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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Absentee Voting is NOT Advisable

Problems, things you should do

October 27, 2006

[Bloggers note: I voted absentee ballot, the only choices we have are to vote at the polling place, vote absentee ballot, or to not vote at all. Absentee voting in my opinion may currently be the only viable option in this corrupted electoral process, even though it may be corrupted as well, the information below may well help insure your vote gets counted]

Mail-in ballots are counted by voting machines. In some locations, they are actually entered into touch-screens! In most locations, they are counted by optical scan machines, and some of these (Diebold) have crucial checks and balances disabled.

This article exposes several problems with mail-in voting, and tells you what you can do to protect your mail-in vote.

Let's start with this: Absentee ballots may require MORE POSTAGE than you think.

In an election last year in King County Washington, voters were surprised to learn that they needed to affix two stamps, not one, to their absentee ballot envelope. This year Black Box Voting has seen anecdotal evidence that ballots in Florida and California require two stamps, not one, and this is not always clear to the voter.

What's the remedy? Unless this is incredibly, indelibly, as clearly marked as it can possibly be, demand that your jurisdiction pick up the cost for any ballots mailed in with insufficient postage. They did this in Washington State and they can do this in your jurisdiction. And, check the postage required for your own mail-in ballot. If it requires two stamps and is not clearly marked, please propagate the information to at least five communications outlets: Local media, election reform groups, political parties, candidates, blogs, e-mail lists.

The best solution is probably to start insisting that your local jurisdiction go to Business Reply Mail for mail-in ballots. This would cost the county money for postage, but provides a very good tracking and a built-in accounting system that would solve other problems as well.

Next problem: Very serious incidents can occur with incorrect ballot inserts.

In a California location where two different ballots are supposed to be inserted in each envelope mailed to the voters, some voters got only one, others got two of the same thing, and still others report ballots with some of the candidate names incorrect or left off. Why is this so serious?

It's a very sticky problem because the remedy is so difficult. Correctly implemented mail-in ballot systems protect the privacy of your vote, by using a privacy envelope inside the return envelope. While the return envelope has information so they can authenticate your right to vote, the interior envelope containing the ballots is then separated away from the authentication envelope as soon as your right to vote is verified.

Herein lies the problem when wrong ballot inserts are sent out: You can't check to see if people got the correct insert without violating their privacy, and you can't remedy the problem if you check after the vote is rendered anonymous.

What to do about it: In any location where incorrect ballot insertion is discovered, citizens and candidates should to document the numbers on the problem by observing the absentee counting process and also insisting that every one of the incorrect inserts be documented. (And this won't even be possible when ballots for the wrong precinct are inserted). Depending on the nature of the findings, this problem could justify re-running an election.

Next problem: Was your signature accepted?

When voting by mail, the signature on your voter registration card is compared with the signature on your mail-in envelope. This is often done with software like VoteRemote, which pulls the signature from your voter registration up on a computer screen and pulls the signature on your mail-in envelope onto the same screen, showing them side by side.

The jurisdiction has the option of having human eyes compare the signature or having the software do the comparison. If the software compares, it can be set strategically to various tolerances of acceptance. Whether humans or machines compare the signature, how do you know whether YOUR signature was accepted?

This is a question we haven't gotten satisfactory answers to. We've been told that every rejected signature goes through a panel before ultimately deciding whether it will count or not, and one jurisdiction (Whatcom County Washington) told me they notify the voter if the signature isn't accepted, but I don't believe most jurisdictions ever tell the voter if the signature was rejected.

I think of my mother, who loves to vote absentee. She signed her voter registration card many years ago. Is it possible that every one of her votes in recent years has been discarded? If so, how will she know?

What to do about it: You should contact your local jurisdiction and ask this question. E-mail the answer to Black Box Voting, and tell us what county or township you are in.

By the way, there is an interesting notation in some of the literature for VoteRemote signature comparison software, and there is also an interesting question arising in state database procedures. VoteRemote advertises that it can write data INTO the voter registration database, but doesn't specify what data is being written in. One notation I have seen indicates that a signature can be "updated" in the voter registration database with software for electronic signature checking, and/or software for electronic pollbooks.

Because the software is secret, written by private companies, we don't know the answer to this. If your signature can be "updated" or overwritten by software, that is a security problem. There should never be an instance of "updating" your signature without your express permission.

Next problem: Did your mail-in ballot arrive at the elections division?

Some jurisdictions allow voters to confirm whether or not their ballot arrived (but this doesn't confirm whether their signature was accepted). In other jurisdictions, there is no easy way to find out whether the ballot you mailed in ever got to the elections division.

In Broward County, Florida, an extraordinary citizen named Ellen Brodsky spent months trying to track down over 50,000 missing mail-in ballots. In King County, Washington, bags of ballots were once found years after they were supposed to be delivered. Also in King County, incoming ballots were being taken from the U.S. Post Office to a private company called PSI Group, without an accounting of how many arrived at the Post Office, how many arrived at PSI Group, vs. how many arrived at the Los Angeles County Elections division.

What to do: Call your local jurisdiction to find out the procedures for you to verify that your ballot was received. If your county cannot provide you with this information, contact Black Box Voting and also take action to change this policy (but that won't help you in the Nov. 2006 election).

Next problem: Chain of custody of the mail-in ballots

Election officials have told us that this is one of their primary concerns. For example, after the ballots are separated from the envelopes that identify the voter, can new ballots be added or substituted? And what about the storage of absentee ballots as they are coming in, before they are counted? And transportation: In King County, Washington, as many as 60,000 ballots per day are received -- perhaps even more. Who's driving the truck, and what is protecting these ballots enroute?

What to do: This is where extraordinary acts of citizenship are in order. We often find that what election officials TELL us is happening to protect the ballots is not the whole truth -- and sometimes it's not the truth at all. One valuable contribution you can make to election integrity in your jurisdiction is to organize a small posse to try and actually observe each step in the chain of custody.

Here is a Citizens Tool Kit module with ideas for you:

Report back on any problems you identify in the "Reports from the Front Lines" section of these forums, and/or propagate the information to at least five communications targets: A blog, a listserve, the media, some candidates, your local election reform group, a national elections watchdog group, and one of the incident reporting telephone lines.

Next problem: Ballot printer accountability

It used to be that all ballots were serial numbered. There was a careful accounting of how many ballots were printed, in serial-numbered order, and what happened to each ballot. The serial number could, of course, be used to tie a voter to a ballot, so it was affixed to the ballot with a perforation. The serial number was accounted for, then removed and saved in a separate secure ballot box. Not so any more!

Records obtained by Black Box Voting indicate that the Diebold ballot printing company located in Everett, Washington was budgeting to overprint by as many as 25 percent of what they delivered to the county. Employees of the ballot printing company asked US -- what happens to these extra ballots that are being printed up?

Well that's a good question. While counties and townships are expected to account for their ballots (though the accounting may or may not match -- that's another issue!) -- the ballot printer is usually under no obligation to account for what they do with extra ballots.

Having extra ballots floating around anywhere significantly jeopardizes the security of the election. It allows for back-room deals with insiders to replace ballots if a recount occurs, to make sure they "match" the results that were given out.

What to do: Insist on a return to serial-numbered ballot printing with accurate, careful accounting by all parties.

Next problem: Voting machine issues

Absentee ballots are usually run through an optical scan voting machine. These machines have, in the past, produced tapes that give the results. These voting machine results tapes can then be compared with the central tabulator.

Diebold, at least, has disabled this results tape in its absentee counting machines, so that the ONLY results are the data held in the GEMS central tabulator machine -- a system so hackable that we once taught a chimpanzee to alter its audit log; this is the system I taught presidential candidate Howard Dean to manipulate.

The absentee votes are at particular risk in the GEMS central tabulator, for the following reason: Many absentee votes are counted after Election Day. By this time, you know exactly how many votes are needed to win. The simplest way to manipulate the tabulator to tweak absentee votes for a particular candidate is this:

Each candidate is assigned a number in the GEMS system

By flipping the number, you effectively flip the vote.

You can flip votes back and forth as often as needed simply by reversing the candidate numbers in the GEMS database.

