Saturday, July 30, 2005

Terrorism: War or Crime?

That has always seemed to me the most ridiculously easy question to answer. Of course, it's crime, and should be treated as such. Police should do their business, follow leads, use reasonable preventative measures, and we get back to our lives.

But Bush put the kabosh on that thinking a week or so after 9-11 when he said it was War, and that you were either with us or against us. We are still paying, and will continue for some time to pay, for the colossal stupidity of his approach, and for the complicity of both parties and the mainstream media in his childish response.

I live in the U.S. not Britain, but keep having to share British commentary on terrorism because, aside from the stuff on commondreams, alternet and antiwar, I have trouble finding challenges to the War on Terrorism concept (which, it should be noted, is being recast as we speak). Here, Simon Jenkins of the Times and Guardian, writes a column I only wish could have been written by an American in, say, Fall of 2001.

Resisting the "Useful Idiots"

We are still here. We still live, work and play. We can vote. We can travel where we want, meet whom we choose, say what we like. We still enjoy due process of law. The only absurdity is that in the eighth year of the government of Tony Blair we need to remark on these facts.

Urban terrorism can only be treated as a crime. Conspiring to explode devices in public places endangers life, destroys property and causes public nuisance. Like all criminal effects it has causes. A sensible democracy addresses those causes. But since ordinary citizens and even the police can do little about them in the short term, they rightly concentrate on the crime itself. The streets of London are alive with like dangers, with people who shoot, kill and maim dozens of people a year. We fight them all, whatever their proffered and spurious justification.

So what purpose was served last week by police crying, "They're still out there and trying to get you"? What good are daily briefings on "the inevitability" of another attack? Street killings are inevitable too. Apart from the gratuitous damage to public confidence and business, why stoke the very fears, hatreds and antagonisms which the bombers want stoked? Just get on and find the bombers, without publicising their allegedly awesome power to deflect blame from any deficiencies in public safety. Half the British establishment seems to have signed up to the League of Friends of Terrorism.

That some London passengers were sadly killed earlier this month does not put the security of the British state at risk. I have a higher respect for that security than most people seem to do. Britain is not at war just because some Arab says so. No amount of tabloid hysteria -- or tabloid government -- should make it otherwise. No city can be immune to bombs but that does not subvert democracy and engender a state of emergency. Anyone who pretends otherwise is an accessory to the terrorism itself.

Read the whole article...

Also, in last week's Time, Matthew Parris serves up is a sharply observed, bitterly funny take on a special "conspiracy":
I have not the least idea what may be the size, shape and competence of al-Qaeda and would not dream of suggesting (and do not believe) that they are uninvolved.

Nor do I mean to downplay the horrors that have hit London: death and destruction are death and destruction, whoever causes them.

Nor do I want to imply doubt about the scale of the horrors that may lie ahead. Home-grown or foreign-born, at whatever level of competence, and whether a concerted campaign or demented craze, this kind of thing is deadly and difficult to combat.

My purpose is more limited. To alert you to the enormous, insidious and mostly unconscious pressure that exists to talk up, rather than talk down, the efficacy of al-Qaeda. When all the pressures are to talk up a lethal characterisation of the forces at work, we need to be supercool in the way we look at these reports.

... You have read much about the threat of one particular conspiracy. Here is another. There is an unwitting conspiracy between four separate powers [the journalist, the politician, the police chief and the terrorist ]to represent the worldwide al-Qaeda network as fiendishly clever, powerfully effective and deeply involved in the London bombings.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Bipartisan support for another catastrophe

The answer to the question, Is Iran being set up?...

... is still yes. In fact, the concept has quite strong bipartisan support.

In Democracy, Terrorism, and Nuclear Weapons, Stephen Zunes, writing in, has an extremely thorough refutation of all the half-truths currently circulating about Iran.

The wide-ranging stupidity (or disingenousness) in this country about the Islamic Republic simply staggers belief, especially in the wake of a still-ongoing disaster that was based on half-truths.

What bothers me most is the bipartisan aspect of this. I mentioned in a previous post my Democratic congressman's ominous mutterings about Iran. Zunes expands on Democrat complicity in what seems to be yet another buildup to a tragic and ridiculous war. What hope do we have if there is no alternative to the War Party?
Despite accusations from U.S. officials that "there is no doubt that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons production program," no one has been able to cite any evidence supporting such a charge. As with the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, however, Democratic congressional leaders have contributed to the Bush administration's alarmist rhetoric about a supposed nuclear threat from Iran and have defended White House double standards that focus on the alleged nuclear weapons program of an adversary while ignoring the obvious and proven nuclear weapons arsenals of U.S. allies like Israel, Pakistan, and India. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely seen as the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, declared that the prospect of Iran also developing nuclear weapons "must be unacceptable to the entire world," since it would "shake the foundation of global security to its very core." Similarly, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for the establishment of "an international coalition against proliferation" modeled on the multilateral effort to combat terrorism. She suggested that instead of organizing against nuclear proliferation in general, such a coalition should focus on Iran, despite the Islamic Republic's apparent current cooperation with its NPT obligations. As with the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, congressional Democratic leaders appear willing to blindly support the Bush administration in its exaggerated and highly selective accusations of an imminent threat from a distant country that just happens to sit on a lot of oil.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Cause and consequence

Andrew Murray in the Guardian:
Tony Blair appears to be on the brink of a Brechtian moment, in which he will need to dissolve the people who have lost his confidence and elect another.

Certainly, if he claims that anyone who believes there is a connection between the government's foreign policy - above all, Iraq - and the July 7 massacre in London is a "fellow traveller of terrorism", then he has his work cut out. Fully 85% of the public do, according to a Daily Mirror/GMTV poll.


This attempt to close down debate as to why Britain - London above all - is now fighting the misbegotten "war on terror" on its own streets, is doubly dangerous. Not only does it block the necessary re-evaluation of foreign policy, it also places the onus for preventing any repetition of July 7 on the "Muslim community", which - in a form of collective responsibility - is accused of breeding an "evil ideology" in its midst.

This approach risks reaping a different whirlwind in anti-Muslim attacks, physical and verbal. It also creates the climate in which Brazilians allegedly wearing coats on a hot day can become targets for a shoot-to-kill policy imported from Israel.

"Iraq" is shorthand for describing the problem. As well as the occupation of Iraq, it encompasses the faltering occupation of Afghanistan, the misery of the Palestinians, Guantánamo Bay and the carefully photographed torture at Abu Ghraib and Camp Breadbasket.


Of course, al-Qaida and its reactionary ideologists may have broader objectives than ending the occupation of Iraq. But no one is going to bomb Britain because of Chechnya. All roads lead back to the government's uncritical identification with the US neoconservative agenda. The first step in a realignment must be ending the occupation of Iraq. This is not "appeasing terrorism": that would only be the case if the occupation had been wildly popular, and producing results before July 7, and a U-turn was urged as a result of the carnage in London.

In fact, the occupation was wrong, and failing, before July 7 and it is wrong afterwards. It was opposed by most of the people before it began, and by most people most of the time to this day.

The main argument for ending it is not what has happened, or is threatened, in London but what is happening in Iraq daily. Every day is July 7 in occupied Iraq, where Britain has, along with the US, arbitrarily, violently and unlawfully constituted itself the de facto authority.

