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May 5, 2003, 10:20 A.M.

May 1, 2003 marked the 40th anniversary of the children’s protests in Birmingham, Alabama. About 2,000 people were expected to remember this major civil rights battle this past weekend. They commemorated the several days in May 1963 when “children as young as 6 years old marched, picketed, jammed the jails and juvenile halls, shut the city's shopping district down, and at last broke the back of segregation in Birmingham, the most segregated city in the nation.”

Clarence Page's editorial last week was well timed to coincide with this important event from our history. In 1963 children in Birmingham did the work that their parents could not. They protested and resisted the forces that sought to separate them from the rest of society. Today we still do not have a racially integrated society, and the generation that were children of Birmingham still cannot claim a complete victory. It is important to remember events like the Birmingham protests in order to remember not only how far we have come but how far we still have to go.

May 5, 2003, 9:45 A.M.

The events leading up to the war with Iraq, the conduct of the war and the post-war attempt to Americanize Iraq have all been played to the tune of the neo-conservative elements within the Bush administration. Calmer voices, such as Colin Powell’s, have been drowned out by the strident chorus of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. This does not bode well for a successful middle east strategy.

One thing that this war has proved is that there was no cache of chemical or biological weapons waiting at the docks to be exported to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. In fact, if those weapons programs exist at all they are so well hidden that none have yet been found. The Bush administration is now downplaying the entire WMD excuse for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The war has also proved to be about oil. Oil is the major topic of discussion among administration officials and a board of oversight (with American Philip J. Carroll, former president of Shell Oil, at its helm) has been created to get the oil flowing again. The folks here at home are rejoicing to pronouncements of lower gas prices, lower than last year, in fact. Iraqi expatriates, Ahmad Chalabi among them, are beginning to smell a rat. The US said the war was not about oil, even though US troops protected Iraqi oil fields, oil pipelines and other facilities successfully, while irreplaceable Mesopotamian treasures were smashed, looted, stolen and lost to the world forever.

In his very manly aircraft carrier speech, Bush praised neo-conservative supporters Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. Notably absent from Bush’s honor roll was Colin Powell, who staked his reputation on the fact that Iraq had a viable, active and threatening offensive WMD program just prior to the war. Bush was silent about this issue in his speech. Apparently eliminating the Iraqi WMD program was only an ancillary goal. This is revisionist history at its best. Meanwhile, the re-creation of Iraq (home to the oldest civilization on the planet) will be left not to the diplomats at State, but to the warriors at the Pentagon. Powell, the moderating voice of reason, is out of the loop.

The elimination of the State Department from the post-war Iraq discussion also dooms a great idea that I wrote about on April 9. Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation proposed in a letter to the New York Times a plan for the distribution of Iraqi oil revenues similar to the Alaska Fund. A portion of all oil proceeds generated in Iraq would be placed in a fund and the proceeds generated from the prudent investment of those funds would be distributed to the Iraqi people, to be returned to their economy as the people see fit. The idea seems doomed because only Colin Powell, the administration’s odd man out, has the vision to see the wisdom of this idea. In addition to being backed by Powell, the idea has the support of two U.S. senators, Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

An Iraq fund is still a great idea and represents the most democratic way of ensuring that the hearts and minds campaign is successful. If the Iraqi people, regardless of ethnicity, religion or party affiliation, all share in the wealth of their country for the first time since oil was discovered in the region at the turn of the last century, there is hope for stability. If the U.S. does not create an equitable system so that everyone can get some of the pie, the U.S. will continue to be mired in never-ending cycles of violence, terrorism and theocratic government. Theocracy works in the middle east because religion teaches that pie is unimportant. If you don’t have a slice of the pie, this is an enticing argument.

Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and most notably Bush, have a vision that I don’t share. I fear that their vision for the future makes no room for out-of-the-box thinking like Mr. Clemons’. We appear doomed to repeat our past mistakes in Iraq. The military’s objective of establishing a post-war government are not necessarily the same as the State Department’s longer-term objectives. It is a grave mistake to cut Colin Powell out of the picture, but it is also indicative of the neo-con mantra: either you’re with us or you’re against us. No middle ground.

May 5, 2003, 8:45 A.M.

France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg have announced the formation of a European military alliance aimed at assuming a greater role for European countries in the security of European Union interests. This alliance calls for a stepped up military commitment among those countries. What that means is that for the third time in 100 years, Germany is rearming and entering a period of military buildup aimed at countering U.S. military might.

The players insist that this group will function within NATO, but that it will focus on the interests of European countries where those interests may diverge from those of NATO. In other words, where U.S. and European interests diverge, there will be a counter-balancing military force.

This development is truly frightening. As a result of the failed diplomacy of the Bush administration, the U.S. and Great Britain are left in alliance with small, marginally significant countries that can be bullied, bought or bribed into agreeing with U.S. policies. In the meantime, old Europe is once again rising and building coalitions of its own, mainly because it cannot stand for being militarily or politically marginalized. This is one of the most significant and far-reaching results of the failure of U.S. diplomacy prior to the war.

The fear of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction was the lever, the principle motivating force behind the impatience of the Bush administration to go to war. No readily observable or advanced programs that posed an imminent threat have been discovered. We sacrificed 50 years of diplomatic stock and proved our detractors right. A more powerful European military and political alliance intended to balance what is perceived as U.S. world domination will be but one negative consequence of our failed diplomacy.

May 5, 2003, 8:00 A.M.

We're Baaaack!! Because of school vacation, and a busy week leading up to it, we didn’t do much reading or writing. As a result you may have found the site a little stale. Well, Saturday was opening day for Laconia Little League, the ice is out on the big lake and we are refreshed from some time off. We’re back in business.

Mark Fernald had a great Community Commentary in the Laconia Citizen last week on the Benson budget. Couple this with an announcement from Fed chairman Alan Greenspan and it is plain to see that the big spending (on tax cuts for the rich) Republicans are in for some rough economic times. I only hope that there are enough Democrats left to really step up and get their voice out on this issue. Their voices will be joined by both state and national republicans because many of them can also see just how bad some of these policies are.

Iraq has certainly had the effect of deflecting attention from the corporate scandals we heard so much of before the war.

I recently wrote about a great idea for handling the money that will soon flow from Iraqi oil wells. The idea was first floated by Steve Clemons, of the New America Foundation, a Washington based centrist think tank, and envisions a scheme similar to the Alaska Fund. Apparently the idea now has the backing of Colin Powell and two US senators, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are pressing the Bush administration to consider the concept.


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