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Thursday, September 30, 2004


Jim Lehrer wins the Left I on the News Question of the Month prize

A month ago, after an appearance by John Kerry on the Daily Show, I wrote:
"I kept waiting for the one question I'd like to ask Kerry, but it never came - 'How do you ask someone to be the last person to die for a mistake?' Someday, somewhere, someone is going to get to ask Kerry that question."
Tonight, Jim Lehrer finally asked the question (well, to be accurate, he actually quoted Kerry's famous question, and then asked "Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?"). In a post two months ago, I explained why John Kerry is hoist on his own petard, and can never answer that question honestly. And he didn't disappoint me tonight.


Allawi - Puppet or ventriloquist's dummy?

Puppet's don't actually speak. Ventriloquists' dummies do, but of course words coming out of their mouth are actually spoken by the ventriloquist:
"White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked Tuesday about similarities between Bush's statements about Iraq and Allawi's speech to Congress last week, said he did not know of any help U.S. officials gave with the speech. 'None that I know of,' he said, adding, 'No one at the White House.' He also said he did not know if the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad had seen the speech.

"But administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the prime minister was coached and aided by the U.S. government, its allies and friends of the administration. Among them was Dan Senor, former spokesman for the CPA who has more recently represented the Bush campaign in media appearances. Senor, who has denied writing the speech, sent Allawi recommended phrases. He also helped Allawi rehearse in New York last week, officials said. Senor declined to comment.

"The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and British Foreign Service officials also helped Allawi with the text and delivery of his remarks, said administration officials who were involved."


Political humor of the day, Part II

"'I don't think we've had as clear-cut a difference between two presidential candidates on international issues since 1980."

- Richard Holbrooke, a top adviser to Kerry., commenting on tonight's debate
Evidently Mr. Holbrooke doesn't feel that Iraq, Palestine, or support for a doctrine of pre-emptive war qualify as "international issues," since Kerry and Bush are in virtual total agreement on those issues (not to mention North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, or any other international issue that comes to mind). Of course there's Cuba, where Kerry says he is "committed to seeing the end to the Castro regime" and vows to eliminate "the crushing repression of the Cuban state," (yes, that "crushing repression" which prevented the death of even a single Cuban from hurricane Ivan), but has taken the bold step of opposing the recent Bush restrictions on family visits and remittances to Cuba. Maybe that's the clear-cut difference Holbrooke had in mind.


Political humor of the day

"There is no occupation. The US, the UK and other countries' forces can only be in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. It is their call. If they ask us to leave, we leave."

- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking to the Labor Party conference shortly before the 4-1 defeat of a motion calling for Britain to name an early date for withdrawal from Iraq
Personally I found this laughable. I doubt the Iraq people find it quite as amusing. For them, far more so than for the British and American troops, the occupation (you know, the one that doesn't exist) is a deadly serious matter.


The wheels of justice

AP reports:
"The FBI must turn over the remaining secret files on Beatle John Lennon to a University of California, Irvine professor who has waged a 21-year legal battle to get the documents, a judge ruled.

"U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi rejected government arguments Tuesday that releasing the last 10 pages would pose a national security risk because an unnamed foreign government secretly provided the information.

"UC, Irvine Professor Jonathan Wiener wrote a 1984 book on the late rock star. He sought the files under the Freedom of Information Act and sued the government to get the documents in 1983. In 1997 he received 248 pages of the documents as part of a settlement with the FBI.


Making the world safer, one radio station at a time

In today's homeland security news:
"Guns drawn, agents of the U.S. Marshals Service served a warrant on a tiny Santa Cruz pirate radio station early Wednesday, rousting and frisking the pajama-clad residents of the co-op house from which the station had been broadcasting. No one was arrested.

"The target was Free Radio Santa Cruz, an FM micro-station boasting 35 to 40 watts of power and offering round-the-clock music, activism and other local programming, in addition to such national programming as Radio Pacifica's 'Democracy Now' -- all in defiance of federal licensing laws.

"The blue-jacketed marshals, along with agents of the Federal Communications Commission, dismantled the station's equipment and carried it to a waiting pickup with a camper shell as a crowd of perhaps 60 people yelled 'Shame! Shame!' and 'Go home!'"
The people on the next block who could actually hear the station are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief.


Quote of the Day

"In an interview with Fox News, George W. Bush said that he always 'prays for wisdom.' This constitutes the strongest evidence that there is indeed no God."

- the Angry Arab

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Jews attack Christians

What, is the headline too blunt for you? The Israeli "settlers" in the West Bank claim to be the most Jewish of the Jews, ultra-Orthodox devotees of the Bible who talk about Judea and Samaria and claim a Biblical right to expel Palestinians from all of their homeland and take control of the entire West Bank and Gaza, not just isolated settlements. And today, one group of them showed what their "devotion to God" really means as they brutally attacked two members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams who were committing the horrible offense of walking some Palestinian children to school near Hebron. The two both ended up in the hospital, one with a broken arm and possible broken knee, the other with a punctured lung. You can read about the attack on the CPT site, listen to one of the two discuss the gruesome details of the event direct from his hospital bed on Flashpoints! Radio, or read the BBC report.

One place you cannot read or hear about the incident is in the American corporate media; as of this writing none of them has breathed a word about it, although it's quite clear that CPT is doing its best to publicize the attack. This just might be a little too much of the unvarnished reality of Israeli oppression of Palestinians and their supporters than the American corporate media can handle.


Freedom of the press belongs to you know who...

From LA Weekly via TalkLeft:
"L.A. Weekly has learned that CBS, NBC and ABC all refused Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD advertising during any of the networks' news programming. Executives at Sony Pictures, the distributor of the movie for the home-entertainment market, were stunned. And even more shocked when the three networks explained why.

"'They said explicitly they were reluctant because of the closeness of the release to the election. All three networks said no,' one Sony insider explains. 'It was certainly a judgment that Sony disagrees with and is in the process of protesting.'"
Think the central problem with American media is Fox News? Think again.


Gratuitous insult of the day

The San Jose Mercury News today has an article about Che Guevara, Che being all the rage these days with the impending release of The Motorcycle Diaries. In the article, author Mike Antonucci writes:
"Guevara's legacy is intensely controversial...From one political perspective, he was a martyr for social justice. From another, he was a ruthless, United States-hating killer."
What an absurd statement. Che hated colonialism, imperialism, capitalism. He certainly hated the United States role in propping up the dictator, Batista, but there isn't the slightest evidence that he hated "the United States." And a "ruthless killer"? You'd think we were talking about Jeffrey Dahmer or Baby Face Nelson. Che was a revolutionary, and was no more of a "ruthless killer" than George Washington or anyone else who has fought in revolutions. But, here in the pages of the U.S. media, such unsupported and unsupportable statements can be passed off as simple fact, unsubject to challenge by editors.

Hasta la victoria siempre!


The cost of war

Recently, someone (can't remember who or where) was being taken to task for claiming that the war against Iraq had cost $200 billion, and was told that no, the actual figure was much less. Of course, how much the war has cost depends on what you include and what you don't. For example, are the salaries of the soldiers, who would have been paid anyway just for sitting in their barracks in the U.S., included? If stocks of missiles and bullets were paid for before the invasion, and have been drawn down during the war, what cost do you include? The original cost of the weapons, which occured before the war? The replacement cost, even though they might not actually have been fully replaced yet? And so on. The exact cost of the war is simply not a well-defined thing.

But one thing for sure is that there are not only present costs, but future costs as well, as discussed today by Knight-Ridder:

"The secretary of veterans affairs said Tuesday that the violent guerrilla tactics used by insurgents in Iraq will take a considerable toll on the mental health of troops, resulting in a lifetime of disability payments for many of them.

"Of 168,000 service members who had served in Iraq and been discharged as of July 22, about 28,000 had sought medical care at a VA hospital, according to the department's most recent statistics. Of those, about 5,400 had mental health problems and nearly one in three of those suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which results from a serious traumatic event and can cause debilitating flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and uncontrollable anger. The disorder may not show itself for years."
The human cost is incalculable. As for the dollar cost, consider this:
"While the exact cost of compensating those injured in fighting in Iraq is uncertain, the Department of Veterans Affairs already expects to pay $600 billion over the next three decades in disability payments to veterans of earlier wars."
That's $600 billion dollars, not even including the additional costs from veterans of the current war, that will not be available to meet other human needs, because the nation's predilection for senseless war has generated so many human beings in need of medical care.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Computers. Stupider than we thought, or smarter?

