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Monday, March 31, 2008


 

Iranian energy independence


The U.S. and its allies/lackeys insist with a straight face that Iran should be willing to rely on other countries for nuclear fuel. Just how much such assurances would be worth to Iran is well illustrated by an article in today's news:
The U.S. has demanded to see a Swiss contract for natural gas supplies from Iran to see whether it violates an American sanctions law against Tehran, the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland said Sunday.

The 25-year contract, worth between $28 billion and $42 billion, is between Swiss energy trading company EGL and the state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company.
So, according to the U.S., even the right of Iran to sell natural gas to a third country is subject to the control of U.S. law!


Saturday, March 29, 2008


 

Iraq: Looking backwards


One of the things which distinguishes Jon Stewart's Daily Show from "real" news is that the former (so-called "fake" news) does a much better job (indeed, it would be hard to do a worse one) at "looking backwards" - comparing past statements of politicians with current ones. And one of the most widely used statements in the past, one that very much deserves to be revisited, is the alleged U.S. "strategy" for Iraq - "As Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down." Last year, I wrote that, as far as I can determine, the last time that phrase was used by President Bush was on Sept. 15, 2006 - a year and a half ago now. Well, without delving into the specific use of the phrase, AP does that thing which they and other corporate media so rarely do - look back on precisely that subject. Here's the opening paragraph:
Iraq's new army is "developing steadily," with "strong Iraqi leaders out front," the chief U.S. trainer assured the American people. That was three-plus years ago, the U.S. Army general was David H. Petraeus, and some of those Iraqi officials at the time were busy embezzling more than $1 billion allotted for the new army's weapons, according to investigators.
More from the article:
Year by year, the goal of deploying a capable, freestanding Iraqi army has seemed always to slip further into the future. In the latest shift, with Petraeus now U.S. commander in Iraq, the Pentagon's new quarterly status report quietly drops any prediction of when homegrown units will take over security responsibility nationwide, after last year's reports had forecast a transition in 2008.

Earlier, in January last year, President Bush said Iraqi forces would take charge in all 18 Iraqi provinces by November 2007. Four months past that deadline, they control only half the 18.
...
By late 2005, the U.S. command had to acknowledge that only one of 86 Iraqi army battalions was ready to fight on its own.

The Iraqis still were not given artillery, big mortars or other heavy weapons. Iraq's political unpredictability and dangerous sectarian-political divides clearly made the Americans wary that heavy weapons might be turned against them, concludes Arab military analyst Nizar Adul Kader.
...
The U.S. command's goals for a homegrown takeover of most Iraqi security slipped — from spring 2006, to late summer, and then beyond. In November 2006, the Pentagon forecast that all 18 provinces would come under Iraqi security control "in 2007."
It's not all just a review of unmet projections from the past, though. On the subject I write about frequently, airpower, the article has this to say, something I've never seen written about before:
The Iraqis and Americans are working to make Iraqi logistics self-sufficient by mid-2009. But as for "fire support," training command spokesman Lt. Col. Dan Williams said, "heavier artillery is still a ways down the road."

Regarding Iraq's tiny air force, a handful of helicopters, old transports and light planes, "in my opinion, we were late to start on this," Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert R. Allardice told the AP last June, as he took over aviation training in Baghdad.

Today, as he leaves the command, Allardice confirms there are still no plans for modern jet fighters for the Iraqis, only small, propeller-driven attack planes.
The bottom line?
Iraqi defense officials don't expect to take over internal security until as late as 2012, and won't be able to defend Iraq's borders until 2018.


 

Somalia: Another U.S. "success" story


A little over a year ago, I criticized a New York Times article by Jeffrey Gettleman in which he described the Somali government, newly-installed on the back of a U.S.-backed Ethiopian Army, as "Somalia’s first politically viable central government since 1991"; a triple lie since not only wasn't it in any sense "politically viable," nor for that matter a "central government," but it replaced a government (the Islamic Courts) which were generally recognized as "politically viable" (just not militarily viable in the face of the Ethiopian Army).

Well, Gettleman and the Times are back today, not, in the manner of the Times, actually acknowledging any problems with previous reporting, but now informing their readers that "They [the residents of Mogadishu] say, almost without exception, that things were better under the Islamists" and that "the looming failure is making many people here and abroad question the strategy of installing the transitional government by force" [!!!].

Incidentally, while there was a minor brouhaha over a picture of Barack Obama dressed in Somali garb, I can't find any evidence that Obama (or Clinton for that matter) has ever had anything to say about U.S. intervention (not only backing the Ethiopian invasion, but also subsequent bombing of "terrorists") in Somalia. Obama has made a very public point of discussing his desire to bomb areas of Pakistan in the pursuit of "terrorists," so I can only assume he is solidly behind the "war on terror" in Somalia as well, a war which, as in Iraq, has displaced a substantial percentage of the population of the country, and left the rest in a sorry state.

Interestingly enough, Obama did visit the U.S. military base in nearby Djibouti which provided support for the invasion just months before the all-out invasion (but at a time when Ethiopian troops were already entering Somalia), and issued a strong endorsement of the U.S. military's efforts there:

U.S. Senator Barack Obama on Friday said his country's mission to help make the Horn of Africa more secure for its people was critical as he visited troops with a U.S. counterterrorism task force in the volatile region.


Friday, March 28, 2008


 

Occupation


When you're into the sixth year of an occupation, and you're still launching airstrikes on three different cities of the country you're occupying...it's a pretty good sign you're not welcome...and never were.

It's also a pretty good indication of something I've been writing about for several years - the resistance in Iraq will never be suppressed without the use of airpower, and the U.S. will never equip the Iraqi forces with sufficient airpower (or pretty much any airpower) to do the job themselves.

As an aside, this is also an indication of what might happen someday in the United States, should any kind of revolution ever occur. The ruling class won't hesitate for a second to use airstrikes, even on its own cities, in order to protect its power.


Thursday, March 27, 2008


 

The Obama-Hamas kerfuffle


Well, poor Barack Obama appears to be guilty once again - guilty of association with someone who thinks that members of Hamas actually have a right to speak for themselves, and to (imagine this!) be heard by the American public:
Obama is reacting to a WND report of the church's decision to reprint a manifesto by a Hamas spokesman that defended terrorism as legitimate resistance, refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist and compared the terror group's official charter – which calls for the murder of Jews – to America's Declaration of Independence.

The Hamas piece was published on the "Pastor's Page" of the Trinity United Church of Christ newsletter reserved for Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
Lucky thing for Obama he doesn't subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, where the article was originally published. If he did, he'd no doubt also now be denouncing the editors of that paper for daring to publish the article in the first place.

