A post over at ZBlogs reminded me of the most simple and potent reaction to Reagan's (and now Bush's) claim of a "mandate".
That came from Gil Scott-Heron:
The track is called "B" Movie, and should be played early and often.
Want to stop "terrorism" (the action formerly known as guerilla warfare)? Clearly, the best way to do that is to fire rockets at a mosque during prayer.
To continue the press' gardening metaphors, the US is uprooting terror, while tilling the soil of despair and sowing thousands of seeds of rage. An effective strategy, if the desired outcome is genocide.
From an Indymedia feature:
The US media are groping in the dark for a new narrative. Even for supporters of the occupation, it is no longer believable to suggest that Iraq is on an inevitable path towards democracy; that the Iraqi people are overwhelmingly grateful for the American presence in their country; that attacks against American forces are the work of a few "dead-enders" or Islamic extremists allied with al Qaeda. This is clearly a popular uprising against an illegitimate occupying army.Amazing that it took this long for that to become clear.
Update: David Grenier compiled some views from the ground in Iraq.
And some analysts say that the comments by US officials may be bolstering ARENA's message. Last Sunday, White House Special Assistant Otto Reich gave a phone-in press conference at ARENA headquarters. According to local newspapers, he said he was worried about the impact an FMLN win could have on the country's "economic, commercial, and migratory relations with the United States."
To put it mildly. It may be obscure to the folks in the power centres up north, but I suspect that Salvadoran voters received the message loud and clear: elect Marxist, and we'll fuck you up good. Roger Noriega, who apparently pushed hard for the recent US-sponsored coup d'etat in Haiti, went even farther, and not without consequences:
In February, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega told voters to "consider what kind of a relationship they want a new administration to have with us." He met with all the candidates except Mr. Handal. Last week, 28 US Congress members sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell saying Mr. Noriega "crossed a boundary" and that his remarks were perceived as "interference in Salvadoran electoral affairs." This week two US congressmen blasted Reich's comments as inflammatory.
Of course, the right-wing candidate is playing to the fear of losing ties with the US, as well he might:
More than a quarter of El Salvador's 6.5 million citizens live in the US, and Salvadoran economist Robert Rubio estimates that remittances account for 16 percent of the country's economy. He likens the flow of remittances to a life-support system for the country's poor economy
He can also accurately claim that relations with the US would be way better under his government. The reason this is the case, however, remains obscure. It's not that a lefty government would break off ties with the US. Quite to the contrary, it would not be in their interests to do so. However, what they might do, is begin acting in the interest of the majority of the people of El Salvador, which would guarantee that the US would flip right out, impose sanctions, deny aid, delay or block remittances, and maybe even fund terrorists to knock some sense into the poor of El Salvador.
Indeed, it's no surprise that Otto Reich was involved with funding the contras back in the 1980s.
Dennis Kucinich, who is apparently still a US presidential candidate, showed up on the sane side of the question of El Salvador. That's more than we can say for the NDP about Haiti or Venezuela, for example.
"Unfortunately, what is going on in El Salvador is representative of a Latin American policy that is not about promoting healthy democracies, but instead focused on making Latin American nations bend to U.S. commercial interests."
"The people of El Salvador have a right to free and fair elections without interference from the United States. The U.S. cannot claim to be a leader in promoting democracy worldwide and at the same time hinder democracy by attempting to influence the outcome of elections abroad," Kucinich said.
Tom Tomorrow: "Nader's critique is, essentially, that there is a cancer on the body politic--and he's right about that. The problem in the year 2004 is that the body politic is also suffering from multiple wounds and blunt force trauma, we're in the emergency room and it's a damn mess and there's blood everywhere and the doctors are working furiously but it's anybody's guess how things are gonna turn out. We are in triage, and we have to deal with the immediate problems, or the long-term ones won't matter anyway."
Two questions, which I ask in all seriousness:
Has any mainstream Democratic candidate (i.e. Gore, Kerry, Edwards) ever reached out to potential Nader voters with even a token concession?
Have any of those three encountered any serious mainstream criticism for not doing a better job of keeping those votes from being siphoned off?
I would like to suggest that every Democrat that has whined about Nader without drawing at least some attention to these questions is part of the problem.
Body and Soul: "It's not like poor people in America are so hard to find that you have to make them up."
Want an exhaustive list of informative articles about pressing issues in American politics? Go read the February 11 entry at thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse. That's a serious overview.
John Perry Barlow: "But, according to the big media, Dean's 'yee-haaa' was the sound of political hara-kari. You would have thought they'd caught Dean in bed with either a live man or a dead woman. They belabored him for his shout as though he'd done something truly heinous, like, say, leading America into a major war under false pretenses, or robbing the poor to feed the rich, or dramatically curtailing civil liberties."
Dave doesn't hold much back in his retrospective on the primaries:
He doesn’t look so electable now, does he you spineless elitist fuckface pussywhimp maggots? Yes, you, the Deaniacs who think the American People are too stupid and backward to support a real progressive or know what is good for them, so you push another DLC-style centrist (and sadly, convince yourself he’s a progressive) because you’ve determined in your infinite wisdom that this is what the American People will accept. I mean, the whole “electability” thing reeks of both elitism and insecurity. Not standing up for what you believe in because you’re not sure if its popular is something I outgrew in the eighth grade… so how come so many Democrats still act like that?
The Body and Soul weblog sums up the Dean fiasco:
It's pretty clear he's responding to the excitement in the crowd, and while it might not be a good idea to respond quite that vociferously when you're running for president, sports wouldn't be very popular if a whole lot of perfectly sane people didn't tend to get a little hyper in crowds. If it had been Bush, we'd be hearing about how much he has in common with football and hockey fans. Isn't he great? Just one of the guys. (emphasis added)
The Nation: "The Republicans have adapted their Southern strategy to the new terms of sexual politics. What they once did with race, they are doing today with gender."
Bush does spent a lot of time talking about the "chainsaw work" (known to laypersons as "clearing brush", though not everyone has Bush's need to emphasize the involvement of a power tool). That, along with gratuitous references to getting to bed early (wink wink), is clearly a central part of Bush's political strategy/image.
The Nation article takes that line of thought quite a bit farther.
"My job, as commander-in-chief, will never be to send our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren, to fight in a foreign country without first telling them the truth about why they are fighting." --Howard Dean
Dean, it should be said, is not anti-war. His objection to a particular war in Iraq was specific; he doesn't, for instance, have any problem supporting the occupation of Palestine. It's also important to point out that he's no lefty. He's hardly even a "liberal".. Indeed, he shows every indication of being a standard business Democrat once elected. (He's going to help the rich merely get insanely rich, rather than unbelievably rich. How compelling.)
Hey, what do I expect? Anyone who opposes killing tens of thousands of people for corporate interests in principle is unelectable. And if they're not unelectable, then they will be by the time the pundit army gets through with them.
Despite all this, he apparently is a "really good guy", has a compelling presence, knows how to work a crowd, gives a good speech, has a ridiculous amount of fundraising capacity, and inspires lots of young idealists.
Gee, where do I sign up?
The real action, Wolf says, is at the edges of the network, where people who support Dean even while disagreeing with him on major policies meet together to share ideas, speechify, get riled up, and win people over to Dean's camp.
I don't have any objection to this, save perhaps for my belief that civic participation shouldn't begin and end with a personality cult. Maybe there are people who are meeting and talking to each other about substantial things outside of the guise of fooling themselves into believing that the Democrats stand for something progressive. That's great, but I'm not holding my breath.
On the other hand, I hold out naive hope that the establishment of networks both face-to-face and digital could, at some point, facilitate a sharing of information that is to some degree independent of the corporate media various structures of propaganda-repetition.
For now, though, the vast majority of Americans seem to be impervious to thoughts like "killing 10,000 people is wrong and fundamentally evil in every conceivable scenario. Period."
As an American citizen, I'll be voting for the Democrats in the next election, based on their record of fiscal responsibility and clear-eyed pragmatism.
