Monday, May 31, 2004

Memorial Day

I wear my grand dad's medals
The ones he wouldn't wear
They represented destruction to him
They feel like freedom
When you look at them from here


They do indeed, and thanks to Russell Crowe for those beautiful and timely lyrics.

What's the Latest Reason?

William Raspberry has a great piece in the Washington Post today in which he discusses a college student's carefully researched oft-changing list of "reasons" for Operation Iraqi "Freedom":

Heard any good rationales for the war lately?

If not, maybe you ought to talk to Devon Largio, a new graduate of the University of Illinois, who says her research turned up 23 different rationales offered by the Bush administration in the year following the Sept. 11 attacks.

They're all laid out in her 212-page senior honors thesis, "Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress and the Media from September 12, 2001, to October 11, 2002."

The work is largely a computer-driven analysis of the available public statements of Bush administration officials and key members of Congress during the run-up to war. By searching key words, she was also able to map the administration's shifting interest from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein and Iraq -- and also the news media's response to that shift.

And the news media, just as in the glorious days before the Spanish American War, contributed enthusiastically to the war mania:

As Largio acknowledges, several of the rationales might have been in play at any given time (WMDs, Hussein's support of international terrorism and Iraq's role in the "axis of evil" were all cited in the president's State of the Union message on Jan. 29, 2002). Others seemed to gain currency while earlier rationales faded -- as war over WMDs gave way to war to transform the architecture of the Middle East and war to liberate the Iraqi people.

Largio, who will attend law school at Vanderbilt University this fall, also traced the role of the media, which, she said, often introduced ideas about the dangerousness of Iraq and its leader even before the Bush administration did. It was the media that, as early as the fall of 2001, "brought the idea that Iraq may be connected to 9/11 to the forefront, asking questions of [administration] officials on the topic and printing articles about the possibility," she said.

The yellow press lives on.

The Nasty Campaign

With his unlimited war chest, President Caligula is going to town pouring shit on John Kerry. Dana Milbank and Jim Vandehei write in the Washington Post today:

It was a typical week in the life of the Bush reelection machine.

Last Monday in Little Rock, Vice President Cheney said Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry "has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all" and said the senator from Massachusetts "promised to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts within his first 100 days in office."

On Tuesday, President Bush's campaign began airing an ad saying Kerry would scrap wiretaps that are needed to hunt terrorists.

The same day, the Bush campaign charged in a memo sent to reporters and through surrogates that Kerry wants to raise the gasoline tax by 50 cents.

On Wednesday and Thursday, as Kerry campaigned in Seattle, he was greeted by another Bush ad alleging that Kerry now opposes education changes that he supported in 2001.

The charges were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading. Kerry did not question the war on terrorism, has proposed repealing tax cuts only for those earning more than $200,000, supports wiretaps, has not endorsed a 50-cent gasoline tax increase in 10 years, and continues to support the education changes, albeit with modifications.

Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.

Are the Bushies running scared or just nasty? Remember how Poppy wrapped himself in the flag? Maybe being a lying son of a bitch just runs in the Bush blood. Look at Neil, for example.

Here's a nice and typical little Bush tactic:

One constant theme of the Bush campaign is that Kerry is "playing politics" with Iraq, terrorism and national security. Earlier this month, Bush-Cheney Chairman Marc Racicot told reporters in a conference call that Kerry suggested in a speech that 150,000 U.S. troops are "universally responsible" for the misdeeds of a few soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison -- a statement the candidate never made. In that one call, Racicot made at least three variations of this claim and the campaign cut off a reporter who challenged him on it.

In early March, Bush charged that Kerry had proposed a $1.5 billion cut in the intelligence budget that would "gut the intelligence services." Kerry did propose such a cut in 1995, but it amounted to about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget and was smaller than the $3.8 billion cut the Republican-led Congress approved for the same program Kerry was targeting.
...
On Wednesday, a Bush memo charged that Kerry "led the fight against creating the Department of Homeland Security." While Kerry did vote against the Bush version multiple times, it is not true that he led the fight, but rather was one of several Democrats who held out for different labor agreements as part of its creation. Left unsaid is that, in the final vote, Kerry supported the department -- which Bush initially opposed.

Of course Faux News and the Limdenburg won't bother telling the base that....

It's going to get worse as the election goes on. We can only hope that this endless stream of shit backfires and lands right on top of the head of President Caligula.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Pat Tillman's Death Turns Even Sadder

An Army investigation suggests that football star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman was an "own goal" on that day in Afghanistan:

"While there was no one specific finding of fault, the investigation results indicate that Corp. Tillman probably died as a result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces," Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensington Jr. said in a statement released by the Army Special Operations Command.

Damn.

Friday, May 28, 2004

An Editorial that is Truly a Stinking Pile of Crap

The Boston Herald wandered over to the Washington Times/Moonie side of the street in an editorial blasting President Al Gore for daring to upbraid President-Appointee George "Dubya" Bush.

Gore spent the bulk of a speech before the liberal group MoveOn.org Wednesday bemoaning Abu Ghraib and denouncing President Bush's departure from the "long successful strategy of containment."

Yes, the very same strategy that, under Gore's leadership, allowed al-Qaeda operatives to plan the horror of Sept. 11 for years, while moving freely within our borders.

Uh, morons, you're confusing Sodamn Insane with Osama bin Laden - as Repugs like to do, to cover up the fact that their casus belli seems to have been an Iranian intelligence operation.

How dare he. How dare a former vice president of the United States go beyond disagreeing with the current president's policies - a right of anyone in this free country - and denounce Bush as "incompetent."

How dare Gore say that Americans have an "innate vulnerability to temptation... to use power to abuse others." And that our own "internal system of checks and balances cannot be relied upon" to curb such abuse.

And this man - who apparently has so much disdain for the nature of the American people - wanted to be elected to lead it?

It is Gore who has brought dishonor to his party and to his party's nominee. The real disgrace is that this repugnant human being once held the second highest office in this great land.

Gosh, perish the thought that someone admit that Emperor C+ Augustus has no toga, might confess that the American people are not always God-fearing perfect creatures, and that sometimes our system of checks and balances clearly does not work. And get this, dumbheads - he was elected to lead "this great land."

It's incredible that any newspaper could print this piece of used toilet paper. Jesse at Pandagon comments memorably here.

Repugs Eat Their Own

There are some Republicans who still believe in the core values of their party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, men like John McCain, and Senator John Warner of Virginia. McCain recently got a snooty lecture on "sacrifice" from a chickenhawk who never bothered to defend his country, and now John Warner is on the Repug hit list as well, for that ultimate Repug crime, telling the truth:

Warner says his committee has a "solemn responsibility" to discover what went wrong and to "make sure it never, never happens again." But some conservatives are angry about the high-profile televised hearings, saying the prisoner-abuse issue is overblown and threatens to undermine the United States' primary mission in Iraq.

As a result, the 77-year-old Virginian finds himself in an uncomfortable but familiar position: more at odds with the right flank of his own party on some critical issues than he is with Democrats.

"I think he should stop the hearings at this point; we've heard enough," said Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a committee member. "We have a war to win, and we need to keep our talents concentrated on winning the war as opposed to prisoner treatment."

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) complained that Warner and other Senate members have become "mesmerized by cameras." Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was irked when Warner, in a departure from normal committee practice, decided to put all abuse-inquiry witnesses -- including the secretary -- under oath, according to Senate sources.

In other words, play the game, John! Lie! Cheat! Steal! Be as stupid as Inhofe! Watch Fox News! Unfortunately for the New Repugs, Warner has never been that kind of guy.

It is Warner's periodic departures from GOP orthodoxy -- on issues such as abortion, guns and Republicans' nomination of conservative hero Oliver L. North for Virginia's other Senate seat in 1994 -- that infuriate Warner's critics.

He voted against conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork in 1987 and in 1993 repudiated Virginia GOP lieutenant governor nominee Michael P. Farris, a favorite of the party's right. He has voted for some abortion rights positions and against others, and he was recently among a small minority of Republicans to vote to extend the partial ban on assault weapons.

Warner played a key behind-the-scenes role in replacing former Republican leader Trent Lott (Miss.) with Frist in 2002 after Lott made remarks that many considered racially insensitive. Most recently, he angered some Virginia Republicans by endorsing the tax-hike push by Gov. Mark D. Warner (D).

