Saturday, April 24, 2004

You Mean Bush Never Saw Them Before?  

Bush moved by casket photos:
President Bush was 'moved' by recently published photos of caskets containing U.S. military personnel slain in Iraq but stands by his policy barring their publication, a White House spokesman said Friday.
No, we don't know exactly when he first saw the coffin photos, but dollars to donuts he never bothered to before they were on TV (remember, he doesn't read papers).

Operation No More Mr. Nice Guy  

Here we go again, folks. Two guesses what they'll "decide", as if the decision wasn't made weeks ago to collectively punish the town for the deaths of the 4 private American soldiers:
Facing one of the grimmest choices of the Iraq war, President Bush and his senior national security and military advisers are expected to decide this weekend whether to order an invasion of Falluja, even if a battle there runs the risk of uprisings in the city and perhaps elsewhere around Iraq.

After declaring on Friday evening in Florida that "America will never be run out of Iraq by a bunch of thugs and killers," Mr. Bush flew to Camp David for the weekend, where administration officials said he planned consultations in a videoconference with the military commanders who are keeping the city under siege.

In Iraq on Saturday, a day of widespread violence, at least 14 Iraqis were killed in Baghdad when mortar bombs and rockets were fired into a crowded market in Sadr City, the poor neighborhood that is the stronghold of a rebel Shiite cleric who has declared solidarity with the Sunnis fighting Americans in Falluja.

A roadside bomb killed 14 Iraqis traveling in a bus south of Baghdad. At least seven American soldiers were killed in two attacks by insurgents.
I hope to God I'm wrong and that a bloodbath in Falluja is not imminent. Stupid and immoral are the only words to come to mind about such an action, not necessarily in that order.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Political Hate Speech  

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.) began the attack by denouncing the Massachusetts senator on the 33rd anniversary of his testimony before a Senate panel in which he sharply criticized the conduct of some U.S. troops in Vietnam. Kerry, a decorated Navy officer in Vietnam, became a prominent antiwar spokesman after his discharge.

Johnson, who spent seven years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war, said the young Kerry "blasted our nation, chastised our troops and hurt our morale. . . . What he did was nothing short of aiding and abetting the enemy." Comparing Kerry to former antiwar activist Jane Fonda, Johnson said: "He's called Hanoi John."

The presiding officer, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), briefly cautioned members not to disparage senators by name, but other Republicans poured it on. Rep. John Kline (Minn.) said Kerry's service in the war "does not excuse his joining ranks with Jane Fonda and others in speaking ill of our troops or their service, then or now." Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (Calif.), whose plane was shot down over North Vietnam, said Kerry's 1971 remarks angered Cunningham and his comrades at the time. "We do not need a Jane Fonda as commander in chief," he said.

Out There In the Wild Blue Yonder  

Say what you want about him, but you can't deny that Paul Wolfowitz is a brilliant man.

The proposal, pressed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, called for President George W. Bush to declare Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as an enemy combatant in the war on terror. This would have allowed Yousef to be  transferred from his cell at the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s “supermax” penitentiary in Florence, Colo., to a U.S. military installation.

Wolfowitz contended that  U.S. military interrogators—unencumbered by the presence of Yousef’s defense lawyer—might be able to get the inmate to confess what he and the lawyer have steadfastly denied:  that he was actually an Iraqi intelligence agent dispatched by Saddam to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 as revenge for the first Persian Gulf War. 

The previously unreported Wolfowitz proposal—and the high-level consideration it got within the Justice Department—sheds new light on the Bush administration’s willingness to expand its use of enemy-combatant declarations inside the United States beyond the three alleged terrorists, two of them American citizens, who have already been designated by the White House.

It also underscores the persistence with which Wolfowitz and his allies within the Pentagon pursued efforts to uncover evidence of links between Saddam’s government and Al Qaeda—a key, and still disputed, element in the Bush administration’s case for war. One principal reason for that persistence, sources say, was Wolfowitz's fascination with the conspiracy theories of academic Laurie Mylroie, who has argued in a series of books and magazine articles that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, along with virtually every other terrorist strike in the years since that have been commonly attributed to Al Qaeda.
via Digby

Three Cheers For Juan Cole  

In responding to some questions posed by Christopher Hitchens Juan Cole shows us all how to respond to such stuff: you dispute the honesty of the questions by pointing out the traps and logical fallacies. Also, you pose numerous questions of your own.

But most importantly, you never, ever answer a question that is dishonestly framed. Ever.

Read it al, not for the answers to Hitchens questions, but for guidance on how to answer similar ones.