Take a look at the article yourself, so you'll see the offending language for yourself. Shocking stuff like this:

Our struggle has always been focused on the occupier and our legal resistance to it — a right of occupied people that is explicitly supported by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
And that bit about comparing the Hamas charter to the Declaration of Independence? Here's what the comparison is:
As for the 1988 charter, if every state or movement were to be judged solely by its foundational, revolutionary documents or the ideas of its progenitors, there would be a good deal to answer for on all sides. The American Declaration of Independence, with its self-evident truth of equality, simply did not countenance (at least, not in the minds of most of its illustrious signatories) any such status for the 700,000 African slaves at that time; nor did the Constitution avoid codifying slavery as an institution, counting "other persons" as three-fifths of a man.
Of course, the discussion of "founding statements" in the article also encompasses Israel:
The writings of Israel's "founders" — from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion — make repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine's non-Jewish inhabitants: "We must expel the Arabs and take their places." A number of political parties today control blocs in the Israeli Knesset, while advocating for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel and the rest of Palestine, envisioning a single Jewish state from the Jordan to the sea. Yet I hear no clamor in the international community for Israel to repudiate these words as a necessary precondition for any discourse whatsoever.
Here was Obama's reaction to the "offending" article:
Late Thursday, following WND's story, Obama e-mailed a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency criticizing Hamas and noting that he was not in church the day the bulletin was distributed.

"I have already condemned my former pastor's views on Israel in the strongest possible terms, and I certainly wasn't in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin," Obama said.

"Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community's conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor," he said.
I've said most of what I want to say, but just one small note on Obama's reaction: "Hamas is...dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months." Wow. That's some threat - shooting small rockets at a city which has 0.3% of the population of Israel, with 13 Israelis killed since 2000. I don't want to make light of the lives of those 13 people, but at that rate, Israel's destruction is far more likely to occur from rising sea levels caused by global warming than it is by Hamas, which, at the current rate, will succeed in destroying Israel in about 5 million years. Palestine's destruction, on the other hand, is a lot more imminent, if Israel and American politicians like Obama have anything to say in the matter (and, unfortunately, they do).


 

Israel claims Middle East exclusivity on mass destruction


Shimon Peres is criticizing Iran for building long-range missiles:
"Why are they building long-range missiles, which are extremely expensive? In those missiles you put in only wars (warheads) that have the capacity of mass destruction, otherwise it doesn't make sense," Israeli president Shimon Peres asked UN envoy to the Mideast Robert Serry in a Thursday meeting.

"They build the missiles of all ranges: short range, medium range, 1,500 kilometers range - what for?," he continued.
Gee, I don't know, maybe as a deterrent to the 200 nuclear weapons in Israel's possession, and to the constant threats of attack from both Israel and the "West"? Just a hunch.


 

Dept. of "fool me once, etc."


Today's headlines proclaim: "McCain, in Foreign Policy Talk, Turns His Back on Unilateralism." We're told McCain thinks that the U.S. has to show "decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

Well, I guess it's hard to argue with that. Except I seem to remember something I heard from a different candidate, back in 2000:

"If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we've got to be humble."
That was George Bush, talking about the need for a "humble" foreign policy. Of course Bush was talking nonsense then, just as McCain is talking nonsense now - neither believed a word of what they were saying. But, no matter, the press will keep reporting it as if it has meaning.

And indeed, in the latest case, there's even a strong clue as to just how meaningless McCain's words are:

"We must be strong politically, economically and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary."
"Defending the rules of international civilized society"? So sayeth the man who was (along with most others in the "leadership" of this country, mind you) foursquare behind the unilateral invasion of another country, in violation of the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions, which might, by most people, be considered the cornerstone of the "rules of international civilized society." Not to mention the man who opposes a ban on torture, and says "we have to 'work with our allies to forge a new international understanding' on how to treat detainees" as if there aren't already existing "rules of international civilized society" governing that subject.

Feh.


 

Dept. of "it's all about us"


Last night on the TV news, and again in print today (and not, in either case, for the first time, but for some reason the first time it really struck me), we heard about "anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr." What bollocks! There is nothing al-Sadr has ever said or done to suggest he is "anti-American." What he is, of course, is anti-occupation (and indeed, if we're being technical, the occupation is actually being carried out by the "MultiNational Force", which I guess would make al-Sadr an "anti-MNF cleric").

But no, it's all about us. If someone opposes something the U.S. is doing, they must be "anti-American," the intentionally prejudicial pejorative which is very much the counterpart of the "anti-Semitic" label hurled at anyone who opposes the actions of the state of Israel.

Bollocks.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


 

Nation writer piles on the Iranian nuclear lie


The other day it was George W. Bush himself, doubling down on the big lie about Iran, by not only asserting (falsely) that they had declared an intention to build nuclear weapons, but further that they planned to use them to "destroy countries."

Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman allowed Nation reporter Robert Dreyfuss to pass off, unchallenged, the following statements, which, while not going as far as the Bush statements, are still lies, and, considering their "liberal" source, in some ways even more dangerous:

"...the biggest problem that we face: namely, how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program."

"And that [not involving the Russians in negotiations with Iran] would almost guarantee that McCain would face the choice of having to either attack Iran or to accept Iran having a nuclear bomb at some point in the period in his eight-year term as president."
Incidentally, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (but not, as far as I could find on his website, John McCain) talk about the importance of "energy independence." Funny how neither is willing to acknowledge that it is as appropriate and understandable for Iran to seek that goal as it is for the United States.

Over at places like Daily Kos, there's an acronym IOKIYAR, which stands for, "It's OK if you're a Republican." It refers to the impression, or fact if you prefer, that Democrats managed to get criticized for things which Republicans do routinely. Perhaps, along the lines of what I just wrote recently regarding recent statements by French President Sarkozy, we really need another acronym - IOKIYAI - "It's OK if you're an imperialist."


Monday, March 24, 2008


 

4000 dead in Iraq


...this month. Or maybe the last two months. No one actually knows. Which concerns me, but not nearly as much as the fact that so few even care. Whether it's George Bush, David Petraeus, or White House spokesperson Dana Perino making statements or even being questioned by generally good reporters like Helen Thomas, all the talk today is about how much the war has cost "us," by which they mean the lives of members of the American military, when the bulk of the "cost" has been "paid" by those who never volunteered for the assignment (unlike those 4000 American soldiers, whether they were semi-coerced by the economic draft or not), people who never even had the second-hand "guilt" of having voted for a President or a Congressperson who was responsible for launching the war.

