Monday, October 22, 2007

It’s the Oil

Iraq is ‘unwinnable’, a ‘quagmire’, a ‘fiasco’: so goes the received opinion. But there is good reason to think that, from the Bush-Cheney perspective, it is none of these things. Indeed, the US may be ‘stuck’ precisely where Bush et al want it to be, which is why there is no ‘exit strategy’.

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world’s oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today’s prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

Who will get Iraq’s oil? One of the Bush administration’s ‘benchmarks’ for the Iraqi government is the passage of a law to distribute oil revenues. The draft law that the US has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq’s 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest – including all yet to be discovered oil – under foreign corporate control for 30 years. ‘The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy,’ the analyst Antonia Juhasz wrote in the New York Times in March, after the draft law was leaked. ‘They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country.’ As negotiations over the oil law stalled in September, the provincial government in Kurdistan simply signed a separate deal with the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, headed by a close political ally of President Bush.

How will the US maintain hegemony over Iraqi oil? By establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. Five self-sufficient ‘super-bases’ are in various stages of completion. All are well away from the urban areas where most casualties have occurred. There has been precious little reporting on these bases in the American press, whose dwindling corps of correspondents in Iraq cannot move around freely because of the dangerous conditions. (It takes a brave reporter to leave the Green Zone without a military escort.) In February last year, the Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks described one such facility, the Balad Air Base, forty miles north of Baghdad. A piece of (well-fortified) American suburbia in the middle of the Iraqi desert, Balad has fast-food joints, a miniature golf course, a football field, a cinema and distinct neighbourhoods – among them, ‘KBR-land’, named after the Halliburton subsidiary that has done most of the construction work at the base. Although few of the 20,000 American troops stationed there have ever had any contact with an Iraqi, the runway at the base is one of the world’s busiest. ‘We are behind only Heathrow right now,’ an air force commander told Ricks.

The Defense Department was initially coy about these bases. In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld said: ‘I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting.’ But this summer the Bush administration began to talk openly about stationing American troops in Iraq for years, even decades, to come. Several visitors to the White House have told the New York Times that the president himself has become fond of referring to the ‘Korea model’. When the House of Representatives voted to bar funding for ‘permanent bases’ in Iraq, the new term of choice became ‘enduring bases’, as if three or four decades wasn’t effectively an eternity.

But will the US be able to maintain an indefinite military presence in Iraq? It will plausibly claim a rationale to stay there for as long as civil conflict simmers, or until every groupuscule that conveniently brands itself as ‘al-Qaida’ is exterminated. The civil war may gradually lose intensity as Shias, Sunnis and Kurds withdraw into separate enclaves, reducing the surface area for sectarian friction, and as warlords consolidate local authority. De facto partition will be the result. But this partition can never become de jure. (An independent Kurdistan in the north might upset Turkey, an independent Shia region in the east might become a satellite of Iran, and an independent Sunni region in the west might harbour al-Qaida.) Presiding over this Balkanised Iraq will be a weak federal government in Baghdad, propped up and overseen by the Pentagon-scale US embassy that has just been constructed – a green zone within the Green Zone. As for the number of US troops permanently stationed in Iraq, the defence secretary, Robert Gates, told Congress at the end of September that ‘in his head’ he saw the long-term force as consisting of five combat brigades, a quarter of the current number, which, with support personnel, would mean 35,000 troops at the very minimum, probably accompanied by an equal number of mercenary contractors. (He may have been erring on the side of modesty, since the five super-bases can accommodate between ten and twenty thousand troops each.) These forces will occasionally leave their bases to tamp down civil skirmishes, at a declining cost in casualties. As a senior Bush administration official told the New York Times in June, the long-term bases ‘are all places we could fly in and out of without putting Americans on every street corner’. But their main day-to-day function will be to protect the oil infrastructure.

This is the ‘mess’ that Bush-Cheney is going to hand on to the next administration. What if that administration is a Democratic one? Will it dismantle the bases and withdraw US forces entirely? That seems unlikely, considering the many beneficiaries of the continued occupation of Iraq and the exploitation of its oil resources. The three principal Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards – have already hedged their bets, refusing to promise that, if elected, they would remove American forces from Iraq before 2013, the end of their first term.

