Thursday, June 30, 2005


Arresting Muslims in the U.S.

I wrote the other day about the arrest of the Hayats in Lodi, and how the government and the media did their best to raise the "terrorist flag" and put the fear of God (and of Muslims) into "normal, God-fearing Americans" (that's my phrase and my quotes, in case it isn't clear). But was this something new? Not by a long shot, although certainly the quantity of such incidents has increased dramatically in the last few years (whether due to 9/11, George Bush, or a combination of both can be argued).

In early June, I wrote about Sami al-Arian, and discussed the case of the LA8. And, not entirely by coincidence (since the case is once again coming to the courts), the Los Angeles Times has recently had two excellent and quite extensive articles on the case of the LA8, here and here. They are both quite worth reading, but let me just reprint one excerpt to indicate the way Palestinian activists were arrested (on completely bogus charges, by the way) in this country back in 1987:

"Aiad Khaled Barakat recalls the knock on his door. He looked down from an upstairs window and saw a lone Glendale police officer on his porch. There was a problem, the officer explained. They needed to talk.

"'The minute I turned the key to unlock the door,' Barakat said, 'the door went like a bulldozer. They pushed it like 10 feet back and people came in, about 15 or 18. A lot of them.'

"Shehadeh remembers the sweat that rolled down the chin of the agent who held him in a headlock. His 3-year-old son had burst into the front room, wailing, and another agent placed him on the couch. Shehadeh tried to wriggle free, wanting to comfort the boy. The agent tightened his grip.

"'Don't be stupid,' Shehadeh remembers him warning. 'You don't want your son to watch you get hurt.'

"Shehadeh was told that he belonged to a terrorist organization and was under arrest. They handcuffed him and led him outside. A police helicopter wheeled low over the house, and that is when the thought clicked: He had witnessed this scene before.

"'The raid on my house in Long Beach,' he said, 'looked exactly like the raids in the West Bank: early-morning raids, with helicopters and guns and police and uniforms. Taken away in a hazy dawn, you know. Except this was happening in America.'

"They initially were kept in isolation cells and described ominously as national security threats. Trips to the federal courthouse in downtown L.A. were made in convoys of unmarked vans, driven at a pace that was, to these shackled terrorism suspects, truly terrifying."
Eighteen years later not one of these men has been convicted of a crime. The only two charged with anything more serious than a visa violation were charged under the PATRIOT [sic] act, passed fourteen years after their alleged "crimes", which involved raising money for Palestinian hospitals.


Quote of the Day

"This is not the way Jews treat Jews."

- a Jewish settler in Gaza, describing the Israeli Army's physical eviction of settlers who refused to go
No, ma'am, it isn't usually the way Jews treat Jews, but it was a heck of a lot gentler than the way Jews (or at least Israeli Zionists) treat Palestinians - not a single settler was killed or even injured as far as I can tell.

This is the way these same Jews (the ones who were being evicted) typically treat Palestinians:

"A 'lynch mob' of Jewish extremists came close to stoning a Palestinian youth to death.

"Khaled al-Astal, 16, was hit on the head during a stone-throwing contest between Jewish settlers and a group of Palestinian children and teenagers on Wednesday. While he received treatment from an Israeli soldier, the Jewish extremists attacked him.

"A witness reported that they shouted, 'He is an Arab, kill him' as they ran towards him carrying large rocks.

"Opposition MPs demanded to know why none of the attackers had been arrested even though the incident happened under the noses of well-armed police and soldiers."


Privatizing government functions

Conservatives are fond of saying, with very little resistance from the current crop of liberals, that "private enterprise" (and I use the word "private" very loosely in this context) is so much more efficient than government and could do things so much less expensively, and that every possible government function should be privatized (my guess is that they would prefer it to be every single government function, stopping only at perhaps Congress, which is already bought and paid for by the private sector anyway). Logically, this makes no sense. A private company has to do the same work as the government agency, plus they have to make a profit in order to satisfy their owners (private or stockholders). Of course there is actually a way that private companies can do things cheaper - by extracting more "labor power" from their workers, either by employing fewer of them and making them work harder, or simply by paying them less. Yes, in rare cases when we're talking about local government functions being privatized, a national private company might have certain efficiencies of scale, but even there the money lost to profit often dwarfs those savings.

But in fact, this isn't simply a "logical" or theoretical question, it's a practical one too. Because, as Iraq has shown repeatedly, privatization doesn't just offer companies like Halliburton/KBR, Blackwater, and others chances for a little "skim"; no, wholesale theft is more the order of the day. And today's news, which originates not with the war on Iraq but with the SCWOT ("so-called war on terror"), is of a piece with that: "TSA Lost Control of Over $300 Million Spent by Contractor to Hire Airport Screeners After 9/11." And, illustrating that "profit piece" of the story I referred to:

"Security guards in the Virgin Islands paid $15 and $20 an hour were billed to the government at $30 and $40 an hour. Office workers provided by Kelly Services Inc. at $20 an hour were billed to the government at $48.07 an hour. Auditors later determined that Kelly provided about one-third of the $114 million in costs Pearson claimed for subcontract and temporary labor.

"In its response, Pearson said it billed subcontractor hours at higher rates than it paid for them under an accepted practice known as 'mapping' -- where labor performed is matched against job categories specified in the contract. Pearson said it was under no legal or contractual obligation to 'simply pass-through labor costs (on a dollar-for-dollar basis).'"
Are government employees sometimes guilty of siphoning money for their own use, or awarding contracts to friends or relatives, or anyone offering a kickback? Yes, they are. But the money lost in those scams pales in comparison to the money lost when private companies get into the act.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Meme of the Day

The occupation is the problem, not the solution.
Hat tip to Seeing The Forest who provides this quote, which is taken from a joint statement by American and Iraqi trade unionists.


What is a life worth? And to whom?


In George Bush's speech last night, he said this:

"The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying, and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country."
First of all, what TV channel does he watch. and doesn't he read at all, or does he just look at pictures? Images of "bloodshed" are virtually non-existent on the TV I watch, and I watch a lot of different channels; at worst what I see routinely is a burning car or something like that. Americans aren't even allowed to see caskets, nevertheless actual bloodshed or dead people. What is awakening Americans to the reality of what is happening in Iraq are the daily stories (whether in print or on TV) of 10, 20, 50 people being killed in Iraq and the mounting total of American dead (not the mounting total of wounded, since those are rarely if ever mentioned); the pictures have little or nothing to do with it.

Second of all, the notion that this has anything whatsoever to do with "the future security of our country" is utter nonsense. Even if the entire Iraqi resistance were composed of card-carrying al Qaeda members, which of course isn't remotely true, al Queda carried out exactly one successful attack in the United States. A spectacularly successful one, to be sure. But even that, as deadly as it was, didn't threaten the "security" of the United States. It did of course tragically take the lives of nearly 3000 people, but, just to take one counter example, every year there are 400,000 people who die from cigarette smoking, yet I don't hear anyone claiming that cigarette smoking "threatens the security of our country". It doesn't, and even the most unimaginable terrorist attack on the United States, some sort of nuclear bomb, wouldn't kill as many Americans as cigarette smoking does every year.

But what I really wanted to talk about what this concept of "worth it". Last month I wrote (for not the first time) about Madeleine Albright's famous answer that the deaths of a million Iraqis from the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq were "worth it". As I wrote there: "Generous of the U.S. to pay for something with the blood of Iraqis, wasn't it?" Now George Bush was speaking to Americans, and although he doesn't make it completely clear, the "price" he was talking about that was "worth it" seems to be exclusively American lives. But of course that isn't the full "price" that is being paid, not by a long shot - tens of thousands, and most likely well over a hundred thousand, Iraqis have also paid the price of their lives. Bush did actually mention in his speech that "More than 2,000 members of Iraqi security forces have given their lives in the line of duty", but he never once mentions the figure of American deaths, and certainly didn't even allude to the number of Americans, Iraqis, and others who have been seriously, in many cases permanently, wounded by the war. And that's the price that George Bush generously offers (on behalf of others) is "worth it".

Central to Bush's thesis was this quote (him quoting the senior U.S. commander in Iraq): "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us." Well again, first of all this is nonsense, there might be a handful of people fighting against U.S. forces in Iraq who might one day have wanted to carry out an attack against the U.S., but as many have observed the liklihood is that the number of such people is being increased by what is happening in Iraq, not decreased. But much more important than that is the question that Cindy Sheehan asked last night on Larry King Live (with Bob Costas subbing for King) - "Who are we to ask the Iraqis to pay that price?" [quoting from memory] Even if it were true that by "fighting them over there we don't have to fight them here", who asked the Iraqis permission for that fight to be carried out with the price of their lives? What possible right would we have to do that? Is it "worth it" for an Iraqi family to lose their father or mother or child so that Americans can be safer? What complete and utter arrogance to think so.