His opposition to North stirred the most controversy. Reflecting a prevalent view in the military establishment that the former Marine lieutenant colonel and Iran-contra figure was a rogue officer, Warner recruited another Republican to challenge North as an independent. Sen. Charles S. Robb (D) was reelected as a result. Conservatives later tried to deny Warner the GOP nomination for reelection, but Warner outmaneuvered them.

He's a good man. No wonder the New Repugs hate him.

Dubya's Free Ride

I've always wondered why Dubya has gotten a free ride from the press. This started during the campaign, when it was brutally obvious that he was a bumbling, misinformed, messianic idiot, but people like Cokie Roberts would get on NPR and drool about him. It got worse after 9/11, when it was still obvious that Bush was a bumbling, misinformed, messianic idiot, but now he was the War President, with Lincolnian stature. Paul Krugman wonders why too:

People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness.

But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable. What happened?

The answer, of course, is that the straight shooter never existed. He was a fictitious character that the press, for various reasons, presented as reality.

The truth is that the character flaws that currently have even conservative pundits fuming have been visible all along. Mr. Bush's problems with the truth have long been apparent to anyone willing to check his budget arithmetic. His inability to admit mistakes has also been obvious for a long time. I first wrote about Mr. Bush's "infallibility complex" more than two years ago, and I wasn't being original.

So why did the press credit Mr. Bush with virtues that reporters knew he didn't possess? One answer is misplaced patriotism. After 9/11 much of the press seemed to reach a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief.

Another answer is the tyranny of evenhandedness. Moderate and liberal journalists, both reporters and commentators, often bend over backward to say nice things about conservatives. Not long ago, many commentators who are now caustic Bush critics seemed desperate to differentiate themselves from "irrational Bush haters" who were neither haters nor irrational — and whose critiques look pretty mild in the light of recent revelations.

And some journalists just couldn't bring themselves to believe that the president of the United States was being dishonest about such grave matters.

Finally, let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative about the president, you had to be prepared for an avalanche of hate mail. You had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation, and you had to worry about being denied access to the sort of insider information that is the basis of many journalistic careers.

The Bush administration, knowing all this, played the press like a fiddle. But has that era come to an end?

Could we be so lucky? We can't expect truth from the vacuous nitwits of Fox, but if the rest of the press wises up, we may have a chance of getting this fool out of office yet.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

What Happens if You Elect the Village Idiot

A memo leaked to the Washington Post indicates that if Dubya is elected - he can't be reelected, having been appointed the first time - he'll slash every program in sight, or at least every program that Repugs cry about.

But the cuts are politically sensitive, targeting popular programs that Bush has been touting on the campaign trail. The Education Department; a nutrition program for women, infants and children; Head Start; and homeownership, job-training, medical research and science programs all face cuts in 2006.

"Despite [administration] denials, this memorandum confirms what we suspected all along," said Thomas S. Kahn, Democratic staff director on the House Budget Committee. "Next February, the administration plans to propose spending cuts in key government services to pay for oversized tax cuts."

But with the budget deficit exceeding $400 billion this year, tough and painful cuts are unavoidable, said Brian M. Riedl, a budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Federal agencies' discretionary spending has risen 39 percent in the past three years. "I think the public is ready for spending cuts," Riedl said. "Not only does the public understand there's a lot of waste in the federal budget, but the public is ready to make sacrifices during the war on terror."

The only "sacrifice" I'm willing to make for some pig at the Heritage Foundation is to stand and watch while the rich people are grabbed by the ankles, turned upside down, and shaken until their ill-gotten gain comes out. I believe we should return to the tax rates of that notable socialist Dwight Eisenhower - when the top rate was 90%.

What's especially interesting, and something people need to notice, is that Dubya plans on taking the ax to programs he's increased this year:

The administration has widely touted a $1.7 billion increase in discretionary funding for the Education Department in its 2005 budget, but the 2006 guidance would pare that back by $1.5 billion. The Department of Veterans Affairs is scheduled to get a $519 million spending increase in 2005, to $29.7 billion, and a $910 million cut in 2006 that would bring its budget below the 2004 level.

Also slated for cuts are the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration, the Transportation Department, the Social Security Administration, the Interior Department and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Clever, huh? Run on increasing popular and helpful programs, get elected and commence Project Grover Norquist.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

President Attacked!

Who knew that cicadas are Democrats?

If There's Danger from Terrorists...

...why not raise the alert level?

Anyone else wonder if the Adminstration's right wing friends - the same types who brought you Oklahoma City and the anthrax scare - might be mixing fuel oil and ammonium nitrate and turning pillowcases into turbans?

It's Quite Remarkable...

...that no one seems to be making much, yet, of conservative icon Tom Clancy coauthoring a book with retired General Anthony Zinni in which Zinni is more than a little critical of the Great Chickenhawk War. Hm.

Times Admits What Bushies Won't

The press more or less enthusiastically joined into the mindless march to war in a way that had not been seen in this country since the yellow press trumpeted the (accidental) sinking of the USS Maine into the Spanish-American War. Threatened by the Administration's claims that "if you're not for us, you're against us" and cowed by the happy pro-war screeching of Fox and Clear Channel (which sponsored its own pro-war rallies), the press printed the lies and generally editorialized in favor of a war that most in the press not blinkered by ideology must have realized was stupid and unnecesssary, and a distraction from the War on Terror. Today, the New York Times stood up and confessed.

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.

In doing so — reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one.

If only the real warmongerers would shine the same light on themselves.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Blair Gives Tommy Franks a Medal

Many Britons who find Tony Blair's lunatic pandering to Dubya sickening are just as sickened by the announcement that retired General Tommy Franks will be receiving an honorary knighthood. Interestingly, the announcement was kept as quiet as possible.

Paul Keetch, defense spokesman for Britain's opposition Liberal Democrat party, questioned whether the honor had been kept under wraps.

"One wonders why this visit is not being publicized," he told the Daily Mirror.

The MoD said there had been no attempt to cover up the award, and it was a "private matter for Gen. Franks."

The timing of the announcement is unusual as it would normally come with the two half-year British honors awards, the New Year's Honors List and the Queen's Birthday Honors List in June.

Of course knighthoods in the UK mean almost nothing now since they awarded by the ruling party to their supporters and donors, and honorary knighthoods mean even less. Still, this is a pretty goofy move by the smoking remains of the Labour Party.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

Put the police tape up around Dubya's much-touted US Army War College Speech; there's nothing to see there. His "five point plan" consists of nothing more than doing what we've been doing, with an added promise to tear down Abu Ghraib prison, wrapped in rhetoric that we all know wasn't written by our nearly incoherent and carefully made-up to hide his biking scars President-Appointee.

Wow, I bet the Iraqis are really impressed....

Speech transcript here.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Meanwhile, There's a War On

But you'd never know it from the Bushies, according to Bob Herbert:

President Bush fell off his bike and hurt himself during a 17-mile excursion at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Saturday. Nothing serious. A few cuts and bruises. He was wearing a bike helmet and a mouth guard, and he was able to climb back on his bike and finish his ride.

A little later he left the ranch and went to Austin for a graduation party for his daughter Jenna. And then it was on to New Haven, where daughter Barbara will graduate today from Yale. Except for the bicycle mishap, it sounded like a very pleasant weekend.

Meanwhile, there's a war on. Yet another U.S. soldier was killed near Falluja yesterday. You remember Falluja. That's the rebellious city that the Marines gave up on and turned over to the control of officers from the very same Baathist army that we invaded Iraq to defeat.

And, in another thing to disturb Preznit Giv Me Turkee's weekend, retired Marine Corps General and former Centcom commander Anthony Zinni was all over the media all but shrieking that the emperor and his necrocons are nude:

Gen. Anthony Zinni, the retired Marine Corps general who headed the U.S. Central Command (which covers much of the Middle East and Central Asia) from 1997 to 2000, was utterly dismissive about the administration's "stay the course" strategy in Iraq. "The course is headed over Niagara Falls," he said in an interview with "60 Minutes," adding, "It should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up."

