Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Blog!

Hey everyone!

I have moved to dametz.blogspot.com

Please go there now for my new blog!! Thanks!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Political Theory in Marx, Habermas, and Rawls

Note: this is a paper I wrote for my Political Theory class this semester. In it, I discuss three political thoerists (Karl Marx, Jurgen Habermas, and John Rawls) and their various ideas about the creation of a more just society. Enjoy!!

In contemporary political theory, few thinkers have had the impact that Karl Marx has. During his life in the 19th century, he developed ideas about the progression of capitalism and what it should evolve into that would shape geopolitics for the next century. Communism, the political system he developed, was adopted and corrupted by various nations throughout the 20th century, causing various international crises and wars due to conflict with capitalism and democracy. Marx’s theories on class conflict and wealth distribution have made a huge impact on human society since his works were published.
In the 19th century, capitalism had become the primary economic model that most major, industrialized nations followed. In capitalism, the means of commodity production are owned by the holders of private capital. Capital hires labor to turn out commodities, and pays the workers for their labor. The owners of capital then sell the commodities to earn a profit, and invest that profit in another commodity to make a larger profit. Marx understands the positive impact that capitalism has had on society. He points out that it was the natural evolution of feudalism, and that it is a much more just model than any in the past. However, Marx does not believe that capitalism is the final, most civilized version of society. This is where he begins his critique.
Marx’s main argument is that capitalism isn’t compatible with human nature. In his view, being a worker is not a fulfillment of human potential. In a capitalist society, the owners of capital try to hide this view behind the production of commodities and the payment of wages, so that they might accumulate more capital. This is the main reason that capitalism has lasted so long. In feudalism, the exploitation in labor is there for all to see, because there are no commodities or wages to hide it behind. But in capitalism, this doesn’t happen. Capitalists say that labor is a natural and good thing, because the workers are paid and the commodities are available to all. In this view, the commodities are the result of capital. Marx argues that this is incorrect. He says that commodities are the result of labor, and that the laborers should hold a higher place in society. In his view, the key commodity in the world, the one that drives all this, is the human mind and body. The value of a commodity is a reflection of the labor that went into making it. However, the laborers making the commodities are only paid the minimum amount that it is believed that they need to survive. So, when a commodity is sold for more than the amount paid to the laborer, that difference is termed the surplus labor value by Marx. This is how capitalists make a profit. Marx sees this as unfair to the laborers.
After identifying and criticizing the methods of capitalism, Marx then proceeds to present a model that he believes is a more just and fair one than capitalism. In his view, his model, which he calls Communism, is the natural evolution from capitalism, just as capitalism was the natural evolution from feudalism. In a communist society, the laboring class (the proletariat) would rise up against the owners of capital (the bourgeois) and take control of the means of production. Marx proposes the abolition of private property, so that capital cannot again accumulate with the few. All private property, and private industry, would be owned by the people as a whole, and it would be fairly distributed among everyone. Everyone would work in a job provided by the government, and the children would be able to go to free schools to receive a fair, open education. The government would also hold all credit and run the only bank. Marx sees this equalization of society as the only way to ensure a fair and equal society for all. Instead of the exploitation of labor for the enrichment of a few, all people will would benefit equally from the work that they are all doing.
In the 20th century, several nations adopted the ideas of Marx in response to the continued domination of monarchial and capitalistic societies. During World War I, the workers in Russia, led by Vladimir Lenin, deposed the czar and instituted what would become the most successful and longest lasting communist society on earth. Similar events happened in around the globe after World War II, due to the emergence of the USSR as a superpower. However, none of these nations lasted long (with a few exceptions,) as widespread corruption and authoritarianism overtook the Marxist ideals. Communism on a large scale failed. However, the ideas of Marx live on today, as communism continues to be a constant source of debate and a living economic model around the world.

