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Friday, April 30, 2004


North Korean Nukes

In the news today:
"The United States is preparing to significantly raise its estimate of the number of nuclear weapons held by North Korea, from 'possibly two' to at least eight, according to US officials involved in the preparation of a report. Specialists said an arsenal of eight weapons indicates that North Korea could use its weapons to attack neighbors, instead of merely deterring a possible attack."
Estimates are that Israel has 200 nuclear weapons. The U.S. has more than ten thousand. When is the last time that you saw the press suggest that those numbers indicate that Israel or the United States "could use its weapons to attack neighbors"?

Of course, the idea is preposterous in any case. Why North Korea would be able to attack South Korea with eight nuclear weapons, instead of just two, is completely beyond me, begging entirely the question of what possible benefit they could hope to derive from such an attack. And, whether two or eight, isn't it clear that if they did do such a thing, the United States would drop a hundred nuclear bombs on North Korea and "bomb them back to the Stone Age," to use the famous words of Curtis LeMay?

The fact, of course, is that if there is any attack launched in conjunction with North Korea, the odds are 1000-1 that it will be launched by the United States, not by North Korea. And as if to prove that, consider this statement today from Democratic "liberal" John Kerry:

"Today's report that North Korea has significantly increased its nuclear weapons capability under this administration's watch underscores how their failed policies have made America less safe. Even after the North Koreans made their intentions clear over a year ago by ejecting international nuclear inspectors, the administration dithered and blustered while Kim Jong Il has reportedly quadrupled his nuclear arsenal.

"There is simply no excuse for the administration's continued unwillingness to take realistic steps to address this growing threat. While President Bush has said he's running out of patience with the North Koreans, we are running out of patience with his complete lack of progress in getting the North Koreans to disarm. It is past time for the administration to put aside its failed approach and engage in meaningful negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis."
Note that the words "growing threat" are precisely the ones used by George Bush to justify his illegal, unilateral, "preemptive" attack on Iraq. John Kerry's blather about "meaningful negotiations" notwithstanding, the fact is that it is military action the U.S. (both Bush and Kerry) is planning, not "negotiation." Why should North Korea "negotiate" away its right to defend itself? Hasn't the lesson of Iraq proved what a crazy thing that would be to do?

North Korea is not a threat to Americans. George Bush, John Kerry, and the gang of power-mad lunatics in charge of the United States are.


From Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib

Are they trying to make us laugh? This just in:
"A former head of the U.S. Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba has been sent to Iraq to ensure proper prison conditions, after photos apparently showed U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, the military said on Friday."
Even Reuters is forced to note at the end of the article:
"Controversy has also surrounded the Guantanamo camp because terror suspects have been held there with no charges or legal representation. Photos of detainees shackled and being forced to kneel in chain link cages sparked international outrage."


Left I and Al Franken on the same wavelength

Readers of this blog know I'm not generally in sync with Al Franken. But this morning he's right on the money, describing Paul Wolfowitz's testimony yesterday that "approximately 500 [American troops have died in Iraq], of which . . . approximately 350 are combat deaths" - a number that was more than 200 short of the truth - as an outrageous statement indicating that Wolfowitz just doesn't care about the lives of American soldiers, and calling for Wolfowitz's immediate resignation. And I couldn't agree more. Anyone who is remotely "political," or even reads the papers every day, knows that the number is now over 700, even if they don't know the exact number (which is almost unknowable since it changes daily and is ill-defined to begin with). The fact that the Deputy Secretary of Defense does not know this number, is not even close to the number, indicates either complete incompetence (which I doubt) or just a complete lack of concern (which I believe). Of course Wolfowitz's resignation wouldn't change a thing about U.S. foreign policy, and wouldn't save the life of a single Iraqi or a single American. But he should resign, or be fired, immediately, nonetheless.


"State sponsors of terrorism"

In the unintentional humor department, "Iraq will remain on the U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism until the country's new government, which is expected to take office on June 30, renounces terrorist practices, the State Department said yesterday." Of course the U.N. has already declared the U.S. and the U.K. to be the "occupying powers" in Iraq, fully responsible for everything going on in that country. Which of course means it is not the "Iraqi Governing [sic] Council" which has been declared a "state sponsor of terrorism," but the governments of the U.S. and the U.K. Which is, of course, exactly correct.

The report makes for interesting reading. Here's some of the key "evidence" which causes Cuba to be labelled a "state sponsor of terrorism":

"Cuba remained opposed to the US-led Coalition prosecuting the global war on terrorism and actively condemned many associated US policies and actions throughout 2003. Government-controlled press reporting about US-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were consistently critical of the United States and frequently and baselessly alleged US involvement in violations of human rights. Government propaganda claimed that those fighting for self-determination or against foreign occupation are exercising internationally recognized rights and cannot be accused of terrorism. Cuba's delegate to the UN said terrorism cannot be defined as including acts by legitimate national liberation movements -- even though many such groups clearly employ tactics that intentionally target innocent civilians to advance their political, religious, or social agendas. In referring to US policy toward Cuba, the delegate asserted, 'acts by states to destabilize other states is a form of terrorism.'"
Also interesting reading is the material on North Korea. Here's the "evidence" against them:
"The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987. Although it is a party to six international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, Pyongyang has not taken substantial steps to cooperate in efforts to combat international terrorism."
The latter, of course, means they didn't send troops to help overthrow the governments of Afghanistan or Iraq, which, in the looking-glass world of the U.S. State Department, makes them a "state sponsor of terrorism."

Thursday, April 29, 2004


"Terrorism" deaths falling?

A new report today says: "The number of people killed in international 'terrorist' attacks last year was cut in half to 307 because of unprecedented government cooperation, the U.S. State Department says." Maybe so. But since the U.S. government (not to mention Fox News and many others) insists on categorizing the invasion and occupation of Iraq as part of the "War on Terror," shouldn't we include in that number 575 deaths of coalition soldiers, 10,000 or so Iraqi civilian deaths, some unknown number (10,000? 20,000?) of Iraqi military deaths, not to mention another 50 or so deaths of "contractors" in Iraq, 20 or so reporters killed in Iraq, and probably some other people I'm forgetting, not to mention hundreds of other U.S. soldiers not included in the normal totals because they were sent home alive, but brain dead, so their families could be the ones to decide to pull the plug.

But hey. Deaths from "terrorism" are down.


Bravo Robert Byrd

The media continues to ignore Sen. Robert Byrd as if he's some doddering old fool, even while he continues to make one passionate, intelligent, significant speech after another. And in his latest, he demonstrates once again that he's thinking thoughts that scarcely a single other American politician is thinking:
"Seven hundred and twenty-two American lives have been lost. Unknown thousands of Iraqis are dead.

"Deaths and casualties of Iraqi civilians are in the thousands, but an actual number cannot be obtained. Is it any wonder that Iraqis see us, not as liberators, but as crusaders and conquerors? A growing number of Iraqis see us as we would see foreign troops on the streets of Chicago, New York, Washington, or any small town in America. Surely one can understand the hatred brewing in Iraq when we see the agony of an Iraqi family that has lost a loved one due to an errant bomb or bullet."
How rare to see an American politician acknowledge that the death of people from other countries actually counts.

Unfortunately, Sen. Byrd still has to open his eyes a bit further. Consider this impassioned paragraph:

"How long will America continue to pay the price in blood and treasure of this President's war? How long must the best of our nation's military men and women be taken from their homes to fight this unnecessary war in Iraq? How long must our National Guardsmen be taken from their communities to fight and die in the hot sands in Iraq? How long must the fathers and mothers see their sons and daughters die in a far away land because of President Bush's doctrine of preemptive attack? How long must little children across our land go to sleep at night crying for a daddy or mother far away who may never come home?"
Very moving. Very much on point. But does Sen. Byrd close with a call for the U.S. troops to leave Iraq now and stop this senseless war, a war that he himself characterizes like this: "A war that should not have been fought. A war in the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons."? Sadly, no.


The U.S. occupation of the Philippines

An excellent article at Counterpunch today on the history of the U.S. invasion and occupation of the Philippines, which lasted from 1898 to 1945. Some choice quotes from the article:
"A U.S. general told Congress that Filipinos who wanted freedom had 'no more idea of its meaning than a shepherd dog.'

