Blog Archive

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
I have a number of conservative Republican friends, some that might even be called rednecks. (I tell them they are, at least.) I probably have friends like this because I don't pick friends on the basis of their politics. I know what theirs are, and they know what mine is. Sometimes we even argue about that, but we never get mad at each other over it. Besides, it lets me keep tabs on what "your average redneck Republican" is thinking.

Anyways, one of them stopped by yesterday, and we chatted for quite a while. At some point, the name "Bush" came up (I don't recall who first said it), and his voice went up just a notch.

"This is bullshit," he said. "I don't know why, but I know bullshit when I see it." I asked him to continue.

It seems that he had spent 22 months doing his "patriotic duty" in Vietnam. "They sent us over there and fucked [his exact word] with us, and now they are doing it again to a new group of kids."

This was not the first time one of my conservative Republican friends had come along and expressed similar misgivings. I suppose they come to me with these feelings because they know I will listen, but I also suspect that they come to me because they simply don't know where else to go with their frustrations.

What does this mean? I'm not entirely sure. But one thing I am sure of: There are a lot of conservative Republicans out there that should have been taken in by the Bush propaganda machine, but weren't. And this would mean that the road may not be as far uphill as we sometimes think.

Ernest Partridge of The Crisis Papers reports that he is a conservative. He comes by this conclusion in "Conscience of a Conservative", in which he reviews both definitions and philosophical texts regarding the nature of conservatism, and decides that these better fit his beliefs than they do the beliefs of the Bush administration, whom he feels is off the deep end of rightist extremism.

While I mostly agree with his assessment (I'm a conservative too, I guess), I might add a few points. First, what is considered as "left" in this country is by global standards quite middle of the road. While there is indeed a "real left" (marxism, communism) in this country, it is marginal at best, perhaps espoused by well less than one percent of the population here.

Second, this idea of right vs. left as some sort of linear scale has bothered me for some time. To me, it appears more as a circular scale: If you go too far to the right, you start looking like those who are too far to the left, and visa versa. Both of these extremes advocate a "tearing apart" of both society's fabric and government, and differ only in who they would leave in charge of the new government. And in neither case would it be you or I.

And yet this is exactly what the Bush administration wants.



BTW: Next time you have a "rainy afternoon, drop by The Crisis Papers. You'll leave feeling that you are smarter person.
It can't be very pleasant being Ashleigh Banfield these days. Ashleigh, an NBC News reporter who has enjoyed better days during her career, was recently invited to give a speech in the Landon Lecture series at Kansas State University, and greatfully accepted. She suggested that better news coverage of Muslim sentiments would help us to deal more effectively in that region, and cautioned the TV news media against glorifying war. She also took swipes at MSNBC's Mike Savage (who, on the air, had called her a "slut", a "porn star", and "an accomplice to the murder of Jewish children") and of course Fox News.

Well, Hold on, Missy! Talk like that gets you a trip right to NBC News president Neal Shapiro's office for a stern reprimand. "She and we both agreed that she didn't intend to demean the work of her colleagues, and she will choose her words more carefully in the future," an NBC spokesperson said, offering little additional information as to exactly what had Neal so pissed off.

And I'll be damned if I can tell you either. I read her speech, and I can't figure it out.



On the other hand, there's Janeane Garofalo, who doesn't give two cents if you like what she says or not. Catch her interview here.
Goodness! They're Everywhere!
From the Fighting Democrat, an interesting chart entitled "How your government works!" While you may disagree with a few items on it, it's probably worth saving for future reference.
Short Takes:
So what's the story? Are we looking for Saddam or not?
Is this guy just cheerleading, or does Rummy really enjoy this stuff?
It's pretty pathetic when New Zealand is more afraid
of Patriot Act II than we are.
U.S. Muslims to missionaries:
"You will be perceived as either dying by the bullet or dying by the Bible through Muslim eyes."
If Iraqis are not to tie religion to their new government, why are we trying to do that here?
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Feeling Safer Now? Not if you work at an American-based fast food joint in Asia, which are increasingly becoming targets of terrorist bombs there. Some of the bomb attacks:
  • McDonald's: Saudi Arabia, Moscow, Beirut, and Xian, China, and three bombs in Istanbul
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken: Indonesia, Lebanon, Greece, and Pakistan
  • Pizza Hut: Lebanon
Do you suppose it's the quality of the food?
Our Next Pre-Emptive Strike? Try Belgium: Jan Fermon, a Brussels-based lawyer, has indicated that he will file a complaint there on behalf of 10 Iraqi citizens charging Gen. Tommy Franks and other U.S. military officials of war crimes in Iraq. Specific charges to be included are:
  • The failure to prevent the mass looting of hospitals in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
  • Eyewitness testimony of U.S. troops firing upon an ambulance.
  • The indiscriminate shooting and wounding its driver by U.S. armored vehicles of civilians in Baghdad.
  • The bombing of a marketplace in Baghdad that killed scores of civilians.
  • The attack on a civilian bus with an "energy weapon" in the town of al-Hillah, killing at least 10 passengers.
Although the complaint (if accepted) would only set up an investigatory commission on the allegations, the U.S. is in an uproar and is warning Belgium of "diplomatic consequences" should it not "do the right thing" by dismissing the complaint. Belgian law of "universal jurisdiction" however allows the fling of such complaints there.

Now, I'm just trying to figure this one out. As a sovereign country, doesn't Belgium get to write and administer their own laws? Or is this just another one of those "with us or against us" deals? Better watch out, Belgium. You might be next.



Of course, Belgium is hardly the only country being targeted by a U.S. "payback campaign". Chile, Canada, and Mexico are already feeling the sting, while actions against France and Germany are still "being contemplated". We might even take our ball and go home.
Let me get this straight: The states are slashing medical care for the poor and the feds can't afford to help out. Not enough money for that after a mindless $650 billion tax cut for the top 1%. Even some Republicans are balking at this. They want to keep it down to $350 billion. Bush's logic on this? If these Republicans really believe that tax cuts create jobs, doesn't a smaller tax cut mean fewer jobs created? Stunning logic indeed! So why don't we just stop collecting taxes altogether? Wouldn't that mean even more jobs?

My take? Either this tax cut is wrong or it is right. It can't be both. So either reject the cut entirely, or give Bush the whole thing. If he is right, we will all be happier people. If he is wrong, it will hasten the day we get to consign him and his cronies to the trash heep.

And speaking of taxes: The IRS has decided to target taxpayers who claim the earned-income tax credit, setting up more difficult paperwork hurdles in order for the working poor to qualify. Some are suggesting that "there is a meanness to this latest IRS action", but this misses the point. IRS staffers have to do something, and if they were not doing this, they would be auditing the wealthy. Though this will indeed hurt the poor, it is hardly meant to do that. It's simply one more gift to the folks who make large contributions to political campaigns.

Monday, April 28, 2003
From William Bowles: More about Conspiracies and Oil
A compenium of commentary and links to what appears to be the all but forgaotten issue: "It's all about oil."
Neocon Richard Perle says "We won't stop in Iraq".

But this is the last time I will call Richard Perle a neocon. He is not. He is a war-profiteer who has no shame about enriching himself while others die to enable him to have more money than he could ever spend. He does not look upon personal wealth as a means to an end, but rather as the end in itself. This is one quite mentally sick man.

From the Toronto Star comes a good review of our current situation: "On message, on script". Linda Deibel takes an extensive but concise look at the charaters involved in this mess.
"Gagged by the Flag"
There seems to be a lot of shushing going on in the United States today. There are many people from all corners telling everyone else to stop talking about certain things. Things that need to be said not just by a few, but by many. As long as the shushing bullies get their way, the people of this country are going to be the losers.
The Anti-War Movement: Where Now?
This week's Boston Phoenix offers three separate articles generally addressing where the focus anti-war activists might be effectively placed in a post-war world. Since this is indeed a concern for many of us, I thought it would be worthwhile to present all three of these to you for your consideration.

