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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Keith Olbermann on George Bush on Iraq/Iran

Countdown with Keith Olbermann highlights the similarities between language used by George Bush about Iraq in 2002 and about Iran now:

Update: Just to clarify, despite all the stories in the press about the "impending" attack on Iran (but see the post below for a reminder of how those are nothing new), I still do not personally believe that the U.S. is either going to invade Iran nor launch some kind of massive bombing attack. Because what would they do the next day, with a country they can't possibly occupy, even if they didn't have 150,000 troops in Iraq? Their goal is regime change in Iran, just as in Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, and just as it has been in Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and many others where they have succeeded. It's true that a sustained bombing campaign did bring about regime change in Yugoslavia, but Iran is in a far stronger position both to fight back and to retaliate in ways that Yugoslavia wasn't.

No, what this is all about is pressure, pressure designed to convince the "moderates" in Iran that they should go the Qaddafi route of accommodation with the West rather than confrontation, subservience rather than independence. I try not to make predictions, but this is one I'm sticking by. Were I a religious person, I'd pray that I'm right. Instead I'll just hope. And continue demonstrating, blogging, writing letters, talking to people, and otherwise agitating against the possibility of it happening, increasing the pressure on the American government to stop its bullying behavior.


Cluster bombs: not a war crime, just a "mistake"

So says Shimon Peres, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, to Al Jazeera:
"To be short and clear, we committed a mistake, regrettably."
You know how that goes. You go online to order some more weapons, click the wrong button, and before you know it you've got a hundred thousand cluster bombs on your hands. Then some supply clerk puts a form in the wrong file, and before you know it they're being dropped on another country.



Today's bizarre "terrorist" story

All over the news is the story of how British police arrested nine Muslim men who were planning (according to reports I heard on two different channels) an "unprecedented" terrorist attack. What was that attack? We're told they were planning to kidnap one (1!) British Muslim soldier and execute him by beheading, videotaping the murder and showing it on the Internet. While it may (or may not) be technically "unprecedented" for someone to be beheaded in Britain, the British government (using bombs and hanging ropes) has certainly, along with their American allies, done its own share of beheading in Iraq, so Britons performing beheadings and broadcasting them on TV certainly wouldn't be unprecedented. And kidnapping one man? I mean, a busload might be unprecedented, but one?

The whole story, despite receiving the usual uncritical treatment in the corporate media, seems highly dubious. Does it really take nine people to plan to kidnap one person off the streets of England? And if there really were nine terrorists in a cell in Britain, is kidnapping one British soldier the most dramatic plan they could come up with, even with the beheading angle? I'm skeptical.


Blasts from the past

I was purging some old emails just now, one of those tasks you really should do more often than you do (at least if "you"="me"). With countless articles filling the press these days about plans to attack Iran, I thought this one was rather interesting:
Israel readies forces for strike on nuclear Iran

Israel's armed forces have been ordered by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, to be ready by the end of March for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military sources have revealed.
No, Ariel Sharon hasn't awakened from his coma; the date on that article was December 11, 2005.

Then there was this:

After months of trying unsuccessfully to develop a common message on the war in Iraq, Democratic Party leaders are beginning to coalesce around a broad plan to begin a quick withdrawal of US troops and install them elsewhere in the region.
That one was dated February 20, 2006. We're still waiting either for that "quick withdrawal" or even for that Democratic Party "coalescence."

As I've written before, whenever possible, I try to focus my reading on actual news, not on speculation about what might be news sometime in the future. Because "might" just as often means "might not."


The decider and the ditherer

Courtesy of Stephanie McMillan at Minimum Security:


Change and continuity in Cuba

The news is filled with articles and broadcast segments about change in Cuba. They all agree there has been continuity and not radical change since Fidel transferred power six months ago. Despite that, however, hope still persists in the savage breast (i.e., the heart of imperialism) that socialism is doomed once Fidel dies (sadly for them, not as soon as they had hoped, as evidenced by the latest pictures).

What's strange about all these articles and speculations is that none of them mentions the "Special Period in Peacetime," which just happens to be the subject of a new documentary entitled "The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," which deals with what happened when Cuba faced a crisis vastly larger than the death of one individual, namely, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc in 1990. That crisis placed Cuba in much the same position with respect to oil that the entire world is going to face someday, hence the allusion to "Peak Oil" in the title of the documentary.

As discussed here:

Cuba lost approximately 80% of its imports, 80% of its exports and its Gross Domestic Product dropped by 34%. Along with food and medicines that were imported, half of the oil it used came from the USSR and all oil imports trickled to a mere 10% of previous amounts. The effect was felt immediately; dependent on fossil fuels to operate, transportation, industrial and agricultural systems were paralyzed. This time in Cuba’s history is known as the Special Period, when waiting for a bus could take three hours, power outages could last up to 16 hours, food consumption was cut up to 1/5 and the average Cuban lost about 20 pounds. Although starvation was avoided, hunger was a daily experience and initially, malnutrition in children under five was evident after just a few weeks of food shortages.
This was, of course, before a revolutionary government in an oil-rich country (Venezuela) came to power which could help alleviate the difficulties. Despite that fact, Cuba survived, using socialist planning to massively reorient its society toward greater sustainability.

If Cuba could survive the Special Period, and it did, it can survive any change of leadership. And it will, much to the consternation of the wishful thinkers to the north.


L.A. 8 case dropped; Sami al-Arian remains in jail

Politics in the Zeros points us this morning to a Los Angeles Times story that reports that the a federal immigration judge has dismissed the government's attempt to deport Khader M. Hamide and Michel I. Shehadeh, two of the "L.A. 8," citing the government's "'gross failure' to comply with his instructions to produce 'potentially exculpatory and other relevant information,' and declaring that "the government's conduct in the case was 'an embarrassment to the rule of law.'"

Shehadeh says "After 20 years it becomes ingrained in you…. This might not be the end of it." And, as the case of another Palestinian activist, Sami al-Arian indicates, he is quite possibly correct. Although the government failed to convict al-Arian and his co-defendants more than a year ago, al-Arian remains in jail to this day, and is in fact on a hunger strike at this moment.

When it comes to those who support anyone that the United States government declares an "enemy," like the L.A. 8, Sami al-Arian, or the Cuban Five, innocence (or even acquittal!) is no bar to government prosecution and persecution.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army

Last week I wrote about the arrest of eight former Black Panthers for the 1971 murder of a policeman, and mentioned that I knew nothing about the case itself. For others who were or are in the same situation as I, here are two resources which can bring you up to speed: First, a Democracy Now interview with lawyers for two of the men, as well as an excerpt from a new movie called "Legacy of Torture: The War Against the Black Liberation Movement" which describes the torture inflicted on the men which led to the dropping of the original charges against them. And second, this article from today's pslweb.org, which provides useful background on the origin of the BLA in the police repression of the Panthers.


Cluster bomb update

I wrote below "that Israel's use of cluster bombs was a deliberate strategy to inflict harm on the civilian population long after they withdrew." Today CNN provides (from the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center of South Lebanon) some numbers on that (some of this information was only broadcast and isn't in the link): 30 Lebanese dead (since the "end" of the invasion), and more than 180 injured. The harvest has also been severely impacted, because farmers are afraid to go into their fields. To his credit, CNN's Ben Weideman even reminded viewers of the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon who described the Israeli actions (his actions) as "insane and monstrous."

As an amusing sidelight, before posting this I wanted to check the spelling of Ben Weideman's name, so I Googled it (Google being marvelous on the occasions when you have the spelling wrong, and it says, "Are you sure you didn't mean XXX?"). Here's what came up:

52. Why does Ben Weideman of CNN hate Israel so much? What's his story?
eye up above, Canada (08.02.06)
53. #52, CNN is a leftist organization, they all prefer socialism/communism over democracy.
Also, Wolf Blitzer is no better....
America is best, wala wala (08.02.06)

But hey, I got the spelling right. At least, if #52 and #53 did!


