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(DV) Garcia: 2005 -- The Year of Consequences







2005: The Year of Consequences
by Manuel Garcia, Jr.
December 17, 2005

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How will the year 2005 be remembered in the mind of the public? One American view follows.

2005 was a year in which the consequences of the policies and attitudes used to maintain the Anglo-American and "Group of 8" way of life burst into plain view despite the best efforts of governments and major media to shroud the truth.

The political lies of the Bush Administration exploded with increasing frequency as the Iraq War and occupation degenerated during the year. The satisfying sense of distance many Europeans felt regarding America's "dirty war" against "terrorists" was uncomfortably shattered with the revelations of European government knowledge of and cooperation with "extraordinary renditions" and the maintenance of secret CIA gulags on the Continent. The falsity of our energy-intensive Western mode of life was dramatically proclaimed by Nature itself with the cracking of polar ice. The vast inadequacies of our national and global social arrangements were pitilessly exposed in just three days, after Nature slapped us with: the Andaman Sea Tsunami of 26 December 2004, the flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina on 29 August 2005, and the Kashmir Earthquake of 8 October 2005.

The chickens are coming home to roost, and they are infected with Avian Flu.

Let us consider the events of twenty-nine separate days to help suggest the overall contours of this year-long segment in the stream of time. Admittedly, this list is arbitrary, and the endpoints of this year "2005" are loosely defined to fall in mid-December.

26 December 2004 -- The Andaman Sea earthquake and tsunami kill 275,000.

A major undersea earthquake south of Myanmar and west of Sumatra raises a tsunami that devastates shoreline in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, killing up to 275,000 people and displacing millions. The West is concerned about tourists on Christmas holiday at the Thai seashore; Indonesia is concerned about the separatist rebels in Aceh Province, Sumatra, which is thoroughly destroyed. Eventually, the magnitude of the disaster elicits a broader humanitarian response.

12 January -- WMD in Iraq RIP.

US military forces in Iraq, having located no weapons of mass destruction, formally abandoned the search.

20 January -- George W. Bush is inaugurated to a second term as US President.

30 January -- Elections are held in Iraq.

14 February -- Rafik Hariri is assassinated.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 20 others were killed by a truck-bomb in Beirut, Lebanon. This precipitates a political crisis in Lebanon and Syria, the latter being forced to withdraw from its 29 year military occupation of Lebanon.

1 May -- The Times publishes the Downing Street Memo.

The Times publishes a leaked UK secret memo, being the minutes of 26 July 2002 meeting questioning the legal basis of the yet-to-be-launched Iraq War. It included the statements: "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action...It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

10 June -- "Peak Oil" becomes common knowledge.

Peak Oil, the crisis of finite and diminishing world oil reserves at a time of growing demand, becomes a matter of open discussion in major media. An indicator of this media exposure is the publication of Matthew R. Simmons book Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy.

25 July -- The AFL-CIO, the labor union federation splits.

The Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) split from the AFL-CIO as the federation met for its national convention in Chicago. Soon after, the United Food and Commercial Workers also left the federation. Other unions mull taking similar action.

11 August -- Jack Abramoff is indicted and arrested.

Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist closely associated with Tom DeLay and other "conservative" Republicans, is indicted by a federal grand jury in Florida for bank fraud, and he was arrested in Los Angeles, California. There are three simultaneous grand jury investigations of Abramoff. The investigations widen in November to include at least four Republican members of Congress: Tom DeLay (R-TX, former Majority Leader), Bob Ney (R-OH), John Doolittle (R-CA) and Conrad Burns (R-MT).

12 August -- Cindy Sheehan is declared "a threat to the President."

Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, is camped out by a ditch along the road to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, seeking a meeting with the president to ask what purpose was served by her son's death. She becomes the symbol of anti-war protest, and the focus of international attention. Officials declare her "a threat to the President," which is an accepted legal justification for a possible arrest. Cindy Sheehan and others who join her become the US equivalents of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo of Argentina.

29 August -- Hurricane Katrina breaches the levees and floods New Orleans.

New Orleans is abandoned by the Federal government for 5 days, troops move in on 3 September. TV images show black throngs fending for themselves in the flooded city, and bodies floating in the water. Official callousness and incompetence, as well as American racism are widely commented on. The US government rejects offers of help from Cuba and Venezuela. This year will set a record for the number of hurricanes observed.

21 September -- Polar ice is rapidly melting.

A rapid and significant melting of polar ice is underway. Glaciers, sea ice, ice shelves and tundras are all observed to be melting or thawing. One thorough account of the reporting on polar melt is given by Maria Gilardin in an article at on the 21st. Scientists note that methane gas released by thawing tundras will accelerate global warming. The extent and the rate of the melting are unprecedented.

