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Wednesday, June 30, 2004


 

Question to ponder


The U.S. invaded Iraq to overthrow its government. It did so, and has now installed (appointed) its very own government in its place, which is now ostensibly the "sovereign" government of Iraq. So why hasn't the U.S. signed a peace treaty with the Iraqi government? I admit there is still a "war" of sorts going on, but the U.S. defines it as either terrorism (with no defined purpose), or as an insurgency against the appointed Iraqi government, since U.S. troops are no longer "occupying" the country (according to the U.S.) but merely there to "assist" the Iraqi government in "suppressing civil unrest." So how can they justify not signing a peace treaty? Perhaps they can't sign a peace treaty because they never declared war?

Just my thought for the day to keep you busy while I'm gone.


 

Light posting alert


Starting tomorrow (Thursday) morning, I'll be off on an actual vacation (first one in ages!) until July 11. I expect to have decent Internet access, and probably have some free time amidst the R&R (actually blogging qualifies as one if not both R's, since releasing frustration through blogging is one way I keep my blood pressure low). However neither is guaranteed, so expect light posting, and possibly none at all. Plenty of great links in the right-hand column to check out if you haven't already done so. Or, heck, use the time to catch up on my old posts. I've been posting for nearly a year, and it would be a shame to waste all those old words if you haven't yet read them.

Feel free to use this post as an open thread to talk amongst yourselves (How about that? Two words ending in consonant-s-t in the same post!) Trolls, please refrain from posting; if you have nothing else to do, please take Dick Cheney's advice.


 

The word you need to know is "occupation"


Daily KOS has a nice roundup of snippets from seven different U.S. papers, all claiming that the "occupation" of Iraq has ended. Someone should tell the Iraqis; I don't believe they've noticed.
The word you need to know is occupation
The very definition of a land without a nation
And if peace is what you're after then let us not deceive
It will come on the day the tanks return to Tel Aviv the U.S.

- David Rovics, Occupation

 

Unclear on the concept


Like so many supporters of capitalism, George Bush wants the world to think that "democracy" and "capitalism" are one and the same. They are not:
"Some people in Muslim cultures identify democracy with the worst of Western popular culture and want no part of it.' he said. 'When I speak about the blessings of liberty, coarse videos and crass commercialism are not what I have in mind. There is nothing incompatible between democratic values and high standards of decency.'"
No, there is nothing incompatible between democracy and "high standards of decency," nor is there anything incompatible between democracy and "coarse videos and crass commercialism." But there is a causative relationship between capitalism and "coarse videos and crass commercialism.". It is capitalism (and not "democracy") which reduces everything to the "bottom line," and puts profit ahead of every other value, affecting not only its practitioners (the capitalists), but, thanks to the overwhelming pressures of advertising, the media, etc., the vast majority of society, for whom material possessions become the overriding "need." So if George Bush wants to promote "high standards of decency," he should be preaching against capitalism, and not in support of democracy, which has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


 

The "good news" from Iraq


Remember all that "good news" from Iraq that the Bush administration kept touting (the schools! the schools!) and the media did its best to promote? It turns out there really wasn't very much of it:
"More than a year into an aid effort that American officials likened to the Marshall Plan, occupation authorities acknowledge that fewer than 140 of 2,300 promised construction projects are under way.

"More than a year later, supplies of electricity and water are no better for most Iraqis, and in some cases are worse, than they were before the invasion in the spring of 2003.

"On Sunday a local paper reported that new sewage flooding in five poorer neighborhoods of eastern and western Baghdad was raising serious fears of disease."

 

A simple question


Told about the "transfer of power" in Iraq, George Bush allegedly wrote "Let freedom reign!" in the margin of the note he was handed. Is there anyone who thinks that this "spontaneous" sentiment wasn't thoroughly scripted by Hill & Knowlton, right down to the thick felt-tipped pen that Bush just happened to have on hand so that the annotated note would make for a perfect photo-op for the newspapers of the world (which dutifully went ahead and published the picture)? I don't even rule out the possibility that Bush didn't even write those words. After all, could his handlers really take a chance he wouldn't write "ring" or "rain" instead of the more challenging "reign"?

Watch for the expose in the next Michael Moore movie!


 

Somebody get Tony Blair a new hymnal


He's singing from the wrong page:
"Two days after Bush declared that 'the bitter differences [within NATO] of the war are over,' Blair acknowledged Monday that they aren't.

"'There's no point in our standing here and saying, you know, all the previous disagreements have disappeared. They haven't,' Blair said."

 

Iraqi "sovereignty"


Most people on the left scoff at the idea that June 28 was anything but a symbolic gesture, and that Iraq now has anything remotely resembling sovereignty. Left I on the News (see many posts below) certainly broadly shares that view. However, contrarian that I am, I have to say I think it isn't quite so simple. Iraqi leaders, even appointed ones, even ones who have been on the payroll of the CIA, do have minds of their own, probably more so than George Bush. They may, for example, want to at least appear to act independently of the U.S. to boost their own standing with the Iraqi people in preparation for future elections. And when they do, the U.S. will certainly be hard-pressed to oppose them, for fear of shattering the charade of sovereignty. I mean, what are they going to do? Announce that they are going to war to re-overthrow the government of Iraq?

And here's the first example - the "old" Iraqi flag now flying over the building housing the Iraqi government; the "new" (Bremer-approved) flag presumably consigned to the dustbin of history along with Bremer himself:


Who knows? One day, Iraq might even get its own top-level domain on the Internet, not one owned by a company in Texas under indictment.


 

Paul Bremer must be getting old


Old people often develop a condition where they can remember events from long ago, but not what happened yesterday. Paul Bremer doesn't look old, but it appears he suffers from the same affliction:
"Anybody who has any doubts about whether Iraq's a better place today than it was 14 months ago - go down to see the mass graves of Hillah. Or visit Hallabja, where Saddam gassed thousands of people. Or see any of the torture chambers or rape rooms around this country."
Events that happened thirteen and sixteen years ago? Fresh in Bremer's mind (and justification for a war). The mass graves in Fallujah that happened a month ago? Forgotten. The torture chambers and rape rooms of Abu Ghraib, that quite possibly would still be active (and, for all we know, still are) were it not for a few people like Sy Hersh? Forgotten.

Is Iraq better off? One thing for sure. If the U.S. hadn't killed tens of thousands of them in the 1991 war, tens of thousands of Iraqis would be better off. If the U.S. hadn't encouraged revolts by the Kurds and the Shia following that war, and then left them out to dry, the mass graves of Hillah wouldn't have existed. If the U.S. hadn't been providing military intelligence to Iraq in 1988 for its war against Iran, along with chemical weapons, then the mass graves of Hallabjah might not have existed. If the U.S. hadn't pushed through (and then enforced and kept in place) a decade of cruel sanctions against Iraq, another million Iraqis would still be alive. If the U.S. hadn't invaded in 2003, at least ten thousand more Iraqis, and possibly twice that number, would also still be alive. Is Iraq better off? There are one hell of a lot of Iraqis who definitely aren't, thanks to the U.S.


Monday, June 28, 2004


 

Quote of the Day

"Earlier today, 15 months after the liberation of Iraq, and two days ahead of schedule, the world witnessed the arrival of a free and sovereign Iraqi government."

- George Bush (Source)
Quite true, if by "the world" you mean "a small group of officials and journalists in the office of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, deep within the heavily-fortified military base known as the Green Zone" that attended "a five-minute, hastily arranged ceremony" and by "witnessed" you mean "an event that was not broadcast live on television" and by "free and sovereign" you mean...well, you get the idea.

 

Political humor of the day

"Say what you will about the Administration, when they set an arbitrary deadline for a symbolic gesture...they mean it."

- Jon Stewart on The Daily Show

 

Must have slipped their minds


Catching up on a story from last Thursday, this one from the Washington Post pretty much stands without comment:
"A letter about detainee policy sent in 2002 from the State Department's legal adviser to the Justice Department's deputy assistant attorney general made no attempt at bureaucratic pleasantries.