Yes, that requires inside access. But we should NOT be required to "trust" our government. Instead, we need to trust but verify, and the only way we can begin to verify the absentee central tabulator is to get the actual computer data files for each time the results were run.

What to do: Request the GEMS computer files for each time a report was run. You can find out when reports were run by getting the reports themselves, and also by looking at the GEMS audit log -- that that can be easily edited. The computer file should be saved as a backup file each time a report is run. You should get a copy of each of these iterations of the backup files. It's circumstantial evidence, it's tamperable, but it's probably the best you're going to get.

And then, isn't it time to vote Diebold off the island?

Next problem: Recounts

Mail-in votes are often counted in non-homogenous batches, and when candidates seek a recount, they are quoted exceedingly large sums because, they are told, it is impossible or very costly to sort out the ballots to obtain just their district.

What to do about it: One solution is to insist that the local elections division purchase an off-the-shelf scanner, scan all the ballots, and post the pdf or tiff files online so that citizens can look at all the ballots themselves. Or, allow citizens to get copies of all these ballot scans on CD or DVD.

This is an imperfect solution but would allow citizens to develop ballot-sorting programs themselves to sort those images so candidates could look at their own ballot evidence without forking out half a million dollars.

Recommendations for mail-in voting:
1.If you have any kind of a paper trail available in your location, vote at the polling place.

2.If you're going to do mail-in voting, treat democracy as a contact sport. Get in there and watch what's going on. Don't take anyone's word for what they say they are doing -- watch it yourself. Don't cede the right to oversee over to an assigned monitor or political party observer -- insist on the right to oversee it yourself, as a citizen, as the owner of your government.

VOTE: If you are disenchanted with the current election system, go on the offense, don't retreat -- and that means, VOTE!

Put your vote into the record and then hunt down evidence that ALL votes were received and counted accurately.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Perception Management

By Stan Goff

In August 2003, I was interviewed on CNN as “the father of a soldier.” Iraq had claimed only 270 American armed forces members’ lives. I called the conflict “a quagmire,” bringing hoots of virtual laughter from right-wing bloggers the following day. They were still holding out for the Parisian Rose Parade promised them by Ahmed Chalabi, and I was just some malcontented geriatric hippy still mired in the linguistics of the ’60s.

I don’t want any last laugh. It’s not funny. My son has been to Iraq four times now, and is straightaway headed to Afghanistan, where the Taliban now controls whole towns throughout the south. (Out of respect for my son’s privacy and security, I do not publicly discuss our conversations about this or his opinions on the war.)

The figure 270 is now marching with terrible inexorability toward 3,000. The Iraqi deaths are now reaching toward 700,000, a staggering number in a country of 26 million. The only redeeming feature of the whole thing seems to be the fact that the U.S. government cannot now order an attack on Iran, since the only Iraqis willing to give conditional support to the U.S. occupation are themselves Iranian allies.

Quagmire does indeed evoke Vietnam. And there are two keys ways in which Iraq is—for all its differences—exactly like Vietnam. The aristocracy of American politics cannot win militarily; and it cannot leave politically. That is not to say the U.S. literally cannot leave. It can, and should, immediately. But neither this administration nor any Democrat administration that follows has established itself politically to tell the whole truth, including the truth that there is no painless way back for Iraq ... and that all resolutions with U.S. occupation will be infinitely worse than any resolution without U.S. occupation. The difference between the Iraq war and the one in Vietnam is that resistance to the latter increased almost at a stately pace but when it crested, that rage was white-hot. Outrage about the Iraq occupation, feverishly hot at first, now seems to have yielded to some version of compassion fatigue.

The daily drip, drip, drip of horror, including the body bags and amputations and burns and psychic dislocations, is hitting a callus on our collective consciousness. We have come to protect ourselves with numerality, that mathematical reduction of human suffering that allows us to nurture the fantasy that this brutality is not irrevocable, that we are not silent or at least acquiescent alongside these sadistic and unnecessary inflictions ... or that they are not happening to real people like us, who themselves do not want the one and only life given to each to be lived in a state of pain, terror and grief.

Every time I see one of those insipid yellow-ribbon magnets now, I think of Charlie Anderson, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “I just want to ask those people,” says Anderson, referring to those who display the yellow-ribbon magnets, “when is the last time you wrote one of those soldiers? How many of them do you actually know? How many have really asked us, what did you do there? I wanna tell them, we don’t need your fucking ribbons. We need help and jobs.

Charlie was medically released from service with severe post-traumatic stress disorder after participating in the initial ground offensive against Iraq in March and April 2003. I know dozens of these young men and women. I also know a lot of parents, partners and kids who said goodbye to a soldier for the last time when that solider went off to do Donald Rumsfeld’s wet work for him in Southwest Asia.

I know Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son was killed by U.S. air power during the same offensive that wrecked Charlie’s head. I know Tina Garnanez, whose people were shunted off into reservations in New Mexico, who went into the Army as an economic conscript, and who felt compelled to carry a boot knife to the latrine at night in Iraq because she was afraid of being raped by fellow soldiers. I know people who ride wheelchairs in order to move, and who fight sleep because they face the inevitable nightmares when their bodies try to rest.

Many attribute the ferocity of the resistance to Vietnam—inside and outside the armed forces—to the draft. In some limited ways, this was true. Conscription is an affront to some core libertarian values in the U.S. And the sheer size of the troop commitment, over half a million at one time, was facilitated by conscription. The decisive fact, however, is that Giap and Ho Chi Minh fought the U.S. to a standstill, then—assisted by the corruption that inheres in imperial occupations—systematically degraded the U.S. military into a state of utter disrepair.

Many, however, were unprepared to accept any explanation of defeat—whether it was the enemy’s superior tactics, their superior political intuitions or the inability of the home front to continue paying the price.

From the point of view of these reality-deniers, empathy was the enemy, and it had been mobilized on behalf of the enemy by the faithless press.

We were no more empathetic then as a culture than we are now. We were a society just as savage then as we are today. This was the era of the last violent defense of American apartheid, and in Vietnam we were committing little My Lais almost every day. The trick was to prevent that empathy from ever arising ... often by replacing it with apathy.

The construction of apathy about the costs of this war is a direct and intentional reaction to the memory of Vietnam, embodied in the two successive military “doctrines” named after former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and now-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The Genealogy of Doctrine

In 1989, conservative culture warrior William F. Lind worked with a team of men to dress up a set of perfectly obvious military realities as a new theory, and named it Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW). The essence of 4GW is that a weaker non-state military actor is forced to use tactics that are different from those of a stronger, more conventional opponent. Being the good, imperial culture warrior that he was, Lind put this concept in a clash of civilizations frame.

Starting with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 (selected because someone has determined that this treaty marked the beginning of “modernism"), he identifies the first three generations as Order, Attrition, and Maneuver. The fourth generation is the province of anyone opposing U.S. imperial power, directly or indirectly in the 20th (and now 21st) century ... that is, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Palestinians, etc.

Fourth Generation war is also marked by a return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict. We now find ourselves facing the Christian West’s oldest and most steadfast opponent, Islam. After about three centuries on the strategic defensive, following the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, Islam has resumed the strategic offensive, expanding outward in every direction. In Third Generation war, invasion by immigration can be at least as dangerous as invasion by a state army.

Nor is Fourth Generation warfare merely something we import, as we did on 9/11. At its core lies a universal crisis of legitimacy of the state, and that crisis means many countries will evolve Fourth Generation war on their soil. America, with a closed political system (regardless of which party wins, the Establishment remains in power and nothing really changes) and a poisonous ideology of “multiculturalism,” is a prime candidate for the home-grown variety of Fourth Generation war—which is by far the most dangerous kind. (Lind, ” Understanding Fourth Generation War,” Jan. 15, 2004)

Lind, like others, including Caspar Weinberger, Colin Powell (Weinberger’s ward) and (the most intellectually mediocre of them all) Rumsfeld, have resorted to using these generational theories in the effort to buck up our soft, liberal culture, which they blame for the most humiliating U.S. defeat in their memories, Vietnam. The fact that this war theory is running headlong into another world-historic defeat for the U.S. in Southwest Asia has not fazed Rumsfeld’s faith in this emerging doctrine.

