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Tuesday, August 31, 2010


 

What just happened in Iraq (and in the Oval Office)?


Bugger all, that's what happened. Before getting to Obama's speech tonight, let's talk about the big picture. Obama calls it the "end of combat operations in Iraq." Really? Fallujah was a combat operation; that ended in December 2004, six years ago. No doubt other things that could be characterized as "combat operations" followed, but it's been a long time.

Why do I make this distinction? Because the U.S. admits that it's 50,000 troops will still be conducting "counterterrorist" operations, and isn't that exactly what they have been doing (using their definition of "terrorist," of course) for years now? When is the last time anyone who was killed by U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, other than those unfortunate individuals they concede were civilians, hasn't been labeled a "terrorist"?

As to the speech, what stood out for me were two things. One, Obama's descriptions of the war against Iraq. He did say that he and George Bush "disagreed about the war from its outset," but remember, he only did so because he thought it was a "dumb" war, the "wrong war at the wrong time," not an illegal or immoral one. That the U.S. didn't have the right to invade Iraq wasn't a consideration in his mind. The corollary of that opinion would, naturally, require labeling George Bush (and himself, for continuing to prosecute the war) as a war criminal, something else which was never a consideration in his mind.

What else he had to say about the war was equally interesting. He claimed it started as "a war to disarm a state." No, it started (ostensibly) as a war to disarm a state of its weapons of mass destruction. About the lies that led to that invasion, even if he wanted to call them "intelligence failures," not a word. He mentioned that "Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded." Not a word, however, not one word, about the million Iraqis whose lives were taken ("gave their lives" would be a gross disservice to what actually happened to them), or the millions more who have been wounded and pushed into internal or external exile. That was the second thing that really stood out for me. By the way, also not a word for the hundreds of "coalition partners" who also gave their lives.

There was a mention of Iraqis: "We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people — a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization." Why, you'd almost believe the Iraqis took a vote and invited the Americans to invade their country so they could have a "new beginning." Needless to say, no such thing happened.

This was straight out of the "White Man's Burden" textbook, Obama's skin color notwithstanding:

"As the leader of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction — we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people."
Of course, millions of dead and wounded and exiled Iraqis have lost their "freedom and opportunity," and the ones who brought "destruction" to Iraq were the U.S./NATO invaders, not Saddam Hussein or Al Qaeda or anyone else.

Obama turned briefly to the economy, and talked about how we need to create jobs, but where the money will really be going, and the kind of jobs he really will be creating, was pretty clear: "As long as I am president, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known." And the most expensive.

And what pro-war speech would be complete without the nonsensical justification of why soldiers fight and die:

Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries. ...They fought in a faraway place for people they never knew...and helped the Iraqi people seek the light of peace.

...Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes...who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own.
That these noble sentiments have not a thing to do with why U.S. soldiers fought and died in Iraq matters not to Obama, no more than it did to Bush, or than it does to Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck, any one of whom could have given exactly the same speech Obama gave tonight.

And, while we're talking about George Bush, after mentioning that he had disagreed with Bush about the war (without elaborating as to how), Obama said this: "Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security." Really? No one? Please tell me how sending troops off to die on false pretenses, underequipped troops no less, constitutes "support" for the the troops? And how does killing people in country after country around the world - Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and more - improve our "security"? And how exactly does spending trillions of dollars on a war and driving the country into a recession which put millions of people out of their jobs and out of their homes demonstrate a "love of country"?

Update: Obama says "we have met our responsibilities." Really? How about the billions of dollars we owe Iraq for destroying their country and millions of their lives? No doubt we'll be meeting that responsibility about as well as we did in Vietnam.

Update 2: I should have made explicit something implied above - the "Bush Doctrine" - the idea that the U.S. has the right to attack any country who might be a threat to us in the future, regardless of the fact that such an attack is a gross violation of international law and the "supreme war crime," is now without question official U.S. policy.


Friday, August 27, 2010


 

Rewriting history in New Orleans


I don't know whether to blame the New York Times or the U.S. Justice Department, but the latest news report from New Orleans was, to me, bizarre. The Times reports:
In the days after Hurricane Katrina left much of New Orleans in flooded ruins, the city was awash in tales of violence and bloodshed.

The narrative of those early, chaotic days — built largely on rumors and half-baked anecdotes — quickly hardened into a kind of ugly consensus: poor blacks and looters were murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path in the dark, unprotected city.
Really? I certainly remember "looters" dominating the news, even when most of them were not "real" looters but simply people scrounging food and water in order to stay alive. "Murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path"? Feel free to refresh my memory, but I remember no such thing.

