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IRAQ AND THE ART OF MISDIRECTION

MoveOn Bulletin
Wednesday, October 2, 2002
Edited by Susan Thompson (susan.thompson@moveon.org)

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CONTENTS

  1. Introduction: Domestic Issues Obscurred By the Constant Talk of War
  2. One Link: A Classic Case of Misdirection
  3. War Dominates the Agenda
  4. Energy Racketeering and Corporate Scandals
  5. The Economy
  6. Trade Wars
  7. The Environment (and Oil)
  8. Social Spending and Changes to Social Programs
  9. About the MoveOn bulletin and MoveOn.org

 
INTRODUCTION: DOMESTIC ISSUES OBSCURRED BY THE CONSTANT TALK OF WAR
If you beat the war drum loudly enough, can you drown out discussion of all other domestic issues? It certainly seems like the Bush administration is trying. The rush to war is dominating the US agenda, drawing attention away from a whole host of pressing problems. While Iraq remains the focus of the nightly news, congressional discussion, and the campaign trail, other issues naturally fade into the background. And this is the most helpful place for them to remain if President Bush wants to maintain his approval rating. Whether or not the Iraq war is a case of "wag the dog," it is certainly diverting attention from policies that might otherwise be threatening the current administration's very existence.

The ailing economy is perhaps the biggest and most obvious problem facing the US at the moment. The stock market is doing poorly. The deficit is growing. Millions of people have lost their jobs. The Bush administration's budgeting demonstrates a policy of going after social spending, especially to finance expensive war efforts. The problems with the economy seem to have a very close relationship with Bush's tax cuts, and with the ever growing costs of Bush's war policies.

Several other major issues have also been pushed off the front page (but just barely). Details of energy and corporate scandals continue to surface, but the coverage of Iraq has muted the stories. Environmental issues are treated as inconsequential, despite the fact that by many accounts, the US is speeding up the probablity of climactic disaster by killing the Kyoto Protocol and instituting oil-friendly policies at home. Trade problems have driven up the price of steel and lumber domestically, and could possibly spark punishing trade wars with powerful entities such as the European Union.

These issues can't be sidelined forever. Pollution doesn't fix itself; poverty and illness won't just go away. So while President Bush prosecutes a war on Iraq in the name of national security, our security is silently slipping away.

 
ONE LINK: A CLASSIC CASE OF MISDIRECTION
The Email Activist provides an excellent statement on the current situation: "The Bush administrationís domestic policy has been an utter failure for everyone except the wealthy. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. The budget surplus that prompted last yearís raid on the Treasury turned out to be an accounting fiction. Rampant corporate corruption on an unregulated Wall Street has wiped out the life savings and retirement portfolios of countless citizens and has eliminated thousands of jobs. And since September 11, our constitutional rights have been vanishing faster than al-Qaeda operatives . . . So why has all this bad news pretty much disappeared from the national radar screen? The answer is Iraq. The Bush team is successfully manipulating the media (and the Congress) into shifting all attention away from its shameful failures by announcing its intention to take out Saddam Hussein. Itís a classic case of misdirection. Like a pickpocket, the Bush administration is stealing your wallet with one hand while distracting you with the other one." This short article includes a sample letter to send to your representatives that highlights the main points made in the article.
http://www.theemailactivist.org/hocuspocus.htm

(Editor's Note: For other actions opposing war on Iraq, please see our own action page at: http://www.moveon.org/nowar/ . )

 
WAR DOMINATES THE AGENDA
In this compelling article, the author asks us to "[i]magine the 43rd Presidency without Osama bin Laden, the year 2001 with an uneventful September 11," and summarizes the many problems that would be beseiging President Bush without a war to split America's focus.
http://www.centerforbookculture.org/context/no10/berube.html

This pro-Bush article still manages to make an excellent point about the President: "Polls show that only one issue works in Bush's favor: terrorism. On the environmental [sic], global warming, prescription drug plans for the elderly, the right of HMO patients to sue in court, campaign-finance reform, corporate oversight and every other major public question, Americans back the approaches preferred by the Democrats. Only on education and tax cuts (both already passed) has Bush the makings of a national majority." For this reason, it only makes sense for Bush to continue to focus on the issue of Iraq: "The president always has the power to control the subject of the national debate. As Bush uses this power to focus on the dangers Saddam Hussein poses for the U.S. and for Israel, what other issues will really matter?"
http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/56314.htm

Indeed, the issue of Iraq is dominating Bush's campaigning. Bush spends the majority of his fundraising speeches discussing war, with very little mention of other pressing domestic issues. The author conjectures that this may be a move calculated to win support from Republicans.
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/267/nation/Iraq_dominates_Bush_s_campaigning%2B.shtml

 
ENERGY RACKETEERING AND CORPORATE SCANDALS
In this excellent article titled "The Art of Changing the Subject," the author argues that "...it seems all anyone in Washington can think or talk about is terrorism, rebuilding Afghanistan and un-building Iraq. It leads one to wonder, what happened to all those domestic issues? Well, I checked. Those issues are still with us. And, while the cat's away at war, administration mice are having a field day with them." Aside from discussing the controversial new proposals on logging (which are also mentioned in the environmental section of this bulletin) the article provides updates on big business accounting and energy racketeering.
http://www.thedailyenron.com/documents/20020924084430-02050.asp