Among the winners: oil-services companies like Halliburton; the oil companies themselves (the profits will be unimaginable, and even Democrats can be bought); US voters, who will be guaranteed price stability at the gas pump (which sometimes seems to be all they care about); Europe and Japan, which will both benefit from Western control of such a large part of the world’s oil reserves, and whose leaders will therefore wink at the permanent occupation; and, oddly enough, Osama bin Laden, who will never again have to worry about US troops profaning the holy places of Mecca and Medina, since the stability of the House of Saud will no longer be paramount among American concerns. Among the losers is Russia, which will no longer be able to lord its own energy resources over Europe. Another big loser is Opec, and especially Saudi Arabia, whose power to keep oil prices high by enforcing production quotas will be seriously compromised.

Then there is the case of Iran, which is more complicated. In the short term, Iran has done quite well out of the Iraq war. Iraq’s ruling Shia coalition is now dominated by a faction friendly to Tehran, and the US has willy-nilly armed and trained the most pro-Iranian elements in the Iraqi military. As for Iran’s nuclear programme, neither air strikes nor negotiations seem likely to derail it at the moment. But the Iranian regime is precarious. Unpopular mullahs hold onto power by financing internal security services and buying off elites with oil money, which accounts for 70 per cent of government revenues. If the price of oil were suddenly to drop to, say, $40 a barrel (from a current price just north of $80), the repressive regime in Tehran would lose its steady income. And that is an outcome the US could easily achieve by opening the Iraqi oil spigot for as long as necessary (perhaps taking down Venezuela’s oil-cocky Hugo Chávez into the bargain).

And think of the United States vis-à-vis China. As a consequence of our trade deficit, around a trillion dollars’ worth of US denominated debt (including $400 billion in US Treasury bonds) is held by China. This gives Beijing enormous leverage over Washington: by offloading big chunks of US debt, China could bring the American economy to its knees. China’s own economy is, according to official figures, expanding at something like 10 per cent a year. Even if the actual figure is closer to 4 or 5 per cent, as some believe, China’s increasing heft poses a threat to US interests. (One fact: China is acquiring new submarines five times faster than the US.) And the main constraint on China’s growth is its access to energy – which, with the US in control of the biggest share of world oil, would largely be at Washington’s sufferance. Thus is the Chinese threat neutralised.

Many people are still perplexed by exactly what moved Bush-Cheney to invade and occupy Iraq. In the 27 September issue of the New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers, one of the most astute watchers of the intelligence world, admitted to a degree of bafflement. ‘What’s particularly odd,’ he wrote, ‘is that there seems to be no sophisticated, professional, insiders’ version of the thinking that drove events.’ Alan Greenspan, in his just published memoir, is clearer on the matter. ‘I am saddened,’ he writes, ‘that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’

Was the strategy of invading Iraq to take control of its oil resources actually hammered out by Cheney’s 2001 energy task force? One can’t know for sure, since the deliberations of that task force, made up largely of oil and energy company executives, have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of ‘executive privilege’. One can’t say for certain that oil supplied the prime motive. But the hypothesis is quite powerful when it comes to explaining what has actually happened in Iraq. The occupation may seem horribly botched on the face of it, but the Bush administration’s cavalier attitude towards ‘nation-building’ has all but ensured that Iraq will end up as an American protectorate for the next few decades – a necessary condition for the extraction of its oil wealth. If the US had managed to create a strong, democratic government in an Iraq effectively secured by its own army and police force, and had then departed, what would have stopped that government from taking control of its own oil, like every other regime in the Middle East? On the assumption that the Bush-Cheney strategy is oil-centred, the tactics – dissolving the army, de-Baathification, a final ‘surge’ that has hastened internal migration – could scarcely have been more effective. The costs – a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws) – are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.

Still, there is reason to be sceptical of the picture I have drawn: it implies that a secret and highly ambitious plan turned out just the way its devisers foresaw, and that almost never happens.