I was wrong

When hundreds of alleged members of the "Soldiers of Heaven" were killed near Najaf in Iraq yesterday, the press was filled with reports about how this was an action of the Iraqi army. In a comment yesterday morning on another blog, I wrote this:
Here's what else you're supposed to believe - that it was the Iraqis who did all the killing, with just minor American "support." My money's on the fact that 90% of the dead were killed by American helicopter gunships.
Alas, I was wrong. 90% of the dead appear not to have been killed by American helicopter gunships. They were killed by F-16s and British fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs (as well as some Apache attack helicopters).

That's why I try to stay away from predictions, it's so easy to be wrong. ;-)

Undaunted, however, I'll make another prediction. American news media will continue to report uncritically every claim of the U.S. military, until such time, if any, when a particular claim becomes completely untenable.

Monday, January 29, 2007


The law of the jungle...as explained by Prince Charles

I happened to catch the last part of C-SPAN's broadcast of Prince Charles giving a speech last night, on the occasion of receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. It was actually a fascinating (and even amusing) speech, but the part I liked best is where Charles explains what the real "law of the jungle" is. [Suggestion: start by viewing the last version below, and, if you're interested in the subject of optimizing videos for online presentation, look back at the first three. Otherwise, just look at the last one.]

An experiment: below is the same video, uploaded to Google Video. Any comments on problems or preferences you have with one or the other are welcome.

Here's the link to the Google Video version; see below for the reason I've removed it from this page.

Third version. I'm leaving these experiments up for the benefit of others. YouTube recommends you upload videos at 320x240; that was the case in the one at the top. Here I uploaded the video at 640x480; it's considerably better without the fuzzy character, except that naturally the file is much bigger, so if this were a longer clip, it would exceed the 100MB YouTube limit. Anyway, here's version 3:

A fourth experiment - same as the third (640x480), but only 15 frames per second (vs. 30), thereby reducing the file size. No, I don't think this is the most important clip I've ever seen, or will post, but considering how little advice I could find online on the subject of optimization, I thought I'd leave all this up for the benefit of others:

Update: I may delete the Google video above. Why? Because it seems (I'm pretty sure about this) that when I reload this page, Google video pre-downloads the video so it's ready to play, even if I'm not going to play it. This is an incredible waste of bandwidth. In contrast, YouTube only starts to download when you click the Play button.


"Supporting" the troops

The U.S. government barely supports its own troops when they're in the field (insufficient training, insufficient body armor, etc.); you don't expect them to support the troops once they've extracted their value as cannon fodder, do you? No, in the richest country in the world, that job is left to charity. Today, the $50 million Center for the Intrepid rehabilitation center opened to serve the needs of wounded soldiers. Make that the "privately-funded $50 million rehabilitation center."

The most amazing part? I watched TV coverage of this event on CNN and ABC, and read the press coverage linked above. No one questioned the very nature of the situation, that the care of wounded veterans has to be paid for by private individuals rather than by the government which sent them to their fate. No one.


The bogus cluster bomb brouhaha

The press is reporting:
Israel likely misused American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon during the war against Hezbollah last summer, the State Department said Monday.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said a preliminary report has been sent to Congress on a U.S. investigation of the issue. He did not provide details of the investigation.
Today, McCormack held a press conference which covered this subject and more. Naturally, all the talk is about how Israel was justified in using cluster bombs because Hezbollah was using civilians as "human shields" (allegedly). Not once in any of the press coverage, nor in today's press conference, did this fact come up:
"90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict when we knew there would be a resolution, when we knew there would be an end," [according to UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland].
Not that anything is going to come of this "criticism" anyway, but at least the press could do a decent job of exposing the real issue here, which is that Israel's use of cluster bombs was a deliberate strategy to inflict harm on the civilian population long after they withdrew.

It might also be nice if there weren't out and out lies in the press coverage. Here's what we are told today:

The U.N. mine office said in a report that it had found hundreds of bomblets of the types made by the United States among unexploded ordnance recovered in nearly 250 locations in southern Lebanon.
"Hundreds"? That must be those same "hundreds" who show up at demonstrations when there are really tens of thousands. Because this is the truth of the matter (same link as above):
The UN Mine Action Coordination Center...identified "359 separate cluster bomb strike locations that are contaminated with as many as 100,000 unexploded bomblets."
Not "hundreds." "As many as 100,000."


Tony Snow and the press

Apparently Tony Snow reads the press about as much as his boss (or at least, pretends to). In today's press briefing, he claimed about Saturday's march, "it's pretty clear from the press accounts that nobody attached six figures to the number who appeared."

Really? The Los Angeles Times said "About 100,000 antiwar protesters from around the country converged Saturday on the National Mall." The New York Times wrote "Police officials declined to provide crowd estimates, but Hany Khalil, a spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, said the protesters numbered about 400,000." The Washington Post didn't quote a number, but just said "The crowd, while exuberant, seemed significantly smaller than the half-million people organizers said were present," which still would put it in the six figure range. The only source I could find which even suggested that fewer than 100,000 people showed up was the Boston Globe (which I think was based on a wire service story), which reported that "official estimates of the size the crowd were not available, but police said informally that fewer than 100,000 demonstrators showed up" (a rather curious formulation, to be sure, and curiously anonymous; who said this, some cop standing on a corner?).

Does Tony Snow really not read the newspapers? No, but he's probably not an out-an-out liar either, at least on this point. That's because all of the news sources cited, and all of the TV coverage I saw, began by saying that "thousands" or "tens of thousands" of people turned out, which is the kind of reporting that sticks in someone's mind even when reading a more precise figure. I'd venture to guess that a poll of readers of the papers I cited above would all say that fewer than 100,000 people showed up, having had their thoughts on the subject formed by reading the headline and/or the opening sentences of the articles they read.


CNN's idea of "facts"

CNN has a relatively new feature they call "Fact Check," which is not exactly what it sounds like (e.g., fact-checking a politician's speech), but more like "background facts on a particular situation." Make that "facts," as today's "facts" comparing Iran and Iraq indicate. Here are two of them:No mention, naturally, of the real popular leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, or that that alleged popular leader the Shah was installed by a CIA-backed coup. Nor any recognition that being overthrown by a popular revolution and being overthrown by a foreign invasion are two rather different things.

Of course it's also an open question how popular Saddam Hussein was as well.


Jimmy Carter at Brandeis

Here's a brief clip of Jimmy Carter's talk at Brandeis a few days ago, in which he discusses his use of the word "apartheid." The complete talk is online here:


Does it get any more repulsive?

I don't think so:
One day, very possibly one day soon, ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro will die -- and a nascent committee sponsored by the city of Miami wants to be ready.

So it's planning a party.

The event, still in the very early planning stage, would be held in Little Havana's Orange Bowl stadium -- and might include commemorative T-shirts, a catchy slogan and bands that will make your hips shake.

Note again. This is not some private group. This is the city of Miami.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Warning! You may be an anti-Semite!

Not a plain old anti-Semite, mind you. A "new" anti-Semite.

Those of us on the left who are critical of Israel in various ways are used to accusations of anti-Semitism; but the fact that the deeply religious Jimmy Carter is now getting the same treatment is indicative of how far this insanity has progressed. But, unfortunately for the Israeli apologists, most people realize that equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism makes as much sense as equating being antiwar with being anti-American.

The solution? If the people you don't agree with don't fit the definition of "anti-Semite," change the definition!

Many Jewish organizations are warning of a "new anti-Semitism," a growing phenomenon of prejudice "disguised" as criticism of Israel.

An Israeli politician, Natan Sharansky, first set out three general themes many people now propose to define the new term. Known as the "3-D's," those themes are:

-- Demonization of Israel with comparisons to Nazi Germany.

-- De-legitimizing Israel by saying it doesn't have a right to exist.