Whether one talks of 25,000 violent deaths, as claimed by Iraq Occupation Focus, the 39,000 counted by the Swiss-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, or the 100,000 "excess civilian deaths", including nonviolent casualties of occupation, identified by the Lancet, this is a massacre of innocent people that the government apparently believes is a price worth ignoring for its Iraq policy.

Read the whole article...

"No one wants to talk about Fallujah"

David Enders reports from the Cincinnati-sized city the U.S. military basically knocked to the ground.
I have heard Iraqis make comparisons between their occupation and the US occupation of Palestine, but it wasn't until I saw families walking through the kilometer-long checkpoint, from a parking lot outside Falluja to one on the other side, that it seemed apt.
The only video I know of from Fallujah is still up on the Diario site, and pretty much must be seen to be believed. (The video link is below the picture of the truck.)

Scilla Elworthy offers "A Better Way to Tackle Terror." Gee, do you think the Pentagon will listen to recommendations like, "Avoid, wherever possible, using more violence"?
The theme of humiliation recurs throughout reports and opinion surveys. A March 2004 poll sponsored by ABC News, NHK (Japan), ARD (Germany) and the BBC, with fieldwork by Oxford Research International, found that 41% of Iraqis thought the war had humiliated Iraq.

The act of scrawling an obscene insult -- "Fuck Iraq and every Iraqi in it!" on a bedroom mirror during a house raid -- may appear an isolated, inconsequential event, but a single act of this sort can reaffirm nationalist tendencies in an entire neighbourhood and colour its perception of the American mission.

United States Marines, searching for insurgents in Ramadi, randomly kicked in the doors of houses to shout at the women inside: "'Where's your black mask?' and 'Bitch, where's the guns?'" These soldiers were not taught in advance to respect human decencies and Iraqi cultural norms; the violation involved here is also of the honour of male family members, who in response are likely to seek retaliation for the mistreatment of their wives and sisters.

Humiliation and degradation are ancient and explosive weapons of war, and inevitably produce a backlash. In cultures where the concept of honour is profound, those who humiliate and dehumanise do so at their peril. In doing so, they put a much wider group of citizens at risk.

In Iraq, the sense of powerlessness of ordinary people under Saddam Hussein has been compounded by the humiliation of the invasion and the failures of reconstruction. Alistair Crooke, intelligence officer and former European Union security adviser, directly experienced the US assault on Fallujah. "If you haven't experienced it you can have no idea what it feels like being subjected to bombing of this kind", he says. "The houses which were destroyed had nothing to do with the resistance fighters, who slept in alleyways. And, because bombs were attached to doorbells, the US troops killed the first person they saw as a matter of course. This kind of trauma generates intense hostility", says Crooke. "Even if you are an observer, you can't trust your emotions."

More news to make you crawl back between the sheets

The paper of record gives free advertising to another think-tank lunatic who thinks racial profiling is the answer: "Truth be told, commuters need to be most aware of young men praying to Allah and smelling like flower water."

Meanwhile, Norman Solomon dissects the Times' resident thug. In case we'd forgotten, Solomon reminds us that:
  • in 1999, Thomas Friedman wrote: "Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too"

  • told CNBC, "there's one thing ... that I do like about Rumsfeld. He's just a little bit crazy, OK?"

  • and of course that one of the favorite phrases of the Pulitzer Prize-winner, repeated in conflict after conflict, is "give war a chance."
Also, in Counterpunch Gary Leupp asks, Is Iran being set up?

And Juan Cole comments on the news that The Bush administration is giving up the phrase "global war on terror":
I take it this is because they have finally realized that if they are fighting a war on terror, the enemy is four guys in a gymn in Leeds. It isn't going to take very long for people to realize that a) you don't actually need to pay the Pentagon $400 billion a year if that is the problem and b) whoever is in charge of such a war isn't actually doing a very good job at stopping the bombs from going off.
As always, Cole's take on the situation is well worth reading in full.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cherie strays off message

One of the most appalling things about American public life is "on message" speech. Such a teeth-gnashing insult to intelligence and common sense, and yet weirdly, depressingly effective in the brain-benumbed Coke or Pepsi range of political discourse. On Message speech is why Karl Rove and Mary Matalin have jobs (and James Carville for that matter).

Our British allies in the Global War on Terror—er I mean in the "global struggle against violent extremism"—haven't yet completely mastered the strategy of repeating the same four or five lies until you're blue in the face.

Mr. Blair does try. He stays On Message even when he has to speak for an hour without notes in Parliament, something they could never train our presidential monkey to do in a million years.

Mrs. Blair, another story. Not only does she wander from the script (speaking in a Muslim country, no less), she even (gasp) lets slip statements that actually function as a reflection of, er, reality, instead of advancing the crazy notion that takes as its premise the idea that history began in September 2001, when "evil" popped up completely out of nowhere.

Cherie will probably find a way to recant tomorrow, but let's savor the moment. When's the last time an American politician said something like, "It is all too easy for us to respond to such terror in a way which undermines our commitment to our most deeply held values and convictions" or "As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up, you are never going to make progress"?

If Mr. and Mrs. keep this up, the Blairs might yet rise to Clintonian levels of frostiness.

From the Scotsman:
CHERIE Blair yesterday made an extraordinary criticism of her husband's government as she called for the judiciary to stand up to the "hurly-burly of majoritarian politics" in the war on terror.

Judges, she said, should resist political pressure over the conviction of suspected extremists and uphold human rights legislation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Been down that road before

While the opposition party once again demonstrates its utter uselessness as protector of civil rights (in fact, Senate Republicans are showing more spine in comparison—which ain't saying much), Rami G. Khouri thinks Egypt's experience with "zero tolerance" on terrorism might be instructive (i.e. it just makes things worse).

Sharm el-Sheik is not just a sparkling Red Sea tourist resort. It is the icon of everything Egypt wants to be in the region and the world. Sharm el-Sheik is where Egypt routinely hosts Arab-Arab and Arab-Israeli summits, global anti-terror summits with American presidents and other Western leaders, and other emergency gatherings of very important people. It is the showcase of Egyptian modernity, foreign investment, tourism expansion, foreign currency earnings, sound planning, and, above all, strict security ensured by the state and its hundreds of thousands of armed soldiers and police.

The Taba bombings some months ago in the northern part of the same Sinai Peninsula triggered a significant increase in security in all Sinai, along with the jailing of hundreds of suspects. Yet the terrorists Saturday still challenged the Egyptian state in its crown jewel, and bombed it almost at will. Someone should please tell the great leaders of the mighty Arabs and the Free World that the moral depravity and criminality of this terror deed is fully matched by its political audacity and symbolism; to condemn the crime without grasping its political implications, and underlying causes, would be the height of amateurism by any political leader.

But this is what Blair, Bush, Mubarak and most other leaders seem to be doing, stressing motives of religious extremism, distorted education, social alienation, poverty, historical yearnings, psychological traumas, mystical impulses and cultural angst as the primary causal detonators of suicide bombers. The leaders do not sufficiently acknowledge the complex, cumulative political processes and legacies that drive ordinary young men to become suicidal terrorists. The path from common citizen to criminal bomber is paved primarily with the consequences of the policies of many Arab, Western, Israeli and other governments, and not primarily the frailties or inclinations of individual human beings.