Jim Holt writes for the New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n20/holt01_.html

How China Could Crash the US Dollar on a Whim

Over the last 30 years, China’s economy has grown at an average annualized rate of nearly 10%. While this statistic alone is jaw-dropping, what is more impressive is the extent to which the nominally Communist country’s economy has become intertwined in the global economy. China now exerts enormous influence over the economies of virtually every country in the world, and a slight change in its domestic economic policy has the potential to send shockwaves rippling throughout the world. Nowhere is this more apparent-and frightening-then in China’s economic relationship with the United States, which is very much at the mercy of China when it comes to prices, wages, interest rates, most importantly, the value of the Dollar.

The precariousness of this relationship is already the subject of significant publicity, redolent of the Japanaphobia of the 1980’s that saw American economists scare-mongering about Japanese control of the US economy. [Of course this later turned out to be unfounded, but that is beyond the scope of our discussion.] With regard to China, most of the analysis is focused on its growing foreign exchange reserves, the majority of which are held in Dollar-denominated assets. This article will go beyond forex reserves and discuss several other facets of China’s economy. From US house prices to global commodity prices, from interest rates to inflation rates, we will explore how China could cripple the US economy, both willfully and unintentionally, if so desired.

Forex Reserve Diversification

Let’s begin with an examination of China’s forex reserves, which is probably China’s biggest bargaining chip in its economic relationship with the US. Up until two years ago, China’s currency, the RMB or Yuan, was pegged to the Dollar. As with any peg, there often develops a discrepancy between the fixed value of the currency and the value that the market would assign if the currency were permitted to float. As China’s economy surged ahead, especially over the last five to ten years, tremendous pressure began to build under the RMB. In order to maintain the peg and hold down the value of the RMB, China began accumulating foreign exchange reserves by withdrawing foreign currency from circulation. Today, China’s foreign exchange reserves are massive, at $1.4 trillion as of September 2007.

In the eyes of American policy-makers, this presents a problem because the majority of these reserves are held in Dollar-denominated assets, namely in the form of US Treasury securities. The US government theoretically could not be happier that foreign Central Banks are willing to finance its perennial budget deficits. However, this borrowing has reached a point where foreigners now control over 40% of the US national debt. Moreover, long-term US interest rates are market-driven, based on the buying and selling of US government bonds. In other words, the US has gradually ceded control of its long-term interest rates to foreign Central Banks, namely China and Japan.

As the Dollar has depreciated over the last five years, many Central Banks have begun “diversifying” their forex reserves, by switching from Dollar assets to assets denominated in other currencies. This is problematic for the Dollar for two reasons. First, switching from US assets to European assets, for example, directly causes the Dollar to depreciate. Second, the bulk sale of US treasury securities (whether or not they are replaced with other US-assets) causes US bond prices to decline and hence, yields to increase. Thus, if China suddenly decided to diversify its reserves, for economic and/or political reasons, it could potentially crash the Dollar and send US long-term interest rates skyward. Since mortgage rates are tied directly to government bond yields, a rise in interest rates would probably also affect US real estate prices. Higher interest rates would make borrowing for a home more difficult, which would lower the demand for houses and thus, the value of American real estate.

In fact, China recently created the China Investment Co. Ltd., capitalized with almost $300 Billion, charged with investing its vast forex reserves in higher-yielding assets. However, the company’s inaugural investment was a stock purchase in the Blackstone group, an American private equity firm. Thus, while it seems likely that China will gradually discard some of its stock of US Treasury Securities, the affect on the value of the Dollar will be minimal. Besides, while China would certainly punish US businesses and consumers by unloading US Treasuries on the market, it would punish itself even more, since the value of the government bonds that it didn’t sell would decline. In short, it seems China will probably hold off on exercising its “nuclear option” for the time being.

Currency Manipulation

The second aspect of the China-US economic relationship which China could wield to its advantage is the RMB, itself. American public officials enjoy criticizing China for failing to allow its currency to appreciate more quickly. In fact, there is a bill that has been lying dormant in the US Congress, which threatens to slap a massive across-the-board tariff on all Chinese imports if China fails to allow the RMB to appreciate adequately against the Dollar. What policymakers don’t realize is that a rapid appreciation in the RMB would actually harm the US economy.

Coupled with its growing role as the world’s factory, China’s cheap currency has made Americans wealthier, by increasing their purchasing power. As production of labor-intensive goods was outsourced to China over the last decade, prices for finished products began to fall both in real terms and in nominal terms. While the effect on US employment trends is debatable, its effect on prices has been unambiguous. Thus, even while the American economy boomed, inflation remained relatively modest by historical standards. This allowed the Federal Reserve Board to hold interest rates down and foment economic growth.

