Saturday, March 29, 2003

Cheaters, Cheaters!  

Funny thing about reality...
Much has been made of Thursday's remark by Lt. Gen. William Wallace , commander of U.S. Army forces in the Persian Gulf. Talking about the fierce and guerrilla-style resistance of Iraqi militia groups, Wallace said, "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against."

In fact, however, militia fighters did play a crucial role in a major war game designed to simulate combat in Iraq—but the Pentagon officials who managed the game simply disregarded or overruled the militias' most devastating moves.
Here's a link to the original article that exposed the rigged game.
The most elaborate war game the U.S. military has ever held was rigged so that it appeared to validate the modern, joint-service war-fighting concepts it was supposed to be testing, according to the retired Marine lieutenant general who commanded the game’s Opposing Force.

That general, Paul Van Riper, said he worries the United States will send troops into combat using doctrine and weapons systems based on false conclusions from the recently concluded Millennium Challenge 02. He was so frustrated with the rigged exercise that he said he quit midway through the game.

He said that rather than test forces against an unpredictable enemy, the exercise “was almost entirely scripted to ensure a [U.S. military] ‘win.’ ”

Letter To a Father  

Josh Marshall, whose opposition to the war came after months of research an an enormous effort of soul searching, received this recently. I thought about possibly trying to respond directly to Mr. Tedrow. Instead I'll do it here.
From: "Mark Tedrow"
Subject: Let me add...
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2003 23:35:12 -0500
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1106

my own 'last paragraph' to the remarks of Michael Thomas, of Kentucky. [this was a previous letter similar to this one.]

MY son is fighting today, risking HIS life...and some are dying...for your right to assist our enemies. That must make you very proud.

To think for a second that you have served this country in combat is laughable. You're too busy munching a croissant and pretending to have some clue about what makes this country 'America'. Easy for you to sit and flap your fingers or look pretty in front of a camera while 'someone else' puts his/her life on the line for your privelege; typical elitist. You spend hours denegrating our current president, who didn't create the mess in Baghdad or North Korea, and exactly zero time questioning the ones who did; typical elitist.

My son is currently in Iraq...somewhere. Air Force Special Ops., Sgt. We haven't heard from him in a while...and we pray. We pray for his safety...and we pray for our country. We also pray that critics such as you will someday grow a brain and become a productive piece of this incredible country; instead of spending all your time in the red...throwing rocks at those who make your life possible.

Mark Tedrow
Dear Mr. Tedrow,

I cannot imagine, and never want to imagine, what it must be like to have a child in the military in a war zone. I doubt if you will accept it, but you have my complete sympathy and I pray with you that he will return safely.

There are many reasons why I oppose this war. One major one is that the Bush administration's military policy is as incompetent as their diplomacy. This is abundantly clear if one actually takes the trouble to study what happened in Afghanistan, a war that is far from over, and to study the whopping mistakes in judgement that preceded the Iraqi war.

Competence is not an issue of right or left, Republican or Democrat. Competence directly impacts the ability of an administration to achieve its goals economically and safely. Bush and his collection of warmakers have never seen combat. They have no concept of what they are doing.

Those of us who are trying to keep your son from harm by opposing the war are working both in his interest and our country's interest. Those who would openly court further terrorist atrocities by attacking an Arab country for which no evidence has been made public that identifies a link with the 9/11 attacks are the ones assisting our enemies. The FBI and CIA are the ones who have stated time and again that that is the case.

While I understand why you are so angry and anxious to insure your son's safety, I must point out to you that George W. Bush and nearly all his top advisers come from the most elite levels of American society, a fantastically wealthy group so contemptuous of ordinary American values and concerns that they have even refused to meet with clergy from Bush's own church to hear their moral objections to the war. They are the elitists you despise, sir, not ordinary Americans like you or I.

Open mouth. Insert Foot  

The president of Columbia University said yesterday that he was horrified by the remarks of an anthropology professor who said at a campus antiwar teach-in Wednesday night that he hoped to see "a million Mogadishus" — referring to the city in Somalia where American soldiers were ambushed in a lethal firefight in 1993.

The professor, Nicholas De Genova, also called for the defeat of United States forces in Iraq, and said the only true heroes are those who help defeat the American military. He said Americans who call themselves patriots are imperialist white supremacists...

Those who attended the teach-in said most of the audience stayed silent at Professor De Genova's reference to the Mogadishu ambush...

"Professor De Genova's speech did not represent the views of the organizers," said Eric Foner, a history professor who was one of the teach-in's organizers. "I personally found it quite reprehensible. The antiwar movement does not desire the death of American soldiers. We do not accept his view of what it means to be a patriot. I began my talk, which came later, by repudiating his definition of patriotism, saying the teach-in was a patriotic act, that I believe patriots are those who seek to improve their country."
When I come across stuff like this, it infuriates me for a whole slew of reasons.

Anyone who wishes death on others has some major dents in his/her soul that need repair. The poor kids who were sent over there to fight are, in many ways, a kind of victim, different in kind than Iraqi civilians, but victims just the same. They will be living for the rest of their lives with the memories of what they did and what they saw. If they get hurt, all the more awful. And for those who die, nothing can possibly express the monumental waste of life and the grief of their family and friends. I don't know de Genova, but a worldview that is based on teaching others a lesson is a worldview that I cannot agree with, nor is it safe to say, do 99.99% of the people marching against the war here.

Biggest Danger for 2004  

I mentioned this nightmare scenario in a letter a few weeks before I started my blog and repeated it in my first blog entry. It still gives me the creeps.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Food Aid Just One More Rove Photo Op  

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Save the Children said chaotic scenes shown on televisions on Wednesday, in which Iraqis scrambled for food thrown from a truck at Safwan near the border with Kuwait, was an example of how the provision of aid has become just another tactic in the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

"What they are doing is not humanitarian aid but a 'hearts and mind' operation and that is quite different," Save the Children's Director of Emergencies Lewis Sida said.

He said humanitarian missions would seek to avoid such high profile incidents, saying it illustrated that the military did not have the competence to do aid work and said such operations did not serve the best interests of the people most in need.

Oh, Dear. Bushthink Is Catching.  

Article here.
An American congressman Darrell Issa of California wants to introduce a bill that will give preference to a cdmaOne based mobile network in Iraq, after the US has finished conquering that country.

The congressman argues that if the rival system, GSM, used in over 70 per cent of the world is allowed to take root it will harm the revenues of US companies like Qualcomm and instead favour French (boo!) and European manufacturers. (Whoops Siemens appears to be a German GSm manufacturer).

There are, of course, massive holes in Issa's arguments.
No. There couldn't be,

Prince Newt al-Gingrich, Ruler of Iraq  

Demon cartoonist Tom Tomorrow directs us to this helpful suggestion from Steve Forbes.
How about Newt Gingrich as our high-commissioner-equivalent in Iraq? He is politically skillful. He knows history as well as anyone. He has the absorbent mind to learn quickly what he'd need to know about the area, both before and after he arrived on the scene. And experience has taught him how to be politically nimble, a necessity in dealing with the treacherous political and social currents over there.
When Steve Forbes called Pat Robertson a "toothy flake ," I really thought he was on to something. Oh well.

And it turns out he apologized to Robertson.

More Perle Slime Oozes Out  

From TheStar via LiberalOasis:
In 1981, Perle drew some unflattering notices after it was revealed that he received consulting fees from an Israeli weapons manufacturer subsequent to assuming his post in the Reagan administration that March.

Perle responded that the advisory fees were for work performed prior to taking on his new job and therefore did not break defence department rules, which state that employees must "avoid any action which might be reasonably expected to create the appearance of using public office for private gain or giving preferential treatment."

And there's that little matter that made him so angry at Sy Hersh in the first place, that Perle was caught discussing classified material with someone from the Israeli embassy. There's some words to describe this.

Time to show Perle the...sorry, can't resist...the gate. That feels much better.

Turkey and Turkeys  

Josh Marshall linked to this detailed article in the Washington Post about Bush and Turkey.
One week into the war, the administration's inability to win Turkey's approval has emerged as an important turning point in the U.S. confrontation with Iraq that senior U.S. officials now acknowledge may ultimately prolong the length of the conflict. It is a story of clumsy diplomacy and mutual misunderstanding, U.S. and Turkish officials said.

