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Sunday, November 30, 2003


Staying on message

The message of the week, or last two weeks, from the Bush Administration and the U.S. military, is that Iraqi insurgents are less and less able to attack U.S. military targets, so they are turning to "soft" targets - other members of the "coalition." Listening to the news tonight, I heard this message first from a military spokesman, and then from a newsreader parroting the Administration line.

The amazing thing about this is that it comes on a day when one of the largest battles of the entire war was fought, involving two simultaneous attacks on U.S. military convoys and the subsequent deaths of 46 Iraqis and the wounding of five American soldiers, and comes one day after six Spanish intelligence officers were killed, which might seem to prove the Administration thesis, except for one detail:

People at the site said they believed that the Spanish soldiers, who were dressed in civilian clothes, were CIA agents or members of the Israeli intelligence service.
But as usual, if the Administration says "the insurgents have switched their focus to soft targets," rest assured the media with duly report it, regardless of the facts.

On the subject of media dutifully reporting what they're told, CBS News reporter Mark Knoller, on the "White House beat" reported tonight (in a piece entitled "Clueless in Crawford") on being "fooled" by being handed, and then reading on the air, false reports that George Bush was making holiday phone calls to U.S. troops overseas, when in fact he was in Iraq at the time. Knoller closed his piece with this observation: "From now on, when I report that the President is at his ranch, neither you nor I will be sure of it." Now one might ask this: if Knoller isn't sure of it, why is he reporting it as fact? If he is just going to read White House press releases, why exactly do we need him anyway? Can't the White House just email its press releases in to CBS Evening News?

Followup: In another bizarre "message," Master Sgt. Robert Cargie of the Army's 4th Infantry Division is quoted as saying "This is a true indication that we are bringing the fight to the enemy." Really? Wasn't it the enemy who launched three ambushes on U.S. convoys (the third was launched a few minutes after the two where Iraqis were killed, but didn't involve fatalities and received less publicity) within a short period of time, and who just a short time later launched yet another ambush elsewhere in the country and killed two South Korean contractors? Is being ambushed a new way of "bringing the fight to the enemy?"


Reagan and AIDS

Much has been made over the pulling of the "Reagans" movie from CBS. In an article detailing the battle which has broken out between CBS and the movie's producers, we learn that the producers actually "caved" on the most controversial bit:
"The one thing that has been changed was the film's most controversial bit of dialogue, in which Reagan reacts to the AIDS crisis by saying, 'They who live in sin, will die in sin.' While still defending the line as reflective of Reagan's response to the AIDS epidemic, the creators acknowledged Reagan never actually said that line."
Left I's question is this: how do they know that Reagan "never actually said" that? Was every sentence Reagan ever spoke to his advisers or to his wife recorded? If not, and if that line is indeed "reflective of Reagan's response to the AIDS epidemic," then isn't is just possible he did say it?


Compassionate babysitters

Carol Rosenberg writing in the San Jose Mercury News profiles the experience of the three 13-15-year olds who are being held captive in Guantanamo (to help math-challenged readers, that means they were 11-13 when first imprisoned). Amidst all the lovely details, like how they get to watch videos and play soccer, this interesting tidbit:
Army Lt. Col. Pam Hart confirmed that the three boys undergo interrogation. She would not say how long the sessions last, although prison commanders say no captive's session can go longer than 16 hours.
These boys (and the 650+ men in the Guantanamo concentration prison camp) have been imprisoned for two years (in most cases). Do they really still have knowledge of such timely value that questioning them for 16 hours in one day could be anything other than torture for torture's sake? I wonder if Alan Dershowitz would still apply his "ticking time bomb" theory to this situation?


Support the troops - Bring them home now!

As much as the U.S. military tries to hide the truth about casualties in Iraq, particularly with respect to injuries, as time goes on some of it comes out. The Washington Post profiles the 28th Combat Support Hospital in a powerful piece which brings the reader a little closer to the way of "life" for U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Flying shrapnel from the explosion had breached the soldier's skull and spattered blood on the right side of his face. Hilliard checked the extent of the injury. The soldier's helmet lay a few inches from his head, covered in blood on the right side. The crisp, hurried movements of the trauma team slowed. Boardman, the general surgeon, ripped off his white latex gloves and walked away, muttering expletives. Drops of dark red blood pooled on the white marble floor. The remaining staff peeled away from the soldier's bedside. Pvt. Kurt R. Frosheiser, 22, of Des Moines, was dead.

"My buddy Frosh, he was fresh out of basic," VanBuren said. "He got to the unit about a week ago, from Des Moines." He started to cry.

By 1 a.m., the ER was quiet. VanBuren was upstairs having orthopedic surgery to remove a shrapnel fragment embedded in his right leg. A corporal who had arrived with Williams and who had lost two inches of bone in his arm from the roadside blast was sleeping off his surgery. A soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division was in the ER operating room, while his commander sat outside, blank-faced and nervous. The ER staff settled back into the nurses' station and began to play cards.

"This is an average night; this is not even a busy night," said Simmons, the ER nurse.
One interesting semi-statistical fact emerges from the article. The media has previously reported on the number of soldiers treated in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. But this article makes clear that injured soldiers are first treated in Baghdad; "those with serious wounds requiring further treatment are sent on to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and, if necessary, to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington." So the total number of casualties far exceeds those who make it to Walter Reed. And, just to emphasize how the military doesn't want us to know the details, the article notes "The number of soldiers treated for serious combat injuries is not publicly disclosed."

And yesterday, within "hours after the top U.S. military official in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, gave reporters an upbeat assessment," seven Spanish intelligence officers , two Japanese diplomats, and two U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq. By the way, despite claims by Sanchez that the killing of the Spaniards was "part of an effort to drive a wedge between the Iraqi people and the coalition", news reports say that people at the site thought the Spanish soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes, were "CIA agents or members of the Israeli intelligence service."

John Lennon said "War is over if you want it." Left I only wishes it were so, but doing something as a result of wanting it to be over (like demonstrating against it, writing letters and speaking out) is certainly a part of ending this carnage and demonstrating real support for the troops (and not support for the troops' mission, which is what people like George Bush really means when he tells us to "support the troops."

Followup: An article in the Orlando Sentinel notes that the number of U.S. casualties in the war on Iraq was nearing 10,000 through the end of October, before the start of the "worst" month since the invasion. The article also calls into question the figures released by the military, noting, along the lines of what Left I wrote just above:

For example, critics said, the figures released by the Army do not include men and women whose injuries or illnesses were treated in Iraq, but only those who required transfer to medical facilities outside Iraq.


Those caring capitalists

From AP:
A mob of shoppers rushing for a sale on DVD players trampled the first woman in line and knocked her unconscious as they scrambled for the shelves at a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
The woman was taken to the hospital, unconscious and black-and-blue all over. And those generous, caring folks at Wal-Mart?
The store apologized and offered to put a DVD player on hold for her.
Wow! How generous can you get?

Saturday, November 29, 2003


Bush in Baghdad?

The other day, Left I wrote, en passant, about Bush "slinking into and out of Baghdad airport (not "Baghdad") in the dead of night." To be honest, I didn't really research very carefully the question whether Baghdad Airport was "in" Baghdad, that was just my gut impression. Even if it was technically within the city limits, the point would still be valid. However today Riverbend confirms my guess:
Bush was in Iraq on the 27th. He made a fleeting visit to Baghdad International Airport. Don't let the name fool you- Baghdad Airport is about 20 minutes outside of Baghdad. It's in this empty, desert-like area that no one is allowed to go near.
She also notes this, which occured on the day of Bush's visit but passed unnoticed in the U.S. press:
Bush must be proud today- two more 'insurgents' were shot dead in Ba'aquba: two terrorist sisters, one 12 years old and the other 15. They were shot by troops while gathering wood from a field… but nobody bothers to cover that. They are only two Iraqi girls in their teens who were brutally killed by occupation troops- so what? Bush's covert two-hour visit to Baghdad International Airport is infinitely more important…

Friday, November 28, 2003


Intelligent Iraqis

Once again, Iraqis demonstrate they understand what's going on a lot better than most Americans:
Many Iraqis on Friday angrily dismissed President Bush's brief cloak-and-dagger Thanksgiving Day visit as a political stunt to boost his ratings at home, and others said he squandered an opportunity to meet with Iraqis and see first hand the problems they face.