On the other side of the coin, there's this:

Today, a clearer picture is emerging, and it is an equally ugly one, including white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe. Several police officers and a white civilian accused of racially motivated violence have recently been indicted in various cases, and more incidents are coming to light as the Justice Department has started several investigations into civil rights violations after the storm.

“The environment that was produced by the storm brought out what was dormant in people here — the anger and the contempt they felt against African-Americans in the community,” said John Penny, a criminologist at Southern University of New Orleans. “We might not ever know how many people were shot, killed, or whose bodies will never be found.”
Now that is what I remember. And it is hardly a picture that is "emerging," other than perhaps in the pages of the New York Times and the rest of the corporate media. Anyone listening to or reading progressive news sources like Democracy Now! was well aware of all those facts, years ago. How nice of the government to finally get around to investigate and the media to report, five years later. I guess they've been too busy reporting on right-wingers calling Obama and Shirley Sherrod "racist" to report on the real racism that was on display in New Orleans in 2005, every bit as much as it has been on display in Arizona and Manhattan in 2010.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


 

Logic not required


Really, they'll just say anything, knowing the Western corporate media will print it. Shimon Peres, President of Israel: "Iran jeopardizes Israel and the rest of the world, as it threatens to use nuclear weapons."

Really, Shimon? Just how is it possible that a nation which denies any intention of building nuclear weapons is simultaneously threatening to use them?

And they say Ahmadinejad is crazy?


 

The latest Wikileak: CIA Red Herring


Today's news of the latest Wikileak has to be one of the bigger cases of misdirection I've seen in a while. The title of the top-secret CIA document is "What If Foreigners See the United States as an Exporter of Terrorism?" But it turns out what the CIA means by that isn't that the "United States" (i.e., the government) is an "exporter of terrorism," but rather that some Americans carry out terrorist acts abroad. And the Americans they're talking about are people like Baruch Goldstein, who emigrated from the U.S. to Israel and killed 29 Palestinians, or Pakistani-American David Headley who allegedly helped in the Mumbai attacks that killed 160 people.

Of course the United States is an exporter of terrorism without any question. Hundreds of thousands of American terrorists are operating abroad as we speak, dropping bombs on unsuspecting civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and no doubt other countries we don't even know about. Not a word about them in the CIA report.

Other "exported terrorists" like Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles who were trained, financed and quite possibly acting under the direct orders of the U.S. government, roam the streets of the U.S., shielded from the legal consequences of their actions to this day (with Obama just the same as Bush continuing to ignore the legitimate extradition order filed by the Venezuelan government for Posada for 73 counts of murder).

And who can forget the terror that rained down on the Lebanese people in the summer of 2006, as the U.S. rushed to resupply Israel with vital weapons being used to terrorize (and, of course, kill) the Lebanese people?

FAIR reminds us of a recent New York Times article showing just how that terrorism works, in this case in a December strike in Yemen. First came the American story (or tall tale, more accurately):

The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there
Later came the truth:
A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.

An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.
Needless to say I'm only brushing the surface. The U.S. as an "exporter of terrorism"? You betcha'.


Friday, August 20, 2010


 

Marxism 101


Are businesses not investing and not hiring because corporate taxes and taxes on the rich are too high, and as a result they don't have money? Of course not. As the Washington Post hears it directly from CEOs, the answer is straight Marxism 101 - businesses don't invest and don't hire when no one is going to buy their products. They "blame their profound caution on their view that U.S. consumers are destined to disappoint for many years." "Destined to disappoint." What a quaint phrase. Of course it's the consumers that are the ones who are really "disappointed," as they struggle through life without jobs and with their homes foreclosed. The CEO's? They're just "disappointed" they aren't making more profit than they are.

Of course, we get the usual nonsense: "Executives see little evidence that the economy is slipping back into recession." Yes, they wouldn't, with corporate profits "soaring" according to the article. Actually, it's true the economy isn't going to "slip back" into recession, since it's never really left it. And, under capitalism, there's no real prospect it ever will.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


 

Fact checking the AP fact checkers


AP is out with a "fact check" of some of the inane statements being made by the right-wing about the "Ground Zero mosque" (not at Ground Zero, not a mosque). One of the accusations is that the imam associated with the center is a "radical." And why?
"He's devoted much of his career to working closely with Christians, Jews and secular leaders to advance interfaith understanding. He's scolded his own religion for being in some ways in the "Dark Ages." Yet he's also accused the U.S. of spilling more innocent blood than al-Qaida."
"Accused"? Not to fact check the fact check, but wouldn't "noted that" be more factual than "accused"? That the U.S. has spilled more innocent blood than al Quida many times over is simple fact, and we don't even need to throw in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prove the "accusation."

