Wednesday, November 30, 2005


The "opposition" party: transcript (and analysis) accomplished!

I wrote below that I'd be taking a look at the "opposition" response to George Bush's speech and plan today. There is a transcript online, but you have to be a Federal News Service subscriber to see it, and, for a 30-minute news conference by two major Senators, the news coverage has been minimal to say the least (more on right-wing blogs and news sites than in the mainstream media). So I had to make my own transcript from the C-SPAN video (not a direct link, must scroll down). What follows is a partial transcript, containing the most "interesting" (i.e., repugnant) parts, with my comments interspersed in italics. I'm putting a lot into this post, since this isn't online elsewhere, but I've highlighted in bold the most important material:

Sen. Jack Reed: It's going to take more than one speech to restore the credibility gap that the President is suffering over Iraq.

Why does Reed care about restoring Bush's "credibility gap"? Isn't his goal (as we'll see shortly) to "win" the war, or to "support the troops"? Why is helping Bush on his agenda?

We appreciate what these soldiers are doing.

Speak for yourself, bud. What the "soldiers are doing" is killing thousands of Iraqis, many of them entirely innocent civilians. And what they have done since they started their "mission" is to kill tens of thousands of Iraqis, maim uncounted thousands more, and thoroughly ruin what was a functioning country.

We can't fail there, but we have to have a plan to succeed.

Oh, we can "fail" there, whether you like it or not. And would you care to define "success"?

[Bush's] inability to articulate such a plan has allowed the nation's doubts to grow about the course of our efforts in Iraq.

No, the nation's "doubts" (a.k.a. "strong opposition to the war") have grown because thousands of Americans are dead, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, the "justification" for the war has been revealed to be a total (and deliberate) fraud, and the former Iraqi Prime Minister says the country is worse off than it was before. Bush's inarticulateness has little or nothing to do with it.

The American people are hungry for a frank appraisal of how we're doing.

No, the American people couldn't care less about a "frank appraisal," what they are "hungry for" is an American withdrawal from Iraq.

The President failed to answer the questions that all Americans are asking: How do we know if progress is being made there? How do we measure success? How much longer should America expect to be in Iraq?

These may be the questions that Democratic Senators are asking, but they are not the questions that "all Americans" are asking. They are asking two questions: what is the "mission", and why aren't the troops coming home already?

What will be the cost in terms of dollars, but more importantly, the cost in terms of deployment of our troops and their safety?

Did you forget something, Jack? Like the cost in casualties to Americans and Iraqis? Your last two words might suggest your concern for American casualties, but not a word out of your mouth (or Kerry's) suggests you care a fig about the Iraqi people.

Sen. John Kerry: The best way to protect the troops is to provide the best policy for success in Iraq. All of us believe that the troops are doing an extraordinary job. They are committed to this mission. They believe in this mission, and we, all of us, believe in our troops.

Just what is that mission, John? I'm afraid that in 30 minutes, neither you nor Jack Reed managed to even attempt to answer that question.

This debate is not about an artificial date for withdrawal. What it did on the Democratic side seek to do was to set an estimated timetable for success which will permit the withdrawal of our troops.

I'm so glad we have now clarified just what the Democrats want. An "estimated timetable for success."

Everything that we have presented has been presented on the basis of how you succeed.

Succeed at what?

All of us agree, we're talking about how to win, how to succeed, how do you best achieve our goals?

What goals exactly? And, by the way, I hope that by "all of us" you are referring to "all of us Democratic Senators," because you certainly aren't speaking for the American people, and you're not even speaking for all your Democratic colleagues in the House.

Every one of us supports the elections that are going to take place in a couple of weeks. The success of those elections provides a benchmark of success which allows you then to withdraw some of the troops which you will notice the President and Vice-President and the Secretary of Defense have now acknowledged if the elections are successful.

Yes, because elections under occupation are so meaningful. Since the "success" of the elections is pretty much guaranteed (except in the cities which are under assault by American forces and hence won't actually be voting), why not just leave now? And, by the way, this notion that removing troops after the elections is a "withdrawal" is absurd. The troops levels were just increased before the elections, so removing some after the elections hardly qualifies as a real "withdrawal," does it?

Gen. Casey has said very clearly that it is the large presence of American forces on the ground that feeds the insurgency and makes it more difficult for the Iraqis to assume responsibility because they don't have to. Our own Generals are telling the President that our presence in large numbers is part of the problem and that you have to begin to reduce that.

Yes? And? Draw any conclusions from that, John? Like the U.S. ought to get the hell out of Iraq now?

45% of the Iraqi people believe it is all right to injure and kill Americans. 80% of the Iraqi people want us to withdraw. The largest portion of the Iraqi elected officials have now voiced themselves publicly saying they believe the United States needs to reduce its presence and withdraw.

Yes? And? Draw any conclusions from that John? Like the U.S. ought to get the hell out of Iraq now? You've got the facts before you. Americans are the problem. Iraqis don't want us there. Isn't the conclusion rather strikingly obvious?

You need to reduce that presence over a period of time in order to be able to succeed, not fail.

Yes, wouldn't want to hurry things. Four or five or ten years ought to do it.

And none of us have suggested a policy that allows the United States to leave a failed state or to withdraw precipitously.

Failed state? It takes one to know one. Who is the United States to call a country a "failed state" and conclude that that "status" requires the benevolent presence of the United States to cure?

The strategy for exit is part of the strategy for success.

Success? Meaning what exactly?

--- Answering questions ---

Kerry: Obviously Congressman Murtha's comments, though neither Jack nor I agree with the particular choice he made, are enormously important.

Yes, let's make sure we make clear we're not for actual withdrawal.

When 80% of the people say we want America to withdraw, and when 45% of the people in the country we're fighting for say it's ok to kill Americans to help us get there, the President's not dealing with a certain kind of reality that is important to the lives of our troops.

And you? You're dealing with reality? You at least acknowledge those numbers, I doubt that Bush does. So why don't you draw the obvious conclusion? If Iraq is a sovereign country, and 80% of the people don't want us there, surely you can't think we should stay, whatever the puppets you put in charge have to say?

You know, I didn't come back from Vietnam until 1969. I didn't wind up demonstrating until 1971, two years later. And a lot of names were added to the wall in that period of time, and a lot more between then and 1973. And what I learned is the best way you protect the troops is by standing up for them, by giving them the best policy possible with which to achieve the goals of our nation.

This almost speaks for itself, but obviously Kerry doesn't hear the answer, so I guess I'll have to spell it out for him. Staying in Iraq will accomplish exactly what staying in Vietnam did between 1969 and 1973 - nothing but the death of more Americans and Iraqis/Vietnamese. How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake, John? And how do you ask an Iraqi civilian to be the last Iraqi civilian to die for a mistake? Evidently your answer is, you no longer care. And the "best way you protect the troops" isn't to give them "the best policy possible," it's to bring them home from a place they never belonged in the first place.

Reed: I don't think there's anyone here that argues about the basic notion of a condition-based redeployment plan. The President talked about that, he's now talking about it I think much more so because we were the ones in the Senate, along with our colleagues, on a bipartisan basis, who talked about a phased, conditional withdrawal based upon the circumstances on the ground.

It's official. There is no difference between the Democratic and Republican "strategy" for "success" in Iraq.

When that happens, frankly, that is the purview of not only what is going on on the ground, but also if anyone should have insight into when that takes place it should be the President. And I think that's what the American public are asking for.

And not only aren't there any differences, but the Democrats concede that the President should be the one making the decisions. Why don't they just go home and save us the trouble of listening to them?


Another myth bites the dust

Or, you can't believe everything you read. Every single reference I have ever seen to the man currently scheduled to be the next person killed by the state of California refers to him as "Stanley 'Tookie' Williams" (i.e., with "Tookie" in quotes indicating that it's a nickname). Just one thing wrong with that, as Amy Goodman (and I) learned on Democracy Now! this morning, after she asked Williams how he got his nickname:
"That is not a nickname. That is my middle name. My mother gave me that. In fact, that was my father's middle name, as well. And I believe it's my grandfather's middle name. But I know it's my father's, for a fact. Stanley Tookie Williams III."
A perfect illustration of how misinformation, once it gets into the press, can be propagated ad infinitum without anyone doing any further checking to find out if it is true. And a perfect illustration, in its own small way, of a point I made the other day that multiple sources of information mean nothing more than a single source unless they are multiple independent sources.


