Saturday, June 21, 2003

Quagmire 1 Update  

Looks like things aren't so groovy and peaceful over in Afghanistan
U.S.-led coalition forces poured into border areas in eastern Afghanistan to prevent insurgents from crossing in from Pakistan to launch attacks, the U.S. military said Saturday.

Operation Unified Resolve began this week in Gosta and nearby districts of Nangarhar province, an area near the Pakistan frontier that has "historically served as an al-Qaida stronghold," U.S. military spokesman Col. Rodney Davis said in an e-mailed statement from Bagram Air Base.

After setting a base this week in Jalalabad, the bulk of the U.S. forces involved on Saturday "conducted an air assault and ground movement in order to rapidly position forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border ... to prevent threat elements from crossing the border," Davis said.

The mission was described as a "cooperative combat and civil affairs operation" that was part humanitarian, part military.

"We're assessing villages to determine their needs for wells, schools, roads, irrigation systems and medical clinics while simultaneously demonstrating our ability to hinder the enemy's movement and apply pressure whenever and wherever we choose," Davis said.

Threats against U.S. forces in Nangarhar were limited to "harassing attacks," mostly homemade bombs in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, Davis said. Some bombs have also targeted local government officials.

Authorities blame the bomb and rocket attacks on renegade warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, Davis said.

Quagmire 1 Update  

Looks like things aren't so groovy and peaceful over in Afghanistan
U.S.-led coalition forces poured into border areas in eastern Afghanistan ( news -web sites ) to prevent insurgents from crossing in from Pakistan to launch attacks, the U.S. military said Saturday.

Operation Unified Resolve began this week in Gosta and nearby districts of Nangarhar province, an area near the Pakistan frontier that has "historically served as an al-Qaida stronghold," U.S. military spokesman Col. Rodney Davis said in an e-mailed statement from Bagram Air Base.

After setting a base this week in Jalalabad, the bulk of the U.S. forces involved on Saturday "conducted an air assault and ground movement in order to rapidly position forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border ... to prevent threat elements from crossing the border," Davis said.

The mission was described as a "cooperative combat and civil affairs operation" that was part humanitarian, part military.

"We're assessing villages to determine their needs for wells, schools, roads, irrigation systems and medical clinics while simultaneously demonstrating our ability to hinder the enemy's movement and apply pressure whenever and wherever we choose," Davis said.

Threats against U.S. forces in Nangarhar were limited to "harassing attacks," mostly homemade bombs in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, Davis said. Some bombs have also targeted local government officials.

Authorities blame the bomb and rocket attacks on renegade warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Osama bin Laden ( news -web sites )'s al-Qaida network, Davis said.

Baghdad Looting at 6000 Objects and Counting  

Worse than was thought earlier.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have confirmed the theft of at least 6,000 artifacts from Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities during a prolonged looting spree as U.S. forces entered Baghdad two months ago, a leading archaeologist said yesterday.

University of Chicago archaeologist McGuire Gibson said the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him June 13 that the official count of missing items had reached 6,000 and was climbing as museum and Customs investigators proceeded with an inventory of three looted storerooms.

The June 13 total was double the number of stolen items reported by Customs a week earlier, and Gibson suggested the final tally could be "far, far worse." Customs could not immediately obtain an updated report, a spokesman said...

Both ground-floor storerooms had been looted, Gibson said. One housed the study collection, while the other held shelved artifacts and about 10 steel trunks containing as-yet unnumbered material from recent digs. All the trunks had been opened and emptied, Gibson said.

Two basement storerooms appeared to be untouched, including one containing most of the museum's priceless collection of cuneiform tablets, Gibson said. The third had been breached, however, and contained "some of the most important stuff in the museum, including pottery and ivory inlays," he added.

"This is the most arrogant administration in memory."  

Eleanor Clift
This is the most arrogant administration in memory. Every day brings another issue where a careful observer of the political scene cannot believe what’s happening. The latest outrage has the White House spinmeisters editing a report by the EPA on the status of the environment to omit mounting concern about climate change.

* * *

The administration’s attitude is like the phone company before the breakup of AT&T when Lily Tomlin, the comedic actress, appeared on stage as a telephone operator telling irate customers, “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

* * *

Democrats once hoped that a return to domestic issues, where they hold an advantage, would be Bush’s undoing. But the White House spin machine succeeds here, as well. Republicans who ordinarily deplore big government are cheering the potential expansion of Medicare to provide a prescription-drug benefit to senior citizens. Never mind that the Rube Goldberg scheme under discussion in Congress won’t go into effect until 2006 or that millions of seniors would pay more for their drugs with the benefit than they currently do without it, Bush will strut like the greatest savior of seniors since FDR brought us Social Security.

* * *

One of the key strategies of the GOP is to portray Democratic critics as un-American. Remember the anonymous Bush strategist quoted some months ago suggesting Sen. John Kerry looks French. There will be two GOP campaigns: the flag-waving one on the surface that Bush is involved with, and then the sub-rosa campaign waged by surrogates that will be less gentlemanly. A very strong point in Bush’s favor is that there hasn’t been another attack on U.S. soil. He’s kept us safe, and he’s kept us fearful, a potent combination that Democrats haven’t yet figured how to crack.
This last point is wrong. There was a terrorist attack a year ago, on July 4, 2002 at LAX. Read about here. On July 5, 2002, the Debka website said the LAX gunman was a member of Egyptian Jihad, which merged with al Qaeda and which was led by al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's right hand man.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Bush Military Blocks Iraqi Elections  

It's something they have experience doing.
American marines had built makeshift wooden ballot boxes. An Army reserve unit from Green Bay, Wis., had conducted a voter registration drive. And Iraqi political candidates had blanketed the city with colorful fliers outlining their election platforms — restore electricity, rehabilitate the old quarter, repave roads.

But last week, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American military occupation in Iraq, unilaterally canceled what American officials here said would have been the first such election in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Overruling the local American military commander, Mr. Bremer decreed that conditions in Najaf were not appropriate for an election.

* * *

The events here exposed an uncomfortable truth of the American occupation. For now, American officials are barring direct elections in Iraq and limiting free speech, two of the very ideals the United States has promised to Iraqis. American officials have said it may take up to two years for an elected Iraqi government to take over the country.

The events also exposed the tightrope Mr. Bremer is walking as he struggles to transform a society and help build a friendly and stable Iraqi government. Privately, American officials said they believed Iraq was not ready for elections, and voting could inflame tensions.

"The most organized political groups in many areas are rejectionists, extremists and remnants of the Baathists," said a senior official in Mr. Bremer's office. "They have an advantage over the other groups." But at the same time, the overt blocking of elections appears to be fueling anger of its own at the United States. In Najaf today, more than 1,000 people demonstrated against the cancellation of the elections. Asad Sultan Abu Gilal, the man many people had expected to win the election, warned of violence.

