Saturday, May 01, 2004
Oh, Happy (belated) Loyalty Day.
by Jim Kirwan
The Winds of War have finally shifted, and the stains of death and dying are beginning to mar the starched fatigues of even the most zealous of our "commanders" in the field.Read on.
Who knows, maybe the republicans won't get to use Diebold to steal the election after all. Other states need to get on board and dump Diebold.
Note: Link requires registration for NY Times (free)
Or: drmenlo (id)
If you didn't get a chance to catch this week's Frontline on Dubya's religious views and their effect on his politics, you can now watch it online.
War crimes galore
I've been somewhat surprised by the amount of outcry the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have evoked. Yes, the images are shocking and disturbing, but not any more so than other events which have dotted the landscape of America's post-9/11 crusade to rid the world of evil.
The happenings at the Baghdad prison need to be viewed in a larger context. I fear that the focus on this single atrocity comes about only because there are pictures to pass around. In reality, the term "war crime," like it or not, is pretty much synonymous with how the US has waged its alleged "war on terror."
Take what happened in Afghanistan. The carpet bombing of the Afghan countryside "softened up" ground targets, but the military realized soon enough that there really weren't many "high value" targets that could be hit. It was concluded early on that the only way to wage the war would be to insert small, mobile units that could fight the Taliban's ground soldiers and, more importantly, enlist rival warlords to join the fray. So in addition to Special Operations forces, the US sent in a mini-army of CIA operatives packing guns, satellite phones, and suitcases full of cash.
And what did these operatives do? For the most part they went around buying off warlords and prominent figures in the tribal regions of Afghanistan, as I suggest above. They also were charged with the bulk of intelligence gathering, primarily by interrogating suspects who were seized by the US military or warlords (more often the latter). And, lo and behold, these interrogations were frequently akin to torture. You know the drill: guns to the head, beatings, and promises to be released into the hands of enemy warlords, where prisoners would no doubt face even harsher degrees of torture. This is, after all, precisely why "American hero" Mike Spann was killed. He pushed detainees to the brink, and, well, they pushed back.
There's also plenty of evidence that torture was/is rather routine at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. A number of released captives have testified to it, and the US military even acknowledged that two prisoners died from beatings received during interrogation.
As for the infamous events at Dasht-E Leili and Qalai Janghi, I won't go there right now. I think they speak for themselves.
And I won't even venture a guess as to what's going on at Guantanamo. Frankly, nobody knows what's really happening down there, although released prisoners have described torture and abuse as being par for the course, as one would expect.
Turning to Iraq, it's been clear for some time that the war was illegal and unjustified. In a sane world, the Anglo-American architects of the assault would be standing before the dock, similar to what we saw at Nuremberg. So in one very important sense, the entire military operation is a "war crime."
But if you don't find that compelling, let's just focus on what has happened in the past month. Reports from the ground and the non-American (particularly Arab) press indicate that massive war crimes have taken place in Fallujah. Nasty stuff, like sniping civilians, occupying hospitals and preventing the treatment of wounded, shooting at ambulances, using cluster bombs, and so on. The fact of the matter is that the events of the past four weeks are what should have Americans in an uproar, not the release of a few relatively tame photos.
Thus, anyone shocked at the display at Abu Ghraib should know that it is merely the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully, those of us living in this great land of liberty do not have to put up with such unpleasantries in our media too often. And, when they do appear, as in this case, they are swiftly seized upon, isolated, and dealt with by the "proper authorities," no doubt so Americans can continue believing in the nobility of "the cause."
Friday, April 30, 2004
I just read this book, and it's fan-fucking-tastic. I think I want to read it over again. It explains in a fast-paced, extremely engagingly way how the right-wing spent 50 years building their juggernaut and then used September 11th to accelerate it. An excerpt:
It has taken more than half a century for the right wing to achieve the power that it now enjoys in American politics, and it is unrealistic to imagine that its successes can be quickly reversed. There is no reason, however, to expect that turning the tide will take another half century. Information and events move quickly today, and people possess tools for organizing that did not exist in the past, such as the Internet. Solutions often do not become clear until after the fact, but hopefully some lessons can be drawn from studying how the right has organised itself.
You can start studying with this book. Read an excerpt here and also check out the authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's website PR Watch.org here.
