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Friday, March 31, 2006


 

American "justice"


I've written many times about the Cuban Five who have been in prison for just under eight years for "crimes" very similar to those of the "Miami Two" I wrote about below -- spying not on the U.S. government, but on right-wing Cuban exile groups with a history of terrorist acts. But the charges against one of them, Gerardo Hernandez, were more serious, because they involved alleged complicity in the shoot down of a Brothers to the Rescue [sic] airplane, allegedly over international waters. As a result of his conviction on this charge, Gerardo was sentenced to not one but two life sentences.

So what's wrong with that? Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament, reminds us of why the American "justice" system is a misnomer:

In May 2001...the prosecution lawyers at the Cubans' trial "actually stated that the available evidence was insufficient to convict Gerardo Hernandez, and thus, the jury would absolve him."

Judge Joan Lenard, however, refused to withdraw the charge.

"She said it was too late, that that was what they had said for seven months, and that was how it should be presented before the jury."

"Incredibly, the 12 jury members were capable of quickly deciding that Gerardo Hernandez was guilty of something for which there was no evidence, he noted.  

Alarcon emphasized that the U.S. Constitution says that a guilty finding must be beyond any reasonable doubt: "More than reasonable doubts, there is enormous doubt when the accuser himself is saying that something is false and asking for it to be revoked."
Let's summarize: Prosecution charges a defendant with a crime for which they later admit there is insufficient evidence to convict. Injustice #1. Prosecution asks to withdraw the charge, and Judge refuses to allow them, on the grounds presumably that the letter of some law is more important than the spirit of some law. Injustice #2. Judge evidently refuses to order a directed verdict of not guilty on the charge. Injustice #3. Jury convicts on the charge for which there was no evidence. Injustice #4. Gerardo Hernandez has been in jail for nearly eight years. Injustice #5. Gerardo's wife, Adriana Perez, has been denied a visa by the U.S. government six times, and hasn't seen her husband for years, an egregious violation of human rights. Injustice #6. I could go on, but I'll stop.

American "justice." What a joke. Except Gerardo and the other four, and their families, aren't laughing.


 

Two massacres: the tales of young girls


A young Iraqi girl tells about a massacre:
A young Iraqi girl has exclusively given ITV News a shocking first hand account of what witnesses claim amounts to mass murder by US troops in the war-torn country.

Ten-year-old Iman Walid tells of screaming soldiers entering her house in the Iraqi town of Haditha spraying bullets in every direction.

Fifteen people in all were killed, including her parents and grandparents. Her account has been corroborated by other eyewitnesses who say it was a revenge attack after a roadside bomb killed a marine.
And we already know that the U.S. military lied, as they so often do, when asked about the event:
Initially, the US marines issued a statement saying that a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians, while eight insurgents had been killed in a later gunbattle.

US military officials have since confirmed the 15 civilians were actually shot dead.
I'm no forensic expert (I don't even watch "C.S.I."), but I think it's pretty easy to distinguish someone who's been killed with a roadside bomb and someone who's been shot dead. So we know that wasn't just a hasty conclusion on the part of the U.S. marines, but a lie.

So, do you think Iman Walid might be asked to testify before U.S. Congress, like Nayirah, the 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl who told Congress that 312 premature babies had died after Iraqi soldiers threw them from their incubators, testimony which led directly to the first Gulf War? No, I shouldn't think so.

But forget about Congress. Here's the thing about the testimony of these two young girls. The Haditha massacre did receive fairly extensive coverage in the U.S. press -- for one day. And that coverage, although some of it, like the major TIME article, was pretty damning, all has a certain "he-said, she-said" nature to it. After all, the "military is investigating" (yes, that would be the same military that we know for sure lied about the incident initially). But when Nayirah gave her testimony to Congress, it was repeated over and over again, day after day. None of the coverage hinted at the slightest doubt about the testimony, even in the face of certain non-credible aspects (such as the improbably precise claim about 312 bodies). Much later, it was learned that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., a complete fraud, and the simplest investigation (asking real nurses in the maternity ward in question) revealed that the incident had never happened. But none of the American media chose to do such simple followup at the time. And even after those facts were known, HBO ran a docudrama in 2002 (!!) which presented the story as true.


Thursday, March 30, 2006


 

Science takes another step backwards


At first glance this story might seem like a blow to the power of prayer. But what it really is is a blow to science. The very idea that this is a subject worthy of study is completely unscientific:
Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.

And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.
Is there any other country where this is even considered a topic worthy of scientific study? I doubt it. As the article says:
Skeptics have contended that studying prayer is a waste of money and that it presupposes supernatural intervention, putting it by definition beyond the reach of science.
That would be me.

Just so we're clear, this is a study where people are praying for someone else at a distance, so called "intercessory prayer." No one doubts that the power of a patient's own mind, whether it be expressed as prayer or a "will to live" or whatever, can effect the reaction of a body to at least some physical situations, be they diseases or other problems.

Update: Both The New York Times, which originated the story, and my local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, judged this study of such utmost importance as to warrant front-page treatment. So to "science takes another step backwards" I guess I should add "news media take another step backwards." Not that they have much room left to go in that direction. The Mercury News, which I remind readers is the main paper of Silicon Valley, the supposed center of technological innovation in the country, still publishes a horoscope every day.


 

National Ruling class security


In today's news, it appears that the concept of "national security" doesn't actually encompass security for some of the nation:
The Bush administration said yesterday that the cost of rebuilding New Orleans's levees to federal standards has nearly tripled to $10 billion and that there may not be enough money to fully protect the entire region.
Gee, where on earth did all that money go? Has the slogan "Money for human needs, not for war" ever been more appropriate? Isn't $10 billion the amount of money that is unaccounted for in Iraq?


 

My kind of guy



Tim Shaffer for The New York Times

Michael Berg, Green Party candidate for Congress

From the Times article:

As he bicycles across the state giving speeches at schools and churches and holding fund-raising house parties, he says he has found a receptive audience, not just to his call for an immediate withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq but also to the rest of his platform: universal health care, a livable wage and increased spending on education.

"A lot of voters are frustrated by the lack of options beyond the two major parties," Mr. Berg said. "And a lot of these people have not been voting before."

Mr. Berg said that he was originally approached by a representative of the state's Democratic Party to oppose Mr. Castle but that he opted to go with the Greens because "the Democrats have the money to get the message out, but they have the wrong message."
Couldn't have said it better (or at least more succinctly) myself.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006


 

Government spying and the Miami Two


Back in January I wrote about a case which has received, for all intents and purposes, zero coverage: the arrest of Florida International University Professor Carlos Alvarez and his counselor wife, Elsa Alvarez, on charges of spying for Cuba. As I wrote at the time, you could get an idea of the "seriousness" of the government's case by the headline that the Miami Herald ran on the story: "Couple spied on president of FIU, FBI says." Yes, it was alleged that this couple informed the Cuban government that the President of FIU had received an invitation to the White House.

And now there's a new development -- it has been revealed that the government had planted a bug in their bedroom (!), and wiretapped their phones, for years (!). Were they plotting terrorist attacks? Stealing military secrets? Not even close. "The couple...are suspected of reporting on the exile community and its leaders to Cuban leader Fidel Castro's government." Read that again. Even if you didn't know that the "exile community" has been a source of terrorist acts against Cuba for more than 40 years, one thing you know for sure -- they aren't the U.S. government or the U.S. military. On what possible grounds does the U.S. get to bug and wiretap people for years because they are reporting on the activities of the Cuban exile community? And, to ask a not entirely irrelevant question, what would have happened if they had simply started a blog on which they published their observations, rather than allegedly communicating them directly to members of the Cuban government?

You all know I'm no lawyer. Here are the statutes relating to being an "agent of a foreign power." The statutes talk about "violating the criminal statutes of the United States," which there is no indication this couple is accused of doing, they talk about engaging in "clandestine intelligence gathering activities," which again there is no indication this couple was doing, they talk about engaging in sabotage or terrorism (again, not relevant), and on and on. I can't see the slightest indication that these statutes have the slightest bearing on this case. Yet here they are, having been spied on for years by the U.S. government, and now having been jailed for several months.

Free the Miami Two!


