Times of London: "'Did you see all that?' he asked, his eyes filled with tears. 'Did you see that little baby girl? I carried her body and buried it as best I could but I had no time. It really gets to me to see children being killed like this, but we had no choice.' Martin's distress was in contrast to the bitter satisfaction of some of his fellow marines as they surveyed the scene. 'The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy,' said Corporal Ryan Dupre. 'I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him.'"
Seymour Hersh: "Several senior war planners complained to me in interviews that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisers, who had been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, had insisted on micromanaging the war's operational details. Rumsfeld's team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning—traditionally, an area in which the uniformed military excels—and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Agence France-Presse: "Twenty people, including 11 children, were killed Saturday when a nighttime air raid hit a farm near Baghdad, relatives told AFP."
Australian Broadcasting Corp.: "Thousands of marines have been given a pamphlet called 'A Christian's Duty,' a mini prayer book which includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House pledging the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush."
CommonDreams.org: "The House of Representatives have recently voted on the 2004 budget which will cut funding for veteran's health care and benefit programs by nearly $25 billion over the next ten years. It narrowly passed by a vote of 215 to 212, and came just a day after Congress passed a resolution to 'Support Our Troops.'"
Ha'aretz: "Despite American warnings, in the last few days Damascus has expedited the passage of volunteers wishing to join the Iraqis in their war against the Americans. Thousands of volunteers, most of them Syrians, are thronging to the Mosul and Kirkuk regions in north Iraq."
Robert Fisk: "One half of the entire US/UK force — still called 'the coalition' by journalists who like to pretend it includes 35 armies rather than two and a bit (the 'bit' being the Australian Special Forces) — is now guarding and running the supply line through the desert."
Arab News: "There are over 40,000 Iraqi exiles already in Jordan, but since the start of the war it has become obvious that predictions of thousands more arriving as refugees were Iraqi gross miscalculations. What in fact appears to be happening is the opposite. Huge numbers of the Iraqi exiles who initially left Iraq because of political reasons have decided to return to participate and fight side by side with their Iraqi brothers."
The CBC's DNTO briefly cited this great bit of Shakespeare's King Henry V in a good piece on cinematic representations of war. It's as relevant a consideration of the moral justifications for war as I've seen while plowing through thousands of words of commentary. (All the more pertinent, since the majority of Americans seem to believe they are following a king as his subjects, and not free, morally responsible individuals.)
KING HENRY. By my troth, I will speak my conscience of the King: I think he would not wish himself anywhere but where he is.
BATES. Then I would he were here alone; so should he be sure to be ransomed, and a many poor men's lives saved.
KING HENRY. I dare say you love him not so ill to wish him here alone, howsoever you speak this, to feel other men's minds; methinks I could not die anywhere so contented as in the King's company, his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.
WILLIAMS. That's more than we know.
BATES. Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough if we know we are the King's subjects. If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the King wipes the crime of it out of us.
WILLIAMS. But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy reckoning to make when all those legs and arms and heads, chopp'd off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place'- some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it; who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.
William Powers: "If war is hell, wading through all this wartime journalism is fast becoming a kind of purgatory."
Editor and Publisher: "The war is only a week old and already the media has gotten at least 15 stories wrong or misreported a sliver of fact into a major event."
George Monbiot: "Suddenly, the government of the United States has discovered the virtues of international law. It may be waging an illegal war against a sovereign state; it may be seeking to destroy every treaty which impedes its attempts to run the world , but when five of its captured soldiers were paraded in front of the Iraqi television cameras on Sunday, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, immediately complained that 'it is against the Geneva convention to show photographs of prisoners of war in a manner that is humiliating for them'."
Body and Soul: "American reporters also aren't asking the kind of skeptical question European reporters are. The Post article notes that both American and Arab media are playing to local biases, but its emphasis is on Arab bias, and our failure to get our point of view across to the Arab world (apparently that Americans are also getting a distorted and sanitized view of the war is less important to the Post.)"
(That last post is a great summary of media analysis.)
Washington Post: "Despite the rapid advance of Army and Marine forces across Iraq over the past week, some senior U.S. military officers are now convinced that the war is likely to last months and will require considerably more combat power than is now on hand there and in Kuwait, senior defense officials said yesterday."
Nathan Thayer in Baghdad: "There is universal opposition to the war: George W. Bush's name is spit with venom. Yesterday, a soldier saw me on the street and shouted, "George Bush, I fucked your mother. We will win this war because you are here. You are a human shield. We are all human shields and the world is with us." Still, Iraq's celebrated hospitality remains, even in wartime. I have been greeted with kisses and hugs as often as I have with people pointing fingers at me and yelling pow-pow."
