Monday, April 30, 2007

The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel. Salon, Kamiya,

The Last refuge of the scoundrel

Bush is trying to convince the American people that Iraq is the WWII of our time, and Democrats are craven defeatists. Both claims are absurd.

By Gary Kamiya

Source: Salon, April 30, 07

May. 01, 2007 | According to the Bush administration and its supporters, the Democrats and a majority of the American people are a cross between Benedict Arnold, Neville Chamberlain and Tokyo Rose. What set the Bushites off was a one-two punch from the Democrats -- the bill that would require American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq by Oct. 1, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement, "As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost." The words were barely out of Reid's mouth when the Bush dead-enders -- a peculiar group now consisting of less than a quarter of the American people, two GOP congressmen and two GOP senators -- began Googling "great traitors of history." Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., called on Reid to resign. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the spending bill amounted to a "surrender" to al-Qaida. White House spokesperson Dana Perino said, "Tonight, the House of Representatives votes for failure in Iraq, and the president will veto its bill."

The right's rank and file followed suit. "Dem Senate Votes for Retreat and Defeat," screamed the headline on the conservative Web site Townhall. Prominent right-wing blogger Hugh Hewitt called Reid a "defeatist cheerleader." Another conservative commentator, Rich Galen, said Reid is "invested in failure." On the Free Republic, a post called on "fellow Freepers" to denounce Democratic "traitors" and "treason."

In a column titled "Losers," Iran-Contra rogue Oliver North, whose tireless efforts to assist the Contras apparently qualifies him as an expert on fighting terrorism, said America would reject the Democrat's Iraq stance because Americans hate losers. "If the Democrats continue their current course, we may well lose this war -- and they will have embraced defeat and all that comes with it," North wrote. In a programmatic tactic of the Bush administration, Ollie rallied his argument around World War II. He quoted a soldier in Ramadi as saying, "Good thing this guy Reid wasn't around in 1940 when Winston Churchill promised the people of Great Britain nothing but 'blood, toil, tears and sweat.'"

Bush supporters have been labeling war critics defeatists, appeasers and surrender monkeys ever since 9/11. Chickenhawk conservatives discovered they could attack even decorated war veterans with impunity, as the shameless smearing of triple amputee Vietnam War vet Max Cleland proved. Who could forget that glorious day when newly elected Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, attacked Rep. John Murtha, a war hero, by saying, "Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"? Congress and the media's gutless reaction to these attacks is one of the main reasons they rolled over during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

But those who live by bogus patriotic fearmongering die by bogus patriotic fearmongering. Having cast its lot irrevocably with Bush, the GOP is now condemned to play out the dismal endgame in Iraq by his all-or-nothing rules. They have no choice but to pretend victory is at hand, attack those who say otherwise, and make up apocalyptic scenarios about what al-Qaida will do to us if we don't stay the course.

The problem is, no one believes any of this anymore -- probably not even the people who are saying it. The gap between reality and Bush spin, always large, has become a Grand Canyon. As a result, the Orwellian rhetoric so beloved of the Bush administration is rapidly becoming devalued. "War is peace" just doesn't have that inspiring ring it once did.

Until this year, the Democrats were cowed into silence by the GOP's attacks. No more. Like Murtha, who was the first Democrat to directly challenge the GOP's fear-and-smear tactics, Reid and House leader Nancy Pelosi have realized that the best way to respond to a blustering bully is to hit him in the face. After Cheney attacked Reid, Reid not only defended himself but also gave Cheney a sharp kick in the snout. He called the vice president an "attack dog," then added, "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating."

The GOP's overwrought response represents its realization of how potentially politically damaging his counterattack was. If Reid's contemptuous dismissal of Cheney was allowed to stand, the Bush administration's flag-draped aura of intimidation and invincibility -- which is all that it has left -- would be removed. This could not happen. Under no circumstances could the great and powerful Oz be exposed.

Riding to the GOP's rescue was Washington Post columnist David Broder, the "dean of American political correspondents" -- a epithet that apparently refers to his status as the Platonic ideal of establishment-unto-death thinking. Broder blasted Reid as an amateurish loose cannon and, incredibly, compared him to Alberto Gonzales. Reid's act of lèse-majesté in saying "the war is lost" was too much for Broder, who as the voice of Beltway probity pronounced that it was unacceptable for the top Democrat in the Senate to state what most Americans believe to be true.

If the American public were still playing by the genteel Broder rules, the GOP's attempt to demonize Reid and the Democrats might have worked. But it isn't. Broder's column, which was rebuked in a letter signed by all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, has instantly became a symbol of the vacuity and conformism of establishment thinking. The previously irresistible force of patriotic conformity has run into the immovable object of democracy. The overwhelming majority of Democrats, and a sizable minority of Republicans, no longer believe anything Bush or Cheney say about the war. They believe it is lost, they want the United States to get out, and they want their voice to be heard. And more and more of them have had it with the rigged game in which the Bush administration is given carte blanche to issue one highhanded and false statement after another about the war, while the Democrats are expected to tug their forelocks, salute the flag, and speak in an manner approved by their betters.

Poll after poll has shown Americans' exasperation. One of the most telling was a Newsweek poll taken right after Bush's State of the Union address at the end of January. More than half the country, 58 percent, said they wished the Bush presidency were simply over. This group included 86 percent of the Democrats who responded, 59 percent of the independents, and even 21 percent of the Republicans. And 64 percent of Americans said they thought Congress had not been assertive enough in challenging Bush's conduct of the war.

A die-hard Republican "security mom" named Marylee McCallister expresses the disenchantment felt by so many. McCallister told the Washington Post last summer that she voted for Bush because she believed him when he said that John Kerry was weak on national security. "'I was dumb,' she said. 'Now, granted, they came here and rammed bombs into us, but I am afraid we have gotten into something full scale which perhaps did not have to be.'"

Throughout the Bush presidency, there has been one infallible rule: If someone starts talking about World War II, watch your wallet. Ever since Bush invaded Iraq, his supporters have been desperately trying to convince the American people that Iraq is the WWII of our time. They constantly invoke the Blitz, the invasion of Poland, the Hitler-Stalin pact, the fall of France, Pearl Harbor and other momentous events from the Last Good War.

Unfortunately for the GOP, Bush's own words have rendered the Churchill comparison absurd. Churchill called for blood, toil, tears and sweat. Bush called for tax breaks for the rich and continued shopping. He didn't raise taxes, or impose a gas tax, or institute a draft, or in any way put the country on a war footing. Asked by "The NewsHour's" Jim Lehrer why he hadn't asked Americans to sacrifice anything for the war, Bush replied, "Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night ... And one thing we want during this war on terror is for people to feel like their life's moving on." Yes, that certainly has the Churchillian ring to it.

Besides, if there are any legitimate analogies between Iraq and WWII, they aren't ones that Bush wants Americans to think about. Iraq more closely resembles Stalingrad, where a delusional Hitler refused to cut his losses, or the Maginot Line -- that heavily armed defensive wall that the Germans simply went around. The Battle of Britain, Iraq ain't.

Despite all the bluster about World War II, military victory in Iraq simply isn't possible -- a fact confirmed by Bush's top military man in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus said at a news conference in March. And it isn't just a military victory that is impossible. Bush has defined "victory" in Iraq as the creation of a stable, democratic, pro-American nation -- but, as retired Gen. William Odom noted in a piece titled "Victory Is Not an Option," this war cannot achieve this goal. This isn't just his opinion. The National Intelligence Estimate, which represents the consensus of American intelligence analysts, reached basically the same conclusion.

Equally divorced from reality is the GOP's endlessly repeated claim that "if we don't defeat al-Qaida there, they'll follow us home." Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke disposed of this ridiculous argument simply by giving it a name: the "puppy dog terror theory," as in the puppy that will follow you home. In a piece in the New York Daily News, he wrote, "How is this odd terrorist puppy dog behavior supposed to work? The President must believe that terrorists are playing by some odd rules of chivalry. Would this be the 'only one slaughter ground at a time' rule of terrorism? Of course, nothing about our being 'over there' in any way prevents terrorists from coming here. Quite the opposite, the evidence is overwhelming that our presence provides motivation for people throughout the Arab world to become anti-American terrorists."

Of course, the American people know that pulling our troops out of Iraq is not without risks. The greatest danger is that the country will be ravaged by a civil war far worse even than the one raging there now. And the regional consequences of a meltdown in Iraq, especially if the Bush administration continues to refuse to talk seriously with Iraq's neighbors, could be far-reaching.

The American people know this. But they know that pursuing "victory" in Iraq -- a victory impossible to define -- is likely to have so many negative consequences that it will actually amount to a defeat. Among those consequences: the endless casualties, the continued taxpayer-financed training ground for jihadis, and the ever-growing hatred of the United States in the region. Unlike Bush, they are primarily worried about our actual enemy: al-Qaida. Bush's exhortations to fight "radical Islam" or "terrorism" have been revealed to be incoherent and self-defeating abstractions. Americans may not know much about grand neocon theories, but they know those theories led us needlessly into Iraq, and they don't want to have anything more to do with them.

And the American people also know who started this war. They know that the reasons the Bush administration gave were false. And they know that the Bush team never really discussed whether the war was even necessary -- a fact confirmed once again by George Tenet's book. To expect people to swallow all that, and still make a commitment that Petraeus all but admitted could last for decades, is like asking them to keep following Gen. Custer into battle.

War supporters are counting on a certain level of John Wayne war-movie immaturity on the part of the American people, a Technicolor conviction that America is ordained to be, must be, eternally victorious. But Americans are more grown-up than that. They know America, like every other country, sometimes loses. Many of them lived through Vietnam, and they know that the sky did not fall. They are quite capable of weighing the pros and cons of the Iraq war and making a rational cost-benefit calculation about whether it's worth continuing to fight. They understand the concept of a tactical retreat, of cutting your losses, of losing a battle but winning the war.

Bush is talking like Churchill, but it's an empty act. He's a defeated man, searching for others to blame for his defeat. He's stalling, hoping for a miracle that will save him and his bungled war. But the end is coming. The only question is how many more people will have to die before it does.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The True Radicalism and Gross Deceit of the Bush administration.

A genuine political sea change?

The true radicalism and deceit of the Bush administration is now being revealed, and it has the potential to cause fundamental changes to American political opinion.

Glenn Greenwald

Apr. 28, 2007 | There were two seemingly unrelated incidents this week which, taken together, reflect some extremely important political developments.

First was the amazing letter to The Washington Post jointly sent by all 50 Democratic Senators other than Harry Reid -- written in response to, and in emphatic rejection of, David Broder's self-caricaturizing attack on Reid this week, where Broder condemned Reid's criticisms of the Leader and the War and equated him with Alberto Gonzales. The letter was signed by all 50 Democratic Senators -- each and every last one of them -- who stood behind Reid and, in effect, told David Broder that he and his previously revered High Broderism are completely out of touch and irrelevant.

