Friday, June 10, 2005

Peak Oil, Baghdad Bob,Downing St. Memo, Falluja Video, ICG Report

My apologies for the lack of postings in the past
month. I'm on the road, and internet connections are
intermittent nowadays. If you only read one article,
read the last one...

1) Baghdad Bob, DC George. This op-ed by Juan Cole
pretty much says it all.

June 9, 2005 | The sheer dishonesty of the Bush
administration whenever it speaks about the situation
in Iraq was on display again during Bush's Tuesday
press conference with visiting British Prime Minister
Tony Blair. In recent weeks Bush has repeatedly
expressed wild optimism, utterly unfounded in reality,
about the political process in Iraq and about the
ability of the new Iraqi government and army to win
the guerrilla war. He has if anything been outdone in
this rhetoric by Vice President Dick Cheney. This
pie-in-the-sky attitude, which increasingly few
believe, degrades our civic discourse, and it
endangers the national security of the United States.

2) I urge you to check every day.
There is great material on this site, and he's getting
better over the summer as he's devoting even more time
to the site.

3) Downing Street Memo and all that (for those who
STILL think Iraq's intelligence fiasco was an "honest
mistake," or the fault of weakened intelligence

Iraq, Tony & the Truth: Timeline
Iraq, Tony and the Truth

The Prime Minister is convinced that he was right to
invade Iraq. To do so, he needed the backing of Labour
MPs. Two years on, Panorama tells the story of what Mr
Blair did not reveal to them, and us, before sending
British troops into battle.

This timeline includes the key documentary evidence
used in the film, along with links to the Prime
Minister's speeches. The leaked secret documents were
obtained and published by The Daily Telegraph.

4) I also urge readers to check , for a chilling view of
what happens in Iraq (although I'm not always certain
about the accuracy of some of the postings).

5) Falluja, the day after video:

This video has been recorded in Falluja in early
Janury, 2005, when the city was reopened to civilians
after the American attack of November 8th, 2004
(“Operation Al-Fajr”, i. e. “the dawn”).

It’s an important document since the city was closed
to reporters at that moment. This video was handed
over to the Italian weekly magazine Diario by the
Studies Center of Human Rights and Democracy of
Falluja. Diario issued a broad enquire on Falluja
battle on May 27th, 2005.

“Falluja-The day After” shows the total devastation of
the Iraqi town, the corpses of the victims, the mass
graves, the exhumation of many corpses by local rescue
teams in order to try to recognize some of the
victims. The last corpse shown in this video belongs
to a 14 year old girl.

The video lasts 18 minutes and 20 seconds.

6) Building Iraq's Army: Mission Improbable:

Project in North Reveals Deep Divide Between U.S. and
Iraqi Forces

By Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 10, 2005; Page A01

BAIJI, Iraq -- An hour before dawn, the sky still
clouded by a dust storm, the soldiers of the Iraqi
army's Charlie Company began their mission with a
ballad to ousted president Saddam Hussein. "We have
lived in humiliation since you left," one sang in
Arabic, out of earshot of his U.S. counterparts. "We
had hoped to spend our life with you."

But the Iraqi soldiers had no clue where they were
going. They shrugged their shoulders when asked what
they would do. The U.S. military had billed the
mission as pivotal in the Iraqis' progress as a
fighting force but had kept the destination and
objectives secret out of fear the Iraqis would leak
the information to insurgents....

7) ICG Report on Iraq's Constitutional Process:

Iraq: Don't Rush the Constitution
Middle East Report N°42
8 June 2005

The next stage in Iraq's political transition, the
drafting and adoption of a permanent constitution,
will be critical to the country's long-term stability.
Iraqis face a dilemma: rush the constitutional process
and meet the current deadline of 15 August 2005 to
prevent the insurgents from scoring further political
points, or encourage a process that is inclusive,
transparent and participatory in an effort to increase
popular buy-in of the final product. While there are
downsides to delay, they are far outweighed by the
dangers of a hurried job that could lead to either
popular rejection of or popular resignation to a text
toward which they feel little sense of ownership or

The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) of March
2004 dictates the pace and process of constitutional
drafting and adoption. According to its terms,
drafting must be completed no later than 15 August
2005 and the text put up for popular referendum by 15
October, with elections for a full-term assembly to
follow by 15 December. If successful, this process may
go a long way in drying up support for the insurgents.
Conversely, failure to get the constitutional
endeavour right risks increasing popular discontent
and swelling the ranks of the insurgency.