Up first is The war at home (2 pages), in which David Valdes Greenwood advocates refocusing our efforts at stopping the proposed Patriot Act II from becoming law. Next comes Waging post-warfare (3 pages), where Dan Kennedy interviews eight (different-minded) foreign-policy experts on the uncertain future of the US role in Iraq. And finally, in Pre-empting protest? (2 pages), Richard Byrne suggests targeting the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) is the best way forward for the anti-war movement.

My own thoughts in this area tends towards those of Mr. Greenwood's Patriot II suggestion, although others would certainly disagree with me. But my rationale is this:

  1. It is important to keep an eye on developments in Iraq specifically, the Middle East in general, and now of course North Korea (especially in light of NSS). But the problem is that unless there is a war looming, Americans in general are not that interested in foreign policy issues. Were we to focus most of our efforts around "banging the drum" on those, we would likely receive even less attention than we did in the lead-up to the Iraq war. While documenting, questioning, and trying to keep them honest are certainly worthwhile and necessary tasks, unless there is another run-up to war, we are simply not going to get much "mileage" from this issue.

  2. Patriot II is another issue entirely, and not simple by having a different subject matter. First of all, it is a domestic matter that directly affects the lives of all Americans, and thus should resonate with the "uneasy middle". Second, the "uneasy middle" is not entirely unaware of this issue, though perhaps is unaware of how to express their trepidations. Third, there is quite likely to be a far more receptive audience in the national press on this issue. (After all, it does affect them also.) And fourth, judging from the recent significant rise in ACLU membership (including prominent names from the right), it has appeal that is not limited to a single political philosophy.

    But there are yet other reasons to focus on this:

    • During our anti-war protests, this issue was all but ignored. In fact, as we protested the war, several members of Congress were busy trying to attach line items from Patriot II to other bills where they might not be noticed.
    • This bill, if enacted to even a modest extent, would directly impact our very abilities to organize and protest against any and all other actions our might government take that we disagreed with.

  3. It also should be noted that working against Patriot II is not at all a separate issue from that of waging pre-emptive wars. Both are intimately tied together by a single powerful theme: Government over-stepping its bounds. As such, any successes built by anti-Patriot activities could have the potential for positive "blow back" to our foreign policy issues. How? If the "uneasy middle" (the only real target we have) were to gain trust in us by seeing that we were watching out for them "at home", they would probably be likely to trust us a bit more when we said we were watching out for them abroad.
An additional reference: The Bush administration and the end of civil liberties, Elaine Cassel, provides a good overview of both Patriot I and II, including examples of both current abuses and potential future abuses of these acts.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Something Fishy:
Right after I wrote my "something fishy" entry yesterday, I ran into this Asia Times article, "The Baghdad deal" , which addresses this exact "fishiness": What the hell happened to the Republican Guard?

I began running into variations on this article about five days ago, but they were too "conspiracy theory" for my tastes. This article provides better development of this theory with its slant towards how this theory is playing in Iraq. Is this mere speculation? Possibly, but if it is playing in Iraq this way, it's important enough to pay attention to.

Saturday, April 26, 2003
Something About Allah
You'd almost have to wonder if these Muslims are onto something with this Allah guy. As ass-kicking as U.S. forces are, Allah always seems to get his real "bad guys" away before our troops catch them. Sure, maybe Osama bin Laden really is buried under a mountain in Afghanistan, and maybe Saddam Hussein really did get vaporized next to the decapitated corpse of that waitress they pulled out of that restaurant. Still, you have to give Allah credit for getting the president himself to forget the names of both of these guys real quick. Or maybe it's just that something fishy is going on here?

Either that or maybe Allah really is the "real God".

Diplomacy? Isn't that for sissies?
Or at least, who can figure out what ours is?

Now it's no White House secret that Bush was none too happy with the many countries that failed to back his escapade into Iraq. France, Germany, and Russia (per Condi, the "non-nein-nyet" trio) come immediately to mind, but China was hardly silent, and our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, also gave their thumbs down. Even now, Russia is balking at releasing UN "oil for food" monies to the U.S. profiteers.

So how to explain why France alone has been singled out by Bush for punishment? My guess is that Bush knows he can't punish them all, and the "French Fry" fiasco sold so well on the home front. And after all, it just wouldn't have done for the rich to give up their caviar.

Still, there is this: U.S. to Europe: 'Who wants allies?' Bush apparently has decided that all of Europe is essentially irrelevent as far as his neo-colonial expansionist aspirations are concerned. They don't spend enough on weapons to be essential participants in future conflicts, and they are not in the "red zone" of our military concern.

There is also something even more unsettling in this last article: That those countries seeking favor from Bush must do his bidding before even asking for favor. This is an arrogance that can only be termed as "the divine right of kings".

Time for another Raspberry Award for Media Ineptitude: This one goes out to ABC News for their Friday story "Reason for War?". Seems that ABC has just learned that the war against Iraq really wasn't about "weapons of mass descruction" at all. Seems that the adminisration just wanted to put on a high-level pyrotechnics display to show how tough it is. Why Iraq? Location, location, location. I guess they figured that as long as they were spending so much money, they might as well buy something good with it.

Congratulations to ABC News for just finding out what 20 million people have been trying to tell you for six months, and for that you recieve a respectable three raspberries.



Of course it's not surprising that ABC is "suddenly" coming upon insiders starting to admit this, because there is a scramble these days among the old "WMD-thumping crowd" to see how fast they can distance themselves from this issue. After all, we've been in this country with "instantly (within 45 minutes) deployable tons" of WMDs for 39 days now, but but haven't found a trace there of what for a long time has likely not existed for a long time. And the sorry fact is that these administration jockeys will likely get away with it.

Not so in Great Britain however, whose citizens seem to have a longer memory than ours. Case in point is Geoff Hoon, the British Defense Secretary, who in a recent interview contradicted his pre-war position by claiming that he weapons have not yet been found because they are “scattered across Iraq (and) were well hidden”; hardly in line with his earlier "instantly deployable claims.

While other examples of these "distancing" attempts by Blair loyalists abound, none is more ghoulish than that of used car salesman and Tony Blair-appologist Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary. Mr. Straw, revisionist historian that he is, is now claiming that the threat was never that Saddam actually had these WMDs, but rather that the threat was that Saddam might have had them. Try that one out on the families of the dead civilians in Iraq, Mr. Straw. If they buy it, so will I.

But other than in an academic sense (or to allow the left to gloat to a largely unhearing audience), does it really matter if the WMDs were a total fiction, an imagined fiction, or an honest belief? After all, the dead are not going to come back, and the U.S., for better or worse, owns Iraq.

In fact, it does matter to more than a few folks, namely those shunned European diplomats I mentioned above. They have this crazy idea that, at some point, Bush will again ask them for their support on some issue. I'll bet that they can't wait to throw his WMD "proof" back in his own face when he tries to justify whatever he next wants from them.

Friday, April 25, 2003
The ever-vigilant Ornicus offers the following observation:
One of lessons I've gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its own real agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left. ... When it accuses liberals of "fascism," it almost always is done so in an effort to obscure its own fascist proclivities -- and it reminds the rest of us just whose footsoldiers are in reality merrily goosestepping down the national garden path.
If you are a "Fascist Watcher", then you will definitely want to bookmark Orincus.
Bush lies and manipulates public and Congress: If you've been on the "Bush trail" for a while, you probably won't learn much reading this artile by Carla Binion. It's all well enough written, but Ms. Binion also supplies a ton of links in this. For that reason alone, you may want to check her article out.
Forget working a 40 hour week if the Bushistas have their way. If this bill passes, every "in trouble" corporation will will lay off massive numbers of workers and require those remaining to work far longer hours with only the promise of fututre compensation for their additional time. If their company's effort works out, these employees will recieve that compensation. If not, they will be on the bottom of the list at bankrupcy court asking for it. Good luck.
The Real "Roadmap" for Israeli/Palestinian Peace:
This is simply outrageous. The pro-Israeli Wexner Foundation has hired the ad agency The Luntz Research Companies and The Israel Project to tell them not what to do, but rather how to speak, and this company has done a good job. Keep trying to link Saddam for at least a year, and don't praise Bush directly because it will piss off the left; just two of their many recommendations. Want to read their whole report? (17 pages, 40K PDF file)
It seems that Rick Santorum and I have something in common: We don't like homosexual sex acts. Of course, I don't mind if you do, while Rick Santorum clearly does. But I'm not here to talk about sexual preferences and sexual tolerance, because as offensive towards homosexuals as Mr. Santorum's remark was, it was not his worst mistake when he made this statement.