When is the last time Democrats were so unified in their defiance of Wise Beltway Wisdom, which endlessly warns them not to adhere to their beliefs too steadfastly or to defy Republican decrees, especially on foreign policy?

The national media -- the World Ruled by Drudge, led around by and working in conjunction with the rest of the right-wing noise machine -- have tried mightily for months to depict Nancy Pelosi as weak and her leadership in chaos, and they try to do roughly the same with Harry Reid. Yet that has all been brushed aside, as the Democratic caucas in both the Senate and the House have been shockingly unified, not just once but continuously, in their defiance of both the Leader's will and the worthless Hiatt/Broder/Fox News "warnings" about "going too far" in opposing the war and the Leader.

The elected officials comprising the Democratic caucus are very politically diverse, characterized by widely disparate ideologies, varying amounts of political courage, and completely different calculations of self-interest. Yet virtually without exception, they have remained unified in their opposition to the war and the President even in the face of the Washington Establishment's painfully trite warnings that they must capitulate for their own good. That, standing alone, is a fundamental change, a sign that something has shifted profoundly.

One can view their efforts as insufficiently aggressive in stopping the war if one wants, but that is a different issue. Thus far, they have been shockingly smart (and resolute) about ignoring out-of-touch and corrupt Beltway pundit wisdom, and instead are paying far more attention to the prevailing anger among Americans towards the war, the President and his supporters.

And then there are the not-yet-fully-appreciated revelations in George Tenet's new (and unconscionably and unforgivably belated) book, one highly illustrative example of which was recounted today by Scott Shane in The New York Times:

In January 2002, George J. Tenet, the man who oversaw all American spy agencies, was asked by a visiting Italian intelligence official what he knew about United States officials making contact with exiled Iranian opposition figures.

"I shot a look at other members of my staff in the meeting," Mr. Tenet writes in his newly published memoir. "It was clear that none of us knew what he was talking about. The Italian quickly changed the subject."

The embarrassed Mr. Tenet, then director of central intelligence, had stumbled upon a quixotic effort by a few Pentagon officials working closely with a conservative Middle East specialist, Michael A. Ledeen, to meet with Iranian dissidents living abroad. It was neither the first nor the last time he would be surprised by intelligence efforts inside the Bush administration but outside official channels. . . .

Meanwhile, Mr. Tenet had learned about the contacts with Iranian exiles, organized by Mr. Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute and involving two Defense Department officials. They seemed to be in touch with, among others, Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian exile who had been a middleman in the Iran-contra affair in the 1980s and who the C.I.A. believed was completely unreliable.

"What we were hearing sounded like an off-the-books covert-action program trying to destabilize the Iranian government," Mr. Tenet writes, calling such a program "Son of Iran-contra."

It was prohibited for awhile to describe the work of the deceitful little neoconservative cabal in Washington which was at the center of the administration's efforts to knowingly churn out pure falsehoods in order to justify the invasion of Iraq -- an invasion which (Tenet is but the latest figure to reveal) was desired and planned by Dick Cheney and friends long before the 9/11 attacks.

But the truth can only be concealed for so long, and sooner or later, it is going to be absolutely clear just how corrupt and radical the dominant political force governing the Bush administration really has been. In the world of crazed neoconservative radicals, Michael Ledeen is the Gold Standard for pure reality-detachment and a belief in deceiving the American public in order to manipulate their support for the neoconservative agenda, and yet there he was -- Michael Ledeen -- at the center of the cabal which was shaping foreign policy and the Iraq war, operating in secret even from our CIA Director.

Taken together, these two seemingly unconnected incidents reveal: (a) just how radical, extremist and dishonest are the people who have been running this country for the last six years, the whole Bush-led neoconservative Republican edifice loyally supported by most of the "conservative" movement, and (b) outside of the hard-core Bush followers and the stuck-in-2002 Beltway media establishment, there is a rapidly growing recognition of (a) in this country, which is beginning to engender a very potent sea change in political opinion and political power.

And most critically of all, the joint forces of the Beltway media and the right-wing machine have been almost completely impotent in trying to stem the tide. No matter what they do, public anger with the president, his party and the war just continues to grow.

I wasn't planning on posting today, and fortunately, I don't really need to beyond these few paragraphs, because this comment last night from DCLaw1, in response to yesterday's post, perfectly describes what I think is the critical point:

Stewart on Moyers' Journal

I'm watching Moyers' Journal, and Jon Stewart is the guest, with Josh Marshall from TPM to follow. It's caused me to reflect on the fairly recent past, and I am getting an almost cellular sense that something very profound is beginning to bud.

I have to say that a remarkably intimate, yet expansive, community of thought seems to be forming across television, film, and the Internet. There's a rather quiet, yet intense, movement of thought and expression building. It focuses not so much on any particular ideology ("right" or "left"), but on a common, critical-mass thirst to dispel the deception, irrationality, and utter hubris that has been corroding our proud country for what seems like an eternity.

An undeniable intellectual and social confluence is rapidly gaining momentum and solidarity. This solidarity is amazingly organic, not hierarchical -- its only guide is the sixth sense of skepticism, outrage, and, yes, reason. It transcends party. It is oceanic, atmospheric. An intellectual, moral, societal, and psychological gestalt as ancient as humanity itself, kept underfoot by a long winter, but indelibly germinating once again with the thaw.

It is literally everywhere now. The voices of blindness and rage cannot shake me anymore. I haven't felt such hope in a very long time.

There are many issues and potential debates raised by this comment, but the crux of it, in my view, is absolutely right. And there is all kinds of evidence demonstrating it. I recommend reading the discussion prompted by this comment which ensued in the comment section yesterday.

This is the sea change America needs so profoundly, and there are many signs that it is emerging and growing in strength. The 2006 election -- a truly crushing defeat for the President's political movement -- was but a glimpse of it, and the amount of wrongdoing and sleaze that has been revealed in just three months of real Congressional oversight is but a small sampling of what is to come.

Most of what has occurred in this country under the Bush presidency has been effectively concealed -- mostly due to a broken, corrupt media and a malfeasant Congress -- but all of it is beginning to emerge, and the consequences will likely be as extreme as the corruption and deceit itself have been.

-- Glenn Greenwald

Thursday, April 26, 2007

dEALING WITH THE DEVIL, perspective by Marc Ash

Dealing With the Devil
By Marc Ash
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 26 April 2007

One hundred billion dollars. People often ask why we are in Iraq and why the war cannot be ended. One hundred billion dollars. With that kind of money flowing into the pockets of defense contractors and everyone connected to them, "the war" will continue indefinitely. For as long as the money flows, "the war" will continue.

Leaving Soldiers on the Battlefield

The Marines have a rule: they never, ever leave fallen Marines on the battlefield. No such call to honor and duty concerns our political leaders. Those now seeking the latest one hundred billion dollars say that the money is needed to support our troops. That is not true. Our troops have been abandoned in a foreign land, their only purpose, to justify another one hundred billion dollars, and another. The money itself becomes the rational for continuing the war.

This war has cut a deadly swath through the lives of the American service members ordered to fight it, and wrecked even greater devastation on Iraq. But it has laid waste to the careers of those who facilitated it politically as well. From Hillary Clinton to Rick Santorum, from John Kerry to John McCain, from Joe Lieberman to Donald Rumsfeld, the list goes on and on. The decision to support this war has proven costly time and time again for its political supporters.

Congressional leaders and experts say that "compromise" is in the offing, that by "working together" the White House and Congress can find a way to "work things out." But that's only the chorus - the lyrics in the background reveal a different message to Congress from the White House: "Don't get in the way of the one hundred billion dollars.'' And "don't do anything to end the party, now or at any time while this administration is in power."

"The clock is ticking for our troops," Mr. Bush pointed out last week. He continued, "The longer Congress delays, the worse the impact on the men and women of the Armed Forces will be." Those, in fact, are two deadly accurate statements. The clock is indeed ticking for our troops, and the longer Congress takes to act, the greater the impact on them and the Iraqi people will be.

The United States occupation of Iraq will end. The American armies like all occupying armies before them will leave Mesopotamia. This military action has no purpose other than the enrichment of private individuals exacting their will and lining their coffers with the blood of American service members, the Iraqi people and US taxpayer dollars.

These Decisions Matter

To those members of Congress who would view a compromise to continue what is now in the world's opinion an illegal and immoral military action, think again. If you are told that you can sanction crimes against humanity and be held harmless, think again. If you do not see the dismembered walking among us, look more closely. If you think that your country benefits from "staying the course," spend a few quiet moments at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. This is your Vietnam. These are all our sons and daughters. What will you do?

You can send comments to t r u t h o u t Executive Director Marc Ash at:


Thursday, April 19, 2007

WHAT IS PATRIOTISM? Zinn and Chomsky: worth reading and meditating.

Chomsky and Zinn on Patriotism in America
By Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!

Wednesday 18 April 2007

Democracy Now! was broadcasted from Boston on April 16, Patriots Day in Massachusetts - a state holiday to mark the start of the Revolutionary War. In a Democracy Now! special, Amy Goodman was joined by two of the city's leading dissidents, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.

Amy Goodman: What a day to be here. This is a day of the Boston Marathon. It is raining. It is a major storm outside and tens of thousands of people - were either of you planning to run today?

Zinn: Well we were, yes, but, you know -

Noam Chomsky: - but you really made it impossible for us.

Goodman: I'm sorry about that.

Zinn: We had a choice of running in the marathon or having an interview with you, what's more important?

Goodman: Well, today is Patriots Day, Howard Zinn, what does patriotism mean to you?

Zinn: I'm glad you said what it means to me. Because it means to me something different than it means to a lot of people I think who have distorted the idea of patriotism. Patriotism to me means doing what you think your country should be doing. Patriotism means supporting your government when you think it's doing right, opposing your government when you think it's doing wrong. Patriotism to me means really what the Declaration of Independence suggests. And that is that government is an artificial entity.

Government is set up - and here's what a Declaration of Independence is about - government is set up by the people in order to fulfill certain responsibilities: equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. And according to the Declaration of Independence, when the government violates those responsibilities, then, and these are the words of the Declaration of Independence, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government.

In other words, the government is not holy; the government is not to be obeyed when the government is wrong. So to me patriotism in its best sense means thinking about the people in the country, the principles for which the country stands for, and it requires opposing the government when the government violates those principles.

So today, for instance, the highest act of patriotism, I suggest, would be opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Simply because everything about the war violates the fundamental principles of equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, not just for Americans, but for people in another part of the world. So, yes, patriotism today requires citizens to be active on many, many different fronts to oppose government policies on the war, government policies that have taken trillions of dollars from this country's treasury and used it for war and militarism. That's what patriotism would require today.