Reuters: "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly rejected advice from Pentagon planners that substantially more troops and armor would be needed to fight a war in Iraq"
Al-Jazeerah in English: "Your Gateway to Understanding the world system, American Foreign Policy, and the Arab and Muslim Worlds..."
FTrain: What's going on in Pittsburgh
Anarchogeek: "Although the BBC claims the mistakes go both ways, they managed to incorrectly report the fall of Umm Qasr NINE TIMES! They also admit that they bought and ran with the falsifed reports of an uprising in Basara which never happened."
Synthetic Zero: "In fact, however, as he pointed out, it is quite possible to hate two people at once. In this case, he believes that Bush has handled this situation so badly that as much as the average Iraqi might hate Saddam Hussein, they prefer him to Bush."
Back to Iraq 2.0: "This place is crawling with journos, all looking for the same thing: A way in."
Robert Fisk: "Mohamed Al-Abdullah, Al-Djazaira’s correspondent in Basra, must be the bravest journalist in Iraq right now. In the sequence of three tapes, he can be seen conducting interviews with families under fire and calmly reporting the incoming British artillery bombardment. One tape shows that the Sheraton Hotel on the banks of Shatt Al-Arab River, has sustained shell damage. On the edge of the river — beside one of the huge statues of Iraq’s 1980-88 war martyrs each pointing an accusing finger across the waterway toward Iran — Basra residents can be seen filling jerry cans from the sewage polluted river."
Adrienne McPhail: "If more than half the Kurds emigrate from Turkey, and perhaps from Iran and Syria as well, the profile of the new Iraq could suddenly become Kurdish. The network that exists among the entire spread-out Kurdish population is very impressive."
Independent: "So much has changed in this Arab world since the last Gulf War. The arrival of satellite television stations such as Al-Jazeera has transformed the information landscape: The agenda is no longer dominated by Western news outlets or by the craven and awful state-controlled media. Hour by hour, Arab families follow the progress of this war, and it is being mediated for them by Arab reporters. The information war is being lost in the Arab world, partly because the old sources of information no longer hold sway, and at least partly because nobody here wants to give the US and UK the benefit of the doubt."
Al-Ahram: "Today, Arabs are calling the US an aggressor and they are asking it to withdraw its troops from Iraq, 'unconditionally and immediately' expressing a sense of urgency that has not even been indicated towards Israel recently. Even the US's very close Arab allies, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan signed the resolution."
Le Monde: "La 'révolte' remonte, selon lui, à la deuxième Intifada de septembre 2000 en Palestine, mais la guerre en Irak aurait ouvert les yeux de tous les Egyptiens : les Etats-Unis n'aiment le monde arabe que divisé, morcelé, 'agenouillé'."
Noam Chomsky: "There are two ways for Washington to respond to the threats engendered by its actions and startling proclamations. One way is to try to alleviate the threats by paying some attention to legitimate grievances, and by agreeing to become a civilised member of a world community, with some respect for world order and its institutions. The other way is to construct even more awesome engines of destruction and domination, so that any perceived challenge, however remote, can be crushed -- provoking new and greater challenges. That way poses serious dangers to the people of the US and the world, and may, very possibly, lead to extinction of the species -- not an idle speculation."
Arab News: "The Bush administration’s plans for a US military administration which will gradually incorporate Iraqi figures and in time become wholly Iraqi and finally sovereign borders on the insane. Nothing could be more calculated to produce a tidal wave of anti-American bitterness and hatred across the Middle East, which would be like nothing the US has ever seen. The present antipathy toward it over its support for Israel will be chicken-feed in comparison."
Edward Said: "My strong opinion, though I don't have any proof in the classical sense of the word, is that they want to change the entire Middle East and the Arab world, perhaps terminate some countries, destroy the so-called terrorist groups they dislike and install regimes friendly to the United States. I think this is a dream that has very little basis in reality. The knowledge they have of the Middle East, to judge from the people who advise them, is to say the least out of date and widely speculative."
Independent: "That seemed to be what President Bush wanted when, in mid-February, he called on the Iraqi people to overthrow the regime. But as the rebellion spread to other Shia-majority cities - Karbala, Najaf and Kufa - the Americans seemingly panicked... They had imagined a palace coup in Baghdad, not a grassroots popular revolt that might lead to the sectarian dismemberment of Iraq and who knows what else. Whether Washington gave a green light to President Saddam or not - and there are furious ideologically driven debates on this point - the Republican Guard was soon on its way south and left free to do its worst by American warplanes circling overhead to enforce the new no-fly zone beneath the 32nd parallel."