When the Democrats decide to kill hundreds of thousands of people, they do it cheaply and efficiently. Using CIA-funded death squads, "smart sanctions", military aid to dictators, and surgical strikes, the Democrats have perfected the delicate art of global terrorism. The Republican emphasis on overblown budgets, deficit spending, troop-intensive campaigns, and fancy logistics is, by contrast, rather distasteful.
When you want to terrorize multiple populations of millions around the world, you can count on Democratic administrations to come in on time and under-budget.
This is deeply preferable to the spending debacles of Bush II and Reagan (not to mention the unnecessary deaths of fine young Americans). Indeed, there's an argument to be made that Clinton suceeded in killing more people and effectively terrorizing much larger populations than Bush has, at a fraction of the budget.
Most importantly, the likes of Clinton, Carter and Kennedy acheived a degree of subtlety in their killing campaigns. Bush's invasion of Iraq provoked worldwide resistance unprecedented in the history of the planet, but Democrats have managed to kill at least as many people, while maintaining solid reputations as moderates, even humanitarians.
As an example, take the differing approaches to Iraq. GW Bush and his father launched expensive and high-profile invasions that proved to be unsuccessful even granting the most charitable standards available. By contrast, Clinton starved over a million Iraqis to death, kept crucial medical supplies from entering the country, and bombed new targets every three days. Despite the awesome cumulative destructive power of this attack, Clinton's campaign was almost never in the news, spread out as it was over both of his terms.
In other cases, Clinton was even more efficient: by levelling a Sudanese factory that supplied most of Africa (as well as Iraq) with cheap pharmaceuticals with one cruise missile, he was able to lower the quality of life for an entire continent a relatively low cost. Meanwhile, the attack was off the news before its true effects could be felt.
The Democrats: more bang for your buck, and less backlash. After all: what are people going to do, vote Republican?
The New Republic: "Fundamentally, the Dean campaign equates Democratic support for the Iraq war with appeasement of President Bush. But the fight against Saddam Hussein falls within a hawkish liberal tradition that stretches through the Balkan wars, the Gulf war, and, indeed, the cold war itself. Lieberman is not the only candidate who stands in that tradition--Wesley Clark promoted it courageously in Kosovo, as did Richard Gephardt when he defied the polls to vote for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq. But Lieberman is its most steadfast advocate, not only in the current field but in the entire Democratic Party."
OK, so I also say that there is broad consensus among the ruling elite in the US that dropping bombs and maintaining global military dominance is A Good Thing. But it's important to note that this isn't a fringe view.
(On a more snipey note, how the hell is advocating dropping bombs and sending other people's kids to die "courageous"?)
On other topics, it's deeply strange to read TNR (and almost everyone else in the US and Canadian mainstream) saying that "average voters" are all for free trade and empire. This kind of imputing of values is as bizarre as it is sick. As if these people hang out with "average voters" and have any sense of how the cherished policies of the elite are affecting them.
If you replace: "average voters" with "my boss, or some other authority I aspire to emulate without understanding", then the analysis starts to be truly insightful.
Ralph Nader's "Presidential Exploratory Comittee" has a survey asking if you would support a Nader campaign in 2004.
I wrote the following in the comments box:
"While I believe that the getting Bush out is a major priority, I don't see that there is the will among democrats to do the right thing. Indeed, there is not the will to think the right thing. They have supported Bush in too many of his shenanigans to be credible. A third party is necessary to restore a modicum of sanity and accountability, however unlikely a win."
Bob Harris: Why I'm voting for Kucinich over Dean. An interesting comparison of the positions of both candidates, which leaves Dean looking much less like the progressive that some people think him to be.
Tom Tommorrow writes:
Is this what it's come to? A non-binding, online referendum, the summer before the primary season really heats up--and you're not willing, even at this early point, to vote for the candidate you actually prefer?The Democrats' weak-kneed, irrational desire to placate everyone to their right has few limits. We knew this, I think.
Let me repeat, I'm not endorsing anyone here. And I'm not sayng the electability concern isn't valid.
But if you want any hope of ever having a progressive voice at the table, at some point you've got to show some support for said progressive voice. And this seems about as low-risk a way to do it as is humanly possible. This isn't November 2000 in Florida, and Kucinich ain't Ralph Nader. This is, as I say, a non-binding, nonscientific online referendum. And Kucinich isn't a third-party challenger--he's playing within the rules of the Democratic party's primary process, and in the (probable, I would guess) event that he does not secure the nomination, he's pledged to support the Democrat who does, whoever it may be.
Vote for Dean, vote for Kucinich--just, for god's sake, vote for the candidate who represents what you believe--not the candidate you imagine other people might prefer.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Ari Fleisher laughed off stage? (via jessamyn)
Amanda Jernigan is now officially a poet against the war.
If you have a fast connection, the re-mixed State of the Union Speech [14MB, Quicktime] is a must-see.
Sydney Morning Herald: Coalition of the willing? Make that war criminals
A pre-emptive strike on Iraq would constitute a crime against humanity, write 43 experts on international law and human rights.
Times Online: Spain begs President to restrain Rumsfeld
[I recieved the following on the same day that the letter was sent, via a staff member at FCNL, a lobby group. Since the quotes in news coverage match up with what follows, I'm assuming that it's mostly authentic. Presented as-is, since there is no other copy online that I know of. Also because it's interesting. Update: it is authentic; the NYTimes recently printed it.]
U.S. Diplomat's Letter of Resignation
The following is the text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Mr. Kiesling is a career diplomat who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to Yerevan.
Caught on Film: a comprehensive (?) list of GW Bush's rhetoric that has directly contradicted his policy, with photos of him at the time he told the lie!
Or: a good indication of just how grim a state American journalism is in these days.
Another one, from The New Forum:
American media kow-towing to Saddam Hussein: The CBC's Patrick Brown is reporting that the major American networks have come together to agree to not report the details -- or even the existence -- of the Iraqi opposition meetings in Salahaddin, Iraq. He says the nets are apparently worried that Saddam Hussein will retaliate for the networks giving his opponents coverage by kicking their talking heads and Scud studs out of Baghdad. But the upshot is the American public are less well-informed about an important meeting, one attended by an American envoy and general.
Immanuel Wallerstein's The Eagle Has Crash Landed (from last summer.. ah, summer) is worth a second look.
Right now, the U.S. economy seems relatively weak, even more so considering the exorbitant military expenses associated with hawk strategies. Moreover, Washington remains politically isolated; virtually no one (save Israel) thinks the hawk position makes sense or is worth encouraging. Other nations are afraid or unwilling to stand up to Washington directly, but even their foot-dragging is hurting the United States.
Yet the U.S. response amounts to little more than arrogant arm-twisting. Arrogance has its own negatives. Calling in chips means leaving fewer chips for next time, and surly acquiescence breeds increasing resentment. Over the last 200 years, the United States acquired a considerable amount of ideological credit. But these days, the United States is running through this credit even faster than it ran through its gold surplus in the 1960s.
One example of this can be found here: For Bush, support for Iraq war comes with a price tag
Since the Bush administration has committed itself to war before getting the necessary support, it is now in the position of needing to pay for that support, or call off the invasion, risking a singular loss of credibility. So the price to the US government in both cash and influence is much higher. I think that's what Wallerstein means by "calling in chips means leaving fewer chips for next time, and surly acquiescence breeds increasing resentment."
If this is indeed the case, the pricetag for US dominance is going to keep climbing, steadily. But as Wallerstein crucially points out, accepting this is the only way that the US won't cause a lot of damage on the way down.
Cue a few bits from a recent informal report from a journalist who got inside access to the World Economic Forum:
The global economy is in very very very very bad shape. Last year when WEF met here in New York all I heard was, "Yeah, it's bad, but recovery is right around the corner". This year "recovery" was a word never uttered. Fear was palpable -- fear of enormous fiscal hysteria.
I learned that the US economy is the primary drag on the global economy, and only a handful of nations have sufficient internal growth to thrive when the US is stagnating.
Not surprisingly, the business community was in no mood to hear about a war in Iraq. Except for diehard American Republicans, a few Brit Tories and some Middle East folks the WEF was in a foul, angry anti-American mood. Last year the WEF was a lovefest for America. This year the mood was so ugly that it reminded me of what it felt like to be
an American overseas in the Reagan years. The rich -- whether they are French or Chinese or just about anybody -- are livid about the Iraq crisis primarily because they believe it will sink their financial fortunes.