Dana Perino says that "President Bush thinks that every single loss is tragic." Every single loss of what? Every single loss of an American life is what she meant, as is completely clear from the context of the remark (not that I believe even that, of course). When is the last time a reporter asked Perino, or Bush, how many Iraqis have died, or even raised the subject on one of the newstalk shows? When is someone going to ask the "Madeleine Albright" question: "A million Iraqis have died because of this invasion. Was it worth it?" Or did Dick Cheney already give us their one-word answer?


 

Quote of the day


"Bush is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land."

- Mohammad Shafiq, the director of Ramadhan Foundation, a Manchester-based foundation which is the UK's leading Muslim youth organization
...in response to Bush's latest inanity:
"One day, people will look back at this moment in history and say, 'Thank God there were courageous people willing to serve because they laid the foundation for peace for generations to come.' I vow so long as I am president to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain."
First of all, how much chutzpah do you have to have to talk about the "courageous people willing to serve" when neither you, your vice-president, most members of your administration, and certainly none of your daughters have been among those "courageous people"? Secondly, how little history do you have to know to think there is any prospect of a world in peace "for generations to come"? Has there ever been a period in which that was true? Finally, and most seriously, is the "not in vain" nonsense. Not only did those people die in vain, for no reason other than what will ultimately prove an unsuccessful attempt to extend American power, but so have a million or so Iraqis for whom George Bush hasn't given a moment's thought (not to mention the 175 Brits and 133 other coalition members whose deaths don't seem to be remembered by anyone except presumably their immediate families). Would George Bush dare look their families in the eye and tell them that they didn't die "in vain," because they were helping to ensure America's national "security" and to prevent us from "having to fight them over here"? I'm sure they'd be thrilled to hear it.


Friday, March 21, 2008


 

Sarkozy explains imperialism


French President Nicolas Sarkozy says Europe's security is at stake when countries like Iran are developing the range of their missiles.

During the inauguration ceremony of a new generation nuclear submarine named 'The Terrible', the French president explained that today's nuclear missiles, even if they are far away, are capable of reaching Europe in less than half an hour.

"Today, only the major powers have such means," he expounded while voicing his concern about the 'rapid development of ballistic capacities' in Asian and Middle Eastern countries. (Source)
The "major powers" having the means to threaten (and annihilate) countries like Iran? That's the way it is. Other countries having the means to threaten the "major powers"? Totally unacceptable:
The French politician warned that, "all those who threaten our vital interests expose themselves to a harsh response," and cautioned that the "military, political and economic centers" of rogue states would be targeted.


Thursday, March 20, 2008


 

The Iranian nuclear lie gets bigger


We've heard the U.S. accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons, and heard them accusing Iran of "threatening" Israel. Now (with a hearty hat tip to WIIIAI), we have not one but two new interviews in which George Bush doubles down on those false claims:

First up: "They've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East." [And the rest...where?]

Two hours later: "...the government's decisions on foreign policy matters -- such as announcing they want to destroy countries with a nuclear weapon."

These being U.S.-government sponsored "news agencies" (VOA Persian News Network and Radio Farda, respectively), the interviewers didn't see fit to ask for actual, you know, evidence of these preposterous claims. Not that I think most of the reporters at a regular Presidential press conference (Helen Thomas excepted) would have done any better.


 

Obama lays out his opposition to the invasion


Today:
The truth is, this [the cost of the war] is all part of the reason I opposed this war from the start. It’s why I said back in 2002 that it could lead to an occupation not just of undetermined length or undetermined consequences, but of undetermined costs. It’s why I’ve said this war should have never been authorized and never been waged.
Yes, let's hear it for low-cost, fixed-length wars. Maybe some "pinpoint" bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities.

By the way, Obama isn't even consistent. He claims to be opposed to wars of undetermined length, undetermined consequences, and undetermined costs, but he wants to continue and escalate the war in Afghanistan, which has been going on longer, albeit at lower cost, than the one in Iraq.


 

Who will denounce this hate-mongering preacher?


The chairman of the Yesha rabbinical council and chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Dov Lior, on Wednesday issued a halakhic ruling stating that it is forbidden by Jewish law to employ Arabs or rent homes to them.
...
Recently, several rabbis led by Rabbi Lior have issued a precedent setting halakhic ruling that Israel must shoot civilian populations in areas from whence attacks on Jewish communities originate. (Source)
And in other news from our "stalwart ally":
Israel Defense Forces troops killed a Palestinian civilian near the border fence with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, medical officials said.

The officials said the 60-year-old farmer was shot dead riding on his donkey near the frontier fence east of Khan Younis.


 

Angry preacher denounces America


Jeremiah Wright? No, the revered Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government."
Interestingly enough, I went to three different online "MLK Quote collections" before the fourth contained the quote above; clearly a lot of people would like to forget one of King's most important speeches, "Beyond Vietnam."

Someone needs to ask Obama if he "denounces" those words.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


 

Who's the criminal here?


Today's headline, which will undoubtedly get at least some attention, says "Canadian says U.S. interrogators threatened rape," and the "Canadian" in question was a teenage prisoner at Guantanamo. Shocking? I guess it depends on how easily you're shocked. Certainly not surprising, given everything else we know about what has happened at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, and elsewhere at the hands of Americans.

But what catches my eye is the underlying "crime" for which this young man was imprisoned and apparently now, years later, even charged:

Omar Khadr, 21, ...is charged in the Guantanamo war court with murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan when Khadr was 15.
OK, let's back up for a minute. Omar Khadr was in Afghanistan legally. U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Speer, who Khadr allegedly killed, was in Afghanistan illegally, part of an illegal invasion of that country. But instead of Speer's cohorts, and their masters, being charged with a war crime, it's Khadr, who was doing nothing more than defending a country (whether his native country or not) against an illegal foreign invasion, and killing someone who would have killed him first had events run a different course.


 

Obama on the 5th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq


Sen. Barack Obama delivered another major speech today, this one on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq (incidentally his website headlines the speech as the "5th Anniversary of Iraq War [emphasis added]," deemphasizing the fact that it was an unprovoked invasion).

My "favorite" part:

"Nearly four thousand Americans have given their lives. Thousands more have been wounded. Even under the best case scenarios, this war will cost American taxpayers well over a trillion dollars. And where are we for all of this sacrifice? We are less safe and less able to shape events abroad."
Notice anything missing? Like the Iraqi people and the price they've paid? No, it's all about us for Obama, just as for all American politicians. Not one word about the Iraqis in his talk, other than the condescending "Iraqis must take responsibility for their country."