As the RMB appreciates, Chinese producers will become ever-more forced to pass along some of the price increase to consumers. Now, if China was to suddenly revalue its currency by the 25%-30% that western policy-makers are demanding, prices on a whole host of Chinese products would jump up overnight. This would adversely affect American purchasing power and limit consumption to such an extent that the US would be in danger of slipping into recession. While the trade deficit that is the bane of American politicians’ existence might decrease in the long-term, it would skyrocket in the short-term. Besides, as many analysts have been quick to point out, there is not much overlap between Chinese and American production. Thus, a more expensive Yuan would send production to other parts of Asia, rather than back to America. While the US-China trade deficit might narrow, it would be offset by increased imbalance with the rest of Asia. Just like with the case of its foreign exchange reserves, however, China is unlikely to exercise this option because it would deal equal harm to itself. China’s ruling Communist party derives most of its legitimacy from the strength of its economy, and especially exports. If a more expensive Yuan forced producers to relocate to other parts of Asia, it would certainly spell trouble for the CCP!

Direct Competition with US Exporters

A more potent (and plausible) weapon would be to compete more directly with US exporters, by expanding into high-technology products. Currently, China specializes in manufacturing labor-intensive products, which have long since been manufactured outside of the United States. As previously stated, a revaluation of the Chinese Yuan would surely not return production to the US. However, if China were to expand into capital-intensive and/or high-technology products, it could easily steal marketshare and jobs from the US.

Limiting the Importation of US Products

Of course, there is also the imports side of the trade equation. China is quickly becoming one of the United States’ largest export markets; limiting the importation of US goods and services would certainly be felt in the US. In fact, China already requires multinational companies in many industries to form joint ventures with Chinese companies in order to produce and/or sell their wares in China. Other anti-competitive measures include tariffs, import taxes, quotas, or a simple ban on the importation of certain types of products. Each would have a devastating impact on the US trade deficit with China and would probably result in retaliatory sanctions by the US.

Wage Pressure

Next, there is the impact that China has exerted on global wages. When Deng XiaoPing’s famous tour of the South in 1979 ignited three decades of dizzying growth, hundreds of millions of Chinese were added to the global labor pool overnight. Yet, the majority of China’s population remains concentrated in rural areas. In fact, there are perhaps 500 million Chinese peasants that have yet to join the modern labor force, which means the full effect of China’s economic explosion has yet to be fully realized by the rest of the world. Already, there is no hope of unskilled work that has already been outsourced returning to the US. If/when China begins to expand into the production of high-technology goods and more complex services, it will encroach on the territory of American businesses. Unfortunately for the US, China will likely make these undercapitalized sectors of its economy more of a priority in its next five year plan.

One popular method for estimating GDP is the income approach, which as its name suggests, represents a summation of the reported incomes of a given country’s domestic population. Logic dictates that downward pressure on the wages of skilled American workers would negatively impact US GDP, and at the very least, would curtail the purchasing power of American consumers. This would also limit US exports to China, since Chinese would have homegrown alternatives to choose from.

Raw Material Pricing

In addition, there is the impact that China’s economic growth has exerted on global raw material prices. It has been said that 25% of the world’s construction cranes are currently located in China, to support the country’s building boom. These massive development and infrastructure projects require proportionally massive quantities of raw materials, namely cement and steel. Unfortunately, China is especially inefficient at converting raw materials into finished products. Combined with the CCP’s emphasis on the near-term (which inherently prioritizes low cost over efficiency), this is placing a tremendous strain on global energy supplies, driving prices skyward.

Competition for Energy

The global prices for oil and coal are already at record highs and China only consumes 1/15 the amount of per-capita energy as the US! Chinese energy companies are becoming increasingly visible, scouring the globe for stable supplies of energy and often coming head-to-head with American energy companies. Conveniently, China does not recognize the ethical issues which arise from purchasing energy from dictatorships and corrupt regimes, whereas US companies are limited from doing business in these places. From Sudan to Myanmar to Kazakhstan, Chinese companies have set up join ventures where US companies could not. While energy prices have certainly risen in the US, they have not kept pace with global energy prices. In this way, China is able to ensure that its citizens and its businesses have the oil, coal, and natural gas that they require, while their American counterparts may be forced to conserve.

