Saturday, October 14, 2006

A good Saturday review: Lancet study, US Foreign Policy, Progressives and Racism

I took TWO naps today! (OK, one of them was due to antihistamines... but still...) so you get three great articles I read on this relatively slow Saturday.

This analysis of the Lancet study, from one of the defenders of the earlier study, asks us to look at the real question: is it really really much worse in Iraq since our illegal and immoral invasion and occupation? (Natch, answer is YES)

The numbers do add up
Daniel Davies
...The question that this study was set up to answer was: as a result of the invasion, have things got better or worse in Iraq? And if they have got worse, have they got a little bit worse or a lot worse...

The results speak for themselves. There was a sample of 12,801 individuals in 1,849 households, in 47 geographical locations. That is a big sample, not a small one. The opinion polls from Mori and such which measure political support use a sample size of about 2,000 individuals, and they have a margin of error of +/- 3%...

And the results were shocking. In the 18 months before the invasion, the sample reported 82 deaths, two of them from violence. In the 39 months since the invasion, the sample households had seen 547 deaths, 300 of them from violence. The death rate expressed as deaths per 1,000 per year had gone up from 5.5 to 13.3...

Well, there is something that we can do. We can ensure that the people responsible for this outrage suffer the consequences of their actions. A particularly disgusting theme of some right-wing American critics of the study as been to impugn it by talking about it being "conveniently" released before the November congressional elections. As if a war that doubled the death rate in Iraq was not the sort of thing that ought to be a political issue. Nobody is doing anything about this disaster, and nobody will do until people start suffering some kind of consequences for their actions (for example, no British politician, soldier or spy has lost his job over the handling of the Iraq war and no senior member of the Bush administration either).

The BooMan takes a serious look at American foreign and economic policy in A Humble Foreign Policy.

The Bush team came into office and got almost everything immediately wrong. Although forewarned that the biggest threat we faced was asymmetic and rooted in our Middle Eastern policies, they chose to see China as the real menace and pursue missile defense. They tore up the anti-ballistic missile treaty in December 2001. Then, once we were attacked, they developed the Bush Doctrine...

The neoconservatives speak a good game about promoting democracy and pursuing peace through the aggressive confrontation with China, Russia, and the Middle East. But this is all about access to energy supplies and everyone knows it.

And in many respects, this is nothing new. The same considerations drove American foreign policy under Truman, Kennedy, and LBJ. The only real difference now is that the game is being fought under the mask of combating terrorism instead of godless communism. That, and the fact that we have almost no allies in this fight, largely because the Bush administration has pursued the principles laid out in the Bush Doctrine: pre-emption, military superiority ("strength beyond challenge"), and unilateral action.

We end with a superb essay by Bill Fletcher of The Black Commentator, which strips some feelgood myths away and causes scales to fall from eyes in this discussion of racism and politics. These two excerpts only touch on the many great points he makes; I highly recommend a complete reading.

The Democratic Party, which had a significant base among white workers from its inception, evolved in a peculiar direction in part due to the demands of this constituency as well as due to larger macro-economic changes. In order to understand this, one must begin with the recognition that the collapse of Reconstruction - formally in 1876/1877 - —what W.E.B. Dubois called the counter-revolution of property, was not simply the victory of the Democratic Party. It was the result of a shift within the power bloc running the USA with regard to both the terms of the ruling consensus and the corresponding shape of US democracy. The dominant sectors of capital, having virtually eliminated all opposition to the US settler state by the First Nations/Native Americans, came to an agreement with the defeated ruling elites from the former Confederacy. The terms were clear: the former Southern ruling elites would be free to rule the South as long as they swore allegiance to the Northern industrial capitalists and their vision of a new United States of America. Upon winning their support, the Northern industrialists, and their political representatives, were quite prepared to abandon the Reconstruction. The political representatives for the Northern industrial capitalists were largely found in the Republican Party of the time...

The Democratic Party that we look at now is the legacy of the political realignment that took place with the exit of the Dixiecrats and the fallout from the 1960s reforms addressing racial injustice, reforms - needless to say - that were introduced as a result of the struggles conducted by the Black Freedom Movement. These factors fueled the George Wallace 1968 and 1972 campaigns and fused with the growing tension within sections of the white working class and the middle strata concerning their anxiety (if not opposition) to the demands raised by people of color, as well by the shifting of the tax burden away from the corporations and the wealthy and onto the backs of these classes and class fractions in order to pay for many of the various reforms. I hasten to add that we are also looking at a party that, in 1972, was prepared to lose an election rather than witness the victory of the liberal George McGovern.

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