Some side notes on the speech: Amazingly, the Washington Post actually fact-checked the speech and noted at least some of Bush's lies and exaggerations. And the "opposition"? Shortly before the speech started (I didn't actually watch the speech, I'm not that masochistic) I caught House leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Harry Reid in separate appearances on TV, both saying the identical thing: "'We' [they didn't put the "we" in quotes, I did :-)] need a strategy for success in Iraq." No, what we need is some large ships and planes headed for Iraq to bring the troops home now. Because creating "success" in Iraq, however that might be defined, is not America's business. What is called for is a little application of the Hippocratic Oath - "First, do no harm". Well, the American government has already done plenty, so perhaps we'll make that "Now, do no more harm". And there's only one way to "do no more harm" and that's to get the hell out. Now. Otherwise it's like asking Jack the Ripper to perform surgery on his victims to help save their lives, and saying that it's his responsibility to do so since he's the one responsible for the damage. Which is precisely the argument being advanced by the Democrats.

Update: Via the invaluable Cursor comes this Reuters article wherein we learn that at least some Iraqis are thinking exactly the same thing as Cindy Sheehan (and I): "'Why are the Americans drawing terrorism into Iraq?' asked Abdul Ridha al-Hafadhi, 58, head of a humanitarian aid group. 'Why don't they find another place to fight terrorism?'"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Victory in the Middle East

[First posted 6/27, 4:58 p.m.; updated]

This article speaks for itself, although I'll help it a bit by adding emphasis:

"An Israeli soldier was convicted yesterday of the manslaughter of a British pro-Palestinian activist, Tom Hurndall, in the Gaza strip after a two-year battle for justice by his parents.

"Sergeant Idier Wahid Taysir faces up to 20 years in prison for shooting Mr Hurndall as he shepherded children to safety from gunfire in Rafah refugee camp in April 2003 and for lying to army investigators about the circumstances. Mr Hurndall died in London nine months after the shooting.

"His father, Anthony, welcomed the verdict but said that Sgt Taysir's superior officers should also be held to account for a military policy that 'encourages soldiers to shoot civilians' and is 'part of a culture of impunity in Israel'. 'I think that he is a scapegoat, a pawn in the larger system. He was laid at the sacrificial altar of Israeli policy,' he said. 'There seems to be a tacit policy in place that shooting Palestinians is, in some way, fair game.'

"Sgt Taysir, a member of the Bedouin Arab minority, is only the third Israeli soldier convicted of illegal killing even though human rights groups say many more are guilty in the deaths of more than 1,700 Palestinian civilians, one third of them children, since the beginning of the intifada nearly five years ago. The Israeli army's first investigation backed Sgt Taysir's claim that Mr Hurndall was wearing camouflage and carrying a gun when he was shot.

"But the military was forced to reopen the investigation after the Hurndalls' own inquiry disproved many of the army's claims. Photographs of Mr Hurndall immediately after he was shot showed he was wearing a bright orange jacket favoured by pro-Palestinian foreign activists.

"Outside the military court, Anthony Hurndall, a solicitor, said the killing of his son would have remained covered up because of 'obstruction" by the Israeli authorities, had he not had the resources to investigate and to win British diplomatic support. 'It has only come about because we are a British family, we have a very powerful and strong influence exerted on the Israel government through our own Foreign Office and embassy here, and the fact that we had put together our own case, collected the evidence, and proved to the Israeli government that this was indeed a crime,' he said.

"'Despite our requests, we have not seen all the evidence, and we believe this may go much further up the chain.'"
Now if only the U.S. government would come to the support of Rachel Corrie's family in the same way.

Incidentally, that part about the obvious lie about the camouflage jacket, and the fact that there was an Israeli army investigation which cleared the soldier? None of that appears in The New York Times coverage of the story.

Update: There was excellent coverage of this whole situation yesterday on Flashpoints! You can download the program here; the segment with correspondent Leila el-Haddad begins at 6:00 minutes into the program. She notes that, of the 1722 Palestinian killed in the intifada who were clearly civilians, there has been a grand total of 108 investigations, resulting in only 19 indictments and exactly two convictions (not three as the article above says). As suggested in one of the comments to this post, both of those convictions were indeed of Bedouin Arabs; not a single Israeli Jew has been convicted in those murders.


"If you poison us, do we not die?"

That was Shylock's lesser known question (compared to "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"). I mention this because, in conjunction with the arrests of the Hayat family in Lodi, California (an arrest which morphed before our very eyes from "breaking up a 'sleeper cell'" to "arresting terrorists" to charging two people with lying to the FBI), I have now seen the following statement in more than a dozen articles (because it comes from the indictment): "Hamid Hayat spent six months at a terrorist camp learning 'how to kill Americans'". Not "being motivated to kill Americans" (never mind that Hayat is an American), but how to kill Americans. And my question is: if you poison us, do we not die? Is there something special you have to learn about killing Americans versus killing, say, a Swede or an Indian? Does our jugular vein run down the opposite site of our neck? Perhaps a wooden stake through the heart is the best way to kill us?

Needless to say my skepticism that there is any substance to this prosecution is high, buttressed by the fact that after all the "terror cell" talk in the media, the actual charge is "lying to the FBI". Do you suppose if convicted they'll get the same five months that Martha Stewart got for the same "crime"?

Friday, June 24, 2005


Out Now! a year ago?

No sense agitating for "Out Now!" any more; the "paper of record", the New York Times, informs [sic] us that "on Tuesday, [Bush] will give a speech on the first anniversary of the end of the American occupation."

Unfortunately, whatever figleaf event happened one year ago, we all know it's a case of "the occupation is dead, long live the occupation." We know that. And I guarantee the people of Iraq know that. Evidently the New York Times doesn't. I'd recommend a trip to Baghdad for the Washington-based reporters who wrote the article, and the editors who approved it.

(Hat tip to Cursor)


Quote of the day

"These are people from all walks of life, all income groups."

- George Bush, describing a group of line workers at an automobile plant in Mississippi that he spoke to
And they say Steve Jobs has a reality distortion field!

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Oh...my...God Quote of the Day

Donald Rumsfeld's "six days, six weeks. I doubt six months" gets just a wee bit longer:
"If (the insurgency) does go on for four, eight, ten, 12, 15 years, whatever ... it is going to be a problem for the people of Iraq."
Evidently, Donald Rumsfeld must have extraordinarily good eyesight, because just moments before acknowledging the possibility that the insurgency in Iraq might continue for 15 more years, he responded to a withering attack by Teddy Kennedy by saying, "There is no one at this table who agrees with you that we're in a quagmire and that there's no end in sight."


"Get me rewrite!", part II

June 7: "Operation Lightning appears to have blunted violence"

June 11: "Officials Declare 'Operation Lightning' a Success"

June 23:

"More than 40 people have been killed in a series of car bomb attacks across Baghdad during the past 12 hours.

"American and Iraqi commanders had claimed success after a month of raids on insurgent bomb factories and other bases in Baghdad code-named Operation Lightning."


"Get me rewrite!"

Donald Rumsfeld, today:
""The fact is from the beginning of this we have recognized that this is a tough business, that it is difficult, that it is dangerous, and that it is not predictable."
Ken Adelman, assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977, and arms control director under President Ronald Reagan, in April, 2002, writing in the Washington Post:
"I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps."
Donald Rumsfeld, February, 2003:
"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." [Ed. note: he did indeed say it was "unknowable", i.e., "not predictable". However his predications of six days or six weeks certainly suggest he didn't remotely think it would be a "tough business" or "difficult".]
Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003:
""I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . (in) weeks rather than months."
My favorite quote, however, comes from Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking on March 30, after the invasion had begun [emphasis added]:
"Nobody should have any illusions that this is going to be a quick and easy victory. This is going to be a tough war, a tough slog yet, and no responsible official I know has ever said anything different once this war has started."
Right. Before the war started (well, started by their terms, it had really never ended), they predicted quick and easy victory. Once troops were committed to battle, and anyone calling for them to come home would be accused of advocating "cutting and running", then they were willing to talk about a "tough slog".