 

Cuba & Pakistan


I've written about the 2260 health care professionals that Cuba sent to help Pakistani earthquake victims, and about how they had treated 1,043,125 patients, but even that didn't prepare me for the latest statistic: 73% of the earthquake victims who received medical care, received it from Cuban doctors and paramedics.


 

Political humor of the day


Facing growing pressure from the Bush administration to step down, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq vigorously asserted his right to stay in office on Wednesday and warned the Americans against interfering in the country's political process. (Source)
Does that mean he's going to first "uninvite" the allegedly "invited" American troops out of the country, and then turn the reins back to Saddam Hussein, the President before the Americans started interfering in his country's political process?

And George Bush's appropriately chastized response?

"It's about time you get a unity government going. In other words, Americans understand newcomers to the political arena, but pretty soon it's time to shut her down and get governing."
Here, Bush demonstrates the size of his arrogance, as well as the size his nose would be if the Pinocchio story were true:


 

Blog statistics (just for fun)


Don't know why this caught my eye, but it did. Consider:

Blog traffic (from Sitemeter, excludes RSS feeds, etc.):
Left I on The News: 692 average visits per day
Atrios (Eschaton): 139,789 visits/day
Daily Kos: 507,170 visits/day

Looks pretty dismal for Left I, right? But consider:

Average visit length:
Left I on The News: 1:50
Atrios (Eschaton): 0:09
Daily Kos: 0:04

That makes me feel a lot better!


 

"Justice" Scalia's problem with the facts


"Justice" Antonin Scalia was recently quoted as saying the following:
"War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts. Give me a break. If he [a Guantanamo detainee] was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son, and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy."
Not that "Justice" Scalia's argument has any validity in any case, particularly when the invasion of Afghanistan wasn't a "war," it was the illegal invasion of a country and the attempted defense of that country by Afghans and others, but the fact it that the more we know about who actually is hidden behind the bars of Guantanamo, the fewer of them were captured on any battlefield at all. Like these guys (hat tip to WIIIAI):
MI5 knew that two British residents who were seized and secretly flown to Guantánamo Bay were carrying harmless items when it tipped off the CIA that they were in possession of bomb parts.

The two men were seized in Gambia after a tip-off from MI5. British security officials had earlier detained the men at Gatwick airport before releasing them.

In a statement at Guantanamo, Mr Rawi said he had been dressed in nappies and hooded and shackled for his transfer from Gambia by a CIA rendition team on December 8 2002...The plane arrived in Kabul, the Afghan capital, the next day via Cairo.

In Afghanistan, the pair were taken to what inmates came to know as the "Dark Prison", a CIA jail where prisoners were held in complete darkness and subjected to non-stop loud music.
From there, they were transferred to Guantanamo, where they remain thanks to the system presided over by "Justice" Scalia.

Shooting at Scalia's son? Pretty good shooting for two guys who were flying from London to Gambia. Can there be any doubt that, with a man like this as one of the nine most important people in the system in the country, what we have in the United States is an injustice system?


 

Cartoon of the day


While browsing Walter Lippmannn's site (the source of the article described in the post below), I found this cartoon on a different (and timely) subject:


Lalo Alcaraz


 

And while we're talking about treatment of gays...


I previously mentioned that at the March 18 antiwar demo, I spent the day tabling for the Committee to Free the Cuban Five. One of the conversations I got into that day was with a young woman, not at all hostile, but who wanted to know how I could defend Cuba considering their treatment of gays. I told her that her information was about 20 years out of date, but since "defending Cuba" per se was not the point of the table, I didn't have any information to give her. I wish I had had this article, which starts out as a review of the 2000 movie Before Night Falls, but turns into a history of the treatment of gays in Cuba. Without flinching from the negative episodes, it also informs the reader about milestones such as these:
1979: Homosexual acts were decriminalized.

1988: Law against "flaunting homosexuality" is rescinded. Fidel Castro explains the need to reject rigidity and change negative party and societal attitudes towards gays.

1992: Vilma Espin, a leader of the Revolution and president of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), condemns prejudicial views against lesbians and gays. Castro speaks in defense of women's equality and rebukes anti-gay sentiments: "I am absolutely opposed to any form of repression, contempt, scorn or discrimination with regard to homosexuals. [It is] a natural human tendency that must simply be respected."

1997: The last traces of anti-gay references in Cuba laws are removed.
For anyone interested in the subject, and especially for anyone harboring misconceptions about the current status of gays and lesbians in Cuba, the article is well worth reading.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006


 

More "progress" in Iraq - gays being slaughtered


Yesterday, as far as I can tell, the word "gay" appeared in the American corporate media in connection with Iraq for the first time, when we learned that one of the recently-released members of the Christian Peacemaker Team was gay, but had kept it quiet thinking that revealing it would put his life at even greater risk. In discussing this incident, the AP wrote:
In 2001, Amnesty International reported that Iraq's constitution was amended to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. Although the constitution reverted back to the original 1969 document when Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in 2003, the status of gay and lesbian rights remain unclear.
First of all, I have absolutely no idea why, under what international legal system, the Iraqi constitution would have "reverted back to the original 1969" version when the Iraqi government was overthrown. All we heard at the time, and for several years thereafter, was that Iraq had to write a constitution; the clear implication in the press was that it had none, when in fact it did. There was never a word about this "reverting" nonsense. And I don't know anything about this Amnesty International claim. Certainly the subject is not raised in the 1990 Constitution. Information on Wikipedia suggests that this whole thing has to do not with the Iraqi Constitution, but with the Iraqi criminal code, which had a variety of penalties for gays and a wide assortment of other sexual "offenses," and was assertedly supplemented in 2001 by a decree providing the death penalty for prostitution, homosexuality, incest and rape.

But back to the situation of gays. AP may think that the "status" (presumably they mean the legal status) of gays and lesbians remains unclear, but the situation of gays and lesbians is a lot clearer. That is, if you read sources other than the corporate media, which as far as I can tell have yet to breath a word about the fate of gays in Iraq, who are being systematically persecuted and killed in Iraq thanks to a death-to-gays fatwa issued by Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani last October. Pacific Views, where I learned about this, has a nice summary of the horrendous situation. Is this situation better or worse than it was before the invasion? It's hard to tell, but it certainly sounds like it has gotten much, much worse.

Update: I really should add that, in addition to the fact that this current turn of events is essentially a direct result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it is a reasonable interpretation of history to suggest that the 2001 change of law was an indirect result of U.S. action as well. Wikipedia says, "It is believed that sudden usage of the death penalty was tied to a desire by Saddam Hussein to win the support of Iraqi Islamic conservatives." And this desire was hardly the result of Saddam Hussein "finding religion." No, it was the direct result of more than a decade of economic and increasingly military warfare (think no-fly zones) against Iraq by the U.S. and the U.K., and Hussein's need to shore up internal support of his regime in the face of those external attacks.

Second update: The editor of Uruknet provides some important updates. First, this, from a gay Iraqi exile who was on Democracy Now a few days ago, answering the question of "is the situation better or worse than it was before the invasion":

Iraq, at the time of Saddam, was -- I mean, I'm talking about as a gay Iraqi -- it was not as bad as we can see now. In fact, it was a little bit -- we have a little bit acceptance. We have little bit of -- not too many intimidation. People are really accepting gays, especially in theater, in entertainment and media. We had several actors, singers, which was very popular before. There was no homophobic attitudes toward gay and lesbians. Most of them are welcomed in the community and the society.
And second, just to emphasize today's reality, the text of Sistani's fatwa, with emphasis added:
Q: What is the judgement on sodomy and lesbianism?

A: "Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible."


 

Rachel Corrie in song


The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll has never been one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, and Billy Bragg doesn't do much to me as a singer either, but despite those misgivings I pass along the information that he has now written and recorded a new song, The lonesome death of Rachel Corrie (1.9 MB mp3 download here).

I don't even like the name of the song. Rachel Corrie was not alone when she died, neither literally nor figuratively. And she is not alone now.

If you aren't already familiar with it, check out David Rovics' The Death of Rachel Corrie, a song addressed to the driver of the bulldozer which killed her.