His speech also provides a solid clue that, once he's in office, those promises to withdraw troops are not exactly engraved in stone:

"Let me be clear: ending this war is not going to be easy. There will be dangers involved. We will have to make tactical adjustments, listening to our commanders on the ground, to ensure that our interests in a stable Iraq are met, and to make sure that our troops are secure."
One guess what those "tactical adjustments" will be and what those commanders on the ground will be saying.

Of course no Obama speech would be complete without a pledge to step up the terrorism in Afghanistan (not exactly his words!):

"It is not too late to prevail in Afghanistan. But we cannot prevail until we reduce our commitment in Iraq, which will allow us to do what I called for last August – providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our efforts in Afghanistan."
Six more Afghans were killed by American bombs today, by the way, including a woman and two young children.

And of course there were threats to Iran for having the audacity to exercise its right to develop nuclear power, and for its non-existent "threats" to Israel:

"It is time to present a country like Iran with a clear choice. If it abandons its nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, then Iran can rejoin the community of nations – with all the benefits that entails. If not, Iran will face deeper isolation and steeper sanctions."


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


 

George Bush explains capitalism


A few days ago, George Bush had this to say:
"In a free market, there's going to be good times and bad times. That's how markets work. There will be ups and downs."
Not to pick on Bush alone, I've heard various financial and other commentators on TV say the same thing. None of them, certainly including Bush, took this statement as anything other than some kind of law of nature. That's just the way it is. Needless to say, it is indeed a law, but only under the completely irrational system of capitalism, as first described by Karl Marx.

And the quintessential example of the crisis of overproduction which is the feature of capitalism which leads to those "good times and bad times" is illustrated by something Bush said today:

"No question there's been a over-supply of housing."
An oversupply of housing? With three-quarters of a million people homeless in America? Of course, what there really is is an oversupply of housing that people can afford to buy or rent. Because under capitalism, goods (including housing) aren't produced for use, they're produced for profit.

I'm a scientist by training, and it's the complete irrationality of capitalism which is what repels me. There must be a better way, a system in which goods are produced to meet people's needs. There is. It's called socialism.


 

The headline you won't see


...unless you read Granma:
Workers to Pay Tab of US Financial Crisis
Lest you think this is simply some propaganda article from the Cuban press, it's not, it's a pure news story:
Labor leaders warned representatives of governments, employers and World Bank President Robert Zoellick that the weight of the current financial turmoil will fall on the backs of workers.
You'll search the corporate press in vain even for a mention of the ILO report discussed in the article, much less a headline like the one above.


 

Obama speaks (and is silent)


Transcript.
"But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial...Instead, they expressed...a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."
Really? The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq stems from "the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam"? The response of the Palestinian people to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its brutal, arguably genocidal repression of the Palestinian people, stems from "the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam" and not from the "actions of stalwart allies like Israel"? Please.
"And just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze: a corporate culture rife with inside dealing and questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many."
Sorry, no. A "corporate culture" which lacked all inside dealing or questionable business practices wouldn't solve our problems. And it isn't just economic policies that favor the few over the many, it's the capitalist economy which does so, intrinsically. A mistake which is reflected in these words:
"This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care, who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

"This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.

"This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit."
He was doing fine until that last half sentence. "Nothing more than a profit"? That is what corporations do under capitalism. Corporations exist to make a profit. Obama is smart enough to understand that. He just doesn't want to go there.


 

Today's good news story


A British judge has lifted a $12 billion freeze on Venezuelan assets awarded to U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil in a spat over a seized oil field.
And that's not all:
Lawyers for PDVSA said Exxon had not applied for leave to appeal against the ruling and that the judge awarded legal costs against Exxon and ordered the Texas-based company to pay compensation for any damages caused by the imposition of the freezing order.

Exxon was ordered to make an interim payment of 380,000 pounds ($765,300) to cover legal costs within 21 days, although the final bill is expected to be much higher.
Suck on that, Exxon.


Monday, March 17, 2008


 

A headline you thought you'd never see


Rachel Corrie play opens in Haifa


Although playing in Israel, this version of "My Name is Rachel Corrie" is in Arabic and played before an almost entirely Arab-Israeli audience. And, although it may be somewhat surprising that Israel allowed the play to be performed (as compared to, say, New York or Florida), the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people showed its head in another way:

The Nasrallah family in Rafah, Gaza, whose home Corrie had been trying to protect when she was killed, wanted to attend the performance in Haifa but were refused permits to enter Israel.


 

Israeli expansionism - virtual and real


Evidence of Israeli expansionism...from Facebook:
Complaints by Israeli settlers angry at Facebook for listing them as residents of "Palestine" prompted the popular social networking Web site to allow users to switch their location back to Israel.

"Facebook users in the Israeli West Bank settlements of Maale Adumim, Beitar Illit, and Ariel can now choose between Israel and Palestine," [according to Brandee Barker, Facebook's director of communications]
And, lest you think this expansionism is limited to settlements contiguous with Jerusalem, think again:
"We also offer Hebron in both Israel and Palestine," Barker said, referring to the major West Bank city which is home to about 150,000 Palestinians and some 400 Israelis.
Just "virtual" expansionism, not linked to reality? Hardly. Here's another article from the same issue of Ha'aretz:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel would keep expanding a neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

"Everyone knows that there is no chance that the State of Israel will give up a neighborhood like ... Har Homa. It is an inseparable part of Jerusalem," Olmert said during the press conference.
Just out of curiosity, I decided to see if either Clinton or Obama has anything to say about Israel's territorial ambitions, such as the one expressed by Olmert. Obama has plenty to say about Palestinian terrorism, supports "foreign military assistance" to Israel, and says "the United States would never distance itself from Israel." I'll take the latter as an endorsement of whatever Olmert or future Israeli Prime Ministers have to say, and a complete abandonment of even the fiction of being an "honest broker." Clinton brags that she is "one of Israel’s leading defenders and supporters in the United States Senate," and while she has room on her website to discuss relatively obscure subjects like how she is a "leading voice against Anti-Semitism in Palestinian schools," the subject of Israeli expansionism doesn't rate a mention. I'll take that as a yes. John McCain? Curiously enough, Israel doesn't even appear on his website, outside of using the "search" function which turns up some old speeches.


 

Audio Post of the Day: Hang in There


From her 1973 album of the same name, Holly Near encourages the Vietnamese people to "Hang in There" after 27 years of fighting, and not to give up their just struggle to free the land of occupation, occupation which inevitably leads to atrocities like My Lai, Abu Ghraib, and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dead people.








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Sunday, March 16, 2008


 

The "Dream Ticket"


There's been a lot of talk in the media about the possibility of the so-called "Dream Ticket" of a Black man and a white women - Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (or Clinton/Obama). Whether or not that unlikely event comes to pass, the simple fact remains -- far from being a "dream ticket," an Obama/Clinton ticket would be a nightmare for billions of people around the world.