Since Karl Marx first wrote Capital and The Communist Manifesto in the mid-nineteenth century, many subsequent political philosophers have offered critiques of Marx’s ideas. One contemporary critic is Jurgen Habermas, the German philosopher. Habermas chiefly disputes Marx’s ideas about the organization of society, specifically citing the role of labor. He also has his own take on the logical progression of human civilization. Habermas is clearly one of the key political thinkers of modern times.
To understand Habermas, one must first have a basic idea of Marx’s ideas. One of the main areas to understand is the idea of superstructure and the infrastructure. Marx believed that the modes of production and the relations of production made up what he called the infrastructure of society. Labor and the relations of people performing labor is the most basic societal structure people have. Out of this infrastructure was created the superstructure, which was made up of things like religion, politics, ethics, and the media. The whole purpose of the superstructure is to ensure the promotion and continuation of the infrastructure. In effect, the infrastructure, while being imperfect, is all that matters; the superstructure is merely superfluous.
Habermas offers his own view on the structure of society. His view is centered around what he calls the “organizational principle.” This principle states that society is organized along specific lines. The reason for this is the role of communication in human society. Habermas states that we are set apart not by our ability to perform social labor (as Marx believed,) but by our ability to use communication to legitimate our roles in the system of production. He calls this communicative action. Using communication, we can make known our intentions to others, which in turn can create relations that influence the production of items. This process of communication legitimates society.
Habermas’ critique of Marx evolves out of communicative action. Marx and Habermas both agree that as each system of production evolves, it creates crises within itself; in essence, an economy is a problem-creating system. The two philosophers differ on how these crises are solved, however. Marx believed that when an economy encounters a crisis, it will evolve to the next natural model of economy. For example, when capitalism reaches a crisis of overproduction, it will evolve naturally into socialism to compensate, just as feudalism evolved to capitalism following the crisis of exploitation. Habermas disagrees. He believes that an economy won’t just evolve by itself. It needs legitimating communication of reason to correct its problems. Habermas describes two forms of reason that will serve this end: instrumental and normative. Instrumental reason is the problem-solving side of thought. It simply focuses on how to satisfy one’s desires in the easiest possible way. Normative reason is the moral side; normative reason asks, “Is what I’m doing right?” Habermas states that to solve crises, one must use not just instrumental reason to find a solution, but also normative reason to assure that the solution will actually work in the long term. This is what Habermas views as the key crisis of modern society: instrumental reason has diminished normative reason in societal communication.
Habermas, in his writings, attempts to correct what he sees as the crucial problems with the ideas of Marx. He clearly aims to restructure the ideas of labor being the main focus of human society, instead replacing it with his idea of communicative action. He also presents his own model of the progression of society as crises occur. Habermas’ ideas on society will long be studied by political scientists in their attempt to understand the development of human society.