Ghost Wars  

Here's a very interesting quote from page 26 of Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. He's discussing the rise of politically active fundamentalists in the US:
The American clergy followed an unusual, wahhabist doctrine of Christianity often referred to as "Puritanism," after its founders who wanted to "purify" Christianity and who regarded all forms of adornment and modernity as blasphemous.
I'se like, "Huh???!!!!??? That's so totally not right!"

Wtf does Puritanism have to do with wahhabism?!!!?!?!

Exactly nothing and that's the point.

You see, I, eh, misquoted "Ghost Wars." Mr. Coll's sentence was, in fact, actually the other way around. He was really discussing the rise of politically active fundamentalists in what is now Saudi Arabia and this is what he wrote:
The Saudi clergy followed an unusual, puritanical doctrine of Islam often referred to as "Wahabbism," after its founder, Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab, an eighteenth-century desert preacher who regarded all froms of adornment and modernity as blasphemous.
This is just plain wrong. To describe Wahhab's teachings as "puritanical" is as clueless and insulting as referring to the invasion of Afghanistan as a "crusade." For Wahhabism may be "priggish," "strict," "rigorous," "extremely ascetic," perhaps even "fanatical" but it has nothing whatsoever to do with puritanism.

Ok, you think I'm picking nits here - every American knows what "puritanical" means, so who cares. But I'm not nitpicking, really. From what I can tell, Mr. Coll, while certainly knowledgeable about who did what to whom in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, knows less than nothing about Islam or he would never talk about it the way he does. On page 83, he writes (a real quote and a real whopper):
Middle-class, pious Saudis flush with oil wealth embraced the Afghan cause as American churchgoers might respond to an African famine or a Turkish earthquake. Charity is a compulsion of Islamic law. The money flowed from the kingdom...Zakat [is] an annual tithe...
No, no, no!

In the first place, unless I'm completely mistaken (and I'm not), zakat - which only in the crudest sense has any relation to what the Judeo-Christian traditions mean by "charity" - is one of the pillars of Islam; it is central to the faith of believers. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the pass-the-hat-and-give-what-you-can of American churchgoers sending money and supplies to a natural disaster. It is not, in any sense, voluntary but rather a fundamental requirement for anyone who identifies themselves as a Muslim. Collecting money by churches -ie, charity in the Christian sense- has an element of choice that is missing from zakat, which is compulsory, NOT a "compulsion," for goodness sakes!

Secondly, Mr. Coll compounds his error by describing zakat as an Islamic tithe. Jeebus! That's as insulting and ignorant as describing Christmas as little more than Hannukah for the goyim.

The word "tithe" has a very specific meaning within Judaism and Christianity. Zakat is utterly different, very specifically defined within Islamic holy texts, and it's calculated entirely differently.

As for Islamic "charity," the closest thing to the pass-the-hat churchgiving is probably what is meant by sadaqah (scroll down) which is completely different than zakat.

Don't get me wrong. "Ghost Wars" is well worth reading and the history he gives of the machinations of the cia and other players is probably described reasonably accurately. Unfortunately, "Ghost Wars" is also worth reading because it is prima facie evidence of American ignorance of Islam among the educated classes who provide much of our news and information. The book also, unfortunately, highlights the very real and very serious distortions that occur from ethnocentrism, which is latent even in writers genuinely committed to telling an objectively true story. The crucial point should be obvious: if you posess knowledge of the events, but you don't have a serious knowledge of the reasons why half the players acted the way they did, you are bound to misunderstand and misreact to the future.

Many American observers point to the importance of exposing Arab Muslims to American beliefs. If only they got to know what we really stand for! Great idea. But hey, we should take our own advice and maybe, just maybe, do them the courtesy of learning something about their own culture.

Surely, Mr. Coll used his analogies because Americans are familiar with puritanism and tithes. They're heuristics, offered to give the non-specialist a quick sense of what Wahabbism is like, or what zakat is. But these analogies are very misleading, inappropriate, and inadvertently insulting. They give a thoroughly mistaken idea of the subject. Given how important it is, when speaking about religion, to be both precise and sensitive to religious belief, he (and we) would have been better off if he had not drawn any analogies at all between Islamic and Christian concepts but simply described.

Wahhabists are puritanical - oy, vey!

Thought Experiment  

CNN this morning:
Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor warned Thursday that 'time is running out' for a peaceful solution and 'we are in a mode right now of days, not weeks.'
Okay, a quick thought experiment to start off the morning, boys and girls:

You are an average fellow who makes his living in Falluja, with a wife, several kids, and more than your own share of Iraq's many, many woes.