A nightmare for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, for whom the prospects of a continuing occupation and suffering will remain, whether that occupation is enforced by "residual" U.S. troops, NATO troops, or Blackwater mercenaries. A nightmare for the people of Palestine, for whom the prospects of continuing American military, economic, and political support to the Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people will remain undiminished. A nightmare for the people of Cuba, who will continue to suffer under the crippling U.S. blockade which has denied them nearly $100 billion, money which could have been used to help fulfill their unmet needs. A nightmare for the people of Iran and North Korea, who will continue to face both economic sanctions and the threat of war under an Obama/Clinton administration.

And last but not least, a nightmare for the people of the United States. The Democratic "dream administration" will continue to spend one trillion dollars a year on the U.S. military, which means that pressing needs in health care, housing, mass transportation, education, and other social purposes will continue to go unmet, no matter what promises emanate from the "dream ticket."

There is a real "dream ticket" on the ballot already - Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear of the Party for Socialism & Liberation. But the reason that ticket is a "dream ticket" isn't because it is composed of a Latina woman and a Black man, but because it's a ticket which speaks to the dreams of billions of people around the globe that a better world is possible. A world in which human needs are the only consideration, not the "needs" of corporations, which exist not to create jobs, as they would have us believe, or even in most cases products or services, but only to create one thing - profit. Profit which is the main driving force behind the war and occupation which engulfs the world.

But the dream ticket of La Riva and Puryear doesn't just offer vague "dreams", and they are clear that they won't be the ones making those dreams come true. It will be all of us, struggling not only against the existing evils like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the occupation of Palestine, and so on, but for positive, revolutionary change to bring about a socialist world, a world organized around human needs, not profit.


 

ABC News Outrage!


ABC News is doing an "Iraq 5 Years Later: Where Things Stand" "analysis" this week. Introducing the feature tonight, anchor Dan Harris wondered whether the "uneasy peace" (peace!!!!) in Iraq would hold. Later, he referred to "our enemies," implicitly endorsing the Administration line that the resistance forces in Iraq are the enemy of, and a potential threat to, the American people, rather than just opponents of the occupation of their country.

But no, those weren't the "Outrage!" in the title of this post. That came when he told viewers how estimates of Iraqi dead ranged from 82,000 to...wait for it...89,000! Yes, that's the Iraq Body Count "count" of "documented civilian deaths from violence."

I hardly need to point out to readers that "estimates of Iraqi dead" now range up to 600,000 to over a million, so the claim that estimates range as high as 89,000 is simply a patently false statement. Of course, Iraq Body Count doesn't even claim to be an "estimate," just a "baseline count" which gives us the absolute minimum number of dead, or, more specifically and quite importantly, dead "civilians" who died "from violence." Any Iraqi who was part of an army which tried to defend their country against a foreign invasion, any Iraqi who dared to pick up a gun to end a foreign occupation, and any Iraqi who died because of the horrendous medical and public health situation inflicted on their country by the invasion, not to mention any Iraqi whose death didn't happen to be reported by the English-language media - they don't count for Iraq Body Count, and not for ABC News either (and, no doubt, many other media outlets).


 

My Lai +40


40 years after American soldiers brutally gunned down an estimated 500 defenseless Vietnamese civilians at My Lai, an op-ed today purports to tell us "What My Lai tells us about how to lose a war," but it actually serves to remind us not just of the massacre itself, but of the followup that is less well-known. We've discussed here the role that Colin Powell played in attempting to coverup the massacre itself. But eventually it did come out, and exactly one person, Lt. William Calley, was convicted of 22 counts of murder and sentenced him to life in prison. So what happened? "President Nixon commuted his sentence to house arrest, and Calley was later paroled after serving 3 1/2 years."

That I actually knew, but had forgotten. Here's something I never knew: "Hugh Thompson Jr., a Georgia-born helicopter pilot, landed amid the carnage that day and snatched a handful of civilians from certain death." But what happened to Thompson after that is quite instructive, on several levels:

He was awarded the Soldier's Medal for bravery, but not until 1998; and Pentagon bureaucrats, still afraid of publicity, tried to hand him the medal in a private meeting, with no media present. Thompson, displaying the same moral courage he showed in 1968, demanded a public ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Today is also the anniversary of the death of another American hero, who never received a medal for bravery, publicly or privately, but deserved one every bit as much as Hugh Thompson:


 

Unconsciously ironic headline of the day


Cheney to Mideast with "rich agenda" on oil, peace

Isn't a "rich agenda" what the ruling class is always pursuing?

Actually, I shouldn't blame the Reuters headline writer, since the phrase comes straight from a quote by John Hannah, Cheney's national security adviser.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


 

Picture of the Day - Tricolored Heron



Female Tricolored (Louisiana) Heron

Only the ripples in the upper right of the picture provide evidence that this bird (and all the rocks in the picture) are actually standing in a few inches of water, at the mouth of the Rio Cuale in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The location may explain the light blogging you've seen in the last few days, and will see for the rest of the week. :-)


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


 

Book Review: Made Love, Got War


I always enjoy Norman Solomon's writing. There are many writers on the left who combine his encylopedic knowledge with his insights, but few (Mumia Abu-Jamal is one of the few others who come to mind) who add a wonderfully literate style on top of those two.

If you feel the way I do, then you'll enjoy Solomon's latest book, Made Love, Got War. It's basically Solomon's autobiography, but it's not a standard sort of autobiography, because Solomon is a journalist, so his "life" consists not only of the things he's done and the events he's lived through, but what he's written about them as well. The book reflects that, mixing more standard autobiographical elements with excerpts from Solomon's columns, to take us on a historical tour from the 50's through to today.

Not surprisingly, the book shares a lot in common with Bill Bryson's latest, The Adventures of the Thunderbolt Kid (both, for example, deal with the impact of nuclear weapons testing and the "duck and cover" mentality of kids raised in the 50's), although Solomon's book quite obviously includes a lot more politics and a lot less culture. Even the cultural aspects of the book provide an occasion for political insights, however, as when he discusses the co-opting of the counterculture (e.g., the use of the Beatles' "Revolution" to sell Nikes) and the mentality which thought (and thinks) that elements of the counterculture (e.g., long hair) or even the not-so-counterculture (e.g., organic food) have for many people become "a kind of substitute for political action, a way of justifying what might otherwise seem like inordinately self-centered fixations."