The real "victory" strategy

Echoing the thoughts of Seymour Hersh and Left I on the News is this ominous statement/threat reported by the New York Times:
"A senior administration official said Mr. Bush's ultimate goal, to which he assigned no schedule, is to move to a 'smaller, more lethal' American force that 'can be just as successful.'"
By "smaller, more lethal" this official is referring to the increased use of aerial bombing, and by "just as successful," he or she means "just as deadly." Their hope, and this is hardly the first time that either I or many others have said this, is that by diminishing American fatalities (I won't even say "casualties"; hardly anyone even knows or cares about non-fatal casualties) they can diminish American opposition to the war. They're counting on the assumption, which is unfortunately true, that Americans care far less (if at all) whether Iraqi casualties stay the same or even rise.


Harmonic convergence

Two threads converged in a yellow wood...

Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange)


The "National" Strategy for "Victory" in Iraq

You don't really think I have the patience to read that crap, do you? Not when the very title contains at least two lies. "National" strategy? The "nation," in its overwhelming majority, wants the troops out of Iraq ASAP (somewhere between now and six months from now). This isn't the "national" strategy, it's the Bush administration strategy (and we use the word "strategy" loosely, of course). As far as "victory," that's also completely bogus, since Iraq isn't ours to "win," so the idea of "victory" is completely out of place.

I'll just note one thing that caught my eye -- the "long term" part of the "strategy": "Longer term, Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism." Most people are focusing on the first few words, and the obvious implication that the U.S. will be in Iraq for a thousand years if we're waiting for Iraq to become "peaceful, united, stable, and secure" before leaving. But I think the other phrases say more about the U.S.'s real goals in Iraq. "Well integrated into the international community" means a full "partner" (i.e., lackey) in the international capitalist system, with low-paid labor and cheap raw materials (oil in this case) being furnished to the "international community" (i.e., the wealthy, imperialist nations), and foreign companies able to extract the maximum amount of profits out of Iraq. And "full partner in the [so-called] global war on terrorism" means, I presume, willing to host secret CIA prisons where people captured in other countries can be hidden and tortured out of the reach of the U.S. or international legal systems.

Well, at least that goal won't be too difficult to achieve.

Bush's speech contains one very interesting (and, I believe, new) thought (another word we use loosely):

"As we fight the enemy in Iraq, every man and woman who volunteers to defend our nation deserves an unwavering commitment to the mission -- and a clear strategy for victory. A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists [Ed. note: do you think they've adopted that term for fear of how Bush might mispronounce "Saddamites"?] and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group."
Bush asserts that "rejectionists" "reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group." Notice anything missing? Like the notion that the overwhelming majority (80%) of Iraqis "reject" the U.S. occupation of their country? But accepting Bush's words on their face, what is he saying? That the Sunnis are fighting to be the dominant group in Iraq. Perhaps they are. Who the hell is the U.S. to stick not only their nose, but the barrel of their guns, into that fight on the side of the other side, i.e., the Shiites? What earthly right (or international law) allows the U.S. to determine that the Sunnis should not be the dominant group, and that their wish to be so makes them an "enemy" that must be "defeated"? Shall we also go into battle in England or Canada on behalf of the Conservative parties in those countries, or into Israel on behalf of Sharon's "Forward" party? I hear all of them want to be the "dominant" group too.

I actually want to say a lot more about the response by Democratic Senators John Kerry and Jack Reed, which I watched in disgust, but I don't think there's a transcript anywhere yet. The video is online here, but I'll have to rewatch it to transcribe some of the most quoteworthy material to integrate with my comments. Suffice it for now to say that anyone counting on the Democrats to facilitate an exit from Iraq probably still believes in the tooth fairy.


Bumper sticker politics

Dave Lindorff has noticed the exact same thing I have (but have been reluctant to mention, thinking that my experience here in the relatively liberal San Francisco Bay Area was probably atypical):
"Has anyone seen a car with one of those 2004 'Bush/Cheney' bumper stickers on it lately? It's been days since I've noticed one.

"My community, which is about 50 percent Republican, used to be full of them, mostly pasted on the backs of hulking SUVs and brightly colored Hummers.

"Suddenly, I'm just not seeing the things anymore. I suppose it's possible that they all just fell off, but then why am I still seeing Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers? (And besides, The Bush stickers from the 2000 campaign seemed to hand around on cars for years. I seem to remember seeing some even last year.)

"No, I suspect something else is at work: buyers' remorse, or maybe shame.

"At this point, it must be a little embarrassing to have a sticker on your car broadcasting the fact that you voted for those two clowns." [Ed. note: Bush/Cheney are not "clowns," they are deadly serious, vicious men, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, none of whose relatives are laughing.]
My community is definitely far less than 50 percent Republican, but I still saw many Bush/Cheney bumper stickers during the election, more commonly (and just as stereotypically) on trucks and expensive cars than on SUVs and Hummers (I see thankfully few of those). But now, like Lindorff, I continue to see significant numbers of Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers (far more, sadly, than "U.S. Out of Iraq" bumper stickers or anything with actual meaning), but virtually no B/C stickers.

How do your experiences match up?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Spreading American-style "democracy"

From the Los Angeles Times:
"As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

"Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists...The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.

"The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are vowing to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech to a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption. It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled 'The Role of Press in a Democratic Society.'"
The U.S. government has been doing this kind of thing (and lots worse, of course) for decades. What's new is the fact that the corporate press is reporting on it as it is happening (instead of years later).


The U.S. war of terror

The trial over the murder of Danilo Anderson has received virtually no coverage in the United States (the last mention of "Danilo Anderson" in the New York Times is more than a year ago). Who is Danilo Anderson? He was a Venezuelan prosecutor who was preparing possible charges against as many as 400 people in connection with the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez, and who was murdered by a C-4 bomb attached to his car just over a year ago.

And why is the U.S. in the title of this post? Because testimony in the trial has now implicated the former head of the Miami bureau of the FBI, Hector Pesquera, in the planning of that murder.

And what else do we know about Pesquera? Instead of doing his job and possibly preventing the horrendous occurence of Sept. 11, 2001 by tracking the 14 out of 19 hijackers who had spent time in Miami, Pesquera was busy persecuting (and prosecuting) five people who had dedicated their lives to fighting terrorism, the Cuban Five. Five courageous men who are still being held in American prisons, convicted of trumped-up charges when their actual work was tracking people like Pesquera (and Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch) who were busy planning (or carrying out) acts of terrorism against the people of Cuba, Venezuela, and Panama.

War on terror? No, it's a war of terror that the U.S. is carrying out against the people of the world.


Quotes of the Day

It's neck and neck for the title of "Ludicrous Quote of the Day." A strong contender out of the gate early was this from Donald Rumsfeld, explaining why resistance fighters in Iraq should not be called "insurgents" :
"I think that you can have a legitimate insurgency in a country that has popular support and has a cohesiveness and has a legitimate gripe. These people don't have a legitimate gripe."
The fact that the resistance has more support than Donald Rumsfeld and the U.S. government, and the fact that resistance to occupation by a foreign power might conceivably be a "legitimate gripe" (or something rather stronger than a "gripe"!) seems to have escaped Secretary Rumsfeld's attention.

But, sadly for Rumsfeld, a latecomer has appeared out of nowhere to overtake him and win the day -- CIA Director Porter Goss, with this gem:

"Inevitably, we're going to have to capture some terrorists and inevitably they're going to have to have some due process."
Sure, if by "inevitably" you mean "if the courts force us to and if we can't stonewall them any more, and if we can't succeed in hiding them from the eyes of the world in secret prisons." I can think of a "process" that Goss and his boss are "due," several actually. How about we start with waterboarding? Which should be fine with Goss, because, in the same interview, he asserted that "what we do does not come close to torture."


Darwin debunked!

OK, not really. Just a myth about Darwin. I was reading an article in Socialism and Liberation yesterday on "Intelligent Design" (article not online yet) and came across the statement that Marx dedicated "Capital" to Charles Darwin. The person I was with said, "Sure, everybody knows that," but I didn't know it, so of course I asked my old friend Google about it. Guess what? It isn't true. Marx did, in fact, sent a personally inscribed copy of the book to Darwin, and was an admirer of Darwin. But the dedication story? A myth.