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Damning with faint praise

Tom DeLay gives new meaning to the expression:
"You know, if Houston, Texas, was held to the same standard as Iraq is held to, nobody'd go to Houston, because all this reporting coming out of the local press in Houston is violence, murders, robberies, deaths on the highways."
Of course this not only gives new meaning to the phrase "damning with faint praise," it also gives new meaning to the word "bullshit". Have 10-50 people been killed in Houston every day during the last month? Does a cab ride to the airport cost $5,000 because the cab driver's chances of dying while attempting the trip are significant?

DeLay follows this statement with an invitation:

"Go to Iraq. And see what's actually happening there. Everybody that comes from Iraq is amazed at the difference of what they see on the ground and what they see on the television set."
Tom fails to point out that members of Congress such as himself are actually forbidden by U.S. government policy from staying overnight in Iraq, rarely if ever leave the Green Zone when they do go there, and if they do are escorted by armed guards. Most reporters for American papers also dare not venture out of the Green Zone, and rely on Iraqi stringers to gather information for them.

By the way, taking Tom up on his suggestion, I went to Travelocity to try to book a flight from SFO to Baghdad. Alas, it didn't work out: "We found no matches for 'baghdad'." And I so had my heart set on it.


Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday

A U2 spy plane crashed (killing its pilot) after completing a mission in Afghanistan, on its way back to its base in Afghanistan. Reader Bob analyzes the press coverage, which universally echoes the military's claim that the plane went down in "southwest Asia", without even speculating what country between Afghanistan and the UAE might be the one in question (hint: it starts with "I-r-a" and doesn't end in "q").

In what is presumably an update of the story, the San Francisco Chronicle carries this note:

"The one potentially hostile nation in the region, Iran, denied that a U-2 had crashed on its territory. A Revolutionary Guards commander, Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, told The Associated Press he 'was not aware' of any reports of a U-2 down in Iran."
Now first of all, "a" commander is not "Iran". And second of all, "not being aware of" something is hardly the same as "denying" it. Gheesh.


Tenses must be different in the Hebrew language

Today's news:
"As Tuesday's meeting [between Sharon and Abbas] opened, an Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at a building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia. Israeli Army Radio said it was possibly a failed attempt to kill a member of Islamic Jihad."
Also in today's news:
"A day after a tense summit, Israel warned the Palestinians on Wednesday it will launch airstrikes if militants attack during the evacuation of the Gaza Strip set to begin in August."
In a related story, George Bush warned Saddam Hussein that he would attack Iraq this August if Iraq doesn't destroy its weapons of mass destruction.

In the same story, the Israeli government admits that committing war crimes isn't an obstacle to its plans:

"The Israeli government's pullout coordinator, Eival Gilady, said the military would call in airstrikes if necessary to stop Palestinian attacks, even if it meant causing civilian casualties.

"'We shall act in a very intensive way. We shall do it in a very surgical way, we shall do it in a very accurate way,' he said. 'We want to do it on the basis of precise intelligence.

"'But if we are compelled to use ... helicopters and planes, which cause more damage - severe collateral damage - with increased danger that people around a particular point of operations will be harmed, we shall have to do it,' he said. 'If there is terror, we shall respond.'"
Responding with terror, knowing that severe collateral damage may well result, is of course long-standing Israeli policy. In order to grasp the horror of what Gilady is saying, one need only recall the July, 2002 "assassination" of Salah Shehadeh, in which the Israeli airforce dropped a one-ton bomb on a crowded Gaza apartment building in the middle of the night, killing 15 civilians (including 9 children) and wounding more than a hundred.


Molding minds, one word at a time

An inconsequential story today (inconsequential because nothing is likely to come of it) reports:
"The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, by voice vote, approved an amendment that would roll back a Treasury Department rule issued in February that requires communist Cuba to pay for food imports from the United States before they leave port."
Now, the question to ask yourself is, what is that word "communist" doing in that sentence? Is it to distinguish "communist Cuba" from the other Cuba (you know, the one that exists in the minds of the George and Jeb Bush and their right-wing Cuban pals)? Of course it isn't, since there is only one Cuba; the word exists for no other reason than to subtly influence the reader with what the writer (editor?) presumes are negative thoughts.

Incidentally, Fidel Castro's most famous saying is "Socialsmo o muerte" - Socialism or death. Not "Communism". So why doesn't the article refer to "socialist Cuba"?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


And the "leaders" follow...

...from a considerable distance:
Democrats Press Bush Harder On Iraq
Words Reflect Drop in Public Support for War

"Congressional Democrats, after months of sporadic and often tepid critiques of the administration's handling of the Iraq war, are sharpening their criticisms and demanding that President Bush say more about the mission's difficulties and his plans for surmounting them.

"Despite the notable surge in such comments, only the most left-leaning Democrats have called for specific changes to Bush's policies, such as setting a schedule for withdrawing U.S. troops [Ed. note: and none has called for actual withdrawal, nevertheless immediate withdrawal]. Most Democrats are sticking to familiar themes, such as urging allies to help pacify Iraq and to train Iraqi troops and police.

"The Democrats' newly aggressive posture reflects declining public support for Bush's Iraq policies and growing skepticism that the administration has a plan for success that will allow the withdrawal of U.S. forces anytime soon."
Some in the antiwar movement worry about shaping their protests around what is "acceptable" to Democrats. As this story illustrates, it's a pointless way to proceed. As the saying goes, "when the people lead, the leaders will follow."


Dana Milbank and anti-Semitism


I was surprised to learn that the Washington Post ombudsman had written a column on the subject of Dana Milbank and the Downing Street Memo but which had nothing to do with Milbank's scurrilous column of the 16th. Surprisingly, however, it did have to do with charges of anti-Semitism, which seems to be a fixation of Milbank's.

Michael Getler's column actually refers to an earlier scurrilous piece by Milbank which I had missed, written on the 8th. The back story to that column was that "Democrats.com", an organization independent of the Democratic Party, had offered a $1000 reward to the first reporter to ask Bush about the Downing Street Memo, and that the Reuters correspondent had actually done so. Milbank wrote perjoratively: "Holland, a consummate professional, wasn't trying to satisfy the wing nuts." The suggestion that anyone thinking that it was appropriate to question Bush about the Downing Street Memo, i.e., about the lies that took the U.S. into war, was a "wing nut" is of course itself worthy of the description "wing nut", and although I suppose there are people who qualify as "wing nuts" who might also have wanted George Bush to be asked that question, Democrats.com hardly qualify, as you can tell from their website.

The Washington Post ombudsman defends Milbank because he was acting in his newly-appointed capacity as a columnist; he doesn't address the seemingly strange propriety of having the same person acting as a supposedly neutral reporter and also as a columnist. Be that as it may, it's Milbank's self-defense which concerns me. Note that it's not a defense against the criticism of him per se, but against the ombudsman's remark that the use of the term "wing nut" "was a needless red flag." Here's Milbank:

"While you have been within your rights as ombudsman over the past five years to attempt to excise any trace of colorful or provocative writing from the Post, you are out of bounds in asserting that a columnist cannot identify as 'wingnuts' a group whose followers have long been harassing this and other reporters and their families with hateful, obscene and sometimes anti-Semitic speech."
So here we have Milbank accusing Democrats.com of having harassed him and "other reporters", not to mention "their families" with "anti-Semitic" speech. There's just one problem. Milbank doesn't actually name the people who are harassing him (although if he's not accusing Democrats.com then he's guilty of really poor use of the English language), doesn't name these "other reporters", and doesn't give a single example of this supposed "anti-Semitic" speech to which he refers. If his other column is any indication, he could be referring to people trying to suggest a link between Israel and 9/11, or between Israel and the invasion of Iraq. Now some people suggesting such links might indeed be "wingnuts", and some of those might even be anti-Semites, but neither suggestion, neither the entirely plausible second suggestion or the implausible but hardly unthinkable first one, is remotely anti-Semitic by itself.

Until further notice, Milbank's defense of having "long been harass[ed]" by "anti-Semitic" speech is dubious at best. Does that mean that Milbank, or thousands of other people (amazingly not including myself!) who are involved in reporting or politics or activism of any type haven't occasionally received a hateful, obscene, or racist email? Of course not. But I am skeptical in the extreme that any such emails originated from anyone associated with Democrats.com, and I say that knowing nothing about that group other than having taken a look at their website, which contains content quite similar to hundreds of other progressive blogs and websites. Milbank, as far as I can tell, is guilty of nothing short of slander.

Update: From the Democrats.com website, I learn that Milbank has provided the following "documentation" of his anti-Semitic charges, not publicly but privately to David Swanson. Take a look:

David-- I thought you'd like to see the type of email your readers have sent me this week. DM

Better jump on that Downing Street Memo quick Jew boy/Jewess/or Shabbas Goy [Ed. note: huh?]