One of the benefits in reading any of Solomon's books or columns is being reminded of things which you knew, but aren't always at the tip of your tongue ready to be used when the occasion demands. Politicians are, of course, at the top of the list of people whose offenses need to be remembered, and who so perfectly illustrate the French maxim, Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose. A sampler:

Solomon, like myself, in also intensely intersted in the role that the media plays in promoting the interests of the ruling class, and he provides helpful reminders of some of what the pundits have had to say over the years. Two examples:"Made Love, Got War" also reminds us of entire events we may have forgotten or, in the case of younger people, not even known about. Everyone talks about "Vietnam." How many remember, or know, that Laos (not to mention Cambodia) was part of the death and destruction wreaked by United States bombing? And this was no small matter either:
"I soon learned that a tiny handful of American leaders, a U.S. executive branch led by Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger, had taken it upon themselves -- without even informing let along consulting the U.S. Congress or public -- to massively bomb Laos and murder tens of thousands of subsistence-level, innocent Laotian civilians who did not even know where America was, let alone commit an offense against it. The targets of U.S. bombing were almost entirely civilian villiages inhabited by peasants."
Illustrating the breadth of this book, here's something else Solomon made me think about that I hadn't previously thought about. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, thanks to a recent contribution from billionaire (the term seems almost belittling in this case) Warren Buffet, has assets of $60 billion, which they are contributing to noble causes. It seems like a staggering amount. Solomon puts it in perspective: This amounts "to about five weeks of the Pentagon's real budget. And of course the Defense Department coffers are fully replenished each year."

If there is a weakness in "Made Love, Got War," it's the lack of a vision for the future. Solomon presents a clear picture of what he doesn't want - a society dominated by corporate power and anti-human priorities. And he fully realizes the need for change - his book ends with these words: "If we want a future that sustains life, we'd better create it ourselves." But create what? Solomon doesn't say. In passing, somewhere in the book, he mentions that his father was a socialist, but other than that, the word "socialism," even made more palatable to more people by putting the word "democratic" in front of it, doesn't appear in the book. And, even with some goal in mind, how to get there? Solomon clearly believes in nonviolence, and returns to that concept on several occasions in the book, but he never confronts the dilemma, or perhaps the impossibility, of trying to overturn a powerful, violent system with nonviolence.

Do I have all the answers, either about where we need to go or how we get there? Obviously not. But they are questions that need to be confronted. Perhaps that will be the subject of Solomon's next book. Or my first. :-)

I'll close with another quote from the book, with Solomon discussing how he (and others) felt during the 60's and 70's (and many, including both Solomon and myself, still feel):

While history would surely have profound effects on our lives, there was no assurance that our lives could have positive effects on history -- but the only way to change the course was to try.

Friday, March 07, 2008


 

American politics and Cuba


Greg Grandin provides a fascinating review of the course of American politics in the last 50 years as it relates to Cuba. Just as a reminder of how far we haven't come, and the absurd heights (or depths) to which American presidential rhetoric rises (or sinks) some quotes from 1960:

John F. Kennedy: For the "first time in our history, an enemy stands at the throat of the United States." The Cubans, he declared, are our "enemies and will do everything in their power to bring about our downfall."

Richard M. Nixon: "The United States has the power, and Mr. Castro knows it, to throw him out of office any day that we would choose to."

And just one more, from 1980, from Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander Haig, speaking to Reagan: "You just give me the word and I’ll turn that fucking island into a parking lot."

But today in Washington, George Bush had this to say: "To improve relations, what needs to change is not the United States; what needs to change is Cuba." No George. For 49 years, it has been, to use JFK's language, the U.S. which has been "at the throat" of Cuba, and for 49 years, to improve relations, it is the U.S. which needs to change, not Cuba, whose efforts at causing the "downfall" of the United States have been limited to setting an example for the people of the world, including the people of the United States, to emulate (not to copy, but to emulate). Which, for the capitalist class, is an example to fear, because it shows that a better world is possible, even under the incredibly adverse condition of having the world's greatest military and economic power trying to strangle you militarily, economically, and politically.


 

Missing jobs


"The economy shed 63,000 jobs in February, the second consecutive monthly decline in employment." Remember when you read this that the job shortfall is not 63,000 jobs, but 213,000 jobs, once we add in the 150,000 jobs just needed to keep up with population growth. I ask you to remember it, because your chances of being reminded of that fact by the corporate media are minimal.


Thursday, March 06, 2008


 

Capitalist greed knows no bounds


It's an almost unbelievable story:
Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation's top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven.

More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq - including about 10,500 Americans - are listed as employees of two companies that exist in a computer file on the fourth floor of a building on a palm-studded boulevard here in the Caribbean. Neither company has an office or phone number in the Cayman Islands.

The Defense Department has known since at least 2004 that KBR was avoiding taxes by declaring its American workers as employees of Cayman Islands shell companies.
In a way, though, there's another aspect of the story which is even more interesting:
In 2002, the firm received a secret [no-bid] contract to draw up plans to restore Iraq's oil production after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
I'm sure I don't need to point out that 2002 was before the invasion, and was at a time when George was denying that there were any plans for war against Iraq "on his desk" (something I have dubbed the "credenza defense", as in "no, he had them on his credenza").


 

The "honest broker"


In the last few days, Israel attacks have killed more than 120 Palestinians in Gaza, 23 of them children and somewhere between a third and a half of them civilians. George Bush hasn't said a word. Just two days ago, one of those killed was a 20-day-old child. George Bush hasn't said a word. For months, Israel has imposed a brutal collective punishment on the citizens of Gaza, all of them. 98 hospital patients have died as a result, including eight premature babies. George Bush hasn't said a word.

Today in Israel eight rabbinical students were shot dead. George Bush's outrage has finally been provoked:

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack in Jerusalem that targeted innocent students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. This barbaric and vicious attack on innocent civilians deserves the condemnation of every nation.


 

Rafael Correa drops a rather interesting shoe


High profile hostage Ingrid Betancourt was going to be freed this month, thanks to contacts with slain Colombian rebel leader Raúl Reyes, but a Colombian military strike against him botched her liberation, Ecuador's president Rafael Correa said Thursday. (Source)


Wednesday, March 05, 2008


 

Laptop "evidence" and dirty bombs


The "evidence" that Iran is interested in producing a nuclear bomb rests largely on alleged documents found on a laptop computer. Now the threat of war looms in South America, and as part of hyping that threat and making sure we understand it's all in the name of "fighting terrorism" we're told that plans found on a FARC laptop computer show they were planning to make a "dirty bomb" with 50 kg of uranium. There's just one problem. We learned back in 2004, in the case of Jose Padilla, that you cannot make a dirty bomb with uranium:
But uranium's extremely low radioactivity is harmless compared with high-radiation materials, such as cesium and cobalt isotopes used in medicine and industry that experts see as potential fuel for dirty bombs.