Goodman: Noam Chomsky, the headlines today, just this weekend, one of the bloodiest months in Iraq. The number of prisoners in U.S. Jails in Iraq has reached something like 18,000. Who knows if that's not an underestimate? An Associated Press photographer remains in jail imprisoned by U.S. authorities without charge for more than a year. The health ministry has found 70 percent of Baghdad schoolchildren showing symptoms of trauma-related stress. Your assessment now of the situation there?

Chomsky: This is one of the worst catastrophes in military history and also in political history. The most recent studies of the Red Cross show that Iraq has suffered the worst decline in child mortality, infant mortality, an increase in infant mortality known. But it's since 1990. That is, it's a combination of the affect of the murderers' and brutal sanctions regime, which we don't talk much about, which devastated society through the 1990s and strengthened Saddam Hussein, compelled the population to rely on him for survival, which probably saved him from the fate of a whole long series of other tyrants who were overthrown by their own people supported by the U.S.

And then came the war on top of it which has simply increased the horrors. The decline is unprecedented. The increase in infant mortality is unprecedented; it's now below the level of, worse than some of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It's one index of what's happened. The most probable measure of deaths in a study sponsored by M.I.T., incidentally carried out by leading specialists in Iraq and here last October, was about 650,000 killed, soon to be pushing a million. There are several million people [who have] fled, including the large part of the professional classes, people who could in principle help rebuild the country. And without going on, it's a hideous catastrophe and getting worse.

It's also worth stressing that aggressors do not have any rights. This is a clear-cut case of aggression and violation of the U.N. Charter, a supreme international crime and, in the words of the Nuremburg Tribunal, aggressors simply have no rights to make any decisions. They have responsibilities. The responsibilities are, first of all to pay enormous reparations and that includes for the sanctions - the effect of the sanctions - in fact it ought to include the support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, which was torture for Iraqis and worse for Iranians.

The paid reparations hold those responsible accountable and attend to the will of the victims. It doesn't necessarily mean follow blindly but certainly attend to it. And the will of the victims is known, the regular U.S.-run polls in Iraq, and the government polling institutions, it's just an overwhelming support for either immediate or quick withdrawal of U.S. troops, about 80 percent think that the presence of U.S. troops increases the level of violence. Over 60 percent think that troops are legitimate targets. This isn't for all of Iraq. If you take the figures of Arab Iraq where the troops are actually deployed, the figures are higher. The figures keep going up. They're unmentioned, virtually unreported, scarcely alluded to in the Baker-Hamilton critical report. That'll be our primary concern, along with the concerns of the Americans.

Goodman: Vice President Cheney is saying this war can be won.

Chomsky: There's an interesting study being done right now by a former Russian soldier in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He's now a student in Toronto who's comparing the Russian press and the Russian political figures and military leaders, what they were saying about Afghanistan, comparing it with what Cheney, others and the press are saying about Iraq and not to your great surprise, change a few names and it comes out about the same.

They were also saying the war in Afghanistan could be won and they were right. If they had increased the level of violence sufficiently, they could have won the war in Iraq - in Afghanistan. They're also pointing out - of course they describe correctly the heroism of the Russian troops, the efforts to bring assistance to the poor people of Afghanistan, to protect them from U.S.-run Islamic fundamentalist terrorist forces, the dedication, the rights they have won for the people in Afghanistan, and the warning that if they pull out it will be total disaster, mayhem, they must stay and win.

Unfortunately, they were right about that too. When they did pull out, it was a total disaster. The U.S.-backed forces tore the place to shreds, so terrible that the people even welcomed the Taliban when they came in. So, yes, those arguments can always be given. The Germans could have argued if they had the force that they didn't, that they could have won the Second World War. I mean the question is not can you win. The question is should you be there.

Goodman: You say and talk about Afghanistan, sure the Russians could have won if they had - could have - tolerated the level of violence. What are you saying about Iraq? Do you feel the same way?

Chomsky: It depends on what you mean by win. The United States certainly has the capacity to wipe the country out. If that's winning, yeah, you can win. It's - in terms of the goals that the United States attempted to achieve, the U.S. government, not the United States, to install a client regime, which would be obedient to the United States, which would permit military bases, which would allow U.S. and British corporations to control the energy resources and so on, in terms of achieving that goal, I don't know if they can achieve that. But that they could destroy the country, that's beyond question.

Goodman: We're talking to Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, on this Patriots Day that is celebrated in Massachusetts. We're in Boston, Massachusetts, and we'll be back with them in a min.

Goodman: As we continue today, talking about the state of the world with two of the leading dissidents here in this country, Howard Zinn, legendary historian, author of many books, "The People's History of the United States," as well as - his latest is "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress." We're also joined by Noam Chomsky, linguist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His latest book is "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy." Howard, you went to North Vietnam. Can you talk about how the Vietnam War ended, and also your experience there? Why you went?

Zinn: Well, I went to North Vietnam in early 1968 with Father Daniel Berrigan and the two of us went actually at the request of the North Vietnamese government who were going to release the first three airmen prisoners, American fliers who were in prison in North Vietnam and the North Vietnamese wanted to release them on the Tet holiday, also the Tet Offensive, sort of as a gesture, I suppose as a goodwill gesture, and they asked for representatives of the American peace movement, so Daniel Berrigan and I went to Hanoi for that reason.

And of course it was an educational experience for us. Noam was talking about in response to your question about victory and winning. And the question is, of course, why should we win if winning means destroying a country? And there's still people who say, oh, we could have won the Vietnam War, as if the question was, you know, can we win or can we lose, instead of what are we doing to these people.

And, yes, Noam said, yes, we could win in Iraq by destroying all of Iraq. The Russians could have won Afghanistan by destroying all of Afghanistan. We could have won in Vietnam by dropping nuclear bombs instead of killing two million people in Vietnam, killing 10 million people in Vietnam. And that would be considered victory, who would take satisfaction in that?

What we saw in Vietnam is, I think, what people are seeing in Iraq. And that is huge numbers of people dying for no reason at all. What we saw in Vietnam was the American army being sent halfway around the world to a country, which was not threatening us, and we were destroying the people in the country. And here in Iraq, we're going the other way, we're also going halfway around the world to do the same thing to them. And our experience in Iraq contradicted as I think the experiences of people who are on the ground in Iraq contradicted again and again the statements of American officials.

The statements of the high military, statements like, oh, we're only bombing military targets. Oh, these are accidents when so many civilians are killed. And, yes, as Cheney said, victory is around the corner. What we saw in Vietnam was horrifying. And it was obviously horrifying even to GIs in Vietnam because they began to come back from Vietnam and oppose the war, and formed Vietnam Veterans against the war.

We saw villages as far away from any military target as you can imagine, absolutely destroyed. And children killed and their graves still fresh by American jet planes coming over in the middle of the night. When I hear them talk about John McCain as a hero, I say to myself, oh, yeah, he was a prisoner and prisoners are maltreated and everywhere and this is terrible. But John McCain, like the other American fliers, what were they doing? They were bombing defenseless people. And so, yes Vietnam is something that by the way, is still not taught very well in American schools. I spoke to a group of people in an advanced history class not long ago, 100 kids, asked them how many people here have heard of the My Lai Massacre? No hand was raised. We are not teaching - if we were teaching the history of Vietnam as it should be taught, then the American people from the start would have opposed the war instead of waiting three or four years for a majority of the American people to declare their opposition to the war.

Goodman: Noam Chomsky, you went to Cambodia after the bombing.

Chomsky: I went to Laos and North Vietnam.

Goodman: When and why?

Chomsky: Two years after Howard, early 1970. I spent the week in Laos. A very moving week. Happened to be in Laos right after the CIA mercenary army had cleared out about 30,000 people from the Plain of Jarres area in Northern Laos, where they had been subjected to what was then the most fierce bombing in human history. It was exceeded shortly after by Cambodia. These are poor peasant society, probably most of them didn't even know they were in Laos. There was nothing there. The planes were sent there because the bombing of North Vietnam had been temporarily stopped, and there was nothing for the air force to do so they bombed Laos. They had been living in caves for over two years trying to farm at night. They had finally been driven out by the mercenary army to the surroundings of Vientien.

And I spent a lot of time interviewing refugees with Fred Branfman, who did heroic work in bringing this story finally to the American people. And so more interesting things in Laos. Then I went to North Vietnam, also where Howard had been invited by the government, but I was actually invited to teach. It was a bombing pause, a short bombing pause, and they were able to bring people in from outlying areas back to Hanoi and the Polytechnic University, or what was left of it, the ruins of the Polytechnic University. And I came and lectured on just about anything that I knew anything about - these are people who had been out of touch with the faculty, students, others who had been out of touch with the world for five years, and they asked me everything from what's Norman Mailer writing these days, to technical questions and linguistics and mathematics, whatever else I could say anything about.

I also traveled around a little bit, not very much, but for a few days. But enough to see what Howard described, right close to Hanoi, I never got very far away, which was the most protected area because in Hanoi there were embassies and journalists, so the bombing of the city was nothing like what it was much farther away. But even there you could see the ruins of villages, the shell of the major hospital in Thanh Hoa, which had been bombed by accident of course. Areas that were just moonscapes, where there had been villages in an effort to destroy a bridge and so on. So that those were my two weeks in Laos and North Vietnam.

Goodman: You were a linguistics professor at MIT at the time?

Chomsky: Yes.

Goodman: So, why did you go? What drove you to? And, what was the response here at home?

Chomsky: Well, I was able to - and actually I had intended to go only for one week to North Vietnam. But - if you really want to know the details - the U.N. bureaucrat in Laos who was organizing flights was a very bored Indian bureaucrat who had nothing to do, and apparently his only joy in the world was making things difficult for people who wanted to do something, not untypical. And fortunately for me, he made it difficult for me and my companions, Doug Dowd and Dick Fernandez to go to North Vietnam. So I had a week in Laos, which was an extremely valuable week. I wrote about it in some detail. But, I was teaching at the time, I was to be away, it was a vacation week, so actually I taught linguistics at the Polytechnic University.

Goodman: What about the opposition here at home and your level of protest at MIT? What did you do?

Chomsky: Well, MIT was a curious situation. I happened to be working in the laboratory, which was 100 percent supported by the three armed services, but it was also one of the centers of the anti-war resistance. Starting in 1965, along with an artist friend in Boston, Harold Tovish, we organized, tried to organize national tax resistance, this was 1965. Like Howard, I was giving talks, taking part in demonstrations, getting arrested.

By 1966 we were becoming involved directly in support for a draft resistance, helping deserters and others. That just continued - it's worth remembering. One often hears today justified complaints about how little protest there is against the war in Iraq, but that's very misleading. And here is, as Howard was saying, a little sense of history is useful.