-- Double standards that apply one set of moral standards to Israel while ignoring similar failings of other countries.
So pointing out that "a land without people for a people without land" was an out-and-out lie, or that founding a country by expelling hundreds of thousands of its residents isn't acceptable, qualifies you as an anti-Semite. Or criticizing Israeli oppression of the Palestinians rather than something else because your own country is contributing essential military, economic, and political support to Israel, and you take your responsibility as a U.S. (or British etc.) citizen seriously, qualifies you as an anti-Semite.

Of course this is not to be taken seriously, in the sense that anyone who judges someone by this new "definition" would have undoubtedly been happy to accuse someone like me (or Jimmy Carter) of anti-Semitism under the "old" definition as well. What it really indicates is how far defenders of Israel are willing to go to use the very real suffering of the Jews under the Holocaust to justify Israel's more than 50-year oppression of another people who had absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust. And how far they are willing to go to silence critics of those policies, by branding them with the highly pejorative label of "anti-Semite."

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Jan. 27 Antiwar Demonstrations

Some selected clips. First Tim Robbins, one of the best of the speeches in Washington, D.C. (despite Jane Fonda having captured all the national TV coverage):

Next, a compendium of local coverage of the San Francisco march:

Added: additional coverage of one additional TV station. [Corrected; first upload lacked sound]

And finally, my own shot of the San Francisco crowd, combining today's march with a plug for the next one, which is March 17 nationally but March 18 in San Francisco (due to a conflict with the St. Patrick's day parade!):

Friday, January 26, 2007


The "nightmare scenario"

For two days now, CNN has been running a long segment about what they call a possible "nightmare scenario" in Iraq, in which the training and weapons being given to Iraqis might eventually be turned on Americans. Two days ago, Wolf Blitzer even asked Dick Cheney (pdf link) about it in an interview.

Gee, I wonder where I've read all this before...two years ago?

Is there any chance at all that the U.S. is not only training Iraqi pilots, but also preparing to leave attack planes, helicopters, and cruise missiles behind for the Iraqi government to use on that mythical day when American forces leave? Are you kidding? And let them fall into the "wrong hands" when that government falls the week after the Americans leave?

Thursday, January 25, 2007


The "wisdom" of the blockade of Cuba

I need readers' help, because I'm really puzzled by this [Emphasis added to emphasize my puzzlement]:
In an interview with Bloomberg in Washington Wednesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez ruled out any easing of the U.S. trade and travel embargo on Cuba until after all remnants of the Fidel Castro regime are removed from power.

Gutierrez said Castro's frail health and the prospect for political change in the island nation make this the wrong time to adjust restrictions on American trade, investment or travel.

"We should not change our policy; we should not change our law, especially now that there is change in the air," Gutierrez said. "We have seen over a long period of time that there is real wisdom in our policy."
I quite literally have no idea what this man could mean by that last sentence. Does he mean that after the "long period" of 48 years, the U.S. policy has been proven right in finally bringing down Fidel Castro...by natural causes (albeit not yet)? Is he asserting that that 1960 State Department document describing the blockade as intended to "bring about hunger and desperation" in the Cuban people has been a whopping success?

Or is this guy just a graduate of the Dick Cheney "we've had enormous successes in Iraq" school?


Nuclear weapons: missing the real, seeing the imaginary

Last night C-SPAN broadcast the debate in Parliament (UK) on Iraq and the Middle East (the one Tony Blair refused to attend.). You can watch all 1 hr 52 min of it yourself (I didn't) at the C-SPAN archives (no direct link). At 1:05 into the debate, you'll hear William Hague, the Conservative Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, make the following claim:
"Unless Iranian plans are knocked off course, the consequences within a few years will be the spread of nuclear weapons programs to other nations in the Middle East and we would live with the consequences of it for generations to come."
200 Israeli nukes? Hague's never heard of them, or he'd know that nuclear weapons have already "spread to other nations in the Middle East." The nuclear weapons Iran not only doesn't have but has said over and over again that they have no intention of developing? Something to generate fear "for generations to come."


Reinforcements are on the way

These are the reinforcements we're sending, OK?
(Reprinted from Juventud Rebelde)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The Israeli lobby

A few posts below this one I took Deborah Lipstadt to task for saying "Carter has repeatedly fallen back -- possibly unconsciously [Ed. note: how generous of her! "Possibly!"] -- on traditional anti-Semitic canards," because Carter dared to discuss the power of the Israeli lobby. Well, let's see. This week Israel has been holding a conference on national security; here's what Benjamin Netanyahu had to say:
Rallying the international community to isolate Iran should be the “main mission” of Israel, said Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. The former prime minister said Israel must trigger a "wave for delegitmizing" the regime by putting the Iranian president on trial for incitement to genocide, and through voluntary economic sanctions like divesture.
Just coincidence that Iran has suddenly, almost out of nowhere, become Public Enemy #1 in the U.S.? Hardly. Who else was at this conference? "A cadre of American experts, officials and politicians," including "U.S. presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, John Edwards and John McCain, along with Newt Gingrich" who "seemingly compet[ed] to see who can be most strident in defense of the Jewish state."

Edwards, who is busy portraying himself as something of an "antiwar" candidate back home, was anything but when speaking in Israel:

"Iran is serious about its threats," former US Senator John Edwards has told an audience in Israel.

In his speech, Edwards criticised the United States' previous indifference to the Iranian issue, saying they have not done enough to deal with the threat.

Hinting to possible military action, Edwards stressed that "in order to ensure Iran never gets nuclear weapons, all options must remain on table."

On the recent UN Security Council's resolution against Iran, Edwards said more serious political and economic steps should be taken. "Iran must know that the world won’t back down," he said.
Edwards must have also been functioning as the stand-up comedian at the conference, judging by this knee-slapper:
US Senator John Edwards praised Israel’s willingness to compromise for the sake of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Democrats - imperialism with a smile.


Hugo Chavez' Inauguration Speech

Two weeks ago Hugo Chavez was inaugurated as President of Venezuela (again) and delivered a 2-hour address. Although it got a fair bit of press, a transcript of the talk doesn't seem to be available. But by chance, I happened a few days later to flip past C-SPAN and catch them broadcasting a portion of the speech, which I taped. I recently got some new hardware which has finally allowed me to transfer that tape to computer, so I pulled out just a few minutes of the talk, in which Chavez talks about Bolivar, Marx, Jesus, capitalism, socialism, and communism. I wish I could make all 45 minutes available, since C-SPAN hasn't archived it (publicly, anyway), but this is the best I can do. Maybe later I'll pull out other interesting sections.


Quote of the day

"Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent."

- George Bush, describing his Administration in the State of the Union address

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Torture - it's not just for Abu Ghraib any more

And it never was. Today, San Francisco police arrested eight men for the murder of a police officer in 1971. I make no judgment about the case itself, about which I know nothing. I only note this:
Three men, including Taylor, were charged in the attack in 1975. But the charges were thrown out by a San Francisco judge because of a ruling that evidence was obtained by torture after the suspects were arrested in New Orleans.
Not just some illegal search and seizure, or some other "technicality" by which cases are often thrown out. Not just coerced testimony. Torture.

In my role as media critic, I will make note of one more paragraph from the article:

The slain officer was killed when Bell and Torres, armed with guns and dynamite, raided a neighborhood police station, firing a shotgun through a hole in the lobby's bulletproof window, as accomplices were posted outside as lookouts, according to police officials in New York.
Note that "according to police officials" appears at the end of the sentence, after you have read multiple details of a narrative designed to convince you that this is a factual recounting of events. It isn't, of course, it's simply an allegation, but by the time you are told that, it's already too late, because your mental picture of events has already been formed.