"William H. Taft IV said that Justice's legal advice to President Bush about how to handle detainees in the war on terrorism was 'seriously flawed' and its reasoning was 'incorrect as well as incomplete.' Justice's arguments were 'contrary to the official position of the United States, the United Nations and all other states that have considered the issue,' Taft said. [Ed. note: picky, picky, picky!]

"Taft's Jan. 11 letter, obtained by The Washington Post, was omitted from the hundreds of pages of documents released Tuesday by the Bush administration. The release was part of an effort to present the administration's policies on detainees since Sept. 11, 2001, as fully compliant with domestic and international law."

 

Capitalism kills


Bob Herbert in the New York Times tells us about the state of health care in the belly of the Capitalist beast:
"In an article a few years ago in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine took a look at the overall health of the American people, and compared conditions here to those in other industrialized countries.

"What she found was disturbing.

"'The fact is that the U.S. population does not have anywhere near the best health in the world,' she wrote. 'Of 13 countries in a recent comparison, the United States ranks an average of 12th (second from the bottom) for 16 available health indicators.'

"She said the U.S. came in 13th, dead last, in terms of low birth weight percentages; 13th for neonatal mortality and infant mortality over all; 13th for years of potential life lost (excluding external causes); 11th for life expectancy at the age of 1 for females and 12th for males; and 10th for life expectancy at the age of 15 for females and 12th for males.

"Last week I talked with Dr. Starfield, an internationally respected physician, professor and researcher, and asked whether the situation had improved over the last four years.

"'It's getting worse,' she said, noting, 'We've done a lot more studies in terms of the international comparisons. We've done them a million different ways. The findings are so robust that I think they're probably incontrovertible.'"
Here's a comparison of a few basic statistics, comparing the richest country in the world, with a very poor third world country:
The poor third-world country is, of course, Cuba, a country where health care and everything else is socialized, and people's needs come before profit.

All statistics are courtesy of the CIA, who doesn't take note in these aggregated statistics that the U.S. data strongly reflect economics, with Americans who aren't even remotely as "poor" (financially) as Cubans having substantially higher infant mortality rates and substantially lower life expectancies (for example, in 1999, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. was 7.0 infant deaths per 1000 live births. The rate for White infants was 5.8 while the rate for Black infants was 14.1).

Capitalism kills.


 

Ah, the sweet smell of "sovereignty"


The Washington Post lifts the lid and takes a whiff:
"U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq's legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.

"Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

"The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi's choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.

"Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.

"As of June 14, Bremer had issued 97 legal orders, which are defined by the U.S. occupation authority as 'binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people' that will remain in force even after the transfer of political authority. An annex to the country's interim constitution requires the approval of a majority of Allawi's ministers, as well as the interim president and two vice presidents, to overturn any of Bremer's edicts. A senior U.S. official in Iraq noted recently that it would 'not be easy to reverse' the orders."
And my favorite part:
"The orders include rules that cap tax rates at 15 percent, prohibit piracy of intellectual property, ban children younger than 15 from working, and a new traffic code that stipulates the use of a car horn in 'emergency conditions only' and requires a driver to 'hold the steering wheel with both hands.'"
Does this even qualify as an imitation of "sovereignty"?

One of the most important edicts was issued by Bremer just two days before he slinked (slunk?) out of town:

"On Saturday, Bremer signed an edict that gave U.S. and other Western civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq."
Well, that seems fair, doesn't it? We wouldn't want any of those contractors to have to drive with two hands, would we?

Sunday, June 27, 2004


 

Taking care of the natives


I just don't know how those Iraqis used to manage, but don't worry. The white man is there now, to make sure they join the 21st century. They may not have clean water, or electricity, but by God they're going to have "information technology"! At least, so we're told by Information Week:
"In addition to democracy, the United States is bringing business technology to Iraq. As the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority prepares to hand power next week to a newly constituted Iraqi government, technologists within the authority are huddling with Iraqi officials to complete information systems to ensure the country can operate and maintain the power plants, refineries, hospitals, and thousands of other infrastructure elements under construction. [Ed. note: all those "infrastructure elements" that were destroyed by U.S. bombing in 1991 and kept from being rebuilt by the sanctions]

"At the heart of the plan is an effort to introduce an asset-management system to public officials who, in many cases, have never used anything more than pencil and paper to manage vital national assets. [Ed. note: has anyone ever noticed that business corruption has increased by several orders of magnitude in the U.S. (e.g., Enron) since we substituted computers for pencil and paper? I seem to remember (from reading, I'm not that old!) that the U.S. managed to keep thousands of power plants, refineries, hospitals, and other "infrastructure elements" going just fine long before the invention of computers]

"The technology behind the asset-management system would look familiar to many U.S. IT managers, built around Oracle's database, project software, and 11i business applications. That system is connected through IBM WebSphere middleware to other engineering, construction, and asset-management applications, such as MRO Software Inc.'s Maximo program, and project-management software from Primavera Systems Inc. [Ed. note: U.S. companies all, natch!] It's housed on servers located in the Program Management Office in Baghdad and is mirrored at a site in Virginia to permit remote management and updates. [Emphasis added] [Ed. note: Nothing like the "sovereignty" of someone in another country having remote control of your computers.]
Lest you think this multi-million dollar project actually is going to have any significance, it's scope, at least at first, is rather modest:
"Coalition officials want to introduce the asset-management system to Iraqi administrators in small doses. At present, Plockmeyer and staff are discussing ways to apply the technology to the electricity sector around Baghdad. Under a proposed plan, the system would be deployed at one or two facilities within easy reach of the Green Zone, and Program Management Office staffers would train Iraqi nationals to use it."
Yeah, wouldn't want to get too far from the old "Green Zone" into the place where there are actual...Iraqis.

And here's what else is hampering them:

"Internet access needs to be widely available if it's to be fully utilized by some of the more far-flung Iraqi ministry outposts. The violence has slowed efforts by communications contractors, including Lucent, to deploy fiber beyond Baghdad. For now, satellite links are needed to make most Internet connections."
In Riverbend's neigborhood in Baghdad there are still only two hours of electricity out of every six, and the Coalition Provisional Authority is worried about Internet connections in remote parts of Iraq so they can do asset management? Is it any wonder that Iraqis overwhelmingly want the U.S. to get the hell out of their country so they can manage their own affairs?

 

All the news that's not fit to print


Found this in my inbox on my return from my trip. Five days later, the story hasn't appeared in a single significant American newspaper as far as I can tell:
Nation's Largest Union Calls for End to U.S. Occupation of Iraq and Withdrawal of U.S. Troops

"Nearly 4000 delegates of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's largest with 1.6 million members, voted unanimously at the union's national convention in San Francisco today to end U.S. occupation of Iraq and to bring U.S. troops stationed there home. 

"The strongly worded resolution pointed to military intervention aboard and attacks on workers at home.  The resolution charged the Bush administration (backed by a majority in Congress) with responsibility for declining wages and benefits, deunionization, cuts in public services, crumbling health care and educational systems, cuts in veterans benefits, escalating public debt, and eroding economic, social and personal security.

"The union proclaimed, 'We cannot solve these economic and social problems without addressing U.S. foreign policy and its consequences.'"
The full text of the press release can be found here.

 

Fahrenheit 9/11 - Some thoughts


Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has been getting rave reviews, even from Fox News. So it's with some surprise that I have to say that for me, it was only a marginal thumbs up. Maybe it's because I "knew it all," or most of it, anyway. But F911 has some definite flaws.

First of all, it's just not that good as a film. The editing is poor. Some things are present in excess (shots of Bush administration bigwigs getting ready for appearances on television), while other subjects aren't touched at all. There's an extremely poignant clip of an Iraqi woman who has lost some of her family in the bombing of Baghdad, and then much later an equally poignant view of an American woman who loses her son in the war, but no attempt to connect the two whatsoever. We get a funny bit (seen in the trailers) where Moore rides around Washington in an ice cream truck trying to read the PATRIOT act to Congress, but only the briefest attempt to illustrate the impact of the act on ordinary Americans.