A couple of weeks ago, a group of sick fucks - who knows who they were? - killed, then mutilated, some American contractors/bodyguards/mercenaries. Yeah you hate Americans and rejoice in their dying and humiliation -they sure had it coming, you tell everyone - but no, you have no idea who killed those Americans, and no, you'd never do it yourself. Like most civilians, you don't want anything to do with war's atrocities.

But in response to the killings, an American army surrounds your city, bristling with weapons so advanced and so lethal you would have laughed in the face of anyone who described such gadgets if you hadn't seen them with your own eyes. You, your wife, your kids - you're terrified. Why are they doing this?

These heavily armed Americans point their guns your way and tell your entire city to hand over all its weapons [they said only your "heavy weaponry" but you, and everyone else, know that means every last gun]. Reliable rumor has it they are prepared to level Falluja and kill everyone if we don't obey. Reliable rumor has that they are looking for the slightest excuse to wipe Falluja off the face of the earth.

But even without the Americans playing cowboy, Falluja's a dangerous place; you simply can't turn in your shotgun/rifle/pistol/whatever. That's suicide! And hey, YOU've done nothing wrong!

But now, even worse, the sick fucks who killed the American contractors/bodyguards/mercenaries - Iraqis, maybe foreigners, but all fellow Muslims!-have promised to torture and slaughter the entire families of anyone who tries to appease the Americans by obeying their orders.

So now, Mr. Average Citizen Of Falluja, would you hand over your guns? Or, knowing that you stand a good chance of seeing your family die as the American army wreaks its indiscriminate revenge on your town, would you start hoarding ammunition, build your defenses, and take out as many of them as you could - Americans or the sick fucks who started it all - before you die?

Now, no one can predict the future with total certainty, but this sure as hell looks like the prelude to a massacre. And guess who the Arab world will blame, kiddies? Having trouble? Some hints:

They won't blame the sick fucks who killed the four Americans.

They won't blame the terrified citizens who did not hand in their weapons.

Alright, you've had enough hints. Take a wild guess: Who they gonna blame if there's a massacre in Falluja?

One final question this fine, fine morning: How is any of this making America safer?

[UPDATE: Clarification of American demand to hand over "heavy" weapons added on 4/24/04]

Coffin Thoughts: 1  

Underneath those immaculate flags are the decaying corpses of your children. And mine.

Indeed, they died with courage. But they also died horribly.

And they died their courageous, horrible deaths for no reason whatsoever other than the deliberate self-delusions of their Commander-In-Chief.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

California Panel: Don't use Diebold touch-screen voting machines  

California gets it and hopefully, other states will follow suit quickly:
California should ban the use of 15,000 touch-screen voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems from the Nov. 2 general election in several counties, an advisory panel to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley recommended Thursday.

By an 8-0 vote, the state's Voting Systems and Procedures Panel recommended that Shelley cease the use of the machines, saying Diebold has performed poorly in California and its machines malfunctioned in the state's March 2 primary election, turning away many voters in San Diego County.

The recommendation affects 15,000 Diebold touch-screen machines in San Diego, Solano, Kern and San Joaquin counties.

Machines made by Diebold and other manufacturers in 10 other counties are unaffected, although the panel was to consider them later in the day.

Sick Stuff  

via Atrios comes this amazing story. The Michigan House passed a bill saying that...oh, just read it:
Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.

The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.
Can you believe it? WTF is going on in this country?

[UPDATE] Thanks to Jesus' General who located the info, you can express your thoughts on this bill by writing the sponsor at

Feeling Too Cheerful This Morning?  

Click here. The Memory Hole, via the FOIA, obtained 361 photos of the coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq returning home to the US.

They should be on the front page of every newspaper in this country. They should be on the walls of the Oval Office as a reminder of the costs of war.

A Swinish Perle  

Juan Cole confirms what I seriously suspected: Richard Perle doesn't know what he's talking about
It was quite an experience to be on the same panel on Tuesday with Richard Perle and Toby Dodge, before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Perle wasn't added until the last minute, and it is mysterious why he was there, since ours was supposed to be an "expert" panel. Dodge has an important book on Iraq. Originally Ahmad Hashim was going to be on with us (he came Wednesday instead), and then we heard Perle had been put on. Perle, of course, is no Iraq expert. He doesn't know a word of Arabic, and has never lived anywhere in the Arab world.

Sierra Club: Join Now  

As you may know, the Sierra Club roundly defeated a takeover effort by an anti-immigration bloc of members. I agree with Dave Neiwert on this, that in fact the issue has less to do with any environmental impact of immigrants than it is an attempt to defund the left. (Here's Dave's post on the subject.)