Saul Landau: "In Tariq Aziz's office, now obliterated, the Deputy Prime Minister resisted former Senator Jim Abourezk and Congressman Nick Rahall's persuasive arguments to allow the UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. "Without guarantees that he [Bush] will not attack, why should we concede?" he asked."
The most recent issue of the Onion has the best anti-war coverage I've seen.
According to reports from the front, many of the soldiers were initially suspicious of the president, doubtful that an Ivy Leaguer who once used powerful family connections to avoid service in Vietnam had what it took to face enemy fire head-on. However, Bush—or, as his fellow soldiers nicknamed him in a spirit of battlefield camaraderie, 'Big Tex'—quickly overcame the platoon's reluctance to having a "fancy-pants Yalie" in its ranks.
"Bush is the best soldier I've ever had the honor of fighting alongside," said Pvt. Jon Benjamin, 23. "I'd take a bullet for that man, because I know he'd take one for me if he had to."
Hindustan Times: "On Tuesday, the British declared Basra a ‘legitimate military target’, and artillery shells and bombs began to fall upon that city too. Inevitably, civilians have begun to die in Basra too."
The New Forum: "Right now, my idea of nirvana includes one week without CNN."
Rational Enquirer: "If this is a war for the liberation of the Iraqi people, at least a few Iraqis aren't getting the message."
GOP Times: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran."
Doonesbury: "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
Scribbler.ca: "There's no shortage of people's opinions and analyses. The pressure is cranking up, and seems to be spilling out of the media boxes and into our own cocoons. Everywhere I turn, almost everybody seems to be going nuts, in one way or another... A global fever-hum, getting louder and louder, and more than anything I wish somebody would just turn down the volume..."
FAIR: "A lack of skepticism toward official U.S. sources has already led prominent American journalists into embarrassing errors in their coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, particularly in relation to claims that proof had been found that Iraq possesses banned weapons."
Robert Fisk: "'Our soldiers know they will not get a fair deal from the Americans,' he said. 'It’s important that they know this. We may not like our regime. But we fight for our country. The Russians did not like Stalin but they fought under him against the German invaders. We have a long history of fighting the colonial powers, especially you British. You claim you are coming to "liberate" us. But you don’t understand. What is happening now is that we are starting a war of liberation against the Americans and the British.'"
CorpWatch: "thousands of employees of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, are working alongside US troops in Kuwait and Turkey under a package deal worth close to a billion dollars. According to US Army sources, they are building tent cities and providing logistical support for the war in Iraq in addition to other hot spots in the 'war on terrorism.'"
Village Voice: "While all experts agree that stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq would be a protracted endeavor, 'the longer a U.S. occupation of Iraq continues,' one of the studies notes, 'the more danger exists that elements of the Iraqi population will become impatient and take violent measures to hasten the departure of U.S. forces.'"
When German troops marched into Estonia during WWII, they were greeted as liberators. Not because the Germans were bringing democracy or even ambiguously-defined "freedom", but because life under the Russians had been the worst thing to happen to the country up until that point. As it happened, being ruled by Nazis wasn't much better. Life under Stalin after the war was still worse (thousands were shipped off to Siberian labour camps and prisons or simply killed), but that was yet to come.
Iraqis in Iraq seem to understand fairly well that the sanctions strengthened Saddam Hussein, strangled their economy, and led to the horrors of the past ten years. Many also don't seem convinced that being invaded by the Americans is better than life as usual under Hussein.
The US (or the UN) could have taken it upon itself to liberate Iraq at any point during the past ten years, through a combination of the following options: creation of autonomous zones in southern Iraq, adoption of sanctions that hurt Saddam instead of hurting his people, supporting dissident groups, and finding ways to ensure that people don't starve.
It's important to understand what makes those options different from a military invasion. Foremost, it involves giving power over to the Iraqis (of whom Shi'ites and Kurds form a vast majority). The Shi'ites would likely make peace with Iran and form strong cultural and economic ties with that other member of the axis of evil, while the Kurds would leverage political power into the creation of a Kurdish state, or put a lot of pressure (maybe by funding and staging terrorist attacks, among more peaceful means) on Turkey, which has oppressed the Kurds for a long time now.
For these same reasons, real democracy in Iraq would directly contradict US interests. I'm guessing that's why the Bush administration never says "democracy" in relation to Iraq, but substitutes effectively meaningless phrases like "self-government" and "representative government". Many observers have, with undue charity, claimed that Bush will set up a democracy, though I know of no instance where Bush himself has actually made the claim. (I would be happy to be proven wrong on this point, and any others.)