While we're on the subject of myths, Red Geek points us to a story from Kansas, where the Religious Studies Department (!) at the University of Kansas decided to strike back at the anti-intelligence forces (not to be confused with the anti-"Intelligent Design" forces), and offer a course entitled, "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies." They did have to back down after right-wing pressure and rename the course "Intelligent Design and Creationism," but the course remains the same.

The department chairman, Paul Mirecki, says quite accurately: "Creationism is mythology. Intelligent design is mythology. It's not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not." As a side note, Dr. Mirecki, who I remind you is the chairman of the Religious Studies Department, is the faculty adviser to a student group named "The Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics." Sounds like my kind of religious guy!


The "exit strategy" that isn't

Last night on Anderson Cooper 360, amidst his continuing admirable attempt to keep New Orleans as a center of attention in this country, Cooper interviewed Michael Ware, Baghdad bureau chief for Time Magazine. About that exit strategy?
COOPER: We are starting to hear from this White House talk that the Iraqis maybe are doing better than we had previously thought. Their -- their security forces, their military is -- is maybe more ready than we had thought.

There are a lot people that say, well, look, that's just politics. They're just trying to say that to set the timetable for withdrawal. From what you're seeing, from what you're hearing from the troops you have been embedded with, do they have confidence in -- in the Iraqis they're training?

WARE: Whoever from the White House is saying that is one of two things. Clearly, they have never been in Iraq. And, clearly, they have never been in a firefight with an Iraqi unit.

Secondly, they're clearly lying, whether they know it or not. I mean, a very senior U.S. military intelligence officer, one of the most high-ranking in the country, just in the last few days, said to me, these Iraqi forces will never be in a position to be able to crush this insurgency.

On the ground here, no one has no any real illusions about that. I have been in battle with almost every type of Iraqi security force there is, from police commandos, to special forces, to 36 Commando, to the elite counterterrorism force akin to the Delta.

I have been with Kurds and Shia and Sunni. And I'm telling you, if the Iraqi security forces are the exit strategy, then get ready to be here for a long time. And your troops know that. They work with them side by side every day.

Yes, there are advances. Yes, there are gains. But will this military that's emerging here ever be able to replace the American military in Iraq? No.
Amazingly, the transcript doesn't even tell the whole story. You had to listen to Ware to hear the emphasis he placed on certain words. If you've ever heard Steve Irwin (the "Crocodile Hunter"), you have heard Ware's twin brother, not just in accent, but in the exuberance with which he speaks. Ware's Time article doesn't come close to leaving the same impression than did his appearance on 360.

All of a sudden, thanks largely to the Seymour Hersh article in New Yorker magazine, the media is filled with discussion over the possibility that if and when American ground forces withdraw, their "place" will be taken by American air power, with even more deadly results to Iraqis, especially civilians. This is a joke, as readers familiar with my writings on the "exit strategy" since May are aware. American air power is already the backbone of the "coalition" killing machine; the identity of the grunts on the ground is distinctly secondary. And as far as the claim that the U.S. military is mainly worried about turning the targeting of American air strikes over to Iraqis? That's happening already too! In story after story of American air strikes, it's clear that the source of the "information" about the alleged "safe house" that was bombed could only have come from local Iraqis on the ground (probably not even, in the first instance, Iraqi military), who could just as easily have been "turning in" a neighbor they didn't like as actual resistance fighters.

And, by the way, notice that in all the current talk about the role of American air power in Iraq, there isn't a hint that the U.S. is even considering training Iraqi pilots or turning over American fighter jets and helicopter gunships to Iraqis.

The U.S. is going to be in Iraq a long time unless the people of the world (and the continuing resistance of the Iraqi people) put an end to it.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Who says reconstruction isn't succeeding in Iraq?

The New York Times reported last week about allegedly "high military morale" in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is one of the reasons they cite:
"Bases in Iraq and Afghanistan show the money spent on infrastructure and recreation facilities. The hot food, air-conditioning, Internet facilities and giant gymnasium offered at major bases bolster morale."
Oh wait, that wasn't reconstruction, it was construction. After all, what's more important -- rebuilding a country that American warfare destroyed, or building permanent bases for that "exit strategy" that isn't?

What average Iraqis wouldn't give for hot food, air-conditioning, Internet facilities, and giant gymnasiums. Or for the American occupiers to get the hell out of their country.


Canadian readers open thread

Time for Canadian readers to share their wisdom. What the heck just happened up there? Did a goverment really just fall because of a scandal in the previous administration, as BBC World News explained tonight to its viewers?

Sunday, November 27, 2005


A stellar post

As my typical gift to readers after one of my trips, I offer this picture which came as a complete bonus to me (i.e., the opportunity to take it just appeared out of the blue, no pun intended):

Steller's Jay

Don't you love the eyebrows?


Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

And the Danes are doing something about it!
"On November 22, Johan and Kirsten Kirkmand, parents of slain Danish soldier Bjarke Kirkmand, formally sued Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for breaking the Danish constitution by deciding to bring Denmark into the US-led illegal aggression against Iraq.

"In this way, the two parents have now joined the 24 plaintiffs, who on October 11 delivered a writ to the Danish High Court instituting legal proceedings against the Danish Prime Minister for breaches of Article 19 of the Danish Constitution, according to which the use of military force may only be applied under a UN mandate, and within the boundaries of commonly accepted international law. Furthermore, the decision is considered to be in breach of Article 20 of the Constitution, as it does not fulfil the requirement of a 5/6 parliamentary majority in relinquishing sovereignty, the Danish troops having been placed under foreign command."
The appropriate response to "murder most foul." If only U.S. law allowed for similar actions.


Cindy Sheehan - the book review

I mentioned the other day buying Cindy Sheehan's new book, Not One More Mother's Child, and last night (thanks to continuing lack of web access :-) ) I finished it. A very worthwhile read. I'd read some of it online as it was written, of course, since it is basically a compendium of her writings, speeches, blog entries from Camp Casey, and similar material written (and spoken) during the last year, but it was still inspiring to read the whole story compressed into one book. Sheehan really has a way with words, and, even though she is covering much of the same themes over and over again, and certainly repeats herself to an extent, it's surprising how many different ways she finds to say similar things.

One thing that really struck me as I read the book was the effects of the passage of time as it pertains to the title of the book (Not One More Mother's Child). In the first entry in the book, a letter she wrote to George Bush on November 4, 2004, she mentions the 1125 "(so far)" dead Americans (and tens of thousands of dead Iraqis - Sheehan never forgets the Iraqis, not in a single article or speech in the entire book). Pretty soon she's writing about 1576 dead, and, not all that many more pages later, 2000+. It's one thing to see that happen over the course of a year -- to see it happen over the course of a 200-page book you can read in a few nights makes the impact all the more powerful.

There are so many good turns of phrase in the book, I'm tempted to fill this review with examples, but I'll pick out just one and encourage you to read the book and read the rest for yourself. This isn't the cleverest perhaps, but it's one that has always struck me as well:

"I often get introduced as a mother who lost her son in Iraq. I didn't lose Casey. I know right where he is. He is in a grave in Vacaville, and I know who put him there: George Bush and the rest of the arrogant and ignorant neocons in D.C. who murdered my son and tens of thousands of other innocent people."
Two more quotes from the book that I found particularly moving and significant weren't Sheehan's. First this one from Martin Luther King, written from Birmingham jail in 1963:
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."
And this, from the poem her daughter Carly wrote about the death of her brother (and Cindy's son) Casey:
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won't be so deep
But if we the people let them continue another mother will weep
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
Read the book. Join the cause. Stop the war.

Update: Nominate Cindy Sheehan to be Time's "Person of the Year" here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


The "dirty bomber"

The headline in today's papers are variations on a theme: "Justice Department charges 'dirty bomb' suspect," with leads like this: "After holding accused 'dirty bomber' Jose Padilla without charges for 3 1/2 years, the Justice Department Tuesday gave the one-time Chicago gang member a day in court by charging him with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts overseas." Although it is true that John Ashcroft did make that accusation, he backed it up with not the slightest evidence, and in fact, that accusation was retracted long ago in favor of another entirely unsubstantiated charge that Padilla was planning to blow up apartment buildings with natural gas.

