end of the war. An Australian report from Umm Qasr, the first city conquered by coalition troops, describes how rejoicing has turned to misery and resentment.
A report from the Christian Science Monitor on the environmental hazard posed by American depleted-uranium bullets now scattered throughout Baghdad.
A Reuters report on the outbreak of cholera in Basra due to unclean drinking water.
Human Rights Watch explicates international humanitarian law related to belligerent occupation.
The Asia Times series "Iraq Notebook" captures the daily tension between U.S. "liberators" and occupied Iraqis.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is set to close its only institution devoted to training peacekeepers. This article contends restoring the Peacekeeping Institute should be a priority for progressives.
INTERIM GOVERNMENT AND NATION-BUILDING
Earlier this month, L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer III replaced General Jay Garner as top administrator of Iraq. Bremer, who retired from the State Department in 1989, urged confrontation with Syria, Iran, and Sudan during the Clinton administration. Bremer has strong ties to neo-conservatives and helped run Henry Kissinger's consulting firm in the 1990s. He will report directly to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
Last week, Bremer postponed the formation of an Iraqi-led interim government indefinitely.
Foreign Policy in Focus characterizes the possibilities for governing postwar Iraq, including the neo-conservative model, the Afghan model, and the Iraqi exile model.
The BBC News reports that Iraqi women are not being involved in the government, though they are among the most highly educated in the Middle East.
SANCTIONS AND OIL
Over the initial objections of France and Russia, the United States and Britain are poised for the passage of a UN resolution to lift the sanctions on Iraq, shifting control of Iraqi oil revenues from the UN Oil-for-Food program to American and British leaders. After years of seeking an end to the sanctions, Rahul Mahajan has serious doubts about the resolution.
The authors of this investigative report deal with the past history of oil development, issues of state versus private control, Iraqi competence and autonomy, the potential role of multinationals, and some surprising conclusions about the possible impact full development could have on the world.
CNN Money reports on Senate allegations that the selection of Vice-President Cheney's former company, Halliburton, for a major open-ended contract was not made competitively.
Bechtel Corporation is another major recipient of reconstruction contracts. This CorpWatch report describes the role of Donald Rumsfeld in its past Iraq contracts and the recent appointment of Bechtel's chairman to Bush's export council.
Leah Appet, Joanne Comito, Lita Epstein, Janelle Miau, Kim Plofker, and Ora Szekely.
David Taub Bancroft, Judy Green, Nancy Evans, and Alfred Karl Weber.
GRASSROOTS INTERVIEW: U.S. SENATOR BYRD
The following are the personal responses of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) to the top-ranked questions MoveOn members posed last week:
First of all, before I begin, let me thank MoveOn and its thousands of members for the support that you have given to me and to so many others who are willing to stand up and make their opinions known. Your willingness to be active participants in this Republic makes a real difference, and I hope that you will continue to let your voices be heard.
Question One: What are the ways we can impact the choices being made today as powerfully as possible?
-- Michael McCann, West Lebanon, NH
Mr. McCann, you ask a very good question. Many of those who want to speak out are cowed by the intimidation and ridicule that often accompanies going against the perceived grain. That is as true in Congress as it is outside the Capitol Beltway. At times of national distress, it is natural to want to come together and to look for leadership from a single, clear voice. But America's song has never been expressed by a single note. It was never intended to be. America's music is not a solo, but rather a symphony made richer by the harmony of different views. Remember, our founders rejected a Monarchy, and sought, instead, a Republic. They chose a representative form of government that allowed the many voices of America to be heard.
Write your Members of Congress. Write your newspaper. Talk with your neighbors. Do not sit back and assume that everything will work out for the best. If we are going to make a difference, if we are going to break through the constant beat of rhetoric and bombast that fills the airwaves each day, we cannot be complacent. The freedom to dissent, to speak out, and to question is the birthright of every American
There is a power which can serve as a check against abuses by a government or by government officials and that power is the power of the informed citizen -- one who has read enough, who understands enough, who has developed a base of knowledge against which to judge truth or falsehood. Participation in the great debates of our time must not be relegated to the power elites in Washington. An informed citizenry has to participate, ask questions, and demand answers and accountability to make a country like ours work.
