The Lilith eZine
2006 was a year of war.
The United States and the Bush Administration (despite being a disaster waiting to happen) didn't actually declare any wars during 2006, but we were still fighting them. So much that on December 31st 2006 America lost its 3000th American to die fighting over in the Iraq War [See the bottom of the this page].
But should it even be called the Iraq War any more? Its really more of an Iraqi Civil War now, and America is stuck in the middle.
In other news America now has a population of 300 million+. Which is a surprising figure for a country in which immigration outnumbers new births.
Meanwhile Bio-terrorism became a growing threat in 2006 with the spread of various global diseases.
And Saddam Hussein was killed and martyred.
Oh and just for fun, here's the quote of the year:
not like that smart. I like forget stuff
all the time.” - Paris Hilton, while
being asked by LAPD about videotapes of
her tying up a man and having sex with
him. If only Clinton or Nixon had said that.
What a great year.
In the words of Borat: NOT!
Will the dam break in 2007?
The world survived 2006 without a major economic catastrophe, despite sky-high oil prices and a Middle East spiraling out of control. But the year produced abundant lessons for the global economy, as well as warning signs concerning its future performance.
Unsurprisingly, 2006 brought another resounding rejection of fundamentalist neo-liberal policies, this time by voters in Nicaragua and Ecuador. Meanwhile, in neighboring Venezuela, Hugo Chávez won an overwhelming electoral: at least he had brought some education and healthcare to the poor barrios, which previously had received little of the benefits of the country’s enormous oil wealth.
Perhaps most importantly for the world, voters in the United States gave a vote of no confidence to President George W. Bush, who will now be held in check by a Democratic Congress.
When Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, many hoped that he would govern competently from the center. More pessimistic critics consoled themselves by questioning how much harm a president can do in a few years. We now know the answer: a great deal.
Never has America’s standing in the world’s eyes been lower. Basic values that Americans regard as central to their identity have been subverted. The unthinkable has occurred: an American president defending the use of torture, using technicalities in interpreting the Geneva Conventions and ignoring the Convention on Torture, which forbids it under any circumstances. Likewise, whereas Bush was hailed as the first “MBA president,” corruption and incompetence have reigned under his administration, from the botched response to Hurricane Katrina to its conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In fact, we should be careful not to read too much into the 2006 vote: Americans do not like being on the losing side of any war. It was this failure, and the quagmire into which America had once again so confidently stepped, that led voters to reject Bush. But the Middle East chaos wrought by the Bush years also represents a central risk to the global economy. Since the Iraq war began in the 2003, oil output from the Middle East, the world’s lowest-cost producer, has not grown as expected to meet rising world demand. Although most forecasts suggest that oil prices will remain at or slightly below their current level, this is largely due to a perceived moderation of growth in demand, led by a slowing US economy.
Of course, a slowing US economy constitutes another major global risk. At the root of America’s economic problem are measures adopted early in Bush’s first term. In particular, the administration pushed through a tax cut that largely failed to stimulate the economy, because it was designed to benefit mainly the wealthiest taxpayers. The burden of stimulation was placed on the Fed, which lowered interest rates to unprecedented levels. While cheap money had little impact on business investment, it fueled a real estate bubble, which is now bursting, jeopardizing households that borrowed against rising home values to sustain consumption.
This economic strategy was not sustainable. Household savings became negative for the first time since the Great Depression, with the country borrowing $3 billion a day from foreigners. But households could continue to take money out of their houses only as long as prices continued to rise and interest rates remained low. Thus, higher interest rates and falling house prices does not bode well for the American economy. Indeed, according to some estimates, roughly 80% of the increase in employment and almost two-thirds of the increase in GDP in recent years stemmed directly or indirectly from real estate.
Making matters worse, unrestrained government spending further buoyed the economy during the Bush years, with fiscal deficits reaching new heights, making it difficult for the government to step in now to shore up economic growth as households curtail consumption. Indeed, many Democrats, having campaigned on a promise to return to fiscal sanity, are likely to demand a reduction in the deficit, which would further dampen growth.