6 October -- The US Senate votes 90-9 for the McCain "anti-torture" bill.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) attached an "anti-torture" rider to the Defense Authorization Bill (funding the military). The Bush Administration threatens to veto any Defense Authorization Bill (agreed to by the House and Senate) with McCain's rider attached. Later, the administration seeks a "compromise" excepting the CIA from the proposed law -- an exception to torture.

8 October -- The Kashmir earthquake kills up to 87,000 and displaces 3 to 4 million.

This magnitude 7.6 earthquake causes landslides and road and building collapses in a wide area of mountainous terrain primarily in northern Pakistan, and also Kashmir and India. After some initial hesitation both India and Pakistan were able to collaborate on relief efforts across their disputed boundaries in Kashmir. Pakistan estimated a cost of $10B to resettle and rebuild, but the world only pledged $5.1B. The Pakistani government of President Musharraf decided to delay an order for $4B in US warplanes, and a $1B contract for an aerial defense surveillance system from Sweden. The money is needed for the survival of millions. Still, immediate funding remains a challenge because half the world contribution is in the form of interest-bearing loans, and the contributed funds are to be disbursed over the coming decade. Pakistan is faced with rebuilding 19,000 schools, 600 colleges, hundreds of hospitals, almost a million homes and other infrastructure in the stricken area. About 300,000 soldiers and 150,000 volunteers are working on continuous relief efforts in Pakistan. There will be people cut off from help and exposed to the elements for months.

10 October -- Delphi, a major US auto parts supplier, files for bankruptcy.

Analysts believe that General Motors (GM), the largest US auto maker will have to file for bankruptcy within a year. GM is a victim of its own bad management decisions, and is also saddled with large labor costs, primarily for health care, because the U.S. lacks a national health care system. GM, Delphi and the United Auto Workers are in discussions to see what if any arrangements they can devise to save business entities, manufacturing jobs (well-paid, skilled and unionized) and worker pensions.

12 October -- The Avian Flu arrives in Europe.

Previously observed in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, Avian Flu is reported in Romania on 13 October. The fear of a pandemic grows, and governments intensify their contingency planning and inspection protocols. By mid-December, the Avian Flu death toll will stand at 120.

20 October -- Tom DeLay is booked.

The Republican Congressman and former majority leader in the US House of Representatives is booked in the Sheriff's Department of Harris County, Texas on conspiracy and money laundering charges.

29 October -- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby indicted.

The former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney is indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of obstruction of justice, lying under oath, and false statements to the FBI. The indictment is the first result of the investigation by Federal Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the illegal exposure of CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. The exposure of Plame was a retaliation against Wilson, who published an exposure of the falsity of a key justification for the Iraq War issued by President Bush in his State of the Union address in January 2003. The false claim was that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase African uranium (for bomb-making) from Niger. It now appears possible that the poorly forged documents supposedly showing the connection between Iraq and Niger "yellowcake" (uranium ore) may have been the work of agents sponsored by neo-cons in Dick Cheney's circle. One is reminded of publisher William Randolph Hearst fabricating the justifications for the 1898 Spanish-American War, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."

2 November -- The Washington Post publishes an exposť of the CIA's secret gulag.

A front-page Washington Post newspaper article describes in detail the CIA's offshore gulag, a network of secret prisons in different countries, and of its clandestine and illegal practice of "extraordinary rendition," or surreptitious kidnapping and torturous interrogation of targeted (and mis-targeted) foreign nationals. While stories about several cases of extraordinary rendition had surfaced previously, the scope and detail of this article, and the the fact of secret US prisons in Europe, create an immediate furor. In Europe, there was a combination of outrage, indignation and embarrassment, because it was evident that several governments had become aware of the facts, and in some instances cooperated with the US either to avoid exposing the facts, or more directly.

4 November -- Latin Americans repudiate Bush and the FTAA.

Massive protests greet Bush at the Mar del Plata (Argentina) OAS Summit of Americas, while President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is warmly received at the alternative gathering, the People's Summit, also hosting Cuban government representatives. The Free Trade Area of the Americas, a version of NAFTA for all of Latin America, promoted by Bush and Vicente Fox of Mexico, is popularly rejected.

5 November -- Corporate support erodes for Bush Administration war policy.

"Right now the US government is not a credible messenger," states a group of corporate executives who have come together as Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA). While tax cuts, relaxation of regulations, and a hard line on labor issues are hailed by business leaders, they are disenchanted with the Iraq War and the continuing occupation because it weakens the fiscal stability of the U.S., creates business expenses and profit losses, and it sours the entire international climate for business opportunities. Mark Engler's summary of this business outlook, "Will Big Business Turn On Bush?" appeared in Counterpunch on 5 November, and Tomdispatch earlier.