 

Dead bodies on TV


On Sunday, Lara Logan was on TV pointing out that it isn't the "good news" from Iraq that's being underreported, it's the "bad news" like actual dead Iraqis and Americans. Today, Gabriel Rotello at Huffington Post expands on that theme (apologies for the length; I couldn't bring myself to excerpt this):
Watching TV news or reading the papers, you'd think this was a war without human faces.

There are no victims, only numbers. "39 Killed." "50 Dead."

But where are the bodies? That's right, the mangled, gouged, decapitated, amputated, burned bodies?

I'll tell you where: On File. Locked away in the photo and video archives of the major news organizations. The supposedly "negative" media are deliberately holding back from actually showing us the negative human costs of Bush's war, and that puts the lie to any blather about how negative they really are.

It wasn't always this way. In Vietnam, three famous photos spelled things out: The photo of the little girl running down the street drenched with napalm. The photo of the Viet Cong captive having his brains blown out on the street, execution-style. The photo of the bodies piled up at My Lai.

I bet most of you instantly conjured those images just now. For good reason. They're iconic. They won Pulitzer Prizes and major journalism awards because they told, in an instant, everything you needed to know about what was happening.

Three years into Iraq, can you conjure any comparable images? I'll bet the answer's no.

And don't let anybody tell you that it's because the public -- or the media -- are more sensitive today. The media certainly weren't skittish about pictures of the tsunami victims. Or the bloated corpses of Rwanda. Or abandoned bodies floating in the streets of New Orleans.

Editors and producers had no problem with those bodies. Their only problem is with bodies in Iraq.

Why? They don't want to be accused of being negative, of undermining the war effort. Pictures of somebody's dead husband, or baby, or grandma, or brother, tend to do that. You can dismiss a statistic. It's harder to dismiss a lifeless stare, a child's screams.


 

Rumsfeld the straight man


It's an old joke, but evidently Donald Rumsfeld doesn't know it. Here he gives us the straight line:
"If I were grading I would say we probably deserve a 'D' or a 'D-plus' as a country as to how well we're doing in the battle of ideas that's taking place in the world today."
Indeed. Spoken as a man who, together with his boss, enters the battle of wits completely unarmed.

Getting serious, Rumsfeld (and Bush et al's) real problem is that they refuse to acknowledge the "idea" that "extremists" are advancing. It isn't some non-existent "philosophy of terror," or "Islamofacism," or even a philosophy of extreme Islam. No, it's the "philosophy" which says that U.S. attempts to control Iraq (or Iran or Syria or Afghanistan), or U.S. military, political, and economic support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, is unacceptable and must be opposed. And Rumsfeld and Bush will never acknowledge that philosophy, because the solution is quite a simple one, and it rests in their hands. But it isn't one they're going to implement voluntarily.


Monday, March 27, 2006


 

Starving the Palestinians


When I read last month that Israeli Prime Ministerial adviser Dov Weisglass had said "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not make them die of hunger," I took it figuratively rather than literally (although even at figuratively, I still characterized his attitude as "repulsive" and "quasi-genocidal"). It turns out I was wrong about the figurative part, and I was wrong about the "quasi" as well:
A UN food agency has appealed to Israeli authorities to allow food consignments to reach tens of thousands of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip who depend on outside assistance to survive.

The extended closures of the Karni commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza have had a "devastating effect on food availability in the Palestinian enclave", the UN said in a statement released in New York on Monday. Stocks of wheat flour are already critically low and some fear there will soon be no basic commodities in Gaza, it said.


 

Cuban aid to Katrina victims, Part III


The U.S. wouldn't let Cuban doctors come help in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and they won't let the World Baseball Classic donate Cuba's share of the take to Katrina victims either. But it turns out that some aid from Cuba did arrive:
[Lourdes Madriz, Consul General of Venezuela in New Orleans] noted that one of the first doctors from the U.S. to graduate from medical school in Havana was from New Orleans, and did return to help.


 

Bush was set on war. Who knew?


[First posted 3/26, 10:07 p.m.; updated and bumped]

Following well behind other news sources, the New York Times is out with the shocking news that George Bush was intent on war in January, 2003. As if anyone with two eyes and two brain cells to rub together didn't recognize that fact well before that January.

What's interesting about this story isn't what the Times is "revealing." What's interesting to me is that more and more government insiders are trying in some way to jump ship (or perhaps to salve their guilty consciences) and get this information out to the public (e.g., slipping copies of memos to Times reporters), and more and more news outlets (like the Times) are willing to run with such stories. Think about this - the Times says they have now seen the memo of this secret meeting. How exactly did they authenticate this memo? Is there any proof it has any more authenticity than the memos which got Dan Rather in so much trouble? I doubt it. But the Times is willing to run with this memo now. Why? Because they know how strongly the world public opposes this war and occupation, and they have to in some way accomodate that fact. They are, after all, a news business, and need to retain some credibility in order to continue selling their product. Being in denial may work for George Bush, but it wouldn't work for the Times. Not to the same degree, anyway.

Update: Reader ralphbon finds something in the article that I missed, and it's no small matter. From the comments:

When I read the article this morning, I gagged on the following passage:
By late January 2003, United Nations inspectors had spent six weeks in Iraq hunting for weapons under the auspices of Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized "serious consequences" if Iraq voluntarily failed to disarm. Led by Hans Blix, the inspectors had reported little cooperation from Mr. Hussein, and no success finding any unconventional weapons.
The article is basically enabling Bush's lie, repeated most recently last week, that Iraq was not cooperating with the inspectors.

A quick Google search turned up the following, from Blix's January 2003 report to the UN:

Iraq has on the whole co-operated rather well so far with Unmovic in this field.

The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt. We have further had great help in building up the infrastructure of our office in Baghdad and the field office in Mosul. Arrangements and services for our plane and our helicopters have been good.
In the full report, Blix added qualifications regarding the cooperation, but none amounted to "little cooperation."


 

(Dis)honoring the dead


Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son Jesus was killed in Iraq in March 2003 and who has been an active participant in the antiwar movement ever since, has been leading a 241-mile march from Tijuana to San Francisco that ended today, to demonstrate Latino opposition the war against and occupation of Iraq. Here's what happened Friday:
Fernando Suarez del Solar was prohibited by security officers at the Federal Building in Fresno today from possessing a 10" x 14" photograph on foamboard of his son, Jesus, a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. The father had appointments inside the building at the offices of Senators Feinstein and Boxer during the Fresno leg of his 241-mile March for Peace. The officers claimed that no "placards" are allowed, and considered the photograph to be a placard. Suarez del Solar pointed out to the officials that no words were on the front or back of the photo, that it was nothing but a photograph of a soldier killed in the service of his country. He pointed out the irony of the photo being prohibited in the Federal Building. "What kind of country is this?" he asked.
Good question. Because even though we know part of the answer ("an imperialist one"), sometimes the actions of its "leaders" and agents beggar belief.


 

Lara Logan, where have you been all my life?


For whatever reasons I don't tend to watch CBS News as much (possibly because I could never stand Dan Rather), so I'm more or less unfamiliar with reporter Lara Logan. But after watching this interview where she takes on the absurd "the media isn't reporting the 'good news' from Iraq" claim, I'm a fan. Not only does she demolish that meme, she even manages to make the point that the "bad news" (also known as "the news") is being underreported -- no bodies of dead American soldiers or beheaded Iraqis shown on TV, only a tiny percentage of reports of American abuse of Iraqis ever reported, etc. Well worth watching.


 

The mosque massacre


Either 17 or 37 people were killed by "coalition" forces (Americans and their Iraqi "allies") in a Baghdad mosque Sunday, including the 80-year-old imam. The Iraqi national security minister says they were all unarmed and not a single shot was fired against the invading troops.

The U.S. military says that U.S. troops never entered the mosque, and that they were just there "supporting" Iraqi forces. That may (or may not) be true. But they use that word "support" to try to leave the impression that, whatever happened, they weren't responsible. Here's their idea of "support":

On Sunday night, American and Iraqi Army forces surrounded a mosque in northeast Baghdad used by Mr. Sadr's troops as a headquarters, Iraqi officials said. Helicopters buzzed overhead as a fleet of heavily armed Humvees sealed off the exits, witnesses said, and when soldiers tried to enter the mosque, shooting erupted, and a heavy-caliber gun battle raged for the next hour.
The plain fact of the matter is that, without American "support," this massacre would not have occured, whether or not an American soldier ever pulled a trigger. Indeed, on a smaller scale, the incident reminds us of nothing less than the massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatila, when Israeli forces surrounded the refugee camps while their Lebanese lackeys did the actual killing (at least predominately; as in this incident, there is evidence that those in "support" were doing their own share of the killing).


