Updates on Two Recent Blogs
Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
I wish to briefly bring you further up to date, as it were, about events discussed in two recent blogs.
The first is the August 11th posting [HSC of August 14th] which assailed the Seventh Circuit’s plutocratic opinion in the IBM pension case. That blog explained how the opinion written by The Reactionary Easterbrook allowed older American workers to get screwed over by a dishonest and unfair change in their pensions (a dishonest, unfair change away from the type of pensions that federal judges like The Reactionary Easterbrook have.) The blog also fit the dishonest change into the broader picture of how American workers, who suffer loss of jobs and loss of pensions, have been getting screwed over by big business, while high executives who run their companies into disaster, even bankruptcy, get rewarded by huge salaries, stock options, golden parachutes and the like.
Yesterday, however, The Wall Street Journal -- not exactly a fount of left wing liberalism or socialism, as one repeatedly points out -- carried an article showing that the change in pensions exemplified in the IBM case is even worse than one realized. The change, which screws over persons who have worked for a company for 20 or 30 years, is adopted, of course, to lower companies’ costs at the expense of the workers. According to the Journal, researchers at Cornell, Colorado and the University of California at Irvine have found that, in the years when pensions were changed and employees screwed over, “incentive compensation for the chief executive officers” of the culprit companies jumped dramatically. “For example, filings show that when Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. converted its pension to a cash balance plan in 2002, the CEO’s incentive pay rose to $1.5 million -- the highest level in a decade -- from $702,000 the year before. After a similar move by Clorox Co. in 1996, the incentive compensation for G. Craig Sullivan, its chief executive, jumped to $5.6 million from $961,000 the year before.” On “average incentive compensation for the chief executive officers jumped to about four times salary in the year of the pension cut, from about three times salary the year before. Companies that didn’t change their pensions saw little change.”
But this is not all. It seems that, just a few days before The Reactionary Easterbrook rendered his awful decision, “Congress approved a measure that would deem cash-balance plans legal. While the [Easterbrook] ruling will be appealed, and the bill has yet to be signed into law by President Bush, employer groups say the recent actions are a green light for employers to change their pensions.”
So what we have goes even beyond what was discussed in the prior blog. What we have, indeed, is a situation in which the pensions desperately needed and relied on by average workers are cut dramatically so that highly paid executives can make even more money -- can make millions more -- and Congress (as well as the Seventh Circuit) has approved this. It’s another example of the rich getting richer on the backs of the middle class and the poor, while the Congressional hacks who are paid off, bought and sold by big business (as if this were the Gilded Age -- well, maybe it is) approve this monstrous result.
The other posting, dated July 25th [HSC of July 31st], “offer[ed] a few views of possibilities” “of why Israel is taking the actions it is in fact taking in Lebanon, the reaction of the United States, and the extent to which the two countries are acting in concert -- and/or may even have secretly conferred beforehand.” Among the possibilities offered were a desire by George Bush “to show the Iranians that, even if we can’t destroy their nuclear development work, we can certainly destroy their country. From the air, we can reduce it to rubble, and damn quick too. What is more, and as true for Syria too, we would want to show the Iranians and Syrians that their countries can be destroyed from the air if they continue to sponsor terrorism. (The same lesson might well apply to our so-called friends like the Pakistanis, even the Saudis.) What better way to show these countries that conventional bombing can destroy everything, and quickly too, than to have the Israelis rain destruction on Lebanon, reducing it in short order to an international basket case, which is about what has happened. The Iranians and Syrians, even the Pakistanis and the Saudis will take notice. If they are too stupid to take notice, their attention can be called to it in the ‘halls’ and ‘channels’ of diplomacy.
“In addition, the rain of country-wide destruction from the air will show ordinary citizens within these countries that, much as they may hate and despise and wish for the destruction of America, Israel and the west, it is extremely dangerous, is fraught with destruction, to harbor organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda in their midst. Guerrillas, said Mao, are the fish that swim in the sea, with the citizenry being the sea. A point could be to make the sea decide to be inhospitable to the fish.