The film is also politically dishonest. Because Moore is pushing the "Anybody but Bush" line with single-minded focus, he doesn't let anything, like intellectual honesty, get in his way. Discussing the "declaration of war" against Iraq, he sarcastically says "of course, the Democrats did their best to stop this drive to war, right?" and then shows a single clip of Tom Daschle saying he's voting for the resolution. Of course Moore could have also shown a clip of John Kerry saying the same thing, but that might interfere with his message. Likewise, going back to the ratification in Congress of the 2000 election results, the film includes at least a half-dozen House Democrats speaking, introducing a resolution to question the results, each of them noting that they only need one Senator to join them in this resolution to put at least a temporary break on the election grab. Again, Moore could have "brought it home" by then switching to shots of Kerry, or Ted Kennedy, or Barbara Boxer, or the other liberal members of the Senate who refused to sign on to the protest, but he doesn't.

Finally, the focus on George Bush and his family is all very interesting, but suggests that something fundamental changed in this country in 2000. Bush is uniquely incompetent, and particularly venal, but Republican and Democratic Presidents have been taking America to war after war for years, long before George Bush, something you might never guess from watching this movie. Likewise big corporations have held undue power over the events of this country, and have had Republican and Democratic politicans doing their bidding, for years, long before George Bush. United States politics have been moving steadily rightward for years; Bill Clinton is to the right of Richard Nixon. By avoiding discussion of that trend, and its underlying causes, Moore fundamentally misleads the viewer into thinking there is an individual, rather than a systemic, problem in the United States.

All this being said, the film is certainly a must-see for any politically active person. First of all, there is an unbelievable amount of footage in this movie that you just can't imagine how Moore got hold of. Everyone has heard about the famous "George Bush in the Florida classroom on 9/11" footage, but there's lots more. The most powerful of all, however, and the most valuable reason to see this movie, are the clips from Iraq. Moore starts, very effectively, with shots of Baghdad on the day before the bombing. People getting haircuts, eating ice cream cones, playing in the park, talking -- normal people leading normal lives. Then we see the shots we never saw on American television - Iraqi bodies blown to bits, blood all over, guts hanging out, the real result of "shock and awe." Not to mention similar, though less extensive, shots of American soldiers meeting similar fates. It's powerful stuff, and one can only imagine the effect on the American people had it been shown when it happened, instead of a year later.

The ultimate dishonesty in the movie comes at the very end. Moore shows the famous clip of Bush mangling a well-known quote, saying "Fool me once, shame on you...won't get fooled again." To which Moore adds in a barely audible voice, "I agree," referring to his hope that America won't "elect" Bush again. But Moore has forgotten the famous Who song that Bush was inadvertently quoting ("Won't Get Fooled Again"), and the other famous line from the same song: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

See the movie, tell your non-political friends to go and for sure they'll learn something and be amused at the same time, but lower your expectations. Any awards this film wins, like the Palme d'Or, have a major political component to them, and in my opinion are probably undeserved.

Followup: I still say that some Disney shareholder should sue Disney, especially now that predictions have come true and the movie has already become the top-grossing documentary of all time, on the same weekend that Disney's Around the World in 80 Days tanked, and has now lost Disney shareholders $80 million dollars.


 

I'm still here!


Apologies to everyone. I've been off on a short trip (still am, sitting in an airport waiting for a return flight home at the moment), and expected to have more time and more access to broadband than it turned out I did so...as you've noticed, there hasn't been any blogging. I did get to see Fahrenheit 9/11 last night, about which I'll have some things to say later. Until then, I just wanted to check in and say hi.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


 

This is what occupation looks like


It happened back in May, but it's just coming out today, appearing only in the Boston Globe.
"American soldiers stormed into Sajid Kadhum Bouri al-Bawi's house three hours after midnight on May 17, breaking two doors and rousing the dozen children who live there.

"An hour later, family members recalled, the soldiers led a hooded man from the house and told the family they were arresting Bawi. Only after the soldiers left with what appeared to be a prisoner did Bawi's brother find his bloodied body, shot five times and stuffed behind a refrigerator underneath a pile of mattresses.

"The US Army is investigating the shooting [Ed: aren't they always?], and admits that Bawi was shot and killed by an American when, according to the soldiers involved, he tried to seize a soldier's weapon. [Ed: ah, the old 'he went for the gun' story]"
Of course it's possible the Iraqi family in the story is making the whole thing up, or lying, although why they would do so isn't obvious given that the chances that anything positive will come out of it for them are slim to none. To me, the wealth of detail in the story says it's true. You can read the whole story and decide for yourself. Here's one of the more interesting details about the victim:
"According to his brothers, Bawi, like the rest of the family, welcomed the United States as liberators. ''When Saddam was captured, he hired a band for the neighborhood,' Qasim Bawi said. Family snapshots show Wathiq Kadhum, the brother with the forehead scar, frolicking in a waterfall last summer, his arm around a female US soldier."
Any questions about why only 2% of Iraqis now call the Americans "liberators"?

Monday, June 21, 2004


 

This is what democracy looks like


[Ed. note: title of this post changed; I decided the original title was just inappropriate]

In today's news:

"The weekly meeting of the Rashid district council began last Wednesday with a prayer for two of the group's 33 members. One was in critical condition at a U.S. military hospital after being shot seven times in an assassination attempt. Another was in hiding after gunmen attacked her house and killed her brother.

"'Let us remember our martyrs,' Sami Ahmed Sharif, the council chairman, intoned as his fellow members stood, turned their palms to the ceiling and bowed their heads.

"There were no other residents of the Rashid district to observe the moment of silence or the rest of the proceedings. Council members voted to close the meeting to the public because of fears that assassins would slip in and mark members for death. To enforce the decision, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers surrounded the council building and stationed snipers on the roof."
Just one of the many legacies of the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.

It is worth remembering back to the beginning of this "experiment in democracy":

"Despite calls from Iraqi politicians for the participants to be chosen by popular vote, the CPA deemed municipal elections too risky last summer. They worried that religious extremists and Baathists would manipulate the process. Instead, the CPA asked the Research Triangle Institute, which had a U.S. government contract to promote democracy in Iraq, to organize neighborhood caucuses to select the councils.

"Participants in the caucuses were screened by Americans who supervised the entire process. As a result, the councils were filled with people who owed their jobs more to the CPA than to the public. 'The community saw us as tools of the Americans,' said Ali Aziz, the secretary of the Rashid council. 'It was the beginning of our problems.'"
By "manipulate the process," of course, what they mean is "win the elections." Can't have that, no more than the U.S. would allow elections in Vietnam in 1956 when they thought that Ho Chi Minh would win. "Democracy" is a very flexible concept when applied by Americans.

 

Fallujah - Who ya' gonna' believe?


The Fallujah bombing controversy described here and here continues. Today The New York Times weighs in with the latest "official" story:
"A day after an American airstrike destroyed six homes in this flash-point city, a senior Iraqi official said Sunday that 23 of 26 people killed in the attack were foreign terrorists, including men from Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen."
Well now that's rather interesting, since yesterday the Observer reported that "Dr Fadhil al-Baddrani ["one resident reached by telephone"] said the entire family of Mohammed Hamadi, a 65-year-old farmer, married with two wives, were killed. Among the dead where his wives and children. At least three women and five children were among the dead." Assuming farmer Hamadi and the three women and five children were not among these "foreign terrorists," the claim in the Times can't be true.

Now, how do we know whom to believe? Well, the Guardian's claim comes from a named source, which was later backed up in a report in VOA News from "Iraqi military officers in the city of Fallujah." And the Times story? A "senior Iraqi official...who spoke on the condition of anonymity." Who was this official? What was his source of information? Was he actually in Fallujah? What is the source of his information? For all we know, this "senior Iraqi official" was Ahmad Chalabi, or perhaps Iyad Allawi, and their source of information was Paul Bremer or Mark Kimmitt.

What else can we tell about the reliability of the Times story? Here's another thing we "learn" from it: "On Sunday, there were no serious mortar attacks against American forces, no fiery sermons at the mosques, no marches in the street" [This is intended to prove that the people of Fallujah were not outraged by the attack]. Well of course there were no mortar attacks, because American forces have withdrawn from Fallujah. And as far as "marches in the street," AP reports the opposite, and it's rather hard to believe they just made this up out of whole cloth:

"Hundreds gathered in the center of this restive Sunni-Muslim city Monday to protest a U.S. airstrike that targeted a Jordanian-born militant suspected of masterminding car bomb attacks throughout Iraq. Chanting anti-U.S. slogans, the crowds accused the Americans of falsely claiming that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had sought refuge here in order to create an excuse to attack the city."
You decide. Who ya' gonna' believe?