If history is any judge, Bush's problems with Turkey may yet lead to his undoing. At least Clinton liked humans and was private about it, fer cryin' out loud.

Josh Marshall is Angry And...  

Brilliant. Read his whole article. Just the basic point below.
This unfamiliarity and heightened expectation, matched with the trappings of competence, gave potency to what has turned out to be the Bush administration's signature political tactic: the confidence game. The confidence man is a stock figure in American culture, originating--perhaps not coincidentally--in the boomtowns of the Old Southwest. He's the snake-oil salesman, the wildcat land speculator who mixes boundless optimism with quick talk, bluff, and bluster. The administration is led by such men.

Unedited Video From Basra  

Fisk. Another great story.
Two British soldiers lie dead on a Basra roadway, a small Iraqi girl – victim of an Anglo American air strike – is brought to hospital with her intestines spilling out of her stomach, a terribly wounded woman screams in agony as doctors try to take off her black dress.

An Iraqi general, surrounded by hundreds of his armed troops, stands in central Basra and announces that Iraq's second city remains firmly in Iraqi hands. The unedited al-Jazeera videotape – filmed over the past 36 hours and newly arrived in Baghdad – is raw, painful, devastating.

It is also proof that Basra – reportedly "captured'' and "secured'' by British troops last week – is indeed under the control of Saddam Hussein's forces. Despite claims by British officers that some form of uprising has broken out in Basra, cars and buses continue to move through the streets while Iraqis queue patiently for gas bottles as they are unloaded from a government truck.

* * *

Far more terrible than the pictures of dead British soldiers, however, is the tape from Basra's largest hospital that shows victims of the Anglo-American bombardment being brought to the operating rooms shrieking in pain.

* * *

The al-Jazeera tapes, most of which have never been seen, are the first vivid proof that Basra remains totally outside British control. Not only is one of the city's main roads to Baghdad still open – this is how the three main tapes reached the Iraqi capital – but General Khaled Hatem is interviewed in a Basra street, surrounded by hundreds of his uniformed and armed troops, and telling al-Jazeera's reporter that his men will "never'' surrender to Iraq's enemies. Armed Baath Party militiamen can also be seen in the streets, where traffic cops are directing lorries and buses near the city's Sheraton Hotel.

Mohamed al-Abdullah, al-Jazeera's correspondent in Basra, must be the bravest journalist in Iraq right now. In the sequence of three tapes, he can be seen conducting interviews with families under fire and calmly reporting the incoming British artillery bombardment. One tape shows that the Sheraton Hotel on the banks of Shatt al-Arab river has sustained shell damage.


Cursor rounded up a bunch of articles that showed how many errors and false leads there've been in the papers since the war started.

A lack of skepticism toward official U.S. sources has already led prominent American journalists into embarrassing errors in their coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq , particularly in relation to claims that proof had been found that Iraq possesses banned weapons.
Editor and Publisher
Here, then, is a list of stories that have been widely misreported or poorly reported so far:

1. Saddam may well have been killed in the first night's surprise attack (March 20).

2. Even if he wasn't killed, Iraqi command and control was no doubt "decapitated" (March 22).

3. Umm Qasr has been taken (March 22)...

15. A convoy of 1,000 Iraqi vehicles and Republican Guards are speeding south from Baghdad to engage U.S. troops (March 25).
BBC news chiefs have met to discuss the increasing problem of misinformation coming out of Iraq as staff concern grows at the series of premature claims and counter claims by military sources...

[A BBC spokewswoman said,] "We have to be very careful in the midst of a conflict like this one to be very sure when we're reporting something we've not seen with our own eyes that we attribute it," she added.

On nearly every day of the war so far there have been reports that could be seen as favourable to coalition forces, which have later turned out to be inaccurate.

Fair. Balanced. Bridge For Sale. Cheap.  

Think I'm kidding about the bias of the news in the US?Go here.
Fox News had its own response to the demonstrators. The news ticker rimming Fox's headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn't carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.

"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!" read one message. "Who won your right to show up here today?" another questioned. "Protesters or soldiers?"

Said a third: "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

Still another read: "Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street" - a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine."

The protesters said Fox's sentiments only proved their point: that media coverage, in particular among the television networks, is so biased as to be unbelievable.

"They're all bad, but Fox is the absolute worst," said Tracy Blevins, 32, a New York City resident. "The people who report the news aren't journalists. They just say what the government tells them to say."

Reached for comment Thursday afternoon, Fox spokeswoman Tracy Spector was unaware of the messages on the news ticker and said she would look into it. Spector said the network "didn't mean to insult anyone."

Spector did not return calls for further comment by early Thursday evening.

* * *

Barbara Reed, an associate professor of journalism at Rutgers University, said she wasn't surprised by Fox's action, given the fact that the network is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media mogul and ardent conservative whose publications have been hawkish.

"Fox isn't the only news outlet that has shown bias, but I think Murdoch and Fox are over the top on this one," Reed said.

Quote of the Day  

As the past week has shown, many in Iraq and beyond do not perceive American and British troops as liberators.
And why didn't we know that before, pray tell? Times

The Solution To Kristof's Relevant Issue  

For the most part, Nick has his heart in the right place and he's certainly got twice the active brain cells that his colleague Friedman has. So, one wonders if he is being coy here.
We doves simply have to let go of the dispute about getting into this war. It's now a historical question, and the relevant issue, for hawks and doves alike, is how we get out of this war (and how we avoid the next pre-emptive war). Americans should be able to find common ground, for all sides dream of an Iraq that is democratic and an America that is again admired around the world.
Step one: send Bush back to Crawford as soon as possible.

Nick goes on: "Creating a postwar Iraq that is free and flourishing is also the one way to recoup the damage this war has already done to America's image and interests." No, there's another way: send Bush back to Crawford as soon as possible.

Cheney and Incestuous Amplification  

Krugman.If you're not reading the entire column, you're depriving yourself of one of the rare independent voices in America mainstream media.

In spring 2001 the lights were going out all over California. There were blackouts and brownouts, and the price of electricity was soaring. The Cheney task force was convened in the midst of that crisis. It concluded, in brief, that the energy crisis was a long-term problem caused by meddling bureaucrats and pesky environmentalists, who weren't letting big companies do what needed to be done. The solution? Scrap environmental rules, and give the energy industry multibillion-dollar subsidies.

Along the way, Mr. Cheney sneeringly dismissed energy conservation as a mere "sign of personal virtue" and scorned California officials who called for price controls and said the crisis was being exacerbated by market manipulation. To be fair, Mr. Cheney's mocking attitude on that last point was shared by almost everyone in politics and the media — and yes, I am patting myself on the back for getting it right.

For we now know that everything Mr. Cheney said was wrong.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Swine Perle Resigns  

Chickenhawk down not that it matters much. He's already done incalculable damage and he's still on the board.

Someone Tell The Supreme Court  

that you don't get pregnant from fellatio. Read it all. Man oh man, where do they find these people?

The US and British Dead  

The youngest was 19, the oldest was 42. In most of the photos, they were smiling.

The Beautiful Woman Who Smiled  

I haven't been watching the tv coverage of the war. Life is too short. But by chance I saw a reporter in the Middle East interviewing a very attractive, smiling young woman with the nom de guerre of "Thunder." She seemed a little bit shy and she played with her hair, which had been washed and blow-dried fairly recently. The reporter explained that yes, women were now combat pilots and they flew the planes alone, piloting them, navigating them and dropping the bombs. As I was reading this, she was on my mind a lot.
It was an outrage, an obscenity. The severed hand on the metal door, the swamp of blood and mud across the road, the human brains inside a garage, the incinerated, skeletal remains of an Iraqi mother and her three small children in their still-smouldering car.

Two missiles from an American jet killed them all – by my estimate, more than 20 Iraqi civilians, torn to pieces before they could be 'liberated' by the nation that destroyed their lives. Who dares, I ask myself, to call this 'collateral damage'?

* * *

One man, so shocked by the headless corpses he had just seen, could say only two words. "Roar, flash," he kept saying and then closed his eyes so tight that the muscles rippled between them.

* * *

[A] question occurred to me as I walked through this place of massacre yesterday. If this is what we are seeing in Baghdad, what is happening in Basra and Nasiriyah and Kerbala? How many civilians are dying there too, anonymously, indeed unrecorded, because there are no reporters to be witness to their suffering?