The experience of other transitional societies is
clear. Popular participation in and acceptance of the
basic pillars of the new order are critical to its
success and longevity. The creation of a foundational
document that not only receives majority support in a
nation-wide referendum but is based on popular input
and consensus may well be the optimal way of whittling
away support for the insurgents (whose hardcore
elements would still need to be tackled militarily)
and stabilising Iraq.

This cannot realistically be done within the extremely
narrow timeframe of just over two months remaining
before 15 August. Far better would be to accept up
front that the deadline cannot be met and take
advantage of the TAL's escape clause to extend it by
six months, to 15 February 2006. This would allow the
Transitional National Assembly (TNA), with the help of
the United Nations and other organisations and
governments with the requisite expertise and
resources, to set up a realistic timetable for
bringing in excluded sectors of the population (not
only Sunni Arab leaders but also representatives of
civil society), educating the public about the
deliberations, and consulting widely among Iraqis on
critical choices regarding their nation's political
structure, identity and institutions. With persistent
violence taking on an increasingly sectarian
character, ensuring that the constitution is viewed as
legitimate by all sectors of the population is a vital

A different approach in the name of rigid adherence to
the TAL's deadline would risk playing into the
insurgents' hands, condemning Iraq to more violence,
and encouraging those elements that have sought, by
their deliberately sectarian attacks, to plunge the
country into an even deadlier civil war.

8) Marine Recruiters, a bit overzealous:

When Marine recruiters go way beyond the call


For mom Marcia Cobb and her teenage son Axel, the
white letters USMC on their caller ID soon spelled,
"Don't answer the phone!"

Marine recruiters began a relentless barrage of calls
to Axel as soon as the mellow, compliant Sedro-Woolley
High School grad had cut his 17th birthday cake. And
soon it was nearly impossible to get the seekers of a
few good men off the line.

With early and late calls ringing in their ears,
Marcia tried using call blocking. And that's when she
learned her first hard lesson. You can't block calls
from the government, her server said. So, after pleas
to "Please stop calling" went unanswered, the family's
"do not answer" order ensued...

9) Move-On Petition:

Last month, the Times of London printed "smoking gun"
evidence that long before the invasion of Iraq the
Bush administration was determined to go to war,
intentionally distorting intelligence, and lying to
the American people.

The proof comes from the classified minutes of a
British cabinet meeting, referred to as the "Downing
Street Memo." So far President Bush has refused to
explain or directly respond to the memo, but pressure
is mounting daily from Congress and the public. This
week Tony Blair visited Washington and the press
finally started asking the obvious questions—creating
a critical opportunity to turn up the heat.

One Congressman, John Conyers of Michigan, has started
a citizens petition—demanding that Bush directly
respond to the evidence of deception contained in the
Downing Street Memo. When half a million Americans
sign, Rep. Conyers will personally deliver the
signatures to the gates of the White House.

If we can reach 500,000 signatures today we can bring
this scandal to light while the story is still hot.
Please add your voice today:

10) If you read one posting today, read this one. I
guess globetrotting days are about to end:

The Long Emergency

What's going to happen as we start running out of
cheap gas to guzzle?


A few weeks ago, the price of oil ratcheted above
fifty-five dollars a barrel, which is about twenty
dollars a barrel more than a year ago. The next day,
the oil story was buried on page six of the New York
Times business section. Apparently, the price of oil
is not considered significant news, even when it goes
up five bucks a barrel in the span of ten days. That
same day, the stock market shot up more than a hundred
points because, CNN said, government data showed no
signs of inflation. Note to clueless nation: Call
planet Earth.

Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously
remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality."
What you're about to read may challenge your
assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and
especially the kind of world into which events are
propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through
uncharted territory.

It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark
raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational
shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of
the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the
terms of everyday life in our technological society.
Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is
still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming
time the Long Emergency.

Most immediately we face the end of the
cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state
that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas
underlie everything we identify as the necessities of
modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and
luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars,
airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing,
recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery,
national defense -- you name it.

The few Americans who are even aware that there is a
gathering global-energy predicament usually
misunderstand the core of the argument. That argument
states that we don't have to run out of oil to start
having severe problems with industrial civilization
and its dependent systems. We only have to slip over
the all-time production peak and begin a slide down
the arc of steady depletion.

The term "global oil-production peak" means that a
turning point will come when the world produces the
most oil it will ever produce in a given year and,
after that, yearly production will inexorably decline.
It is usually represented graphically in a bell curve.
The peak is the top of the curve, the halfway point of
the world's all-time total endowment, meaning half the
world's oil will be left. That seems like a lot of
oil, and it is, but there's a big catch: It's the half
that is much more difficult to extract, far more
costly to get, of much poorer quality and located
mostly in places where the people hate us. A
substantial amount of it will never be extracted.