"He came for only two hours. He didn't see how the Iraqis are living and suffering," said Fatima Star, 38, a housewife. "He doesn't care about the Iraqi people. He only cares about his troops."

"He wants to gain political favor from people in the United States before the elections," said Mathil Aziz, 26, a teacher. "He cares more about his own personal interest than the Iraqi people."

When he heard the news, Khatam Sadun, 35, was reminded of all his problems since U.S. troops occupied Baghdad. The former Iraqi army sergeant lost his job when the U.S.-led coalition disbanded Iraq's army. Today he's unemployed. He hasn't had electricity in his home for two days.

"Bush's visit to Iraq was a big illusion," he said, sitting at an outdoor cafe with his wife. "No Iraqi should welcome him because there's no improvement in our society. Whether he came or not, we're still in a bad situation."


Innumeracy - Left I's favorite topic

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Monika Jensen-Stevenson writes:
A few days ago, the 50th casualty of the U.S. First Airborne Division, which is based at Fort Campbell, Ky., arrived home and was honoured with a funeral procession estimated to be 80 kilometres long.
As much as I would like to believe that, 80 kilometres (or kilometers!) is just under 50 miles, the distance from Fort Campbell to just outside Nashville, TN! I suspect Ms. Jensen-Stevenson meant 80 metres (just under 100 yards), a distance which, if composed of people rather than cars, would still comprise a rather significant funeral procession. 8 kilometers might be possible if the procession were composed of cars, although it's rather improbable. 80 kilometers? I don't think so.


Sick of Bush

Blogger Sick of Bush has two great posts today, one taking George Bush to task for repeatedly claiming that he has taken an "oath" to defend the country (by invading Iraq), when in fact the only oath the President takes is one to defend the Constitution, something he is doing is best to rip up, and a second entitled "Things You Have To Believe To Be A Republican," which Left I, definitely not a supporter of the "opposition" party (the Democrats), can still endorse as amusing (and true) in the extreme.


Quote of the Day - Ralph Nader

The newly passed Medicare "reform" bill prohibits the U.S. government from using its considerable consumer market power to negotiate for lower prices on medicines. Ralph Nader asks the obvious question:
"If Sam's Club can negotiate for lower pharmaceutical prices, why can't Uncle Sam?"


Democracy in the Middle East

Back on Nov. 6, following a Bush speech, Left I wrote this:
After denouncing Cuba, which has had elections since 1959 (and before), as an enemy of freedom, Bush has nothing but gentle words for his friends: "The Saudi government is taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections." Well, we wouldn't want to rush these things.
Richard Becker, writing in the Nov. 20 Workers World, elaborates:
Saudi Arabia is a U.S.-created theocratic family dictatorship. Even the mildest dissent is punishable by torture and execution. There has never been an election in Saudi Arabia. Women are deprived of even the right to drive a car. It is also the number-one oil producer in the world. Bush's praise for the Saudi government's "first steps toward reform" referred to a recent announcement that the regime is considering holding restricted municipal elections. (emphasis added)
Becker's entire article covers a much wider range of aspects of the subject, including Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, and is well worth reading.


Another "investigation" under way

A former Iraqi general died while under American interrogation, the U.S. military said Thursday...The cause of death and interrogation techniques are under investigation. (Source)
Readers of Left I on the News are strongly urged not to hold their breaths waiting for the results of the "investigation."


Some don't come home from Iraq on Air Force One

Two interesting articles on the returning dead from Iraq appear in Knight-Ridder papers today as a (probably unintended) counterpoint to George Bush's "triumphal" return from the front. One, by Maureen Fan, gives us the picture from the point of view of the mortuary workers (soldiers) in Iraq. The other, by Carol Rosenberg, tells us how it looks from Dover Air Force Base, to which the dead are returned, and from which the press are barred (the San Jose Mercury News was forced to accompany the story with a file photo from 1996).
Mortuary workers recall only one day since the Iraqi campaign began in March that no war casualties were in the funeral parlor or the morgue.
As an interesting budgetary note, and a possible indication of the scope of U.S. war plans for the future, consider this:
Mortuary services started at Dover in 1955, in a chilly warehouse on the edge of the base. It was temporarily expanded for emergencies over the years, most recently for the 188 people killed in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.

Now the work is done in a gleaming 70,000-square-foot building that opened Oct. 27. The new building was funded by a $30 million item in a special budget to fund the war on terrorism.
Meanwhile, schools here in the U.S. burn down (see item below) for want of $166,000.

Followup: Robert Jensen and Sam Husseini raise the question - "Was that really Bush visiting the troops in Iraq?"

More followup: Commenter morph on the Kos website suggests that this episode merits Bush the nickname "Fly by Night President," which I love. Although one might question the "President" part.


Capitalist spending priorities

From the San Jose Mercury News:
An arson fire destroyed the $4.5 million renovation at Gardner Academy in San Jose on Saturday. An additional $166,000 invested in a sprinkler system might have saved the building.

State legislators and fire officials have tried since 1997 to require sprinklers, along with automatic smoke detectors and fire alarms in schools, only to be defeated by installation costs.

"The Department of Finance said it was too expensive," said former San Carlos Assemblyman Ted Lempert, who authored four school fire safety bills before term limits ended his tenure. Three were vetoed -- two by Gov. Pete Wilson, one by Gov. Gray Davis -- and one died in committee. "The arguments that led to the vetoes were unbelievable," Lempert said. "Wilson pointed out that no child had died in a school fire. Davis said it's too expensive but we'll do a report."
A few days ago, George Bush signed the latest military budget, which exceeded $400 billion. And no doubt spent millions just yesterday slinking into and out of Baghdad airport (not "Baghdad") in the dead of night.

Meanwhile last week, 37 students died in a fire in a Russian university. "It was the third deadly fire at an educational institution in Russia this year. A blaze in April killed 28 children at a boarding school for the deaf." News reports have it that not a penny had been spent on safety measures at the school since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the "flowering" of "capitalism" in that country.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Propaganda - appearing soon in a theater near you

The Los Angeles Times tells us about a new 6-minute film being produced by the Navy and Marine Corps which, "if the project proceeds as planned, will be shown in movie theaters in the United States before feature films...by the end of the year." We are assured that "the film isn't meant to make a political statement or make the case for U.S. military involvement in Iraq."

Really? Well, for starters, there's this: "the military camera operators, directed by American Rogue personnel, could go places where the civilian media could not. 'We were under no restraints. We could go anywhere and shoot anything. The result is that there are scenes of real war here that no one has ever seen.'" But then we read this: "No dead bodies -- Iraqi or American -- are seen." Apparently the filmmakers have a different idea about what "real war" consists of than I do.

Then this:

President Bush is not seen in the film, but he is heard announcing to the world on March 19 that an offensive has been launched "to defend the world against grave danger." No mention is made of weapons of mass destruction.
Or, indeed, of any of the bogus justifications to justify the "grave danger" characterization. If this doesn't qualify as "a political statement" or "making the case" for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, then it's hard to know what would.

The Times reviewer recognizes the contentious nature of the "non-political" claim, but still misses the central point:

As much as the filmmakers might want it to be non-political, a point of view is inevitable. A Marine officer says that what the Marines have done in Iraq is noble, and the final scene displays the motto, "the global war on terrorism continues." The open-ended ending was intentional.
Clearly the claim that the invasion of Iraq was "noble" is a political statement, and the "open-ended" nature of the ending certainly provides justification for future U.S. invasions. But the implicit claim that the invasion of Iraq was part of the "war on terrorism" is the most political (and inaccurate) statement of all.