First, let's clear something up: Santorum grouped homosexuality, polygamy, bigamy, incest, and adultery in a quite "one and the same" fashion, while clearly they are not. In the case of the last three (bigamy, incest, and adultery), there are quite identifiable victims (marital partners and children), while in the case of the first two (homosexuality and polygamy), there are no such identifiable victims. These first two are what is called "victimless crimes", and this is where Santorum makes his most serious error: Without a victim, there can be no testimony upon which to base a warrant, and lacking a warrant, the search that led to the arrest of these two gentlemen is prohibited by the Constitution.

What Mr. Santorum is in effect saying is that he does not like the unreasonable search protection provided by the Constitution. While he is as free to dislike that as much as he is free to dislike homosexual sex acts, he is an elected Senator, and both by his oath and his office is required to defend this and all provisions of the Constitution as they are written. That he obviously does not understand this obligation; that he would prefer this case to be about sex rather than about unreasonable searches, is obvious. That his fellow Republicans in the Senate would, through their silence, allow him to retain a leadership role in light of this is equally telling about their own understandings of this same obligation.

And by the way, the polygamists aren't too happy about his remark either. (While I am also not fan of polygamy, all my research indicates that they have an extremely "family central" philosophy. Their children could do a lot worse.)

[Also note: Sen. Rick Santorum's comments on homosexuality in an AP interview to read his remarks in context.]

Thursday, April 24, 2003
Good Dogs and Bad
Dear Colin Powell,

It's been quite a while since we last spoke. If I remember, it was when I suggested that if you quit, the administration's push to war would have been totally undermined and could possibly even have failed. Obviously, you didn't take my advice.

What on earth were you thinking; that if you stayed you might have been able to moderate their policies even as they pulled you into line behind them? You must have already forgotten the 2002 elections where all those Democrats tried that same move, only to have the administration unleash their dogs all over their now-unemployed corpses. And look at what has happened because of that: "Good Dog" Newt (now on Rummy's staff as an "advisor") is nipping at your hindquarters for them.

Have you heard what Newt's been saying about you? That all of your "moderation" hopes are nothing but "six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success"? That your department "had descended into a murky game in which the players were deceptive and the rules were stacked against the United States"? That you are "ineffective and incoherent" and that you conducted a "pathetic public campaign of hand wringing and desperation "? And that's just the start, Colon. You should have seen this man rant on. Newt's entire speech was meant to disgrace not only you, but everyone who works for you. Newt did everything short of calling you and your staff traitors. You, Colon -- the war hero. And you will hardly be the first war hero they "bury" either.

Even "Good Dog" Reverend Moon's Washington Post is taking pot shots at you on their front page. You think this doesn't hurt the morale of the folks working for you? Listen to what just one of them had to say:

All of our hearts sank when we read this... For those of us who work in foreign policy to have inter-agency disputes on the front page makes it very hard to work with the foreign audience, who begin to not be certain that what you are telling them is our policy.

It also undermines our foreign policy generally. We are annoyed by it personally... It makes us feel we are at battle with Defense.

Yeah, I know. "Good Dog" Ari said there was no confilict between you and the White House, but no, Colon, Newt Gingrich hardly walks into the American Enterprise Institute without getting a green light (and probably the speech itself) from your boss, Karl Rove. They're out to get you, old boy, and now you want my help? No, thanks, you've been a "Bad Dog". The time has long passed for helping you. If you had listened to me last time, you wouldn't be in this mess now. Instead, you'd probably be the hottest ticket on the circuit of Presidential hopefuls. Too late for any of that now.

Sincerely,      
Benedict@Large
Lest you be confused, dear readers, this is exactly the e-mail I just sent to Secretary Powell. And yes indeed, I did send him an earlier (pre-war) e-mail suggesting that he quit and run for President himself.

And now there can no longer be any doubt anywhere as to just how viscious these White House neocons are. This is not you or I try are tearing up here. This is not Peter Arnett or even Helen Thomas they are trampling over. This is their very own (and still quite honorable) Secretary of State. These people play by only one rule: inflict maximum pain on anyone who gets in their way. Be it their own dissenting citizens or the voiceless citizens of Iraq; make them hurt as they've never hurt before. Whatever it takes to silence them.

But I rant on, and if I continue, I will just turn myself ugly. Instead, I'd like you to read from The American Sentimentalist what is perhaps the best editorial that will be written on this.

And last but not least, I reprint the entirety of Newt's speech to the American Enterprise Institute below, although I do so with my own commentary interjected in high-light. I have no doubt that many could do a better job than I have with my comments, but for what it's worth:

Transforming the State Department
The Next Challenge for the Bush Administration
Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success.  Followed by three weeks of "Go home, Bush" protests.  The first days after military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again and threatens to undo the effects of military victory.

The diplomatic highpoint for the United States was President Bush's speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 12, 2002. At that point, the case had been made emphatically that the burden was on the UN Security Council. The Iraqi dictatorship had violated UN resolutions for 12 years  Israel must be next then. Huh, Newt?  --it was the United Nations that was under scrutiny because it was obvious that the regime of Saddam Hussein had failed. As President Bush said, it was time to "choose between a world of fear and a world of progress."  Does pathological paranoia rung a bell? 

The State Department took the President's strong position and negotiated a resolution that shifted from verification to inspection. This was in part done because of internal State Department politics because verification would have put the policy in the hands of people who disagreed with the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs' propensity for appeasing dictators and propping up corrupt regimes.

The State Department then accepted Hans Blix as chief inspector--even though he was clearly opposed to war and determined to buy time and find excuses for Saddam. The State Department then accepted Blix's refusal to hire back any of the experienced inspectors  The "experienced inspectors" to which Newt refers are the CIA plants that caused the original inspections to collapse.  thus further drawing out the process. The process was turned from verifying Iraqi compliance, in which case the burden was on Saddam and Iraq had clearly failed, to pursuing United Nations inspections in which case the burden was on the United States.  Only to supply sufficient intelligence to back the adminisyration's claims. 

From President Bush's clear choice between two worlds, the State Department had descended into a murky game in which the players were deceptive and the rules were stacked against the United States.  In others words, the U.S. had no such imtelligence. 

The State Department communications program failed during these five months to such a degree that 95 percent of the Turkish people opposed the American position.  The job of pulling Turkey on board belonged to Paul Wolfowitz.  This fit in with a pattern of State Department communications failures as a result of which the South Korean people regarded the United States as more dangerous than North Korea and a vast majority of French and German citizens favored policies that opposed the United States.

As the State Department remained ineffective and incoherent, the French launched a worldwide campaign  against war as a solution to a manageable problem  to undermine the American position and make the replacement of the Saddam dictatorship very difficult. This included twisting Turkish arms  Don't like when democracies actually work, huh, Newt?  to block a vote in favor of the United States using Turkish soil to create a northern front and appealing to the other members of the Security Council to block a second resolution.

Despite a pathetic public campaign of hand wringing and desperation the State Department publicly failed to gain even a majority of the votes on the UN Security Council for a second resolution  because we gave Colon crap to gain that approval with . Opposing America and a world of progress had somehow become less attractive and more difficult than helping America eliminate the fear of Saddam’s wicked regime.  Whose fear is that, Newt? Yours? It certainly wasn't mine. 

