Friday, December 31, 2004
America: We are not who we believe we are. We are not who we want to be. We are not who we used to be. We are not who we ought to be.
This opinion article by Andrew Rosenthal should be read by every American, as dispassionately as possible, as objectively as possible, without prejudice. It is really frightening and, at the same time, heartening.
The constitution of the United States has come under assault by an Executive Branch in the thrall of the Project for the New American Century. But our uniformed servicemen and women have fought as hard as they can to protect us from this internal threat to our liberty.
Please read this opinion article. Some excerpts follow:
"When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the initial list of interrogation methods for Guantanamo Bay in late 2002 - methods that clearly violated the Geneva Conventions and anti-torture statutes - there were no protests from the legal counsels for the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the president, the Central Intelligence Agency or any of the civilian secretaries of the armed services...
It took an internal protest by uniformed lawyers from the Navy to force the Pentagon to review the Guantanamo rules and restrict them a bit. But the military lawyers' concerns were largely shoved aside by a team of civilian lawyers, led by Mary Walker, the Air Force general counsel. The group reaffirmed the notion that Mr. Bush could choose when to apply the Geneva Conventions.
If it had not been for a group of uniformed lawyers, the nation might never have learned of the torture and detention memos. In May 2003, soon after Ms. Walker's group produced its rationalization for prisoner abuse, a half-dozen military lawyers went to Scott Horton, who was chairman of the human rights committee of the City Bar Association in New York.
That led to a bar report on the administration's policies, a report that was published around the same time the Abu Ghraib atrocities came into public view. Those lawyers had to do their duty anonymously to avoid having their careers savaged. Meanwhile, the Justice Department official who signed the memo on torturing prisoners, Jay Bybee, was elevated by Mr. Bush to the federal bench.
This month, several former high-ranking military lawyers came out publicly against the nomination of the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to be attorney general. They noted that it was Mr. Gonzales who had supervised the legal assault on the Geneva Conventions.
On the morning of New Year's eve, one of the busiest and most festive holidays of the year, when millions of Americans are preparing to ring in the new year with parties, dinners, dances, at restaurants, bars, nightclubs, or living rooms; at the beginning of a weekend during which the word "news" will sound achingly like "noise;" in the midst of a global news story of such profound importance that all other stories will seem insignificant in comparison; the US Department of Justice released a memo which clarifies what constitutes "torture." The memo supersedes--and contradicts--a similar set of DOJ documents written in 2002.
Many believe the 2002 DOJ directives at the very least created an environment in which the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other detention camps could be rationalized.
Being President means never having to say "I'm sorry..."
Thursday, December 30, 2004
"These past few days have brought loss and grief to the world that is beyond our comprehension," he [Bush] said at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., adding that Washington was prepared to contribute much more than the $35 million it initially pledged.
Well, that's interesting, NYT, but inaccurate. The initial pledge was of $15 million, and it was not until Jan Egeland's remark about the "stinginess" of wealthy nations that the US upped its committment to $35 million. But since the war in Iraq has cost us, in the last two years, over $147,000,000,000.00 (one hundred forty seven billion dollars), isn't $35 million still rather stingy?
The US State Department explains that decisions on foreign aid are made on the basis of three criteria: supporting regional stability, encouraging and supporting counterterrorist activities, and fighting international crime and drugs. This is all well and good, and there is certainly a significant public benefit that accrues from foreign aid offered for these--or any--reasons. But when a nation or a person makes decisions on giving based on the personal benefits derived from that giving, isn't that person or nation most likely to give exactly what will yield the intended benefit, and not a penny more?
An additional short-term benefit apparently seen by the Bush administration is image-building. In a period in history in which America's reputation abroad has suffered serious criticism from many fronts, this administration sees a photo opportunity in the southeast Asian disaster. "It's about the image," some now say. But it may be more about credibility, about "walking the walk" of Christianity as well as "talking the talk." Christianity does not swagger.
An editorial from today's New York Times asks, "Are we stingy?" and answers, "Yes." I paste it here because of its brevity:
Are We Stingy? Yes
Published: December 30, 2004
President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday's tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America's initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations "stingy." "The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," the president said.
We beg to differ. Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.
The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid. According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.
Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe.
Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.
Mr. Bush said yesterday that the $35 million we've now pledged "is only the beginning" of the United States' recovery effort. Let's hope that is true, and that this time, our actions will match our promises.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Perhaps Bush was right. Perhaps Jan Egeland spoke out of turn--if he wasn't, as he said, quoted out of context and consequently misinterpreted--and wealthy, industrialized nations like the US were giving generously to the disaster relief in the Indian Ocean region.
But what is the record of charitable giving by the US? And how does it compare with other countries who, perhaps, cannot really afford to give as much as we can?