Operation Arab Radicalization: "Yesterday in Lahore Pakistan (they gots nukes!) 100,000 people showed up to shout 'Kill America,' burn flags, and generally get fired up about jihad. Heck, even the kids looked to be having a good time."
I don't recommend looking at the photos of the Iraqi boy with his head blown open. I haven't felt the same sheer horror since the nine year old version of me saw chinese protesters whose heads had been split open by tanks depicted on the cover of Time. Nightmares for weeks.
Ha'aretz: "The Vietnam War is considered the last American war in which American correspondents were allowed to walk around in war zones and report from them almost independently. This opportunity gave rise to several pictures which are etched in the public awareness: American soldiers setting fire to Vietnamese huts with Zippo lighters, a police officer executing a member of the Vietcong on a Saigon street, a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing her village after a napalm bombardment. It's hard to imagine such pictures from Iraq today - not because the horrors don't occur, but because the journalists' point of view is more limited than ever before, and self-censorship is sweeping and thoroughly internalized."
Guardian: "The example of postwar Germany suggests that the best ideology for the purpose is social democracy. One of the first things the British did in their zone of Germany was to sponsor a new trade union confederation, the sheet anchor of democracy in the years to come. But this approach is now unthinkable. So is any 'Mesopotamian Marshall plan'. Instead, Iraq will probably be abandoned to the joys of an uncontrolled free-market regime, supervised by the World Bank."
Independent: "According to a recent report by Care International, the per capita spending of aid money in Afghanistan last year was well under half that of post-conflict Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and East Timor."
Kellan: "So don't tell me we never suggested any alternatives, and this war was unavoidable, or that somehow a flower of democracy is going to bloom in the desert tended ever so lovingly by Uncle Sam's finest."
FTrain: "I'm going to the Saturday protest and, for the first time in my life, I feel it is all hopeless. Not only do I have no desire to write, I have no desire to have the desire to write."
Salam Pax: "Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful."
Robert Fisk is in Baghdad, and filing reports regularly.
From an email I just received from a friend, who is in France:
I think the news is pretty drastically different over here than over there. We are getting a lot of personal iraqi stories coverage--the night before the war we heard a report on pregnant women having c-sections over a month early to avoid giving birth during a bomb... the protests are intense. Ive been out to all of them. people often shout comparisons between Bush and Hitler....some people throw dead chickens and hunks of meat at the riot police. I dont know what the French CRS has to do with the war-- yes they are assholes but really... Then there are intellegent protesters too. My sign said UNE VIE = UNE VIE after amanda's essay for your website. We also had: Une Seule Arme: les DROITS de L'HOMME.
Salon: How the World Sees Americans
A very interesting interview (from Nov. '02) with a journalist who interviewed people all over the world about what they think of the US. Two key points: Americans don't listen to the rest of the world, and Bush squandered the massive international support that the USA had post 9-11 with his "with us or against us" and "axis of evil" remarks. The invasion of Iraq has helped even less.
Obvious, but all the more worth repeating as a result.
(The following is directed mostly at non-Canadians.)
Like most news channels, CBC Radio One claims to be "the source Canadians trust," but unlike almost all the rest, it can make the claim and be taken seriously. The round the clock coverage of the invasion of Iraq has (so far) been critical, sane, civil and balanced, constantly getting a different and relevant perspective on events.
In a world where Fox News and CNN can be referred to as "journalism" without everyone within earshot cracking up at the mere suggestion, I must say my standards have been lowered considerably. But still, if you're looking for a news source that isn't a bombastic, self-righteous reprocessor of official propaganda, I recommend tuning in. Did I mention there are no ads?
Get your war news over at RationalEnquirer.org, the new home of the perpetual warlog.
I'm going to be interviewed by the Moncton CBC tommorrow morning at around 6:30am EST (7:30 local) about alternatives to media coverage and the war on Iraq. So if anyone on the west coast is reading this around 3:30am... In any case, I'll record it and upload an MP3 file later in the week.