* * *

At least 15 cars burst into flames, burning many of their occupants to death. Several men tore desperately at the doors of another flame-shrouded car in the centre of the street that had been flipped upside down by the same missile. They were forced to watch helplessly as the woman and her three children inside were cremated alive in front of them. The second missile hit neatly on the eastbound carriageway, sending shards of metal into three men standing outside a concrete apartment block with the words, "This is God's possession" written in marble on the outside wall.

* * *

"I found Ta'ar in pieces over there," he told me. His head was blown off. "That's his hand." A group of young men and a woman took me into the street and there, a scene from any horror film, was Ta'ar's hand, cut off at the wrist, his four fingers and thumb grasping a piece of iron roofing. His young colleague, Sermed, died the same instant. His brains lay piled a few feet away, a pale red and grey mess behind a burnt car.

* * *

As each survivor talked, the dead regained their identities.

* * *

I'll bet we are told President Saddam is ultimately responsible for their deaths. We shan't mention the pilot, of course.
I just pray to god it wasn't that woman I saw. Or any of her friends. They're just kids who are doing this, early twenties. They don't deserve this on their soul. The men and women who died truly didn't deserve it. At least they were taken quickly. But to have to live with the knowledge that you had dropped those bombs...

This was by Robert Fisk. Let's hope he stays well.

Oh, Grow Up  

Children, that's what we all are. John Negroponte, the US ambassador, left the Security Council chamber while Mohammed al-Douri, his Iraqi counterpart, was winding up his speech condemning US aggression against Iraq.

Needed: White-Coated Men, Many Big Nets STAT  

Eric Alterman guides us to Josh Marshall's epiphany in Washington Monthly. There's only one question. What took him so long to figure out it was just a straight-up con?
There is a startling amount of deception in all this--of hawks deceiving the American people, and perhaps in some cases even themselves. While it's conceivable that bold American action could democratize the Middle East, so broad and radical an initiative could also bring chaos and bloodshed on a massive scale. That all too real possibility leads most establishment foreign policy hands, including many in the State Department, to view the Bush plan with alarm. Indeed, the hawks' record so far does not inspire confidence. Prior to the invasion, for instance, they predicted that if the United States simply announced its intention to act against Saddam regardless of how the United Nations voted, most of our allies, eager to be on our good side, would support us. Almost none did. Yet despite such grave miscalculations, the hawks push on with their sweeping new agenda.

Like any group of permanent Washington revolutionaries fueled by visions of a righteous cause, the neocons long ago decided that criticism from the establishment isn't a reason for self-doubt but the surest sign that they're on the right track. But their confidence also comes from the curious fact that much of what could go awry with their plan will also serve to advance it. A full-scale confrontation between the United States and political Islam, they believe, is inevitable, so why not have it now, on our terms, rather than later, on theirs? Actually, there are plenty of good reasons not to purposely provoke a series of crises in the Middle East.

* * *

The hawks' whole plan rests on the assumption that we can turn it [Iraq] into a self-governing democracy--that the very presence of that example will transform politics in the Middle East. But what if we can't really create a democratic, self-governing Iraq, at least not very quickly? What if the experience we had after World War II in Germany and Japan, two ethnically homogeneous nations, doesn't quite work in an ethnically divided Iraq where one group, the Sunni Arabs, has spent decades repressing and slaughtering the others? As one former Army officer with long experience with the Iraq file explains it, the "physical analogy to Saddam Hussein's regime is a steel beam in compression." Give it one good hit, and you'll get a violent explosion. One hundred thousand U.S. troops may be able to keep a lid on all the pent-up hatred. But we may soon find that it's unwise to hand off power to the fractious Iraqis. To invoke the ugly but apt metaphor which Jefferson used to describe the American dilemma of slavery, we will have the wolf by the ears. You want to let go. But you dare not.

And what if we do muster the courage to allow elections, but the Iraqis choose a government we can't live with--as the Japanese did in their first post-war election, when the United States purged the man slated to become prime minister? But if we do that in Iraq, how will it look on Al Jazeera? Ultimately, the longer we stay as occupiers, the more Iraq becomes not an example for other Arabs to emulate, but one that helps Islamic fundamentalists make their case that America is just an old-fashioned imperium bent on conquering Arab lands...

* * *

If the Bush administration has thought through these various negative scenarios--and we must presume, or at least pray, that it has--it certainly has not shared them with the American people. More to the point, the president has not even leveled with the public that such a clean-sweep approach to the Middle East is, in fact, their plan. This breaks new ground in the history of pre-war presidential deception.
Indeed it does.
When President Clinton used American troops to quell the fighting in Bosnia he said publicly that our troops would be there no longer than a year, even though it was widely understood that they would be there far longer. But in the case of these deceptions, the public was at least told what the goals of the wars were and whom and where we would be fighting.

Today, however, the great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support. But the White House really has in mind an enterprise of a scale, cost, and scope that would be almost impossible to sell to the American public. The White House knows that. So it hasn't even tried. Instead, it's focused on getting us into Iraq with the hope of setting off a sequence of events that will draw us inexorably towards the agenda they have in mind.

* * *

Strip away the presidential seal and the fancy titles, and it's just a straight-up con.
Alterman adds to this the point that, assuming it is possible to democratise the Middle East, who can trust a group as incompetent as the Bush gang?

There's that, too. But the whole thing is crazy from the getgo. Any fool can see that. That's the thing about incompetents. Their initial premises are incompetent. And they're too incompetent to realize they're incompetent.

It's Supposed to Be News  

not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In a survey of 6,400 viewers on their attitudes regarding Iraq and the media, the news consulting firm found that the viewers had little interest in anti-war protests. Magid doesn't tell news directors to avoid protests. It just says viewers tend to hate seeing them.

"Obviously, you have to give both sides of the story,'' says Senior Vice President Brian Greif. "But how much time you devote to [protests] and where you place it in your newscast becomes an issue."

According to Grief, the research ranks war-related topics by viewer interest. Protest coverage was at the bottom.
I can't believe this.

Northern Border Trouble (And I Don't Mean The Turks)  

It takes a lot of effort to infuriate the Canadians, but thank goodness,our foreign service is up to the job. Via Calpundit
The storm over the comments made by the U.S. ambassador, rebuking the Liberal government for not supporting the United States in its war with Iraq, is far from over.

Liberal MPs held a fractious meeting behind closed doors wednesday, debating whether to censure, even expel, Ambassador Paul Cellucci.

Cellucci told a business audience in Toronto Tuesday that Americans are disappointed and hurt by Canada's decision. He bluntly warned that there will be short-term consequences.

The speech stung many Liberal MPs, some of whom urged the government to file a formal protest against the ambassador.

Is That Really Fearless Leader?  

Ask Ari Fleisher if you really want to know who it is:
Yesterday President George Bush made his first public appearance since the start of the war, speaking to service personnel at the MacDill airforce base in Tampa in an obvious bid to reassure Americans and boost the morale of the armed forces. But how do we know this is the real George Bush?

Later in the day a man who looked and sounded like Mr Bush appeared alongside Tony Blair at Camp David, leaving intelligence experts to ponder whether a lookalike had been used, and whether the same lookalike had been deployed on both occasions.

It has long been suspected that Mr Bush employs a string of lookalikes for difficult or dangerous speaking engagements, some of whom may have had their ears specially enlarged for the task.

Most of those who regularly monitor Mr Bush's speech patterns believe that it was the genuine article who spoke at Central Command HQ in Florida yesterday, pointing to a characteristic tendency toward quasi-biblical phrasing - "There will be a day of reckoning for the Iraqi regime, and that day is drawing in near" - and an almost total absence of words of more than three syllables.

Other experts disagree, pointing out that these consistencies originate with speech writers rather then the president himself, and that Bush's main vocal technique - the bewildered pause - is only too easy to imitate.

* * *

For now, Bush-watchers are refusing to say publicly whether or not this is the real president of the United States or a clever, surgically-altered lookalike.

Privately, however, they have carefully observed this confused-looking man, with his stiff, empty gestures and false gravitas.

They have noted his peculiar phrasing, which gives little indication that he understands the content of what he is saying.

They have examined his every doomsday platitude, scrutinised his baffled expression and noted that he seems uncomfortable and completely lost whenever the teleprompter is switched off.

