Wednesday, March 30, 2005
I have not fallen off the face of the earth (much to chagrin of several people I know who shall remain nameless--hear that, Howie?). Life--REAL life--is intervening big time right now, and IN THE DARK has remained for the last week or so, well, in the dark.
One of life's interventions about which I am fairly pleased, but which has kept me away from this blog, is my final submission of a manuscript which I've been working on, off and on, for the last twenty years. It is called (at this moment, anyway) Empowerment and Impotence: The Clash of Cultures and Media of Communication in Eighteenth Century Ireland and it will be published by the Edwin Mellen Press at a date to be announced. It's a book that investigates and tries to answer three questions: 1] Why did printing come so late to Ireland? 2] Why, once it appeared, did it spread so slowly? 3] Why, once it did spread and become a cultural phenomenon, did it serve to spread the English, rather than the Irish, language? There's a lot more to this story than is suggested by these three brief questions, but that's the nickel explanation.
This weekend, I am off to beautiful Nassau County, Long Island, New York to visit two of my three grown children there (my middle kid, Brigid, is currently spending a year teaching English in Tongliao, China). I will be visiting, sharing a beer with, and perhaps staying at least one night with my "right-wing friend from NY," Howie (you know I love ya, Howie). So it is very unlikely I will even think about blogging for the next several days, even if I have the physical opportunity to do so.
My apologies to the dozens (yes, there are dozens, and no, we're NOT the dailyKos) of readers who come by once, twice, or several times a week to read IN THE DARK. I promise to continue picking through the news and highlighting stories and bits of information that are important, but largely ignored in the mainstream.
See ya later.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
The right will be unmoved by this. I know.
My friend Howie will continue to insist that there is no "smoking gun." It was just a few bad apples in an isolated incident. Rumsfeld didn't know about it. Bush didn't know about it. No one knew about it.
But read this article and consider these portions:
The revelations in the memo, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) , generally amplify previously disclosed FBI concerns that military interrogators at the island prison were using coercive interrogation methods that could compromise any evidence of terrorist activities they obtained.
[FBI agents who had witnessed interrogations] met with Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who took over the prison in October 2002, and another Army general to "explain our position (Law Enforcement techniques) vs. DOD," the author wrote in a previously disclosed portion of the memo. "Both agreed the Bureau has their way of doing business and DOD has their marching orders from" Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
[Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra] said "DOD did review this" memo before its initial release last year. He said he could not comment on whether the Defense Department had requested the redactions or explain why he could not comment.
The right will be unmoved by this. I know.
Will we have forgotten it by next week?
Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction. --Barack Obama
A federal judge has extended a temporary restraining order barring the US from the practice of "rendition," the involuntary transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to foreign countries where they can be interrogated in an atmosphere more conducive to "making them talk."
This is the latest chapter in an ongoing drama, the likes of which I have never seen--and never, ever believed I would live to see--in America. The storyline goes something like this:
First we set up illegal interrogation camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cuba where prisoners where physically and psychologically abused, some were tortured, and over a hundred died--some beaten to death.
American officials--and Americans themselves--denied it at first: "Oh, it's an isolated incident perpetrated by a few bad apples." And, of course, right-wingers put the blame on the "liberal media" for blowing up this "isolated incident" all out of proportion.
But then evidence was uncovered that Abu Ghraib was not, in fact, an isolated incident, and abuse and torture of prisoners was going on everywhere that the US had set up illegal interrogation camps. Details emerged about the Bush administration's intellectual contortions to allow torture, but classify it as something less than torture.
Here come the rationalizations: "This is a new kind of war, and we can't rely on 'quaint' and 'obsolete' tactics to fight it."
We now have the situation where we want to remove terrorism suspects (and make no mistake about it--we are not talking about anyone who has been tried and convicted of a crime, but are merely suspects) from US jurisdiction and send them to a client state so that they can be tortured.
We've already had the justifications: "Hey, if stepping on human rights protects the US, I'm all for it." And, of course, the real problem is not that torture seems to have become a policy in the US "war on terror," it is that the damned liberal media keep talking about it.
The common thread running consistently through this storyline is undeniable, it is empirically provable, and it is disgusting, whether Americans are perpetrating it, or sending prisoners to other countries to perpetrate it: TORTURE.