One may wonder about the entire framework of this project. How exactly does the military expect to get this film shown in theaters before feature films? Do you suppose if your local peace group made your own 6-minute film on the subject, that your local theater operator would show it? Give it a try. "Freedom of the press (or the movie screen) belongs to those who own the press"...or to those who share the same class interests as those who do.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Another lesson in questioning authority

There isn't a transcript online that I could find, but John Pilger tells us about a recent radio interview with Jack Straw:
On BBC Radio 4, defending Bush and Washington's doctrine of "preventive war", Straw told the interviewer: "Article 51 [of the United Nations Charter], to which you referred earlier - you said it only allows for self-defence. It actually goes more widely than that because it talks about the right of states to take what is called 'preventive action'."
To save readers the trouble of looking it up, here is the entire text of Article 51:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Note that not only does the Charter only permit self-defense in the case of an armed attack, but it furthermore suggests that that right (to self-defense) might in fact be rescinded once "the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security." There isn't a word, not a hint, in Article 51, about "preventive action." Yet no doubt many listeners, hearing Straw's assertive statement, and with due respect to his office, went away believing what he said (Pilger doesn't inform us if the interviewer or any other guest corrected Straw's lie).


Tariq Aziz watch

Tariq Aziz remains imprisoned, more than seven months after being arrested, along with five to ten thousand other Iraqis, with no charges against him, no rights, and no contact with the outside world. Just the most famous of the Iraqi "disappeared," victims of American "justice."


Nazem Baji watch

On October 20, Iraqi Nazem Baji was apparently executed by U.S. troops, shot in the head with his hands tied with plastic bands. If true, this would be a serious war crime. On the day it happened, and was reported by AP, the U.S. military said it had "no information" on the incident. Left I on the News is waiting for the U.S. military to let us know that it now has the information and is conducting a "serious investigation." As of today, more than one month later, no followup story has appeared in any media outlet I can find, and Nazem Baji's blood remains on the hands of the U.S. military and on the hands of George Bush.


Remember this the next time the Government accuses someone of something

An Army Islamic chaplain [James Yee], who counseled al Qaeda prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, has been charged with espionage, aiding the enemy and spying.
The military said on Tuesday that it was releasing Capt. James J. Yee, the former Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after confining him for nearly three months on suspicion of espionage activities.

At the same time, though, the United States Southern Command, based in Miami, which administers the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, said it was investigating other possible violations of military code by Captain Yee, including contentions that he had kept pornography on his government computer and had an affair.
Computer porn? Adultery? That's one hell of a leap from espionage.

Needless to say, the first story was front-page news, and all over the TV news and talk shows, for days. So far, at least, the followup story has been buried on the inside pages of the newspaper, and not mentioned at all on TV news shows I've heard.

Moral: never, ever, believe what the U.S. government has to say. Unless corroborated by an independent source of information, their words are quite literally worthless. Or worse. Because there is almost always an ulterior motive behind them.


The war that keeps on giving

Chalmers Johnson, the author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, has a forthcoming book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. If you thought even the first Gulf War was over, think again (thanks to Cursor for the cite):
"Some 696,778 individuals served in the Persian Gulf as elements of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Of these 148 were killed in battle, 467 were wounded in action, and 145 were killed in accidents, producing a total of 760 casualties, quite a low number given the scale of the operations.

"However, as of May 2002, the Veterans Administration (VA) reported that an additional 8,306 soldiers had died and 159,705 were injured or ill as a result of service-connected "exposures" suffered during the war. Even more alarmingly, the VA revealed that 206,861 veterans, almost a third of General Schwarzkopf's entire army, had filed claims for medical care, compensation, and pension benefits based on injuries and illnesses caused by combat in 1991. After reviewing the cases, the agency has classified 168,011 applicants as "disabled veterans." In light of these deaths and disabilities, the casualty rate for the first Gulf War is actually a staggering 29.3%." (emphasis added)


Bourgeois democracy

Many hours of television time, and countless inches of print, are being devoted to the quest for the Democratic Presidential candidate. The differences between most of them are minor, and most of what they say during the campaign has nothing to do with what will happen when they are in office anyway (think George Bush's renunciation of "nation building" during his campaign as an example, or, more recently and more locally, Arnold Schwarzenegger's "pledge" not to cut money from education, a pledge which didn't last past his first week in office).

By contrast, the new Medicare/prescription drug bill may well have a profound effect on health care in this country for decades to come and affect the lives of tens of millions of people. According to radio reports (can't find reference to this in print), this 681-page bill was written by a small group of people and given to the Congress to "read" just 24-48 hours before it was to be voted on. There was no time either for public feedback nor for even serious Congressional debate on this important issue, and any public feedback wouldn't be meaningful anyway, since it couldn't be based on real knowledge of the contents of the bill, only on how the P.R. people spun the bill to the public.

Democracy in America.


War crimes and media crimes

AP reports this morning that US troops in Iraq have arrested the wife and daughter of Izzat al-Douri, who the US claims is a key force in the Iraqi opposition. Unless there is evidence that these two women have committed crimes, arresting them to "get at" her husband would be a war crime. Not only doesn't the article which describes this arrest even mention this subject, it doesn't even touch on or question why these two women were arrested. It simply takes for granted that its readers, the US public, will accept this arrest of "guilt by association" without even asking the question of why it happened.

Followup: This subsequent article finally raises the issues that should have been raised in the initial article, quite possibly because the media director of Amnesty International USA, who is quoted in the article, contacted AP and called them on their omission.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


Remember Elian Gonzalez?

Well, it turns out he wasn't the only Cuban child being held hostage by the United States. Rene Gonzalez is one of the "Cuban Five," five Cubans currently imprisoned in the United States for the "crime" of trying to protect their homeland from terrorist attacks initiated from the soil of the United States (more details on the case and how you can help here). We now learn that, after his conviction, his wife was arrested and deported, but not allowed to return to Cuba with their five-year-old daughter; after she returned to Cuba, they had to wait for authorization for her mother-in-law to return to Florida to bring the child back to Cuba.

In the present, the denial of human rights of these five men continues unabated. Yet again, the United States has denied visas to the wives of Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez to visit their husbands in prison. These women have not been able to see their husbands in five years, a completely intolerable situation, but, as with the detentions without rights of foreign citizens in Guantanamo and elsewhere, and even U.S. citizens (Jose Padilla) right here in the U.S., you'll have to turn your hearing aid up awfully high to be able to hear any politicians speaking out on their behalf, and take out a microscope to find any coverage of this outrageous situation in the U.S. press.


Frontier justice followup

I've just posted a long followup to the piece two items below entitled "Frontier justice," and thought I'd call attention to it here.


Headline inoperative

Three consecutive headlines from Google News:
Prediction from Left I: Iraqi dictator Paul "Jerry" Bremer, when interviewed, will say "Well, you're just going to have some bad days, and this was one of those bad days."


Frontier "justice"

From AP:
The government has freed 20 prisoners from its high-security prison for foreign terror suspects in Cuba, bringing the total released to more than 80.

The prisoners have been held without charges and without access to lawyers, some for nearly two years.
With no evidence whatsoever against them (I say that because you can bet if there was any evidence they would not be being released), these men were deprived of two years of their lives. No need for Americans to worry, though, they were just a bunch of "foreigners," second-class human beings whose rights are of no real concern (have you heard any prominent politician speak out against these detentions, for example?).

In Iraq, meanwhile, thousands more languish under similar circumstances - imprisoned with no charges, no rights, and in most cases, no evidence either. Well, maybe "languish" isn't the right word:

Also Monday, American military police officers trying to quell a prison riot in Baghdad killed three Iraqis and wounded eight. The riot broke out at the Baghdad Correctional Center when a group of Iraqis began throwing rocks at the guards. A military official said that when the riot began to spread, the American military police were given permission to use lethal force.
More tactics learned from the Israelis. When your powerless opponents throw rocks at you, shoot them with bullets and kill them. Apparently the old "eye for an eye" rule doesn't apply over there in the "Holy Land."

Followup: I wrote above that no prominent U.S. politician has spoken out against the outrageous denial of human rights to the prisoners at Guantanamo (and, I should note, elsewhere, like Afghanistan and Iraq). Nor has any prominent U.S. jurist to my knowledge. But as of today, at least one prominent British jurist has broken ranks, reported by BBC:

One of Britain's top judges - Lord Justice Steyn - has condemned the detentions at Guantanamo Bay as "a monstrous failure of justice".

The judge said in a speech in London that al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects were being deliberately held beyond the rule of law and the protection of any courts.

Lord Steyn - in a speech released to Channel 4 News - said that prisoners were being held without rights and quoted officials as saying: "It's not quite torture but at close as you can get".

"The purpose of holding the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was and is to put them beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of victors," he said.