And they have concluded that it must really be him.

How Has it Been Going?  

Not so well. Our soldiers were told lies.
US soldiers injured in Iraq have been saying they had not been expecting to meet such fierce resistance from Iraqi troops.

* * *

"I looked down the road and right as I looked there was a rocket headed towards us. It was just like in the movies.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die.'"

* * *

Another soldier - US Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Menard - said he was surprised by the resistance, after having been briefed by his commanders to expect mass surrenders.
This is why I get so steamed at Bush and his gang. These guys were told by their commanders that it was going to be a "cakewalk." That was a lie and if their immediate superior didn't know it, his superior certainly did.

Then Turkey fell through. They even ackowledged that Iraq would be more difficult and yet they sent them into harm's way anyway. With their lies.


African Americans Don't Trust Bush  

Now, I wonder why? From the Beeb
"People are dying unnecessarily. We don't know what we are going to war for," said Iyante Miller

* * *

She, like many black Americans, mistrusts President Bush. They still believe that he stole the election.

"Why is his word enough when we had ballots thrown away?", she asked.

George, The Next Time You Get Spam, Remember:  

You're supposed to delete it. Not buy it.Okay?

A Must See  

Be sure your speakers are on and go here now.

America vs. France  

According to the Wall Street Journal today, after one year of work, Americans where 2 weeks vacation.

After one year of work, the French get five weeks vacation.

The only country where workers get more is Denmark. Six weeks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

India and Pakistan: Nuclear Neighbors  

This is not good, as in, this is very, very serious.
India and Pakistan traded missile tests and heavy artillery fire yesterday, raising tensions in the region in a continuation of their decades-old conflict.

While the United States is focused on the war in Iraq, the dual missile tests served as a reminder that the world’s other conflicts continue.
I have often worried that while the US cat's away, these folks, NoKo and who knows who else, will feel it is high time for a frolic of their own.

Who Got Us Into This Mess?  

There's a lot of information about the right wing extremists who forumulated the policy Bush now is slavishly following, but it's not in one place. Some people find the PBS Frontline program The War Behind Closed Doors a good introduction to the chickenhawks like Wolfowitz, Perle, and Kristol. I found it so biased and pro-war that it was nearly unwatchable. There was not a single voice that questioned the thoroughly dublious intellectual premises under which this people operate.

A much angrier article in Asia Times has a lot of detail. While it is somewhat long, it is a fairly useful summary of how this screwiness originated and how the main players interconnect. It's not very well written but it does end beautifully, saying, "The evangelic apostles of armed democratization cannot even imagine the fury a new breed of barbarians may unleash at the gate of the new American century."

More work needs to be done on the prime philosophical guru of these people, which is not Ayn Rand, as one might expect, but rather a fellow named Leo Strauss, who was apparently an anti-modernist and quite a hypocrite. Supposedly his writing is rather obtuse. One main reason Strauss might be the more poupular philosopher for this crew is that, unlike Rand, he was a a rather rabid Zionist, which surely appealed to Perle and others. Again, this is all preliminary. There needs to be more work by someone on this guy. Not by me, tho, I got enough tsuris in my life thank you very much.

Paging Joseph Heller  

You can't make this up.But only Atrios has the patient to ferret this stuff out, day after day.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has issued eight solicitations to date for reconstruction activities in Iraq. The solicitation documents are linked from the descriptions below. These documents are being released for informational purposes only. Offers received as a result of these postings will not be considered

Advice From A Master  

from a concerned friend far away.

Rumsfeld Caught In Lie  

On Face The Nation this Sunday, Donald Rumsfeld had the unmitigated gall to go out of his way to say that the city of Baghdad was not being bombed. It only looked that way. In fact, only "Outer Baghdad" [CORRECTION: "Greater Baghdad"] was being bombed.

Nonsense. Here's a map of the infrastructure that's being bombed. It's the center of the city. There are civilians there. They are being hit.

I suppose they genuinely think no one's paying attention. Here's a link to my original post on Rumsfeld's lies. And here's a link to the original transcript.

Journalist Robert Fisk Reports From Baghdad  

This is what a real journalist sounds like. He's British, works for the Independent. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed him. He sounds exhausted, angry, bitter, and scared. And he doesn't believe a word that hasn't been confirmed. His opinions are his own, but he reports the facts regardless. He has no respect for sources until they've proven their veracity. And once they do, he still doesn't respect them. He insists on proof.

Read the whole thing. This is only a taste.
In their attempt to dream up an excuse to invade Iraq, they've started out, remember, by saying first of all that there are weapons of mass destruction. We were then told that al Qaeda had links to Iraq, which, there certainly isn't an al Qaeda link. Then we were told that there were links to September 11th, which was rubbish. And in the end, the best the Bush administration could do was to say, “Well, we're going to liberate the people of Iraq”. And because it provided this excuse, it obviously then had to believe that these people wanted to be liberated by the Americans.

And, as the Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said a few hours ago, I was listening to him in person, the Americans expected to be greeted with roses and music- and they were greeted with bullets. I think you see what has happened is that -- and as he pointed out -- the American administration and the US press lectured everybody about how the country would break apart where Shiites hated Sunnis and Sunnis hated Turkmen and Turkmen hated Kurds, and so on. And yet, most of the soldiers fighting in southern Iraq are actually Shiite. They're not Sunnis, they're not Tikritis, they're not from Saddam's home city. Saddam did not get knocked off his perch straight away, and I think that, to a considerable degree, the American administration allowed that little cabal of advisors around Bush- I'm talking about Perle, Wolfowitz, and these other people—people who have never been to war, never served their country, never put on a uniform- nor, indeed, has Mr. Bush ever served his country- they persuaded themselves of this Hollywood scenario of GIs driving through the streets of Iraqi cities being showered with roses by a relieved populace who desperately want this offer of democracy that Mr. Bush has put on offer-as reality.

And the truth of the matter is that Iraq has a very, very strong political tradition of strong anti-colonial struggle. It doesn't matter whether that's carried out under the guise of kings or under the guise of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath party, or under the guise of a total dictator. There are many people in this country who would love to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I'm sure, but they don't want to live under American occupation.

* * *

There is actually more detail being given out by the Iraqis than by the Americans or the British, which is quite remarkable, it's the first time I've ever known this. Now, again, it may be plausible to think that all this information is accurate- when the Iraqis first said they had taken American prisoners, we said, “Oh, more propaganda”- then up comes the film of the prisoners. Then they said they'd shot down a helicopter, and the journalists here in the briefing sort of looked at each other and said, “There's another story”, and suddenly we're seeing film of a shot down helicopter- then another film of a shot down helicopter. Then they said they had attacked and destroyed armored personnel carriers belonging to the US armed forces, and we all looked at each other and said, “Here we go again, more propaganda”, and then we see film on CNN of burning APCs.

So, there's a good deal of credibility being given to the Iraqi version of events, although I'd have to say that their total version of how many aircraft have been shot down appears to be an exaggeration.

* * *

I've been listening to this uproariously funny argument about whether Saddam's speech was recorded before the war and whether they have look-alikes.

So, that in fact, the speech that Saddam made 24 hours ago, less than 24 hours ago, a speech that was very important if you read the text carefully and understand what he was trying to do, it has been totally warped in the United States by a concentration not on what he was saying, but whether it was actually him that was saying it. The American correspondent was saying to me yesterday morning, “This is ridiculous, we simply can't report the story, because every time we have to deal with something Saddam says, the Pentagon claims it's not him or it's his double or it was recorded 2 weeks ago”. So, the story ceases to be about what the man says, the story starts to be this totally mythical, fictional idea that it really isn't Saddam or it's his double, etcetera. I watched this recording on television, all his television broadcasts are recordings because he's not so stupid as to do a live broadcast and get bombed by the Americans while he's doing it.

The one thing you learn if you're a target is not to do live television broadcasts, or radio for that matter, or, indeed telephone.

* * *

Saddam believes Iraq's salvation- at least the salvation of the regime, shall we say- is just keeping on fighting and fighting and fighting until the moral foundations and underpinnings which America has attached to this invasion have collapsed. In other words, if you can keep holding out week after week, if you can suck the Americans into the quagmire of Baghdad and make them fight, and use artillery against them in civilian areas, that will undermine the whole moral purpose they've strapped onto this war.