I added Joy Gordon's Cool War: Economic sanctions as weapons of mass destruction to the Iraq Reading List.
Washington Post: Full U.S. Control Planned for Iraq
The Bush administration plans to take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, with an interim administration headed by a yet-to-be named American civilian who would direct the reconstruction of the country and the creation of a "representative" Iraqi government, according to a now-finalized blueprint described by U.S. officials and other sources.
From the Washington Post:
France and Germany lead European opposition to a speedy attack. But Britain, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Portugal, as well as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, have firmly backed the U.S. position. On Wednesday, 10 more European governments, in the former communist east, jointly declared support for Washington. They were Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
A quick scan of opinion polls reveals that, while governments are supporting the US, the people are solidly opposed to unilateral and even UN action in all but a few countries. This can be explained by diplomatic pressure which has, for now, overcome a distinct lack of popular support in the following countries:
Britain: 86% say give weapons inspectors more time, 34% think that US and Britain have made a convincing case for invasion. »
Spain: 80% opposed to war, 91% against attack without UN resolution »
Italy: 72% opposed to war »
Portugal: 65% say there is no reason to attack now »
Hungary: 82% opposed to invasion under any circumstances »
Czech Republic: 67% opposed to invasion under any circumstances »
Poland: 63% against sending Polish troops, 52% support US "politically" »
Denmark: 79% oppose war without U.N. mandate »
Australia: 56 per cent only backed UN-sanctioned action, 12% support unilateral action. 76% oppose participation in a US-led war on Iraq. Australian Senate voted 33-31 to censure Howard for committing 2,000 soldiers to US action. »
The "Vilnius 10" is a group of 9 countries that are seeking membership in NATO and Croatia. In many cases, their future security depends on NATO membership. In Estonia, for example, there is a tangible fear that Russia will take over again, given a militaristic enough government and the right opportunity (the--thankfully past--popularity of the fascist Vladimir Zhirinovsky was a good indication of this possibility. Zhirinovsky had a map in his office showing the borders of Russia expanded to include the former Soviet Union and Alaska). In any case, it's doubtful that these governments are supporting the US for any other reason than to get diplomatic points (or conversely, not piss away their chances of NATO membership).
Taking Estonia as an example again, we find that the government has supported war without any debate in Parliament, despite 70% of the people and major newspapers opposed to war in Iraq.
Latvia: 74% oppose taking out Hussein with military force »
Romania: 38% opposed, 45% in favour »
Macedonia: 10% support war on Iraq »
Bulgaria: 21% support war »
Estonia: 30% support war »
Slovakia: 60% oppose sending Slovak soldiers »
Information for Albania, Croatia, Slovenia and Lithuania was immediately available via Google news, but according to this report, Romania is the only country in the "Vilnius 10" that has a majority of the population supporting the war.
For comparison purposes:
France: 76% against war without UN support »
Germany: 55% against war with UN support, 90% against war without UN support. 57% hold the opinion that "the United States is a nation of warmongers". »
Remember that war in Afghanistan, and how the future was going to be bright for the impoverished and war-torn country? Well, it still exists, but things aren't getting better yet. Maybe we need to drop more bombs?
In other news, there's a record budget deficit.
[Russil Wvong posted a link to the following discussion of foreign policy options regarding Iraq. Since it contains valuable information (despite its imperialist assumptions), I have cleaned up the original crappy USENET formatting and hereby assert my naive understanding of fair use laws by providing it in its entirety. The article originally appeared in the NY Review of Books.]
Iraq: A New Leaf
by William R. Polk, February 18, 1999
A sober reassessment of the American capacity to deal with the Iraqi dilemma is years overdue. Many opportunities have been missed, but it is not too late to avoid the threat of large-scale warfare and the use of weapons of mass destruction that still may lie ahead. Even short of such dreadful events, there is a clear danger of major regional upheavals that could affect the world economy and undermine American leadership. Here I will lay out in summary what I believe our options are, the chances of success of each one, and the cost of trying to implement it.
CNN.com: Blair risks losing job over Iraq
Blair now risks splitting his own party, alienating his two biggest partners in Europe -- France and Germany -- and perhaps even losing office, so unpopular is his support for war with Iraq in Britain.
Yet with zeal, he presses on.
75 to 80 percent of the British public are against war in Iraq. The line between "zeal" and hyper-explicit, politically suicidal kow-towing becomes a little blurrier.
What are the chances that Saddam Hussein will attack the UK? Pretty slim.
What are the chances that Saddam Hussein will attack anyone, with the threat of total destruction hanging over him? Also slim.
What are the chances that Saddam Hussein will attack anyone he can, with as much destructive force as he can muster, if he and his country are in the process of being anihilated? Considerably less slim.
Ignoring all the humanitarian concerns (which are, of course, significant), the most pragmatic stance towards Iraq and it's possible use of WMD seems to be the status quo: massive deterance and ongoing inspections.
And then there are the sanctions and the bombing every three days for ten years. Destroying Iraq's economy and civil infrastructure has clearly made the people much more dependent on Hussein, and caused unnecessary, unimaginable, yet widely documented suffering. The possibility of Iraqi people rising up against Hussein is--as a result--as unlikely now as it has ever been. Acknowledging this, and the fact that the US sold him many of the chemical and biological weapons he now has, might be the first step towards a sane policy on Iraq.
People do realize that Bush tells outright, verifiable lies all the time, right? To think otherwise would be to think that the American press, media, and population (the ones that get polled, anyway) aren't capable of rudimentary critical thought. Or maybe lying isn't a considered bad anymore.
I suppose that lying about important issues is different than lying about one's sex life. Much different.
Accuracy.org has a line by line dismantling of Bush's State of the Union address. I can't say it's really needed, though--at least not to establish that there are major problems with almost everything that was said. Reading a single line of the speech, chosen at random, and thinking about it for more than 10 seconds raises all kinds of contradictions and iss... oops, can't type any more--time for another standing ovation.
As a CIA assessment said last October: "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks" in the United States. "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions." The CIA added that Saddam might order attacks with weapons of mass destruction as "his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."
Where does the idea that an invasion of Iraq will be bloodless and lead to insta-democracy come from? I've never heard of anyone actually promising that there won't be many casualties. Unless everything is completely different than the public record indicates it is, this "painless regime change" trope is almost complete fantasy, and yet it is repeated constantly.
Atlantic Monthly: Articles on foreign policy and Iraq, 1958 to present. 1958 was the year that Iraqis overthrew Nuri as-Said, the US-supported dictator of the day.
Raven Matrix: Interview with Michael Stutz about copyleft for writing, linux, and washing dishes.
Some interesting speculation on the origins of the myth that the US is supremely and inherently benevolent, a myth which forms the first premise of much of our foreign policy--in a report from Davos.
The United States has a very different experience of nationalism and therefore a very different view of multilateralism. From the U.S. point of view, World Wars I and II were exercises in European savagery; it fell to the United States to save Europe from itself. However, the United States never saw itself as responsible for Europe's disease, nor did it see itself as susceptible to it. Washington was not afraid of its own nationalist tendencies. Americans believed that the Europeans would not behave as civilized human beings unless they were forced into institutions that limited their sovereignty and behavior. In the American view, the lesson of the 20th century was precisely the opposite: The United States could be trusted to behave responsibly without institutional constraints.
Helen Caldicott on Depleted Uranium:
America used over one million pounds of uranium weapons in the Gulf war – 7000 tanks rounds and 940,000 bullets fired from planes. 10,800 shells were fired in Bosnia and 31,000 in Kosovo.
Because uranium 238 has a half life of 4.5 billion years, and plutonium, which is by orders of magnitude more carcinogenic than uranium has a shorter half life of only 240,400 years. Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo are now contaminated with carcinogenic radioactive elements for ever. Because the latent period of carcinogenesis, the incubation time for cancer, is 5 to 10 years for leukemia and 15 to 60 years for solid cancer, the reported malignancies in the NATO troops and peacekeepers and in the American soldiers and the civilians in these countries are just the tip of the iceberg.