 
THE ECONOMY
In 2001, unemployment rates skyrocketed to 5.8 percent. 2 million people lost their jobs.
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jan2002/jobs-j05.shtml

There has been a mild recent upturn in the economy this year that has some people optimistic; however, the National Bureau of Economic Research is hesitating to issue an offical end to the recession which began in 2001. The group is mainly concerned that the economy may take another sharp downturn. They will partly base their decision on a report on Septembers payrolls coming out this Friday. Economists predict that it will indicate that unemployment has risen to 5.9%.
http://www.etaiwannews.com/Business/2002/10/01/1033440254.htm

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Dow broke at its lowest levels since 1998. Investors fear that things will only get worse.
http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/09.26E.dow.4yr.low.htm

Because of the poor market, many people will have to delay retirement, and may have less money when they do retire. The age group closest to retiring suffered the most losses.
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/business/columnists/gail_marksjarvis/3472583.htm

The deficit is also bigger than originally expected. This is because, according to USA Today, " The accounting tricks used by U.S. companies are nothing compared with Washington's bookkeeping circus." Some of the examples cited in the article include:

  • The Office of Management and Budget recently admitted that the deficit for the current year is going to be more than 50 percent bigger than previously reported: $165 billion, not $106 billion, as was claimed five months ago.

  • Last year's $127-billion surplus would actually have been a $515-billion deficit if the accounting was done according to regular rules.

  • When Congress was desperate last year to justify accelerating the massive tax cut, it simply shifted the date when corporations were required to make a quarterly tax payment, resulting in a one-time windfall of $33 billion, heisted from the following year.

  • The 2001 alternative fiscal report prepared using real-world accounting standards shows $17.3 billion in money that simply couldn't be accounted for.
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/comment/2002/07/16/nceditf.htm

    According to the linked article, recently released information on the US economy indicated that:

  • The percentage of Americans living in poverty rose to 11.7 percent, the highest rate in a decade. The number of poor Americans rose by 1.3 million since Bush took office.

  • The American middle class has suffered too. The median household income declined 2.2 percent, to $42,228, after adjusting for inflation - the first decline in household income since 1991.

  • Particularly bad news for Republicans, the figures show that poverty last year increased most in the suburbs, in the South, and among whites.

  • And, the figures confirmed Democrat charges that the Bush tax cuts would help only the wealthy. They showed that the most affluent fifth of the population received more than half of all income last year, up from 45 percent in 1985. The figures show that the top 5 percent of households were the only group surveyed for whom income rose last year.
    http://www.thedailyenron.com/documents/20020925082058-43921.asp

    Even with the distraction of war, recent polls show that Americans blame Bush for the poor economy, and tend to side with the Democrats on the issue.
    http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=3073

     
    TRADE WARS
    Recent tariffs on lumber industries have been enacted in order to protect US trade interests, angering close US neighbor and biggest trading partner Canada. Canada has pledged to make a complaint to the WTO about the tariffs [which it has done since this article was published -Ed.]. A new farm bill has only added to the tension around US trade policies.
    http://www.northamericaninstitute.org/articlearcive/nytimes052302.htm

    This excellent article summarizes the protectionism characteristic of the Bush administration with specific examples and a discussion of the global perception of the US's actions, which seem to be threatening global trade negotiations. Basically, it seems to be a case of "do as I say, not as I do." The US has been imposing tariffs on steel, Canadian lumber, Australian lamb meat, and Vietnamese catfish, and more heavily subsidizing the agriculture industry -- this despite the fact that the US has been the biggest advocate of decreasing agricultural protection in Japan and domestically, and is the leading advocate of free trade, or trade without restrictions (such as tariffs). The steel tariffs have sparked international anger and could result in the EU imposing its own heavy tariffs on the US if the US does not offer compensation for the money lost. Japan could also act to punish US industry, meaning that the steel tariffs may trigger an international trade war with the US.
    http://www.island.lk/2002/07/14/busine08.html

    Yet the US continues to pursue new free trade agreements: "Under cover of the corporate (and independent) media's obsession with GW Bush's maniacal 'war on terror,' the US is pursuing new trade negotiations to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) debacle to Central and South America. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) aims at creating a free-trade zone throughout the western hemisphere, with a target date of January 2005. The effects of which could have an even more dismal impact on millions of people throughout North and South America then has the latest imperialist government's war." This article debunks some of the official claims regarding the benefits of FTAA.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/kyer0912.html

     
    THE ENVIRONMENT (AND OIL)
    Under the leadership of President Bush, the US has backed out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol -- the agreement by which more than 100 nations pledged to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The US pullout basically kills the treaty, because "although it accounts for only 4 per cent of the world's population, it is responsible for 25 per cent of the emissions of gases that cause the greenhouse effect." The reason behind the administration's aversion to environmental issues is obvious: Bush remains committed to serving the interests of the oil and energy industries that profit off of pollution.
    http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,466615,00.html