* * *

Mr. Gilal, who spent six years in prison and fled Iraq after the 1991 uprising, returned to Iraq this spring after living in Saudi Arabia and Finland. He was the candidate of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an opposition group with a long history of support from Iran, which some officials in Washington view suspiciously. He said that American fears of Shiite fundamentalism are overblown and that the party supports the creation of a democracy in Iraq, not an Iranian-style theocracy. But on the outside of the party's offices where Mr. Gilal spoke, a poster invited people to a ceremony marking the anniversary of the death of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the cleric who created Iran's theocracy.
In short, whaaaaaa? The situation in Iraq is extemely complicated. But then everyone knew that, except the morons who lied and dissembled us into this idiotic war and occupation.

Guerillas In Iraq May Not Be Radical Islamists  

Iraq Democracy Watch refers to this article in Asia Times. Apparently, at least some of the Iraqi guerrila fighting is not related to Saddam loyalists:
This Tuesday, the "Iraqi Resistance Brigades", an unknown group, has even claimed the authorship of "all combat operations" against the Americans - at the same time dismissing that they are working in tandem with Saddam Hussein: as Asia Times Online reported on May 28 ( The Saddam intifada ), Saddam has set the official beginning of an anti-American intifada for July 27. In a communique broadcast by Qatar television station al-Jazeera, the Brigades qualify Saddam and his followers as "enemies who have contributed to the loss of the motherland". The Brigades refuse to be regarded as Islamist extremists, and describe themselves as "a group of young Iraqis and Arabs who believe in the unity, freedom and Arabness of Iraq.
The article has a lot of detail about the political parties in Iraq, as well as a discussion of the Shi'ite/Sunni/American power struggle going on.

Generally what Asia Times has written is stuff that I've found to be rather accurate.

Thursday, June 19, 2003


In case you're wondering where you're tax dollars are going, this should give you some idea.
Two top U.S. defense officials signaled Congress on Wednesday that U.S. forces might remain in Iraq for as long as a decade and that permanent facilities need to be built to house them there.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave no explicit estimates for the time U.S. forces would stay in Iraq, but they did not dispute members of Congress who said the deployment could last a decade or more. The comments were among the most explicit acknowledgements yet from the Bush administration that the U.S. presence in Iraq will be long, arduous, costly and a strain on the military.

* * *

Wolfowitz said the size of the supplemental funding request will be determined in the fall. But he did not dispute an estimate by Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C)., that the military would need an annual budget of $54 billion -- $1.5 billion a month for Afghanistan, $3 billion a month for Iraq.

The money would be for costs in fiscal 2004, which starts on Oct. 1 of this year. Former White House budget director Mitch Daniels has said the major combat came in under budget and the administration will not seek additional funds for the Iraq war in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Pace told the committee that the U.S. force in Iraq is just under its peak of 151,000 combat troops and that the number will not be reduced in the foreseeable future.
True, $540 billion doesn't go as far as it used to. But that's a low estimate. And it will take longer than 10 years.

Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for the heads up.

New Republic's History Of The WMD Story  

Read this story now. It is an excellent history of the wmd story in New Republic. It is complete and utterly damning. I am sending this to my congress-folk now.

Don't read these excerpts. Read the entire story. Especially if you have any doubt that the Bush administration has been lying through their teeth.
If an administration represents the intelligence unfairly, it effectively forecloses an informed choice about the most important question a nation faces: whether or not to go to war. That is exactly what the Bush administration did when it sought to convince the public and Congress that the United States should go to war with Iraq.

* * *

The Bush administration decided to go to war with Iraq in the late fall of 2001. At Camp David on the weekend after the September 11 attacks, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz floated the idea that Iraq, with more than 20 years of inclusion on the State Department's terror-sponsor list, be held immediately accountable.

* * *

Unbeknownst to the public, the administration faced equally serious opposition within its own intelligence agencies. At the CIA, many analysts and officials were skeptical that Iraq posed an imminent threat.

* * *

The CIA and other intelligence agencies believed Iraq still possessed substantial stocks of chemical and biological weapons, but they were divided about whether Iraq was rebuilding its facilities and producing new weapons. The intelligence community's uncertainty was articulated in a classified report from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in September 2002. "A substantial amount of Iraq's chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998 as a result of Operation Desert Storm and UNSCOM [United Nations Special Commission] actions," the agency reported. "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has--or will--establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."

* * *

One way the administration convinced the public was by badgering CIA Director Tenet into endorsing key elements of its case for war even when it required ignoring the classified findings of his and other intelligence agencies.

* * *

Facing resistance from the CIA, administration officials began a campaign to pressure the agency to toe the line. Perle and other members of the Defense Policy Board, who acted as quasi-independent surrogates for Wolfowitz, Cheney, and other administration advocates for war in Iraq, harshly criticized the CIA in the press. The CIA's analysis of Iraq, Perle said, "isn't worth the paper it is written on."

* * *

But the Pentagon found an even more effective way to pressure the agency. In October 2001, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith set up a special intelligence operation in the Pentagon to "think through how the various terrorist organizations relate to each other and ... state sponsors," in Feith's description. Their approach echoed the "Team B" strategy that conservatives had used in the past: establishing a separate entity to offer alternative intelligence analyses to the CIA. Conservatives had done this in 1976, criticizing and intimidating the agency over its estimates of Soviet military strength, and again in 1998, arguing for the necessity of missile defense. (Wolfowitz had participated in both projects; the latter was run by Rumsfeld.) This time, the new entity--headed by Perle protégé Abram Shulsky-- reassessed intelligence already collected by the CIA along with information from Iraqi defectors and, as Feith remarked coyly at a press conference earlier this month, "came up with some interesting observations about the linkages between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

* * *

The intelligence community was also pressured to exaggerate Iraq's nuclear program.

* * *

By the fall of 2002, when public debate over the war really began, the administration had created consternation in the intelligence agencies. The press was filled for the next two months with quotes from CIA officials and analysts complaining of pressure from the administration to toe the line on Iraq.

* * *

The administration hadn't won an outright endorsement of its analysis of the Iraqi threat, but it had undermined and intimidated its potential critics in the intelligence community.

* * *

n October 1, 2002, Tenet produced a declassified NIE. But Graham and Durbin were outraged to find that it omitted the qualifications and countervailing evidence that had characterized the classified version and played up the claims that strengthened the administration's case for war. For instance, the intelligence report cited the much-disputed aluminum tubes as evidence that Saddam "remains intent on acquiring" nuclear weapons. And it claimed, "All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program"--a blatant mischaracterization. Subsequently, the NIE allowed that "some" experts might disagree but insisted that "most" did not, never mentioning that the DOE's expert analysts had determined the tubes were not suitable for a nuclear weapons program.

* * *

"We have also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas," he said. "We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States." This claim represented the height of absurdity. Iraq's UAVs had ranges of, at most, 300 miles

* * *

Five of the nine Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Graham and Durbin, ultimately voted against the resolution, but they were unable to convince other committee members or a majority in the Senate itself. This was at least in part because they were not allowed to divulge what they knew: While Graham and Durbin could complain that the administration's and Tenet's own statements contradicted the classified reports they had read, they could not say what was actually in those reports.