The United States passed its own oil peak -- about 11
million barrels a day -- in 1970, and since then
production has dropped steadily. In 2004 it ran just
above 5 million barrels a day (we get a tad more from
natural-gas condensates). Yet we consume roughly 20
million barrels a day now. That means we have to
import about two-thirds of our oil, and the ratio will
continue to worsen.

The U.S. peak in 1970 brought on a portentous change
in geoeconomic power. Within a few years, foreign
producers, chiefly OPEC, were setting the price of
oil, and this in turn led to the oil crises of the
1970s. In response, frantic development of non-OPEC
oil, especially the North Sea fields of England and
Norway, essentially saved the West's ass for about two
decades. Since 1999, these fields have entered
depletion. Meanwhile, worldwide discovery of new oil
has steadily declined to insignificant levels in 2003
and 2004.

Some "cornucopians" claim that the Earth has something
like a creamy nougat center of "abiotic" oil that will
naturally replenish the great oil fields of the world.
The facts speak differently. There has been no
replacement whatsoever of oil already extracted from
the fields of America or any other place.

Now we are faced with the global oil-production peak.
The best estimates of when this will actually happen
have been somewhere between now and 2010. In 2004,
however, after demand from burgeoning China and India
shot up, and revelations that Shell Oil wildly
misstated its reserves, and Saudi Arabia proved
incapable of goosing up its production despite
promises to do so, the most knowledgeable experts
revised their predictions and now concur that 2005 is
apt to be the year of all-time global peak production.

It will change everything about how we live.

To aggravate matters, American natural-gas production
is also declining, at five percent a year, despite
frenetic new drilling, and with the potential of much
steeper declines ahead. Because of the oil crises of
the 1970s, the nuclear-plant disasters at Three Mile
Island and Chernobyl and the acid-rain problem, the
U.S. chose to make gas its first choice for
electric-power generation. The result was that just
about every power plant built after 1980 has to run on
gas. Half the homes in America are heated with gas. To
further complicate matters, gas isn't easy to import.
Here in North America, it is distributed through a
vast pipeline network. Gas imported from overseas
would have to be compressed at minus-260 degrees
Fahrenheit in pressurized tanker ships and unloaded
(re-gasified) at special terminals, of which few exist
in America. Moreover, the first attempts to site new
terminals have met furious opposition because they are
such ripe targets for terrorism.

Some other things about the global energy predicament
are poorly understood by the public and even our
leaders. This is going to be a permanent energy
crisis, and these energy problems will synergize with
the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease
and population overshoot to produce higher orders of

We will have to accommodate ourselves to fundamentally
changed conditions.

No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to
run American life the way we have been used to running
it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders
of steady technological progress achieved through the
reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of
Jiminy Cricket syndrome, leading many Americans to
believe that anything we wish for hard enough will
come true. These days, even people who ought to know
better are wishing ardently for a seamless transition
from fossil fuels to their putative replacements.

The widely touted "hydrogen economy" is a particularly
cruel hoax. We are not going to replace the U.S.
automobile and truck fleet with vehicles run on fuel
cells. For one thing, the current generation of fuel
cells is largely designed to run on hydrogen obtained
from natural gas. The other way to get hydrogen in the
quantities wished for would be electrolysis of water
using power from hundreds of nuclear plants. Apart
from the dim prospect of our building that many
nuclear plants soon enough, there are also numerous
severe problems with hydrogen's nature as an element
that present forbidding obstacles to its use as a
replacement for oil and gas, especially in storage and

Wishful notions about rescuing our way of life with
"renewables" are also unrealistic. Solar-electric
systems and wind turbines face not only the enormous
problem of scale but the fact that the components
require substantial amounts of energy to manufacture
and the probability that they can't be manufactured at
all without the underlying support platform of a
fossil-fuel economy. We will surely use solar and wind
technology to generate some electricity for a period
ahead but probably at a very local and small scale.

Virtually all "biomass" schemes for using plants to
create liquid fuels cannot be scaled up to even a
fraction of the level at which things are currently
run. What's more, these schemes are predicated on
using oil and gas "inputs" (fertilizers, weed-killers)
to grow the biomass crops that would be converted into
ethanol or bio-diesel fuels. This is a net energy
loser -- you might as well just burn the inputs and
not bother with the biomass products. Proposals to
distill trash and waste into oil by means of thermal
depolymerization depend on the huge waste stream
produced by a cheap oil and gas economy in the first

Coal is far less versatile than oil and gas, extant in
less abundant supplies than many people assume and
fraught with huge ecological drawbacks -- as a
contributor to greenhouse "global warming" gases and
many health and toxicity issues ranging from
widespread mercury poisoning to acid rain. You can
make synthetic oil from coal, but the only time this
was tried on a large scale was by the Nazis under
wartime conditions, using impressive amounts of slave

If we wish to keep the lights on in America after
2020, we may indeed have to resort to nuclear power,
with all its practical problems and eco-conundrums.
Under optimal conditions, it could take ten years to
get a new generation of nuclear power plants into
operation, and the price may be beyond our means.
Uranium is also a resource in finite supply. We are no
closer to the more difficult project of atomic fusion,
by the way, than we were in the 1970s.