Dave also notes, in his post today, that the Sierra Club "is a plaintiff in the attempts to unearth the info from Dick Cheney's secret talks with energy-company officials." One can't help drawing the conclusion that the attempt to wreak havoc upon Sierra Club is in some sense related to the Bush effort to neutralize any and all critics.

To make sure the right simply has zero chance to take over and ruin one of the most important environmental groups in the country, join Sierra Club now. I just did.

And while we're on the subject of stealth takeovers...

I had an idea. Perhaps it's time that liberals take a hint from Michael Moore's terrific piece of agitprop, Bowling For Columbine. As you may recall, at the end of the film Mike interviews Charlton Heston and at one point shows Mr. Heston his lifetime membership card in the NRA.

Now, if, heh, enough of us followed Mike's lead and joined the NRA, their screwy politics could be stopped far more effectively by voting right wing nuts out of leadership positions than by any protests against the current NRA. And why shouldn't we join? There's nothing that says that the national rifle association shouldn't lobby to control firearms, right? With enough votes...

Just a thought (no, I haven't joined NRA, but if someone wants to organize tens of thousands of liberals to join, be sure to put me on the list). But in case you're interested, you can join NRA here. And among other things, you can enter to win Mr. Heston's "My Cold Dead Hands" rifle!

Bush's Military Record  

Dave Neiwert reminds us of the questions swirling around about Bush's military record. Here, in full and with links is Dave's post (hope you don't mind):

As Republicans -- speciously -- try to raise questions about John Kerry's military record, it's probably worth pointing out that many serious questions remain about George W. Bush's military record -- some of them involving potentially criminal matters.

The big question, of course, that lingers is: Why did you skip that flight physical, Mr. Preznit?

"I always knew this was going to happen."  

"I always knew that skepticism and science were mere psychological decorations and vanities."

Read the unforgettable story of The Horror of Blimps

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Absolutely Unbelievable  

Read this unspeakable piece of trash from CNN and then try to find an excuse as to why this news. Here's paragraph one:
A man who served in the same Navy unit as Sen. John Kerry denounced on Tuesday charges the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made as an antiwar protester that he and other U.S. troops committed atrocities in Vietnam.
Wow! You think. This guy has first hand information that Kerry is not what he says he is.

But here's the next paragraph. Read it and weep:
"I saw some war heroes ... John Kerry is not a war hero," said John O'Neill, a Houston lawyer who joined the Navy's Coastal Division 11 two months after the future senator left Vietnam. [Emphasis added.]
Whoa! Hold your horses! Stop right there!!

That's right. He served in the same unit as Kerry TWO MONTHS AFTER Kerry left Vietnam! Not two months after Kerry left the unit, which is enough to demonstrate that he has no real knowledge of Kerry's actions in Vietnam, but TWO MONTHS AFTER KERRY LEFT VIETNAM.

This is not news. This is trash talk.


Religion's One Thing, Politics Another  

Part One

With all the best intentions in the world, Kevin Drum gets liberals and religion completely wrong:
I'm about as nonreligious as you can get, but even I understand the basics of in-group comedy: only blacks get to make fun of blacks, only Jews get to make fun of Jews, and only religious folks get to mock religion. That's both common sense and common courtesy...

I'll never give an inch to the creationism/Intelligent Design crowd, for example, but you can do it without ridiculing anybody's actual religious beliefs...If it sounds like something you probably shouldn't say, then you probably shouldn't say it.
There is hardly anyone in the United States that isn't tolerant of genuine religious expression. Except the so-called "religious" right who have succeeded in overwhelming the public discourse on religion and stifling debate. (Quick! Name a living liberal Christian theologian with half as much air time as Pat Robertson.)

To the right, being a Christian equals being a right wing conservative. It means you're either a fundamentalist or an evangelical so flaky that you are prepared to go to Iraq to convert the heathens to Jesus Christ. And there is simply no limit to the lunacy that the right wing (and the media enablers) will accept if it is in accord with the unspoken assumption that Christian=Conservative. Never mind that Randall Terry, by the standards of most folks including his church, is a philanderer, a lousy parent, and an hysteric who is rabidly homophobic and intolerant of others' faith. But being of the right, he's called a "christian" and his right to be called one is never publicly questioned (and his opinion is worthy of airtime by CNN and others). But if you happen to be an Episcopalian who supports Bishop Robinson, then Terry and others will say you are not really a Christian worth the name, and you certainly wont get too much airtime to voice your opinion that Christianity implies love and tolerance of those who are different. It's as if the "religious" right have abrogated for themselves all authority to determine who is and who isn't following Christ.