But now, as you probably know by now, Padilla has finally been charged (basically to avoid a potentially unfavorable Supreme Court ruling) with something entirely different (and quite ethereal, as far as one can tell from what has been revealed). From Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez may have come the quote of the day: "[Padilla's indictment] demonstrates that we will use every tool at our disposal in fighting the war on terrorism." Let's see, there's lying, torturing, violating national and international law... Oh yeah, they'll use "every tool" all right.

What did Padilla actually do, if anything? I have no idea, but this may be a clue: "Much of the alleged conspiracy involves money transfers among Muslim charities." Translation: he gave money to some charities he may not have even known were allegedly linked to terrorist groups. Which makes him a terrorist in the eyes of the U.S. government. But in the eyes of the U.S. press, he's still an "accused dirty bomber."

I wonder when we'll see the press referring to George Bush et al. as "accused war criminals"? There's a lot more evidence to support that accusation.


Wal*Mart - the book review

Aren't trips wonderful? One of the few chances I get to read books. Last night I finished Wal*Mart - the high cost of low price, which I mentioned last week. Very nice little book (emphasis on the "little" -- how else do you think I finished it so fast?). A very interesting look inside the making of a documentary, and the marshalling of a political (in the non-electoral sense of the word) campaign using the online world (email, blogs, websites) in conjunction with the real world (unions, churches, community groups, etc.).

One interesting fact -- the title of the movie was actually chosen in an online vote! (The winner was the one Robert Greenwald had started with, as it turned out)

I think the most interesting thing about this book to me was gaining a full appreciation of just how hard it is to make a documentary. In this case, to start with, there was the problem of an uncooperative subject. Months were spent (ending in failure) trying to find a current Wal*Mart employee willing to spill the beans, but not a single one could be found who was not fearful of her/his job and would go on camera; in the end only past employees (including managers) and non-employees were used in the film. Then, again not in every documentary but definitely in this one, the challenge of filming in a hundred different locations, many more than would be used in most films. Not to mention a hundred different subjects, each of whom isn't reading a script like an actor, but being coaxed into opening up and telling their story in a compelling manner. And finally, the editing challenge. Most films tell a story which is already written, has a certain linear quality, etc. Of course there are decisions about what to leave in and which camera angles to include, etc., but the basic film is written before it starts. With a documentary like this, one starts with a general idea of the kinds of things that would be interesting, then films all sorts of things, and then "writes the script" after the fact, as part of the editing process, piecing together all sorts of things in what you hope is "just the right order" so that it has the maximum impact on the viewer. And in this particular case, made all the more difficult of the self-imposed deadline of releasing the film this month to have maximum impact on Wal*Mart before the Christmas selling season.

I'll say one thing - before reading this book, I wasn't particularly interesting in seeing the movie. Now I have to.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Open thread

You know what an open thread means on this blog -- I'm headed out of town, possibly to a place with no Internet access whatsoever (what? surely he's joking, there's no such place on the planet, is there?). Back next week.

To get things started, two stories from San Jose (I don't live there, but it's the nearest big city): Today, for the fifth year in a row, San Jose was named the safest big city (>500,000) in America. Well, safe for some. Yesterday, Jose Angel Rios became the second person this year to be killed by a San Jose police officer and his Taser gun. He wasn't armed, involved in a robbery, and no one had even called the police; an off-duty copy just happened to pass by while he was having an argument with his wife in an outdoor carport. Shortly thereafter, Rios was dead.

San Jose was one of the first cities to equip every officer with a Taser. 77 people have been killed in the last year by Tasers, 15 in northern and central California.

And that's the thought I leave you with.


Condi tells the truth! (and lies too, of course)

CondoLIEzza Rice, speaking today in China, remarkably spoke the truth today:
"I've been with our military in Iraq, I've been with our military in Afghanistan, we were with our military in South Korea yesterday. I've never seen greater commitment and energy and dedication to a mission that they respect and believe in."
And I'll say that's true, because as far as I can tell from her biography, Rice has never seen soldiers in a war zone other than in Iraq and Afghanistan (not that the Green Zone of Baghdad or Kabul qualify as a real war zone compared to the rest of those countries). So she's never seen "greater commitment and energy and dedication to a mission"? Sure, I'll buy that. And for what that's worth, plus $3.00, you can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Of course it wouldn't be CondoLIEzza if she wasn't also lying, and she told one of the all-time, will not die whoppers in the same speech:

"We used force against him [Saddam Hussein, a.k.a. "Iraq"] in 1998 because he threw out inspectors and the concerns of weapons of mass destruction."
Once more into the breech, dear friends! Bill Clinton threw out the inspectors by announcing they'd better get the hell out because he was going to start bombing Iraq that night. When it came out that some of the inspectors were spies, and that the targets and the coordinates for the bombing campaign had been provided to the U.S. by the inspectors, Iraq refused to let them back in. Can't imagine why.


There are lies, and there are whoppers

This caught my eye in the piece by former Senator Bob Graham in the Washington Post:
"The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)...[concluded] that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction stored or produced at 550 sites."
Not one. Not a half dozen. Not a couple dozen. 550!

Now think about that. Weapons inspectors searched Iraq from Nov. 27, 2002, until March 17, 2003. With 550 sites to choose from, Mr. Magoo could have stumbled into one just by accident. On March 17, it may not have been conclusively proven that there were no WMD in Iraq. But it certainly had been conclusively proven that the "I" part of "NIE" was completely unwarranted.

Colin Powell spoke to the U.N. on February 5, 2003, after two full months of inspections. Did Gen. Powell mention that the inspectors had a list of 550 sites, and hadn't yet found a single one? No. He simply accused Iraq, led by Gen. al-Saadi, of moving the WMD around so the inspectors couldn't find them. They kept moving them around between 550 sites?! The roads of Iraq must have been awfully dangerous! Why did the inspectors bother visiting sites? They could have simply set up some roadblocks and found those pesky WMDs.


Power to from the people

Knight-Ridder explores the devious ways in which Venezuela is trying to generate support in the United States:
"Even as Chavez attacks President Bush as his sworn nemesis, his government is running a strong campaign to curry favor with U.S. citizens through leftist grass-roots groups [Bolivarian circles], paid lobbyists and public relations operatives and offers of cheap fuel for America's poor.

"The Venezuelan leader is running a 'grass-roots foreign policy,' said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington based Center for Economic and Policy Research, a group that supports Chavez.

"'Obviously the government of the United States has not been very friendly and the Venezuelans figure they have a better chance at dealing directly with the people who don't have any particular reason not to like Venezuela,' he added."
My favorite part of the article, raising the now routine question of anonymous sources, was this:
"To Bush administration officials the names of organizations that back the Venezuelan president have a familiar ring to them.

"'The Venezuelans just got the Rolodex from Cuba,' said one senior State Department official who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue."
The article then goes on to mention Danny Glover and Rev. Lucius Walker as both supporters of Cuba and of Venezuela. Quelle surprise! If Hugo Chavez wanted to find out who in the U.S. to reach out to for support, he hardly needed to call up Fidel Castro. He could have called me or about a thousand other people who could have given him the complete list of people and groups likely to support him. Heck, he probably could have found the list on the web, starting with David Horowitz's list of "leftists I love to hate." The idea that this was somehow "sensitive" information that warranted that this State Department official be granted anonymity for his cheap slander (well, he or she thought it was slander, anyway) is preposterous. And typical.


The war didn't end yesterday

And this man lost three (or five) of his family members, including one (or two) child, as a result of an American "mistake."

Of course it was no mistake. On a microscale, the death of this man's family was the result of justifiably trigger-happy American troops; "justifiably" because they're embedded in a country where the vast majority don't want them there, and a majority believe that violence against the occupiers is completely justified, and any car behaving "erratically" is a target for deadly fire. On a larger scale, the death of this man's family was the result of a very deliberate policy to project American power, demonstrate to the world that countries which try to be independent of imperialism will not be tolerated, gain control of oil, provide a chance for the military to try out some new "toys," provide an opportunity for arms makers and other war profiteers to rake in the big bucks, maintain George Bush and his cronies in power, and no doubt other reasons I'm leaving out.

A "mistake"? From the point of view of the people of the world, like this man? Definitely. But from the point of view of those who launched the war? Anything but.