Rumsfeld, in fact, aimed to make it his applied theory for the history books, and in the process invalidated much of the doctrine that preceded him, i.e., the Powell Doctrine, whose genealogy we need to spend a little time on before coming back to Rumsfeld later in this piece.

During the Reagan administration, when Weinberger was secretary of defense (and grooming Powell as the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs), Weinberger added another acronym to the military dyslexicon, OOTW—operations other than war. Weinberger was begrudgingly acknowledging that neither war nor politics nor the evolution of the social system as a whole respects the neatly separated categories of ideology or Academy. The proverbial gray areas loomed a good deal larger than any of black or white.

What OOTW reflected was the breakdown of the distinction between police and military operations, the increasing difficulty of concealing the political objectives that underwrote the so-called war on drugs, and the increasing non-state resistance to U.S. geopolitical imperatives that neither rejected nor confined themselves to armed methods. More deeply, it reflected the continuing malaise being suffered by the political aristocracy in the wake of the defeat in Vietnam, punctuated by the humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon on Weinberger’s watch in 1984.

Powell himself was obsessed with the defeat in Vietnam, and as he ascended over the next few years to the position of top general, he began formalizing his obsession into a new military doctrine, which would take his name.

Regardless of their differences, bureaucrats all share an affinity for formulae. The Powell Doctrine read like the interrogative for a business plan:

-- Is a vital U.S. interest at stake? -- Will we commit sufficient resources to win? -- Are the objectives clearly defined? -- Will we sustain the commitment? -- Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation? -- Have we exhausted our other options? -- Do we have a clear exit strategy?

As important as any of these criteria, however, and central to the Powell Doctrine as an outgrowth of the U.S. defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese, is the emphasis on public perception management.

Powell sincerely believes that the U.S. was defeated in Vietnam by the combination of bad publicity and the failure to engage in more brutal tactics to subdue the population. For anyone who sentimentally thinks of Powell as the nice guy among Republicans, I apologize for the shock you are about to receive.

In 1963, well before the American public generally understood where Vietnam was located, a young Army captain led a South Vietnamese unit through the A Shau Valley to systematically burn villages to the ground. This was to deprive the so-called Viet Cong of any base of support, and was called “draining the sea,” a reference to Mao’s dictum that the guerrilla is the fish and the population is the sea.

That captain would later write, “I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age male. If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him. Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served ... was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter. And Pritchard [that commander] was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong.”

On March 16, 1968, the U.S. Infantry of C Company, Task Force Barker, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, went into a Vietnamese hamlet designated My Lai 4 and killed 347 unarmed men, women and children, engaging in rape and torture along the way for four hours before a U.S. helicopter pilot who observed the massacre ordered his door gunners to open fire on the grunts if they didn’t desist. The chopper pilot, however, did not report the massacre.

Six months later, a young enlisted man, Spec. 4 Tom Glen, sent a letter to Gen. Creighton Abrams, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Without specifically mentioning My Lai, Glen said that murder had become a routine part of Americal operations. The letter was shunted over to Americal Division, and then to the office of the same officer who had been leading the South Vietnamese arson campaign five years earlier, since promoted to major. He was now the deputy assistant chief of staff of the division—a functionary who was directed to craft a response to this report of widespread atrocities against Vietnamese civilians.

In direct refutation of this portrayal,” wrote the officer dismissively and with no investigation whatsoever, “is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.” Perhaps he believed that those killed were MAMs, and therefore outside the protection of the Geneva Conventions and international law.

That officer was Colin Powell.

The massacre at My Lai, for which it was his responsibility to conduct damage control for the Americal Division, was a turning point in the loss of American domestic support for the war. This did not lead Powell to question the legitimacy of the Vietnam occupation, or the brutality with which it was carried out. It led him to believe that control of public perceptions, ergo control of the press, is an integral part of any war effort; as an adjunct to the overwhelming application of lethal force.

The finest expressions of the Powell Doctrine were the bloody invasion of Panama and the 1991 destruction of Iraq. At the time of the latter, the Fourth Generation Warfare “theory” of William Lind was still written in wet ink. One of the people who was studying it, with the same intensity as those armchair warrior history buffs who play with toy soldiers, was Donald Rumsfeld, on hiatus from politics after having served as Gerald Ford’s defense secretary (when he was a vocal supporter of chemical warfare) and Ronald Reagan’s special envoy to Saddam Hussein (a role in which he assisted Saddam in acquiring chemical weapons). At the time, Rumsfeld was a vice president at Westmark Systems, a defense technology holding company, which further consolidated Rumsfeld’s fascination with Tom Mix Warfare—the reliance on highly technical, extremely expensive weapons systems.

Rumsfeld shared one key personality characteristic with Vietnam’s architect, Robert McNamara; he remains absolutely convinced that he can’t be wrong in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is.

Rumsfeld’s fascination with the 4GW theorists and his extreme technological optimism accompanied him into the Pentagon as George W. Bush’s SecDef, where he immediately began the grandiosely named Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). The doctrinal transformation was in a clumsy phase when 19 asymmetrical fighters hijacked four commercial aircraft and turned them into poor man’s cruise missiles to strike three strategic and highly symbolic targets.
McNamara’s Heir

Born to wealth in a Chicago suburb, Rumsfeld showed ambition early as an Eagle Scout. This would be the first thing he had in common with Robert McNamara.

Other notable Eagle Scouts were Charles Joseph Whitman, who shot 45 people from the Tower at the University of Texas in 1966, and Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. (Author’s disclaimer: Being an Eagle Scout in no way predisposes one to sociopathic behavior ... nor does it prevent it, obviously.)

Whitman can’t claim Don Rumsfeld’s body count, of course. He was a piker compared with Rumsfeld. But McNamara can. The matchless McNamara managed to facilitate the slaughter of around 3 million in Southeast Asia. There will be those who protest this comparison, and I agree in advance; there is no comparison. Rumsfeld and McNamara were bigger killers by orders of magnitude than other Eagle Scouts and the vast majority of the world’s serial killers.

Rumsfeld put off killing anyone until he could get his degree at Princeton, where he went to Naval ROTC and first met fellow alum and future Bush dynasty Svengali Frank Carlucci.
Rumsfeld managed to tuck his military service (1954-57) as a naval aviator into a time slot after Korea and before Vietnam, though he remained in the Reserves—before they were massively called into combat (by him in 2003) while he pursued his career with the Republican Party.

With the same systematic instrumentality that earned him his Eagle Scout status by racking up the right merit badges, he worked on two congressional staffs, then did a stint as an investment banker, before running for Congress himself— eventually serving four terms as the Illinois 13th District representative. As a committee member devoted to policy on military affairs, economics and aeronautics, his affinity for high technology, “metric” measurements, and mass destruction were further synthesized and developed.

As an intra-Republican coup-maker, he undermined Minority Leader Charles Halleck on behalf of his buddy and future presidential boss Gerald Ford. When this kind of walk-over-bodies opportunism set limits on his own rise within the House of Representatives, Rumsfeld went to work for the Nixon administration, where he worked first to de-fund the Office of Economic Opportunity (with the help of a new executive assistant, Dick Cheney), then as a special advisor to the president.

Interestingly, Rumsfeld publicly supported Richard Nixon on the continuation of the Vietnam occupation and Nixon’s murderous bombing campaigns, but behind the scenes he was considered an administration “dove.” Rumsfeld confided his misgivings to his congressional buddy Robert Ellsworth, who would later recount: “[Rumsfeld] could see that we were not figuring out a strategy to win in Vietnam.... Neither could we figure out a strategy to withdraw. And it was very frustrating.” The U.S. could not win, and it could not leave!

There is nothing quite as remarkable about Rumsfeld’s career—which would later include roles as chief executive of Searle when aspartame (NutraSweet) was under fire for its manifold health hazards, the nation’s youngest secretary of defense, ambassador to NATO, and defense contractor CEO—as the fact that he would be the nation’s next McNamara, presiding over the degradation of the military in another politico-military quagmire where the U.S. could neither win nor leave.