Frankly, having listened to the various meretricious reasons put forward for this war, I think he's understood one of the main reasons why it's taking place and thus has decided he's going to go on fighting. And, of course, once you apply unconditional surrender- World War II- isn't that what Roosevelt did at Casablanca, there is no way out. It was an interesting moment last night when Tariq Aziz was asked by a journalist, “Can you see a way out?” Is it possible to have another peace?” Tariq Aziz looked at the journalist as if he'd seen a ghost and he said, “What are you talking about? There is a war”. I asked Tariq Aziz, I said, “You've given us a very dramatic description of the last 7 days of the war, can you give us a dramatic description of the next 7 days?” ”Just stay on here in Baghdad and you'll find out”, he said.

* * *

What on Earth is the British army doing in Iraq firing artillery into a city after invading the country? Is this really about weapons of mass destruction? Is this about al Qaeda? It's interesting that in the last few days, not a single reporter has mentioned September 11th.

* * *

...the Americans are going to need the United Nations as desperately as they wanted to get rid of them. Because if this turns into the tragedy that it is turning into at the moment, if the Americans end up, by besieging Baghdad day after day after day, they'll be looking for a way out, and the only way out is going to be the United Nations at which point, believe me, the French and the Russians are going to make sure that George Bush passes through some element of humiliation to do that.

* * *

because this war does not have a UN sanction behind it—I mean not in the sense of sanctions but that it doesn't have permission behind it, it is a war without international legitimacy, and the longer it goes on, the more it hurts Bush and the less it hurts Saddam.

* * *

General Colin Powell said that foreign journalists should leave as the campaign of so-called ‘shock and awe' is initiated- and it has started. Why have you chosen to remain in Baghdad? RF: Because I don't work for Colin Powell, I work for a British newspaper called The Independent; if you read it, you'll find that we are. It's not the job of a journalist to snap to the attention of generals.
" It's not the job of a journalist to snap to the attention of generals." Exactly. When did US journalists forget this?

Do Unto Others: Iraq POW's and Gitmo  

A friend referred me to this article regarding our double standards when it comes to POW's
...when five of its captured soldiers were paraded in front of the Iraqi television cameras on Sunday, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, immediately complained that "it is against the Geneva convention to show photographs of prisoners of war in a manner that is humiliating for them".

He is, of course, quite right...This being so, Rumsfeld had better watch his back. For this enthusiastic convert to the cause of legal warfare is, as head of the defence department, responsible for a series of crimes sufficient, were he ever to be tried, to put him away for the rest of his natural life.

His prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, where 641 men (nine of whom are British citizens) are held, breaches no fewer than 15 articles of the third convention.

* * *

The US government claims that these men are not subject to the Geneva conventions, as they are not "prisoners of war", but "unlawful combatants". The same claim could be made, with rather more justice, by the Iraqis holding the US soldiers who illegally invaded their country. But this redefinition is itself a breach of article 4 of the third convention, under which people detained as suspected members of a militia (the Taliban) or a volunteer corps (al-Qaida) must be regarded as prisoners of war.

Even if there is doubt about how such people should be classified, article 5 insists that they "shall enjoy the protection of the present convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal". But when, earlier this month, lawyers representing 16 of them demanded a court hearing, the US court of appeals ruled that as Guantanamo Bay is not sovereign US territory, the men have no constitutional rights. Many of these prisoners appear to have been working in Afghanistan as teachers, engineers or aid workers. If the US government either tried or released them, its embarrassing lack of evidence would be brought to light.

You would hesitate to describe these prisoners as lucky, unless you knew what had happened to some of the other men captured by the Americans and their allies in Afghanistan. On November 21 2001, around 8,000 Taliban soldiers and Pashtun civilians surrendered at Konduz to the Northern Alliance commander, General Abdul Rashid Dostum. Many of them have never been seen again.

As Jamie Doran's film Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death records, some hundreds, possibly thousands, of them were loaded into container lorries at Qala-i-Zeini, near the town of Mazar-i-Sharif, on November 26 and 27. The doors were sealed and the lorries were left to stand in the sun for several days. At length, they departed for Sheberghan prison, 80 miles away. The prisoners, many of whom were dying of thirst and asphyxiation, started banging on the sides of the trucks. Dostum's men stopped the convoy and machine-gunned the containers. When they arrived at Sheberghan, most of the captives were dead.
It goes without saying, or it should, that all abuse of prisoners cannot be countenanced. But, unfortunately, these days it has to be said.

Iraq is obligated to treat all American, British and other prisoners according to the Geneva Convention. The Bush administratin is also obligated to provide the Guantanamo prisoners, regardless of how they are classified, with Geneva Convention rights.

Regarding the "Convoy of Death" incident, it should be investigated and all perpetrators brought to justice as quickly as possible.

There are two reasons never to countenance prisoner abuse by any party in a conflict. First, you can expect the other side to retaliate in kind.

More importantly, it is immoral by any civilized standard of conduct.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The US Disappeared  

From metafilter comes this sad, sad story:
Remember Ali, the Iraqi student I wrote about a few weeks before leaving for Italy when telling about going to the antiwar rally?
He's gone. Disappeared.

His parents' phone number is disconnected.

His mother cannot be reached at work.

His father disappeared first... and now, one of our babies is gone!

His counselor said to me this afternoon: "Either the parents have been called in by the government for questioning, or else they've all fled."

Oh, my God.

Voice From the Past  

Here is Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. who was press secretary to Kennedy during which he witnessed the discussions which averted war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962:
How have we gotten into this tragic fix without searching debate? No war has been more extensively previewed than this one. Despite pro forma disclaimers, President Bush's determination to go to war has been apparent from the start. Why then this absence of dialogue? Why the collapse of the Democratic Party? Why let the opposition movement fall into the hands of infantile leftists?

I think the media are greatly to blame. There have been congressional efforts to jump-start a debate. Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia have delivered strong and thoughtful speeches opposing the rush to war. They have been largely ignored by the media. Some philanthropist had to pay the New York Times to print the text of Byrd's powerful Feb. 12 speech in a full-page advertisement -- a speech ignored by the media when delivered. The media have played up mass demonstrations at the expense of the reasoned case against the war.

According to polls, a near majority of ill-informed Americans believes Hussein had something to do with the attacks on New York and the Pentagon and resulting massacre of nearly 3,000 innocent people. Hussein is a great villain, but he had nothing to do with 9/11. Many, perhaps most, Americans believe a war against Iraq will be a blow against international terrorism. But evidence from the region indicates very plainly that it will make recruitment much easier for Al Qaeda and other murderous gangs.

What should we have done? What if opposition to war had received a fair break from the media?

Damn good question. I hate to bring attention to my own efforts again, but I was writing letters for at least a year before this stupid war started complaining about the dearth of intelligent opposition to Bush, especially his warmongering. About a month ago, I sent a letter with a list of intelligent and articulate antiwar advocates to a connection at a major media outlet. It was acknowledged but there was no followup.

Look, I'm under no illusions about my importance. If I were in my media connection's position, I wouldn't even bother opening the emails. But I know one thing. If I had been pushed to the point of writing the media nearly every day about the lack of critics of Bush, then people like Schlesinger must have been screaming bloody murder.

So why wasn't anyone listening? What the hell has been going on?

Alterman On Target  

Alterman has a pithy summary of Life Under Bush.The invading force turns out to have been too small.

Homeland security is a joke, and starved for resources.

Oil prices are going sky high and the market had its worse day in six months, during which time it had a lot of bad days.

The first $75 billion is just a downpayment. Expect to pay hundreds of billions in the short-term, trillions in the long run. Expect it to come out of your schools, your police forces, your highways, your future and your children’s future.

Oh, and then there’s the rest of the world. Arthur Schlesinger lays it out in Newsweek” and the Los Angeles Times :

“Today it is we Americans who live in infamy.”

permanent link to this entry 10:39 PM

They Can Be Secret Again  

It's no secret that Bush has a penchant for secrecy, so while it comes as no surprise to learn that yesterday he ordered delays in the declassification of millions of secret papers, leave it to the guy to find that special twist to make the order reflect his own unique brand of bizarre paranoia:
In addition, the order makes it easier for the government to reclassify sensitive information that had previously been made public. The administration official said there may be cases in which information that has already been made public needs to be retrieved and made confidential because it compromises national security.
That's right. Suppose you're just a person who has a jones to learn more about, say, John Poindexter , the convicted Iran-Contra felon who now is putting together Total Information Awareness, a federal program to spy on you bigtime (note to newcomers in Bushology: I am not making this up). And you had in your possession 18 year old emails that Admiral Poindexter would rather you not have that were pried out of the gov under the Freedom of Information Act. Guess who can have them reclassified as secret and have you arrested?