George W. Bush has spoken frequently about his desire to bypass "the filter" of US mass media. He's been pretty successful. But neither he nor his administration has given "the filter" much credit for how well it filters out information that would be damaging to (what the administration defines as) US strategic interests.
We've already noted the American University study that looked at how embedded reporters, and the news media in general, censored their own reports (Editor & Publisher has some more thoughts on the study).
Now this article by Chris Floyd in the Moscow Times tells how the American mainstream media have ignored a report by the health ministry of the US-backed Iraqi interim government that describes US forces' use, during the attack on Fallujah, of chemical weapons, napalm, cluster bombs on civilian areas, and attacks on hospitals.
A rather long essay by Tom Engelhart introduces an equally long historical article by Dilip Hiro. Stick with it; it's worth it. Be sure to follow Engelhart's links to understand the full context.
Somehow this one originally slipped by me, perhaps because it was posted last Thursday, St. Patrick's Day...
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
At the gaggle this morning, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan defended a law Bush signed as governor of Texas in 1999:The legislation he signed is consistent with his views. You know, this is a complex case and I don’t think such uninformed accusations offer any constructive ways to address this matter…[P]rior to the passage of the ‘99 legislation that he signed, there were no protections…The legislation was there to help ensure that actions were being taken that were in accordance with the wishes of the patient or the patient’s family.McClellan’s statement grossly distorts the nature of the law. The law does not ensure that actions are taken “in accordance with the wishes of the patient or the patient’s family.” In fact it codifies and legalizes the ability of doctors to stop treatment even if it goes against the explicit directive of the patient or the patient’s family.
Check out Section 166.046, Subsection (e):If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer under Subsection (d). The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility. The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision required under Subsection (b) is provided to the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient …
Where are the "liberal media" on this? Where is the national outrage? I mean, this law has actually been used to end the life of a six-month-old child, in defiance of his mother's wishes. Tom Delay would call that "murder," wouldn't he?
File this one under "to obvious even to comment on."
Monday, March 21, 2005
The "left wing media" are beginning to kick into gear now in what I have been predicting will be another pro-war, pro-intervention propaganda blitz: the growth of left-wing populism in Latin America.
The anonymous editorial writer speaks of "a new bloc of Latin "socialist" (i.e., undemocratic) regimes" as if to say that any democratically elected government choosing a path that does not emphatically embrace global, unregulated, laissez faire, "free market" capitalism is, ipso facto, undemocratic. From this view, it is logically impossible to democratically elect anything but a capitalist regime. Am I the only person who sees a logically flawed argument here? Where am I going wrong?
In fact, a Washington Post news article from November 3, 2004 (why does that date ring a bell?) said of the trend in democratically elected Latin American governments
"...most of the region's newly elected officials accept the principles of market economics and democracy but also believe that free trade and economic liberalism have not lifted the region's poor as promised, requiring a stronger role for the state. Some also gained popularity by distancing themselves from the Bush administration's foreign policies."Furthermore,
Where, exactly, is the threat to democracy in this?
"Latin America, a region of nearly 500 million people with enormous disparity between rich and poor, has gone through a 'bad spell,' said Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. Crime and violence are sky-high, growth has been flat for years, and some countries such as Argentina have gone through deep financial crises.
'People have been unhappy with their governments and voting them out of office,' Hakim said, adding that 'the Bush administration's favorite politicians are not winning elections' in the region.
But while those winning may be part of a 'leftist trend,' he added, they are 'not really rejecting the free market.' Rather, he said, they are 'saying a stronger commitment is needed to address the social needs.'"
The answer: there is no threat to democracy. There is a threat to global, unregulated, laissez faire, "free market" capitalism.
There is a difference between democracy and capitalism. One is a political system, the other an economic system. There is nothing inherently undemocratic about socialism or social welfare or left-of-center social policies.
So why is the "liberal" Washington Post publishing such an alarmist editorial?
Last Wednesday, March 16, 2005, six-month-old Sun Hudson died after doctors at Texas Children's Hospital removed his ventilator. Sun was born with an untreatable congenital disease. His condition was terminal, and no amount of treatment could have saved him. Sun was terminally ill, but he was conscious. He was not in a persistent vegetative state like Terri Schiavo. What is remarkable about the case is that Sun was removed from life support by force of a court order, and despite the objections of his mother, who wanted doctors to do all they could to prolong his short life. This is the first time a U.S. judge has allowed a hospital to cut off a child's life support against a parent's wishes.