Fortunately the Defense Department was capable of overcoming losing access to Turkey  You can't lose something you never had, Newt , losing public opinion support in Europe and the Middle East and turned those disadvantages into a stunning victory working in concert with our British allies and with support largely secured by Centcom and DoD among the Gulf States. Had Centcom and DoD been as ineffective at diplomacy as the State Department (which is supposedly in charge of diplomacy)  the U.S. puppet government of  Kuwait would not have been available, the  Carlyle Group  Saudi air base would not have been available, and the Jordanian passage of special forces would not have been available, etc.

The military delivered diplomatically and then the military delivered militarily in a stunning four week campaign  during which half of our loses were due to "friendly fire .

Now the State Department is back at work pursuing policies that will clearly throw away all the fruits of hard won victory.

1. The concept of the American Secretary of State going to Damascus  Powell does not go there without a Bush sign-off  to meet with a terrorist supporting, secret police wielding dictator is ludicrous. The United States military has created an opportunity to apply genuine economic, diplomatic and political pressure on Syria.  Don't forget those bombs, Newt. 

The current Syrian dictatorship openly hosts seven terrorist's offices in downtown Damascus, in public, with recognized addresses. The current Syrian dictatorship is still developing chemical weapons of mass destruction and will not allow inspections.  They have never been officially asked to do so. Your asking does not count as official, Newt.  The current Syrian dictatorship is still occupying Lebanon to the disadvantage of peace in the region and is still transmitting weapons and support for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon where there are over 11,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.  And how many are aimed back? 

This is a time for America to demand changes in Damascus before a visit is even considered.  A bit late for that.  The visit should be a reward for public change not an appeal to a weak, economically depressed dictatorship.

2. The State Department invention of a quartet for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations defies everything the United States has learned about France, Russia, and the United Nations. After the bitter lessons of the last five months, it is unimaginable that the United States would voluntarily accept a system in which the UN, the European Union, and Russia could routinely outvote President Bush's positions by three to one (or four to one if the State Department voted its cultural beliefs against the President's policies).  Bush himself refuses to change the "road map" before it is officially introduced. 

This is a deliberate and systematic effort to undermine the President's policies procedurally by ensuring they will consistently be watered down and distorted by the other three members. This is worse than the UN inspections process--a clear disaster for American diplomacy.  But in accordance with the presidents's current directives. 

3. The people the State Department has sent to Iraq so far represent the worst instincts of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. They were promoted in a culture of propping up dictators, coddling the corrupt and ignoring the secret police. They have a constituency of Middle East governments deeply opposed to democracy in Iraq.  Well, that's one way of saying they support the Iraqi people's self-determination and governence.  Their instinct is to create a weak Iraqi government that will not threaten its Syrian, Iranian, Saudi and other dictatorial neighbors.  Cool, Newt. Then we're finally going after the Saudis. One question: Did you ask the Carlyle Group first? They'll need time to rearrange their assets, you know. 

This is the exact opposite of the President's stated goals.

4. The announcement that someone from the Agency for International Development would work to help reconstruct Iraq was a further sign that nothing has been learned. As of two weeks ago, not one mile of road had been paved in Afghanistan.  And 3 months ago, Bush "forgot" to include money for this in his budget.  This absolute failure of American entrepreneurial failure was a direct result of the State Department blocking the Corps of Engineers from being directly involved. There is no reason to believe AID will be any better in Iraq than the disaster it has been in Afghanistan.  Sure it will be. Franklin Graham is on the way with his Bibles.  As one AID official told the Post, "Afghans need to understand the lengthy bureaucratic processes of AID and not become impatient." That is exactly the wrong attitude and helps explain why the State Department should be transformed but AID should be abolished.

These continuing failures and refusal to learn about new realities compels the Bush Administration to take on transforming the State Department as its next urgent mission.

The President called for transforming the Defense Department in his 1999 Citadel Address and "keeping the peace by redefining war on our terms." Secretary Rumsfeld has been implementing the President's plan and the success can be seen in Afghanistan  (no longer in the news, but we are still in active combat there)  and in Iraq.

The President called for reorganizing Homeland Security in 2002  This was a Democratic initiative that Bush only signed on to because he got approval to use the bill to bust federal employee unions.  and Secretary Ridge has begun that difficult but vital job.  Of pushing up the sale of duct tape. 

It is now time for the President to call for the equivalent of a Goldwater-Nichols reform bill for the State Department and redefine peace on our terms.

America cannot lead the world with a broken instrument of diplomacy.  I'd rather have "broken" implement than not have one at all.  

America cannot lead in the age of democracy and 24 hour television  That's real smart, Newt. Base diplomacy around cable TV. Rupert sends you a kiss.  with a broken instrument of international communications.

America cannot help develop a vibrant world of entrepreneurial progress where countries grow into safety, health, prosperity and freedom for their people with a broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses.  What does the SEC have to do with this? 

The House and Senate Committees on International Relations should hold exhaustive hearings on the requirements of diplomatic and communications leadership in the 21st century.  Congress should do a lot of things they haven't had the nerve to do lately. 

The House and Senate Committees should examine critically what will be needed to help countries grow into safety, health, prosperity and freedom for their people.  Why should they do that now? They didn't do that when you were there. 

The President should appoint a small working group to report back within six months and should prepare to propose for a transformation of the diplomatic, communications, and assistance elements of the United States.  Re-read this sentence. It says absolutely nothing. 

Without bold dramatic change at the State Department, the United States will soon find itself on the defensive everywhere except militarily. In the long run that is a very dangerous position for the world's leading democracy to be in. Indeed in the long run that is an unsustainable position.  Our position is unsustainable regardless of what State does. 

Our ability to lead is more communications, diplomatic, and assistance based than military. People have always admired us more than feared us.  Until now. 

The collapse of the State Department as an effective instrument puts all this at risk. We must learn the transforming lessons of the last six months  Screw the UN and don't drink French wine.  and apply them to create a more effective State Department.  So what all of this really means is that you want Colon's job. Unemployment sucks, doesn't it? 

Quite frankly, this is the most embarassing attempt a revisionist history I have ever encountered in my 50+ years. Newt obviously has lost entirely any sense of personal morality. No one with such a sense of morals could possibly speak for so long without breaking out in laughter.
Richard Cohen suggests that instead of the Pulitzer Prize for excellence in journalism, we might do better to have one for the worst slime in journalism. He'd call it the "Murdoch Prize", and guess who'd get the first one?
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
The Euro has started to re-emerge as a factor in the U.S. rush to war. I last published "The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth" (long and complex, but worth it) by William Clark on February 17th. Mr. Clark suggests that Saddam's fatal mistake may have been his move from Dollar-basing to Euro-basing of Iraq's oil several years ago. This move woke up American financial powers to the potential for a total collapse in the American economy should most world oil producers follow his lead. The war of course will return Iraqi oil to Dollar-basing, but the issue is hardly ending there.

Two additional things are now in play. Muslims eye euro as new oil currency suggests that the attack on Iraq, rather than lessing desires of Muslim countries to move to the Euro, has actually increased it. The critical role that dollar-based oil plays in the health of the U.S. economy is hardly lost in the Muslim world, and though such a move could hurt these countries, revenge for the war could possibly be a powerful-enough motivator for them to make the change.

And then there is this from George Monbiot: The bottom dollar. Great Britain is nearing a vote on moving from the Pound to the Euro. While sentiment (Mr. Monbiot's included) lies against doing so at this time, he does in this article offer the moral argument for making the change simply to attempt to rein in U.S. power:

That we have a moral duty to contest the developing power of the US is surely evident. That we can contest it by no other means is equally obvious. Those of us who are concerned about American power must abandon our opposition to the euro.
But don't expect to read much about this in the mainstream American press. We call that sort of reporting "treasonous" these days.
Congressman and presidential hopeful Dennis J. Kucinich has asked Donald Rumsfeld for an accurate accounting of the number of Iraqi civilians killed and injured during the war. Whatever were you thinking, Denny? You know this White House never knows anything.
Bill Moyers hits the nail on the head:
Politics determines economic outcomes — campaign contributions give the edge to those who can afford the entrĂ©e. It goes even deeper. What's emerged full-blown is the military-industrial complex famously predicted and feared by President Eisenhower fifty years ago.