They don't miss a trick at 1600 Penn, believe you me.

The Greatest Debate Since Lincoln-Douglas  

Point-Counterpoint. : Not to be missed.

A Third Foreign Office Resignation  

I missed this one. Ann Wright served for thirty years in the foreign office. At the time of her resignation, she was the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia which, as dinosaurs lovers around the world know, is the coolest place on earth. Anyway, here's the most important paragraph from her letter:
This is the only time in my many years serving America that I have felt I cannot represent the policies of an Administration of the United States. I disagree with the Administration’s policies on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, North Korea and curtailment of civil liberties in the U.S. itself. I believe the Administration’s policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place. I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them.
The other letters, notably Kiesling's, did not refer to any other conflict but Iraq. In short, Ann Wright is accusing the administration, but not Colin Powell specifically, of gross incompetence in foreign affairs.

Smiley Would Be Proud  

Wow! Now I know we're on top of it. For a while I was worried.
The Secret Weapon: CIA

* * *

"When President George Bush decided to strip both Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda of their Afghan sanctuary — a decision that moved the war on terror to an entirely different level — the contribution of intelligence was very plain to see," according to a January speech by James Pavitt, the CIA's deputy director for operations. "The first American team on the ground out there was CIA — for a reason."

"As we saw in Afghanistan, there is a growing and unprecedented relationship between the CIA and Pentagon [now in Iraq]," says a senior White House official.
Wait a minute. Do you mean this CIA? The same CIA that couldn't tell that the Nigerian atomic documents, which formed an essential part of the case that Iraq was acquiring nukes, was in fact such a crude forgery a little bit of googling would have exposed the fraud?
Asked to respond, Harlow, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency had not obtained the actual documents until early this year, after the President’s State of the Union speech and after the congressional briefings, and therefore had been unable to evaluate them in a timely manner. Harlow refused to respond to questions about the role of Britain’s MI6. Harlow’s statement does not, of course, explain why the agency left the job of exposing the embarrassing forgery to the I.A.E.A. It puts the C.I.A. in an unfortunate position: it is, essentially, copping a plea of incompetence.
Nah, gotta be a different CIA, right? Right??? Gulp.

Which brings up a theory I've held for a long time, that even a modestly competent intelligence service would have seen the September 11, 2001 plot coming and warded it off. In fact, the Millenium plot was foiled. But that was under Clinton.

It speaks volumes as to how little attention was paid to bin Laden at the beginning of Bush II that the CIA is considered helpful now, when it still can't avoid knowledgeable attacks on its competency.

A New Master of Suspense  

Josh Marshall thinks he's being funny.
This morning at the American Enterprise Institute, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen and James Woolsey gave a briefing on the progress of the war...

There was a [sic] definitely a sense that things weren't going as well as had been expected.

There was some discussion of the much broader conflict or war of which Iraq is supposed to be only the first battle. But of that, more later.

War Is NOT an Action Movie  

This is what war is about. The pictures are not gruesome, but...well, you should see them for yourself. Via a friend.

Big Big Oops  

Read the paragraph carefully.
And NBC has spent nearly a year planning to outshine rivals in Iraq, including developing new technology to send live, broadcast-quality video from moving vehicles at the front. ''Compare it to what everybody else has,'' Shapiro told the President's Council that day as NBC introduced the technology with MSNBC correspondent David Bloom. ''CNN has a shaky video phone which looks like a bad video game. Fox has a camera that tilts and is grainy and gets blinded by the dust. So I know the competition can't believe what we have.
A year planning to cover the Iraq war that wasn't a go until about two weeks ago. Dang. Do you think they lied to us?

Again, Atrios spots the hypocrisy where others see boilerplate.

Thrilling Coalition of the Willing  

Data compiled from an article in Tapped.
1. Turkey - refused bribe to allow troops on Turkish soil. Recently agreed to use of airspace.
2. Czech Republic - reaffirmed that will not support war w/o UN Backing
3. Eritrea - was at war with #4, UN peacekeepers enforce truce. Weak military.
4. Ethiopia - was at war with #3, UN peacekeepers enforce truce. Weak military.
5. Uganda - State Department warns US citizens not to visit.
6. Rwanda - State Department warns US citizens not to visit.
7. Honduras - State Department warns US citizens not to visit.
8. Georgia - State Department warns US citizens not to visit.
9. Uzbekistan - State Department warns US citizens not to visit.
10. Macedonia - State Department warns US citizens not to visit.
11. Colombia - State Department warns US citizens not to visit.
12. Micronesia - Small island country.
13. Marshall Islands - Small island country.
14. Solomon Islands - Small island country.
15. Singapore (15) - Small island country. Far right dictatorship.
16. Palau (16) - - Small island country.
17. Dominican Republic - One half of the island of Hispaniola, the other half is Haiti.
18. Iceland - Has American military base at Keflavik as incentive.
19. Japan - Will not send troops. Prime minister was "anguished" by decision to join coalition.
20. Panama - No information given in article.
21. Costa Rica - No information given in article.
22. El Salvador - No information given in article.
23. Azerbaijan - No information given in article.
24. Mongolia - Not a significant military power.
25. Albania - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
26. Bulgaria - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
27. Hungary - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
28. Poland - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
29. Romania - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
30. Slovakia - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
31. Estonia - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
32. Latvia - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
33. Lithuania - Allied with US in fear of future aggression by Russia (not in coalition).
34. Britain - One of 7 providing significant # of troops.
35. Australia - Joined at the last minute. One of 7 providing significant # of troops.
36 .Spain - One of 7 providing significant # of troops.
37. Italy- One of 7 providing significant # of troops.
38. Denmark- One of 7 providing significant # of troops.
39. Portugal - One of 7 providing significant # of troops.
40. Netherlands - One of 7 providing significant # of troops.
41. Kuwait - US military protection given by US guarantees support.
42. Philippines - US military protection given by US guarantees support.
43. Afghanistan - US military protection given by US guarantees support.
44. South Korea - US military protection given by US guarantees support.
45. United States - Included on list to boost overal GDP of coalition.
46. Nicaragua - The triumph of Iran - Contra policy.

Take Back the Discourse  

I have been saying this for years. I'm just glad and very relieved that people who actually may be listened to are saying it as well.
...there is nothing more important than taking back the realm of what is considered “normal” in political discourse in this country. "Permissive liberals” have been so successfully demonized many have actually stopped calling themselves that. They have even made us believe that our ideas are offensive.

I would once more like to point out that there is no evidence that the vast majority of Americans are as conservative as the right wing ranters like to pretend.

* * *

The idea that liberalism is something confined to a few deadheads on the coasts is a shibboleth.

* * *

...the [Republican] party is crawling with confederates, anti-semites and anti-immigrant haters. They have also made common cause with a bunch of end-days fundamentalists and self-styled militia. There should be a concerted effort to make the urbanites who profess such solidarity with the pick-up truck crowd confront this and explain it.

* * *

What Neiwert has pointed out in his series on Rush, Newspeak and Fascism is that something actually is happening and it’s dangerous as hell. We don’t have to make anything up. We don’t have to construct a straw man. It’s real. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing this out. Indeed, it is an obligation.
[UPDATE] Kevin at calpundit adds this, to which I take a slight exception.
So the fundamental problem for liberals is this: figuring out how to convince the middle third of voters that they should be afraid of what extreme conservatives are doing. When they are more afraid of them than they are of extreme liberals, then the real work can start.
It is a mistake to call Bush an "extreme conservative." He is a right wing extremist.

They Might Consider Selling Out to Clear Channel  

New York stock exchange bans Al-Jazeera TV station The NYSE says they're 'focusing its efforts on broadcasters that focus on responsible business coverage,' ie, coverage that's pre-approved. Great.

What a Surprise!  

Guess they got lucky.
The first contracts for rebuilding post-war Iraq have been awarded, and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's old employer, Halliburton Co., is one of the early winners.