By the way, the statement made yesterday still stands. The name of Mohammed Hamadi has yet to appear in any American media outlet.


 

Thought for the day


Fred Goldstein in Workers World, evidently influenced by that Rumsfeldian "ask your own question and answer it" style, gives us some interesting food for thought about an old (but still ongoing) controversy:
"In the fall of 2002, Tenet called Condoleezza Rice's chief aide, Stephen Hadley, to warn Bush not to put anything in an upcoming speech about the alleged Iraqi attempt to purchase uranium. That sentence was struck out of the speech. But later, when Bush gave his State of the Union speech in January 2003, two months before the Pentagon's invasion, the line about the uranium reappeared. After the war, a scandal broke: the documents substantiating the charges about Niger uranium had been forged.

"Condoleezza Rice tried to get out of it by saying that Tenet had not read the speech and had to take the blame. But Tenet had already told Rice's highest aide that the allegation was false. Yet it had appeared in Bush's annual speech to Congress.

"How could such a risk be taken? Only if the Bush administration was absolutely confident that the U.S. would gain immediate, total victory in Iraq and the question of the justification for the war would never be raised. Military triumphalism, patriotic chauvinism such as followed the Gulf War of 1991, would prevail and the ruling class would not care one bit about how or why Washington got into the war.

"Had it not been for the Iraqi resistance, the question of the phony evidence about non-existent weapons of mass destruction would have been a minor footnote in history, brought up only by bourgeois dissidents and the left. The ruling class would never have paid attention to it. They would have been too busy counting their profits from the oil, from the takeover of the Iraqi economy, and from the payola flowing from construction of military bases and so on."

 

Breaking news - It's Nader-Camejo


AP reports that Ralph Nader has selected Peter Camejo, Green Party activist and two-time candidate for Governor of California, to be his running mate. I was very glad to see this statement in the article:
"'I think the central issue of this campaign is the war in Iraq,' Camejo said. 'All of you know (Democrat John) Kerry is complaining about how Bush has carried out the invasion and the occupation but not what he keeps doing.'"
I was critical of Camejo during his last campaign in California (the recall campaign), where he had significant amounts of television time in debates and in my opinion squandered much of it, coming across more like a technocrat than a real progressive. He barely mentioned the war in Iraq during that campaign. Yes, it's a "national issue," and he could have been criticized for that, but it would have been a perfect opportunity to explain where the trillions of dollars that go into the war budget (including the hundreds of millions spent in Iraq) come from, and what could be done with that money right here in California and the United States. But now he will be part of a national campaign, and I look forward to his carrying through on this pledge to make Iraq (and hopefully all of American foreign policy - Israel/Palestine, Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, and on and on) the "central issue" in this campaign.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


 

Bill Clinton - the patient war criminal


According to Reuters:
"President Bush should have let U.N. inspectors finish hunting for weapons of mass destruction before he launched the Iraq war, former president Bill Clinton said in interviews released on Sunday to promote his new book.

"In comments to CBS' "60 Minutes," Clinton said: 'In terms of the launching of the war, I believe we made an error in not allowing the United Nations to complete the inspections process.'

"'I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over,' he told Time magazine."
What a very strange position to take. He thinks Bush should have waited for the inspectors to finish, at which point the world would have known there were no WMD in Iraq, and US chances of getting a war-endorsing resolution through the Security Council would have been even smaller, and Bush would have launched a war based on what justification? The Iraq-Al Qaeda connection? A connection which, even if it existed, was supposedly threatening to the U.S. only because Iraq could have given them WMD. Which they didn't have.

 

Horrors and horrors


I need to repeat this because it can't be emphasized enough - Americans are horrified and outraged at the beheading of Nick Berg and Paul Johnson. But here's what the American government does:
"Dr Fadhil al-Baddrani said the entire family of Mohammed Hamadi, a 65-year-old farmer, married with two wives, were killed. Among the dead where his wives and children. At least three women and five children were among the dead. 'The whole family is gone,' said al-Baddrani. 'The blast was so powerful it blew them to pieces. We could only recognise the women by their long hair.'"
The American government doesn't just behead people, it blows them to smithereens. Not just two of them. Twenty at once. And what do they have to say about it? Do they apologize? Resign in disgrace? Hell no. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt says this instead: "The collateral damage estimate was within permissible limits."

Want to be outraged? Try some outrage at the complete moral bankruptcy of the American government. Not to mention the spinelessness and complicity of the United Nations, the American media, the Pope, John Kerry, and everyone else who doesn't raise their voice in protest against this barbarism. Not a single American media outlet has yet to even mention the name of Mohammed Hamadi.


 

Why doesn't Israel want the world to watch?


Gee, I can't imagine. But here's now anxious they are to carry out their dirty deeds in secret - they're now firing warning shots at British MPs to scare them off:
"A group of British politicians were shot at by Israeli soldiers during a UN-supervised fact-finding mission, they have claimed.

"The cross-party group, including MPs Huw Irranca-Davies and Crispin Blunt, was on a visit to Rafah in Gaza, where UK student Tom Hurndall was killed.

"Mr Irranca Davies said the first he knew of what was happening was when he heard the rattle of a machine gun.

"'We withdrew to the jeeps and as we were getting in, it was followed by some pretty accurate warning shots which fired above our heads and hit a building. It was a pretty clear indication they didn't want us there.'

"Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Northover said one bullet hit a wall about 10ft above her head. 'I thought 'they're trying to kill us',' she told BBC News Online. 'One of the most perturbing things was that we had been surrounded by children as we arrived, but they were not terrified by this - it's obviously a fairly common occurrence," she added.

"In an earlier statement Lady Northover, the Liberal Democrats' international development spokesperson in the Lords, said the incident had shown her 'the indiscriminate violence faced by Palestinians on a daily basis'."
The Israeli government, true to form, admits nothing, claiming that "it was unclear whether shots had been fired, and if so by whom" and that "the exchange of fire between both sides was 'commonplace' in the area and had not necessarily come from Israeli forces." They don't believe this nonsense themselves, but they say this to give their supporters a figleaf to hide behind.

Saturday, June 19, 2004


 

Update


If you've already read the item below about the Fallujah bombing ("Add 20 more dead Iraqis to the list"), be sure to read the update.

 

The "war on terror" is making us safer...not


The Guardian reports:
"Intelligence chiefs are calling for the most sweeping security shake-up in the history of Westminster to prevent terrorists striking at the heart of central London.

"Amid fears that government departments and tourist landmarks such as Big Ben are under threat, intelligence experts want to set up a 'sterile security zone' around a large swath of London, blocking off key roads and sealing off the Commons debating chamber with bomb-proof screens.

"Police and anti-terror chiefs want to close roads around key ministries, including the Department of Health, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence as well as Parliament itself, which could extend from Trafalgar Square to Millbank, where MI5's headquarters are situated."
Until and unless the causes of terrorism, including the oppression of the Palestinian people, global economic inequalities, and more, are addressed, attempts to prevent it are simply futile. Safeguard London, and you'll just make Manchester more prone to an attack. Guard the airplanes, someone will bomb the trains. Guard the trains, they'll bomb the buses. Attempt to kill the terrorists, and you just create more. George Bush and Tony Blair want you to believe that terrorists are simply psychopaths who thrive on violence. The truth is the opposite - George Bush and Tony Blair and the ruling classes they represent are psychopaths who thrive on violence. Terrorists are, almost without exception, people who are fighting for a cause, in most cases a completely justified cause.

 

Bush and Cheney have gone too far


They've got The New York Times seriously pissed off at them (and at least this time the Times doesn't waste its time asking for an "apology"):
"When the commission studying the 9/11 terrorist attacks refuted the Bush administration's claims of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, we suggested that President Bush apologize for using these claims to help win Americans' support for the invasion of Iraq. We did not really expect that to happen. But we were surprised by the depth and ferocity of the administration's capacity for denial. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have not only brushed aside the panel's findings and questioned its expertise, but they are also trying to rewrite history.

