American Samizdat Guernica
Saturday, April 03, 2004
The View from Benedict:
Of Mice and Men
Picture this:
A woman sits alone in the center of a crowded room. All eyes are upon her, as she has been dragged through the press relentlessly for two weeks. Even the television cameras are watching.

In front of her sits a panel with many prepared questions, but she knows few of what those question will be. It will soon be her job to answer those questions under oath, and because she is under oath, she sits alone.

She sits there alone with her own thoughts and memories. She understands that the words she is about to say are perhaps the most important words that she will ever say. She waits in silence. Alone.

Now picture this:
The same room. The same panel of questioners. This time however, there are no television cameras and no witnesses to the event.

In the middle of the room this time are two men. Neither of them is under oath. They are there together so that neither contradicts what the other says.

These men are cowards.

Bless you, Condi Rice
Maybe you did screw up, but you did not deserve this. This is what Nixon did as he sacrificed one by one the less politically-savy members of his administration to save his own hide.

Cowards, all of them, and forever.

"[Army Specialist Jason Gunn] came within inches of death last November 15, when the Humvee he was driving hit a roadside bomb, killing his sergeant. The entire left side of Gunn's body was splattered with shrapnel, his elbow was shattered and, as he lay in the US military hospital bed in Germany, he was tortured by nightmares.

"Late on March 23, Gunn told his mother, Pat, that his commanders were putting pressure on him to return to Iraq, but there was no way he was getting on that plane. A few hours later, he was airborne. This week, Gunn's distraught mother, who is herself a navy veteran, received a first official response to her demands to know why a soldier, who was being treated by military doctors for combat stress, was sent back to the war.

"The note, which acknowledged Gunn suffered post-traumatic stress, said: 'After discussion of his case it was determined ... this may be in his best interest mentally to overcome his fear by facing it. Therefore, he has been cleared for redeployment.'

"Gunn is not the only broken soldier being sent to battle. The Guardian has uncovered more than a dozen instances in which ill or injured soldiers were sent to war by a US military whose resources have been stretched near to breaking point by the simultaneous fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In its investigation, the Guardian learned of soldiers who were deployed with almost wilful disregard to their medical histories, and with the most cursory physical examinations. Soldiers went to war with chronic illnesses such as coronary disease, mental illness, arthritis, diabetes and the nervous condition, Tourette's syndrome, or after undergoing recent surgery."

"The Pentagon's senior health official told Congress this week that the military had carried out 18,000 evacuations from Iraq of wounded or ill soldiers.

"Meanwhile, 15,000 soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed for disability claims. Some 12,000 have sought medical treatment from facilities run by the department of veterans affairs. About 4,600 have sought psychological counselling. That demand threatens to overwhelm a veterans' healthcare system that has received no new funding since the Iraq war began."

Are you even kidding me? Bush and Rumsfeld fall over themselves to "honor America's heroes," commit themselves and these people to this asinine "war without end..." and they don't even give more money to the VA to serve the soldiers who are going to need support and care? Is that what I just read?

They've got to go.
Friday, April 02, 2004
When it rains, it pours:
Whistleblower the White House wants
to silence speaks to The Independent

A former translator for the FBI with top-secret security clearance says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 11 September attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened.

She said the claim by the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous lie".

Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".

She told The Independent yesterday: "I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."

She added: "There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used ­ but not specifically about how they would be used ­ and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities ­ with skyscrapers."

This just blasts the last facade away. They knew and did nothing.

These people are laughable. They are the full fruition of Ronald Reagan; mindless in policy, incompetant in management, and even funny if you or one of your own didn't happen to sacrifice a leg or arm or even your life under their watch.

They are the bottom of the barrel of human existance, the bad apple that rots the bushel, and the people your mom told you not to hang around with.

These people speak to you of religion while they practice the religion of the Anti-Christ. They speak to you of morality when they would just as soon see you dead.

They wrap themselves in the bodies of 9/11 and the drapes upon the coffins that interred those people. Fine. So be it.

But let us not miss this opportunity. Let us fashion those same drapes as a hangman's noose, squeezing it around their own necks as we do. Enough is enough.

Have I told you lately how much I hate these people?

A man so depraved that he would kill 10,000 innocent people ...Chris Floyd:
A warning to readers: This column is obscene. It relates details of an act so depraved that young children should not be exposed to it; even adults will be debased by the contact. The characters described herein exhibit all the human enlightenment and moral engagement of monkeys idly scratching their groins on a hot day at the zoo.

Last November, in one of the innumerable, unnoticed little corruptions that belch forth daily, even hourly, from the geyser of graft that is the Bush Administration, the man who calls himself the president decided that some of the lowliest laborers in America should be left to sicken or die from forced exposure to filthy rags dripping with toxic waste. Why? Because their bosses paid him money.