"The procedural rules do not prohibit the use of force to coerce the prisoners to confess."
Sadly, men like Lord Steyn, willing to speak up in favor of unpopular causes, are few and far between. Perhaps we'll nominate him for this year's Martin Niemoller award (no, there is no such award, as far as I know, but there certainly should be). While I'm on the subject of Martin Niemoller, I found a very interesting little note about how various people have misquoted his "famous quote". Here's the quote:
"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me."
Here are some of the misquotes:
When Time magazine used the quotation, they moved the Jews to the first place and dropped both the communists and the social democrats. American Vice-President Al Gore likes the to quote the lines, but drops the trade unionists for good measure. Gore and Time also added Roman Catholics, who weren't on Niemoller's list at all. In the heavily Catholic city of Boston, Catholics were added to the quotation inscribed on its Holocaust memorial. The US Holocaust Museum drops the Communists but not the Social Democrats; other versions have added homosexuals.

Monday, November 24, 2003


Reading between the lines

If you believe the papers and the TV, there has been a "revolution" in Georgia, or, if you believe the protesters who took over the government, a "velvet revolution." Here's an example:
"This is the birth of a new Georgia,'' said fiery politician Mikhail Shaakashvili as he tossed roses to demonstrators in downtown Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. "Your children and grandchildren will be forever proud of this day. The revolution we promised you has been accomplished without bloodshed."
Now Left I admits to woeful ignorance about what's really going on in Georgia. But buried at the end of an article in today's San Jose Mercury News, here are some details to give us a clue:
The 36-year-old lawyer once served as justice minister under Shevardnadze, but he resigned, he said, when the president stymied his attempts to battle official corruption. He has since run for municipal office in Tbilisi, campaigning under the slogan, "A Georgia Without Shevardnadze."

Shaakashvili attended Columbia University. He is a frequent visitor to Washington and boasts of numerous contacts in Congress, the White House and the National Security Agency.
If this guy is leading a "revolution," I'll eat my hat.

For more insight on what's happening, there's this from The Globe and Mail:

It looked like a popular, bloodless revolution on the streets. Behind the scenes, it smells more like another victory for the United States over Russia in the post-Cold War international chess game.


Delicate sensibilities

Last week, Left I on the New noted the premature celebration (by the BBC and others) of Mosul as a "peaceful" city. Yesterday's brutal murder of two American soldiers in that same, "non-'Sunni Triangle'" town, just emphasizes that point, as the Los Angeles Times recognizes today:
Attacks erode progress in Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq - After months of being celebrated as the model city of postwar Iraq, this ancient citadel on the Tigris is enduring a wave of attacks targeting U.S. forces and their allies -- an alarming trend that intensified Sunday with the brazen slaying of two U.S. soldiers as they drove through town in daylight.
Wouldn't "Attacks explode the myth of progress in Mosul" be a better headline? After all, if the citizens of Mosul were so delighted with the progress they were making, would they really be dragging the bodies of dead soldiers through the streets, beating them with concrete blocks, and slitting their throats? Oh, but perhaps you didn't read all that? The Times only reports "their bodies were pummeled," omitting the "with concrete blocks" that has been widely reported elsewhere, and provides this to enlighten us about the throat-slitting:
Asked at a Baghdad news briefing about reports that the soldiers' throats had been slit, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military deputy director for operations, replied, "We're not going to get ghoulish about this."
No, heaven forfend we offend delicate American sensibilities. You know, those sensibilities who crave every detail of the death of Laci Peterson and her baby, or of Michael Jackson or Kobe Bryant and their alleged sexual activities. But when the soldiers who are over in Iraq killing tens, hundreds, thousands of Iraqis whose deaths go totally unreported in the U.S. media are themselves brutally killed, well, we wouldn't want the American public to absorb the truth about the depth of the hatred many, if not most, Iraqis feel towards the occupying army. That would be "ghoulish." Or, if only Brig. Gen. Kimmitt could bring himself to speak the truth, damaging to the desire to keep the occupation going.

Followup: The Boston Globe evidently shares Left I's feelings; here's their headline on the events in Mosul: "Brutal deaths of U.S. soldiers reveal simmering resentment among some in northern city."


Lies and the lying liars who get elected Governor

Never underestimate the power of anti-Communism, even at a time when the "bogeyman du jour" is "terrorism." Newly-elected California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thought it important enough to say this in his brief inaugural address:
"...an immigrant like me, who, as a boy, saw Soviet tanks rolling through the streets of Austria"
Earlier, he had this to say in a speech to the Republican convention:
"Growing up, I saw Communism with my own eyes. When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied Austria, I saw their tanks in the streets."
At the time, fellow blogger Politics in the Zeros had called Arnold on this, thinking he was confusing Soviet tanks in Hungary with Soviet tanks in Austria. But many of us, including Left I, knew that the Soviets had actually occupied Austria until 1955, so it was possible that Schwarzenegger, born in 1947, had actually seen and remembered seeing Soviet tanks (although hardly "Communism," which was most definitely not the operative economic system in Austria at that time). However, it turns out that historians who know more than Left I was able to dig up with a bit of brief net surfing now tell the Los Angeles Times (as spotted by Politics in the Zeros) that it was, in fact, virtually impossible for Arnold to have remembered seeing Soviet tanks (nevertheless "Communism"):
"Schwarzenegger's hometown of Thal, as a suburb of Graz, was at the heart of the British zone.

"'It is very, very unlikely he saw Soviet tanks rolling in the British zone where he lived,' said historian James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., and author of the recent book 'Waltzing into the Cold War: The Struggle for Occupied Austria.'"

"'In all likelihood, he saw British or American tanks.'"
So perhaps, like his predecessor Ronald Reagan, Schwarzenegger's childhood "memories" actually come from movies and not from real life. Or, more likely, he grew up hearing his father, a Nazi, ranting and raving about "Communism" and internalized that into thinking that he had grown up seeing Communism (or Soviet tanks) first-hand.

Saturday, November 22, 2003


Big (ugly) brother is watching

From the New York Times
F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

"The memorandum, which the bureau sent to local law enforcement agencies last month in advance of antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco, detailed how protesters have sometimes used "training camps" to rehearse for demonstrations, the Internet to raise money and gas masks to defend against tear gas. The memorandum analyzed lawful activities like recruiting demonstrators, as well as illegal activities like using fake documentation to get into a secured site.

"F.B.I. officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and "extremist elements" plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters.
There has never been a single "terrorist" attack as part of an antiwar demonstration, nor has one ever been committed by any organization connected with the organizing of those demonstrations (e.g., ANSWER, UFPJ, etc.). Anarchist groups have committed acts of vandalism - breaking windows and the like, hardly the stuff of "terrorism."

If the F.B.I. is not concerned with "monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protestors," then why does its memorandum describe lawful activities like "recruiting demonstrators" and "raising money on the Internet"? Are they investigating that suspicious Howard Dean character? I hear he's raising a lot of money on the Internet.

Followup: A very interesting column today on this subject by Justin Raimondo on Antiwar.com with a title I should have beat him to, darn it: FBI Eye on the Antiwar Guy.

Friday, November 21, 2003


Now tell us something we don't know

This from the Los Angeles Times:
U.S. Seeks Advice From Israel on Iraq

"Facing a bloody insurgency by guerrillas who label it an 'occupier,' the U.S. military has quietly turned to an ally experienced with occupation and uprisings: Israel.

"In the last six months, U.S. Army commanders, Pentagon officials and military trainers have sought advice from Israeli intelligence and security officials on everything from how to set up roadblocks to the best way to bomb suspected guerrilla hide-outs in an urban area.

"Many of the tactics recently adopted by the U.S. in Iraq — increased use of airpower, aerial surveillance by unmanned aircraft of suspected sites, increased use of pinpoint search and seizure operations, the leveling of buildings used by suspected insurgents — bear striking similarities to those regularly employed by Israel.

"Two Israeli officials — one from the Jerusalem police force and a second from the Israel Defense Forces — confirmed on condition of anonymity that U.S. officials had visited Israel to gain insight into police and military tactics. They also said Israeli officials have visited Washington to discuss the issues."
Adding a bit of levity to the article is this fanciful claim:
"U.S. officials were particularly interested in the 'balancing act' that Israeli officials say they have tried to pursue between fighting armed groups and trying to spare civilians during decades of patrolling the occupied territories."
By the way, a note to the LA Times - even the U.S. (not to mention the U.N.) has acknowledged that the U.S. is "occupying" Iraq; the subtle claim that is only the guerrillas who "label" the U.S. with this term is just plain nonsense.