"Mr. Bush said the 9/11 panel had actually confirmed his contention that there were 'ties' between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said his administration had never connected Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Both statements are wrong.

"Before the war, Mr. Bush spoke of far more than vague 'ties' between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said Iraq had provided Al Qaeda with weapons training, bomb-making expertise and a base in Iraq. On Feb. 8, 2003, Mr. Bush said that 'an Al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990's for help in acquiring poisons and gases.' The 9/11 panel's report, as well as news articles, indicate that these things never happened.

"Mr. Cheney said yesterday that the 'evidence is overwhelming' of an Iraq-Qaeda axis and that there had been a 'whole series of high-level contacts' between them. The 9/11 panel said a senior Iraqi intelligence officer made three visits to Sudan in the early 1990's, meeting with Osama bin Laden once in 1994. It said Osama bin Laden had asked for 'space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded.' The panel cited reports of further contacts after Osama bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in 1996, but said there was no working relationship. As far as the public record is concerned, then, Mr. Cheney's 'longstanding ties' amount to one confirmed meeting, after which the Iraq government did not help Al Qaeda. By those standards, the United States has longstanding ties to North Korea.

"Mr. Bush has also used a terrorist named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Mr. Bush used to refer to Mr. Zarqawi as a 'senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner' who was in Baghdad working with the Iraqi government. But the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime, nor under the direction of Al Qaeda.

"When it comes to 9/11, someone in the Bush administration has indeed drawn the connection to Iraq: the vice president. Mr. Cheney has repeatedly referred to reports that Mohamed Atta met in Prague in April 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence agent. He told Tim Russert of NBC on Dec. 9, 2001, that this report has 'been pretty well confirmed.' If so, no one seems to have informed the C.I.A., the Czech government or the 9/11 commission, which said it did not appear to be true. Yet Mr. Cheney cited it, again, on Thursday night on CNBC.

"Mr. Cheney said he had lots of documents to prove his claims. We have heard that before, but Mr. Cheney always seems too pressed for time or too concerned about secrets to share them. Last September, Mr. Cheney's adviser, Mary Matalin, explained to The Washington Post that Mr. Cheney had access to lots of secret stuff. She said he had to 'tiptoe through the land mines of what's sayable and not sayable' to the public, but that 'his job is to connect the dots.'

"The message, if we hear it properly, is that when it comes to this critical issue, the vice president is not prepared to offer any evidence beyond the flimsy-to-nonexistent arguments he has used in the past, but he wants us to trust him when he says there's more behind the screen. So far, when it comes to Iraq, blind faith in this administration has been a losing strategy."
My prediction for the election season? Outside of the Wall Street Journal, you are going to see few if any newspaper endorsements for Bush-Cheney (that's if Bush and particularly Cheney actually emerge from the Republican convention as the candidates - not a given). The ruling class has definitely decided Bush's incompetence can no longer be tolerated. They need a more "competent" manager like Kerry for their basically shared agenda.

 

Quote of the Day

"To blame Saddam for Zarqawi's presence in Iraq would be like blaming Fidel Castro for instances of torture at Guantanamo Bay."

- Zachary Roth at the Columbia Journalism Review
(Link courtesy of Oliver Willis)

 

Add 20 more dead Iraqis to the list


Once again, U.S. terrorists strike in Iraq:
"In a bloody surprise attack, the U.S. military launched precision weapons into a poor residential neighborhood of Fallujah on Saturday to destroy what officers described as a safe house used by fighters loyal to Abu Musab Zarqawi and perhaps, at times, by the fugitive terrorist leader himself.

"Residents said about 20 people were killed, including women and children, despite a cease-fire with U.S. occupation forces that has brought relative peace for the last six weeks to the rebellious city 35 miles west of Baghdad. Images from the site of the blast showed two collapsed houses, with people in white robes picking through the rubble looking for buried victims and lost property."
Ah, the famed Zarqawi. But was he really there? Spokesliar Gen. Mark Kimmitt says he doesn't know, but that "'multiple confirmations of actionable intelligence'" indicated that several of his operatives were present." Not everyone's got the word though:
"'He's [Zarqawi] had a number of locations,' a senior U.S. military official said of Zarqawi after the strike on Saturday. 'This may have been one of the locations where he's at. . . . We just don't have any evidence.'"
So it may have been...or it may not. But on the basis of not having "any evidence," the military goes ahead and kills 20 people. They knew very well that civilians were present, but Kimmitt says "it is standard operating procedure to conduct a detailed collateral damage estimate prior to approval of this type of mission. The collateral damage estimate was within permissible limits." Permissible to whom? Permissible under what law or moral code?

I've used this analogy before, but I can't remember if it was in this blog or not. Imagine an escaped, convicted, armed mass murderer is holed up in a shopping mall in the U.S. Do you think it would be "permissible" to drop a bomb on the mall to kill the murderer, knowing a few hundred people might be "taken out"? What about if the murderer was standing in a middle of a crowd of a dozen people? Or even had a single hostage? How would you feel if the police in your town routinely "opened up" on the subject in a situation like that, knowing that the chances that the hostage would be killed by their fire was virtually a certainty? To say the least, I doubt most people would want to live in a city like that. But when Iraqi civilians are involved, it's a different story. A very different story.

Followup: More details from the Guardian:

"Dr Fadhil al-Baddrani said the entire family of Mohammed Hamadi, a 65-year-old farmer, married with two wives, were killed. Among the dead where his wives and children. At least three women and five chil dren were among the dead. 'The whole family is gone,' said al-Baddrani. 'The blast was so powerful it blew them to pieces. We could only recognise the women by their long hair.'"
According to this eyewitness, all 22 people killed were members of al-Baddrani's extended family. There is no confirmation that any of them were involved in the resistance.

Another eyewitness report spotlights the American tactics:

"Outraged residents accused America of trying to inflict maximum damaged by firing two strikes - one first to attack and another to kill the rescuers.

"'The number of casualties is so high because after the first missile we jumped to rescue the victims,' said Wissam ali-Hamad. 'The second missile killed those trying to carry out the rescue.'"
Note, by the way, that this attack is said to have been carried out because the Americans had "multiple confirmations of actionable intelligence." But remember this - there are no Americans in Fallujah. How reliable could this information have been? Most likely, about as reliable as the information that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD. Americans lie, Iraqis die.

More followup: VOA News is now reporting that "Iraqi military officers in the city of Fallujah say there is no sign any insurgents were in a house flattened during a U.S. attack that reportedly killed at least 20 civilians." Again, note how preposterous is the original American claim that they killed two of Zarqawi's associates. The Americans have no one on the ground there, how could they possibly know that? But now we have both a Guardian reporter on the scene and Iraqi military officers putting the lie to that nonsense.


 

Some of that good news from Iraq


Viagra sales have doubled.

OK, maybe not such good news:

"'People are depressed, so they need Viagra and other drugs to give them interest in sex,' said Talid Abdul-Amir Shebany, a balding pharmacist who tracks the changing ailments of Iraqis in a worn ledger on his desk. 'Viagra sales have at least doubled since the war ended. Lives are not good. There's bombs and tension. When you see bodies and destroyed houses, you have psychological disturbances that affect sexual desire.'"

Friday, June 18, 2004


 

Insights from inside Iraq


There has hardly been a word written in the Western press about the new Iraqi Defense Minister, Sha’alan Hazim. But, resurfacing today, Baghdad Burning tells us a little about him:
"My favorite minister, by far, is the Defense Minister, Sha’alan Hazim. According to American newspaper Al-Sabah, Mr. Sha’lan Hazim 'received a Masters degree in business administration from the UK before returning to Iraq to run a Kuwaiti bank. After being forced to leave Iraq by the former regime, Mr.Sha’alan became the head of a real-estate company in London until he returned to Iraq last June and has since worked as the governor of Qadisiya'.

"Now this is highly amusing. I must have missed something. If anyone has any information about just *how* Mr. Sha’alan Hazim qualifies as a Defense Minister, please do send it along. At a point when we need secure borders and a strong army, our new Defense Minister was given the job because he… what? Played with toy soldiers as a child? Read Tolstoy’s War and Peace six times? Was regional champion of the game Commandos?"
If it's any consolation, Riverbend, he couldn't be any less competent than the American Minister (Secretary) of War Defense.