"President McKinley said he spent many sleepless nights agonizing about the Philippines until God told him to keep the islands and 'uplift and civilize and Christianize them.' The President called his program 'benevolent assimilation.' The influential San Franciso Argonaut was more candid: 'We do not want the Filipinos. We want the Philippines. The islands are enormously rich, but unfortunately, they are infested with Filipinos.'

"General William Shafter told a journalist it might be necessary to kill half the population to bring 'perfect justice' to the other half. After General Jack Smith promised to turn the Philippines into a 'howling wilderness' most casualties were civilians. Smith defined the foe as any male or female 'ten years and up,' and told his soldiers: 'I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me.'

"U.S. officers encouraged the use of torture, murder of prisoners, and massacre of villagers, including women and children. A Kansas soldier wrote 'The country won't be pacified until the niggers are killed off like the Indians.' Another white soldier reported brutal 'sights you could hardly believe' and he reached this conclusion: 'A white man seems to forget that he is human.'

"The U.S. had entered a quagmire. 'The Filipino masses are loyal to Aguinaldo and the government he leads,' conceeded U.S. General Arthur MacArthur. He thought the foe 'needed bayonet treatment for at least a decade.'

"By 1902 U.S. Senate hearings and scores of Army court martial trials found that U.S. occupying forces were guilty of 'war crimes.' General Robert Hughes admitted he ordered the burning of villages and murder of women and children. When asked by a Senator if this was 'civilized warfare,' he answered, 'these people are not civilized.'

"President Teddy Roosevelt followed McKinley to the White House and continued to justify the occupation, dismiss Filipinos as 'Chinese half-breeds,' and to insist this was 'the most glorious war in our nation's history.'"
So if anyone tells you "Iraq is not Vietnam," tell them, "Hey, you're absolutely right. It's the Philippines."


Quote of the Day

From the San Diego Union-Tribune via Billmon:
"This 'stay the course' idea is wonderful except the course is leading us over Niagara Falls."

- Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command
Unfortunately, Gen. Zinni doesn't have the courage of his convictions, or else he likes the odds of going over Niagara Falls. Why? Because he says that we shouldn't pull our troops out of Iraq. Why? Because he thinks that "as you pull troops out our troops become more vulnerable." Bull. I guarantee that if the U.S. announces today (and, of course, follows through with action) that they are immediately pulling out all troops [and I emphasize "immediately," as opposed to Israel's "immediate" pullout from Gaza "by the end of 2005"], but that they will stop and reverse course if they are attacked, that the attacks would stop today. And even if what Zinni says were true, which I don't believe for a second, the logic of the argument is simply absurd. Let's say if, when troop strength gets low, that 200 or even 500 troops could be killed in one month. So instead we don't pull the troops out, and 100 a month get killed for 12 months, or 24 months, or 36 months, or maybe 100 months. Your math skills don't have to be particularly sharp to recognize that as a bad tradeoff. And I doubt the friends and family of the soldiers who will die if we don't pull out of Iraq will figure it's a good deal either. Not to mention the friends and family of the thousands of Iraqis who will continue to die.


Battling flags

It looks like the attempt by the U.S. and its CPA and IGC to impose a new Iraqi flag is backfiring even worse than originally thought. From the Independent:
"'What gives these people the right to throw away our flag, to change the symbol of Iraq?' asked Salah, a building contractor of normally moderate political opinions. 'It makes me very angry because these people were appointed by the Americans. I will not regard the new flag as representing me but only traitors and collaborators.'"
But here's the really big development:
"Already anti-US guerrillas are adopting the old red, white and black banner as their battle flag, tying it to their trucks and sticking it in the ground where they have their positions. This blend of nationalism and religion has proved highly successful in spreading resistance to the occupation."

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Time flies

March 31: 4 CINOs ("Civilians in name only"), referred to by the U.S. government and handmaiden media as "contractors," are killed in Falluja.

April 2: "A U.S. general vowed an 'overwhelming' response to the murder and mutilation of four American contractors. 'We will pacify that city. ... It will be at the time and place of our choosing,' Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said."

April 6: "U.S. Marines established control Tuesday over portions of this volatile city, following two days and nights of resistance by insurgents. By early Tuesday, one Marine regiment had taken control of a large industrial zone in the southeast quarter of Fallujah, and a second regiment was operating on the north side. 'We are solidly ensconced in the city, and my units are stiffening their grip,' said Lt. Col. Brennan T. Byrne."

April 28: The marines still control the industrial zone and nothing more.

Followup: (Spoke too soon!) April 29: "A new agreement aimed at ending the three-week long siege of Fallujah was announced Thursday under which a force of former Iraqi soldiers and commanders will be mustered into a 'Fallujah Protection Army' and replace U.S. Marines in and around the embattled city. [Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne] said the new army will assume positions from the Marines, taking over the cordon around the city. They will also mount an operation to apprehend or kill insurgents holed up in Fallujah, he said."

Sure they will. And arresting the people who were responsible for burning and hanging the bodies of the dead CINOs, which was the original motivation for the attack on Fallujah? They're no longer even talking about that.

How desperate are the American forces to pull back? This turnover to Iraqi forces comes one day after this story: "A second unit of the Iraqi armed forces has mutinied at Fallujah after being involved in heavy fighting with insurgents."

More followup: This really would be an amazing development, if true. Three days ago the U.S. was claiming they were about to begin "joint patrols" with the Iraqis. Two days ago they announced that they changed their minds because the "Iraqis weren't ready." And now today they're ready to turn the whole thing over to the Iraqis! I say "if true" because now CNN is reporting that this plan is being retracted (or denied). The only certain thing is that the U.S. continues to drop bombs on Fallujah, and, of course, kill more Iraqis.


Freedom of speech...but please, not too loud

"An anti-war group planning a massive demonstration at the start of the Republican National Convention in Manhattan has been denied a permit to rally in Central Park because the crowd would be too large."
Can't have that!


Exit strategy

MSNBC newsguy Lester Holt to military analyst Col. Ken Allard, discussing how the insurgents in Fallujah were hoping to wear the U.S. down so they would eventually leave, as in Somalia - "The insurgents have no exit strategy, do they?" No, you moron, because they live there!


The Gaza "pullout"

The news is filled with talk about Israel's withdrawal from Gaza as if it were a done deal and practically a fait accompli. Generally overlooked is this one little detail: "The date proposed for Israel's unilateral exit is not until late 2005." Now please note one additional detail: there are only 7500 Israelis in Gaza, along with 1.3 million Palestinians. 7500 people could be evacuated from Gaza by tomorrow if anyone really wanted it to happen. Even allowing them time to take all their belongings with them, and to build 7500 houses from scratch somewhere in Israel, does it really require 20 months to evacuate 7500 people from Gaza? Of course not.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Bush, Cheney and the 9-11 Commission

It was bad enough that Bush and Cheney had to be dragged kicking and screaming even to testify before the 9-11 Commission. It was even worse that they insist on testifying together. It was still worse that they'll do so not under oath, that is, not under any legal obligation to tell the truth. And now the final indignity to the 9-11 Commission and the American people:
:"The White House said on Tuesday that there would be no recording or formal transcription of the historic joint interview of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"The interview, to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday at the White House, will be recorded by two note takers, one from the White House. Under a pact with the White House that allowed all its 10 members in the interview, the commission is permitted to take a note taker, but not a recording device. The panel said it did not press for a formal transcription of the session, letting the White House decide."
Are you kidding me? Who are the wusses on this Commission anyway? Make these clowns testify under oath, and with full recording, or don't let them testify at all and let them pay the price before the American people for not having the guts to do so.


Homeland security

The United States is spending $4.7 billion dollars every month occupying Iraq, killing thousands of its people, and seeing more than a hundred of its own people killed. All, according to the "official" explanation by George Bush, to "protect" the people of the U.S.

So how's it going? Well, here are three items from today's news:

Item 1: "California state parks, the nation's largest park system, trimmed the number of seasonal lifeguards for the third consecutive year. The department also warned there will be fewer lifeguards at state beaches, lakes and reservoirs this year, though drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in state parks. The cuts come as park attendance is increasing. Last year, park lifeguards rescued a record 10,539 people."

Item 2: "The military is demanding two Sierra Nevada ski resorts return howitzers used for avalanche control, saying the weapons are needed by troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain, under a loan from the U.S. Army, began using five howitzers last year to clear the slopes of avalanche hazards before skiers arrive. The howitzers, fired into snow-covered mountainsides, trigger avalanches while the slopes are empty."