In other news, Helen Caldicott is an incredible human being.
From a story in the Sydney Morning Herald:
The US intends to shatter Iraq "physically, emotionally and psychologically" by raining down on its people as many as 800 cruise missiles in two days.
The Pentagon battle plan aims not only to crush Iraqi troops, but also wipe out power and water supplies in the capital, Baghdad.
It is based on a strategy known as "Shock and Awe", conceived at the National Defense University in Washington, in which between 300 and 400 cruise missiles would fall on Iraq each day for two consecutive days. It would be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 GulfWar.
"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," a Pentagon official told America's CBS News after a briefing on the plan. "The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before."
The plan has emerged just as American diplomats at the United Nations hinted that the US Administration might be willing to give UN weapons inspectors another month to complete their task.
"We want them to quit, not to fight," Ullman said, "so that you have this simultaneous effect - rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima - not taking days or weeks but minutes."
It's not really terrorism, because terrorism is what the other guys do.
And whether it's bluffing or not, comments like this (from Saddam Hussein's son) leave me just a tad bit uneasy:
If they come, September 11, which they are crying over and see as a big thing, will be a real picnic for them, God willing... They will be hurt and pay a price they will never imagine. They can get much more from Iraq without resorting to the logic of force and war.
But wait! It's unpatriotic to fear nuclear annihilation. It means the terrorists have already... oh, you know.
It is not merely Bush's opponents who have failed to grasp the rules, but ordinary reporters who believe their sole job is to get at the truth. American journalists emerge from university journalism schools, which teach rigid notions of factual reporting and "objectivity". But facts can be very slippery creatures, especially when sliding through the hands of skilful politicians and their spokesmen. The journalists may see the sleight-of-hand, but in the US the conventions of their trade make it hard for them to convey it.
"It's not that the press is uncritical of the people it covers," says Steven Weisman, the New York Times's chief diplomatic correspondent, "but it's critical the way a sportswriter is critical, calling the points and measuring success or failure based on wherever the administration wants to be. So in a situation like this, when the administration is set on waging a war, is enacting its programme and is winning seats at elections, then in a funny way the press becomes like a ga-ga sportswriter. Except for scandals, the press is unable to set the agenda in this country."
According to Normon Solomon's P.U.-litzer Prizes, CNN's Jack Cafferty said the following:
This is a commercial enterprise. This is not PBS. We're not here as a public service. We're here to make money. We sell advertising, and we do it on the premise that people are going to watch. If you don't cover the miners because you want to do a story about a debt crisis in Brazil at the time everybody else is covering the miners, then Citibank calls up and says, 'You know what? We're not renewing the commercial contract.' I mean it's a business.
Well, that clears that up.
dubyadubyadubya.com gets a few facts wrong (unfortunately, shooting first and starting wars for oil has been what we're about for quite some time*), but it is nonetheless a compelling use of flash for political satire.
* Another tune: "from the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli..." dum dum dum
"Democracy in Action" has a page on the 2004 presidential elections.
A critical gauge of success for prospective challengers in the first half of 2003 will be their ability to raise money; history shows the winner of the "money primary" almost invariably becomes the nominee.
It's kind of funny that people still refer to Democrats as the left. What Democrat positions could be taken as remotely leftist? Health care revamping that never happened? I suppose it's all relative.
In other news, Michael Kinsley who, according to commentators, is "left of center" writes:
Throughout the revolution of technology and globalization that has been going on for two decades, responsible mainstream commentators, pundits, analysts, and miscellaneous gasbags (including this one) have taken the view that progress is a good thing. Some people are unfortunately caught in the gears of change, but society as a whole benefits. It's not very complicated if you know a bit of economics. You've got your "invisible hand" (that's free markets), you've got your "comparative advantage" (that's free trade), you've got your "perennial gale of creative destruction" (that's competition and new technology), you've got your "can't make an omelet without breaking eggs" (that's attributed to Joseph Stalin, but never mind). The losers in this process deserve sympathy and help, but special pleading must not be allowed to thwart or slow this process.Sometimes I like to close my eyes and pretend that people who say things like that are kidding.
Someone posted a really long list of historical US interventions, including "regime changes," terrorism, bombing, etc.. The list doesn't provide very much information about any one incident, but it provides a good view of the scale of US imperialism in general. At the very least, it's a good series of hints for future research questions.
Counterpunch: The Pentagon Plan to Provoke Terrorist Attacks
According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board, the new organization--the "Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)"--will carry out secret missions designed to "stimulate reactions" among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to "counterattack" by U.S. forces.
In other words--and let's say this plainly, clearly and soberly, so that no one can mistake the intention of Rumsfeld's plan--the United States government is planning to use "cover and deception" and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let's say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people--your family, your friends, your lovers, you--in order to further their geopolitical ambitions.
From now on, nothing surprises me;
or: Conspiracy theorists are now redundant;
or: How can we engage in political parody after 9-11?
In the NYTimes, Tom Friedman argues that oil is what keeps theocratic regimes in power, and that the US should reduce its reliance on foreign oil by not using so much of it.
Which was the first and only real Arab democracy? Lebanon. Which Arab country had no oil? Lebanon. Which is the first Arab oil state to turn itself into a constitutional monarchy? Bahrain. Which is the first Arab oil state to run out of oil? Bahrain.
My understanding of Mid-East history is not as good as it should be, but wasn't Iran (the subject of Friedman's article) a democracy back in the 50's? According to Richard Cummings,
the Shah was on the Peacock throne thanks to Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA station chief in Teheran, who engineered the coup that deposed Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadegh, who had headed a secular, fledgling democracy that had the temerity to nationalize the oil fields that, up to that point, had been exploited by BP. Having sued in the World Court and lost, the UK turned to its ally, Uncle Sam, to get the oil fields back. Rent-a-Mobs appeared, the CIA paid off the military, and Mossadegh fled in his pajamas. Once in power, the Shah stifled all dissent, using the notorious SAVAK, his intelligence service, to torture his political opponents, all under the watchful and approving eye of the United States government.
That, of course, ultimately led to Ayatollah Khomeini taking power, and the Brits lost their control of the oil fields anyway. Iran was then a threat to the Middle East, so the US supported Saddam Hussein, giving him money and chemical weapons to keep Iran at bay. (We kept selling him chemical weapons, even after he used them "against his own people", as has been repeated ad nauseum.)
While I don't see any problem with Friedman's conclusion that we should learn to use less oil, it seems that anyone who wants to speak intelligently about the source of fundamentalism should at least acknowledge all the times that the US has explicitly funded and supported it.
If the US had supported Iranian democracy instead of undermining it (or not given Saddam chemical weapons, or not funded the muhajideen, or not supported the Taliban, or the repressive Saudi regime, or given billions of dollars worth of arms to Israel...) things might be quite a bit different.
In fact, there might be a lot more democracy in the Middle East than there is now. The US is officially not interested in supporting democratic movements in other countries, but an Iranian democracy might have provided the inspiration and support needed for things to be a fair bit better. But since the US is still not interested in supporting democratic movements within these countries, and is committed to undermining them when democracy conflicts with its interests, things are, quite simply, worse than they could be.
For anyone who doubts Simmons' account above, here's (then Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright in a speech on Iran-US relations:
In 1953, the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons, but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.
Moreover, during the next quarter century, the United States and the West gave sustained backing to the Shah's regime. Although it did much to develop the country economically, the Shah's government also brutally repressed political dissent.
As President Clinton has said, the United States must bear its fair share of responsibility for the problems that have arisen in U.S.-Iranian relations. Even in more recent years, aspects of U.S. policy toward Iraq during its conflict with Iran appear now to have been regrettably shortsighted, especially in light of our subsequent experiences with Saddam Hussein.
Anis Shivani: Is America Becoming Fascist?