The Jews aren't always so clever as they would like themselves to believe. Whenever they are in danger they prove to be the stupidest devils" (Goebbels Diaries (1948) Pg 183).

The Jews in England now demand laws to protect them from anti- Semitism. We know these tactics from our own past when we were struggling for power. I didn't help much. We were always able to find loopholes in the law. Besides anti-Semitism cannot be eradicated by law once it has taken root with the people. A law against hating Jews is usually the beginning of the end for the Jews (Goebbels Diaries. Lochner (1948) Pg 336).
Now I'm a radical socialist, and have no love lost for Democrats [as a party, not as individuals!], as readers know. Nevertheless, I'll stake my reputation on the claim that no Democrat, or certainly no "progressive Democrat" associated with Democrats.com, wrote those lines; they're all straight out of the right-wing prayer book. Note also that Milbank couldn't possibly have any idea from whom such emails originated, and even if they were signed "Joe, a Democrats.com supporter" (there's no indication that the were, so where Milbank's "your readers" comes from, I have no idea), an experienced reporter like Milbank couldn't possibly believe that that was "proof" of anything (if anything, it would be proof that the writer was not associated with Democrats.com). Yet, based on "proof" likes this, he uses the pages of the Washington Post to slander those who he allegedly thinks (I'm not even conceding that he really thinks this) are associated with this nonsense. So it's even worse than I thought.

Note also Milbank's use of the phrase "long been harassed". The emails above originated this week (or in recent weeks, the time frame isn't clear), but that would hardly qualify as "long". Milbank has been criticized in the last couple weeks for his coverage (we use the word loosely) of the Downing Street Memo; before that, most progressives would have considered him a competent reporter, and I'd be surprised if he had ever come in for criticism from Democrats.com prior to the previous month (as a search of the Democrats.com site confirms). So if Milbank really has been "long" receiving emails such as the ones above, they wouldn't have had anything to do with Democrats.com or any any progressive sources. And Milbank surely knows that.

And one more thing. Note how Milbank talks about "a group whose followers..." when referring to the anti-Semitic remarks. But, when writing to Swanson, the phrase is suddenly "your readers". Now even if these emails did originate from "readers" of Democrats.com, which I doubt, that's a long jump from "followers" of the group. Would Milbank tar the Washington Post with the brush of any utterance of any of its readers? I'm personally not big on this kind of thing, but I know some liberals and left-wingers make a habit of reading right-wing sites. Surely that doesn't make them "followers" of those sites, any more than the small number of right-wing readers of this site are my "followers". Really, every time I look more closely at what Milbank has to say, it gets worse.


Quotes of the Day

"When you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community."

- CIA Director Porter Goss, explaining (?) why the U.S. hasn't captured Osama bin Laden even though they have an "excellent idea" where he is.
Because, working in ways that are "acceptable to the international community" is the hallmark of the United States. Just so long as that "acceptability" isn't measured by votes at the U.N., including not only the non-vote to endorse the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but also such lopsided votes as the 179-3 condemnation of the U.S. embargo/blockade of Cuba, not to mention ignoring the World Court when it ruled the U.S. owed reparations to Nicaragua. And, as for "international obligation", Mr. Goss, meet Mr. Posada Carriles.
"We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens."

- George Bush, starting a new "public relations offensive"
And "offensive" is indeed the word. The U.S. certainly didn't go to war against Iraq because we were attacked, and there isn't a shred of evidence that a single person in Iraq wants to "harm our country and hurt our citizens", excluding of course those of our citizens who happen to be in Iraq trying to hurt them.
"It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide."

- Iraq's justice minister Abdel Hussein Shandal, accusing the United States of trying to delay Iraqi efforts to interrogate Saddam Hussein.
Ya' think?


How E.J. Dionne fooled himself

E.J. Dionne has a column in the Washington Post entitled "How Cheney [Ed. note: not Bush?] fooled himself", in which he writes:
"The notion that the president led the country into war through indirection or dishonesty is not the most damaging criticism of the administration. The worst possibility is that the president and his advisers believed their own propaganda. They did not prepare the American people for an arduous struggle because they honestly didn't expect one.

"How else to explain the fact that the president and his lieutenants consistently played down the costs of the endeavor, the number of troops required, the difficulties of overcoming tensions among the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds? Were they lying? The more logical explanation is that they didn't know what they were talking about."
No, the more logical explanation is they knew exactly what they were talking about. The reason they played down the costs and the number of troops required was to be able to sell the war to the American people and the Congress. If they had made it out to be a potentially costly (financially and in human lives) and lengthy endeavor, they wouldn’t have had nearly the amount of support they had, and there would have been a lot more sentiment to “wait until the inspectors are finished”. Their chances of getting a vote through Congress, or getting the wholehearted support of the American "establishment" (as reflected in the media) would have been substantially less.

Was this a "lie"? No, it is possible that events could have transpired differently, and the costs held down, and the insurgency suppressed before it grew to critical mass, etc. Not likely, but certainly possible, and as such it wouldn't be accurate to call optimistic predictions a "lie". Just not the whole truth.

P.S. - There is something I would like Cheney and Bush to do to themselves, and it does start with "f", but it isn't "fool". I believe it's a specialty of Cheney's, actually.

Monday, June 20, 2005


The Post, hoist

David Swanson of After Downing Street does a brilliant job of hoisting the Washington Post on its own petard over the claim that there's "nothing new" in the Downing Street Memo, with a detailed analysis of the contents of the Post in June, July, and August of 2002.

Update from Tom Toles:


A Thea Culpa* from CondoLIEzza

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East - and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

- CondoLIEzza Rice, speaking today in Egypt
I have a better idea for a "different course". How about you keep your fucking hands (and bombs and CIA agents) off other countries and let them determine their own course?

*A mea culpa wherein the speaker generously takes the blame on behalf of others but not herself.


Quote of the Day

"I'm proof positive that the policy of the American and Australian governments is the right one."

- Douglas Wood, freed Australian hostage
On Friday, the day Wood was released, the U.S. military announced the death of six of its members, and 18 Iraqi government soldiers and policemen were killed by car bombs. Definitely "proof positive" of something.

Incidentally, despite Woods' claim that his rescue was all about the success of the training of Iraqi troops by Americans and Australians, there is actually considerable uncertainty over that claim. First, note the original statement by Australian PM John Howard:

"Mr Wood was recovered a short while ago in Baghdad in a military operation which I'm told was conducted by Iraqi forces, in co-operation in a general way with force elements from the United States."
What the heck does that mean? "Force elements from the United States"? But actually, there's no need to read tea leaves to see the controversy, as we read here:
"The Australian mufti, Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly, maintains he struck a deal with Mr Wood's captors to release him that same day and that the captors were unarmed when troops raided the house in which they and their hostage were found.

"But Iraqi and US forces have claimed Mr Wood's rescue was a result of good luck more than anything else.

"Sheik al-Hilaly, speaking in Cairo through a translator, today said Mr Wood's captors were unarmed and awaiting a pre-arranged handover when they were raided.

"'In this operation, no-one was armed. This place was similar to a transit place for the final delivery which was planned to happen on the same day at 6pm on Wednesday.'"
(Hat tip to reader and frequent commentor Helga)


How many Iraqis did you say?

There are two of those long-since-ended "major combat operations" going on in Iraq right now - Operations "Spear" and "Dagger". Every single news source describes the combatants in virtually the same language:
"About 1,000 U.S. forces and Iraqi soldiers are taking part in each offensive."
Is that 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Iraqis? 1,000 Americans and Iraqis combined? From the deliberately chosen language, it's impossible to say, and completely impossible to say just how many Iraqis there are. Are there 500 Americans and 500 Iraqis, or 999 Americans and one Iraqi? Curiously enough, the one news source which uses slightly different language is the DoD press release:
"About 1,000 U.S. Marines and sailors from Regimental Combat Team 2 of 2nd Marine Division, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi soldiers from the 1st Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade launched the offensive, called Rohme in Arabic, in the early hours of June 17.

"In addition, Marines launched Operation Dagger in the Southern Lake Thar-Thar region of Anbar province."
So, contrary to what the press is reporting, the DoD isn't claiming that any Iraqis are involved in "Operation Dagger", and, while the DoD is able to count the number (1,000) of U.S. Marines and sailors taking part in "Operation Spear", and even though they know exactly from which Company, Battalion, and Brigade the Iraqis are drawn, they are unable to provide even an estimate of the number of Iraqis involved in the operation. Of course the truth is they know exactly (or approximately, anyway) how many Iraqis are taking part, they just don't want to admit it in public, because of what it says about their "efforts to train Iraqi forces".