The latest attack on Jimmy Carter

There have been numerous attacks on Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid. The latest, by Deborah Lipstadt, appeared in the Washington Post on Saturday, but I only read it today when it appeared in my local paper, the San Jose Mercury News. Lipstadt's main criticism seems to be that Carter didn't discuss the Holocaust sufficiently. Anyway, there's lots one could say about her article (and other criticisms which have preceded it), but here's what I chose to say in a letter to the Post and the Mercury News (I've added a couple hyperlinks which were not in the letter):
Deborah Lipstadt accuses Jimmy Carter of invoking an "anti-Semitic canard" by claiming it is "political suicide" for a politician to advocate a "balanced position" on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. This is a rather curious claim considering the torrent of criticism unleashed on Carter, a retired politician. But we don't have to imagine what would happen if Carter were running for office. We need only remember Cynthia McKinney, one of the small handful of Congresspeople ever to voice support for the Palestinian people, defeated in 2002 in a campaign in which Jewish groups from all over the country contributed nearly half of the money to her primary opponent. Jewish groups also took credit for the defeat of "anti-Israel" Rep. Earl Hilliard that same year.

"Anti-Semitic canard" ("false or baseless")? Or fact that supporters of Israel like Lipstadt wish to browbeat others into denying?

Lipstadt also takes Carter to task for "bemoaning" the "tremendous intimidation in our country" on this topic, citing Carter's appearances on various shows in support of his book. The fact that years of absence in the mainstream media of any voice similar to Carter's (much less a more radical voice) seems to have escaped Lipstadt's attention. Just a few months ago, for example, another important book was published on this subject, a book entitled "One Country" by Ali Abunimah, the editor of the website Electronic Intifada. Outside of C-SPAN's "Book TV," no prominent U.S. newspaper has yet reviewed Abunimah's book, nor has he appeared on any other talk shows to discuss his unique and informed perspective.

Other books favorable to the Palestinian cause have met similar fates. Only the prominence of a Jimmy Carter could break through the intimidation that Lipstadt wants to deny exists. It's unfortunate that the Washington Post has contributed to that intimidation by publishing this baseless attack on a courageous man.


Quote of the day

"This talk [of an attack on Iran by the U.S.] should not be taken too seriously. We think they have the minimum of intelligence not to do a thing like this."

- Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council
I agree, although a (modified) adage courtesy of P.T. Barnum is definitely relevant: "You’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence greed and arrogance of the American public ruling class."

Monday, January 22, 2007


And they said it couldn't be done

Global View of U.S. Worsens, Poll Shows

In 18 countries polled previously, an average of 29 percent of those surveyed saw the United States as having a mainly positive influence, down from 36 percent last year.

Across all 25 countries, half of those polled said the United States played a mainly negative role in the world. (Source)
Is the U.S. really getting worse, or are people around the world just wising up? Or a little of both? Your call.


Barriers in the Middle East

Israel got a lot of favorable press a few weeks ago (e.g., Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) for its promises to remove military roadblocks in the West Bank, an action promised by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert as part of "boosting moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle with the Hamas movement."

As it turns out...not so much:

The Israel Defense Forces admitted yesterday that the 44 dirt obstacles it said had been removed from around West Bank villages did not actually exist.

Last Tuesday, the IDF announced that it had removed 44 dirt obstacles that blocked access roads to West Bank villages, to fulfill promises made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting a month ago. Olmert had pledged measures to ease the lives of Palestinian civilians.

This statement confirms a claim made recently by United Nations organizations operating in the territories: that most of these barriers were not removed, because they had not existed for months.
Not that these 44 barriers amounted to much of a concession anyway; there are more than 400 such barriers.

Meanwhile, other barriers are going up. But not in Palestine:

Thousands of Lebanese protesters blocked main roads in Beirut and around the country with rubble and burning tyres on Tuesday at the start of a general strike called by the opposition to try to topple the government.

The opposition, which includes Hezbollah, is demanding a unity government and early elections.

Most main roads inside Beirut and into the city were blocked. Highways linking the capital to north and south Lebanon as well as to the Syrian capital Damascus were also cut off at several locations.


Quote of the day

"There is no chance for "victory" or "success" in Iraq at this late date, and little chance for even averting disaster. What is done cannot be undone. There is no "way forward."

The moment for political courage came and went. Those who could not summon it then, those who failed to speak out when their nation most needed them, find that there is nothing they can do to make up for that failing."

- Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The U.S. "occupation" of Iraq

Those of us who oppose the U.S. (and allied) presence in Iraq frequently speak of the "occupation" of Iraq. There may be no better term, but the fact of the matter is that, aside from the Green Zone and the inside of its massive military bases, the U.S. doesn't actually "occupy" Iraq at all, as two prominent incidents that occurred on Saturday demonstrated, and as even the U.S. media implicitly acknowledged in their reporting of those incidents.

The first incident was the shootdown of a U.S. helicopter, killing all 12 people aboard. Why were they in a helicopter? Because, we're told, it's too dangerous for U.S. troops to travel on the ground. And the second incident, in which five U.S. soldiers were killed in Karbala? It turns out the assailants passed through three different checkpoints just by flashing American army credentials. And why did they get through so easily? Because "U.S. personnel insist on passing without going through a security screening." Not, according to a report on CNN, because they are arrogantly above such things (although that's probably true as well), but because the danger to them of standing too long at a checkpoint is just too great.

The truth is that Americans are not safe anywhere (outside of their bases), because they aren't actually "occupying" Iraq at all. And, the corollary of that, which is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis not only want them gone, and, if not actively engaged in actions to that end, are at least passively engaged in such activities.

End the "occupation" now!


Collusion between governments and death squads

It's hardly an idea which originated in Iraq. The latest revelation from a different corner of the world:
A loyalist paramilitary gang [in Northern Ireland] was involved in up to 15 murders in the 1990s while being protected by Special Branch handlers, a damning report said today.

The report pointed to "disturbing" levels of collusion between the security forces and the paramilitaries.
And 15 murders is hardly the extent of it:
The gang was associated with 72 other crimes, including 10 attempted murders, 10 punishment shootings, 13 punishment attacks, a bombing in Monaghan, in the Irish republic, and 17 instances of drug dealing, as well as criminal damage, extortion and intimidation.

The Police Ombudsman's investigators also identified less significant and reliable intelligence linking the UVF men to five more murders.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


The recent hangings in Iraq - the forgotten victim

I've written several times (e.g., here) about the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Most people who pay attention to things like this probably know that the second person hanged was Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief, Barzam al-Tikriti, sometimes described as "one of the most feared men in Iraq." But what about the third victim of U.S. "justice"? That was a man named Awad Hamad al-Bandar, who was the judge in the two-year trial which resulted in the conviction and eventual hanging of 148 men for the attempted assassination of Saddam Hussein. His "crime" was signing the death warrants of 148 people, 4 fewer than signed by George Bush while he was governor of Texas.

One of Judge Bandar's lawyer's, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, has written an extremely informative article about the trial and execution of Judge Bandar (and the others), containing the kind of material you simply aren't going to read in the corporate media, which I highly recommend to readers.

A few excerpts: When Verheyden-Hilliard and other lawyers petitioned for a stay of transfer of Bandar from U.S. custody to his Iraqi executioners, the U.S. government claimed it lacked jurisdiction because Bandar wasn't being held by the U.S., but by the "Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I)"! As Verheyden-Hilliard writes:

This may be news to you, news to most of the world; especially news to the Iraqis.

That assertion may be news even to General George W. Casey, Jr., identified as the commander of MNF-I who has said repeatedly that he is subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and that the MNF-I is "a subordinate command to CENTCOM." Asked in his Senate confirmation hearing whether there would be any limits on CENTCOM’s authority due to the international nature of the MNF-I, he replied that there were "none at all." He added, there is "no reporting chain that goes back to the United Nations. … My chain of command is through the secretary of defense and the President."