Also in Texas, the family of 68-year-old Spiro Nikolouzos is fighting a Houston hospital to keep their husband and father alive after a court ordered the removal of life support. The hospital claimed Nikolouzos is brain dead, but a neurologist disagrees, citing good flow of blood to the brain, unassisted breathing, and the presence of EKG pulses. While the exact nature of Nikolouzes's neurological condition may be in question, and while his family claims he has been coming in and out of consciousness, what is not in question is that he is not in a persistent vegetative state like Terri Schiavo.
What these two cases have in common is that they result from the "Texas Futile Care Law" (chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety Code), which allows doctors and hospitals to remove life support from patients with terminal illnesses and who are unable to pay for extraordinary life support measures on their own. Let me put this another way: this is a law to protect hospitals and insurance companies from paying for the extraordinary care of patients who cannot afford this care on their own. It takes the life-support decisions out of the hands of family members or legal guardians, and puts those life-support decisions in the hands of hospital administrators and insurance companies.
The Texas Futile Care Law was enacted by the Texas legislature in 1999 and signed into law by then-Governor George W. Bush.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Already my right wing friends (that includes you, Howie--first and foremost) are asking if the media were asked to "squash" positive stories about the war. You know, that "liberal media" and the "vast left-wing conspiracy" that's engulfed our nation...
Well, no, Howie. The media were by and large self-censoring around negative stories, and tended to emphasize the "good news" (such as it is) about the war. You can see an executive summary of the study here, and the entire study here.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever, by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;his baptism in Jordan river; his death on cross for my salvation;his bursting from the spicèd tomb; his riding up the heavenly way;his coming at the day of doom: I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the powerof the great love of cherubim;the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour; the service of the seraphim; confessors' faith, apostles' word, the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls; all good deeds done unto the Lord, and purity of virgin souls. I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heaven the glorious sun's life-giving ray, the whiteness of the moon at even, the flashing of the lightning free, the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks, the stable earth, the deep salt sea, around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to hearken to my need; the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward; the word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me,Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three. Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word: praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY TO ALL!!!
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
So, what else is new?
See the full poll results at PollingReport.com.
One of the reasons I am optimistic about the human race (and about America's future) is that even though people can be fooled with lies and innuendo and propaganda, you cannot negate their essential goodness and their desire for truth. People don't want to do the wrong thing; they see a complex world and want to make the difficult choices that are for the best. That is why humans are so dependent on good information. When we get bad information, we will probably make bad decisions (hear that, Howie?). And we have been getting bad information in this country for a long time now.
So, there are pieces of this poll that are stunning. Consider this:
61% still believe Iraq provided direct aid to al Qa'ida.
56% still believe Iraq had WMDs that have judt not been found.
55% still believe that the Bush administration did not intentionally try to mislead the American people into war.
This is all, I suppose, understandable; as I said, I don't believe any creature that is essentially good wants to do the wrong thing, and so they will cling to beliefs that justify their decisions, even the in face of hard evidence that those beliefs have no foundation in reality.
On the plus side, reality seems to have sunk in at least a bit on the overall execution of the war. Take for example:
57% disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war.
57% don't believe that Bush has a clear plan for handling it.
53% think that, weighing the cost versus the benefits, the war was not worth fighting.
70% think the number of US casualties is unacceptable.
71% think the war has made the US position in the world weaker (41%) or has left it unchanged (30%).
54% think that the possibilities for democracy in the world as a result of this war is either less likely (9%) or unchanged (45%).
This flies in the face of the long-term goals of PNAC, which wants to project US force across the earth making the world safe for global capital. Americans don't want to do that; that's one of the reasons, I believe, that PNAC is mentioned so rarely (if EVER) in the mainstream media. Americans are idealistic and courageous enough never to hide from necessary warfare; but we're also decent enough not to want to fight indiscriminately. PNAC makes no such distinctions, and the American people, if they knew about PNAC, would be astonished and angry.
Which gets me to another point about this mainstream article. It mentions and quotes William Kristol as a supporter of the war against Iraq, identifying him as "editor and publisher of the conservative Weekly Standard," which is true. What it does not mention (and someone please explain to me why?) is that Kristol is also the Chairman of the PNAC, and one of the chief authors of the argument for WMDs in Iraq and for US military intervention. As such, he is one of the people most responsible for the war. Isn't that an important piece of information the American people might like to know?