Justice is a concept that has been studied by philosophers for thousands of years. It has often been the central theme for the life works of many of the great thinkers in history. In ancient Greece, Plato designed his Republic with the goal of creating an perfectly just society. His teacher, Socrates, discussed justice at length in his dialogues. Theologians have always discussed justice in accordance with God’s will. And in the 19th century, Karl Marx attempted to create a just model for society with his critique of capitalism and creation of communism. Few philosophers, however, have had the impact that John Rawls has had on our perceptions and understanding of justice.
Some of the key thinking about justice occurred during the Enlightenment, when Rousseau first developed Social Contract theory. He was followed soon by Hobbes and Locke in the promotion of Social Contract, which states that society is an agreement among people to give up some liberty so that they may live in a just, safe society. Rousseau and Hobbes, while both Social Contract theorists, had widely differing views. Rousseau believed that society should be a more just model than the state of nature, which he believed was inherently peaceful and solitary. If a society was worse than this state of nature, than it should be done away with. Hobbes, on the other hand, believed that the state of nature was a dangerous and evil thing, and that people created society to protect themselves from nature. Both agreed that the social contract should make life better for all people. Rawls’ main goal in his magnum opus, The Theory of Justice, was to determine what laws and policies would best uphold the social contract while still being just for all.
The key to understanding Rawls is his “veil of ignorance.” Also known as original position, this is the view that Rawls believes one must take in order to create a perfectly just society. A person who is in original position would know certain things, and not know others. The things one would not know are things that establish one’s place in society: gender, race, wealth, language, religion, education, generation, etc. Basically, a person in original position would not know their potential place in the society they are creating. This is key to Rawls’ theory. The person (or persons) creating the societal structure must create a model in which they would benefit no matter what role they end up taking in that society. Rawls does concede that a person must know some things, however. These things are described as “whatever general facts affect the choice of the principles of justice” by Rawls. These things would include political affairs, economic theory, social organization, and human psychology. A person must know these things to create a viable society.
Next, Rawls states that two principles must be followed to create just policies. First is the Principle of Liberty, which states that the laws instituted must promote the greatest possible liberty for all. Rawls believed that people would only abide laws that restricted liberty at the minimum amount necessary to ensure stability. The second principle is the Principle of Difference. It says that a policy legitimating inequality is only acceptable if it benefits the least privileged member of society. What this means is that any law instituted must have at least some benefit for every member of society, even the lowest, for it to be acceptable. Along with these two principles, Rawls also mentions another that helps fulfill the requirements of the first two. It is called the Maximin Principle, and it states that the best way to choose a policy is to rank all possible choices by their worst potential outcome, and then select the least worst one. He calls this the “social minimum,” in that it is the minimum inequality acceptable to society.
Finally, in his determination of what would be just in a society, Rawls asks two questions: what things must be equal in society, and what things can be allowed to be unequal? He concludes first that basic liberties be open to all; these things include free speech, equal suffrage, freedom of religion or conscience, and freedom from arbitrary arrest, among others. These things must be equal and open to all members of society for that society to be just. The things that can be allowed to be unequal are things concerning economics, amount of education, or amount of authority one has. These are all merit or opportunity-based things that people must use their natural assets (talents) to achieve.
After discussing these things, Rawls identifies the specific policies and institutions that a perfectly just society would be made up of. He creates four branches of government to ensure justice and equality. First, he has the “allocation branch.” This branch enforces market regulation and efficiency, so that the market is fair to all. Next is the stabilization branch, which is essentially the anti-recessionary branch. It insures full employment, and a stable demand for products. Third is the transfer branch, which enforces the social minimums through the transfer of property and goods. Finally is the distribution branch, which is the taxation branch that insures that wealth is fairly and justly distributed to the members of society.
In his writings, Rawls coherently and succinctly identifies social justice, and then proceeds to attempt to create a model to achieve it. Rawls’ ideas have had a large impact on American political thinking, and he is considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. Few philosophers have covered the amount of ground that he did in his thinking.

Marx, Habermas, and Rawls have all had substantial impacts on political thinking in the last two hundred years. Each attempted to define a just and fair societal structure that can be imitated in the real world. Of the three, Marx has had the greatest success in this area, due to the adoption of his ideas in Eastern Europe and various other places on Earth. All three start with the idea that modern society is malfunctioning in some way, and that something needs to be done to correct the imbalances. Marx advocates a popular uprising that will concentrate wealth in the hands of the workers. Habermas believes that human interactions can be used to correct the errors in society. And Rawls explores the idea of social justice to identify the institutions society needs to right itself. All three have had a profound impact on the development of society and politics around the world. They all also believe that members of society are able to critique their own societies in order to better than them, rather than just continue to perpetuate injustices and inequality that surround us. Although each thinker has different views on the methods of readjustment, and the roles that government will take in relation to the general population, each agree on one key thing: there is always an opportunity and a necessity to attempt to change society for the better of all people.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

New Paradigms in Health Care and Immigration

The debate in the areas of both health care reform and immigration policy in this country have become so stale as to make most people apathetic to the issues. The health care debate is basically both sides fighting over small points of contention, and doing it in a very partisan way. Even someone like myself who has a huge tolerance for politics is getting a little sick of it. And immigration hasn't been seriously debated in years. The same xenophobic rhetoric has dominated the debate, while the issue has run out of control. Yet, something needs to be done, because of the reasons I will outline below.

Health Insurance Reform

First, health care. Let me preface by saying that if you are going to read this, you need an open mind. People with an ingrained hatred for health care reform of any kind do not contribute in a constructive way at all. It is a widely acknowledged fact that something needs to be done, because the system in place now is working inefficiently and not helping people. Now, I've made it no secret that I think a public option, combined with strict regulation of the insurance industry, while still encouraging a private system of doctors and hospitals, is the best solution. I still am holding out hope that this is what will happen. But my point here isn't with these solutions. I would merely like to illustrate how I think health insurance would work most efficiently. Keep in mind this is all hypothetical. I will explain why it would never happem after I lay it out.