Asked how many American troops have died in Iraq, the Pentagon's No. 2 civilian estimated Thursday the total was about 500 -- more than 200 soldiers short.
Seven months after Congress approved the largest foreign aid package in history to rebuild Iraq, less than 5 percent of the $18.4 billion has been spent and occupation officials have begun shifting more than $300 million earmarked for reconstruction projects to administrative and security expenses.
Recent reports from the Coalition Provisional Authority, the CPA's inspector general and the U.S. Agency for International Development attest to the growing difficulties of the U.S.-led reconstruction effort. And they have raised concerns in Congress and among international aid experts that the Bush administration's ambitious rebuilding campaign is adrift amid rising violence and unforeseen costs.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Yasir Arafat to give Israel's Gaza pullout a chance and fulfil Palestinian obligations under the "road map" peace plan.
In unusually tough language, Annan - in a letter obtained by the media on Friday - also criticised the Palestinian president for failing to meet obligations under a US-backed peace "road map", including security reforms and putting an end to human bombings.
He also said Israel had to carry out its road map requirements to dismantle Jewish settler outposts and freeze construction in larger, established settlements.
"You are aware...that the Palestinian side too has obligations it has not fulfilled," Annan told Arafat.
"The Palestinian Authority should immediately start taking effective measures to curb terrorism and violence."
"Decisive actions on your part would help the international community ensure that any withdrawal from Gaza is part of the implementation of the road map and not a substitute for it," Annan wrote.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Wall Street Journal:Democrats Target Cheney to Taint Bush
Kerry and Allies Believe the Vice President
May Be Significant Liability in Close Race
It is all part of an increasingly pointed Democratic strategy of trying to define the president -- and erode his personal credibility -- by turning Mr. Cheney into a symbol of Republican excess. Though vice presidents rarely play decisive roles in presidential elections, Mr. Kerry and his allies believe this vice president could become a significant liability for Mr. Bush in a race that appears close.Finally! Attack the real President, Dick Cheney. What a thought!
Yes, I've heard of all the speculation about Cheney being replaced, but why not give him a shove. Think of the upside. If Bush does win by replacing Cheney, at least we'll be rid of Doctor Death.
Fake horses. ...
Is it any wonder that the cozy exurbians prefer cults and fakery to such fearsome truths?
[ As always, lots of good links.]
United States soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad have been accused of forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual humiliation and other abuses.Torture, The American Way
When the US began shipping prisoners to Guantanamo Bay to be held indefinitely away from the prying eyes of the world, talk of torture circulated. A December 26, 2002 Washington Post report pointed out that not only prisoners being forced to stand or kneel in uncomfortable positions for hours at the CIA interrogation centre un Bagram, but were being subjected to such interrogation techniques as sleep deprivation and being kept under bright lights for twenty four hour periods. In the same report the Washington Post also said that prisoners who would not cooperate were sometimes "rendered" to other states for further interrogation.
Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) stepped into the Kerry/Vietman smear fray with his appearance on the Senate floor as he delivered an 18-minute tutorial on what it means to be a Chickenhawk. And yes, that's his hand in this photo as he points out the necessary qualities one must have to actually be a Chickenhawk.
The New York Times writes the article, but by all means, do the video of his full presentation. It's fairly low quality and it streams (in four continuous segments), so it should present no problem even for dial-up.
The number of terrorist attacks worldwide has dropped to its lowest level since 1969, according to a US State Department report.
But the threat remains of critical international concern said the US State Department in its annual Patterns of Global Terrorism report released on Thursday.
A total of 307 people, including 35 Americans, were killed and 1593 wounded in 190 terrorist attacks around the world in 2003.
While the number of attacks dropped by only eight from 2002, that represents a 45% decrease from the 346 strikes recorded in 2001, including the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, the report said.
Maybe there is a God?
Oh good lord...
I hadn't even noticed that the name of the firm that facilitated the blog monitoring discussion was Open Source Solutions. OSS.
As in OSS.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
You know, I really don't know what to think of this story (and it sounds like a story). I mean, what useful and timely information could the intelligence apparatchiks hope to get from a blog? While I certainly think that there are scores of resourceful and evocative writers out there, and hundreds more tireless and info-hungry blogeurs who aggregate and absorb information to present to others, is there any information that comes into the blogosphere that an operative couldn't gain by, you know, doing his or her job in the field?