I've heard the following books recommended as good starting points for understanding the history and context of the Middle East by a scholar who recently visited the Mount Allison campus (I forget his name!) and by Edward Said (in a Harper's review last summer). In other words, consider these before picking up anything by Bernard Lewis:
Colonising Egypt, by Timothy Mitchell
The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam, by Robert Malley
The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, by Marshall Hodgson
Islam and Modernities, by Aziz Al-Azmeh
Classical Arab Islam: The Culture and Heritage of the Golden Age, by Tarif Khalidi
And Ken Wiwa (one of a very small number of decent Globe and Mail columnists and son of Ken Saro Wiwa, the Nigerian activist murdered by the Nigerian government at the behest of Shell) mentioned this book when he gave a talk here the other night:
And right now, I'm reading:
Empire, by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
Steps to and Ecology of Mind, by Gregory Bateson
Phenomenology of Spirit, by G W F Hegel
Foucault, by Gilles Deleuze
The SCUM Manifesto, by Valerie Solanas
Development as Freedom, by Amartya Sen
And here's a review of Friedman's Lexus and the Olive Tree, just for fun.
Irrational Hope on the Eve of War
I find myself increasingly hopeful that what Bush and the people who didn't give a shit about Saddam's human rights abuses until this year have been telling are true: that thousands will die but that it will be worth it for the bright future of Iraq; that the US actually plans to set up a democracy in Iraq; that the Iraqi people will be liberated by a new regime which will necessarily be compatible with US interests; that Iraq will be rebuilt, and not forgotten about less than a year later as Afghanistan was.
I hope against hope that the unprecedented international attention focused on Iraq in the coming years will make the US occupation less damaging than it might otherwise be. I hope that citizens will continue to be vigilant of the American government's actions; that civil rights activists will succeed in forcing the US to stop torturing suspected terrorists, confining them indefinitely without charges, beathing them to death, and holding their children and families captive for 'questioning'; that more innocent Iraqis will not be imprisoned and tortured; and that the US will choose to stop hosting and training terrorists.
I also hope to erase from my mind what no one is denying: that hundreds of thousands will starve to death; that one million new refugees will have nowhere to go; that the US will bomb the infrastructure that keeps thousands of people from getting sick all over again; that the US and Britain have already been bombing every three days for ten bloody years; that 1.5 million Iraqis have died as a result of sanctions that have kept Saddam in power and weakened all opposition to his rule. I hope and pray that the US refusal to cooperate with aid agencies will not have the preventable effects that are being predicted.
Furthermore, I hope that what appear to be the unavoidable consequences of this aggressive invasion will not come to pass: that in the ensuing chaos, any chemical or biological weapons that Iraq possesses will find their way into the hands of terrorists; that other states threatened by the US will not reach the unavoidable conclusion that a nuclear arsenal is a necessary precondition for statehood and sane diplomatic relations with the United States; that a few dozen people will reach the conclusion that the only thing that will stop the US is exponentially greater terror; that the cooperation of Muslim states in legitimate searches for terrorists will become difficult or impossible to acquire; and that terrorist organizations will find it much easier to find willing sources of funding and support.
I hope that somehow, some way, citizens of the USA and the countries being antagonized can reach out to each other and find ways to understand and help each other in the face of increased polarization at the diplomatic level.
If this war happens, then hope is all we'll have. It's something. It has to be.
Dixie Chick Natalie Maines to a concert in London: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Maines later explained on the country band's web site: "We've been overseas for several weeks and have been reading and following the news accounts of our governments' position. The anti-American sentiment that has unfolded here is astounding. While we support our troops, there is nothing more frightening than the notion of going to war with Iraq and the prospect of all the innocent lives that will be lost."
Now radio stations are boycotting Dixie Chicks songs.
I wonder if people will start replacing "dixie" with "freedom" now.
Much of a book entitled Behind the Invasion of Iraq is online, and contains much essential historical background reading on western involvement in the Middle East since WWI.
John Dower in Boston Review: A Warning from History: Don’t expect democracy in Iraq
The Beastie Boys have pre-released an anti-war track from their new album.
France, China, and Syria are opposing war for mostly the wrong reasons. Their governments, that is. It kind of sucks that France, Germany and Russia would probably not be working so hard for peace were it not for their financial interest in keeping Saddam in power. So a Security Council resolution approving the US invasion will basically just mean that the various interests at stake have been sufficiently conceded by the US.
Warren Kinsella, prominent Liberal strategist, offers us rare insight into the minds of the Canadian ruling class on his web site. Pausing in the midst of a round of NDP-bashing (for what, exactly, is not completely clear--an email was sent, and they didn't follow up on some campaign promises... only when you're the NDP does that amount to a scandal), Kinsella offers some glowing praise of an Ontario Liberal fundraiser:
I've gummed down plenty of political rubber chicken in my day, but that was something I don't think I've ever seen: a standing-room-only corporate crowd at a political fundariser, giving a spontaneous - and enduring, and loud - standing ovation.