First, the good news. In gross US dollars, the United States gives far and away the most money in charitable aid of several kinds to many less developed countries--over six-and-a-quarter billion dollars in 2002. Next was Japan, with US$3.7 billion, France with US$3.25 billion, and the UK and Germany nearly tied with about US$2.9 billion each (By the way, down the list a bit giving US$128 million is Ireland--keep that in mind for a moment).
Now the bad news. If you look at the gross dollar amounts adjusted for all types of giving as a per capita proportion of each nation's gross domestic product, the figures appear somewhat different. Now we can see that the US is spending just .07% of its per capita gross domestic product on charitable aid. That's seven-tenths of one percent!!! Japan actually spends more--per capita--on charitable aid, at .09%, Ireland at .12%, Germany at .15%, the UK at .19%, and France at a whopping .23%. Denmark and Sweden, by the way, give at a rate of about one-half-of-one-percent (.50%) of their gross domestic products.
The amount of money in actual dollars that the United States spends on development/charitable aid comes out to be about $39 per American--now, that's not millions or billions, that's $39 per head. Denmark and Norway each spend over $300 per citizen, the Netherlands and Sweden nearly $200. The UK spends $78, France $72 and Germany $59.
While we are spending that thirty-nine bucks a head on aid, we are also spending one thousand four hundred thirty seven dollars ($1437) per person on the military--largely on weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems for the same.
It's all a matter of proportion. And it's all a matter of priorities. So are we stingy? You decide. Meanwhile, I include this recent editorial from the NY Times. It has something to do with priorities. Amd it has something to do with "values."
Editorial: America, the Indifferent
New York Times
December 23, 2004
It was with great fanfare that the United States and 188 other countries signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration, a manifesto to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and disease among the one billion people in theworld who subsist on barely anything. The project set a deadline of 2015 toachieve its goals. Chief among them was the goal for developed countries, like America, Britain and France, to work toward giving 0.7 percent of their national incomes for development aid for poor countries.
Almost a third of the way into the program, the latest available figures show that the percentage of United States income going to poor countries remains near rock bottom: 0.14 percent. Britain is at 0.34 percent, andFrance at 0.41 percent. (Norway and Sweden, to no one's surprise, arealready exceeding the goal, at 0.92 percent and 0.79 percent.)
And we learned this week that in the last two months, the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping hungry nations become self-sufficient, and it has told charities like Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services that it won't honor earlier promises. Instead, administration officials said that most of the country's emergency food aid would go to places where there were immediate crises.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
"In declaring "infidels" all who vote under the "infidel" interim constitution negotiated by Iraqi politicians with US civil administrator Paul Bremer last winter, Bin Laden is seeking to counter the decree of grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani that Iraqis must vote in the upcoming elections or they will be consigned to hell. Bin Laden is arguing, according to the Aljazeera.net in Arabic, that the interim constitution that is the framework for elections is artificial and pagan ("jahili", pertaining to the Age of Ignorance before Islam) because it does not recognize Islam as the sole source of law.
"Bin Laden's intervention in Iraq was hamfisted and clumsy, and will benefit the United States and the Shiites enormously. Most Iraqi Muslims, Sunni or Shiite, dislike the Wahhabi branch of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia, and with which Bin Laden is associated. Nationalistic Iraqis will object to a foreigner interfering in their national affairs."
This could be the first good news to come out of Iraq since US forces went in 21 months ago.
The Sunni Triangle exploded today with carbombs, gunfire, and knives--twelve Iraqi police officers had their throats slit--in the run-up to January elections. As I said earlier, the insurgency can be expected to do everything they can to disrupt the upcoming elections. Any government elected next January runs the risk of being seen as "illegitimate" or as a "puppet government" if elections are held under the threat of violence. Still, the US and the interim Iraqi government are adamant about letting the elections go on time, even with so much riding on them.
But in an op-ed to the Washington Post, Iraq's Ambassador to the United Nations argues that there may be a third way, somewhere beyond cancelling or postponing the elections, and letting them be seen as the "mandate" for the government that results from them.
This is an interesting analysis of the boundaries of post-modern asymmetrical warfare and one of the technologies central to a smaller, weaker, more de-centralized force fighting a larger, stronger, more centralized one: the Internet.
"The Internet is a weapon of great power in twentieth-century warfare. To see just how effectively al Qaeda is using this weapon, let's look at one of the newest Qaeda affiliates, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group in Iraq.
For the whole of 2003, Zarqawi was known to the public only in leaks from American and Jordanian intelligence. Then in little more than a month, in April and May 2004, he rocketed to worldwide fame, or infamy, by a deliberate combination of extreme violence and Internet publicity.
In early April, Zarqawi published a half-hour audio recording which explained exactly who he was, what he had done, and why he was fighting. It was a comprehensive branding statement, and it showed incidentally that he views the world rather differently than Osama bin Laden.