Google News is a totally software-driven web page which aggregates news into various subjects. So, naturally, I took it as good coin a few minutes ago when I checked the page, and found this story as the lead story in the "U.S. news" section, as the first listed story of those covering the upcoming Presidential debates:
"In what some political insiders are calling an attempt to lower expectations in the days leading up to the first presidential debate, the White House today announced that President George W. Bush has an IQ of 67."
Following the link, the story continues:
"'The president is far, far less intelligent than is commonly thought,' White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. 'Even the simplest tasks remain well beyond his reach.'

"Reinforcing the impression that the president will be overmatched in Thursday's debate with Sen. John Kerry, McClellan showed reporters never-before-seen footage of Bush oafishly tumbling from his mountain bike.

"'What a moron,' McClellan said."
Well, if it qualifies as "news" to Google, that's good enough for me. :-)


Hell, no, we won't go!

From USA Today:
"Fewer than two-thirds of the former soldiers being reactivated for duty in Iraq and elsewhere have reported on time, prompting the Army to threaten some with punishment for desertion.

"The former soldiers, part of what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), are being recalled to fill shortages in skills needed for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Of the 1,662 ready reservists ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., by Sept. 22, only 1,038 had done so, the Army said Monday. About 500 of those who failed to report have requested exemptions on health or personal grounds.

"Several of those who received recall notices have already been declared AWOL (absent without official leave) and technically are considered deserters. 'We are not in a rush to put someone in the AWOL category,' Masters said. 'We contact them and convince them it is in their best interests to show up. If you are a deserter, it can affect you the rest of your life.'
Sure, someone might even bring it up next time you run for President. :-)

Monday, September 27, 2004


Oil prices and gasoline prices

A month ago, I wondered aloud how it was possible that oil prices were hitting new records, and yet gasoline prices were actually going down. Today, oil prices hit just short of $50 a barrel, while commercial oil supplies in the United States are close to a 29-year low. And yet, while gasoline prices are up a bit from a month ago, they're nowhere near as high as oil prices. To quantify the issue: "The price of oil is up roughly 75 percent from a year ago, while gasoline is 22 cents per gallon more expensive than last year at $1.85 per gallon." To put that in the same terms, at $2.07/gallon, gasoline is 12% higher than a year ago, while oil prices are up 75%! (Other sources put the price of gasoline going from $1.59 to $1.92, or a 21% increase) I simply can't see any explanation for that huge discrepency other than the conspiratorial one I speculated about last month - the oil companies are deliberately holding down the price of gasoline to avoid damaging George Bush's chances for re-election. Supporting that theory, diesel fuel prices, which are prices seen by industry but not by the average consumer, are up 41% from a year ago, significantly more than gasoline prices.

Does this prove anything? Of course not, I'm speculating. Is it possible? Are you kidding? Anyone want to bet against it?


Can't get no respect (and doesn't deserve any)

On CNN Headline News just now, co-anchor Linda Stouffer touted an upcoming story by saying, "Dissention in the administration? After the break, Secretary Powell puts in his two cents about the situation in Iraq." Yeah, that's about what his words are worth, even if for once he's letting loose with a bit of the truth (admitting that the situation in Iraq is getting "worse." What's next, an admission that there are no WMD in Iraq?).


The Fog of War Criminals, Part II

In January I wrote about a review of The Fog of War, the movie which profiles (and extensively interviews) Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. One of the things I highlighted in that review review was the movie's revelation of McNamara's role in the fire-bombing of Tokyo. Well, last night I finally saw the movie, and learned a lot more about that episode. I, and probably most readers of Left I on the News, knew about the fire-bombing of Tokyo, which killed 100,000 people in a single night, and destroyed 50 square miles (!) of Tokyo. What I didn't know until last night is that that episode was just the tip of the iceberg. As part of the same campaign, U.S. forces under the command of the infamous Curtis LeMay fire-bombed 67 Japanese cities, destroying 50-90% of each of them (according to McNamara)! And McNamara has the gall to discuss this in a section of the film in which he talks about how "proportionality should be a guideline in war," and then suggests that "some people" (he never says whether he's one of them) think that the fire-bombing was not a "proportional" response. May he rot in hell. As an example of his attitude in this area, he tries to excuse his role in this way:
"I analyzed bombing operations and how to make them more efficient, i.e., not more efficient in the sense of killing more, but in the sense of weakening the adversary."
Oh, right, only their chosen method of "weakening the adversary" just happened to be killing as many civilians and destroying as much of their cities as they could.

The film isn't a great film, largely because one tires of McNamara's self-serving comments and evasiveness, but definitely includes a lot of worthwhile information and footage. There's been a lot of talk in the recent Presidential campaign about how people are tired of hearing about Vietnam, and want to hear about current issues, including the current war in Iraq. Watching this movie makes one all the more aware of how much talk of Vietnam (not Kerry's service or Bush's non-service, of course, but the actual war) is totally relevant to what is happening today. McNamara talks about "Vietnamization," largely as a P.R. effort designed to deflect criticism of the war; shades of "Iraqization" (too bad that's so hard to pronounce or it would probably be more in common currency). There are some very interesting taped conversations between Lyndon Johnson and McNamara, such as this one from Johnson:

"Not a damn human thinks that 50,000 or 100,000 or 150,000 [U.S. troops] is going to end this war. We're not getting out but we're trying to hold what we've got. We're doing bad...we're losing at the rate we're going."
Now what makes this quote all the more interesting is the context. I didn't catch the exact date of the quote, but it is followed by a contemporary television newscaster saying "It was announced today that total American casualties in Vietnam now number 4877 including 748 killed." In other words Johnson's statement came at an earlier stage of the Vietnam war than we are currently in in Iraq [and, of course, note the correct use of the word "casualties," one of Left I's pet peeves in today's coverage].

In more shades of today's war, the newscaster also says "Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, on each of his seven inspection trips to Vietnam, has found some positive aspect to the course of the war there." Well, of course!

Another Johnson quote is priceless for its combination of bravado and bullshit explanations for the reasons for the war:

"America wins the wars that she undertakes, make no mistake about it. And we have declared war on terrorism tyranny and aggression. If this little nation goes down the drain and can't maintain [!] her independence, ask yourself what's going to happen to all the other little nations?"
Oh, that Johnson, always sticking up for the little guy.

The nominee for the most inane line of the film comes from McNamara, attending a recent conference in Vietnam to discuss the war, and talking with the former Vietnamese foreign minister. McNamara says (to the filmmaker), "I formed a hypothesis that each of us could have achieved our objectives without the terrible loss of life," and then (as if to the foreign minister), he says:

"You didn't get any more than we were willing to give you at the beginning of the war. You could have had the whole damn thing - independence, unification..."
Well, Bob, in that case, there's just one simple question you need to answer - What the hell were we doing there? Jesus, what a self-serving, dissembling, sorry excuse for a human being. See the film if you must, but don't eat dinner beforehand.


How many is too many?

One claim frequently heard from the right and other defenders of the Iraqi invasion and occupation is that there have been "only" 1000+ U.S. deaths, only a tiny fraction (2%) of the 58,000 American dead in Vietnam. I'm betting this woman thinks that, whatever the total, it's exactly one too many:
"Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Boyles was coming home from Iraq in two weeks. His wife, Prabha, expects their first baby in three.

"But Aaron called Prabha on Wednesday to say that one last military mission would delay his homecoming. She held the phone to her big belly. Overseas, he smooched loudly, kissing a baby he will never see.

"Aaron Boyles, 24, a graduate of Newark [California] Memorial High School, was killed Friday, along with two other Marines, in a battle in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq."


Barack Obama - the great liberal hope

The unquestioned "star" of this year's Democratic convention was Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama. Pundits, liberal blogs, commentators like Al Franken, and similar folk literally gushed over Obama's speech, touting him with great regularity as a future Presidential likely, and the hope for the rebirth of the "liberal wing" of the Democratic party. How far right has the Democratic Party moved? Here's what Obama had to say recently:

On bombing other countries without provocation:

"U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama suggested Friday that the United States one day might have to launch surgical missile strikes into Iran and Pakistan to keep extremists from getting control of nuclear bombs."
On "withdrawing" from Iraq (Obama was a speaker at antiwar rallies before the invasion):
"Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama said Saturday he would be willing to send more soldiers to Iraq if it is part of a strategy that the president and military leaders believe will stabilize the country and eventually allow America to withdraw."
Sure, because the president and military leaders have demonstrated such wisdom so far, surely if they say they "believe" that the way out of Iraq is to move deeper into Iraq, that's worthy of support. Quagmire, anyone?