Appointed by George W. Bush at the behest of his neocon advisory core, Rumsfeld as secretary of defense was specifically to ensure that Secretary of State Colin Powell—who held the neocons in contempt for their military fantasies—did not use his powerful influence within the military to mobilize resistance to the Cheney-Wolfowitz agenda. Rumsfeld, however, saw his role in much more grandiose terms than being Colin’s counterweight. His conviction of his own genius, the transcendent power of technology to solve all problems, and his devotion to the fevered Lindian theory of strategy led him to see the armed forces of the United States as his personal tool to secure his place in history as a kind of latter-day Clausewitz.

Rumsfeld then combined his ideas in such a way that he oversaw a war that would come to be opposed by his mentor, William Lind; shatter the grand vision of the neocons in the streets of Fallujah, Ramadi, Baghdad, Naja and Samara ; grind down and demoralize the armed forces to such a point that his own generals would lead a rebellion; lead to Powell’s departure as secretary of state; and secure himself a place in history alongside Robert McNamara for the same thing Rumsfeld himself had criticized about McNamara’s war.

Cyberwar and Commandos

William Lind and other the Fourth Generation Warriors did validly identify some of the characteristics of our epoch. Wikipedia, describing 4GW, says, “fourth generation war is most successful when the non-state entity does not attempt, at least in the short term, to impose its own rule, but tries simply to disorganize and delegitimize the state in which the warfare takes place.”

They did not, however, anticipate that 4GW might be used to trap a unitary superpower in a regional invasion that would delegitimize the superpower throughout the world. They did not anticipate that an asymmetric attack might create an unstoppable political stampede that could pull the superpower into a second Vietnam. They did not, in other words, anticipate what would happen on Sept. 11, 2001.

Rumsfeld, however, along with the entire Bush administration, saw 9/11 as divine political intervention (exactly as the attacks’ planners, I suspect, knew they would). The Bush II government was already suffering a deep crisis of legitimacy, not from asymmetric war but from the capture of executive power in 2000 by unabashed African-American disfranchisement and judicial fiat. With the collapse of the twin towers came the collapse of a growing politics of resistance that was manifesting itself from the streets of Seattle to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

Rumsfeld wrote a memo at the time, after objecting to the previously scheduled invasion of Afghanistan to slake the American thirst for vengeance. There were no “good targets” in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld complained. The U.S. needed to go directly for Iraq, followed by the destruction of neighboring states in a kind of domino theory of domination. Even as electronic intercepts were pointing at non-state perpetrators, themselves hostile to Iraq, Rumsfeld, on the same day, suggested: ” Go massive ... sweep it up. Things related and not.

There was a surfeit of agendas released by the atom that was split on 9/11. But in the case of Donald Rumsfeld, there was the singular and overwhelming opportunity for this man—convinced since his privileged childhood of his entitlement and his superior intelligence—to finally satisfy his driving male ambition by becoming the architect of a world-historic shift in military affairs. This ambition achieved a seamless confluence with the longstanding neoconservative vision for the post-Cold War re-disposition of the U.S. military, from containment of a now defunct Soviet Union to placing the imperial mail fist on the global oil spigot.

If Rumsfeld were a truly tragic-heroic figure, in the Aristotelian sense (he is not), then we would be in conformity with the canon to seek out the one fatal flaw that has sent him down this trail to infamy. But his flaws, if that is how we wish to see them, are not character defects as much as they are the norms of a ruling stratum in a crisis of context. Rumsfeld is a late-coming act during the death throes of the Enlightenment.

Like the Enlightenment epoch itself, Rumsfeld copped to scientific reduction, colonial masculinity and radical technological optimism.

A belief in the ability of mathematics to explain anything (except hubris, it seems), the belief in one’s own innate racial and class superiority expressed with Machiavellian muscularity, and the fetish for gadgets all come together in the Rumsfeld Doctrine ... the Revolution in Military Affairs… in Network Centric Warfare. In Rumsfeld’s hands, the complex, dynamic and nonlinear ecologies that govern everything in the military, geopolitical and interpersonal arenas are inevitably reduced to linearity, to “metrics.”

Tony Corn, a fellow at the crypto-libertarian Hoover Institution (an imperial think tank) and a former “foreign service” officer (who worked in political sections, which is where the spooks reside), wrote a very good essay—albeit from the perspective of a hard-shelled, Eurocentric, Spencerian imperialist—that touched on the fallacy of metrics, “Clausewitz in Wonderland,” for Hoover’s Policy Review (September 2006).

Corn describes how the metrics fallacy expresses itself in military doctrine, in what he calls the “tacticisation of strategy”:

Isn’t it the educators who drew the wrong lessons from Vietnam and came up with the surrealistic Weinberger Doctrine; who dubbed “Operations Other than War” (OOTW) anything that did not resemble a Clausewitzian “decisive battle;” who, having reduced “war” to “battle,” “battle” to “combat,” and “combat” to “targeting and shooting,” dismissed post-combat planning as postwar planning best left to civilians.

Corn points out, rightly in my view, that the context of conflict can never be understood from mathematics, and that the orientation that yields the most useful insights is anthropology. Anthropology—at its best —is a multidisciplinary, synthetic pursuit ... the opposite of analytic reductionism.

Corn and Lind both recognize the disturbing similarity between Rumsfeld’s “metrics” and the McNamaran “body count” formula in Vietnam.

On Oct. 7, 2006, Asia Times carried an article by Sami Moubayed ("The two faces of Iraq"), in which he gave a very typical “metric” summary from Rumsfeld’s CENTCOM accountants.
According to a US statement, they have “cleared approximately 95,000 buildings, 80 mosques and 60 muhallas [small administrative districts], detained more than 125 terrorist suspects, seized more than 1,700 weapons, registered more than 750 weapons and found 35 weapons caches. The combined forces have also removed more than 196,921 cubic meters of trash from the streets of Baghdad.”

This is a far, far cry from the triumphalism that characterized administration discourse during preparation for the war, all the way to the jet-pilot presidential declaration of victory aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 2, 2003. To understand the disconnect between theory and practice in Rumsfeld’s war, it’s necessary to understand Rumsfeld’s original vision.

Rumsfeld believed that quick, devastating precision strikes from highly computerized standoff weapons (cruise missiles, aircraft, etc.) could be combined with technologically “advanced” ground weapons systems in the hands of “light, agile” ground forces, and strategically employed (again “light") special operations forces, to replace the Powell Doctrine’s emphasis on massive numbers of troops. It was Rumsfeld’s cyberwar-commando thesis. He regarded it as brilliance.

Many generals regarded it as delusional.

When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki—a proponent of an increasingly light and agile military himself—told Congress in February 2003 that an occupation of Iraq might require half a million troops—contradicting Rumsfeld’s estimates that the “job” might be done with 100,000 in a matter of mere weeks—Rumsfeld resolved the question by firing Shinseki. This was the origin of the acrimonious behind-the-scenes debate about Rumsfeld doing the war “on the cheap.”

I will avoid the impulse to digress overmuch here and explain why I believe they were both wrong, and that the Iraq war could never and can never be “won.” The point is: Even the generals still captive to larger imperial logics understood the basic “anthropological” difficulties associated with the military occupation of another people. They understood it as a logistical nightmare. They understood it as a cultural nightmare. And they were deeply skeptical that Rumsfeld’s “shock and awe” demonstration would so cow the Iraqis as to transform them into willing sycophants.

Failure in Iraq is both political and institutional. The writer D.A. Clarke coined the term “dog-waggery” as shorthand for the institutional tail wagging the mission dog.

Dog-waggery has emerged with terrible inexorability in Iraq. It is built into the technological “superiority” of the West. This is not an obvious point to our Western-trained minds, but it is an extremely—I would say critically—important concept to understand if we are to understand why Vietnam was and Iraq is unwinnable.

Ivan Illich described this very well in his 1973 book (published during the death throes of the Vietnam occupation), “Tools for Conviviality” (Harper & Row).