Yes, he says he's fighting a jihad to defend Islam against an American-led Crusader campaign. America invaded Iraq to steal its wealth, block the expansion of Islam and protect Israel. But in Iraq, he says the real enemies are the Kurds and the Shi'ite Muslims as much as the American troops. The Kurds are in league with the Israelis. The Shi'ites are not "
Monday, December 27, 2004
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Friday, December 24, 2004
One of the things I believe is universal in the human spirit is a natural curiosity and the resultant desire to pursue truth. May the New Year find you filled with a fire to pursue truth, and may God grant you the wisdom and love to use truth wisely.
Beleaguered Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to the troops in the Iraqi capitol of Baghdad this morning, where he fielded polite questions from GIs (I don't suppose that this was stage-managed, do you?). But Rumsfeld did admit that US forces had faced "setbacks" recently in fighting a renewed Iraqi insurgency. As Rumsfeld left Baghdad, an enormous exposion ripped through the western part of the city, injuring 20 people.
Meanwhile, Britain's Catholic prelate, Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor criticized the war in Iraq as a "waste of billions" of pounds that could have been put to positive social uses.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
The Bush administration "misunderestimations" of the Iraqi insurgency continue:
The insurgent/suicide bomber responsible for yesterday's bombing at a US military base in Mosul wore an Iraqi uniform. US Forces thought he was "one of us." The strength and depth of support for this insurgency can be questioned, and their motives easily impugned; this is probably not wise. Yet this is exactly what the Bush administration did when it went into Iraq, and this is what they continue to do today. For how much longer can Americans allow their armed forces--and their nation--to be led by an administration that ignores all the hard facts of reality in favor of a myth of "natural superiority?"
Meanwhile, three more US Marines were killed in "pacified" Falluja, and a roadside bomb killed a US soldier in Baghdad. Nobody thinks that war is easy. That's why this war was and is so wrong. This was the "cakewalk." This was the "small scale" operation, three of which the PNAC calls for American forces to fight at once. We were told, by ideologues who actually believed it, that this would be easy.
"The attack is the latest evidence that Iraqi insurgents have better intelligence about U.S. forces than U.S. forces have on the insurgents."
Merry Christmas, Red Staters. Here are your "christian values" (I used lower case "c" deliberately--do not confuse these self-styled "christians" with Christianity) on display. George W. Bush's values, which Red Staters have incredibly conflated somehow with Christianity, are the values of free-market capitalism, expansion of business, and empire. In fairness, Bush has been convinced that Jesus was a capitalist (that's right--Jesus was a capitalist) and that capitalism is the preferred economic system for Christians. But empires aren't cheap, and when the bulk of your military/defense/infotainment economy is bogged down in an expensive war to expand capitalism (yes, capitalism--not Democracy), something has to be sacrificed.
Guess what? And guess who suffers? Certainly not Halliburton. Certainly not United Defense. Certainly not GE. Or Lockheed-Martin. Or General Dynamics. Or Raytheon. Or United Technologies or Northrop-Grumman or Bechtel.
Who suffers? The poor.
What a surprise.
Can anyone explain to me why, in the midst of a debacle in Iraq, with a nation divided as seriously and closely as ours at this moment, with less than half of Americans approving of the job this President is doing, with a precipitous decline in American values in the last four years, there is not more criticism of George W. Bush in our media of public discourse and why (contrary to all logic) Time Magazine would name him "Person of the Year?" (Time's "Man of the Year" feature has frequently been confounding--note the inclusion of Hitler, Stalin (twice), Haile Selassie, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and the Ayatollah Khomeini)
I don't get it. We remain IN THE DARK about much of the incompetence and malfeasance of this administration in an age where the dissemination of knowledge about those things is tremendously simple, efficient, and speedy.
"To date, the press, busy detailing the mandate that conservative Republicans feel they won in November, has taken little notice of Bush's poor showing. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal noted that its 'survey shows Mr. Bush in a middling position a month after besting John Kerry.' (Rather than 'middling,' the Journal could have just as accurately opted for 'unprecedented.') And this week, as it salutes Bush as its Person of the Year, Time magazine makes only passing reference to the president's unmatched showing in the polls."
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Via TomPaine.Com, this letter from the California mother of an American GI killed in Iraq. I will be writing more in the next few weeks about why I believe that George W. Bush should be impeached, or should resign.
"Dear Time Editors:
My son, Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq on 04/04/04. This has been an extraordinary couple of weeks of 'slaps in the faces' to us families of fallen heroes.
First, the Secretary of Defense--Donald Rumsfeld--admits to the world something that we as military families already know: The United States was not prepared for nor had any plan for the assault on Iraq. Our children were sent to fight an ill-conceived and badly prosecuted war. Our troops were sent with the wrong type of training, bad equipment, inferior protection and thin supply lines. Our children have been killed and we have made the ultimate sacrifice for this fiasco of a war, then we find out this week that Rumsfeld doesn't even have the courtesy or compassion to sign the 'death letters'--as they are so callously called. Besides the upcoming holidays and the fact we miss our children desperately, what else can go wrong this holiday season?