That's the only reason.

A man so depraved that he would kill 10,000 innocent people in a loot-gobbling war crime -- and joke about it, as Bush did last week at a public tryst with media bigwigs -- won't blush at a pipsqueak scam like the shop-towel caper. But at least you can tell him to stop scratching his graft-infested groin so blatantly. Children might be watching.
"[Former. Sen.] Gary Hart was co-chair (with former Sen. Warren Rudman) of the U.S. Commission on National Security, a bipartisan panel that conducted the most thorough investigation of U.S. security challenges since World War II. After completing the report, which warned that a devastating terrorist attack on America was imminent and called for the immediate creation of a Cabinet-level national security agency, and delivering it to President Bush on January 31, 2001, Hart and Rudman personally briefed Rice, Rumseld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. But, according to Hart, the Bush administration never followed up on the commission's urgent recommendations, even after he repeated them in a private White House meeting with Rice just days before 9/11."
Fact-Free Bush Song Parody

The Flip-Flopper-In-Chief would have us believe that John Kerry's the real flip-flopper. This, from a President who never lets the facts interfere with policy. Which brings me to my latest song parody, Fact-Free Bush. Feel free to sing it to "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain," using this midi link which opens a second window.

Fact-Free Bush (to be sung to "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain")

By Madeleine Begun Kane

When the facts get in the way you change the facts,

And when facts get in the way, give facts the ax.

When the facts get in the way,

When the facts get in the way,

When the facts get in the way you change the facts.

When Iraq is not as threat'ning as you claimed,

Say you never said it was, play language games.

When Iraq is not as threat'ning,

When Iraq is not as threat'ning,

When Iraq is not as threat'ning as you claimed.

When your job projection numbers are quite wrong,

Blithely claim you never bought them all along.

When your job projection numbers,

When your job projection numbers,

When your job projection numbers are quite wrong.

That was always my position, is your line.

Doesn't matter if you've really changed your mind...

The rest of my Fact-Free Bush song parody is here.

(This post originally appeared here.)

"My United States of Whatever - Politics in the New Age of Hired Guns." Excerpt:

On April Fool’s Day, a $100 million U.S. government contract will be awarded to a lucky corporation in the mercenary business. In return, that corporation will supply security forces armed on the ground in Baghdad’s Green Zone — the mission sensitive area that houses U.S. government employees and a gaggle of private contractors.

Hiring mercenaries is nothing new. Ancient Egyptians did it. Roman and Carthaginians did it. The USA does it. But there’s a disturbing difference about the latest wave of private operators in warfare. Today, fighting, training, advising, managing supply chains, and handling logistics in war can all be handle by corporations. Think of it this way: our military is being outsourced and our tax dollars diverted into the private sphere. With a growing corporatized distance between citizen and country, there may be no need for a national call to arms in the future. A corporate call to arms may be all that is needed.
This is one of the many reasons that Ike warned us against an M/I complex. Our government is supporting the development of private corporate armies that are not in any way responsible to the people of this or any other country. Think about it . . . what if Lockheed or Northrup Grumman decide to deploy a PMF armed to the teeth with their own products?

Be at peace.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
"When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace."

Let's hope this 4 years, and not the next, is really the nadir for this country.
A story. From my new personal site. Let's see how it goes . . .
"RFID tags are tiny transponders that send out radio signals and some experts predict they will become commonplace over the next decade or so." (RFIDs are obviously used in security tags for consumer goods and in machinery, and the uses are likely to increase.)

"The use of the technology in credit cards has been tested by Mastercard. Last year it ran a nine-month pilot in the US, involving some 15,000 consumers. People could pay for goods by waving their cards near special tills, which would receive the information transmitted by the cards. (That's already been used by petrol co.s for years, mind you.)

"'Wouldn't it be great if we could get the protection of having a personal identification number, without having to have a pad to type it into?' asked Prof Selker, who heads the Context Aware Computing group at the MIT's Media Labs. 'Wouldn't it be nice if something better than my signature would be transmitted without me having to use an external device?'

(Wouldn't it be nice if we just gave ourselves over to technology? Wouldn't it be great to be reduced to an indexed conduit of consumption?")

Of course, here comes my quasi-contradiction -- another device that the Media Lab has cooked up: The I/O Brush. You know, for kids!
As the 9-11 Commission continues its focus on why more wasn't done to prevent the terror attacks, a public inquiry set to begin in the next few weeks in Canada may reveal long-hidden secrets about the abuses of America's war on terror. Headed by a judge, it will investigate why Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was flying home to Montreal in 2002, was detained by the U.S. authorities at JFK Airport, and then escorted through Jordan to Syria, where he said he was tortured and kept in a grave-like cell for 10 months. Arar was finally cleared by a Syrian court and sent back to Canada, where he hasn't been charged with any crime. [more]
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
this is not an April Fool's day joke...