The upshot of all this is that we are entering a
historical period of potentially great instability,
turbulence and hardship. Obviously, geopolitical
maneuvering around the world's richest energy regions
has already led to war and promises more international
military conflict. Since the Middle East contains
two-thirds of the world's remaining oil supplies, the
U.S. has attempted desperately to stabilize the region
by, in effect, opening a big police station in Iraq.
The intent was not just to secure Iraq's oil but to
modify and influence the behavior of neighboring
states around the Persian Gulf, especially Iran and
Saudi Arabia. The results have been far from entirely
positive, and our future prospects in that part of the
world are not something we can feel altogether
confident about.

And then there is the issue of China, which, in 2004,
became the world's second-greatest consumer of oil,
surpassing Japan. China's surging industrial growth
has made it increasingly dependent on the imports we
are counting on. If China wanted to, it could easily
walk into some of these places -- the Middle East,
former Soviet republics in central Asia -- and extend
its hegemony by force. Is America prepared to contest
for this oil in an Asian land war with the Chinese
army? I doubt it. Nor can the U.S. military occupy
regions of the Eastern Hemisphere indefinitely, or
hope to secure either the terrain or the oil
infrastructure of one distant, unfriendly country
after another. A likely scenario is that the U.S.
could exhaust and bankrupt itself trying to do this,
and be forced to withdraw back into our own
hemisphere, having lost access to most of the world's
remaining oil in the process.

We know that our national leaders are hardly
uninformed about this predicament. President George W.
Bush has been briefed on the dangers of the oil-peak
situation as long ago as before the 2000 election and
repeatedly since then. In March, the Department of
Energy released a report that officially acknowledges
for the first time that peak oil is for real and
states plainly that "the world has never faced a
problem like this. Without massive mitigation more
than a decade before the fact, the problem will be
pervasive and will not be temporary."

Most of all, the Long Emergency will require us to
make other arrangements for the way we live in the
United States. America is in a special predicament due
to a set of unfortunate choices we made as a society
in the twentieth century. Perhaps the worst was to let
our towns and cities rot away and to replace them with
suburbia, which had the additional side effect of
trashing a lot of the best farmland in America.
Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest
misallocation of resources in the history of the
world. It has a tragic destiny. The psychology of
previous investment suggests that we will defend our
drive-in utopia long after it has become a terrible

Before long, the suburbs will fail us in practical
terms. We made the ongoing development of housing
subdivisions, highway strips, fried-food shacks and
shopping malls the basis of our economy, and when we
have to stop making more of those things, the bottom
will fall out.

The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require
us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we
do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we
physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the
way we work and trade the products of our work. Our
lives will become profoundly and intensely local.
Daily life will be far less about mobility and much
more about staying where you are. Anything organized
on the large scale, whether it is government or a
corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will
wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness
fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will
produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these
will be members of an angry and aggrieved former
middle class.

Food production is going to be an enormous problem in
the Long Emergency. As industrial agriculture fails
due to a scarcity of oil- and gas-based inputs, we
will certainly have to grow more of our food closer to
where we live, and do it on a smaller scale. The
American economy of the mid-twenty-first century may
actually center on agriculture, not information, not
high tech, not "services" like real estate sales or
hawking cheeseburgers to tourists. Farming. This is no
doubt a startling, radical idea, and it raises
extremely difficult questions about the reallocation
of land and the nature of work. The relentless
subdividing of land in the late twentieth century has
destroyed the contiguity and integrity of the rural
landscape in most places. The process of readjustment
is apt to be disorderly and improvisational. Food
production will necessarily be much more
labor-intensive than it has been for decades. We can
anticipate the re-formation of a native-born American
farm-laboring class. It will be composed largely of
the aforementioned economic losers who had to
relinquish their grip on the American dream. These
masses of disentitled people may enter into
quasi-feudal social relations with those who own land
in exchange for food and physical security. But their
sense of grievance will remain fresh, and if
mistreated they may simply seize that land.