The U.S. war machine, which has already sought to exempt itself from restraint or accountability worldwide, has now untethered itself from the one last legal hold on it, the U.S. courts. By so doing, it asserts that the U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to address claims lodged against it. It can take up arms anywhere against any civilians, capture, hold them, torture them, have them killed, and merely by renaming itself can eliminate any threat of judicial oversight or intervention.
Some interesting facts about the trial itself:
Judge Bandar...was convicted of the "crime" of having been the presiding judge over a two-year-long trial against those accused in the assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein at Dujail in 1982, during the Iran-Iraq war. That was his accused crime, being the judge at the trial. Yet, the Court refused to allow Judge Bandar to access or present the record of the underlying trial. He repeatedly pled, "Give me the records of the trial and I’ll prove that it was fair." He was not allowed to have them, nor was the prosecution required to present them. The U.S. government was acknowledged to possess those records.
Further about the trial:
Making it clear that the Iraqi Special Tribunal possessed the best knowledge of the form and function of a show trial, the defense was not advised what charges were actually being leveled against their clients until after the prosecution had called witnesses for seven months. They were then given a few minutes to begin their case.

In the midst of the defense trial, after receiving a written note passed to him from American officials outside the courtroom, the Chief Judge suddenly announced that the defense would be barred from calling any more witnesses and that its case was closed. "You’ve presented 26 witnesses. If that is not enough to present your case, then 100 won’t work." The defense had presented less than 20.
There's lots more. It's long, but well worth reading.


Quote of the day

Chavez declared he wants to "put the leftist stamp on the people, those who the imperialist gringos don't want or can't understand because of fear or ignorance."

"I think this leftist stamp in Latin America is going to spread throughout the world because the only the left can provide the transformation we need."

- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, responding to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comment that one of the "threats" facing the U.S. is that "Chavez and (Cuba's Fidel) Castro want to put their leftist marks on young democracies."
Reid is worried about Cuba and Venezuela turning other countries red. His own country is doing a heck of a job doing that in Iraq and Afghanistan. Different red.


Non-fatal poison

This remark from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been labelled "poisonous" by the White House. Pretty mild poison, I'd say:
"Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm's way, but we will hold the president accountable."
The second part of the sentence is rather lacking in credibility, given Pelosi's sworn aversion to any talk of impeachment. Are they planning to slap Bush's knuckles with a ruler, perhaps?

But the first part of the sentence is more significant, and equally nonsensical. Yes, the troops are now "in harm's way." But there are already tens (if not hundreds) of billions of unspent dollars in the Pentagon's budget, more than enough to get the troops out of "harm's way" even if all additional funding were cut to zero. Does Pelosi really think that if the Congress votes today to cut off funding, the troops are going to have to walk home through a gauntlet of heavily-armed resistance fighters? No, of course not, but she's counting on the specter of "cutting off funding while the troops are in harm's way" to deflect the American public from the reality, which is that the Democrats (with a handful of exceptions) would like to leave the impression of being against the war, without actually being against the war.

By the way, I titled this post "non-fatal poison." It should be obvious that was strictly a symbolic remark. There are all too many fatalities awaiting both Iraqis and American troops in the future, courtesy of both the White House and the Congress.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Life in Israel

Most Americans think of Israel as a progressive Western country, sort of a Mediterranean Miami Beach. Here's a part of the story you rarely see (Rarely? Make that "never," at least in the American corporate press. The Israeli press is a different story):
A woman who reported a vicious attack by an ad-hoc "modesty patrol" on a Jerusalem bus last month is now lining up support for her case and may be included in a petition to the High Court of Justice over the legality of sex-segregated buses.

Miriam Shear says she was traveling to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City early on November 24 when a group of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) men attacked her for refusing to move to the back of the Egged No. 2 bus. She is now in touch with several legal advocacy and women's organizations, and at the same time, waiting for the police to apprehend her attackers.

In her first interview since the incident, Shear says that on the bus three weeks ago, she was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a group of men who demanded that she sit in the back of the bus with the other women.
When they call Israel the "Jewish state," they're not referring to Reform Judaism.


Terrorist arms cache uncovered in the U.S.

But don't expect to hear about it on the evening news -- it was a terrorist arms cache intended to be used against Cuba:
An ally of Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles turned over a stockpile of illegal machine guns, dynamite and a grenade launcher to federal agents this week in a bid to reduce his prison sentence, several sources familiar with the arms surrender said.

The Alvarez stash consisted of dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition, sources said.
Needless to say, in this article from the corporate media, the word "terrorist" doesn't appear. As opposed to, say, those notorious "terrorists" the "Liberty City 7," who were (at least briefly) all over the news, despite having had no weapons at all, and having had to be given a camera (not to mention their alleged "plot" itself) by a government agent.

Yesterday, by the way, one of the key witnesses against Posada (who is being tried not for terrorism, naturally, but for immigration violations) found a pipe bomb under his car. Yet another act of terrorism the corporate press outside of Miami considers unworthy of reporting.

Update: Just as a reminder, the case of Robert Ferro, another anti-Cuban terrorist, caught in southern California with the largest arms cache ever uncovered in the United States (more than 1500 weapons, including 35 machine guns, 130 silencers, two short-barreled rifles, a live hand grenade, a rocket launcher tube and about 89,000 rounds of ammunition), and whose name has still not appeared in the national media.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Developments in Nicaragua

I have little doubt that readers who are interested are following the developments in Venezuela, which are being reasonably well covered (albeit with the usual "attitude") in the corporate media. But here's the latest development in Nicaragua, which I suspect you haven't read about:
The reestablishment of free education and medical assistance, one of the campaign promises of President Daniel Ortega, is coming into fruition in Nicaragua, reported Prensa Latina on Wednesday.

Miguel de Castilla, the new Education minister has told school principals it is now prohibited to receive money for registration, monthly payments and school materials and other items.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Maritza Quant announced the elimination of private health services in the country’s public hospitals.

The official said patients will no longer have to pay for medicines, surgery or clinical tests at the state hospitals and health centers.
Many, including myself, were and are skeptical of Daniel Ortega, based on the nature of the campaign he ran and the alliances he has forged. But it may well be that under the influence of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, among others, Ortega will find it easier to move further left than he (or we) expected he would. We shall see.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Must-listen radio: Jeff Halper on Flashpoints

Tonight on Flashpoints Radio, co-host Nora Barrows-Friedman interviews Jeff Halper, a Professor of Anthropology at Ben Gurion University and the director of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition (30-minute interview starts at 6:35 of the downloadable mp3). I know that most readers have a basic understanding of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and the basic Israeli plan for the future (withdraw from Gaza while simultaneously expanding West Bank settlements, continue to make impossible demands on the Palestinians, etc.). But no matter how much you know, I guarantee you will want to listen to this interview. Halper covers the history of home demolitions and Israeli expansionism in general, the contradiction between the image of "invincible Israel" and the need to exploit the "Israeli/Jew as victim" mentality, what it will take to bring an end to the oppression of the Palestinians, and lots more. Halper is an extremely knowledgeable person, and this is not just an opinionated interview, but an extremely informative one.

Do yourself a favor. Go listen.


More dubious statistics from Iraq

The U.N. is claiming today that "34,452 civilians were killed — an average of 94 per day — and 36,685 were wounded last year [in Iraq]." Aside from the absolute numbers, which I've discussed many times, the relative numbers of killed and wounded are, to put it mildly, simply not credible. Here are the total (not just last year) U.S. statistics: 3020 dead, and 22,834 wounded - a 7.5:1 ratio. Granted that the U.S. soldiers receive far better medical care than Iraqis, so fewer of them die from serious injuries, but even given that, the claimed 1:1 ratio of deaths to injuries among Iraqis is just out-and-out impossible. The difference must certainly be that the alleged number of Iraqi wounded are only those who were treated in hospitals, as opposed to being treated by a doctor, at home, or not at all (whereas the U.S. statistics undoubtedly reflect all soldiers who are wounded).

