I was desperate for some relief from the Iraq war on cable television. All those generals -- along with quasi-governmental CIA creeps like James Woolsey -- made me feel like the entire world had been taken over by the worst of my former gym teachers. Fox News Channel was worse than Iraqi TV. FNC was more like the RNC. MSNBC waved a digitally enhanced flag and blessed the troops, by God. CNN sported Aaron Brown, who yawned about how it wasn't the media's job to show the ugliness of battle.
So instead, they just showed the nausea of war -- and still, the terrible doings in Iraq infected my soul and troubled my dreams. I realized I needed professional help, so I searched our sunny little burg for someone to talk to, a political therapist, if you will.
I found Jim Mullins, a world-traveling dissident who has been active in South Florida politics and international affairs for the past four decades. During more than 20 trips to Nicaragua, he came under attack by Contras in the town of Jalapa in 1984 and served as an Organization of American States election observer in 1990. He also went to Moscow to broker peace in the Afghanistan war, led a delegation to Cuba, and made trips to numerous countries in Europe as well as Egypt, Morocco, and China, among others.
Mullins, who at 82 still has a remarkably nimble mind, helped to bring the first chapters of Amnesty International to Fort Lauderdale and Miami and served as an officer of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1980s, before he had a falling-out with the group. Today, he's an associate with the Center for International Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, and his writings have added some truly critical, homegrown thought to the Sun-Sentinel editorial page.
I spoke with him at his meticulously kept house in Delray Beach, where he lives with his wife of 25 years.
BN: How do you keep up with world affairs?
JM: I stay on the computer all day long. I refuse to watch television. It makes me so mad, I'm afraid I'm going to have a stroke. All I watch is BBC news -- and Jeopardy! to keep my mind sharp. I start my morning with articles on the World Press Review.
BN: In a year, what will Iraq be like?
JM: We're going to have a lot of trouble, obviously, with those Shiites. They are 65 percent of the population, and they are freed. Nobody is going to take it away from them now. And we think we can get around them?
BN: We're propping up Ahmed Chalabi, a criminal, to run the government.
JM: (Laughs) That is so obvious. Here's a guy wanted in Jordan for stealing $22 million out of a bank -- it's like one of the [George H.W.] Bush sons, huh? It's so transparent that it's sickening. And we're putting the Sunnis back in business. It's like Germany with the Nazis -- they know how to run the country. We are putting back the same people who ran this regime, other than the torturers.
BN: It's startling to see those olive-green uniformed, mustachioed cops back on the beat in Baghdad. These were the street-level eyes and ears for Saddam Hussein, and we're re-employing them.
JM: It's all the way down the line.
BN: We are becoming Saddam Hussein, aren't we? We watched the pilgrimage to Karbala that Hussein banned and now we're wondering how in the hell we're going to stop these people. We've already seen a bunch of protesting Shiites in Mosul.
JM: Look at who is speaking for the Shiites. The religious leaders. And if they hold an election, these people will win office, and our Army will have to nullify it. Saddam Hussein's government was a very modern government in many ways. Women had the same rights as men and were educated at the universities. He modernized Iraq, and the fundamentalists didn't like this. Now we're giving the guns back to the Sunnis, and it's all going to revert to the same bullshit. The only difference is now we'll control the oil.
BN: So it is about the oil.
JM: It's not about the oil per se. We can get all the oil we need without Iraq. It's about control of the oil. In 2000, Saddam Hussein petitioned the United Nations to denominate the oil he was selling in euros instead of dollars. Have you noticed that the euro is now 25 percent higher than the dollar? And the OPEC countries, the only way they could punish the United States would be to denominate oil in euros. If that happens, it will bring the dollar down and be a huge boon to Europe. One thing we're trying to do is control the Middle East so the oil will always be denominated in dollars. This is a big secret in the United States. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, nobody's talking about it. But it's all they talk about in Europe.
BN: American companies will also get the contracts to run those wells and move that oil.
JM: Yeah. We are operating today on the principles of Cosa Nostra. We talk about chemical weapons, but what about our use of depleted uranium [radioactive munitions] as a weapon? There are 200,000 Gulf War veterans who have all kinds of problems because of it. Their kids are having birth defects. We used it in Kosovo, and the rates of cancer are doubling and tripling there.
BN: And we're using it again in Iraq this time. This war was really based on economics and raw domination, but that's not legal or acceptable, so we got all these big lies and diversions. Leave no Iraqi child behind.
JM: That this is about democracy is the biggest lie ever uttered. I can name 50 countries that are just as dangerous to the United States as Iraq. Right now, we're flooding money into Uzbekistan, which is a country that has one of the worst human-rights records going right now.
BN: Kazakhstan's not much better, and we love them too.
JM: All the Stans have the same problem.