Join tens of thousands of others across the country and world and wear a brown armband or ribbon to symbolize all the BS coming out of the White House.
Japanese businessman, disturbed by landmine injuries, designs and donates three dozen mine-clearing vehicles to Asian and Latin American countries
"In 1995, Kiyoshi Amemiya, president of Yamanashi Hitachi Construction Machinery, set up a six-member project team within the company to begin the development of a mine clearing machine. The company is to ship the new machine to Afghanistan at the end of {March} and Amemiya is scheduled to visit the country in June to instruct Afghan mine clearers in using it.

An estimated five to seven million mines are scattered throughout Afghanistan, according to the United Nations -- while an estimated 110 million landmines are strewn in more than 70 countries, killing and maiming 20,000 each year.

"For Afghanistan, we made the blades strong enough to resist sand and rocks while in Nicaragua we had to adjust the blades so that they could work in mud."

The machine has a one-man cab, protected by special tempered glass but it can also be operated by remote control. After the mine explodes, the metal fragments are collected with a magnet. The machine can also plow the ground and even sprinkle fertilizer.

The mine clearer's reputation for doing its vital task well eventually reached the Indian Defense Ministry, which asked to buy it, with the US Defense Department also inquiring about it.

But Amemiya rejected both offers. "I have no business with the military," he said.

While searching for some supporting links, I found out about Kohei Minato's magnetic/electric motor, which consumes 20% of the energy needed by conventional motors.
"No one died because of the abuses of power known as Watergate. Too many have died because of the abuses of power by this presidency."
"The short summary of what is really a thread that runs through [Worse than Watergate] is that when you have a presidency that has no regard for human life, that develops and implements all (not just national security) policy in secrecy, and is driven by political motives and a radical philosophy, it is impossible not to conclude that they will overreact -- and at the expense of our constitutional safeguards. Bush and Cheney enjoy using power to make and wield swords, not ploughs. They prefer to rule by fear. We've had three years to take the measure of these men. I've done so and reported what I found in a book I never planned to write, but because others were not talking about these issues, I believed they needed to be placed on the table.

"Bush and Cheney have exploited terrorism ever since 9/11. Now they are exploiting it to get reelected. Should there be an even more serious threat, they have found that when Americans are frightened they can be governed like sheep, which suits Bush and Cheney perfectly. Rather than taking the terror out of terrorism by educating and informing Americans, they have sought to make terrorism as frightening as possible -- using terrorism to launch a war of aggression that is breeding a new generation of terrorists and getting the Congress to pass the most repressive new laws imaginable and calling it an act of patriotism."

--John Dean, White House Counsel to Richard Nixon
Liberal Talk Radio:
AirAmerica launches today
Here's their schedule:
  • 6 a.m.-9 a.m. -- "Morning Sedition"
    Marc Maron, Sue Ellicott and Mark Riley

  • 9 a.m.-Noon -- "Unfiltered"
    Lizz Winstead, Chuck D and Rachel Maddow

  • Noon-3 p.m. -- "The O'Franken Factor"
    Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher

  • 3 p.m.-7 p.m. -- "The Randi Rhodes Show"
    Randi's website provides daily links
    that can be used to fact check all
    claims she makes during her program.

  • 7 p.m.-8 p.m. -- "So What Else is News"
    Marty Kaplan

  • 8 p.m.-11 p.m. -- "The Majority Report"
    Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder
The weekend lineup includes Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papatanio's "Champions of Justice," as well as some best-of compilations and other shows to be announced.
Here's how to get them:

     On the radio:
  • New York - WLIB 1190 AM
  • Los Angeles - KBLA 1580 AM
    (Reaches San Diego)
  • Chicago - WNTD 950 AM
  • Portland, OR - KPOJ 620 AM
  • Inland Empire, CA- KCAA 1050 AM
  • Minneapolis MN - WMNN 1330 AM
  • XM Satellite Radio - Channel 167
San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia are coming soon.

     On the Internet:
Note that the RealPlayer stream is getting maxxed out currently (good for AirAmerica, they are working on the problem), and so these other feeds can get around that problem. Also, RealPlayer seems to have a problem if you are trying to listen to two streams at once (e.g., Franken and Thom Hartmann, on during the same time slot), but the Liquid Compass stream allows this.
Listen in. These web streams work fine even with dial-up (though I wouldn't try the multiple stream trick without a high speed connection).
No one wins here.
"The steadily deteriorating security situation in the Falluja area, west of Baghdad, has become so dangerous that no American soldiers or Iraqi security staff responded to the attack against the contractors. [Just read: "The four Americans killed in Fallujah were civilians who worked for a private company named Blackwater Security Consulting based in Moyock, North Carolina."]