Two years ago, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) attempted to purchase an American energy company, Unocal, for over $18 Billion. However, the deal was blocked by the US Congress, which feared Unocal’s energy reserves would be supplied to China at the expense of Americans. It did not help CNOOC’s case that 70% of the Company was effectively owned by the CCP. Needless to say, Chinese government officials were not happy with the outcome; (Unocal was ultimately sold to Chevron for a lower price). China has already shown its willingness to use extreme tactics to secure an adequate energy supply. It seems reasonable to expect its energy policy will continue to oppose and inconvenience the US.

Conclusion

In short, China has several economic “weapons” at its disposal for countering the US, ranging from the manipulation of its currency to the diversification of its burgeoning stock of forex reserves. It also has several less blunt options to choose from, such as enabling Chinese companies to compete more directly and effectively with US companies, and opposing the US in securing a domestic energy supply. On all of these fronts, the US is essentially being held hostage, since it has become so dependent on China as the world’s factory. Ultimately, it seems unlikely that China will deliberately butt heads with the US unless it is first provoked, but America should nonetheless be on its guard, since its economy hangs in the balance.

By Adam Kritzer

http://www.currencytrading.net/2007/how-china-could-crash-the-us-dollar-on-a-whim/

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Genocide?

Why has not the Turkish parliament given tit for tat and passed a resolution condemning the Iraqi Genocide?

As a result of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, more than one million Iraqis have died, and several millions are displaced persons. The Iraqi death toll and the millions of uprooted Iraqis match the Armenian deaths and deportations. If one is a genocide, so is the other.

It is true that most of the Iraqi deaths have resulted from Iraqis killing one another. But it was Bush’s destruction of the secular Iraqi state that unleashed the sectarian strife.

Moreover, American troops in Iraq have killed more civilians than insurgents. The US military in Iraq has fallen for every bit of disinformation fed to it by Al Qaeda personnel posing as “informants” and by Sunnis setting up Shi’ites and Shi’ites setting up Sunnis. As a result, American bombs and missiles have blown up weddings, funerals, kids playing soccer, and people shopping in bazaars and sleeping in their homes.

Not to be outdone, Bush’s private Waffen SS known as Blackwater has taken to gunning Iraqi civilians down in the streets. How do Blackwater and Custer Battles killers escape the “unlawful combatant” designation?

One can only marvel at the insouciance of the US Congress to the current Iraqi Genocide while condemning Turkey for one that happened
90 years ago.

People seldom see the beam in their own eye, only the mote in the eyes of others. Every member of the Bush Regime is busily at work denouncing Iran for causing instability in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the US has invaded two countries, throwing them into total chaos, while beating the drums for war with Iran and conspiring with Israel to invade Lebanon and to attack Syria.

The indisputable facts are that the US and Israel have attacked four Middle East countries and are determined to attack a fifth. Yet, it is peaceful Iran, at war with no one, that Bush and Israel blame for causing instability in the Middle East.

Not content with its many wars in the Middle East, the Bush Regime is sponsoring wars in Africa and is setting up an African Command. The US government has been bombing and attacking other countries ever since the cold war ended. Instead of peace, the gang in Washington DC chose war.

Other than the Israel Lobby, the greatest supporters of Bush’s wars are Christian evangelicals, specifically the “rapture evangelicals” and the “Christian Zionists.”

I remember when Christianity was about saving one’s soul. Today it is about bringing on Armageddon. While the various evangelical Christians preach war in the Middle East, they condemn Islam for being a “warlike religion.”

Americans are so full of themselves that they are blind to their extraordinary hypocrisy.

The US government has broken every agreement with Russia by withdrawing from the anti-ballistic missile treaty, pushing NATO to Russia’s borders, conniving to place missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic, and buying governments in former Soviet republics and installing US military bases therein.

When Russian President Putin finally has enough and protests, the US Secretary of State blames Putin for being difficult and restarting the cold war.

Few Americans realize it, but they take the cake.