Don't just take my word for it. The Ontario Liberal dinner took in $1.3 million, minimum, which is a record. People were jammed in the cavernous hall at the Sheraton Centre - and some tables were $15,000 a pop. It wasn't just sold out - it was oversold. The Tories, meanwhile, have been forced to discount prices for their big fundraiser in Mississauga. That kind of says it all, don't it?
It sure does. I, for one, am willing to take your word for it, Mr. Kinsella: corporate interests dominate Canadian politics, but what really matters is that they (and their money) are on your side! Congrats!
Granted, the NDP is far from perfect, but if the same standards that apply to them were applied to other parties, things would be considerably different. If the NDP's platform is overrun by corporate influence, then they at least make an effort to keep that influence in check. Not so for the Liberals, as Kinsella's remarks show rather clearly.
A project I started this week: starting a national newspaper in Canada. It's a little less ambitious than it sounds, at least initially. Feedback welcome.
(many thanks to Kendall Clark for hosting the site and listservs)
First, I hear that George W. cancelled a speech at the European parliament because they wouldn't guarantee a standing ovation and no protesters, and now there is substantial evidence that his recent and rare news conference was scripted. Not that it's any secret that Ari Fleisher's press briefings are a total joke.
It would be funny, except that it's the most powerful office in the world.
Geert Lovink's The Art of Being Independent is an interesting critical summary of the problems that activists have with Non-Governmental Organizations and their embracing of corporate structure and culture.
Washington Post: Iran's Nuclear Program Speeds Ahead
"Our three 'axis of evil' designees seem to have decided to push hard to provide themselves with weapons if they're going to be in the constant attention of the United States," Gottemoeller said. "We need a more proactive, positive way of engaging them first and then trying to shut these things down."
The current US behaviour towards countries that have nuclear weapons and those that don't makes the choice for those countries pretty clear: develop nuclear weapons quickly, or nothing short of a total Wall Street crash will stop a US invasion. In short: nukes and maybe terrorism are the only things that will keep you from getting invaded. This, compounded with Bush's promise to use nuclear weapons against countries that use chemical weapons, or keeping the option to proceed with "legitimate" first use of "tactical nukes" serves only to escalate worldwide nuclear proliferation.
Daniel Ellsberg writes:
With or without first-use in this conflict, I fear that an attack on Iraq will spur other nations into acquiring nuclear weapons for deterrence in the future. In the guise of averting proliferation in Iraq, this bullying attack by the world's preeminent nuclear power will accelerate proliferation dramatically. (It may already have had that effect in North Korea). The black market price for Russian (or Pakistani, or North Korean) nuclear materials or, better, operational nuclear weapons, will skyrocket. If a market and international trade in such materials and weapons does not develop in response to this, then the assumptions underlying the theory of markets and free trade need radical overhaul.
As Ellsberg points out, the #1 threat to the US right now is the possibility that Al Quaeda or other terrorist groups might acquire nuclear weapons. By invading and occupying Iraq, the US will not only be creating a huge demand for nuclear weapons, but severely increasing the possibility of that such weapons will get into the hands of terrorists. All it takes is one, after all.
On its own, the new nuclear proliferation (which has already begun) will have tremendous unforseen consequences. If Iran gets nukes, how will its neighbors react? In that event, Saddam Hussein will stop at nothing to get nuclear weapons, since he (probably legitimately) fears a reprisal for the war he started with Iran in the 80s. Any US-sponsored regime in Iraq would undoubtedly not feel it was secure until it also had nuclear capabilities to deter Iran. But that's just an obvious example; the point is, we cannot predict these things. No one can.
The obvious and sane alternative is to work for cutting down conventional arms buildup in general and nuclear capability in particular across the board in the Middle East. That means, of course, stopping much of the highly lucrative business that US arms dealers (usually subsidized by US taxpayers) do in many countries in the region. It also means working with Russia to make sure their vast nuclear arsenal is accounted for. This is the only possible way for governments in the region to feel secure without possessing huge arsenals. For obvious reasons, it is very much against the prerogrative of the Bush administration to do this, which is why only popular pressure can make the government responsive to the vast danger it is creating.
I, for one, don't want to see another September 11th, much less one involving nuclear fallout.
Thomas Pynchon: Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?
The knitting machines which provoked the first Luddite disturbances had been putting people out of work for well over two centuries. Everybody saw this happening „- it became part of daily life. They also saw the machines coming more and more to be the property of men who did not work, only owned and hired. It took no German philosopher, then or later, to point out what this did, had been doing, to wages and jobs.
From Nettime: An online action for the Spanish local elections
Creating a legal political coalition called Otra Democracia Es Posible and presenting candidatures in towns, so the Electoral Administration must print ballots saying that "another democracy is possible" and must distribute them to all the voting locations of the towns where lists are presented. So many voters will see them just before performing their almost single act of active democratic participation of the year (if so).