"I used a 20-pound brick of uranium as a doorstop in my office," American nuclear physicist Peter D. Zimmerman, of King's College in London, said to illustrate the point.

Zimmerman, co-author of an expert analysis of dirty bombs for the U.S. National Defense University, said last week's government announcement was "extremely disturbing, because you cannot make a radiological dispersal device with uranium. There is just no significant radiation hazard."

Other specialists agreed. "It's the equivalent of blowing up lead," said physicist Ivan Oelrich of the Federation of American Scientists.
Here's the problem. I checked articles from The New York Times, the Miami Herald, Reuters, and even the Guardian, and not one of them mentioned the fact that uranium can't be used to make a dirty bomb. All simply repeated the charges made by Colombia.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008


 

The dead babies are getting younger


Today in Gaza: "Palestinian medics said the Israelis shot dead a 20-day-old baby girl."

No doubt some "terrorist" was "hiding behind her." Or possibly cradling her in his arms while he fired his weapon. The Israelis, meanwhile, have been taking lessons from the U.S. military: "An Israeli army spokesman said he was 'not familiar' with the killing of the baby." They never are. I wonder if he added a pro forma claim that an "investigation" would take place.


 

The River of Grass


I just happened to pass by C-SPAN over lunch while the Congress was busy passing a resolution honoring environmental legend Marjory Stoneman Douglas on the 60th anniversary of the publication of her seminal book, River of Grass. Actually according to Wikipedia, the book was published on Nov. 6, 1947, so the Congress is a little late, but I'm sure they've had important things to do, like ending the war. Oh wait, that wasn't it. Impeachment? No, that's not it either. Well, it must have been something. Anyway, better late than never, in honoring this woman and this book which occupy a central place in the preservation and restoration of the Everglades.

I was in the Everglades just over a year ago, and while I could put up my "river of grass" photo, frankly it isn't that exciting a photo, so instead in honor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas let's take a look at one of the more spectacular denizens of the area:


Wood Stork, Loxahatchee NWR, Everglades, FL


 

Ralph Nader's simple proposal


There is a simple safeguard regarding the decision to make war...Ask your member of Congress to introduce a one page bill that says the following: Whenever Congress and the White House take our country to war, all able-bodied military-age children of every member of Congress, the President and the Vice-President will be conscripted automatically into the armed forces. (Source)
Brilliant!


 

Norman Solomon on opposing the war (and on Obama)


In a piece today on CommonDreams, Normon Solomon voices some of the same thoughts I've offered here many times, but Solomon is a better writer with a much bigger audience:
Maybe it sounded good when politicians, pundits and online fundraisers talked about American deaths as though they were the deaths that mattered most. Maybe it sounded good to taunt the Bush administration as a bunch of screw-ups who didn’t know how to run a proper occupation.

And maybe it sounded good to condemn Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush for ignoring predictions that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to effectively occupy Iraq after an invasion.

But when a war based on lies is opposed because too many Americans are dying, the implication is that it can be made right by reducing the American death toll.

When a war that flagrantly violated international law is opposed because it was badly managed, the implication is that better management could make for an acceptable war.

When the number of occupying troops is condemned as insufficient for the occupying task at hand, the White House and Pentagon may figure out how to make shrewder use of U.S. air power — in combination with private mercenaries and Iraqis who are desperate enough for jobs that they’re willing to point guns at the occupiers’ enemies.

And there’s also the grisly and unanswerable reality that Iraqis who’ve been inclined to violently resist the occupation can no longer resist it after the U.S. military has killed them.

If the ultimate argument against the war is that it isn’t being won, the advocates for more war will have extra incentive to show that it can be won after all.
Unfortunately, after all that, Solomon shows signs that he doesn't even buy his own argument when he reaches the end:
These days, Hillary Clinton speaks of withdrawing U.S. troops, but she’s in no position to challenge basic rationales for war that have been in place for more than five years. At least Barack Obama can cite his opposition to the war since before it began. He talks about changing the mentality that led to the invasion in the first place. And he insists that the president should hold direct talks with foreign adversaries.
But, as I just wrote to him, Obama's opposition to the war was based precisely on the kind of things condemned in the rest of the article - that it was a "dumb" war, the "wrong war at the wrong time." To my knowledge he has not once condemned it as immoral or illegal, or disavowed the idea that the U.S. had the right to launch that war (and indeed he has championed the invasion of Afghanistan). And considering he has voted consistently to fund the war (unlike Kucinich, Woolsey, and other principled opponents of the war), the idea that he has been "opposed" to the war at all since he's been in Congress is debatable.

As far as "changing the mentality," again, he maintains the idea that the U.S. has the right to tell other countries how to run their affairs (cf. Iran, Cuba, and others) and furthermore completely buys into the "war on terror" meme (cf. his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan), and of course he's advocating a larger military. Not exactly signs of "changing the mentality."

And as far as holding "direct talks with foreign adversaries," this week we learned that doesn't extend as far as Hamas.

Sadly, even for someone as perceptive as Norman Solomon, someone who's even able to write in the same article that "the best way to avoid becoming disillusioned is to not have illusions in the first place," the illusion that is Barack Obama is still too tempting to resist.


Monday, March 03, 2008


 

More on Hamas


Barack Obama says he will not meet with Hamas. In a strange formulation, he says "You can't negotiate with somebody who does not recognize the right of a country to exist so I understand why Israel doesn't meet with Hamas," which doesn't explain why the U.S. shouldn't meet with Hamas, since as far as I know Hamas recognizes the right of the U.S. to exist. Or is Sen. Obama running for President of Israel? Incidentally Cuba hasn't recognized the right of Kosovo to exist (as a separate nation), so I guess there goes Obama's pledge to talk with Cuba.

Actually the main thing in this article I wanted to draw attention to wasn't Obama's hardly surprising stand on Hamas, but this, presented as a simple statement of fact by Reuters:

Iran does not recognize Israel either and its president has often threatened the imminent destruction of the Jewish state.
OK, for undoubtedly not the last time, not only has Ahmadinejad not "often" threatened the "imminent" destruction of the Jewish state, he has never done so. He has predicted its ultimate "disappearance from the pages of time," which, to put it mildly, is hardly the same thing. Ahmadinejad even made that explicit when he said:
"Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out."
Needless to say, as we all know the Soviet Union was not "wiped out" by an invasion or by bombs.

Hey, I've got an idea. Let's spread a rumor that Obama is a Muslim. Let's see how long that one lasts and how often it gets repeated by the corporate media.