It's fairly self-evident that the health insurance industry is broken. Between exorbitantly high premiums and tens of millions who cannot get health insurance, the numbers prove that the big insurance companies are failing to make access to health care easier for people. I don't think they are intentionally trying to be bad guys, but they aren't doing what people need them to do, namely help them shoulder the cost of hospital bills. What is the point of paying insurance if the company is going to balk on paying the bills when you need them to? With all this said, let me present what I believe, in theory, makes more sense. I call it "reverse insurance premiums." What that means is that people with lower risk would pay higher premiums than people with high risk. Now, before you write me off as some crazy socialistic wealth-distributer, hear me out. Remember, this is all theory. It would never happen, simply because opponents could repeat that phrase to just kill it. But economically, I beleive it makes more sense. I'm not saying that healthy people should pay a lot more than less-healthy people. But if they paid just a little more, the system could be initiated. People who are sick cannot afford to pay the high premiums that insurance companies impose on them, often forcing them to go without. Then, when these ill people need to go to the hospital, everyone with insurance foots the bill, because the uninsured cannot pay for whatever care they receive. But, if the healthy paid a little more than the sick, that money could be used to insure people who fall ill. This would allow them to get into the doctor and get well. At that point, their premiums would go up, because now they are healthy. This would swell the ranks of the healthy payers, meaning each person would pay a little less each time someone gets well.

Now, when I've explained this to people, one of the main criticisms is "what is the incentive to stay healthy if you have to pay more?" Well, I argue that good health is an incentive in and of itself. Who wants to be sick, even if you pay less? That is why the difference paid between the two groups would not be great enough to make people wish they were sick. Of course, there would always be free-loaders, but there are free-loaders in the current system, too. The end result of this policy would be that more and more people could afford health insurance, even if they are in poverty or severely sick. I believe we would still need a public option for those who can't afford private insurance, and we would still need strict regulation of the market. But, in theory, I think this would work. Of course, it would never happen, because all that would be perceived would be healthy people being "penalized" by paying slightly higher rates. But, I think it is still an interesting conversation to have. Hopefully, a meaningful bill will get passed in Congress, and this debate will become a moot point.


Now to my main point: immigration reform. We have all heard the xenophobic rhetoric about how we should kick out all foreigners and close the borders, because immigrants are corrupting our culture and taking all our jobs. Thankfully, a majority of people in this country understand the various benefits of allowing immigrants to come here. However, I am calling for something more than what we have now. I beleive that we need to open up immigration even more, and at the same time, pardon any illegals who would like to start the process to become citizens.

I can hear you all calling me a left-wing liberal wacko. Bear with me, and hear me out. I think these policies are absolutely crucial to the continued American dominance of the world economic system. America has always been a leader in employment and wages, despite the periodic recessions we have experienced. However, signs are already starting to show that, in the future, America could be looking at a severe labor shortage. The reason? The baby boomer generation. The baby boomers are the largest generation in America, and they are rapidly approaching retirement age. Five years from now, these people will begin retiring at a higher rate than replacement workers can be found. This will happen because the generations after the boomers are substantially smaller, due the changing dynamics of the family (specifically, having fewer children.) As the boomers retire, the demand for workers to replace them will rise. This will create a large shortage of labor by itself. However, this will only be part of the problem. The boomers are the wealthiest generation in history, due specifically to the equity they hold (usually property) and the growth of 401(k)s. So, as they retire, they will be cashing out, and increasing the pool of consumers, and consumer credit. This by itself would also create a huge demand for labor to feed that consumption. Combine that with the fact that all these people just retired, and that they will live longer due to advances in medicine and care, and we are looking a major labor crisis by 2025. That is just fifteen short years from now. The demand for labor will increase substantially to meet the demand for consumption, but the labor force will be smaller than ever.