27 October to 14 November -- North African youth riot in France.

17 November -- Rep. John Murtha calls for a US withdrawal from Iraq.

In a speech in the US House of Representatives, John Murtha (D-PA), a highly decorated soldier, a long-time Congressman and strong supporter of the US military calls for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. His speech is seen as the collective voice of US military commanders making their case to the nation, and abandoning their political support for the Bush Administration.

22 November -- The Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq becomes evident.

American troops discover 173 prisoners in the basement of an Interior Ministry building in a Baghdad suburb. The prisoners were Sunnis and they had been tortured and starved. Their captors were Shiite police officers loyal to the Badr organization, a militia with links to Iran. National elections are scheduled for 15 December, for a complete, four year government.

5 December -- The first snows of the Himalayan winter fall.

Soon, a four month period of deep cold and snow will descend on the people who survived the 8 October Kashmir earthquake. Millions are without adequate shelter or supplies.

8 December -- The US Congress passes a $56B capital gains tax-cut.

The US House of Representatives issues tax-cut legislation of most significance to investors and the wealthy (it continues lowered tax rates for capital gains and dividends for two years). Since 25 November (just before Thanksgiving), the Congress has been rolling in an orgiastic spasm of tax-cutting and entitlement cutting. The first objective was to cut into entitlement programs for the poor (medical, food, education) so as to reduce the projected Federal deficit in anticipation of the large expenses to be assumed in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina. A rescinding of the earlier tax cuts for the wealthy could have accomplished the same goal. The subsequent tax cutting measures are projected to swell the Federal deficit by $20B, despite the cut-backs for the neediest Americans. So much for Christmas spirit, or "conservative" principles. It is hard to imagine theft on a grander scale, or carried out more openly. As one ponders the stone ears and lying tongues of our elite, one is led inexorably to a nostalgia for guillotines.

12 December -- A magnitude 6.7 earthquake shakes the Hindu Kush.

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.7 shakes southeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, being felt across Kashmir into India.

12 December -- Second day of racial riots in Sydney, Australia.

Tensions between white and Muslim youths break out in violence. The initial incident may have been provoked by white supremacist individuals; eventually youth roamed through beachside suburbs smashing windows. There has been much hostility to Muslims and Arabs in Australia since 11 September 2001 and then the Bali bombings.

12 December -- Syria implicated in two UN reports on Hariri murder; another assassination occurs.

Gebran Tueni, a prominent journalist, Christian legislator and leading opponent of Syrian domination of Lebanon, is killed by a powerful car-bomb in Beirut. The second of German magistrate Detlev Mehlis' reports to the UN on the investigation of the Hariri murder is presented. It names 19 suspects (not made public) including Syrian officials as key suspects, and questions Syrian cooperation with the investigation. New witnesses state that Lebanese and Syrian intelligence services plotted the killing of Hariri as a coordinated effort.

12 December -- Bush acknowledges that 30,000 Iraqis have been killed in the Iraq War.

General Tommy Franks, 3 May 2003, "We don't do body counts"; the Lancet, 28 October 2004, Iraqi civilian deaths up to that point of the war and occupation were estimated at 100,000; Iraq Body Count ( notes on this day "civilians reported killed by military intervention in Iraq" at between 27,383 and 30,892. Bush gave the casualty estimate of 30,000 in answering the first question after an address in Philadelphia. In his speech, he encouraged Iraqis to vote in the new elections, "There's still a lot of difficult work to be done in Iraq. But thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East and the history of freedom."

15 December -- Elections held in Iraq, peace remains elusive.

25 December -- Dare we predict?:

A vacation for President Bush in Crawford, Texas, to prepare his State of the Union address for 2006 extolling the "plan for victory", the "booming economy", the "outlook for growth", the "widespread prosperity" of "the ownership society"; how a reflection on past events will make us "proud to be an American"; and how evident it must be that indeed we receive a divinely favorable response when we ask that "God bless America"?

Let us picture the faces of year 2005: Cindy Sheehan and Patrick Fitzgerald; the faces of northern Pakistan and Kashmir, New Orleans, Sri Lanka and northern Sumatra; the face of a North African teenager in Paris; rock faces exposed to sunlight after centuries buried in ice; the face of a drill bit on an oil rig; the faces of currency traders tracking quotations; the faces of Iraq; the lost faces of the lost souls in our hidden Bastilles, the faces of peasants looking for wood to cut for cooking fires, the face of an African doctor walking to see villagers with AIDS; these are the faces of consequences to be met. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

Happy New Year, world.

Manuel Garcia, Jr. works as a physicist, thinks as a poet, and can be reached at:

Other Articles by Manuel Garcia, Jr.

* Iraq: To End The Occupation, End The Civil War
* Disasters Are Us?
* Industrialized Greed Produces Pandemics
* Fuel Conservation And Sustainable Mobility