There are a number of police stations in Falluja and a base of more than 4,000 marines nearby. But even while the two vehicles burned, sending plumes of inky smoke over the closed shops of the city, there were no ambulances, no fire engines and no security.

Instead, Falluja's streets were thick with men and boys and chaos."

There's nothing to celebrate, no one to blame or counterattack. This is simply a terrible manifestation -- a collision -- of exploitation and resentment, fear and distress. None of these people needed to put into this situation. This is a complete degradation of humanity, and I want people to see that this is a crisis to which we are all bound.

from Major Barbara's Arms and The Man:

"More than 15,000 contractors work in Iraq -- about one for every 10 U.S. soldiers, {the Brookings Institution's Peter} Singer estimated. "More than $20 billion, one-third of the U.S. Army's operating budget in Iraq and Afghanistan, goes toward contractors, he said.

""They are playing a whole range of mission-critical roles," Singer said. "That's in spite of our doctrine which says you don't turn over mission-critical roles to private contractors."

"The Pentagon does not track the exact number of contractors or their casualties. Singer estimates at least 30 have been killed in Iraq, and about 180 have been wounded. That total does not include missionaries or contractors handling reconstruction projects.

""They are very clearly going after civilian contractors, and today is absolutely tragic," said Singer. "It's chilling."
President Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, according to classified documents made available for the first time.

Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene.

Intelligence reports obtained using the US Freedom of Information Act show the cabinet and almost certainly the president had been told of a planned "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" before the slaughter reached its peak.

It took Hutu death squads three months from April 6 to murder an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and at each stage accurate, detailed reports were reaching Washington's top policymakers.
"Two and a half years into the 'war on terror' it is apparent that the winners are the terrorists -- while Al Qaeda's finances are still intact, the US is running the highest budget deficit in history. What can be done? Start by treating terrorism for what it is: a global business. Force our Muslim allies to act immediately to curb terror funding and concentrate our efforts to hunt terror money in our countries, even if that implies putting under investigation the strongholds of Western capitalism: Wall Street, the City of London and the thousand offshore centres linked to them."

--Loretta Napoleoni is an economist who has worked for banks and international organizations in Europe and the US. She developed the idea to research and write a book on the economics of terrorism while interviewing the leaders of the Red Brigades. Napoleoni's latest book, published September 2003, is Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks

On April 19, I added:

"Despite the war on terror, the US government has turned a blind eye when big business has supported the enemy, according to the Sierra Club."
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
There is no "war on terror," says Mike Whitney. It's really "just a shabby public relations ploy to achieve an alternate political objective."
Today, gunboat diplomacy seems like a phrase from some antiquated imperial past (despite our thirteen aircraft carrier task forces that travel the world making "friendly" house calls from time to time). But if you stop thinking about literal gunboats and try to imagine how we carry out "armed diplomacy" -- and, as we all know, under the Bush administration the Pentagon has taken over much that might once have been labeled "diplomacy" -- then you can begin to conjure up our own twenty-first century version of gunboat diplomacy. But first, you have to consider exactly what the "platforms" are upon which we "export force," upon which we mount our "cannons."

What should immediately come to mind are our military bases, liberally scattered like so many vast immobile vessels over the lands of the Earth. This has been especially true since the neocons of the Bush administration grabbed the reins of power at the Pentagon and set about reconceiving basing policy globally; set about, that is, creating more "mobile" versions of the military base, ever more stripped down for action, ever closer to what they've come to call the "arc of instability," a vast swath of lands extending from the former Yugoslavia and the former SSRs of Eastern Europe down deep into Northern Africa and all the way to the Chinese border. These are areas that represent, not surprisingly, the future energy heartland of the planet. What the Pentagon refers to as its "lily pads" strategy is meant to encircle and nail down control of this vast set of interlocking regions -- the thought being that, if the occasion arises, the American frogs can leap agilely from one prepositioned pad to another, knocking off the "flies" as they go. [more]
There are nearly 150 dead zones across the globe, they are increasing, and they pose as big a threat to fish stocks as over-fishing, the United Nations Environment Program (Unep) said in its Global Environment Outlook Year Book 2003, released at a meeting of environment ministers in Korea.
Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have marked the 28th anniversary of Land Day with renewed demands for equality and an end to Israel’s occupation.