* * *

The Bush administration had won the domestic debate over Iraq--and it had done so by withholding from the public details that would have undermined its case for war.

* * *

In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, Bush introduced a new piece of evidence to show that Iraq was developing a nuclear arms program: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. ... Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."

* * *

One year earlier, Cheney's office had received from the British, via the Italians, documents purporting to show Iraq's purchase of uranium from Niger. Cheney had given the information to the CIA, which in turn asked a prominent diplomat, who had served as ambassador to three African countries, to investigate. He returned after a visit to Niger in February 2002 and reported to the State Department and the CIA that the documents were forgeries. The CIA circulated the ambassador's report to the vice president's office, the ambassador confirms to TNR . But, after a British dossier was released in September detailing the purported uranium purchase, administration officials began citing it anyway, culminating in its inclusion in the State of the Union. "They knew the Niger story was a flat-out lie," the former ambassador tells TNR . "They were unpersuasive about aluminum tubes and added this to make their case more persuasive."

* * *

Much of what was new in Powell's speech was raw data that had come into the CIA's possession but had not yet undergone serious analysis.

* * *

by the time Powell made his speech, the administration had stopped worrying about possible rebukes from U.S. intelligence agencies. On the contrary, Tenet sat directly behind Powell as he gave his presentation.

* * *

Baute, the head of the IAEA 's Iraq inspections unit, had been pestering the U.S. and British governments for months to share their intelligence with his office. Despite repeated assurances of cooperation, TNR has learned that Baute's office received nothing until the day before Powell's presentation, when the U.S. mission in Vienna provided the IAEA with an oral briefing while Baute was en route to New York, leaving no printed material with the nuclear inspectors. As IAEA officials recount, an astonished Baute told his aides, "That won't do. I want the actual documentary evidence." He had to register his complaints through a United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission ( UNMOVIC ) channel before receiving the documents the day Powell spoke. It was an incident that would characterize America's intelligence-sharing with the IAEA .

* * *

Baute sat down with the dozen or so pages of U.S. intelligence on Saddam's supposed nuclear procurements--the aluminum tubes, the Niger uranium, and the magnets. In the course of a day, Baute determined, like the ambassador before him, that the Niger document was fraudulent.

* * *

On March 7, IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei delivered Baute's conclusions to the Security Council. But, although the United States conceded most of the IAEA 's inconvenient judgments behind closed doors, Vice President Cheney publicly assaulted the credibility of the organization and its director-general

* * * early 2002 Wolfowitz ordered a CIA report on Blix. When the report didn't contain damning details, Wolfowitz reportedly "hit the ceiling." And, as the inspections were to begin, Perle said, "If it were up to me, on the strength of his previous record, I wouldn't have chosen Hans Blix." In his February presentation, Powell suggested that Blix had ignored evidence of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons production. After stalling for months, the United States finally shared some of its intelligence with UNMOVIC . But, according to UNMOVIC officials, none of the intelligence it received yielded any incriminating discoveries.

* * *

In some cases, the administration may have deliberately lied. If Bush didn't know the purported uranium deal between Iraq and Niger was a hoax, plenty of people in his administration did--including, possibly, Vice President Cheney, who would have seen the president's State of the Union address before it was delivered. Rice and Rumsfeld also must have known that the aluminum tubes that they presented as proof of Iraq's nuclear ambitions were discounted by prominent intelligence experts. [I blogged about this on May 6 here making nearly the same point.] And, while a few administration officials may have genuinely believed that there was a strong connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, most probably knew they were constructing castles out of sand.

* * *

The Bush administration took office pledging to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House. And it's true: Bush has not gotten caught having sex with an intern or lying about it under oath. But he has engaged in a pattern of deception concerning the most fundamental decisions a government must make. The United States may have been justified in going to war in Iraq--there were, after all, other rationales for doing so--but it was not justified in doing so on the national security grounds that President Bush put forth throughout last fall and winter. He deceived Americans about what was known of the threat from Iraq and deprived Congress of its ability to make an informed decision about whether or not to take the country to war.

* * *

Democrats such as Durbin, Graham, and Senator Jay Rockefeller, who has become the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, are now pressing for a full investigation into intelligence estimates of the Iraqi threat. This would entail public hearings with full disclosure of documents and guarantees of protection for witnesses who come forward to testify. But it is not likely to happen.

* * *

The controversy might, indeed, go away. Democrats don't have the power to call hearings, and, apart from Graham and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are treating the issue delicately given the public's overwhelming support for the war. But there are worse things than losing an election by going too far out on a political limb--namely, failing to defend the integrity of the country's foreign policy and its democratic institutions.

How Many Soldiers Need To Die Before It's A Quagmire?  

NY Times
An American soldier was killed south of Baghdad today in an attack with a rocket propelled grenade on a military ambulance, the United States Central Command said.

New Choice To Head of EPA Hates The Environment  

Kempthorne received a near-zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters during his one term as a senator (1993 through 1998), but environmental advocates said his Senate background would probably help ease his confirmation process.

"Gov. Kempthorne is a very nice, personable and noncombative person, which are some of the features the Bush administration is looking for and which will help in confirmation," said Roger Singer, Idaho chapter director of the Sierra Club. "But his record on environmental issues is quite abysmal."

Tomasky On Afghanistan  

The Afghan situation is worse than you thought:
Last week a Pakistani jihadi leader told the Asia Times that he had set up a meeting between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials and Taliban leaders to discuss the seriously deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. At the meeting, held at a Pakistani air-force base, FBI officials floated the possibility that the Taliban might have a role in the future Afghan government on four conditions: that Mullah Omar be removed as leader, that foreign combatants engaged in fighting against U.S. and allied troops be deported, that any captive allied soldiers be released and that Afghans currently living abroad be brought into the government.

Well. The first thing you may be wondering: Why is there a possible role for the Taliban in a future government? Isn't that fellow Hamid Karzai running things, and isn't it all going basically OK? As it turns out, not really and not at all.

* * *

The reality, according to the Asia Times account -- and it practically goes without saying that this report has not filtered its way into the U.S. press -- is an escalating guerilla war in which "small hit-and-run attacks are a daily feature in most parts of the country, while face-to-face skirmishes are common in the former Taliban stronghold around Kandahar in the south."

So the situation is deeply unstable, and in a particular way. Right now, two main factions -- the Karzai-led, pro-U.S. forces, and the Northern Alliance-led troops that tilt toward Russia and Iran -- are competing for control of Kabul. This competition is compounded by the fact that thousands of refugees, many of them former communists, are streaming back into the country.

* * *

Three points need to be made here. The first and most obvious has to do with the administration's hypocrisy. This is an old story to people who watch closely and don't believe the hype they read.

* * *

Second, we're now seeing -- in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the Israeli-Palestinian tension -- that while frontier talk may sound wonderful, the reality of the world is just a little more complex.