With liberal hopes like Obama, who needs conservatives?


More "positively identified" targets in Iraq

The U.S. war against the Iraqi people continues:
"U.S. jets pounded suspected Shiite militant positions in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 46.

"The U.S. military said the strikes in Sadr City, a hotbed of insurgents loyal to renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, struck several 'positively identified' militant hideouts.

"Residents said explosions lit up the night sky for hours before dawn. Mangled vehicles, debris and shards of glass littered the streets.

"Dr. Qassem Saddam of the Imam Ali hospital in Sadr City said five people were killed and 40 were wounded - including 15 women and nine children. At least two children wrapped in bloodstains bandages could be seen lying in hospital beds and one man suffered burns from head-to-toe.

"'While maintaining security is a primary concern, we are also very concerned about minimizing collateral damage and putting the innocent residents of eastern Baghdad at risk,' [Lt. Col. Jim ] Hutton said. 'The enemy shows no concern for the Iraqi people.'"
Hey Hutton. "We have met the enemy and he is us." I wonder if Hutton remembers that he's busy killing Iraqis because "Saddam killed his own people." Or at least, that's one of the many excuses given for doing so.

Of course, if the U.S. military were really "very concerned about minimizing collateral damage," they would be fighting this war from the ground, not from the air. What they're really "very concerned about minimizing," as everyone knows, is their own losses; they couldn't give a toss about the innocent residents of eastern Baghdad (or anyplace else in the country).

In Florida, the election strategy was to disenfranchise as many people as possible who were likely to vote "the wrong way." In Iraq, it's the same strategy, only the disenfranchisement comes in a more lethal form. Are they really going to hold election in January in a place they're bombing at the end of September? Get real. This is beyond a joke.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Victory for the antiwar movement in Britain

Small victories can become big ones:
"The Labour conference will debate the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq this week, after local party delegates voted for it to be included on the agenda.

"The result of the party's priorities ballot could be profoundly embarrassing for Tony Blair if delegates vote for an early pullout after Iraq's January elections."


"Supporting the troops"...by arresting their mothers while they're exercising the right to free speech

A story I missed from last week:
"Laura Bush brought her charm to New Jersey Thursday and reminded a zealous Republican crowd of about 1,200 packed inside a firehouse built for 1,000 why her husband deserved a second term as president.

"She drew applause several times during her 40-minute speech. But halfway through, she was drowned out by hecklers who had sneaked into the firehouse and chanted, 'No more years! No more years!' - a mockery of the Republican crowd's 'Four more years!'

"Secret Service agents made a beeline toward the hecklers. Loudest among them was Sue Niederer, wearing a T-shirt with the words 'President Bush You Killed My Son.' She demanded to know why her son, Army First Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, had been killed in Iraq. Niederer was escorted out, handcuffed, and placed in a police wagon.
An article on CounterPunch adds more detail to the story:
"During Laura Bush's speech in New Jersey last Monday, Susan Niederer was arrested for demanding toknow why her son was killed in Iraq. Niederer interrupted Laura to ask, 'If this war is so righteous, why don't you send your children?' She was escorted out and started talking to reporters --which was when she was handcuffed and led away. Niederer was wearing a shirt with her dead son's picture and the words, 'President Bush, you killed my son'. The official White House transcript of the speech notes applause 39 times, laughter once and four chants of 'Four more years,' but not the interruption."


Out of control and under the radar

To describe Israeli actions in their war against the Palestinians as totally devoid of humanity is to put it mildly. Today's development:
"Israeli army bulldozers have torn down the homes of more than 200 Palestinians in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Yunis, United Nations aid officials say.

"The Israeli military says the operation - a day after mortars fired from Khan Yunis killed a Jewish settler - targeted buildings used by militants.

"Shortly after midnight Israeli troops, tanks and bulldozers moved into Khan Yunis and began tearing down buildings.

"The UN agency which cares for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, said 60 families - around 230 people in total - had lost their houses or shelters.

"One man said he ran with his children as the bulldozers closed in and gunfire sounded in the darkness."
As of this writing, these acts of terrorism and barbarism has received scant attention from the American corporate media. There is, however, an AP story, which reveals this interesting detail:
"The army said most of the demolished structures in the Khan Younis camp were uninhabited and served as cover for militants shelling the nearby settlement of Neve Dekalim.

"However, after troops withdrew Saturday, dozens of Palestinians pulled clothes, kitchen utensils, schoolbooks, mattresses and other belongings from the rubble."
AP also reminds us of the almost unimaginable scale of this horror:
"Some 20,000 homes have been destroyed and about 130,000 Palestinians have been made homeless by Israeli house demolitions in Gaza and the West Bank in the past four years of fighting, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights."

Saturday, September 25, 2004


Postponing attacks in Iraq?

It seems to have become conventional wisdom (among liberals, anyway) that George Bush is postponing a step-up in attacks on "insurgent strongholds" until after the election. It's hard to see how that squares with the facts on the ground, which suggest that a "let-up" has never occured:
"U.S. warplanes, tanks and artillery units struck the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding 15 in a day that saw new violence across the country. The U.S. military announced the deaths of four Marines and a soldier.

"The U.S. military said the Fallujah strikes targeted a meeting point in the center of the city for fighters loyal to Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. 'Intelligence sources reported that Zarqawi terrorists were using the site to plan additional attacks against Iraqi citizens and multinational forces,' the military said in a statement.

"Dr. Dhiya al-Jumaili of Fallujah General Hospital said at least eight people were killed and 15 wounded, including women and children."
The U.S. claims are preposterous on their face. As the article states, "American troops have not entered Fallujah since ending a three-week siege of the city in April," so their "intelligence sources" are not their own. And is it really likely that any Iraqi, especially any Fallujan, would risk informing on their neighbors, in the absence of any local force which could possibly protect him or her from retribution? The reality is simply that U.S. jet pilots saw a bunch of people together and decided to add some "kills" to their grisly totals. Will any American politician denounce these cold-blooded murders? Not too bloody likely; they're too busy pronouncing how they're going to "win" this "war."


Quote of the Day

CNN interviewer Paula Zahn: Is the world a safer place because of the war in Iraq?

Pakistanti "President" Pervez Musharraf: No. It's more dangerous. It's not safer, certainly not. (Source)
Poor George. Even his "friends" think he's full of s**t.


The U.S. government makes Iraqis sick (and me too)

The U.S. has now been "in control" (as much as it is) of Iraq for nearly a year and a half. There have been numerous reported bombings of oil pipelines during that time, but I can only recall one attack on a water facility, and that was more than a year ago. The U.S. was made "legally responsible" for Iraq by the U.N. more than a year ago, and as such, they are legally and morally responsible for this:
"A virulent form of hepatitis that is especially lethal for pregnant women has broken out in two of Iraq's most troubled districts, Iraqi Health Ministry officials said in interviews here this week, and they warned that a collapse of water and sewage systems in the continuing violence in the country is probably at the root of the outbreak. Five deaths have been reported over all.

"Another ominous set of statistics suggests that the quality of water supplies around the country has deteriorated since the American-led war began last year, Dr. Salmani said. In 2003, 70 percent more cases of hepatitis of all types were reported across Iraq than in the year before, he said. During the first six months of 2004, as many cases were reported as in all of 2002.

"In yet another indication of the deteriorating safety of water and food in Iraq, the number of reported cases of typhoid fever is up sharply this year, said Dr. Nima S. Abid, the ministry's director general of public health and primary health. Hospitals across the country are also full of children with severe forms of diarrhea, Dr. Abid said."


Dept. of un(?)intentional irony

"If Saddam Hussein was in power, our security would be threatened. There would still be mass graves and torture chambers."

- George Bush, speaking yesterday
I know George can't pronounce Abu Ghraib, but surely he hasn't forgotten about it already. Or the plethora of other, similar stories, which are receiving scant notice in the media (well, those he probably is totally unaware of). As for the "mass graves," there's a second story in today's paper, in which we learn that:
"Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry.