Now, chances are that we aren't going to revert to a society where people are having 4 or 5 kids to make a family. So there isn't going to be a second "boomer" generation to come and fill these jobs (and even if there was, it would take too long for them to enter the workforce to contribute to a solution to this problem.) So, if we can't supply the population we need ourselves, what can we do? Immigration. People from around the world are banging down the doors to get into America. And they aren't just unskilled, illiterate people from third-world countries. People from around the world routinely come to America to go to college, and become doctors and architects and lawyers. We should encourage those people to stay after graduation. We should loosen immigration laws, and start letting people in now. We need people from all walks of life, and we need these people to become tax-paying citizens. We should also pardon illegal immigrants, and begin integrating them into society. The future labor shortage is going to have dire consequences for our economy. The shortage of workers will cause wages to rise to a point that inflation will be almost unbearable, making what little money the unemployed have worthless, exacerbating the problem. But, if we start compensating now, we head off this crisis. We need to allow more immigrants in now for another reason related to this. For the last thirty years, the world population has skyrocketed, more than doubling in that time. However, we are starting to see a drop-off in population growth around the world. This is to be expected; it is inconceivable, and impossible, for the population to continue grow at the rate it has. Due to the decreased growth, other countries will begin fighting to keep their people home, and to encourage immigrants to come to them. So, if we can start bringing people here now, we will be ahead of the curve, because it is almost certain that we will have to do so in fifteen years anyways. These immigrants will fill the labor gap that the reitired boomers leave, ensuring that we don't experience a major recession (or depression.) Living space isn't a problem: America's population is 31 people per square kilometer (34 is you exclude Alaska), compared to the world average of 49. (Germany, on the other hand, has a denisty of 230.) Finally, the increase of immigrants will diversify our population, and bring countless amounts of new talent and initiative to America.

I hope these ideas have you thinking. You have to put aside your preconceived notions, and your fears of new ideas and change, and think about these things logically. If we continue having the same debates we are having about these things, then in fifteen to twenty years, America will be in deep, deep trouble. It is in our best interests to shift the paradigm on not just health reform and immigration reform, but on all the stale issues out there, so that we can continue to be the preeminent power on earth.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2003 All Over Again

Barely four days after the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas day, and Republicans are already throwing the Constitution and our legal system out the window. On Christmas Day, Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up an airplane in route to Detroit with a bomb that he had strapped to him. Luckily, the bomb failed and Abdulmutallab was overpowered and restrained. Once on the ground, he was seized by FBI agents and on the 26th, he was charged in a federal court of trying to destroy the airliner. And the screams of outrage from the right began almost immediately. Representative Peter King (R-NY), the ranking Republican in the House Homeland Security Committee, was the first to come out and blame the Obama Administration for this attempted attack. King has also come out and said that Abdulmutallab should not be tried in federal court, but instead in a "military tribunal."
"Wait," I hear you ask. "Haven't the Republicans been eviscerated over the last several years because of the handling of accused terrorists during the Bush Administration?" Well, yes, you are correct. And apparently, the Republicans learned little from it. King has decried the fact that Abdulmutallab will get a lawyer and Miranda rights. This is the same argument that was made about numerous enemy combatants seized during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans seem to think that we should just freeze all laws and rights in this country just because we are at war. They think anyone who commits a crime in the name of Al Qaeda should be thrown straight in prison, or even executed, without a fair trial first. This is absolutely wrong. Our Constitution was written for a reason. We have laws. Those laws must be observed and upheld. Just because someone commits a crime doesn't mean those laws become moot just because we are especially angry. If we aren't following the law, why even defend our nation? Why not just surrender? Our laws and rights set us apart from those we are fighting; when we abandon them, we are no longer an America worth defending. Abdulmutallab has just as much right to a fair trial as you or me. Why? Because he committed a crime here. And anyone who committs a crime here has rights so that we can curb abuses of power. The Bush Administration disregarded this, and apparently, some are willing to do it again. What they dont understand is that these tactics hurt America in the long run. When we disregard our own laws, it allows the terrorists to call us hypocrites. When we engage in torture, it becomes a recruiting tool for terror organization. We must not abandon our Constitution and laws. The courts may be slow, but they are effective. We must prosecute and find someone guilty before they can be punished, no matter who it is. Circumventing this process is like trying to arrest a susupected criminal before they even commit a crime. Our legal system is reactionary, nor preemptive. It cannot be preemptive. Because if it becomes that way, what is to stop your local police officer from arresting and charging you because he thinks you might someday commit a crime?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Health Reform?