The protest against the war in Iraq is far beyond the protest against Vietnam on any comparable level. Large-scale protest against the war in Vietnam did not begin until there were several hundred thousand U.S. troops in South Vietnam.The country had been virtually destroyed, the bombing had been extended to the north, to Laos, soon to Cambodia, where incidentally we have just learned - or rather, we haven't learned, but we could learn if we had a free press - that the bombing in Cambodia, which is known to be horrendous, was actually five times as high as was reported, greater than the entire allied bombing in all of World War II on a defenseless peasant society, which turned peasants into enraged fanatics. During those years the Khmer Rouge grew from nothing, a few thousand scattered people to hundreds of thousands, and that led to the part of Cambodia that we're allowed to think about.

But the real protest against the war in Vietnam came at a period far beyond what has yet been reached in Iraq. First few years of the war, there was almost nothing. So little protest that virtually nobody in the United States even knows when the war began. Kennedy invaded South Vietnam in 1962. That was after seven years of efforts to impose a Latin American-style terror state, which had killed tens of thousands of people and elicited resistance.

In 1962, Kennedy sent the U.S. Air Force to start bombing South Vietnam, under South Vietnamese markings - but nobody was deluded by that - initiated chemical warfare to destroy crops and ground cover, and started programs which rounded openly millions of people into what amounted to concentration camps, called strategic hamlets, where they were surrounded by barbed wire to protect them as it was said from the guerrillas, who everyone knew they were voluntarily supporting, an indigenous South Vietnamese resistance. That was 1962.

You couldn't get two people in a living room to talk about it in October 1965, right here in Boston, maybe the most liberal city in the country. There were then already a couple hundred thousand troops, bombing North Vietnam had started. We tried to have our first major public demonstration against the war on the Boston Common, the usual place for meetings. I was supposed to be one of the speakers, but nobody could hear a word. The meeting was totally broken up by students marching over from universities, by others, and hundreds of state police, which kept people from being murdered. The next day's newspaper, the Boston Globe, the world newspaper was full of denunciations of the people who dared make mild statements about bombing the North.

In fact right through the protests, which did reach a substantial scale and were really significant, especially the resistance, it was mostly directed against the war in North Vietnam. The attack on South Vietnam was mostly ignored. Incidentally the same is true of government planning. We know about that from the Pentagon Papers and the subsequent documents - there was meticulous planning about the bombing of the North. Where should you bomb? And how far should you go? And so on. Bombing of the South - in the internal documents, there's almost nothing. There's a simple reason for it. The bombing of the South was costless. Nobody's going to shoot you down. Nobody's going to complain. Do whatever you want. Wipe the place out. Which is pretty much what happened.

North Vietnam was dangerous. You could hit Russian ships in harbor. As I said there were embassies in Hanoi where people could report that you were bombing an internal Chinese railroad that happened to pass through North Vietnam. So there could be international repercussions and costs, so therefore, it was very carefully calibrated. If you look at, say, Robert McNamara's memoirs, lots of discussion of the bombing of North Vietnam, virtually nothing about the bombing of South Vietnam. Which even in 1965, was triple the scale of the bombing of the North, and it had been going on for years. Now there is a great deal more protest.

There actually one interesting illustration, I'll end with that, Arthur Schlesinger, best known American historian, in the case of Vietnam, the early years he supported it. In fact if you read his Thousand Days, story of the Kennedy administration, it's barely mentioned except for the wonderful things that's happening. By 1966, as there was beginning to be concern about the costs of the war, we were reaching situations rather like a lead opinion today about Iraq: It's too costly, we might not be able to win, and so on. Schlesinger wrote, I'm almost quoting, that we all pray that the hawks will be right in believing that more troops will allow us to win. And if they are right, we'll be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a war in Vietnam after turning the land - turning it into a land of ruin and wreck. So we'll be praising their wisdom and statesmanship, but it probably won't work. You can translate that into today's commentaries, which are called the doves.

On the other hand, greatly to his credit, when the bombing of Iraq started, Schlesinger took the strongest position of anyone I've seen, of condemnation of it. First stated so strong that it wasn't, almost never - didn't appear in the press and I haven't heard a word about it since. As the line began he said this is a date, which will live in infamy. And he recalled President Roosevelt's words at Pearl Harbor, a date that will live in infamy because the United States is following the path of the Japanese fascists, a pretty strong statement. I think that sort of reflects a difference you see in public attitudes too. Opposition to aggression is far higher than it was in the '60s.

Goodman: Howard Zinn, how did Vietnam end, the war end, and what are the parallels that you see today? Do you see parallels today?

Zinn: Well, I suppose if you believe that Henry Kissinger deserved the Nobel Prize, you would think that the war ended, because Henry Kissinger went to Paris and negotiated with the Vietnamese. But the war ended, I think, because finally after that slow buildup of protests, I think the war ended because the protests in the United States reached a crescendo, which couldn't be ignored. And because the GIs coming home were turning against the war, and because soldiers in the field were - well, they were throwing grenades under the officers' tents, the "Fragging Phenomenon." There's a book called "Soldiers in Revolt" by a man named David Cortright, and he details how much dissidence there was, how much opposition to the war there was among soldiers in Vietnam and how this was manifested in their behavior and desertions, a huge number of desertions. And essentially the government of the United States found it impossible to continue the war. The ROTC chapters were closing down.

In some ways, it's similar to the situation now where the government in Iraq, the government is finding, our government is finding that we don't have enough soldiers to fight the war. So they're sending them back again and again. And where they're recruiting sergeants here in the United States, they're going to enormous lengths, lying to young people about what will await them and what benefits they will get. The government is desperate to maintain the military force today in Iraq. And I think in Vietnam, this dissidence among the military, and its inability to really carry on the war militarily, was a crucial factor. Of course, along with the fact, we simply could not defeat the Vietnamese resistance. And resistance movements - and this is what we are finding out in Iraq today - resistance movements against a foreign aggressor, they will get very desperate, they will not give in. And the resistance movement in Vietnam would not surrender.

And so, the U.S. government found it obviously impossible to win without, yes, dropping nuclear bombs, destroying the country and making it clear to the world that the United States was an outlaw nation and impossible to hold the support of the people at home. And so, yes, we finally did what a number of us had been asking for many, many years to withdraw from Vietnam and the same arguments were made at that time. That is, when we called in 1967, well, I wrote a book in 1967 called "Vietnam, the Logic of Withdrawal," and the reaction to that was, you know, we can't withdraw. It will be terrible if we withdraw. There will be civil war if we withdraw. There will be a bloodbath if we withdraw. And so we didn't withdraw and the war went on for another six years, another eight years, six years for the Americans to withdraw, eight years totally. The war went on and on, and another 20,000 Americans were killed. Another million Vietnamese were killed.

And when we finally withdrew, there was no bloodbath. I mean it wasn't that everything was fine when we withdrew, and there were reeducation camps set up, and the Chinese people were driven out of Hanoi on boats, so it wasn't. But the point is that there was no bloodbath, the bloodbath was what we were doing in Vietnam. Just as today when they say, oh, there will be civil war, there will be chaos if we withdraw from Iraq. There is civil war, there is chaos, and no one is pointing out what we have done to Iraq. Two million people driven from their homes and children in dire straits, no water, no food. And so the remembrance of Vietnam is important if we are going to make it clear that we must withdraw from Iraq and find another way, not for the United States, for some international group, preferably a group composed mostly of representatives of Arab nations to come into Iraq and help mediate whatever strife there is among the various fractions in Iraq. But certainly the absolute necessary first step in Iraq now is what we should have done in Vietnam in 1967, and that is simply get out as fast as ships and planes can carry us out.

Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, the war and peace report. I'm Amy Goodman. My guests here in Boston, as we broadcast from Massachusetts on this Patriots Day, are Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Howard Zinn, a legendary historian. Taught at Spellman for years until he was forced out because he took the side of the young women students and then went to Boston University and only recently, in the last few years, was given - what - given an honorary degree by Spellman?

Zinn: Yes.

Goodman: Did you feel vindicated?

Zinn: I always feel vindicated.

Goodman: Noam Chomsky, what did you think of Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, third in line in succession for the presidency after Dick Cheney, going to Syria together with the first Muslim Congress member in the United States, Keith Ellison from Minneapolis?

Chomsky: The only thing wrong with it was that it was the third person in line. I mean, if the United States government were sincerely interested in bringing about some measure of peace, prosperity, stability in the region instead of dominating it by force, now they would of course be dealing with Syria and with Iran. Pretty much the way the Baker-Hamilton report proposed except beyond what they proposed because they proposed, they should be dealing with it in matters concerning with Iraq. But there are regional issues. In the case of Syria, there are issues related to Syria itself, but also to Lebanon and to Israel. Israel is in control of, in fact has annexed in violation of Security Council orders, has annexed a large part of Syrian territory, the Golan Heights. Syria is making it very clear that they are interested in a peace settlement with Israel, which would involve, as it should, the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from occupied territories.

Goodman: Are there secret negotiations going on between Israel and Syria now?

Chomsky: You never know what's going on in secret. But so far Israel has been flatly refusing any negotiations. In fact, the only debate that's going on now is whether it's the United States that's pressuring Israel or Israel is pressuring the United States to prevent negotiations on the Golan Heights and in fact on the occupied territories all together. This is called a very contentious issue, Israel-Palestine, which is kind of surprising. It's a contentious issue only in the United States, and even not among the American population. It's a contentious issue because the U.S. government and the Israeli government are blocking a very broad international consensus, which has almost universal support, even the majority of Americans and which has been on the table for about 30 years, blocked by the U.S. and Israel. And everyone knows who's involved in this, what the general framework for a settlement is.

It was put on the - it was brought to the Security Council in 1976, by the Arab states, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, the so-called confrontation states, and the other Arab states. They proposed a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, a settlement, which included the wording of U.N.-242, the first major resolution, recognition of the right of each state in the region to exist in peace and security within secure and recognized boundaries, that would include Israel and a Palestinian state. It was vetoed by the United States, and a similar resolution vetoed in 1980.

I won't run through the whole history, but throughout this whole history, with temporary and rare exceptions, there is a couple here and here, the U.S. has simply blocked the settlement and still does, and Israel rejects it. Sometimes it's dramatic. In 1988, the Palestinian National Council, their governing body, formally accepted a two-state settlement. They tacitly accepted it before. There was a reaction from Israel immediately; it was a coalition government, Shimon Perez, Yitzhak Shamir. Their reaction was, quoting, that "there cannot be an additional Palestinian state between Jordan and Israel." An additional implying that Jordan already is a Palestinian state, so there can't be another one, and the fate of the territories will be settled according to the guidelines of the state of Israel. Shortly after that, the Bush No. 1 administration totally endorsed that proposal - that was the Baker plan, James Baker plan of December 1989 - fully endorsed that proposal, extreme rejectionism.

And so it continues with rare exceptions, just moving to today, the Arab league proposal has been reintroduced. It's 2002, but they brought it up again a couple of weeks ago. That goes even further. It calls for full normalization of relations with Israel within the framework of the international consensus on a two-state settlement, which might involve to use official U.S. terminology from far back, minor and mutual modifications, like straightening out the border, or in other words in the wrong place or something. And then there are technicalities to be resolved, plenty of them.