Without some base of knowledge upon which to make judgements about the critical issues that face us, the average citizen will be buffeted this way and that by spin doctors from the White House, statements by politicians seeking to please voters, and daily news coverage and talk shows which often have an editorial agenda.
I say, for the sake of our country, arm yourself with information. Especially with an Administration which has a demonstrated penchant for secrecy, our people must be vigilant. We must resist excessive invasion of personal privacy because of a well-intentioned zealousness by government to hunt down terrorists, and we must question the necessity of all measures which seem extreme.
Dictators and despots triumph when the people become complacent, drop their guards, and leave government to "the powers that be." Remember, sheep could never be peacefully led to slaughter if they could ask where they were headed and get an honest answer.
It is up to each citizen to do what he or she can to provide that all-important check on power, the wisdom of the people.
Question Two: How can we stop the right wing revolution of George W. Bush?
-- Elizabeth C. Mark, Alexandria, VA
Ms. Mark, you are not alone in your frustrations. Many Americans are concerned about what they see as a bias in the media.
There are voices in the media that seek to present an alternative point of view. But too often, these men and women are sent packing because their corporate bosses fear a commercial backlash.
I do not question the media's right to report on stories and to have talk shows which express opinion. That right is clearly laid out in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." This Amendment, ratified in December, 1791, gives broad power to the press. Our Constitutional Framers understood that the Republic would not function properly if the press is not allowed to operate freely and without intervention from government. However, the media must also recognize the responsibility it has to the public that relies so heavily on the information learned in the daily reports.
The free press must be a fair press. Through the First Amendment, our Framers guaranteed a free press. We, the people, demand a fair press, one that meets its responsibilities and our expectations. A free press cannot exist without the trust of the public it serves. To win and maintain that trust, the press must be fair in its work.
As I recently said on the floor of the Senate, the American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials. They patiently tolerate it up to a point. But there is a line. The calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long. Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge. There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome by the vigorous mind determined to follow the truth.
Question Three: How can we regain freedom of the press and airwaves, and restore free public speech and debate? Where are the liberal intellectuals and think tanks and how could they have been so easily marginalized?
-- Rev. Gerry Staatemeier, Tucson, AZ
First, let me thank you, Reverend Staatemeier, for your more than kind remarks. I am humbled by them. The Reverend Mr. Staatemeier asks a question very similar to that of Ms. Mark. The media. What to do about the media. This should not come as a great shock but, while I have a good understanding of the complexities of the Constitution and the issues facing the nation, I have very little understanding of the enigma of the modern media. I have often wondered how Daniel Webster or Henry Clay or James Madison would have come across on television. How would they do in 20-second sound bites? Yet their ideas helped to build the foundation for this country. Would their beliefs have been as strongly followed if all people heard were short bits and pieces?
These questions have all shared common themes. How can we speak out? How can we make our voices heard? How can we break through the barriers that seem to hold back balanced opinion? It is frustrating, I know. I have, for months, pushed, prodded, and pleaded with my colleagues to speak out, to let their voices be heard, and to not be intimidated by this Administration or others who would criticize.
The best advice I have is to read, listen, and participate. Share your opinions with your family and friends. Talk at your churches and community organizations. Not everyone will agree with you. When there are those who do not, stay civil. Rely on reason, logic, and facts. And remember, at the end of the day, we are all Americans. There is far more that unites us than divides us.
Question Four: What can citizens do?
-- Sid Kemp, San Antonio, TX
Mr. Kemp, you ask for specifics. I have already outlined many of the steps that I think are important: ready; study; write; talk with your neighbors; contact your lawmakers; ask real questions and do not settle for half-answers. Stay involved in politics. Support candidates who share your views. Vote. Get your neighbors to vote. Each of us has a part in making this government good by exercising the duty and privilege of the ballot box. We can show our gratitude for all that our nation means to us by the quality of our citizenship.
Question Five: Why is Congress giving up its Constitutional duty?
-- Eli Pariser, New York, NY
Mr. Pariser, your question is one that has vexed me for several months. The October 11 vote by the Senate to hand over to the President the authority to solely determine when, where, how, and why to declare war will go down in history as one of the lowest points in the Senate's existence. Twenty-three Senators voted against that resolution. Twenty-three Senators would not walk away from their Constitutional duties. Reversing that vote will not be easy, especially in this climate and with this President.