We're also told that

"he's made provocative statements about America, too, calling it an "accessory" to the 9/11 attacks and attributing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to the U.S.-led sanctions in the years before the invasion."
Well, whether the U.S. was an "accessory" to 9/11 is clearly a subjective opinion, but that the deaths of a half million Iraqi children was caused by the U.S.-led sanctions is again, simple fact, acknowledged by no less than the then-U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

Facts are stubborn things. Also, evidently, "provocative."


 

What's going on?


(Apologies to Marvin Gaye) Is it a coincidence that two issues being pushed by the right wing in this country are immigration and the "Ground Zero mosque" (not a mosque, and not at Ground Zero)? I think not. I know what I'm about to say is a simplification, but I think it is a major component of what's going on: At one time, the United States could be correctly described as a "White Christian nation." It wasn't Constitutionally correct to describe it in those terms, but it was factually correct. Some time in the last century, it became no longer "politically correct" to describe it in those terms. But it was still factually correct.

Today, the majority of Americans are still "white" and Christian, approximately 3/4 so on both criteria, still huge majorities. But there is a clear trend away from both. Some cities, some counties, and I believe some states no longer qualify as "white" and "Christian." And I believe that it's that that is driving racists and bigots to jump on both issues with an intensity never before seen. The Presidential campaign and subsequent election of a Black President, even one with a white mother, underscored and accelerated the reaction to that trend. The fact that Islam is seen as a "foreign" religion is even more significant (because it's largely true in a historical sense) than that it is seen as a "terrorist" religion (which is not true).

Adding to this trend is another component of the breeding ground of fascism - a devastated economy, with millions losing jobs and homes. Such conditions cause people to grasp for explanations, for scapegoats, for villians. The real villians, the capitalists, are too powerful and beyond the reach of most people, and on top of that, they (and their useful idiots in politics and the media) do what they can to encourage the scapegoating of people who are actually other victims of theirs - the old divide and conquer tactic.

Discuss.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


 

Reality in the West Bank


With so much attention focused on Gaza, many people think the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the West Bank is somehow "normal." Jeff Halper makes clear nothing could be further from the truth, as he details the extensive home demolitions, continuing settlement construction, water theft, and other elements of the oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank, little if any of which is reported in the Western corporate media.


Monday, August 16, 2010


 

Shooting the messenger


A minor kerfuffle has erupted in Israel because, shades of Abu Ghraib, a female IDF soldier posted photos on Facebook showing her posing in front of blindfolded and gagged Palestinian prisoners. The hypocritical IDF has condemned her actions, claiming: "These actions are ugly and callous." Well, they are, but what's really "ugly and callous" is the treatment of Palestinian prisoners (and Palestinians in general, including the fact that so many of them are prisoners), and the responsibility for that lies with the IDF itself and the State of Israel, not with some insensitive female soldier.


 

Another day, another war


The New York Times and the rest of the corporate media gets lots of justifiable flak from this blog (and plenty of other sources), but it is also a fact that they do serve a valuable function, as exemplified by yesterday's report of the latest "secret assault of terrorism [sic]", describing the latest U.S. war (by drone and cruise missile), this one in Yemen. The article correctly describes the CIA as a "paramilitary organization," which certainly isn't a term heard very often from the corporate media.

The whole article is interesting, but I thought this was the single most interesting paragraph:

Obama administration officials point to the benefits of bringing the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants into the shadows. Afghanistan and Iraq, they said, have sobered American politicians and voters about the staggering costs of big wars that topple governments, require years of occupation and can be a catalyst for further radicalization throughout the Muslim world.
So the "benefits" of conducting secret wars is, just as was the case decades ago in Cambodia and Laos, not that they are secret from the targets and victims of those wars, but that they are secret from those pesky American people who might actually object. Democracy, anyone?

The article talks a lot about the pitfalls of this approach (killing the "wrong" people and making more enemies than are killed). And, as if on cue, the same day brings us the latest news, this time from Pakistan:

Suspected U.S. missiles killed 12 people Saturday in a Pakistani tribal region filled with Islamist insurgents bent on pushing Western troops out of neighboring Afghanistan, intelligence officials said.
Now note the "framing" of that story, supplied by "intelligence officials" and dutifully transcribed by AP: the region where this strike occurred is "filled with Islamist insurgents bent on pushing Western troops" out of Afghanistan. But what is the reality of this strike?
The two intelligence officials...said at least two of those killed in the house hit by missiles were suspected militants, but they did not know the identities of the others.
So of 12 people dead, 10 were killed without a clue as to who they might be, they were just random brown people who might or might not have done anything wrong, even by the standards of the U.S. government. And the other two? Well, they were "suspected" militants, so they might or might not have actually been militants, whatever that means exactly, and even if they were, they might or might not have been "guilty" of anything more than trying to avenge the deaths of friends and family against the American terrorists who keep dropping bombs on them.