"According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children [children are defined as anyone under the age of 12 by the ministry]. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said."
Here's how one Iraqi quoted in the article answers George Bush:
"The Americans keep criticizing Saddam for the mass graves. How many graves are the Americans making in Iraq?"
The Americans, meanwhile, continue with their morally and legally bankrupt defense:
"Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, an American military spokesman, said the insurgents were living in residential areas, sometimes in homes filled with munitions. 'As long as they continue to do that, they are putting the residents at risk,' Boylan said. 'We will go after them.'"
I'll let Dr. Walid Hamed, a member of the operations section of the Health Ministry, which compiles the statistics, have the final word:
"Anyone who hates America has come here to fight: Saddam's supporters, people who don't have jobs, other Arab fighters. All these people are on our streets. But everyone is afraid of the Americans, not the fighters. And they should be."
When it hurts to beat your head against the wall, there's only one solution, and it's not to take down the wall, particularly when the wall is composed of living, breathing human beings. Foreign troops must leave Iraq now!


The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

It is rare that the truth is spoken by politicians and even more so by diplomats. Only a handful of countries have the political and economic independence to speak the truth without worrying about the consequences, and of those, even fewer have the moral character to do so. Cuba has paid a terrible price, amounting to billions of dollars of development, over the years, because of the blockade (and, more accurately, full-scale economic warfare) being conducted against it by the United States. But one thing it hasn't lost is the character of its leadership. This speech, given Friday at the United Nations by Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, couldn't be more illustrative of that fact.
Every year at the United Nations we go through the same ritual. We attend the general debate knowing beforehand that the clamor for justice and peace by our underdeveloped countries will be ignored once again. However, we persist. We know that we are right. We know that one day we will accomplish social justice and development. We also know that such assets will not be given away to us. We know that the peoples will have to seize them from those who deny us justice today, because they underpin their wealth and arrogance on the disdain for our grief. But it will not be always like this. We say so today with more conviction than ever before.

Having said this and knowing -- as we do -- that some powerful ones, just a few, present here will be chagrined, and also knowing that they are shared by many, Cuba will now tell some truths:

First: After the aggression on Iraq, there Is no United Nations Organization, understood as a useful and diverse forum, based on the respect for the rights of all and also with guarantees for the small States. It is living through the worst moment of its already forthcoming 60 years. It pales, it pants, it feigns, but it does not work.

Who handcuffed the United Nations named by President Roosevelt? President Bush.

Second: US troops will have to be withdrawn from Iraq.

After the life of over 1,000 American youths was uselessly sacrificed to serve the spurious interests of a clique of cronies and buddies, and following the death of more than 12,000 Iraqis, it is clear that the only way out for the occupying power faced with a revolting people is to recognize the impossibility of subduing them and to withdraw. In spite of the imperial monopoly over information, the peoples always get to the truth. Someday, those responsible and their accomplices will have to deal with the consequences of their actions in the face of History and their own peoples.

Third: For the time being, there will be no valid, real and useful reform to the United Nations.

It would take the superpower, which inherited the immense prerogative of governing an order conceived for a bipolar world, to relinquish its privileges. And it will not do so.

Since now, we know that the anachronistic privilege of the veto will remain; that the Security Council will not be democratized as it should or expanded to include Third World countries; that the General Assembly will continue to stand ignored and that at the United Nations there will be more actions driven by the interests imposed by the superpower and its allies. We, as non-aligned countries, will have to entrench ourselves in defending the United Nations Charter - because, otherwise, it will be redrafted with the deletion of every trace of principles such as the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention and the non-use or the threat to use force.

Fourth: The powerful collude to divide us.

The over 130 underdeveloped countries must build a common front for the defense of the sacred interests of our peoples, of our right to development and peace. Let us revitalize the Non-Aligned Movement. Let us strengthen the G-77. Fifth: The modest objectives of the Millennium Declaration will not be accomplished. We will reach the fifth anniversary of the Summit in a worse situation.
  • We endeavored to halve by 2015 the 1.276 billion human beings in abject poverty that existed in 1990. There had to be a yearly reduction of 46 million poor people. However, excluding China, between 1990 and 2000 extreme poverty rose by 28 million people. Impoverishment does not decline, it grows.
  • We wanted to halve by 2015 the 842 million starving people recorded in the world. There had to be a yearly reduction of 28 million. However, there has barely been a reduction of 2.1 million hungry people per year. At this rate, the goal would be attained by 2215, two hundred years after what was envisaged - and only if our species survives the destruction of its environment.
  • We proclaimed the aspiration to achieve universal primary education by 2015. However, more than 120 million children, 1 in every 5 in that school age, do not attend primary school. According to UNICEF, at the current rate the goal will be accomplished after 2100.
  • We endeavored to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate in children under five years of age. The reduction is symbolic: out of 86 children who died per 1,000 live births in 1998, now the figure is 82. Every year, 11 million children continue to die of diseases that can be prevented or cured, whose parents will rightfully wonder what our meetings are for.
  • We said that we would pay attention to Africa's special needs. However, very little has been done. African nations do not need foreign advice or models, but financial resources and access to both markets and technologies. Assisting Africa would not be an act of charity, but an act of justice; it would be tantamount to settling the historical debt resulting from centuries of exploitation and pillage.
  • We undertook to put a halt to and start reverting the AIDS pandemic by 2015. However, in 2003 it claimed nearly 3 million lives. At this rate, by 2015 some 36 million people will have died of this cause.
Sixth: Creditor countries and the international financial agencies will not seek a just and lasting solution to the foreign debt.

They prefer to keep us in debt; that is, vulnerable. Therefore, even though we have paid off US$ 4.1 trillion in debt service over the last 13 years, our debt increased from US$ 1.4 trillion to US$ 2.6 trillion. It means that we have paid three times what we owed and now our debt is twice as much.

Seventh: We, as underdeveloped countries, are the ones that finance the squandering and the opulence of developed countries.

While in 2003 they gave us US$ 68.400 billion in ODA, we delivered to them US$ 436 billion as payment for the foreign debt. Who is helping who?

Eighth: The fight against terrorism can only be won through cooperation among all nations and with respect for International Law, and not through massive bombings or pre-emptive wars against "dark corners of the world."

Hypocrisy and double standards must cease. Sheltering three Cuban-born terrorists in the United States is an act of complicity to terrorism. Punishing five Cuban youths who were fighting terrorism, and punishing their families, is a crime.

Ninth: General and complete disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, is Impossible today. It is the responsibility of a group of developed countries that are the ones that most sell and buy weapons. However, we must continue to strive for it. We must demand that the over US$ 900 billion set aside every year for military expenditures be used on development; and

Tenth: The financial resources to guarantee the sustainable development for all the peoples on the planet are available, but what is lacking is the political will of those who rule the world.

A development tax of merely 0.1% on international financial transactions would generate resources amounting to almost US$ 400 billion per annum.

The cancellation of the foreign debt incurred by underdeveloped countries would allow these to have available for their development no less than US$ 436 billion on a yearly basis -- money which is currently used to pay off the debt. If developed countries complied with their commitment to set aside 0.7% of their Gross National Product as ODA, their contribution would increase from the current US$ 68.400 billion to US$ 160 billion per annum. Finally, Excellencies, I want to clearly express Cuba's profound conviction that the 6.4 billion human beings on this planet -- who have equal rights according to the United Nations Charter -- urgently need a new order in which the world is not left in suspense, as is the case now, awaiting the outcome of the elections in a new Rome in which only half the voters will participate and nearly US$ 1.2 billion will be spent.

There is no discouragement in our words, I must say so clearly. We are optimistic because we are revolutionaries. We have faith in the struggle of the peoples and we are certain that we will accomplish a new world order based on the respect for the rights of all; an order based on solidarity, justice and peace, resulting from the best of universal culture and not from mediocrity or gross force.

About Cuba, which cannot be detoured from its course by blockades, threats, hurricanes, droughts or human or natural force, I will not say anything. Next 28 October, for the 13th time, this General Assembly will debate and vote on a resolution about the blockade imposed against the Cuban people. Once again, morality and principles will defeat arrogance and force.