* * *

Which brings us to point No. 3: The more that moral complexity and ambiguity seep into the story line here, the better it is for Democrats. Voters will choose Republicans as long as the public's primary concern is cracking heads. But if the concern becomes addressing complicated situations with no easy answers, they may start to look to Democrats. However, for that to happen, Democrats have to offer a strong alternative vision for how America should operate in the world. They need to argue that America is strong not only because of its might but because of its ideals, and because those ideals have won the world's respect and trust, which the Bush administration has tossed to the four winds in ways that Ronald Reagan never would have dreamed of.

Pair an argument like that with smart and consistent critiques of the administration's manifold domestic-security failures and we may be getting somewhere.

Dog Is God Spelled Backwards  

TalkLeft blogs twice about a very strange character named Dog, who is one of the top bounty hunters in the US. He just caught accused rapist Andrew Luster. He claims he was unjustly imprisoned, became a born-again Christian, and makes his living now as a bail bondsman and bounty hunter. He's got a world-class mullet and some great stories on his site.

If We Don't Report It, It Doesn't Exist  

Report by the E.P.A. Leaves Out Data on Climate Change
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.

The report, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, was intended to provide the first comprehensive review of what is known about various environmental problems, where gaps in understanding exist and how to fill them.

Agency officials said it was tentatively scheduled to be released early next week, before Mrs. Whitman steps down on June 27, ending a troubled time in office that often put her at odds with President Bush.

Drafts of the climate section, with changes sought by the White House, were given to The New York Times yesterday by a former E.P.A. official, along with earlier drafts and an internal memorandum in which some officials protested the changes. Two agency officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the documents were authentic.

The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.

Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion.

If It Worked Against Saddam, It Will Work Against Music "Pirates"  

Curing dandruff with decapitation:
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday he favors developing new technology to remotely destroy the computers of people who illegally download music from the Internet.

The surprise remarks by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during a hearing on copyright abuses represent a dramatic escalation in the frustrating battle by industry executives and lawmakers in Washington against illegal music downloads.

* * *

The senator acknowledged Congress would have to enact an exemption for copyright owners from liability for damaging computers. He endorsed technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online behavior, "then destroy their computer.''

* * *

"It wouldn't work,'' Kerr said. "There's no way of limiting the damage.''
Here's the deal. I don't download music except from the iTunes Music Store. Why bother? Most of the stuff I want I already have or I don't want them as cruddy mp3 files or it isn't available.

But the main problems in the music biz aren't the "stealing" of music. It's the godawful music being proffered. It's the godawful business model that can't see insults its best customers and can't figure out how to make a profit in the face of obvious demand for the convenience of digitally based music delivery.

Told You So, Told You So  

"What we are seeing here is a fundamental reassessment of the situation in Iraq in terms of political and military stability," said Daniel Goure, a Pentagon adviser at the Washington-based Lexington Institute.

"We have been operating on two assumptions: that once the war was over the Iraqis would rapidly move into peaceful mode, and second, that there would be a new political and economic spirit in the country. We discovered neither of these assumptions is true."

Understanding Men: A "Nearly Heroic" Undertaking, Even For Scientists
The Y chromosome is probably the weirdest chromosome in the human genome.

* * *

...the Y chromosome is likely a key for understanding male infertility, since genetic defects often cause the inability to procreate. They also were surprised to find that it swaps DNA within itself -- essentially having sex with itself -- to prevent the so-called junk from festering.

* * *

...scientists thought the DNA in Y was inert. During fertilization, all of the other chromosomes from the mother and father swap genes to create a new genetic profile in the embryo. The Y sits out the gene swapping during fertilization. They thought the static DNA led to harmful mutations that couldn't weed themselves out generation after generation.

But in the new study, they found that the male-making chromosome reshuffles it’s DNA continuously within its own borders. This mechanism helps the Y chromosome repair itself when mutations occur.

* * *

Since the DNA in the Y chromosome is so repetitious, it was difficult to decode. Huntington Willard of Duke University wrote a commentary published with the Nature publications, calling the effort "nearly heroic."

Kerry: Bush "Misled Every One Of Us."  

At the BBC website, John Kerry used the L word. The real L word, the one Bush deserves:
"He misled every one of us," Senator John Kerry said, claiming this was one reason he was running for the presidency.

"I will not let him off the hook throughout this campaign with respect to America's credibility and credibility to me because if he lied he lied to me personally," Mr Kerry said, speaking in new Hampshire.

* * *

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says Mr Bush seems to be frustrated, even annoyed by the British debate on weapons of mass destruction and perhaps concerned that a similar row could engulf him as well.
Let's hope so.

But it is still an open question as to whether wmd's could be found.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

More Alike Than Different  

According to this report from the BBC, all modern human beings may descended from a tiny group of 2000 individuals about 70,000 years ago. The article focused on the possibility that homo sapiens nearly went extinct. But I was struck by something else: the biological fact that all humans us are essentially the same for the very simple reason that there hasn't been nearly enough time for truly real differences to appear. So much for the reality of race.
Unlike our close genetic relatives - chimps - all humans have virtually identical DNA. In fact, one group of chimps can have more genetic diversity than all of the six billion humans alive today.

It is thought we spilt from a common ancestor with chimps 5-6 million years ago, more than enough time for substantial genetic differences to develop.

The absence of those differences suggests to some researchers that the human gene pool was reduced to a small size in the recent past, thereby wiping out genetic variation between current populations.

No Comment  

via Cursor

The MoveOn Primary: Register Now!  

MoveOn is holding a presidential "primary" from Tuesday, June 24th 12:00 am to Wednesday, June 25th 11:59 pm (Eastern time). Register here to vote in it.

The candidates have all been interviewed and also written letters to MoveOn. To read them, and you should, go to this page.

Folks, we need to start this early and we must remember to stick together to accomplish the overriding goal we share: the removal of Bush from power in 2004. This means that even if the candidate we like the most is not endorsed by MoveOn, we must support him/her. If the candidate endorsed by MoveOn is not the Dem Party nominee, it is vital that we still vote for him.

No matter who the Dem candidate is - even Lieberman or Sharpton - they would be better, much better than 4 more years of George Bush. This time around, a vote for a third party is helping no one. This is not a case of "right wing Democrats" versus "Wellstone Democrats." This is a case of the country vs. George Bush. Until he has retired and gone back to Texas, it will not be possible for any of us to stem the tide of his crazy policy, let alone advance any worthy cause, from the environment to security to civil rights.

Let's vote for the best candidate in this MoveOn primary, but then, whatever the results, let us join together and vote to defeat Bush.

UPDATE: Nice WaPo article on the MoveON primary.

The War On Liberalism  

One more great post on the increasing number of fascist memes in the US by David Neiwert. It is absolutely worth the effort to read, and then read again.

To summarize a long, but elegant argument, David perceives a convergence of fascist secular elements in the US with right wing religious extremism. Together they are coalescing into a poltical movement he dubs "fascimentalism." In the Islamic world, we see what appears to be a more advanced version of fascimentalism at play in the widespread support of bin Laden and other Islamist extremists.