Every day American troops remain in Iraq brings more "mistakes." How can they avoid making those "mistakes"? Get out -- now! And "now" means now!

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Parkinson's, shmarkinson's

The CIA says Fidel has Parkinson's and will be dead any day now; Fidel denies it and demonstrates that he's getting younger every day:

I love the Reuters picture caption: "Cuban President Fidel Castro (R) winks at a woman at the graduation of hundreds of Cuban art students." Yes, thanks for that "R". Might have been confused otherwise. :-)


Now they tell us: "Curveball" was throwing nothing but wild pitches

You've just gotta' love people who are now telling us what they knew before the invasion of Iraq, now that tens of thousands of people are dead as a result of the lies they had a part in spreading (in this case, by their silence):
"The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

"Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

"According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

"Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm.

"'This was not substantial evidence,' said a senior German intelligence official. 'We made clear we could not verify the things he said.'

"The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems. 'He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy,' said a BND official who supervised the case. 'He is not a completely normal person,' agreed a BND analyst.

"An investigation by The Times based on interviews since May with about 30 current and former intelligence officials in the U.S., Germany, England, Iraq and the United Nations, as well as other experts, shows that U.S. bungling in the Curveball case was worse than official reports have disclosed.

"The White House, for example, ignored evidence gathered by United Nations weapons inspectors shortly before the war that disproved Curveball's account. Bush and his aides issued increasingly dire warnings about Iraq's biological weapons before the war even though intelligence from Curveball had not changed in two years.

"At the Central Intelligence Agency, officials embraced Curveball's account even though they could not confirm it or interview him until a year after the invasion. They ignored multiple warnings about his reliability before the war, punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion.

"The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball's case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball's claims as a justification for war.

"'We were shocked,' the official said. 'Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven.... It was not hard intelligence.'

"The DIA [Defense (sic) Intelligence (sic) Agency] -- like the BND -- never tried to check Curveball's background or verify his accounts before sending reports to other U.S. intelligence agencies."
Of course, Curveball having been totally discredited, he's been sent packing right? Sorry, no.
"Curveball lives under an assumed name in southern Germany. The BND has given him a furnished apartment, language lessons and a stipend generous enough that he does not need to work.
But now that "mission [has been] accomplished", surely Curveball has outlived his usefulness, right? Sorry, no.
"Curveball could not be interviewed for this report. BND officials threatened last summer to strip him of his salary, housing and protection if he agreed to meet with The Times.
As with General Amer al-Saadi, having Curveball free to tell his story publicly would be far too embarassing for the Americans (and in this case, the Germans as well).

The whole sordid story is here, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, whose motto on investigative reporting, like that of so many others, appears to be "better late than never." Not better for those who are no longer alive to read it, I'm afraid.

Incidentally, this blockbuster story, which is the lead story on the LA Times website and almost certainly on the front page of the print edition, was buried and severely truncated on page ten of the San Jose Mercury News. They had to make room for a story on junk faxes on the front page.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Capitalism kills

...on a massive scale. On a "Katrina" scale...every week.
"The racial health gap in the US kills more people every week that Hurricane Katrina, claims new research.

"Inequalities between white and black Americans cause 84,000 extra fatalities each year – equating to the same weekly number of victims that perished in the hurricane, according to an editorial published in the British Medical Journal."
The authors of the study, Chief medical officer Dr David Atkins and senior service fellow Dr Ernest Moy, work for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is a division of the Department of Health & Human Services, i.e., part of the U.S. government. Despite that fact, their article seems to have been published only in Britain, and the only U.S. media outlets in which this story has appeared are Workers World newspaper and the Macon Daily.

Your so-called liberal media at work.


Understatement of the Day

"The American public is way ahead of the members of Congress."

- Rep. John Murtha


CNN tells it like it isn't

Here's CNN's rather strange view of the world:
"Most Republicans oppose Murtha's call for withdrawal, and some Democrats also have been reluctant to back his position."
Some Democrats? Some Democrats? The entire "Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus" consists of 66 members (of whom exactly three actually voted for immediate withdrawal from Iraq). That would leave most Democrats "reluctant to back Murtha's position," or, in many cases, quite definitely opposed to it.

Of course, the "most Republican's oppose Murtha's call" stretches the truth to its limits as well; as far as I know only Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones and Ron "Libertarian elected as a Republican" Paul come close to taking such a position.


Three brave souls

[First posted 11/18, 10:54 p.m.; updated]

As readers undoubtedly know, the Republicans forced a vote in Congress today on immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Rather than allow a vote on a resolution introduced by Rep. John Murtha, the Democratic hawk calling for "immediate" withdrawal by which he meant six months, the Republicans introduced a resolution they didn't support and didn't vote for (ah, democracy at work!) calling for real immediate withdrawal. Of course the Democrats were aghast and voted against it, as did all the Republicans.

But three heroic members of Congress stood up and said, by God, we are for immediate withdrawal, you're darn right we are! The heroic three: Jose E. Serrano (N.Y.), Robert Wexler (Fla.) and Cynthia McKinney (Ga.). That's 3 out of 435, 0.68% of Congress. The figures for the American public are a bit elusive, partly because questions are fuzzily worded, and some people (like Murtha) think "immediate" means "six months from now," but for sure the percentage of the public who support immediate withdrawal is at least an order of magnitude higher than the support for that position in Congress, if not indeed 50 times higher. Which, as I have noted before, is practically a miracle, considering that you will not hear a single "talking head" or read a single editorial in a major newspaper calling for that position and, as the debate in Congress well illustrates, if you do take that position you'll be called a traitor, a cutter and runner, the responsibility for all future chaos in Iraq will be on your head, etc., etc.

But three votes on record is a start! Kudos to the three.

Update: From the "things I wish I'd said first" department, this one from Washington Post columnist Dana Millbank:

"Democrats were cutting and running yesterday -- not from Iraq, but from Murtha."
Further update: Cynthia McKinney's speech on the resolution.


It's Miller time

The story of Adnan Ihsan al-Haideri, one of the main sources of "intelligence" about non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, has been known for some time, but an article in Rolling Stone by James Bamford (hat tip to Cookie Jill at Skippy) provides a level of detail about the circumstances surrounding him that has never before been revealed as far as I know. It's the story of, among other things, the Rendon Group, propaganda experts extraordinaire, the subject of Sheldon Rampton & John Stauber's informative book, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq.

But, in addition to that, it's the story of -- who else? -- Judith Miller. After describing in detail the interrogation of al-Haideri (and his failing a CIA lie-detector test), Bamford tells us what happened next:

"The INC's choice for the worldwide print exclusive was equally easy: Chalabi contacted Judith Miller of The New York Times. Miller, who was close to I. Lewis Libby and other neoconservatives in the Bush administration, had been a trusted outlet for the INC's anti-Saddam propaganda for years. Not long after the CIA polygraph expert slipped the straps and electrodes off al-Haideri and declared him a liar, Miller flew to Bangkok to interview him under the watchful supervision of his INC handlers. Miller later made perfunctory calls to the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, but despite her vaunted intelligence sources, she claimed not to know about the results of al-Haideri's lie-detector test. Instead, she reported that unnamed 'government experts' called his information 'reliable and significant' -- thus adding a veneer of truth to the lies.

Her front-page story, which hit the stands on December 20th, 2001, was exactly the kind of exposure Rendon had been hired to provide. AN IRAQI DEFECTOR TELLS OF WORK ON AT LEAST 20 HIDDEN WEAPONS SITES, declared the headline. 'An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer,' Miller wrote, 'said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.' If verified, she noted, 'his allegations would provide ammunition to officials within the Bush administration who have been arguing that Mr. Hussein should be driven from power partly because of his unwillingness to stop making weapons of mass destruction, despite his pledges to do so.'"
Incidentally, one of the problems with confidential sources is illustrated in this article. Miller claims that "unnamed 'government experts' called his information 'reliable and significant'." But since she won't reveal her sources, there's no way to know if she didn't make up that claim entirely out of whole cloth.

Jonathan Landay, the "anti-Miller," lets us know the aftermath of the story in a way that Judith Miller never did:

"When U.S. weapons inspectors took him back to Iraq, [al-Haideri] couldn't identify a single illicit weapons facility."
Of course, the real aftermath of the story is the death and destruction of Iraq and tens of thousands of Iraqis. And to sum that up, I'll repeat a quote from Rampton & Stauber's book, taken in turn from The Great Gatsby:
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made."