Iran and the experts

Writing in Znet, Sasan Fayazmanesh, professor of Economics at Cal State Fresno, offers some perspective on the "expertise" being offered on Iran. With Dick Cheney having the Pentagon draw up contingency plans for nuking Tehran, you'd think there would be more interest in really understanding what's going on in that country, but no—all we hear from the MSM and politicians of both parties is this steady droning on about "evil mullahs" and the "rogue state" of Iran.

Maybe this is the reason:
... Almost the entire news media in the US seems to be relying on one or another “expert” from various institutions whose job it is to propagate misinformation, disinformation, and just plain lies. A day does not go by without one hearing or reading about “information” provided by an “expert” from the Hoover Institution, American Enterprise Institute, National Review, Weekly Standard, Project for the New American Century, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Hudson Institute, Saban Center, etc. (for an introduction to these centers of propaganda see:

With these kinds of “experts” the chances of the US public getting anything remotely close to the truth is nil. What is worse is that these media “experts” are usually the same ones who are, in the first place, formulating the US foreign policy. Given these “experts,” is it any wonder that for more than half a century the US foreign policy towards Iran has been nothing but a series of blunders and blowbacks? Is it any wonder that the CIA coup of 1953 led by some “experts,” such as Kermit Roosevelt, ultimately resulted in the “Islamic Revolution” of 1979? Is it any wonder that the symbiotic relation, nourished by the “experts,” between the shah, the US and Israel—during which the CIA and Mossad protected the shah and trained his notorious police force, Savak, in exchange for export of Iranian oil, purchase of arms from the US and Israel, and the shah’s anti-Arab policies—resulted in the expulsion of Americans and the Israelis from Iran following the revolution? Is it any wonder that the insistence of some “experts,” such as Henry Kissinger, to allow the shah back into the US led to the takeover of the US Embassy? Is it any wonder that the green light that some “experts,” such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, gave to Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, the subsequent arming of Saddam—including giving him chemical agents—the attempt by both the US and Israel to prolong the Iran-Iraq War resulted in the death of nearly a million people and hatred for the real architects of the war? Is it any wonder that Israeli “experts,” such as Shimon Peres and his various cohorts of agents and merchants of death, led the US into a tragicomedy known as the “Iran-Contra scandal”? Is it any wonder that as a result of the policy of the “experts,” Saddam came out of the Iran-Iraq War militarily stronger than when he entered it, and then invaded Kuwait? Is it any wonder that the US’s first invasion of Iraq and the subsequent economic sanctions against Iraq, all designed by the USraeli “experts,” led to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and increased animosity towards the US in the Arab world? Is it any wonder that the policy of sanctioning Iran, directed by the Washington Institute-AIPAC “experts,” was a massive failure, which caused the Clinton Administration, in a last-ditch effort, to reverse course to please the angry corporate lobby? Is it any wonder that, as the result of the “expert” advice from the Machiavellian students of Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol, the US invaded Iraq, for the second time, under false pretexts? Is it any wonder that these same “experts” fooled an entire nation into believing that the war against Iraq would be a cakewalk? Is it any wonder that these “experts” have caused, so far, the death of over 1,750 US soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, in an atrocious war with no end in sight? Is it any wonder that after the Iraq war fiasco these “experts” quietly moved away, set up camp elsewhere, and focused their attention on Iran, Israel’s main target? Is it any wonder that, as a result of the “brilliant” policies of these “experts,” Iraq now has precisely the kind of Shiite dominated government that the USraelis have been trying to overthrow in Iran, Iran has a more conservative government, and the two governments of Iran and Iraq are now closer to each other than at any time in the modern history of the Middle East? With these “experts,” who needs amateurs?

Seven. Hundred. Billion. Dollars.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost taxpayers $314 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office projects additional expenses of perhaps $450 billion over the next 10 years.

What we could buy with that:

Climate change denial and totalitarian systems

George Monbiot finds a precursor to state-sponsored climate change denial: Lysenkoism, a cockeyed alternative vision of genetics that trashed Soviet agriculture.

The stakes now are higher, of course: Monbiot says we're dealing with "the greatest crisis humanity has ever encountered" and major players, led of course by the United States, are trying to ensure we do nothing about it. The problem, he argues, is systemic:

Our problem is that, just as genetics was crushed by totalitarian communism, meaningful action to prevent climate change has been prohibited by totalitarian capitalism. When I use this term I don't mean that the people who challenge it are rounded up and sent to break rocks in Siberia. I mean that it intrudes into every corner of our lives, governs every social relation, becomes the lens through which every issue must be seen. It is the total system which leaves no molecule of earth or air uncosted and unsold. And, like Soviet totalitarianism, it allows no solution to pass which fails to enhance its power. The only permitted answer to the effects of greed is more greed.

I don't know how long this system can last. But I did see something in Scotland last week that I hadn't seen before. At the G8 Alternatives meeting in Edinburgh and the People and Planet conference in Stirling, climate change, until recently neglected by campaigners, stirred fiercer emotions than any other topic. People are already mobilising for the demonstrations planned by the Campaign against Climate Change on December 3rd. I saw a resolve there to make this the biggest issue in British politics. If we succeed, the new campaign will crash head-on into the totalitarian system. But as more people wake up to what the science is saying, it is not entirely certain that the system will win.

Read the whole article...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Abu Ghraib Stonewall

From Editor and Publisher:

Pentagon Blocks Release of Abu Ghraib Images: Here's Why
Yesterday, news emerged that lawyers for the Pentagon had refused to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release dozens of unseen photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by Saturday. The photos were among thousands turned over by the key “whistleblower” in the scandal, Specialist Joseph M. Darby. Just a few that were released to the press sparked the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal last year, and the video images are said to be even more shocking.

For some reason, I don't think this is the last time you'll see this "Screw you, we're above the law" sort of response from the Pentagon ... or the White House ... or the Office of the Vice President.

Hello, Congress. Hello, Senators. Got anything to say?

I thought not.
Rules are for the other guys

I cannot believe the extent to which this story has been ignored. There are no words to describe just how scandalously the U.S. team behaved at the the NPT Review Conference in May.

Not scandalous as in "Oh, that Karl Rove, what a dirtbag," scandalous as in George W. Bush just decided by himself not to honor the terms of the NPT. Bush is not only NOT disarming, he's going in the other direction (pre-emptive nuclear strikes anyone?).

Basically, the Bushies are reneging on just about everything the U.S. agreed to in the last NPT in 2000. "[I]t took delegates to the Seventh RevCon two weeks to even agree on an agenda because Bush refused to allow the final report of the Sixth RevCon to even be discussed, much less be reaffirmed."

In Tearing Up the NPT, Gordon Prather discusses the issues at Today he posts another story, Emasculating Nonproliferation, that considers the implications of this stunning piece of news last week:
Bush announced ... that "as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states."

Translation? Even though India has refused to sign the NPT, India should nevertheless "acquire the same benefits and advantages" that the IAEA-NPT-NSG regime bestows on the U.S., UK, France, Russia, and China!

Read the whole article...

Dick plans to nuke Tehran just because

Comforting thoughts to mull over Monday morning coffee

From The American Conservative (print-only) as transcribed by Justin Logan:
The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing--that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack--but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More unspeakable evil on the seed front

Yes, a topic that enrages me almost as much as the pointlessness of war and America's embrace of it: SEEDS!