Therefore, David suggests that the current conflict is not a "clash of civilizations" - Islamic vs. Christian - but a rather a clash between religiously inspired fascism (both Christian and Muslim) and liberalism.

However, he observes, the Christianists have demonized both liberals and Islamists. Even so, the Islamists and the Rudolph/Scalia/Robertson contingent have more in common, both tactically and intellectually (in terms of their political science) than they are willing to admit. David seems to imply that the secular neo-cons, such as the Perle "cabal" will ultimately have to break from the fascimentalists as they have more in common with American liberals than they do with political operatives directly inspired by Christian beliefs.

Herewith the details:

David's argument begins by describing Bush's mixture of the political with the religious:
...George W. Bush makes overt political appeals to the fundamentalist views of his followers -- particularly in portraying himself as receiving divine guidance. This gives him not only a kind of immunity from fault, giving his every step the Lord's imprimatur, but places him in a charismatic position of dual political and religious leadership. It has the effect of leading individual followers to identify their religious beliefs with Bush's political agenda. It also draws the entire fundamentalist bloc behind him politically. This includes the proto-fascist element, whose impact, as we've seen, can far outweigh their numbers. The more we hear talk about Bush leading a national political and religious rebirth, the more we approach the conditions needed for a genuine fascism to arise.

The Manichean dualism -- the cut-and-dried black-and-white worldview -- that comprises the totalist mindset is especially evident among fundamentalists. This has the potential to make them, in many ways, ideal footsoldiers for a kind of Christo-fascism, one which backs theocratic impulses and right-wing extremism with actual political power. In the wake of a severe social disturbance like Sept. 11, this kind of dualism becomes potent in its appeal. [emphasis added]
Historically, however, these trends were all rather far apart in the US: "establishment" conservatives were clearly not fascists and fundamentalism was quite apart from mainstream Christianity:
[In the past,] these extremists were relegated entirely to the fringe. It was easy to distinguish between mainstream conservatives and the participants in the [Christian ]Identity and Posse [Comitatus] movements, and only at the edges of both sectors (see, for example, the colorful career of former Rep. George Hansen, R-Idaho) was there much exchange of ideas and agendas. Likewise, there was a tremendous gulf between mainstream Christianity, even the fundamentalist variety, and the Christian fascists.

That began to change in the 1990s, thanks to the confluence of two forces: the emergence of the Patriot movement and the growing revolutionary fervor of conservatives in their drive to dominate the halls of power. The proto-fascist Patriots represented the efforts of Christian fascism to mainstream itself, and their relative success, though fleeting, gave a surprising indication of the presence of a totalist mindset in America, particularly among conservative fundamentalists. Conservatives, looking to broaden their appeal and undercut mainstream liberalism, began adopting more ideas and memes that had their origins in the Patriot movement, thereby blurring the barriers that had once clearly delineated the mainstream and extremist right.

Fundamentalism was particularly ripe territory for this, especially since so many of the issues that attract both mainstream conservatives and extremists -- abortion, education, gay rights, taxes -- revolve significantly around organizing by conservative Christians. And as we have seen, fundamentalism is particularly hospitable anyway to a totalist worldview. In this kind of crucible, the barriers all but dissolved. The trend has continued into this decade, even as the former footsoldiers of the Patriot movement have returned to the GOP fold, which has further blurred the lines.
Today, however, the extremist Identity movement has found ways to mainstream its rhetoric while less extreme rightwingers, such as Limbaugh, become more and more hostile and demanding. Their interests have started to converge:
It became apparent, for instance, after the recent arrest of right-wing terrorist Eric Rudolph, the man who bombed the Atlanta Olympics as well as a string of abortion clinics and gay bars in the 1990s. A story in the New York Times pondered whether Rudolph should properly be called a "Christian terrorist." It included an interview with one of Rudolph's local sympathizers:

"He's a Christian and I'm a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion," said Mrs. Davis, 25, mother of four. "Those are our values. And I don't see what he did as a terrorist act."

Both Mrs. Davis and the reporter's basic question eliminated the distinction between Identity and Christianity -- something that has become increasingly easy to do as Identity rhetoric attunes itself to the mainstream, and conservatism itself becomes increasingly bellicose and intolerant. These lines blurred even further as other media reports picked up the "Christian terrorist" idea and played with it.
It is important to note that right wing terrorism in the US (both religious and secular) is responsible for many more incidents per year than Islamist terrorism:
It boils down to this: The War on Terror, if it is to take on all forms of terrorism that genuinely threaten both American lives and our democratic institutions, is not a war against Islam. It is not even necessarily a war against fundamentalism. Rather, it is against the religious fascism that has embedded itself within the broader fundamentalist sectors of both Christian and Muslim societies.
Exactly. David proposes a new term to describe the movement that combines fascist political agendas with fundamentalist religious belief:
Call it fascimentalism : a political movement that claims to represent a Phoenix-like resurrection of a true national spiritual identity, focused on building a theocratic state that receives its imprimatur from God, ultimately adopting a rule based on scriptural inerrancy, and intent on dominating and imposing its will upon the rest of the world.

In the Islamic world, this movement has manifested itself in the growth of Al Qaeda and the ascendance of such radicals as Abdullah Azzam and Omar Abdul Rahman as major influences in Islamism, as well as the entrenchment of Wahabbism as the chief political power in such states as Saudi Arabia. The consequences of this trend have become obvious to all the world since Sept. 11.

In the Christian world, the trend is much less pronounced but still present. It exists in the increasing identification of mainstream fundamentalism with its more radical components, particularly the anti-abortion and anti-gay rights extremists. It is latent in the openly theocratic approach to governance propounded by Christian Reconstructionists and neoconservative moralists like Antonin Scalia.
It's an interesting term, which describes the very similar topography of extremist Islamism and extremist Christianism, something I blogged about here. However, the American fascimentalist coalition is very unstable. As David knows better than I, there are profound differences in world view between Identity believers and Antonin Scalia. Nevertheless, both Scalia and Identity have an overriding goal for the US: a theocratic state. Therefore, to reinforce the ties among members of the coalition, American fascimentalists demonize an external, common enemy, an enemy also targeted by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri: liberals. To a great extent, then, the focus of US anti-terrorism activities mayb be going dangerously askew:
As the War on Terror, instead of combating the rise of fascimentalism, transforms itself into a War on Liberals; as conservatives increasingly identify themselves as the only "true" Americans; as Bush continues to depict himself as divinely inspired; as the political bullying that has sprung up in defense of Bush takes on an increasingly righteous religious cast; and as free speech rights and other democratic institutions that interfere with complete political control by conservatives come increasingly under fire, then the conditions for fascimentalism will almost certainly rise to the surface.