Land Day marks the 1976 Israeli killing of six Palestinians in northern Israel as they protested the confiscation of large swathes of Arab land.

The Arab community in Israel has always been subjected to de-facto discrimination since the creation of Israel in 1948. They are in many respects subjected to the same discrimination and brutal treatment experienced by their brethren across the Green Line since 1967.

This includes excessive land confiscation, rampant home demolitions, violent repression of peaceful demonstrations and arbitrary arrests. According to the Israeli Arab Centre Musawa, the Israeli authorities demolished as many as 340 Arab homes throughout Israel in 2003 and another 72 in the Negev region and 269 in the Triangle and Galilee regions.

A few weeks ago, Israeli planes sprayed large areas of Arab crops with pesticide, a recurrent measure aimed at driving farmers away from their land.

Gun battles and bombings continued for a third straight day in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. [For background see the EurasiaNet insight archive]. The broad scope of the violence, the full extent of which is difficult to determine due to government press restrictions, suggests that the episode may be a home-grown insurgency, rather than a strike by international terrorists. Casualty figures for the clashes on March 30 were not immediately available, but it is clear that there are significant casualties among both insurgents and state security forces, along with civilians caught in the crossfire.

The government has claimed that Islamic radicals, with international terrorist connections, are behind the violence. Radical groups operating in Uzbekistan, including Hizb-ut-Tahrir, have not claimed responsibility. Scattered bits of information coming to light raise questions about an international terrorist connection, lending credence to the notion that the violence is a popular reaction to government repression.
Do they believe what they're suggesting?
"President Bush and Ms Rice said that her appearance would contravene the constitutional separation of powers. The offer has been made on condition that it would set no precedent."

What?! Man, as soon as she enters that hearing room, the precedent (for her and anyone else in the administration) will be set! This is like the posturing I'd watch first-graders pull in Seattle: "We're just playing a game right now, so we'll pretend that I'm doing this for you or that I'll treat you a certain way."

"Rice's Big Reversal"

"Just last week Condoleezza Rice told Sean Hannity that her decision not to testify in public before the committee was "not a matter of preference. It is a matter of long-standing constitutional principle." She repeated the claim two days ago on CBS 60 minutes. But her statements turned out to be false, with no basis in legal reality. Facing a political firestorm over her refusal, it is now the preference of the White House to have her testify publicly under oath -– and she will do so.

"Her appearance is "conditioned on the Bush administration receiving assurances in writing from the commission that such a step does not set a precedent." But, of course, obtaining such an assurance was always an option. Moreover, no [new] precedent will be set -- national security advisors have already appeared before Congress and the 9/11 commission is an independent committee, whose chairman was appointed by the President, not a congressional committee."

And then on Wednesday:

Fmr. FBI Translator: White House Had Intel On Possible Airplane Attack Pre-9/11

FBI informant revealed 9-11 plot in April 2001-- 2 D.C. agents filed report that al-Qaida planned suicide attacks involving planes

Senator demands hearings on translator crisis at FBI -- Leahy warns al-Qaida wiretaps piling up, asks bureau for full audit of backlogs
The View from Benedict

Dr. Richard Valelly of Swarthmore College, a Harvard-trained political scientist who is expert in American party politics and elections, has said, "In our elections, we don't count everything well. We have a lot of error." This, I think, is a key factor in our sometimes inability to communicate our eVoting concerns to elections officials (and others). The fact of the matter is that these people are in an environment where they have gotten used to significant error rates, and so when the new DRE machines suddenly produce similar or even lower error rates, that is OK because these officials are used to seeing these.

Yet this is not what computers do. Computers don't care if they add two numbers together or if they add two million numbers together. They don't get bored, they don't get tired, and, properly programmed, the don't make mistakes.

Some argue that it's "impossible" to write a "perfect program", but even if this is true (and I reject it), it is easy to get pretty close, especially if the application is not that complex. Are these people then arguing that voting is a complex process? Compared to what? Your bank's accounting system? Your stockbroker's? A missile guidance system? Voting is trivial in comparison to these, and yet all of these systems, if not quite perfect, work with remarkable accuracy. Why? Because we demand that they do.

This is what we need to convey to our election officials. That the introduction of full computer automation in the voting process is an opportunity to almost eliminate completely these error rates to which they have become accustomed. That indeed computers are capable of doing this, that voting computers will do this if we demand it of them, and that to fail to implement them with this as a goal would indeed be a great mistake.

[This editorial originally appeared on Black Box Notes.]

From yesterday's Guardian. Excerpts:
Little noticed in the west as yet, the Bush administration's latest Middle East adventure has been making furious waves in the Arab world. Dubbed the Greater Middle East initiative, the plan aims to press democracy on one of the world's least democratic regions . . .