Or that PNAC's Statement of Principles was developed by Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby, Jeb Bush, and others?
Admittedly a biased source (Syria Times, Mar. 14, Sudan), but you're smart enough to pick the facts from the BS, right? Give it a read.
Is the "coalition of the willing" unraveling? The shooting of Giuliana Sgrena and Nicola Calipari continues to have repercussions in the rest of the world, even if we remain largely IN THE DARK about them in the US.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Sometimes I despair of our ever getting back to a place in America where I believe bullshit will be recognized as bullshit. We hate "the academy," think that the poor, minorities, labor, differently-abled, women, etc., are "special interests" (but corporations and the wealthy aren't), and don't like the idea that "we came from monkeys."
We belive lies our leaders tell us, even months after the lies are brought to light. Well, America, if some of you get your way, all of our children will be amongst a very small minority in the world of kids educated by people who eschew science in favor of religious myths.
Monday, March 14, 2005
I realize that Frankfurt wrote this piece as an essay about 15 years ago, but I am convinced that he, his editor, and Princeton University Press saw that the time was ripe for a very public discussion of his topic. As a sort of follow-up to the NY Times article linked below (via TRUTHOUT) regarding the Bush administration's "fast-and-loose" approach to reality, I wanted to bring to your attention a couple of really salient points about bullshit.
Frankfurt talks about truth and lies, and argues that both honest people and liars have a similar respect for the truth; the honest person innately respects truth for its own sake, and the liar implicitly respects truth because, without the truth, there is no lie.
On the other hand, a person who undertakes to bullshit his way through has much more freedom...He does not limit himself to inserting a certain flasehood at a specific point, and thus he is not constrained by the truths surrounding that point or intersecting it. He is prepared, so far as required, to fake the context as well.
For most people, the fact that a statement is false constitutes in itself a reason, however weak and easily over-ridden, not to make the statement...For the bullshitter it is in itself neither a reason in favor or a reason against. Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or to describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way bullshitting tends to.
The bullshitter ignores these demands (of factuality and truth) altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are. [all emphases mine]
All the "corrected stories," all the "hoard work," all the back-peddling, all the contradictions of the Bush administration captured in a book of less than a hundred pages. I ask you: does this not sound like what we've been living through for the last four years?
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, "middle class" tax cuts, WMDs, Saddam/al Qa'ida link, terror training camps in Iraq, Saddam was involved in 9/11, "Cakewalk" warfare, "we have enough troops," "mission acomplished," Pvt. Jessica Lynch, Armstrong Williams, Jeff Gannon, The Social Security "crisis," "we do not condone torture..." This list could go on and on.
Why anyone in this country with half an ounce of intelligence believes anything that issues forth from this White House is beyond me.
It's a rather long article, but a good one about the Bush administration'd cynical efforts to lie using the time-honored institution of public relations, and "pseudo-journalism."
Or, to call a spade a spade,
How could any but the most inept administration allow this to happen? "We know they have weapons of mass destruction, and we know ehere they are." But you don't know enough about this weapons factory to protect it from looters?
Them's fightin' wurds in this territory, cowboy....And yet, I can't really argue with you. I see no real evidence of democracy in Afghanistan, I'm very suspicious of newest butchers in Baghdad, I think a real vote in Lebanon would see Hezbollah emerge as the dominant political force there, and the noises in Saudi Arabia and Egypt just that--noises meant to take our attention away from the fact that no fundamental change is going to take place there anytime soon.
"The claim that democracy is making progress in the Middle East is a fraud, the Lebanese opposition are not democrats, and if free elections were actually permitted, the country would be governed by Hezbollah, the author writes."
It worked so well in Afghanistan that they just moved the whole company over to Iraq, right Howie?
"Among those implicated in the killings at Bagram were members of Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C. The battalion went on to Iraq, where some members established the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib and have been implicated in some abuses there. "Of course, none of this is a smoking gun. Right-wingers want to see proof that someone actually signed an authorization for torture (as if). Even then they wouldn't be convinced, or they wouldn't care. At the very least, this is a sign of COLOSSAL INCOMPETENCE in the leadership of the DOD and of the Army. If this unit was killing prisoners in Afghanistan and no one knew about it, and then they were sent over to Iraq to run Abu Ghraib, and none of this was for the specific purpose of setting up an infrastructure of torture, then someone is INCREDIBLY STUPID.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Fascinating stuff. For those of you who still believe that left and right in America don't live in two entirely different conceptual worlds, two worlds of discourse, two divergent realities, check out this nifty "network map" of political book sales on Orgnet.com.