These conditions remain latent for now, but the rising tide of proto-fascist memes and behaviors indicates that the danger is very real, especially as fascimentalist terrorist attacks take their toll on the national sense of well-being and security. It may take fully another generation for it to take root and blossom, but its presence cannot be ignored or dismissed.
European fascism was a terrible thing. An American fascism, though, could very well devastate the world.
I think Dave's analysis is extremely useful. It enables liberals to define religious fanatics both within Christianity and within Islam as two instances of a common enemy that must be confronted and neutralized. Perhaps a more eupohonious term is needed, as precise as "fascimentalist" is. "Nationalist Fundamentalism", which echoes National Socialism? Someone better than me at coinage is desperately needed!

As the implications of David's formulation are rather far-reaching, here are some preliminary thoughts which I'm mulling over.

Perhaps just a quibble, but regarding Islamism, the mixture of religion and politics is more complex than simply the infection of a religious tradition with nationalism and centralized control. According to Gilles Kepel, as quoted by Clifford Geertz in The New York Review of Books, both left and right saw in Islamism an opportunity to advance their agenda until finally, "more and more people, both within the Middle East and without began to view Islamism as the authentic creed of modern Muslims, to see in it the outline of an Islamic civilization within the multicultural world of the coming twenty-first century."

On the other hand, here in the US, there has not been very much interest in the development of a left-leaning Christianism. Indeed, the idea sounds silly, even though there is plenty in the Gospel upon which to hang such a belief system. And in a certain way, this presents major obstacles to the rise of a fascimentalist US state. Unlike, say Iraq, which has essentially one religion (albeit with two major subgroups), the US is too religiously diverse for a genuine theocracy to take over. True, the neo-fascists around Bush have openly piggybacked on US fundamentalisms of many stripes - Jewish, Catholic and Protestant. Even so, it is difficult for me to imagine that, say Rumsfeld, or the neo-con Cabal would feel comfortable with a truly Christianist US government.

While a completely theocratic American state seems less likely to me than it may seem to David (again, however, caveat lector: David is far more knowledgeable about the extent of religious right wing activities than I), a proto-fascist government is something that is very much within the realm of possibility, as Bush's entire national career demonstrates. Depending upon how seriously you take such phenomena as the 2000 vote, Fox News, the Patriot Act, the silence of the Dems, and the TIA, the groundwork has already been laid and the rough outline of an openly fascist, but secular, US domestic and foreign policy can easily be discerned.

If this is so, what we would expect to see would be a split opening up between the secularist neo-cons and the religious right. In fact, we are seeing just that, with fundamentalist anger at the amount of support Bush gave Santorum during his recent flap over bestiality. We should do everything possible to encourage this split and exacerbate it.

Another thought: Try as hard as they do to deny it, the neos, despite serious flirtations with fascistic ideas and techniques, have much more in common with the larger tradition of European liberalism than they do with the fundamentalists. While American liberals are currently convenient punching bags for their rise to power, while unlikely to triumph, ultimately fascimentalism will create no end of headaches for the neocons.

Ultimately, the neocons will have to deal with liberals if they want to stay in power. So the sooner they get their divorce from the Bible thumpers, the better.

White Man's Burden  

via Iraq Democracy Watch:
"They are quite capable intellectually," said Lt. Col. P.J. Dermer, who is working with the civil administration to develop grass-roots democratic practices in Baghdad. "The assets are there. The mentality doesn't exist. They need us. They know it's up to us to walk them through this.
LA Times

No Comment  

Democracy Is An Obstacle  

Eliot Weinberger writes in Vorwarts from Germany What is Happening in America? The whole rant is so great and so frightening, you should just read it. Here's the end:
This is, quite simply, the most frightening American administration in modern times, one that is appalling both to the left and to traditional conservatives. This junta is unabashed in its imperialist ambitions; it is enacting an Orwellian state of Perpetual War; it is dismantling, or attempting to dismantle, some of the most fundamental tenets of American democracy; it is acting without opposition within the government, and is operating so quickly on so many fronts that it has overwhelmed and exhausted any popular opposition.

Perhaps it cannot be stopped, but the first step toward slowing it down is the recognition that this is an American government unlike any other in this country's history, and one for whom democracy is an obstacle.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

War on Our Freedoms  

I've mentioned a few times this new book War on Our Freedoms which is a collection of essays about the assault on our civil rights. Now, someone far more qualified than I weighs in with his judgement:
"The collateral damage wrought by Mr. Bush's war is not confined to Iraq. What that war is doing to the fabric of American freedom, justice, and law is already ominous. THE WAR ON OUR FREEDOMS is a calmly reasoned report on what the administration has contrived against our liberties in the name of homeland security."

~Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
You can order it at the website above or throughAmazon here.

Reading Bush Closely: Revisionist History  

Bush is getting desperate, and when he gets desperate, he starts piling on the rhetorical tricks. In a speech yesterday, the NY Times noticed that Bush failed to mention the missing WMDs. The Times notes that, embarassed by the failure to find the damn things, Bush has decided that from now on, he'll ignore the issue.

But that's not all Bush did. Not by a long, long shot.

Here is a three sentence excerpt of what he actually said in that speech:
[T]here are some who would like to rewrite history -- revisionist historians is what I like to call them. Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and the free world in '91, in '98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world, so the United States and friends and allies acted.
This short phrase is packed with a breathtaking array of logical fallacies, grammatical errors, lies by omission, distortions, and grotesquely unfair attacks.

The most egregious tactic is, of course, projection . As Bush rewrites the WMD search out of history, he has the unmitigated gall to accuse his opponents of rewriting history

Bush also uses personalization here: "revisionist historians is what I like to call them." In a very interesting article in The Nation this week, Renana Brooks discusses the extraordinary amount that Bush personalizes. While The Nation article is not available online, a similar article on Brooks's website notes that personalization is the "hallmark" of an abusive personality. And, Brooks notes, Bush uses personalization all the time, for example in his speech to Congress immediately post 9/11: "I will not falter, I will not tire, I will not fail."

In addtion, Bush employs one of his favorite constructions in the above quote: "There are some who..." Usually, Bush uses the "some who" technique merely to exaggerate an opponent's position (the straw man) as ,for example, here, regarding tax cuts: "Some members of Congress support tax relief but say my proposal is too big" .

It is rather rare for Bush to combine the straw man with projection, and for good reason. The purpose of a straw man is to create an easily refuted argument. If that straw man is, in fact, a projection of your own position, you are saying that your argument is incredibly weak.

Finally, Bush goes much further than the Times says he does in terms of not mentioning those pesky WMDs.

The Times noticed only that Bush failed to mention the weapons search. But look again. While Bush says that Saddam Hussein was a continuing threat and that "he continually ignored the demands of free world," we don't learn from this speech what the threat was that Saddam posed, nor what the demands were.

Of course, the threat was the existence of WMDs in Iraq and the demands were to destroy them. Bush not only wrote out the search for banned weapons. Bush buried the entire issue of the banned weapons.

As Dr. Brooks rightly points out, unless the Democrats directly address this sophisticated rhetorical assault and provide an alternative, they are in serious trouble.

More to come.

