Fellow Americans, and Iraqis who are watching this speech, I have come here this evening not to declare a victory or to mourn a defeat on the battlefield, but to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a series of illegal actions and grossly incompetent policies pursued by the government of the United States of America, in defiance of domestic US law, international treaty obligations, and both American and Iraqi public opinion. The cost of this unprovoked and foolhardy adventure to the United States has been profound.
Iran was transformed from a minor annoyance – blocked by the Iraqi Republican Guards from a significant role in the Middle East – into a regional superpower with powerful influence in Baghdad, Beirut, Manama, Kuwait City, and Damascus. There is no doubt that more benefit accrued to Iran from the Iraq War than to the United States.
A generation of Americans will suffer brain damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, or physical disabilities because of this violent war. The cost of the war so far, approaching a trillion dollars, is dwarfed by the cost of caring for the damaged veterans, and will likely mount to $5 trillion or more in coming decades. That sum is nearly half the entire current national debt.
The constitution, laws and traditions of the American Republic were also wounded by this war. High officials explicitly authorized torture. The United States government became among the chief purveyors in the world of sado-masochistic pornography, coming out of Abu Ghraib. The White House, shamefully, became a center of concerted propaganda so divorced from reality that its own press spokesmen privately and sometimes publicly admitted the dishonesty of their own discourse. The so-called PATRIOT Act contains provisions that clearly contravene the Bill of Rights and yet they have become so ingrained in the practices of the law enforcement community and so beloved by the enormous national security sector that even I have not dared touch them.
The damage to the United States and to international order and law is deep and our nation and our allies will not soon heal from its wounds. That damage is dwarfed, however, by the world-historical catastrophe that our invasion unleashed upon Iraq. The overthrow of the government with no plan for what might replace it; the dissolution of the Iraqi army; the willful neglect and destruction of the Iraqi public sector; and the animus against the Sunni Arab population mandated by the United States destroyed the foundations of order and economic activity in Iraq. Millions have been wounded. Some 4 million Iraqis were displaced, some 2.7 million of them inside the country, and most remain homeless. Iraq is a country of widows and orphans, of the unemployed and the displaced. We have irrevocably harmed ourselves, and been responsible for inflicting or provoking a calamity that has gripped virtually every Iraqi by the jugular. We have left the world less secure and more uncertain, and have created a baleful example that other nations may yet invoke in pursuing their own aggressive adventures. We can best make amends by ensuring that there is no American imperialism in Iraq, and no neo-imperialism. Iraqis are our friends and we will offer them as much training, technical help and advice as they ask for. But we will not be like the colonial powers of the last century, which granted pro forma independence to their former colonies but went on attempting to rule from behind the scenes.
Another weekend, another grass-roots demonstration starring Real Americans who are mad as hell and want to take back their country from you-know-who. There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.
Their self-interested and at times radical agendas, like Murdoch’s, go well beyond, and sometimes counter to, the interests of those who serve as spear carriers in the political pageants hawked on Fox News. The country will be in for quite a ride should these potentates gain power, and given the recession-battered electorate’s unchecked anger and the Obama White House’s unfocused political strategy, they might.
All three tycoons are the latest incarnation of what the historian Kim Phillips-Fein labeled “Invisible Hands” in her prescient 2009 book of that title: those corporate players who have financed the far right ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down F.D.R. You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our “socialist” president.
Only the fat cats change — not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” That rant could be delivered as is at any Tea Party rally today.
The Washington Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz today uses his Post column to send a gushing love letter to Time Magazine and its executives. Entitled “Thinner Time magazine still manages to stand out,” it reads like a Time Warner Press Release heaping praise on its magazine for great success. The first sentence crowns TimeEditor-in-Chief Rick Stengel as “the last man standing,” trumpets Time's success in comparison to the struggles of Newsweek and U.S. News, and claims — most hilariously of all — that “Time has done it mainly with serious journalism.”
What makes this so amazing is that Kurtz himself does not merely sound like an employee of Time Warner; he is one. Time Warner pays him a substantial salary — and gives him a prominent television platform — for hosting CNN’s Sunday morning show, Reliable Sources. In return, Kurtz then uses his Post column to glorify Time Warner’s magazine and its executives. The fact that The Washington Post employs as its media critic an employee of Time Warner, the largest media conglomerate in the world, has to be the most mammoth and inexcusable conflict of interest in American journalism, one that simply cannot be cured even with full disclosure.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from tax increases or increased regulation of your speculative financial instruments. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of government takeover and staggered by the winds of police laxness toward Mexicans and minority crime. You have been the veterans of creative suffering, under our current strange mixture of fascism, communism and Islam (Islamo-commie-fascism as I call it). Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering cannot be cured by a government take-over of health care.
Go back to the Hamptons, go back to Grosse Point, go back to Alaska, go back to Utah, go back to Idaho, go back to the suburbs and exurbs of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation of having an African-American president can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that some men are only worth 3/5s of others.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down and recognize that our president doesn’t like white guys.
I have a dream that one day even the borough of Manhattan, a borough sweltering with the heat of socialism, sweltering with the heat of Islamic fascism, will be transformed into a mosque-free oasis of freedom for people just like me.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their gold portfolios.
“There’s nothing in the world more tired than a progressive blogger like me flipping out over the latest idiocies emanating from the Fox News crowd. But this summer’s media hate-fest is different than anything we’ve seen before. What we’re watching is a calculated campaign to demonize blacks, Mexicans, and gays and convince a plurality of economically-depressed white voters that they are under imminent legal and perhaps even physical attack by a conspiracy of leftist nonwhites. They’re telling these people that their government is illegitimate and criminal and unironically urging secession and revolution.
The Fox/Rush/Savage crowd in the last 18 months has taken the anti-Muslim fervor that launched a phony war in Iraq, carried George Bush to re-election, and pushed through the Patriot Act, and re-directed that anger at a domestic nonwhite enemy. In doing so they’ve achieved a perfect storm of political cross-purposes: they’ve almost completely succeeded in distracting the public from the real causes of their economic misfortune (i.e. Wall Street corruption), they’ve re-energized a Republican party that was devastated by eight years of Bush-era corruption and incompetence, and, as usual, they’ve made Rupert Murdoch a shitload of money.
The fact that Fox and co. are doing what they do for these dreary commercial reasons makes it even worse, of course; at least Hitler really hated Jewish people. But that also means there’s a bright side. One of the few positives in this Tea Party phenomenon is that it’s shown how quickly masses of Americans can be convinced to completely change their minds about shit. The same Americans who six or seven years ago were looking skyward in search of poison-distributing Saddam-drones and buying duct tape and bottled water to protect themselves against imminent Muslim attack are now probably not spending five minutes a week worrying about Muslim terrorists — and instead arming themselves against the coming black-Mexican-leftist-communist state. To me that indicates that if Fox and Glenn Beck can be induced to jerk off to some perhaps similarly profitable but less toxic hate-fantasy (midgets from New Zealand are taking our jobs!), all of this – well, it maybe won’t go away, but it won’t have us steaming toward widespread racial violence like we are now.”—Matt Taibbi
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself … Picture all experts as if they were mammals.”—Christopher Hitchens’ Greatest Hits