Liberals who say that demographics work against a Republican majority in the early twenty-first century do have a point; but fascism can occur precisely at that moment of truth, when the course of political history can definitely tend to one direction or another. A mere push can set things on a whole different course, regardless of underlying cultural or demographic trends. Nazism never had the support of the majority of Germans; at best about a third fully supported it. About a third of Americans today are certifiably fascist; another twenty percent or so can be swayed around with smart propaganda to particular causes. So the existence of liberal institutions is not necessarily inconsistent with fascism's political dominance.
I don't particularly want to agree with this, but the comparisons between the Weimar Republic and pre-2000 United States are worth making and thinking about at the very least. Though I hear that such comparisons are not allowed these days.
Shivani is far from the first to point out the rather grim implications of America's new ultra-nationalism. Anatol Lieven pointed out similar possibilities in The Push for War.
US Senator Paul Wellstone and his family died in a plane crash. Coverage.
I bet you thought that Orwell was exagerating when he spent multiple pages of 1984 describing whole agencies devoted to changing history.
What's your ministry of truth up to?
(via daily churn)
Federation of American Scientists: Arms sales and transfers for the "War on Terrorism"
A long summary of who the US gets to sell arms to (often paid for by US taxpayers) now that we're "combatting terrorism", and who the US used to sell or give arms to. Part of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project.
"you call them 'hawks', but I would never disparage such a fine bird"
Woody Harrelson of all people has a decent anti-war oped.
I went to the White House when Harvey Weinstein was showing Clinton the movie Welcome to Sarejevo, which I was in. I got a few moments alone with Clinton. Saddam throwing out the weapons inspectors was all over the news and I asked what he was going to do. His answer was very revealing. He said: "Everybody is telling me to bomb him. All the military are saying, 'You gotta bomb him.' But if even one innocent person died, I couldn't bear it." And I looked in his eyes and I believed him. Little did I know he was blocking humanitarian aid at the time, allowing the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
And Ani DiFranco has been reading a long, poetic commentary on the times called Self-Evident at her concerts.
Ron Rosenbaum: Goodbye, All That: How Left Idiocies Drove Me to Flee
Another ex-lefty gets credit (page 1 of the NY Observer) for being critical of what no one dares criticize: the left. Edgy. Incisive! Gimme a break. But lot of people don't share my take. In fact, this screed seems to have struck a chord with some folks who I generally regarded as rational.
So I'm responding.
After an unecessarily long, masturbatory introduction, Rosenbaum gets around to making two arguments: 1) people on the left have discounted the horrible loss of 9-11 in favour of directing attention to US crimes; 2) some (sort of most) of the left has not acknowledged the genocide committed in the name of Marxism (e.g. Stalin). He then draws an analogy between Heidegger's post-war ambivalence to the holocaust and the people on the left who discount the human tragedy of 9-11.
There's nothing wrong with making these arguments. But usually when arguments are made, there is an expectation that they will be backed up by relevant evidence. That the evidence that Rosenbaum cites has a lot to do with anecdotes and heavy paraphrasing, and onerous repetition of the phrase "lockstep", I must admit, leaves me a bit nonplussed.
But what is more telling is the alternative which he mentions in passing on the way to more left-bashing:
The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet.
Hmm. So, since the evils of 20th century US foreign policy were not as bad as the holocaust... we get to continue to ignore them completely, while bashing the people that would attempt to bring them to our collective attention because... why? Because they want to use 9-11 as an occasion to reflect on the horrors commited our Empire? Because Rosenbaum is able to interpret these people as discounting the value of the 3000 lives lost by simply stating what he thinks they mean?
Is it really just totally outside the range of possible moral thought to ask questions like: "why weren't we this upset about 500,000 Iraqi kids who died for our foreign policy?" and "hmm, maybe sponsoring Pinochet wasn't quite such a good idea, seeing as he slaughtered all those people while we supported him... was it?" Better not to ask at all, because by asking, you're automatically wrong, since you just don't realize that America isn't as bad as some others.
What a revelation.
But that's the beauty of being an self-exiled leftist like Hitchens or Rosenbaum. Since you've heard all the arguments, facts, etc. from the left, you get away with ignoring them completely (oh wait, everyone else already does that too.. oh well.). And meanwhile, you can get all kinds of kudos from the mainstream by pointing out just how wrong those silly leftists are. But gosh, didn't we know that all along? Sure, but another confirmation can't hurt, can it?
So yeah, people on the left say some stupid or silly things. But as Rosenbaum has unwittingly demonstrated, cynical libertarian centrists are at least as capable of that.
The annotated version of Bush's speech shows that almost everything he claims is either inaccurate or taken out of context. What's left over doesn't amount to much.
An interview with Abdur Rashid, of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which took place in October 2001, at the beginning of the Afghanistan campaign. I haven't seen any followups on the status of the "7.5 million extremely vulnerable people" who lived in Afghanistan last fall, though I'm still looking.
How would you describe the current situation in Afghanistan?
In a word - catastrophic. In terms of numbers, there are 7.5 million extremely vulnerable people, 1.5 million of whom are new refugees. However, virtually the entire population of over 23 million is hungry. As we all know, there is a grave humanitarian tragedy in the making. In May, during a mission FAO conducted with the World Food Programme, we already saw signs of impending famine. We estimated that 2.2 million tonnes of cereals would have to be imported into the country this year just to meet basic needs. We assumed that one third of this would be met through commercial imports. But in the current situation, commercial imports of food and agricultural inputs are unlikely. This means that the bulk of the shortfall will need to be met by the international donor community The situation could well become a catastrophe in every sense of the word. Only a massive distribution of food and other relief assistance, particularly to vulnerable groups, will avert the threat of impending mass starvation in the country.
Anatol Lieven in LRB: The Push for War (via Daily Churn and RRE)
A potent survey of US Nationalism and it's possible futures; or, this does not bode well.
Twice now in the past decade, the overwhelming military and economic dominance of the US has given it the chance to lead the rest of the world by example and consensus. It could have adopted (and to a very limited degree under Clinton did adopt) a strategy in which this dominance would be softened and legitimised by economic and ecological generosity and responsibility, by geopolitical restraint, and by 'a decent respect to the opinion of mankind', as the US Declaration of Independence has it. The first occasion was the collapse of the Soviet superpower enemy and of Communism as an ideology. The second was the threat displayed by al-Qaida. Both chances have been lost - the first in part, the second it seems conclusively. What we see now is the tragedy of a great country, with noble impulses, successful institutions, magnificent historical achievements and immense energies, which has become a menace to itself and to mankind.
Six paratroopers from the 82d Airborne, also part of Mountain Sweep, were lined up outside the farmer’s house, preparing to force their way in. "I yelled at them to stop," says the captain, “but they went ahead and kicked in the door." The farmer panicked and tried to run, and one of the paratroopers slammed him to the ground. The captain raced back to the house. Inside, he says, other helmeted soldiers from the 82d were attempting to frisk the women. By the time the captain could order the soldiers to leave, the family was in a state of shock. "The women were screaming bloody murder," recalled the captain, asking to be identified simply as Mike. "The guy was in tears. He had been completely dishonored."
Robert Wright: A Real War on Terrorism. A series of nine long essays with some interesting (and other less interesting) ideas about US foreign policy post-911.
Alternet: We, the people, can stop a war
We've got to convince them that the United States has absolutely no justification for a preemptive strike that could, according to Pentagon figures, kill some 10,000 Iraqi civilians and many of our own young men and women.I really want to find the source for this, if only to find the web site where the Pentagon talks about how many civilians it is going to kill before it flat out denies doing so. 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the first gulf war, though information on civilian casualties is not as easy to find. Lots of news outlets reported on "reports of civilian casualties," but there doesn't appear to have been a lot of follow up coverage.
Q: Who actually received the most votes in Florida's 2000 presidential election?
A: Al Gore. State election officials ultimately declared George W. Bush the winner by a margin of 537 votes, but during and after the election dispute, questions remained about the uncounted ballots of 175,010 voters, ballots that had been rejected by error-prone tabulating machines employed in many Florida counties. Confusion and conflict, much of it generated by partisan intrigue, prevented these ballots from being counted during the election controversy. However, in 2001 every uncounted ballot was carefully examined in a scientific study by the University of Chicago, which concluded that when all the votes were counted, more votes had been cast for Gore than for Bush.