How do we regain national unity in such a divided information environment?
This doesn't necessarily mean anything all by itself. But it does add an intriguing twist to the story. The last line is the most telling of the article:
The patrol had reportedly been tasked with securing the passage of US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte.UPDATE: See also: ABC News, The Chicago Tribune, The Bradenton (Florida) Herald Today, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Kansas City Star.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
ENGLISH EXCLUSIVE: Ex-Marine Says Story of Saddam's Capture Capture a Hoax // UPDATE : The "Hoax" May Be a Hoax
Conflicting accounts: from the National Ledger's Scribe Journal, Little Green Footballs, and The Neoconservative say this story is "a load of bull." None of this, of course, is unexpected. But the counter-arguments are strong. Your discretion is advised. But I have a question: where the heck are the mainstream media who might have the resources to investigate this claim and answer the question once and for all? Answer: AWOL!
I'm not sure I know what to make of this one (although the idea that this administration has faked photo ops before--"mission accomplished," plastic Thanksgiving turkeys, saving Private Lynch, etc.), so I'll just let it speak for itself. Of one thing I feel pretty certain: the mainstream media will avoid this story like the plague.
A former U.S. Marine of Lebanese origin, once part of the Marine division that undertook the capture of Saddam Hussein, says that the official American version of his capture was staged, filmed and photographed by U.S. forces, and that the actual arrest took place a day earlier than has been reported.
According to former Marine Sergeant. Nadim Abou Rabeh, the film of Saddam's capture at the bottom of a hole, in the suburbs west of Baghdad, was made by a special filmmaking unit of the U.S. military attached to the 4th Infantry Division.
The former Marine, interviewed in a village of the Baabada District in Southern Lebanon, said that Saddam Hussein was detained on Friday, December 12, 2003, and not on Saturday the 13th, as has been reported by the American military in Iraq. 'I was among the unit of twenty American soldiers that discovered him,' Nadim said. 'Eight of us of eastern origin and who speak Arabic, were assigned to raid and inspection operations with support from helicopter gunships and tanks. The operation took place over three days in houses close to Tikrit, about 15 km [9.3 miles] away. Saddam was arrested in a rural home, and not in a hole, and only after offering fierce resistance. One soldier of Sudanese origin was killed.'
Nadim said that Saddam was detained after a large number of forces imposed control over the area. The military filmmaking group worked throughout Friday night and into Saturday preparing to make the movie and arranging the scene, including the hole in the ground. 'Saddam's guards offered little resistance, but Saddam himself shot more than 20 bullets from his gun, from a room on the second floor of the house, and it was I and a colleague of Moroccan origin that entered the house and spoke to him in Arabic,' Nadim said. "We told him to surrender and offer us no resistance, and he answered us: 'If you were Americans I would have fired at
you.' He then aimed his gun at us, and when he saw an American officer he became
agitated, clung to a concrete post near the second-floor balcony and flung himself off the porch to the ground, where he was caught and had his hands tied.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
For those playing along at home, here's an update on something I've been watching since before the last Presidential election. For a round-up of what I've written, look here, and follow the links to earlier stories. It seems very unlikely that George W. Bush's pals in the PNAC will stand very long for left-wing governments in the western hemisphere--whether they were democratically elected or not.
A four day symposium, sponsored by the Club of Madrid, is looking at the causes of terrorism and discussing how to stop it. Some of the delegates appear not to see the US as the beacon of peace and freedom:
"'A nation like the United States cannot speak of liberty and democracy, while at the same time weakening the United Nations,' said Brazil's former president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso in his inaugural address to the conference.
'Unilateralism weakens the international system and increases uncertainty,' Cardoso said, responding to a speech by U.S. President George W. Bush. 'A war like the one in Iraq must not be repeated,' Cardoso said. Cordoso is president of the Club of Madrid."