I would like to conclude by recalling the words spoken right here 25 years ago by President Fidel Castro:

"The noise of weapons, of the menacing language, of the haughtiness on the international scene must cease. Enough of the illusion that the problems of the world can be solved by nuclear weapons. Bombs may kill the hungry, the sick and the ignorant, but bombs cannot kill hunger, disease and ignorance. Nor can bombs kill the righteous rebellion of the people..."
Amidst the series of truths spoken by Perez Roque, antiwar and social justice activists in particular need to re-read the very first thing he says:
"Every year at the United Nations we go through the same ritual. We attend the general debate knowing beforehand that the clamor for justice and peace by our underdeveloped countries will be ignored once again. However, we persist. We know that we are right."
Because this applies to us in spades. We know that our struggle for justice and peace will often be ignored by the press and especially by the politicians, even when a half-million of us gather to shout our demands. We know our victory will not be swift. But we must persist. Because we know that we are right.

Friday, September 24, 2004


Donsense rises to new levels

In the past, Donsense (tm) has often been just silly. But this goes way past that to blatantly offensive:
"We had something like 200 or 300 or 400 people killed in many of the major cities of America last year. Is it perfectly peaceful? No. What's the difference? We just didn't see each homicide in every major city in the United States on television every night. It happens here in this city, in every major city in the world. Across Europe, across the Middle East, people are being killed. People do bad things to each other."
There were 300 people killed (the vast majority by American bombs) last week in Iraq, not last year; since the start of the invasion a year and a half ago somewhere between 10 and 37 thousand Iraqis have been killed. In America, a civilian in an automobile can safely drive from one town to another, nevermind someone in an armored personnel carrier, and reporters can actually go into any city in the country to report on the news.

Not only is Rumsfeld's statement obscene in its disregard for Iraqi life, it's patently ridiculous as well. Everyone who watches television news knows that practically every homicide which occurs in our local major city is splashed across our screens - "if it bleeds, it leads." If there is anyplace where the danger of living someplace is exaggerated by what's on TV, it's America, not Iraq.

There was a time I found Rumsfeld amusing. Now, he's just a buffoon.

Followup: In the companion inane headline of the day, the San Jose Mercury News offers us this: "Iraqi Leader Offers Upbeat Assessment - He Vows Elections Will Proceed In 2005, Despite Threats Of Violence, Instability." Threats of violence?

Thursday, September 23, 2004


A dime's worth of difference? A nickel? A penny?

John Kerry has a new ad (called "Juvenille") which takes George Bush to task on the issue of the Iraq "quagmire," noting that there have been 1000 U.S. casualties, and so on (not true, of course, as long-time readers of Left I on the News know, "casualties" refers to dead and injured people, and there have in fact been more than 8000 American casualties in this war, including more than 1000 fatalities). Language nitpicking aside, the ad contains some valid criticisms, and then ends like this:
John Kerry has a plan for success:
  • Get allies involved
  • Speed up the training of Iraqis
  • Take essential steps to get a free election next year
On Iraq, it's time for a new direction.
Well, I certainly agree, but how those three steps constitute a "new direction" is completely unfathomable, since it is exactly what George Bush claims he's doing. A new direction? For sure. There's the door, don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out. That's my recommendation for a new direction.


George W. Goebbels

George Bush has said this sort of thing many times, and Left I has had the same response each time, but it's necessary to take on the big lie each time it occurs:
"We went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein defied the demands of the free world. We went into Iraq after diplomacy had failed."
Of course, precisely the opposite is true. Iraq had complied with the demands of the U.N. that it rid itself of weapons of mass destruction, and provided thousands of pages of documentation of that effort. Furthermore "diplomacy," in the form of weapons inspectors who were busy verifying the truth of Iraq's assertions, were proceeding smoothly.

And this is not just any old lie, one of dozens told by Bush on a daily basis, but the "big lie." It's the "big lie" not just in the Goebbels sense of constant repetition, but also because of its centrality in the justification for the invasion itself. Bush can talk all he wants about "making the world (or the U.S.) safer" or "bringing democracy to the Middle East" or "freeing the Iraq people from a terrible dictator" or other bogus justifications; he knows very well that if Colin Powell had gotten up in the U.N. and tried to urge a vote to invade Iraq on those bases (that's the plural of "basis," by the way; I had to look that up to be sure), he would have been laughed out of the auditorium. It was only the equally bogus claim of "enforcing U.N. resolutions" that allowed Bush to claim the slightest fig leaf (and we're definitely not talking about a fig leaf large enough to satisfy John Ashcroft) for the invasion.

Followup: Please don't confuse George W. Goebbels with George Gobel. The latter often appeared as clueless and ill-acquainted with the English language as the former, but wasn't responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people.


Stressed on the job? Maybe it's not you.

In today's unintentionally ironic news:
"U.S. employees who have taken civilian jobs in Iraq face anxiety, isolation from family, gunfire and grueling work.

"A number of employers are trying to alleviate the strain.

"Some are bringing in on-site mental-health counselors who travel the country in Black Hawk helicopters. Others are providing online counseling sessions to those on the ground or granting employees a month or more off when they return.

"Angie Stephens is an employee assistance counselor at KBR, the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton. She recently returned from a three-month assignment as an on-site counselor in Iraq, where she traveled by convoy or helicopter to meet with civilian workers.

"'You're sitting there with a bulletproof vest and a Kevlar helmet on and talking to them about what's going on,' Stephens says."
When your employer has to bring in mental-health counselors in Blackhawk helicopters who have to wear bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets to talk to you...the problem is not you. Or, as Alfred E. Neuman put the reverse long ago, "When you can keep your head when others about you are losing theirs...maybe you don't understand the gravity of the situation." And, sadly, the unintentional irony in that statement is all too tragic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Israel - that "model of virtue" in the Middle East

Palestinians? People who even talk to Palestinians? They're all the same to the Israelis. This is the country which American taxpayers are supporting with billions of dollars every year:
"A British MP who was held in an ambulance at an Israeli military checkpoint for more than an hour after he suffered a stroke is to ask the Foreign Office to protest at his treatment.

"Ian Gibson, the Labour MP for Norwich North, said that soldiers stopped him for about 90 minutes as they demanded he leave the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance taking him to an Arab-run hospital in East Jerusalem and take an Israeli ambulance.

"'I was being quite violently sick at the time. I was pretty ill and I think they knew I was pretty ill. They could see I was vomiting and yet they insisted on this kind of treatment,' he said at a Jerusalem hospital yesterday. 'We had to keep waiting for a more senior officer to appear and so on. The feeling was that humanitarian care of the patient was way down the list and that they were making a point.'

"Palestinian ambulances are frequently delayed or turned back at checkpoints. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights says at least 43 people have died in the past four years because ambulances were stopped or delayed. More than a dozen women have been forced to give birth at checkpoints, resulting in at least five stillbirths.


Newspeak of the Day II

"We know that the enemy will come at us very, very tough."

- Gen. John Abizaid, speaking about the alleged stepup in attacks by insurgents in Iraq preceding the Iraqi (and American) elections
But the report immediately preceding it on ABC News indicated that it was the Americans who plan to step up attacks before the election because they have concluded that it is essential to allow "development" to proceed, and that they have to "get tougher." And, whether we're speaking about Fallujah, or Sadr City, or anyplace else, it's clear that it is, and has been, the Americans who are "coming at" the insurgents, rather than vice-versa. Yes, there are the occasional IED bombings of convoys, and the occasional mortering of U.S. bases, but 95% of the "action" in Iraq is the Americans on the offensive, the Iraqis on the defensive.


Newspeak of the Day

"We'll secure the country. Inshallah (God willing), we hope Iraqi forces will go into Fallujah soon."

- appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, speaking to American television
The man that Whatever It Is, I'm Against It calls "Comical" Allawi appears not to notice that Iraqi forces are already in Fallujah, and that the forces attacking them, and hoping to enter Fallujah, are American forces.


Turning a phrase

Politics aside, one can always appreciate a great turn of phrase. And I loved the closing line to today's New York Times editorial criticizing George Bush for failing to capitalize on his speech to the United Nations to, among other things, gain more international help in rebuilding occupying Iraq. The Times concludes thusly:
"His tone-deaf speechwriters achieved a perverse kind of alchemy, transforming a golden opportunity into a lead balloon."
Very nicely phrased, although the bizarre effort to put the blame on his "speechwriters" and not on Bush himself is rather curious. I mean, I know Bush didn't write the speech, and probably didn't originate the thoughts in it, but surely he read it at least once before reading it in public, and had the opportunity to tell his staff to go re-do it if it didn't say exactly what he wanted it to say. Or am I giving him more credit than the zero I usually credit him with?