Friday, August 13, 2010


 

Another day, another group of victims of terrorism


U.S. terrorism claims eight more victims:
At least eight Afghan civilians are killed in a US air strike in the south of the country amid growing public discontent over the ever-growing number of civilian casualties. The Afghan civilians were killed when foreign forces targeted a house in the suburbs of Lashgargah city.
A recent U.N. report claims that nearly 1,300 Afghan civilians have died this yea, and blames a quarter of the deaths on foreign troops.

Not that 300+ victims of U.S. aerial terrorism in little more than a half year wouldn't be more than enough to indict the perpetrators as war criminals, but just as with such statistics in Iraq, that's a double lie. First, because the number 1,300 is a gross undercount for two reasons: one, because the number doesn't take into account the "guilty until proven innocent" aspect of the number, that is, someone is assumed to be "Taliban" and not "civilian" unless there is proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are "civilian"; and two, because all dead Afghans, whether they have extreme religious views and are called "Taliban" or not, and whether they choose to fight back against a foreign occupation or not, are all equally undeserving of death, and all should be counted.

And the second reason the statistic is a lie is because, just as with the million plus dead in Iraq, none of the tens of thousands of Afghan dead would be dead were it not for the U.S. invasion and occupation, and hence "foreign forces" are ultimately responsible for all of the deaths, and not just a quarter of them, no matter whose bullets or bombs actually did the killing.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


 

Double-standard watch


No comment needed:
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Tuesday that "Iran's activities compromise Lebanese sovereignty," after Iran offered to support Lebanon's army if the U.S. were to discontinue military aid.


 

More Israeli inanities


Israel's Minister of "Defense", Ehud Barak:
Barak said that during discussions going back to April "the image that emerged... was that the organisations (behind the flotilla) were preparing for armed conflict to embarrass Israel".
Really, Ehud? They were "preparing for armed conflict" with the most heavily armed state in the region by equipping themselves with...kitchen knives?


 

The world's most ridiculous trial opens


Today:
Eight years after his capture as a [15-year-old] teenager on an Afghan battlefield, a long-delayed trial has started for Guantanamo Bay's youngest detainee.

Khadr is accused of killing a US soldier after throwing a grenade at the end of a four-hour US bombardment of an al-Qaeda compound in the eastern Afghan city of Khost.

His lawyers deny that he threw the grenade and contend that the prosecution is relying on confessions extracted following abuse.
So fighting back against an illegal invasion of your country by a foreign army, and not even doing so by secretly setting an IED or something like that but actually (allegedly) doing so in response to a four-hour US assault, is now a "war crime"?

The only thing more ridiculous than that is that the U.S. corporate media will treat this with all seriousness, without even questioning the concept that, if the United States insists it is at "war," then people captured in that war who were simply participating in that war (as opposed to, say, massacring civilians) must be prisoners of war, not war criminals.


Monday, August 09, 2010


 

I know you are, what am I?


Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has made public (AP, BBC, Press TV) evidence that suggests (though does not prove) that Israel was involved with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an event which played an important role in the recent history of Lebanon. And even though the evidence (intercepted video from Israeli drones flying over Hariri's route, confessions of an Israeli spy) isn't proof, that they hit rather close to home (and are quite likely true) can be judged by the (anonymous) response from Israel:
"The international community, the Arab world, and most importantly, the people of Lebanon all know that these accusations are simply ridiculous," a senior Israeli official said.
Pee-Wee Herman said it best: "I know you are, what am I?"


 

Robert Gates: Less is more


It's not online yet (update: it is now), but I've just been watching U.S. Secretary of War "Defense" Robert Gates giving a major speech to a news conference announcing major "cuts" in the Defense Department. CNN's subtitle under him was interesting, though, and perhaps carefully chosen, because it referred to "major expense cuts," not "major budget cuts." Because, as Gates noted, although he's proposing billions of dollars in "savings" through the usual corporate means (eliminating redundancy, eliminating no longer needed functions, etc.), not only will 100% of those "savings" be applied to new expenses (more and newer weapons, etc.), but this is his way of "limiting" the increase in the DOD budget to "2-3% real increase" per year.