Heck, even some smarter Republicans are figuring that out at this point, but not Naked Emperor and the Chickenhawks (great name for a band, but bad, bad name for a government).

There's a terrible sense of dread filtering across America at the moment and it's not simply because of the continuing fear of terrorism and the fact that the nation is at war. It's more frightening than that. It grows out of the suspicion that we all may be passengers in a vehicle that has made a radically wrong turn and is barreling along a dark road, with its headlights off and with someone behind the wheel who may not know how to drive.

Yep. Roaring down the road to deadman's curve with the village idiot at the wheel. God help us.

Murder

An Iraqi family is enraged by the apparent murder of Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly while in American custody:

The first Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly's family knew of his death was when his battered corpse turned up at Baghdad's morgue. Attached to the zipped-up black US body bag was a laconic note.
The US military claimed in the note that Dr Izmerly, a distinguished chemistry professor arrested after US tanks encircled his villa, had died of "brainstem compression".

Dr Izmerly's sudden death after 10 months in American custody left his family stunned, not least because three weeks earlier they had visited him in the US prison at Baghdad airport. His 23-year-old daughter, Rana, recalled that he had seemed in "good health".

The family commissioned an independent Iraqi autopsy. Its conclusion was unambiguous: Dr Izmerly had died because of a "sudden hit to the back of his head", Faik Amin Baker, the director of Baghdad hospital's forensic department, certified.

The cause of death was blunt trauma. It was uncertain exactly how he died, but someone had hit him from behind, possibly with a bar or a pistol, Dr Baker confirmed yesterday.

"He died from a massive blow to the head. We don't disagree with the coalition's report, but it doesn't explain how he got his injuries in the first place," he told the Guardian.

The apparent murder of a "high-value" detainee, held as part of the search for weapons of mass destruction, is another blow for the Bush administration, still reeling from the Abu Ghraib jail abuse scandal.

Dr Izmerly was on the coalition's original "200 list" of suspects from Saddam Hussein's regime, and his death happened just two weeks after the US military began its own secret inquiry into the prison west of Baghdad. Last Friday the Pentagon admitted it was now investigating eight more suspected murders.

Support Our Troops, huh?

The Red Cross visited him on January 19. On February 17, the organisation informed the family that he was dead. "I went to the morgue in the hospital and found him in a black US body bag," Ashraf said yesterday. "There was a cut on his head behind his right ear. It was hard to miss."

It was discovered that US doctors had made a 20cm incision in his skull, apparently in an attempt to save his life after the initial blow.

The family presented its autopsy findings to an Iraqi judge. "He told us, 'You can't do anything to the coalition. What happened is history,'" Ashraf said.



Video Proves Military, in Spite of Lies, Bombed a Wedding

A home video appears to prove that the US Army did indeed attack a wedding, not the nest of terrorists that they've been sarcastically claiming to have wiped out for several days. The video shows both victims and survivors of the attack at the party, and the BBC site I've linked has a photograph of an organist at the party alive and later lying dead in his burial shroud.

Clearly visible on the wedding footage is a man playing electric organ who later appears to be among the corpses filmed by APTN.

AP says a reporter and a photographer who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video.

It also says its footage of the aftermath shows remnants of musical instruments, pots and pans, and festive brightly coloured bedding

Suppport Our Troops, huh?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Poetry Must Be Patriotic

Last Thursday I posted about the case of students at a high school that is apparently run by its military liaison (will someone also tell me what the hell an American high school is doing with a "military liaison" wandering around?), who just doesn't like the kind of poetry the school's poetry slam group writes (or, in this case, wrote, as Mr. Nazi got his drooling principal pal to shut it down). David Neiwert, unsurprisingly, has a detailed analysis.

I've discussed at length elsewhere the signs of incipient fascism in the American body politic. Now, as we reach a boiling point where the war in Iraq is turning into one of history's great quagmires and the likely disempowerment of the ruling conservatives looms larger, the potential for significant manifestations of the fascist impulse becomes greater.

The chief form of this is the desire to suppress all dissent, specifically under the guise of a 21st-century version of the Dolchstosslegende, as liberals and dissenters are increasingly depicted as "stabbing in the back" our soldiers and, by extension, the national interest.

It's important to understand as well that fascist dictatorships are top-down in hierarchy but rely on substantive popular support. They are dictatorships which are carried out not only under threat of state punishment, but with the open embrace of average citizens, and the full participation of many enthusiasts (who are all, of course, deeply persuaded of their own civic virtue).

So the kind of suppression that indicates a fascist impulse appears not only from the top -- with administration officials impugning the patriotism of their critics, and conservative talk-show hosts and pundits ranting at length about the treason of liberals. It also appears in local libraries, city councils, local police forces. And, of course, school districts.

Which brings us to the case of Bill Nevins.

Nevins is an English teacher at Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico, which is the largest high school in the state and a model of state-of-the-art education. He also taught a poetry class, and encouraged students in pursuing "poetry slams" that gave them full freedom of expression. But because students used the forum to attack Bush and the Iraq invasion, he was not only fired, he was held a virtual prisoner by an apparently vindictive principal. The students' poetry club was also terminated.

Think it can't happen here? Read the entire piece.

Necrocons Demand More Death

What a surprise that William Kristol would demand more death in Iraq since those earlier necrocon plans just haven't worked real well:

So any armed insurgency opposed to a peaceful transition in Iraq must be destroyed. Fallujah must be conquered and terrorists denied safe haven in Fallujah and other centers of insurrection. Moqtada Sadr's militia must be rendered powerless. This will have to be accomplished primarily by American and British military power -- however useful various political efforts can be, however useful Iraqi and coalition forces can be. Then a sovereign Iraq, with continued U.S. military and other assistance, will be able to move ahead with the task of political and economic reconstruction.

Laughably, Kristol and his coauthor, Lewis Lehrman, compare the current situation in Iraq to the situation in the Civil War just before the reelection of President Lincoln. Naturally, these two bloodthirsty chickenhawks think that Victory in Iraq would have the same result as victory in the Atlanta campaign:

Meanwhile, as after William T. Sherman's victory in Atlanta, the reelection of the president at home would follow -- with a mandate to carry on, and to win, the global war against terror.

Uh-huh! Don't bet on it, boys.

Military Denials Lack Credibility

The once-great US military, which never truly recovered from Vietnam, continues its slide:

...Capt. Robert Shuck, said he was told that Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and other senior military officers were aware of what was taking place on Tier 1A of Abu Ghraib. Shuck is assigned to defend Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II of the 372nd Military Police Company. During an April 2 hearing that was open to the public, Shuck said the company commander, Capt. Donald J. Reese, was prepared to testify in exchange for immunity. The military prosecutor questioned Shuck about what Reese would say under oath.

"Are you saying that Captain Reese is going to testify that General Sanchez was there and saw this going on?" asked Capt. John McCabe, the military prosecutor.

"That's what he told me," Shuck said. "I am an officer of the court, sir, and I would not lie. I have got two children at home. I'm not going to risk my career."

Shuck also said a sergeant at the prison, First Sgt. Brian G. Lipinski, was prepared to testify that intelligence officers told him the abuse of detainees on the cellblock was "the right thing to do." Earlier this month, Lipinski declined to comment on the case.

Hey, beating the shit out of people, most of them innocent dweebs dragged off the streets of Baghdad, is "the right thing to do!" Maybe another right thing to do would be to reinstitute flogging as a punishment in the US Army, since putting these high-ranking morons in jail for a couple years seems a little insufficient.

The question is, who can you believe? The US Army has a record of lying that goes way back beyond My Lai, to the unwritten orders on D-Day that told soldiers that "no prisoners will be taken" - an atrocity that led directly to Malmedy - to massacres of civilians in Korea, and on and on and on. It's still happening. It won't stop until the punishment finally fits the crime. If that means firing squads, so be it.

Duh

He chokes on pretzels, he goes base over apex on a Segway, he can barely speak coherently. Now Dubya falls off his mountain bike.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

New Address for Intel Dump!

Phil Carter has moved his site. He's still moving archives, etc, but new posts will appear there.

And yet...

...still in places the original American spirit lives on, particularly the wacky American talent for understatement. After tornadoes struck Iowa yesterday, residents were nonplussed:

Marina Meier said her home was caved in from the roof down and was moved about 20 feet off its foundation.