Here is a disgusting piece from Environmental Commons describing efforts by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), "a self-described Beltway lobbying group made up of state politicians and the neoconservative business leaders who pay for them (Altria, Koch Industries, Coors, PhRMA -- the usual suspects), [and their] stealth campaign to bypass the electorate and introduce legislation at the state level preventing counties, towns, and cities from passing laws that prohibit genetically modified crops or livestock."

Here, from the same site, is a seed law backgrounder as well as a seed and plant law preemption tracker, and an earlier post of mine on some of the same topics.

What can come of "Plame-gate"? I can think of a few results that would cheer me:
  • Dick Cheney in shackles
  • All U.S. troops home by Christmas
  • 2000 soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis brought back to life
  • 80,000 limbs miraculously reattached
Short of that, I don't think it's worth all the hollerin' (at least until we can see who the investigation is really after). For all who are sick to death of the hideous little creep currently at the center of it all, and wonder how he ever came to prominence anyway, here is an excerpt from Death to the hog by Matt Taibbi. He suggests we look in the mirror.
They are going to pitch this as a political suspense story, a kind of high-stakes back-alley dice game where we all crouch over and watch to see if Karl Rove can hang on by his fingernails. Half the crowd will be screaming for odds, the other for evens. What a lot of fun either way, right? We live in a country so deadened and so cynical that everything, in the end, becomes just another pastime. Just another summer blockbuster that'll probably suck, but what the hell—at least the effects will be good....

[T]he basic fact about Rove ... is that he's not a genius at all. He is a pig, and the only thing that distinguishes him is the degree of his brazenness and cruelty. It doesn't take a genius to send out fliers calling your opponent the "fag candidate." It doesn't take a genius to insinuate that your opponent's wife is a drug addict. There's nothing cunning or clever about saying your opponent came home from a war too fucked in the head to govern (particularly when your own candidate was too much of a coward to fight in the same war), or about whispering that that same candidate may have an illegitimate black child. And there's nothing clever about calling the followers of the opposition party traitorous and un-American, and claiming that they all want to coddle and appease the murderers of our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

Karl Rove is a character of a type that reappears from time to time throughout history—an unscrupulous power-chaser of the highest order, who rises to the top by demonizing and defaming innocent people. He's an elementary-school bully who proves his chops by throwing rocks at the retarded kid. And he reached a position of public honor thanks to a loophole in our national character that embraces any entrepreneur who dares to do whatever it takes to succeed. Rove is in trouble now, but he would never have had free reign of Washington to begin with if we hadn't so willingly given him his romantic image.

Anything for money. Anything for power. How cute is he now?

Read the whole article...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On the numbers

Several articles I've read imply that the Iraq Body Count report contradicts the Lancet findings of last October. The Guardian, for example, says:

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University in the US and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad put the civilian death toll at up to 100,000 since the invasion.

The study was based on interviews with Iraqis, most of them doctors, but conceded that the data on which the projections were based was of "limited precision."

Not everyone includes the following, but I think it's important:
Sloboda stressed that his report did not necessarily contradict the study in The Lancet, which also included non-violent deaths said to be caused by the war.

The new figures were simply meant to be "an absolutely firm, unshakeable baseline" for the minimum number of violent deaths, he said.
For more, see here and here and here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

There's no education in the second kick of a mule

On Monday, I happened to be present for a question and answer session with my congressman, a Democrat, and some high school students.

I was happy to see the congressman take a stand against the Iraq war, but found his reasoning disturbing. One of his biggest objections seemed to be that the war was restricting the U.S. military's ability to "respond" elsewhere should the need arise. He mentioned that Iran was much more of a "problem" and went on about the scary prospect of a fundamentalist regime acquiring nuclear weapons.

He of course did not mention that Iran, as a signatory to the Non-proliferation treaty (NPT), has a right develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, or that, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,"[a]lthough the U.S. government and Israel have stated for years that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, they have not provided the IAEA or the public with the location of any nuclear weaponization sites or any direct evidence of such activities." Or that three U.S. allies in Iran's neighborhood, India, Pakistan and Israel, are known nuclear states who have never signed the NPT. Israel, with an arsenal of several hundred nukes, has never acknowledged (or denied) its arsenal. Just yesterday, Bush cut a deal on nuclear power with India. No NPT? No problem for "strategic allies."

I feel I've become a little obsessed with Iran and should explain. I am not Iranian, have never been there, nor do I have Iranian relatives. I realize that it's governed by a repressive regime, but I don't see it as standing out in those terms among its neighbors. I really don't have any special interest in the country other than understanding it's a much more diverse, complicated place than it's being made out to be these days. That, and not wanting another goddamn war.

In spite of the fact that Iran has recently been getting on very well with its neighbors (see here and here), the Bush administration is trying very hard to keep Iran on the front burner in case they come up with the wherewithal to start another war. It's been widely reported that Scott Ritter says we've already started a war with Iran, and Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece last January makes the disturbing point that we probably won't know about it even when it starts! In transferring many covert operations from the CIA, which has to report its activities to Congress, to the Pentagon, which doesn't, Rumsfeld, that paragon of good judgment, now has free reign to do whatever the hell he wants.
The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books—free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A,” ... the former high-level intelligence official said. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs”—the regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)

In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. “Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’ ” the former intelligence official told me. “But they say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there.”
Another former high-level intelligence official used the colorful phrase "There’s no education in the second kick of a mule” in reference to the Bush administration's desire to avoid WMD intelligence mistakes. Leaving aside the question of whether they were actually mistakes in the case of Iraq, I think the phrase could be expanded to a wider context. When will the U.S. government realize how counterproductive its interference in the Middle East has been, is, and will be—as long as we rely on (overt and covert) force?

Take as arbitrary starting point the declaration of "the Carter Doctrine" in 1980. Look what a quarter century of demonizing, threatening, sanctioning, targeted assassinating, invading and bombing (using napalm, bunker-busters, DU, and cluster munitions) has done. Can anyone imagine a less stable, U.S.-friendly Middle East that the one we've (largely) created?

Sometimes I wonder if that isn't the idea after all, if the desired end point is to make the Middle East so unstable that our tanks will have to roll across the Saudi desert to "safeguard" all that precious oil.

I do believe certain characters should be suspected of wanting just that. In general, however, I want to give most of U.S. officialdom the benefit of the doubt, including my congressman, and accept that they really want a stable, peaceful Middle East (that gives the U.S. preferred client status vis a vis oil sales.) Is the current state of affairs what was intended? If not, why are military options always the first ones considered?

Ignoring (only for the sake of argument) questions of morality and international law and looking at the situation from a purely self-interested U.S. point of view, one can make three broad conclusions about our Middle Eastern meddling:
Let's see, a guess on the cost of our efforts to "control" the sovereign states of the Middle East since 1980 would be in the range of, oh, a couple trillion dollars. How many schools and hospitals would that pay for? Do we count the Global War on Terrorism against our former employees in that total? Ring up another couple trillion.

All for a cheap, continous supply of oil?

Wouldn't it be cheaper (and safer) to just pay retail?
Tag team on Democracy Now!