We are closer than ever to passing Health Reform through the Senate, and I don't really know if I feel good about it.
News is coming out this morning that, after 13 hours of negotiating last night, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb) has agreed to vote for the bill, giving the Democrats the majority they need. At what cost, though? Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) cut a deal with Nelson to ensure that Nebraska will never again pay a dime for Medicaid coverage. He also cut deals for Michigan, Louisiana, and Vermont, so that Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich), Mary Landrieu (D-Lou) and Bernie Sanders (I-Ver) would vote for the bill. He needed deals for Nelson, Levin, and Landrieu because, as conservative Democrats, they were moving away from the bill's public option (which was cut) and Medicare buy-in(which was also cut.) So I'm not really sure why he had to cut a deal when the two most liberal parts of the bill are already gone. The claim is because of abortion wording, which is not as restrictive as some hope (apparently, every single Senator has forgotten about Hyde Amendment, which states that no federal funding can be applied to abortions.) Sanders got a deal because no public option is included, and Sanders threatened to vote against the bill for this reason. I agree with Sen. Sanders; I think this bill should be scrapped. Without a public option, this is a handout to the insurance companies. The individual mandate included means millions of new customers for the insurance companies to overcharge and screw around. This is not the reform we have been working for since June. It's sad that Sen. Sanders has caved so easy. So now that we are here, with the first vote less than 24 hours away, I feel torn. Obviously, I want a health care bill badly. But I do not like the one being presented. Passing it will be a huge step, but the cost os too high. I agree that getting this done by the end of the year is important, but not if we have to make these crap deals for it to happend. I can only hope that a deal has been reached to reinsert the public option during conference committee (maybe our president will actually assert some force here and get it done?) That is basically our last hope. That, or reconciliation on the House bill, which would be nice, but won't happen. The next few days are going to be very interesting to see what happens.
One final note: I'm already tired of hearing Republicans complain about how this bill was crafted behind closed doors, how they weren't included, how it happened too fast. Republicans, shut up. Every time you were given the chance to help, you simply tried to torpedo all health reform. This is a Democratic bill. You want your own health care bill, go write one (fat chance that it even gets throught committe.) And as far as the "too fast" debate, last I checked, we've been having this debate since June. You know whats coming in this bill. And besides, it's not like you guys didn't spend eight years making shady backroom deals that you shoved through the Senate anyways without so much as acknowledging Democrats. It's called being the minority party. Get used to it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


On March 20, 2003, coalition forces, led by the United States, initiated a preemptive strike against Iraq, under the presumption that Iraq was actively pursuing and developing weapons of mass destruction. The coaliton forces swiftly moved across the country, ousting President Saddam Hussein's government with relative ease. On May 1, 2003, in front of a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished," President George W. Bush annouced "The United States and our allies have prevailed." Later that year, on December 13, Hussein was captured by American forces, signaling the end of his regime. It appeared that, in the span of just nine short months, coaltion forces had wrapped up a quick and successful ousting of the Iraqi government.

Yet, here we sit, November 2009, and the war in Iraq is still raging. Soon after the capture of Hussein, an insurgency led by Al Qaeda forces began making life dificult for coalition forces. In addition, civil war broke out following the formation of a new, American-backed government. At this point in time, occupation forces are strongly resented by the Iraqi people, and the government is ignored by many. Instead, local councils, influenced by Al Qaeda, hold the real power. Yet, many in this country continue to insist that Iraq is a successful, and justified, war. However, the facts tell a different story.

The beginning of America's second war in Iraq actually dates back to January 2001, soon after George W. Bush was sworn in as president of the United States. Just ten days after the Inauguration, President Bush ordered his aides to begin searching for a reason to overthrow the Iraqi government. A memo titled "Plan for post-Saddam Iraq" also began circulating in the White Hosue around this same time. In March '01, a Pentagon memo titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" was produced, showing a map of areas in Iraq prime for petroleum production.

After Spetember 11th, President Bush began calling for Iraq to stop the production of weapons of mass destruction, and to comply with UN resolutions calling for weapons inspections. The Iraqi government insisted numreous times that they had no WMDs, and in late 2002, allowed UN weapons inspectors, led by Hans Blix, into the country. Blix informed the UN Security Council that Iraq was cooperating fully with inspections, and that he would be able to work quickly to complete his inspections in he had no outside interference.