Quote of the Day

"I am only going to make cuts to a certain point. I'm not going to cut dog food for blind people." -- Arnold Schwarzenegger (Source)
That's us Californians, generous to a fault. I'll bet not many of you knew about the program that gives dog food to blind people but don't worry - it won't be cut! As far as the real programs that California's government funds? Prepare to be terminated.


Press briefing inoperative

Billmon provides us with excerpts from a U.S. military press briefing yesterday where it was announced that the recent U.S. offensive was making progress against attacks in the "Green Zone," and compares that to today's reality. The military and the CPA and the Bush administration really should just shut up, because they just look foolish every time they open their mouths. Like Paul "Jerry" Bremer, who it seems every other time I see him on TV, he's saying "Well, we're going to have some bad days, and this was one of those bad days."


Does the "R" in AARP stand for "Republican"?

Atrios uncovers the amazing fact that the President of the AARP (which is now taking fire for supporting the Administration's prescription drug plan which "features" increased privatization of medical care) is the founder of the P.R. firm which conceived the famous "Harry and Louise" ads, used to shoot down Bill Clinton's attempts to reform health care in this country. For some reason the old saying "maybe you're not paranoid, maybe they really are out to get you" comes to mind.


Terrorist livestock

It's not enough for the Americans to kill Iraqis and blow up empty buildings, now they're killing cows as well:
"The man, who introduced himself as Hamza, headed off with long and purposeful strides toward the middle of his furrowed cabbage patch. He talked over his shoulder, gesturing with one arm and holding his gun against his side with the other. Amjad and I struggled to keep up. 'He is saying the Americans killed three of his cows last night with their helicopters,' Amjad said. 'And they injured another. He's saying, 'Did they think they were terrorist cows?''"
Unfortunately, the hapless Americans killed the wrong livestock. TV news channels are repeatedly reporting the U.S. military statement that the attacks on two hotels and the oil ministry by rockets launched from donkey carts were "militarily insignificant." Well no shit, Sherlock. With rare exceptions, guerrilla wars are lost when the occupying force has paid too high a price and calls it a day; they don't end because the guerrillas have accomplished "militarily significant" tasks like occupying territory or destroying the occupying army. Even a jackass knows that.

By the way, since no one in their right mind actually thought these attacks were "militarily significant," the fact that the U.S. military chose to emphasize that fact strongly suggests that they realize that these attacks were politically significant, coming as they did on some of the most well-protected locations in Baghdad.


The other thick-as-a-brick Bush

You thought Laura Bush was brighter than her husband? This should give you food for thought:
"Speaking after the shows by children from the Shakespeare Schools Festival, [Laura Bush] said: 'We haven't seen that many protests. But we have seen many American flags and people welcoming us.'

"'I don't think the protests have been as large as predicted.'"
Gee, I wonder why Laura hasn't "seen that many protests." As far as the "predictions," antiwar organizers were widely quoted in the press as predicting a turnout of 100,000 for the major demonstration. Scotland Yard estimated a turnout of 100,000-110,000, while organizers estimate 200,000-300,000 (just on the basis of numerical precision, I would give more credence to the organizers estimate, rather than to the impossibly precise Scotland Yard estimate); clearly the turnout was not only as large as predicted, it was absolutely remarkable for a weekday demonstration.

You ought to get out of the "bubble" some time, Laura, instead of getting your information about the world from George who gets it from Condi instead of from the newspapers. You might actually learn something.


Left I in the News

Today's San Jose Mercury News.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


"Cutting and running", part II

Speaking to the British press today, George Bush said: "We could have less troops in Iraq, we could have the same number of troops in Iraq, we can have more troops in Iraq. Whatever is necessary to secure Iraq." A perfectly truthful answer (of course to what end he is "securing" Iraq is an another question entirely). BBC World then cut to a shot of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice giving each other "looks"; if they were the type to roll their eyes, they probably would have been doing that. It looks like they can't handle the truth, either. Well, that's what happens when you let George Bush "speak his mind," such as it is.

Tony Blair then chimed in: "We stand absolutely firm until this job is done - done in Iraq, done elsewhere in the world." Well, maybe not absolutely firm. British troop strength in Iraq has declined from 45,000 at the start of the war, to something like 11,000 now. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but what is "absolutely firm" is the fact that the British have already pulled a large majority of their troops out of Iraq.


Come again?

Front-page headline in today's USA Today:
CIA will examine raw data on Iraq
Excuse me? You mean they didn't do that to begin with? Of course, Left I acknowledges that this is all a diversion, and that intelligence had nothing whatsoever to do with the invasion of Iraq, other than providing some kind of lame rationale that the Bush administration could refer to to justify their pre-existing decision.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


"Cutting and running"?

Despite the talk, don't believe it for a second. Here's Colin Powell today:
"We're not going to stay any longer than we have to in charge of the country."
Does he mean that the troops will actually leave? Don't be silly.
"We are not going to cut and run. We are going to stay there with military forces, as well as the new Iraqi forces that are being built up right now. So, the end of the authority of the coalition provisional authority doesn t mean the coalition military forces are going to leave the country."
As noted here a few days ago:
U.S. troops were sent to Korea in 1950, more than 50 years ago. There are currently 37,000 U.S. military personnel in South Korea.


George Bush - War Criminal

Atrios digs up the story of the day from the Guardian - Richard Perle concedes that the invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law. Of course Perle doesn't use the words "war criminal," but those who violate international law and start wars...are war criminals.
"International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

"Mr. Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that 'international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone', and this would have been morally unacceptable.
Too bad George Bush and the United States aren't actually subject to international law...


The unspoken words

BBC World tonight carried a feature piece on Georgia (not the state), talking about (and showing, via film) how it used to be a properous region of the Soviet Union, and now it is falling apart. All of this was attributed to "corruption." The words "communism" and "capitalism" weren't mentioned, as if the change in living standards of its people had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the change in economic system.


Still more Bushit

OK, I can't stay away. Just two more things to say about Bush's speech today. Right at the beginning, in the third paragraph, Bush has this to say:
"I've been here only a short time, but I've noticed that the tradition of free speech -- exercised with enthusiasm -- is alive and well here in London."
Now this is remarkable for the following reason - Bush landed at Heathrow Airport, and for reasons of "security" (otherwise known as staying out of the view of demonstrators), he flew from there to the grounds of Buckingham Palace by helicopter. So if he managed to see any "free speech [being] exercised" before he gave this speech, it must have been on TV because it certainly wasn't in person (I'm assuming the butler at Buckingham Palace was discrete enough to withhold his views on the war).

No doubt Bush's comments on Iraq and terror and so on will be well analyzed elsewhere. But it's important that this paragraph doesn't go unnoticed:

"Achieving peace in the Holy Land is not just a matter of the shape of a border. As we work on the details of peace, we must look to the heart of the matter, which is the need for a viable Palestinian democracy. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain their ties to terrorist groups. These are the methods of the old elites, who time and again had put their own self-interest above the interest of the people they claim to serve. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders, capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state."
The fact, of course, is that the Palestinian people have a perfectly "viable democracy," far more so than, say, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. But even if the Palestinian leadership were a dictatorship, the idea that the "heart of the matter" is the need for a "viable Palestinian democracy" is simply preposterous, a willful misreading of 55 years of history. The entire world, with the exception of the misled American people, knows that the "heart of the matter" is the illegal occupation of Palestine by the Israelis, and the brutal oppression employed by the Israelis to maintain and extend that occupation. And the fact the Israel is a "viable democracy" has played no positive role whatsoever in resolving that situation.

Pundits claim that the "concession" that Tony Blair extracted from George Bush in exchange for support for the invasion of Iraq was Bush's active support for the "road map." Nothing in Bush's speech today gives the slightest credence to that theory.