The initiative is a neo-conservative brainchild, a follow-up to the toppling of Saddam Hussein by force, and an effort to use his removal as the first in a line of Middle Eastern dominoes. The notion of pressing reform on the Arab world has wide support in Washington. As long as it is predicated on generational change which is accepted by Arab rulers themselves, rather than being hastily imposed by sanctions or military might, its fans include the secretary of state, Colin Powell, as well as Democratic party liberals such as John Kerry . . .

The rejectionist camp is led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. "If we open the door completely before the people, there will be chaos," Mubarak put it recently. But these two states' leaders are being careful not to confront the United States outright. They claim to agree that domestic reforms are needed, but say these should be home-grown.

They put forward their own reform agendas with vague calls for people to have a greater say in running their political, social and economic affairs. It offers no specifics on opening up authoritarian political systems or women's rights, the two most glaring gaps in Arab public life.
Ah, yes .. . neoliberalism marches on, bolstered by the neoconservative "successes" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yeah, whenever Bush Party Loyalists like James Lileks spout on about how we're uh, giving Iraq FREEDOM (cue your own version of his flowery, flatuatory gusts of 'freedom' paens here replete with hyperlink nods to pro-ethnic cleansers like LGF) just remember stories like these about the US shutting down Iraqi papers. For what? For LIES? Hm, so by this standard wouldn't the New York Times itself be shut down for all it's shameless Chalabi tall-tales-passed-off-as-stories, it's Bush admin tall-tales-passed-off-as-stories, and so on? (Here Lileks trots out some photo of a protestor at some rally holding up a retarded sign--"See! See! This is the 'Peace Movement' right here! Let's just look at this, and expound upon this, and forget everything else shall we! Look, ma, verbal hula-hoos!")

Yea, what the fuck ever Jimmy.

id: drmenlo
password: samizdat

Monday, March 29, 2004
Opposite ends of the soldiering spectrum:
Mercenaries and troops at medical risk
"Thousands of former soldiers and police officers from Britain, the US, Australia and South Africa are earning wages as high as 600 pounds a day to protect Western officials, oil company executives and construction firm bosses in Iraq."

"With the casualty toll ticking ever upward and troops stretched thin on the ground, the Bush administration is looking to mercenaries to help control Iraq. These soldiers-for-hire are veterans of some of the most repressive military forces in the world, including that of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and South Africa's apartheid regime.

"The rate of growth in the security industry is phenomenal," said Deborah Avant, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington. "If you had asked a year ago whether there would be 15,000 private security in Iraq, everyone would have said you're nuts."

(The author notes that because these "agents" are employed by private firms, their injuries and deaths are not subject to release. The same could be said about their deployment and tactics.)

"In February, Blackwater USA, a North Carolina-based Pentagon contractor, began hiring former combat personnel in Chile, offering them up to $4,000 a month to guard oil wells in Iraq. The company flew the first batch of 60 former commandos to a training camp in North Carolina. These recruits will eventually wind up in Iraq where they will spend six months to a year.

"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals -- the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," Gary Jackson, the president of Blackwater USA, told the Guardian."

I read this story about worldwide US troop deployment in Sunday's Plain Dealer: "The US has more than 150,000 soldiers and Marines either on combat or other high-risk duty in the far-flung tinderboxes of Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and the Balkans. Overall, the US military has about 2.7 million active-duty and reserve troops with more than 400,000 of them deployed in various concentrations in 135 countries...

"A wholesale rotation is under way in Iraq, with 100,000-plus U.S. troops leaving while others are rolling in to replace them. As best can be determined the U.S. force in Iraq and environs in coming weeks will total at least 120,000. Unlike the current makeup, which consists overwhelmingly of active-duty GIs, the new force will comprise about 40 percent reserve and National Guard troops."

That last sentence hit me for some reason. Perhaps it was the story I had read in the Cleveland Free Times about the controversial deaths of two Ohio Guardsmen in December. Perhaps it reminded me of the restrained emotion and tears at a farewell dinner for a 40-some-year-old King County Metro driver who was about to ship out to Iraq in November. Or maybe it was a line I read somewhere about how the influx of so many unexperienced reservists could result in higher casualties.

In any case, as I searched for the Scripps story above, I found this one in the SeaTimes: "To meet the demand for troops in Iraq, the military has been deploying some National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who aren't fit for combat. More than a dozen members of the Guard and reserves said they were shipped off to battle with little attention paid to their medical histories...

"How many soldiers are unfit is unclear. Each soldier interviewed said he or she knew of others who -- like themselves -- were sent to Iraq despite health problems ranging from allergies requiring refrigerated medications to heart disease.