UPDATE LiberalOasis notes that the phrase "what I like to call" is used by Bush to refer to things originally publicized by someone else, in the above case, Condoleeza Rice.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Write What You Cannot Possibly Know  

Cynthia Ozick On Helen Keller in The New Yorker:
Those who ridiculed her rendering of color she dismissed as “spirit-vandals” who would force her “to bite the dust of material things.” Her idea of the subjective onlooker was broader than that of physics, and while “red” may denote an explicit and measurable wavelength in the visible spectrum, in the mind it varies from the bluster of rage to the reticence of a blush: physics cannot cage metaphor.

She saw, then, what she wished, or was blessed, to see, and rightly named it imagination...She was a member of the race of poets, the Romantic kind; she was close cousin to those novelists who write not only what they do not know but what they cannot possibly know.

* * *

“Blindness has no limiting effect upon mental vision,” she argued again and again. “My intellectual horizon is infinitely wide. The universe it encircles is immeasurable.”

* * *

Her legacy, after all, is an epistemological marker of sorts: proof of the real existence of the mind’s eye.

The New Yorker: What About Those WMDs?  

Philip Gourevitch brilliantly summarizes nearly a year of lies about Iraq. [
I]n a country where the previous President’s lies about consensual adulterous relations were considered ground for impeachment, truthtelling about the gravest affair of state—the waging of war—must stand as a paramount value

The Fellowship: The Real Vast Right Wing Conspiracy  

Via Alternet comes an interview with Jeffrey Sharlet, the reporter who went undercover in this bizarre house in Washington, DC and found The Fellowship, a super-powerful group of religious nuts who think Jesus is with you when you play basketball and that Hitler is a good leadership model. This interview expands upon what he wrote in a his Harper's article and it is must reading:
The goal [of The Fellowship] is an "invisible" world organization led by Christ -- that's what they aspire to. They are very explicit about this if you look in their documents, and I spent a lot of time researching in their archives. Their goal is a worldwide invisible organization. That's their word, and that's important because it sounds so crazy.

What they mean when they say "a world organization led by Christ" is that literally you just sit there and let Christ tell you what to do. More often than not that leads them to a sort of paternalistic benign fascism.

* * *

Colson said there are about 20,000 people involved in the U.S. But you aren't really supposed to talk about it.

I always say to interviewers, "This is not a conspiracy." There's no secret badge or anything. It's much looser. This is how the vast right-wing conspiracy works, by being associates, friends.

* * *

The core issue is capitalism and power. The core issue they would say, is love. There are a lot of different things love means. They will always work with both sides of the issue.

* * *

The religious context is real. The Old Boys Network is about business. This is about more than business. This is about maintaining a certain kind of power, a certain view of how power should be distributed. The Episcopalian Old Boys Network was a lot more easygoing than this. This is a lot more militaristic. Really at its fundamental core, almost monarchist. We would be told time and time again, "Christ's kingdom is not a democracy" This is their model for leadership. They would often say, "Everything you need to know about government is right there in the cross - it's vertical not horizontal."

* * *

The leader of the group is having dinner with the younger members of that group and is talking about the bond, the covenant. And he says, "Can anyone think of someone who had a covenant?" And the answer, of course, and everyone knows it, is "Hitler."

This goes back to the 1960's, Vereide was instructing young men by having them read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich -- "Look at what those guys did." But they will say, "We are not trying to kill Jews." What we are talking about is imagine if you took the "Hitler Concept," and they'll use that phrase, the Hitler Concept, to work for Christ, or the Mao Concept. We're not right wingers, they'll say. You can use the Mao Concept.

GNN: Define what they mean by Hitler Concept.

SHARLET: A loyal leadership cadre, which is interesting because guys like Hitler and Stalin were famous for purging, but they seem to focus on a couple of guys.

* * *

All these guys Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden is another guy they cite a lot, are guys who understood the power of a political avant garde. That's what they mean by the Hitler Concept. Also keeping your message simple, and repeating it again and again because there is only one message and it is "Jesus Loves." You can express lots of different things with that term.

...They are not the traditional right wing bad guys. They have been able to do what they do for so long because no one has been looking for this kind of thing.

A lot of this is already in the culture, take [the book] "Ghengis Khan Business Secrets," for instance, the admiration authoritarian leaders.

* * *

They are really interested in the biblical concept that whether you are good or bad it doesn't matter, what matters is whether you are chosen. That's part of the Hitler Concept. It doesn't matter whether Hitler was good or bad, Hitler was chosen for leadership. That was part of God's plan. Nothing happens that isn't part of God's plan.

* * *

I think they are definitely a force for fascism. I think a lot of the way the world looks is a result of their work. They were instrumental in getting U.S. government support for General Suharto, for the generals' juntas in Brazil. Just take those two countries alone, they are two of the biggest countries on Earth. Those countries might have been progressive democracies a long time ago had it not been for U.S. support for those regimes .

* * *

Why [are more journalists] not following up on it? I don't know. Partly because it's so crazy, and partly because there is this idea that religion and politics are separate and religion is a personal thing. The media has always been pretty dumb when it comes to religion. In the New Yorker profile of John Ashcroft they talk about his weekly prayer breakfast, Steve Largent, [former congressman from Washington] in The New York Times, same deal. I think they interviewed him while he was living at the house. The reporter never asked, "Hey, how did you get involved in this? Is this something that existed before you?" The reporter sort of implied it was Largent's idea for the weekly prayer breakfasts.

It hasn't been that secret. The New Republic did an exposé in the late 60's, early 70's, and no one really followed up. Robert Scheer did a piece on it in Playboy in the 1970's.

Rumsfeld Meets St. Peter  

Donald Rumsfeld went to the gates of Heaven and met St. Peter who stood in front of millions, upon millions of clocks. "Tell me, oh great Saint Peter," what do those clocks behind you mean?"

St Peter looked at Rumsfeld with his ancient, rheumy eyes.

"Each clock shows the truthfulness of one human soul", St. Peter's voice echoed over the expanse of heaven. "If you do not lie, the hands never move."

"I don't understand," replied Rumsfeld.

"See that clock over there, the ones with the hands at 12:00 noon? That's Mother Teresa's clock and it's at 12:00 because she never told a lie." St. Peter gestured to his right, a little bit in the distance. " And see that one? Only a few minutes past 12:00. That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. Very honest man, that Honest Abe."

"How extraordinary!"said Mr. Rumsfeld, "And over there, where the clock reads 6:30, that must be Bill Clinton's, for every other word he says is a lie."

"Right you are!" chuckled St. Peter. "Most observant."

But Rumsfeld suddenly looked puzzled. "But St. Peter, I notice one clock is missing. Try as hard as I can, I can't find George W. Bush's clock."

"Why yes, George's clock is no longer here. He asked if he could have it for his office, so I gave it to him."

"Why on earth did he want it there?" asked Rumsfeld.

"He said it gets hot in Washington over the summer. So he wanted to mount his clock on the ceiling and use it as a fan."

Christian Missionaries Or Religious Yuppies?  