"Our couch was in the neighbor's yard," she said.

Meier's family had been planning to move into a new house next week, but they had not sold the old house yet.

"This could set that back a little bit," she said.

Mayor Martin Brown was at his farm outside town and was listening to a scanner when the tornado was heading toward Bradgate.

"I heard the Humboldt County sheriff calling for an ambulance. He said his leg was broke and the town was destroyed. We got here and he was right. It was destroyed," Brown said.

Yep, town destroyed. Thankfully there were no fatalities in these tornadoes as people apparently had sufficient warning to seek shelter.

Clear View from a Python

Actor, director, and Monty Python-ite Terry Jones sees clearly what's going on in the smoking remains of America:

Tony Blair tells us that we should do everything we can to support America. And I agree. I think we should repudiate those who inflict harm on Americans, we should shun those who bring America itself into disrepute and we should denounce those who threaten the freedom and democracy that are synonymous with being American.
That is why Tony's recent announcement that he wishes to stand shoulder to shoulder with George Bush is so puzzling. It's difficult to think of anyone who has inflicted more harm on Americans than their current president. Since he assumed the title of most powerful man in the world, 4 million Americans have lost their health insurance and 2 million jobs have disappeared. According to a CNN report, "half of all Americans are living from paycheque to paycheque - effectively one paycheque away from poverty". And Mr Bush's latest budget proposes to withdraw support of all kinds for working families earning less than $35,000 a year. At the same time the national debt has rocketed to more than $26,000 for every family.

As for bringing America into disrepute, Mr Bush scores a high rating here too. No American president has been so successful in making Americans ashamed of being American. According to a Gallup poll last year, the majority of Americans - 64% - "cite a fear of unfriendliness as the top concern of travelling abroad". And that was before the photos. Nowadays, I suppose, the main motive for Americans to travel abroad must be to get away from Bush's doublespeak. During a run-up to an election, all administrations will try to claim credit for spreading largesse even where they don't deserve it, but Bush's administration has gone one further by trying to claim credit for largesse it has actually been doing its damnedest to stop.

It's a good and unexpected piece. Share it around.

The Curtain Pulled Back

Although American journalists quickly noted and as quickly forgot about the Colin Powell aide incident on Meet the Press last week, Philip James, who actually looked into the aide's background, comments in The Guardian this morning that it was a revealing moment:

The Soviet-style manner in which Republican operative Miller, who used to work for the majority leader, Tom "the Hammer" DeLay, tried to muzzle an interviewer once the questioning no longer pleased her betrayed an arrogance that goes to the core of this White House.

This isn't the first time the Bush White House has unknowingly revealed itself on tape. At an Illinois rally during the 2000 campaign, the then candidate George Bush called a New York Times reporter an asshole. His comments were picked up and relayed to the world by an unnoticed camera mike. Bush refused to apologise.

Back then, the gaffe was laughed off as part of the machismo of campaigning. In fact, the denigration of an NYT journalist was thought to have actually boosted Bush's numbers with the stock-car racing crowd.

That early example of self-ordained impunity was the beginning of a consistent pattern of behaviour. Four years on, the seeds of this administration's hubris are springing up all over.

Ah, so she used to work for Mr. Exterminator himself, Tom DeLay. Very interesting. Who's her real boss? Colin Powell? DeLay? Cheney? "The Gestapo Government" in the Pentagon, as Powell himself referred to it?

General Powell needs to resign. He needs to resign and serve his country one final time - by telling the truth about the monsters he sold his soul to when he foolishly agreed to shill for the Shrub.

On The Disgrace of the Army and the Need to Speak Up

In a time when conservative commentators are claiming that to speak out is unpatriotic or worse, and others are even looking forward to press censorship in the event of another terrorist outrage on US soil, American soldiers generally stayed silent even as atrocities that they had been trained to know were illegal were going on around them. This is a disgrace, and needs badly to be addressed:

In alerting criminal investigators, Specialist Darby, a 24-year-old from from Maryland, stood out from other soldiers who learned of the abuse. According to documents obtained by The New York Times, many other people, including medics, dog handlers and military intelligence soldiers — and even the warden of the site where the abuses occurred — saw or heard of similar pictures of abuse, witnessed it or heard abuse discussed openly at Abu Ghraib months before the investigation started in January.

Mistreatment was not only widely known but also apparently tolerated, so much so that a picture of naked detainees forced into a human pyramid was used as a screen saver on a computer in the interrogations room. Other soldiers easily stumbled onto photographs of naked detainees left on computers in the Internet cafe at the prison. Some soldiers saw detainees being left naked for days, screamed at, threatened with dogs and beaten with furniture. A few tried to report abuse or stop it, but nothing came of their efforts.

"I saw prisoners being handcuffed to each other naked, having two inmates walking in the isolation section of the cells naked and handcuffed to each other," said Specialist Roman Krol, a reservist with the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion. "One of the M.P.'s took a Nerf football and threw it at the detainees, and another M.P. threw water at the detainees. I had never seen anything like that before."

Specialist Krol did not apparently see fit to report it. Specialist Joseph Darby, on the other hand, did stand tall and speak up, although he knew that retaliation might be the result:

Specialist Darby left a disc with the photographs and a letter describing its contents anonymously, then came forward a day later. When asked why he wanted to be anonymous, he said, "I was worried about retaliation from other people in my company if they found out."

And indeed it's generally agreed that the military careers of Specialist Darby and of Major General Antonio Taguba - whose father was a US Army survivor of the Bataan Death March - are probably finished. Fear kept other soldiers from reporting the abuse:

"Why did you not report what you felt was abuse toward the prisoners?" an investigator asked Mr. Nakhla in January, after Specialist Darby had handed over the discs with photographs.

"I have seen soldiers get in trouble for reporting abuse," Mr. Nakhla replied, "and I was scared. I didn't want to lose my job."

Even Specialist Sabrina Harman, one of the women now accused, recognized the abuse as something that should be reported to higher-ups, but did not do so. When she went home on leave to Virginia in November, Specialist Harman took home a disc with photographs of prisoners in sexual positions and gave it to her roommate, saying she wanted to present it to higher-ups when she returned permanently.

The roommate told investigators that Specialist Harman "could not report anything while there because her superiors were aware of the actions taking place against the prisoners."

Every time you hear a rightie whine that to speak up is unpatriotic, speak up more. And more. And more. To speak up, to protest, is American. To grovel and crawl is fascism in action.

Friday, May 21, 2004

US Military to Iraqis Killed at Wedding: "F&$# You."

Adding to the considerable glory won by "Support Our Troops!" in Operation Iraqi "Freedom," a Marine Corps general sneered at Iraqi claims that US forces shot up a wedding and killed over 40 people, some of them women and children, a couple days ago:

A US Marines general says he has no need to apologise for an attack in the remote Iraqi desert that killed about 40 people, who witnesses say included women and children celebrating a wedding.

"How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles [16 kilometres] from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilisation?" Major-General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, which operates in western Iraq, said in Falluja.

"These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive."

Asked about witness testimony and footage from Dubai-based Al Arabiya television that showed weeping relatives lowering bodies, one of a child, into graves, he said: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men."

In other words, fuck you, ragheads. How much longer are we going to permit this garbage to go on? Guess what, General Stupid: no one believes you. No one. What a stain on the escutcheon of the once-glorious Marines this man is!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Sieg HEIL! Sieg HEIL!

Another little dab of news for the "let's pretend we're not really becoming a fascist dictatorship" category:

Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces." What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.

But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.

The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who does not share the thinking of the school principal.

The teachers union has been joined in a legal action against the school by the National Writers Union, headquartered in New York City. NWU's at-large representative Samantha Clark lives and works in Albuquerque.

The American Civil Liberties Union has become the legal arm of the lawsuit pending in federal court.

Meanwhile, Nevins applied for a teaching post in another school and was offered the job but he can't go to work until Rio Rancho's principal sends the new school Nevins' credentials. The principal has refused to do so, and that adds yet another issue to the lawsuit, which is awaiting a trial date.

As Jerry Pournelle mutters occasionally, "But we were born free."