But that's the basic framework, supported by the Arab world, by Europe, by the nonaligned countries, Latin America and others. It is supported by Iran, it doesn't get reported here. One loves Ahmadinejad's crazed statements, but do not report the statements of his superior, Ayatollah Khameni who's in charge of international affairs - Ahmadinejad doesn't have anything to do with it - who has declared a couple of times that Iran supports the Arab league position. Hezbollah in Lebanon has made it clear that they don't like it; they don't believe in recognizing Israel, but if the Palestinians accept it, they will not disrupt it. They are a Lebanese organization. And Hamas has said, they would accept the Arab League consensus. That leaves the United States and Israel in splendid isolation, even more so than in the past 30 years in rejecting a political settlement. So it's contentious in a sense, but not in that there's no way to resolve it. We know how to resolve it.

Goodman: Do you think it will change?

Chomsky: It depends on people here. If the majority of the American population, who also accept this, decide to do something about it, yeah, it will change.

Goodman: Do you think it's changing, for example, with Carter's book coming out?

Chomsky: I think it's one of the signs of change, and there are many others. Or is it just a change mood in the country, I mean, anybody who's been giving talks about this just knows it from personal experience. I mean not very long ago, if I was giving a talk on the Middle East, I mean, even at MIT, there would be armed police present, or at least undercover police to prevent violence, disruption, breakup of meetings and so on. That's a thing of the past. By now it's much easier to talk about this. Actually, Carter's book is quite interesting. Carter's book was essentially repeating what is known around the world.

Goodman: "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

Chomsky: Yeah. He - there were a couple of errors in the book. They were ignored. The only serious error in the book, which a fact checker should have picked up, is that Carter accepted a kind of party line on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Israel invaded Lebanon and killed maybe 15,000-20,000 people and destroyed much of southern Lebanon. They were able to do it because the Reagan administration vetoed Security Council resolutions and supported them and so on.

The claim here, you know, you read Thomas Friedman or someone, is that Israel invaded in response to shelling of the Galilee from - by Palestinians, Palestinian terror attacks. And Carter repeats that; it is not true. There was the border, there was a cease-fire. The Palestinians observed it despite regular Israeli attempts, something as heavy bombing and others to elicit some response that would be a pretext to the planned invasion. When there was no pretext, they invaded anyway. That's the only serious error in the book, ignored. There are some very valuable things in the book, also ignored. One of them, perhaps the most important is that Carter is the first, I think, in the mainstream in the United States to report what was known in dissident circles and talked about, namely that the famous road map, which the quartet suggested as steps towards settlement of the problem - the road map was instantly rejected by Israel.


Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program Democracy Now!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More White House Spin on Attorney Firings

he Fantasy Behind the Scandal
The New York Times | Editorial

Sunday 15 April 2007

The more we learn about the White House's purge of United States attorneys, the more a single thread runs through it: the Bush administration's campaign to transform the minor problem of voter fraud into a supposed national scourge.

When the public first learned about the firing of eight United States attorneys, administration officials piously declared that many of the prosecutors had ill served the public by failing to aggressively pursue voter fraud cases (against Democrats, naturally). But the more we examine this issue, the more ludicrous those claims seem.

Last week, we learned that the administration edited a government-ordered report on voter fraud to support its fantasy. The original version concluded that among experts "there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud." But the publicly released version said, "There is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud." It's hard to see that as anything but a deliberate effort to mislead the public.

Sound familiar? In President Bush's first term, a White House official, who had been the oil industry's front man in trying to discredit the science of global warming, repeatedly edited government reports to play down links between climate change and greenhouse gases. And then there was the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which turned reports on old, dubious and false tales about weapons of mass destruction into warnings of clear, present and supposedly mortal dangers.

It's obvious why the Bush administration would edit those documents, but why the voting report? Because charges of voter fraud are a key component of the Republican electoral strategy. If the public believes there are rampant efforts to vote fraudulently, or to register voters improperly, it increases support for measures like special voter ID's, which work against the poor, the elderly, minorities and other disenfranchised groups that tend to support Democrats. Claims of rampant voter fraud also give the administration an excuse to cut back prosecutions of the real problem: officials who block voters' access to the polls.

There is one big catch, as Eric Lipton and Ian Urbina reported in The Times last week. After a five-year crackdown, the Justice Department has not turned up any evidence that voter fraud actually is a problem. Only 86 people were convicted of voter fraud crimes as of last year - most of them Democrats and many on trivial, trumped-up charges.

The Bush administration was so determined to pursue this phantom scourge that it deported a legal Florida resident back to his native Pakistan for mistakenly filling out a voter registration card when he renewed his driver's license. And it may well have decided to fire most of the eight federal prosecutors because they would not play along.

It is vital that Congress get to the truth about these firings. Last week, the Republican National Committee threw up another roadblock, claiming it had lost four years' worth of e-mail messages by Karl Rove that were sent on a Republican Party account. Those messages, officials admitted, could include some about the United States attorneys. It is virtually impossible to erase e-mail messages fully, and the claims that they are gone are not credible.

The only solution is to get these issues out into the open. It is good that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will finally testify in the Senate this week. But Mr. Rove, who seems to be at the heart of this affair, should also be required to testify under oath - and in public. Even the Wizard of Oz eventually came out from behind the curtain.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Need for a Green Environmental Revolution, Friedman, NY TImes, continued.

WARNING: This is a long post. I post all of it here as I suggest all of it is important, and the author has put a great deal of thinking, global thinking, into this presentation.

After World War II, President Eisenhower responded to the threat of Communism and the “red menace” with massive spending on an interstate highway system to tie America together, in large part so that we could better move weapons in the event of a war with the Soviets. That highway system, though, helped to enshrine America’s car culture (atrophying our railroads) and to lock in suburban sprawl and low-density housing, which all combined to get America addicted to cheap fossil fuels, particularly oil. Many in the world followed our model.

Today, we are paying the accumulated economic, geopolitical and climate prices for that kind of America. I am not proposing that we radically alter our lifestyles. We are who we are — including a car culture. But if we want to continue to be who we are, enjoy the benefits and be able to pass them on to our children, we do need to fuel our future in a cleaner, greener way. Eisenhower rallied us with the red menace. The next president will have to rally us with a green patriotism. Hence my motto: “Green is the new red, white and blue.”

The good news is that after traveling around America this past year, looking at how we use energy and the emerging alternatives, I can report that green really has gone Main Street — thanks to the perfect storm created by 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Internet revolution. The first flattened the twin towers, the second flattened New Orleans and the third flattened the global economic playing field. The convergence of all three has turned many of our previous assumptions about “green” upside down in a very short period of time, making it much more compelling to many more Americans.

But here’s the bad news: While green has hit Main Street — more Americans than ever now identify themselves as greens, or what I call “Geo-Greens” to differentiate their more muscular and strategic green ideology — green has not gone very far down Main Street. It certainly has not gone anywhere near the distance required to preserve our lifestyle. The dirty little secret is that we’re fooling ourselves. We in America talk like we’re already “the greenest generation,” as the business writer Dan Pink once called it. But here’s the really inconvenient truth: We have not even begun to be serious about the costs, the effort and the scale of change that will be required to shift our country, and eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free energy infrastructure over the next 50 years.


A few weeks after American forces invaded Afghanistan, I visited the Pakistani frontier town of Peshawar, a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. On the way, I stopped at the famous Darul Uloom Haqqania, the biggest madrasa, or Islamic school, in Pakistan, with 2,800 live-in students. The Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar attended this madrasa as a younger man. My Pakistani friend and I were allowed to observe a class of young boys who sat on the floor, practicing their rote learning of the Koran from texts perched on wooden holders. The air in the Koran class was so thick and stale it felt as if you could have cut it into blocks. The teacher asked an 8-year-old boy to chant a Koranic verse for us, which he did with the elegance of an experienced muezzin. I asked another student, an Afghan refugee, Rahim Kunduz, age 12, what his reaction was to the Sept. 11 attacks, and he said: “Most likely the attack came from Americans inside America. I am pleased that America has had to face pain, because the rest of the world has tasted its pain.” A framed sign on the wall said this room was “A gift of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Sometime after 9/11 — an unprovoked mass murder perpetrated by 19 men, 15 of whom were Saudis — green went geostrategic, as Americans started to realize we were financing both sides in the war on terrorism. We were financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars; and we were financing a transformation of Islam, in favor of its most intolerant strand, with our gasoline purchases. How stupid is that?

Islam has always been practiced in different forms. Some are more embracing of modernity, reinterpretation of the Koran and tolerance of other faiths, like Sufi Islam or the populist Islam of Egypt, Ottoman Turkey and Indonesia. Some strands, like Salafi Islam — followed by the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and by Al Qaeda — believe Islam should be returned to an austere form practiced in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, a form hostile to modernity, science, “infidels” and women’s rights. By enriching the Saudi and Iranian treasuries via our gasoline purchases, we are financing the export of the Saudi puritanical brand of Sunni Islam and the Iranian fundamentalist brand of Shiite Islam, tilting the Muslim world in a more intolerant direction. At the Muslim fringe, this creates more recruits for the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Sunni suicide bomb squads of Iraq; at the Muslim center, it creates a much bigger constituency of people who applaud suicide bombers as martyrs.

The Saudi Islamic export drive first went into high gear after extreme fundamentalists challenged the Muslim credentials of the Saudi ruling family by taking over the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 1979 — a year that coincided with the Iranian revolution and a huge rise in oil prices. The attack on the Grand Mosque by these Koran-and-rifle-wielding Islamic militants shook the Saudi ruling family to its core. The al-Sauds responded to this challenge to their religious bona fides by becoming outwardly more religious. They gave their official Wahhabi religious establishment even more power to impose Islam on public life. Awash in cash thanks to the spike in oil prices, the Saudi government and charities also spent hundreds of millions of dollars endowing mosques, youth clubs and Muslim schools all over the world, ensuring that Wahhabi imams, teachers and textbooks would preach Saudi-style Islam. Eventually, notes Lawrence Wright in “The Looming Tower,” his history of Al Qaeda, “Saudi Arabia, which constitutes only 1 percent of the world Muslim population, would support 90 percent of the expenses of the entire faith, overriding other traditions of Islam.”

Saudi mosques and wealthy donors have also funneled cash to the Sunni insurgents in Iraq. The Associated Press reported from Cairo in December: “Several drivers interviewed by the A.P. in Middle East capitals said Saudis have been using religious events, like the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and a smaller pilgrimage, as cover for illicit money transfers. Some money, they said, is carried into Iraq on buses with returning pilgrims. ‘They sent boxes full of dollars and asked me to deliver them to certain addresses in Iraq,’ said one driver. ... ‘I know it is being sent to the resistance, and if I don’t take it with me, they will kill me.’ ”

No wonder more Americans have concluded that conserving oil to put less money in the hands of hostile forces is now a geostrategic imperative. President Bush’s refusal to do anything meaningful after 9/11 to reduce our gasoline usage really amounts to a policy of “No Mullah Left Behind.” James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, minces no words: “We are funding the rope for the hanging of ourselves.”