There is no aim to obtain votes, nor representants, nor we expect to change anything in the current Spanish """democratic""" system. We don't even pretend with this action to answer the question "what other democracy??". We just want to contribute spreading the question to the society.
I have a fairly high predisposition towards this kind of direct action: it's simple and easy to implement, it spreads quickly, a lot of people can feel confident participating, and it opens up (if only a little) the possibility for questioning and discussion on topics of crucial importance.
Another report on the human costs of war in Iraq. Excerpts:
The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) sent a team of experts to Iraq from January 17-30, 2003 to establish a baseline of current conditions and assess the probable consequences of war. The Research Team's main finding is that the international community is unprepared for the humanitarian disaster of another war in Iraq.
The Office of the Iraq Program has stated that the OFFP would be terminated in the event of war, and that the $10.9 billion worth of supplies already in the pipeline ¨paid for by Iraq but not yet delivered¨ would not be released without a new Security Council resolution. It is safe to predict that the humanitarian crisis resulting from another war in Iraq would far exceed the capacity of U.N. and international relief agencies.
They are in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques, and if incidental to the due course of this investigation, we find things that need to be changed, we will certainly change them."
Newsweek has cranked up their propaganda machine to the next level of output. "Saddam's War," by Evan Thomas and John Barry, is apparently intended as journalism and not an op/ed polemic, and yet one of the primary objectives of the piece seems to convince the reader that any atrocities committed in a war on Iraq will be committed (by definition!) by the Saddam's evil minions.
Consider this bit:
Saddam has ordered thousands of uniforms identical, down to the last detail, to those worn by U.S. and British troopers. The plan: to have Saddam’s men, posing as Western invaders, slaughter Iraqi citizens while the cameras roll for Al-Jazeera and the credulous Arab press.
Ah! So it's the Arab press that's credulous. This claim, for which no source is given or even implied, is simply stated as fact. As if there couldn't be any other possible reason for Iraq troops to dress in similar garb to the invading force. And why would there need to be thousands of them to stage atrocities for a video camera? And wouldn't the fact that there aren't that many Arab-looking people in the American army pose a problem.
But there's yet another problem with the claim that is more significant than the rest: if the reports by the UN and various aid agencies are even remotely accurate, the truth would be far more effective than anything that could be conjured up by a propaganda ploy. One doesn't need to look farther than a few paragraphs down to find evidence of this:
The United States will try to rattle Saddam’s defenders into surrender with a "shock and awe" air campaign, 3,000 precision bombs in the first 48 hours. And Saddam will try to inspire his troops to be good martyrs by threatening to kill them himself.
Dropping 3,000 precision bombs on a city like Washington DC or New York would cause inconceivable damage, and take thousands of human lives--we can say this with some certainty; it doesn't matter how accurate the bombs are. But we are to believe, on some unstated yet widely assumed qualitative difference in the way cities in Iraq will react to bombs, that this is a morally and legally justified operation. Perhaps the assertion that Saddam will "threaten to kill" his troops himself was meant to distract the reader from this conclusion.
Indeed, even considering only the facts stated in the article, a war with Iraq would seem to be a potential, if not actual, disaster for everyone involved. Does this invoke a consideration of whether it would be wise to attack, in the same, sober (yet wildly imaginative) journalistic tone? No, it means it's time to firm up the connection between protesters, Saddam, evil, and lies, while affirming that the US forces are unquestionably good. Consider the following:
Saddam is hardly above gassing his own people and pretending that the Americans—the "Crusaders and Jews and infidels"—are to blame. Many Arabs watching Al-Jazeera would believe him. Anti-aircraft batteries and tanks and artillery have been placed beneath and beside mosques, hospitals and schools. Even the most accurate American bombs could produce atrocious TV images. To combat Saddam’s psychological warfare and refute disinformation, CENTCOM has created a "rapid-response team." CENTCOM will try to provide photographic proof to back up its claims, releasing footage from gun cameras and other weapons systems as well as before-and-after photographs from satellites.
Is it Saddam that's to blame for this "psychological warfare", or does the term refer to coverage of civilian casualties in general? The article continues:
Truth may not be an adequate defense. [...] Shocked by television images of human carnage, demonstrators will take to the streets at home and abroad. Politicians will call on Bush to get it over with, to declare victory and go home.