 

The forgotten, remembered


Aaboola Razak Katraan, age 19. Aadel Akgaal Bastaan, age 65. Aadheam Ali, age 45. Aahlam Jallal Nasser, age 25. Aajel Jabayer, age unknown. Aajel Jaber Hassef, age 55. Aamaed Mustafa Hameed, age 7.

Who are these people? They are the first 7 (alphabetically) of 2081 Iraqi civilians who were killed by American bombs and missiles between March 21 and July 31, 2003, who have now been thoroughly documented by the Iraq Survey Team headed up by Raed Jarrar. Each death is listed by day, place, occupation, and method of death (missile, bomb, etc.). They are the uncounted, the ones that George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and the rest couldn't be bothered about. Every one of them has (or had) a family who deserves as much compassion as the family of Paul Johnson, murdered today by Saudi terrorists. Every one of them was as innocent as Johnson, and equally as undeserving to die. In some just future, the terrorists who murdered them all will be viewed with as much contempt, and treated the same way, as the terrorists who killed Johnson. As will the terrorist sympathizers in the Congress and Administration and media, whose words and deeds made their murders possible.


 

Not so funny humor of the day


From the Los Angeles Times via Cursor:
"U.S. analysts also erred in their analysis of high-altitude satellite photos, repeatedly confusing Scud missile storage places with the short, half-cylindrical sheds typically used to house poultry in Iraq. As a result, as the war neared, two teams of U.N. weapons experts acting on U.S. intelligence scrambled to search chicken coops for missiles that were not there.

"'We inspected a lot of chicken farms,' said a former inspector who asked not to be identified because he now works with U.S. intelligence. His U.N. team printed 'Ballistic Chicken Farm Inspection Team' on 20 gray T-shirts to mark the futile hunt."
Well, we all knew this was a chickenshit administration, didn't we?


 

Cheney, Bush, and the Iraq-al Qaeda connection


Both Dick Cheney and George Bush are trying to weasel out of the widely reported conclusion of the 9-11 commission that there was "no credible evidence" of any Iraqi involvement with al Qaeda attacks on the U.S., by claiming that they never said there was (about that, see here), and that what they said (and still say) is that there is "overwhelming evidence" of Iraqi links to al Qaeda (in general, separate and apart from the 9-11 attacks).

There are just two problems with that line of "defense." One, it overlooks the less widely reported conclusion of the commission that, while there were "contacts" between Iraq and al Qaeda, that what limited contacts there were "did not result in any cooperation," and "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship." Evidently, according to Dick Cheney and George Bush, if I call the White House and leave a message on their answering machine, and they never get back to me, that would be "overwhelming evidence" of links between me and the White House. Nice try, but no.

The second issue is a bigger one, because it's the one the American public is being hit with repeatedly - the presence in Iraq of number one bogeyman du jour Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Bush and Cheney repeat his name as some kind of magic talisman to ward off the 9-11 commission report. But who is Zarqawi (and how many legs does he have?)? A very good overview appeared here back in February. Zarqawi is the alleged head (there aren't exactly public elections) of Ansar al Islam. Ansar al Islam is not al Qaeda, despite attempts by the administration to conflate the two. Indeed, earlier this year the very same administration claimed to have intercepted a letter from Zarqawi to bin Laden saying that al Qaeda would be welcome in Iraq. If Zarqawi was al Qaeda, or if al Qaeda was already in Iraq, that letter doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Not to mention that before the invasion, Zarqawi was based in Kurdistan, an area outside of the control of the central government of Iraq, and hardly indicative of any kind of relationship between Hussein and Zarqawi (a fact which didn't stop Colin Powell at the U.N. from citing Zarqawi's alleged chemical weapons plant in Kurdistan as a reason for attacking Iraq - a charge almost immediately proved false by journalists visiting the site). The point of all this is simple - Zarqawi may exist (or he may be dead, and he may (or may not) be carrying out terrorist activities in Iraq at this very moment. But these facts (or possibilities) have nothing to do with any links between Iraq under Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Nothing. As they so often do, the Administration is doing its best to blur the facts to confuse the public. Let's not let them get away with it.


 

How very curious...


...that this story is appearing today:
"Russian intelligence services warned Washington several times that Saddam Hussein's regime planned terrorist attacks against the United States, President Vladimir Putin has said.

"The planned attacks were targeted both inside and outside the United States, said Putin, who made the remarks during a visit to Kazakhstan."
What do you suppose George Bush offered him down in Sea Island last week?

 

The Venezuelan recall


The New York Times tries to alarm its readers today by informing them that Hugo Chavez is attempting to pack the Venezuelan Supreme Court by expanding its membership from 20 to 32 [Aside - shouldn't courts have an odd number of members?]. They do admit that this increase in size is authorized by a new law passed by the National Assembly, but want us to see it as a power grab. Which perhaps it is. But curiously, while reminding us of attempts to remake the legal system in Peru and attempts to pack the Supreme Court in Argentina, they neglect to remind their readers that the most famous court-packing attempt in history was that of one of the United States' most venerated Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

And why does Chavez want to pack the court?

"Political analysts say that if Mr. Chávez cannot win the recall outright, his government could count on the Supreme Court to ensure victory if the referendum results are close or disputed."
I can't wait for George Bush to criticize that if it happens! The Times, of course, has conveniently forgotten the obvious parallel.

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, they discover the scare story that the Times ran two weeks ago and was discussed by Left I on the News - that dastardly Hugo Chavez is attempting to "buy" the election by actually spending the oil income of the country on social needs! The fiend!

"Chavez's government plans to spend at least $1.7 billion -- and perhaps twice that -- in oil revenue this year on social programs ranging from subsidized food to classes on literacy, farming, hair-styling and auto mechanics. Chavez has said his goal is a 'social transformation' that will 'redistribute national income' into the hands of the millions of poor people who have long been denied access to this country's vast oil riches.

"But critics say Chavez is pandering to the poor to save his political career and gambling irresponsibly with the long-term fiscal health of a state company that provides half the country's revenue.

"Most of the programs are directly funded and administered by the oil company. It has budgeted $1.7 billion for social projects this year, up from just a few million in past years. And Chavez recently said that he would funnel another $2 billion of company revenue into a social spending account. This week, Chavez announced that from now on, he would refer to the company as 'Petroleos del Pueblo de Venezuela,' the oil company of the 'people of Venezuela.'

"Alfredo Keller, a pollster and political analyst, said Chavez was trying to 'buy loyalty to maintain power' and 'using the oil industry as a political weapon.'

"Keller said Chavez was playing on the fears of a nation where 67 percent of the people live in poverty, 35 percent live in extreme poverty, three-quarters of the population is either unemployed or works in the informal sector, and there have been 43,000 homicides in the past five years."
I'd love to know how it is "playing on a nation's fears" to spend $2 billion on social needs. Or how it qualifies as "pandering," defined as "catering to the lower tastes and desires of others or exploit their weaknesses." You know, those "lower tastes and desires" like education, housing, and health care.

Is Chavez's dastardly plan working? It sounds like it:

"At the Caracas school where Castillo was studying for his high school diploma, every one of the 30 or so students, ranging in age from 19 to 78, said they planned to vote for Chavez in the referendum. Belkis Carrillo Ibarra, 33, who wants to become a nurse, said she was so grateful for the opportunity that she planned to register to vote for the first time in her life.

'With Chavez, finally someone is helping the poor,' she said. 'This will be my first vote, and I will vote for him.'"

Thursday, June 17, 2004


 

Murderous CIA "contractor" charged...with assault


From AP via TalkLeft:
"A contractor working for the CIA was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges stemming from the beating death of a prisoner in Afghanistan.

"Court documents say Wali had surrendered voluntarily and was being questioned by Passaro about frequent rocket attacks directed at the U.S. facility. Wali died after Passaro allegedly beat him 'using his hands and feet, and a large flashlight' during two days of interrogations, the indictment said.

"The indictment charges Passaro with two counts each of assault and assault with a dangerous weapon - the flashlight. He faces a total of up to 40 years in prison."
Assault? After murdering someone? Sounds like a second assault...on justice.