Followup: To my surprise (since nothing like this was shown on American TV, nor would it be permitted here in the "land of the free") Bush did actually get to hear some free speech today:

"Anti-war protesters did manage to make their voices heard. As Mr. Bush was introduced to dignitaries, demonstrator Joe Gittings produced a loudhailer and heckled him until he was drowned out by the band playing the US national anthem.

"Mr. Gittings, 32, a physics PhD student, said: 'This is a completely immoral and unjustified war that is already having disastrous consequences.'"
Other than this minor intrusion, Bush spent his entire day in a bubble, as portrayed in detail by Guardian reporter Jonathan Freedland.


More Bushit

George Bush is in Britain, giving his talk to a pre-selected, pre-screened group of people. It's filled with the usual "up is down" nonsense, like "America and Great Britain have done, and will do, all in their power to prevent the United Nations from solemnly choosing its own irrelevance and inviting the fate of the League of Nations," which I can't even bring myself to analyze since there is, as far as I can see, nothing whatsoever in this speech Bush hasn't said many times before. Except for material like this:
"Americans have, on occasion, been called moralists who often speak in terms of right and wrong. That zeal has been inspired by examples on this island, by the tireless compassion of Lord Shaftesbury, the righteous courage of Wilberforce, and the firm determination of the Royal Navy over the decades to fight and end the trade in slaves.

"It's rightly said that Americans are a religious people. That's, in part, because the 'Good News' was translated by Tyndale, preached by Wesley, lived out in the example of William Booth."
Now as I've written before, I don't have a problem with Bush having speechwriters, but can't they at least write stuff we can pretend that Bush understands? Has George Bush ever even heard of Lord Shaftesbury, or Wilberforce, or Tyndale?


The "special relationship"

Washington, twice, asked for British soldiers, paratroopers to be sent to Baghdad, and twice has been refused.

One young British soldier said yesterday: "Look, we are not here to fight a war now, I thought that was finished. The Yanks are fighting a war again, but we should not go down that path. I am very, very sorry for the kids getting killed, but we don't have to get involved." (Source)


Quote of the Day

"We're going to use a sledgehammer to crush a walnut." -- Maj. Gen Charles Swannack Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division (Source)
The high-tech cruise missiles used to "shock and awe" didn't work, so now they're down to sledgehammers. What's next, clubs?

Close second for Quote of the Day:

"Never, never, in no way, would we treat Mexico like our back yard or a second-class nation." -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. (Source)

Or maybe this should be Quote of the Day:

"Duty sometimes requires the violent restraint of violent men." -- George Bush, giving new meaning every day to the word "irony" (Source)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Bad timing

Tonight's BBC World news featured a piece on Mosul, and how much more peaceful and "back to normal" it is than other places in Iraq like Baghdad. Since it was a feature piece, and not breaking news, I can excuse the reporter, but not the anchor, who failed to note that two helicopters were brought down (most likely, although not conclusively, by "hostile fire" of some type) in Mosul Saturday, killing 17 Americans. Then, as if to further discredit BBC's report, two more American soldiers were wounded in a bomb attack in Mosul today.

One of the people interviewed on the BBC report was a jeweler who made gold jewelry, and who talked about how thankful he was to the coalition to bringing "security" to Mosul so he could make his jewelry without fear of being robbed. Was this a big problem before the invasion? Somehow I seriously doubt it, but the reporter didn't ask that obvious question.


Capitalism kills

KPIX (CBS outlet in San Francisco) carried a report last week on a new bill in the California legislature. Here's the background. If a person suffers a stroke and goes straight to a hospital with a 24-hour "stroke team," their chances of complete recovery are almost 100%; if they don't, their lives may be changed forever. Similarly, if patients with hearts attacks go straight to a hospital with a "cath lab," their lives may be saved; if not, their chances are much worse.

So what's the problem? Well, it's two-fold. First, only "one in five hospitals has the necessary cath lab." Of course, the money can't be found in the richest country in the world, since that country (that's us, the U.S.) spends trillions on war and militarism, and even of the billions spent on health care, a significant portion goes to profit rather than to actual health care (like building cath labs or staffing 24-hour stroke teams). But the second problem is the focus of the new legislation. Why aren't patients taken straight to the hospitals which do have the available treatment? Because smaller hospitals are "hurting financially" and "might have to shut down" if they were deprived of these patients. Never mind that the health of the patient will suffer by being taken to the smaller hospital, the problem is the financial health of the hospitals.

How many situations like this does it take to open people's eyes to that time-honored socialist slogan - "People before profits"?


When the going gets tough...

On Saturday, after reports that families of dead British soldiers would challenge George Bush in a private meeting, Left I predicted: "Whether this meeting will still take place, and the guest list remains the same, after Bush's handlers read The Independent, remains to be seen." And sure enough, the Mirror is out today with a followup story (thanks to Counterspin Central for spotting the story):
"White House aides were still locked in dispute over which relatives of dead British troops will meet the president amid fears he may be met with hostility.

"Downing Street admitted the president would meet relatives, and soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, on Thursday. But asked if that included relatives of troops killed in this year's Iraq conflict, Mr Blair's spokesman replied: 'The precise composition is still being worked on.' It implied Mr Bush will not meet those bereaved families who believe the public was misled into conflict."
This, of course, is the same Mr. Bush who just said yesterday: "I value going to a country where people are free to say anything they want to say." You want the truth, George Bush? You can't handle the truth. "Bring it on" indeed.

Followup: BBC World tonight showed Bush's schedule for the visit, which included a visit with families of the September 11 victims (naturally!), and a visit with soldiers who have served in Iraq. No visit at all with families of dead soldiers. Looks like Bush's handlers may have decided they couldn't be absolutely certain of their ability to select only non-confrontational families, and chucked the whole thing.


The evil empire

Watching Fox News just now, two different reports on the Bush trip to London trumpeted the fact that a new poll in the Guardian says that 62% of Labour voters believe that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world." However, surely it is astonishing, and even more newsworthy, that "15% of British voters agree with the idea that America is the 'evil empire' in the world." This was not a poll asking for approval or disapproval of George Bush. This was a poll asking whether people thought America was force for evil in the world. And 15% of Labour voters answered "yes." Has this ever been true at any time in history? I seriously doubt it. The fact that such a question would even be asked in a poll surely says something all by itself about the role of the U.S. in the world, regardless of the answers.


Mass graves in Iraq

There has been a lot of talk about "mass graves" in Iraq. Earlier this month, there was a flurry of stories along these lines:
"Saddam Hussein's government is believed to have buried as many as 300,000 opponents in 263 mass graves that dot the Iraqi landscape, the top human rights official in the U.S.-led occupation administration said Saturday."
As usual in these matters, "believed" quickly becomes fact; speaking on Democracy Now! today, Colin Brown, political editor of Sunday Telegraph, referred to "the bodies of the 350,000 people that they discovered in graves when the troops went in." This is, as the British would say, complete rubbish.

Back in May, there were reports in the press about a mass grave in the town of Mahaweel containing approximately 3000 bodies, and another in the village of Muhammad Sakran containing 1000 bodies. Six months have now passed, and during that period I cannot find a single mention in the press of any further significant discoveries. Since the U.S. chose to make this a story again earlier this month, it is certain that if there had been any, they would have been reported, and even if the U.S. had some kind of count of bodies which have actually been found, you would have heard about that too. Those facts were curiously absent from the stories earlier this month, which almost certainly means there are no such "facts." Note that even if the alleged 263 "mass grave sites" contained 100 bodies each (which is doubtful, based on the known facts), that would amount to 26,000 people (plus another 4000 or so already uncovered), an order of magnitude below the claims of 300,000 (or 350,000) dead bodies in mass graves.

For further reading, an analysis of the source of the bodies (in short, the U.S.-encouraged uprisings against the Hussein regime) which have been discovered can be found here. An earlier analysis of this subject on Left I on the News can be found here; as noted there: "Time after time, as in Kosovo, claims of genocide or hundreds of thousands killed have turned out to be wildly exxagerated." With the passage of more and more time, just as with the claims of Iraqi WMD it would appear that the claims of 300,000 dead in mass graves are less and less credible.