Meanwhile, persistent global imbalances will continue to produce anxiety, especially for those whose lives depend on exchange rates. Though Bush has long sought to blame others, it is clear that America’s unbridled consumption and inability to live within its means is the major cause of these imbalances. Unless that changes, global imbalances will continue to be a source of global instability, regardless of what China or Europe do.
In light of all of these uncertainties, the mystery is how risk premiums can remain as low as they are. Especially with the dramatic reduction in the growth of global liquidity as central banks have successively raised interest rates, the prospect of risk premiums returning to more normal levels is itself one of the major risks the world faces today.
Bush and Britney top 2006 "worst" list
US President George Bush far outdistanced terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein when Americans were asked to choose their bad guy of 2006 in an AP-AOL News poll.
However, in a sign of the polarised times, Bush also topped the list when people were asked to name their hero of the year, but by a much smaller margin.
Among entertainment celebrities, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey edged out actor Michael J Fox as the best celebrity role model, while pop singer Britney Spears was the clear choice over Paris Hilton for worst.
When people were asked to name the candidate that first came to mind for "biggest villain of the year," Bush won by a landslide, with 25 percent, followed by bin Laden, the fugitive al-Qaeda leader, in second place with eight percent.
Rounding out the top five villains were Saddam, who was executed on December 30th 2006, with six percent; Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, five percent, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il , 2 percent - from the three countries Bush once designated as the "Axis of Evil."
In the polling for "biggest hero of the year," 13 percent named Bush as their favourite, while 6 percent chose the US troops in Iraq. The other top choices were TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey: Senator Barack Obama, a possible Democratic presidential contender, and Jesus Christ - each with three percent.
Bush was the choice of 43 percent of Democrats for villain of the year, and 27 percent of Republicans for hero.
On the question of celebrity role models, Spears` bad behaviour claimed worst honors.
When asked to choose from a list of names, nearly three in 10 adults, or 29 percent, bestowed the honor of worst celebrity of the year on Spears.
(The 25-year-old pop singer and mother of two young sons recently filed for divorce from Kevin Federline, her husband of two years. She then followed with highly publicized nights out with party girls Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, including photographic evidence of Spears wearing no underpants, which raised questions about her fitness as a parent.)
Spears apologised on her website, saying she probably went "a little too far" with her newfound freedom.
Second-worst celebrity billing went to Hilton, 18 percent. The 25-year-old party girl and hotel heiress was arrested for drunken driving in Los Angeles in September while, she has said, she was on a late-night hamburger run.
Mel Gibson, 50, was third-worst celebrity with 12 percent, surely the result of his anti-Semitic tirade at police in Malibu,
California, during his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving. He later apologised and said he harboured no animosity toward Jews.
Rounding out the worst celebrity role model category were Tom Cruise, nine percent; former Seinfeld star Michael Richards, six percent; Nicole Richie, five percent; Federline, four percent; Lohan, three percent; and Angelina Jolie, two percent.
In the best celebrity role model category, 29 percent of adults chose talk-show host Winfrey.
The philanthropist and entertainment mogul contributed $40-million (about R280-million) toward the establishment of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which is scheduled to open next month.
Fox, who has Parkinson`s disease, finished second with 23 percent. He recently was criticised by conservatives for political ads that showed his body shaking as he urged support for a ballot measure promoting stem cell research and for the Democratic Senate candidate over the Republican in Missouri.
Actor George Clooney, who has been advocating for refugees in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan, finished third with 12 percent.
Eight percent chose Jolie over boyfriend Brad Pitt, two percent.
Newlyweds Cruise and Katie Holmes tied at two percent.
Jolie and Cruise were the only celebrities to land on both the best and worst role model lists. But more people named Jolie best celebrity role model, and more people named Cruise worst.
The telephone poll of 1 004 adults was conducted from December 19 to 21 by Ipsos, an international polling firm. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus three percentage points. - Sapa-AP
3,000th American dies in Iraq
Attacks intensifying, Pentagon report says
Associated Press - December 31st 2006.