Q: Why did some earlier post-election studies say just the opposite, that is, that Bush had actually won after all?
A: They did not really say this. They reported, instead, that Bush might have kept his lead if the manual recounts of machine-rejected ballots had been completed along the lines either requested by Gore or initially mandated by the Florida Supreme Court. In these recount scenarios, not all of the machine-rejected ballots would have been included. However, just before the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, the judge overseeing the final statewide recount was preparing to announce that the recount would cover all of the previously uncounted ballots.
In their own words: Why we fight America, by an Al-Qa'ida spoke "spokesman."
A long, comprehensive article about the Palestinian situation written by Edward Said in 2000. It's a good overview of what the western press basically ignores.
Of course, what ought to tone down the self-righteousness coming out of Washington, D.C., these days is the fact that, according to our own Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, under the administrations of Reagan and Bush No. 41, we sold Iraq anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism.Whenever I get worried that I'm just choosing facts that are ideologically convenient instead of informing myself and then taking a stand, I find out that it's much worse than I think. I'll try to stay worried, but it ain't easy.
And we didn't stop when word got out about the gassing of the Kurds in the town of Halabja that claimed the lives of 5,000. Nope. We sold them this stuff right up until March 1992. That's March 1992 -- a year after the Gulf War was over.
Disinformation has a breakdown of the "evidence" that the US govn't knew about 9-11 ahead of time. What's nice is that it only uses sources from mainstream media. I don't see too much wrong with asking why these things occurred, which doesn't seem to be happening.
Sunday Herald: Secret blueprint for US domination uncovered (via daily churn)
The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a 'global Pax Americana' was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice- president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), George W Bush's younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
The plan shows Bush's cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: 'The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'
[the report] hints that, despite threatening war against Iraq for developing weapons of mass destruction, the US may consider developing biological weapons -- which the nation has banned -- in decades to come. It says: 'New methods of attack -- electronic, 'non-lethal', biological -- will be more widely available ... combat likely will take place in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace, and perhaps the world of microbes ... advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool';
If this report is accurate, and this document exists, I challenge anyone to argue that the US is not governed by insane maniacs.
Project for the New American Century is the (need I say right-wing) think tank that the Herald says authored the report.
BBC: Bhopal gas disaster fugitive 'found'
A greenpeace activist found Warren Anderson -- the man people claim to be ultimately responsible for a leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in India which killed over 20,000 people in all -- living in the Hamptons. US officials had claimed for years that they did not know his whereabouts.
ABCNews: In the early 1960s, America's top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.
Chuck D: MTV's culture filtering
Thomas Frank: Talking bull
We are finally rid of the most egregious corporate swindles of the 1990s. Why aren't the intellectual snake-oil salesmen following the dotcons into oblivion? On the most elementary level, it's because the nation's newspapers, thinktanks, magazines and TV networks have a great deal to lose were we to turn on the New Economy theorists in the manner they deserve. If the intellectuals of the 90s boom are to sink like the stock analysts and CEOs into the depths of public scorn, those newspapers and thinktanks would bear the brunt, too. After all, any comprehensive list of those guilty for puffing the 90s bubble would read like a who's who of American media.
Molly Ivins: If you want to talk about class warfare ...
The 50 richest members of Congress. Experts say it's too early to speculate about whether you have to be either rich or dependent on campaign contributions to win an election.
In 1994, Dr Joycelyn Elders, then the Surgeon General, was fired for saying that masturbation should be taught.
In 1992, Dr. Frederick Goodwin, then the director of the Alchohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration expounded on his racist theory of violence:
If you look, for example, at male monkeys, especially in the wild, roughly half of them survive to adulthood. The other half die by violence. That is the natural way of it for males, to knock each other off and, in fact, there are some interesting evolutionary implications of that because the same hyper-aggressive monkeys who kill each other are also hypersexual, so they copulate more and therefore they reproduce more to offset the fact that half of them are dying. Now, one could say that if some of the loss of social structure in this society, and particularly within the high impact inner city areas, has removed some of the civilizing evolutionary things that we have built up and that maybe it isn’t just the careless use of the word when people call certain areas of certain cities jungles, that we may have gone back to what might be more natural, without all of the social controls that we have imposed upon ourselves as a civilization over thousands of years in our own evolution.He wasn't fired, and there wasn't even a whole lot of flack.
Robert Fisk is back in Afghanistan, paying attention to what's apparently no longer newsworthy.
Things might be different if the warlord battles ended in the north, if the Americans allowed the international peace-keeping forces to move out of Kabul and collect the weapons in the north and damp down the ethnic fires. More than half the frontier refugees could then go back to their homes. But Afghanistan is becoming more lawless by the week. Refugees remain the linguistic definition of much of this country. And the Yellow Desert, the latest UN prison for the 60,000 destitute of Chaman and Spin Boldak, will soon be on all our maps.
The Pentagon initially said that it found it "difficult to believe" that the village women had their hands tied. But given identical descriptions of the treatment of Afghan women after the US bombing of the Uruzgan wedding party, which followed the Hajibirgit raid, it seems that the Americans--or their Afghan allies--did just that. A US military spokesman claimed that American forces had found "items of intelligence value", weapons and a large amount of cash in the village. What the "items" were was never clarified. The guns were almost certainly for personal protection against robbers. The cash remains a sore point for the villagers. Abdul Satar said that he had 10,000 Pakistani rupees taken from him--about $200 (lbs130). Hakim says he lost his savings of 150,000 rupees--$3,000 (lbs1,900). "When they freed us, the Americans gave us 2,000 rupees each," Mohamedin says. "That's just $40 [lbs25]. We'd like the rest of our money."
The family think they will receive about lbs12,000 in compensation, not much in comparison to the lbs53,000 that a dead American mine-clearer's family might expect. But these are Afghan prices for Afghans dying in Afghanistan while trying to destroy America's weapons.
In sum: we've left at least 60,000 refugees in the middle of the desert, we've stripped civilians naked and taken their life savings, we've left the landscape strewn with unexploded shells that have the additional attribute of being brightly colored and attractive to children, we've dismantled countless villages because some northern alliance types (known for gruesome murder and gang-rape) told us there were Al-Quaeda folks there, and we are keeping people in cages and interrogating them with impunity. But it's all for the greater good and future prosperity of Afghanistan.
Neve Gordon sums up Sharon:
Despite harsh international criticism, Sharon remained unrepentant. The Israeli press has suggested that his triumphant cry has less to do with the operation's formal objective -- the extra-judicial execution of Hamas leader Salah Shahada -- than with the successful annihilation of a unilateral ceasefire agreement formally finalized by the different Palestinian military factions a day before the massacre.
Sharon will now most likely use the Hamas attack in order to justify Israel's further reoccupation of Palestinian territories. His overall objective, though, is not to wipe out the Palestinian Authority, as some commentators seem to suggest, but rather to forcibly change its role. Regardless of whether or not Yasser Arafat remains in charge, if Sharon gets his way, the "reformed" Palestinian Authority will no longer serve as the political representative of an independent state. Rather, it will operate as a civil administration of sorts, responsible for education, health, sewage and garbage collection.
The strategy is clear: confer on the Palestinians the costly role of managing civil life, but eliminate their political freedoms. South Africans called it Bantustans.
Yale's lecture series on Democracy, Security, and Justice has online video and transcripts.
Looking through old misnomer entries, I found this quote from a sci-fi round table in the January 2000 issue of Yahoo Internet Life. Kim Stanley Robinson said:
"...I suggest we nationalize [Bill Gates] and take all his money. Leave him with $5 million and tell him to sink or swim. Give $5 million to each of his employees and ex-employees. Give the rest to charities."Seems newly relevant, in light of the events...
Ariana Huffington on what Cheney has to account for. I'm guessing he can't, at least not without quitting.
Ritt Goldstein: US Planning to Recruit One in 24 Americans as Citizen Spies
(Just in case you hadn't heard.)
Salon: Flag-draped voyeurism
A survey of (bizarre) conflicting cultural treatment of 9-11.