No, I don’t want to bankrupt Saudi Arabia or trigger an Islamist revolt there. Its leadership is more moderate and pro-Western than its people. But the way the Saudi ruling family has bought off its religious establishment, in order to stay in power, is not healthy. Cutting the price of oil in half would help change that. In the 1990s, dwindling oil income sparked a Saudi debate about less Koran and more science in Saudi schools, even experimentation with local elections. But the recent oil windfall has stilled all talk of reform.

That is because of what I call the First Law of Petropolitics: The price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in states that are highly dependent on oil exports for their income and have weak institutions or outright authoritarian governments. And this is another reason that green has become geostrategic. Soaring oil prices are poisoning the international system by strengthening antidemocratic regimes around the globe.

Look what’s happened: We thought the fall of the Berlin Wall was going to unleash an unstoppable tide of free markets and free people, and for about a decade it did just that. But those years coincided with oil in the $10-to-$30-a-barrel range. As the price of oil surged into the $30-to-$70 range in the early 2000s, it triggered a countertide — a tide of petroauthoritarianism — manifested in Russia, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Chad, Angola, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The elected or self-appointed elites running these states have used their oil windfalls to ensconce themselves in power, buy off opponents and counter the fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall tide. If we continue to finance them with our oil purchases, they will reshape the world in their image, around Putin-like values.

You can illustrate the First Law of Petropolitics with a simple graph. On one line chart the price of oil from 1979 to the present; on another line chart the Freedom House or Fraser Institute freedom indexes for Russia, Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela for the same years. When you put these two lines on the same graph you see something striking: the price of oil and the pace of freedom are inversely correlated. As oil prices went down in the early 1990s, competition, transparency, political participation and accountability of those in office all tended to go up in these countries — as measured by free elections held, newspapers opened, reformers elected, economic reform projects started and companies privatized. That’s because their petroauthoritarian regimes had to open themselves to foreign investment and educate and empower their people more in order to earn income. But as oil prices went up around 2000, free speech, free press, fair elections and freedom to form political parties and NGOs all eroded in these countries.

The motto of the American Revolution was “no taxation without representation.” The motto of the petroauthoritarians is “no representation without taxation”: If I don’t have to tax you, because I can get all the money I need from oil wells, I don’t have to listen to you.

It is no accident that when oil prices were low in the 1990s, Iran elected a reformist Parliament and a president who called for a “dialogue of civilizations.” And when oil prices soared to $70 a barrel, Iran’s conservatives pushed out the reformers and ensconced a president who says the Holocaust is a myth. (I promise you, if oil prices drop to $25 a barrel, the Holocaust won’t be a myth anymore.) And it is no accident that the first Arab Gulf state to start running out of oil, Bahrain, is also the first Arab Gulf state to have held a free and fair election in which women could run and vote, the first Arab Gulf state to overhaul its labor laws to make more of its own people employable and the first Arab Gulf state to sign a free-trade agreement with America.

People change when they have to — not when we tell them to — and falling oil prices make them have to. That is why if we are looking for a Plan B for Iraq — a way of pressing for political reform in the Middle East without going to war again — there is no better tool than bringing down the price of oil. When it comes to fostering democracy among petroauthoritarians, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a neocon or a radical lib. If you’re not also a Geo-Green, you won’t succeed.

The notion that conserving energy is a geostrategic imperative has also moved into the Pentagon, for slightly different reasons. Generals are realizing that the more energy they save in the heat of battle, the more power they can project. The Pentagon has been looking to improve its energy efficiency for several years now to save money. But the Iraq war has given birth to a new movement in the U.S. military: the “Green Hawks.”

As Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who has been working with the Pentagon, put it to me: The Iraq war forced the U.S. military to think much more seriously about how to “eat its tail” — to shorten its energy supply lines by becoming more energy efficient. According to Dan Nolan, who oversees energy projects for the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, it started last year when a Marine major general in Anbar Province told the Pentagon he wanted better-insulated, more energy-efficient tents in the Iraqi desert. Why? His air-conditioners were being run off mobile generators, and the generators ran on diesel, and the diesel had to be trucked in, and the insurgents were blowing up the trucks.

“When we began the analysis of his request, it was really about the fact that his soldiers were being attacked on the roads bringing fuel and water,” Nolan said. So eating their tail meant “taking those things that are brought into the unit and trying to generate them on-site.” To that end Nolan’s team is now experimenting with everything from new kinds of tents that need 40 percent less air-conditioning to new kinds of fuel cells that produce water as a byproduct.

Pay attention: When the U.S. Army desegregated, the country really desegregated; when the Army goes green, the country could really go green.

“Energy independence is a national security issue,” Nolan said. “It’s the right business for us to be in. ... We are not trying to change the whole Army. Our job is to focus on that battalion out there and give those commanders the technological innovations they need to deal with today’s mission. But when they start coming home, they are going to bring those things with them.”


The second big reason green has gone Main Street is because global warming has. A decade ago, it was mostly experts who worried that climate change was real, largely brought about by humans and likely to lead to species loss and environmental crises. Now Main Street is starting to worry because people are seeing things they’ve never seen before in their own front yards and reading things they’ve never read before in their papers — like the recent draft report by the United Nations’s 2,000-expert Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which concluded that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.”

I went to Montana in January and Gov. Brian Schweitzer told me: “We don’t get as much snow in the high country as we used to, and the runoff starts sooner in the spring. The river I’ve been fishing over the last 50 years is now warmer in July by five degrees than 50 years ago, and it is hard on our trout population.” I went to Moscow in February, and my friends told me they just celebrated the first Moscow Christmas in their memory with no snow. I stopped in London on the way home, and I didn’t need an overcoat. In 2006, the average temperature in central England was the highest ever recorded since the Central England Temperature (C.E.T.) series began in 1659.

Yes, no one knows exactly what will happen. But ever fewer people want to do nothing. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California summed up the new climate around climate when he said to me recently: “If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say ‘No, he doesn’t, he is fine,’ I will go with the 98. It’s common sense — the same with global warming. We go with the majority, the large majority. ... The key thing now is that since we know this industrial age has created it, let’s get our act together and do everything we can to roll it back.”

But how? Now we arrive at the first big roadblock to green going down Main Street. Most people have no clue — no clue — how huge an industrial project is required to blunt climate change. Here are two people who do: Robert Socolow, an engineering professor, and Stephen Pacala, an ecology professor, who together lead the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton, a consortium designing scalable solutions for the climate issue.

They first argued in a paper published by the journal Science in August 2004 that human beings can emit only so much carbon into the atmosphere before the buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) reaches a level unknown in recent geologic history and the earth’s climate system starts to go “haywire.” The scientific consensus, they note, is that the risk of things going haywire — weather patterns getting violently unstable, glaciers melting, prolonged droughts — grows rapidly as CO2 levels “approach a doubling” of the concentration of CO2 that was in the atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution.

“Think of the climate change issue as a closet, and behind the door are lurking all kinds of monsters — and there’s a long list of them,” Pacala said. “All of our scientific work says the most damaging monsters start to come out from behind that door when you hit the doubling of CO2 levels.” As Bill Collins, who led the development of a model used worldwide for simulating climate change, put it to me: “We’re running an uncontrolled experiment on the only home we have.”

So here is our challenge, according to Pacala: If we basically do nothing, and global CO2 emissions continue to grow at the pace of the last 30 years for the next 50 years, we will pass the doubling level — an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of 560 parts per million — around midcentury. To avoid that — and still leave room for developed countries to grow, using less carbon, and for countries like India and China to grow, emitting double or triple their current carbon levels, until they climb out of poverty and are able to become more energy efficient — will require a huge global industrial energy project.

To convey the scale involved, Socolow and Pacala have created a pie chart with 15 different wedges. Some wedges represent carbon-free or carbon-diminishing power-generating technologies; other wedges represent efficiency programs that could conserve large amounts of energy and prevent CO2 emissions. They argue that the world needs to deploy any 7 of these 15 wedges, or sufficient amounts of all 15, to have enough conservation, and enough carbon-free energy, to increase the world economy and still avoid the doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. Each wedge, when phased in over 50 years, would avoid the release of 25 billion tons of carbon, for a total of 175 billion tons of carbon avoided between now and 2056.

Here are seven wedges we could chose from: “Replace 1,400 large coal-fired plants with gas-fired plants; increase the fuel economy of two billion cars from 30 to 60 miles per gallon; add twice today’s nuclear output to displace coal; drive two billion cars on ethanol, using one-sixth of the world’s cropland; increase solar power 700-fold to displace coal; cut electricity use in homes, offices and stores by 25 percent; install carbon capture and sequestration capacity at 800 large coal-fired plants.” And the other eight aren’t any easier. They include halting all cutting and burning of forests, since deforestation causes about 20 percent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions.

“There has never been a deliberate industrial project in history as big as this,” Pacala said. Through a combination of clean power technology and conservation, “we have to get rid of 175 billion tons of carbon over the next 50 years — and still keep growing. It is possible to accomplish this if we start today. But every year that we delay, the job becomes more difficult — and if we delay a decade or two, avoiding the doubling or more may well become impossible.”


In November, I flew from Shanghai to Beijing on Air China. As we landed in Beijing and taxied to the terminal, the Chinese air hostess came on the P.A. and said: “We’ve just landed in Beijing. The temperature is 8 degrees Celsius, 46 degrees Fahrenheit and the sky is clear.”

I almost burst out laughing. Outside my window the smog was so thick you could not see the end of the terminal building. When I got into Beijing, though, friends told me the air was better than usual. Why? China had been host of a summit meeting of 48 African leaders. Time magazine reported that Beijing officials had “ordered half a million official cars off the roads and said another 400,000 drivers had ‘volunteered’ to refrain from using their vehicles” in order to clean up the air for their African guests. As soon as they left, the cars returned, and Beijing’s air went back to “unhealthy.”

Green has also gone Main Street because the end of Communism, the rise of the personal computer and the diffusion of the Internet have opened the global economic playing field to so many more people, all coming with their own versions of the American dream — a house, a car, a toaster, a microwave and a refrigerator. It is a blessing to see so many people growing out of poverty. But when three billion people move from “low-impact” to “high-impact” lifestyles, Jared Diamond wrote in “Collapse,” it makes it urgent that we find cleaner ways to fuel their dreams. According to Lester Brown, the founder of the Earth Policy Institute, if China keeps growing at 8 percent a year, by 2031 the per-capita income of 1.45 billion Chinese will be the same as America’s in 2004. China currently has only one car for every 100 people, but Brown projects that as it reaches American income levels, if it copies American consumption, it will have three cars for every four people, or 1.1 billion vehicles. The total world fleet today is 800 million vehicles!