“All of this may not be as entirely crazy as it can sound.”
Well, two things may now be said. One is that the foregoing possibility offered on July 25th seems to have been pretty close to right, as will be explained below. The other is that today people generally feel that, due to the surprising effectiveness of Hezbollah, things did not turn out as Bush and the Israelis hoped and expected. Yet, as also discussed below, people may be far too quick, one thinks, to write off the Lebanese war as a strategic failure for Israel and Bush.
Relevant to this discussion are two articles by Seymour Hersh, one in April and one in August. Hersh strikes me as generally being far more reliable than the lying U.S. government. (In the course of a long career he has written of -- and broken the stories of? (I don’t remember) My Lai and Abu Ghraib.) The vigor of official or semi official denials of what he writes may be directly proportional to its truth and importance, I would judge. He recently wrote in August that, in effect -- as was speculated here in July -- the Israeli and U.S. governments cooperated closely in advance with regard to Israel’s attack on Hezbollah and Lebanon. It was the American hope, apparently, that we would learn things from the bombing of deeply dug in Hezbollah that would aid us in bombing the even more deeply dug in Iranian nuclear facilities (which are sometimes at a depth of 75 feet one gathers). (Iranian engineers, it is said, advised Hezbollah on digging in.) As well, Israel’s attack on Lebanon’s infrastructure “was ‘the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran’” (over the opposition of some military people). Yale flunk-out Richard Cheney, Hersh quoted a “former senior intelligence official” as saying, said, ‘“What if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it’s really successful. It’d be great. We can learn what to do in Iran . . . .’” As well, Hersh quoted one assertedly knowledgeable consultant as saying that Israel’s “goal is to deter more attacks by telling Nasrallah that it will destroy his country if he doesn’t stop, and to remind the Arab world that Israel can set it back twenty years”.
In his April article Hersh wrote extensively of George Bush’s program to take military action against Iran because of its nuclear threat, a program, Hersh says, that only a few (wacked out?) Republican hawks (and at least one Democrat) were being briefed about to some extent. The program, over the opposition of various military officers, included the use of atomic weapons, as well as widespread destruction of Iran’s infrastructure, military facilities and equipment (as Israel destroyed Lebanon’s infrastructure). It also includes the existence already of special forces on the ground in Iran to reconnoiter, target facilities, etc., and efforts to suborn, as it were, disgruntled minorities in Iran. (More recently, I gather, the military won its fight against the use of nukes -- some officers were threatening resignations over this issue, Hersh says. This could have made it even more important to see what results Israel could obtain by conventional bombing of dug-in facilities.) The Bushian program also included hopes that bombing would cause Iranians to rise up against their government.
All of this, as said, is pretty close to, sometimes even identical with, some of the speculations in the July posting. Right now, of course, the general view is that Bush and Israel failed in what they sought to achieve. Hezbollah is not destroyed. It still has lots of rockets. The captured Israeli soldiers have not been returned. Iran and Syria look to be strengthened. World opinion often reviles Israel and the U.S. The whole enterprise looks a failure, or close to it.
Let me digress for a moment before saying why it is still early days to say the Israelis and Bush completely failed. I saw the Yale mediocrity on television the other day bleating. Not speaking. Bleating. In that way he has that bespeaks stupidity. He could not understand, he bleatingly spun, how Hezbollah could say it had won, when it used to occupy in safety a state within a state (more formally called, I think, an imperio en imperium), but now has to retreat out of what used to be its “safe area.” Oh my. What a dummy even to try to spin such bull shit. The aims of Israel and the U.S. were not accomplished: Hezbollah proved a tenacious (at minimum) opponent. It held off what is considered the Mideast’s most powerful army. It fought better, probably, than any Arab force previously has against Israel. It fought so well that bitter recriminations are beginning in Israel – which despite the vaunted, claimed intelligence of Jews was stupid enough -- had generals and politicians stupid enough -- to follow some of the disastrous techniques by which Americans -- Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld -- failed in Iraq (with Bush and Cheney wanting Israel to follow their stupid, failed tactics). Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel, when a major, failed point of Israel’s action was to stop this. Hezbollah’s patrons, Syria and Iran, were strengthened in various ways. The Lebanese ultimately came to support Hezbollah. America is even less trusted now as an honest broker than before. And George the Stupid, George the Spinner cannot understand why Hezbollah claims victory? Oh my, our country is in real trouble with a boob like this in charge. Of course, we’ve known this for a long time, haven’t we. (There’s no question mark at the end of the last sentence. It’s not a question. It’s a flat statement.)