The way that commerce is currently organized in
America will not survive far into the Long Emergency.
Wal-Mart's "warehouse on wheels" won't be such a
bargain in a non-cheap-oil economy. The national chain
stores' 12,000-mile manufacturing supply lines could
easily be interrupted by military contests over oil
and by internal conflict in the nations that have been
supplying us with ultra-cheap manufactured goods,
because they, too, will be struggling with similar
issues of energy famine and all the disorders that go
with it.

As these things occur, America will have to make other
arrangements for the manufacture, distribution and
sale of ordinary goods. They will probably be made on
a "cottage industry" basis rather than the factory
system we once had, since the scale of available
energy will be much lower -- and we are not going to
replay the twentieth century. Tens of thousands of the
common products we enjoy today, from paints to
pharmaceuticals, are made out of oil. They will become
increasingly scarce or unavailable. The selling of
things will have to be reorganized at the local scale.
It will have to be based on moving merchandise shorter
distances. It is almost certain to result in higher
costs for the things we buy and far fewer choices.

The automobile will be a diminished presence in our
lives, to say the least. With gasoline in short
supply, not to mention tax revenue, our roads will
surely suffer. The interstate highway system is more
delicate than the public realizes. If the "level of
service" (as traffic engineers call it) is not
maintained to the highest degree, problems multiply
and escalate quickly. The system does not tolerate
partial failure. The interstates are either in
excellent condition, or they quickly fall apart.

America today has a railroad system that the
Bulgarians would be ashamed of. Neither of the two
major presidential candidates in 2004 mentioned
railroads, but if we don't refurbish our rail system,
then there may be no long-range travel or transport of
goods at all a few decades from now. The commercial
aviation industry, already on its knees financially,
is likely to vanish. The sheer cost of maintaining
gigantic airports may not justify the operation of a
much-reduced air-travel fleet. Railroads are far more
energy efficient than cars, trucks or airplanes, and
they can be run on anything from wood to electricity.
The rail-bed infrastructure is also far more
economical to maintain than our highway network.

The successful regions in the twenty-first century
will be the ones surrounded by viable farming
hinterlands that can reconstitute locally sustainable
economies on an armature of civic cohesion. Small
towns and smaller cities have better prospects than
the big cities, which will probably have to contract
substantially. The process will be painful and
tumultuous. In many American cities, such as
Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis, that process is
already well advanced. Others have further to fall.
New York and Chicago face extraordinary difficulties,
being oversupplied with gigantic buildings out of
scale with the reality of declining energy supplies.
Their former agricultural hinterlands have long been
paved over. They will be encysted in a surrounding
fabric of necrotic suburbia that will only amplify and
reinforce the cities' problems. Still, our cities
occupy important sites. Some kind of urban entities
will exist where they are in the future, but probably
not the colossi of twentieth-century industrialism.

Some regions of the country will do better than others
in the Long Emergency. The Southwest will suffer in
proportion to the degree that it prospered during the
cheap-oil blowout of the late twentieth century. I
predict that Sunbelt states like Arizona and Nevada
will become significantly depopulated, since the
region will be short of water as well as gasoline and
natural gas. Imagine Phoenix without cheap air

I'm not optimistic about the Southeast, either, for
different reasons. I think it will be subject to
substantial levels of violence as the grievances of
the formerly middle class boil over and collide with
the delusions of Pentecostal Christian extremism. The
latent encoded behavior of Southern culture includes
an outsized notion of individualism and the belief
that firearms ought to be used in the defense of it.
This is a poor recipe for civic cohesion.

The Mountain States and Great Plains will face an
array of problems, from poor farming potential to
water shortages to population loss. The Pacific
Northwest, New England and the Upper Midwest have
somewhat better prospects. I regard them as less
likely to fall into lawlessness, anarchy or despotism
and more likely to salvage the bits and pieces of our
best social traditions and keep them in operation at
some level.

These are daunting and even dreadful prospects. The
Long Emergency is going to be a tremendous trauma for
the human race. We will not believe that this is
happening to us, that 200 years of modernity can be
brought to its knees by a world-wide power shortage.
The survivors will have to cultivate a religion of
hope -- that is, a deep and comprehensive belief that
humanity is worth carrying on. If there is any
positive side to stark changes coming our way, it may
be in the benefits of close communal relations, of
having to really work intimately (and physically) with
our neighbors, to be part of an enterprise that really
matters and to be fully engaged in meaningful social
enactments instead of being merely entertained to
avoid boredom. Years from now, when we hear singing at
all, we will hear ourselves, and we will sing with our
whole hearts.

Adapted from The Long Emergency, 2005, by James Howard
Kunstler, and reprinted with permission of the
publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
(Posted Mar 24, 2005)

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