Do they think that there are hundreds of little-known Raeds posting al-Sadr militia positions, or uploading real-time declarations of fugitive al-Qaeda leaders?
8 Rabi al-Awwal
The neighbor's donkey won't stop braying.
I want to throw a shoe at it, but the trigger-happy
infidel Marines will think I'm tossing a grenade
and level the house.
Spoke to Zarqawi last night about the next truck
bombing. They'll be using 20kg of explosives
from the Kut stockpile (the secret stash that
Saddam so masterfully used to hide the Ames-strain
anthrax spores). I asked who the shaheed would be,
but Z was mum about it... he wants to keep that
out of the street until after the attack. I think
it might be one of the fighters who had just come
in from Kuwait -- wait till the Americans find that out.
But they'll probably lie and blame it on Syria again.
Justice will rain on these invaders, inshallah.
But I wish someone would deal with that donkey first.
posted by Rolyat al-Nomad, 01:55 Makka -- [permalink]
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
More than 50 former British diplomats have signed a letter to Tony Blair criticising his Middle East policy.
They urged the prime minister to start influencing America's "doomed" policy in the Middle East or stop backing it.
They had "watched with deepening concern" as Britain followed the US lead in Iraq and Israel and called for a debate in Parliament, they said.
Read the full text of the letter.
Here's a fair rendering of recent events in Iraq, I think, in my own adjusted-for-effect prose:
The US army insists that its devastating invasion of Fallujah earlier this month was intended to root out the infrastructure of the Iraqi insurgents, particularly the authors of a vicious attack on American contractors. It now says the dead were mostly fighters. And, as always – although its daily behavior in occupied Iraq contradicts this claim – it insists that it did everything possible to protect civilians.Ok, now compare and contrast with what appeared in the Independent on April 25, 2002:
The Israeli army insists that its devastating invasion of the refugee camp in Jenin earlier this month was intended to root out the infrastructure of the Palestinian militias, particularly the authors of an increasingly vicious series of suicide attacks on Israelis. It now says the dead were mostly fighters. And, as always – although its daily behavior in the occupied territories contradicts this claim – it insists that it did everything possible to protect civilians.Some will think this is an unfair comparison, or a stretch that isn't completely tenable. Obviously, I don't think that's the case. The US announced it would be "exporting Jenin to Iraq," in Nigel Parry's foreboding words, and it looks to be doing precisely that.
Monday, April 26, 2004
Unless, of course, you're really, really afraid of what she might say...
"The Bush administration will today seek to prevent a former FBI translator from providing evidence about 11 September intelligence failures to a group of relatives and survivors who have accused international banks and officials of aiding al-Qa'ida.
"Sibel Edmonds was subpoenaed by a law firm representing more than 500 family members and survivors of the attacks to testify that she had seen information proving there was considerable evidence before September 2001 that al-Qa'ida was planning to strike the US with aircraft. The lawyers made their demand after reading comments Mrs Edmonds had made to The Independent.
"But the US Justice Department is seeking to stop her from testifying, citing the rarely used 'state secrets privilege.' Today in a federal court in Washington, senior government lawyers will try to gag Mrs Edmonds, claiming that disclosure of her evidence 'would cause serious damage to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.'"
Six degrees between Ohio and Afghanistan
I received this from one of my former AmeriCorps supervisors,
in response to my bit about the soldiers' coffins controversy.
"I am sure you have seen the media coverage on Pat Tillman, the young Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan last week. He had been a football star and turned down a multimillion dollar contract with the NFL to serve his country. Pat was my cousin and the family has requested that I attend the funeral (whenever and wherever that will be; they still can't get the body out because the fighting is so bad).
"I can only say that the news media covering his death and honoring his convictions (not necessarily my own) has been comforting for me. I can only think that the majority of the families that have suffered this kind of loss would receive more comfort from the honest truth and [fully disclosed] recognition of their loved ones' sacrifices, which have followed in the wake of one of our country's greatest dysfunctional behaviors: DENIAL.
"This insane denial system toward reality, which the current administration has perfected to an art, is what will ultimately be our greatest handicap and failure."
