Editorial: Keeping an Eye Open By Becky O'Malley

Tuesday March 28, 2006

It’s been three years since the United States invaded Iraq, so the press this month has been full of reminiscences tempered by a pinch of self-doubt. Some of the many high-visibility commentators, both press and politicians, who were dead wrong about what was going on have acknowledged that they were duped by the official story, but many have not. The Daily Planet was in the process of re-inventing itself that same month three years ago, and we’re proud to say we’ve been aware of how bogus this invasion was from our first day, and have told our readers about it (not that many of them were fooled anyhow.)  

Another journalist who was right from Day 1, Henry Norr, was fired for being right in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was the technology columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he was ostensibly fired for participating in an anti-war demonstration, though some suspect that his previous activities on behalf of Palestinians might have played a part too. We had his personal story in our first issue, and in today’s paper you can find his review of new books about torture, as practiced in this war and elsewhere.  

The most chilling assessment of where this country is going with its war against Iraq seems to be emanating from ex-Republican Kevin Phillips. His new book, American Theocracy, contains his latest analysis of the motivation for the war, which is—surprise!—the vast pool of oil on which Iraq sits. His picture of the future seems to be the establishment and maintenance of a few permanent American military bases in Iraq to stand guard over the oil, with perpetual chaos among the locals “off-base” not a problem as long as the walls around the bases are high enough.  

“Of course,” say those familiar with recent history: the French plan for holding on to Vietnam in the early ‘60s. It didn’t work then, but it might work in Iraq for 10 or 20 years, until the multinational oil conglomerates can suck up all the oil and attendant profits. Hearts and Minds have nothing to do with it, not those of the Iraqi people nor of American voters. Phillips also believes that the American political system is under attack at its core from the new Christian right, working towards the establishment of a theocracy based on the principles of evangelical Christianity, and that this struggle is distracting voters from what the oilmen are up to in Iraq.  

Against this background of continuous international turmoil, it’s sometimes hard to concentrate on much else. But daily life goes on, and responsible citizens should continue to be aware of what’s being done by government at all levels in their names. We believe that it’s important to hear from participants as well as observers. For that reason, the Daily Planet has been featuring two regular columnists who are personally engaged in political activity, a conscious departure from the journalistic convention of giving column space only to the uninvolved.  

Bob Burnett will continue to report on national and international politics for our “Public Eye” column, but we’re losing Zelda Bronstein for the time being. She’s taken a leave of absence from her own Public Eye column on local issues to run for mayor of Berkeley. (We do plan to repeat our successful election forum feature of 2004, where candidates are given a substantial amount of space on a regular basis to present their views, so we hope to see Ms. Bronstein again in that capacity along with her competitors.)  

In her place, we’re asking other people who are involved in local politics in the East Bay to try their hand at writing Public Eye columns. Anyone who is both a good writer and a participant in the action is welcome to try out for this slot. We don’t have to agree with your opinions, and in fact we hope to get a revolving roster presenting a variety of sometimes opposing points of view. The main criterion is quality: the ability to put together 800 or so lively and literate words from time to time on the state of the East Bay as you see it. Send your efforts to public.eye@berkeleydailyplanet.com.