    A new energy bill which could potentially have been able to help reduce America's dependence on oil as an energy source (and thus dependence on oil sources in the Middle East) contains loopholes which will essentially mean "increas[ing] our dependence on imported oil and enshrining it as national policy, " according to the Sierra Club. It is expected to pass within the next couple of weeks. Republicans have also revived talk of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17330-2002Sep28.html

    At the recent UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Colin Powell was jeered for defending the US's environmental record. The US seemed to remain committed to advocating business-friendly solutions at the summit.
    http://www.iht.com/articles/69739.html

    President Bush did not even attend the summit in Johannesburg, despite the fact that so many other world leaders did, allegedly because he was too "preoccupied with his fight against terrorism which has now shifted to the Islamic state of Iraq."
    http://allafrica.com/stories/200208300714.html

    Is the Bush administration trying to undermine NEPA?
    http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/09.24E.nrdc.nepa.htm

    A new EPA report contains no section on global warming, making it the first report in six years to omit information on climate change related to greenhouse gases. The decision to omit the section was made by top EPA officials with White House approval, and is drawing fire from environmental groups.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/15/politics/15CLIM.html

    Meanwhile, according to a US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, "[I]t is possible that the global warming trend projected over the course of the next 100 years could, all of a sudden and without warning, dramatically accelerate in just a handful of years - forcing a qualitative new climatic regime which could undermine ecosystems and human settlements throughout the world, leaving little or no time for plants, animals and humans to adjust."
    http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0301-02.htm

    Another important report concludes that no US stream remains unpolluted. The report also proposes a set of ecological indicators to help better assess the environmental health of the US.
    http://news.findlaw.com/ap_stories/other/1501/9-24-2002/20020924143005_70.html

    The Bush government also recently announced the "Healthy Forests Initiative," which advocates "mechanical thinning" (aka logging) of forests with the justification that it is supposed to help prevent forest fires. The initiative would enable companies to log forests with almost no restrictions -- and ironically, would probably increase, not decrease, the chance of forest fires.
    http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=14132

    Bush campaign contributions are closely linked to the administration's environmental policies, Earthjustice and Public Campaign charge in a detailed new report. According to the report, "Industries now reaping the benefits of an administration intent on eliminating important environmental and public health safeguards are the same ones that helped underwrite the Bush-Cheney campaign and the RNC with more than $44 million in contributions"
    http://www.publicampaign.org/press_releases/pr9-25-02.htm

     
    SOCIAL SPENDING AND CHANGES TO SOCIAL PROGRAMS
    How will the US fund a war with Iraq, which by some estimates could have a $200 billion price tag? By using Social Security: "The Social Security surplus -- the money in the locked box that everyone agreed during the 2000 presidential campaign was supposed to stay sealed -- is currently being used to finance general government operations. This is, apparently, the well into which President George W. Bush plans to dip in order to finance his next war. He has not told us of any other. Social Security trust funds are the only accounts to tap because the surplus outside of Social Security has long since vanished. It was wiped out by tax cuts, slow economic growth and the war in which we already are engaged."
    http://www.wnyc.org/discuss/soapbox/message.shtml?msg=7398

    The Bush administration's proposed budget for 2003 "plans to shift more of the financial burden of social service provisions to the states, leaving state and local governments with an aggregate budget deficit of almost $100 billion." In order to deal with the deficit, states will probably have to cut back on social programs such as road construction, policing, education funds, etc. The reason for the shift is that a large proportion of money is earmarked for security concerns related to the "war on terrorism," leaving less money available for basic public services. Bush's tax cuts are likely also to blame.
    http://salt.claretianpubs.org/sjnews/2002/03/sjn0203g.html

    While the Bush administration continues to advocate more war, health care for veterans appears to be a low priority. A Bush appointee at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Laura J. Miller, recently sent out a memo to local administrators telling them to stop healthcare outreach programs to vets so that the Department could save money. In other words, if the Bush administration just doesn't tell veterans about the healthcare that they have earned by virtue of their military service, then the government won't have to pay for it. The link is to an actual copy of the memo.
    http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/docs/veterans.affairs.1.html

    Medicare is also suffering under the Bush administration. Bush "is proposing deep reductions in Medicare payments for a wide range of drugs and medical devices used to treat people who are elderly or disabled." Ultimately, this could mean that hospitals won't be paid enough for certain services, and may have to stop offering them, meaning that patients would no longer have access to certain treatments.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/22/politics/22DRUG.html

    The number of people without insurance has also jumped in the past year. There were 41.2 million people without health insurance in 2001, up 1.4 million from 2000. According to experts, this indicates that the number of people without health insurance is likely to continue to rise, largely due to "rising health-care costs, state cutbacks in Medicaid, unemployment increases and employer decisions to pass along most costs to workers."
    http://www.startribune.com/stories/1405/3334701.html

    Meanwhile, Health and Human Services committees, which provide expert advice on public health to Bush administration officials, are being overhauled in order to eliminate views contrary to those of the Bush government.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26554-2002Sep16.html

    The Bush administration is also proposing changes to welfare that would require that recipients work longer hours and be pushed out of job training and education programs.
    http://www.thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?bid=3&pid=20

     
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