I missed it live, but this is an interesting transcript of a debate between Norman Solomon and Sidney Blumenthal on Democracy Now! (with Amy Goodman a very active participant, as you'll see if you read down the transcript). The topics: Karl Rove, the Democrats, Iraq and Iran.

While Blumenthal was in high Washington-geek mode, full of minutae about l'affaire Rove (am I alone in finding all this Rove chatter absolutely stultefying?), Solomon took the position that it was all a distraction from the most important issue, the goddamn war:
So I think what we're seeing here, while it's very interesting palace intrigue and certainly has great historical and political importance, the kind of recasting of what is on the front burner, and ironically, public concern about Iraq itself and the implications of the U.S. war there, are to some degree being shunted aside by this controversy which, in fact, has its roots in the lies about this war.
... and went on to attack what he thinks (and I agree) is the real target: the unwillingness of either party to address (end) U.S. involvement in what everyone now agrees is an unjust war based on lies:

This goes, I think, to a deeper question, which is, can we have a sense of proportion and perspective where we don't just have two choices? Either we say it's meaningless to protect a C.I.A. agent's identities or there is nothing more important. Certainly, it's a valid issue to protect some government workers in this situation, but do we put it at the very top notch in terms of not only media coverage but also political emphasis and say that that is equivalent to the slaughter of thousands of people in Iraq, which continues because of the U.S. presence?

And I think this raises also the question of the role of the Democratic Party here. Under Howard Dean, the Democratic Party in the United States now has a pro-war position. Let me repeat that. The Democratic Party has a pro-war position as the war in Iraq continues. And so, how well-positioned is the Democratic Party and its leadership, such as it is, to raise these issues about lies on behalf of war and also raise these issues about the meaningfulness of this war.
Blumenthal takes the odd position that it doesn't matter what the Democrats' position is on the war, since they're out of power. Solomon stays on the Democrats' case, and gets a little personal on Sid:
And yet, Sid, you have been around the block a lot, and you can remember when Clinton was in the White House, and the Republicans did not have a majority of both houses, and Republicans yelled and screamed bloody murder and got the White House to start moving in their direction because they raised hell. Why are Democrats -- now admittedly, there's more unfortunate backbone in the White House now than during the Clinton years, but why are you unwilling to call upon Democrats in Congress to start raising hell against this war and hopefully begin to change the political climate of the country?
And then Amy jumps in, running an interview she had done with Wesley Clark on the bombing of R.T.S., Radio Television Serbia, that killed 16 media workers, was called a war crime by Amnesty International, and was ordered by Blumenthal's boss, Bill Clinton. I wonder if Blumenthal was expecting all of that.

Solomon, who just recently returned from Iran, really gets at the heart of the pro-war bipartisan consensus:
And I'm really concerned that there's a kind of an exceptionalism that's been carved out by many leading Democrats that what happened in the attack in Iraq was unusual and extraordinary and that the baseline of justifying missile strikes and other military attacks could come into play, and so I guess it all boils down to again: Will members of Congress and the Democratic Party and others at the grassroots -- how will they respond to an attack on Iran? Are they willing now, and I wonder if my co-guest here, Sid Blumenthal, would be willing to say straight out, clearly now, we are opposed to a U.S. missile strike on Iran?
Blumenthal says his own views are "irrelevant", but nevertheless sputters on about those mythical Iranian nukes and says a missile attack on Iran would be "counterproductive" but not unjustifiable or immoral.

Amy wraps it up with the Democrats in focus, as they should be:
And finally, just this point, which is what the whole conversation has revolved around: Did the Democrats enable the Republicans to do this in Iraq? The issue of weapons of mass destruction; the Presidential election of 2004, where the leading Democratic candidate, the Presidential Democratic candidate, John Kerry, even after it was exposed there were no WMDs, said if he knew then what he knew now, he would still vote to authorize the invasion.
Great stuff. You go, Amy. What is the point of having an opposition party if they can't even speak against an obviously immoral, unjust and costly war? Bombs were dropping on Iraq virtually every day in the late 1990s, on Clinton's watch, and Hillary, in league with the odious Joe Lieberman, is calling for 80,000 more troops—not very promising.

For now, I give the last word to MLK, whom Solomon invoked, motivating me to Google around a bit. I found this quote from his "Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break Silence" speech. Play along with me and substitute Iraq for Vietnam.

"The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways."

Juan Cole on "appeasement" and Christian terrorists

Reading Juan Cole's blog with coffee of a morning is a daunting experience. Relentless and indefatigable only begin to get at it. He covers a huge range of topics with characteristically pithy and often withering wit, he does it every day, AND he has a job.

The quality of his writing is consistently and ridiculously excellent, considering he's a one-man news bureau. The guy sets the bar for bloggers way high.

Today he seems especially energized, and covers about nine different topics. Most recently, as of 9 am, he has a great contextualizing take on that staple of the neocon lexicon, "appeasement":

The Crock of Appeasement
The warmongers, imperialists, and just plain greedy who wish to use up US troops to gain their ill-gotten goods love to use the word "appeasement." Anyone who stands against their expansionist ambitions will be tagged with this term. In the lexicology of the Rabid Right, it evokes British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's attempt to negotiate with German Chancellor Adolph Hitler. It is certainly the case that Hitler was a genocidal maniac and not the sort of man with whom one could usefully negotiate. But not all negotiation is equally fruitless. Before that incident, by the way, "appeasement" had a positive connotation, of "seeking peace."

The rightwing use of the term appeasement, however, turns it on its head. Taken seriously, the doctrine of "no appeasement" on the right would mean we are stuck in perpectual war, always doomed to be on the offensive, always dedicated to gobbling up more of other people's territory and wealth even at the expense of living in constant dread of being blown up and being forced to give up the civil liberties which had made American civilization great.

It would never be possible to negotiate a truce with any enemy. That would be appeasement. It would never be possible to compromise. That would be appeasement. It would never be prudent to withdraw troops from a failed war. That would be appeasement. In other words, the rightwing doctrine of "no appeasement, ever" actually turns you into Hitler rather than into Churchill.
Read the whole post....

And his commentary on the Eric Rudolph sentencing was absolutely spot-on. His is the best response I've seen to that appalling and frankly racist Thomas Friedman column in which he basically makes all Muslims responsible for suicide bombers. Here's Juan on the "Christian Terrorist":

Other things you won't see in the American press about this story (satire alert):

Thomas Friedman will not write an op-ed for the New York Times about what is wrong with white southern Christian males that they keep producing these terrorists. He will also not ask why Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are not denouncing Eric Rudolph every day at the top of their lungs.

No reporter will interview frightened Iraqis about their fears at hearing that there are 138,000 armed Christians in their country belonging to the same faith as the bomber, Rudolph, some of them from his stomping grounds of Florida and North Carolina.

Daniel Pipes will not write a column for the New York Post suggesting that white southern Christians be put in internment camps until it can be determined why they keep producing terrorists and antisemites.

George W. Bush will not issue a statement that "Christianity is a religion of peace and we will not allow the Eric Rudolphs to hijack it for their murderous purposes."

Frank Gaffney will not write a column for the Washington Post castigating the Republican Party for appeasement in surrendering to the terrorist threats of radical Christians, by now opposing reproductive rights.

Max Boot will not point out that if the United States could only keep the Philippines in the early twentieth century by killing 400,000 Filipinos, than that was what needed to be done, and if the US can only beat back radical Christians by killing 400,000 of them, then that may just be necessary.

Pat Buchanan will not write a column blasting King George III for having promoted the illegal immigration into the American south of criminal elements, whose maladjusted descendants are still making trouble.

Monday, July 18, 2005

This Happens Every Day (Why?)

Crisis Pictures, which had gone away for a while, is back and posting new content. For me no site has brought home the horror and cost of the Iraq war like this site. Warning: the pictures are often graphic.

As regards the Iraqi casualties of our war, and our criminal neglect of same, Judith Coburn, who has covered war in Vietnam, Central America and the Middle East, writes in

How many Iraqis have died in our war in their country? Is there a better symbol of how the war for Iraq has already been lost than our ignorance about the cost of the war to Iraqis?

"Cost of the war": a cliché to normalize the carnage, like the anaesthetizing term "collateral damage" and that new semantic horror, "torture lite." And yet the "cost of the war" report, by now a hackneyed convention of American journalism, includes only American casualties -- no Iraqis -- itself a violation of the American mainstream media's own professed commitment to "objectivity." Three years of "anniversary" articles in the American media adding up the so-called "cost of the war" in Iraq have focused exclusively on Americans killed, American dollars spent, American hardware destroyed, with barely a mention of the Iraqi dead as part of that "cost."

Some key points:
  • Human Rights Watch reports that while coalition forces killed more Iraqi civilians than the insurgents did in the early months of the war, now insurgents are killing many more civilians than coalition forces. The Education for Peace in Iraq project, a non profit group of antiwar Gulf War veterans, Iraqis, and others, reports that insurgents are now killing 15 times the number of civilians killed by coalition forces and that the number of civilians killed by insurgents has doubled since the first six months of 2004. Just last week, the New York Times front-paged rare Iraqi Interior Ministry figures showing insurgents are now killing an average of 800 Iraqi policemen and civilians a month.
  • Ironically, IBC [Iraq Body Count], once heralded as a brilliantly conceived breakthrough in monitoring war casualties -- impossible without the Internet -- is now an object of some dismay among anti-war activists because its methodology inevitably leads to a casualty undercount.
  • [S]tories highlighting the magnitude of Iraqi suffering have been rare indeed. A study by George Washington University researchers found that American television coverage of the invasion of Iraq itself was remarkably sanitized. Only 13.5% of the 1,710 TV news stories they reviewed from the start of the war to the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003 included shots of wounded or dead Americans or Iraqis. Only 4% showed any dead.
  • The October, 2003 [Human Rights Watch] report Hearts and Minds charged that American soldiers often used "indiscriminate force," especially at checkpoints after insurgent bombings, and also in raids on civilian houses, causing many civilian casualties. Few of these injuries to civilians are investigated by the military, HRW found.
  • Besides cluster munitions, a new and improved version of napalm, the Vietnam War's other most grisly weapon, and its chemical cousin white phosphorous, have been used by American forces in Iraq, a fact known to few Americans because our media has barely reported on the subject. The Pentagon has admitted that it used napalm near the Kuwaiti border during the invasion, though the use seems to have been more widespread than the Pentagon said. For instance, the Bush Administration reportedly lied to its British allies about its use. (In Europe, the evident use of napalm by the U.S. in its assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah last November sparked headlines and furious opposition in the British Parliament.)

Read the whole article....

Armageddon outta here!

While we're on that topic, John Prados, writing in the Bulletin, weighs in on the report of the WMD Commission.
Despite flaws, the report is essential reading for anyone seriously interested not only in the Iraq intelligence issue but also in broader questions of proliferation. In nearly 600 pages of history and prescription, the commission report delves into five major cases (Iraq, Libya, Al Qaeda, Iran, and North Korea) and provides nine chapters of analysis, with suggestions on intelligence organization and proliferation management. About 100 additional pages--the chapters "Iran and North Korea: Monitoring Development in Nuclear Capabilities" and "Covert Action"--are classified and therefore unavailable to the public.
The good news: "The final report is surprisingly good, given the commission's starting point" (many of the appointees were intelligence neophytes—hmm).

The bad news, well....
  • The report studiously avoids whether the Bush administration misused its intelligence and reaches the misleading conclusion that no politicization of the intelligence process ever occurred. (Interestingly, the commission's Libya investigation--no doubt conceived by the Bush White House as a helpful counterweight to Iraq, since it presents a success--actually shows that on an issue with less political salience, intelligence performance was better, even though the same limitations of evidence applied.)

  • the Al Qaeda chapter, which consists entirely of a series of snapshots of what intelligence thought before the October 2001 Afghan campaign compared with what was found there afterward. In doing so, the commission overstates what was found, evaluating the Al Qaeda effort as having "fast-growing unconventional weapons capabilities and aggressive intentions." The report acknowledges no such weapons--chemical, biological, or nuclear--or capabilities were found, and coalition forces encountered nothing more than scattered bits of lab equipment and some technical papers on computer hard drives. Clearly, Osama bin Laden was interested in such weapons, but there is little evidence of a coherent program, much less an aggressive one. Despite this, the commission tars U.S. intelligence with underestimating Al Qaeda's weapons capability--a judgment that smacks of post hoc justification for the war on terrorism.

  • the WMD Commission raises chilling possibilities for even greater secrecy. The authors advocate more use of secret wiretaps and "pen registers" (devices that record incoming and outgoing phone numbers). Alleging a "well-documented" plethora of damage to U.S. intelligence collection supposedly caused by media disclosures, the commissioners support coordinated leak investigations and focusing the DNI's [director of national intelligence] inspector general on such investigations; paying more attention to making open information secret (while simultaneously proposing greater use of "open source" information for intelligence purposes); and starting a latter-day "Loose Lips Sink Ships" campaign. The commission discussed but could not close ranks on creating a "qualified privilege for reporters," which could have restricted journalists' ability to protect their sources. Reporters, not leakers, could become targets of investigation, as is already happening in the Valerie Plame affair.

Friday, July 15, 2005

US Still Pursuing Nuclear Options

Well, I tried for a few hours to keep away from the subject of war, but then I came across this.

From Agence France Press, reprinted in Common Dreams.

But even as it moves to retire much of its Cold War arsenal, [the Bush administration] has pressed a reluctant Congress for funds for nuclear bunker-buster studies, refurbished nuclear testing facilities, and a facility to build the plutonium triggers for new weapons.

The US Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, is reported to be developing "global strike" options, including a nuclear option, against potential adversaries with nuclear weapons such as Iran and North Korea.

More than 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, nuclear weapons "are alive and well," said Robert S. Norris, an expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an arms control and environmental advocacy group.

Norris points to the administration's Nuclear Posture Review of 2001 as "the revealing document" that shows its intention to use nuclear weapons to counter a new cast of potential adversaries armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Read the whole article...

Am I alone in thinking that we have a lot more to fear from 10,000 intercontinental state-of-the-art nukes than a handful of say, 1966 short-range vintage Chinese warheads in the hands of "rogue" states? Bush, Cheney--yeah, I trust those guys with the fate of the planet!
One big bad idea and one big fat lie

I'm trying to keep this blog from turning into something that only talks about war and politics.

It's meant to be about other things as well. (The map above, by the way, tracks change in number of farms from 1997 to 2002 and gives a new meaning to "red" and "blue" states). The dumb life of roots for example:
The Want of Peace

All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride or excess of power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman’s silence
receiving the river’s grace,
the gardener’s musing on rows.

I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.
That's the Wendell Berry poem that has given this blog its incredibly affected name, in case you hadn't noticed.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of that, here is a Salon interview with George Pyle, the author of Raising Less Corn, More Hell: The Case for the Independent Farm and Against Industrial Agriculture. Pyle isn't saying anything Gene Logsdon and Wendell Berry haven't said before, but every new mainstread voice who takes up this cause is welcome, and besides his seems an articulate and aptly pissed off take on the subject:
... In Pyle's view, our farming culture is based on one big bad idea and one big fat lie.

"The bad idea," he writes, "is the increasing concentration -- economic, political, and genetic -- of the ways in which our food is produced." The lie behind it is that "the world is either short of food or risks being short of food in the near future." With the help of an editorial writers' fellowship, and later as the director of the Prairie Writers Circle at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, Pyle took time away from his daily deadlines to research a book on the American farm economy.

"Raising Less Corn, More Hell" is dedicated to the memory of his father, who was raised on a Kansas farm, but Pyle is no sentimentalist when it comes to the fate of family farms. What the agricultural economy needs, he argues, is a truly free market -- not one kept afloat by federal subsidies and unaccounted environmental damage. The root cause of hunger, he claims, is usually a lack of money. Yet the fear of not having enough food has driven the rise of chemical fertilizers, massive machinery, genetically modified seed, and whatever else will help squeeze greater yields out of every acre.

Meanwhile, the true costs of the industrial system -- eroded soil and depleted aquifers, polluted water and air, desperate and indebted farmers, rundown main streets, unhealthy diets, and a food supply at risk –- are not factored into the price of food.

Even as we push to grow more, the government subsidizes farmers for growing less. The subsidies continually fail to keep up with gains in production, leading to a surplus of food that costs less than it should. This gets shipped abroad and cripples the efforts of third-world countries to develop their own agricultural base. And so the system fails even on its promise to feed the world.

Forget "Rove-gate" and get ready for "Cheney-gate"

It gets curiouser and curiouser.

While Alexander Cockburn cautions that "on the Left, just as in the Plame affair, we should be leery of words like traitor and 'national security.' They cut both ways," Justin Raimondo says:

Forging "evidence" that helped get us into a war – what are the penalties for that?

The fast developing scandal seemingly centered around Rove and a few journalists has only begun to unfold. By the time it is over, we'll have the War Party – or, at the very least, a few high profile representatives – in the dock, and then the fun will really begin. So forget "Rove-gate" and get ready for "Cheney-gate." I'll gladly forgo the pleasure of seeing the president's chief political advisor frog-marched out of the White House for the prospect of seeing our vice president, along with his top staffers, led out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in handcuffs.

Read the whole article...

Larisa Alexandrovna has more on Project Missing Dick.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Digitized extras in a Hollywood epic"

James Wolcott in Vanity Fair:
But of the liberated, occupied, afflicted, battered-to-despair Iraqi people, Americans see and hear and, worst of all, care almost nothing. The Iraqis might as well be digitized extras in a Hollywood epic, scurrying in the wide-screen background and being massacred en masse as some tanned specimen of all-American man-steak is heroically positioned in the foreground, giving orders to the lesser-paid stars in his squad as if he had just teleported in from the Battle of Thermopylae. Apart from an occasional dispatch (such as a CNN report on May 13), the ongoing agony of the Iraqi people is the huge, tragic unmentionable in the televised war coverage. Sydney Schanberg again: "Can you recall the last time your hometown newspaper ran a picture spread of these human beings lying crumpled at the scene of the slaughter?" It doesn't seem to dawn on our pundits and leaders that when two dozen Iraqi police recruits are murdered by a car bomb it sends a shock wave through entire communities, leaving untold grieving widows, parents, siblings, children, friends, and co-workers behind to nurse their pain and rage. Imagine the impact it would have if 50 police or army recruits were wiped out over the course of a week in this country. Now imagine 50 dying every single week with no relief in sight and tell me the U.S. wouldn't be suffering a national nervous breakdown. But the Iraqi dead are discounted as the Price of Democracy. If Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice harbored any semblance of shame beneath their aluminum-foil Vulcan armor, they would fall to their knees to express sorrow and beg forgiveness from the Iraqi people, even though Cheney might need help rising to his feet again. But of course they never will. They will continue to brazen it out, abetted by a milquetoast Mr. Media.
Meanwhile, the opposition party has a bright idea...

More troops!

I gotta admit. I bet the Republicans weren't expecting that.
"So much progress to report"

As real Knight-Ridder journalists respond in anger to an editorial writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press who said they were accentuating the negative in Iraq "when there's so much progress to report," Dahr Jamail talks to Amy Goodman about all that progress. Here, he discusses how the U.S. military treats hospitals as enemy encampments:
[O]ne of the major examples of that is the U.S. military operations, both sieges of Fallujah, that is, where -- particularly the November siege, the first thing that the U.S. military did was go into Fallujah General Hospital and occupy it, place snipers on the roof and detain doctors, prevent them from carrying out their medical care, as well as the deliberate targeting of ambulances. And since that siege, in ongoing operations like in Al Qaim and in Hadithah, we have seen a almost exact repeat of that, where hospitals are sealed off, medical workers are prevented from working or being targeted themselves, and this has become clear that not only in Al Qaim and Hadithah, but it’s ongoing right now in Buhrez, which is right near Baquba; as we speak, this is ongoing, and any time there is a major operation now by the U.S. military in Iraq, this is the type of tactic that they're using.
Jamail has prepared an extensive report "Iraqi hospitals ailing under occupation", which he presented at the World Tribunal on Iraq, Istanbul 23-27 June. It is available, in both PDF and HTML versions, at his website.
It's all unravelling too fast

Who can concentrate on all these revelations? In today's Washington Post, more rope with which to hang Rummy:

Interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced a stubborn detainee to wear women's underwear on his head, confronted him with snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use in interrogating Mohamed Qahtani -- the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- were used at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002 as part of a special interrogation plan aimed at breaking down the silent detainee.

Military investigators who briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday on the three-month probe, called the tactics "creative" and "aggressive" but said they did not cross the line into torture.

The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.

The investigation also supports the idea that soldiers believed that placing hoods on detainees, forcing them to appear nude in front of women and sexually humiliating them were approved interrogation techniques for use on detainees.

It's Norm!

I must say I had been worried. The orchestrated broadcasting of the "Karl Rove is actually a national hero" lunacy was so furious, so jaw-droppingly disingenous and so ... repetitious (all over TV, the Internet, the newspapers—everyone was saying the exact same thing) , it made me wonder if I was missing something.

But no—as impressive a display of official mendacity as the Talking Points blitz was, it was really just bluster. Rove's in deep do-do, and the White House is trying to attack its way out.

And they're going to the bullpen. Now pitching... NORM!

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Republican officials hinted Wednesday that Sen. Norm Coleman could play a leading role in responding to Democrats' attacks against White House aide Karl Rove.