It's no longer possible to tell where the corporate world ends and government begins. The poster boy for this new elite is Richard Cheney. As the head of Halliburton, he made a fortune from the influence and access gained through his earlier service in government.

Then Halliburton Corporation gets favored and confidential treatment soon after Mr. Cheney becomes George Bush's vice president. This week the big construction company Bechtel receives a contract that could pay three quarters of a billion dollars for work in post-war Iraq. Bechtel gives lots of money to politicians, mostly to Republicans. On its board is George Schultz, who ran Bechtel before he became President Reagan's Secretary of State. One of Bechtel's Senior Vice Presidents is a former general who serves on the Defense Policy Board along with other hawks like Richard Perle and James Woolsey who wanted war with Iraq and got it. They advise the Pentagon and then turn around and make money out of their defense contacts.

These fellows are all honorable men, I am sure, but they call for war with all the ferocity of non-combatants and then turn around and feed on the corpse of war. Illegal? Not in our system. Unsavory? No matter how you slice it. But the main point is this. America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own, and they are privatizing democracy. All the benefits — the tax cuts, policies, and rewards — flow in one direction: up. And the people ... whose faith in the fairness of the American way of life is the bulwark of our country, are left outside looking in.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Charley Reese: Rachel Corrie Deserves Justice, 4/21/2003

You can follow in much detail the slaughter of the Palestinian people by the IDF at Electronic Intifada. Bookmark it!

And there is a damned good reason that the International Court has a warrant out on Ariel Sharon, by the way. It's for the murder of 1,700 people in three days. But don't expect the American press to tell you about this.

From David Corn at The Nation: Where Have All the WMD-Hunters Gone?

This article allows me to bring up somthing that has been bothering me for several days. Regardless of "regime change" or any of the other numerous excuses George peddled in his march to war, the one he "sold" it on to the American people was WMDs. Saddam had so many of them and so instantly deployable, our troops were required to wear special suits for when (not if) they were used. That the war even had to start when it did was because these same troops would be overwhelmed by wearing such suits in the Iraqi summer. So where are they?

It sickens me to even listen to the administration's rhetoric on answering this simple question. If Saddam had so many of these and they were so instantly-deployable, something would have been found by now. But it hasn't.

George's case is DEAD as of today. Even if something is found and verified, it is not George's masses, and it is hardly instantly-deployable. George Bush is a liar, and he has proven himself to be such before the world.

Now if some of these flag-draped rednecks could figure this out, we'd be all set.

Photographic celebrations of our young warriors, glorifications of released American prisoners, heroic rituals of the war dead all take on the character of crass exploitation of the men and women in uniform. First they were forced into a dubious circumstance, and now they are themselves being mythologized as its main post-facto justification -- as if the United States went to Iraq not to seize Saddam (disappeared), or to dispose of weapons of mass destruction (missing), or to save the Iraqi people (chaos), but ''to support the troops.'' War thus becomes its own justification. Such confusion on this grave point, as on the others, signifies a nation lost.
James Carroll, A nation lost, The Boston Globe, 4/22/2003
The Ever-Growing Police State: Per Sheryl McCarthy at Newsday, peace demonstrators who get arrested are increasingly being interogated regarding their political views. In New York City for example, these questions are coming from the White House under the guise of a drug investigation, although those being interogated are not informed of this. Any who wish to "remain silent" however are being told that it will take longer to process their release. Seige Hiel!
A few more Raspberry Awards to hand out:

~ To David Shaw at the Los Angeles Times for his article "A skeptical journalist isn't an unpatriotic one". It seems that David and his fellow journalists are fretting about the high volume of complaints from readers about "unpatriotic" and downright "treasonous" news coverage, and he goes on to offer some rather weak reasons for this. Come on, David. The reason for this is that you folks have been asleep at the wheel for too long. You stopped telling them the real story quite a while back, and now you are worried about your mail when you start to try once again? One raspberry for you, Dave.

~ To Jim Kelly, managing editor of Time Magazine, who David quotes in his article. Jim says this hostility is large the fault of cable TV news coverage and its tendency "to stick a waving flag on virtually everything that moves". This from a magazine that just deleted a 1998 article by Bush, Sr. listing a host of quite credible reasons not to invade Baghdad? You get a quick three raspberries for this comment, Jim. [ P.S. If you ever need that article, Jim, you can read it here. ]

Monday, April 21, 2003
Philip Weiss offers a "good" review of columnist Thomas Friedman in the New York Observer. To my taste, Weiss only missed one important point: Friedman thinks that he speaks the intellectual case for the neocons. While he may arrive at a lot of the same conclusions as that group does, he does not speak at all for them. Friedman still retains a shred of a heart, and the neocons probably never had a single one to share between themselves.
William Rivers Pitt writes "The Silence about September 11":
I have been giving a lot of talks lately at colleges and for organizations about the Iraq war. Always in my remarks I ask the same question. "It has been almost 20 months since the attacks of September 11. It has been over 570 days since the Towers fell. The 9/11 attacks are the principle reason, according to the Bush administration, which justifies the war. Can anyone tell me why those attacks happened? Has anyone in the Bush administration or the media come forth with a reasonable explanation besides 'Evildoers who hate our freedom?'"

Every time I get blank stares, and always a few sets of widened eyes, as if my question caused them to suddenly realize that no such explanation has ever been put forward.

No, this is not another conspiracy theory on 9/11. It's a history on U.S. involvement over the last 25 years in Afghanistan, always seeking to "further the peace" by stirring war. This will take some of the mystery right out of 9/11 for you.
Bruce Ackerman offers an important essay at The American Prospect on how Congress subverted the Constitution and made meaningless "the will of the people" when it enacted a war powers resolution before the president went to the UN Security Council. Lessons to be learned, for sure.
Good for the goose? Good for the gander: What the heck. It worked for George Bush, so Pakistan has accused India of hiding weapons of mass destruction. India predictably has denied Pakistan's allegation ... Hey, wait a minute! Isn't that exactly what Saddam said?
"We'll only stay until we go." ~ It started with maybe three months for us to get a new Iraqi government started, but probably more like six. Then there was talk of a year and then two; that's all it would take. Then the troops could come home. Sure.

It never was any of that of course, as PNAC had said from the beginning. It was always about long-term military access to bases there and perhaps five years for the new Iraqi government to be functioning. Of course, perhaps the main reason for why it will take fives years is that it will take that long force the new government to accept a long-term U.S. military presence there.

There is a much quicker way to go about this however, as Peter Lee points out in "The Last Laugh".


Syria, the Unfortunate: One of the primary reasons we'll be needing a permanent military presence in Iraq, of course, is so that we can attack Syria, a long-term goal of some of those same folks over at PNAC. [See Daniel Pipes, "Ending Syria's Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role", May, 2000] Yeah, I know, Powell is going over to talk with them and even Bush is toning down the rhetoric a bit (and keeing Rummy's mouth shut), but none other than "Mr. War-Profiteer" Richard Perle is screeming loudly (Great Photo!) for this and James Woolsey (slated for a senior role in Iraq's interim administration) is calling Syria a fascist state that "needs a regime change." That'll endear the hearts and minds of the Iraqis for sure.

And remember, this is the same administration that danced for six months before before pulling the plug on Saddam. Chances are that Perle and Woolsey are just "keeping the iron hot" in case Bush needs a little boost to his re-election campaign.

Celebrity Targets: Anti-War Stances Have Stars Facing Backlash ~ Nothing new here, but note the implicit endorsement of this "backlash" in this article from ABC News:
  • "Most Americans who've opposed the war are anonymous faces in the crowd, and their protests haven't cost them all that much." ~ Cost them? Why should it cost them anything? Isn't political speech exactly what was meant to be protected by the First Amendment?