They Kill People, Then They Lie About It

Wouldn't it be a hell of a lot easier to just say "Hey, we screwed up?" No, because joining the US Army means never having to say you're sorry, whether you've just beaten the shit out of some dweeb picked up off the streets of Baghdad because Bushie says they're all al Queda, or whether you've shot down an allied British warplane, or whether you've attacked a wedding party and killed a bunch of women and children. How far a once-great and honorable service has fallen in these ridiculous times. The New York Times equivocates weirdly:

Associated Press Television News broadcast film, said to be taken at the scene, showing a truck heaped with bloody bodies, many of them wrapped in blankets. Several of the bodies shown appeared to be those of children.

Both the American and the Iraqi accounts agreed that about 40 people had died. But some Iraqis and several reports in the Arab press said the attack had killed civilians, not insurgents.

Al Arabiya, a television network based in Dubai, quoted witnesses as saying American planes had bombed a wedding party in Makr al-Deeb, a village near the Syrian border. The film included pictures of shrouded bodies and scenes of men digging graves.

Hmm. As usual, one way or another, the truth will come out. It probably won't be very much like the Army version, unfortunately.

Look at Us! We're Heroes!

New photos have emerged - WHAT a surprise - showing a few idiots smirking as they pose with the body of a dead Iraqi, who presumably died at their hands under the loving "treatment" administered at Abu Ghraib. What were these jackasses thinking?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Marching to Fascism

Matt Yglesias has a good piece here on some recent fascistic rumblings from the usual suspects.

Hearts and Minds Cont.

Heroic US Air Force bombs wedding party, kills at least 40. Thanks, idiots. UPDATE: Looks as if it may have been the helicopter-flying heroes of the Army, not the Air Farce.

They've Got a Plan

This is exceptionally creepy, and I haven't seen it in any other blog yet. This from US News and World Report:

White House officials say they've got a "working premise" about terrorism and the presidential election: It's going to happen. "We assume," says a top administration official, "an attack will happen leading up to the election." And, he added, "it will happen here." There are two worst-case scenarios, the official says. The first posits an attack on Washington, possibly the Capitol, which was believed to be the target of the 9/11 jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. Theory 2: smaller but more frequent attacks in Washington and other major cities leading up to the election. To prepare, the administration has been holding secret antiterrorism drills to make sure top officials know what to do. "There was a sense," says one official involved in the drills, "of mass confusion on 9/11. Now we have a sense of order." Unclear is the political impact, though most Bushies think the nation would rally around the president. "I can tell you one thing," adds the official sternly, "we won't be like Spain," which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.

Read that last line again. And again. And again.

Bush does not intend to lose the election, and he doesn't care how many lives it costs.

Randy's Perfect

...and it was something to see. Kudos too to the Atlanta fans who, even though their team went down to defeat, realized that they had seen something very special and gave Randy Johnson a standing ovation.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

I've just been reading a biography of Theodore Roosevelt Jr, TR's eldest son. The first thing that struck me was that Ted Roosevelt lived an exceptionally interesting life. The second was the difference between Then and Now.

When World War I came, TR's four sons did not run off and hide, claim that they had "other priorities," or join the National Guard and become invisible. All four pulled strings to get into the military. Kermit served with the British. Ted and Archie joined the Army. Quentin became a fighter pilot. All four went and got shot at, and Quentin Roosevelt died in action.

Move forward to World War II. By this time TR's surviving sons were old enough not to have to go. Ted and Archie got back into the Army, Kermit went off and served with the British again before joining the US Army. All three saw action. On June 6, 1944, Brigadier General Ted Roosevelt led his men onto Utah Beach, the only general officer to land with the first wave. Guiding his men with the cane he carried due to an arthritic hip, Ted Roosevelt earned the Medal of Honor that day.

TR's children were raised with the idea that they, as the children of privilege, should give back to their country. Quentin Roosevelt gave his life and Ted Roosevelt too died on duty in Europe in July of 1944. Several of TR's grandchildren were instrumental in founding the CIA. Theodore Roosevelt IV today is a leader in the anti-Bush wing of the Republican party.

What a difference from our current leaders.

The Country We Wrecked

According to Daniel Williams in the Washington Post this morning, Iraqis are pessimistic that anything good will ever come from the brainless American shattering of their country. Saddam was bad - horrible, really - but is the current chaos much of an improvement?

On Baghdad's hot and dusty streets, Iraqi working people also expressed a deep sense of pessimism. "Our country is at a loss. I don't think that even after the handover the government will control things," said Ali Fakhri, who owns a fabric store in the Kadhimiya district.

"Just look around," said Bakran Ohan, who sells baby clothes. "Do you see any police? Any soldiers? There is a complete lack of security. It won't change from day to night on June 30."

Their occupiers are, more quietly, pessimistic as well:

Inside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified U.S. administration compound that Salim was about to enter when the suicide bomber struck, expectations are grim. "It will take a lot of doing for this not to end in a debacle," a senior occupation official said. "There is no confidence in the coalition. Why should there be?"

Indeed, why should there be any confidence at all when the occupation has been mismanaged in such a spectacular and public way?

It's a worrisome and, I suspect, honest article. Read it.



The NAFTA Draft

Naomi Klein makes a number of good points in The Guardian today about the sad economic state of America, a state that forces people to choose either junk jobs or the military.

There's something else connecting the sorry state of the US job market and the images coming out of Abu Ghraib. The young soldiers taking the fall for the prison abuse scandal are the McWorkers, prison guards and laid-off factory workers of Bush's so-called economic recovery. The resumés of the soldiers facing abuse charges come straight out of the April US labour department report.

There's spc Sabrina Harman, of Lorton, Virginia, assistant manager of her local Papa John's Pizza. There's spc Graner, a prison guard back home in Pennsylvania. There's Sergeant Ivan Frederick, another prison guard, this time from rural Virginia.

Before he joined what Van Jones, a prisoners' rights lawyer, calls "America's gulag economy", Frederick had a decent job at the Bausch and Lomb factory in Mountain Lake, Maryland. But according to the New York Times, that factory shut down and moved to Mexico - one of the nearly 900,000 jobs that the Economic Policy Institute estimates have been lost since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force in 1994, the vast majority in manufacturing.

Free trade has turned the US labour market into an hourglass: plenty of jobs at the bottom, a fair bit at the top, but very little in the middle. At the same time, getting from the bottom to the top has become increasingly difficult, with tuition fees at state colleges up by more than 50% since 1990.

And that's where the US military comes in: the army has positioned itself as the bridge across America's growing class chasm: money for tuition in exchange for military service. Call it the Nafta draft.

Yep. And it works, too. Would the all-volunteer military be workable at all without illegal immigrants squeezing Americans out of jobs at the bottom and wealthy parasites moving the remaining jobs overseas?

Fairness alone dictates the return of the draft. Everyone goes. No exceptions. If you're handicapped, we'll find something for you to do. If you're rich - front lines, baby.

Disappointment

Much to the disappointment and shock of right wing evangelicals everywhere, giant tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidal waves failed to consume Massachusettes yesterday as gay people were, for the first time in the smoking remains of the United States, officially permitted to marry.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Aide Decides Which Questions Powell Should Answer

Who forced Emily Miller on Colin Powell as his deputy press secretary? After yesterday's performance on Meet the Press, it's a question that should be asked.

In the broadcast, aired several hours after the interview was conducted, Powell abruptly disappears from view. Briefly seen are swaying palm trees and the water, backdrops for the interview.

Powell can be heard saying to the aide, “He’s still asking a question.” The secretary then told Russert, “Tim, I’m sorry I lost you.”

NBC identified the aide as Emily Miller, a deputy press secretary.

Russert responded: “I don’t know who did that. I think that was one of your staff, Mr. Secretary.” The host added: “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

With the cameras still on the water, Powell snapped, “Emily get out of the way.” He then instructed the crew to “bring the camera back,” and told Russert to go ahead with the last question.

After Powell answered, Russert thanked the secretary for his “willingness to overrule his press aide’s attempt to abruptly cut off our discussion.”

Miller, of course, claimed that she tried to cut the interview off because it ran long. Maybe she was just "following orders...."