Daily Kos linked to this article in the Austin Statesman about some "christian missionaries" who went to Iraq for a week and distributed 100 Bibles:
During a weeklong whirlwind trip through Iraq in May, 13 evangelists delivered more than 100 New Testaments, copies of the Gospel of Luke and "Why Jesus" booklets to Iraqis and American troops.

"Most of the people we gave them to grabbed them, kissed them and hugged them," Carl Medearis, one of the trip leaders, wrote in an e-mail he sent back home to America. "A young man I gave one to burst into tears and said over and over again, 'My family will be SO happy when they see this.' Another man told me he had searched for the Bible for years but didn't know anyone who could tell him where one was. Everyone begged us to come back."

The evangelists -- pastors and career missionaries from Austin, Waco and elsewhere in the United States, Britain and Holland -- also attended church services and walked the streets of Basra to "share the Good News of Jesus directly and indirectly," Jeff Newman, senior pastor of Vineyard Christian Fellowship Austin, wrote in an e-mail home. As they walked, they handed out 50 hardbound copies of the Gospel of Luke, translated into modern Arabic.

* * *

"We certainly feel like the people of Iraq, just like all the people of the world, have a right to hear that there's a God who loves them and that they can have a relationship with God,"

* * *

"When we go over there, we're not trying to push Christianity on them or even religion," he said. "We're just there to talk about Jesus."
Apparently, the "missionaries" - actually religious yuppies - are unaware that both Moses and Jesus are considered great Prophets in Islam. The difference is that Muslims do not believe that Jesus was God or that God is tripartite. Neither did Newton, for that matter.

The Qu'ran is only the final of the Revelations, according to Muslims. It does not invalidate the earlier Revelations to Jews and Christians. Furthermore, both Jews and Christians are held, by the Qu'ran at least, to be be fulfilling God's mission if they follow their own teachings.Hence, tolerance for other religions is built into Islamic scripture. Alas, the same cannot be said of Jewish and Christian scripture.

However, the Qu'ran does make anti-Jewish statements which are attributed to a later part of Muhammed's life when he was at war, so the actual Qu'ran is as ambiguous and as open to interpretation, both peaceful and violent, as many other monotheistic texts.

In short, in all these texts you find yourself and your own desires more often than you find a path to God. But the more you read any great religious writing, the clearer it becomes that any path to God can never include intolerance or violence.

As for Muslims having a "right" to hear about Jesus, Muslims also have a right not to have spiritual morons inflict their half-baked beliefs on them.

As should be obvious, there are limits to anyone's tolerance. Mine ends with right wing fundamentalist "christians" and their colleagues in all other religions.

If they are the ones that end up in heaven, I pray that I end up somewhere else.

Bushites Are "Underestimating the Enemy"  

David Neiwert also links to this important WaPo article about the resignation of Rand Beers, a top counter-terrorism adviser in the Bush White House. To give an indication of who he was, his credits include replacing Oliver North on Reagan's NSC staff as director of counterterrorism and narcotics.

This is no hysteric. He resigned from the Bush II White House because he was extremely worried about their incompetence and narrow-mindedness:
"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

* * *

"Counterterrorism is like a team sport. The game is deadly. There has to be offense and defense," Beers said. "The Bush administration is primarily offense, and not into teamwork."

* * *

Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

* * *

He thinks the war in Afghanistan was a job begun, then abandoned. Rather than destroying al Qaeda terrorists, the fighting only dispersed them.

* * *

"I can't think of a single example in the last 30 years of a person who has done something so extreme," said Paul C. Light, a scholar with the Brookings Institution. "He's not just declaring that he's a Democrat. He's declaring that he's a Kerry Democrat, and the way he wants to make a difference in the world is to get his former boss out of office."

* * *

"Randy's your model government worker," said Wendy Chamberlin, a U.S. Agency for International Development administrator for Iraq, who worked with Beers on counterterrorism on the NSC of the first Bush administration. "He works for the common good of the American people. He's fair, balanced, honest. No one ever gets hurt feelings hearing the truth from Randy."

* * *

Part of [his increasing concern] stemmed from his frustration with the culture of the White House. He was loath to discuss it. His wife, Bonnie, a school administrator, was not: "It's a very closed, small, controlled group. This is an administration that determines what it thinks and then sets about to prove it. There's almost a religious kind of certainty. There's no curiosity about opposing points of view. It's very scary. There's kind of a ghost agenda."

* * *

He had briefly considered a think tank or an academic job but realized that he "never felt so strongly about something in my life" than he did about changing current U.S. policies.
Beers is not the first important beaurocrat to leave the Bush administration in protest over its incompetence or stupidity. The list includes:

John O'Neill - The FBI expert on Osama bin Laden, who quit the FBI in summer 2001 in frustration because no one was listening to his warnings. He was killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center; he had taken a job as head of security there just days before.

J. Brady Kiesling - the career diplomat who resigned in protest over Iraq.

Paul O'Neill - Secretary of the Treasury who was forced out, not because of his idiotic remarks about nuclear power and the like, but because he refused to fudge the numbers about the cost of the Bush's Iraq war.

Thomas White - Secretary of the Army, forced out by Rumsfeld, not because of his obvious corruption at Enron prior to joining the administraion, but because he dared challenge Rumsfeld's "on the cheap" war plan strategies.

And let 's not forget Jim Jeffords, the longtime Vermont Senator who switched parties in the early months of the Bush Administration in protest over their agenda, a switch that served to tip the balance of the Senate to the Democrats, at least temporarily.

And of course, there are additional foreign diplomats who followed Kiesling, three White House cultural advisers who resigned in the wake of the Museum lootings in Baghdad, and others.

This truly is only the beginning.

Don't Ignore Extremist Ideologies  

David Neiwert reprints an important post from Mark Pitcavage, who is the the ADL's director of fact-finding and, as David says, "one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about right-wing extremists. " The issue is the importance of ideology in their psyche.

Pitcavage says:
In the past year or so, I have noticed a distressing number of times when commentators to the media, trainers of law enforcement officers, and others have significantly downplayed the role that ideology/theology plays in motivating extremists to commit criminal acts. ...

I don't think you can ever dismiss the ideology/theology, and I think that even to downplay it is a big mistake. Ideology/theology really can and does play a significant motivating factor in criminal extremism and terrorism. If we ignore that, we do so at our own peril.
The post explains the reasons Pticavage thinks it is important never to minimize the influence of the ideological component of extremists.

I recently made a somewhat similar point, regarding the importance of distinguishing between "Christians" - the followers of a religious tradition - and "Christianists" -those inspired by Christianity to undertake political action to create an explicitly religious state. By taking the effort to make such a distinction, the high reputation of a great religious tradition is restored to its devout followers, while the opportunistic hijacking of that tradition by extremists is exposed for what it is.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

The Trailers Just Blow Up Balloons  

What a surprise, huh?
An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist.

The conclusion by biological weapons experts working for the British Government is an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who has claimed that the discovery of the labs proved that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction and justified the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein.

Instead, a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: 'They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.'
Repeat: I have no idea if there are any wmd's in Iraq. Neither does Bush. The difference is that Bush doesn't care.

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