The good news is that the Republicans lost.
The bad news is that the Democrats won.
The burning issue -- US withdrawal from Iraq
-- remains as far from resolution as before.
A clear majority of Americans are opposed to
the war and almost all of them would be very happy if the US military
began the process of leaving Iraq tomorrow, if not today. The rest of the
world would breathe a great sigh of relief and their long-running love
affair with the storybook place called "America" could begin to come back
A State Department poll conducted in Iraq
this past summer dealt with the population's attitude toward the American
occupation. Apart from the Kurds -- who assisted the US military before,
during, and after the invasion and occupation, and don't think of
themselves as Iraqis -- most people favored an immediate withdrawal,
ranging from 56% to 80% depending on the area.
The State Department report added that
majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas said that the departure of
coalition forces would make them feel safer and decrease violence.
George W. is on record declaring that if the
people of Iraq ask the United States to leave, the US will leave. He also
has declared that the Iraqis are "not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't
be happy if I were occupied either." 
Yet, despite all this, and much more, the
United States remains, with predictions from Pentagon officials that
American forces will be in Iraq for years. Large US military bases are
being constructed there; they're not designed as temporary structures.
Remember that 61 years after the end of World War II the United States
still has major bases in Germany. Fifty-three years after the end of the
Korean War the US has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea.
Washington insists that it can't leave Iraq
until it has completed training and arming a police force and army which
will keep order. Not only does this inject thousands more armed men --
often while in uniform -- into the raging daily atrocities, it implies
that the United States is concerned about the welfare and happiness of the
Iraqi people, a proposition rendered bizarre by almost four years of
inflicting upon those same people a thousand and one varieties of hell on
earth, literally destroying their ancient and modern civilization. We are
being asked to believe that the American military resists leaving because
some terrible thing will befall their beloved Iraqi brethren. ("We bomb
you because we care about you" ... suitable to be inscribed on the side of
a cruise missile.) Even as I write this, on November 14, I read: "An
overnight US raid killed six people in mainly-Shia east Baghdad, sparking
angry anti-US protests. Thirty died in a US raid on the Sunni stronghold
of Ramadi, Iraqi officials said." 
At the same time, the American occupation
fuels hostility by the Sunnis toward Shiite "collaborators" with the
occupation, and vice-versa. If the Americans left, both sides could
negotiate and participate in the reconstruction of Iraq without fear of
being branded traitors. The Iraqi government would lose its quisling
stigma. And Iraq's security forces would no longer have the handicap of
being seen to be working on behalf of foreign infidels against fellow
So why don't the Yanquis just go home? Is
all this not rather odd? Three thousand of their own dead, tens of
thousands critically maimed. And still they stay. Why, they absolutely
refuse to even offer a timetable for withdrawal. No exit plan. No
No, it's not odd. It's oil.
Oil was not the only motivation for the
American invasion and occupation, but the other goals have already been
achieved -- eliminating Saddam Hussein for Israel's sake, canceling the
Iraqi use of the euro in place of the dollar for oil transactions,
expansion of the empire in the middle east with new bases.
American oil companies have been busy under the occupation, and even before the US invasion, preparing for a major exploitation of Iraq's huge oil reserves. Chevron, ExxonMobil and others are all set to go. Four years of preparation are coming to a head now. Iraq's new national petroleum law -- written in a place called Washington, DC -- is about to be implemented. It will establish agreements with foreign oil companies, privatizing much of Iraq's oil reserves under exceedingly lucrative terms. Security will be the only problem, protecting the oil companies' investments in a lawless country. For that they need the American military close by. 
Would you like to have a government-run
health care system, which put an end to the for-profit health care
corporations and hospitals, and which covered all residents for all
ailments at very affordable premiums?
Do you think that when corporations are
faced with a choice between optimizing their revenue and doing what's best
for the environment and public health, that they should always choose in
favor of the environment?
Do you think that abortion is a question
best left up to a woman and her doctor?
Do you think that the United States should
officially be a totally secular nation or one based on religious beliefs?
Do you think that big corporations and their
political action committees exercise too much political power?
Do you think that corporate executive
salaries are highly excessive?
Do you think that the tax cuts for the super
rich instituted by the Bush administration should be cancelled and their
taxes then increased?
Do you think that the minimum wage should be
increased to what is called a "living wage", which would be at least $10
Do you think that all education, including
medical school and law school, should be free, subsidized by the
Do you think that the government should take
all measures necessary to guarantee that corporations have retirement
plans for all workers and that the retirement funds are safeguarded?
Do you think that the invasion and
occupation of Iraq was a mistake?
Do you think that United States support of
Israel is excessive?
Do you approve of the treatment of people
captured by the United States as part of its so-called War on Terror --
the complete loss of legal and human rights, and subjected to torture?
For those readers who think that I'm
presuming too much about Americans' disenchantment with their economic
system, I suggest they have a look at my essay: "The United States
invades, bombs, and kills for it, but do Americans really believe in free
And for those readers who wonder where all the money would come from to pay for the education, medical care, etc., keep in mind that one year of the US military budget -- that's one year -- is equal to more than $30,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.
Earlier this month the US State Department
dropped Vietnam from its blacklist of nations that it judges to be serious
violators of religious freedom. This occurred just days before a visit to
Vietnam by President Bush. The Department denied any connection between
the two events. However, to quote George Bernard Shaw: "Not bloody
In removing Vietnam from the list, the State
Department was ignoring the US government's own Commission on
International Religious Freedom, a congressionally mandated advisory body,
which had called for Vietnam to be kept on the list. The Commission also
called for Pakistan and Turkmenistan to be added. This, too, was ignored
by the White House. 