The Band Played On

The insanity continued over the weekend and on into today. The Abu Ghraib rot goes right to the top, according to both Seymour Hersh and a memo by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales who claimed that the Geneva Convention was "quaint" (remember the Bushies trying to ram ol' Alberto into a federal judgeship?). Colin Powell, speaking to Tim Russert, tried to answer a question and was cut off by one of his "own" aides, who grabbed the camera and tried to end the interview. The head of the Interim Governing Council in Iraq was blown to bits by his own people. Much to the disappointment of the right wing, no giant tornadoes have been seen heading for Massachusetts this morning.

And the band played on.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Funny How We Always Have Money for This Garbage

Having asked for $25 billion last week, the Bushies have decided to go for broke and ask for $50 billion for their stupid, unnecessary war. We always have money for this kind of shit and to give rich people tax breaks, but not to fund schools adequately or provide people health care, oh no. And the right wing believes this is God's favored nation? Crack your Bibles, folks. Judgment ain't pretty.

Charming

Idle hands. Specialist Jeremy Sivits describes his fellow "soldiers" setting on Iraqi prisoners like the human waste they are:

When a fresh crop of detainees arrived at Abu Ghraib prison one night in late October, their jailers set upon them.

The soldiers pulled seven Iraqi detainees from their cells, "tossed them in the middle of the floor" and then one soldier ran across the room and lunged into the pile of detainees, according to sworn statements given to investigators by one of the soldiers now charged with abuse. He did it again, jumping into the group like it was a pile of autumn leaves, and another soldier called for others to join in. The detainees were ordered to strip and masturbate, their heads covered with plastic sandbags. One soldier stomped on their fingers and toes.

"Graner put the detainee's head into a cradle position with Graner's arm, and Graner punched the detainee with a lot of force, in the temple," Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits said in his statements to investigators, referring to another soldier charged, Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr. "Graner punched the detainee with a closed fist so hard in the temple that it knocked the detainee unconscious."

"He was joking, laughing," Specialist Sivits said. "Like he was enjoying it."

"He went over to the pile of detainees that were still clothed and he put his knees on them and had his picture taken," Specialist Sivits said. "I took this photo."
...
"Graner was in the room with him," he said. "This detainee had wounds on his legs from where he had been shot with the buckshot." Specialist Graner, he said, would "strike the detainee with a half baseball swing, and hit the wounds of the detainee. There is no doubt that this hurt the detainee because he would scream he got hit. The detainee would beg Graner to stop by saying `Mister, Mister, please stop,' or words to that effect."

"I think at one time Graner said in a baby type voice, `Ah, does that hurt?' " Specialist Sivits added.

Presumably a draftee army might have a higher quality of soldier in it.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Idle Hands

New pictures viewed yesterday by senators show, among other things, US troops amusing themselves by having sex and shooting camels.

It used to be pretty much a standard thought in the military that there is nothing more dangerous than idle troops - they get in trouble. No surprise, right? So they were kept busy with KP, scraping and painting if they were in the Navy, pointless route marches, excess PT, etc. But today our troops are coddled. There's no profit in troops cooking their own food or scraping and painting their own ships, so companies like Halliburton do it for them, simultaneously lining their pockets with our tax money and evidently leaving young soldiers with too little to do. Yet another good reason to get Halliburton et al out of the military business. Keep the troops busy, and you'll have a lot less of Abu Ghraib and these other stupidities, guaranteed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

It's More Than Six Idiots

Conservative commentators have, ever since the news of mistreatment of prisoners broke, been referring to the "six idiots who lost the war" and have suggested that the mistreatment was either limited to the six idiots (because they watched too much porn or were infected by the Monica virus or whatever) or was no big deal (like a frat initiation according to Rush "Hindenburg" Limbaugh). Well, guess what. It was more than the six idiots, and it is a big deal, especially when you hear an American soldier refer to the killing of prisoners with a "who cares?"

A video that shows a young American soldier admitting to being a participant in the shooting of two Iraqi prisoners will air on "60 Minutes II."

"I hate it here," she says. "I want to come home. I want to be a civilian again. We actually shot two prisoners today. One got shot in the chest for swinging a pole against our people on the feed team. One got shot in the arm. We don't know if the one we shot in the chest is dead yet."
...
"We’ve already had two prisoners die ... but who cares?" the soldier says on the tape. "That's two less for me to worry about."

Who cares indeed? Did the murderers of Nick Berg make the same comment amongst themselves in Arabic?

Neat!

A tiny remote controlled blimp has been used to inspect otherwise out of reach areas of York Minster:
The meter-long radio-controlled craft carried digital cameras to allow staff to monitor the condition of the cathedral's 14th-century windows, all of which survived a 1984 fire that gutted the south transept.

"Compared to the cost of erecting scaffolding it is very cheap," said York Minster Collections Manager Louise Hampson on Tuesday.

"It's remarkably unobtrusive," she added. "Because it's almost silent, it's been possible to have services in the side chapel while it has been flying around."

Very clever indeed!

John, Get a Driver!

The Washington Post profiles Senator John McCain today. John, get a driver!
"JOHN, A TRUCK!" an aide yells from the back seat.

"I see it, I see it," says McCain, veering right, just missing the truck.

"Joe, you're a little jerk," McCain tells the aide. He means this lovingly.

McCain is the rare senator who drives during the workday. Other senators take a back seat -- the better to read and make calls. McCain reads and calls, too, but it doesn't preclude driving. Or admiring tulips, adjusting his sunglasses or talking with his hands about how the Senate is "literally doing nothing these days" and "is in total gridlock."

And now -- metaphor coming -- McCain himself is stopped in a traffic jam.

"Go, go, go," McCain says, tailgating a Toyota van near the Department of Labor. He slams his palms on the steering wheel while inching his Cadillac CTS toward Capitol Hill.

"Go, go, go," McCain says again, as much a credo as a command. Some people glide through life, some limp, and some -- like McCain -- careen. The Toyota jerks into the right lane, and McCain follows, inches behind.

Whew! Danger Danger.

Admired by many Americans of both parties, McCain probably has more enemies in his own party than amongst Democrats:
"He ought to not be allowed near sharp objects or legislation," says Grover Norquist, a conservative activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Of course Grover shouldn't be allowed to be on planet Earth, but I digress. Check it out.

We're Not Perfect

My partner spent part of the evening yesterday on a bulletin board related to her profession; the talk was, needless to say, about the disgusting execution of innocent American businessman Nicholas Berg. Unsurprisingly, a lot of "bomb 'em back to the Stone Age" types manifested themselves, arguing with more centrist readers who argued that one act doesn't condemn an entire group of people. One troglodyte snorted "We don't DO things like that!" to which a moderate reader posted a link to a website about My Lai. That shut them up.

But make no mistake about it, and this is something the "boiled rabbits," as Orwell called them, of the left forget: there are people out there who are utterly inimical to us and our way of life, and the only way to get rid of them is to kill them. The executioners of Nicholas Berg belong in that category.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Hack on the Atrocities

Needless to say, retired Colonel David Hackworth is not amused by the reports of atrocities in Iraq, and recalls his own response to atrocities he saw during his long and distinguished military career:
In 1951 in Korea, I was told by my commanding officer to kill four POWs and refused his direct order. I well remembered the Nazi generals' sorry rationale for their despicable conduct: "We were just following orders." I would get booted out of the Army before I went that route.

In 1965 in Vietnam, I saw a very connected intelligence captain torturing a POW with a field-telephone wire attached to his testicles and decided my personal belief system outweighed his father’s four stars. When I told him I'd shoot him if he didn’t cease and desist, the atrocity came to a screeching halt.

On both occasions, I knew I had the moral right. I'd been taught from the first day I put on a U.S. Army uniform that American soldiers don't follow unlawful orders and that it was my duty to stop or report an illegal act. I also believed strongly that when dealing with POWs, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Indeed. Colonel Hackworth blames lack of training and a lack of responsibility at higher levels:
"The bedrock truth about the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison is that they were so easily preventable," adds SFTT (Soldiers for the Truth) Vice President Roger Charles, who researched this story for CBS News. "But that prevention required a recognition that the top people in the 800th were ill-prepared, incompetent and uncaring. The evidence clearly shows that the Department of the Army mafia was more concerned about protecting the image of the brigade commanding general, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, than holding her and her officers accountable for the terrible situation, which they allowed to fester for months."