As for liberals, they've been so intimidated by this right wing assault on religious discourse and symbolism that they are afraid to so much as whisper any kind of objection when the right hides behind a scrim of phony piety to push a purely secular agenda. Kevin's post, which urges liberals to be religiously correct in the face of intimidation, is a perfect example of this.

In fact, liberals of all religious faiths support plentiful, robust religious expression as well as safeguards to protect everyone's religious freedom. To state what should be patently obvious, religious tolerance is a fundamental part of what being a liberal means, after all. Furthermore, there are very few liberals who are not religiously observant to some extent or another, contrary to right wing propaganda. As for atheists, of which there are only a few in the US, only a small minority care enough to make a big deal out of it, and they have zero political influence qua atheists.

This makes the review of Air America Kevin cites from the LA Times of anti-religious bias rather suspect (I don't know David Shaw, the author. He claims he's a liberal, but he sounds like a standard issue conservative). Without a transcript, which is absolutely necessary regarding such a volatile topic, it is impossible to tell what was said and the precise nature of the comments that was objectionable.*

Part Two

As I've mentioned many times, my deep and longstanding respect for nearly all kinds of religious belief and practice is a matter of public record. Anyone who questions my committment to religious tolerance and expression simply doesn't know what s/he is talking about, or is being deliberately dishonest.

With that in mind, I have no problem whatsoever asserting:

There is a difference between being religious and hiding behind God's beard in order to pursue a purely secular political agenda.

The former is essentially a private matter. The latter deserves every bit of exposure, ridicule, and contempt that opponents can muster.

Once again, so it's clear:

To discredit those who pervert religion for political purposes does not, in any way, shape or form, mean one is intolerant of those who are religious. In fact, just the opposite. To expose publicly the abuse of religious practices by ruthless political operatives demonstrates the utmost respect for religious belief.

Therefore, I see no reason to pussyfoot around with anyone who is lobbying to have lies taught in public school biology classes, who wants to channel my tax dollars to worthless "abstinence only" programs, or who wants to inflict their bleak, joyless morality on my child.

To invoke "God's will" in the advocacy of secular, partisan political causes is the height of cynical opportunism. It's an out and out con, a crude attempt to intimidate opponents into silence, done for no other reason than to stifle debate. When someone does it repeatedly on such hot button issues as abortion, gay rights, IDiocy, and so on, I see no reason under the sun to be tolerant. Those who dare to presume they know God's will should be given absolutely no quarter. (After all, many religious traditions consider such arrogance blasphemous pride.)

But what about those who are both active politicians and deeply religious? How can politician X claim to be a good Jew, for example, if she doesn't stay home and observe the Sabbath?

First of all, in the United States, observance of religious traditions and rituals varies considerably from person to person, from family to family, from congregation to congregation. This is true of all faiths from the most mainstream to the most "exotic." Even more to the point, it is simply impossible for even the most so-called "observant" to follow every single rule, injunction, imprecation, commandment, etc, etc, laid down in the holy texts of a given religion. Everyone cherrypicks in their worship. Yes, even pious blowhards like Scalia, who finds a way around his church's clear teachings against the death penalty. This makes religious observance a deeply personal matter between God, the worshipper, and his/her congregation and family.

As a result of the inherent personal nature of religious observance, criticism of a politician's piety simply has no place in the public space of politics. George W. Bush went to war in spite of the fact that his own congregation was opposed to his actions (not to mention the Pope and most of the world). John Kerry is a Catholic despite his unwillingness to support bans on medical procedures that he believes would exact a murderous toll on poor mothers denied access to qualified care (a position shared by a majority of Americans, including fellow Catholics).


The right wing should not have a free pass to say whatever fool nonsense they want simply because they pretend they are doing "what God wants them to." That is a lie that deserves no respect at all. There is no reason under the sun why anyone should feel even the slightest compunction about laughing in the face of Sun Myung Moon or Judge Roy Moore or even George W. Bush, when he claims he is on a crusade from God. Bush is many, many things, but one thing he is not is God's infallible messenger. He should be held up to extended public ridicule whenever he implies such a thing (which according to my count, he's done at least three times in a particularly obnoxious way).

And liberals should not buy into the right wing framing of the issue that equates a well deserved disrespect for cynical political operatives with disrespect of religion. Most of this country, left, center, sideways and right, is religious. We all have an equal obligation to respect others and disrepect others who deliberately violate that respect for political gain. The right wing have shown themselves increasingly intolerant of everyone who disagrees with them. The time is long overdue to tell them to take their fake piety and shove it.