The Hijacking of the Airwaves  

This story begins by looking at who is behind the pro-war rallies. But it becomes rather ominous.

Yes, there have been pro-war rallies here, but for the most part they are sparsely attended. They call them "Support Our Troops" rallies, as if those of us who want our 20 year old kids out of the range of missiles, bombs and bullets don't. It turns out, in a story that Atrios has been all over, that the largest pro-war rallies are sponsored by...well, let Paul Krugman tell you something about it.
Who has been organizing those pro-war rallies? The answer, it turns out, is that they are being promoted by key players in the radio industry — with close links to the Bush administration.
How close are those links?
Experienced Bushologists let out a collective "Aha!" when Clear Channel [an enormous radio syndication company] was revealed to be behind the pro-war rallies, because the company's top management has a history with George W. Bush. The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks, whose name may be familiar to readers of this column. When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel's chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university's endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire.
This seems to be important. Let's parse it out.

Let's put Krugman's story into chronological order. In the '90's, George Bush was governor of Texas, Tom Hicks was chairman of an investment group called UTIMCO which managed investments for the U of Texas. Lowry Mays was on the board of UTIMCO.

UTIMCO and its chairman (Hicks) accomplished two things of national note. First, the company moved a great deal of the endowment funds of the University to companies who aided the Bush family and the Republican Party.

Second, Mr. Hicks bought the Texas Rangers from George Bush in '98, which made him a multipmillionaire.

Today, Clear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations, controls some 1200 radio stations across the country and, in Krugman's words, "increasingly dominates the airwaves." A subsidiary syndicates Limbaugh and other right wing extremists, for example.

Clear Channel sponsors the pro-war rallies. Their Chairman? Lowry Mays, from the board of UTIMCO. Their vice-chairman? Tom Hicks, chairman of UTIMCO. Officers of the same company that lined the coffers of Bush, his family, and his party.

To make the connections clearer for the visually inclined, here's a chart on how Hicks, Lowry, and Bush inter-relate.

So what does Clear Channel get in return for all this moolah and war rah rah ? Answer: it gets to be left alone.

The FCC under Michael Powell is a doubleplus big fan of deregulation. Under consideration right now are new laws that would increase Clear Channel's power and clout.

There's also some pesky vertical integration lawsuits Clear Channel wants to get rid off. Apparently, the company is in the nasty habit of refusing to play recordings by performers who are not signed to their management division. And even politicians smell a rat.

So, Hicks and Lowry, who helped George Bush get rich and grab the presidency, are currently helping him sell an unwanted war. In exchange, the Bush administration increases deregulation of the media, giving the already dominant radio conglomerate a clear shot at locking up more radio and branching out into TV, further limiting Americans' exposure to voices opposed to the government.

Krugman sums it up.
We should have realized that this is a two-way street: if politicians are busy doing favors for businesses that support them, why shouldn't we expect businesses to reciprocate by doing favors for those politicians — by, for example, organizing "grass roots" rallies on their behalf?

What makes it all possible, of course, is the absence of effective watchdogs. In the Clinton years the merest hint of impropriety quickly blew up into a huge scandal; these days, the scandalmongers are more likely to go after journalists who raise questions. Anyway, don't you know there's a war on?
Krugman's implying that he is once again been targeted for smearing by Bush. It's happened a few times already and they found nothing. Apparently, they haven't given up.

[UPDATE:] Just a thought:

Clear Channel is run by and promotes right wingers on radio.

Rupert Murdoch's newspapers is run by and promotes right wingers in print.

Fox News is run by and promotes right wingers on TV.

It truly begs the question.

Monday, March 24, 2003

The Nation Sees It Clearly  

This is just about perfect. The whole editorial is worth a squint.
If we are present at the creation of a new American empire, we are also present at the creation of another superpower--the largest, most broadly based peace and justice movement in history, a movement that has engaged millions of people here and around the globe. In America, in the weeks and years ahead, this movement confronts several historic challenges. In the long term it must build an alternative foreign policy and sustain its dedication to a nonimperial future. In the short term it must organize to remove the Bush Administration from office and elect new leaders dedicated to international cooperation and peace.

Tales From Bush's America  

Thomas [McClaughlin, a 14 year old student in Arkansas who had been outed by his school principal] said [typewriting teacher] Linda Derden overheard him talking with a female student about a boy they both thought was cute.

"She said, 'That's it, I'm sending you to the office.'"

That meant the office of Assistant Principal Emanuel McGhee. McGhee sat Thomas down and pulled out his Bible, Thomas said.

"He asked me, 'Do you know you're fearfully and wonderfully made?'" Thomas said. "I said, 'Well, I do now, I guess.' He said 'How do you know you're gay? You have so many options.'"
Thomas said McGhee made him read aloud from the Bible, and then gave him a tract from his church and asked Thomas to close his eyes and pray to be saved.

"I said, 'I need to go to class,'" Thomas said.

A couple of days later, Thomas told a friend, Tiffany Eller, what had happened. She dragged him back to McGhee's office, and the three argued about whether what McGhee had done was right.

"I was appalled," Tiffany said. "I asked him, 'Why did you make Thomas read the Bible?' He said, 'I was just letting him see being gay is a sin.'"

"'Condemned to hell,' that's what he said," Thomas added. "I just told him how I felt, how he hurt me doing that, how there's a separation of church and state.
Brave kid. Via CalPundit
I collected the email addresses of the school board and wrote to them I got one reply saying that on a personal level, the person agreed with me, but the board had to investigate. I will stay on top of this one. Read the whole article. The ACLU is on the case, thank goodness.

Into the Valley of Death Rode the 12,000  

Defence experts have warned up to 12,000 allied forces may be killed in the battle for Baghdad.

One expert said yesterday a force of up to 120,000 soldiers would be needed to capture the Iraqi capital and 10 per cent could die in the fight.

* * *

"No prudent, experienced military commander looks at fighting in the built-up areas as anything but the worst of possible choices," he said.

"The advantages that accrue to a defender in a city are that he fights from terrain that is very favourable."

Mr Dupont said that faced with the prospect of so many soldiers being killed, US military leaders may push for a huge bombing of Baghdad to kill Iraqi resistance.

He said this would result in thousands of civilian deaths.

"If you're going to take 5000-10,000 casualties, it may be a better option to bomb certain parts of the city."
Or they could just call it off and go home. Via Atrios

God Is On Neither Side  

A friend of mine, a Catholic priest, sent me these timely words. I haven't yet found an online link, but when I do, I will post it.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reminded political leaders that they cannot invoke the name of God to justify violence.

At a ceremony to carry the "torch of peace," held in Norcia, Italy, St. Benedict's birthplace, the cardinal said: "God is reconciliation and peace. He must be seen as the one who unites us and not as the one who separates us and justifies violence."

The cardinal's statements, broadcasted by RAI, the Italian state television channel, were referring to the religious invocations coming at this time from Washington and Baghdad to justify the war in Iraq to their respective peoples.

"The Holy Father has stressed numerous times that violence cannot be invoked in the name of God," he added.

Cardinal Ratzinger said that the use of religious motivations in the current war was "sad." In his judgment, the conflict "does not respond to criteria of legitimacy."

The Dark Tunnel of War  

An ordinary family in Baghdad
"Iraq is ready for change," the father said. "The people want it; they want more freedom."

But family members expressed anger at the U.S. government, which has promised to liberate them. They criticized President Saddam Hussein and his dictatorial rule, but insisted that pride and patriotism prevent them from putting their destiny in the hands of a foreign power.

* * *

But they bitterly denounced the war the United States has launched. Iraq, perhaps more than any other Arab country, dwells on traditions -- of pride, honor and dignity. To this family, the assault is an insult. It is not Hussein under attack, but Iraq, they said. It is hard to gauge if this is a common sentiment, although it is one heard more often as the war progresses.

"We complain about things, but complaining doesn't mean cooperating with foreign governments," the father said. "When somebody comes to attack Iraq, we stand up for Iraq. That doesn't mean we love Saddam Hussein, but there are priorities."

A friend of the family interrupted. "Bombing for peace?" he asked, shaking his head.

"I don't even care about the leadership," the daughter-in-law said. "But someone wants to take away what is yours. What gives them the right to change something that's not theirs in the first place? I don't like your house, so I'm going to bomb it and you can rebuild it again the way I want it, with your money? I feel like it's an insult, really."