WASHINGTON – American deaths in the Iraq war reached the sobering milestone of 3,000 today even as the Bush administration sought to overhaul its strategy for an unpopular conflict that shows little sign of abating.
The latest death came during one of the most violent periods during which the Pentagon says hate and revenge killings between Iraq's sects are now a bigger security problem than ever.
The death of a Texas soldier, announced today by the Pentagon, raised the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq to at least 3,000, according to an Associated Press count, since the war began in March 2003.
Specialist Dustin Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas, was killed Thursday by small arms fire in Baghdad, the Defense Department said. Donica was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
His death was not announced by U.S. military authorities in Baghdad.
President Bush is struggling to salvage a military campaign that, more than three-and-a-half years after U.S. forces overran the country, has scant support from the American public. In large part because of that discontent, voters gave Democrats control of the new Congress that convenes this week. Democrats have pledged to focus on the war and Bush's conduct of it.
Three thousand deaths are tiny compared with casualties in other protracted wars America has fought in the last century. There were 58,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War, 36,000 in the Korean conflict, 405,000 in World War II and 116,000 in World War I, according to Defense Department figures.
Even so, the steadily mounting toll underscores the relentless violence that the massive U.S. investment in lives and money – surpassing $350 billion – has yet to tame, and may in fact still be getting worse.
A Pentagon report on Iraq said in December that the conflict now is more a struggle between Sunni and Shiite armed groups "fighting for religious, political and economic influence," with the insurgency and foreign terrorist campaigns "a backdrop.''
From mid-August to mid-November, the weekly average number of attacks in the country increased 22 percent from the previous three months. The worst violence was in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar, long the focus of activity by Sunni insurgents, said a December report.
Though U.S.-led coalition forces remained the target of the majority of attacks, the overwhelming majority of casualties were suffered by Iraqis, the report said.
The American death toll was at 1,000 in September of 2004 and 2,000 by October 2005.
Bush told an end-of-the-year press conference that the deaths distress him.
"The most painful aspect of the presidency is the fact that I know my decisions have caused young men and women to lose their lives," Bush said.
Asked about the 3,000 figure, deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said today that the president "will ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain.''
"We will be fighting violent jihadists for peace and security of the civilized world for years to come. The brave men and women of the U.S. military are fighting extremists in order to stop them from attacking on our soil again," Stanzel said.
In a statement Bush released today to wish the troops and all Americans a happy new year, the president said the nation depends on the men and women in the armed services and are mindful of their dedication and sacrifice.
"Last year, America continued its mission to fight and win the war on terror and promote liberty as an alternative to tyranny and despair," Bush said in the statement released from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he and first lady Laura Bush are spending New Year's Eve with friends.
"In the New Year, we will remain on the offensive against the enemies of freedom, advance the security of our country, and work toward a free and unified Iraq," he said. "Defeating terrorists and extremists is the challenge of our time, and we will answer history's call with confidence and fight for liberty without wavering.''
In an interview on Dec. 21 with The Associated Press, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the war was "worth the investment'' in American lives and dollars.
In his strategy reassessment, Bush has consulted Iraqis, his uniformed and civilian advisers, an outside bipartisan panel that studied the failing war, and other defense and foreign policy experts. New Defense Secretary Robert Gates journeyed to Iraq in his first week on the job in December to confer with American commanders and Iraqi leaders.
Among the president's options was a proposal to quickly add thousands of U.S. troops to the 140,000 already in Iraq to try to control escalating violence in Baghdad and elsewhere.
Others believe too much blood and money already have been sacrificed. Democrats have wanted Bush to move toward a phased drawdown of forces, while the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended removing most U.S. combat forces by early 2008 while shifting the U.S. role to advising and supporting Iraqi units.
Having launched the war against the advice of a number of nations, the Bush administration never got a huge international contribution of troops, meaning foreign forces helping the Iraqis are overwhelmingly American.
The death toll shows it. As of late December, the British military has reported 126 deaths in the war so far; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 18; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; and Denmark, six. Several other countries have had five or less.
A closer look at US military statistics in Iraq: