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Tuesday, September 30, 2003


 

The lie that will not die


FAIR is on the case - On December 15, 1998, the head of the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq, Richard Butler, released a report accusing Iraq of not fully cooperating with inspections. The next day, Butler withdrew his inspectors from Iraq, in anticipation of a U.S.-British bombing campaign, and that evening, a four-day bombing campaign (using targets specified by some of the inspectors, whose role as spies was later revealed) began, under orders from President Bill Clinton. This history is absolutely undisputable, simple historical fact, easily established by contemporary accounts.

Undisputable, but not undisputed. As noted by FAIR, on ABC's This Week (9/27/03), "Colin Powell explained that the Clinton administration 'conducted a four-day bombing campaign in late 1998 based on the intelligence that he had. That resulted in the weapons inspectors being thrown out.' Neither George Stephanopoulos nor George Will, who conducted ABC's interview, corrected Powell's false assertion. " Compounding the problem, on 9/29 the New York Times "merely repeated Powell's charge: 'Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in a television appearance today, noted that the Iraqi leader threw weapons inspectors out in 1998'." Even more amazingly, FAIR notes that the Times had been forced to run a correction on exactly this subject more than three years ago! As hard as it may be to believe, it appears that the accuracy level of the Times has actually gone down since the firing of Jayson Blair. :-)


 

Compassionate Conservatism


From The New York Times:

States Putting Inmates on Diets to Trim Budgets

Desperate to cut budget deficits, officials in several states have begun reducing the amount or quality of food served to prison inmates, an issue that has long been a sensitive one for inmates and has often provoked protests.

These new food plans involve either reducing the number of calories provided each day or eliminating a meal on weekends and holidays by serving two meals instead of three.
Can you imagine if this story was about Cuba or North Korea instead of about the United States? The U.S. probably would have invaded before you finished reading this paragraph.

 

Wilson...Plame...Rove...Cheney?


There's a lot of attention being focussed on the brewing scandal over the exposure of Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA agent; I'll leave the main story to others. One question I haven't heard asked is this - if it was really George Bush's "senior political adviser" Karl Rove who was responsible, who told him? Surely a "senior political adviser" isn't supposed to know the names of CIA agents?

On another front, Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill of Democracy Now! focus on Dick Cheney, who said recently on "Meet the Press": "I don't know Joe Wilson. I've never met Joe Wilson." Goodman and Scahill note this:

While Cheney may not know Wilson, there is little doubt he knows of him. When Cheney was helping run the Persian Gulf War, as secretary of defense, Wilson was one of the key players. As the acting US ambassador on the ground in Baghdad in the weeks leading up to the war, the White House consulted Wilson daily. In those weeks, he was the only open line of communication between Washington and Saddam Hussein. Cheney was the Secretary of Defense at the time and a key player in the day-to-day operations and intelligence gathering.
In other words, Dick Cheney claiming he doesn't know Joe Wilson would be like Donald Rumsfeld a few years hence claiming he doesn't know Paul Bremer. All of this, of course, begs the question of why Dick Cheney is so anxious to disavow any knowledge of Joe Wilson.

When I hear statements like this from Cheney, I harken back to before the war, when George Bush said at one point "I don't have any plans for war against Iraq on my desk." I turned to the person I was with at the time and said "No, he's got them on his credenza." So perhaps I should start referring to statements like Cheney's, or countless similar statements from Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, and the rest, as the "credenza defense."

In something that doesn't even qualify as a credenza defense, John Gibson, speaking earlier today on Fox News, claimed that "speaking hypothetically" it may well have been Joseph Wilson who made his wife's identity public, by introducing her at diplomatic parties as "my wife, the CIA agent." I am not making this up, as Dave Barry would say.


 

Language


Yesterday, watching TV coverage of Sunday's anti-occupation demonstrations, I heard a reporter (sorry, no channel or reference) refer to one of the European demonstrations (I think the Spanish one) like this: "and another anti-American demonstration was held today...". Today, listening to MSNBC, the reporter described the latest American casualty in Iraq as having happened in an "anti-American" area of Iraq. When are these reporters going to get it through their heads that these were not "anti-American" demonstrations and battles, they were "anti-occupation"? There are very few people in this world who are actually "anti-American" (far less, I would guess, than the number of Americans who are "anti-French"). There are millions of people, including a lot of Americans, who are against many of the actions of the United States.

The MSNBC report also included the following interesting choice of words describing the attack: "the terrorists, as the U.S. military calls them..." The U.S. military can call these people whatever they like; that doesn't require the reporter to use the same grossly inaccurate word. People who are fighting against the occupation of their country by a foreign army, and aiming their weapons at those occupiers, actually have legal status under the Geneva conventions (the "additional protocol of 1977," which, like so many other international treaties, was not signed by the United States), and they are most definitely not terrorists.

Of course, MSNBC is still using very prominently the "Operation Iraqi Freedom" logo, so expecting any kind of "fair and balanced" coverage from them is wishful thinking indeed.


 

The Good News Bears and Bulls---


The latest "talking point" is that all the bad news from Iraq is just "spin," and the news media are deliberately suppressing the "good news" from Iraq. For two nights in a row, I've caught a few minutes of MSNBC's "Joe Scarborough Show." Dutifully falling in line in their attempt to "outFox Fox," they air a long segment entitled "Good News from Iraq." A letter-writer in my local paper pushes the same story this morning.

Scarborough, and the letter-writer (not to mention Rumsfeld et al.), tout such things as schools rebuilt, policemen hired, town councils functioning, etc. Just one little thing goes unmentioned. Iraq had all those things before the invasion; it was the war (and the years of sanctions that preceded it) which destroyed the things that are now being rebuilt, and the Americans who fired all the policemen who now need to be rehired, and disbanded all the town councils which now need to be reformed. Kind of like sticking a knife in someone's back, and then claiming it's "good news" when you remove the knife, even part way.


 

Health care for profit


At recent Democratic Presidential debates, Dennis Kucinich has said things like this: "Take the profit out of health care. Get the insurance companies out of health care. Return health care to the people." What role does profit play in the health care system? Americans already know a bit of the answer, because purchasing medicines in Canada and importing them into the U.S. has become a very popular way to lower the cost of medicine. But even that lower price still involves the profit system. A different take on the subject can be found in today's Miami Herald, in an article about Cuban-Americans who import medicines into the United States from Cuba because of the lower cost of medicines there. Some excerpts:
[Hernandez] doesn't have insurance and won't qualify for Medicare until next year. While over-the-counter inhalers and prescription brands like Albuterol cost about $18 at local pharmacies, the broncodialators from home cost her a little more than 3 Cuban pesos -- the equivalent of about 12 cents.

When Nunez, 56, was diagnosed with high blood pressure about five years ago, a doctor suggested he take Norvasc, which drugstore.com sells at $60 for a month's supply. But his mother gets enough of a similar medicine, Nifedipino, at her neighborhood clinic in Cuba for both of them. "'They give it to her in abundance. It doesn't cost her anything," Nunez said.
A better world, a world in which human needs take priority over profit, is possible.

Monday, September 29, 2003


 

BBC pushes the envelope


A new 45-minute BBC documentary (fully downloadable from the web site and well worth watching), aired yesterday, provides a first-hand view of how American soldiers are handling the occupation of Iraq. The footage is "balanced," with "good news" (soldiers helping build a soccer field) and "bad news" (soldiers kicking the crap out of a poor pickpocket). But quite likely there will be new calls for BBC's head on a platter, thanks to the footage which begins (and ends) with American soldiers interrogating a suspected guerrilla fighter who has been shot in the stomach and is lying in a hospital bed:
"Tell him [the soldier is speaking to his interpreter] that if he cooperates with us, we might be able to save his life. Tell him if he doesn't cooperate with us, it's bad for him. Bad for his health. [Tell him] if you don't help us, you can forget it."
I couldn't help but remember the recorded interrogation of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh on the battlefield in Afghanistan, conducted by CIA agents Johnny "Mike" Spann and "Dave":
"He's got to decide if he wants to live or die, and die here," Dave told Spann during a lull in the questioning, "We're just going to leave him, and he's going to fucking sit in prison the rest of his fucking short life. It's his decision, man. We can only help the guys who want to talk to us."
Another interesting bit in the documentary, in the "he didn't get the memo from George Bush about there being no connection between Iraq and 9/11" category, is an interview with Bernard Kerik, interim "Interior Minister of Iraq" (resigned since the film was shot):
"This job for me is very personal. On Sept. 11, 2002 I was the Police Commissioner of New York City. They [his 23 dead colleagues] were responding to defend the freedom of the United States [ed. note - what nonsense. I hope they were responding to try to save the lives of innocent people]. This country [Iraq] was a threat to that freedom."
Most readers of Left I will no doubt realize that the biggest threat to the freedom of the people in this country is in Washington, and that the idea that Iraq was a threat to our "freedom" is ludicrous.

Followup: It's common to hear people say that the problem now in Iraq is that "soldiers aren't trained to be policemen." Tonight, Oakland's KTVU aired a news item on the latest incident of police brutality there. A home video (it wouldn't be news if it weren't for those ever-present neighbors with their video cameras) shows the police viciously beating a man who had left his car running while he ran back into a friend's house to retrieve his cell phone, only to return and find police searching his car. This beating was every bit as brutal as the one in Baghdad shown on the BBC tape. Iraq doesn't need American soldiers with "sensitivity training." It needs the American soldiers to get out.


 

Liberating women with bullets


Although the U.S. didn't claim it was going to war against Afghanistan or Iraq in order to liberate women, after the war, they always try to add "progressive post-facto cover" to their invasions by talking about how it improved the status of women (regardless of the truth of that claim). All the more ironic, then, when we recall the first Gulf War, in which the U.S. went to war to "liberate" Kuwait from Iraqi domination, and then consider this article from the Guardian: "Electoral shock - There is one country left in the world where women are specifically denied the vote." That country? Kuwait.

 

David Kay - Pariah. Condoleezza Rice - Liar.


Back on Sept. 9, Donald Rumsfeld visited Iraq and spoke with weapons inspector David Kay for 30 minutes, but insisted he did not discuss the subject of his search for weapons of mass destruction. Yesterday, speaking to Tim Russert, Condoleezza Rice claimed that "I’ve not seen David Kay’s report." She is the National Security Advisor to the President, and she hasn't yet seen this critical report, even in draft form? Geez, why does no one want to talk to David Kay?

What Rice meant, no doubt, is that someone told her all about it, but she hasn't actually seen a piece of paper labelled "David Kay's report" with her own two eyes (if it comes out later that she did actually see the report, she'll claim she doesn't remember doing so, just as she now claims she didn't remember that George Tenet had told her to remove the Niger/uranium reference from a speech long before the State of the Union speech).

Most of Rice's lies are so obvious as to border on the humorous, and Russert did a fairly decent job of exposing them. I really liked this one, though, from Brit Hume's interview with Rice on Fox News:

HUME: There are now suggestions that the name and identity [of Valerie Plame] and her CIA work had been revealed by the White House. What do you know about that?

RICE: My understanding is that, in matters like this, as a matter of routine, a question like this is referred to the Justice Department for appropriate action, and that's what's going to be done.
So can we take it from this response that members of the White House staff exposing the identity of CIA agents is something that happens all the time, just a "matter of routine"?

Sunday, September 28, 2003


 

Soft lies


There are hard lies, like "we know Saddam Hussein is reconstituting his nuclear weapons." Then there are the soft lies, like this one from the San Francisco Chronicle online: "Hundreds march in SF to protest occupation of Iraq, West Bank." Hell, why not say "Dozens march"? Both are equally true, and nearly equally false. The truth, of course, is that thousands marched, as this writer can testify from personnel experience (heck, there were 2,000 just a short while ago who showed up on a weekday afternoon to protest a George Bush fundraiser). I'll leave it to others who were better situated to produce some definitive estimates, maybe it was 3,000, maybe 5, maybe 10, maybe even 20,000 (a good view of some of the crowd is here). But without any question it was not "hundreds."

Of course, this is no accident. If it were merely a misestimation on the part of a reporter, then undercounts and overcounts would be equally likely. They are not, not be a long shot. The establishment, as represented by the mainstream media like the Chronicle, doesn't want people to realize their own power; they prefer that people think the solutions to problems lie in going to the polls every four years (or more often, in California!) and voting for the latest "solution" to our problems.

To add a little eyewitness reporting, let me just add two wonderful chants I heard today for the first time. Nothing like a good chant to keep the spirits up:

War and occupation
Can not bring liberation
That's bullshit
Get off it
This war was for profit

Rise up! [Accompanied by raising signs or fists]
Get down! [Lower aforesaid signs or fists]
There's an antiwar movement in this town!
Both, of course, lose a little something without the proper chanting meter, but hopefully you can decipher that yourself. Try them out on Oct. 25!

Followup: The Chronicle now has a very good new story online (and presumably in print as well) which describes the march as "estimated by organizers at 5,000 people" which seems reasonable to me. Obviously they caved in to pressure from Left I ;-) It looks like I should be thankful for even their first story, since the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune have exactly zero coverage of the march. Nothing in the LA Times either about the Los Angeles march. Both the SF and LA marches received cursory coverage on TV news, although on one channel I watched, this was followed immediately by a much longer piece interviewing a soldier just back from Iraq who would "go back in a heartbeat" because of all the great work he was doing there (to hear him talk you would think he had been serving in the Peace Corps, and that Iraq was the only country in the world needing that kind of help).

More followup: In order to "balance" their story this morning on yesterday's SF march, KTVU (Fox network's Oakland channel) followed it with a story of a half-dozen (that's six) prowar demonstrators on a street corner in Santa Clara (even the "half-dozen" was probably an exxageration; there were three different camera shots in the piece; each one of them showed a single demonstrator standing on a corner with no one else in sight).

Still more followup: The Mercury News does have an article of moderate length online which never made it into the print edition, and which talks about "hundreds" in San Francisco. Scouring the paper I did finally find a minuscule article (two paragraphs) which upped the count to "more than 1,000." Still far from reality. Imagine if they described George Bush's approval rating as "more than 10%."

Even more followup: The LA Times now has a reasonably good article on the demo there. I only found this from someone else's link, however; it isn't discoverable either on their home page or by searching using the word "Demonstration."


Saturday, September 27, 2003


 

Quote of the (Thurs)Day


A belated quote from Thursday's Democratic Presidential debate:
"Greed and selfishness can kill this great democracy and ruin capitalism." -- Dick Gephardt
Gee, that's funny, in my dictionary under "capitalism" it says "an economic system based on greed and selfishness." OK, I admit you have to read between the lines. :-)

 

Undiplomatic diplomats


For speakers at the U.N. General Assembly, being "diplomatic" consists largely of not offending the United States. Kofi Annan, for example, had things like this to say:
"Weapons of mass destruction do not threaten only the western or northern world. Ask the people of Iran, or of Halabja in Iraq." How about we ask the people of Japan, upon whom the only real weapons of mass destruction were ever deployed, or the people of the dozens of countries since then (up to and including the present day) who have been threatened by nuclear attacks from the United States?
or this:
"Rather than wait for that [a WMD attack] to happen, they argue, States have the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other States, and even while weapons systems that might be used to attack them are still being developed." Who is this they? And why doesn't Kofi Annan have the guts to name names and speak the truth?
Then there's Jacques Chirac:
"The United Nations has just weathered one of the gravest trials in its history. The debate turned on respect for the Charter and the use of force. The war, embarked on without Security Council approval, has undermined the multilateral system."
He goes on like this at length. Not once does he mention the U.S. or U.K. by name.

But then there's Cuba. One of the few countries in the world which can't be blackmailed by the U.S. by the threat of aid cutoffs or trade sanctions (they can hardly get any worse than the existing blockade), and one of the few countries which can't be intimidated by the still very real threat of physical attack, Cuba is able to speak its mind, and speak the truth. And speak it does.

Felipe Perez Roque, Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the UN:

Does the war in Iraq contribute to that objective [of creating a peaceful world]? No, it does not. Its outcome runs exactly counter to the ideal of preserving peace, strengthening the role of the United Nations and enhancing multilateralism and international cooperation. Unfortunately, the truth is that those with the most ability to prevent and remove the threats to peace are the ones causing the war today.

Should the Government of the United States recognize such truth that almost everyone in this hall shares? Yes, they should.

What humiliation or harm would there be to the prestige of this great nation? None. The world would recognize that a beneficial rectification to all would come about, after the unleashing of a war supported by just a few - either by shortsightedness or by meanness of interests - after it was verified that the pretexts brandished were not true and after observing the reaction of a people that, as will always be done by every invaded and occupied people, begins to fight and will fight over the respect for its right to self-determination.
...
The situation [the state of the UN] is already untenable. Proof of it is the Security Council's inability to prevent the war in Iraq first and then to even demand that the Government of Israel refrain from expelling or murdering the leader of the Palestinian people - that, in conformity with a decision of the Council itself over five decades ago, should have long had an independent State.

That the Government of the United States has used the right to veto on 26 occasions to protect the crimes of Israel is evidence that such unjust privilege must be abolished. Therefore, must the occupation in Iraq cease? Yes, it must. And the sooner the better. It is a source of new and more serious problems, not of its solution.

Must the Iraqis be left alone to freely establish their own government and institutions and make decisions on their natural resources? Yes. They are entitled to it - and they will not relinquish the fight to that end.

Must the Security Council be pressured into adopting decisions that would further undermine it both ethically and morally? No. That would eliminate the last possibility to profoundly reform, expand and democratize it.
There's lots more, all worth reading for the non-sugar-coated truth about what's happening in the UN and the world today.

Followup: I forget to note that Perez Roque also took up in his talk precisely the subject that was discussed here just a few days ago under the title "Comparing the world's problems":

Finally, we need to return to the discussion of the serious economic and social problems currently affecting the world. We have to turn into a priority the battle for the right to development for nearly 5 billion people.

The Millennium Assembly committed us to working for very modest and insufficient goals. But everything is already forgotten and we did not even discuss that. This year, 17 million children under the age of 5 will die, not as victims of terrorism but as victims of undernourishment and preventable diseases.

Will there ever be any discussion in this hall, Excellencies, with realism and a spirit of solidarity, about how to halve by 2015 – according to the Millennium Declaration – the number of people suffering from abject poverty – currently over 1.2 billion – and those starving, who are more than 800 million?

Will there be any discussion about the nearly 900 million illiterate adults?

Or will the Millennium Declaration also become dead letter, as have been the Kyoto Protocol and the decisions of ten Summits of Heads of State?
George Bush, meanwhile, thought a higher priority for discussion than these topics was sex slavery, which took up 14% of his speech.

Friday, September 26, 2003


 

More non-news: Bush, Ashcroft, Powell vs. "family values"


A few weeks ago, when the Latin Grammys were held, Cuban musicians who were nominated for awards all had their visa applications denied or simply not granted. The rationale was described by MSNBC thusly: "Since Cuba is classified by the U.S. government as a state sponsor of terrorism [a vicious slander without the slightest foundation - Left I], more extensive background checks are required for citizens of the communist island who apply for visas. The process can take from eight to 10 weeks."

That being the case, what is their excuse for the fact that Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez, wives of two of the scandalously imprisoned "Cuban Five," have now been denied visas for the third time in their attempt to visit their husbands in prison? This outrageous violation of human rights, needless to say, has received exactly zero mention in the U.S. mainstream press.

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is asking for people to take various actions to demand an end to this outrage. Left I urges you to do so.


 

Israeli settlements - a perspective


Jimmy Carter, writing in the Washington Post on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Camp David Accords, notes that at the time, there were 4,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. There are now 408,000 Israeli settlers.

 

The Iraqi Consitution


Colin Powell says the U.S. can't leave Iraq until they write a new Constitution.

For those who are confused about this, especially since most references in the press just mention "writing a Consitution" and omit the word "new", Iraq already has a Constitution. By contrast, Britain and Israel do not have Constitutions (yet we are constantly told that Israel is the "only democracy" in the Middle East - not that "Constitution" and "democracy" are synonomous).

Could it be that it is sections like these that the U.S. objects to? -

Article 16 [Ownership, Private Property]

(a) Ownership is a social function, to be exercised within the objectives of the Society and the plans of the State, according to stipulations of the law.
(b) Private ownership and economic individual liberty are guaranteed according to the law, and on the basis of not exercising them in a manner incompatible with the economic and general planning.
If you thought this need for a new Iraqi Constitution had anything to do with the desire to establish "democracy" in Iraq, think again.

 

Not the news


Left I usually comments on things which are in the news, but some things don't make it there at all. So, commenting instead on the absence of news, herewith a reminder that this weekend there will be demonstrations around the world under the theme "International Days of Protest - Against OCCUPATION and EMPIRE." More information here. See you there!

Followup: Of course, when I said this wouldn't be news, I meant in the United States, of course, that bastion of the "free press." Across the ocean, the Guardian has not one but two stories on the weekend's upcoming marches.


 

The ruling class circles the wagons


You might be under the impression that the NY Times hires only the "best and the brightest."* After all, this is the paper that in 2002, for example, won a record seven of the 14 Pulitzer prizes. But it looks like the best and the brightest weren't so bright after all, because they couldn't figure out (or, at least, they claim they couldn't figure out) what millions of people around the world knew - that the Bush administration was lying through its teeth in the buildup to its invasion of Iraq.

Now that even CIA agent David Kay couldn't find (or plant) any evidence whatsoever of weapons of mass destruction (or even WMD programs) in Iraq, it's time for some serious wagon-circling, and here's what the Times has to say editorially today:

This page did not support the war in Iraq, but it never quarreled with one of its basic premises. Like President Bush, we believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding potentially large quantities of chemical and biological weapons and aggressively pursuing nuclear arms. Like the president, we thought those weapons posed a grave danger to the United States and the rest of the world. Now it appears that premise was wrong. We cannot in hindsight blame the administration for its original conclusions. They were based on the best intelligence available.
Of course, the facts are quite to the contrary. Although it was certainly conceivable that some residual chemical weapons did exist in Iraq last March, there was no evidence that Iraq was hiding "large quantities of chemical and biological weapons and aggressively pursuing nuclear arms." There was no such evidence in November, 2002, before Hans Blix and his inspectors returned to Iraq, and there was even less evidence (if that's possible) by March, when the invasion was launched. As many, such as Scott Ritter, had pointed out, there was absolutely no doubt that the previous inspection regime had destroyed all production facilities, along with all known stockpiles of actual weapons, and any remaining hidden weapons would have long since lost their potency. Claims that facilities had been revitalized were completely blown out of the water by Blix and El-Baradei between November, 2002 and March, 2003. Yet curiously, the Times never mentions the Blix/El-Baradei inspections in its editorial, nor their reports to the UN, and pretends that the state of knowledge in March, 2003 was exactly the same as it was when Clinton left office. This is an absurd assertion.

The claim that Bush's conclusions were based on the "best intelligence" available is also patent nonsense. They were based on easily exposed forgeries, unprovable allegations of WMD coming from sources like Chalabi, discredited claims of Iraq-al Queda ties, and on and on. And none of this is said in hindsight; the day after such events as Powell's speech to the U.N., progressive news sources were filled with analyses exposing the lies in complete detail.

If the invasion was based on the "best evidence available," would Colin Powell have had to go over his speech with a fine-tooth comb and then refuse to read portions of it, while saying "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."?

It's also interesting to note this from the Times:

Before the war, we objected not to the stated goal of disarming Iraq but to the fact that the United States was waging war essentially alone, in defiance of many important allies.
In other words, if the U.S. had been able to turn the screws a little tighter on France and Germany, and been able to get a favorable vote in the Security Council, the Times would have supported the invasion, despite the fact that this would have changed nothing with respect to the lack of justification for the war.

The stakes are high, and the wagons are circling, not to protect Bush himself, who may well soon be tossed aside as damaged goods, but rather the position of the United States astride the world. And here, the NY Times finds itself on very much the same side as George Bush.


*Yes, I'm aware that this phrase comes from David Halberstam and referred to the Kennedy team that brought us Vietnam, not to the NY Times. Still, I think it applies.

Followup: Kevin Moore understands the situation even if the Times doesn't.


Thursday, September 25, 2003


 

Bush, Saddam, and 9/11


Ted Rall makes (and breaks) the connections more succinctly than anyone.

 

Quiet news


As noted from time to time, sometimes the news which doesn't get reported, or gets slipped in quietly in a "News roundup" on the inner pages, can be quite interesting. Today, the BBC is reporting that the U.N. is reducing its staff in Iraq to "42 in Baghdad and 44 in the north of the country" due to the deteriorating security situation. But the most interesting part of the article are these two sentences, which I'm betting hardly few people were aware of: "The UN had already scaled back its operation in the country after the suicide attack on its headquarters on 19 August in which 22 people were killed. The world body had around 650 international staff in Iraq before that attack - a figure later cut to 100."

So today's cut from 100 to 86 is minor indeed, compared to the earlier, underreported cut from 650 to 100.

Now if only George Bush would take the hint.


Wednesday, September 24, 2003


 

Comparing the world's problems


The U.S. has started (although not yet finished) two wars and killed tens of thousands of people pursuing its "war on terrorism." Is terrorism the #1 problem facing humanity? You would certainly get that idea listening to George Bush, or the U.S. media for that matter.

Here are some random facts I scrounged from the web. This is a table I would love to see someone with more time and expertise expand on, in order to paint a fuller picture, but here's my start:

Imagine a world in which several hundred billion dollars were spent on public health or nutrition instead of war. Instead of killing thousands of innocent people, millions of lives could be saved (and, quite probably, the threat from terrorism reduced at the same time). If only Halliburton were in the health-care business.

 

Satchel Paige lives!


New York Times, Sept. 25, 2003. Headline: "Draft Report Said to Cite No Success in Iraq Arms Hunt." Authors: Douglas Jehl and Judith Miller. Words: 1104. Admissions that this article contradicts most (or all?) of what Judith Miller has written in the last year: zero.

"Don't look back," Judith. The truth might be gaining on you.


 

Political debates


The latest California gubernatorial debate has begun. Answering the very first question ("What do you think about the recall?"), Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed that he "thanks God every day for Hiram Johnson" (the person who was responsible for the existence of the recall law). Yeah, Arnold, I'm sure. The man can't get the very first words out of his mouth without lying. He'll fit in nicely.

Followup: Without question this was the worst debate format in the history of 2003 debates (recall and Democratic Presidential), not helped out by a totally inept moderator (and what was with giving the first two questions to Schwarzenegger to answer first - haven't they heard about randomization?). To top it all off, they closed the debate by telling viewers to go to their website to give them feedback on the debate format. When you do that, there is no place to give feedback! And this is the debate that Schwarzenegger described as the "Super Bowl" of debates? Strictly bush league. Not to be confused with Bush league, which is even worse.


 

Comments are back!


Comments have been missing for a week due to events beyond our control, but now they're back. Feel free to jump in!

 

The Famous "Fence"


Yesterday's Washington Post carries a major article headlined "Israel's Fence Mixes Security and Politics." The article includes this description of the project:
If completed as planned -- at an anticipated cost of $1.3 billion -- the 60- to 100-yard-wide combination of fences, ditches, roads, 25-foot-high concrete walls, barbed wire, watchtowers, cameras and electronic sensors would extend about 400 miles around the heart of the West Bank, swinging miles into Palestinian territory at some places to surround Jewish settlements and keep them on the Israeli side.
And, referring specifically to the town of Qalqilyah, the article tells us:
It has been completely surrounded by 8.7 miles of fences and high walls with guard towers, with one main entrance for people and goods and two agricultural gates.
This formidable obstacle, suitable for a prison (or a concentration camp), is described 42 times in the article as a "fence", twice as a "barrier," and, with the exception of a direct quote from a Palestinian, not once as a "wall."

 

War is Peace

"I reminded them and their families that the war in Iraq is -- it's really about peace." - George Bush, speaking to reporters after his visit to wounded soldiers, April 11, 2003.

"A coalition of nations acted to defend the peace" - George Bush, explaining to the U.N. on Sept. 22, 2003 why the U.S. and Britain launched a war against Iraq.
I wrote yesterday that there would be those who would analyze Bush's speech in great detail. Stephen Zunes fulfills that prediction admirably.

 

Journalistic choices


In a fascinating article in The Nation, Ari Berman finds that critical reporting on the case for war against Iraq in the Washington Post was relegated to obscure inside pages before the invasion, and only made it to the front page well after "major combat operations" had ended, long after they could have had any effect.

 

Boorish Bush


The Washington Post reported this (in the last paragraph of its article on Bush's speech to the UN yesterday); I can't find any evidence that any other media source reported this at all:
Just before Chirac addressed the assembly, Bush and his top aides -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John D. Negroponte -- left the hall.
Well, I mean, come on! Even the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has better things to do than to listen to speeches at the United Nations!

For the record, there was a grand total of one speaker (the President of Peru) between Bush and Chirac.


 

Infant Mortality in Iraq


Two days ago, interim Iraqi dictator Paul Bremer testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, large hat (capable of holding $87 billion) in hand. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) focused his questioning on health care (found at 1:44:00 of the video testimony):
Saddam Hussein's government spent virtually nothing on health care. The under-5 mortality rate has more than doubled in the last decade, with 1 in 8 children now dying before their 5th birthday. Of those deaths, 70% are due to preventable illnesses such as diarrhea or respiratory infections...What's happened to these kids is just absolutely atrocious in a country that should have been able to provide for their children.
Left I could not have said it better ourselves. Just one little thing missing from DeWine's summary, and from Bremer's response to him - the word "sanctions." Nowhere is there a hint as to why this remarkable rise in infant mortality, claiming an estimated 500,000 to one million lives, had occured "in the last decade." Like Colin Powell talking about WMD (direct link temporarily down; scroll down to Sept. 17 entry entitled "Halabja (re)visited"), DeWine and Bremer seem to have developed selective amnesia about what happened in the last decade in Iraq. Bremer's response implied this was all due to Iraq simply not spending enough money on health care (all the more remarkable because Bremer did claim elsewhere in his testimony that sanctions were partially responsible for the poor state of the oil industry in Iraq).

And there really is no debate about at all about what effect sanctions had on health care in Iraq. Back in 1996, this famous exchange occured on 60 Minutes, as cited by FAIR:

Lesley Stahl: We have heard that a half million children have died [as a result of the sanctions]. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.
Stahl was referring to a 1995 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that 567,000 Iraqi children under the age of five had died as a result of the sanctions; as FAIR notes, Albright didn't even attempt to challenge that fact.

There is, of course, a lot of material to read explaining the effect of sanctions on Iraq. From example, here's a first-hand report from Gloria La Riva, visiting Baghdad with Ramsey Clark and a delegation from the International Action Center in 1997. Just one fact out of many from that article: "Before sanctions, Iraq imported $500 million worth of medicines from Jordan. Last year it could only afford $7 million worth." More first-hand observations from 1998 can be found in this report by Sharon Eolis, RN, visiting Iraq with the Iraq Sanctions Challenge. She writes "Before the United States/United Nations sanctions and the Gulf war, Iraq had a developed, nationalized health-care system that provided care to everyone. The level of technological development in health care was on a par with industrialized Western nations." Some more from this very informative article:

Safe drinking water is a basic human need. Chlorine is used to disinfect water. UNSCOM, the UN Sanctions Committee, limits the amount of chlorine imported to Iraq because it is considered a dual substance that can be used to make poison gas.

Iraqis at a Baghdad water treatment center told delegate Dave Sole--a water specialist from Detroit--that there is not enough chlorine available to make the water safe to drink.

According to one of the Iraqi doctors we spoke with, 80 percent of the cases of amebic dysentery could be eradicated if there were clean water. In 1989, there were 19,615 cases; in 1997 the number rose to 543,295 cases.

In 1980, there were no cases of cholera in Iraq. In 1997, there were 10,000 cases caused by contaminated water and food.
And, we need to remind our readers that the destruction of Iraq's water supply, and the consequences which followed, was a deliberate policy of the U.S. government, as documented here (direct link temporarily down; scroll down to Aug. 28 entry entitled "Paying for war crimes - $16 billion to restore Iraq's water").

I haven't mentioned Bremer's responses to DeWine's questioning. Bremer told DeWine that, besides for (or as a result of) the lack of spending by Iraq on health care, "the infrastructure is appallingly run down," and when asked by DeWine "How do you begin to improve the infant mortality rate?", his answer was to spend "$400 million on hospital refurbishment." Not a word about restoring the water purification and electricity generating systems, nor about importing medicines. Bremer clearly understands (or was willing to acknowledge) nothing about the causes of the problems nor their solutions.

Instead of spending $400 million on hospital refurbishment (no doubt designated for some Bechtel subsidiary), Bremer should let the Cubans take over. Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas (yes, lower than the United States), and they didn't accomplish that by concentrating on "hospital refurbishment" (though I'm sure they did that too), but by understanding public health (water, sewage, nutrition) and providing free health care (as Iraq did, of course) with clinics in every neighborhood.

Are things going badly in Iraq? No, they're much, much worse, and with folks like Bremer in charge, the future's so dark they've gotta wear night-vision goggles.

Followup: Stephen Zunes, analyzing Bush's speech to the UN, has this observation:

Bush: By the end of 2004, more than 90 percent of Iraqi children under age five will have been immunized against preventable diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, and measles thanks to the hard work and high ideals of UNICEF.

Zunes: This figure would be comparable to childhood immunization rates in Iraq prior to the U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991 and subsequent sanctions that largely destroyed the country’s public health system.

 

Guantanamo


Reporting on Oakland's Fox outlet KTVU on the news that two American soldiers at "Camp X-Ray" have been charged with spying, Landra Booker referred to Guantanamo as a "Cuban prison camp." No, Landra, it's an American prison camp, located on illegally occupied Cuban territory.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


 

Flying pig alert - actual debate in the U.S. media!


Ray Suarez on PBS NewHour hosts an actual, all-too-rare debate on the proposed $87 billion spending "for" Iraq between Richard Perle and Global Exchange's Medea Benjamin. Benjamin does her usual excellent job, as could dozens of antiwar activists if ever given a chance to appear on such news analysis shows. Nothing like the credibility of actually having been to Iraq, walking the streets, and talking to real Iraqis, as Benjamin has, rather than going to Iraq and meeting with Paul Bremer and members of the "Governing Council" secure behind barbed wire barriers, as do most of the Administration visitors.

 

Political Joke of the Day


From a few days ago (I'm catching up):
"Thousands of people are getting ready to flee Hurricane Isabel. Fortunately, thanks to Bush's economic plan, a lot of the businesses were already boarded up." - Jay Leno

 

The Boss speaks the truth

"It's time to impeach the president." - Bruce Springsteen, speaking at a concert last week in Washington, D.C., as quoted by conservative website Newsmax.

 

Second Quote of the Day


From an editorial in the Madison Capital Times:
It would be wrong to suggest that the president always lies. For instance, there is no reason to doubt that Bush was telling the truth when he admitted that there was "no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."

 

More on the Israeli wall


An Israeli peace activist explains the reality of the wall which most people in the world aren't familiar with:
Take Jerusalem, for example. The wall that is being erected there does not coincide with the dividing line that runs between the city's Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods. It cuts all of the former into two. In doing so it will annex well over 100,000 Palestinians. Moreover, hundreds of thousands Palestinians will be left outside the fence, the majority of whom are residents of Jerusalem, in the possession of a valid Israeli ID card, whose life is wholly involved with and dependent upon the city. These people will not only be prevented from entering the city and, thus, reaching the source of their livelihood, their centers of education and hospitals--they will also be unable to turn eastward instead.
There's lots more, of course.

 

Bush and Left I agree - the media aren't "objective"


Thanks to Billmon for uncovering this insight into George Bush:
Bush said he insulates himself from the "opinions" that seep into news coverage by getting his news from his own aides. He said he scans headlines, but rarely reads news stories.

"I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news," the president said. "And the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."
Plus, that way he gets to read the Reader's Digest condensed version of the news and doesn't have to trouble himself with lots of big words.

 

Bush at the UN


The bombastic, bellicose bullshit was hip-deep at the UN this morning where George Bush got to address the General Assembly. Others will dissect it in great detail, no doubt. Just two "quickies" which caught my ear immediately*: Bush bragged of having rid Iraq of "prison cells for innocent children." Apparently he hasn't heard that the famous "prison" from which American troops "liberated" children was actually an orphanage. Later, he talked about Iraq's "long campaign of deception" on the subject of weapons of mass destruction. Let's see: Iraq - said they had no WMD...had no WMD. The US - said Iraq was developing WMD even including "reconstituting" nuclear weapons...still "searching" for those WMD (or is it WMD "programs"? Or just "plans" for WMD programs?). Yes, George, there was a "long campaign of deception" regarding Iraqi WMD, and you should know.

Over on CNN, the first analyst given a chance to discuss Bush's speech is former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who describes himself as a "fan" of Bush. Well, that certainly makes for "fair and balanced" analysis.

Just a reminder to George Bush on the subject of prisons and torture - the U.S. is now holding thousands of people "extraterritorially" in at least three different countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba) that we know of, in some cases torturing them, and in all cases outside any legal jurisdiction and subject to no laws other than the law of the jungle. Also just a simple observation on terrorism which Bush wants us to view as the #1 scourge of humanity: just in the latest invasion of Iraq, the U.S. killed more innocent civilians than terrorists have in the entire history of the world (of course some might argue that the invasion of Iraq was a terrorist act).

*Leaving aside the totally obvious lies, like weapons of mass destruction, Iraq-al Qaeda ties, etc.


 

O'Really?


Parade Magazine (warning, link will expire) this week features Bill O'Reilly on the cover, with the headline "How to Spot the Good Guys." Well, you can start by not looking at the cover of Parade Magazine.

For the scoop on O'Reilly, Tom Tomorrow has a preview of a new book from FAIR entitled "The Oh Really Factor." From the excerpts posted on Tom's site, it's a winner.


 

"Working class" politicians


Once every four years (or more often, in the case of the California recall), politicians talk fondly of the working class. At other times, it's a different story:
"I started up with a friend of mine a bricklaying business here, and we were successful in no time. Franco did the bricklaying, and I was the guy who went out nicely dressed, took the measurements and came up with the estimates." - Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaking to Interview magazine in 1985

"Like so many of us, he came to this country with a dream in his eye. He started as a bricklayer, and through sheer determination and hard work, he achieved the goals he set for himself.'' - Schwarzenegger for Governor radio commercial, 2003

 

Beggars in high places


In a story from Thursday describing a gift of $51 million from Bill Gates' foundation to NYC public schools, we learned that NYC schools actually have a "chief fundraiser," a post held by Caroline Kennedy. One is reminded of the old bumper sticker, "Wouldn't it be nice if the schools got enough money and the military had to hold a bake sale?"

Wouldn't it also be nice if cities and states had enough money to decide on their spending priorities in a democratic manner, rather than having to spend money on whatever some generous individual like Gates feels is a priority (or, indeed, having to rely on the existence of such individuals at all)? And is it worth pointing out that most people with significant wealth are opposed to higher taxes on the rich and on corporations (or, indeed, are proponents of lower taxes) which would allow such a thing to occur?


 

Quotes of the (yester)day


In an article entitled "The Big Lie," John Pilger provides evidence that George Bush and Tony Blair knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In the course of this article, he provides us with the following quotes:
"He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours." - Colin Powell, speaking in Cairo on February 24, 2001

Saddam Hussein had not been able to "build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction" for "the last 10 years." - Colin Powell, on May 15, 2001

"We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." - Condoleezza Rice, in July, 2001

In April last year, Condoleezza Rice described September 11 2001 as an "enormous opportunity" and said America "must move to take advantage of these new opportunities."

At 2.40pm on September 11, according to confidential notes taken by his aides, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary, said he wanted to "hit" Iraq - even though not a shred of evidence existed that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks on New York and Washington. "Go massive," the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not." -- A story that broke on Sept. 5, 2002
One may rightly wonder why the combined forces of the "free press," not to mention the U.S. Congress, were not able to find and/or make the public aware of the implications of these statements before the invasion of Iraq.

 

Quote of the Day


Another day, another Iraqi civilian (or two) dead:
To the U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, it was a textbook operation. To the Iraqi parents who lost their teenage daughter, it was a tragic and inexcusable overreaction. Like many things about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, a lot depends on who's telling the story.

This much is clear: Two unarmed civilians were killed in the incident Sept. 1 in the dusty town of Mahmudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, including a 19-year-old woman who had hoped to attend medical school. They died when U.S. soldiers raked a small apartment with machine-gun fire and tossed a grenade into the kitchen.

The soldiers did that -- as they are trained to do, their commander said -- after they banged on the door and were shot at from inside. The shooter was a 16-year-old boy, who said he thought he was defending his home from thieves. Military investigators questioned him for several days and released him.
...
Asked why the soldiers attacked instead of retreating when shots were fired from the apartment, White said it would not have been appropriate to back down. "We're just not going to do that," he said. "We're here to help the Iraqi people."
Thanks a lot for the "help." Now go home.

Monday, September 22, 2003


 

Syria - building the "case" for war


While I was away, an important piece (important because it reflects the position of the people who were prime movers in the invasion of Iraq) by Judith Miller appeared in the New York Times. Blogger Xymphora did a nice job picking it apart; no need for me to add anything.

 

Bremer on "Bring the troops home now!"


Bring the troops home now! is a call heard more and more frequently, both from the left as well as from military families. Different people have different ideas about the meaning of the word "now" in that sentence, of course, and what if any role might be played by UN "peacekeeping forces" in that withdrawal. Some (like Left I) believe on principle that foreign troops had and have no business in Iraq, and should get out immediately. Others worry that that would result in chaos and civil war in Iraq and feel that, since "the damage has been done," that some kind of foreign troops are required to prevent that.

But de-facto Iraqi dictator Paul Bremer has a different view of the problems which might face Iraq should U.S. troops withdraw:

"We can not simply pat the Iraqis on the back, tell them are lucky to be rid of Saddam and ask them to go find their place in a global market to compete without the tools of competition. To do so would invite economic collapse, followed by political extremism and a return to terrorism."
Restoration of civic order? Establishment of democracy? Continuing the sham hunt for weapons of mass destruction? No, our primary reason for staying in Iraq, according to Bremer, is economic - we're just there to help the Iraqis put their economy in order. Nevermind that after the first Gulf War, Iraq had its electricity restored in 40 days, and that more than five months after the fall of Baghdad, the "coalition" forces haven't been able to do that, nor to achieve any net exporting of oil, and nevermind that the economic situation that Iraq now finds itself in was caused by thousands of tons of bombs dropped on Iraq by the U.S. in the course of two and a half wars and more than a decade of U.S.-inspired economic sanctions.

Bremer has his priorities clear. Do you?


 

Is it or isn't it?


The beginning of tonight's Lou Dobbs Show on CNN included a report from John King discussing Bush's upcoming speech to the UN. In the course of this report, King used phrases like "since the end of the war" and "now that the war is over." The very next piece on the show was a report of the latest suicide bombing at the UN headquarters in Baghdad, and ran with a screen subhead reading "The war continues."

 

Congratulations Jon Stewart!


Two Emmys last night - one for "Best music, variety, or comedy series," and one for "Best writing for a music, variety, or comedy series." Well deserved awards indeed for someone whose idea of political humor does not need to involve the weight of Bill Clinton's girlfriends in order to get a laugh. Under the cover of humor, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" does some of the best political analysis and critique being done today, on a par with Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World but for 30 minutes, four days a week. What is happening in the world today is serious - innocent people killed, others out of work, homeless, and on and on. In the face of that, a good laugh every day is practically a requirement for sanity, and if you can get political analysis at the same time, so much the better. If you haven't watched the Daily Show before (it's on the Comedy Central channel, so you need to have cable), do yourself a favor - do so immediately. If it's on too late for you (it's on at 11 pm here), do what I do - make use of the "record" function of your VCR and watch it over breakfast. But watch it.

 

Bush - "No evidence that Hussein was involved with 9/11"


A blockbuster admission by the President - an oft stated and implied reason for attacking Iraq was completely bogus. Did the media treat it that way? Writing in Editor & Publisher, Seth Porges tells us how it went:
Of America's twelve highest-circulation daily papers, only the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, and Dallas Morning News ran anything about it on the front page. In The New York Times, the story was relegated to page 22. USA Today: page 16. The Houston Chronicle: page 3. The San Francisco Chronicle: page 14. The Washington Post: page 18. Newsday: page 41. The New York Daily News: page 14.

The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal didn't mention it at all.
What can be said about the President's admission? A lot. For example, although the words "Saddam Hussein was personally involved with 9/11" were never uttered by George Bush, the implication was, to say the least, unmistakable. Consider Bush's famous (or more accurately, infamous) aircraft carrier "victory speech" on May 1. Standing in front of a sign marked "Mission Accomplished," Bush had this to say:
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.

In these 19 months that changed the world, our actions have been focused and deliberate and proportionate to the offense. We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th -- the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.
To say that there is an implication in these statements that Iraq was involved with 9/11 would be an understatement, to say the least.

Thom Hartmann, writing on CommonDreams, focuses on a different aspect of this bombshell. The Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq was predicated on twin lies that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that Iraq had a close working relationship with al Qaeda and might make WMD available to them to use against the United States. In order to invoke this law, however, the President had to certify to Congress that the terms of the resolution had been met. In doing so, he wrote this:
". ..I determine that:... [Declaring war on Iraq and] acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 ."
But now Bush has admitted there is no evidence that there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11. For all intents and purposes, he as therefore rendered null and void his legal justification for war against Iraq.

Mostly, the editorial pages of the mainstream press, along with the most prominent columnists and talking heads, have been silent about this revelation. The New York Times did underscore Bush's previous lies with this quote taken from his May 1 speech: "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001, and still goes on," but from there it was downhill. Instead of indicting Bush, they argue that, because "Hussein was a bloody despot who deserved to be ousted for the sake of his beleaguered people," that therefore "the temptation to hint at a connection with Sept. 11 that did not exist must have been tremendous," thus providing an excuse for Bush's lies. And their conclusion? Bush should resign? Fire his advisors? No, he should "learn from history" and employ "stark honesty" from now on! Of course, if he doesn't, the Times and the rest of the media establishment will be there to help him first to hide, and then to excuse his future lies.


Sunday, September 21, 2003


 

The Business of Government


On Thursday, USA Today carried a glowing portrait of Henrietta Holsman Fore, appointed by George Bush to run the U.S. Mint. Fore says she came to the Mint with a "businesslike approach." Translation - streamlining, cost-cutting, downsizing. USA Today reports that as a result, she has "reduced the staff nationwide by nearly one-fifth to 2,300." A different way to phrase that sentence, of course, would be to note that nearly 600 people are now out of work thanks to Fore's "businesslike approach"; by phrasing it in terms of how many jobs still exist, USA Today encourages its readers to ignore that reality.

Fore, of course, wants to continue the course, and justifies her work thusly: "If we can save money here, then Americans can use it elsewhere." Even if it were true the money she is "saving" would be divided among all Americans to "use elsewhere," it's unlikely the additional dollar or two would appreciably change anyone's lifestyle. By contrast, there are now nearly 600 Americans who have a lot less to spend.

If America had a full-employment economy and there were jobs going undone because of the lack of workers, Fore's efforts might be admirable. In the absence of that idyllic situation for the foreseeable future, USA Today's glowing portrait of Fore and her job-cutting efforts seems misplaced indeed.


Friday, September 19, 2003


 

More on Wesley Clark, the "antiwar" candidate, in his own words


From an April 10 article in the Times of London, under the headline: "What Must Be Done to Complete a Great Victory":
"President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt."
There's lots more. If the media has given you the impression that Clark was "against" the invasion of Iraq, you'll definitely want to read the whole article.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


 

Headline of the Day


From USA Today:
"Iraqis can't believe everything they read"
Well, thank God Americans don't have to worry about that!

The article from which the headline is taken talks about the 170 newspapers now publishing in Iraq. At the very end, we are reminded that "Coalition Order 14...makes it a crime to incite violence against any person...including coalition personnel or troops," as well as "advocating the return to power of the Baath Party." In a statement as replete with irony as the headline, a member of the "Governing Council" says "This is not about muzzling the media. This is about ethical standards. There are lines people should not cross. People should not incite others to violence."

I wonder if inciting your country to create a "regime change" in another country through "shock and awe" (and killing tens of thousands of its citizens) would qualify?


 

Quote of the Day - F. Scott Fitzgerald (!)

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made."
This quotation from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (and its applicability to the present-day situation - George and Condi instead of Tom and Daisy?) courtesy of Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's book, Weapons of Mass Deception.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


 

Minimal Blogging until 9/22


I'll be out of town until Sunday night, so expect light or no blogging until then. Be sure to check back, but don't expect much. In the meantime, check out some of the links to the right - every one a guaranteed winner. Or, go out and buy Tom Tomorrow's new book and read that for the next few days. As for me, I'm starting into the new Rampton and Stauber book, Weapons of Mass Deception, as well as still making my way through the long but fascinating book called The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Kosovo, by Phillip Knightley. One of these days I'll be ready with a review.

 

Quote of the Day


Jesus Alberto Suarez was a US soldier, but not a US citizen, and was one of the first soldiers killed in Iraq. Interviewed on the Pacifica show Flashpoints, his father, Fernando Suarez del Solar, denounced U.S. policy which saw his son die for what he sees as no valid reason whatsoever, and then had this to say when asked what he would say to George Bush if he had the chance:
"I hope God will forgive him, because I never will."
Judging from his tone, this was most assuredly not meant as a joke.

 

Wesley Clark - antiwar candidate?


The media thinks Wesley Clark is an antiwar candidate. FAIR knows better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003


 

Women in Iraq


There's rarely any point in adding anything to the invaluable first-hand insights of Baghdad blogger Riverbend.

 

Get Tomorrow Today!


Which of the following statements is true?
  1. Tom Tomorrow is the most insightful political commentator working today.
  2. Tom Tomorrow is the funniest cartoonist working today.
  3. Tom Tomorrow has been cutting to the quick of the political and economic establishment since 1990.
  4. Tom Tomorrow has helped keep Left I sane through seemingly endless years of Bush, Clinton, and Bush
  5. Tom Tomorrow's blog is one of the best on the web, and the direct inspiration for Left I on the News
  6. A compendium of Tom Tomorrow's work from 1983 through 2002 has just been released, which just may be the best book published this year.
  7. Tom Tomorrow's could stop working today and just republish an old cartoon a week, since things he wrote years ago are just as valid today (they would be "prescient" if it weren't for the fact that they were also true then).
  8. Tom Tomorrow is really Dan Perkins in disguise.
  9. All of the above.
If you answered "All of the above," or even if you gave any answer at all, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore to pick up a copy of The Great Big Book of Tomorrow, A Treasury of Cartoons by Tom Tomorrow. This is the best present you can give to yourself, or to your funny bone, or anyone else for that matter, this year. 236 pages absolutely chock full (in most cases, four 4-panel cartoons per page) of the funniest, most insightful political commentary on sale anywhere. Few targets escape Tom's sights. Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, and big business are obvious targets, but Tom doesn't stop there. How about religion? How about Mother Teresa? Yes, Tom takes her on too! The media? Police brutality? Constitutional rights? You name it, Tom has an insight into it, which will make you laugh (and, quite probably cry at the same time).

For those not familiar with Tom Tomorrow's work, I've picked out a handful of samples of his work on Bush I, Clinton, government regulations, Clinton again, and Bush II. Believe me, this tiny sample doesn't come close to doing justice to the book.

If you're not lucky enough to live in a town where the local weekly paper carries Tom Tomorrow (or even if you are), you can always read his latest work here. But trust me, it's no substitute for the book. The book is a must-read.

Personal rant - I encourage you to buy the book at an actual bookstore. If you must, Tom's site has links to online bookstores. Do you really want to live in a world which consists of a bunch of minimum wage workers in a warehouse in Nevada, connected to the rest of the world by a lifeline of UPS drivers? Or would you rather live in a community where the storefronts near you aren't empty, people have jobs, and you can drive (or, preferably, cycle or walk) to a local bookstore, browse the shelves, poke around, and get inspired? Your choice. I prefer the latter, and I'm willing to pay sales taxes in exchange for that benefit. Not that I have anything against warehouse workers in Nevada or UPS drivers, mind you. :-)


 

Dick Cheney, meet the truth


A number of commentators, including David Corn and Josh Marshall have been all over Dick Cheney's weekend appearance on Meet the Press. On Democracy Now today, Amy Goodman joined in, with a series of pieces aimed at the heart of Cheney's lies. Some of Cheney's lies were "old news," such as his revival of the discredited Mohammed Atta story, while other claims were just transparently absurd (such as his claim that Iraq was " the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years.")

One claim dealt with by Goodman, though, was far less well known, yet far more shocking. Here's what Cheney had to say:

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in '93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of '93. And we've learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact.
Now notice right away that you don't have to know anything else to see Cheney playing fast and loose with the truth. In the first paragraph of his remarks, he says "this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government." But just two sentences later, he "did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government." Note also the missing word "alleged" in conjunction with the word "perpetrator," leaving you to believe that this too is an established fact.

But the truth? Well, let's just say that it and Cheney are barely on speaking terms. Here's Amy Goodman:

Vice President Cheney is talking about Abdul Rahman Yasin. He is listed among the F.B.I.'s top 25 most wanted. He's accused [Left I note: "accused", not convicted] of participating in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, has $25 million bounty on his head.

But there is a lot Cheney did not say about Yasin, first he's an American citizen [Left I note: An American! But...but...Cheney said he was an "Iraqi"!] born in Bloomington, Indiana. Second, the F.B.I. questioned him shortly after the 1993 bombing and characterized him as cooperative and let him go.

But what is perhaps most interesting is that when Yasin left the United States he went to Iraq where he lived for a year before being arrested by Iraqi intelligence agents in 1994. Last summer 60 minutes interviewed him in Baghdad in an Iraqi intelligence facility. It was first time he was seen since the 1993 attacks.

Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told "60 Minutes" that twice Iraq attempt to hand Yasin over to the United States once in 1994 under Clinton and again after the attacks on September 11th. Aziz said in October of 2001 the Iraqi government sent word to the C.I.A. through an Egyptian government emissary...that Yasin was in custody in Iraq and that Baghdad wanted to hand him over. Aziz says the only condition was that the U.S. sign receipt saying that Iraq had handed him over. The U.S. again rejected the offer with officials later saying the Iraqis were placing too many demands on Washington in return for Yasin.
You can read the full transcript of the Democracy Now piece here.

 

Quote of the Day - Silvan Shalom


Reacting to statements made just yesterday by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, today Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom had this to say:
"We didn't say that we have the policy of killing others. No way."
All those "targeted assassinations" you've been reading about? That was some other government's policy, evidently.

Monday, September 15, 2003


 

The cycle begins again


From Gallup:
Public: Iran Developing WMD, Aiding Terrorists
In politics, isn't this known as "push polling" and looked upon as a "dirty trick"?

 

Halabja (re)visited


In 1988, approximately 5,000 Iraqi Kurds were killed by chemical warfare, almost certainly by an Iraqi attack (there still is some dispute about this, aided by contemperaneous claims by the U.S. State Department). Today, Colin Powell visited Halabja, offering a chance for the media to revisit that subject. Here are some excerpts.

From Reuters, this:

The United States has often cited the killings in the northern town of Halabja as proof of their accusation that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction.
Halabja, of course, was strong evidence (if not "proof") that Iraq used chemical weapons in 1988. That has no bearing whatsoever as "proof" that were "developing" WMD in 2003.

The New York Times has this to say:

Mr. Powell acknowledged that the world was indifferent to the atrocity of Halabja and to other chemical attacks that occurred mainly in the 1980's and that killed tens of thousands.
Of course, he could have been more specific and noted that it was the U.S. which was not only indifferent, but was in fact supportive of the Iraqis, even providing State Department cover for the Halabja attack (see the Post article below). The Times could have pointed these things out as well, but didn't.

The Washington Post had the most extensive review of what happened in 1988:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell...assert[ed] that a 1988 poison-gas attack that killed an estimated 5,000 Kurdish villagers in the area provided ample evidence that Saddam Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Again, it does provide evidence that they possessed such weapons in 1988.
Powell said after walking through the museum. "What happened over the intervening 15 years? Did he [Hussein] suddenly lose the motivation? Did he suddenly decide that such weapons would not be useful? The international community did not believe so."
And we thought Bush was the dumb one in the administration! Is Powell unaware of the answer to the question "What happened over the intervening 15 years?" Could there have been a major war (which he led)? A decade of harsh economic sanctions? Years of weapons inspectors destroying all vestiges of those weapons? What does he take us for, and how is it possible that the Post couldn't remind its readers of those facts?
Although the United States condemned the Iraqi government's use of chemical weapons as a "grave violation" of international law, the Reagan administration did not sanction Hussein, who was regarded as an American ally because of his war against Iran's Islamic revolutionary government. At the time, the State Department even said there were "indications" that Iran had used chemical artillery shells against Iraqi positions in the area.
A reminder of actual events, even little-known ones such as the fact that the State Department attempted to blame Iran for the events in Halabja. Remarkable! Although not nearly as remarkable as Colin Powell being unaware of what happened in Iraq between 1988 and 2003.