Gathered around the table, the family members nodded their heads.

"There are rumblings of dissent," the father said. "But these rumblings don't mean: Come America, we'll throw flowers at you.

Dear Abby  

Win Without War suggests writing a soldier in combat to express your support. A very good idea. They suggest using this site. Here is my letter:
Dear Soldier,

I am writing to you to express my support and admiration for your courage.

I am one of the million of Americans who support you but have long opposed the Bush administration and many of its policies, including this war. Another policy I oppose is Bush's plan to cut Veteran's benefits. I have already written to my congresspeople and will do so regularly. Those who serve our country like you are doing should have the finest benefits available, not the scraps Bush thinks he can get away with.

I pray that you come home soon to those you love and who love you. I know that they will be proud of you no matter what, but they will be happiest if you simply come home. Please stay safe and remember: Americans fully support you and your efforts, even those who disagree with Bush.

Rachel Corrie  

Rachel was an activist from Washington State. Last week she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home. This article has some details and some horrific pictures of the incident. The Israeli army claims she was killed accidentally. Given the circumstances described which are backed up the photos, that is a lie.

Were it not for the war, this would be one of the most important news stories around. It deserves all the attention we can afford to give it. No one, least of all Israelis, benefit from atrocities committed by the Israeli army. This does not justity Palestinian violence, of course. Both are to be deplored by anyone who sides with reason and life against insane hatred and murder.

[UPDATE] Via, I came across this link to one of Rachel's emails. She expresses a solidarity with Palestinian "fighters who offered their life for their friend" which was probably an expression of sympathy for the suicide bombers. The fact that she was young and foolish doesn't diminish either the horror of her death or the fact that the Israeli army has been aggressive to the point of sadism. Two wrongs don't make a right.

With Friends Like...  

these... seems to us that the only moral and practical option for liberals is to begin immediately campaigning for a more ambitious, comprehensive and compassionate reconstruction of Iraq than the one the Bush administration is likely to embrace -- while supporting the war effort that will lay the groundwork for such plans to be enacted.

Millions of people will soon be freed from a yoke of cruelty and dictatorship. One might have expected liberals to use this moment to cheer the prospect that the war's aftermath could lead to a better life for Iraqis, as well as for those Arabs, Israelis, Turks and Kurds who have for more than two decades lived under the threat of attack by Saddam Hussein.

* * *

Instead, on the brink of the ouster of a dictator who is the very embodiment of illiberal values, too many liberals are on the sidelines throwing beer cans at the proceedings.

* * *

Since September 11, progressives have become infected with a reflexive dread on questions of foreign policy -- first, dread of an imaginary quagmire in Afghanistan, now dread of instability in Iraq, dread of Hussein's demise leading to increased terrorism and dread of what other Arab leaders might think if, God forbid, our actions put pressure on their regimes to liberalize or reform.

Well, we have news for our progressive friends: Dread isn't going to fly with the majority of American voters -- and it isn't progressive.

* * *

Optimism is an invaluable political commodity in America, and it is nearly impossible to win elections without it. Right now Bush has it, and liberals don't.

* * *

Liberals have the skills that will be most needed in nurturing an Iraqi democracy: fostering tolerance and multiculturalism, building mixed and well-regulated economies, creating social safety nets, promoting public health and environmental cleanliness, fighting for civil liberties and beefing up education. Liberals will also be more likely than conservatives to demand that Iraqi oil be turned over to those who rightfully own it, that is, the Iraqi people. Can progressives really afford to leave these important objectives in the hands of Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and their corporate cronies?

Some progressives have contended that liberal nation building doesn't work, but this argument simply doesn't square with the experiences of the last 10 years. Yes, Haiti and Bosnia and Kosovo and Afghanistan continue to experience problems. The operative question, however, is not whether those countries are perfect -- no country, after all, is -- but whether American interventions have in the end left those countries better off than they otherwise would have been. The answer in each case is an unequivocal "yes."

* * *

...we suggest that the true liberal posture at this moment should not be one of reflexive dread. It should be one of overwhelming hope.

My letter in response:
In "Construction Paper," Penniman and Just conclude, "... we suggest that the true liberal posture at this moment should not be one of reflexive dread. It should be one of overwhelming hope."

No. The true liberal posture should be to perceive reality and respond to it with constructive and humane ideas.

Obviously, the US now has a moral obligation to help Iraq rebuild. Obviously, Iraqi kids deserve money for education as much as US kids do. Who seriously opposes either? Not any liberals I know or have read.

But to say that liberals should project "overwhelming hope" at the prospect of the Bush administration trying to rebuild Iraq is laughable. Look at Afghanistan. Look at our own shattered economy and schools. Bush is incompetent. He just can't do it.

As the peace demonstrations conclusively showed, any attempt to engage Bush is an exercise in futility. He can't listen, doesn't care, and if he did care, he couldn't possibly do a good job because his advisers are just as incompetent and pigheaded as he.

The real hope lies in the prospect that a decent US president will replace him. It is in the effort to discredit Bush and his right wing extremism thoroughly that liberals should devote their efforts. So let's join together and agree to send him packing back to Crawford, and fast.

Are You Shocked and Awed?  

Well, then, mozy on over to al-jazeera and take a look at some really great war porn. Warning: These are graphic closeup photos of Iraqi casualties.

You'll never look at the fireworks display over Baghdad the same way again. Thanks to LiberalOasis for the link.

America's Finest News Source  

What would we do without it?
NEW YORK—Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.

"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."

Worshipped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, God said His name has been invoked countless times over the centuries as a reason to kill in what He called "an unending cycle of violence."

Rumsfeld Masters Newspeak  

What're ya gonna believe, me or your own lyin' eyes?
RussertOn Friday night, a very heavy bombing of Baghdad. At the exact time of the bombing --
Rumsfeld: Could I correct you?
Russert: Yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: The pictures made it look like we were bombing Baghdad. We were not bombing Baghdad. That is the greater Baghdad area, and in it there are a large number of military targets and command and control and regime targets. And that is what we were bombing, and it was very precise, and it made it look like the city was ablaze. The city was not ablaze. The Iraqi regime was ablaze

Incredible. Rumsfeld goes out of his way to channel Orwell. From Face the Nation via a friend.

Rumsfeld Masters Newspeak  

What're ya gonna believe, what I tell you, or what you see with your own lyin' eyes?
On Friday night, a very heavy bombing of Baghdad. At the exact time of the bombing --
Rumsfeld: Could I correct you?
Russert: Yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: The pictures made it look like we were bombing Baghdad. We were not bombing Baghdad. That is the greater Baghdad area, and in it there are a large number of military targets and command and control and regime targets. And that is what we were bombing, and it was very precise, and it made it look like the city was ablaze. The city was not ablaze. The Iraqi regime was ablaze

Incredible. Rumsfeld goes out of his way to channel Orwell. From Russert
Face the Nation via a friend.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Incredible Riches Discovered In Iraq  

And it's not just about oil.
The companies that have been invited to bid on the work include some of the nation's largest and most politically connected construction businesses. Among them are Halliburton , where Vice President Dick Cheney served as chief executive from 1995 until mid-2000; the Bechtel Group, whose ranks have included several Republican cabinet alumni; and Fluor , which has ties to several former top government intelligence and Pentagon procurement officials.

Others bidding on reconstruction business are the Parsons Corporation, the Louis Berger Group and the Washington Group International , which absorbed Morrison-Knudsen in 1996.

Two other companies have submitted bids in the current round of contract awards, but contract officials declined to identify them. The final roster of seven bidders has already been narrowed to two or three, and contracts are expected to be awarded this week, according to administration officials.

While those contracts are sizable — potentially worth more than $1 billion — they are a pittance compared with the deals to follow, according to Andrew S. Natsios, the director of United States Agency for International Development, which is overseeing the largest contract put out for bids so far.

But Mr. Natsios disputed some of the outside estimates about the reconstruction costs. For example, a report jointly sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations predicts that it could take $25 billion simply to repair oil export installations and restore the Iraqi electric power system to its status before the first Persian Gulf war in 1991.

They Love Us...  

They love us not:
Traveling unescorted into Safwan today, I got a far different picture. Rather than affection and appreciation, I saw a lot of hostility toward the coalition forces, the United States and President Bush.

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