Knight-Ridder states the obvious - Iraq has become Palestine

Last Friday, Left I on the News predicted:
Expect to see the Americans bulldozing the homes of the families of "suspected insurgents" next. It's the least the Israeli military has taught them.
Apparently the shipment of bulldozers hasn't reached Iraq yet, but the Americans are making do, as noted by Knight-Ridder reporter Jeff Wilkinson:
"In a tactic reminiscent of Israeli crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza, the U.S. military has begun destroying the homes of suspected guerrilla fighters in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, evacuating women and children, then leveling their houses with heavy weaponry.

"At least 15 homes have been destroyed in Tikrit as part of what has been dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone II, including four leveled on Sunday by tanks and Apache helicopters that allegedly belonged to suspects in the Nov. 7 downing of a Black Hawk helicopter that killed six Americans.

"Family members at one of the houses, in the village of al Haweda, said they were given five minutes to evacuate before soldiers opened fire.

"Hickey said the four homes were destroyed on Sunday because enemy fighters lived and met there. Leveling the homes will force the fighters to find other meeting places, he said.

"'We're going to turn the heat up and complicate their battlefield,' driving them into the desert, he said. 'There they will be exposed and we will have them.'"
Note that these houses allegedly belonged to suspects in the downing of a helicopter. The Americans don't know who did it, and even if they do know, they aren't sure these are their houses! But they destroyed them anyway, providing the Israeli-tested generous allotment of five minutes to the residents before destroying their homes. Think about the trauma that you recently saw on TV of Southern California residents given a lot more time than that to take what they could from their homes before evacuating in the face of fire, and then consider that the destructions of these homes in Iraq was an entirely voluntary action on the part of the U.S. military, not an "act of God."

Note also the illogical nature of the claims of the American military. If they really knew that "enemy fighters lived and met" in these houses, why didn't they just surround the houses with troops and arrest these "enemy fighters," instead of destroying the house and forcing them to "find other meeting places." A rather strange way to win a war, I'd say. And "drive them into the desert"? Are they planning on knocking down every house in the country?

But if that was strange, another incident reported in the story is even stranger:

"For example, Sunday night's action included the launching of a missile from Baghdad, 55 miles away, at the abandoned home of former Saddam henchman Izzat Ibrahim al Duri, who is No. 6 on the coalition's most-wanted list. A reporter and photographer from Knight Ridder were allowed to witness the destruction, which was completed by laser-guided artillery fire.

"[Col. James Hickey, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.] said al Duri's house was destroyed to deny guerrillas a meeting place, though it was unclear that such high-tech weaponry was needed to destroy the structure, which appeared completely looted.

"Hickey said soldiers had been instructed to make sure to evacuate innocent civilians nearby. Near al Duri's house, two men, four children and two babies were shivering in near-freezing temperatures in the back of a truck, given just a few minutes to flee their neighboring farm."
Followup: Billmon has an excellent post on the same subject, in particular reviewing the war crimes aspect of the American actions, as well as pointing out how this development contradicts the American line that the "dead-enders" have no popular support.

Monday, November 17, 2003


The milestones are coming more quickly

The 500th member of the coalition armed forces died today in Iraq. Since so much more of the war has now occured after the famous May 1 date than before, more and more media outlets are starting to refer to the total American fatalities (423 as of this writing). None seems to want to remind their readers of the total cost in "coalition" lives (and, of course, even fewer if any want to remind their readers of the total cost in Iraqi lives). As Left I has noted many times before, with the U.S. still giving at least lip-service to wanting to get more troops from other countries serving in Iraq, it is remarkable how little respect the U.S. government and the U.S. media give to the dead soldiers from the countries which have sent troops. Jingoism - the official religion of the United States.


Howard Dean, Imperialist

Those who still think of Howard Dean as some kind of anti-war progressive need to be reminded (as I was by Justin Raimondo's latest column) of what Dean has said about the process of writing an Iraqi Constitution:
"Dean would impose a 'hybrid' constitution, 'American with Iraqi, Arab characteristics. Iraqis have to play a major role in drafting this, but the Americans have to have the final say.'" [Emphasis added]
Dean also, like many on the left, center, and right, says that despite his opposition to the war before it started, "Now that we're there, we're stuck." Marc Krizack, writing on CommonDreams in a piece entitled "Don’t Reward Liars and Thieves," has an excellent rebuttal to that argument today:
"To permit our troops to remain in Iraq now is to reward these militarists and war profiteers. To reward them is to encourage them to lie to us again and to invade again. They hijacked the American presidency and American foreign policy and now they want the American People to ratify their theft and their lies by agreeing to keep US troops in Iraq. Don't do it. Don't let them have a single drop of Iraqi oil. Don't let them keep a single military base in Iraq. They should not gain from their duplicity.

"Don't buy their cynical argument that 'We' have a responsibility because 'We' started this, or as Senator John McCain says, 'We broke the dishes, now we have to fix them.' Their 'We' is not the American people. Their 'We' is the Neo-conservative clique who lied to the American people every which way so that WE, the American People, didn’t know forwards from backwards and so that WE would support THEIR war."


Face the British people? Bush can't even face the British Parliament!

From the Mirror:
"George Bush was last night branded chicken for scrapping his speech to Parliament because he feared being heckled by anti-war MPs.

"The decision to abandon the speech came as extraordinary security measures costing £19million placed London under a state of virtual siege ahead of Mr Bush's arrival tomorrow.

"Roads in Whitehall were closed with concrete blockades. Overhead, a no-fly zone has been established with the RAF on standby to shoot down unidentified planes. All police leave is cancelled.

"The only speech Mr Bush, who will stay with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, is now due to give will be to an 'invited audience' at the Banqueting House in Whitehall."
This is a President who just told David Frost in an interview:
"Well, freedom is a beautiful thing, I would first say, and it's, aren't you lucky to be in a country that encourages people to speak their mind? And I value going to a country where people are free to say anything they want to say."
Apparently he doesn't value it enough to actually listen to what they have to say.


Quote of the Day - George Bush

"I believed a lot of things." -- responding to a question from David Frost on whether he believed the claim that Iraq could unleash weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.
This response immediately follows another one, in which Bush asserts (when asked about the absence of WMD in Iraq): "I think our intelligence was sound and I know the British intelligence was sound." He knows "the British intelligence was sound"? Then what happened to those WMD that could be unleashed in 45 minutes?

I could spend an entire page deconstructing the interview, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. However, I will close with Bush's vision for a Palestinian state, which is telling:

"However, to achieve a peaceful Palestinian state, the emergence of a peaceful Palestinian state, a state where people are willing to risk capital, a place where people are willing to develop an economy, there must be a focused effort to defeat terror." [Emphasis added]


Inauguration Day

Arnold Schwarzenegger is being inaugurated today as Governor of California. To commemorate the occasion, Left I on the News brings you this cultural interlude. The award-winning Lamplighters are the premiere Gilbert and Sullivan company in America, having been performing the works of G&S for 50 years. Once a year, the Lamplighters present an original show, with original songs based on the works of G&S. This plot of this year's show was based on The Producers and a search for the worst musical ever written. Among the scripts considered was "Da Gubernator," from which the following song is taken:

Sung to the tune of "When I Was a Lad" from HMS Pinafore:

When I was a lad in Austria
I saw Johnny Weismuller the movie star.
I swore one day I would reach that peak,
And the key to my success would be a great physique.
I was so dedicated to the oath I swore,
That now I am the California Gov-er-nor!

I worked so hard on my muscled frame
That a Mister Universe I soon became.
I packed up my trophies and my belts and weights
For a one-way trip to the United States.
And the U.S.A. offered so much more
That now I am the California Gov-er-nor!

My first movie role I obtained with ease
In a low-budget picture playing Hercules.
I flexed my muscles and I mouthed each word
But they overdubbed my lines and so I wasn't heard.
I got such practice being spoken for
That now I am the California Gov-er-nor!

I made "Stay Hungry" and "Pumping Iron"
And a Golden Globe award was shortly mine.
I proved a great disciplinarian
When I hit the screen as Conan the Barbarian.
I gave those bad guys such what-for
That now I am the California Gov-er-nor!

My next big role on the silver screen
Was a big strong psycho-killer man-machine.
I died a nasty death, that's true,
But it didn't stop me coming back to make T2!
I was such a tenacious ter-min-a-tor,
That now I am the California Gov-er-nor!