Followup: TV news just described Bush as following his UN speech with a series of "diplomatic meetings" with other world leaders. Based on his speech at the UN, wouldn't "undiplomatic meetings" likely be more descriptive?


How ignorant are Americans?

Ignorant enough that the author of this Knight-Ridder article thought it necessary to insert a parenthetical phrase in the third sentence of the following paragraph:
"On 'Letterman,' Kerry endured some tough but respectful questions about his shifting explanations of his position on the war in Iraq. Then came the comedic payoff: Kerry got to read the 'Top 10 Bush Tax Proposals.' No. 3 was 'Cheney gets to claim Bush as a dependent,' referring to Vice President Dick Cheney.


U.S. to murder 10,000+ Palestinians (and some Iranians too)

Well, the story doesn't actually say that. In fact, it's such a minor story that it only made the San Jose Mercury News "World News in Brief":
"The United States will sell Israel nearly 5,000 smart bombs in one of the largest weapons deals between the allies in years, Israeli military officials said Tuesday."
"Smart" bombs are not a defensive weapon, They have only a single purpose, and that is offense, to make pinpoint attacks on selected targets. In the case of Israel, those targets will, of course, be the Palestinian people. The targets will invariably be described by Israel as "Hamas militants" or the like, but of course that won't be the reality. Given the number of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis that have occured in the last five years, the actual number of Palestinians actively involved in such activities, who could in some conceivable (illegal, but conceivable) way be described as being "justifiable" targets, is just the tiniest fraction of the Palestinians already killed, and the tiniest fraction of the Palestinians who will be blown apart in the future by Israel's 5,000 new "smart" bombs.

The Palestinians aren't the only targets, however, since 500 of those bombs will be "bunker buster" bombs, with essentially one purpose in mind - blowing up Iran's nuclear facilities.

The Israeli button men will be pulling the trigger in these hits. But it will their American Godfather, the capo di tutti capi, who is equally guilty, both legally and morally, of the deaths which result.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Building democracy in Iraq

This sentence in a news article in the New York Times certainly took me by surprise:
" Iraqi officials in charge of rebuilding their country's shattered and decrepit infrastructure are warning that the Bush administration's plan to divert $3.46 billion from water, sewage, electricity and other reconstruction projects to security could leave many people without the crucial services that generally form the backbone of a stable and functioning democracy."
Who knew? And here I thought that the opportunity for citizens to participate in their government and help shape the decisions that affect their lives was what democracy was all about, and if anything is the "backbone of a stable and functioning democracy" it would be access to information, not access to water, sewage and electricity. Or is the Times alleging that the United States was not a "stable and functioning democracy" in 1776? Because I'm pretty sure that the majority of Americans in 1776 had no access to water outside of their own wells, sewage outside of the outhouse behind their house, and electricity outside of being struck by lightning.


Doublespeak Quote of the Day

A lot of people have illusions in John McCain; heaven only knows why.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Bush was not being "as straight as maybe we'd like to see" with the American people about Iraq. (Source)
Sounds to me like John McCain is not "as straight as maybe we'd like to see" in describing the latest Bushit about how well things are going in Iraq. Is there anyone with an IQ over 35 who actually believes that things are going well in Iraq? And who doesn't also believe in the tooth fairy?


The soldiers speak

The Christian Science [sic] Monitor gives us some insights into the minds of American troops in Iraq that probably won't make the TV news. A lot of the article is framed in terms the election, and whether the troops will support Bush or Kerry in the election. But that isn't really the heart of what's going on in their minds. After all, as one quoted soldier says, echoing the thoughts of plenty of stateside Americans as well, "9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them. People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."
"'Nobody I know wants Bush,' says an enlisted soldier in Najaf, adding, 'This whole war was based on lies.' Like several others interviewed, his animosity centered on a belief that the war lacked a clear purpose even as it took a tremendous toll on US troops, many of whom are in Iraq involuntarily under 'stop loss' orders that keep them in the service for months beyond their scheduled exit in order to keep units together during deployments.

"'There's no clear definition of why we came here,' says Army Spc. Nathan Swink, of Quincy, Ill. 'First they said they have WMD and nuclear weapons, then it was to get Saddam Hussein out of office, and then to rebuild Iraq. I want to fight for my nation and for my family, to protect the United States against enemies foreign and domestic, not to protect Iraqi civilians or deal with Sadr's militia,' he said.

"Other US troops expressed feelings of guilt over killing Iraqis in a war they believe is unjust.

"'We shouldn't be here,' said one Marine infantryman bluntly. 'There was no reason for invading this country in the first place. We just came here and [angered people] and killed a lot of innocent people,' said the marine, who has seen regular combat in Ramadi. 'I don't enjoy killing women and children, it's not my thing.' [Ed. note: gosh, I hope not, for his family's sake if nothing else]"
Not surprisingly, people in the military share the same illusions in Kerry that civilians do:
"Specialist Swink, who comes from a family of both Democrats and Republicans, plans to vote for Kerry. 'Kerry protested the war in Vietnam. He is the one to end this stuff, to lead to our exit of Iraq,' he said."
Would that it were true. Sadly, there isn't the slightest evidence of that, and the John Kerry who protested the war in Vietnam passed away a long time ago.


American war crimes in Iraq

American bombings in Iraq, as most recently in Fallujah for example, are always described as "precision strikes" on "terrorist safe houses." Even if there were such things as precision strikes, and even if there were "terrorist safe houses," how would the Americans, who aren't even on the ground in Fallujah, know about them? From informants of course. And how would the Americans know if this information was valid? They wouldn't, of course, as Left I has mentioned many times before.

The following post, lifted wholesale from TalkLeft, isn't about a bombing, it's about an arrest, but it illustrates precisely this point. As well as illustrating the consequences - what happens to Iraqis when their American captives are at best indifferent to their fate, and at worst, well, a lot worse:

"Huda Alazawi was one of the few females imprisoned at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. She was a wealthy businesswoman, blackmailed by a lowlife informant who falsely dropped a dime on her and her brothers, claiming they were supporters of the Iraqi resistance after she refused to meet his demand for money. Recently released after several months at Abu Ghraib, she recounted her ordeal to The Guardian.

"Alazawi was imprisoned with two of her brothers and a sister. One brother was brutally sexually assaulted -- hours later he was thrown at her and her sister's feet, bleeding from his head, knees and between his legs. He was dead.

"The torture, abuse and degradation of Alazawi and other prisoners went on for months. She was able to document some of the abuse in a Koran. Other aspects of her report match those of other prisoners.

"A few bad apples? No way. If even just half of Alazawi's account is true, common sense dictates that the abuse and torture were not merely condoned, but organized, planned and authorized. Almost equally disgusting is this U.S. miltary spokesman's indifferent response to her allegations:
"She and her sister, which [sic] were the last two females we detained at Abu Ghraib, were separated from the male detainees in keeping with the cultural sensitivities." He added, "The fact that abuses occurred isn't really news any more. We know they did and those who are accused are being prosecuted for it."
How about the prosecution of those who authorized it?
Reading the full Guardian story (link above) is even more horrifying than just the excerpts extracted by TalkLeft. Crimes against humanity doesn't begin to cover what the Americans and their allies have done to the Iraqi people, the terror (and worse) inflicted in the name of the "war on terror" and [post-facto] "bringing democracy" to Iraq.


Capitalist health care

Is there a better way? A better question is - is there a worse way? Consider the evidence:
"For patients and their doctors these days, the rising cost of prescription drugs is often the fabled elephant in the room — a looming presence, unacknowledged.

"Both parties know that a drug's cost and an insurer's reimbursement rate affect whether patients will follow their physicians' advice and take medications as prescribed. After all, patients often skimp — or skip out — on taking the drugs because they are having trouble paying for them.

"Now a study has found that, in two-thirds of these cases, patients do not tell their doctor in advance. And more than a third of those who skimp never tell their doctors at all, even during a later visit.

"Chronically ill patients — people with conditions like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and ulcers — are the ones who most need to take their medications regularly and in the doses prescribed. The vast majority of those patients surveyed were on three or more prescription drugs when they started to skip doses or delay on refills to save money.