Item 3: "After more than two years of providing round-the-clock security on the Golden Gate Bridge, state National Guard troops are set to leave the landmark on Friday, bridge district officials report. Watching over the more than 116,000 vehicles and hundreds of pedestrians and bicyclists that traverse the bridge each day was costing the guard about $5 million annually."

So swimmers, skiers, and people who drive into or out of San Francisco are now less safe, for want of a few million dollars. In the meantime, more than a thousand times that amount are being spent every month by the U.S. military in Iraq which, by the way, is also making the people of the United States less safe day by day. Quite a deal!


The Donald explains the process of democracy in Iraq

No, that that "the Donald," THE Donald, the one for whom Left I on the News coined the phrase "Donsense" to describe his every word:
Barbara Starr, CNN: "After June 30, are you in agreement to rule [Ahmad Chalabi] out as a member of the interim government?"

Donald Rumsfeld: "We're not in a position of ruling people in or ruling people out and have no intention to. Clearly, there is a vetting process that's taking place by the United Nations representative Mr. Brahimi, and by the Iraqi people [!!!], and by the Iraqi Governing Council, and certainly the the [?] Americans. And they all look at these people and at some point there will be consensus developed in a manner possibly not dissimilar from that we saw in Afghanistan, where there may be some meetings, whether they're public or formal as opposed to informal or not. But their names will be up and someone will rise to the top and somebodies, plural, undoubtedly, given the nature of the country, and that then will be the interim government for a period until the constitution is fashioned and elections are held sometime next year or the year after [!!]."
An entire press conference from George Bush? A total waste of time. 145 words of Donsense? Priceless.

[Exchange transcribed by Left I from a live press conference this morning]


The hidden cost of war

Amidst the ridiculous controversy over the showing of photos of rectangular flags (draped over unseen coffins), there are other pictures you definitely don't get to see. But the Washington Post provides at least a thousand words today, which paint a pretty grim picture:
"While attention remains riveted on the rising count of Americans killed in action -- more than 100 so far in April -- doctors at the main combat support hospital in Iraq are reeling from a stream of young soldiers with wounds so devastating that they probably would have been fatal in any previous war.

"More and more in Iraq, combat surgeons say, the wounds involve severe damage to the head and eyes -- injuries that leave soldiers brain damaged or blind, or both, and the doctors who see them first struggling against despair.

"The neurosurgeons at the 31st Combat Support Hospital measure the damage in the number of skulls they remove to get to the injured brain inside, a procedure known as a craniotomy. 'We've done more in eight weeks than the previous neurosurgery team did in eight months,' Poffenbarger said.

"About half the [900 so far in April] wounded troops have suffered injuries light enough that they were able to return to duty after treatment, according to the Pentagon.

"The others arrive on stretchers at the hospitals operated by the 31st CSH. 'These injuries,' said Lt. Col. Stephen M. Smith, executive officer of the Baghdad facility, 'are horrific.'

"'Three or four months from now 50 to 60 percent will be functional and doing things," said Maj. Richard Gullick. 'Functional,' he said, means 'up and around, but with pretty significant disabilities,' including paralysis.

"The remaining 40 percent to 50 percent of patients include those whom the surgeons send to Europe, and on to the United States, with no prospect of regaining consciousness. The practice, subject to review after gathering feedback from families, assumes that loved ones will find value in holding the soldier's hand before confronting the decision to remove life support."
In other words the number of "functionally dead" soldiers is a lot higher than the numbers being quoted.


Quote of the Day

From Riverbend (Baghdad Burning), discussing the new "Iraqi" (or should that be "Israelaqi"?) flag:
"At first I was angry and upset, but then I realized that it wouldn't make a difference. The Puppets are illegitimate, hence their constitution is null and void and their flag is theirs alone. It is as representative of Iraq as they are - it might as well have 'Made in America' stitched along the inside seam."
The most unbelievable thing about this flag isn't it's resemblance to the Israeli flag and the offense that has already caused to Iraqis. It's that, in just over two months, the U.S. is going to pretend to hand over "sovereignty" to (some unknown group of) Iraqis. Since the "sovereign" Iraqi government isn't going to be in control of the military, or able to write laws, or much of anything as far as one can tell, couldn't the U.S. at least have saved this one meaningless gesture (approving a new flag) for them? Apparently not.


New album from Patti Smith

A new album from rock great Patti Smith entitled Trampin' is out today; it gets three stars from Rolling Stone, while a review in the Guardian gives it five stars.

Smith's collection album, Land, released in 2002, is one of the great albums of all time. A must-have for any serious music fan, with one powerful song after another.

Followup: Cursor steers me to a new interview with Smith on the occasion of the release of the new album. Here's one quote: "When I was writing these songs I was thinking about the disenfranchised. And I realised that what has happened is that the disenfranchised have become a majority, not a minority. It is really those global concerns - rather than any personal ones - that I wanted to express on this album."

More followup: The new album is available at the iTunes music store.


Joint patrols in Fallujah

For days now, up to and including yesterday, the U.S. military has been saying that today they would begin "joint patrols" with Iraqi troops in Fallujah. At this morning's press conference, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt announced, as was entirely predictable (I honestly thought about writing a post on this a few days ago), that the patrols would consist only of American forces. Quoting from memory, he said something like "Commanders on the ground have taken an operational assessment and concluded that the level of training and preparedness of Iraqi forces wasn't sufficient to include them in the operation." And they just figured that out this morning. Right. I have a feeling the only "joint action" going on in Iraq involves Brig. Gen. Kimmitt and something he's smoking.


Jaw-dropping news from California

The lead story in today's San Jose Mercury News:
Tax amnesty reels in $1 billion

"Californians who dodged taxes by hiding their money in questionable tax shelters have coughed up more than $1 billion under the state's just-ended amnesty.

"Fewer than 900 taxpayers tried to protect their money from taxes, but that equaled roughly 2 1/2 percent of all the personal and corporate income taxes that the state will collect.

"The 296 corporate taxpayers tallied so far include companies in the oil and gas industry, financial services, retailing and even some large accounting firms. The average check from corporations is $1.3 million, but the uncounted number of companies with Bay Area ties each paid at least $25 million.

"The average check from individual taxpayers was $1.2 million, but some paid much more. So far, an unidentified Atherton taxpayer holds the Bay Area record with a check for $8.7 million." [Looking at that statistic differently, a sidebar to the article notes that $654 million was paid by 568 individuals]
Feeling better about having just paid your taxes? As Assemblyman Dario Frommer, quoted in the article, says:
"You begin to wonder if this is the tip of the iceberg. It does make you wonder whether there is large-scale cheating going on by some very wealthy and privileged individuals on these kinds of tax shelters.''
Makes us wonder? I'd say it's pretty damn obvious, wouldn't you?

Monday, April 26, 2004



I'm no fan of John Kerry; readers of this site know I won't be voting for him in November. Nevertheless, the campaign that George Bush is running is truly remarkable. Eating breakfast this morning, the latest Bush ad comes on the TV, attacking John Kerry for being weak on defense (or something; I hardly pay attention). This is far from the first such anti-Kerry ad I've seen; I think I can recall one that could be called "pro-Bush" and not anti-Kerry. Can it even be called a "Bush ad" if the only evidence of Bush in the whole ad is him coming on at the beginning saying "I'm George Bush and I approved this message"? If you visit the Bush-Cheney campaign site, you'll find today (as was the case several days ago) four pictures of John Kerry on the front page and none of George Bush or Dick Cheney! Aren't these people embarrassed that they have so little positive to say about their own candidate that all they can do is run down the other guy? Don't they know that's my job (and not on bogus charges like being "soft on defense" or "throwing away his medals 30 years ago" either)?

Followup: Actually this is even stranger than I thought. Watch the latest Bush ad (which is the one I saw on TV) on their website. It actually doesn't say "soft on defense" at all. What it says is "John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror." Among those weapons? Stealth bombers! Gee, I wasn't aware that there were any terrorists in the world who had such sophisticated anti-aircraft defenses that one would need stealth bombers to attack them. The whole ad is, of course, just one more part of trying to convince the American people that the invasion of Iraq was part of the so-called "war on terror."