Speaking very seriously, and not at all trying to be humorous, what I envision when I read news like this is the U.S. Cavalry (except with helicopter gunships) attacking the Indians, with their lone turncoat native "scout" or "guide" along to help them out. And until I see actual numbers emanating from the DoD or the media, that's what I'll continue to believe.


A reminder that Zionism is racism

There's always an outcry in the United States when some international body declares that Zionism is racism. But isn't this a rather stark demonstration of that?
"Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed that Jewish settler homes in the Gaza Strip will be demolished as Israeli citizens and soldiers leave the area this summer, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Sunday after two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

"In order to win a parliamentary vote on the Gaza withdrawal last year, Sharon had pledged to dismantle the homes."
Now, we're told that "Palestinian officials were not eager to keep the red-roofed, middle-class homes, and there are not enough of them to house the 1.3 million Palestinians who are struggling for housing in the narrow coastal strip." Perhaps Palestinian officials did actually desire this outcome (I'm skeptical on that point), or perhaps U.S. pressure forced this outcome. Whatever the truth of those two statements, the fact is that it was originally the Israeli government which was forced by Israelis to pledge to destroy those homes. Any why? Well, it wasn't because the Israelis were concerned that "red-roofed, middle-class homes" might be a disruptive influence on Palestinian society, nor that they were concerned that there weren't enough of those homes to go around. No, of course they were "concerned" that unclean beasts, the sub-human Palestinians, might actually occupy the same homes in which Israelis had been living. And if that ain't racism, pure and simple, I don't know what is.

And, in the ultimate example of something, I'm not sure what:

"The cleanup and removal of the debris [Ed. note: not the razing itself, that's being done by the Israeli military who has vast experience in that area] will be handled by Palestinians, creating a jobs program and an incentive for Palestinians to plan how the areas are used in the future."
Yes, God forbid the Palestinians should get jobs building new houses; instead we (and I do mean "we", since the "international community" is being "asked" to help pay the $50-$60 million cost) are paying the Palestinians to haul away the rubble from the destroyed homes.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Jihad for Dummies

A major story in the New York Times today discusses the discovery of an alleged insurgent "torture center" complete with four living but tortured Iraqis. If true, it's a reprehensible development. It is a bit bizarre, since real insurgents don't seem to have a problem murdering Iraqi soldiers and policemen outright, and there's no indication that these prisoners were being either held for ransom or tortured for information. Nevertheless, it is certainly possible, even likely, that it's a true story, since there are indeed psychopaths and sadists all over the world; the U.S. military hardly holds a monopoly.

But what is highly dubious, in my opinion, is this part of the story:

"The [574-page] manual recovered - a fat, well-thumbed Arabic paperback - listed itself as the 2005 First Edition of 'The Principles of Jihadist Philosophy,' by Abdel Rahman al-Ali. Its chapters included 'How to Select the Best Hostage,' and 'The Legitimacy of Cutting the Infidels' Heads.'"
Now, I'm sorry, but this sounds like something straight out of Hill & Knowlton by way of the CIA. Does this book really exist, and is it for real, or a parody of "Jihad for Dummies" (published under a different title to avoid copyright infringement, of course)? Interestingly enough, the story is completely devoid of details about how the reporter came to know about this manual. Did the reporter see the manual for herself? Was she told about it by the U.S. Marines? No clue is to be found in the article.

Until further notice, file this one under "black propaganda".

Saturday, June 18, 2005


"Finishing the job" in Iraq

War supporters as well as invasion opponents who are opposed to immediate withdrawal from Iraq both talk about "finishing the job". Well, what exactly is that job? Guess what? It's a secret!!!!:
"You know, the actual mission, I suppose, is classified."

- Director of Operations, J-3 Lieutenant General James T. Conway, speaking yesterday at a DoD press conference


Quote of the (Father's) Day

The San Jose Mercury News reports a demonstration outside their offices in Santa Cruz yesterday, protesting media coverage of the war in Iraq. One of the signs read:
Rich fathers start wars.
Middle-class fathers pay for wars.
Poor fathers die in wars.
Happy Bloody Father's Day.
Hopefully I don't need to point out that the line about who pays for wars and who dies in wars applies also to mothers. The part about who starts wars, at least for the foreseeable future, can read "fathers" only.


The press: still not getting the message

[First posted 6/18, 6:30 a.m.; updated]

I try to tell them, but they just won't listen to me:

"American troops bombarded a dusty border town with airstrikes and tank fire Friday, capturing 100 militants."
That was from AP; an NPR "NewsBrief" I heard last night used exactly the same language. Not a "purported" among them, nor even an "according to a statement released by the U.S. military" to provide linguistic cover. And that's not to mention the mathematically improbable claim that exactly 100 people of whatever nature were captured. Not "about 100", not "more than 100", not 99 or 101, but exactly 100 people were captured. Now I admit that counting people who are captured is a lot easier than counting people you have killed, so it is actually possible that exactly 100 people were captured. It's just rather unlikely.

The article, incidentally, reports not a single dead "militant", despite the fact that three buildings allegedly occupied by insurgents firing at the attacking American (and token Iraqi) forces were reported destroyed by precision-guided missiles. And, despite the claim from the U.S. military that this was not just an airstrike but that there were "daylong battles" during which "Marines and Iraqi soldiers fought insurgents holed up in buildings within the city," the article makes the improbable (though admittedly not impossible) claim that "no American or Iraqi military casualties were reported." Well, I admit it's possible that none were reported, but it's improbable that none were sustained. Fatalities, yes, quite possibly there were none of those. But no casualties? Unlikely. Of course I'm being disingenuous here, because I presume that, as it has repeatedly and inaccurately, the U.S. military persists in using the word "casualty" to mean "fatality" exclusively, and the press, who I believe does actually own a dictionary or two among them, dutifully follows along. That is, however, not the meaning of the word "casualty".

Update: As has often been the case lately, unlikely the U.S. military stenographers at AP and elsewhere, Knight-Ridder reporters actually talk to Iraqis to get a picture of what really happened:

"The head tribal sheik of the town, Osama Jadaan al-Dulaimi...said operations Friday in Karabilah killed at least 20 Iraqis and wounded about 45, including women and children -- an assertion that could not be verified. [Ed. note - but certainly just as credible as any reports from the U.S. military!]"
Tom Lasseter's article also gives a little more insight into the way the U.S. military operates:
"A later release said four civilians had been wounded after insurgents seized their homes during the fighting.

"'Only buildings occupied by terrorists firing on Marines and Iraqi soldiers were bombed,' the statement said."
So, assuming that these statements are actually true, and reading between the lines, some resistance fighters who were shooting at the Marines ran into someone's home to get cover and continue fighting. Disregarding entirely (neither asking nor caring) the fact that there might be "innocent civilians" in the house, the Marines called in an airstrike and blew the house to smithereens.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Press coverage of the Downing Street Memo hearings

[First posted 6/17, 7:00 a.m.; updated]

Yesterday, 30 members of Congress held a hearing, albeit an unsanctioned one, to hear about the Downing Street memo from a small witness list. The hearing was carried live by CSPAN-3 (as well as Pacifica Radio), and was later rebroadcast on CSPAN-2 (how is it possible that Congress hasn't cut funding for CSPAN yet?). Democracy Now! featured extensive coverage this morning, and I'm sure other progressive outlets will as well.

Other coverage? Get out your magnifying glass. I have yet to see any coverage on TV. Last night, for example, during a commercial break on the Daily Show, I did my usual flipping between CNN, CNN Headline News, CNBC, Fox News, and MSNBC. Three of them were covering the missing blond white girl in Aruba story, none the Downing Street Memo hearings.

Print media fared no better, possibly worse depending on your point of view. The Washington Post featured a mocking story by Dana Milbank headlined both insultingly and inaccurately "Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War". This was not in fact, a "rally against the war"; the context of the hearing had nothing to do with withdrawing troops from Iraq, just with the false pretext of why the troops were sent there. Milbank also inaccurately describes the hearing as "a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war", which it also was not; witnesses and Representatives alike made it clear this was about opening real hearings as to whether what was in the memo was true, which, if so, would (or should) lead to impeachment hearings.

The New York Times was worse still, with the bizarre headline "Antiwar Group Says Leaked British Memo Shows Bush Misled Public on His War Plans". When I read that, I thought, "ANSWER had another press conference?" No, the "antiwar group" referred to in the headline was a group of 30 members of Congress (and their four witnesses). And, of course, while it's true that witnesses did say that the "memo shows Bush misled the public", there really isn't any testimony necessary on that fact. The memo says that Bush misled the public; no interpretation by any "antiwar group" is necessary to make that statement. The only question is whether that memo is accurate or not, not what it says.