That’s why McKinsey Global Institute forecasts that developing countries will generate nearly 80 percent of the growth in world energy demand between now and 2020, with China representing 32 percent and the Middle East 10 percent. So if Red China doesn’t become Green China there is no chance we will keep the climate monsters behind the door. On some days, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost 25 percent of the polluting matter in the air above Los Angeles comes from China’s coal-fired power plants and factories, as well as fumes from China’s cars and dust kicked up by droughts and deforestation around Asia.

The good news is that China knows it has to grow green — or it won’t grow at all. On Sept. 8, 2006, a Chinese newspaper reported that China’s E.P.A. and its National Bureau of Statistics had re-examined China’s 2004 G.D.P. number. They concluded that the health problems, environmental degradation and lost workdays from pollution had actually cost China $64 billion, or 3.05 percent of its total economic output for 2004. Some experts believe the real number is closer to 10 percent.

Thus China has a strong motivation to clean up the worst pollutants in its air. Those are the nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and mercury that produce acid rain, smog and haze — much of which come from burning coal. But cleaning up is easier said than done. The Communist Party’s legitimacy and the stability of the whole country depend heavily on Beijing’s ability to provide rising living standards for more and more Chinese.

So, if you’re a Chinese mayor and have to choose between growing jobs and cutting pollution, you will invariably choose jobs: coughing workers are much less politically dangerous than unemployed workers. That’s a key reason why China’s 10th five-year plan, which began in 2000, called for a 10 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide in China’s air — and when that plan concluded in 2005, sulfur dioxide pollution in China had increased by 27 percent.

But if China is having a hard time cleaning up its nitrogen and sulfur oxides — which can be done relatively cheaply by adding scrubbers to the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants — imagine what will happen when it comes to asking China to curb its CO2, of which China is now the world’s second-largest emitter, after America. To build a coal-fired power plant that captures, separates and safely sequesters the CO2 into the ground before it goes up the smokestack requires either an expensive retrofit or a whole new system. That new system would cost about 40 percent more to build and operate — and would produce 20 percent less electricity, according to a recent M.I.T. study, “The Future of Coal.”

China — which is constructing the equivalent of two 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants every week — is not going to pay that now. Remember: CO2 is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas. Yes, it causes global warming — but it doesn’t hurt anyone in China today, and getting rid of it is costly and has no economic payoff. China’s strategy right now is to say that CO2 is the West’s problem. “It must be pointed out that climate change has been caused by the long-term historic emissions of developed countries and their high per-capita emissions,” Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, declared in February. “Developed countries bear an unshirkable responsibility.”

So now we come to the nub of the issue: Green will not go down Main Street America unless it also goes down Main Street China, India and Brazil. And for green to go Main Street in these big developing countries, the prices of clean power alternatives — wind, biofuels, nuclear, solar or coal sequestration — have to fall to the “China price.” The China price is basically the price China pays for coal-fired electricity today because China is not prepared to pay a premium now, and sacrifice growth and stability, just to get rid of the CO2 that comes from burning coal.

“The ‘China price’ is the fundamental benchmark that everyone is looking to satisfy,” said Curtis Carlson, C.E.O. of SRI International, which is developing alternative energy technologies. “Because if the Chinese have to pay 10 percent more for energy, when they have tens of millions of people living under $1,000 a year, it is not going to happen.” Carlson went on to say: “We have an enormous amount of new innovation we must put in place before we can get to a price that China and India will be able to pay. But this is also an opportunity.”


The only way we are going to get innovations that drive energy costs down to the China price — innovations in energy-saving appliances, lights and building materials and in non-CO2-emitting power plants and fuels — is by mobilizing free-market capitalism. The only thing as powerful as Mother Nature is Father Greed. To a degree, the market is already at work on this project — because some venture capitalists and companies understand that clean-tech is going to be the next great global industry. Take Wal-Mart. The world’s biggest retailer woke up several years ago, its C.E.O. Lee Scott told me, and realized that with regard to the environment its customers “had higher expectations for us than we had for ourselves.” So Scott hired a sustainability expert, Jib Ellison, to tutor the company. The first lesson Ellison preached was that going green was a whole new way for Wal-Mart to cut costs and drive its profits. As Scott recalled it, Ellison said to him, “Lee, the thing you have to think of is all this stuff that people don’t want you to put into the environment is waste — and you’re paying for it!”

So Scott initiated a program to work with Wal-Mart’s suppliers to reduce the sizes and materials used for all its packaging by five percent by 2013. The reductions they have made are already paying off in savings to the company. “We created teams to work across the organization,” Scott said. “It was voluntary — then you had the first person who eliminated some packaging, and someone else started showing how we could recycle more plastic, and all of a sudden it’s $1 million a quarter.” Wal-Mart operates 7,000 huge Class 8 trucks that get about 6 miles per gallon. It has told its truck makers that by 2015, it wants to double the efficiency of the fleet. Wal-Mart is the China of companies, so, explained Scott, “if we place one order we can create a market” for energy innovation.

For instance, Wal-Mart has used its shelves to create a huge, low-cost market for compact fluorescent bulbs, which use about a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs to produce the same light and last 10 times as long. “Just by doing what it does best — saving customers money and cutting costs,” said Glenn Prickett of Conservation International, a Wal-Mart adviser, “Wal-Mart can have a revolutionary impact on the market for green technologies. If every one of their 100 million customers in the U.S. bought just one energy-saving compact fluorescent lamp, instead of a traditional incandescent bulb, they could cut CO2 emissions by 45 billion pounds and save more than $3 billion.”

Those savings highlight something that often gets lost: The quickest way to get to the China price for clean power is by becoming more energy efficient. The cheapest, cleanest, nonemitting power plant in the world is the one you don’t build. Helping China adopt some of the breakthrough efficiency programs that California has adopted, for instance — like rewarding electrical utilities for how much energy they get their customers to save rather than to use — could have a huge impact. Some experts estimate that China could cut its need for new power plants in half with aggressive investments in efficiency.

Yet another force driving us to the China price is Chinese entrepreneurs, who understand that while Beijing may not be ready to impose CO2 restraints, developed countries are, so this is going to be a global business — and they want a slice. Let me introduce the man identified last year by Forbes Magazine as the seventh-richest man in China, with a fortune now estimated at $2.2 billion. His name is Shi Zhengrong and he is China’s leading manufacturer of silicon solar panels, which convert sunlight into electricity.

“People at all levels in China have become more aware of this environment issue and alternative energy,” said Shi, whose company, Suntech Power Holdings, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. “Five years ago, when I started the company, people said: ‘Why do we need solar? We have a surplus of coal-powered electricity.’ Now it is different; now people realize that solar has a bright future. But it is still too expensive. ... We have to reduce the cost as quickly as possible — our real competitors are coal and nuclear power.”

Shi does most of his manufacturing in China, but sells roughly 90 percent of his products outside China, because today they are too expensive for his domestic market. But the more he can get the price down, and start to grow his business inside China, the more he can use that to become a dominant global player. Thanks to Suntech’s success, in China “there is a rush of business people entering this sector, even though we still don’t have a market here,” Shi added. “Many government people now say, ‘This is an industry!’ ” And if it takes off, China could do for solar panels what it did for tennis shoes — bring the price down so far that everyone can afford a pair.


All that sounds great — but remember those seven wedges? To reach the necessary scale of emissions-free energy will require big clean coal or nuclear power stations, wind farms and solar farms, all connected to a national transmission grid, not to mention clean fuels for our cars and trucks. And the market alone, as presently constructed in the U.S., will not get us those alternatives at the scale we need — at the China price — fast enough.

Prof. Nate Lewis, Caltech’s noted chemist and energy expert, explained why with an analogy. “Let’s say you invented the first cellphone,” he said. “You could charge people $1,000 for each one because lots of people would be ready to pay lots of money to have a phone they could carry in their pocket.” With those profits, you, the inventor, could pay back your shareholders and plow more into research, so you keep selling better and cheaper cellphones.

But energy is different, Lewis explained: “If I come to you and say, ‘Today your house lights are being powered by dirty coal, but tomorrow, if you pay me $100 more a month, I will power your house lights with solar,’ you are most likely to say: ‘Sorry, Nate, but I don’t really care how my lights go on, I just care that they go on. I won’t pay an extra $100 a month for sun power. A new cellphone improves my life. A different way to power my lights does nothing.’

“So building an emissions-free energy infrastructure is not like sending a man to the moon,” Lewis went on. “With the moon shot, money was no object — and all we had to do was get there. But today, we already have cheap energy from coal, gas and oil. So getting people to pay more to shift to clean fuels is like trying to get funding for NASA to build a spaceship to the moon — when Southwest Airlines already flies there and gives away free peanuts! I already have a cheap ride to the moon, and a ride is a ride. For most people, electricity is electricity, no matter how it is generated.”

If we were running out of coal or oil, the market would steadily push the prices up, which would stimulate innovation in alternatives. Eventually there would be a crossover, and the alternatives would kick in, start to scale and come down in price. But what has happened in energy over the last 35 years is that the oil price goes up, stimulating government subsidies and some investments in alternatives, and then the price goes down, the government loses interest, the subsidies expire and the investors in alternatives get wiped out.

The only way to stimulate the scale of sustained investment in research and development of non-CO2 emitting power at the China price is if the developed countries, who can afford to do so, force their people to pay the full climate, economic and geopolitical costs of using gasoline and dirty coal. Those countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol are starting to do that. But America is not.

Up to now, said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, we as a society “have been behaving just like Enron the company at the height of its folly.” We rack up stunning profits and G.D.P. numbers every year, and they look great on paper “because we’ve been hiding some of the costs off the books.” If we don’t put a price on the CO2 we’re building up or on our addiction to oil, we’ll never nurture the innovation we need.

Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman of General Electric, has worked for G.E. for 25 years. In that time, he told me, he has seen seven generations of innovation in G.E.’s medical equipment business — in devices like M.R.I.s or CT scans — because health care market incentives drove the innovation. In power, it’s just the opposite. “Today, on the power side,” he said, “we’re still selling the same basic coal-fired power plants we had when I arrived. They’re a little cleaner and more efficient now, but basically the same.”

The one clean power area where G.E. is now into a third generation is wind turbines, “thanks to the European Union,” Immelt said. Countries like Denmark, Spain and Germany imposed standards for wind power on their utilities and offered sustained subsidies, creating a big market for wind-turbine manufacturers in Europe in the 1980s, when America abandoned wind because the price of oil fell. “We grew our wind business in Europe,” Immelt said.