The real number of Iraqi wounded? Unknown, but surely many times higher than the numbers being reported in the news.

Update: Case in point: today's news, with 107 reported dead (so far) and "over 300" wounded (again, that's reported).

A friend heard an NPR report on the U.N. report this morning. After an expert guest explained the limitations of the U.N. report (e.g., some deaths go unreported), he then explained the "better method" of actually surveying the population and how it had been done twice. But, here's the kicker...no mention of Johns Hopkins or the Lancet, and no mention of the actual numbers produced by those studies! And, you won't be surprised to hear, no follow-up question from the NPR interviewer to ask what those numbers were.

Second update: Wolf Blitzer on CNN is talking about "today's extraordinary violence" in Iraq. Really? Right now there are reports of 107 dead. But the U.N. has just said that 94 people have been killed on average every day for the last year! What would be "extraordinary" (statistically speaking) is if many of those 365 days didn't have reported death counts equal to or higher than today's "extraordinary violence."

Monday, January 15, 2007


The not-so-free press

Somalia joins Iraq in shutting down al Jazeera; the U.S. hasn't had to get to that point, since it has managed to effectively shut al Jazeera out from broadcasting here in the first place. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government is talking not about shutting down a broadcaster, as in Somalia and Iraq, but in simply not renewing its broadcast license when in comes up for renewal in the future. Which of these actions (or, in the case of Venezuela, future actions) has generated (or will generate) the most opposition in the West? I think we all know it will be no contest.


The past meets the future

Back in 1959, the Fleetwoods released one of my favorite childhood albums, Mr. Blue. The title song was a big hit, but one of my favorite songs on the album (which I still have), was entitled "The Three Caballeros." And here, illustrating the lyrics of that song (We're three happy chappies, with snappy serapes), I give you Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales, from Correa's inauguration today:

I guess George Bush will have to take the role of "Mr. Blue." Sorry, George. We have seen the future and you're not in it.


The Battle of Algiers rages on

I've written about the movie, The Battle of Algiers; today, CNN is reporting that George Bush is reading a book on the subject (A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962) for lessons on what to do in Iraq. In closing out the piece, both the author and the reporter cautioned the viewer that after the French decided to pull out, tens of thousands of people were killed in the civil war which followed. According to Wikipedia, that's true enough. What CNN failed to inform its viewers, though, was that before the pullout, while the French were still fighting the Algerians, between 300,000 and 1 million Algerians are estimated to have died. Very much shades of Iraq.

In Iraq as in Algeria, it's unlikely that a pullout of foreign forces will end all killing immediately. But, if the Algerian example is any guide, there will be far fewer people killed after a pullout than would have been killed had a pullout not happened. Think that's the message Bush will get? No, me neither. And the viewers of CNN won't get that message either, not having heard the full story.


Iranian nukes: the big lie gets bigger

George Bush, being interviewed on 60 Minutes, "doubled down" on the big lie about Iran, which seems to be becoming a daily occurrence. Describing what he would say to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, he would say, among other things:
"You've threatened countries with nuclear weapons. You've said you want a nuclear weapon."
So now we've gone from just wanting a nuclear weapon to actually threatening other countries with them. Once more with feeling -- not only hasn't Iran (unlike the U.S.) threatened other countries with nuclear weapons, and not only hasn't it said it "wants" a nuclear weapon, it has said precisely the opposite.

And, once again, the interviewer made not the slightest effort to contradict these blatant lies by Bush.

(Hat tip to WIIIAI for the link to the Bush interview)

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Jaw-dropping quote of the day

Here's the exact quote, but the Reuters paraphrase is a little clearer:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that speculation about an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities underscored the risk of failing to persuade Tehran to halt uranium enrichment.
Or, it underscored the risk of having U.S. imperialism and its junior partner in Israel running amok in the world. Your call.


The "shared sacrifice" that is Iraq

An article in the New York Times today explores the reaction of military families to the impending escalation of the war against Iraq, and the impact the war is having on them. Buried in it is this interesting anecdote:
Ms. DeBlock [whose husband, a 40-year-old National Guard member, has just had his tour in Iraq extended by four months] has had to battle her heating-fuel company, which wanted cash up front, and her husband’s cellphone provider, which will not let him out of his contract even though he is off fighting a war.
"Shared sacrifice": the soldiers do the sacrificing, and the corporations share the profits.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Dujail: Now they tell us

Newsweek's Christopher Dickey was on CNN this morning, helping make the case for U.S. aggression against Iran. In the course of his segment, he reminded the audience that Prime Minister Maliki's Dawa Party was for years considered an Iranian-backed terrorist organization. Oh, you mean the same Dawa Party who attempted to kill the leader of their country back in Dujail, the crime for which the punishment (148 members or alleged members of that "terrorist organization" executed after trial) caused Saddam Hussein to be hanged? Funny how we never heard about how the Dawa Party was a "terrorist organization" (or even very little about the connection of the Dawa Party to the Dujail assassination attempt) during the trial and before the execution of Saddam Hussein.

George Bush, are you paying attention?


"Mission Accomplished": Somalia

Or so the New York Times would have us believe. In an article today headlined "As Somalia’s Leaders Meet, 8 Militiamen Die in Gunfight," we read this remarkable assertion:
The Islamists have vowed to carry on as an underground army and overthrow the transitional government, which is Somalia’s first politically viable central government since 1991, when the dictator Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre fled the country and let loose 15 years of clan-versus-clan warfare.
So an appointed "government" which was outside the country until a few weeks ago, and only came to power (the extent of which very much remains to be seen) on the backs of the Ethiopian army and with some as-yet-undetermined amount of U.S. military aid, has suddenly become a "politically viable central government." And not only that, the "first one since 1991," ignoring the fact that the Islamic Courts Union was by all accounts a politically viable central government (just not militarily viable against a superior invading force).

The only thing missing is the banner. I'm sure George Bush's PR folks can help out.


U.S. prepares for another aggression

Iran? No, you all know about that. I'm talking about North Korea:
The Democratic People s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Saturday condemned deployment of a squadron of F-117A stealth fighters in South Korea, and noted it represents dangerous military act.

The deployment of this new squadron of the fighter-bombers at the US air Base of Gunsan also represents an additional force of 300 people, including pilots, co-pilots, and technical staff, it was revealed.
Stealth fighters are offensive weapons. "Offensive" in both senses of the term.

The spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea says: "This is a routine deployment. It is a regular operational matter." Sure it is. Here's what the U.S. Air Force has to say about the F-117: "This precision-strike aircraft penetrates high-threat airspace and uses laser-guided weapons against critical targets." Which may indeed be "routine" for the U.S. these days. But that doesn't make it acceptable.

Stop the war...on the world!

Friday, January 12, 2007


Amusing Quote of the Day

"Chávez is among the most stridently anti-American leaders anywhere in the world, and will continue to try to undercut U.S. influence in Venezuela, in the rest of Latin America, and elsewhere internationally."

- Director of National Intelligence [sic] John Negroponte, testifying before Congress about "threats to U.S. Security."
When I was young, one of our favorite insults was, "You're so low you have to look up to see down." I believe that pretty much sums up U.S. influence in Venezuela and in the rest of Latin America, which Negroponte is worried might be "undercut."


An "antiwar" Democrat on Iran

You all remember Howard Dean, the "antiwar" Democrat, now head of the Democratic National Committee? Here's my transcript of a portion of his appearance today on MSNBC's Hardball (with a few of my own comments stuck in):
Chris Matthews: Will your party stand up against a war with Iran? It looks like the President is sort of edging towards military action against Iran?