But enough digression. Back to the question whether Israel and Bush did or did not fail by launching and fighting this war. There is one thing that Israel’s campaign did prove in all probability. It is that, just as Israeli bombing and shelling turned Lebanon into a basket case, so too in all likelihood American bombing, without using nukes, can, if we choose, turn huge sections of Iran and Syria into vast wastelands that will look like Berlin in 1945. Israel bombed Lebanon for a month. What if we were to bomb Iran the same way for six months or a year? Oh my.
A second point is related to the first. While Lebanese may admire Hezbollah and Nasrallah now, how will they feel about them three or six months from now, when the Lebanese are still living with the results of massive destruction? The Germans, if I am correct, partly because of the vast destruction of their country by the U.S., Britain and Russia, (pictures of Berlin in 1945 are simply not to be believed) ultimately began to rethink their prior support for Hitler. Maybe the Lebanese will ultimately feel the same about Hezbollah because of what it brought upon them. More to the point, maybe the Iranian public, if not the leaders, seeing what happened to Lebanon, and knowing it can happen to Iran, only worse, far worse, may begin to rethink support, voluntary or compelled, for a regime that may bring this down on them. Maybe, that is, the destruction in Lebanon may do some good with regard to Iran after people have had time to think about the situation for a few months. This is far from certain, and could even prove to be the opposite of what happens, but it is not impossible.
Of course, there is one point which conceivably could do immense good in helping cause the foregoing kind of reaction in Iran. It is a point which worked in Cuba in 1962, and maybe it would work now (although Ahmadinejad, perhaps unlike Khrushchev, is regarded by many, even UN atomic weapons inspectors, it seems, as a certifiable nut). It is a pledge of noninvasion. Right now a lot of people agree that one driving force behind Iranian nuclear efforts is the view that a country we don’t like has to have the bomb in order to forestall possible invasion by the United States. There is much to this view, I am sorry to say. But probably, as with Cuba in ’62, we could elide it by a firm pledge not to invade Iran if it in turn pledges not to seek or acquire nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, and opens itself to inspection to prove that it is living up to its pledge.
Unless some kind of deal like this is worked out, it is hard to see how there is going to be anything but an ending that in one way or another is terrible to the current imbroglio over Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. And the apocalypse, if there is to be one, could come sooner than anyone likes to think. After all, Iran must give an answer before the end of August to the UN’s demand about belaying its nuclear weapons efforts, and today is August 17th. If Iran does not agree to belay its efforts, there are supposed to be sanctions. But, it is widely thought, George Bush has a messianic streak. And, as I understand it, he is of the belief that God speaks through him (which is a canard upon God). How long will such a person be satisfied with mere sanctions? We know it was his intent to invade Iraq regardless of what the UN did. Why won’t he intend and do the same against Iran.
And if he does launch a war against Iran, what will the Congress do? Nothing, one estimates. What will the military do? Follow his orders, one estimates. And what will our people do? Nothing, one again estimates, but this is chancier. Chancier indeed, and fraught with possibilities that could make the domestic uproar over Viet Nam seem child’s play. Better by far to pledge noninvasion and hope this may cause the Iranians to agree to forego nukes out of fear that otherwise their country could be destroyed far worse than Lebanon has been destroyed. And, by the way, it also wouldn’t hurt to formally apologize for the U.S. having engineered the overthrow of Mossadegh and the concomitant restoration of the Shah in 1953, an act which is the fundamental reason why the Iranians came to hate us and, in 1979, seized our embassy and took American hostages.
This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at email@example.com. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.
Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.