The funniest thing on the Bush website, however, appears immediately below the anti-Kerry video. In a list of "latest headlines," the top item (as I write this) reads: "Winning the War on Terror Tour kicks off"! Not to be confused with the Madonna "Reinvention" Tour or the Britney Spears Onyx Hotel Tour. Will they have nice black T-shirts with the tour stops on the back, I wonder?


NASCAR values?

Just caught a piece on CNN with Bill Schneider doing a piece on "NASCAR Nation" and how, according to Schneider, they are responsible for the Republicans controlling the Presidency, House, Senate, and State houses. As part of this piece he talked about "NASCAR values." What are those exactly? Enjoying sitting on your ass living life vicariously by watching other people doing things? Waiting for a crash so you can rejoice in other people's suffering?


Life (and death) in Fallujah

American freelance writer and documentary filmmaker David Martinez, writing in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, recounts his experiences as a medical volunteer in Fallujah:
"As soon as we arrive and begin unloading the patients, the hospital staff tell us there is a pregnant woman in premature labor who needs to be brought from her house. And so we are off again, to another part of town. This time there is no warning from the driver, only a rifle crack as U.S. snipers open fire on our ambulance.

"The bullets pierce the walls of the vehicle above our heads. Thank God I'm on the floor. Another shooter blows out our headlights, and I hear the Brit, who is in the front seat, scream as pieces of engine spray into the cabin. Then they take out our front tires.

"It is madness. We are in a clearly marked ambulance, with a flashing, noisy siren, and they are shooting at us. We in the back huddle on the floor, clutching each other like lovers as another bullet rips into the engine. The driver throws the vehicle into reverse, hitting a curb at tremendous speed and taking out the rear tires. We screech back to the hospital on rims alone."
And so, day-by-day, "freedom" comes to Iraq.


March for Women's Lives

Although we all know march counting is an inexact science, it now appears quite likely, based on reading a variety of reports, that more than a million people demonstrated in Washington yesterday in the March for Women's Lives. The mall was filled in a way that it never has been before.

Whatever the exact size, it appears virtually certain that this was the largest march ever in the history of the United States. Isn't that big news? Evidently not. The New York Times describes the march as "the first large-scale abortion rights demonstration here in 12 years." The Washington Post goes one step further, describing the march as "the largest abortion rights gathering in history." They do quote Kim Gandy, President of NOW, describing the march as "the largest march of any kind in this country," but the Post doesn't endorse that claim, evidently. They do report that "some veteran [police] commanders said the crowd was at least the biggest since the 1995 Million Man March, which independent researchers put at 870,000 people." Much later in the article, the Post reports this rather convincing fact, which didn't appear in other accounts of the march:

"Organizers announced yesterday afternoon that they had surpassed a million marchers, reaching that conclusion after they said they had passed out more than a million stickers. Alice Cohan, the march director, said 2,500 trained volunteers were given stickers -- reading 'count me in' -- that they pasted on people as they got off buses or entered the march area."
The Los Angeles Times concedes that the march was "among the largest seen in a city with a fabled history for such gatherings." "Among the largest"? Top ten maybe? The San Francisco Chronicle mentions "the organizers' own estimate of 1.15 million people -- a number that they said makes it the largest abortion rights rally in history," failing to note that if it was 1.15 million people than it was the largest march in U.S. history, a fact which doesn't depend on what the organizers "said." The print edition of the San Jose Mercury News has a small picture on the front page, but the article is only on the inside pages; evidently the front-page article on the advent of chain restaurants in downtown San Jose was more important.

It gets worse. USA Today, at least the online version, doesn't carry the story at all, at least not on its front page and not on its news page. Watching local TV news last night (ABC), this was about the seventh story, distinctly underplayed, with a significant amount of coverage for the few hundred counterdemostrations. 300 compared to 1.15 million is 0.025%. The percentage of people who vote socialist in U.S. elections is significantly larger than that - have you ever seen them mentioned in stories on U.S. elections? Not bloody likely.

The largest march in U.S. history. I'll even go for "probably the largest march in U.S. history" or "thought to be the largest march in U.S. history." Doesn't that warrant top of the fold coverage in the papers and lead story coverage on TV? Evidently not.

Followup: A day later, what's the biggest story on cable news? The ramification of this huge march for women's rights? Even the ramification of the march for the Presidential election? No, the big news is whether John Kerry threw away his medals or just the ribbons to the medals more than 30 years ago. Yesterday's events? No longer relevant, if they ever were.

More followup: Well, I did find one online newspaper which led with this story as the most important story of the day under the headline "More than one million women protest Bush’s conservative policies" - Granma International

Saturday, April 24, 2004


Those wacky press spokespeople

Caught a few minutes of a press briefing by Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt and CPA flak Dan Senor from Baghdad today. Transcript will be online here eventually, but I'm writing this from memory. In between the blather and the bullshit, two things stood out. First, Kimmitt made a presentation of the "situation in Fallujah." What was funny was that he had this large, professional, color-coded chart (sort of a one slide PowerPoint presentation), describing the "negotiations" in Fallujah, with items marked in green as ones on which progress was being made, red for no progress, and amber for some progress. All that work by the Department of Homeland Security to evaluate colors and they have to throw it all away and stick with traffic lights. Jeez. Maybe you had to see it to appreciate it, but it was pretty funny watching this kind of presentation in the middle of a war. I mean, how do those insurgents in Fallujah expect to beat these guys, anyway? They've got PowerPoint!

But the funniest moment came when a reporter said something like, "Since there isn't any significant progress in the Fallujah negotiations, how long before you go in?" To which Kimmitt replied, "I have to take issue with your question. There's been lots of progress in the negotiations, unfortunately it's all been on one side." Would someone please get this man a dictionary? Surely someone who can afford to employ a professional sign maker in the middle of a war can afford one of those.


Israel & Palestine; Bush & Kerry

Recent comment threads on this blog indicate that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a contentious issue (of course that would be the case regardless of anything said here!). A very worthwhile article appears today at Counterpunch, detailing the origins of the conflict, its present-day status, and its reflection in the American election. Somewhat long, but well worth reading.

Friday, April 23, 2004


Quote of the (Yester)Day

This via Atrios is way to too good to pass up:
"The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?'"

- Paul "Jerry" Bremer (currently acting Iraqi dictator), speaking in early 2001 shortly after the Bush administration had taken office


The not-so-hidden cost of war

Just a few days ago, Left I noted the obvious (but oft-unmentioned) fact that war means killing people, and that one of the results of that is that men who are involved in combat are three times more likely to commit spousal abuse, including murder, than men who were not. Sadly, today's news brings confirmation of that observation:
"An Army sergeant from Sheffield Lake who recently returned from Iraq allegedly drowned his wife in the bathtub of their West Coast apartment on Wednesday."

"His family said yesterday that James Pitts underwent a 'horrible change' while in Iraq. He visited them in Sheffield Lake for several days last week, but they soon became uncomfortable and asked him to leave, Brittany Pitts said.

"'He came back and all he talked about was death and killing people and how it didn't bother him because he did it for so long in Iraq,' Brittany Pitts said. 'Me and my husband were scared, we all were. He would say things like - 'I could kill you and no one would ever hear it.''

"According to the charges filed yesterday, investigators asked Pitts if he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being deployed in Iraq. Pitts said, according to the documents, 'That's for people who are weak minded.'"


Guerrilla warfare

My favorite story of the day (scroll down):
"Urban-bag designer Tom Bihn's sales have doubled since a French-language presidential insult mysteriously made its way onto the bilingual washing instructions for hundreds of his laptop bags and backpacks.

"The labels read: 'Nous sommes desoles que notre president soit un idiot. Nous n'avons pas vote pour lui.' ('We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn't vote for him.')"
Subtle. And yet...not. :-)

[Editor's stylistic note: In this, and in many posts referring to events in Latin America, I always eliminate any accent marks (along with smart quotes, em dashes, and other things like that), because they cause problems on some browsers and appear as strange symbols. I prefer to have the story appear nearly correct on all browsers, rather than absolutely correct on most and look really bad on some. I am aware, as are the editors of the paper in which this particular story appeared, that desoles has two (or should that be "deux"?) accent aigus on it, and that vote has another one. Unfortunately, unlike the German u with an umlaut which can be rendered alternatively as "ue", there is no substitute for other accent marks (to my knowledge, anyway).]