Howard Dean: You know the great shame, among many shames, of going into Iraq, was we picked the wrong enemy. Iran is a danger [Ed. note: of course we're just supposed to accept this claim at face value, it's conventional "wisdom." Explanation not necessary.]. We've got our troops pinned down in the wrong place. Saddam Hussein was a terrible person, but not a danger to the United States. Iran is a danger [Ed. note: a little repetition is always good to drum this "fact" into the minds of the listeners.]. Obviously, I don't think there's much stomach among the American people for a war with Iran given what's gone on for the last three and a half years in Iraq, but we are clearly going to have to stand up to Iran [Ed. note: why? "Stand up to Iran" implies they've threatened us in some way? When did that happen?].

CM: Does that mean attack them? Are we going to commit an act of war against Iran?

HD: I think there's absolutely no stomach for that whatsoever either in the Congress or among the American people after what's been going on the last three and a half years in Iraq. [Ed. note: well, there's something postive to say about the war in Iraq, it's keeping the Democrats from having a "stomach" to go to war against Iran. Not that they're actually opposed to it, mind you.]

CM: So? Therefore, what do we do if they do develop or continue to move towards a nuclear weapon? [Ed. note: repetition of the big lie, naturally unchallenged.]

HD: I think the Administration did something good, I rarely have the opportunity to say that, the other day when they cut off some of the major banks in Iran from any financing using American dollars [Ed. note: on the bogus grounds that they were financing weapons of mass destruction.]. That's the kind of thing that has begun to turn North Korea around [Ed. note: huh? Did I miss something?], and I think that those kinds of approaches are far better than having 135,000 troops on the ground without knowing what you're getting into [Ed. note: but with those competent Democrats in power, who promise they will know what they're getting into, watch out.].
Boy, am I glad we've got the Democrats keeping us from war against Iran (or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba or Nicaragua or anyplace else they decide is a "danger"). Not.

By the way, Matthews didn't even bother to ask Dean about the latest U.S. proxy war against Somalia. As long as we're just talking about proxy wars, with only small numbers of U.S. special forces on the ground, there's absolutely no division in the ruling class about such an intervention. Even Dennis Kucinich has nothing to say on the subject.


Tim Robbins calls for Bush & Cheney to resign

But you have to read Prensa Latina to know about it; not a single U.S. media outlet has picked up the story.


No to escalation! No to occupation! Troops Out Now!

Last night's demonstration and march through the streets of downtown San Francisco to protest the escalation of the U.S. war against Iraq drew a crowd of 800 people. At least that's the demonstration I was at, which was the one organized by the ANSWER Coalition; there were three or four demonstrations in San Francisco alone, not to mention Oakland, Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Jose (three different ones), and hundreds more across the country. Naturally it was all over the press, right? Wrong. This morning's San Francisco Chronicle? San Jose Mercury News? Both - nothing. There was some TV coverage last night on some channels, none I saw this morning. Wouldn't want to give people the idea that their opinion matters. But it does matter, as the politicians scrambling for cover demonstrates. Let's keep up the pressure!

Top: speaker addresses the gathering crowd at Powell & Market in downtown San Francisco; Above: marching through the streets; Below: video of the march.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Chants for anti-escalation rallies

Three chants I made up for today's anti-escalation rallies - feel free to use them!
No to escalation!
No to occupation!
Troops. Out. NOW!

American aggression,
Enemy of humanity!
Stop the killing,
Stop the insanity!

Occupation is a crime,
Iraq. Somalia. Palestine!
Hope you like 'em! The second one is, you may have realized, my tribute to Cindy Sheehan (see below).

And, repeating from two posts below, lists of events here, here, and here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


ANSWER Coalition response to Bush's speech

Unwilling to accept the failure of his war of aggression in Iraq, his “war of choice,” Bush announced tonight a plan that will succeed only in sending thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers to their graves in the next year.

What Bush is really proposing is using thousands of additional U.S. soldiers in a planned reign of terror in the streets and neighborhoods of Baghdad against those who want the U.S. to leave. Bush chose to use a euphemism about the planned reign of terror when he stated that one of the past “mistakes” of the U.S. military operation in Baghdad was that, “there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.” The blood will flow just as Bush promises but this plan will fail just as badly as every announced initiative since Bush arrogantly taunted the Iraqi resistance with his infamous “Bring em on” speech back in 2003.

Bush gave the people of the United States a warning that they should expect the coming year will be "bloody and violent," with "television screens filled with images of death and suffering." He tried to innoculate himself from responsibility for this carnage although his plan makes it inevitable.

Bush’s aspiration to salvage his “legacy” and his place in history isn’t worth one more life. Every mother and father of a U.S. soldier, every person who has a loved one in the U.S. armed forces should make it clear that the lives of their family members are too precious to be sacrificed for such an ignoble cause.

For the last six years, Bush has provided huge tax breaks for the billionaires and multimillionaires of this country. But it will not be their children who will be sent to fight and die in Iraq. The privileged ultra-rich, Bush's real "base," are shielded from the horrors of the war.

The deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis since March 2003 (see Lancet medical journal 10/06), proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Bush’s claim that his invasion was for the liberation of the Iraqi people is a complete and utter lie.

“Clearing and holding neighborhoods in Iraq” is not the duty or right of members of the U.S. military. The people who live in those neighborhoods lived in peace before the arrival of the occupation forces. The occupation is illegal and the order to stiffen the occupation is illegal too. U.S. soldiers have the right and duty to disobey illegal orders.

Neither one more Iraqi nor one more soldier should die so that the politicians, who inaugurated a criminal “pre-emptive” invasion of a country that posed zero threat to the people of the United States, can postpone the verdict of history.

For their part, the Democrats in Congress are involved in a slightly more complicated dance. They want to posture as opponents of Bush’s escalation and so-called surge without taking responsibility for bringing the war to a close. They could cut funding for the war which is their exclusive Constitutional prerogative. But they will absolutely refuse to take this responsibility. They are merely posturing for the 2008 elections hoping to take advantage of the well deserved public disgust for Bush and the Iraq war.

The issue right now for the anti-war movement can not simply be opposition to a surge or an escalation: the issue is the war itself. The troops must be brought home now. As in Vietnam, that is the only solution. Those who initiated the war and who funded the war should be held accountable for one of the great crimes of the modern era.

Everything that Bush has said about the Iraq war has proved to be a lie. This was always a war for Empire in a strategic area that possesses two thirds of the world's oil supply. He proclaimed tonight that, "failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States." If Bush fails in Iraq the people of the United States lose nothing. It is not our Empire.

On March 17, 2007, the anniversary of the start of the criminal invasion of Iraq, tens of thousands of people from around the country will descend on the Pentagon in a mass demonstration to demand: U.S. Out of Iraq Now! 2007 is the 40th anniversary of the historic 1967 anti-war march to the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. The message of the 1967 march was "From Protest to Resistance," and marked a turning point in the development of a countrywide mass movement.

Thousands of organizations and individuals are mobilizing for the upcoming March on the Pentagon. Organizing committees and transportation centers are being established to bring people to the March on the Pentagon.

Tomorrow, January 11, there will be emergency demonstrations in scores of cities around the country protesting Bush's planned escalation of the war in Iraq. A schedule of the demonstrations can be found by clicking here (and March 17 information here).


Bush declares war on Iran and Syria

Not much reading between the lines required:
Iran and Syria...are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.
American ground troops are up to their eyeballs in Baghdad, as well as Anbar and Diyala provinces. The "disrupting" and "interrupting" and "seeking out and destroying" Bush is talking about above will be conducted from the air, just as we have seen in recent days in Somalia (and Baghdad itself). With precisely the same results - countless innocent people dead.

Of course one more repetition of the "big lie" (the latest one) was included: "Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons." Once again, there is not only no proof that Iran is "pursuing nuclear weapons," there is every indication they're not. Then again, despite repeated claims, there's no actual evidence that "Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops" either. The facts have never been Bush's strong point. But, amidst all the news analysis you here about this speech (and I've already heard quite a bit), I doubt you'll hear anyone point this out. Facts are rarely the strong point of the "analysts" on TV, either.

Stop the war...on the world!