"In May, a Rand Corp. study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., found that when the co-pay shouldered by younger patients with chronic illnesses doubled, those patients cut back on their medications by as much as 23%. And the health results were striking: As these patients scaled back their medications, their visits to emergency rooms rose 17% and hospital stays went up 10%."
And what's the capitalist solution to this problem? Use less effective drugs, of course, as long as they're cheaper:
"There are, however, many inexpensive computer-based tools and programs that can help doctors initiate a decision-making process in which patient and doctor can compare trade-offs in a drug's effectiveness, side effects, convenience and cost.

"That's new territory for most doctors, who have been trained to prescribe the medication or therapy that is probably best to treat a patient's illness, not to consider a potentially less effective or convenient one that might be cheaper or more likely to be covered.

"In light of the new evidence, Mangione said, it's time to get over that.

"'The most expensive drug might be the best choice,' said Mangione, who has been seeing patients for 15 years, 'but not if it's being taken half the time.'"

Monday, September 20, 2004


Congratulations to Left I on the News readers!

While I was out of touch, my first "Open Thread" post resulted in some excellent comments, with a signal-to-noise ratio approaching infinity. Congratulations!



From Baghdad Burning via Politics in the Zeros:
September 11… he sat there, reading the paper. As he reached out for the cup in front of him for a sip of tea, he could vaguely hear the sound of an airplane overhead. It was a bright, fresh day and there was much he had to do… but the world suddenly went black- a colossal explosion and then crushed bones under the weight of concrete and iron… screams rose up around him… men, women and children… shards of glass sought out tender, unprotected skin … he thought of his family and tried to rise, but something inside of him was broken… there was a rising heat and the pungent smell of burning flesh mingled sickeningly with the smoke and the dust… and suddenly it was blackness.

9/11/01? New York? World Trade Center?


9/11/04. Falloojeh. An Iraqi home.
Riverbend sums up the situation (actually preceding the last bit) this way:
"We have 9/11’s on a monthly basis. Each and every Iraqi person who dies with a bullet, a missile, a grenade, under torture, accidentally - they all have families and friends and people who care. The number of Iraqis dead since March 2003 is by now at least eight times the number of people who died in the World Trade Center. They had their last words, and their last thoughts as their worlds came down around them, too."
Did Iraq have anything to do with 9/11/01 before the invasion? Nothing. Does it have to do with 9/11 now? Everything. And every single Iraqi (and American) death doesn't redeem 9/11. It compounds it.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


Open thread

I've never done this open thread thing before, but let's try it out. I'm taking off for a few days, and posting will be light to non-existent. Use the comments on this thread to post your own thoughts, refer other readers to important posts on other blogs or important articles in the news, and so on. Ta ta!



In the news today we learn (quelle surprise!) that the Pentagon has been understating casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that while they are currently reporting "only" 1,019 dead and 7,245 wounded from Iraq, there have in fact been 16,765 service members who have been evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for injuries and ailments "not directly related to combat." Well sure, out of a couple hundred thousand people, some will certainly come down with various diseases and ailments which will sufficiently put them out of commission requiring them to leave the battlefield. But 16,765 sounds like an awfully high percentage to me. We're not talking about people coming down with a cold here, but much more serious ailments. What percentage of people where you work are out for medical leave in the course of a year? Nothing like that, I'll bet.

Some of these evacuees have just short-term problems. But the really serious issue is that a substantial number have problems which will affect them for a long time, if not forever, and I'm not talking about the portion of the 7,245 wounded who have returned with missing eyes, legs, arms, or severely disfigured in some other way. I'm talking about this:

"Among veterans from Iraq seeking help from the VA, 5,375 have been diagnosed with a mental problem, making it the third-leading diagnosis after bone problems and digestive problems. Among the mental problems were 800 soldiers who became psychotic.

"A military study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq might suffer major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Around 11 percent of soldiers returning from Afghanistan may have the same problems, according to that study."
Many of these people form a burden that society should, but past experience says won't, spend years helping overcome their problems.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Hello, McFly!

The "Hello, Mc Fly, anybody home?" award for the day goes to the Republican Senators who are the subject of this article:
"Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today that the Bush administration's request to divert more than $3 billion from reconstruction work in Iraq to security measures was a sign that the American campaign in Iraq is in serious trouble."
Well, thank God for that request, because I just don't know how they would have ever come to that conclusion otherwise. Well, other than watching TV or reading a newspaper, of course.

By the way, it may just not be making the news, but it sure seems to me like the flow of members of Congress over to Iraq to witness the "progress" that's being made for themselves has completely dried up. They may be dumb, but they're not stupid.


The Bush National Guard memos

Conventional wisdom seems to have moved rapidly to the conclusion that the memos about Bush's service in the National Guard revealed by CBS were fake, culminating in today's rather interesting headline: "Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says." Now what interests me is not whether the memos are fake or not; but the press handling of this affair, as I've written about before. Why do people reach the conclusion that the memos are fake? Consider some of the claims:As far as I can tell, the sole "serious" claim challenging the authenticity of these memos is Ms. Knox's recollection that she used two typewriters over the years, an Olympia and an IBM Selectric, neither one of which had proportional spacing. There are several explanations for this; only one is that the memos are fake. Another is that Ms. Knox's recollection is again poor - if you asked me what model car I was driving every single day 30 years ago, I couldn't tell you, so it is possible Knox was using a different model typewriter. Or, it is possible that this particular memo was typed by someone else on a different typewriter. Perhaps, because of its politically sensitive nature, Killian typed it himself, at a typewriter at his workplace.

Again, my point is not to claim that I know whether these memos are fake or not; I haven't even looked at them online, nevertheless the originals (or the "original copies"). But the coverage of this issue in the press, and their acceptance and repetition of totally specious claims as useful for discrediting the memos, deserves to be spotlighted. Remember, this is the same media which day after day hammered home the "conventional wisdom" that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD. When "conventional wisdom" is involved, be sure to look the other way.


Comfortably numb

I've done several pieces in the last few days on the "media and Iraq," but today at This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow's blog), blog co-author Bob Harris has a post up on the subject which begs to be repeated at length:
I am deeply saddened by the following. This is no longer a country I fully recognize.

Y'know how gradual changes, which can eventually become radical transformations, are sometimes only obvious to people who weren't around much? Aunts and uncles are always saying the kids have grown so much -- which, of course, they have.

I've only been gone for almost a month. Maybe it was like this before I left and I'm just now noticing...

Yesterday, I'm working and unpacking, and I've got CNN on in the background. And I hear Wolf Blitzer, barking in that constant breathless get-the-kids-excited-for-Christmas, here-comes-another-shiny-pebble pacing of his, mentioning a video of a civilian journalist, Mazen al-Tumeizi, and about a score of other civilians (reports vary) getting killed in a U.S. airstrike . About 60 other civilians were injured.

I didn't actually see the report live -- Wolf had already moved on to his next story -- but I was struck by how casual this was: innocent civilians killed in a U.S. airstrike, and it wasn't even the news hook; the death of the reporter was. (CNN doesn't have a transcript up for the report I saw. They do, however, have one for a later , similar report. Scroll down, or just search for the words "I'm dying." The entire mention of the U.S. inflicting over 70 civilian casualties is exactly four sentences long. The Batman guy, meanwhile, got thirty.)

So, through the miracle of TiVo, I rewound. And there it was.



Being killed by a U.S. airstrike.

Non-combatants. Celebrating on a disabled U.S. vehicle, granted. But civilians nonetheless. Certainly not in combat against any U.S. troops.

In the foreground, a reporter just doing his job, frowning over some little technical glitch, maybe something he forgot to do...

Bang, boom. No warning. Just an incoming U.S. aerial attack. "To prevent looters from stripping the vehicle," the Pentagon later says, classifying everyone within thirty feet as "looters" and sentencing them to summary execution.

Blood splashes on the lens. The camera spins. Tiny glimpses of terrible carnage.

Without a beat, without reflection, without even a moment of minimal thought, Wolf Blitzer moves on. As do we, collectively.

And that's that. America kills innocent civilians. Lots of them. And it's no big deal now. Not controversial. No reason to ask questions or rationalize or even pretend to soul-search like the national media once did. America kills civilians. Lots of them. Just part of the fabric of things now.

Happens every day.

The military isn't pressed and can't be bothered for a detailed explanation about the incident, other than to blame the victims themselves. "Great care should be taken by all to avoid and keep a safe distance from any active military operation as unpredictable events can occur," the U.S. spokesman says.

"Unpredictable events," they say. Like an earthquake or a lightning strike. Like an unprovoked attack from an Apache helicopter, firing on unarmed civilians, on tape, recorded for all the world to see.