  • "The Dixie Chicks ... criticism of President Bush still has radio listeners calling for stations to quit playing their music, and many stations have. " ~ This is nonsense. Clear Channel clearly orchestrated this "call-in" to its own stations, and in fact, we have only their word as to how successful it was. Apparently, not much: the Dixie Clicks currently top the country charts.
Yes, ABC goes on to use the word "McCarthyism", but even then, they do not condemn it. Instead, they just pass this off as some sort of "grass roots" response, totally ingoring what they know quite well to be the real case. Give ABC three raspberries on this one.
Why does the White House consistently propose lousy candidates to to head and staff departments he doesn't like? Take the environment as a classic example: Lawsuits Help Bush Get Way on Environment. Want logging access to protected woodlands? Just sue, and these "watchdogs" simply roll over and play dead.

To faithfully execute the laws of the United States? Give me a break, George. You never intended to do any such thing.

Protecting the Court

If their is any doubt in your mind as to how important it is to block the appointment of ideologues to the federal bench, Michael J. Fellows' "Off with their heads! The Constitution according to Scalia" should clear it up. Fellows' target is of course Antonin Scalia, current Supreme Court Associate Justice and a possible future nominee for Chief Justice.

This article covers in some detail how Scalia used the currently-fashionable Republican "avoidance tactic" during his 1986 Senate confirmation hearing, and suggests ways to avoid that. But it is best in its exposition on the magnitude of difference between Scalia's "originalist" (strict construction) views and the views of mainstream Americans. (Scalia believes the Constitution to be silent on prohibiting the execution of innocent persons, extremely-retarded persons, and children as young as 7 years old.)

In reading this article, you will certainly get to know Scalia as the dangerous man he is as a sitting judge. Even more than that however, you will come away with a better understanding of just how critical an issue this is to the future of the country.

Dick Gephardt is trying to jumpstart his stalled Presidential bid with a proposal to provide health insurance to "almost all the 41.2 million Americans without it". His proposal combines a generous increase in government subsidies for all employers who currently provide health insurance with provisions to require and additionally assist all employers who do not to do so.

Even as a currently-uninsured person, I have rather luke-warm feelings about this proposal. On the plus-side (especially for Dick), it would certainly be a turn-on for corporate America, especially the health insurance industry, and would certainly garner some serious political support (and money) from that quarter. It would also be a positive step towards a solution to this problem, and it does have an aire of "doablitiy" to it.

Still, my objection to proposals like this lies in the fact that so long as we aim at anything less than a complete solution, we will never end up with anything approaching a complete solution. This proposal is simply one more patchwork step that neither provides coverage for all nor addresses any of the underlining problems in the industry. Specifically, even though the proposal will contain additional provisions allowing temporarily unemployed and part-time workers to purchase coverage at reduced rates, these groups along with those workers employed at or near minimum wage are highly likely to forego opt-in insurance in favor of more immediate and basic expenses. As such, it would simply not even come close to its stated goal of "almost all" people being covered. And in failing to address the problems in the pricing fundamentals health care and health insurance, it virtually guarentees further upward pressures on health care prices across the board.

Saturday, April 19, 2003
From the Christian Science Monitor comes this: A crusade after all? You already know me as an Atheist, but this quite esteemed publication quite well makes the case against an early entry of Christian fundamentalist ministries into Iraq. Expect this administration to ignore these warnings, and expect Iraqis to become further inflamed by their presence.

I will have more on this in a while.

The Iraqis are not a happy people these days, as evidenced by their tens of thousands protesting in the streets of Baghdad. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, or at least not according to the lines we were sold by the neocons. The Iraqis would welcome us, and then something strange and magical would happen: They would invite us to stay and help them through the stupidity with which they are obviously stricken.

Not quite so. The Iraqis do not view themselves as stupid, and this is where the neocons get lost: Since obviously they are so smart, how could anyone not think themselves as stupid by comparison?

And this entire attitude is creating a dangerous groundswell of opposition to our presence there. We are now viewed not as an army of "liberation", but rather as a colonial power, seeking to "liberate them" solely from their own natural resources.


But back to the neocons, who obviously have Syria on their hit list. Aside from Rummy's inflamatory statements, military commanders in Iraq have indicted that they will use quite dubious (not in international law) doctine of "hot pursuit" to justify a violation of Syria's borders. Once in, and the fuse is lit for a complete breakdown of whatever is left in that region that resembles peace.

The neocons want exactly this as a justification for region-wide war. Syria understands this however, and has introduced to the UN Security Council a resolution for a WMD-free zone covering the greater Mid-East region of which they are a part. Expect us to create a problem with that resolution.

International Law
... or what is left of it, perhaps.
"There's a strict duty here - the Pentagon had a responsibility to
do something about the looting of Baghdad, and it didn't.. Basically, we're now responsible for the entire country of Iraq and all of its 25 million residents. Somebody should have given the order to stop the looting and protect those buildings."

~ Francis A. Boyle

You may recognize Dr. Boyle's name. He authored the first of two well-known articles of impeachment drafts against the president. This quote from him comes from a Baltimore Sun editorial subtitled "International Law Places Demands on Occupier". Indeed it does, as this summary of an Amnesty International statement points out.

The full statement by Amnesty International is quite lengthy and full of specific legal references to international law and how they should be applied in this case. If you want to wade through this (it is quite excellent), ask yourself as you do: Just how long would "gut instinct" George spend on it before he threw it aside?

Of course, why should the president worry about international law when his henchmen so freely obiterate ours?

  Media Watch:  
American media consumers have caught only glimpses of the carnage. National networks sanitized their war coverage.
But our country is largely numb. Media depictions of human tragedies may have momentary impact, but the nation's anesthetic flood of nonstop media leads us to sense that we're somehow above or beyond the human fray ...
Continuing on from my "media as watchdog" theme from yesterday, Norman Solomon takes on the American media for its empathy with administration policies in "Media and the Politics of Empathy".
Of course, there are some large pressures on the media to conform to the administration's hard line. In Iraq this week, reporters were ordered away by the military from viewing an Iraqi protest of the American occupation that they were holding in front of the hotel where most reporters are staying. Why? "(T)hey are only performing because the media are here." Well, DUH? Since when do protesters hold a protest in places away from the media?

But it got worse that day as U.S. troops aggressively searched reporters' rooms, citing "reliable intelligence reports" that a cache of arms were somewhere within. But how many times do we have to hear that phrase before it simply becomes the bullshit cover for whatever harassment needs to take place? Did the military spokesperson say they had found these weapons? No. So just how "reliable" are these reliable reports? Not at all, apparently.


Of course, these reporters must be faulted for not falling in line as well as their corporate counterparts back home. Take Time Magazine, for example. Seems that Poppy Bush wrote an article for them back in 1998, explaining why he didn't follow Saddam to Baghdad back in 1991. Seems much of his rationale still applies today.

Now of course, with Junior running roughshod over Iraq, something like this could be quite embarassing, so the "patriotic" editors over at Time deleted the article and were even kind enough to delete it from the table of contents page of the issue in which it appeared. Fortunately however, you can still read it here.


And of course, the administration is planning to use this media compliancy as it launches it's new ad campaign blitz for filthy-rich welfare. Expect them to get everything they want.
After days with no finds of Saddam's alledged "massive stores" of WMDs, pressure to find something is increasing among both supporters and detractors of the claim. On Friday, British MPs told Tony Blair in no uncertain terms that if no such evidence is produced, then "the basis on which this was executed was illegal." In the U.S., a group of ex-intelligence officials echoed this increasing doubt in the existance of these WMDs: "Some of my colleagues are virtually certain that there will be some weapons of mass destruction found, even though they might have to be planted." Suggestions that UN inspectors be allowed back into Iraq to deflect such claims are being rebuffed by the U.S. even as it is asking for the UN to lift its sanctions against Iraq, an action that Russia is threatening to veto.