Foreign policy considerations routinely play
a decisive role in determining who's included and who's not on various
State Department lists. This is no small matter, for inclusion on one of
the lists can lead to economic and other sanctions. It's thus another
weapon Washington has available to bend the world to its will.
In addition to the report on religious
freedom, the State Department self-righteously issues annual reports which
rate the countries of the world on human rights, the war on drugs,
trafficking in persons, and the war on terrorism, as well as maintaining a
list of "terrorist" groups. The Department has placed Venezuela in the
worst category on the trafficking-in-persons list, stating that "Venezuela
is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children
trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor" and
that "The Government of Venezuela does not fully comply with the minimum
standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant
efforts to do so." 
It's all rather arbitrary and most of what
the State Department report says about Venezuela could be said as well
about the United States and other developed countries. In Washington, DC,
for many years, there have regularly been cases of foreign diplomats
"enslaving" and sexually abusing young women whom they brought with them
from abroad to work in their home. This keeps happening again and again
and there does not appear to be a clear and tough policy of the State
Department to make sure it doesn't happen again. The stories are reported
each time a young woman, after years of "slavery" in a Washington suburb,
escapes. "Slavery" is indeed the term used by the legal authorities.
Categorizing Venezuelan thusly is as arbitrary as including Cuba on the list of state supporters of terrorism because a few American Black Panthers hijacked planes to Cuba 25 or 30 years ago, and a Basque activist lives in Cuba, which Spain has no problem with, but which the US wants to make political capital of.
France is on the verge of approving
legislation which makes it a crime to deny the Turkish genocide of
Armenians at the time of the First World War.
Denying the German Holocaust of Jews is a
crime in Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, the
Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and Israel.
In the United States it's not a crime to
deny the American holocaust, although this particular historical
phenomenon encompasses Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, North Korea, Guatemala, El
Salvador, Grenada, Indonesia, Iraq, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Greece, East
Timor, Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Colombia, and
several other countries upon whom Washington has bestowed its precious
gifts of freedom and democracy.
But how long before the neo-Cons and the neo-Dems of America put their heads together and make it a crime to affirm the American holocaust? Politicians and media people carry around ten-foot poles to not touch this with.
I have closely followed and often written
about the case of Pan Am Flight 103, blown out of the sky by a terrorist
bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, taking the lives of 270 people. For
well over a year afterward, the US and the UK insisted that Iran, Syria,
and a Palestinian group had been behind the bombing, until the buildup to
the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was
desired for the operation. Suddenly, in October 1990, the US declared that
it was Libya -- the Arab state least supportive of the US build-up to the
Gulf War and the sanctions imposed against Iraq -- that was behind the
bombing after all.
Eventually, in 2001, a Libyan, Abdelbaset al
Megrahi, was sentenced to life in prison for the crime, although his
Libyan co-defendant, charged with the same crime and with the same
evidence, was acquitted. The trial was the proverbial travesty of justice,
which I've discussed in detail elsewhere. ("I am absolutely astounded,
astonished," said the Scottish law professor who was the architect of the
trial. "I was extremely reluctant to believe that any Scottish judge would
convict anyone, even a Libyan, on the basis of such evidence.")
 The prosecution's star witness, Libyan defector Abdul
Majid Giaka, groomed and presented by the CIA, was a thoroughly dubious
character who didn't know much or have access to much, and who pretended
to be otherwise just to get more CIA payments. And the CIA knew it. The
Agency refused to fully declassify documents about him, using their
standard excuse -- that it would reveal confidential sources and methods.
It turned out they were reluctant because the documents showed that the
CIA thought him unreliable.
Then, in 2005, we learned that a key piece
of evidence linking Libya to the crime had been planted by the CIA.
 Just like in movie thrillers. Just like in
For anyone still in doubt about the farcical
nature of the trial, now comes along Michael Scharf, an attorney who
worked on the 103 case at the State Department and was the counsel to the
counter-terrorism bureau when the two Libyans were indicted for the
bombing. In the past year he trained judges and prosecutors in Iraq in the
case that led to the conviction and death sentence of Saddam Hussein.
Scharf recently stated that the Panam case "was largely based on this
inside guy [Giaka]. It wasn't until the trial that I learned this guy was
a nut-job and that the CIA had absolutely no confidence in him and that
they knew he was a liar. It was a case that was so full of holes it was
like Swiss cheese." He says that the case had a "diplomatic rather than a
purely legal goal." 
Victor Ostrovsky, formerly with the Israeli
intelligence service, Mossad, has written of Mossad what one could just as
correctly say of the CIA: "This feeling that you can do anything you want
to whomever you want for as long as you want because you have the power."
So, let's hope that Abdelbaset al Megrahi is
really guilty. It would be a terrible shame if he spends the rest of his
life in prison simply because back in 1990 Washington's hegemonic plans
for the Middle East needed a convenient scapegoat, which just happened to
be his country. However, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission is
to report in the coming months on whether it believes there was a
miscarriage of justice in the case.
And by the way, my usual reminder, Libya has never confessed to having carried out the act. They've only taken "responsibility", in the hope of getting various sanctions against them lifted.
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire, and West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir. Visit his website: www.killinghope.org. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by William Blum
The Jingo Bells
 Antonia Juhasz, The Bush Agenda:
Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, chapter 6; Greg Muttitt,
"Oil Pressure", Foreign Policy In Focus, August 28, 2006,
Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil", AlterNet, October 16,