Demonstrate tomorrow! Lists of events here, here, and here.

Update: A commenter at my cross-post of this on Daily Kos provides this link to an October, 2006 Washington Post story in which British soldiers actively engaged in an effort to find evidence of any Iranian weapons smuggling into Iraq, found none.


Quote of the day

"George Bush and his administration are enemies of humanity."

- Cindy Sheehan, in Havana
Yes, I'm well aware (see the Norman Solomon quote below, for example) that the "enemies of humanity" extends well beyond "George Bush and his administration." Even so, the fact that that quote appears in a U.S. newspaper, sourced not to Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro but to an American citizen, is enough to make it the Quote of the day.

Bonus Quote of the day:

"We do not accept the notion that troops cannot be withdrawn immediately [from Iraq]."

- Sarah Sloan, speaking to Reuters on behalf of the ANSWER Coalition

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


A double miracle

I've been well aware of something called Operation Miracle, by which Cuba and Venezuela are collaborating to provide eye-care operations to hundreds of thousands of people; I've written about it here and here. The latest miracle is that the U.S. corporate press has discovered it, specifically, the Miami Herald, in a major article devoted to the program. As far as I can determine this is the first major article devoted to the subject in the corporate press, and one of the first mentions of it at all.

The article itself has the usual dose of cynicism, but most of it is just factual, and the facts talk louder than anything else. Here, for example, is the opening of the article:

Roberto Andrade sat in a hospital waiting room beside rows of patients, each with a bandage on one eye, and explained why he considers himself a diplomat of sorts.

The Salvadoran bus driver had cataract surgery on both eyes, courtesy of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

"In my country, a surgery like that costs $8,000," Andrade said. "I make $12 a day. I would never, ever, be able to save that much. Now I am an ambassador: I go around El Salvador telling everyone how well I was treated."

Andrade, 56, is one of nearly half a million people -- most of them Venezuelans -- to undergo eye surgery in Cuba in the past two years.
The cost to Andrade, and all the other patients? Exactly nothing, and that includes air transportation and hotel stays including meals!

In addition to the hospitals in Cuba, there are now 13 ophthalmologic centers in Venezuela, and clinics have opened in Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Bolivia. This month, Operation Miracle will spread to Africa and Asia, its directors have said. Soon, the program expects to serve at least 1 million patients a year.


Gaza on the Tigris

Jets and helicopter gunships swooping over a densely populated city, massacring dozens of people below. Gaza City? No, Baghdad.
U.S. jets screamed low over the capital and helicopter gunships swooped in to pound a central Baghdad battleground Tuesday, supporting Iraqi and American troops in a daylong fight that officials said killed 50 insurgents in a militant Sunni Arab stronghold.

The battle raged on Haifa Street about 1 1/2 miles north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Really, what can you say? Other than the obvious -- Out now!


Rape, murder, and complicity in Mahmudiya

Back in June the world learned of one of the more horrifying incidents in the U.S. figurative rape of Iraq, and that was the literal rape and murder (by fire) of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, along with the murder of her entire family.

There have been rumors before about the soldier who seems to have been the principal instigator of the attack, but now it appears they're being confirmed:

An Army private charged with the slaughter of an Iraqi family was diagnosed as a homicidal threat by a military mental health team three months before the attack.

Pfc. Steven D. Green was found to have "homicidal ideations" after seeking help from an Army Combat Stress Team in Iraq on Dec. 21, 2005. Green said he was angry about the war, desperate to avenge the death of comrades and driven to kill Iraqi citizens, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

The treatment was several small doses of Seroquel — a drug to regulate his mood — and a directive to get some sleep, according to medical records obtained by the AP. The next day, he returned to duty.
Three months later, Abeer al-Janabi and her family were dead. But the take home message of this incident isn't that a soldier with "homicidal ideations" (whatever they might be) went on to murder someone in a horrific fashion. It's that the Army was well aware of his problems and sent him back on duty anyway, and that four other soldiers, who we presume did not have the same "issues" as Pfc. Green, were perfectly happy to accompany him on his "mission" of terror. Not to mention that they, and quite likely various superiors, managed to keep the entire incident covered up for months.

Note this rather suspicious sequence of events:

Three months passed [after his diagnosis in December] without Army doctors and clinicians from the Combat Stress Team having any contact with Green. He was summoned for a second examination on March 20, 2006 — eight days after the killing of the family. Green was diagnosed as having an anti-social personality disorder and declared unfit for service. The process of discharging him began a week later and he was sent home.
What a remarkable coincidence, eh?

Let me close by repeating a portion of my post from back in July:

The killing of the family was originally reported by the military as due to "insurgent activity." The same was true in the Haditha massacre of 24 Iraqis, who were also originally reported as being killed by "insurgent activity" (i.e., IED). So the next time you see statistics, also reported by the American military, about the percentage of the deaths in Iraq which are caused by "insurgent activity," keep these incidents in mind. Statistics only have validity when the underlying data is valid. When the underlying data is provided by the U.S. military, forget about it.
Out now!


More U.S. "justice"

First posted 1/8/07, 4:43 p.m.; updated and bumped (newer posts below)]

We saw in the Saddam Hussein trial how the U.S. is so genuinely dedicated to fair trials and the dignified execution of the death penalty. Today in Somalia that commitment to justice was on display again:

A senior Pentagon official confirmed for NBC News Monday that a U.S. helicopter gunship conducted a strike against two suspected al-Qaida operatives in southern Somalia.

The operatives are believed to be responsible for the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania as well as 2002 attacks on Israeli tourists in Kenya and the attempted downing of an Israeli aircraft the same day.
Note the multiple nature of the suspicion. These men are believed responsible for acts of terrorism, and the people who were attacked were believed to be the men in question. Evidently that forms a sound basis for administering (or, at least, attempting to administer) the death penalty, at least by U.S. standards.

Update: And now, to no one's surprise whose memory goes back further than a day or two, the obvious corollary development:

Helicopter gunships attacked suspected al-Qaida fighters in the south Tuesday after U.S. forces staged airstrikes in the first offensive in the African country since 18 American soldiers were killed there in 1993, witnesses said.

Witnesses said 31 civilians, including two newlyweds, died in the assault by two helicopters near Afmadow.

Witnesses said at least four civilians were killed Monday evening in Hayi, including a small boy.
And along the lines of what I wrote above, consider this sentence:
The Islamic extremists are believed to be sheltering suspects in the embassy bombings.
They are believed to be sheltering suspects - that's U.S. grounds for assassination of them and anyone who happens to be in the vicinity. Meanwhile, the U.S. is known to be sheltering an admitted and convicted terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles.


Quote of the day

Normal Solomon has a great facility for turning a phrase:
We can blame Bush all we want -- and he does hold the reins right now -- but his main enablers these days are the fastidious public servants in Congress. They keep preparing the hay, freshening the water, oiling the saddle, even while criticizing the inappropriately jocular rider. And when the band plays "Hail to the Jockey," most of the grown-up stable boys and girls can't help saluting.

The key problem right now isn't the headless jockey. It's the stable hands who keep feeding the horse he rode in on.


Different perspectives on Venezuela

Typical headline in a corporate newspaper:
Venezuela nationalizes telecommunications, power companies
Headline from Prensa Latina:
Venezuela Recovers Social Property
Interestingly enough, the Prensa Latina headline is closer to the truth, even free of any political perspective. The Miami Herald article cited above quotes Chavez as saying, "all of that which was privatized, nationalize it," and notes that "The eletricity and telecommunications companies were sold to private owners before Chávez was first elected in 1998." Thus "renationalizes" would actually be the correct headline (or actually "to renationalize"; it hasn't happened yet).

Monday, January 08, 2007


The people have the power

And an award. In today's cultural news, Patti Smith was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Patti Smith performs at a outdoor concert in Berkeley to benefit the ANSWER Coalition, June, 2003

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