Sunday, March 26, 2006


 

U.S. policy towards Cuba hurts Katrina victims a second time


Readers of this blog are well acquainted with Cuba's offer of 1500+ medical personnel to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, an offer made before George Bush, Dick Cheney, or Condoleezza Rice had even returned from vacation.

And readers no doubt remember how the U.S. victimized the people of Cuba by denying them their share of the take from the World Baseball Classic (coverage here, here, and here), and how Cuba volunteered to donate its share of the money to victims of Katrina in order to play.

And now, along comes the U.S., with the U.S. Treasury and State Department and Major League Baseball reneging on the deal, and saying not only doesn't Cuba get any money directly (which is the only thing that would violate U.S. Treasury Department regulations), but also that their share of the money can't go to Katrina victims. Indeed, it's even worse:

U.S. officials say privately that the Bush administration would react angrily if MLB ends up making a donation from the tournament's proceeds to a Katrina charity.
Angrily!

The U.S. government and MLB are now claiming that there was no agreement on this. Here's what the Cubans say; you decide:

On February 15, in a letter addressed to the Cuban Baseball Federation’s president, Mr. Paul Archey, vice president of the Major Leagues, stated: "Responding to the additional points that you have raised with us with respect to the Federation’s concerns around your participation in World Baseball Classic, we have sought the counsel of the United States State Department. After consultations held with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the State Department has authorized us to make the following commitments in a collateral letter with a mandatory effect:

-- Within a period of 120 days after the tournament’s conclusion, the WBCI will send all the participating federations a balance of account of the disposition of any cash prizes and any non-assigned net income. Said account balance will include documents certifying that the WBCI has donated all of those funds to internationally-known charity organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Katrina Fund."

To whom do the non-assigned funds correspond if not to the Cuban Federation, prevented from having access to them because of the absurd and criminal blockade? What do the State Department and the Classic’s organizers have to say about this agreement approved with the Cuban Federation? Who is lying?
Connections between the war(s) abroad and the war(s) at home never cease. That's because at bottom, it's the same war.


 

What immigrant rights demonstrations?


On Saturday, the largest demonstration in the history of California occured in Los Angeles, the immigrant rights demonstration estimated by police (who anyone who has been to any demonstration knows make the smallest possible estiamtes) at a half-million and the march organizers as one million. And where did we read about it? Not on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News, whose major front page story was about "Apple at 30." An immigrant rights march of 5,000 in San Jose did make the front page of the local section with pictures and a decent sized article; reading that article carefully one could find exactly a half sentence in the fifth paragraph mentioning the demonstration in Los Angeles.

And was the Mercury News unique in this regard? I doubt it. On the online edition of the New York Times today, those million people don't make the "main story headlines" on the top of the page, but are confined to the smaller one-line headlines in the "National" section. And what is that headline, as reflected in the article? "Los Angeles Immigration Rally Draws Thousands." Thousands! A march they estimate as a half-million people in the article gets described as "thousands"! An event which wasn't even important enough for the Times to cover itself; the article is an AP article And, by the way, this was an immigrant rights rally, not an "immigration" rally. The marchers were not advocating "immigration," they were advocting rights for immigrants.

The Washington Post? Even worse. Even though this march, and other massive marches around the country, were aimed at opposing specific legislation currently before Congress, the story does not appear on the Post online front page anywhere, even in the fine print. If you click on "National," when you get to that sub-page, down in the fine print under "More News" you find the story, once again an AP story. Nothing the Post deemed worthy to cover.

A truly disgraceful performance. Democracy? These people wouldn't know "democracy" if they tripped over it. Or if it stared them in the face, as it did on Saturday in Los Angeles and elsewhere.


 

The U.S. double standard


The U.S. and E.U. are imposing sanctions against Belarus because they are "cracking down on a protest" over the recent election:
Belarussian authorities were processing hundreds of demonstrators in a Soviet-era prison here in the capital, and holding what the opposition described as closed trials without legal representation or defense witnesses.

The opposition also said that since their members were arrested in a police sweep early Friday morning, many detainees had been beaten, denied the use of toilets, forced to stand for hours in subfreezing temperatures, and packed nearly by the score into small prison cells.

"It is a horrible violation of human rights and the law," said Aleksandr Milinkevich, the principal challenger to Mr. Lukashenko in last Sunday's presidential election. "They do not consider us to be people."
Now, where have I read that before? Oh, I remember:
One late August evening, Alexander Pincus pedaled his bicycle to the Second Avenue Deli to buy matzo ball soup, a pastrami-on-rye and potato latkes for his sweetheart, who was sick with a cold.

He would not return for 28 hours.

Police carted Pincus to a holding cell topped with razor wire and held him for 25 hours without access to a lawyer. The floor was a soup of oil and soot, he said, and the cell had so few portable toilets that some people relieved themselves in the corner. Pincus said a shoulder was dislocated as police pulled back his arms to handcuff him. "Cops kept saying to us, 'This is what you get for protesting,' " said Pincus, whose account of his arrest is supported in part by deli workers and a time-stamped food receipt.

Pincus was one of 1,821 people arrested in police sweeps before and during the Republican convention, the largest number of arrests associated with any American major-party convention.

Most of those arrested were held for more than two days without being arraigned, which a state Supreme Court judge ruled was a violation of legal guidelines.
As for the "closed trials without legal representation or defense witnesses," well hey, if it's true (which I don't know), at least they got trials. Which is more than thousands of people currently encarcerated by the United States in gulags around the world.


Friday, March 24, 2006


 

Mumia Abu-Jamal speaks


Just the other day in the comments to a post about the latest antiwar demonstrations, I wrote this:
It's amazing how he keeps coming up when people attack demos. I actually haven't been to a demo in several years where his name was mentioned from the stage (although there was a "Free Mumia" booth right across from mine on Saturday). And the last time his name was mentioned, it was because he was delivering (via tape recorder) a rousing speech against the war, having nothing to do with his case whatsoever. He happens to be one of the best writers and speakers on the left today.
Well, it looks like I just haven't been to the right demonstrations. Because it turns out that Mumia did "speak" on March 18 in New York City, where he closed:
They brought this country and the Middle East to the brink of disaster for their own financial, corporate and imperial ends. The promises of freedom and democracy in Iraq were as empty and as meaningless as the promises to rebuild New Orleans or to bring help to those thousands who suffered in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

That wasn’t incompetence, and neither was Katrina. They both were acts of capitalism’s innate cruelty, where Iraqis can be bombed, invaded and occupied based on lies and where African Americans can be left alone to face the full fury of nature, and then left alone again to starve, to suffer, to drown, for days.

Yes, stop the war in Iraq but how about stopping the war against poor Black folks here at home, ‘cause both arrive from the same source: this system. Let’s build a movement against both wars.


 

U.S. escalates "Plan Colombia"


The U.S. has been helping Colombia wage war against FARC for many years with its "Plan Colombia." But now a dangerous escalation is occuring. Amusingly, just yesterday in the comments someone was criticizing those who get their "news" from Jon Stewart's Daily Show. Well, perhaps, but this particular story didn't make it into the paper I read (the San Jose Mercury News) or any of the TV news shows I watch; if it hadn't been featured on the Daily Show last night, I wouldn't have known about it. The U.S. has indicted 50 leaders of FARC for drug trafficking involving smuggling $25 billion (!) worth of cocaine into the United States and other countries. As a minor matter, I haven't seen the indictments or the evidence, but I find it hard to believe they actually had enough evidence against, say, #43 to properly indict him. But minor issues like legality don't stop the United States.

Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson "stressed that the U.S. will not take unilateral military action." Yes, just like U.S. troops are in Iraq at the "invitation" of the Iraqi "government." This indictment is a very dangerous escalation of U.S. involvement in this war. And, perhaps coincidentally or perhaps not, we also find this item in today's "celebrity gossip" (!) section of the paper:

Diplomat-in-training Bruce Willis has defused a potential war with Colombia. The "Armageddon" star recently argued that since Colombia's cocaine trafficking is as evil as terrorism, we should invade the country. A surprisingly irked Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez called Willis "arrogant" and "ignorant."
"Surprisingly irked"?


Thursday, March 23, 2006


 

Naji Sabri and the Washington Post


The allegation that Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri supplied information to the CIA about Iraqi WMD programs (or the lack thereof) broke two days ago. It was a strange story from the start, as I explained then; strange because the implication was that Sabri was telling the truth to the CIA while lying to the U.N., when actually we know very well he was telling the truth to the U.N.

The next day, Sabri denied this story, asserting that it was a total fabrication, and describing what he saw, quite plausibly, as the motive for the emergence of this story: "it seems that this new lie is aimed at giving a new fake pretext to justify the crime of the century: the invasion of Iraq." Sabri could now be lying, of course, but whether he is or isn't, I think he hits the nail on the head as to why this story is emerging at this time.

Which brings is to today's story in the Washington Post, emerging after Sabri has already issued his denial (which has received exactly zero press coverage in American media, as far as I can tell). The Post headline, completely unqualified and unambiguous, asserts "Ex-Iraqi Official Unveiled as Spy - Former Envoy Worked With French, CIA." Not "reported" as spy or "alleged" as spy but "unveiled" as spy. The story does attribute the story to unnamed "former intelligence officials," but there isn't the slightest hint in the article, not one word, which indicates either that Sabri has already denied the allegation, or that there could possibly be the slightest question about the veracity of the allegations even if he hadn't.

There's an uproar in the blogosphere because the Post has hired a racist right-wing nut job as its latest online columnist. Why worry about that, considering what's passing for news in the rest of the paper?


 

Permanent bases in Iraq


Earlier this week a lengthy AP story appeared (it took up a full page, including pictures, in the San Jose Mercury News) on the subject of American permanent military bases in Iraq. What was astonishing about this article was not that it appeared, but that, as far as I can tell by searching, this was the first major article ever to appear in the corporate media on the subject of permanent bases.

And it's not like this is some off-the-wall subject that either has no relevance, or that is just coming up now. Last August, I wrote critically of a "peace proposal" being advanced by Tom Hayden and various self-described progressive Democratic groups. The very first point of that proposal was: "First, as a confidence-building measure, the U.S. government must declare that it has no interest in permanent military bases or the control of Iraqi oil or other resources." Just last week, an amendment authored by Rep. Barbara Lee and a handful of others actually passed the house, purporting to forbid the United States to establish permanent bases in Iraq. The amendment was a fairly mild one as legislation goes (the language making it "the policy of the United States not to enter into any base agreement with the Government of Iraq that would lead to a permanent United States military presence in Iraq" has loopholes wide enough to fly an F-16 through), but it was proposed, and it passed. And the sound it made was like that proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around. David Swanson reviews the press coverage, which was, for all intents and purposes, non-existent.

Will the AP article open the floodgates of discussion on the subject? I wouldn't count on it.


 

Quote of the Day



Photo by Bill Hackwell

The picture was taken at Saturday's antiwar demonstration in San Francisco, and, just in case you don't see the graphic, the quote reads:

"We need to do more than just what is right. We need to join together and right what is wrong."

- Leonard Peltier


 

Footnotes from a large empire


Reader Jean, in her blog Footnotes from a small village, excerpts the latest from William Blum. I'll just provide the first few topics as a teaser and leave the rest to her:None of these things will be new to readers of this blog, of course, but it's a real nice summary, with each point explained concisely and clearly.


 

Jon Stewart and Russ Feingold


Jon Stewart had Sen. Russ Feingold on the Daily Show last night plugging his call for censure of George Bush. Quite an interview. Stewart managed to avoid the word "impeachment" entirely, and also to avoid asking Feingold why he thought Bush should be censured by illegally wiretapping Americans, but not for illegally sending Americans to war and causing the death of 2300+ of them and 100,000+ Iraqis (plus assorted others, not to mention the wounded).

And please don't give me the old "the Daily Show is 'fake news,' Jon Stewart is a comedian" line in the comments. While there were a few jolly moments, this was as serious an interview as any that occur anywhere in the media. And, with the exception of shows like Democracy Now!, about as penetrating.


 

The no-fly big lie


George Bush spoke again (sigh!) yesterday, repeating his recent (and frequent) lie about Iraq (known by its first name, "Saddam") having refused to "disclose" and "disarm" (although he temporarily dropped the one about "denying" the inspectors). But he added another one, one of the traditional American big lies: "He also was firing on our aircraft. They were enforcing a no-fly zone, United Nations no-fly zone, the world had spoken, and he had taken shots at British and U.S. pilots."

Now I know, and you probably know, that the "no-fly zones" were imposed by the United States (and its junior flunkies across the "pond"), not by the United Nations. U.N. Resolution 688, passed in 1991, condemns Iraqi repression of the Kurds (and unnamed others) and demands that it end. But not only is there no language in the resolution authorizing any military action against Iraq whatsoever, including no-fly zones, this statement appears as one of the "whereas" clauses:

"Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq and of all States in the region,"
It certainly sounds to me like the no-fly zones were not only not authorized by Resolution 688, but they were in violation of it.

And, lest we forget, these unauthorized activities were not benign. While British and U.S. aircraft were allegedly shot at (no proof has ever been offered as far as I know; certainly none were ever hit), an estimated 300 Iraqis at a minimum, 200 of them "innocent civilians" (and the others equally innocent members of the Iraqi military) were killed by U.S. and U.K. bombs and missiles during that period. One of them was Omran Harbi Jawair:

Omran Harbi Jawair, 13, was squatting on his haunches at the time, watching the family sheep as they nosed the hard, flat ground in search of grass. He wore a white robe but was bareheaded in spite of an unforgiving sun. Omran, who liked to kick a soccer ball around this dusty village, had just finished fifth grade at the little school a 15-minute walk from his mud-brick home. A shepherd boy's summer vacation lay ahead.

That is when the missile landed.

Without warning, according to several youths standing nearby, the device came crashing down in an open field 200 yards from the dozen houses of Toq al-Ghazalat. A deafening explosion cracked across the silent land. Shrapnel flew in every direction. Four shepherds were wounded. And Omran, the others recalled, lay dead in the dirt, most of his head torn off, the white of his robe stained red.
The date? June 16, 2000. President at the time? Bill Clinton.

And, just as with the lies the other day, a check of the media reveals no evidence that any of them mentioned the latest Bush lie. Not one.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006


 

Jaw dropping news of the day


Beef packing company Creekstone Farms wants to test for mad cow disease in every one of its cows. The Agriculture Department, who incomprehensibly has control over whether they do, has denied them permission to do so.


 

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!


OK, no tigers and bears. But last night a mountain lion was killed on a major highway (Rt. 280) about halfway between where I live and San Francisco. And yesterday New York City was in a tizzy because a coyote was loose in Central Park. Which to me was rather strange, given that I see coyotes fairly regularly, even up close like this one on the top of Black Mountain (and no, this was not taken with a long lens), and they hardly seem like anything to be worried about:


All this is a prelude to my real reason for posting - out on a run late this afternoon, I saw my second bobcat in a week! And I'm not talking about something glimpsed in the underbrush, but an animal just 25 yards ahead of me on the trail as I rounded a corner in both cases. The two sightings were in different parks, but both just a few miles from where I live in the heart of Silicon Valley. Very exciting. Sorry, no pictures, but I definitely could have had one or many if I had had my camera with me; the one today just stood there for a while, and then slowly trotted along the trail as I ran in his direction at my pedestrian pace (that's a literal "pedestrian," not a figurative one; I was running uphill at the time). Eventually when I got a little closer he (or she?) ducked off the side of the trail into the underbrush and disappeared.

This isn't the first time I've seen a bobcat, but they're hardly common -- I probably see one every two or three years. Two in a week is exceptional. Mountain lions are much less common -- I only remember seeing one, and at a much greater distance (thankfully!).