The Minnesota Republican downplayed a report in the Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, that he has been designated by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to be one of Rove's "principal defenders in Congress."

One only hopes he's as scintillating in defense of Rove as he was when he went up against George Galloway [video].

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Numbers game

This story was posted on the World Peace Herald site.
Iraqi civilian casualties

An Iraqi humanitarian organization is reporting that 128,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003.

Mafkarat al-Islam reported that chairman of the 'Iraqiyun humanitarian organization in Baghdad, Dr. Hatim al-'Alwani, said that the toll includes everyone who has been killed since that time, adding that 55 percent of those killed have been women and children aged 12 and under.

'Iraqiyun obtained data from relatives and families of the deceased, as well as from Iraqi hospitals in all the country's provinces. The 128,000 figure only includes those whose relatives have been informed of their deaths and does not include those were abducted, assassinated or simply disappeared.

The number includes those who died during the U.S. assaults on al-Fallujah and al-Qa'im. 'Iraqiyun's figures conflict with the Iraqi Body Count public database compiled by Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies. According to the Graduate Institute of International Studies' database, 39,000 Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of combat or armed violence since March 2003. No official estimates of Iraqi casualties from the war have been issued by the Pentagon, which insists that it does not do "body counts." The Washington Post on July 12 reported that U.S. military deaths in Iraq now total 1,755.
The numbers reported by 'Iraqiyun support the study published in the Lancet in October, which said the risk of death by violence for civilians in occupied Iraq [was] 58 times higher than before the US-led invasion.

The Lancet story should have been one of the biggest news stories of the year, but when it was covered at all in the mainstream press it was dismissed as "controversial" and "politicized". Yet according to an excellent overview of the issues raised by the study at The Chronicle of Higher Education, the methodology was disciplined (heroically so) and what should have been a headline-dominating finding—that there have been 100,000 violent deaths since the invasion (excluding Fallujah)—is not at all controversial.

Revisiting the Chronicle article, which was published in February, a few things stand out:
  • The Lancet study methodology was of the highest standard. "Public-health professionals have uniformly praised the paper for its correct methods and notable results.... Bradley A. Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says 'Les [Les F. Roberts, a research associate at Hopkins and the lead author of the Lancet paper], has used, and consistently uses, the best possible methodology....'

  • Indeed, the United Nations and the U.S. State Department have cited mortality numbers compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts as fact -- and have acted on those results."

  • According to the Chronicle, "The number of deaths in Fallujah was so much higher than in other locations that the researchers excluded the data from their overall estimate as a statistical outlier"
  • According to one researcher, "If anything, the deaths may have been higher [than the study's estimate] because what they are unable to do is survey families where everyone has died."

  • Marc E. Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, who was quoted as saying, "These numbers seem to be inflated" when asked about the Lancet study, later said his quote was "really unfortunate."
    He says he told the reporter, "I haven't read it. I haven't seen it. I don't know anything about it, so I shouldn't comment on it." But, Mr. Garlasco continues, "Like any good journalist, he got me to."
    Mr. Garlasco ... is mystified that the Defense Department has not expressed interest in such studies. "Civilian casualties can be a bellwether for the actual conduct of the war," says Mr. Garlasco, who was an intelligence officer at the Pentagon until 2003. "They're using all these precision weapons, so one would expect that if you're striving to minimize casualties, you'd have very low casualties. In Iraq we've seen the exact opposite, so one has to wonder why."

All Rummy, all the time

Which is more remarkable—that Karl Rove has kept his job until now or that Donald Rumsfeld has? He's all over the papers these days. Has he done enough damage yet? Apparently not. Here he is trying to stir up interest in yet another war.

For a little perspective on the Iran and terrorism idea, William O. Beeman, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University, traces this history of Iran's "Support for Terrorism":
The United States government first began to identify Iran as a supporter of terrorist activities in 1984 under the Reagan administration. The accusations have grown more strident from year to year. On an annual basis the State Department has repeated accusations that Iran has supported virtually every terrorist attack in the world.

This is an astonishing exaggeration. In fact, Iran cannot be linked to any direct attack on the United States since the 444 day hostage crisis, which ended in 1981. The assertions of Iran's continued support for terrorism are prime examples of truth by repetition, used commonly by many conservative commentators, and myriads of U.S. legislators and officials-including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her recent European tour....
Rummy brings his Midas touch to CAFTA

Not content to rest on his laurels in Iraq, Rummy takes to the op-ed pages and turns his unfailingly wrong-headed condescension to the idea that "The coming vote on CAFTA is a national security vote."

Yale undergrad Sarah Stillman remains unconvinced. Writing in Huffington Post, she says:

Members of Congress, beware: a vote against CAFTA is a vote for Osama. Or so Donald Rumsfeld might have you believe, if you read his recent op-ed in the Miami Herald in which he ominously warns, “The coming vote on CAFTA is a national security vote. Let there be no doubt.”

But how is it that CAFTA--a free trade agreement negotiated in secrecy and tailored primarily to the needs of multinational manufacturers, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical companies--will help combat “the violent extremism that is threatening civilized societies”?

Since I’m having a hard time following Rummy’s line of reasoning here (it’s been known to happen on occasion), maybe I should ask the widow of a man named Jose Sanchez Gomez--an indigenous representative of the Campesino Unity Committee who was shot and killed by Guatemalan army forces while attending one of the many peaceful protests against CAFTA in the highlands of Huehuetenango last March.

Or perhaps I should ask Marta Maria Caballero, a young woman who faces another version of “violent extremism” from her managers every morning when she arrives to work at a Nicaraguan auto parts factory. In the wake of her recent efforts to organize an independent trade union after enduring years of unsafe working conditions and sexual harassment, Caballero must now confront an escalated barrage of vicious threats and intimidation.

But I somehow doubt either of these women will agree with Rumsfeld's declaration that Central America is currently reveling in a so-called “magic moment” of freedom and human rights. The only hocus pocus they're likely to confirm flies straight from Rummy's pen-cum-magic-wand, which he's long utilized to transform chaotic realities into convenient opportunities for promoting U.S. military and corporate interests abroad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oh my God! Terrorists!

Don't want to be a wet blanket but terrorism might actually rank rather far down the list of your worries. Read the little perspective-piece below (be careful on those ladders!), don't forget about global warming and always keep the Doomsday Clock in mind (it's still seven minutes to midnight):
More than 31,000 nuclear weapons are still maintained by the eight known nuclear powers, a decrease of only 3,000 since 1998. Ninety-five percent of these weapons are in the United States and Russia, and more than 16,000 are operationally deployed. Even if the United States and Russia complete their recently announced arms reductions over the next 10 years, they will continue to target thousands of nuclear weapons against each other.
From Think Again: Homeland Security by Benjamin Friedman in Foreign Policy.:
For the vast majority of Americans, the chances of dying in a terrorist attack are close to zero. There’s a higher probability that you’ll die by falling off a ladder than getting mixed up in some terrorist plot. So why is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security constantly telling every American to be afraid? That’s a strategy that creates widespread fear without making America any safer. U.S. homeland security efforts should focus less on what is possible and more on what is probable.

.... The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are minuscule. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the odds are about 1 in 88,000. The odds of dying from falling off a ladder are 1 in 10,010. Even in 2001, automobile crashes killed 15 times more Americans than terrorism....

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