*To the extent one can tell anything from the material Shaw provides, it appears as if it was not so much anti-religion bigotry as religious intolerance by one faith of another. Specifically, self-described Jewish radio jocks apparently mocked Christian public displays of piety. If so, that is just as reprehensible as anti-Semitic remarks or anti-religious ones. But without a transcript, it is impossible to know what happened.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Bride Of The Son Of Timothy McVeigh  

That's right: Right wing militia nuts are being ignored.
With the nation focused on terrorist threats from abroad after Sept. 11, 2001, experts wonder if the Krar case, which FBI agents discovered only by accident, could be a harbinger of homegrown attacks to come.

"All of this homeland security, all of the orientation of the government's war on terror is about protecting our borders," said Ken Toole, director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which monitors right-wing groups.

"We're moving back into this period where radical right-wing activism is being dismissed as goofy and loopy, whereas the al-Qaida threat is around every corner. But the right-wingers are much closer to home. And they are still there."

Mark Pitcavage, director of fact-finding for the Anti-Defamation League, noted that criminal acts by right-wing extremists "remain at a very high level," including the suspected slayings of three law-enforcement officers last year.

In one incident, Pitcavage said, a member of the Michigan Militia allegedly killed a state trooper after a traffic stop, while in South Carolina, a family of right-wing anarchists allegedly ambushed and killed two local police officers...

"If you look at the cycle of rebirth of these movements over the last century, each cycle is more and more extreme," Levitas said. "Now we have William Krar in Texas building a fully functional chemical weapon. You've had paramilitary activists produce ricin. It's only a matter of time before one of the more hard-core remnants of the militias decides to one-up Timothy McVeigh..."

As bad as [the OKC] bombing was — 168 people were killed when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed — federal officials say Krar's chemical weapon, had it been used, could have been far worse.

"The Justice Department is to be commended for having aggressively pursued that investigation and tracked Krar down," Levitas said. "But the fact that they made this discovery entirely by accident, and Krar slipped through their fingers and off their radar screen on numerous occasions, is extraordinarily troubling.

"There are thousands of William Krars out there who aren't being pursued," Levitas said. [Emphasis added.]

One Question  

Check it out. A GOP congressman inadvertently tries to carry gun onto a plane. Here is the entire story and it begs a serious question:
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AP) -- Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana was briefly detained Tuesday when airport security workers found a handgun in his briefcase as he was going through a checkpoint on a trip back to Washington.

The five-term Republican congressman was preparing to board a US Airways flight at Louisville International Airport when the gun was found, said his press secretary Michael Jahr.

"Apparently the congressman had left a handgun in his briefcase and forgot it was in there and took it to the security checkpoint, where it was detected and they detained him briefly to make sure he had no ill intent as they should do," Jahr said.

Jahr said Hostettler is an avid sportsman and has a permit for the weapon, but he was not sure what type of handgun the congressman had and whether it was loaded.

Hostettler has represented his district in southwestern Indiana since 1995 and is seeking re-election this year to a sixth term.
Um, did they confiscate the gun?!?

[UPDATE:]A new article on this quotes someone as saying they didn't know if the gun was confiscated. But we do learn that Congressman Hostettler doesn't have an apartment, let alone a home, in Washington. He sleeps in his office.

Weird. Really weird.

The Photos You're Not Supposed to See  

Courtesy The Memory Hole. One example:


I was gonna link to some of the material, he links to but after reading the entire post, I can't recc'd Digby's latest enough so go read it all. One small detail does need a slight clarification, though:
Throughout the 90's the Republicans cried wolf on average of once or twice a week. Clinton was the anti-christ. A corrupt, murdering, philandering communist was running the country. When he was finally caught with his pants down (literally), the American people were fascinated but unmoved. His approval rating remained strong even through impeachment procedings. And that, of course, is what saved him.
I would add, "and this country."

Endorsed By Terrorists  

Dave Neiwert reminds us that, in a season when specious associations are imputed between opposition to Bush/Iraq and support for terrorists, that Bush is the only national candidate to receive endorsement from an al Qaeda-linked group:
The statement said it supported U.S. President George W. Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilisation."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
Am I suggesting that a vote for Bush is a vote for al Qaeda? No more than the Republican leadership and its minions are suggesting that a vote for Kerry is.

The Oily Election  

Atrios posseses an analytical sense about Bush that approaches sheer genius:

The deal is...

Exactly, exactly. This way Bandar does Bush a huge favor, making it appear as if the economy is "improving" while making a killing by gouging the American public.