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
From News24.com, a South African Web News service and subscriber to AFP, the French news agency, comes this report from Italy. We seem to have all but dismissed this story as an "unfortunate accident," and have deemed any contention that US forces might have in fact targeted Communist journalist Giuliana Sgrena as "absurd." Case closed. But maybe not. Even as we choose to ignore the possible, much of the world wants a comprehensive and independent investigation. That doesn't sound subversive to me. At least it doesn't sound subversive of democracy, although it may sound subversive of totalitarianism.
Rome - Italy's foreign minister Gianfranco Fini demanded on Tuesday that the United States 'identify and punish' those responsible for the shooting of Rome's top intelligence agent in Iraq, Nicola Calipari. Fini dismissed Washington's view that a lack of communication was responsible for the death of Calipari, who died in a hail of gunfire from United States troops as he escorted a freed Italian hostage to Baghdad airport last Friday. Calipari had made 'all the necessary contacts' with US authorities in Baghdad, the foreign minister said.
From CNN.com, more from Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini:
Fini gave parliament a detailed reconstruction of the incident, insisting the Italians had been driving slowly and had received no warning before the attack -- counter to suggestions by U.S. authorities. "The car was traveling at a velocity that couldn't have been more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour," Fini said, adding there were no attempts to stop the car as indicated by the U.S. military.
Also from CNN.com, this account from Sgrena herself:
The driver twice called the embassy and in Italy that we were heading towards the airport that I knew was heavily patrolled by U.S. troops. They told me that we were less than a kilometer away...when...I only remember fire. At that point, a rain of fire and bullets hit us, shutting up forever the cheerful voices of a few minutes earlier. The driver started yelling that we were Italians. "We are Italians, we are Italians." Nicola Calipari threw himself on me to protect me and immediately, I repeat, immediately I heard his last breath as he was dying on me. I must have felt physical pain. I didn't know why. But then I realized my mind went immediately to the things the captors had told me. They declared that they were committed to the fullest to freeing me but I had to be careful, "the Americans don't want you to go back." Then when they had told me I considered those words superfluous and ideological. At that moment they risked acquiring the flavor of the bitterest of truths, at this time I cannot tell you the rest.Meanwhile, Sgrena's boyfriend says that he believe's the Italian journalist's car was targeted for at least two reasons: 1] "The Americans and Italians knew about (Sgrena's) car coming," and 2] "They were 700m from the airport, which means that they had passed all checkpoints." He added, "Giuliana had information, and the US military did not want her to survive." This could be a reference to Sgrena's cryptic comment, noted above, "at this time, I cannot tell you the rest."
These contentions are, of course, in absolute contradiction of the American explanation.
Wouldn't the prudent, respectful, diplomatic, and just response be to say that the US is calling for a full investigation, and not to gratuitously label others' suspicions "absurd?"
The presumptive Prime Minister in a new Iraqi government (a man with close ties to Iran, and the leader of the Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, has accepted in principle an independent Kurdish region in a federal Iraq. At the same time, he is talking about "flushing out" Baathists in positions of power in the Iraqi security services, army and police. It is, we note, Sunnis and former Baathists who make up a large part of the insurgency. And to speak to them, negotiate with them, or even allow them--should they obey the Iraqi constitution--to be part of civil society is "unacceptable."
This is not an auspicious beginning of a new Iraq.
Also, Hakim says there will be no permanent US military bases in a free Iraq.
How far to the extreme right is John Bolton? He is an ideologue of the Project for a New American Century (along with William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams, Richard Perle, and Dan Quayle) and the American Enterprise Institute (along with Richard Perle, Newt Gingrich, Michael Novak, Lynne Cheney, Michael Ledeen, and Fred Thompson). Jesse Helms said of him in 2001, "John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world." He has said that after the situation is stabilized in Iraq, "it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea." So he fits in very well with the Bush administration.
He has worked against the Rome Treaty that established the International Criminal Court. He has worked against treaties that seek to stem the global proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons ("We do not support measures that would constrain legal trade and legal manufacturing of small arms and light weapons.") Since he became the Bush administration’s Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security in May 2001, he has overseen the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, undermined the Biological Weapons Convention, and shown public contempt for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. At the same time, it was under Bolton's "Arms Control" watch, that Pakistan sold nuclear technologies and resources to Iran, Lybia and North Korea.
He has said at various times "if the U.N. Secretary Building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," and--in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq--"There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States."