Less is more. Less bureaucracy becomes more war, and more misery for the people of the world, most assuredly including the people of the U.S., who suffer because some of them die or are injured in those wars, who suffer because some have family members or friends who die or are injured in those wars, who suffer because of the loss of freedom due to the "war on terror," and who suffer because social services are being shredded while more and more money, even if it will now be "only" 2-3% more each year, is funneled into war.

Update: In a trend which will no doubt be echoed by 100% of the corporate media, the New York Times headlines: "Making Good on Pledge, Gates Outlines Military Cuts." And in a sadder trend, 95% of the American public will believe that military spending is being cut.

Second update: The Washington Post doesn't even mention the 2-3% real increase each year promised by Gates. The San Jose Mercury News has a headline (different from the one online) which reads "Pentagon to cut jobs, budget" which is utterly false.

Last update: Link to the text of Gates' speech. Note that, despite the headlines and the "framing" of the story in the media, Gates specifically says: "Let me be clear, the task before us is not to reduce the department’s top line budget. Rather, it is to significantly reduce its excess overhead costs and apply the savings to force structure and modernization." and again at the end of the speech: "In closing and in summary, I want to re-emphasize that this agenda is not about cutting the department’s budget. It is about reforming and re-shaping priorities to ensure that, in tough budgetary and economic times, we can focus defense resources where they belong: in America’s fighting forces, investment in future capabilities and, most important on our men and women in uniform."


Friday, August 06, 2010


 

Life is hard at the top


Mark Hurd spent a grand total of five years at the head of HP. He's now resigned because of allegations of sexual harassment. His "penalty" for that crime? A severance package of $35 million, $7 million for each year he was at HP (that's of course on top of the salary he received during those years).

I'm sure he's deeply unhappy, though. After all, Carly Fiorina got $42 million when she was forced out of the same position before Hurd took over.

Update: The San Jose Mercury News has a timeline of Hurd's reign at HP. The highlights: buying four major companies (increasing "HP's" profits, but contributing nothing whatsoever to the economy, other than undoubtedly laying off workers made "redundant" by the merger), firing 14,500 employees, and announcing the planned firing of 9,000 more. You can see why he's paid the big bucks; this sort of thing takes real talent.


 

Irony is a bitch


Today:
Prof. Donna Shalala, who served as the US Secretary of Health and Human Services for eight years under Clinton and is currently the president of the University of Miami, was held for two-and-a-half hours at Ben Gurion Airport during which she underwent a humiliating security debriefing because of her Arab last name – all this despite the fact that her hosts notified the airport ahead of time that she is a VIP.

The fact that Shalala arrived in Israel as part of an official delegation of the heads of universities fighting against the academic boycott against the Jewish State also seemed not to help her.
Cue Nelson Muntz: Ha, ha.

And while I have your attention, please watch this incredible video about a very different set of visitors to the region, the participants on the Freedom Flotilla. The video matches David Rovics' powerful words with some equally powerful video images. Rovics' songs tend to sound alike musically, but ignore that because it's the words that count:


Wednesday, August 04, 2010


 

The non-existent Iranian nukes


In the U.S., the "universal" opinion (that is, the opinion of the ruling class and their media mouthpieces) is that A) Iran is developing nuclear weapons; and B) this is a horrible thing. And of course we're constantly told that is "world opinion."

Not so much. Leaving aside the lie represented by A, the Brookings Institute has just polled several thousand people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the UAE. Of those, a whopping 57% percent responded that if Iran developed nuclear weapons, that would be a good thing for the Middle East; only 21% thought it would be negative.

I hasten to add that, just as in the U.S., the ruling classes of those countries undoubtedly have a different opinion.


Monday, August 02, 2010


 

Seven years before the mast(head)


It was twenty seven years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play I posted my first post on this blog. I'd say "still going strong," although readers have undoubtedly noticed I've been slacking off of late. Believe it or not, work has actually been getting in the way, not to mention political "work," so I'm posting less frequently than I once did, but still trying to keep my "voice" out there. Thanks to all readers for coming along for the ride, with special thanks to those who add their voices to the conversation in the comments.

There's still work to be done!


 

"Anti-American"...or the simple truth?


From Reuters:
Amid the anti-American rhetoric in which [Iranian President Ahmadinejad] said U.S. policy was based on colonialism and the "law of the jungle"...
OK, I admit that, now that Paul Bremer is long gone from Iraq, U.S. policy is actually neo-colonialism, not plain old colonialism. Other than that...


Why stop here? There's more...

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