As impeachable offenses go, this is a particularly egregious one. But it pales in comparison to the neglect that led to the success of 9/11, the neglect of the aftermath in Afghanistan, the looting of the Afghan military budget to fund Iraq, the lies and deceptions leading up to Bush/Iraq, the preemptive unilateral invasion of a foreign country, the botched occupation, the cynical cronyism, the secrecy, and the general incompetence of this administration.

If there was any justice, he would have been forced to resign well in advance of the invasion. But of course, since Ashcroft covered her up, Justice has been on a permanent vacation.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Proof of "Suspects" (Plural) On The Scene In OKC Bombing?  

A Secret Service document written shortly after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing described security video footage of the attack and witness testimony that suggested Timothy McVeigh may have had accomplices at the scene.

"Security video tapes from the area show the truck detonation 3 minutes and 6 seconds after the suspects exited the truck," the Secret Service reported six days after the attack on a log of agents' activities and evidence in the Oklahoma investigation.

The government has insisted McVeigh drove the truck himself and that it never had any video of the bombing or the scene of the Alfred P. Murrah building in the minutes before the April 19, 1995, explosion.

Several investigators and prosecutors who worked the case told The Associated Press they had never seen video footage like that described in the Secret Service log.

The document, if accurate, is either significant evidence kept secret for nine years or a misconstrued recounting of investigative leads that were often passed by word of mouth during the hectic early days of the case, they said.
via TalkLeft

[UPDATE] According to an update from TalkLeft, the OKC video does not exist.

What Does Al Qaeda Want  

One of the many things that I've suspected for quite a while is that we are not central to bin Laden's mission, but simply a sideshow to goals he feels are far more important. In this current excellent round-up of books on Islam in the New York Review of Books, the reviewer makes the same point:
It may sound odd to classify a terrorist group as reformist, but a radical remake of the faith is indeed the underlying intention of bin Laden and his followers. Attacking America and its allies is merely a tactic, intended to provoke a backlash strong enough to alert Muslims to the supposed truth of their predicament, and so rally them to purge the faith of all that is alien to its essence. Promoting a clash of civilizations is merely stage one. The more difficult part, as the radicals see it, is convincing fellow Muslims to reject the modern world absolutely (including such aberrations as democracy), topple their own insidiously secularizing quisling governments, and return to the pure path. It is this latter part of his project that bin Laden shares with a wider radical and reactionary trend, which is sometimes referred to as Salafist (derived from the Arabic salaf, meaning forebears, i.e., returning to the way of the founding fathers of Islam).

The imagined political destination of this path is the recreation of a pan-Islamic caliphate, such as existed for a few short years after the Prophet's death.
That is precisely how I see it. The so-called "clash of civilisations" is not as important as re-uniting the faithful and "restoring" Islam.

Matthew Yglesias And Liberal War Hawks  

Matt admits, finally, that he was wrong...well sort of:
Neither the policies being advocated by Bush nor the policies being advocated by the anti-war movement (even at its most mainstream) were the correct ones. What I wanted to see happen wasn't going to happen. I had to throw in with one side or another. I threw in with the wrong side. The bad consequences of the bad policy I got behind are significantly worse than the consequences of the bad policy advocated by the other side would have been. I blame, frankly, vanity. "Bush is right to say we should invade Iraq, but he's going about it the wrong way, here is my nuanced wonderfullness" sounds much more intelligent than some kind of chant at an anti-war rally. In fact, however, it was less intelligent. I got off the bandwagon right before the shooting started, but by then it was far too late -- this was more a case of CYA than a case of efficacious political dissent.
Well, almost yes. Indeed, a chant at an anti-war rally was more "intelligent" -actually, I would substitute the phrase "more sensible" for "intelligent" here - than Matt's (and others) nuanced wondefulness.

But a question remains: how was the anti-war position, "even at its most mainstream" incorrect, as Matt asserts? Matt offers some insight. He writes:
I continue to believe the following two things:

1. The sactions/inspections regime was not sustainable over the long term.

2. Sometime after the sanctions/inspections regime collapsed, Saddam Hussein would acquire nuclear weapons and this would have an extremely adverse impact on the world.
I'm afraid that Matt is mistaken to believe either point.

There is no reason to assume that the sanctions/inspections regime wasn't sustainable, if the world moved to a policy of more focused sanctions and "coerced inspections" as advocated by the Carnegie Endowment.