Headline of the Day

From Reuters:
Car bombs kill 48 in Iraq; Bush says war on track
A cheap shot but hey, sometimes you can't resist. :-)


Tom Hayden gets it right

I've had harsh words for Tom Hayden in the past over his idea that it is the job of the antiwar movement to propose a "reasonable" withdrawal plan. But today Tom Hayden gets it right:
"These were dizzying, stupifying role reversals. The former hawks were calling for peace! The former investigative reporters [Woodward] were keeping state secrets! Republicans were turning into Democrats faster than Democrats could switch from being Republicans!

"And of course it all was defined as an inside game of jockeying among the powerful, when in fact it was the outside pressure of thousands of activists, letter-writers, marchers, door-knockers, bloggers, anti-recruiters, quakers, code pinkers, moveon.niks and angry military families who were the motors turning the fans that blew the wind."
Of course I said the same thing two days ago. :-)


Bush confirms 60-year "exit strategy" for Iraq

While Congress was busy voting down immediate withdrawal from Iraq, George Bush was in Korea rewriting history and confirming that U.S. troops might still be in Iraq (if he has anything to say about it) in 2063, echoing remarks by Rumsfeld a month ago. Consider these two lines from his speech:
"Our strategy can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, and when our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.

"As South Korea has grown more free and prosperous, it's built an increasingly capable military that is now ready to assume a larger role in defending its people. By assuming some responsibilities that have traditionally been shouldered by American forces, South Korea will strengthen the deterrent on the Korean Peninsula and free up some of our combat forces to help us win the war on terror."
So, it has taken more than 50 years (closing in on 60) for South Korea to become "free and prosperous" enough to built a military capable of assuming the role of the American forces. And that, we should note, is a South Korean military which is not heavily infiltrated by its enemy, and, as far as I know, has never been, and, if memory serves me, the country hasn't seen serious internal violence since the Gwangju Massacre in May, 1980. So, 25 years after the last bomb goes off in Baghdad, it appears that George Bush (were he still President) might start thinking about withdrawing troops from Iraq. Bear in mind that there are still 37,000 U.S. troops in Korea, a significant percentage of those fighting in Iraq.

As an aside, George has never been strong on logic. If South Korean troops "assume the responsibilities that have traditionally been shouldered by American forces," and those American forces leave, that does not "strengthen" the deterrent on the Korean Peninsula, it leaves it exactly unchanged.

UPI says that Bush likens Iraq to Korea, and says that "the Iraq War and the Korean War were both intended to bring peace and stability." Unless I missed it, he never says that exactly or directly, but it's not an unreasonable description of the speech. Of course, it's wrong on both ends. The Korean War was intended to repulse a North Korean invasion of South Korea (arguably in response to South Korean troops crossing the border). It was intended to "bring peace," but only because a war had broken out. The invasion of Iraq could hardly have been intended to bring peace and stability since peace and stability existed in Iraq before the invasion, and if that was the goal of the war, I guess it would make reason #89 for the invasion.

For some reason I can't understand, Bush forgot to mention that U.S. troops fought in Korea under U.N. auspices, and their participation in that war was approved by the U.N. I just can't imagine why he forget to mention that.

As usual with his speeches in recent days, Bush delivered a litany justifying the war in Iraq, starting with September 11, 2001, and continuing on through terrorist actions in Bali, Beslan, Jakarta, and Amman. A full fifteen paragraphs later, without mentioning Iraqi WMD, or Saddam Hussein killing and oppressing his own people, or bringing democracy to Iraq, he finally gets around to Iraq:

"Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and allies -- and their allies at the heart of their power. And so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq."
So we've come full circle. Bush, after trying to link 9/11 with Iraq (before the invasion) in order to generate support for the invasion among the American people, and then being forced to admit later that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, is now back to claiming that the invasion of Iraq was part of the so-called "war on terror" because Iraq was an "ally" of terrorists. Pretty much the only thing he left out was Mohammed Atta and Czechoslovakia. Well, that, and the truth.

Rewrite history much, George?

Friday, November 18, 2005


Colin Powell just can't stop lying

Colin Powell has been appearing on the Charlie Rose show and just can't stop lying. His latest explanation for the misstatements (lies) in his famous U.N. speech is this: "Powell asserted that he felt at that time that all of his testimony was credible because each piece of evidence he presented was backed by several sources."

Really? From my recent lengthy post on Powell, here's just one of the things he said in that speech: "We know that Iraq has at least seven of these mobile biological agent factories." And what do we know about the source for that claim? From the Senate report via Wikipedia (which has links to the original sources):

"Committee Chairman Pat Roberts told NBC's Tim Russert that 'Curveball really provided 98 percent of the assessment as to whether or not the Iraqis had a biological weapon.' This was in despite the fact that 'nobody inside the U.S. government had ever actually spoken to the informant—except [for a single] Pentagon analyst, who concluded the man was an alcoholic and utterly useless as a source.'"
"Several sources" indeed.

Even the phrase "several sources" is meaningless as an authority. Anyone dealing in intelligence, and I'm not just referring to CIA-type intelligence but prosecutors, journalists, or anyone trying to draw conclusions, needs not "several sources" but "several independent, reliable sources." The "reliable" part is self-explanatory but people always forget about the "independent" part. If I tell three people something and each of them tells you, you don't have three sources, you have exactly one source -- me (even if you don't know it). Unless the sources are independent, obtaining the same information from multiple sources doesn't give the slightest additional credibility to it.

But in this case, it doesn't matter, because Powell had exactly one, unreliable source for this information he touted at the U.N. He knew it then, and he knows it now.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Warning! Unsubstantiated Plame claims follow.

I never do something like this, and perhaps that's doubly never, because the source I'm about to cite is one I'm completely unfamiliar with. Some Googling reveals that he has been published several times on CounterPunch, which provides a certain credibility, but then again so have I, so scratch that. :-)

Anyway, here's the claim, from the Wayne Madsen Report (no direct links; scroll to Nov. 11) (via The Left Coaster) : Valerie Plame and the fake CIA cover company she worked for were exposed because they intercepted and prevented a pre-invasion shipment of chemical weapons into Iraq, intended to be hidden until they could be used to prove that Iraq really had chemical weapons, justifying the invasion!

"New aspect of Valerie Plame/Brewster Jennings exposure revealed. According to U.S. intelligence sources, the White House exposure of Valerie Plame and her Brewster Jennings & Associates was intended to retaliate against the CIA's work in limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. WMR has reported in the past on this aspect of the scandal. In addition to identifying the involvement of individuals in the White House who were close to key players in nuclear proliferation, the CIA Counter-Proliferation Division prevented the shipment of binary VX nerve gas from Turkey into Iraq in November 2002. The Brewster Jennings network in Turkey was able to intercept this shipment which was intended to be hidden in Iraq and later used as evidence that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. intelligence sources revealed that this was a major reason the Bush White House targeted Plame and her network."
You have to admit it's one hell of an interesting story! As someone who believes that the CIA is one of the evil arms of U.S. foreign policy, and wouldn't be too concerned if all CIA agents were exposed, I'm hardly prone to believe anything good about the CIA, but such things as described in this report are certainly possible. You heard it here first (or second, if you read The Left Coaster or the Wayne Madsen Report).


Cindy Sheehan, the book

Serendipity. Driving from one place to another with a bit of time on my hands, I was sucked into a passing bookstore, and what did I find on the shelves but Not One More Mother's Child by Cindy Sheehan, the just-published first book from Koa Books. The book features a prominent picture of Sheehan, Martin Sheen, and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War standing behind a striking IVAW banner on the cover. I'm sure I've read many of the writings inside, all of which have been on the web somewhere or other, but I'm sure it will still be a worthwhile purchase.