International polls show that the rest of the world regard the US and Israel as the greatest dangers to world peace. Americans claim that they are fighting wars against terrorism, but it is US and Israeli terrorism that worries everyone else. The rest of the world knows that the wars are about US and Israeli hegemony and that the US and Israel are prepared to engage in whatever acts of terror are necessary to achieve hegemony.

That is the bare fact.

When the US dollar loses its reserve currency status, the US empire will come to an abrupt end. Sooner or later the rest of the world will realize this and, in an act of self-protection, dethrone the dollar

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How do you get out of a hole?

First of all, you stop digging. —This is the simple lesson that the Bush-Cheney White House has so much trouble understanding. For Bush and his neocon crowd, they are militarily occupying Iraq and they intend to remain there, no matter what. It doesn't matter that this immoral and illegal occupation has caused the death of more than one million Iraqis and killed more than 3000 American soldiers. And now, they want to escalate the Iraq war into a wider Middle East conflict involving Iran, thus making sure the United States will be involved militarily in that region of the globe for the next twenty years.

In 2002, immoral neocon officials in the Defense Department considered Iraq to be a "low-hanging fruit", ripe for picking for its huge oil reserves, for the opportunity to displace French and Chinese oil companies, for increasing Israel's security, for moving American military bases from Saudi Arabia to Iraq and for pleasing politically the end-times religious right in the U.S.—thus killing five birds with one stone. According to former CIA Director George Tenet—and this has been confirmed by former Secretary Paul O'Neill and many other insiders—the very idea of taking control militarily of Iraq was improvised and was unjustified because "There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat."

Nevertheless, the Bush-Cheney-Libby-Wolfowit
z-Feith-Perle team, and their allies at the American Enterprise Institute and at the neocon Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), thought it was a win-win situation. They had decided they wanted a war under the clouds of 9/11, and nothing—truth, morality, reason or facts—could deter them from it. They were ready to lie a thousand times to achieve their goal. And they got it. But now the apprentice sorcerers do not know how to stop the infernal machine of destruction they have set in motion. They only know how to push forward and make a larger mess of it.

That type of improvisation and political wickedness is all too well confirmed by newly released transcripts of talks George W. Bush had with then-Spanish Prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, in February 22, 2003, a few weeks before the onset of the March 20, 2003 Iraq war. In these transcripts, it is shown that Bush had a criminal intent to launch a war of aggression against Iraq, no matter what, and that he turned down every Iraqi offer that would have avoided a murderous war that has killed more than one million people so far. This includes Saddam Hussein's offer to go into exile, and for Iraq to hold free and internationally-supervised elections as well as allowing armed foreign troops to conduct unfettered inspections for weapons of mass destruction. —But the Bush-Cheney regime of Neocons wanted war, and nothing could stop them. They wanted, above all, to put their hands on Iraq's oil wealth. This is a prime example of historical grand theft, political wickedness and moral bankruptcy. Thus, this war has nothing to do with the morality of the "Just War" theory. In fact, it violates all the canons of a just and unavoidable war.

Confronted with the abysmal cowardliness, moral corruption and incompetence of the Bush-Cheney administration, Americans, on the whole, are more intelligent and more moral than their current leaders, and a large majority of them (63%) think it's time for the United States to stop occupying illegally the country of Iraq and to stop murdering its citizens. Moreover, a good majority of them (54%) reject the blanket Bush-Cheney policy of aggression abroad, under the pretext of "preventive war".

Similarly, the U.S. Congress, the only government branch empowered by the U.S. Constitution to declare war, is officially on record as being against maintaining American troops in Iraq. First, the House of Representatives, on July 12, passed a bill, by a vote of 223 to 201, to withdraw American combat troops from Iraq by next April 1st. Second, in a July 18 vote, a majority of U.S. Senators voted 52 to 47 to bring home most American combat troupes from Iraq by May 1, 2008. —So, both the American people and the American Congress want this war to end, and soon.

But the truth is that Bush II does not give a hoot about American democratic opinion, as he openly demonstrated recently. And, he does not much care for the U.S. Congress either, or the courts for that matter. In fact, Bush has a deeply ingrained tendency to disregard the truth, the law and the U.S. Constitution.