Any institution that moves toward its second watershed [dog-waggery] tends to become highly manipulative. For instance, it costs more to make teaching possible than to teach. The cost of roles exceeds the cost of production. Increasingly, components intended for the accomplishment of institutional purposes are redesigned so that they cannot be used independently. People without cars have no access to planes, and people without plane tickets have no access to convention hotels. Alternate tools which are fit to accomplish the same purposes with fewer claims are pushed off the market. (p. 23)

We create technologies to serve as “slaves.” Technology is seen to “serve” human beings. Illich and Alf Hornborg and others, however, have pointed out that many technologies become “material objects of our own making over which we have lost control.” Any of us who look critically for more than a second at American car culture will not find this claim to be controversial. The machine-slave becomes the technological master, taking on a seemingly uncontrollable and determinative role in our lives. This is what Illich calls non-convivial technology.

Non-convivial technology—like cars, or television, or cruise missiles—expresses its determining influence through institutionalization, be that in factories, in urban development planning boards or in portfolios in a government bureaucracy, and that institutionalization is locked into vast social, economic and political feedback loops that exist beyond any individual’s ability to intervene and change them. This is how the military-industrial complex came into existence, and how it is perpetuated, and how the high-technology weapons systems that are procured by the military shape future military doctrines in ways that cannot anticipate how the actual “enemy” will be organized or behave.

The thoroughgoingness and sheer mind-boggling scale of this techno-political complex that is the United States military makes any adaptation more than merely difficult. Discrete changes in doctrine ripple through the system, triggering the Law of Unintended Consequences in every single case. Using a medical metaphor, we might say that technologically determined institutions this large, designed to operate against an unknown “threat,” are caught in a perpetual state of finding treatments for their own cures. It is a dynamic that is totally self-referential. It can never match itself to a real human opposition that has made the simple, non-technologically determined decision to continue fighting, no matter what, against military occupation.

It is this inseparable connection between technology, institutions and the evolving forms of political power that forms the basis of asymmetric warfare, and the reason that there is ultimately no solution, mathematical or anthropological, available for Rumsfeld’s military in Southwest Asia.

Moreover, given the bureaucratic career imperatives of a vast military institution, U.S. commanders are going to husband their forces, and conventional U.S. forces will not willingly be committed to any kind of sustained ground action that would probably be required for “pacification” (which didn’t work in Vietnam, even when troop strength was well over half a million).

The current quagmire was not Rumsfeld’s original plan, in any case, so his doctrine, developed in advance of the failed occupation, is now a stranded foreign body enveloped in a phagocyte. His network-centric doctrine was conceptualized as the combination of pinpoint application of death-from-above technology, based on intelligence that is called a “product,” and commando actions that emphasize quick strikes, based on surprise, speed and violence of action to minimize their exposure. It all sounds good on paper, but the anthropological reality is different.

U.S. forces, even the hardest of the hard core, cannot long sustain operations abroad without a huge logistical tail. At bottom, they are products of a pampered and pasteurized society, and they are very fragile. You can put all the muscles you want on a U.S. soldier, and a local E. coli will bring him crashing down like a tall tree. Bottled water only for these guys. This is a contradiction of imperial warfare, a kind of reverse social Darwinism that is seldom discussed or fully understood in its ramifications.

Four to five days is the maximum that U.S. troops can stay in the field without bringing in helicopters or ground cargo transportation and exposing the choppers, the trucks and their own positions. This, in turn, means they must have bases for logistics and stand-downs between missions. So the most agile forces available to the U.S. will in short order always bring with them a massive, expensive and well-appointed fixed installation (subject then to sustained surveillance as a potential target).

With the exception of highly choreographed, high-publicity operations (carefully planned to ensure “maximum force protection") and essential sustainment operations (resupply convoys, e.g.), U.S. forces in Iraq (and more frequently now, Afghanistan) are already kept largely behind the installations’ concertina wire. Conventional troops have bunkered down into progressively hardened positions as glorified guards with rising divorce rates and diminishing morale.

Rumsfeld, meanwhile, has—with all his scorn for Powell—merged two key elements of the Powell Doctrine into his own: High casualty rates create domestic political opposition to the war, and the key prophylactic measure against this opposition—aside from casualty-avoidance—is the management of public perceptions about the war.

Perception Management

The management of American perceptions of the war has been an uphill battle for the administration. The whole process has been a repeating cycle of raising expectations, having them shattered, the redefining the war. With each cycle, the credibility of the administration has been further battered.

That is why the administration tried to hide the photographs of flag-draped coffins. That is why the administration covered up the cases of military fratricide (friendly fire deaths). That is why the administration buried the dozens of reports of rape committed by American soldiers against other American soldiers. That is why the Abu Ghraib scandal struck as hard as it did. That is why killers like Marine 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano and the perpetrators of Haditha are exonerated or investigated until they fall out of the public memory.

In October 2003, Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo was the commander of the 2nd Battalion/503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan, when hometown newspapers across the United States received 500 identical letters to the editor. All the letters were from Caraccilo’s unit. Each letter was signed with a name from his battalion. Some members of the battalion were not available, so their signatures were forged.

The letter, in addition to giving sundry descriptions of New Eden, said: “After nearly five months here, the people still come running from their homes, into the 110 degrees heat, waving to us as our troops drive by on daily patrols of the city.... There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops and children have returned to school.... This is all evidence, that the work we are doing is bettering the lives of Kirkuk’s citizens.”

This Caraccilo letter swarm was conducted, coincidentally, at the same time the Bush administration had launched a massive publicity counteroffensive against critics of the war.

CIA Director George Tenet had just been forced to march into Congress and commit professional seppuku over the Niger uranium story, which had hit the floor and splattered into 16 embarrassingly malodorous words.

Caraccilo did as Tenet had done, and took the rap to protect the king. Bad judgment on my part, he explained, but I just wanted to share that pride with people back home.”

As part of his confession, he preempted felony charges by stating no one was forced to sign the letter (before the question was even asked).

The press was even more accommodating than usual, taking down this lame story like a raw oyster. For more than a day, few bothered to ask, “How curious it is that this ‘letter campaign’ coincided with the PR counteroffensive of the National Command Authority?”

Rumsfeld had openly declared his intention to manage public perception, and even attempted to develop a perception management agency, the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI).

On Feb. 19, 2002, more than a year before the American military entered its Iraqi quagmire, The New York Times ran a story about the OSI. The purpose of said office was “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations ... to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.”

Amid the publicity about this publicity management organization, the OSI was killed.

Rumsfeld, in a fit of arrogant pique at reporters in November of the same year, railed at them:

There was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that. And “Oh, my goodness gracious, isn’t that terrible; Henny Penny, the sky is going to fall.” I went down that next day and said, “Fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done’ and I have....

By 2003, the Pentagon propaganda program had been repackaged, and a secret 74-page directive emanated from Rumsfeld’s office, now struggling with the catastrophic cascade developing in Iraq, where key advisors had assured the administration a year earlier of the “cake walk.” That directive was the Information Operations Roadmap (IOR). Using the almost painfully dissociative wordsmithing of good military bureaucrats, IOR was described thus:

The integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare [EW], computer network operations [CNO], psychological operations [PSYOP], military deception, and operations security [OPSEC], with specified supporting and related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decisionmaking while protecting our own.

IOR was neither new nor innovative. Rumsfeld and one of his sycophants merely renamed what had been going on for some time, even before Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld’s new “doctrine” was just one more part of the Rumsfeldian “revolution.”

Perception management is about killing empathy, and replacing it with some cultural entertainment convention. Our society has been trained to want to be entertained, and entertainment is the highest form of happiness. It costs a lot of money to entertain us, and it costs a lot of money to snuff out our empathy.

Perception management programs are extremely well planned and employ an army of public relations experts and professional spin-masters. That is why they are hugely expensive.

Just as Rumsfeld has hired more than 20,000 private mercenaries to fill in the gaps in Iraq and to conduct activities that escape congressional oversight, the Bush administration (like the Clinton administration before it) has hired private contractors whose sole purpose in life is to reconstruct the war in Southwest Asia as a story—using story conventions with which the American public is familiar and comfortable—that resonates emotionally and mythically.