Robert Scheer: A Fox is About to Reassure Us Hens
You don't need to prove anything that isn't already widely known to establish that Bush's criticism of corporate america is hypocritical and toothless.
Mark Levine: The Gore Exception. That dialog, which explains very clearly the contradictions behind the Supreme Court's decision to hand the election to Bush, made the rounds after the election. But it's still important, and as relevant as ever.
SJ Mercury: Bush vows to punish corporate lawbreakers
"We'll vigorously pursue people who break the law, and I think that'll help restore confidence to the American people. Listen, there has been a period of time when everything seemed easy -- markets were roaring, capital everywhere, and people forgot their responsibilities...
"I have been calling for a renewed sense of responsibility in America, and that includes corporate responsibility," Bush said.
The Daily Enron: Bush's Insider Trading
The SEC investigated G. W. Bush for insider trading during his father's term as President and decided to take no action. Career SEC officials, clearly miffed by their inability to charge the son of a sitting President, made their feelings clear in a 1993 letter to Bush's attorney. In the letter, the SEC emphasized that the decision not to charge Bush "must in no way be construed as indicating that (Bush) has been exonerated."
Washington Post: Memo Cited Bush's Late SEC Filings. This report cites a lot of facts with no context on what they might mean. A thoroughly lacklustre piece of journalism.
MotherJones: Bush Family Values. This one takes the opposite approach to that of the Wash. Post.
Although a handful of good reporters for the New York Times, LA Times, Village Voice, and Wall Street Journal have diligently been digging through business records for months, something has been missing: an overview that "connects the dots" in the myriad deals that have been examined, making it clear that cashing in on influence has become a pattern of behavior extending through the first family.
Bottom line: Given the power and influence at play, it's not at all clear that Bush didn't do anything illegal. But of this we can be sure at the very least: he derived immense financial benefit from executive bonusses and privileges while at a company that was losing money. A stronger (but still accurate) version is that his daddy pulled a lot of strings to bail out his failing businesses more than once.
ABC News: Eight Cities in Patriot Act Revolt
The Northampton group has a web site which might help to "Make your city or town a Civil Liberties Safe Zone".
Rep. Bernie Sanders (I - VT): Congress Cannot Ignore Corporate Control of the Media.
(But I bet they will.)
In a similar vein, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is making noise about media concentration here in Canada. (But it doesn't appear that the media are covering it.)
NYRB: What else is news?. Russell Baker reviews five books about contemporary journalism.
Happy Canada Day. My first two waking hours were spent listening to comedians make fun of Canadian Prime Ministers on the CBC. If NPR spent the Fourth of July making fun of the fat, rich white presidents of years past and present, what's left of their funding would probably disappear overnight.
The second half of "We are all members of the Likud now", an article by a Congressional staff member is pretty interesting.
Of course, there are innumerable lobbies in Washington, from environmental to telecommunications to chiropractic; why is AIPAC different? For one thing, it is a political action committee that lobbies expressly on behalf of a foreign power; the fact that it is exempt from the Foreign Agents' Registration Act is yet another mysterious "Israel exception." For another, it is not just the amount of money it gives, it is the political punishment it can exact: just ask Chuck Percy or Pete McClosky. Since the mid-1980s, no Member of Congress has even tried to take on the lobby directly. As a Senate staffer told this writer, it is the "cold fear" of AIPAC's disfavor that keeps the politicians in line.
The story of Israelis posing as "art students" is totally straight out of a Tom Clancy novel, and a bit scary.
According to Intelligence Online, more than one-third of the students, who were spread out in 42 cities, lived in Florida, several in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- one-time home to at least 10 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. In at least one case, the students lived just a stone's throw from homes and apartments where the Sept. 11 terrorists resided: In Hollywood, several students lived at 4220 Sheridan St., just down the block from the 3389 Sheridan St. apartment where terrorist mastermind Mohammed Atta holed up with three other Sept. 11 plotters. Many of the students, the DEA report noted, had backgrounds in Israeli military intelligence and/or electronics surveillance; one was the son of a two-star Israeli general, and another had served as a bodyguard to the head of the Israeli army.
Here's the DEA report that all the media reports of "Israeli Spy rings" are based on.
Underlying all this, of course, is the fact that as soon as anyone reports this, they get (unjstifiedly or not) branded as ten kinds of anti-Semite. The political reality of accusing the media of racism, though, is that those with the power to smear (i.e. Israel) have the power to require that the media has a huge pile of absoutely indisputable evidence for any criticism they might deign to make of Israel. Even then, the media outlet in question is still "anti-Semitic". Palestinians and Arabs in general, on the other hand, are regularly portrayed (or alternately, ignored) with broad generalizations by scholars and journalists alike. Violence commited by members of a group with less media clout is subject to the closest scrutiny, and the most implausible of claims are bandied around with impunity. Israel's own war crimes, on the other hand, are glossed over as "retaliation" or "self-defense" and the religious motivations for expelling the few million Palestinians who haven't been driven out yet are scarcely mentioned. From the Salon article:
Some of the same pressures that keep government officials from criticizing Israel may also explain why the media has failed to pursue the art student enigma. Media outlets that run stories even mildly critical of Israel often find themselves targeted by organized campaigns, including form-letter e-mails, the cancellation of subscriptions, and denunciations of the organization and its reporters and editors as anti-Semites. Cameron, for example, was excoriated by various pro-Israel lobbying groups for his expose. Representatives of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) argued that the Fox report cited only unnamed sources, provided no direct evidence, and moreover had been publicly denied by spokesmen for the FBI and others (the last, of course, is not really an argument).
GWBush lies outright about the budget.
Now the president tells audiences he has always said that in a time of recession, war, or national emergency, he could not only borrow from Social Security's surplus but could run overall budget deficits. In other words, the administration now justifies not only dipping into the Social Security surplus, but actually borrowing the whole thing and still running red ink.
From Chomsky's Deterring Democracy:
Suppose that the USSR were to follow the U.S. model as the Baltic states declare independence, organizing a proxy army to attack them from foreign bases, training its terrorist forces to hit "soft targets" (health centers, schools, etc.) so that the governments cannot provide social services, reducing the economies to ruin through embargo and other sanctions, and so on, in the familiar routine. Suppose further that when elections come, the Kremlin informs the population, loud and clear, that they can vote for the CP or starve. Perhaps some unreconstructed Stalinist might call this a "free and fair election." Surely no one else would.
Or suppose that the Arab states were to reduce Israel to the level of Ethiopia, then issuing a credible threat that they would drive it the rest of the way unless it "cried uncle" and voted for their candidate. Someone who called this a "democratic election," "free and fair," would rightly be condemned as an outright Nazi.
Guardian: US sends suspects to face torture
The US has been secretly sending prisoners suspected of al-Qaida connections to countries where torture during interrogation is legal, according to US diplomatic and intelligence sources. Prisoners moved to such countries as Egypt and Jordan can be subjected to torture and threats to their families to extract information sought by the US in the wake of the September 11 attacks.It's getting harder and harder to laugh at how fucked things are.
The normal extradition procedures have been bypassed in the transportation of dozens of prisoners suspected of terrorist connections, according to a report in the Washington Post. The suspects have been taken to countries where the CIA has close ties with the local intelligence services and where torture is permitted.
Counterpunch: Argentina: Confusing Tales From Progressive Economists
Zip zip zip! I've missed something again. First Weisbrot says the IMF made an 'error', then he says that this 'error' was made for the sake of 'imperial interests'. So what is the error? Isn't it the precise job of the IMF to implement 'Washington's imperial interests'? Again, who appoints them and pays their salary? The $40 billion apparently went to pay foreign bondholders, right? And the $40 billion came originally from US taxpayers, right? (Isn't that where IMF money comes from?) So apparently, last year the IMF transferred $40 billion from US taxpayers to private US investors, via Argentina....it seems that IMF is doing exactly what they are paid to do. Why does Weisbrot call this an error? Has he not read what he has just written?
Ftrain: The Sight of Your Voice, wherein Scott and Paul discuss the orange squiggles.