Thursday, April 22, 2004


The coalition of the pressured

A very interesting development in light of what I just wrote this morning:
"The Ministry of Defence is resisting US pressure on Britain to extend its sphere of military influence in Iraq to some of the most violent parts of the country, including the capital Baghdad."



Left I on the News has noted before that amidst all the discussion of "handing over 'sovereignty'" to Iraq on June 30, and the question of to whom that sovereignty would be handed, no one (in the media or Congress) seemed to be asking the question of just what that "sovereignty" consisted of. Well, we got a little closer today to getting admissions from the Administration about what it does not consist of.

First, this:

"The United States wants to limit the sovereignty of the temporary Iraqi government scheduled to take power July 1 by denying it the authority to pass new laws, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday."
And then this:
"Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and Grossman made clear to the House and Senate Armed Services committees earlier this week that U.S. military commanders will continue to exercise final authority over not only the 160,000 U.S. and coalition troops, but also all Iraqi police, security and army units."
And then this:
"Yesterday, Grossman hinted at other limitations on Iraqi authority as he disclosed that a supplement to the well-publicized transition administrative law is being drafted and will spell out just where the new government can and cannot operate." [Note - the American government will determine wherethe Iraqi government can and cannot operate].
Ah, but don't worry. After all:
"Grossman said, however, that 'in many, many, many other parts of Iraqi life, there will be a very important Iraqi face on an Iraqi government.'"
Do you think there might be just one too many "many's" in that statement to be believable? Methinks that the truth is that the Iraqis are going to be in charge of picking up the garbage. Anything else? Fuhgeddaboudit.


Three simple questions

In conjunction with the newly announced re-hiring of former Iraqi Generals, the U.S. claims it will still not be hiring people who were in the "top four ranks" of the Baath Party. Here's my question. How come they said they couldn't have elections because they didn't have reliable voter rolls, but they have detailed and reliable lists of all the members of the Baath Party down to the "fourth rank" (whatever that is)?

The U.S. government says their policy of not allowing pictures of flag-draped coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq to be photographed is to "protect their privacy rights." How exactly could someone's "privacy" be violated when we see pictures of coffins when we don't even know who's inside? Even if just one coffin was pictured and we knew exactly who that person was, how would even that violate their "privacy" rights? By the time their coffin returns to the United States, the dead person's name will have been published in the paper, on various web sites, and shown on CNN. Showing pictures of a family weeping at graveside would definitely violate their privacy. But pictures of coffins being unloaded from planes?

And a final question - why does the U.S. government think that dead people have rights, but they don't acknowledge that the hundreds of living people imprisoned in Guantanamo and Bagram and elsewhere, and the tens of thousands imprisoned in Iraq at Abu Ghraib and other prisons have any rights?

Followup: Looks like I have to add a fourth question. Referring to the 350+ photographs of flag-draped coffins that were released to the Memory Hole website, the military spokesperson on TV said that it was a mistake, and that "those pictures were never meant to be made public." Really? What exactly were they made for, then? George Bush's private viewing pleasure? If a picture is taken of a tree falling in the forest, and no one looks at the picture, did it make a sound? (Huh?)


Human (wind)shields

The story hasn't yet appeared in the Western press (no surprise there):

"Four arrestees, including a 12 year-old boy, Rabbis for Human Rights Executive Director Rabbi Arik Ascherman, an additional Palestinian and an ISM activist, were used as human shields in Bido yesterday, Thursday, April 15. After local Palestinians and Israeli activists saw a young boy being beaten by border police, the boy's mother sent a Palestinian man to try and help him and Rabbi Ascherman also approached the police. Both were arrested, along with a Swedish ISM activist.

"The boy, crying, shaking from fear and eventually cold, was sat on the hood of a jeep and tied to the bars protecting the glass. The other three arrestees were bound and placed in front of a second jeep. After the arrests, local Palestinians began throwing stones, a number of them hitting the jeeps. The unit commander was Shahar Yitzhaki.

"Rabbi Ascherman repeatedly requested over the next few hours that they not be used as human shields, that the boy receive medical attention, and that the officers identify themselves. He also asked to lend his coat to the child and to stand in front of the child to protect him from stones. All these requests were met with physical and verbal threats, orders to 'shut up,' and/or derision.
Here's more:
"'He was a shield for them,' Saeed Badwan, a 34-year-old labourer, said of his only son. 'When I saw him on the hood of the jeep, my whole mind went crazy...It's a picture you can't even imagine. He was shivering from fear.'"
Naturally, the Israelis are "investigating." Here's an interesting quote from police spokesman Gil Kleiman: "As a general rule, we do not expose civilians to physical damage willingly." No, of course not. Only when they fire missiles at crowded intersections, or drop bombs on apartment buildings, or bulldoze houses with crippled people still inside them, or when their snipers shoot Palestinian children for sport. Yes, there are hardly any exceptions to that "general rule."



I'm not much on conspiracy theories, and most things like that go in one ear and out the other. But this paragraph from Juan Cole's blog definitely grabbed my attention:
"[Ahmed] Chalabi's nephew Salem has been put in charge of the trial of Saddam Hussein. Salem is a partner in Zell and Feith, a Jerusalem-based law firm headed by a West Bank settler, in which Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of Defense for Planning, is also a senior partner when not in the US government."
No doubt it's not new information, and many of you probably knew it, and maybe I've read it somewhere before too, but this is the first time it really jumped out at me.


Condo-lie-zza talks to Republicans and Democrats...separately

Is Condo-lie-zza an adviser to the President of the United States, whose salary is being paid by the taxpayers of the United States including yours truly, or is she an adviser to the Republican candidate for President, being paid by the Republican party? Will someone please tell me how this is at all acceptable?
"National security adviser Condoleezza Rice made a rare visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday, answering 'question after question after question' about the troubled Iraq campaign, one lawmaker said of the closed-door session.

"Rice fielded questions from Republicans for more than an hour and was to meet later in the day with Democrats."
What possible reason could there be to answer questions from Republicans and Democrats separately other than partisanship? Will she actually be answering "question after question" from the Democrats, or just filibustering like she did before the 9-11 Commission? And don't Bernie Sanders and Jim Jeffords get to ask questions?


That trusting Al Franken

Liberal icon Al Franken says on Air America Radio this morning that "I supported the invasion of Iraq [after Colin Powell spoke at the U.N.] because I trusted Colin Powell." Evidently Al has never heard of that alleged Russian proverb made famous by conservative icon Ronald Reagan - "Trust but verify."

As Left I on the News has discussed on more than one occasion, there were countless people (including Left I) who saw right through Powell's exercise in misleading the world on the day it was delivered; it really didn't take that much perception to do so, frankly. Just the willingness to open your eyes.


Anonymous sources

Via Atrios, a very long and thoughtful piece in the LA Weekly exploring the question of anonymous sources, and whether the media should refuse to use them. Well worth reading. Way too long to excerpt.


The administration speaketh, the press publisheth

No matter what nonsense spews out of the mouths of the administration, the press is happy to publish it. Today's case in point, an an article in the Washington Post which describes how "The United States is moving to rehire former members of Iraq's ruling Baath Party and senior Iraqi military officers fired after the ouster of Saddam Hussein." Astonishingly, we are told that "The administration says neither move is a reversal." Rather than following that with their own descriptive phrase, even a mealy-mouthed one like "a statement that seemed at variance with the facts," the Post compounds the problem by continuing this way: "but foreign policy experts said it will appear that way in practice to Iraqis"!! You mean they couldn't find a single "foreign policy expert" who would say it was a reversal? It's not really a reversal, you know, it will just "appear" that way to Iraqis who lack our sense of political sophistication.

In related news, the "administration" said today that "up is down" and "black is white." The Washington Post dutifully reported their assertions.


"Casualties" back in the news

This morning's big story is a train collision in North Korea. The Reuters headline reads: "Up to 3,000 casualties in North Korea rail blast." Why do I mention this? Because that is 3,000 people dead or injured. And because, as Left I on the News wrote about last October, this term has been banished in news reporting from Iraq. Large numbers scare people, and bring home the true cost of the war. And here's what the BBC had to say back in October, in response to questions about how it was using that term: "We use US Central Command's definition of casualties in the war in Iraq, which only refers to those who have been killed." So the BBC, premiere news source in the bastion of the English language, thinks it's alright to let the barbarians at CentCom redefine their language.