Well let's see. Oh yes. George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three more architects of the quagmire that is Iraq. Thousands of people are dead and Bremer, Tenet and Franks are given our country's highest civilian award. What's next?
To top everything off--after it has been proven that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, there were no ties between Saddam and 9/11 and over 1,300 brave young people in this country are dead and Iraq lies in ruins— what does Time Magazine do? Names George W. Bush as its "Man of the Year." The person who betrayed this country into a needless war and whom I hold ultimately responsible for my son's death and who was questionably elected, again, to a second term, is honored this way by your magazine.
I hope we finally find peace in our world and that our troops who remain in Iraq are brought home speedily—after all, there was no reason for our troops to be there in the first place. No reason for my son and over 1,300 others to have been taken from their families. No reason for the infrastructure of Iraq to be demolished and thousands of Iraqis being killed. No reason for the notion of a "happy" holiday to be robbed from my family forever. I hope that our "leaders" don't invade any other countries which pose no serious threat to the United States. I hope there is no draft. I hope that the five people mentioned here (and many others) will finally be held responsible for the horrible mistake they got our country into. I hope that competence is finally rewarded and incompetence is appropriately punished. These are my wishes for 2005.
This isn't the first time your magazine has selected a questionable man for this honor—but it's the first time it affected my family so personally and so sorrowfully.
(Cindy Sheehan Lives in California)
A Leading Opponent of Pakistani President Is Under Arrest Again--UPDATE : Bhutto's Husband Freed Again in Pakistan
I had the privilege of meeting Benazir Bhutto in April 0f 2002, when she spoke at Molloy College in Rockville Centre where I taught Public Communication.
Pakistan's politics are opaque and difficult to understand. What is progressive or liberal and what is conservative or reactionary is not always clear. Benazir Bhutto is a conservative Muslim woman who speaks about America being a "beacon of liberty for the world." Pervez Musharraf is a liberal Muslim educated in western schools, with deep ties to the US, who protected Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in the years leading up to September 11, 2001. Perhaps he still does.
Musharraf's reign as President of Pakistan has been marked by rises in extremism, militancy, confrontation (against India), and softness on terrorism, despite a public face of toughness. He has bent over backwards to perpetuate his rule, in the tradition of many US allies--Allende, Pahlazi, Hussein, the Saudi monarchy. Bhutto's reign was marked by charges of financial scandal and corruption. I have always had my doubts about those charges; they smacked of "pseudo-scandal" (think impeachment of Bill Clinton).
Pakistan is, right now, on a course of "political reconciliation." That is to say, Musharraf has encountered enough resistance at home to find it politically expedient to embrace Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, and their respective political parties.
The arrest and release of Asif Ali Zardari takes place within (at least) this context. Pakistan is a country we should hear much more about. A major ally of the US in its "war on terror," as Pakistan goes, so indeed might the war on terror go.
Let's not stay IN THE DARK on this.
In the single deadliest attack since the US invasion of Iraq, at least 24 people were killed, including 19 GIs, and 60 people wounded, when an explosion ripped through a mess tent near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Mosul may be becoming the new Falluja; when insurgents fled the southern city in the run-up to coalition forces' "pacification," many ended up in Mosul, already a center of insurgent activity.
The US military occupation of Iraq was officially slated to end this month, according to a Pentagon projection in April 2003. Instead, we have a growing insurgency of growing effectiveness, and most Americans don't agree with the President's assessment of the war as " a vital mission for peace."
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Complete polling results at PollingReport.com.
57% of those polled disapprove of the way the President is handling the war in Iraq, up from 50% in September;
In terms of the cost/benefit ratio, 56% believe the war in Iraq is not worth fighting;
70% believe the number of US casualties is "unacceptable;"
Only 44% believe the US is making "significant progress" toward stabilizing Iraq.
In another part of the poll, 49% disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as President, while 48% approve.
I think this is a pretty good argument for changing the way our advertisement-driven election campaigns operate. If the election were held today, absent the flurry of the Kerry-bashing screed we called political advertising, would Bush be President right now?
I don't know. But it is an interesting question.
More grist for the Red State Values/Blue State Values mill...
This updates the continuing saga of Americans' delusion that Abu Ghraib was merely an "isolated incident" perpetrated by a "few bad apples." The last update in this story is here (with links to earleir episodes).
The fact that we can continue to think that this was just an aberration, and that there was (and is) no systematic abuse (or worse, torture) is symbolic of this President's ability to get re-elected. The media may keep us IN THE DARK, but it has to be said that often we keep ourselves ignorant of ugly, harsh realities.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Hardly a resounding vote of confidence, this support is, at best, left-handed. Republican John Warner said yesterday that a change at the top of the DOD would be too disruptive given the coming Iraqi elections. And Democrat Carl Levin, in effect, said the problems with Rumdfeld's policies were not really Rumsfeld's but Bush's.