Don't stare at a computer screen all day. It's bad for your health. :-)

Update: Doing a little research online, I learn that male bobcats (which, judging by size, is probably what I saw) have a territory of 25-30 square miles. The two locations I saw a bobcat were about six miles apart, so it's actually possible it was the same bobcat. Your science tidbit for the day.


 

PTSD


One of the consequences of war is post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. In its most extreme manifestations, it leads to suicide, spousal murder or abuse; in lesser cases, it can "merely" dramatically change a person's life for years, as with Doonesbury's fictional (but all too real) B.D. It's most often associated with soldiers, of course. In the last week, Washington Post reporter Jackie Spinner has been in the news. She's written a book about her experiences as a reporter in Iraq, and talks about how she too is experiencing PTSD.

But it wasn't until I heard Dr. Hans von Sponeck, the former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and former head of the Iraq “Oil for Food” program (who happens to be speaking tonight in Palo Alto and tomorrow night in Berkeley) speaking on Flashpoints! last night, that I had heard anyone say what should be obvious -- if American soldiers who spend six months (or whatever) in Iraq have PTSD, just imagine what Iraqis are experiencing. Iraqis, who have been subjected to two all-out wars against them by the United States and its partners, a long war against Iran, 13 years of brutal sanctions, and now three years of "occupation" and its associated horrors.

Riverbend, as most readers know, gives us an insight into that reality on a regular basis.

The entire interview with von Sponeck, which is online, is lengthy and extremely interesting. Well worth listening to.


 

Liberal blogs and the demonstrations, part II


I wrote the other day about the (lack of) reaction of various liberal blogs to this weekend's antiwar demonstrations. So imagine my surprise, in the midst of a well-written post entitled "Shame" by Daily KOS co-blogger "georgia10," when I found this among a long list of things georgia10 was ashamed of:
I am ashamed of my fellow Americans. Ashamed that they haven't flooded the streets.
Really? Just to be sure, I checked not just Daily KOS itself, but georgia10's "diary page" back as far as Friday, March 10. Not a word about the then-impending demonstrations, not to urge readers to attend them nor even to mention them.

And now georgia10 is "ashamed" that Americans haven't "flooded the streets." Check the mirror, georgia10.


 

Don't you wonder...


...what the relatives of the 168 people killed in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 think about this statement:
"We realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life."
Oh, I forgot, On April 19, 1995, George W. Bush was only Governor of Texas, a state which, if my knowledge of geography serves me, borders Oklahoma.


 

Helen Thomas vs. the media, part II


I realize that a lot of ground was covered in Bush's press conference yesterday. But his repeating of the absurd twin claims that Iraq hadn't "disclosed" and hadn't disarmed (not to mention the claim of having "denied" the inspectors) as his central justification for going to war even though "no President wants war" surely warranted comment. You'd think. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle didn't agree; not one of them mentioned it.

Jim VandeHei writing in the Washington Post even added his own rewriting of history to Bush's:

Moments later, [Bush] said the reason U.S. forces went to Iraq was to "make sure we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy." Since the invasion, Bush has emphasized different rationales for the Iraq invasion, such as the need to topple a dangerous dictator and to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, which have yet to be found.
Not only does VandeHei not point out that the "not providing safe haven" reason was primarily a "post-facto" reason, and only a secondary issue advanced by Bush before the war, he makes the astonishing claim that the need to eliminate WMD was a rationale that Bush has emphasized "since the invasion." Perhaps he needs to reread Bush's address to the nation on March 19, 2003, which began: "American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." Or his statement of March 17, 2003, which began "For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war," and continued "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." Or his statement of March 16: "The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations."

"Disarming" Iraq (in quotes since it was impossible to disarm an already disarmed country) was the reason the U.S. "officially" went to war. U.N. Resolution 1441, on which the U.S. based its completely invalid "legal" claim for the invasion, talks about only one thing - disarming Iraq of WMD. It doesn't talk about safe havens, or "toppling dangerous dictators," or anything of the sort. Only disarmament.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006


 

Helen Thomas vs. George Bush...and the rest of the media


One of the biggest of George Bush's big lies resurfaced today. On July 14, 2003, George Bush first (?) said this:
"We demanded that Saddam Hussein let the inspectors in. He did not let them in."
A stunner right? Not to the press. As I wrote back then:
The following day it was followed by a deafening silence in the media. As far as I could tell at the time, only the Washington Post carried the story, and they covered Bush's rear with the almost equally preposterous claim that Bush's statement "appeared to contradict the events leading up to war."
Which brings us today's press conference, and Helen Thomas asking George Bush why he really went to war, since we know all the public rationales fell apart. The whole answer isn't worth repeating, but this is:
"I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences -- [interruption from Thomas] -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him.
Of course the world knows that Iraq did disclose that it had no weapons (as the post right below this one reminds us), and that it did disarm, and that Iraq was not "denying" the inspectors. So the very next questioner followed up on Thomas' question, and demanded to know how Bush could make such a preposterous statement, right?

Sorry, no. The word "inspectors" never came up again. The next questioner asked a question almost as bizarre as Bush's answer to the previous one: "If [Iraqi forces] can't [handle a civil war "if" it breaks out], sir, are you willing to sacrifice American lives to keep Iraqis from killing one another?" As if American lives aren't already being sacrificed, and Iraqis aren't already killing one another. Good job, press corps. Not.


 

The Iraqi Foreign Minister spy story


MSNBC is reporting the story of the Iraqi Foreign Minister who allegedly gave information to the CIA about Iraq's WMD programs (or lack thereof) prior to the U.S. invasion. There are some curious aspects to the way this story is being reported. First, the facts that are on public record:
In September 2002, at a meeting of the U.N.’s General Assembly, Sabri came to New York to represent Saddam...He announced that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that the U.S. planned war in Iraq because it wanted the country’s oil.
OK, so far so good. He got that 100% correct (although there were many reasons for the war, but oil was certainly one of them). But then, we're told, he met with the CIA through a "cutout" (and was paid $100,000 for his troubles) and, says MSNBC, "The sources say Sabri’s answers were much more accurate than his proclamations to the United Nations." Really? Considering that what he said at the U.N. was true, it would be hard to be "more accurate," wouldn't it? What were those answers?

Sabri indicated [to the CIA] Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program. OK, that makes that one "just as" accurate as his proclamations to the U.N.

Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than [a year]. The "accuracy" of the claim that Saddam "desperately wanted" a bomb is entirely open to question; we'll have to ask him. As far as the time it would take to make a bomb if they obtained enriched uranium, again, all we do know is that there was nothing actually happening - no centrifuges, no efforts to actually obtain enriched uranium. Which pretty much adds up to nothing.

On the issue of chemical weapons, the CIA said Saddam had stockpiled as much as "500 metric tons of chemical warfare agents" and had "renewed" production of deadly agents. Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons [Ed. note: how many?] and had "poison gas" left over from the first Gulf War [Ed. note: which Scott Ritter has explained would have been utterly useless in 2003]. Both Sabri and the agency were wrong. So...that doesn't sound "more accurate" than what he said at the U.N. either.

"More accurate"? Huh?

Here's what is true about this story. George Tenet knew about this interview with this secret source, which took place in Sept., 2002. In February, 2003, five months later, George Tenet sat behind Colin Powell while Colin Powell lied to the United Nations and to the world, and George Tenet knew he was lying.

Here's what else is true. "After the war, Sabri [the Iraqi Foreign Minister] was not arrested or put on the notorious 'deck of cards.' He lives in the Middle East." Meanwhile, Gen. Amer al-Saadi, who also told the truth to the world but didn't take money from the CIA to tell them a different story in private, remains in jail, just a little less than three years after voluntarily surrendering to U.S. forces under the assumption that he had done nothing wrong and would soon be released.


 

Visiting Venezuela


The New York Times writes today about foreign supporters of the Venezuelan "process" (or "revolution", your choice of words) visiting Venezuela.

My favorite bit from the article, which happens to echo something I wrote regarding the criticism of a play about Rachel Corrie as being a "monologue":

Referring to American visitors, an American diplomat in Caracas, who could not speak on the record because of embassy rules, echoed the concerns, saying, "Come down here and get your consciousness raised, absolutely." He added, "My only request of them is that they try to get the other side of the story."

Emily Kurland, a 26-year-old social worker originally from Chicago, said that was exactly what she and the others here were getting.