To be honest, while the BBC was guilty of inadequate defense of the English language, at least (today, anyway) they aren't guilty of hypocrisy. Their story on the crash in North Korea manages to avoid the word "casualties" altogether.


Fired for telling showing the truth

On Monday, Left I on the News linked to the photograph of flag-draped coffins returning to the U.S., and wrote this: "The picture was taken by Tami Silicio, a soon-to-be-unemployed contract employee from the Seattle area who works the night shift at the cargo terminal." The "soon-to-be-unemployed" part didn't come from any news release, that was my not-so-bold prediction. Despite it having been obvious, it's still sad to report that both Tami Silicio and her co-worker and husband David Landry were fired yesterday by the military contractor that employed them.

The story which reports this news notes that "Under a policy adopted in 1991, the Pentagon bars news organizations from photographing caskets being returned to the United States, saying publication of such photos would be insensitive to bereaved families." However, "policies" of the Pentagon are not laws, and furthermore an individual is not a "news organization." My guess is that Ms. Silicio and Mr. Landry have strong cases for unlawful termination. What will be interesting will be to see if any news organizations, or any politicians, come to their defense. We shall see.


The coalition of the somewhat willing

From the Telegraph:
"Tony Blair has ruled out sending more British troops to Iraq despite the worsening security situation. The Prime Minister told the Commons yesterday that the Government was satisfied there were sufficient troops in Basra. 'We don't have plans to increase that number,' he said."
Of course, since the Americans are obviously in trouble, having to extend the stay of their troops well past a year, Britain could actually send troops someplace other than Basra, like Fallujah for example, or even Baghdad. So even the most "willing" partner of the "coalition of the willing" isn't all that willing. Or, to spell out the real reason, Tony Blair isn't that stupid. He knows very well that putting British soldiers more in harm's way than they are now would re-light a fire under the powerful British antiwar movement, and hasten the day and the likelihood of his own political demise.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Quote of the Day

Speaking to a visiting group of American newspaper editors, and responding to the question of how an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba could be "negotiated," Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Assembly (and one of the most well-spoken and plain-spoken diplomats anywhere), had this to say:
"[The US simply should not expect] to be paid back, to receive anything for eliminating a policy that was never morally, legally or politically justified. The only thing that you will get in exchange of the elimination of that policy is that we will cease denouncing that policy."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation

It's a great slogan, and certainly expresses the feelings many of us have. Unfortunately, the trend is all in the opposite direction:
"Intense combat in Iraq is chewing up military hardware and consuming money at an unexpectedly rapid rate -- depleting military coffers, straining defense contractors and putting pressure on Bush administration officials to seek a major boost in war funding long before they had hoped.

"Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, charged that the president is playing political games by postponing further funding requests until after the election, to try to avoid reopening debate on the war's cost and future.

"Weldon described the administration's current defense budget request as 'outrageous' and 'immoral' and said that at least $10 billion is needed for Iraqi operations over the next five months. 'There needs to be a supplemental, whether it's a presidential election year or not,' he said."
Wouldn't it be nice if they voted "supplementals" for health care, housing, and education?

Followup: As if to illustrate my point, in this morning's news the University of California system breaks a 40-year promise (and practice) to admit all eligible California students by rejecting 7600 students. "Not enough money," you know. "We just can't afford it." And for those of you who are thinking these students weren't "really" qualified, and that U.C. has been admitting students who didn't "deserve" to be there anyway, here are some facts: "one of [the] rejected students has a 3.9 grade point average and a score of 1,210 out of a possible 1,600 on the SAT. [The] average grade point average [of the rejected students was] 3.46 [out of 4.0]."


A small victory for justice

Breaking news:
"Five Cuban exiles who had been accused of plotting to kill Fidel Castro were sentenced Tuesday to seven to eight years in prison.

"Luis Posada Carriles and the other men were arrested after Castro announced a plot to kill him during an Ibero-American summit here in November 2000, though Panamanian courts ruled there was not enough evidence to accuse the men of attempted murder.

"Posada, accused of being the ringleader, and Jimenez were sentenced to eight years for endangering public safety and falsifying documents, the Supreme Court said. The five were exonerated of the most serious charge facing them, possession of explosives.

"Posada was tried and acquitted there [not clear where "there" is] of bombing a Cuban jetliner. He has acknowledged organizing Cuban hotel bombings that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 other people in 1997."
As usual, you won't find either the truth or the whole truth reading the mainstream press (AP in this instance). Here's some background from Workers World from November, 2000, shortly after the plot was uncovered:
"Luis Posada Carriles, a notorious anti-Cuba fascist responsible for the bombing deaths of scores of people, was captured Nov. 17 along with three accomplices after infiltrating Panama in an attempt to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro.

"The revolutionary government in Havana has called for Posada's extradition to face trial for his many crimes against Cuba. But the U.S. government is pressuring Panama not to do it. [Note: the pressure was successful; the trial was finally held in Panama]

"Posada is a well-known CIA operative. He contracted two Venezuelan men to place a bomb on a Cubana Airlines plane departing from Barbados in 1976. The bomb destroyed the plane in flight, killing 73 people, including the Cuban national fencing team.

"Posada was convicted in Venezuela for his role in the bombing. But he managed to 'escape' from a prison there in 1985. [Note that the AP claim that Posada was acquitted of this crime is false]

"Castro, who had just arrived in Panama City's airport for the Tenth Ibero-American Summit on Adolescents and Children, made an immediate declaration to the press announcing Posada's presence in Panama. Castro revealed that Posada sneaked into Panama on Nov. 5 with false papers and an array of weapons and explosives.

"On Nov. 21, in the third roundtable devoted to the case on Cuban television, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque revealed the identities, addresses, occupations and other vital data on each of Posada's accomplices, including everal who have so far eluded capture. He listed the cars they were driving in Panama, the routes they took and the weapons they possessed.

"Six of the eight are Cuban-born, he said. Four are now U.S. citizens living in the Miami area.

"About 20 pounds of C-4 explosives belonging to the terrorist gang were found in the house of Jose Hurtado, Posada's driver. [Note that it was Cuban anti-terrorist 'spying' of the type which produced this kind of information, that resulted in the conviction of five Cuban heroes for 'spying' in the United States]
And here's more from Workers World in March, 2002, when the U.S. was pressuring Panama to free the plotters on the grounds of insufficient evidence, and have them deported to El Salvador and accused of "document falsification":
"After 15 months of investigation of this latest crime, it seems that Panamanian prosecutor Dimas Guevara doesn't think several boxes of the powerful C-4 explosive are enough to warrant murderous intent. According to Granma International newspaper, Guevara concluded, 'Among the charges established was the possession of a dangerous high explosive that would be used for a specific purpose, but the detonating fuse wasn't found. That's why we couldn't charge them with attempted homicide.' [!! Does that mean no one can ever be charged with murder if the murder weapon isn't found?]"
As the headline says, a small victory, but a victory nonetheless! And one which would never have been achieved if the Cubans didn't take an active role in defending themselves and uncovering plots like this in the first place.


Coalition of the fleeing, part II

"The Dominican Republic has announced it will withdraw its 302 troops from Iraq within a matter of days." (Source)
Hey pro-war folks! There's never beeen a better time to put your life where your mouth is! Step right up!

By the way, it was just earlier today that we heard this:

"The White House said on Tuesday the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq was stable despite plans by Spain and Honduras to withdraw their troops."
Well heck, it was "stable" for at least six hours!

And once again, we read:

"The White House hopes to secure a new United Nations resolution for Iraq that would help encourage other nations to help with security and rebuilding."
To which Left I asks once again, "What's stopping them?"


Condi's slip?

Just yesterday, various blogs were amused by Condo-lie-zza Rice's apparent slip of the tongue in referring to George Bush as her "husb--." Today, Xymphora finds a more significant slip:
"I think that we do have to take very seriously the thought that the terrorists might have learned, we hope, the wrong lesson from Spain."
We hope? What's that all about? I don't know what Condo-lie-zza thinks is the "right" lesson to be learned from Spain, and I don't know what she thinks is the "wrong" lesson, but whatever it is, if she thinks it's something we "have to take very seriously," then why is she "hoping" it will happen? It couldn't be that she's "hoping" for a terrorist attack in the U.S. between now and the election that will scare Americans into voting for her boss, would it? No one's that evil, are they? [Yes, that's a rhetorical question]


FCC Alert

This is my definition of "obscenity":
Bush Campaign Spent $50 Million in March
The number of lives which could be saved or enriched (and I don't mean financially) with that money boggles the mind when compared to it's actual use, trying to persuade millions of people to vote for one person they don't like instead of another person they don't like.