US Ambassador to the United Nations? I'll say this about the Bush administration: these folks are audacious.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Amid rising public anger, the Italian Government buried Nicola Calipari today, a victim of what the US calls "friendly fire," but which many think was another attck on journalists. Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena believes she may have been deliberately targeted, and her account of the incident contradicts the official US version that the Italian government car was speeding up to a checkpoint.
Al of this takes place in an atmosphere of growing doubt about US intentions toward international journalists and "uncontrolled information." There has been something a bit more than suspicion about the number of journalists killed in Iraq, and Eason Jordan recently stepped down as CNN'c news chief following blogged reports of off-the-record remarks he made about possible US journalistic targets in Iraq (please read them--let's not remain IN THE DARK about information of such potential significance). Many in the right-wing blogosphere refuse to accept even the possibility that the Bush administration imperative to control information might go so far as to try to intimidate journalists. If violence is not a means to that end, calumny certainly might be. As one right-wing wag put it today,
"Giuliana Sgrena is a propagandist for the Communist daily rag Il Manifesto. Her writings do not reveal a bias, they reveal that Sgrena is an enemy of the United States of America and responsible for supporting terrorists and the murder of American soldiers and civilians. "The point is this: neither to believe Sgrena's account nor the US account on face value. The American people deserve a full and unbiased investigation into this incident, as well as the other incidents in which journalists have been killed. And the point is this, too: I doubt the American people are going to get it.
Meanwhile, US forces further angered American allies by killing a Bulgarian soldier today in another case of "friendly fire."
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Is it all worth it?
Iraq's interim government is proving to be just as brutal as Saddam's was. But once upon a time, Saddam was our brute, and then he decided not to be. So now we have a new set set of brutes. And despite administration assurances that the interim government will be respectful of human rights in the future, Iraq yesterday reversed its two-week-old decision to be a part of the International Criminal Court. Freedom on the march? I don't think so.
Talks aimed at forming a government faltered yesterday on Kurdish demands for constitutional protections in the all-but-certainly-coming Islamic Republic of Iraq. Many Kurds want--at the very least--autonomy or complete separation. A break-up of Iraq could occur, as could civil war--or both.
John Abazaid says that we've (more or less) "broken the back" of the insurgency, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is all but finished. Yet, there are indications that the US has given up on the idea of military victory over the insurgents, opting instead for a negotiated settlement. Meanwhile, Al Qa'ida has gone online in Iraq, bragging about all the destructive, murderous acts they are getting away with. That sounds like we've got them on the run, doesn't it?
Oh, and this just in: there's a state of emergency in Iraq...
Great job, PNAC. Great job, Mr. President.
See details of the poll here.
Question for one half of America: Why did you vote for this guy?
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
On Hugh Hewitt's right-wing, pseudo-christian, doom-and-gloom hate-talk show last night, I heard that Mel Gibson was making a film based on Brian Dullaghan's novel, "Stealing From Angels."
Here's the gist of it, at least the significant parts (the parts that worry me). In the book, the "hero" finds himself in possession of a dangerous secret--the third secret shared with three poor, young children by the Virgin Mary in Fatima in 1917.
The first two secrets prophesied (if you read them that way) the creation of Godless Soviet Communism, and the world engulfed in war. The third secret remained just that--a secret--until 2000, when Pope John Paul II revealed it to the world (I'm not making this up). The entire text of the third secret can be found here, and believe me, it is cryptic, but it has to do with "tribulation." The Pope (it does not say which one) is "killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him," and likewise a group of bishops, priests and other religious men and women all die. An angel with a fiery sword yells, "penance, penance!" and more angels appear, gathering up the blood of the martyrs and sprinkling it on the souls of those making their way toward Heaven.
That's pretty much what it says. What it means, well--WOW--I sure don't know. I'll leave that to the theologians.
Here's what bothers me: it's another example of fundamentalist thinking that this is a clear sign that we are entering (or are squarely in the middle of) "the end times" and the apocalypse, replete with the Anti-Christ, the multi-headed beast, the rapture, etc., etc., etc., is upon us.