Only the AP treated the hearing accurately and respectfully. Only the AP, for example, bothered to point out that "misleading Congress is an impeachable offense."

The scurrilous coverage of the day award goes to Milbank in the Post, who devotes four paragraphs (nearly 25% of his entire story) to the issue of Israel, which was indeed mentioned, but only once as far as I know (by Ray McGovern) in the entire hearing. To drive home his point, Milbank tells us:

"At Democratic headquarters, where an overflow crowd watched the hearing on television, activists handed out documents repeating two accusations -- that an Israeli company had warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that there was an 'insider trading scam' on 9/11 -- that previously has been used to suggest Israel was behind the attacks."
Who were these "activists"? Were they passing out material that originated with Conyers, or any of the witnesses at the hearing, or even the Democratic Party? Were those accusations the only things on these documents (which is certainly the impression Milbank leaves), or were they part of a long list of items? Were those accusations endorsed in the document, or merely listed as "open questions that some have raised"? None of these questions are answered by Milbank (nor do I know the answers), rather, it's clear Milbank just throws in this paragraph as a way of smearing the hearings themselves. Scurrilous is the only word for it.

And the top story on CNN this morning? You guessed it -- an arrest in Aruba. Certainly the most important development in the entire world today. But it only just edged out the second most important story - Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes this morning on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Update: From Raw Story via Cursor, we find that Rep. Conyers has fired off both barrels at the Washington Post and Dana Milbank in conjunction with their story about the hearing. It's a blistering letter which undoubtedly will have little effect on its targets. In the midst of many valid arguments, however, Conyers sadly but predictably chooses to counter Milbank's remarks about Israel by characterizing both Ray McGovern's testimony (that support for Israel was one of the motivations behind the invasion of Iraq) and literature alleging Israeli foreknowledge of 9/11 as "anti-Semitic". Conyers continues by claiming that allegations that Israel is trying to "dominate the world" (Who on earth said that? Certainly not Ray McGovern) or that it had anything to do with 9/11 are "disgusting and offensive". Well, personally I'd find them "unfounded" and "almost certainly untrue", but certainly not completely beyond belief (especially if one is talking about foreknowledge and not actual involvement). But "disgusting and offensive"? Isn't that rather ironic coming from a man who is supposedly trying to kick-start an investigation into charges (that Bush lied the country into war) which are dismissed by many in the Congress (and in the country) as "disgusting and offensive"? What I find "disgusting and offensive" is the suggestion that any criticism of Israel, or of U.S. policy towards Israel, is "anti-Semitic".


Money for human needs, not for war?

Fuhgeddaboudit. Congress, who just approved $82 billion more for war in Iraq and Afghanistan in May (for the really calendar-challenged, that was last month), is about to approve another $45 billion in spending for those wars. Schools? Medical care? Help for homeless veterans? Oh, sorry, we can't "afford" those things. Money for jobs? Well, that is available. Just so long as the job you're looking for is in the U.S. Army.

Spending on these wars of terror is now well over $1000 per person. Think about that when the city council in your town of 50,000 people says they can't come up with $1 million for repaving the roads, or hiring enough firefighters, or paying the teachers, or whatever other cutbacks are hitting the city or town where you live. And think about that when the "best" people in Congress are calling for the start of a withdrawal from Iraq in a year and a half, after another $100 billion or so goes down the drain.


Congress, moving boldly

The story which actually got more press coverage than John Conyers' Downing Street Memo "hearings" yesterday was the introduction of a bill, co-sponsored by four members of Congress, calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Well, not exactly. What it calls for is for Bush to set up a plan to begin withdrawing troops (would 1,000 be enough?) by October, 2006. No need to rush. There will only be another 1200 or so more dead Americans, and another 10,000 or so seriously wounded ones, by then (and countless more Iraqis blown to bits by American air power).

The most interesting part of this story, actually, is the story of Rep. Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones and how he came to be a co-sponsor of the bill:

"It started at a military funeral about two years ago, this heartache that Republican Walter B. Jones says has gripped him and won't let go.

"It's the kind of pain that gnaws and prods. So much so that it pushed the North Carolina congressman to begin writing to other families of dead servicemen and women. (He's up to at least 1,300.)

"And to collect pictures of the fallen. (There are rows of posters bearing them outside his Capitol Hill office.)"
What Rep. Jones seems to have taken to heart, as others (like Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld, just to name four) have not, is that "1,700" is not just a statistic. It represents real people, with real lives, and real families, each with their own story, and each a tragedy. Unfortunately, Rep. Jones seems perfectly willing to see another 1,000+ soldiers and their families follow in their path before even starting to put an end to it. And that's yet another tragedy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Homeland security

$300 billion spent on the "war on terror" -- feeling safer? You might not after reading this if you live in San Francisco [emphasis added]:
"A National Weather Service warning that a tsunami might be on its way did not reach emergency officials in San Francisco on Tuesday night, according to a top emergency official there.

"Annemarie Conroy, director of the city Office of Emergency Services, said she found out about the possible tsunami more than an hour after the warning came out.

"And the notification came not from the state system set up for that purpose, she said, but from an alert crawling across the bottom of a television screen.

"At that point, Conroy said, city officials had only 15 or 20 minutes to huddle, come up with a plan and evacuate people who had gone to Ocean Beach to enjoy the fine weather and to watch the sunset."


Look both ways on Downing Street

Listening to the Downing Street Memo hearings today (and even now as I write this), I thought the most interesting point, even in its obviousness, was made by Barney Frank. Numerous members of the media and the establishment have claimed that there was "nothing new" in the DSM. For example, the Washington Post editorialized: "The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002." Similarly, supposed "liberal" Michael Kinsley wrote a recent column saying essentially the same thing. But, at the same time, we had George Bush and Tony Blair denying just last week that the memo was true - Bush saying "there's nothing farther from the truth", and Blair asserting that "the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all".

Now, as Rep. Frank notes, both of these things cannot be true. They can both be false, but they cannot both be true. If the assertions of Bush and Blair (that the memo is not accurate) are true, then we cannot possibly have "known it all" back in 2002, and if we did "know it all" in July 2002, then Bush and Blair were lying as recently as last week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


The Democratic "opposition"

This is the Democrats' idea of "opposing" Bush on Iraq:
"Pelosi's proposal, which she offered as an amendment to the $428 billion military appropriations bill, would direct that within 30 days of the legislation's adoption, President Bush 'report on a strategy for success in Iraq.'"
This is, of course, the same Nancy Pelosi, House Minority leader, who voted against Rep. Lynn Woolsey's extremely mild proposal calling on Bush to "start planning the withdrawal" of troops (not withdraw them, just "start planning" the withdrawal).

The only thing more pathetic than the Democrats are the Republicans, who naturally oppose Pelosi's bill. Yes, they wouldn't want to be on record calling for Bush to propose a "strategy for success" in Iraq.


How to increase media coverage of the Downing Street Memo

Wiley Miller


Say goodbye, Miles

At lunch I caught CNN's Miles O'Brien saying farewell to the "Live From" show (he's moving on). His farewell speech was this:
"We've never ducked the serious stories [Ed. note - really? I can't say as I recall much coverage of, say, the Downing Street Memo story until the last day or two, and that's just the most recent story ignored by "Live From" and the rest of the corporate media], but we've never taken ourselves too seriously, either."
Right, we wouldn't want a CNN news show to take itself too seriously, for goodness sake.

I take myself seriously, probably too seriously. Could a CNN news show take itself too seriously? If all you care about is ratings (and profit), well, I guess it could. Which pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?


Bernie Sanders: Unclear on the concept

The House just voted to scrap some of the lightning-rod provisions of the PATRIOT [sic] act - the bookstore and library records portion (but not the use of the Internet from a library provision). Bernie Sanders, congressman from Vermont who evidently failed to take Civics class in high school, says:
"This is a tremendous victory that restores important constitutional rights to the American people."
No, Bernie, I'm afraid not. As the AP correctly notes:
"The Senate has yet to act on the measure, and GOP leaders often drop provisions offensive to Bush during final negotiations."
Indeed, even if the House and Senate both vote in support of something, that's still no guarantee of passage of a bill, as was seen in 2003 when both House and Senate voted to end the travel ban to Cuba, but saw that provision stripped out of the bill by a conference committee.