This last sentence perhaps needs a little explanation because this is all diplomatic double-speak. First, no one is about to stop any needed but previously-denied supplies from entering Iraq. That would be rediculous at this point. So why would the U.S. be seeking a lifting of these sanctions, and why would Russia be saying no?

In a word: Money. You see, billions of dollars are currently being held by the UN in trust for Iraq under the sanctions provisions. The U.S. wants that money. Russia's position? Not until the U.S. allows the UN back into Iraq. Now who's trying to play who for a fool?

Friday, April 18, 2003
  More links from "the continent":  
Another take on "Saving Private Lynch" from the Times of London. And what is she going to think when she gets home and learns that they used her for a publicity stunt?

But what ticks me of the most is that they could have had their best news story of the war if they had just let her ambulance through.


Iraq war: Unanswered questions
The BBC tackles the issue of the quality of reports coming out from official military briefings during the war. In ten different comparisons, the initial reports did not square with later reports, and the differences were always in favor of making the military look better than it was.
As reported earlier, the U.S. does not plan any clean-up of any depleted uranium (DU) from their weapons' fire. To do so would be an obvious admission of the possibility that these weapons can cause damages far beyond their initial impact. That would of course expose the Pentagon to large lawsuits for not addressing the potential problem in regard to the veterans of Iraq I. With Rummy asking for a special military examptiom from environmental conpliance, this would hardly serve his case. (It must be noted here that if these weapons leave a significant lingering environmental toxicity, it is (according to international war) the responsibility of the conquering military to clean this up.)

With all of this in mind, The Britisn Royal Society (of Science) has issued a statement requesting that such clean-up be done. Expect a "no comment" rebuff by BushCo. If they can request a budget cut to our own veterans' benefits during a war, it is silly to expect them to give a crap the possible future radiation poisoning of Iraqi's.


Moral Meltdown
The Guardian And Observer Descend To New Depths

"This is the role of the establishment media - to vindicate
 the crimes of the powerful, to whitewash the bloodbath."
So writes David Edwards of Media Lens (Znet) in a blistering attack on Guardian and Observer (London) pro-war columnists who blew in whatever the direction of the wind was in the run-up to the war. While he attacks specificly all pundits guilty of this from these publications, he focuses much of his ire in a direct attack against Andrew Rawnsley, decimating his opinions in the process, often on a point by point basis ("Saddam had killed 3 million people" ... Amnesty Interhational suggests well less than 5% of that). Mr. Edwards also offers first person insight into the dynamics of why these people write the way they do.

And if the fun of watching a pompous warmonger get beat up is not enough for you, there are also gems like this:

It might be difficult to accept, but the truth is that every person who died in the war was killed for Western corporate and strategic interests. Does anyone seriously believe that the US would send a quarter of a million troops to Iraq only to have the Iraqi people freely vote to have nothing to do with the United States government?
Don't let the fact that Mr. Edwards is writing about British columnists put you off to reading this article, by the way. This is the way to go on the offensive against our own journalist shapeshifters so involved the pandering of the hollow ideologies of the right-wing. Show them as fools by their own words.

Now if someone would just go after George Will like this.

Heavy-handed Military Bans Observers

The Iraq Peace Team (Voices in the Wilderness) has been in Baghdad since well before the war began mostly to serve as independent observers and to provide any general type of help that they can. On Wednesday, they issued this press release from there describing conditions: Heavy-handed and hopeless, the U.S. military doesn't know what it's doing in Iraq. It concluded with this advisory:
The U.S. military has demonstrated that it is neither prepared, nor interested in becoming prepared, to deal with the humanitarian crisis caused by their war. The international community must exert itself, and return UN control to dealing with this crisis, until Iraqis can form a government of their own to deal with the problems created by 12 years of sanctions and war.
Apparently motivated by this press release, less than 24 hours later Voices in the Wilderness was banned (see photo) from meeting with the U.S. Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC), or with international journalists working out of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. Apparently, problems with military-run humanitarian operations do not exist if they are not reported. [See also: "Why, why, why?" for additional information on conditions in Baghdad.]
The Cheney lawsuit on his energy taskforce seems to be going forward after all. Time for a little more judge-fixing, Dick.
Fresh off the A.M. wires: Administration suggests that Saddam's top scientists have fled to Libya. Remeber them? They're on the "slaughter list" too. And there I was wondering how they were planning to put Libya into play.

I'm still confused about one thing however. If I was was fleeing Iraq under U.S. occupation, I'd hardly be picking up travel brochures to other countries on BushCo's list. Do you think that they're all that stupid?

Thursday, April 17, 2003
This is starting to get sickening. From The Watch comes this report that the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch may also fall into the catagory of a media event. Not for the soldiers who went in for her, for sure; they were operating in unsecured territory and clearly had to execute flawlessly all the way.

Now, I haven't been able to second-source any of this, but the media tales surrounding her may be quite exagerated, and it seems likely that the Special Forces who rescued her encountered no resistance. While I do not generally offer things that I am not reasonably sure of, the finding of the reasonably-healthy seven POWs a few days back seems to suggest that our POWs were pretty much treated according to Geneva conventions. This story from The Watch certainly does not indicate otherwise.

This story certainly bears watching, though not on FAUX-Americana. And as the "Statue Fiasco" clearly indicates, other national news sources will be quite unlikely to admit that they once again had the wool pulled over their eyes. Watch the international press if you want to see more on this.

[Update:] Brooke at SHARE the CAKE has more on this.

"Wonder-Working Power"
There is pow'r, pow'r, wonder-working pow'r, in the blood, [men echo] in the blood, of the Lamb, [men echo again] of the Lamb. There is pow'r, pow'r, wonder-working pow'r in the precious blood of the Lamb.
No, I haven't been "re-born", and James Heflin doesn't need to be. He's a Southern Baptist by birth who knows that well before the fundamentalists highjacked the White House, they highjacked the Southern Baptist religion, changing it from a tollerant, decentralized faith into a rigid autocracy, where even the slightest dissent meets swift rebuke. In this article, Mr. Heflin recalls his many personal experiences during that first highjacking, but goes on quite extensively on how all of that is being played out in this second highjacking with a newer and far more powerful cast of characters.

Loaded with fascinating details (Jerry Falwell recently joined as Jimmy Carter was publicly renouncing his 65-year membership), this article provides an essential background for anyone wishing to understand this administration's mindset.

The Muslim fundamentalist bin Laden wants a holy war with Jewish and Christian fundamentalists. With George Bush in charge, he's got it.

The issue is not, in the end, religious. It's not racial. It's philosophical: No matter what religion or political view provides a starting point, the end destination of the march toward absolutism is the willingness to cease caring about unbelievers as human beings. That is a danger greater than any weapon of mass destruction.