As things stand now in America, Immelt said, “the market does not work in energy.” The multibillion-dollar scale of investment that a company like G.E. is being asked to make in order to develop new clean-power technologies or that a utility is being asked to make in order to build coal sequestration facilities or nuclear plants is not going to happen at scale — unless they know that coal and oil are going to be priced high enough for long enough that new investments will not be undercut in a few years by falling fossil fuel prices. “Carbon has to have a value,” Immelt emphasized. “Today in the U.S. and China it has no value.”

I recently visited the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear plant with Christopher Crane, president of Exelon Nuclear, which owns the facility. He said that if Exelon wanted to start a nuclear plant today, the licensing, design, planning and building requirements are so extensive it would not open until 2015 at the earliest. But even if Exelon got all the approvals, it could not start building “because the cost of capital for a nuclear plant today is prohibitive.”

That’s because the interest rate that any commercial bank would charge on a loan for a nuclear facility would be so high — because of all the risks of lawsuits or cost overruns — that it would be impossible for Exelon to proceed. A standard nuclear plant today costs about $3 billion per unit. The only way to stimulate more nuclear power innovation, Crane said, would be federal loan guarantees that would lower the cost of capital for anyone willing to build a new nuclear plant.

The 2005 energy bill created such loan guarantees, but the details still have not been worked out. “We would need a robust loan guarantee program to jump-start the nuclear industry,” Crane said — an industry that has basically been frozen since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. With cheaper money, added Crane, CO2-free nuclear power could be “very competitive” with CO2-emitting pulverized coal.

Think about the implications. Three Mile Island had two reactors, TMI-2, which shut down because of the 1979 accident, and TMI-1, which is still operating today, providing clean electricity with virtually no CO2 emissions for 800,000 homes. Had the TMI-2 accident not happened, it too would have been providing clean electricity for 800,000 homes for the last 28 years. Instead, that energy came from CO2-emitting coal, which, by the way, still generates 50 percent of America’s electricity.

Similar calculations apply to ethanol production. “We have about 100 scientists working on cellulosic ethanol,” Chad Holliday, the C.E.O. of DuPont, told me. “My guess is that we could double the number and add another 50 to start working on how to commercialize it. It would probably cost us less than $100 million to scale up. But I am not ready to do that. I can guess what it will cost me to make it and what the price will be, but is the market going to be there? What are the regulations going to be? Is the ethanol subsidy going to be reduced? Will we put a tax on oil to keep ethanol competitive? If I know that, it gives me a price target to go after. Without that, I don’t know what the market is and my shareholders don’t know how to value what I am doing. ... You need some certainty on the incentives side and on the market side, because we are talking about multiyear investments, billions of dollars, that will take a long time to take off, and we won’t hit on everything.”

Summing up the problem, Immelt of G.E. said the big energy players are being asked “to take a 15-minute market signal and make a 40-year decision and that just doesn’t work. ... The U.S. government should decide: What do we want to have happen? How much clean coal, how much nuclear and what is the most efficient way to incentivize people to get there?”

He’s dead right. The market alone won’t work. Government’s job is to set high standards, let the market reach them and then raise the standards more. That’s how you get scale innovation at the China price. Government can do this by imposing steadily rising efficiency standards for buildings and appliances and by stipulating that utilities generate a certain amount of electricity from renewables — like wind or solar. Or it can impose steadily rising mileage standards for cars or a steadily tightening cap-and-trade system for the amount of CO2 any factory or power plant can emit. Or it can offer loan guarantees and fast-track licensing for anyone who wants to build a nuclear plant. Or — my preference and the simplest option — it can impose a carbon tax that will stimulate the market to move away from fuels that emit high levels of CO2 and invest in those that don’t. Ideally, it will do all of these things. But whichever options we choose, they will only work if they are transparent, simple and long-term — with zero fudging allowed and with regulatory oversight and stiff financial penalties for violators.

The politician who actually proved just how effective this can be was a guy named George W. Bush, when he was governor of Texas. He pushed for and signed a renewable energy portfolio mandate in 1999. The mandate stipulated that Texas power companies had to produce 2,000 new megawatts of electricity from renewables, mostly wind, by 2009. What happened? A dozen new companies jumped into the Texas market and built wind turbines to meet the mandate, so many that the 2,000-megawatt goal was reached in 2005. So the Texas Legislature has upped the mandate to 5,000 megawatts by 2015, and everyone knows they will beat that too because of how quickly wind in Texas is becoming competitive with coal. Today, thanks to Governor Bush’s market intervention, Texas is the biggest wind state in America.

President Bush, though, is no Governor Bush. (The Dick Cheney effect?) President Bush claims he’s protecting American companies by not imposing tough mileage, conservation or clean power standards, but he’s actually helping them lose the race for the next great global industry. Japan has some of the world’s highest gasoline taxes and stringent energy efficiency standards for vehicles — and it has the world’s most profitable and innovative car company, Toyota. That’s no accident.

The politicians who best understand this are America’s governors, some of whom have started to just ignore Washington, set their own energy standards and reap the benefits for their states. As Schwarzenegger told me, “We have seen in California so many companies that have been created that work just on things that have do with clean environment.” California’s state-imposed efficiency standards have resulted in per-capita energy consumption in California remaining almost flat for the last 30 years, while in the rest of the country it has gone up 50 percent. “There are a lot of industries that are exploding right now because of setting these new standards,” he said.


John Dineen runs G.E. Transportation, which makes locomotives. His factory is in Erie, Pa., and employs 4,500 people. When it comes to the challenges from cheap labor markets, Dineen likes to say, “Our little town has trade surpluses with China and Mexico.”

Now how could that be? China makes locomotives that are 30 percent cheaper than G.E.’s, but it turns out that G.E.’s are the most energy efficient in the world, with the lowest emissions and best mileage per ton pulled — “and they don’t stop on the tracks,” Dineen added. So China is also buying from Erie — and so are Brazil, Mexico and Kazakhstan. What’s the secret? The China price.

“We made it very easy for them,” said Dineen. “By producing engines with lower emissions in the classic sense (NOx [nitrogen oxides]) and lower emissions in the future sense (CO2) and then coupling it with better fuel efficiency and reliability, we lowered the total life-cycle cost.”

The West can’t impose its climate or pollution standards on China, Dineen explained, but when a company like G.E. makes an engine that gets great mileage, cuts pollution and, by the way, emits less CO2, China will be a buyer. “If we were just trying to export lower-emission units, and they did not have the fuel benefits, we would lose,” Dineen said. “But when green is made green — improved fuel economies coupled with emissions reductions — we see very quick adoption rates.”

One reason G.E. Transportation got so efficient was the old U.S. standard it had to meet on NOx pollution, Dineen said. It did that through technological innovation. And as oil prices went up, it leveraged more technology to get better mileage. The result was a cleaner, more efficient, more exportable locomotive. Dineen describes his factory as a “technology campus” because, he explains, “it looks like a 100-year-old industrial site, but inside those 100-year-old buildings are world-class engineers working on the next generation’s technologies.” He also notes that workers in his factory make nearly twice the average in Erie — by selling to China!

The bottom line is this: Clean-tech plays to America’s strength because making things like locomotives lighter and smarter takes a lot of knowledge — not cheap labor. That’s why embedding clean-tech into everything we design and manufacture is a way to revive America as a manufacturing power.

“Whatever you are making, if you can add a green dimension to it — making it more efficient, healthier and more sustainable for future generations — you have a product that can’t just be made cheaper in India or China,” said Andrew Shapiro, founder of GreenOrder, an environmental business-strategy group. “If you just create a green ghetto in your company, you miss it. You have to figure out how to integrate green into the DNA of your whole business.”

Ditto for our country, which is why we need a Green New Deal — one in which government’s role is not funding projects, as in the original New Deal, but seeding basic research, providing loan guarantees where needed and setting standards, taxes and incentives that will spawn 1,000 G.E. Transportations for all kinds of clean power.

Bush won’t lead a Green New Deal, but his successor must if America is going to maintain its leadership and living standard. Unfortunately, today’s presidential hopefuls are largely full of hot air on the climate-energy issue. Not one of them is proposing anything hard, like a carbon or gasoline tax, and if you think we can deal with these huge problems without asking the American people to do anything hard, you’re a fool or a fraud.

Being serious starts with reframing the whole issue — helping Americans understand, as the Carnegie Fellow David Rothkopf puts it, “that we’re not ‘post-Cold War’ anymore — we’re pre-something totally new.” I’d say we’re in the “pre-climate war era.” Unless we create a more carbon-free world, we will not preserve the free world. Intensifying climate change, energy wars and petroauthoritarianism will curtail our life choices and our children’s opportunities every bit as much as Communism once did for half the planet.

Equally important, presidential candidates need to help Americans understand that green is not about cutting back. It’s about creating a new cornucopia of abundance for the next generation by inventing a whole new industry. It’s about getting our best brains out of hedge funds and into innovations that will not only give us the clean-power industrial assets to preserve our American dream but also give us the technologies that billions of others need to realize their own dreams without destroying the planet. It’s about making America safer by breaking our addiction to a fuel that is powering regimes deeply hostile to our values. And, finally, it’s about making America the global environmental leader, instead of laggard, which as Schwarzenegger argues would “create a very powerful side product.” Those who dislike America because of Iraq, he explained, would at least be able to say, “Well, I don’t like them for the war, but I do like them because they show such unbelievable leadership — not just with their blue jeans and hamburgers but with the environment. People will love us for that. That’s not existing right now.”

In sum, as John Hennessy, the president of Stanford, taught me: Confronting this climate-energy issue is the epitome of what John Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, once described as “a series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”

Am I optimistic? I want to be. But I am also old-fashioned. I don’t believe the world will effectively address the climate-energy challenge without America, its president, its government, its industry, its markets and its people all leading the parade. Green has to become part of America’s DNA. We’re getting there. Green has hit Main Street — it’s now more than a hobby — but it’s still less than a new way of life.

Why? Because big transformations — women’s suffrage, for instance — usually happen when a lot of aggrieved people take to the streets, the politicians react and laws get changed. But the climate-energy debate is more muted and slow-moving. Why? Because the people who will be most harmed by the climate-energy crisis haven’t been born yet.

“This issue doesn’t pit haves versus have-nots,” notes the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum, “but the present versus the future — today’s generation versus its kids and unborn grandchildren.” Once the Geo-Green interest group comes of age, especially if it is after another 9/11 or Katrina, Mandelbaum said, “it will be the biggest interest group in history — but by then it could be too late.”

An unusual situation like this calls for the ethic of stewardship. Stewardship is what parents do for their kids: think about the long term, so they can have a better future. It is much easier to get families to do that than whole societies, but that is our challenge. In many ways, our parents rose to such a challenge in World War II — when an entire generation mobilized to preserve our way of life. That is why they were called the Greatest Generation. Our kids will only call us the Greatest Generation if we rise to our challenge and become the Greenest Generation.

Thomas L. Friedman is a columnist for The New York Times specializing in foreign affairs.