 

The lighter side of the news


News guaranteed to make you smile:
His [Iranian President Ahmadinejad's] warm reception by Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders and the pomp and ceremony that greeted him at the start of his well-publicized trip were in stark contrast to the rushed and secretive visits of U.S. President George W. Bush.


 

US plotted to overthrow Hamas after election victory


For those of us who read the left press, the headline to this post falls in the "No shit, Sherlock" category; you could have read the same thing a year ago in an article by Richard Becker on pslweb.org. But an article in tomorrow's Guardian may produce wider recognition of a simple fact, now that it has been publicly acknowledged:
The Bush administration, caught out by the rise of Hamas, embarked on a secret project for the armed overthrow of the Islamist government in Gaza, it emerged yesterday.

Vanity Fair reports in its April edition that President George Bush and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, signed off on a plan for the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to remove the Hamas authorities in Gaza. The plan called for Washington's allies in the region to funnel arms and salaries to Fatah fighters who would lead a rising against Hamas.

"It looks to me that what happened wasn't so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen," [said David Wurmser, a former Middle East adviser to the vice-president, Dick Cheney]
History couldn't be clearer. Any pretense that the U.S. respects democracy, or treaties, or international law, is a sham of the highest order.

Update: Link to the Vanity Fair article (the source of the Guardian story), courtesy of WIIIAI.


 

More child-killers on the loose


This time it's not U.S.-proxy Israel, but the U.S. itself, killing children and other civilians in Somalia:
The U.S. military struck "a target against a known al Qaeda terrorist" in southern Somalia early Monday.

The strike destroyed two houses -- killing three women and three children, and wounding another 20 people -- Dhoobley's District Commissioner Ali Nur Ali Dherre told CNN.
And, the usual nonsense from the U.S. military:
The U.S. military official said the United States is still collecting post-strike information and is not yet able to confirm any casualties.

He described Monday's strike as "very deliberate" and said forces tried to use caution to avoid hitting civilians.
Really? And just how did they do that from thousands of feet in the air? Did they have on their x-ray specs so they could see who was inside the houses they were firing missiles at?

Ironically, as I watched the CNN Headline News over lunch, the story above followed immediately a "good news" story of an Iraqi boy who was deliberately burned and horribly disfigured, and who has now been "rescued" and given plastic surgery by generous Americans so that he is now on his way to being "normal." The anchor didn't seem to see any contradiction between Americans going out of their way to rescue one Iraqi boy, and callously destroying the lives of three Somali children on the same day (not to mention some unknown number of Iraqis). You see, we're really just good, kind-hearted people.


 

Joe Wilson on Obama


Joseph Wilson slams Barack Obama for his claims about his "superior judgment" with respect to the invasion of Iraq and his positions on Afghanistan and Iran. Here's a sampling, about Iran:
On Iran and the question of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, the junior senator from Illinois was not quite so clever at avoiding taking a position. He first co-sponsored the "Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007," which contained explicit language identifying the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. He subsequently claimed to oppose the Kyl-Lieberman sense of the Senate resolution proposing the same thing. Obama's accountability problem here is that he didn't show up for the vote on that resolution -- a vote that would have put him on record. Then he declined to sign on to a letter put forward by Senator Clinton making explicit that the resolution could not be used as authority to take military action. All we have is Obama's rhetoric juxtaposed with his co-sponsorship of a piece of legislation that proposed what he says he opposed.
The amusing thing about the article, similar to Clinton's campaign itself (of which I infer from the article that Wilson is a supporter, though he doesn't expicitly say so), is that the entire line is "Obama is no better than Clinton." Which I definitely agree with! It's just not much of a recommendation! Consider the quoted bit, for example. So Clinton voted to brand the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, but we're supposed to give her props because she put forward a letter (a letter!) saying that the resolution wasn't authority for military action. Is that her idea of showing off her Washington "experience," pretending that a letter she writes overrides a vote she cast in Congress?

And now Obama is out with a video claiming that he is "the one, the only one, who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq War from the start." Uh, Senator, did you forget about several million of us who had "judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq War from the start," not to mention one prominent former Presidential candidate (Kucinich) who not only opposed it from the start, but every day thereafter when it came to voting for money to keep that war going, unlike, say, you?


Saturday, March 01, 2008


 

The cost of war


You'll hardly be surprised if I tell you I just watched a CNN news piece about a wheelchair shortage in Iraq. No doubt they could corner the world market and there would still be a shortage. There's a story online about a real hero, a man named Brad Blauser who has taken it upon himself to raise money and deliver wheelchairs to Iraqi kids, even if what he can do is merely a drop in the bucket.

But here's the statistic that was in the broadcast piece (not in the online story) that really took me aback: one in seven Iraqi children now has some kind of disability. That's just part of the price of "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here" (as if). I wonder if anyone asked those Iraqi children, or their parents, if they were willing to pay that price so "we wouldn't have to fight them here" (again, as if)? Obviously you all know the answer.


 

Bizarre headline of the day


Israeli-Palestinian clashes kill 45
AP left out just one word: "Palestinians." As in "...kill 45 Palestinians." Contrary to the impression one might get from a quick scan of the headlines of the day, all of the dead were on one side. The headline also fails to reveal a rather important fact which does appear in the first sentence - "at least half" of the dead were civilians.

The word "clashes" in that headline, which implies some kind of actual battle, is almost equally misleading. The New York Times, which runs a more accurate "At Least 45 Killed in Israeli Strikes in Gaza" headline, makes clear that the vast majority (and my guess is "all") of the Palestinians died from Israeli airstrikes, not "clashes" between opposing forces.

As in Iraq, we've likely not heard, and never will hear, the full story of the effect of these assaults. More than 100 Palestinians were also injured, and, given the state of medical care in Gaza, the likelihood that some of them will soon be added to the death toll, but not reported, seems high.

Imagine the headlines, the saturation TV coverage, the world reaction, the U.N. condemnation, if Palestinians were to kill 25 Israeli civilians, especially if the day before, a Palestinian official were to threaten a "holocaust" against Israel.

Quick update: Just posted this, and already the AP article has been updated. 46 Palestinians, including "as many as two dozen civilians...including at least two babies and two other children," are dead, with 160 wounded and 14 in critical condition. What I wrote above about "clashes" may not be accurate though, since it is now reported that two Israeli soldiers are also dead. The circumstances of their death are not reported, however.

Another update: Something else you might have missed:


Hundreds of thousands of Gazans demonstrated peacefully Friday against the ongoing slaughter in Gaza. Peaceful demonstrations, however, don't attract the attention of the Western corporate media; they aren't part of the proper "story line."


Why stop here? There's more...

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