This notion of "unsustainability" is a red herring at best for it doesn't take into account the vicissitudes of international relations. In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis called forth similar charges about the Cold War from what was then called the extreme rightwing: Soviet aggression was intolerable, the Cold War problem was unsustainable, let's invade Cuba now and get it over with. Had we done so, well, suffice it to say that many people think the world would have rapidly descended into general war. The unsustainable was a far better alternative, as it was in Iraq. For we - and they - have only begun to fight this pointless war.

There was, pre-Bush/Iraq, no reason to assume that years from now the Baathist regime headed by Saddam would continue for years, as both Uday and Qusay seemed to have virtually little ability to run a country, even in the crudely cruel way that Saddam did. Nor were they that interested; they were spoiled, psychotically vicious playboys. And even if they did succeed their father, there is no reason to assume that an Iraq WMD program could be reconstituted given a serious, extended inspection regime.

Furthermore, the vicissitudes. There was every reason to assume that Saddam's regime was toothless and slowly collapsing. (This was ignored, of course, by Bush.) A more organic solution, ie, the civil war which might have occurred, to the problem of Saddam would not have US fingerprints all over it. Consequently, anti-US anger in the Muslim world, which is at record rates, would not be so extreme.

In other words, invading Iraq was a stupid, stupid thing to do. It is an indication of Bush's incompetence that he thought it was a good idea in the first place. For a great president would never have seriously entertained such folly.

And Matt is simply wrong to assume that an invasion, as opposed to far more sensible options, would be needed. Matt forgets that no one other than Pat Buchanan and some Young Socialists believed that the world could ignore the problems in Iraq. Doing nothing was never an option. Sadly, invasion should never have been an option either, a point that Matthew still fails to perceive.

And so, Bush brought it on, and they're bringing it back. Today, it's falling on our hapless soldiers. But sooner or later, terrorists who were radicalized by the Bush invasion will strike in the US. New terrorists, who would never have been had we pursued a prudent instead of a reckless policy towards Iraq.

[UPDATE] Mark Kleiman agrees with Matt that sooner or later, Saddam would reconstitute nukes, therefore he still thinks the war was a good idea, if done properly.

As if any war is ever done properly, even the so-called "good" WWII. War simply is not controllable and its outcome unpredictable.

Mark writes about foreign policy: "this stuff is hard [Italics in original]."

No it's not when the question is, "Should the US wage preemptive and unilateral war?" Because the only sensible answer to such a question is,"Are you out of your freaking mind?"

As for the question, "What do we do NOW about Iraq," the answer is equally obvious:

"We may be able to begin to do something constructive once Bush is removed from office and the situation is completely internationalised. To discuss options given the present-day situation is a waste of breath, because whatever happens, the present US administration is incapable of executing any strategy well."

Foreign Influence On The US Election  


Woodward told 60 Minutes that Saudi Prince Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election - to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day
And why isn't this on the front page of the Times this morning?

[UPDATE:]Paul Waldman of The Gadflyer says it well:
This is yet another test for the American press, much like many they've failed in the past four years. Will they give this story the attention and energy it deserves?

I Guess It's Called Freedom Fly Now  

Spanish Premier Orders Soldiers Home From Iraq
Spain's new Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, keeping a firm campaign promise, announced Sunday that he was ordering Spanish troops to leave Iraq "as soon as possible."

Just 24 hours after he was sworn in, Mr. Zapatero said he had ordered Defense Minister José Bono to "do what is necessary" for the Spanish troops to return home in the shortest possible time.

Mr. Zapatero said he had made his decision because it was unlikely that the United Nations would be playing a leading role in Iraq any time soon, which had been his condition for Spain's 1,300 troops to remain. Because of troop rotation, more than 1,400 are there now.
Oh, and by the way, Thomas P. M. Barnett writes in WaPo about this:
Terrorists buy a national election in Spain for the price of 10 backpack bombs and remove a "crucial" pillar of the Western coalition in Iraq.
As if the terrorist bombings were the crucial element in Zapatero's rise to power. If this were true, the implication, of course, is that if you vote against a regime that supports the war in Iraq, the terrorists have bought your vote.

But what happened in Spain wasn't as Dr. Barnett describes it. As usual, the situation is much more complex than many respected analysts wish it was.According to Kevin Drum, there were many reasons for the Spanish regime change:
  • Polls show that the Socialists were catching up anyway. They might have won even without the bombings.
  • The bombings simply caused an upsurge in interest in the elections, which in turn caused a higher turnout (63% vs. 55% in 2000). This benefited the Socialists, who usually do better when the turnout is better.
  • The populace was enraged at Aznar for lying about ETA being responsible for the bombings and took it out on him at the polls.
  • Voters thought Spain had been targeted because of its support for the Iraq war and voted for the party that had promised to withdraw Spain's troops.

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