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Sure, you probably think that I'm going to tell you that it wasn't a tax cut but merely a tax deferral onto your children [Think: A half trillion dollar deficit. Someone's got to pay.] But no, I'm not here to tell you that at all. You either knew that already and didn't care, or you are too stupid to be reading me in the first place. No, it's not that at all.
You see, there is this little do-hickey in our tax laws called the "Alternative Minimum Tax", and if you've never made over $100K, it's never applied to you before. It's not a tax increase according to the Bushies because it was already there onthe books, but guess what? If you are an "average family" earning between $40-$100K, on the April 15th after you've re(s)elected Mr. Bush, that alternative minimum will add an average of $3,469 to your tax bill. If you're a bit better off and making 120K, sorry, Puppy, try $7,000. And both of those are each and every year.
And you thought that tax cut was for you. I told you it wasn't, and the Bushies knew this exactly when they did this. I told you that it was a massive transfer of the tax burden from the very rich to the merely well off and average middle class, but you were too busy grubbing for those few extra bucks and didn't care. Well now, you can pound sand. I was right, and you got fucked.
Listen to me next time.
[ NOTE: For more details, listen to Al Martin's April 23rd interview on the Tony Trupiano Show. This is a commercial-free version of this interview [6.3 MB, MP3, 36:41], and you'll be looking for the 11 minute mark in this interview. Do however listen to it all. Al has lots more to say on current issues. ]
"The official estimate of the US military budget is US$400 billion. When the costs of other defence-related activities are added, such as Homeland Security, the nuclear weapons program of the Department of Energy, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, etc., then the 2004 fiscal year figure reaches the tragic total of $754 billion, twice the GDP of Russia.
"If this amount was poured into poverty programs, al Qaeda would be short of recruits. According to the UN, around 6% of this budget -- a mere $40 billion -- would ensure the essentials of life to everyone in the world."
CA election panel votes for removal of Diebold voting machines; wants company to face criminal charges
"Following a contentious six-hour hearing during which the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel grilled Diebold president Bob Urosevich about his company's business practices, the panel voted to recommend decertifying the Diebold AccuVote-TSx machine, which was used for the first time in California during the March primary in Kern, San Joaquin, Solano and San Diego counties.
"The panel also recommended that Shelley ask the state attorney general to examine the possibility of bringing civil and criminal charges against Diebold for violating California election codes, which state that vendors cannot change software without notifying the secretary of state's office. The codes also say that no vendor can install uncertified software on voting systems.
"Last November, the state discovered that Diebold had installed uncertified software on its voting machines in 17 counties without notifying state officials or, in some cases, even county officials who were affected by the changes.
"Diebold said it was not entirely responsible for the installation of uncertified software and systems in California because changes in certification practices at the federal level had caused delays with certification and that state rules about certification were confusing.
"But state undersecretary and panel chairman Mark Kyle said the company's excuses rang "hollow" and that the state's rules were extremely clear. He expressed anger that Diebold had been deceptive about advance knowledge of problems with its smart card encoder before the March primary. He also accused the company of "switch-and-bait" tactics in trying to pass off uncertified software as certified software and suggested that the company might have colluded with the federal testing lab, Wyle Laboratories, to get its system through the California investigation."
What's all this, then?
US Right's pet Iraqi to be frozen out
"Yesterday the Washington Post reported that [Ahmed] Chalabi is likely to be the most senior of a number of members of the Iraqi Governing Council who will be sidelined when a new interim government is selected to run Iraq after the transfer of sovereignty on 30 June.
"According to the newspaper, Washington is also considering cutting off the $340,000 monthly stipend to Chalabi's INC party, which has been accused of inappropriately using the money to lobby in the US.
"Chalabi and the INC are also accused of being the main source of much of the -- now disproved -- intelligence, fed to the CIA and other agencies, about Saddam's WMD programmes, which formed a large part of the case for invasion.
"The former financier (who is still sought in Jordan for theft from his own bank [whoops]) has presided over a shambolic programme of de- Baathification, say insiders. In an address on Friday designed to promote national reconciliation, Iraq's American administrator, Paul Bremer, said complaints that the programme was 'unevenly and unjustly' administered were 'legitimate' and that the programme had been 'poorly implemented.'"
A woman, a motorcycle, a geiger counter and the open road- through Chernobyl. Read the photo-journal "Ghost Town".