"If I thought those policies would change by changing the secretary of defense, I'd be all for it," Levin said on CNN. "But I don't see that that is the ticket to policy changes."
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Insurgents ran through the streets of Baghdad with impunity, not even covering their faces, taunting American and Iraqi forces. Expect more violence as the election nears.
"The deadly strikes highlighted the apparent ability of the insurgents to launch attacks almost at will, despite confident assessments by U.S. military commanders that they had regained the initiative after last month's campaign against militants in Fallujah."
Lula plans to raise the minimum wage 15% in 2005. He expects 5% real economic growth, and total investments of 22%, up from 18% last year. Economists and entrepreneurs are enthusiastic.
Sounds like a problem to me....
Elsewhere in the "NEW AXIS OF EVIL": Despite closer ties with Cuba, Venezuela would like to normalize relations with the US. And the World Trade Organization has authorized Chile to impose sanctions against the United States, the eighth global economy to be so authorized.
Watch for propaganda over the coming months and years painting Latin America as "soft on terror," "aiding and abetting" terrorists, "pro-communism," and far worse. But these democratically elected governments more resemble the US during the New Deal than they do the Soviet Union. For that matter, they more resemble the US during the New Deal than the US does today!
Friday, December 17, 2004
Trent Lott (no raving liberal, to be sure) has added his voice to the growing chorus of Republican discontent with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Chuck Hagel, John McCain, Susan Collins, Norman Schwarzkopf, and Bill Kristol (when your PNAC buddies oppose you, do you stand a chance?) have all either stated they have "no confidence" in Rumsfeld, expressed anger at his "arrogance," or called for his ouster.
But Bush remains at least publicly supportive of his Defense chief. “Secretary Rumsfeld continues to do a great job while we’re at war,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “We must continue to use all means on all fronts to defeat the terrorists, and Secretary Rumsfeld is an important person in our efforts to prevail in this global struggle of ideologies.”
"Bush has been under steady pressure, mostly from Democrats, to oust Rumsfeld since reports of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in May. Those calls have escalated as more Republicans have come to the opinion that Rumsfeld has not called for enough troops to win the war. A senior GOP adviser on Capitol Hill, who demanded anonymity, said party leaders remain supportive of Rumsfeld but some are concerned that the recent round of complaints will embolden those who share similar frustrations privately to express them publicly in the weeks ahead."
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
An addendum to the story below.
"'Day after day, news stories of torture are coming to light, and we need to know how these abuses were allowed to happen,' said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero. 'This kind of widespread abuse could not have taken place without a leadership failure of the highest order.'"
"There is growing evidence that the abuse of detainees was not aberrational but systemic, and that senior officials either approved of the abuse or were deliberately indifferent to it," the ACLU said, adding "the public has a right to know what the government's policies were, why these abuses were allowed to take place, and who was ultimately responsible."
This was supposed to be a "cakewalk." They were supposed to welcome US troops with open arms and flowers. Major combat operations were finished on May 2, 2003, weren't they? And we had sufficient troop strength to invade, occupy, and pacify Iraq, right? Wasn't the invasion of Falluja supposed to break the back of the insurgency? So what, exactly, is this all about?
Update: When I posted this story, a few days after the November 3 Presidential election, I made the prediction that in a second Bush administration the nation would again be sidetracked away from the ACTUAL war on terror by a fabricated distraction, much as has happened in Iraq. This time, I said, our attentions would be focused on South America, where a number of nations in the last decade have elected--DEMOCRATICALLY--left-wing governments. I have since come across this website which gives evidence that I may be correct (Click on the "Lula Watch" link and note the banner that reads "Focusing on Latin America's New "Axis of Evil."). Is this the first wave of propaganda in a coming campaign (military or otherwise) against democracy in Latin America?
This is coming from a reliable (in this case, anyway) source, the hawkish, right-wing, Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church-owned United Press International. And it is frightening in its terseness. The PNAC's Manifesto "Rebuilding America's Defenses" calls for the waging of a number of small scale wars simultaneously.
Iraq, Iran, hmmmm...Venzuela?
I've said it several times and provided links to stories, here, here, and here. Abu Ghraib was not "an isolated incident" perpetrated by "a few bad apples." To think so is either 1] to be terminally naive, or 2] to think that "patriotism" is akin to idolatry, and we must not say anything critical ("negativism") to appease the "god."
Which brings us to another choice of alternative conclusions. If, in fact, the abuse that we've seen at Abu Ghraib is not an isolated incident (and mounting evidence tells us that it is not), then there are two other compelling possible explanations: 1] There was an organized, systematic, and concerted effort to use abuse or torture as a tool to gain information, or 2] This is what happens to good people when put into an intrinsically immoral situation.