The Rendon Group has been around through both the Clinton and Bush II administrations. It is not the only PR outfit feeding at the public trough for the purpose of shoveling bullshit at the very public who signs its checks, but Rendon is emblematic. Rendon stage-managed much of the run-up to the current quagmire in Iraq. The company was largely responsible for the organization of the Iraqi quisling regime that was originally intended to take power—dubbed by the Rendon Group the “Iraqi National Congress,” complete with the changed regime head and convicted embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.

Said one unnamed State Department official in a moment of anonymous candor, “Were it not for Rendon, the Chalabi group wouldn’t even be on the map.”

Rendon had picked up where Hill and Knowlton, the Gulf War I perception managers, left off. H and K contracted with the U.S. government to hatch the Kuwaiti babies thrown from their incubators by Iraqi soldiers” story. This complete fabrication mobilized massive press and public support for the Bush I invasion. It proved so persistent that an HBO movie about Gulf War I in 2004 actually echoed it again as fact. It should not surprise anyone that Victoria (Torie) Clarke, Pentagon spokesperson during the stop-and-start blitz at the beginning of this invasion, is a former Hill and Knowlton staffer.

Clarke went on to become the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, the office responsible directly to Rumsfeld for military perception management.

The Rendon Group was founded by former Democratic Party operator John Rendon. Rendon Group worked alongside Hill and Knowlton during Gulf War I, inside Kuwait, where it learned quickly how to mine America’s consumer witlessness.

Rendon boasted to the National Security Conference about his efficacy at selling a lie.

If any of you either participated in the liberation of Kuwait City ... or if you watched it on television, you would have seen hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags. Did you ever stop to wonder how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American flags? And for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries? Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs.

Hill and Knowlton actually published a book with so many lies it was almost a new fiction genre; it’s called “The Rape of Kuwait.” It was sent directly to troops before the launching of Desert Storm, presumably to remove their inhibitions and imbue them with the proper fighting spirit by dehumanizing their new enemy.

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner in October 2003 published a remarkable document online, “Truth From These Podia,” which I recommend. He found over 50 systematic and intentional lies that were generated for the express purpose of deceiving not some putative enemy but the press and the people of the United States and Britain.

He describes the evolution and structure of the White House’s Office of Global Communications—an office almost run by Rendon people—and how it generated news stories out of CENTCOM and elsewhere faster than the press could keep up in order to push deadlines and competition and thereby inhibit fact-checking.

As the stories come apart, sometimes in mere days or hours, the Rendon technique counsels that fabrications be allowed to ” linger“ without comment.

This tactic is combined with message control—explaining why “Americans are not the running kind” can show up in two separate speeches in the same day by different members of the administration. Redefining all opposition to U.S. actions as “terrorists” is another example of building false associations through repetition—“echoing,” as it is called in the perception management trade.

How many times did we hear “September 11,” “terrorists” and “Saddam Hussein” in the same breath? Gardiner shows how this is a PSYOPS technique, a method to “construct memory.”

When the spinners get caught, they reconfigure the story with elliptical language, then let it “linger” some more. Weapons of mass destruction become a “weapons program,” then a “seeking” of WMD. George Tenet’s CIA “had questions” about the British forgery on Niger’s purported yellow-cake uranium. Caraccilo just “wanted to share that pride with the people back home.” And let the lingering constructed memory kick in as the next flurry of stories is released to bury the newly emergent lie.

Caraccilo, curiously enough, took the heat off the Bush administration in the Wilson-Plame case, and who could even remember the Jessica Lynch fable, the stage-management of Basra, the yellow-cake uranium, the Iraqi anthrax, the bio-weapons trailers, the Iraqis using American uniforms, the Iraqis who used white flags to lure their prey, the 10-year-old soldiers, the disappearing Scuds, the Iraqi killer drones, the Iraqi woman hanged by the Fedayeen for waving to an American, and the whole wretched list of fabrications that came and went—what I referred to in my book Full Spectrum Disorder as the CENTCOM lie of the day.

All of this was dutifully echoed by the press, blindly obedient to some self-censoring convention of their own, called “the presumption of goodwill and good faith,” which the press gives to government officials.

In March of this year, Mark Mazzetti, writing for the Los Angeles Times, filed a story entitled ”Gen. Casey says U.S. to keep up Iraq PR program.” It makes reference to another PR agency called the Lincoln Group that last year was exposed as the source for hundreds of faked stories that were being planted in Iraqi newspapers as part of the Pentagon effort to reacquire some semblance of the initiative there.

The U.S. military plans to continue paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories favorable to the United States after an inquiry found no fault with the controversial practice, the top U.S. general in Iraq said Friday.

Army Gen. George W. Casey said that the review has concluded that the U.S. military has not violated any American laws or Pentagon guidelines by running the information operations campaign in which U.S. troops and a private contractor called Lincoln Group write pro-American stories and pay to have them planted without attribution in the Iraqi media.

“By and large, it found that we were operating within our authorities and responsibilities,” Casey said, adding that he has no intention of shutting the program down.

The information program has been heavily criticized both inside and outside of the military as detrimental to U.S. credibility and contrary to the principles of a free press in a nascent, embattled democracy....

...While the final report by Navy Adm. Scott Van Buskirk is not yet complete, Casey’s comments are the clearest sign that the U.S. military sees the propaganda effort as a critical tool for winning hearts and minds in Iraq. Van Buskirk’s report could pave the way for the Pentagon to duplicate the practice—which would be illegal for the military in the United States—in other parts of the world.

Casey’s comments, made during a video teleconference with Pentagon reporters, also highlighted the split in attitude on the program between military commanders in Baghdad and some senior officials in Washington. After the existence of the Lincoln Group program was revealed in an article in the Los Angeles Times three months ago, White House officials said they were “very concerned” about the practice of paying Iraqi newspapers to publish unattributed stories written by American troops....

...American troops write articles, called storyboards, which are given to the Iraqi staff of Lincoln Group to translate into Arabic. The contractor’s Iraqi staff pay newspaper editors in Baghdad to publish the articles without revealing their origin.

It would be credulous to the point of stupidity—absent the presumption of goodwill—for anyone to assume that this manipulative mind-set is aberrant in the Rumsfeld Pentagon or the Bush administration.

Because, of course, the first and most successful bit of perception management was that “the war was won but the peace was lost.” I have to challenge that. The war—the tactical war—was lost when the U.S. crossed the line of departure between Kuwait and Iraq on March 29, 2003.

At the end of the day, military success is not measured in tactical outcomes, but political ones.

The “capture of Baghdad” was touted as a great military victory, but it was an abject failure and a trap. The capture of Baghdad toppled a political regime that had already decamped. But the political objective was regime change that implanted a regime subordinate to the U.S. in a pacified Iraq. The topping of Saddam was a foregone conclusion by everyone. Baghdad’s occupation was an intermediate objective.

But this managed myth of “winning the war” persists even among the war’s critics. As the memories of 2003 fade, and the fact of this big-picture defeat begins to penetrate our collective consciousness, the perception managers have been forced to ever
more diligently attack American empathy.

The United States is not suffering from some collective personality disorder called compassion fatigue. We are suffering from the most well-funded thought-control experiment in history, more sophisticated and deadly by many orders of magnitude than anything contrived by Kim Jong Il—the latest bete noir of American public discourse, and we are suffering from the complicity of journalistic hacks like Judith Miller and the anodyne intellectual narcotics of policy think tanks.

It is our empathy that is under attack, because if it is aroused to a point where Iraqis or Afghans or even our own imperial soldiers become real people (and not a yellow-ribbon magnet), the jig is up.

So here is a simple reminder. This war is wanton cruelty in our name; there is no rationalization that can mitigate or excuse it; “we” will not win it and somehow transmogrify a swine into a swan ... and it is not over. Stan Goff is a retired veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces. During an active-duty career that spanned 1970 to 1996, he served with the elite Delta Force and Rangers, and in Vietnam, Guatemala, Grenada, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Somalia and Haiti.
He is a veteran of the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama and also taught military science at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Goff is the author of the books "Hideous Dream—A Soldier’s Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti,” “Full Spectrum Disorder—The Military in the New American Century” and “Sex & War.”


Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Emerging Business Concerns

By Bart Mongoven
October 26, 2006
Public Policy Intelligence Report

Shanghai experienced its third "salt tide" in six weeks

Oct. 24:
With low water levels in the Yangtze River, a tide of salt water surged into the river and traveled far into the country's interior,contaminating the water supply of the world's fourth-largest city. Shanghai water authorities assure the public that disruptions from this salt tide will be brief, but they also note that, given the low gauge of the Yangtze, significant water shortages might be possible during the traditionally dry winter months. This is not the first water scare this year for China -- or other economically dynamic parts of the world, for that matter.

Continuing water shortages in India, for example, are driving some to question whether the snow melt that has fed some rivers for centuries is permanently changing. In many other developing countries, water is being polluted so quickly, and to such a degree, that antiquated treatment facilities cannot keep up with the problems.

These concerns, and episodes like the Shanghai salt tides, have made water an issue of rapidly growing concern for business. During the past 18 months, some companies have begun to make concentrated investments in water infrastructure; others have begun to investigate new strategies for dealing with water problems, particularly in developing countries.

The emergence of water as a business concern has been accelerated by two distinct issues. One of these is the growth of the global beverages industry: As corporations attempt to introduce familiar brands in formerly unreached parts of the world, the industry is becoming more dependent on the water supplies of developing countries -- which frequently have not been well cared for by municipal authorities. The second issue concerns the need by some industrial manufacturers -- including paper manufacturing, chemicals and electronics companies -- for large supplies of fresh water at plants in Asia, Europe and North America. Production processes for such things as silicon wafers rely on access to large amounts of purified water.

Together these factors are generating growing attention to the ways fresh water resources are regulated and used. Businesses not only are investing more in water purification, delivery and management systems as a way of protecting their own interests, but also are coming to be viewed as bearing some responsibility to the public to help ensure water quality standards in certain parts of the world.The financial and social issues facing industry are complex and interrelated, and over time corporations are likely to respond by working with government and each other in new ways.

Air and Water as 'Commons' Issues

Air and water are two of the classic "commons" issues -- that is, resources that are shared by all people equally but that can be used or despoiled in unequal ways.

Consider the example of air pollution and old-fashioned "smokestack" industries. In the West, polluting plants have not always been regarded as a bad thing by local communities. Even into the 1970s, many equated smoke in the air with jobs for local residents; the detriment to air quality was considered the unfortunate byproduct of a net positive. This is a view that remains common in the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America.

It was only with the growth of environmental consciousness in the West during the 1970s and 1980s that air pollution came to be seen as a negative and industrial areas sought a better balance between the environmental drawbacks and economic benefits of manufacturing jobs. Over time, air became dramatically cleaner in industrialized countries as pollution regulations forced manufacturers to adopt new technologies or shift their operations to more permissive regions. The migration of heavy industry to countries that also offered large pools of low-cost labor and other efficiencies --such as Taiwan and South Korea (and later, China) -- contributed to significant air pollution throughout Asia. But for the Western companies that built plants there or began to buy merchandise from new Asian manufacturers, the air pollution was easily dismissed: The industrialists did not have to breathe dirty air, and the residents of the newly industrialized cities seemed happy with the jobs and economic growth. From a Westerner's standpoint, the air pollution was someone else's problem.

Water, however, poses a different commons problem. Because access to clean water is instrumental to many modern manufacturing processes, pollution or "unfortunate byproducts" cannot be ignored by industry or viewed strictly as a government's problem to solve. Whereas air pollution was easily dismissed as a local problem --perhaps generated by industry but with no impact to operational capabilities -- water scarcity and pollution problems place constraints on industrial processes themselves.

Case Study: A Premium on Water Quality

The premium being placed on water quality is perhaps best illustrated by the difficulties that soft drink manufacturers recently have experienced in India.

During the summer, a major controversy in Kerala state developed around Coca-Cola: Its beverages were banned there because studies had showed they carried pesticide residues.

The problem originated in the source water, which was so thoroughly polluted that purifying it to U.S. standards was prohibitively expensive. Keralastate authorities then banned Pepsi's products as well, and the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh eventually followed Kerala's lead. Significantly, the products of local soft drink makers were not banned -- even though the water they used contained the same kinds of impurities.

The motivation of the activists who pushed for the state bans in India points up an important issue in the larger trend . Though they capitalized on anti-American sentiment in the Indian states, their strategy and goals were more nuanced. The activists reasoned that, because Coke and Pepsi command 80 percent of the soft drinks market and have significant financial resources, the companies could persuade local governments to enforce international conventions governing the pesticides named in the water pollution allegations. The goal was not to drive out American commerce, but rather to bring its power and influence to bear in improving water quality for Indians.

Though the activist campaign in Kerala was not tied in to other movements, the approach is not an isolated one. Those who have money and power, and for whom water issues and profits are intimately linked, increasingly will be viewed as having some responsibility for global water quality. And this view is one that corporations are increasingly likely to adopt themselves.

A Question of Supply

Just as agricultural growth in India is bringing water problems to soft drink manufacturers, the industrial boom in China is beginning to stress the water systems there (especially in Beijing and Western China), which is particularly concerning for high-tech industries. This is placing pressure on Chinese governments, both in Beijing and at the local level, to begin to consider choices relating to water and industrial development.

A team at MIT concluded in 2005 that, despite persistent drought in some areas, China has sufficient water reserves to support agricultural production in its "breadbasket region" -- the vast farming expanses of southern and central China -- for decades. It does not, however, have sufficient water supplies to maintain current levels of agricultural production and support other kinds of industry as well, particularly not water-intensive manufacturing. Yet industrial development of China's interior provinces is being highly encouraged by the central government as part of an economically critical wealth redistribution program. Many local governments are responding to the pressures by implementing water conservation programs, hoping to ensure that sufficient water supplies will be available for both farm and factory.

As was obvious with the Dongyang "pollution riots" last year,concerns about access to clean water in China are a source of political tension, and anything that either diverts or pollutes water supplies can cause unrest. The diversion of water from traditional uses in agriculture to industrial applications in some regions easily could spark new protests among poor, rural Chinese,who already are disgruntled over the government's past emphasis on the booming coastal regions. The government is attempting to correct the industrial and economic imbalance, but water scarcity issues seemingly inevitably will attach to industrialization.

This is largely related to modern manufacturing processes. Consider the example of semiconductor makers, which -- unlike beverage companies -- cannot settle for the quality standards applied to local tap water. Natural water supplies are not sufficiently pure for modern manufacturing; instead, facilities require "ultra pure"water that is filtered and refined through sophisticated membranes and electronic processes.

Supply issues are a related concern

Microchip fabrication is highly water-intensive. For instance, a new Texas Instruments facility in Austin, Texas, that has been lauded for resource efficiency uses 2 million gallons per day --significantly below the industry average of nearly 3 million gallons for a comparable fab. With consumption like this, water shortages can bring a plant to a screeching halt just as easily asan electrical blackout or labor strike could.

In Beijing, the water supply situation is already becoming problematic because chip facilities must truck water to their facilities several weeks out of each year as droughts impact the supplies available from municipal authorities. The massive Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. facility outside Beijing, for example, maintains its own backup reservoirs, in addition to the backup reservoirs of the Beijing and Tianjin water utilities.

Developing Water Strategies

Water-related uncertainties like those facing the beverage and semiconductor industries are forcing corporations in almost allsectors to devote significant time and thought to water strategies. In fact, Nestle Corp. considers water "the single most important issue we will face as a company in the next 10 years." The resultof strategy efforts, however, is a cloud of swirling, sometimes incompatible, priorities. Ultimately, the questions that are emerging probably will be addressed either through a global "code of conduct" for corporations or, even more likely, by governments complying with demands put forth by industry.

Corporations certainly are not waiting solely for government toact. Beverage companies and consumer product manufacturers can use filtered water, but it must meet certain standards for cleanliness before production begins. Thus, supply and the pollution problems have led to dramatically increased investments in purification technologies, coupled with conservation and regulatory approaches designed to ensure more clean water is available. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Unilever, Nestle, Fosters, Altria and Anheuser Busch all have unveiled multimillion-dollar water conservation and advocacy programs during the past decade.