If those 80% approval ratings were starting to get to you, too, Michael Moore has some encouraging words:
I want all of you to share this success with me and feel heartened and reassured by the response to this book. It is an overwhelming rebuke, first to those who sought to censor or ban it, and now to the oft-repeated conventional wisdom that the whole country is whistling the same tune and marching in lockstep to the vision of Cheney/Ashcroft/Bush. It's a bunch of hooey, folks, and I have seen it first hand -- and not in the usual centers of leftist discontent.
This tour has taken me to Ridgewood, New Jersey (area that always returns its Republican congressman), Arlington, Virginia (a town filled with military people), Grass Valley, California (in the middle of nowhere in a congressional district represented by a right-wing Republican). In each of these towns it's been a literal mob scene.
Our president speaks to the Diet (Japanese Parliament):
My trip to Asia begins here in Japan for an important reason. (Applause.) It begins here because for a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times. From that alliance has come an era of peace in the Pacific. And in that peace, the world has witnessed the broad advance of prosperity and democracy throughout East Asia.Emphasis mine. [link and quote from killyourtv.com]
The century and a half bit could have been a slip, but the rest is unforgiveable.
Vietnam, East Timor, Cambodia, China, and Myanmar were never there. Creepy.
But the speech just gets better after that. It's this whole other reality. It's almost too much to handle. It must be some new strategy for pre-empting criticism: mystify everyone until they float around in the same haze that Bush's speechwriters do.
Bizarre. Surreal. Depressing. Extremely dangerous.
CBS: The Pentagon has up to 2.3 Trillion unaccounted for. Go team USA!
I have decided that karma votes will only be positive from now on. The reason is that if you like something, you seldom have anything to say but just that: that you like it. Karma communicates this well. If you don't like something, however, there is almost always a specific reason, and a negative karma vote doesn't communicate this. As a result, when I see things rated negatively I just wonder why the voter didn't like that post. Additionally, the volume of karma votes that I get leads the positive and negative votes to negate each other. So, in the interests of karma being useful: if you like a post, give it a positive vote; if you don't like it, kindly tell me why. Here at misnomer, we value our customers, and appreciate your feedback.
Heather Meek's End Days of Analog is back this week.
I never used to get riled up about Canadian sports teams, but I surprised myself by feeling quite satisfied that the Canadian Women's Hockey team beat the US on their own ice, with biased reffing.
"Everyone was expecting us to win. We expected to win,'' U.S. defenseman Angela Ruggiero said. "That's why it's so disappointing.''
Guardian: Can the US lose?
A report for the US Space Command last year, overseen by US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, rhapsodised about the "synergy of space superiority with land, sea, and air superiority" that would come with missile defence and other projects to militarise space. This would "protect US interests and investment" in an era when globalisation was likely to produce a further "widening between haves and have-nots". It would give the US an "extraordinary military advantage".
Dack.com has transformed tself into the "Warlog", including "You Dropped a Bomb on Me, a breakdown of how many bombs were dropped, and how much it cost taxpayers. I can't help but imagine that there is something more productive that could be done with $285 million.
Michael Moore lays out the implications of the whole Enron mess in an open letter to George W.
Shakir Baloch is one of hundreds of folks who are being detained by the US without charges. The Canadian government has complained, but the US hasn't responded yet. I heard reports on CBC radio this evening that he was being held in a maximum security prison in unbearable conditions. According to his lawyer, who has only been able to visit him once, he is constantly under bright lights, and made to wear an orange suit. update: here's a report that mentions the maximum security prison.
Apple sure is revving up the hype on whatever it is they're going to announce. Flat screen iMac is what folks are saying, but maybe it's truly revolutionary... though as long as Apple is responsible to its shareholders, I kind of doubt it. update: here's some speculation.
Speaking of hype, I'm having a lot of trouble feeling any kind of excitement for Episode II after the total shite that was Episode I. When I first saw "The Phantom Menace", I thought maybe it was impossible for it to live up to expectations, and I was too hard on it. I saw it again recently (don't ask), and it turns out I was fooling myself to think that it ever had more than any passing redeeming qualities. Anyway, the Lucas marketing machine is treating this one like people are still excited about seeing another way to ruin the original series (the digital "enhancements" in the rereleased trilogy are totally gratuitous and distracting). People probably are, but I'm annoyed, because I'm not. (Do I need to mention that all the people that are excited about it have no taste or artistic sense, and that I know this because I, by virtue of pure arrogance, have direct access to the objective aesthetic? I thought not.)
Michel Foucault: What is Enlightenment?
NYTimes: Afghan Journalism's Postwar Mission (login/pass: cypherpunk40)
Noam Chomsky: The World After Sept. 11
Washington contemptuously dismissed the tentative offers to consider extradition of bin Laden and his associates; how real such possibilities were we cannot know, because of the righteous refusal even to consider them. This stand adheres to a leading principle of statecraft, called "establishing credibility" in the rhetoric of statecraft and scholarship. And it is understandable. If a Mafia Don plans to collect protection money, he does not first ask for a Court order, even if he could obtain it. Much the same is true of international affairs. Subjects must understand their place, and must recognize that the powerful need no higher authority.
The best free reference websites, according to the American Library Association.
The US is still throwing $2.5 billion in foreign aid to Israel annually, most of which is used to buy arms from the US.
Google's end-of-year Zeitgeist
Big domains are getting bought by companies who put their own system behind the old interface.
So KB Toys, for example, now operates an online store that has the name and colors of the defunct but popular eToys and that mirrors its own Web site. Amazon.com (news/quote) is similarly presenting the face of Egghead.com, which is no more.What I find interesting is that internet retailers haven't had the same idea, except the other way around. What if Amazon (for example) let folks set up a virtual bookstore, providing the same information as amazon, but putting a different "skin" on it. All the shipping, warehousing, and ordering would be handled by Amazon, but there would be a commission in it for the person running the site in question. There would probably be a lot of crappy knock-offs, but maybe there would be some good ones too - in any case, all the money would go to the same source, and the time and effort wouldn't be wasted on trying to promote the front end. If it worked, the physical goods and front end would be effectively split off from each other, and each part would be slightly more commoditized. A lot of folks would probably be layed off or paid less, but the resulting proliferation of online "storefronts" would be interesting. It's not much different than amazon's affiliate program, except that the "branding" and access to features and information would be closer to complete.
The purpose of the terror, economic strangulation and daily humiliation is not obscure. It was articulated in the early years of the occupation by Moshe Dayan, one of the Israeli leaders most sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, who advised his Labor Party associates to tell the Palestinians that "you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave."
Is Linux ready for the corporate desktop?, By Miguel De Icaza.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) looks at how the Media is essentially ignoring some really evil comments made by Bush's Treasury Secretary.
"The secretary didn't really mean to say that no matter how old, no person who has paid into the Social Security system all his or her life would be entitled to benefits until he or she is physically no longer able to work? He didn't really mean to say that ExxonMobil and Time Warner should be treated as we treat the church-- as tax exempt?
"'Yes,' said the spokesman, 'that is our position. The quotes were all accurate.'"
Every blog I read and list I subscribe to seems to be full of people who spend so much time in front of a computer that they've learned to see the world in binary. Good and evil, with "good" generally being determined by CNN and other media outlets. McVeigh kills Iraqi children, he's a hero. McVeigh kills American children, he's a villain. The government kills McVeigh, they are heroes. McVeigh expresses no remorse, the nation is pissed off they couldn't make him beg and cry before killing him.
David has a longer rant about McVeigh and the history of human sacrifice that is well worth reading.
Journalists have latched on to the fact that McVeigh described the death of children in the Oklahoma City Bombing as "collateral damage." This, they say, proves that he is an inhuman monster. Did these same journalists not use that phrase to describe the deaths of Iraqis in the Gulf War?
I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was this bad: "A black teenager is 48 times (yes, you read that right, 48) more likely to do time for a drug offense than a white kid."
"You have no idea what it's like to be black and enfranchised," said Marlon Hastings, one of thousands of Miami-Dade County residents whose votes were not counted in the 2000 presidential election. "George W. Bush understands the pain of enfranchisement, and ever since Election Day, he has fought tirelessly to make sure it never happens to my people again."