Either way, this administration should be held accountable.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
There's been a second car bombing in Baghdad's "green zone" in as many days; at least twelve US soldiers have died since Sunday (not counting this most recent attack). Iraq's interim President has criticized US tactics and warned that the chaos and violence are creating an environment for an extremist dictatorship to occur. A 70 year old retired Army Colonel has been reactivated and shipped off to Afghanistan.
And there will be no draft.
Meanwhile, Information Clearing House posted the linked video to their website this morning. It is an insurgent's-eye-view of the war in Iraq. Make no mistake about it: this is a classic example of wartime propaganda, as the English-speaking voice describes the struggle, honors the fighters, and appeals for aid from the viewer. It is propaganda, and it is very similar to the messages that Americans have been subjected to, from the opposite point of view, since 2002.
What is striking about the message is one particular point, a point I've believed and have been trying to make since before the US invasion of Iraq. The insurgent/narrator claims the struggle is about resources, geopolitics, globalization, and exploitation. This video frames the conflict in entirely political and economic terms. It is not about Islam, and matters religious are barely touched upon in the video.
A war to defend religious freedom? A war about oil? Which of these two would you rather sell to the American people?
Monday, December 13, 2004
"Let me be frank about what we are finding. There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations." -- FREDERICK P. HITZ, INSPECTOR GENERAL CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, TO THE HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, MARCH 16, 1998
Gary Webb, 49, died Friday December 10, 2004, an apparent suicide.
Webb was the San Jose Mercury reporter whose three-year investigation into alleged California cocaine-trafficking by the Nicaraguan "Contras" unearthed evidence of CIA complicity. Ridiculed uniformly by a mainstream media who had ignored--or covered up--this story throughout the 1980s, Webb was reassigned to a backwater suburban bureau by Mercury editor Jerry Ceppos, and resigned in disgrace.
Yet the public record seems to bear out Webb's investigation.
The CIA inspector general's report, released in January, 1998, confirmed that unnamed CIA authorities had effectively blocked federal investigations of Contra drug trafficking. It also gave evidence of the complicity of William Casey and the Reagan administration by frustrating independent investigations for political reasons (this was also the era of the Iran/Contra "arms for hostages" scandal).
Another important story under-reported by America's "liberal" media. Thank you, Gary Webb.
Dr. David Kelly, the British microbiologist and former UNSCOM weapons inspector who was named as a possible source of a BBC report that the British government had "sexed up" its dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, died of self-inflicted wounds according to the official British government Hutton Inquiry. Two paramedics who attended to Kelly's body at the apparent death scene question this finding. If Kelly had slit his wrist, thereby opening arteries, much more blood would have been apparent at the scene. There was, according to the medics, very little blood.
While some experts question the paramedics' forensic qualifications and dispute their claims (one such expert suggesting that "the blood could have gone straight into the ground"), others point to them as further evidence that the Hutton Inquiry was flawed--perhaps by design.
There are no plans to reopen the inquiry. Case closed?
In an information environment that is trying to control, manipulate, and "spin" the news, an information environment that seeks to focus on "good news" only, it is important to (at the very least) take note of the "bad news," and there is much bad news still in Iraq.
The insurgency is far from dead. Even "pacified" Falluja is seeing renewed violence. Elections will take place next month, even as new questions arise about their relevance. We are increasing our troop strength to 150,000--the highest number of troops in Iraq since the beginning of the war (by the way, there are still only about 11,000 troops in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden continues to hide).
And, we're told, there will be no draft.
The Bush administration already has a global reputation for playing fast and loose with the truth. And it is not a reputation unearned.
Misinformation is one of the keystones of this adminstration, at least since the buildup to the US invasion of Iraq. "Strategic" information is a logical next step.
Is there real compunction about the possibility of misleading not only our "enemies," but also the American people? Officially, yes. But you be the judge.
"This is tough business," said General Kimmitt, who now serves as deputy director of plans for the American military command in the Middle East. "Are we trying to inform? Yes. Do we offer perspective? Yes. Do we offer military judgment? Yes. Must we tell the truth to stay credible? Yes. Is there a battlefield value in deceiving the enemy? Yes. Do we intentionally deceive the American people? No."
The rub, General Kimmitt said, is operating among those sometimes conflicting principles.
"There is a gray area," he said. "Tactical and operational deception are proper and legal on the battlefield." But "in a worldwide media environment," he asked, "how do you prevent that deception from spilling out from the battlefield and inadvertently deceiving the American people?"
Sunday, December 12, 2004
A Red State Appeals Court has thrown out a felony child abuse conviction against a Christian pastor. The court ruled that the "significant" bruises and welts left by Pastor Paul Eric King's wooden paddle on the backside of an eight-year-old girl (a "disciplinary problem") did not constitute felony child abuse.
Onward, Christian paddlers...
Here's one for the "values voters": you justify going to war in a country that hasn't threatened us, hasn't supported Al Qa'ida specifically or terrorism generally, and had no weapons of mass destruction (but does have a great deal of oil), all the while turning global support away from us and creating new generations of terrorists; but you can't justify fully supporting the United Nations, international nuclear test ban treaties, international protocols for the removal of pollutants from the air, global labor regulation, or anything else that might hamstring corporate profits.