Meanwhile, almost all semiconductor manufacturers -- along with Coke, Anheuser Busch and others -- have begun to negotiate water contracts with municipalities to ensure that they will not be crippled by shortages. Still, if the sufficient water is not available, force majeure can be declared -- and managers are powerless to prevent that. For businesses with important manufacturing facilities in developing countries, the conclusion is growing clear: It is going to fall to them to address water supply and quality problems.

Though water obviously is a complex commons issue, business has shown itself adept at finding ways to address commons problems that affect profits. In this case, the effort to ensure that one company's pollution or misuse will not impede other manufacturers is most likely to be expressed through political pressure for new regulations at the local and national levels, in countries around the world.

Increasingly, businesses can be expected to take on the role of activist, calling for governments to improve water protection and reduce waste. And, because corporations equate to jobs and investment -- which, unlike votes from the public, are of value to all states and governments everywhere -- the political bodies will listen. But whether government regulation and corporate standards, even in concert, will be sufficient over the long haul remains an open question.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Obama Is Not a Miracle Elixir

October 22, 2006

Barack Obama will have to step up and change the party before the party of terminal timidity and equivocation changes him.

THE Democrats are so brilliant at yanking defeat from the jaws of victory that it still seems unimaginable that they might win on Nov. 7. But even the most congenital skeptic has to face that possibility now. Things have gotten so bad for the Republicans that were President Bush to unveil Osama bin Laden’s corpse in the Rose Garden, some reporter would instantly check to see if his last meal had been on Jack Abramoff’s tab.

With an approval rating of 16 percent — 16! — in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Congress has matched the Democrats of 1994 or, for that matter, Michael Jackson during his own version of Foleygate. As for Mr. Bush, he is once more hiding behind children in an elementary school, as he did last week when the monthly death toll for Americans in Iraq approached a nearly two-year high. And where else could he go? Some top Republican Congressional candidates in the red state he was visiting, North Carolina, would not appear with him. When the president did find a grateful campaign mate at his next stop, Pennsylvania, it was the married congressman who paid $5.5 million to settle a lawsuit by a mistress who accused him of throttling her.

Maybe the Democrats can blow 2006 as they did 2004, but not without herculean effort. As George Will memorably wrote, if they can’t at least win back the House under these conditions, “they should go into another line of work.”

The tough question is not whether the Democrats can win, but what will happen if they do win. The party’s message in this campaign has offered no vision beyond bashing Mr. Bush and pledging to revisit the scandals and the disastrous legislation that went down on his watch. Last spring Nancy Pelosi did promote a “New Direction for America” full of golden oldies — raising the minimum wage, enacting lobbying reform, cutting Medicare drug costs, etc. She promised that Democrats would own August by staging 250 campaign events to publicize it. But this rollout caused so few ripples that its participants might as well have been in the witness protection program. Meanwhile, it was up to John Murtha, a congressman with no presidential ambitions, to goad his peers to start focusing on a specific Iraq exit strategy.

Enter Barack Obama.

To understand the hysteria about a Democratic senator who has not yet served two years and is mainly known for a single speech at the 2004 convention, you have to appreciate just how desperate the Democrats are for a panacea for all their ills. In the many glossy cover articles about Obamamania, the only real suspense is whether a Jack or Bobby Kennedy analogy will be made in the second paragraph or the fifth. Men’s Vogue (cover by Annie Leibovitz) went so far as to say that the Illinois senator “alone has the potential to one day be mentioned in the same breath” as Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Why not throw in Mark Twain and Sammy Davis Jr.?

This is a lot to put on the shoulders of anyone, even someone as impressive as Mr. Obama. Though he remains a modest and self-effacing guy from all appearances, he is encouraging the speculation about seeking higher office — and not as a coy Colin Powell-style maneuver to sell his new book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Mr. Obama hasn’t been turning up in Iowa for the corn dogs. He consistently concedes he’s entertaining the prospect of a presidential run.

There’s no reason to rush that decision now, but it’s a no-brainer. Of course he should run, assuming his family is on the same page. He’s 45, not 30, and his slender résumé in public office (which also includes seven years as a state senator) should be no more of an impediment to him than it was to the White House’s current occupant. As his Illinois colleague Dick Durbin told The Chicago Tribune last week, “I said to him, ‘Do you really think sticking around the Senate for four more years and casting a thousand more votes will make you more qualified for president?’ ” Instead, such added experience is more likely to transform an unusually eloquent writer, speaker and public servant into another windbag like Joe Biden.

The more important issue is not whether Mr. Obama will seek the presidency, but what kind of candidate he would be. If the Democratic Party is to be more than a throw-out-Bush party, it can’t settle for yet again repackaging its well-worn ideas, however worthy, with a new slogan containing the word “New.” It needs a major infusion of steadfast leadership. That’s the one lesson it should learn from George Bush. Call him arrogant or misguided or foolish, this president has been a leader. He had a controversial agenda — enacting big tax cuts, privatizing Social Security, waging “pre-emptive” war, packing the courts with judges who support his elisions of constitutional rights — and he didn’t fudge it. He didn’t care if half the country despised him along the way.

The interminable Iraq fiasco has branded the Democrats as the party of fecklessness. The failure of its leaders to challenge the administration’s blatant propaganda to gin up the war is a failure of historic proportions (as it was for much of the press and liberal punditry). When Tom Daschle, then the Senate leader, presided over the rushed passing of the war resolution before the 2002 midterms, he explained that the “bottom line” was for Democrats “to move on”; they couldn’t wait to campaign on the economy. The party’s subsequent loss of the Senate did not prevent it two years later from nominating a candidate who voted for the war’s funding before he voted against it.

What makes the liberal establishment’s crush on Mr. Obama disconcerting is that it too often sees him as a love child of a pollster’s focus group: a one-man Benetton ad who can be all things to all people. He’s black and he’s white. He’s both of immigrant stock (Kenya) and the American heartland (Kansas, yet). He speaks openly about his faith without disowning evolution. He has both gravitas and unpretentious humor. He was the editor of The Harvard Law Review and also won a Grammy (for the audiobook of his touching memoir, “Dreams From My Father”). He exudes perfection but has owned up to youthful indiscretions with drugs. He is post-boomer and post-civil-rights-movement. He is Bill Clinton without the baggage, a fail-safe 21st-century bridge from “A Place Called Hope” to “The Audacity of Hope.”

Mr. Obama has offended no one (a silly tiff with John McCain excepted). Search right-wing blogs and you’ll find none of the invective showered on other liberal Democrats in general and black liberal leaders in particular. What little criticism Mr. Obama has received is from those in his own camp who find him cautious to a fault, especially on issues that might cause controversy. The sum of all his terrific parts, this theory goes, may be less than the whole: another Democrat who won’t tell you what day it is before calling a consultant, another human weather vane who waits to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand.

That has been the Democrats’ fatal malady, but it’s way too early and there’s too little evidence to say Mr. Obama has been infected by it. If he is conciliatory by nature and eager to entertain adversaries’ views in good faith, that’s not necessarily a fault, particularly in these poisonous times. The question is whether Mr. Obama will stick up for core principles when tested and get others to follow him.

That’s why it’s important to remember that on one true test for his party, Iraq, he was consistent from the start. On the long trail to a hotly competitive senatorial primary in Illinois, he repeatedly questioned the rationale for the war before it began, finally to protest it at a large rally in Chicago on the eve of the invasion. He judged Saddam to pose no immediate threat to America and argued for containment over a war he would soon label “dumb” and “political-driven.” He hasn’t changed. In his new book, he gives a specific date (the end of this year) for beginning a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops and doesn’t seem to care who calls it “cut and run.”

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, who last week said that failed American policy in Iraq should be revisited if there’s no improvement in maybe 60 to 90 days.” This might qualify as leadership, even at this late date, if only John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, hadn’t proposed exactly the same time frame for a re-evaluation of the war almost a week before she did.
The Democrats may well win on Election Day this year. But one of their best hopes for long-term viability in the post-Bush era is that Barack Obama steps up and changes the party before the party of terminal timidity and equivocation changes him.