The Bush Administration, however, had no intention of allowing Blix the chance to prove that Saddam had no WMDs. Bush wouldn't even listen to his own advisors. George Tenet, head of the CIA, was at the time telling Bush repeatedly that the CIA's own probes had shown that Saddam had no weapons. In fact, the CIA had interviewed a member of Saddam's cabinet, who said that not only did Saddam not have WMDs, he didn't even have the ability to produce them. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld worked to marginalize Tenet and the CIA report, and soon produced their own report, written by the newly formed Office of Special Plans. The OSP report used new, "secret" intelligence known only to Cheney and the Rumsfeld Defense Department. This report said that the CIA intelligence was faulty, and that Iraq did in fact possess WMDs. Cheney's office proceeded to leak this information to the New York Times, which Cheney then cited to make his information seem more legit.

At this same time, the Administration sent former Ambassador Jospeh Wilson to investigate claims that Iraq was purchasing yellowcake Uranium from Niger. Wilson returned and informed Bush that Iraq was not attempting to buy yellowcake from Niger. But once again, the Administration chose to ignore the facts, and in his 2003 State of the Union, Bush said that British Intelligence had informed him that Iraq was acquiring Uranium from African nations. In June 2003, Wilson wrote a New York Times op-ed laying out his investigation, and exposing the White House for ignoring him. Soon after, his wife, Valerie Plame, was exposed as a CIA agent, leading to a Justice Department investigation that led to the eventual proscution of Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

In 2005, the Downing Street Memo showed a greater extent of the fraud committed by the Bush Administration. The memo details a meeting between the White House and British leadership that took place on July 23, 2002. In it, British intelligence states that Bush had clearly made up his mind to attack Iraq regardless of what else happened, and was fixing facts around policy, instead of basing policy on facts and information obtained.

In October 2002, 75 members of the U.S. Senate were informed that Iraq possessed the capabilities to attack the east coast with chemical and biological weapons. A few days later, the Senate voted to allow the Joint Chiefs to pursue military actions against Iraq. In February of 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell made his now-infamous presentation to the UN General Assembly laying out the American case for war. Powell told the UN the same thing that had been told to the Senate. However, the UN told Bush that preemptive strikes went against the UN charter, and he did not have UN support. In early March, Hans Blix reported that he had yet to find any WMDs, and he stated that he needed to be allowed more time without outside interference.

On the last day of January, however, Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the White House. Bush told Blair of an proposed plan to paint a spyplane in UN colors and fly it over Iraq, in the hopes it would be shot down and provoke the UN into pursuing war. The two leaders also resolved to attack Iraq regardless of the outcome of the inspections. They even set a date for invasion: March 10.

The Bush Administration began investigating what would be needed to conduct a successful war against Iraq. The top U.S. Army general, Eric Shineski, turned in a report stating that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed to fight a winning war. The White House, however, did not like this number, and Runsfeld soon turned out his own report calling Shineski's suggestion way off base, and advising a significantly lower number of troops.

On March 20th, the invasion of Iraq began. The invading troops were mostly made up of American and British troops, with other countries supplying token amounts. The invasion proceeded northwest from the Persian Gulf, and Baghdad was taken by April 9th. Coaltion leaders declared the invasion successfully completed by April 15, and Bush held his "Mission Accomplished" celebration two weeks later. Only 139 U.S. troops had died.

It soon became clear that coalition forces werent going to be leaving Iraq anytime soon, though. In the months after Bush's declaration, religious radicals and other insurgents began a concerted effort to puch back against coalition troops. These insurgents opposed the U.S. plan to implement a democratic government with U.S. backing. After the capture of Hussein, insugrency attacks became more frequent and deadly.

2004 was a particularly bad year for the American-led forces. The American government began signing over many, many more duties to private contractors, who are not heavily regulated. Controversies ensued over shady practices and poor work by the contractors, particularly Blackwater USA. In June, the Provisional government signed over control of Iraq to the new Iraqi government, which provoked renewed violence from the insurgency. Finally, in April, the Abu Grahib scandal broke. Photos from the prison camp outside Iraq showed humiliating and tortoruous acts committed against Iraqi prisoners by the U.S. troops. The Abu Grahib incident is commonly held to be the main turning point in the war, the point at which coalition success took a downturn.