[A medical command] memo said the problem was a "KEY medical issue" and went on to say, "Frankly, we are burning out a lot of time and effort on shipping back folks who never should have come in the first place. Also runs a high risk of damaging folks."

Also: "More than two dozen suicides by U.S. troops in Iraq, and hundreds of medical evacuations for psychiatric problems, have raised concerns about the mental health of soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom. An Army Medical Department after-action report obtained by UPI suggests that the Army sent some soldiers to war who were mentally unfit in the first place."

There are so many other ways in which human energy and material resources can be used... and so many human needs that go unmet. This situation in Iraq will not bring more peace or happiness or democracy into the world. We have to be the agents of such change.
Iraqi journalists killed and threatened
from Al Jazeera
"On [Mar 29], a US military official said an investigation into the deaths [of two Al-Arabiya reporters] showed troops were responsible, but they had acted 'within the rules of engagement.'

US soldiers were aiming at a different car, a white Volvo that had driven through the checkpoint at high speed, the investigation said. Al-Arabiya's grey Kia car was 50 to 150 metres down the road, trying to turn when it was accidentally hit, the military said.

Al-Arabiya cameraman Ali Abd al-Aziz died on 18 March from a gunshot wound to the head. Correspondent Ali al-Khatib died from his wounds in hospital the next day. Both were Iraqis."

from Alternet
"While he was interviewing people at the scene, U.S. troops who had previously taken photographs of [Salah] Hassan at other events arrested him, took him to a police station, interrogated him and repeatedly accused the cameraman of knowing in advance about the bomb attack and of lying in wait to get footage. "I told them to review my tapes, that it was clear I had arrived thirty or forty minutes after the blast. They told me I was a liar," says Hassan.

From Baquba, Hassan says he was taken to the military base at Baghdad International Airport, held in a bathroom for two days, then flown hooded and bound to Tikrit. After two more days in another bathroom, he was loaded onto a five-truck convoy of detainees and shipped south to Abu Ghraib, a Saddam-built prison that now serves as the American military's main detention center and holds about 13,000 captives.

Once inside the sprawling prison, Hassan says, he was greeted by U.S. soldiers who sang "Happy Birthday" to him through his tight plastic hood, stripped him naked and addressed him only as "Al Jazeera," "boy" or "bitch." He was forced to stand hooded, bound and naked for eleven hours in the bitter autumn night air; when he fell, soldiers kicked his legs to get him up again. In the morning, Hassan says, he was made to wear a dirty red jumpsuit that was covered with someone else's fresh vomit, and interrogated by two Americans in civilian clothes. They made the usual accusations that Hassan and Al Jazeera were in cahoots with "terrorists."

While most Abu Ghraib prisoners are held in large barracks-like tents in open-air compounds surrounded by razor wire, Hassan says he was locked in a high-security isolation unit of tiny cells. Down the tier from him was an old woman who sobbed incessantly and a mentally deranged 13-year-old girl who would scream and shriek until the American guards released her into the hall, where she would run up and down; exhausted, she would eventually return to her cell voluntarily. Hassan says that all other prisoners in the unit, mostly men, were ordered to remain silent or risk being punished with denial of food, water and light."

from Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders has called on the US Army to open an immediate investigation into the death of Iraqi cameraman Bourhan Mohammad al-Louhaybi, who was shot in the head while working for the American ABC television network. The cameraman was killed while covering clashes between US forces and groups of armed Iraqis in Falluja, 50 kilometres west of Baghdad on 26 March.

ABC News confirmed the death of al-Louhaybi, 34, on its website. The cameraman had reportedly wanted to go on filming the clashes against the advice of some of his colleagues. Four other Iraqis were killed during the combat...

Elsewhere, the US weekly Time Magazine has confirmed the death of one of its Iraqi interpreters, Omar Hashim Kamal, who died in Baghdad on 26 March after being shot in circumstances that are still unclear."

Eight of 16 media professionals killed this (short) year lost their lives in Iraq. Most if not all were Iraqis who were documenting their country's U.S.-managed freedom/occupation. Will it be a surprise if resistance and anger toward Westerners increases, not just in Iraq, but in some of the places where the work of these reporters was distributed?
"Protesters poured out of one school bus after another, piercing an otherwise quiet, peaceful Sunday in Rove's Palisades neighborhood in Northwest D.C., chanting, "Karl, Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about!"

Rove obliged their first request and opened his door long enough to say, "Get off my property."

...After about 30 minutes of goading by protesters in English and Spanish, Rove agreed to meet with two members of the coalition [National People's Action] on the condition that the rest of the protesters board their buses and leave his street. The group obliged.