On a nearby shelf, another interesting find: Wal*Mart - the high cost of low price, by Greg Spotts, published by The Disinformation Company (from one big-time publisher to another in this post!). I'm not talking about the DVD itself, which I might see if the occasion arises, but it isn't a high priority. I feel like I know most of the evils of Wal*Mart, and nothing I learn in the movie is going to make me any less likely to shop at Wal*Mart; that would be impossible. This is instead the book, "The inside story of the documentary film sensation." This blurb on the back cover is why I bought the book:

"The story of a wide-ranging investigation that was kept secret from its target, this book describes Greenwald and his crew on a nine-month journey filled with breakthrough moments and unexpected challenges. Given unlimited access to the filmmakers, Spotts reveals the new tactics and technologies that are revolutionizing political filmmaking, offering inspiration for aspiring filmmakers and activists."
Somewhere I can hear a little voice in my head saying, "Yeah, just what you need, another activity to fill up the 1.5 minutes of free time you still have left each week." So no, I don't really have plans to become a political filmmaker, but you never know, and it looks like an interesting read.

If you pay close attention to this blog over the years, you'll find that I recommend a lot of books after I've learned about them, or bought them, but not so many after I've read them, since that doesn't happen nearly as often. I'm afraid the inflow to my "to be read" pile is a lot higher than the outflow. Sigh.


Cindy Sheehan and American "freedom"

Cindy Sheehan is back in court today and you've gotta' love what she's charged with. Not blocking the street, not creating a public nuisance, not resisting arrest, but "demonstrating without a permit." What kind of freedom is it that the United States supposedly stands for when you need a permit to demonstrate? Not a permit to march down the street and block traffic, not a permit to have a loud sound system (though the need for permits in both those cases is certainly arguable when we're talking about free speech and not, say, a commercial event like a marathon), but just to demonstrate!

Update: And, speaking of Cindy Sheehan, she has just released a powerful open letter to Barbara Bush (via After Downing Street). It is an amazing letter, Sheehan doesn't mince words. Like this:

"You said this in 2003, a little over a year before my dear, sweet Casey was killed by your son's policies:

"'Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?' (Good Morning America, March 18, 2003)

"Now I have something to tell you, Barbara. I didn't want to hear about deaths or body bags either. On April 04, 2004, three Army officers came to my house to tell me that Casey was killed in Iraq. I fell on the floor screaming and begging the cruel Angel of Death to take me too. But the Angel of Death that took my son is your son.

"Casey came home in a flag draped coffin on April 10th. I used to have a beautiful mind too. Now my mind is filled with images of seeing his beautiful body in his casket and memories of burying my brave and honest boy before his life really began. Casey's beautiful mind was ended by an insurgent's bullet to his brain, but your son might as well have pulled the trigger."


The rats are scurrying

This shocker just in:
"An influential House Democrat who voted for the Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, another sign of growing unease in Congress about the conflict.

"'This is the immediate redeployment of American forces because they have become the target,' said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats."
The constant pressure from the Iraqi people (a.k.a. the "insurgents") on the American forces is of course an element in the change of heart of someone like this. But the number of American troops being killed per month has been roughly constant for two years. American troops haven't "become" the target as Murtha asserts, they have been the target for two and a half years. The added element has been the weight of the American people, in the streets, in the ditches of Crawford, signing petitions, answering pollsters, writing their Congresspeople, talking to their neighbors, and just in general speaking out, demanding that the war stop now. Only the people can stop the war!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


More culture of life

In the month of October, approximately a thousand Iraqi civilians were killed, as they have been every month for more than two years. Hundreds more Iraqi (and some non-Iraqi) resistance fighters were killed in their battle against the American occupation, and almost exactly a hundred American (and other "coalition") soldiers were also killed.

Also during the month of October, in another country, more than a thousand lives were saved thanks to another "foreign intervention":

"In just one month, Cuba’s medical cooperation in Guatemala has enabled 1,167 lives to be saved in the wake of Tropical Storm Stan.

"Believed to be the most destructive storm in the history of that Central American nation, the hurricane left an official toll of 670 dead, 844 disappeared, more than 280,200 victims, 32,807 homes destroyed or damaged, and agricultural losses of nearly $400 million.

"According to [Prensa Latina] reports, the majority of lives saved by the Cuban doctors [600 members of the Henry Reeve Special Contingent of disaster and epidemic specialists] were minors under 15 years old, but generally, all of their patients were high risk, with acute respiratory infections and diarrhea and skin diseases, and there were also cases of dengue."
Yes, those were some of the same Cuban doctors who could have been saving American lives after Hurricane Katrina if the U.S. government had cared more about the lives of Americans than about its political opposition to Cuba.

In researching this post, I came across a very interesting web page I hadn't seen before at Unknown News. With the exception of Iraqi (and non-Iraqi) resistance fighters, the page contains a summary of all the casualties from the wars launched by the U.S. government to avenge the deaths of 2986 Americans and others on Sept. 11, 2001 -- Afghans, Iraqis, civilians, soldiers, contractors, even including Iraqi soldiers who, as I have written on other occasions, were no more "guilty" and deserving to die in an illegal invasion of their country than Iraqi civilians. Here are the totals (individual numbers on the linked page): 71,756 killed, 179,733 seriously injured. The number of deaths exceeds the number killed on 9/11 by a factor of 25, number of seriously wounded vastly more so (since the vast majority of the 9/11 casualties were deaths).

An eye for an eye? If only the U.S. were that restrained.


What did the Democrats know, and when did they know it?

Stephens Zunes, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who I have quoted on several occasions, most notably in conjunction with his analysis of Colin Powell's February, 2003 speech to the U.N., has written an extensive article (hat tip to Left End of the Dial), laying out the case that the evidence against the existence of Iraqi WMD (or, at least, the evidence against the assertion that WMD existed) was quite clear before the invasion occured, despite attempts by both George Bush and the Democrats to rewrite history.

What I found most interesting, in connection with current Democratic squeals at being accused of voting for the war given the "same" intelligence as Bush had (a preposterous claim, as I have noted), is Zunes' review of just what the Democrats' record was back at that time. I'm not usually prone to such extensive quoting of an article in a post, but I think this is one of the times it's justified:

"In September 2002, a month before the vote to authorize the invasion, I contacted the chief foreign policy aide to one of my senators, Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, to let him know of my interest in appearing before an upcoming hearing on Capitol Hill regarding the alleged threat that Iraq posed to the United States. He acknowledged that he and other staffers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were familiar with my writing on the topic and that I would be a credible witness. He passed on my request to a staff member of the committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware. I was never invited, however. Nor was Scott Ritter, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, or anyone else who expressed skepticism regarding the administration's WMD claims. The bipartisan Senate committee only allowed those who were willing to come forward with an exaggerated view of Iraq 's military potential to testify.

"It was the Clinton administration, not the current administration, which first insisted--despite the lack of evidence--that Iraq had successfully concealed or relaunched its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. Clinton's fear-mongering around Iraqi WMDs began in 1997, several years after they had been successfully destroyed or rendered inoperable. Based upon the alleged Iraqi threat, Clinton ordered a massive four-day bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998, forcing the evacuation of UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors. As many of us had warned just prior to the bombing, this gave Saddam Hussein the opportunity to refuse to allow the inspectors to return.

"Clinton was egged on by leading Senate Democratic leaders, including Minority Leader Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Carl Levin, and others who signed a letter in October 1998 urging the president 'to take necessary actions, including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspected Iraqi sites, to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.' Meanwhile, Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was repeatedly making false statements regarding Iraq's supposed possession of WMDs.

"In a Senate speech defending his vote to authorize Bush to launch an invasion, Senator Kerry categorically declared, despite the lack of any credible evidence, that 'Iraq has chemical and biological weapons' and even alleged that most elements of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs were 'larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War.' Furthermore, Kerry asserted that Iraq was 'attempting to develop nuclear weapons,' backing up this accusation by falsely claiming that 'all U.S. intelligence experts agree' with that assessment.

"Kerry supporters claim he was not being dishonest in making these false claims but that he had been fooled by 'bad intelligence' passed on by the Bush administration. However, well before Kerry's vote to authorize the invasion, former UN inspector Scott Ritter personally told the senator and his senior staff that claims about Iraq still having WMDs or WMD programs were not based on valid intelligence. According to Ritter, 'Kerry knew that there was a verifiable case to be made to debunk the president's statements regarding the threat posed by Iraq's WMDs, but he chose not to act on it.'

"North Carolina Senator John Edwards...rushed to the president's defense in an op-ed article published in the Washington Post. In his commentary, Edwards claimed that Iraq was 'a grave and growing threat' and that Congress should therefore 'endorse the use of all necessary means to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.' The Bush administration was so impressed with Edwards' arguments that they posted the article on the State Department website.