"Post-Iraq anger"

As readers know, I usually try to stick to commenting on actual news, and not on commentators on the news, but I've already made an exception today for Tom Friedman, so I'll stick with it for the rest of the day to focus on something written by Howard Kurtz to explain "liberals'" frustration with the poor media coverage of the "Downing Street Memo": "There's still a huge amount of post-Iraq anger out there toward Bush, and liberals are frustrated that the red part of the country doesn't share their view."

As I just wrote to Kurtz, 80 young Americans who died in Iraq in May (and 41 more already this month), not to mention hundreds of Iraqis, testify silently but eloquently that we are not "post-Iraq", that "Iraq" is very much a continuing situation, and will remain so until American forces leave the country. And furthermore, polls now show that 46% of Americans think that U.S. troops should leave Iraq "as soon as possible". I don't know of any polls which break down opinions on the war by state, but I think it's fair to state that opposition (and support) for the war is widespread across the country, and not confined to any so-called "red states". If liberals, and those further to the left, are frustrated, it's by the irresponsibility, timidity, and/or complicity (take your pick) of the media, not by the opinions of other Americans (which are to a large extent shaped by that same media).


Today's Must-Read

Cenk Uygur on Jose Padilla:
"I'm writing this to implore you to help a United States citizen in dire need of American assistance. This U.S. citizen is being held against his will and his captors say he has no rights whatsoever.

"He has been held in an isolated prison for over three years without being charged with any crime. He has been subject to numerous interrogations. He has not been brought before a magistrate to determine if there is any evidence against him.

"In fact, his captors hold him based on secret evidence - evidence they refuse to share with the court of any country. To add insult to injury, they say his detention can be indefinite. He might have to spend the rest of his life in prison without ever being presented with the evidence this secretive government claims to have against him.

"Who is this deplorable government that is holding one of our citizens? The United States of America.
"If this still hasn't made you uncomfortable, try this one on for size: What is to prevent this administration from labeling you an enemy combatant?

"Still not convinced. What is to stop the next administration - of either party - from labeling you an enemy combatant? If the Supreme Court decides the Bush administration can hold Padilla without his constitutional rights, the answer is simple -- absolutely nothing."
Incidentally, this article calls my attention to the fact that I, and everyone else, should stop referring to Padilla as the alleged "dirty bomber". It turns out that last year some time, "U.S. officials last year backed off that claim and said Padilla had plotted with Al Qaeda leaders to blow up apartment buildings by using natural gas." Since Padilla, as far as any leaked rumors about him go (no actual charges have been filed against him, of course, nor any actual evidence made public) is still only accused of thinking about doing bad things, I think we should just call him the "alleged gedanken bomber" and leave it at that. That should cover all future morphings of the U.S. allegations.


What do you mean "we", white man?

Tom Friedman, good patriot that he is, calls today for "doubl[ing] the American boots on the ground" in Iraq in a last effort to "do it right". Strangely, however, the oh-so-knowledgeable Mr. Friedman fails to address the question of where those troops might be coming from. Surely not from his family and friends, or even his readers, since his column, like virtually all others written by war supporters, doesn't contain any exhortations for them to put their lives on the line. No, one can only assume that Mr. Friedman is perfectly happy to have poor black boys from Mississippi and poor white girls from West Virginia continue doing the fighting, and he's perfectly happy to keep upping the enlistment bonuses to entice such people into the military. He knows better than to urge the readers of the New York Times to enlist, and he, just like George Bush, is certainly not going to urge his two daughters to do so. No, for Friedman, just like Bush, fighting war is something you tell other people to do.

I wonder if the recently-concluded National Spelling Bee included the word "hypocrisy", and if someone would have gotten through to the next round by spelling it "w-a-r- - s-u-p-p-o-r-t-e-r"?


Child molester murderer still on the loose

...and living in the White House [not to mention the one living in Chappaqua].

Walt Handelsman, Newsday

In honor of Michael Jackson, perhaps Left I on the News needs to change the slogan describing our Iraq policy from "Out Now!" to "Beat It!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Quote of the Day

Yes, it's the Donald again, giving us the "good news" about Iraq:
"A lot of bad things that could have happened have not happened."

- Donald Rumsfeld
Are you relieved? I'm sure the Iraqis are taking great solace in this fact.


The people have the power?

Apologies to Patti Smith, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, calling for a special election in California, is stealing her line:
"The people are the ones who wield the power."
Really? Polls show that 2/3 of Californians are opposed to having a special election. So evidently only some of the people "wield the power". Or, more accurately, just one of them.

Trying to deflect criticism that the election will cost $80 million, Schwarzenegger first says this is only "a buck and a quarter per citizen", and then promises to reimburse the counties for their expenses. How generous of the Governor, to "reimburse" the people with their own money, as if the money he "gives" to the counties for this expense will magically appear out of nowhere, instead of being taken from some other pool of money.


Today's Donsense

It's been quite a while since we had a round of Donsense (tm); the Donald has not been as amusing of late. Today's remarks (online here) didn't contain the usual verbal gyrations, but they were representative of his own particular brand of "logic" (and lying) nevertheless. The subject was Guantanamo. First he claimed that prisoners were only sent there because the U.S. had need of a "safe and secure" place to hold them. Nonsense (or perhaps Donsense). The U.S. sent prisoners to Guantanamo because they hoped to (and, in fact, did) make a legal argument that these people were beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. court system. By the way, what does it say about the safety and security of the mainland United States if Rumsfeld's statement is true, and they couldn't find a single suitable "safe and secure" place within the borders of the U.S. to hold the prisoners?

Rumsfeld then amusingly claimed that, while they would like to send these prisoners back to their home countries, and have done that with some prisoners from Iraq and Afghanistan, they couldn't do it with other countries because those countries couldn't guarantee humane treatment of the prisoners. Riiiiight. He did this, by the way, immediately before launching into a defense of the torture of the prisoner named Kahtani, on the grounds that that torture yielded very useful information which led to the arrest of some "terror suspects" and the prevention of other terrorist acts. So we don't believe in sending people to countries where they practice torture, but torture is ok if it yields useful information. Hmmmm.

Rumfeld then added that they couldn't send the prisoners back to other countries because those countries (again, unnamed, just like the torturing countries) didn't have laws which would allow them to detain the prisoners (but some of them were "working on it"). News flash, Don. The United States doesn't either. But that hasn't stopped you.

None of this is remotely funny, of course. "Donsense" rarely is.


We're not number one?

I'm just shocked that Vice-President Dick Cheney would actually suggest that the U.S. is not number one at something, but maybe only in the top five:
"Vice President Dick Cheney strongly defended the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Monday, saying that it was essential to the administration's efforts to combat terrorism and that detainees there had been treated better by the United States than they could expect to be treated "by virtually any other government on the face of the earth."
"Virtually any other government"? Really? Only, let's say, Switzerland and Sweden and maybe, just maybe, Finland treat their prisoners better than the United States? The fact, of course, is that "virtually any other government on the face of the earth" treats prisoners better than the United States; far from being in the top five, the United States is probably in the bottom ten, and as far as seizing and mistreating citizens of other countries, and not just its own, the U.S. is hands-down number one.

I don't mind Cheney defending the U.S. holding alleged terrorists; I expect that. But alleging that the U.S. treats them better than "virtually any other government"? That's just way too far beyond the pale.

In a related story, the U.S. military has now admitted that "interrogators played on [a detainee']s Muslim beliefs by placing him close to a woman and by having him wear pictures of scantily clad women around his neck." Again, if they just wanted to (as they did) defend that practice as having been effective at extracting information, however unethical, immoral, or illegal, I can tolerate that (the defense, not the practice). But doing so, but still maintaining that they would never even consider flushing a Koran down the toilet and that anyone who suggests they might is delusional and traitorous, is just way too hypocritical.


"40 insurgents killed"

I almost wrote about this yesterday, but being gone half the day at the "Extradite Posada" demo prevented me. As it turns out, the story became more interesting today, but I'll start with yesterday. Here was the story as reported by AP:
"U.S. fighter planes launched air strikes on an Iraqi town near the Syrian border Saturday killing about 40 insurgents, the military said.

"Seven precision-guided missiles were fired at heavily [armed] insurgents who were stopping and searching cars near Karabilah, close to the volatile town of Qaim, the Marines said in a statement."
How you would get any better an estimate of the number of dead than "dozens" from an air strike is unclear, but of course there's a bigger problem with this story, as indicated in the lead sentence from the Los Angeles Times article on the subject [emphasis added]: "U.S. forces launched airstrikes that killed 40 purported insurgents in western Iraq on Saturday." A word to the media - just because the U.S. military issues a statement that 40 insurgents were killed, doesn't mean you aren't allowed to add the word "purported" all by yourselves. It's called "journalism".