Wishful thinking, part II

"'The problem of Sadr is bigger than Sadr. It is the whole Shiite community and the holy shrine,' [Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq] said. 'We have just about eliminated all his influence across the south.'" (Source)
Gen. Sanchez was explaining why U.S. troops were withdrawing from around Najaf. He's clearly got the right idea for Iraq as a whole - "declare victory and get out."



Here's what Dictionary.com has to say about "sovereignty":
  1. Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state.
  2. Royal rank, authority, or power.
  3. Complete independence and self-government.
  4. A territory existing as an independent state.
Left I on the News has asked before what the meaning of this word will be when the U.S. claims it is "handing over sovereignty" to Iraq on June 30. But I'm even more puzzled by the latest use of the word by the U.S. government. Arguing in the Supreme Court that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over the prisoners in Guantanamo, U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson "argued that Cuba, under a lease with the United States concerning the base, has ultimate sovereignty and that places the detainees beyond the control of U.S. courts."

Really! Who knew? So the Cuban government could declare that the prisoners should go free and the U.S. government would obey, right? The Cuban government could declare that the U.S. was no longer welcome in Cuba and the Americans would just vacate the base in Guantanamo, right? I mean, do they have "supremacy of authority or rule" or not?

I think we all know the answer.


The marriage amendment

Most people think about the proposed "marriage amendment", which defines marriage as something involving "a man and a woman," strictly affects gays and lesbians. Today's San Jose Mercury News [note: SJMN has recently adopted a "registration" policy, but once you register, using whatever fake name you like, assuming you have cookies enabled you'll be good to go] has a very interesting article on another group, transsexual couples - couples who were married as heterosexuals of different gender and then one partner changed sex, and marriages involving transsexuals following sex change operations.

Many people might be under the impression that this is a small group, and, as far as the number of married couples involved, it probably is. But transsexuals are a lot more than just the "T" thrown in at the end of the phrase "LGBT." According to the Mercury News, "there are an estimated 35,000 to 60,000 transsexuals living in California." That's a lot of people.


War means killing

More often than not, war gets depersonalized. Statistics about so many soldiers killed here, so many Iraqi insurgents or civilians killed there. Video shows cross-hairs on buildings as the bomb drops on it, but rarely the dead people inside the building following the bombing.

But in two articles recently, the Los Angeles Times gives us a little more of the reality of war, and the mentality of at least some of the American soldiers who are fighting it.

"'I was in a full adrenaline rush,' said Pfc. Ian Barton, 19, of Reno. 'Nothing else mattered. I wanted to kill something. After the first few minutes, I started to have fun with it.' Thomas, his platoon partner, agreed. 'I was smiling,' he recalled.

"For some, the fight whetted an appetite for action. 'I'm ready to go back out again,' Barton said. 'I want to blow up as many as I can.'" (Source)

"Taking a short breather Friday, the 21-year-old Marine corporal explained what it was like to practice his lethal skill in the battle for this city.

"'It's a sniper's dream,' he said in polite, matter-of-fact tones. 'You can go anywhere and there are so many ways to fire at the enemy without him knowing where you are.'

"'Sometimes a guy will go down, and I'll let him scream a bit to destroy the morale of his buddies,' said the Marine corporal. 'Then I'll use a second shot.'" (Source)
These people will be returning to the United States and living among us. Men who are involved in combat are three times more likely to commit spousal abuse, including murder, than men who were not. Will men like the ones in this story, so desensitized to death, be among them? It certainly seems likely.


Spanish withdrawal

Atrios finds rewritten history making its way into an AP article:
"Sunday, Spain's prime minister ordered the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq as soon as possible, fulfilling a campaign promise made after terrorist bombings that al-Qaeda militants said were reprisal for Spain's support of the war."
The fact, of course, is that this campaign promise was made long before the bombings, which occured a few days before the election. The false assertion that the promise was made after the bombings suggests that the Spanish Socialist party was responding to the bombings by making this pledge, rather than reflecting the overwhelming opposition of the Spanish people to the war in the first place (an opposition which the Aznar government chose to ignore). Strangely enough, the real response to violence by the Spanish government isn't mentioned, which is that Spain accelerated the timeline for the withdrawal of its troops not in response to the violence in Spain, but to the violence in Iraq.

Monday, April 19, 2004


The Holocaust

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Unfortunately the "remembering" didn't extend very far, as it never does. A typical story mentions the death of six million Jews (something that should be remembered, don't get me wrong). But just to make clear that we're only remembering the death of Jews, it's noted that ceremonies were accompanied by the "lighting of six candles representing the six million Jews." In Sacramento, son-of-a-Nazi Arnold Schwarzenegger said "I promised myself that I would do whatever I could to promote tolerance." Again, however, his memory extended only to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

How many people, and especially how many Americans, know the real story of the Holocaust? Eleven million people were killed by Nazi genocidal policies, not six million. Jews were definitely the largest group, but Gypsies, Poles and other Slavs, along with people with physical or mental disabilities, were also targeted (and killed) because of genetics. Others, including Jehovah's Witnesses, gays, dissenting clergy, Communists, and Socialists were killed because of what they thought or did, rather than who they were.

Today an international court ruled that the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 was an "act of genocide." Did the Nazi actions against groups other than Jews qualify as genocide? You bet they did. Hundreds of thousands of Roma (Gypsies) were killed, along with three million Soviet prisoners of war and nearly two million Poles and other Slavs. Every one of these qualifies as genocide a hundred or a thousand times over.

Will you see these people remembered on "Holocaust Remembrance Day"? Not any place I saw (except, of course, for Left I on the News).


The picture George Bush doesn't want you to see

Flag-draped coffins are secured inside a cargo plane on April 7 at Kuwait International Airport

The picture was taken by Tami Silicio, a soon-to-be-unemployed contract employee from the Seattle area who works the night shift at the cargo terminal, and is published in the Seattle Times. From the man in the foreground in motion, it is clear this was not a carefully staged picture, but most likely a picture she took quickly and probably secretly.


Freedom of the press? Freedom of the grave

"U.S. troops shot to death two employees of U.S.-funded television station Al-Iraqiya on Monday and wounded a third in the central city of Samara, the station said.

"Correspondent Asaad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh were killed. Cameraman Bassem Kamel was wounded 'after American forces opened fire on them while they were performing their duty,' the station announced. (Source)
Were the people who were "performing their duty" the reporters, or the American forces?


Powell's aide: "He's pro-war too. Honest."

Wouldn't want to be accused of actually being against an illegal, immoral, and ill-advised war, now would we? In today's news:
"A senior aide to Mr. Powell asserted this weekend that the secretary was not as opposed to war as some people presume, no matter what the implications in the book.

"'The portrait of Powell in the Woodward book is pretty consistent with what everybody knows,' the official said. 'We were with the president if we had to do this. We set up an exit ramp for Saddam, and he didn't take it. Powell in the end was very comfortable knowing that.'"
Which exit ramp would that be, exactly? The one where Iraq was supposed to get rid of any weapons of mass destruction? Oops, they did that, a decade ago. The one where they were supposed to let inspectors into the country, even into Saddam's palaces to look under his bed? Oops, they did that too. The one where they were supposed to destroy the Al Samoud missiles, even though their violation of U.N. resolutions was questionable at best? Oh yeah, they did that too. Or at least, they were in the process of doing it, when the U.S. cut short the inspections and launched their invasion. "Exit ramp" indeed.


Dept. of Wishful Thinking

The New York Times reports:
"American commanders clearly favor a solution in Najaf that disarms Mr. Sadr's militiamen without requiring American troops to enter the city."
Then this from the AP:
"Fallujah's civic leaders joined American officials Monday in calling for insurgents battling Marines here to surrender their weapons in return for an end to the U.S. siege of the the city."
Shorter U.S. Military: "Please surrender so we don't have to fight."

Sunday, April 18, 2004


The coalition of the fleeing

"Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Sunday he had ordered Spanish troops pulled out of the U.S.-led occupation force in Iraq as soon as possible."
"The commander of British troops in southern Iraq, Brig Nick Carter, admitted that he would be powerless to prevent the overthrow of Coalition forces if the Shia majority in Basra rose up in rebellion. Brig Carter, of the 20 Armoured Brigade, who has been in Iraq for four months, said British forces would stay in Basra with the consent of local Shia leaders, or not at all."