The US is the #1 manufacturer and dealer of international weapons of mass destruction; the richest country on earth, with the highest per capita income; the longest lifespan and among the lowest infant mortality rates. We reap all the benefits of global capitalism as we exploit the resources, labor, and markets of other nations, but think ourselves immune to any global responsibility.
Judge us by how we treat the weakest among us? God help America.
Another under-reported story at a time when we're obsessed with violence at sporting events and dispossessed hawks in New York City. The quality of a society's information says a lot about the quality of the society itself.
Let's see if mainstream media make this news. Or not.
My problem, per se, is not with faith in the White House, or faith in the halls of Congress, or faith at all. My problem is with the co-opting of the language of faith, hi-jacking faith to do the business of, well, business.
The unnecessary national dependence on oil (and consequently on foreign oil), the need to prop up or create middle-eastern oil producing nations to serve that dependence, the indebtedness to special interests, the outsourcing of jobs, the curtailment of civil liberties, and--of course--the hostility to Gays, Lesbians, war dissenters, and anything "un-American;" all of this is defended, rationalized, and perpetuated using the language of faith.
What would Jesus do indeed?
Friday, December 10, 2004
This is another troubling example of how the fundamentalist right can reduce "right" and "wrong," "truth" and "lies" to matters of mere "opinion."
The Cary Christian School in Cary, North Carolina is providing its students with a booklet that purports to show why slavery was sanctioned by the Bible, how slaves were really well treated and lived "comfortable lives," and that there are essentially two perspectives on slavery, a northern one and a southern one.
This is Red State thinking at its most fundamental.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Bill Moyers is a national treasure. When he speaks, people ought to listen to him--and when they are within earshot of him, they do. Last week, however, when Moyers was given the Global Environmental Citizen Award by Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, there was little bally-hoo, and almost no media coverage. His remarks went, in the media, unremarked.
Moyers had some important things to say about the environment, the difficulties inherent in environmental journalism, and the influence of faith and ideology on public environmental policy. While his remarks were limited to these issues, it is easy to infer from his remarks how faith and ideology have had an impact on other areas, such as civil liberties and foreign policy.
I hope you read this.
An excerpt:"The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist, I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need to match the science of human health is what the ancient Israelites called 'hocma' - the science of the heart...the capacity to see...to feel...and then to act...as if the future depended on you."
Col. David Hackworth, US Army (Ret.), writing on the Soldiers for the Truth website, says Army and National Guard recruiting numbers are falling precipitously--and he supplies the data. Is anyone surprised? This is not a war that anyone particularly wanted, or one that was in any way necessary to our national security.
The left has been talking about the reinstitution of the draft. Some among the right have been, too. When will this administration or, for that matter, the media look at our situation in Iraq clearly and objectively? At some point, sane minds have to break out of the PNAC mold...
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
I've written before about television "journalism's" abysmal coverage of our presidential elections, of the war in Iraq, and of the world. In this New York Review of Books article, Michael Massing goes into some detail.
"On The O'Reilly Factor, the central question for weeks was 'Should CBS fire Dan Rather?' Bill O'Reilly spent far more time dissecting Rather's mistakes at CBS than he did analyzing Bush's deeds in Iraq.
"And that's how Fox wants it. The most striking feature of its coverage of the war in Iraq was, in fact, its lack of coverage."
The recent election was decided on values? I don't think so, not on moral values, anyway, and certainly not on the enlightenment values that defined our nation two and a half centuries ago. When you compromise--or jettison--values of democracy, civil liberties, freedom of speech, the right to dissent, and due process of law (for starters), while at the same time alienating historic allies and inciting global hatred of America, all in the name of "security" (which is starting to look more and more like strategic interests), you've lost the war before it starts
"The fact the Bush administration says we are fighting for freedom and democracy (having long ago abandoned fictions about weapons of mass destruction and terrorist ties) does not make it so. We must look at the reality, no matter how painful. "
"Iraq is better off without Saddam." We promised them greater civil liberty. We're giving them "a police state." And if "coalition" forces manage to keep Falluja out of bounds to insurgents, is it unlikely to expect they'll pick another center of operations? Without a doubling of forces in Iraq (and, consequently, a draft), how many cities can we contain?
"The US military is drawing up plans to keep insurgents from regaining control of this battle-scarred city, but returning residents may find that the measures make Fallujah look more like a police state than the democracy they have been promised."
At George Washington University today (December 8, 2004), Governor Howard Dean spoke about the future direction of the Democratic Party.
He questioned the often-trumpeted assumption that George W. Bush's win signaled the GOP's monopoly on "values." The Democratic Party, he said, has historically been the party of social justice, of civil rights, of workers and wage-earners, and of the disenfranchised. The question, he said, is not one of moving to the left or to the right, but of focussing on a destination, and getting there.