Nobody's responsible. These are "unpredictable events."

I say this next as the most articulate, precisely-worded response I can muster right now, summing up all my emotions quite clearly: F**K.

And yet there's no sizeable outrage in this country I can find. Not in the mainstream, and not even much in the blogosphere, except for a few posts.

We are numb now.

We are killing. We are killing in large numbers. And we are numb to what we are doing.

That's it. Game over. We have lost.

Not the war. Ourselves.

The war and much more will follow, soon, if we can't wake up from our savage numbness.
To which I'll add only that the U.S.-funded, U.S.-supported daily slaughter of Palestinians by Israelis continues with even less notice in the media. 10 more today, killed, according to the news reports, for basically the same reasons as hundreds who have preceded them in recent months and years:
"Israel has cranked up efforts to eliminate militants to prevent them proclaiming victory once Sharon carries out his plan to 'disengage' from the conflict by evacuating more than 8,000 settlers from Gaza and the northern West Bank in 2005."
Evidently the oh-so-religious Israelis haven't heard of the sin of pride.


Quote of the Day

"Rotten imperialist reactionary culture...is like a drug making the sound mind of the people anemic."

- North Korea's official news agency, commenting on the attempt of U.S.-based Korean groups to float tiny radios into North Korea by balloon.
Any of us living in a country where 50% of the voting public is actually going to vote for George Bush want to dispute that claim about anemic minds? Or where more people can name the contestants on Survivor than can name their own representatives in Congress? Feel free to provide your own examples in the comments.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Hurricane evacuations

In Cuba, 1.3 million, more than 10% of the entire population, were evacuated from the path of Hurricane Ivan in an orderly operation organized by the government.

Now the hurricane is headed for New Orleans. The situation warrants a mandatory evacuation there too, but there's a problem:

"The mayor said that he would 'aggressively recommend' people evacuate, but that it would difficult to order them to do so, because at least 100,000 in the city rely on public transportation and would have no way to leave."
Those who aren't able to make it out of town may be in serious danger:
"Ivan could ...[send] water pouring over the levees, flooding to the rooftops and turning streets into a toxic brew of raw sewage, gas and chemicals from nearby refineries."
The cost to kill tens of thousands of Iraqis and more than a thousand Americans? Over 200 billion dollars. Availability of money and National Guard members and equipment to help evacuate the population of New Orleans? Sorry, no can do.

Followup: The following could have appeared in some left-wing publication, but actually it appeared in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

"Civil Defense Lt. Angel Macareno...credited Cuba's evacuation program for ensuring no one died. He said nearly 1.9 million of the nation's 11.2 million people [Ed. note: nearly one-fifth of the population!] - rather than the 1.3 million earlier reported - were evacuated before Ivan struck.

"Evacuations here are widespread and mandatory. Civil defense plans are highly developed, with preparedness education programs for the entire population.

"'The Cuban way could easily be applied to other countries with similar economic conditions, and even in countries with greater resources that do not manage to protect their population as well as Cuba does,' Salvano Briceno, director of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said in Geneva. [Ed. note: of course this applies to a lot more than just hurricane preparations]

"In 1998, only four people died during Hurricane Georges, while 600 died elsewhere. This year, Hurricane Charley killed four people in Cuba, but 27 in Florida."
Needless to say, there are no reports of looting or gouging in Cuba, activities which are absolutely typical both elsewhere in the Caribbean and in Florida as well after hurricanes.


Quote of the Day

"Does there seem to be significant progress being made on a day to day basis in terms of Iraqi security personnel, taking over the main responsibility for their country's security?"

- Wolf Blitzer, on CNN, responding to a report from Iraq featuring the following news
"Assailants Tuesday launched two deadly assaults at Iraqi police targets -- killing 47 people in a car bombing at a police recruit line in Baghdad and 12 police officers in a drive-by shooting in Baquba."
(Quote courtesy of Atrios)


More economic blather

The San Jose Mercury News makes a habit of this sort of nonsense:
"Silicon Valley's unemployment rate fell nearly a full percentage point to 5.5 percent in August. Yet the valley also lost 1,500 jobs.

"The numbers show the two faces of the local economy right now -- depending on how you look, the jobs picture is either bleak or brightening."
Well, it's easy to see the bleak part - 1,500 people lost their jobs. How is it "brightening" exactly? The "unemployment rate" fell, but that's only "because so many people are leaving the area or giving up their job searches. The labor force shrank to 874,600 in August from 879,300 in July, a loss of almost 5,000 would-be workers." Only someone intent on deliberate obfuscation could describe that as "brightening."

And you'll be pleased to know that things are going really well. Well, except for workers, that is:

"The numbers suggest things were a bit better in August than in July. But even if the worst is over, economists say the recovery still isn't trickling down to workers.

"'It looks to me like we're bouncing along the bottom,' said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy. 'Most of the elements of a recovery are in place, except jobs. And it's a big except.'"
Yes, it's a great recovery, except for the majority of people who actually work for a living.

Monday, September 13, 2004


"Democracy" is in the eye of the beholder

A lovely headline in the Telegraph today:
Putin uses war on terrorism to tighten grip on democracy
And how did he do that? By announcing that, from now on, he'll be appointing the 89 governors of different regions of Russia, rather than letting them be elected locally. Well gosh, how much more "democratic" can you get? [We'll probably find out in a few months in Iraq when the "elections" are held there]

Of course this was explained as an "anti-terrorism" measure. Because those darned Russian voters kept insisting on electing pro-terrorist governors, don't you know. Well, I suppose we should thank President Putin for demonstrating what a complete and utter fraud the "war on terrorism" is.


Seymour Hersh speaks

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the prime mover behind the breaking of the story of torture at Abu Ghraib prison, is out with a new book - Chain of Command - which provides evidence that senior military and national security officials in the Bush administration were repeatedly warned by subordinates in 2002 and 2003 that prisoners in military custody were being abused. A number of articles have summarized Hersh's charges, but today on WNYC, reporter Jeffrey Toobin did an extended interview with Hersh which is online, and well worth listening to to hear the story straight from Hersh's mouth (don't be confused that the link goes to something called the "Leonard Lopate Show"; apparently Toobin was a guest host today).

Followup: Another interesting (albeit similar) interview on today's Democracy Now!


More media and Iraq

The New York Times has an article on events in Fallujah further exemplifying the despicable role being played by the media in covering up the actions of the U.S. military. Here's the headline: "25 Reported Killed in U.S. Strike on Rebel Base in Falluja." Although one can perform contortions to imagine that the word "reported" applies to the entire sentence," a normal interpretation would be that it was only the number "25" that was unconfirmed, and that the claim that it was a "Rebel Base" that was hit by this strike is established beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The article makes things worse:

"American warplanes made what the military called a precision strike on a meeting place of terrorists believed linked to Al Qaeda in the Sunni stronghold of Falluja today, killing an estimated 25 militants.

"The military said in a statement that the attack was on a base intelligence officers had confirmed was used by rebels loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant believed by American officials to be Al Qaeda's most senior leader in Iraq."
Once again, the phrase "what the military called" could conceivably be stretched to apply to the entire sentence, but any normal interpretation would apply it only to the words "precision strike," with the claim that this strike was on a "meeting place of terrorists" taken as gospel.

And then of course we have the claim that the dead were "rebels loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." An interesting claim since, aside from the pretty much discredited claim that it was Zarqawi himself in the Nick Berg beheading video, there isn't a single credible sighting of Zarqawi in ages, so how anyone would be able to recognize people as associates of this phantom is quite beyond me. And even if Zarqawi were known to be in Iraq, or even in Fallujah, how exactly did the intelligence [sic] officers "confirm" that these people were loyal to him? No doubt the U.S. has informants or even actual spies in Fallujah who alleged that that was the case. But how exactly did they "confirm" it? Did they sneak in at night and find their membership cards? Overhear them talking about Zarqawi? The last of these is actually possible, but I'm highly skeptical it actually occured. No, I think we can rest assured that this "confirmation" was about as firm as the "confirmation" that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD. But it's something we'll never learn from the New York Times, who, like the rest of the media, will continue to print U.S. government propaganda as it is fed to them.

Followup: As if to confirm my analysis, the Times has now changed their headline. It now reads:

U.S. Attacks Rebel Base in Falluja; 20 Are Killed
No more "reported" to cloud the issue; just simple "fact."

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