Rove opened his garage door and allowed Palacios and Inez Killingsworth to enter. The meeting lasted two minutes and ended with Rove closing the garage door on Palacios while she was still talking. Palacios said that Rove was "very upset" and was "yelling in our faces" and that Rove told them "he hoped we were proud to make his 14-year-old and 10-year-old cry." A White House spokesman said one of the children was a neighbor.

Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, "He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I'm sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day.

"He also said, 'Don't ever dare to come back,' " Palacios said. "We will, if he continues to ignore us."
Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have jumped abruptly, raising fears that global warming may be accelerating out of control.

Measurements by US government scientists show that concentrations of the gas, the main cause of the climate exchange, rose by a record amount over the past 12 months. It is the third successive year in which they have increased sharply, marking an unprecedented triennial surge.

Scientists are at a loss to explain why the rapid rise has taken place, but fear that it could show the first signs that global warming is feeding on itself, with rising temperatures causing increases in carbon dioxide, which then go on to drive the thermometer even higher. That would be a deeply alarming development, suggesting that this self-reinforcing heating could spiral upwards beyond the reach of any attempts to combat it. [more]
FBI documents about FBI surveillance of John Kerry in the early 1970s have been stolen, according to their owner, a historian who lives near San Francisco, California.

Gerald Nicosia, who spent more than a decade collecting the information, said three of 14 boxes of documents plus a number of loose folders containing hundreds of pages were stolen from his home Thursday afternoon.

Nicosia reported the theft Friday to the Twin Cities Police Department, which covers Larkspur and Corte Madera in Marin County, where he lives. The police report found no sign of forced entry.

"It was a very clean burglary. They didn't break any glass. They didn't take anything like cameras sitting by. It was a very professional job," Nicosia said.

"Was it a thrill-seeker who wanted a piece of history? It could be," Nicosia said. "You'd think there was a very strong political motivation for taking those files. The odds are in favor of that." [more]
"Meet the Press" Transcript:
Richard Clarke
If you missed it, ... Don't!

[Back-Up Link]

Also available: 9/11 Commission Hearings

Our only deliciously guilty evangelical trait is spreading the gospel of Brother Void, otherwise known to savvy connoisseurs of pop-internet-anti-self-help-gurus as Andrew Boyd of the adroit

Boyd recently dragged down from the mount this current post on why politics matters....

Visualizing the Worst Possible World—A Guided Meditation

    "Learn to hate your enemy well." --John Heartfield

Many of us are alienated from politics. It seems like a big ugly mess and you wonder why you should care. When you're feeling this way, it can help to visualize the worst possible world.

Identify the politician who represents the extreme opposite of what you believe. Now use your imagination to transform the world according to his agenda. Acknowledge any stunned disgust or violent repulsion that arises. Imagine your loved ones caught in such a nightmare. Deepen and accelerate these feelings until the full horror of what could befall everything you cherish appears plainly before you.

As you play out these monstrous visions of dystopia and apocalypse, cultivate a fine-grained hatred for the barbaric world your nemesis wishes to bring into being. Feel it seething around you, menacing you, as you wonder why you should care.

    "My enemy's monstrous nightmares remind me why politics matters."
Sunday, March 28, 2004
"Afghanistan housed Al Qaeda, and thus it was crucial to attack the country. But that was less a case of a state's sponsoring a terror group and more one of a terror group's sponsoring a state. Consider the situation today. Al Qaeda has lost its base in Afghanistan, two thirds of its leaders have been captured or killed, its funds are being frozen. And yet terror attacks mount from Indonesia to Casablanca to Spain. "These attacks are not being directed by Al Qaeda. They are being inspired by it," the official told me. "I'm not even sure it makes sense to speak of Al Qaeda because it conveys the image of a single, if decentralized, group. In fact, these are all different, local groups that have in common only ideology and enemies."

"This is the new face of terror: dozens of local groups across the world connected by a global ideology. Next week [Fareed Zakaria] will explain how best to tackle this threat. But first we need to see it for what it is."

from MeFi
From Black Box Notes:
The View from Benedict
After a week away from the black box circuit, Benedict returns to find his In-Box stuffed. Some personal comments on the discovery, and over three dozen new articles.
eye on amsam 28 march 2004
Big thanks to new Harbingers!!! (in order of acceptance): Citizen Daryl of This Is The Shit, Joe Leftist of American Leftist, John Walz of Jon's Mind, Tim of Misplaced Aggression, and Damon Taylor of! Thank you all!
Richard Clarke got the full hour with Tim Russert this morning, and I'm sure that many eyes from the administration were on this interview. If they weren't too happy yesterday, you can bet that their humor has not improved today. Clarke kicked some serious butt.

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