Speaking of Karpinski, she's received only a mild slap on the wrist as the brass were circling the wagons. Not a good sign that our country’s commanders intend to own up to their respective roles in this catastrophic breach of human rights, which will have consequences we all will have to pay for many years to come.

Indeed. We have sown the wind, and we will reap the whirlwind, while Dubya sits on his ass at his ranch.



Monday, May 10, 2004

Rum Dum Doing a "Superb Job"

President Caligula announced at the Pentagram today that his useless SecDef is doing a "superb job." In the context of what's going on, one can only ponder what a "bad job" would require. Of course since George Tenet still has a job, failure is evidently a high recommendation in this Administration.

We are also told by his High Mightiness that the nation owes a "debt of gratitude" to Rum Dum. Well, over 700 families sure owe him one.

The Nuremburg Defense Lives

A father who evidently never bothered to teach his son morality is whining that said son, one of the Abu Ghraib torturers, was "just following orders." Heil!! What a load of bullshit.

One thing that disturbs me is that the penalties these nitwits face are too little too late. The first one being charged might get a whole year in prison. The military not only needs to change its training, it needs to toughen up its enforcement and put a few of these creatures in front of a firing squad pour encourager les autres, as Voltaire said of Admiral Byng.

John McCain

John McCain is that increasingly rare thing, a good and decent Republican. As a veteran, and a former occupant of North Vietnamese prisons, McCain is especially angered by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. One of his comments is especially revealing:

Despite what some might think, the senator insists he was not reminded of his own experience, more than three decades ago, when he saw the photographs of naked Iraqi prisoners, images he calls "so horrific it defies my imagination." But asked to compare the two situations, he offered a quick and revealing rejoinder: "I was never subjected to sexual humiliation and degradation."

Rick Davis, who ran Mr. McCain's campaign for the presidency in 2000, was struck by that comparison. "He said, 'You know, I was tortured, but I was never humiliated.' To me, torture is humiliation. I guess he saw it in a different light. Only someone who has been there would understand the difference."

But if the senator is angry, he says it is not because the prisoner abuse scandal evokes his own past. It is because he sees an institution he loves, the American military, sullied by its own behavior.

"I have seen a lot of people die," Mr. McCain said. "I've seen a lot of terrible things in my life. But to see it done by Americans to human beings is what's so appalling. It's so outrageous, I can't describe it."


Appallingly, I read in the Columbus Dispatch this morning that guards at the prison routinely swapped CDs of their torture photos, and that superiors at the prison felt that they had no control over the enlisted troops. What in the hell has the US military come to?

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Rush

A reader quotes Rush Limbaugh's comment about the Abu Ghraib tortures ("I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?") and comments dryly, "
One shudders at the thought of Limbaugh blowing off steam" Indeed, me too. I also shudder at the thought of Rush believing that college initiations involve sticking a broom up someone's butt.

Tornado Disaster Imminent!

Well, hopefully not. Dan McCarthy of the Storm Prediction Center wrapped up yesterday's OSU Severe Weather Symposium by commenting that his visits are often followed by outbreaks, recalling in particular how in 1999, at the special Symposium marking the 25th anniversary of the Xenia tornado and the Super Outbreak, someone had asked him when the next outbreak was coming. I had to smile; my friend Gary, who was sitting next to me, had asked the question, and of course a few days later came the disastrous outbreak that affected Oklahoma City. So let's hope Gary isn't a tornado Cassandra!

Friday, May 07, 2004

Weather!

Off I go to the Severe Weather Symposium at OSU. Weather is a lot saner than the news lately.

Rumsfield Should Go?

The NYT joined the chorus of voices demanding the removal of Rum Dum as SecDef today. It wouldn't break my heart to see him out of there, but it won't do a damn bit of good unless the other lunatics around him - his squad of necrocons - go as well.

Wha...?

I've tried to ignore the crazier conspiracy theories about 9/11, but when you hear something like this, you have to wonder who didn't want what to be heard by who:

At least six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, made a tape recording a few hours later describing the events, but the tape was destroyed by a supervisor without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it, the Transportation Department said Thursday.

The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., where about 16 people met in a basement conference room known as the Bat Cave and passed around a microphone, each recalling his or her version of the events of a few hours earlier. The recording included statements of 5 or 10 minutes each by controllers who had spoken by radio to people on the planes or who had tracked the aircraft on radar, the report said.

Officials at the center never told higher-ups of the tape's existence, according to a report made public on Thursday by the inspector general of the Transportation Department

A quality-assurance manager at the center destroyed the tape several months after it was made, crushing the cassette in his hand, cutting the tape into little pieces and dropping them in different trash cans around the building, according to the report. The tape had been made under an agreement with the union that it would be destroyed after it was superseded by written statements from the controllers, the report said.

The quality-assurance manager told investigators that he had destroyed the tape because he thought making it was contrary to Federal Aviation Administration policy, which calls for written statements, and because he felt that the controllers "were not in the correct frame of mind to have properly consented to the taping" because of the stress of the day.

So a valuable contemporaneous record was destroyed. Maybe the reason was innocuous. Unfortunately, this is only fuel for the conspiracy fire.

"Sorry" for What?

There's some excitement about Bush having said the "S" word. Look more closely at what he said. He's not sorry it happened, he's not sorry it besmirched American honor, he's sorry the Iraqis felt humiliated (!) and he's sorry people don't understand how wonderful we really are. He's not sorry. Well, he IS sorry, but in a different way...

Bemused

Well, the right have their torture excuses going full power now. Cartoons, editorials, commentary all tell us that yes, torture is bad, but, after all, the Arabs are WORSE! Certainly this is true of many Arab countries and was definitely true of Iraq, where Qusay reportedly fed people into a woodchipper and his father stacked his enemies in mass graves still being discovered. Is that an excuse for the behavior of some of our troops? Hell no, in spite of what Rush and Cal Thomas and the other right wing nitwits might think.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

More on Moore

Ezra over at Pandagon wonders:

Aside from the worrisome trend towards censorship that Oliver identifies, there's a deeper problem with these attempts to curry administration favor. The article on the Disney deal makes clear that Disney fears losing the tax breaks and perks that Jeb and George have given them. It's the cost-benefit analysis here that worries me. These corporations are making moves that will certainly anger the Democratic Party, they must then be looking towards some payback from the right that outweighs the ire of the left. These are corporations, their actions respond to an anticipated profit. When they make public stands like these they're taking a serious risk, what are they expecting in return?

I think it's pretty obvious what they expect. They expect Bush to "win" the election, no matter what, and they're positioning themselves for a future of fascism in this country.

It Gets Worse

Rumor has it that the worst is yet to come in the Iraq prison scandal. The Washington Post this morning printed some new and, unsurprisingly, disturbing photos of American soldiers behaving like the Gestapo.

Mixed in with more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post are photographs of naked men, apparently prisoners, sprawled on top of one another while soldiers stand around them. There is another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched. A pair of women's underwear covers his head and face.

The graphic images, passed around among military police who served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, are a new batch of photographs similar to those broadcast a week ago on CBS's "60 Minutes II" and published by the New Yorker magazine. They appear to provide further visual evidence of the chaos and unprofessionalism at the prison detailed in a report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. His report, which relied in part on the photographs, found "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" that were inflicted on detainees.

This group of photographs, taken from the summer of 2003 through the winter, ranges widely, from mundane images of everyday military life to pictures showing crude simulations of sex among soldiers. The new pictures appear to show American soldiers abusing prisoners, many of whom wear ID bands, but The Post could not eliminate the possibility that some of them were staged.

And, also unsurprisingly, the Nuremburg Defense keeps popping up:

The father of another soldier facing charges, Spec. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., also said his son was following orders. "He was asked to take pictures, and he did what he was told," Daniel Sivits said in a telephone interview last week.

Yeah, sure. And the soldiers were clearly ordered to grin and laugh in the pictures, too. They should all be shot.

The pictures obtained by The Post include shots of soldiers simulating sexually explicit acts with one another and shots of a cow being skinned and gutted and soldiers posing with its severed head. There are also dozens of pictures of a cat's severed head.

Other photographs show wounded men and corpses. In one, a dead man is lying in the back of a truck, his shirt, face and left arm covered in blood. His right arm is missing. Another photograph shows a body, gray and decomposing. A young soldier is leaning over the corpse, smiling broadly and giving the "thumbs-up" sign.