Take it from Mr. Heflin. He's been there.     Read it!  
The Boston Globe indicates that the pressure to find WMDs in Iraq is mounting. Current efforts are restricted to U.S. military personnel only, and the administration claims that adding outside help is "inappropriate", but outside analysts are begining to suggest that international help should be added both to increase the effectiveness of these efforts and to give the process a greater level of credibility. Increasingly however, both groups are suggesting that whatever may be found will be far less tham originally claimed by the administration. But the best is saved for last:
Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke has sought repeatedly to ''manage expectations,'' in her words, saying that the search process could take up to a year to complete.
A year indeed. That should be long enough to make everybody forget.
Also, via AlterNet.org: "The Elusive Weapons Of Mass Destruction": Hans Blix has a few things to say about his dealings with the U.S. (and they're not very pretty, either). When asked if he believed that WMDs exist in Iraq: "I originally thought that the Americans began the war believing that they existed. Now, I believe less in that possibility ... one does have many questions."
The May issue of The American Prospect headlines "The Most Dangerous President Ever" by Harold Meyerson:
George W. Bush has been pursuing a reckless, even ridiculous, but always right-wing agenda -- shredding a global-security structure at a time requiring unprecedented international integration, shredding a domestic safety net at a time when the private sector provides radically less security than it did a generation ago. No American president has ever played quite so fast and loose with the well-being of the American people.
As with his foreign policy, no level of factual refutation seems to make a dent in Bush's economic policies. His programs not only shift the burden of Americans' economic security to an increasingly deregulated private economy, they do so at a time when the deregulated private economy is singularly unable to provide economic security.
The American president -- though not of the United States -- whom George W. Bush most nearly resembles is the Confederacy's Jefferson Davis.
Also worthwhile from this issue is "All the President's Lies" by Drake Bennett and Heidi Pauken:
The pattern is now well established. Soothing rhetoric -- about compassionate conservatism, about how much money the "average" American worker will get through the White House tax program, about prescription-drug benefits -- is simply at odds with what Bush's policies actually do. Last month Bush promised to enhance Medicaid; his actual policy would effectively end it as a federal entitlement program.
Hypocrisy has been defined as the tribute that vice pays to virtue. George W. Bush lied about all these policies because the programs he pretends to favor are far more popular than the ones he puts into effect. But unless the voters and the press start paying attention, all the president's lies will have little political consequence -- except to certify that we have become something less than a democracy.
You'd almost think these folks didn't like the guy.
Arianna Huffington disputes the neocon gloat that the speedy fall of Baghdad is proof that those who opposed the invasion of Iraq were dead wrong. Quite the opposite, she says. It proves that Saddam never was the threat the neocons said he was.
'A Chill Wind is Blowing in This Nation...'
Transcript of the speech given by actor Tim Robbins to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 2003.

Villified anti-war activist and actor Tim Robbins talks about hope and fear, about baseball and scaring children, and about how bullies are stopped in a challenge to the media to stand up and do their job. Most impressive.

Also, an excerpt from Robbins' response to Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey:

To suggest that my criticism of the President put the troops in danger is absurd. I had been unaware, that baseball is a Republican sport....You invoke patriotism and use words like freedom in an attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so, you dishonor the words patriotism and freedom and dishonor the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a place where one can freely express their opinion without fear of reprisal or punishment.
Take that! all you naysayers. Didn't President Bush tell you that we would all be safer after we kicked Saddam's butt? But no, you wouldn't bekieve him. You thought you knew everything.

Well, it's time for all of you to eat crow! The terror threat was just lowered to yellow. I know I feel a lot safer now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
That stuff? Heck, that's ancient history!

Or at least it was ancient history. But with the looting of museums in Baghdad and elsewhere, most of it is gone.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. The probability of wide-spread looting was well understood before the war, and scholars of Middle Eastern history were consulted extensively in order to identify the locations of critical components of Iraq's cultural and religious heritages. The intent of these consultations was to allow U.S. troops to quickly secure these important locations and prevent them from being damaged. Instead, these locations were all but ignored by U.S. troops, who instead focused solely on protecting the Ministry of Interior (intelligence information) and the Ministry of Oil.

The significance of these losses to the Iraqi people cannot be overstated. As much as the Iraqis wanted their oil protected as their future sourch of revenue, these treasures spoke equally as loud of their pride and sense of identity. Indeed, not only is there outrage among world scholars, but Iraqi citizens in what are now daily protests are calling upon the U.S. to restore order and even suggesting that Bush and Saddam are one and the same. These are not happy people, and their discontent will make the already difficult task of convincing the Iraqis of our good intentions far harder, especially with the daily reminder of their loss in the form of the pilaged remains of their museums.

And so what is the administration's response to this? Same as it always is: Send in Colon to clean up Rummy's messes. [Does the irony of this escape you: black janitor good only to clean white master's mess?] While Rummy brushed of critcism on this ("Bad things happen in life, and people do loot" ), it falls to Colon to try to figure out some way to retrieve some of the stolen items. But Colon is likely to have little success, for there is a well-establish world-wide black market hungrey for just such items. Most of these items are probably lost forever, and the Iraqis are very angry about this. Said one Iraqi woman, "Go back to your country. Get out of here. You are not wanted here. We hated Saddam and now we are hating Bush because he is destroying our city."

But of course, why should we have expected any less from George? Such details hardly fit into the plans of a man driven only by "gut instinct". And he does, after all, have a long history of destroying national treasures when they get in his way. His first one, in fact, was our Constitution. Don't expect for the Iraqis to be treated any better.

Kirwan is out with another of his graphical essays, "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace", over at AmericaHeldHostile. It kind of a fairy tale type of satire, except that it's the same fairy tail we've been reading in our newspapers for the last six months.
Rummy seeks to consolidate (his own) power: Leave it to this administration to use a quick military victory to seek addition power. And so it is that the official U.S. military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, reports of Rummy's latest grab for power. In a 204-page document submitted to Congress on Monday, Rummy is seeking (among other things) the following:
  • To eliminate many reports to Congress from the Pentagon, including over 100 pages of exemptions from reporting for Rummy himself (congressional oversite),
  • To allow direct Defense Department payments without oversite to "supportive" foreign entities (Bye-bye, Colin), and
  • To end provisions that require that high-level military official not make a career of their curent positions.
This is total crap, but will likely pass a Republican Congress that is now as useless as its Democratic members have been for a long time.
This proposed law flys in the face of my previously expressed concerns regarding the professionalization of the military, and the risks therein. Our Constitution specifies quite clearly that our military is subordinate through oversite to its civilian commanders, and the clear intention of much of this proposed legislation is to remove that exact oversite. If enacted as written, this document will almost literally establish our military as a fourth and independent branch of our government, quite obviously a status that Rummy seeks for himself. But aside from this dimunition of Congressional oversite, Rummy seeks to establish himself as Supreme Commander in several other ways:
  • By allowing himself carte blanche to support foreign militias without review, he seeks to overthrow any coherent foreign policy coming from the State Department (dumb nigger).
  • By eliminating a rotational system of top brass (and upping their salaries, to boot), he seeks to surround himself with a continually-loyal elite of military brass.
Now it is quite obvious to a casual oberver that the State Department is to handle our "foreign entangements"; that is why it has it's own seat on the President's cabinet. But Rummy kicked Colin's ass on the Iraq run-up, and this suggestion of his to have his own "foreign policy" budget clearly is an attempt to put the State Department out of business. From now on, according to Rummy, the business of state will be handled at the end of his many rifles.

I wrote extensively earlier (sorry, link missing) about the dangers to the public of an increasing professionalization of the military, and this last proposal is exactly what I was referring to. Rummy wants to "extend the tours" of his selected brass into a form of elite corps of senior advisors that has never yet existed in the history of our country. Loyal only to him because of his unique and (per his proposal) unaccountable status, Rummy could potentially order a strike on the White House himself! Theatric? Hardly. I have been told by hard core insiders that they would like to see Donald Rumsfeld follow or perhaps even replace Bush in the White House. Theatric, my ass. There are those in the core that are already dreaming of this.

And yet, there is another side to this distancing of the military mind from that of the public, and this is that it is bad for veterans who do not opt for career service. This is quite obvious as the "Support Our Troops" Republicans chop $14 billion from the veterans' sevices budget while they are away and unable to complain. Support them, apparently, when they are killing people, but screw them when they come back injured. And this was another point that I made in my earlier article: The number of Senators today who are also veterans has dropped dramatically of late. Not having to "walk the walk", they are clearly finding it so very much easier to cast our vets aside.

Now, I will admit that $14 billion is not that much of a cut for a federal program of this size. Certainly, a fully-funded federal program this large could make up for this merely with "belt-tightening" and efficiency measures. Except for the fact that the veterans program today is not fully-funded. Except for the fact that it already sucks. Why don't you read about it as it exists today if you don't believe me.

But on a most personal level: I ended up on the streets and homeless one day. I spent a lot of time there in fact, mostly with guys my age. Noticing this, I one day asked them about where they were during Vietnam. Total silence for a while until one of them said, "We were all there, stupid." But I pressed: "Then why do you live here? Why don't you go to the VA?" They broke out immediately into a laughter. "That's were we all came from, stupid."