"Even some prominent congressional Democrats who did not vote to authorize the invasion were willing to defend the Bush administration's WMD claims. When House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on NBC's Meet the Press in December 2002, she claimed: 'Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There is no question about that.'"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Did the administration believe in Iraqi WMD?

One of the lines in today's New York Times editorial (discussed below) provides this very typical caveat in their criticism of the Bush administration: "The president and his top advisers may very well have sincerely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." This is an issue I've offered my own opinion on as early as September, 2003 and several times since, but since my line of argumentation has yet to be assumed into conventional wisdom, I feel like this is an appropriate time to repeat the argument. It goes like this:

In order to create a "demand" for the war in the United States, George Bush had to convince Americans that there was a direct threat to them. If Iraq had WMD, and was planning on using them against the Kurds, or against Iran, that wouldn't have been enough to gain support for war. And everyone knows there was no way that Iraq had the delivery capability (long-range missiles, nuclear submarines, long-range bombers, you know, all the things that are in the U.S. arsenal) to threaten the U.S. Hell, they didn't even have the delivery capability to threaten Israel.

So that leaves the al Qaeda connection -- the claim that Iraq might slip some of these WMD to al Qaeda, who would then sneak them into the U.S. to carry with them on a plane they were going to crash into a building, or drop into the water supply, or whatever.

Now, if you actually believed that Iraq had WMD, your entire war strategy would be geared toward preventing such a thing from happening. Before the war started, you would have many teams of trained weapons inspectors stationed in Kuwait, ready to be go. As soon as you could, even before Baghdad fell, you would be concentrating on blocking possible escape routes, so any al Qaeda members couldn't make off with the WMD. As soon as any region of the country was reasonably secure, you would be dropping special teams of commandos to secure known and suspected sites, and as soon as possible after that rushing weapons inspectors into that area to find and secure the weapons before any al Qaeda members did.

That's what you would be doing if you really thought Iraq had WMD. What did happen? Weapons searches didn't really get started for months after the fall of Baghdad and the end of "major combat operations." In the past I've used the word "lackadaisical" and I think that's a valid description. Key, known sites like Tuwaitha and Al Qaqaa were not only not searched, they were left unguarded, to the point where Iraqis (probably not al Qaeda, who didn't actually exist in Iraq at that time, but almost certainly people who were then or later become resistance fighters) were able to loot both sites. The U.S. secured the oil fields, but not the suspected WMD sites. Does that sound like a country which went to war really believing there were WMD that needed to be seized before they got into the wrong hands?

Some attribute this to mere incompetence, but I don't buy that. If the administration had really believed in what they were telling the world, they simply needed to tell the military to prioritize that, and let the military work out the details. As much as I deplore the role of the U.S. military in the world, I certainly acknowledge their competence to accomplish straightforward military tasks (which does include defeating the organized military forces of weaker countries; it most certainly does not include occupying a country in which the vast majority of people don't want their presence).

It wasn't incompetence. The military, all available evidence suggests, never got such an order. The Bush administration had no reason to give it, because they didn't really believe there were WMD in Iraq. I won't say they knew it for sure, since it would have been impossible for anyone to know with absolute certainty that there were no WMD in Iraq, but they certainly didn't think it very likely that any signficant quantities existed. That, in my opinion, is for sure.


Shake and bake

[First posted 11/15, 3:34 p.m.; updated]

George Monbiot in an article in the Guardian argues that, while the recent film shown on Italian television was ambiguous in proving that white phosphorus has been used against humans in Fallujah, other evidence directly from the U.S. armed forces proves it conclusively: "We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out." I'll make an even simpler argument. Doesn't the fact that the troops have a slang name for this kind of attack provide rather strongly suggestive evidence that it's a regular occurence in Iraq, not just in Fallujah but anywhere the U.S. is fighting the resistance?

Update: And now the other shoe drops. The U.S. army admits using white phosphorus against combatants and defends its use.


The kennel blind New York Times

In the dog breeding world, "kennel blind" is an expression meaning that you can see faults in everyone else's dogs, but you think the dogs in your kennel are perfect. You're blind to faults in your own dogs which are glaringly obvious to everyone else. And what better description of today's editorial in the New York Times, which is otherwise an excellent dissection of the lies George Bush has been telling in recent speeches, as well as the lies he told in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Here's the wonderfully kennel blind paragraph:

"The administration had little company in saying that Iraq was actively trying to build a nuclear weapon. The evidence for this claim was a dubious report about an attempt in 1999 to buy uranium from Niger, later shown to be false, and the infamous aluminum tubes story. That was dismissed at the time by analysts with real expertise."
Gee, I wonder where we could have heard about those "analysts with real expertise" who were dismissing the "infamous" aluminum tubes story? Certainly not with any prominence in the New York Times, that's for sure! Here's the seminal article from September 2002, written by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller:
"In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium...The diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq's nuclear program, officials said, and that the latest attempt to ship the material had taken place in recent months...Bush administration officials say the quest for thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes is one of several signs that Mr. Hussein is seeking to revamp and accelerate Iraq's nuclear weapons program...Officials say the aluminum tubes were intended as casing for rotors in centrifuges, which are one means of producing highly enriched uranium...Experts say the dimensions and precise specification of the aluminum tubes would provide a clear indication of its intended use. Iraq used European designs for centrifuges in its earlier efforts, and American experts know what type of tubes are needed to make such centrifuges. Senior administration officials insist that the dimensions, specifications and numbers of the tubes Iraq sought to buy show that they were intended for the nuclear program."
I've quoted extensively from the article to include essentially every use of the word "tubes" in the entire article. Notice any dissenting quotes from those "analysts with real expertise"? No, I didn't think so. There weren't any.

"The administration had little company in saying that Iraq was actively trying to build a nuclear weapon." Perhaps. Unfortunately that "little company" included the New York Times.

Update: I'm surprised that none of my readers has asked what I thought would be the obvious question: am I comparing Judy Miller to a dog? Answer: no. I like animals, and I try not to insult them by comparing them to people.


Inflation, Andy Warhol-style

15 minutes? That's like soooo seventies. We're up to 20 minues now.

If any of you South African readers happened to be listening to DriveTime with Shafiq Morton this afternoon from 1710 to 1730, yes, that was me, talking about my article "A tale of two generals" and American politics in general. Very cool being interviewed from another country, I must say. And writing about being interviewed "this afternoon" although it isn't even 8 a.m. yet here in California!

OK, I'm going to ice my head now to make sure it doesn't swell. :-) And, to any South Africans who found this website thanks to the show, welcome! I'm afraid I don't cover South African politics here very often, but hey, if you invade another country, I'll be all over it!

Monday, November 14, 2005


The killing of insurgents: whodunit?

I've written on multiple occasions on the sham nature of the so-called "exit strategy" in Iraq, which suggests that Iraqi troops will gradually replace American troops. Even if that were to happen, the chances that an Iraqi air force will replace the American air force is nil, and it is American air power that is responsible for most of the "successes" (i.e., the killing) in Iraq.

Today's news is not only a case in point, but an object lesson in how the American press tries to hide this fact from the American public. Here's one story from Reuters, which states the facts simply:

U.S. air strikes kill 37 insurgents in w. Iraq

"The U.S. military said on Monday air strikes had killed about 37 insurgents in the latest phase of an anti-al Qaeda operation near the Syrian border in western Iraq and 25 insurgents had been captured."
I'm not even going to get into the usual question of whether all 37 dead were actually "insurgents" and not civilians. Let's instead look at how AP handled the story:
U.S., Iraqi Troops Kill 37 Insurgents

"U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a dawn assault Monday on another town near the Syrian border and killed 37 insurgents, a U.S. statement said."
So, "U.S. and Iraqi troops" killed the insurgents, did they? I don't think so, because later even in the AP story we read: "Five targets were struck by coalition air strikes resulting in an estimated 37 insurgents killed." So there wasn't a single insurgent killed by Iraqi troops, or even by U.S. troops for that matter; they were all killed by the "coalition" air strikes. "Coalition" is yet another misleading statement (this one apparently a direct quote from the U.S. military); we know very well this was an American air strike. As far as I know there isn't a single country flying offensive air missions in Iraq other than the U.S.

Why stop here? There's more...

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