 

Dick Cheney, accurate as ever


From the 9-11 commission report:
Cheney: "There's been at least three instances here where we've had reports of aircraft approaching Washington -- a couple were confirmed hijack. And, pursuant to the president's instructions, I gave authorization for them to be taken out. Hello?"

Rumsfeld: "So we've got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?"

Cheney: "That is correct. And it's my understanding they've already taken a couple of the aircraft (hijacked airliners) out."
Dick Cheney - "Rumors? Facts? What's the difference?"

 

Democrats and Republicans


Kurt Nimmo, writing on CounterPunch, reminds us about the vast difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to making war on the world:
"Clinton attacked Yugoslavia. He ordered the bombing of civilian targets -- homes, roads, farms, factories, hospitals, bridges, churches, monasteries, columns of refugees, TV stations, office buildings -- and killed a 'few thousand random civilians for good measure, and thus weakening the will of the population to resist, so that they would submit to NATO occupation,' as David Ramsay Steele summarizes. By attacking Yugoslavia Clinton and the Democrats basically laid the groundwork for Bush and the neocons: For Clinton and the Democrats, it is perfectly acceptable to attack other nations -- this is not a Republican proclivity -- even if they pose no threat to the United States or anybody else. The United Nations does not need to be consulted.

"Clinton sounded like Bush when he said, '[Hussein's] regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region, and the security of all the rest of us. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal. Let there be no doubt, we are prepared to act.'

"In 1998 Senate Democrats passed Resolution 71, which gave Clinton the authority to 'take all necessary and appropriate actions to respond to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end it's weapons of mass destruction programs,' in other words the authority to attack the people of Iraq who were suffering under years of brutally imposed sanctions. On December 16, 1998, Clinton attacked Iraq. Prior to this he bombed Sudan and Afghanistan. Clinton and the Democrats showed Bush and the Republicans how to go about violating the Constitution and international law."

 

Could it get any more upbeat?


From the San Jose Mercury News, under a headline "Bush gives troops upbeat assessment of Iraq":
"'We can expect more attacks in the coming few weeks, more car bombs, more suiciders, more attempts on the lives of Iraqi officials,' Bush said."
And you'll be relieved to know that, dutifully echoing the White House talking points on what this speaking tour is supposed to be about, the Mercury News reports:
"Bush's trip to the headquarters of U.S. Central Command...was the latest in a series of presidential events that are intended to ease public concerns about the chaos in Iraq."
Feeling eased? I mean, aside from the fact that we have a President who thinks that "suiciders" is a word*, things are just peachy, aren't they? Oops, guess not:
"Even as he was visiting the base, the U.S. military in Baghdad announced that a rocket attack on a U.S. base had killed two U.S. soldiers."
And then there's this: "Two Car Bombs Kill 41 Iraqis, Wound 138." Not to worry, though, no members of the Bush family were harmed in the making of this movie.

*If he'd been watching Fox News more often, he'd know the correct word is "homiciders." :-)


 

Political humor of the day


Lewis Black on the Daily Show, commenting on a T-shirt reading "The Original American Idol - Ronald Reagan":
"I guess if you think about it, Reagan really was an American idol. He floated by on charm, he was a triumph of style over substance, and idiots across America kept voting for him."
Jay Leno, interviewing a fake "Ghazi Al-Yawar," President of Iraq:
Q: What are your qualifications to be President?

A: Jay, living in America, you should know that sometimes you don't need qualifications to be President.

 

Outrage at the Times


The New York Times takes George Bush to task for duping the American people about the existence of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection:
"Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide. While it's possible that Mr. Bush and his top advisers really believed that there were chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq, they should have known all along that there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. No serious intelligence analyst believed the connection existed; Richard Clarke, the former antiterrorism chief, wrote in his book that Mr. Bush had been told just that."
They couldn't have written this editorial before the invasion, when it might have had an effect, or anytime in the last year, no, they had to wait for the appearance of the 9-11 commission report, as if this wasn't 100% clear before then.

And what is the conclusion of the Times' outrage? "President Bush should apologize to the American people." How about apologizing to the families of the 954 dead coalition soldiers (and uncounted numbers of contractors)? How about apologizing to the families of the more than ten thousand dead Iraqis? How about paying reparations to the families of those dead people out of his own pocket? How about resigning in disgrace from the office he was never elected to anyway? How about apologizing to the world for making a mockery of international law? How about submitting himself to the International Criminal Court as a war criminal?

"Apologize to the American people." Spare me.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004


 

9-11


Thanks to saturation media coverage today, the American public now "knows" all sorts of things - 9-11 was originally planned for months earlier, there were going to be 10 planes, Osama bin Laden is a micromanager, yadda yadda yadda. Not that any of this matters, but all of this is presented is simple fact to the public. Why should we believe any of it? All of these "truths," as far as I can tell, are based on the alleged testimony of the alleged Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. Even if the U.S. really has the real "KSM" in custody, why should I believe the CIA's claims about what he told them? And even if it is what he told them, why should I believe anything he says? Really, the reliability of this entire story is a house of cards, and yet, to listen to and read the media, you would surely be convinced this is all absolute fact. Rubbish.

 

The coalition gathers strength


Not to worry, American soldiers, help is on the way:
"Forty-four Tongan soldiers left to serve alongside US Marines in Iraq earlier this week."

 

Positive thought for the day - Ashcroft behind bars

"In an exclusive interview with BreakForNews.com [Daniel Ellsberg] said that Ashcroft's legal actions against [whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds were: 'clearly intended to keep her from bringing out in public information that could lead.... to criminal indictments and possible convictions of major political figures.'

"Ellsberg says that if Edmonds' allegations are confirmed, the current Attorney General could be judged obstructive and share the fate of A.G. John Mitchell --who in Ellsberg v. Mitchell famously tried to squelch Ellsberg's 1971 revelations, and served prison time over the affair.

"'John Ashcroft may well sleep eventually in the same cell as John Mitchell,' Ellsberg said."



 

War crimes remembered...and continuing


While we're reminding readers about the continued detention of Gen. Amer al-Saadi and Tariq Aziz, the Antiwar.com blog reminds us that the detention last November of the wife and daughter of Izzat al-Douri (the then bogeyman du jour, on whose head still remains a $10 million reward), continues. And continues to be a war crime. Newsday, whose May 24 article is the only one to appear in the U.S. media that reminds us of this fact, tells us the problem is far more extensive than just that one case: "the U.S. military is holding dozens of Iraqis as bargaining chips to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender, according to human rights groups. These detainees are not accused of any crimes, and experts say their detention violates the Geneva Conventions and other international laws."

 

American compassion


Via TalkLeft, this story demonstrating that compassion for which Americans are so justly famous:
"The U.S. Army will charge a 1st Armored Division officer with murder after he allegedly shot and killed a severely wounded suspected Muqtada al-Sadr loyalist last month in the southern Iraqi town of Kufa, officials said Wednesday.

"The case...occurred on May 21 when U.S. forces fired on a vehicle carrying several al-Sadr loyalists, severely injuring the driver and a passenger, according to NBC News. After the vehicle came to a stop, the Army captain allegedly approached the car and shot the wounded driver, killing him instantly.

"Military officials told NBC's Jim Miklaszewski that the soldier was apparently acting in good faith, shooting the badly wounded driver to 'put him out of misery.'"
To quote TalkLeft in response:
"Shooting a horse to put it out of its misery might be an act of good faith. Shooting a human, rather than providing medical care, is murder."

 

President Moron


From an impromptu press conference yesterday:
"The ingredients for continued economic growth are present. And I'm very pleased. I'm particularly pleased because it means that workers are able to do their duties to their families."

 

Remember Afghanistan?