The credulous masses, in other words, will be swayed by images of death, and cleverly manipulated into believing that war is wrong. But the truth--the contents of which is left implied--may not convince them that... that what? That Iraq really will be better off after a drawn out ground war? That the terrorist threat will diminish, now that the already reviled American forces are occupying a Muslim country? That, despite the fact that the US is refusing to share information about plans to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the war, it will all work out in the end? That the possibility of a million kids starving to death is an "acceptable cost"? (100 kids starving to death is a tragedy. Anything over ten thousand is simply beyond the imaginative capability of any human being.)
All this adds up to a considerable need to dehumanize the enemy. Thus the fabricated story about Iraqi troops ripping babies out of incubators that was used to justify the first Gulf War, and the undoubtedly well meaning Private Gritz, who was quoted as saying, "there is a guy shooting over a pregnant lady's shoulder. The Iraqis strap kids to tanks. What can you do?"
"Saddam's War" contains many similar characterizations; many are listed above, but some are more subtle, like the bizarre reference to Saddam's men as "tribesmen", and the description of his tactics as "medieval". The rest takes bits of truth and generalizes it in a convenient but inaccurate way. Saddam did indeed gas the Kurds (not quite "his own people," but close enough) during a war, while Iranian soldiers were operating nearby. (How killing 5,000 Kurds is worse than killing a few hundred thousand Iranians is difficult to say--both happened with US support, in any case.) Does this mean that he will necessarily do it again, under completely different circumstances and for completely different reasons? Such a simplistic reading of motivations would imply that Bush Jr. plans to bomb food storage warehouses, water purification plants, electrical systems, all over again, as his father did in 1991? I certainly hope not. Then again, over 3,000,000 Vietnamese died in one of America's better known "humanitarian interventions".
There is, perhaps, nothing particularly remarkable about journalists toeing the line of official propaganda. Violent empires like that of the US would not be possible if the range of debate were not as narrow as it is now. What is striking, though, is that people like Evan Thomas and John Barry probably believe that they are being objective and balanced when they write this kind of stuff. That people can go to places like the Columbia School of Journalism, study the principles of objectivity and balance, and then churn out this kind of crap, is a truly impressive feat of institutional influence.
I've been seeing references to Vannevar Bush's 1945 essay about what would become hypertext, As We May Think. It's nice to see it popping up again, and since I was heavily influenced by it while in high school but haven't read it since, it's back on my reading list.
Another big influence and great source of ideas was Ted Nelson's Literary Machines, which, after being hard to find for a long time, is apparently back in print. Much of the book is now online as scanned images, but it uses "jfax" format, which seems a bit counterintuitive, but oh well.
The Onion: White History Year Resumes
"Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. are all well and good," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist at a banquet celebrating the arrival of White History Year, "but now is the time to reflect on the accomplishments of such whites as Babe Ruth, Alexander Graham Bell, and Presidents Washington through Bush. Let's use these next 11 months to remember the other American history."
Whites have contributed so much to this country," Frist continued. "Did you, for example, know that a white man, Jonas Salk, discovered the cure for polio? It's true."
(via Daily Churn)
Ftrain: Dinner with a Billionaire
That night, I wrote him an email, thanking him, hoping he'd write back and I'd get - a job, a benediction, a ride in his whirlybird? I didn't know. I intuited, because I have over 5 million years of experience as a tribal pack-monkey, that the right thing to do, when faced with his great power, was: be entertaining and obsequious, do not challenge or threaten in any way, appear useful, and say, gently, "hey, if there's ever anything I could do...." In previous generations, it was an oath of loyalty; before that, a gift of cattle and daughters; before that, the presentation of the soft belly; here, in civilization, it was a thank-you email for dinner.
Somehow, my post of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation got to be on the first page of results of a google search for his name. As a result, a lot of people (by misnomer standards, anyway) have been posting comments, and misnomer had more visitors in three days than it usually does in a month. In any case, the posts are a very interesting cross section of Americans who (mostly) aren't too keen on the war.
Some good links from Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio:
L’utilisation que font les médias de ce qui s’est passé n’a rien à voir avec l’événement lui-même. On est coincé : impossible de l’ignorer, mais impossible aussi de se joindre à sa ritualisation. On déshumanise le 11 septembre pour qu’il devienne exploitable, mais dans un sens qui conforte la situation qui avait justement rendu ces attaques possibles.
Iran is Suing the U.S. For Its Support of Saddam Hussein in the 80's (over 1 million people died in the Iran/Iraq war, which the US funded on both sides.)
I have an idea. The press should ask Ari Fleisher about his sex life. Since he lies about everything else, it follows that there is a likelihood that he will lie about that, too. Once caught, he'll have to resign.