By then I was such a famous man
That they took me into the Kennedy clan.
I wore clean collars and a brand-new suit
'Cept for Terminator 3, when I was in the nude.
So low I'll sink and so high I'll soar,
That now I am the California Gov-er-nor!

Now actors all, whoever you may be,
If you want to take advantage of democracy,
If you rooted for Ronald, if you cheered for Clint,
If your money was on Sonny in the Government.
It's three thousand dollars - and a little bit more -
And you all may run for California Gov-er-nor!
-- Words by Barbara Heroux, Mike Dederian, Matt Callahan, J. Geoffrey Colton, Jane Hammett, Marc Kenig, and Baker Peeples of the San Francisco-based Lamplighters, with a little help from William S. Gilbert; music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. [Please do not distribute copies of this song without also including these credits]

Sunday, November 16, 2003


Unintended humor

I know it's a misprint, but it's still funny:
"US President George W. Bush on Sunday mourned American troops killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq and vowed the US troops would leave Iraq until the country's security situation is stabilized."
If only!


What the U.S. is doing in Iraq

Listening to Fox News interview Iraqi dictator Paul "Jerry" Bremer just now, I heard him give a figure of 15,000 "reconstruction projects." It wasn't clear whether this was the number of "projects" he was claiming had been completed, were ongoing, or what, but in any case the number was 15,000.
As with the discussion here of the rebuilding of Iraqi schools a few days ago, I find this number very hard to believe, or rather, what I believe is that every time the U.S. sends a box of pencils to a school they chalk that up as a "rebuilding project." Again I repeat what I have said before - the media, and particular the sycophants at Fox and MSNBC, are desperate to convince us that there is "good news" in Iraq. If so, couldn't they obtain footage of just a single school being "rebuilt"? We all saw footage right after the fall of Baghdad of government ministries being completely ransacked, in some cases gutted with fire. Have any of those important buildings been rebuilt? Maybe so, but I've certainly never seen footage of a single one on TV.

Again, I'm not denying there is "rebuilding" of a sort going on in Iraq. But 15,000 projects? With only 130,000 soldiers, most of whom are doing other things? Not really credible. Needless to say, Fox interviewers Brit Hume and Tony Snow didn't ask any kind of followup question to ask Bremer what he was including in the 15,000 figure.

What are the U.S. soldiers doing in Iraq? Well, here's how the latest incident which ended in the downing of two Blackhawk helicopters and the death of 17 American soldiers started:

"Someone in a sedan had fired at the Industrial Bank in the Sinjar Gate neighborhood of Mosul early Saturday evening. U.S. troops were guarding the bank and one soldier was wounded in the leg. Troops called in a roving, rapid reaction UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to pursue the attackers."
Guarding banks? That doesn't sound much like "rebuilding" to me. In fact, in $ounds $u$piciou$ly like the fall of Baghdad, when the Oil Mini$try wa$ the only building protected by American troop$. Intere$tingly enough, thi$ i$ not the fir$t incident involving a U.$. $oldier guarding a bank. I'm not going to $earch out the reference, but I'm certain in the last month or $o there was another $oldier $hot guarding a bank. For this young Americans have to stay in Iraq and be killed?


130,000 Iraqis under arms?

Donald Rumsfeld has been referring recently to 130,000 Iraqis under arms, the "second largest component of the 'coalition'." The Los Angeles Times has a story this morning which explores the facts behind this claim:
"Five weeks ago, civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer III estimated that about 60,000 Iraqis were enrolled in the police and other security forces. This month, various Bush administration officials continually raised their estimate of recruits until it reached the 130,000 figure, a surprisingly rapid intake.

"But that total suggests a far more formidable force than the one that exists. In fact, only about 1,500 men have been inducted into the new Iraqi army and are receiving a full boot-camp training — eight weeks under the tutelage of coalition troops and private contractors.

"The rest are police officers — who get three weeks of training that emphasizes courtesy and respect of human rights. The other services — the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the Fixed-Site Protection Service and the Border Guards — receive training that ranges from a day to a week."
The Times also notes:
"Many of the recruits say they have joined up primarily out of economic need and acknowledge that many among their comrades sympathize with the insurgents fighting to rid Iraq of U.S. troops."
In truth, Bush's security force for his visit to the U.K. probably has more firepower than all the Iraqi soldiers, police, and security guards combined.

Followup: Brian Cloughley at CounterPunch examines the 130,000 claim in detail.

Saturday, November 15, 2003


Does the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs read Left I on the News?

Left I on the News, Oct. 27:
The Senate passed a bill ending restrictions on travel to Cuba. The House passed a bill ending restrictions on travel to Cuba. The conference committee? They're going to "reconcile the differences" (of which there are none) by dropping the provision entirely.

Democracy, U.S.-style.
Granma, Nov. 13:
A lesson in "democracy" from the United States

In the evening of November 12 it was announced that the House-Senate conference committee studying the Treasury-Transportation Appropriations bill had decided to eliminate from that legal draft the amendment advocating a relaxation of the existing ban on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba, despite the fact that both the U.S. House and Senate had approved the amendment by a substantial majority.


Bush in the U.K.

Lying to the world about Iraqi WMD? No surprise. Starting illegal wars and killing thousands of people? Par for the course. But the story below shocked even Left I. Lots of U.S. Presidents have started wars - Reagan against Grenada, Bush I against Iraq, Clinton against Yugoslavia. Nixon didn't start the war in Vietnam, but he was reviled nonetheless. But has there ever been a U.S. President who was more reviled by more people worldwide than George Bush? I don't think so. This story pretty much sums it up:
'Shoot-to-kill' demand by US

"Home Secretary David Blunkett has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to armed American special agents and snipers travelling to Britain as part of President Bush's entourage this week.

"In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the Americans in Bush's protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor, the Home Office has confirmed.

"The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit.

"These included the closure of the Tube network, the use of US air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters.

"In return, the British authorities agreed numerous concessions, including the creation of a 'sterile zone' around the President with a series of road closures in central London and a security cordon keeping the public away from his cavalcade.

"The White House initially demanded the closure of all Tube lines under parts of London to be visited during the trip. But British officials dismissed the idea that a suicide bomber could kill the President by blowing up a Tube train. Ministers are also believed to have dismissed suggestions that a 'sterile zone' around the President should be policed entirely by American special agents and military.

"Demands for the US air force to patrol above London with fighter aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters have also been turned down.

"The Americans had also wanted to travel with a piece of military hardware called a 'mini-gun', which usually forms part of the mobile armoury in the presidential cavalcade. It is fired from a tank and can kill dozens of people. One manufacturer's description reads: 'Due to the small calibre of the round, the mini-gun can be used practically anywhere. This is especially helpful during peacekeeping deployments.'

Ministers have made clear to Washington that the firepower of the mini-gun will not be available during the state visit to Britain. In return, the Government has agreed to close off much of Whitehall during the visit - the usual practice in Britain is to use police outriders to close roads as the cavalcade passes to cause minimal disruption to traffic."
He doesn't read the news himself. He travels in "sterile zones" (an interesting choice of wording, as if protestors are infectious agents). One wonders when the last time George Bush actually talked with, or even saw, someone who actually disagreed with him (Democrats in Congress not included, and probably notwithstanding). It doesn't look like it will be happening next week in the U.K. any more than in the U.S.

Followup: Well, I may have spoken too soon on that last point. This from the The Independent:

"President George Bush will be accused this week of lying about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in a face-to-face meeting with the families of British soldiers killed in the war, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

"Mr Bush announced last week he was prepared to meet a small group of families of the British war dead. The names have not been officially revealed but two of the invited families have come forward to talk exclusively to the IoS, saying they will challenge the US President to explain why he went to war without a United Nations mandate and why no chemical and biological weapons have been found.

"Lianne Seymour, whose husband, Commando Ian Seymour, was killed in a helicopter crash at the outbreak of the war, welcomed the chance to meet Mr Bush. But she dismissed his claim that the 53 Britons killed so far in Iraq had died in a good cause. She said: 'Bush has been suggesting that he's going to put our minds at rest. He suggests our husbands' lives weren't lost in vain. However, I'm going to challenge him on it.'"
Whether this meeting will still take place, and the guest list remains the same, after Bush's handlers read The Independent, remains to be seen.

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