What also concerns me is this new doctrine of preemptive strikes. I continue to believe that this policy of preemptive strikes is a dangerous policy that carries unintended consequences. When America acts unilaterally to enforce its will on other nations, without an imminent, direct threat to our security and without regard for the rest of the world or even our traditional allies, we endanger the peace of the world. America is the world's remaining superpower. But that unique status does not give America the right to impose its will whenever and wherever it chooses. We have a responsibility to lead, not to bully.
As post-war reconstruction moves forward, more than just the Iraqi nation needs attention. The United States would be well advised to reconstruct many of the diplomatic relationships that have been seriously strained because of the doctrine of preemptive strikes. In the months and years ahead, we will need the world's support of our allies. We will need assistance in the effort to stop global terrorism; we will need the goodwill of the world to foster peaceful resolutions to dangerous situations. It is especially important that America show the world that we have the confidence and wisdom to step back from this policy of preemption and return to the steadier course of diplomatic resolution.
Question Six: Can Democrats offer an alternative vision for America?
-- Susan Faraone, Chicago, IL
Ms. Faraone, I certainly believe so. We have many brave men and women in Congress, in state government, and in local government who are working to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. And one does not have to be in government to make that difference.
This nation faces daunting challenges in the coming years. The baby boomer generation will begin to retire in the year 2008. Because of the demands of that generation, both the Social Security and Medicare trust funds are expected to be running in the red by 2016. In 2015, more than 60 million Americans expect to rely on Social Security as a backbone of their retirement and more than 45 million Americans will rely on Medicare for their health care. But what steps have we taken to prepare for this looming crisis? Not one. Not a single dime is devoted to shoring up Social Security. Not one penny is directed to pay back the IOUs that Congress has been putting in the trust fund kitty for so many years.
Education. We know that 75 percent of our nation's school buildings are inadequate to meet the needs of our children. In fact, the average cost of capital investment needed is $3,800 per student. But are we providing the dollars to build and renovate schools? No.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has graded the nation's infrastructure. How did we do? Abysmally. Roads: D-plus. Aviation: D-minus. Schools: D-minus. Transit: C-minus. Drinking water: D. Overall, in 10 different areas, the nation's infrastructure received an average grade of D-plus.
When touting his tax cut packages, the President is fond of saying that we ought to give the people their money back. I think we ought to give the people their money's worth. Instead of more massive tax cuts, we ought to look toward tomorrow and repair our outdated infrastructure. We ought to help provide for safe highways and bridges; airports and transit systems that work; clean air; safe drinking water; and schools that help children to learn. We ought to plan ahead to insure that Social Security and Medicare will be available in the long-term.
In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw discusses the greatness of the generation of Americans of the 1930s and the 1940s. He points out that it was this generation of Americans who "came of age in the Great Depression when economic despair hovered over the land like a plague." This was "the greatest generation any society has ever produced."
Like Mr. Brokaw, I too admire the generation of Americans who survived the hardships of the Great Depression and won World War II. They were truly outstanding Americans, a great generation. I am proud to say that they are my generation.
But ever since reading Mr. Brokaw's book, I can't help but think of the greatness of not only this generation of Americans, but the greatness of generation after generation of Americans. It seems that in every age of our history, Americans have risen to meet the challenges and the difficulties of their times and to move our country toward further greatness. We will not fall short now.
After answering these questions, I am reminded of a poem that I have recited since my youth. The words were penned by Josiah Gilbert Holland in the 19th Century, but the message carries forth into the 21st Century.
God give us men!
A time like this demands strong minds,
great hearts, true faith, and ready hands.
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie.
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And brave his treacherous flatteries without winking.
Tall men, sun-crowned;
Who live above the fog,
In public duty and in private thinking.
For while the rabble with its thumbworn creeds,
It's large professions and its little deeds,
mingles in selfish strife,
Lo! Freedom weeps!
Wrong rules the land and waiting justice sleeps.
God give us men!
Men who serve not for selfish booty;
But real men, courageous, who flinch not at duty.
Men of dependable character;
Men of sterling worth;
Then wrongs will be redressed, and right will rule the earth.
God Give us Men!
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