All over the news this morning is the "news" that the staff report of the 9-11 commission reports that "investigators have found no evidence Iraq aided al Qaeda attempts to attack the United States." I put "news" in quotes since even though the release of the report itself is news, the lack of a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda isn't actually news to anyone but Dick Cheney and a handful of other right-wing loonies still parroting that canard. But there was news in the report, although you'll be hard-pressed to pick this out of the news coverage:
"There is no convincing evidence that any government financially supported al Qaeda before 9/11 -- other than limited support provided by the Taliban after bin Laden first arrived in Afghanistan."
This is significant for at least two reasons. First, because the reason the U.S. invaded Afghanistan was supposedly that the Taliban refused the Bush "order" to "turn over" Osama bin Laden within 24 hours. But the 9-11 commission says there was hardly even a relationship between the Taliban and bin Laden, and certainly we know (this isn't in the report) that they were hardly in a position to "turn over bin Laden" within 24 hours (or ever). And second, because the reason that U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan, killing and being killed, is because they are battling the Taliban. But the 9-11 commission is now adding its voice to something that Left I on the News wrote long ago - the Taliban and al Qaeda, despite attempts by the U.S. government to conflate the two in the mind of Americans, were (and are) not the same thing. And U.S. troops in Afghanistan hunting down Taliban have nothing to do with "fighting terrorism."

 

The latest from Guantanamo


Readers will no doubt remember the case of Capt. James Yee, publicly accused of espionage at Guantanamo last September, and then totally exonerated in March (by the way there is a campaign to get the Army to publicly apologize to Capt. Yee - go there and sign the petition). Well, there was another American accused of similar crimes around the same time - interpreter Ahmad I. Al-Halabi, about whom nothing further has been heard. Until today:
"A key investigator in the espionage case against former Guantánamo interpreter Ahmad I. Al-Halabi now faces criminal charges himself, including rape, sodomy, fondling girls and mishandling classified material, the Air Force acknowledged Tuesday."

 

Thought for the Day


After the June 30 transfer of "sovereignty" to a new "government" in Iraq, will that government sign a peace treaty with the country that invaded its territory? If it does, doesn't that mean that all prisoners of war have to be immediately freed? And if it doesn't, does that mean that the U.S. government is still free to attack members of the Iraqi government (or anyone else in Iraq that it chooses)?

 

The U.S. press - lagging behind as usual


The story immediately below this one illustrates one example of the U.S. press lagging behind the rest of the world in telling the truth (of course, when it comes to telling lies, they're way ahead). Here's another one - back in early May, Left I wrote about an article in the Guardian discussing the case of Gen. Amer al-Saadi, still being held in solitary confinement after more than a year in custody. Today, more than a month later, the Washington Post finally wakes up and tells the same tale.

Gee, what's next? Remembering that Tariq Aziz is still in custody too? Heaven only knows what's happening to him.

General al-Saadi's main "crime," of course, was telling the truth to Hans Blix and the world about (the lack of) Iraqi WMD. Wouldn't it be nice if all the people who lied about Iraqi WMD got to spend a year or two in solitary?


 

The story behind the story


Back on May 17, Left I on the News spotlighted the story of former Marine Jimmy Massey, who was interviewed in the Sacramento Bee telling of how his unit had killed innocent civilians in Iraq, and lots more. It was a powerful story.

Today, Danny Schechter breaks the "story behind the story" -- the tale of French journalist Natasha Saulnier, who uncovered the story, had it published in the French press in early April, and then struggled to get it published in the U.S. Here's part of her enlightening story:

"I then set off to contact the mainstream American press (Washington Post, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Baltimore Sun…) thinking that they would be all too happy to print such a compelling story. Their reactions were confounding. All of them were extremely courteous and receptive. Most of them praised the article (the Washington Post said it was 'great.') Yet, none of them would touch it.

"One newspaper asked me if I could find some surviving victims to back up my story (don't you wish newspapers had been that cautious on the issue of the weapons of mass destruction?) Another one claimed that the indiscriminate shooting was part of the fog of war and should not be seen as 'atrocities' (even if that was true, shouldn't we also take into account the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were even found in this "preventive" war?) A third one told me that their policy prevented them from publishing outside contributions for such sensitive issues (even though they were provided with all the contact numbers to do the fact checking). One newspaper went so far as to propose a new angle, that of the body desecration, claiming that Americans were 'not ready' yet for the killing of civilians.

"At the end, only a British newspaper, The Independent on Sunday, ran my story."
Saulnier goes on to note that, even after the publication of the interview with Massey by the Sacramento Bee in May, CNN and NPR both interviewed Massey, and then killed the story without airing it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


 

Cooking the books


Yesterday I posted this quote from Colin Powell regarding the State Department terrorism report:
"It's a numbers error. It's not a political judgment that said, 'Let's see if we can cook the books.' We can't get away with that now. Nobody was out to cook the books. Errors crept in."
Many people (including Jon Stewart on the Daily Show) have noted the obvious omission of two month's worth of data from the "yearly report," but that would, in fact, be a "numbers error," albeit a rather egregious and probably deliberate one.

But the plain fact of the matter is that is was a political judgment that skewed the report. Because the report said "those killed dropped to 307, including 35 US citizens, from 725 in 2002, including 27 Americans." But that's preposterous, because there were 482 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq alone in 2003, along with 93 coalition soldiers from other countries, plus some additional number killed in Afghanistan, and thousands of Iraqis, not to mention assorted (and uncounted) contractors. And, while some of those deaths occured in traffic accidents, and others occured in straightforward battles, a large number of them were killed by car bombs, improvised explosive devices, and the like. And every single one of those deaths, when reported by the U.S. government and the military on the day they occured, were described as "acts of terrorism" or having been committed by "terrorists." Every single day you can watch the news and see a news story "headline" reading "War on Terror." Practically every single day you can hear someone in the Administration describing the war in Iraq as part of the "war on terror" or even the "central front in the war on terrorism." Yet despite this overwhelming evidence that the government wants us to be convinced that hundreds of deaths (thousands counting Iraqis) that have occured were the acts of terrorists, when it comes to preparing a report on global terrorism, the State Department conveniently "forgets" that fact.

But Colin Powell says this wasn't a "political judgment." Well, I'm sure we all know how much to value the credibility of Colin Powell.


 

"Sovereignty," redefined


From The New York Times:
"In political sparring, Iyad Allawi, the prime minister, called for the Americans to hand over all detainees — including Mr. Hussein — to the Iraqis by June 30, when Iraq will gain limited sovereign powers. Mr. Allawi also said through a spokesman that foreign contractors should be subject to all Iraqi laws. The president, Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, demanded that the Americans hand over Mr. Hussein's marble-tiled Republican Palace, a prominent symbol of power, to the Iraqi government after June 30.

"American officials said they did not have to meet any of the demands and were in negotiations with the Iraqi government."

 

Delusions of Israel supporters


Richard Cohen has a column in the Washington Post today in which he calls for getting rid of Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank as "good for Israel." But even in an article calling for a (mostly - see below) progressive goal, Cohen demonstrates his delusions:

 

The march that didn't happen


Courtesy of commentor Bob, here's a picture of the pro-Chavez rally in Venezuela that the American media says (by omission) never happened, and the BBC described as "tens of thousands." You be the judge if that, or "a million," is a more accurate description.



 

The shopping mall plot


Paul Krugman has a column calling John Ashcroft the "worst attorney general ever." One of the pieces of evidence he musters for this claim is Ashcroft's habit of manipulating the news by announcing dramatic arrests of "terrorists" when he himself is in trouble. For example, he cites the announcement of the "arrest" of Jose Padilla, which had actually occured more than a month earlier, four days after the testimony of Colleen Rowley which criticized the FBI's pre-911 work. And then he notes that, now that he's under attack because of the newly revealed memo justifying and permitting torture (the one he wouldn't release to Congress but that the Washington Post now has posted on its website), a few days later we have the dramatic announcement (all over the news last night and this morning) of the indictment of a man allegedly plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio [editor's note: why? who would notice? --- just kidding, Columbians!]. Well, Krugman missed the final nail in the coffin. The suspect in this case was arrested in November, 2003!

And, incidentally, if amidst the sound-bite journalism of TV you actually get the impression this plot was practically a done deal, here's the real story:

"Law enforcement officials said the plot was still under investigation, but they cautioned that it appeared not to have advanced beyond the discussion stage. The officials expressed doubt that Mr. Abdi had the financial, organizational or technical skills to carry out an attack."
Oh, but, other than that, the mall was practically history.

File this story in the same folder as Jose Padilla's "dirty bomb."


Why stop here? There's more...

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