Followup: Billmon reminds us that Colin Powell has more than a passing acquaintance with war crimes, having been personally responsible (or should that be irresponsible) for covering up the war crimes at My Lai.


 

The wall


Last month (scroll to Aug. 5 entry), Left I explored the question of the "barrier" being built by Israel, asking the question "wall or fence"? Today CNN raised that question again in a piece by reporter John King. In his piece, he used the word "barrier" (the supposedly bias-free term, I suppose, since it can mean practically anything) once, and the word "fence" three times. "Wall"? Not at all.

Does this, from today's New York Times, look like a "fence" to anyone? How about the pictures here?

The reason this was in the news today is because Bush had threatened to withhold "loan guarantees" to Israel on a dollar-for-dollar basis for every dollar spent on building the wall. Today it was announced that Bush had "postponed" that decision indefinitely, but was instituting a reduction in loan guarantees for any money spent by Israel for further expansion of the settlements. Wow. That's quite a harsh response to Israel's threat to kill Yasser Arafat. Not. I haven't seen the details of this new U.S. policy, but here's betting that it only applies to totally new settlements, and not to the expansion of existing ones. The "roadmap," not surprisingly, leads precisely nowhere.


 

Quote of the Day - Dick Cheney


On Meet the Press:
Sept. 11 is "over with now, it's done, it's history and we can put it behind us."
Then when, exactly, are he and the Bush administration going to stop using it as a bogus justification for the invasion of Iraq?

Cheney also admitted to Tim Russert that he had "misspoke" when he claimed in March that Iraq had "reconstituted nuclear weapons." Perhaps he did. People misspeak all the time by confusing two things in their mind, or jumbling the words they say. Nothing wrong with that. But this particular claim has been the subject of countless mentions in the media in the six months since it was made. If Cheney really "misspoke" when he said it, wouldn't it have been appropriate for him to issue a press release or other statement as soon as he realized it, and not wait for six months and then only to acknowledge this "misspeaking" in response to a direct question from Tim Russert?

Followup: More on Cheney's lies, and other recent lies of the Bush administration, from David Corn (thanks to Tom Tomorrow for the link).


 

The September Surprise


We've been told for quite some time to "wait until mid-September" when weapons inspector David Kay would issue his report which would answer our questions about Iraqi WMD. The implication has been that the administration had damning evidence hidden up its sleeve, a "September Surprise." Well, this just in:
A scheduled update on any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is being delayed and the entire report may not be published, The Sunday Times of London reported.
Surprise!

 

The $87 billion - what's missing?


The media haven't noted this at all, as far as I know, but blogger Xymphora certainly sounds credible when (s)he says the following:
The great majority of the money is going to pay for what is essentially Pentagon operating costs (wages, fuel, etc.). These costs have been extremely inflated by the Pentagon's new propensity to contract out practically anything it can get away with. The money is not covering any appreciable amount of the capital costs to the Pentagon's equipment, which is literally being sanded down in the deserts of Iraq. When the operation in Iraq is over, the American taxpayer will have to completely repurchase most of the main military equipment for the U. S. Army, at a cost of untold additional billions.

Sunday, September 14, 2003


 

69% again


CNN news tonight reveals yet again why 69% of Americans believe there is a tie between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. Discussing the threats to assassinate Yasser Arafat (see item below), the anchor related this to how the U.S. deals with other "known terrorists" like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Even George Bush himself, with all his lies, never claimed that Hussein himself was a terrorist, but that doesn't deter CNN from doing so.

Followup: This stuff comes fast and furious. Quoted in USA Today, CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour had this to say about coverage of the war against Iraq: "I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did." To this, Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti responded: "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda." USA Today did not note the contradiction between the fact the Amanpour was talking about Iraq, while the Fox News spokesperson was talking about the entirely unrelated subject of al-Qaeda, but Left I will.


 

Combat casualties in Iraq revisited


Tonight, CBS News reports that the U.S. "has taken more than 1600 combat casualties" in Iraq. Isn't that an interesting number? It certainly is significantly higher than other, very recent, seemingly authoritative pronouncements. Was this an error, or are we getting closer to the truth? No way to know.

Not that we can rely on CBS News. The same report also mentioned the "8 Iraqi policemen killed" by U.S. forces. In fact, there were 10 policemen (2 died the next day from their wounds) and one more person, a Jordanian hospital guard. And no, they didn't call it a "massacre." Only Left I on the News has done that, so far at least.

Followup: There was someone else using the word "massacre," but it wasn't reported in the U.S. as far as I can tell. The Sunni clerics in Fallujah issued this declaration: "The people of Fallujah condemn the massacre which was committed on Friday against people dedicated to the protection of Fallujah." I doubt they even had to debate the meaning of the word.


 

"Thou shalt not kill"


A few days ago, the Israeli cabinet voted to "remove" Yasser Arafat. Many newspapers reported the story in exactly that manner, with the word "remove" in quotes and left ambiguous with a big wink. Few news articles, and even fewer editorials (none I know of) dealt with the possibility that the Israeli government was announcing it might assassinate Arafat.

The Jerusalem Post, however, was quite a bit more explicit in its editorial pages:

We must kill as many of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as possible, as quickly as possible, while minimizing collateral damage, but not letting that damage stop us. And we must kill Yasser Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative.
Complete editorial here (requires registration).

Today things became a bit more open, since the threat to kill Arafat moved from the pages of a right-wing newspaper to the mouth of the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert: "His expulsion is an option, his liquidation is another option." This mafia-like statement finally brought an open acknowledgement in the U.S. media of this possibility, along with a response from Colin Powell: "the U.S. doesn't support [killing Arafat], that's not our position." Well, with that kind of ringing condemnation, we can be sure Israel will be inhibited from acting.

I have yet to see any serious analysis of this issue in the U.S. media, but the following private communication from a friend sounds pretty much on target in my opinion; I wonder if any "real" analysts will have anything as incisive to say? This was written before the statement from Olmert, so whereever he writes "Jerusalem Post" (or "JP"), you really can now substitute the phrase "Israeli government":

The staggering arrogance of the Jerusalem Post is mind-boggling -- as is its disingenuousness. Do the JP and similar extreme Zionists really expect anyone to see Arafat -- a broken reed, a powerless symbol, a relic from the past, who was only elected because he is an echo of his past reputation -- as someone who can influence Hamas and other Islamicists or keep them in check? He is in an impossible position: if he attempts to curb Hamas, he will be seen by many Palestinians as a quisling; if he does nothing but complain about them, he'll be branded by Sharon & Co as an accomplice.

The false portrayal of Arafat as an accomplice of Hamas has, I think, a sinister rationale. The JP editorial implies that if Arafat is bumped off, then Hamas & Co will decline or even die away, and that there will be little response. No, his assassination will lead to massive unrest, big demonstrations, mass resistance and (unfortunately) more suicide attacks. The last will give Sharon and his fans in the JP editorial office the excuse to go in even harder against the Palestinians, mass repression, ghettoisation, perhaps even expulsion. The JP won't say -- at the moment, that is -- that Sharon wants to increase the pressure, and that he welcomes suicide bombings, as they play into his plan to present the Palestinians as a 'terrorist people' and therefore liable to and deserving of all manner of repression. A few months down the line, if the assassination option goes to plan, the JP will be calling for full ghettoisation and expulsion of the Palestinians.
Richard Becker writing in Workers World, has a similar, more extensive analysis, that's worth reading. Here's a brief excerpt:
The Sharon government clearly intended that the assassination of [Hebron leader of the Islamic Jihad organization, Mohammed] Seder in Hebron would end the "road map" process altogether. At the same time, it would be sure to unleash a response, allowing Israel to put the onus for the collapse on the Palestinians.
Followup: I missed the next sentence of the Colin Powell statement: "The consequences [of killing Arafat] would not be good ones." Not a word about the illegality or immorality of the action, Powell (and the U.S.) object to this outrageous action only because it might have negative consequences. As Ali Abunimanah of of Electronic Intifada said this morning on Democracy Now, just imagine what the reaction would have been if Arafat had called for the assassination of Ariel Sharon.

More followup: From Uri Avnery, Israeli peace activist and ex-Knesset member, a similar and equally worthwhile analysis of the situation. Avnery has also just announced that he and other Israeli peace activists will be serving as a "human shield" for Arafat.


Why stop here? There's more...

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