BN: Damn those Stans.
JM: They say we might build four airbases in Iraq. Is that liberation? This is exactly what caused Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden did what he did because we didn't leave Saudi Arabia [after the first Gulf War]. Now that we have our ass in Iraq, nothing will get us out except bin Laden and people like him. Dick Cheney promised after the first Gulf War that U.S. troops wouldn't stay in Saudi Arabia a minute longer than they were needed. We never left, and the whole thing was set in stone, the World Trade Center, all of it. They call it "the great game." The great game is to gain control of this area.
BN: And religion intensifies it. I always felt that Osama bin Laden was much more a geopolitical guy than a religious guy. He's just using these angry fanatics to do his bidding.
JM: Sure, and he was our buddy. He ran the whole deal in Afghanistan back when the Soviet Union was invading. He just thought, "Hell, we defeated the Soviet Union -- let's beat the United States."
BN: Bush has proven bin Laden right more than anything -- we are taking over the region.
BN: What does Bush really want to do? Where is his head?
JM: I think he's a little man who was given $340 million [in campaign contributions] two years before the election, and he is intoxicated with this power. I don't think he's up to the job. He personalizes everything. Middle East? Get rid of Arafat. Same with Saddam. But he's not addressing the real problems.
BN: Is Bush a stone-cold racketeer? Or is he really this genuine, earnest, God-fearing fellow?
JM: He's not this God-fearing moral person. That's bullshit. I would look at his career.
BN: He had a cheap career.
JM: He's a crook, that's all. I've seen thousands of people just like him.
BN: Between this illegal war and the tax cuts, he's robbing us blind. But Congress is going along with all of it, so he's protected.
JM: Look at the whole family. Neil Bush and the savings-and-loan crisis. Harken Energy. Jeb Bush and his early business dealings. Every single one of them has something wrong with them.
BN: Bush is putting at least $100 billion in Iraq. These companies -- DynCorp, Bechtel, Halliburton, every defense contractor out there -- profit. That's all. And they're all huge donors to Bush and have big Republicans on their boards. Look where Bush gave his first significant speech after Baghdad fell: Boeing. How in-your-face can he get?
JM: I'm totally with you, man. It's the militarization of America. Look at all these generals that are on the boards of all these military corporations. They get $50,000 for showing up once, maybe, at a meeting. And the people that are running the companies are stealing like crazy, like they stole from Enron and all these other big corporations. This is the system, and believe me, it is very close to what the Mafia does. Nobody talks about it. It's omerta, but on a different level.
BN: Speaking of silence, let's talk about Israel. We've both been attacked for our political views on that subject. Joe Lieberman said on a talk show yesterday that we can't allow Iraq to become a theocracy, which to me is so ironic, since Israel is a theocracy.
JM: When they read that, they will go nuts: "What do you mean? Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East!" Israel isn't a democracy.
BN: But there are working democratic processes in Israel.
JM: They do have a functioning democracy on some level. But the Arab Israelis don't really have freedom.
BN: And they're killing Palestinians every day. They just shot an Associated Press cameraman in the head. What would you do about the Middle East?
JM: I would go back to the 1967 border, dismantle every one of those goddamn settlements, dismantle that wall, and let the Palestinians develop a state. Give them some money, help them get going.
BN: Do you think the United States is heading toward a theocracy? Look at George W. Bush.
JM: He's a fanatic.
BN: Yeah, but I think it's part of his con.
JM: No. Do you know what a dry drunk is? Heavy drinkers have a definite change in personality; there is a definite change in their brains. AA has come up with a syndrome, and Bush falls right into that. One of the things is impatience. Seeing things in a very rigid way. Their ability to think is hindered. It's much easier to grab hold of an idea and stick with it than to challenge it.
BN: But what if he's right about Iraq? The administration says it will change the political landscape in the Middle East, plant the seed of democracy, and lead to peace everywhere.
JM: We've had plenty of opportunities already to do that. Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan. Afghanistan is reverting right back to what it was before. The Taliban is regrouping.
BN: Did you support the Afghanistan invasion?
JM: I was opposed to it.
BN: I'm still glad we took out the Taliban.
JM: But we have the responsibility to stay there.
BN: Exactly. Bush is blowing it. He leapfrogged Afghanistan for Iraq.
JM: It's the second time we did it. We created the Taliban. We created the son-of-a-bitch Saddam too. We financed him and made him who he was, just like Noriega.
BN: You agree that it's good that Saddam is out of power?
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JM: Yes, I think it was time for his system to go. But I don't think war was the way to do it. Is it our business to go all over the world and rid these countries of dictators? We have to let it happen on its own.
BN: Do you know that Fox would call you an America-hating traitor for saying that?
JM: Absolutely. [Laughs] I would consider it a compliment.