2005 brought the first elections for the new Iraqi government, and the ratification of their constitution. These events prompted the bloodiest month of the war, in April, and erased hopes of a forthcoming end to the insurgency, and the war.

The violence of 2005 carried over to 2006 to bring about civil war in Iraq. Various secterian groups began fighting each other, in addition to coalition troops, making it hard for the troops to know who was friendly, and who was enemy. Also, at the end of December, Saddam Hussein was put to death by the Iraqi government, for crimes against humanity. Most of the crimes cited were committed during Hussein's time as an ally of the U.S. and Britain during the 1980's.

2007 brought about the troop surge, an increase in 21,500 American troops. At the same time, Britain began pulling troops aout, due to increased opposition to the war back home. The surge was successful in reducing violence in Iraq, and in September, General David Petraeus announced that American troops would soon be reduced. However, secterian violence was as bad as ever, especially between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims.

2008 brought the arming and deployment of the new Iraqi military, and the reduction of involvement from U.S. troops. However, interference from Iran and Turkey caused violence to increase, and the American-backed government continued to be heavily unpopular. The civil war was also growing. In April, General Petraeus testified to Congress that the troop withdrawal needed to be halted, due to the fact that Iraq was becoming increasingly unstable.

During all thise time, the presence of Al Qaeda became a problem. Before the war, Al Qaeda had no prsence in Iraq, because Saddam Hussein believed that Al Qaeda was forment rebellion against him. However, during the war, Al Qaeda was able to gain a foothold, and were major players in promoting the insurgency.

In late 2008, the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was passed in Iraq and America. The Agreement stated that U.S. forces would withdraw from all Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. troops would be gone by December 31, 2011. The June 2009 withdrawal was a success, with Iraqi forces able to maintain control of the cities.

In 2009, with the election of Barack Obama as the new American President, the first exit strategy formulated by the U.S. was announced. This was considered by many a huge success, as the Bush Administration had failed over the course of six years to ever present a cohernent strategy for one day leaving Iraq. Obama announced that combat operations in Iraq would cease by August 31, 2010, and that troops would be gone by the date specified under the Forces Agreement.

The war in Iraq has been extraordinarily costly, and these costs are only exacerbated by the fact that the war is both unneccessary and potentially illegal. Long before September 11th, the Bush Administration had resolved that it would enact a preemptive war against a sovereign nation. In building the case for war, the White House ignored intelligence asserting that there was no reasonable pretext for war, instead lying to the public, the Congress, and the UN about what was happening in Iraq. Throughout 2002, the Hussein government insisted they had no WMDs, and the inspections by Hans Blix backed this up. Six years later, it appears that Saddam was telling the truth, as no weapons have been found, and in fact, no evidence of the ability to even produce WMDs has been found. The American public was led to believe that Iraq was an iminent threat to national security, and in lying to the Senate about the threat, potentially committed purjury. Neither had Saddam or his government committed any recent humanitarian violations. Due to the actions of the Bush Administration, our country is mired in a war that is costing us billions of dollars and thousands of American lives. And the war is not even successful at this point. Civil war is raging, and Al Qaeda, who had not been involved in Iraq, now has a significant foothold among the people there. The government is widely unpopular, and the Iraqi people are resentful of the presence of coalition forces in their country. America has neglected its duty of rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure, returning much of Iraq to the middle ages in terms of technology and practices. For all intents and purposes, our foray into Iraq is an unmitigated failure, and one that could have been avoided. We cannot support a war on two fronts, especially while trying to work through a major recession. December 2011 cannot come quickly enough. Our government and military need to use the intervening two years to rebuild a country we have destroyed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coming Soon!!

Hey everyone, I just wanted to let you know what I have planned coming up. Next Tuesday, President Obama will be announcing his decision on the troop situation in Afghanistan. In anticipation of this, I will be working diligently on three new blog posts that hopefully will be done before then. First, in two seperate posts, I will break down both the wars: how they happened, what has happened, and where they are headed. Then, in the third I will give my opinion on where I think we should head, what the war is doing to our troops, and our relationship with Iran(hope you're ready to strongly disagree with me; most will concerning Iran.) I have some very strong beliefs here, and I am putting a lot of work into these posts. I hope you will click back here later this week to read them. And please, tell everyone you know who might be interested. Thanks for all you support!!