The New York Times added some interesting details (based on the same written press release from the military):

"In Anbar, near the town of Karabilah, groups of insurgents armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades had set up a checkpoint and were stopping civilian vehicles, Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool of the Second Marine Division said in a written statement.

"Starting at 11:40 a.m. on Saturday, American fighter jets and attack helicopters from the Second Marine Aircraft Wing responded, carrying out seven airstrikes and killing about 40 insurgents at the makeshift checkpoint, Captain Pool said.

"'There are no reports of civilian casualties or collateral damage,' the captain added. 'The airstrikes ended at 4 p.m. once all the targets were destroyed.'"
Of course there were "no reports of civilian casualties or collateral damage". You don't suppose that after launching this attack, the Marines actually landed and inspected the site of the attack, do you? The statement about "all the targets were destroyed" is curious. A "heavily-armed insurgent" could be a target, but as far as I know, you don't launch a "precision-guided missile" at a human being, only at a building or at best an automobile. You wouldn't think that a "makeshift checkpoint" would be the kind of thing that would be a suitable target for a precision-guided missile, would you?

Well, lo and behold, today the other shoe, if not having actually dropped, is certainly headed for the ground:

"Iraqis inspecting the damage left by U.S. airstrikes in western Iraq on Sunday challenged American assertions that 40 insurgents were killed, saying there were no guerrillas in the area.

"'There were no mujahedin or armed men in the area. The planes attacked indiscriminately,' said one man, who did not give his name, as he inspected the rubble of a house.
Interestingly, the military has now changed its story about what the target was:
"'The target was more of a compound with scores of armed men. No women or children were observed the entire day,' a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday. He said troops would not be going to the site to sift through the rubble."
Did the reporters transcribing the words of this military spokesman ask him or her why the day before the target had been alleged to be a "makeshift checkpoint", a "barricade on a main road to the city", and how within a single day it had morphed into a "compound"? Not as far as one can tell. Not to worry though, because most people won't be troubled by the contradiction; of the major papers, only the Los Angeles Times has even run the update.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Posada Carriles: justice delayed


How nice that the U.S. treats some illegal immigrants (only the ones who are terrorists in the employ of the CIA, of course) with kid gloves - Luis Posada Carriles has had his immigration hearing rescheduled for August 29. My favorite note from the coverage is this:

"Carriles's lawyer, Eduarto Soto, ... pleaded with the immigration judge to move the case to Miami where Carriles lived before Immigration Officials caught up with him."
Lived? The man snuck into the country and was hiding out in Miami. Does that now qualify him as a resident of Miami entitled to a hearing there? And "caught up with him"? If Posada hadn't come out of the closet and started giving public interviews to the Miami Herald, he probably could have lived in peace for years; the Immigration Service wasn't even looking for him as far as can be determined. They only arrested him to overcome the public embarassment of having him rub his presence in their faces.

Note that this rescheduled (for late August) hearing still has nothing to do with the U.S. obligation to extradite Posada to Venezuela where he is wanted for murder; it is strictly on the question of his application for asylum in the United States. And, incredibly, although this man is a known (and self-confessed) terrorist involved in the deaths of at least 74 people, and has been a fugitive from justice and managed to enter the U.S. illegally, there is actually a bail hearing scheduled for June 24.

Just to repeat a point I've made before - a number of U.S. newspapers have editorialized against granting asylum to Posada Carriles. That is not the same as extraditing him to Venezuela where he is wanted for murder. Opposing asylum for him, without supporting extradition, is a copout, nothing more.


"[Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez said Cuban dissident and naturalized Venezuelan citizen Luis Posada Carriles must be turned over to Venezuela to face terrorism charges or he will take the matter up with an international court alleging the United States was in violation of human rights and democracy charters."


Filibuster in the news

I wrote last month about my view of why liberals are dead wrong on the filibuster; it is not something to be supported. And, in today's news, just one more reminder of why that is so:
"The Senate is set to...vote on a resolution to apologize for the failure to enact an anti-lynching law first proposed 105 years ago.

"At the time [1894], there was no federal law against lynching, and most states refused to prosecute white men for killing black people. The U.S. House of Representatives, responding to pleas from presidents and civil rights groups, three times agreed to make the crime a federal offense. Each time, though, the measure died in the Senate at the hands of powerful southern lawmakers using the filibuster."
Great cause to associate yourself with, liberals.


Big doins' on Downing Street

More British documents, more blockbuster revelations. After Downing Street has the details and the analysis.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Post to Times: "In your face!"

A week ago I took note of a story out of Israel (via the U.K.) about Israeli "revenge killings", and predicted minimal U.S. coverage. To my surprise, the New York Times did cover the story the next day, but with their own special spin on it. Among other things, they wrote, "It is impossible to confirm the anonymous remarks", about which I commented:
"It is not 'impossible' to confirm anonymous remarks, it's done all the time. You simply need to track down the sources yourself, which isn't that hard - these soldiers came forward with their story, even if they wish to remain anonymous."
And, lo and behold, today the Washington Post is out with a front-page article on the case, which fills in a lot more details in the story, which I won't mention here, but I will take note of this from the Post article:
"Three of the soldiers have now spoken in separate interviews to The Washington Post: Levi [one of the soldiers who was willing to be named by the Post] and two others who were not willing to disclose their names because they said they were ashamed of what they did and feared they could be harassed for coming forward. This account of what happened that night is based upon their detailed descriptions, supplemented by other interviews and newspaper articles from the time."
This, dear friends at the New York Times, is how you "confirm anonymous remarks". Whaddya know, it wasn't "impossible" at all. It just required a little thing called "reporting".

Friday, June 10, 2005


Posada Carriles and the OAS

Here's something that happened at the OAS meeting that didn't get reported in the U.S. press, the press of the country where "terrorism" and the "war on terror" is supposedly so central to everything that is happening:
"The General Assembly of that regional forum passed a resolution presented by Venezuela that calls on the 34 member countries to extradite those persons who 'participate in the planning, preparation, commission or financing of acts of terrorism.'

"It also asks that asylum or the condition of refugee should not be granted to persons when there is clear evidence that they have committed terrorist crimes."
George and CondoLIEzza weren't around to hear about it, though, since they both left town as fast as they could, CondoLIEzza saying, curiously, "I have to go back to the United States" (she was in Florida at the time). Evidently her subconscious thought she must be in Venezuela or Cuba, since the people at the conference weren't bowing obsequiously in her direction.


Quote of the Day

"I think we as a people, we as a country, we as a Nation need to ask ourselves, what are we doing in Iraq? What are we doing around the world? What are we allowing the leadership of this country to do in our name? And when will we stop it?"

- Rep. Cynthia McKinney, speaking (for a full hour!) yesterday in Congress [PDF, then click on "Next Page" to retrieve subsequent pages; the speech covers four pages], delivering an amazing speech in which she read into the Congressional record, among other things, Gen. Smedley Butler's famous "War is a racket" speech as well as portions of James Bamford's "A Pretext For War"
Nor was McKinney's the only worthwhile speech delivered in Congress yesterday; here [PDF] was Rep. Lynn Woolsey:
"Mr. Speaker, on April 12 at Fort Hood, Texas, President Bush told an audience of thousands of servicemembers that for the first time Iraqi soldiers outnumbered U.S. soldiers in Iraq. That was April 12. Specifically, he put the number of trained and equipped Iraqi forces at 150,000.

"This rosy assessment of the situation in Iraq is shocking not only for its arrogance but also for its ignorance. The President was either totally oblivious to Iraq's true security failures, or he was intentionally misleading the American people into thinking peace has taken hold. His statement was uninformed at best, deceitful at worst. Either way, the President's assessment misleads the American people in knowing the true situation in Iraq."
And, next Thursday, Rep. John Conyers will convene a hearing to explore the implications of the Downing Street Memo, featuring testimony from Joe Wilson, Former Ambassador and WMD Expert; Ray McGovern, 27-year CIA analyst who prepared regular Presidential briefings during the Reagan administration; Cindy Sheehan, mother of fallen American soldier; and John Bonifaz, renowned constitutional lawyer and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.

Some in America are waking up. Will the media and larger numbers follow? It's definitely an uphill battle; as we learn via First Draft this morning, media coverage of the "missing blond white girl in Aruba" story has outweighed coverage of the Downing Street Memo 10:1. Which means only one thing -- it's up to those of us who care to keep the pressure on.

Why stop here? There's more...

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