George W. Bush's presidency is so special to fundamentalists for this reason. He has managed to speak the language of fundamentalist "christians" (while at the same time making a mockery of real Christian values), and they can feel vindicated and assured of their own--and his--righteousness. Everything that has happened in the world in recent years--war in the middle east, the fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11, the "persecution" of Christianity in America, the "war between good and evil"--is a direct result of our being in "the end times" and none of it has to do with historical social, technological, political, economic, or military forces at work in the world of human intellectual freedom. A corollary to this is, of course, that nothing that the "christian nation" of America does in the world is bad, destructive, or harmful--it is all "god's work." The flip side of this is, of course, that anyone who criticizes this president, this administration, or American policy of any kind--foreign or otherwise--is somehow on the "side of evil," on the side of terror, presumably on the side of THE BEAST.
Scariest of all is that Bush actually believes he was "chosen by God."
BUT WAIT--THERE'S MORE...
The right-wing pseudo-press has recently been alive with reports that Mel Gibson had a personal audience with Sr. Lucia dos Santos, the last surviving Fatima visionary, to whom the Blessed Virgin is said to have appeared. The visit occured some time in the summer of 2004. Sr. Lucia died on Febrary 13, 2005 (a little over two weeks ago as I write). And NOW come reports of Gibson making this movie.
Why am I so bothered?
Remember "The Passion of the Christ?" Many people praised the film as being a "realistic" (whatever that means in this case) telling of the Gospel. Rather than the Gospels, the script seemed to come from a book by a 19th century German mystic, Anne Catherine Emmerich, titled The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I don't need to get into a protracted discussion of the relative merits or faults of the film. The point I want to make is this: Gibson's "Passion" is not a faithful retelling of the Gospels, but a faithful retelling of Emmerich's book. The problem is, most people look at it as a faithful retelling of the Gospels.
Now comes "Fatima" (or whatever it will be called). Will it be a faithful retelling of that story? Or will we find out, two years from now, that Sr. Lucia interpreted her vision--especially the "third secret"--in a particular way, and now only Mel Gibson knows "the whole truth?"
Get ready for the apocalypse.
A few really intelligent words from the remarkable Juan Cole (more and more frequently my first source when I need to understand middle-eastern social/economic/political/religious relationships) on the "Cedar Revolution" going on in Lebanon.
Juan goes through a fascinating and detailed account of the history of Lebanon and the relationships among Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Druzes, and Maronite Christians, explaining the geopolitical significance of the 1975-90 civil war in Lebanon. He concludes:
I don't think Bush had anything much to do with the current Lebanese national
movement except at the margins. Walid Jumblatt, the embittered son of Kamal whom the Syrians defeated in 1976 at the American behest, said he was inspired by the fall of Saddam. But this sort of statement from a Druze warlord strikes me as just as manipulative as the news conferences of Ahmad Chalabi, who is also inspired by Saddam's fall. Jumblatt has a long history of anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment that makes his sudden conversion to neoconism likely a mirage. He has wanted the Syrians back out since 1976, so it is not plausible that anything changed for him in 2003.
Chris Albritton also throws in his two cents, seconding Juan's motion.
(Cole) argues, convincingly, that Bush’s influence in Lebanon is marginal, at best, which jives with my sources who say Bush is not to be thanked for this. (I’m reminded of the credit his father received for ending the Cold War. History, it seems, can be made just by showing up on time.)
Very little about this so far in the mainstream media....not the kind of story that this administration or the corporate-owned and corporate-controlled mass media want people thinking and talking about--they'd prefer we remain IN THE DARK.
Reuters covered it briefly, so the story is certainly available to the mass media. WQAD (Iowa) and the Kansas City Star ran a story on their websites, apparently provided by the Associated Press, so again the mass media are certainly aware of the filing of this lawsuit.
Since the story of Abu Ghraib broke a little less than a year ago, I've been fascinated by the way this story has been covered--as well as how it has not been covered. We've had the denials ("Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident perpetrated by a few bad apples"), we've had the obfuscations ("Well, sure we rough 'em up a little--they're terrorists, after all--but the US would NEVER engage in torture"), we've had the justifications ("This is a new kind of war with a new kind of enemy, and we've got to respond with every means possible"). But I see very little "reporting" in the mainstream media that points out the fact--and it is a FACT--that torture is wrong, morally reprehensible, and completely and absolutely UNAMERICAN.
Or would this somehow be evidence of a liberal bias....?
I'll give the media the benefit of the doubt. It's early still (just around noon CST). We'll see pages and pages on this lawsuit tomorrow morning, and the evening newscasts will run it as their lead story, right?