In Iraq, the Bush-Cheney regime is still building "enduring" military bases in order to occupy Iraq militarily for decades to come. They even talk openly about the half-century American military presence in South Korea, as if this were a useful analogy.

At the end of the day, as Bush has said: "I do not need to explain". As the British magazine The Economist has warned, the world should beware of a President "who has little left to lose," the more so if he has hardly any moral principle and is indifferent to the opinions of the majority of Americans.

It is doubtful that a George W. Bush in denial and his delusional neocon advisors for permanent war will ever listen to reason and morality. To the contrary, the lame-duck president is still firing anybody who does not agree with him, while listening to chief Neocon Dick Cheney. The American people see that, and that is why nearly half of them want President George W. Bush to face impeachment, while about 54 percent of American adults now want the US House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney, because he is seen as the chief spreader of lies to launch the illegal Iraq War. As of now, there are twenty-one Congressmen who support the articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney contained in bill H Res 333 —If and when American troops leave Iraq, there will be fewer deaths because there will be fewer killers, both official soldiers and mercenaries.

The latest victim of Bush's pigheaded approach to foreign policy is General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Having started a war of aggression on his own, against the advice of most thinking people within the military, political, legal and intelligence communities, and having placed himself squarely against international law, George W. Bush is reduced to shifting the blame for his failures to others. Bush is afraid of having honest people around him, especially a man of the caliber of General Pace, who is a moral man. General Pace, in the spirit of the Nuremberg Charter, has publicly said, “It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral” (Feb. 17, 2006). And since General Pace thinks it is immoral to be the first to use nuclear weapons, one wonders if Bush has fired General Pace because he intends to use nuclear weapons in the coming months.

The U.S. Congress should wake up before it is too late. When armaments are in the hands of immoral people, the danger is high that a nuclear war could be launched. Indeed, people in power who have no morality and no judgment can be expected to do anything, including killing millions of people, to save face.

In the book "The New American Empire", I asked this fundamental question: Why is the Bush-Cheney administration so bent on using lies and distortions in order to justify a war whose end result would be predictably to eliminate from power the Iraqi Sunnis in favor of Shi'ites allied with Shi'ite Iran, thus automatically making Iran the dominant power in that unstable region? One has to remember that Sunnis make up 85 percent of all Muslims around the world and are dominant in the Arab world. —Now that they have realized their error in creating a Shia-dominated Iraq, the Neocons behind the Bush-Cheney team want them to up the ante and to attack Iran, thus turning the Middle East into an even larger murder scene than it is now.

The American people have never received an answer to that simple question. That is why they are so dissatisfied with George W. Bush, but also with the Republicans and the pro-war neocon Democrats in Congress. This indicates that there is a huge void of leadership in the United States today. On this score, the most moral Democratic 2008 candidate for president is, by far, former senator Mike Gravel from Alaska. The very fact that the mainstream media boycott him should be a good indication that this man stands on the side of the people.

According to polls, Americans are very dissatisfied with both major political parties because of their inability or their unwillingness to reflect the wishes of the people and to stop the immoral and illegal occupation of Iraq. In fact, more than two-thirds of Americans believe their country is on the wrong track, but nothing is being done about it. In fact, average Americans are losing hope that they will ever be heard by the Washington D.C. political nomenklatura that runs the government while paying scant attention to the people.

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"Justice is as strictly due between neighbor nations as between neighbor citizens. A highwayman is as much a robber when he plunders in a gang as when single; and a nation that makes an unjust war is only a great gang." Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

[Iran will react to a bombing attack by the Bush-Cheney administration] “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national-security adviser to President Jimmy Carter

"Israel made a large contribution to the decision to embark on this war. I know that on the eve of the war, [Ariel] Sharon said, in a closed conversation with senators, that if they could succeed in getting rid of Saddam Hussein, it would solve Israel's security problems." Robert (Bob) Novak, veteran American reporter

"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." Alan Greenspan, former Fed Chairman 1987-2006

"There are people in Washington … who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq and they’re looking for ten, 20, 50 years into the future … the reason that we went into Iraq was to establish a permanent military base in the Gulf region, and I have never heard any of our leaders say that they would commit themselves to the Iraqi people that ten years from now there will be no military bases of the United States in Iraq." Jimmy Carter, former American President (February 3, 2006)