"They're frustrated with Bush, frustrated with not being listened to, frustrated with Iraq," said Ms. Kurland, speaking in the Caracas house she shares with several foreigners. "They don't trust Fox News. They don't trust the mainstream news. They want to see with their own eyes what's happening here."
Of course, the author (Juan Forrero) has to try to slant things his way. "Some of the people who have visited Venezuela or have moved here acknowledge having some doubts," he tells his readers. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have found any, or at least quoted them. What seems to be his example, Chesa Boudin (son of Weathermen Kathy Boudin and Dave Gilbert), sounds like anything but. He is "one of the authors of a book favorable to Venezuela's government" and says many people see "the possibility of a better world in Venezuela." His "doubts" seem to consist of wondering if it is indeed possible "to create an alternative model." So he's a supporter of what is happening, but he's not sure things will keep progressing in the right (left) direction. Forrero doesn't ask him, but my guess is that Boudin's doubts aren't about Hugo Chavez, or the Venezuelan government, but about the possibility that the U.S. will turn up the screws economically or militarily as they did in Nicaragua to try to turn the situation around.


 

The cost of war: a local example


Just last week, Rep. Mike Honda from San Jose, who most would describe as "antiwar" and a "liberal," voted for $68 billion more to fund the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan (as did Zoe Lofgren, the other local representative, who is also seen as an antiwar liberal). Yesterday, he was in town, speaking to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and calling for the voters of Santa Clara County to vote for a proposed 1/2 cent sales tax increase, intended to fund mass transportation (BART) and other similar social needs.

This provides us with an excellent opportunity, on a local level which could no doubt be reproduced in every county of the United States, to do some math. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors estimates that tax increase will bring in between $154 and $170 million/year. But the Santa Clara County share of the $68 billion that Honda just voted to pay to continue the war and occupation is $667 million (estimated via Cost of War), four times as much. Wouldn't it be nice if Mike Honda and the rest of the Congress would willingly vote money for BART and other human needs, and put the funding for the war on the ballot so the people could vote on that instead?

The truth is, there is more than enough money to pay for transportation, health care, education, and other social needs. The people of Santa Clara County have already spent more than $2.4 billion on this illegal war, more than $4000 per household. There's no need to change the tax rate. Just the priorities.


Monday, March 20, 2006


 

Civil liberties, then and now


A lot of youngsters seem to think that the assault of civil liberties began with the Bush administration. Nothing could be further from the truth (although I do think there has certainly been a quantitative increase in that assault). And the death of civil rights activist Anne Braden last week serves as a good reminder of that:
In May 1954, Ms. Braden and her husband, Carl, both white Kentuckians active in progressive politics, bought a house in a segregated Louisville suburb on behalf of a black associate, Andrew Wade IV, and his family. In June, the house was dynamited. (No one was injured in the explosion, and the bomber was never caught.)

In October, in a case that attracted nationwide attention, the Bradens and five other whites were indicted on charges of sedition in connection with the blast [Ed. note: shades of Judi Bari]. The state said the Bradens, who were believed to be associated with the Communist Party, had intended to incite unrest with their purchase of the house.

Carl Braden was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but he served just over seven months before the verdict was overturned in 1956. Anne Braden's case never went to trial.
...
The Bradens were repeatedly accused of being Communists, and, in 1958, Carl Braden was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Atlanta. Refusing to testify, he was sentenced to a year in prison.
...
In 1967, the Bradens were again indicted on charges of sedition, for helping to organize a protest against strip mining in eastern Kentucky.
Isn't it interesting how those who are willing to fight for progressive causes are so often either Communists (or communists), or accused of being so?


 

Iraqi deaths vs. American deaths


One of the subjects I've written about on more than one occasion is the idea that all Iraqi deaths, be they "innocent" civilians, soldiers killed in the initial invasion, resistance fighters killed resisting the occupation, or the forces of the current government killed fighting the resistance, are attributable to the American (and associated war criminals) invasion and occupation of Iraq, and that figure totals well over 100,000 Iraqis, regardless of whether you believe the methodology involved in the Johns Hopkins University/Lancet study, which arrived at a total of 100,000 civilians only nearly a year and a half ago. Despite that, though, it is routine, both in the media and even in progressive circles, to refer to the inaccurate figure of 30,000, because that was the figure given by George Bush back in December.

But for now let's just talk about civilians. Here's something to realize about the number 30,000. At the time Bush said that, the number listed by Iraq Body Count wasn't 30,000, it was (approximately, it's hard to know what figure appeared on their site on that exact date) a minimum of 32,200, and a maximum of 36,300. Let's be generous to Bush (don't ask me why) and use the 32,200 figure. Well, that's almost 30,000 right? Sure, except it isn't. The difference is 2,200, which just happens to be almost exactly the number of American soldiers who had been killed at the time that George Bush said "30,000", and isn't that far off from the number of people killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The death of 2,200 American soldiers? "We have to keep killing more people so they won't have died in vain." The death of 2,986 Americans and others on Sept. 11? An excuse for going to war and killing more than 100,000 Iraqis and Afghans and others. The death of 2,200 (or 6,300) Iraqi civilians? Just a rounding error.

And it's a rounding error that keeps getting bigger. Because when Bob Herbert cited the 30,000 figure in the New York Times last week (just to mention one recent use of the figure), he wasn't off by 2,200. He was off by 3,710 (minimum) or 7,832 (maximum), the current conservative figures cited by Iraq Body Count. Well over the number of people killed on 9/11.


 

Death in Jericho


I discussed the Israeli murder of two innocent people during their raid on the Jericho jail when it happened, and provided some links (in the comments) to some background on the case. Stephens Zunes today lays out in a lot more detail the entire history of the situation.


 

The weekend's best antiwar speech


I didn't hear them all; since I was tabling, I barely heard most of the ones in San Francisco. But I'm willing to bet that this speech given by Norman Solomon was one of the best. A few excerpts:
On Saturday, during her national radio response to the president, Senator Dianne Feinstein accused the Bush administration of "incompetence" in the Iraq war.

Senator Feinstein went on to say that it's so important, for the war in Iraq, for the United States government to "do it right."

How does one do this war right, when every day it brings more carnage? The only way to do this war right is to not do it at all.

Last Friday, reporting on a new assault by the U.S. military in Iraq, a headline on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle said: "Biggest air attack since the invasion seen as delivering a message."

Delivering a message.

When people across the United States gather to oppose this war, they are refusing to participate in sending the message of death.

The problem isn't that this war may not be winnable. The problem is the war was and is and always will be wrong, and must be stopped.

At every demonstration for peace and social justice, why are we here? Because those are values we want to live for.


 

Portland against the war


A picture is worth a thousand words:


 

Progress and reality


The Washington Post reports: "President Bush and Vice President Cheney hailed the progress being made by Iraqi leaders to form a unity government yesterday." Why sure. Iraqi elections were held on December 15, more than three months ago, and so far I believe the Iraqi parliament has actually met for 30 minutes. Hard to get much more "progress" than that.

As a reminder, here was Bush on Dec. 14, the day before the elections:

"We may not know for certain who's won the elections until the early part of January -- and that's important for our citizens to understand. It's going to take a while. It's also going to take a while for them to form a government."
Well, we can't say he didn't warn us.

To the Post's credit, while leading their article with this absurd view of "reality," their headline reads like this (note the quotation marks):

Bush Still Upbeat on Outcome In Iraq
On Third Anniversary Of Invasion, President Foresees 'Victory'
And speaking of strange views of reality, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski are both taking Donald Rumsfeld to task for his claim that "turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." And Gen. Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, has called for Rumsfeld to resign. And what does Democratic "defense expert" Sen. Joe Biden have to say about this?
"Imagine what would happen if it were announced tomorrow in the headlines of the papers of America and throughout the world that Rumsfeld was fired. It would energize, energize the rest of the world, to be willing to help us. It would energize American forces, it would energize the political environment."
I'm sure. If I really believed there was any chance what Biden says is true, I'd be worried, because that's all the Iraqis need is more "energized" American forces and more "help" from the rest of the world. What they need is something that Biden won't even contemplate -- to never see another American solider again.