"The destination of the Democratic Party," he said, "means making it a party that can communicate with its supporters and with all Americans. Politics is at its best when we create and inspire a sense of community. The tools that were pioneered in my campaign -- like blogs, and meetups, and streaming video -- are just a start. We must use all of the power and potential of technology as part of an aggressive outreach to meet and include voters, to work with the state parties, and to influence media coverage. "
Abu Ghraib was not an isolated incident. And the abuse did not end with its discovery. And we are asked to believe that "a few bad apples" are responsible.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Although there has been very little in the American (mainstream? liberal?) media about this, the international press and the internet have been abuzz since April, and again in November, as "coalition" forces attempted to take, and finally did "take" Falluja.
A lot of innocent civilians died both in April and again in November. Yet the US military, and the media, continue to make the ridiculous claim that there were "no civilian casualties."
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Pictures posted on a commercial photo-sharing website appear to show abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The timestamp on the pictures dates them at months before Abu Ghraib.
Abu Ghraib was not an isolated incident. This is how people behave during war--even Americans. When your job is to kill people, why is it so hard to imagine one might also abuse them?
The difference between Abu Ghraib (and Guantanamo) and the new pictures mentioned here, is that the Abu Ghraib and Gitmo abuses (or "torture" as ICRC and US officials seem to agree) appear to have been a systematic procedure for gathering "intelligence" and gaining "confessions."
You can take issue with some of the interpretations offered by this news analysis (from Muslimedia.com), but the facts are solid. And when you consider that the facts are solid, it is hard to interpret them much different than offered here.
This is another example of a view of reality far different than that which is coming from Washington and the "liberal" media.
Friday, December 03, 2004
A none-too-subtle case of sabre rattling, here.
How long will it be before the events of 2002 and early 2003 are replayed? Will anyone look with a reasonable amount of scrutiny at US intelligence coming out or Iran? Or is "the fix" in at the CIA already?
And with US troop strength stretched to its limits in Iraq, will an invasion of Iran mean the reinstitution of a draft?
Molly Ivins asks how Americans can accept this kind of behavior from our government. And it is a good question.
Isn't torture one of the practices we entered Iraq (supposedly) to end? And yet, this seems to be a tacit admission by the government that we are not above barbarity. Saddam Hussein, after all, was one of "ours" until 1990.
Have we gotten to the point in the US where we will not only sacrifice our own civil liberties in the name of "security," but also countenance torture? Do Americans really accept this? Is this what we voted for in November?
Despite the high-profile "victory" in Falluja, the insurgency goes on. Baghdad--and major arteries connecting Baghdad to the rest of the world--is far from pacified, and insurgents who weren't killed or captured in Falluja have moved on to Mosul and other cities.
While there is no question that the US and the "interim Iraqi government" are committed to January elections, and that elections will be held--come Hell or high water--it is far from certain that those elections will have much meaning, if a majority of Iraqis sit them out out of fear, or if major portions of the country are under siege and unable to hold elections.
Whatever government is elected in January runs the risk of being seen as "illegitimate" or as a "puppet government" if elections are held under the threat of violence.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Reports are widespread today from several states that the ACLU is filing a number of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to determine the extent and nature of FBI surveillance and investigations of environmental, religious, and anti-war groups.
Pay attention to this story. Of course, you should be paying attention to all of these stories...
In the same week that the International Red Cross criticized US use of "torture" at Guantanamo, a Federal judge began hearing arguments in the case of 500 foreign prisoners detained as "enemey combatants."
Before the election, the Bush administration told the American people that there would be no draft and, in fact, political pressure seems to be holding the possibility of a draft in abeyance--for the moment. But with a growing Iraqi insurgency and concerns over Iran and North Korea increasing, it is difficult to believe that the Bush administration will be able to maintain its committment to an all volunteer armed forces.
At the beginning of 1965, there were 23,000 troops in Vietnam. By the fall of 1965, there were 150,000. By 1967, there were over a half million US troops fighting and dying for a corrupt Vietnamese government on behalf of a populace that didn't want us there.
Is this "expansion" to a higher troop level--150,000--a temporary fix to the chaos in Iraq? Or is it the beginning of a series of escalations?
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
When I first saw this website a month ago (and linked to it through this weblog), only a few hundred pictures had been posted. In the month since election day, the site has grown enormously. I offer it once again for your enjoyment, and for your reassurance that atleast half of Americans are okay.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who does not believe any longer that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to the US invasion, harbored or aided al Qa'ida terrorists, or was involved in the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 that this administration is no friend of the truth.
Even with the demise of the Office of Strategic Influence in 2002, the Bush administration has undertaken a systematic campaign to control truthful information, and to create and disseminate untruths in an effort to keep Americans--and the rest of the world--in the dark.
Another chapter in the on-going saga continues to unfold...