Saturday, April 17, 2004


Unlikely Quote of the Day

Amidst the discussion of the material from Bob Woodward's new book revealing the depth of George Bush's planning for war against Iraq, even while he was denying it (and allegedly even keeping it secret from key members of his administration), this quote:
In 3 1/2 hours of interviews with Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post, Bush said the secret planning was necessary to avoid "enormous international angst and domestic speculation" and that "war is my absolute last option."
Give me a break. George Bush has never used the word "angst" in his entire life. As far as war being his "absolute last option," that's something we know he has said. Of course we also know he was lying when he said it.


Iraqi soldiers revisited

I love Amy Goodman. She and her Democracy Now! team, along with Dennis Bernstein and his Flashpoints team, are the two most important sources of progressive journalism in America today. Today I had the opportunity to hear Amy speak in Palo Alto as she tours the country, promoting her new book, The Exception to the Rulers (review coming soon here, as soon as I read it!). It was a wonderful meeting, starting with an opening song by Joan Baez and continuing through a showing of her video Independent Media in a Time of War, a talk by her brother and co-author David Goodman, and ending with her talk. If, or should I say when (since she'll be visiting 70 cities on this tour!), she comes to your city, be sure to go and listen and buy the book.

Despite these effusive words of praise, I am forced to note that Goodman fell into the same trap that so many do, referring to the 10,000 Iraqi "civilians" who have died (along with 670 American soldiers). Not only did she omit the 50-100 contractors, and 100+ "coalition" soldiers from other countries, but more importantly (from a numerical standpoint, anyway), she also didn't note the thousands, probably tens of thousands (the number is virtually completely unknown) of Iraqi soldiers who have died as a result of this war, nor the thousands of Iraqi "insurgents" who have died resisting the occupation. And, as I have on previous occasions, Left I on the News is forced to note that Iraqi soldiers (as well as Iraqi insurgents) are people too. They were no more guilty of anything than the "innocent" Iraqi civilians, and no more deserving to die. Defending your country against a foreign invasion, or a foreign occupation, is an honorable thing to do, not something that makes you "guilty." And, of course, these people were just as human as the civilians, with mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and lovers. Left I totally rejects the idea that their deaths are any less important, or any less a part of the price the Iraqi people have had to pay for this invasion, than the deaths of "innocent civilians."

Was Amy Goodman implying otherwise? Was she shying away from including the soldiers for fear she would be thought a "supporter of Saddam Hussein" as a result? I hope not, and I doubt it. More than likely she was just slipping into the same formulation that so many other people (nearly everyone, in fact) use. But progressive journalists like Goodman know enough to think for themselves. Hopefully in the future she, and other readers of Left I on the News, will make sure their listeners understand the full price of this illegal, immoral war, and remind them of all the people who have died as a result.


A word on language

Why is it that people like Pfc. Keith Maupin and Thomas Hamill are called "hostages," but the 10,000+ Iraqis being held by the Americans (not the mention the thousands of Afghanis and others being held in Guantanamo, Bagram, and elsewhere) with absolutely no more legal basis, and no more legal rights, are called "prisoners"?


Cuba counterattacks

75 people who were meeting secretly with, and getting paid by, the agents of a foreign power sworn to overthrow their government (a.k.a. "regime change") were imprisoned. For that act of self-defense, Cuba has been condemned in various forums. On Thursday the United Nations Human Rights Commission, after the usual strong pressure from the United States, voted 22-21 (with 10 abstentions) to add their name to that list. The Cubans consider the vote a victory given the close vote and "the resounding applause given to the speech by Cuban delegation chief, Juan Antonio Fernandez, and the firm stance of China, Russia and the majority of the African nations on the commission."

A few hours later, the Cubans counterattacked:

"A few hours after the UN vote against Cuba in the Human Rights Commission (HRC), the island's government called on the same agency to investigate the situation of the prisoners detained by the United States on the Guantanamo naval base.

"'The international community has a right to know what is happening there,' stated Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque during a press conference at the Havana Ministry.

"The resolution presented by Cuba is aimed at an investigation and report on the prison conditions of the detainees and the cessation of all violations of their rights. Moreover, Cuba has asked for a special rapporteur on issues of torture to pronounce on the situation at the U.S. base, and a follow up discussion on the issue at the next HRC session in 2005.

"Perez Roque announced that he is to ask the 22 nations who voted against Cuba yesterday to co-sponsor the resolution. "We likewise hope for sponsorship from the European nations whose parliament has mandated them to give priority attention to prisoners on the base."
What a measure of the depth of the hypocrisy and uselessness of the U.N. that until this action by the Cubans, the alleged human rights violations of 75 Cubans was on their agenda, while the self-evident human rights violations of 600 American prisoners in the Guantanamo concentration camp was not.


The Madness of King "President" George

An excellent article out today by Lew Rockwell, discussing Bush's recent press conference. One choice quote:
"He admits (for the first time?) that the US is militarily occupying Iraq but claims that those who resist are rejecting "freedom" and "self government." This is like the rapist giving sermons on the need to respect the physical integrity and dignity of his victims."
And another:
"We must first deal with the problem that George seems genuinely mad. There was a riddle in nearly every sentence. He spoke like someone dramatically out of touch with what everyone else knows. The whole scene was a bit wacky, as if the uncle who everyone knows is crazy came to the family reunion and was humored because he is family. People were going easy on George just because he seemed like he was speaking about another planet."
But the best, and deadly serious, part of the article is its conclusion:
"The urgent moral priority of our time is to dismantle the warfare state, disarm the nukes, roll back the empire from every corner of the globe. We want to live in a country even a crazy man can head and not have it be dangerous for us or the world. If George or his successors want to play violent games, someone could just bring them a set of plastic army men and they could have at it all day in the West Wing. Let them live out their fantasies of death and dominion with toys rather than the real world."

Friday, April 16, 2004


Headline of the Day

From the Independent:
"Bush and Blair: Things can only get better"
Wishful thinking, even from their point of view. Things can most definitely get worse. Which may, of course, be considered "getting better" by someone else.


Quote of the Day

Well, I didn't think Bush could top this from his recent press conference: "People are sacrificing their lives in Iraq from different countries. We ought to welcome that." But he has, in a press conference today with Tony Blair (thanks to Atrios for the spot):
Q: (Egyptian President) Hosni Mubarak is saying the new U.S. policy on the West Bank could escalate violence. How do you respond to his concerns?

BUSH: Yes, I think this is a fantastic opportunity."


The Democrats attack Bush's "mistakes"

George Bush was asked at his recent press conference what his "biggest mistake" had been, and couldn't think of any. Now the Democratic Party has a new online video ad featuring Bush's answer, and suggesting their answers for Bush's "biggest mistakes." Their answers are rather telling:
"Mission accomplished."
"We found the weapons of mass destruction."
"Bring 'em on."
I'm sorry, thinking the war was over when it wasn't, or making ridiculous claims about two empty trailers being "weapons of mass destruction" certainly qualify as boneheaded statements, but not even remotely as Bush's "biggest mistakes." Even his pseudo-macho "bring 'em on" statement, while illustrative of his character, has nothing to do with what is going on in Iraq right now, contrary to what some people seem to think. I doubt the people of Iraq give a rat's ass about what George Bush has to say, it's what he (and his troops and appointed government) are doing (and not doing) in Iraq that they care about and are responding to.

George Bush's biggest mistake (in this context, anyway) was invading Iraq in the first place, and being responsible for the death of more than ten thousand people with no legal or moral basis for doing so. How curious (and hardly surprising) that the Democrats only want to remind us of the mistakes in which they weren't equally complicit. Of course, as noted just a couple posts below, the invasion of Iraq wasn't really a "mistake" in the traditional sense; it was a very deliberate action. Again, as noted below, Bush's real mistake was in underestimating the Iraqi people.

But even on their terms, couldn't the Democrats at least claim Bush's biggest mistake was pulling troops and special forces off the hunt for Bin Laden and sending them to Iraq to pursue the goal of U.S. empire overthrowing someone who had nothing to do with 9-11? They're sitting there with aces in their hand and they play the seven?

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