And in another picture a young woman lifts her shirt, exposing her breasts. She is wearing a white band with numbers on her wrist, but it is unclear whether she is a prisoner.

Clearly the all volunteer military is on a race to the bottom. Time to bring back the draft if only to get a better, smarter mix of soldiers, because this is ridiculous.

Phil Carter over at Intel Dump, meanwhile, calls the Taguba Report BS:

The actions depicted on the photographs now shown around the world are not the kinds of things you need training to abhor. In fact, any adult ought to know better, and certainly, any Army sergeant or officer ought to know better. This is a basic matter of common sense and human decency. You don't need to know the rules under the Geneva Convention, and you don't have to be a lawyer, to know that it's wrong to shove a chem light into a detainee's rectum and take a picture of it. I think this is a specious argument, and that it will fail spectacularly before a military jury of officers and NCOs.

Second, it's possible that these MPs didn't have proper individual or collective training on specific tasks related to Internment and Resettlement Operations (what the MP school calls this stuff). But hey -- this isn't rocket science. Anyone in this unit could've gone online to get FM 3-19.40, Military Police Internment/Resettlement Operations; anyone could've also gone online to get FM 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare. These soldiers, sergeants and officers were derelict in not taking the initiative to learn how to do their jobs once they were on the ground. So I don't buy this "we weren't trained defense" for a minute. If an NCO doesn't know the conditions and standards for a given task, the NCO should take the initiative to find them. A lieutenant or captain certainly should too. This MP unit may have been given a task it wasn't familiar with, but the burden falls on the unit leadership to adjust on-the-fly, and to teach the unit how to do these things. Guess what? Not everything goes according to plan; not every task can be anticipated or trained for. It falls on the unit to figure this out, and the failure to do so was derelict in my opinion.

So much for the "we were following orders" defense.

Being Bush Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Well, Dubya went on a compliant Arab TV station yesterday and claimed that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was un-American. But he did not say "I'm sorry" or "We're sorry" or "America apologizes." Will someone with some psychological knowledge explain why in the hell Bush can't bring out the words "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong"?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Disney Vetoes Michael Moore Film - Worried Jeb Will Crack Down in Florida

Worried that Governor Jeb "Stolen Election" Bush might frown on its empire in Florida, Disney's Miramax division has been ordered by the parent company not to distribute Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 911. A country in which the government indirectly exercises a veto on free speech is a country rapidly descending into despotism. Link:

A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company had the right to quash Miramax's distribution of films if it deemed their distribution to be against the interests of the company. The executive said Mr. Moore's film is deemed to be against Disney's interests not because of the company's business dealings with the government but because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's film, which does not have a release date, could alienate many.

"It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle," this executive said.

Miramax is free to seek another distributor in North America, but such a deal would force it to share profits and be a blow to Harvey Weinstein, a big donor to Democrats.

Mr. Moore, who will present the film at the Cannes film festival this month, criticized Disney's decision in an interview on Tuesday, saying, "At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?' "

This is an obvious attack on Moore and on the truth, something the Bushies, to borrow a phrase, have never been able to handle.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Yum!

A passenger on a Qantas flight found a surprise in her salad:

An airline passenger was given a nasty fright when a frog with a taste for adventure stowed away in her in-flight salad, New Zealand authorities said on Tuesday.

The passenger discovered the airborne amphibian perched on a slice of cucumber while on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Wellington in February.

"Naturally there was a bit of consternation by the passenger who called back the attendant," Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry quarantine general manager Fergus Small said.

Well, at least we're safe from that happening to the horrible packets of minipretzels that constitute "food" on most American airlines....

Monday, May 03, 2004

Bremer Backpedals

Before 9/11, Paul Bremer, current American proconsul in Iraq, complained that the Bushies weren't doing enough to ward off terrorism. Now, of course, ol' Paul, looking forward to turning over his thankless job to John "Death Squads" Negroponte and sucking up the bennies that come from being a Repug stooge, has changed his view:

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said Sunday he regrets a statement he made more than six months before the Sept. 11 attacks that the Bush administration was ``paying no attention'' to terrorism.

Bremer said any implied criticism that President Bush was not acting against terrorism was "unfair.''

Ahead of the November election, Bush is facing criticism he didn't make terrorism his No. 1 priority before the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center and then weakened the war on terror by invading Iraq and shifting the focus from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. The resurfacing of Bremer's comments added to administration frustrations.

At a McCormick Tribune Foundation conference on terrorism on Feb. 26, 2001, Bremer said, "The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?'

"That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it.''

Bremer made the speech after he had chaired the National Commission on Terrorism, a bipartisan body formed by the Clinton administration to examine U.S. counterterrorism policies.

But things just look different to Proconsul Paul now:

"I am strongly supportive and grateful for the President's leadership and strategy in combating terrorism and protecting American national security throughout his first term in office.''

Uh huh.




Saturday, May 01, 2004

Phil Carter Opines

Phil Carter of Intel Dump is an Army Reservist and a former MP. His advice to the military: make an example of the idiots responsible for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

So let's be clear on what's going on here. We go into Iraq to stop, among other things, human rights abuses that were being directed by the Hussein regime. Many of those abuses took place at Abu Ghraib prison, the same building at the center of this report. Iraqi guards regularly beat, humiliated, and tortured their detainees, and they reveled in their cruelty. Now, we have American soldiers doing many of the same things, allegedly at the direction of American intelligence officers who wanted these MPs to set the conditions for productive interrogation sessions. I can't condemn this conduct enough, and yet, I feel that condemning this conduct isn't enough. This is truly reprehensible stuff.
...
The Army's military police corps is known for eating its own when they screw up, and I don't think this case will be any exception. The right answer here is to slam the book at the MP chain of command responsible for this action -- especially the colonels, captains and lieutenants who failed to properly train their soldiers on the laws of war, failed to supervise them in the running of this prison, and failed to set the proper climate for the dignified treatment of these prisoners. Administrative punishment for many of these officers is insufficient, in my opinion. They deserve a general court-martial for these actions. I think the American military command in Baghdad must take a hard line on this reprehensible conduct, and that it must prosecute these officers and NCOs to the fullest extent of the law. If they are innocent, a military jury will acquit them. But the military justice system exists primarily to support mission accomplishment through the promotion of "good order and discipline." This incident represents a staggering breach of discipline, and it must be dealt with appropriately.

Read the entire post. I was waiting eagerly for Phil to comment, and as usual he doesn't let us down.

British Soldier Blows Lid Off Prisoner Abuses

Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick of the British Army has, by keeping a journal of what he saw in Iraqi POW camps, blown the lid off the Coalition claim that we are glorious liberators. Some details from Sergeant Frederick's journal were printed in The Guardian today. Some excerpts:

"Prisoners were forced to live in damp cool cells. MI [military intelligence] has also instructed us to place a prisoner in an isolation cell with little or no clothes, no toilet or running water, no ventilation or window for as much as three days. MI personnel and even CID agents were present at these times. On or about the first week of Jan 2004 ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] was to make an appearance at the facility. Prisoners that were not processed were rushed out to processing immediately to be processed. I pulled Lt Col Phillabaum aside while he was in 1A. I questioned him about how MI wants things done and about how prisoners were being treated in 1A/B. His reply was "Don't worry about it.""
...
"Prisoners were forced to sleep in areas not suitable, such as tents that had water in them from rain, only 2 or 3 blankets to shield them from the weather. A prisoner with a clearly visible mental condition was shot with non-lethal rounds for standing near the fence singing when a lesser means of force could have been used."
...
"MI has encouraged and told us great job that they were now getting positive results and information. CID has been present when the military working dogs were used to intimidate prisoners at MI's request."
...
"Back around Nov an OGA prisoner was brought to 1A. They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away. They put his body in a body bag and packed him in ice for approximately 24 hours in the shower in the 1B. The next day the medics came in and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took him away. This OGA was never processed and therefore never had a number."
...
"There was a large breakout of body lice among many prisoners. Only solution given was razors.

"Prisoners that were infected with TB were housed in the same tier as other prisoners and ... the soldiers to be possibly infected by this airborne virus."

Liberators, eh? Hearts and minds, eh?