Sunday, March 19, 2006


 

Death in Haditha


Time Magazine has broken a story about the November murder of 15 Iraqis in Haditha by American marines:
American officials announced last week that they had ordered a further investigation into a deadly incident four months ago in the town of Haditha in far western Iraq.

At least 15 civilians were killed in the incident on Nov. 19. The military's original statement on Nov. 20 said that the civilians and a U.S. Marine were killed by a roadside bomb. Time magazine reported Sunday that U.S. officials are now investigating whether Marines killed the 15 civilians, including seven women and three children, after the insurgent bombing that killed their fellow Marine.

The newsweekly said it had given military officials accounts from a doctor and survivors that said the 15 unarmed townspeople were killed as they hid in their houses, or tried to run to safety, as Marines searched the area after the bombing.
Is this a surprise? Not to anyone who reads Left I on the News. Here was a post from back in August:
Support the troops? Count me out.

Talking to a truckload of troops, sitting in pre-dawn darkness Friday morning, Sgt. Marcio Vargas Estrada made the point to the men of his squad from 3-2's Lima Company.

"If somebody shoots at you, you waste" him, said Estrada, 32, of Kearny, N.J. "When you go back to Camp Lejeune, these will be the good old days, when you brought . . . death and destruction to -- what . . . is this place called?"

A Marine answered in the darkness: "Haqlaniyah."

Estrada continued: "Haqlaniyah, yeah, that. And then we will take death and destruction to Hadithah. Hopefully, we'll stay until December so we can bring death and destruction to half of . . . Iraq."

The flatbed truck erupted in a storm of "Hoo-ahs." (Source)
These are the troops that we are constantly being told we must "support". Count me out.


 

Liberal blogs cover the demonstrations


Or not.

I don't intend for this blog to be solely the home of radicals/progressives/socialists. I hope (and think) that I have something to say which should interest anyone. But there are times when I just have to vent at liberals, and this is one of those times.

It's common in the aftermath of demonstrations to criticize the corporate media for their lack of coverage of demonstrations, underestimating the size of the demonstrations, giving equal time to counter-demonstrations of three people, and so on. But those failings are understandable, given the fact that corporate media serve corporate masters (or are corporate masters, if you prefer). But bloggers shouldn't have that kind of built-in bias. You wouldn't think, anyway.

According to ANSWER, who keeps track of these things, there were demonstrations in 500 different cities all across the United States yesterday, from large cities to small, "red states" to "blue," totalling hundreds of thousands of people. There actually was decent, if not spectacular, media coverage. So how did the liberal blogs do? For the most part, they completely ignored those hundreds of thousands of people. Not only didn't they do anything to promote or even mention the demonstrations before they happened, which you might have expected if they really were against the war as many profess to be, they didn't mention them after the fact either. Yes, some people have a problem with ANSWER (and if they do, they ought to get over it. Any "problem" they have with ANSWER should pale in comparison to the problem they should have with imperialism and its murderous wars of aggression). But only a tiny fraction of the 500 demonstrations (albeit the three largest, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago) were organized by ANSWER, so there was plenty to write about even ignoring ANSWER if they wanted to do so.

Daily KOS had not a word to say about them in a regular post, although they did manage to tell readers to "check out some photos of protests against the war in Iraq being held around the world today." as an aside to an Open Thread (not that the demonstrations actually were the focus of the open thread, unlike "March Madness," which was given a thread all its own).

Atrios? Not a word.

Firedoglake? In a long post about Lieberman, a brief mention at the very end about a demonstration to be held today outside his office. Otherwise, not a word.

Suburban Guerrilla? Not a word.

First Draft? Not a word.

Huffington Post? This morning, their lead headline was "London, Sydney, New York, Toronto, Washington, Stockholm, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Seoul, Boston..." leading to an AP story, but by later in the day that's just become a tiny headline, one among dozens. No blog posts about the subject at all, although Sunday is a day of rest for Huffington Post bloggers, so we'll see what tomorrow brings.

I spent yesterday staffing a table at the demo for the Committee to Free the Cuban Five, and had a very interesting conversation with one man which illustrated the point I've made before on the subject of "liberals vs. radicals." This man claimed to love Fidel Castro, and admire everything that Cuba has done (education, health care, sending doctors to Pakistan earthquake victims, and so on). But he claimed he just couldn't stand the "system" (socialism) that Cuba has. It's hard to have too serious a conversation in the hubbub of a crowd, but I just couldn't get him to understand that what Cuba has accomplished flows out of the system. He was convinced it's all because Fidel is just a good man who cares about his people. He certainly is and does. But a Fidel Castro equivalent elected President of the United States in 2008, aside from being completely unthinkable, just would not be remotely the same.

Is this connected to why liberal blogs don't think hundreds of thousands of people in the streets are even worth mentioning, nevertheless encouraging? I think so, which is why I mentioned it.

Update: Just to clarify: am I castigating people for thinking that demonstrations are not the most important thing in the world, or even for thinking they are completely counterproductive? No. There are many aspects to the antiwar movement, and there are certainly various arguable positions on what needs to be done, or what the priorities are. So if someone thinks these demonstrations were a waste of time and accomplished nothing, they should use this opportunity to say so. Say something. Completely ignoring the actions of hundreds of thousands of people makes them even worse than the corporate media. Which is saying something.

Second update: It's now Monday. Huffington Post has exactly one blog mentioning the demonstrations, written by someone who was in a hotel in San Francisco close to the demo site but couldn't even be bothered to rouse himself to go see it (nevertheless participate in it), refers to it as a "parade" rather than a march suggesting he's never been to one in his life, and has to rely on "accounts" to even know what happened. He wastes a lot of words concluding that the war will only be stopped when the antiwar movement goes to conservative, evangelical churches and offers to debate the war. He seems to miss the point that the overwhelming majority of Americans are already opposed to the war, and that the most important task is not to convert the remaining few who support the war, but to mobilize those who don't (and to convince the latter group that withdrawal "sometime in the future" will always remain "sometime in the future," and that only calling for withdrawal now will actually get the troops out). Anyway, it's a silly essay which has almost nothing to say about the demonstrations themselves other than to dismiss them, and it's the only one at Huffington Post.

Incidentally, for those (like this man) who think that demonstrations don't accomplish anything, here's a thought for you. What would have been the reaction of the administration and the media if there had been no demonstrations this weekend? In my opinion, that would have been a crushing blow to the antiwar movement and to the likelihood of ending the war.


 

Stop the War Now


Back in January I wrote about Edwin Starr's followup song to his more famous song, "War" ("War - what is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!"), entitled "Stop the War Now." I finally got around to cleaning it up (using CD Spin Doctor software) from the scratchy original I digitized off an old 45, and as my special contribution to this weekend's antiwar activities, I am making the audio available for a listen here (if I understand this technology correctly, you cannot download this file, which is my intention; contrary to many "netizens," I am not a believer in nor practitioner of copyright violation).

The lyrics were already posted in that earlier post, so I'll just repeat my favorite refrain:

Enough blood’s been shed
By the wounded and the dead
And, to quote the song's opening, which has never been more timely:
Stop the war. Now.
Don't put it off another day.
Incidentally, if any of you were at the San Francisco march and rally, and happened to hear the great selection of antiwar tunes that played before the opening rally, and then at greater length while the march was going on, you have me to thank. :-)

Just a short note on press coverage. Blogs like this one tend to focus on the print media, and to a lesser extent on national news channels, because those are things that can be linked to. But equally important to helping make an impression on the public are local news channels. Here in the Bay Area, two different channels I watched carried almost their first ten minutes of coverage (at the dinnertime broadcast) on antiwar rallies, including those in San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Vallejo and Oakland (there was also a large rally in Palo Alto which I don't believe had TV coverage). They also featured a roundup of coverage from around the world, places like London and Turkey. The viewer definitely got the impression (which is, of course, the truth, not just an impression) that the entire world is opposed to this war.

Just two days before the demonstration, San Francisco's own Nancy Pelosi, who knows very well that 80+% of her constituents are opposed to the war, voted in favor of $68 billion more for the war (as did five other Bay Area reprentatives, including liberal Mike Honda from San Jose). A smaller number, to their credit, voted no.


Why stop here? There's more...

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