Bob's Links and Rants
Friday, April 09, 2004
First day of talks here in Caracas is complete. We heard from a couple of professors--one an expert on the overall history of modern Venezuela, the other an expert on the oil industry. Some interesting facts:
- The society here is very polarized. The majority of the people, who are poor, support Hugo Chavez and think he´s doing great things. The middle and upper classes think he´s a murderer who´s destroying Venezuela. The two sides rarely talk or try to compromise. Some middle-class families and neighborhoods are bitterly divided.
- Chavez´s speech are frequently extremely derogatory of the upper classes; the first professor who spoke said that she supports Chavez for the most part, but can´t stand to listen to his insults for more than ten minutes.
- Gasoline costs 17 cents per gallon here.
For some very scary insights from Iraq, be sure to read Juan Cole regularly.
Greetings From Caracas!
I finally found an open Internet cafe. I got here yesterday afternoon. The city is practically shut down for Holy week. I´ll have a lot more to post when I have more time.
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Off to Venezuela!
I leave tomorrow (well, I guess today now that it's after midnight). I'll probably be able to post occasionally, but nowhere near as much as usual. I should have some interesting posts when I get back, though! Stay tuned!
They told them so
Why be crass and say "I told you so" as the predicted quagmire in Iraq becomes even worse -- 12 Marines killed in Ramadi. Heck, THEY knew better, once:
I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place.
What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?
I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq. -- Dick Cheney, April 29, 1991.
If we had kept going, we would have gone beyond what we said we intended to do, beyond what our coalition partners agreed to, beyond what the UN Security Council signed up to, and beyond what the Congress and the American people approved. We entered the war with clear-cut military objectives.
We certainly had the military capability to go on to Baghdad, but for what purpose? To get Saddam Hussein? I doubt that he would have waited at his palace for us to drive up and get him. So we would have needed to send a very large force and might well have faced intensive combat inside the city. The artillery, tanks, and air power that performed so well for us in the open desert would not have been very useful inside a major city. That would have cost us dearly in terms of additional casualties. And I'm not sure what we would have done with Baghdad, once we had it.
But once we had prevailed and had toppled Saddam Hussein's government, we presumably would have had to stay there and put another government in place. And what would that have been: a Suni government, a Shia government, a Kurdish government, or another Bathist regime? How long would US forces have been required to say in to prop the government up? And how effective could it have been if the government we put in had been perceived as a puppet of the US military?
My guess is that if we had gone to Baghdad, we'd still have US forces there today. And to involve American forces in a civil war inside Iraq would have been a quagmire, because we would have gone in there with no clear-cut military objective. It's just as important to know when not to use force as it is to know when to use it. And we got it right both times. -- President George H. W. Poppy Read My Lips Bush the 41st, March 30, 1992.
It sounds like they think that the world was better off when Saddam was still in power. Very hard to disagree with them now. I don't think Bush Sr. was right both times--the first Gulf War was as much a crime as the second. But I am sure that Bush Jr. was wrong both times; wrong to go in, wrong to stay in.
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
From Daily News Online contributor Mike Hinds:
By launching a war against a country that he falsely claimed posed a threat to America, President Bush not only undermined the fight against al Qaeda, he undermined the budget, relations with allies, regional stability, military readiness, and American security both at home and abroad. And by undermining troop morale and casually tossing our forces into a two-front quagmire, he has potentially unleashed a cascading effect of further erosion of morale, de-enlistment, and an ever-weaker ability to respond to the true threat of terrorism. Could Osama bin Laden have planned it better?
That reminded me of my first (and only) political cartoon, which I "drew" in July, 2002:
I'd better enjoy it while I can...
The Detroit Tigers lost 119 games last year, almost setting a record. At this moment, they are undefeated and in first place!
From Bruce Beattie.
From Bill Day.
Seven more soldiers killed
And, of course, untold numbers of Iraqis. Plus wounded. Plus contractors, coalition forces, etc.
Monday, April 05, 2004
The Bushies fret about the "terrorists" using dirty bombs, when they've been using them all along:
Army officials at Fort Dix and Walter Reed Army Medical Center are rushing to test all returning members of the 442nd Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard for depleted uranium contamination.
Army brass acted after learning that four of nine soldiers from the company tested by the Daily News showed signs of radiation exposure.
The soldiers, who returned from Iraq late last year, say they and other members of their company have been suffering from unexplained illnesses since last summer, when they were stationed in the Iraqi town of Samawah.
Dr. Asaf Durakovic, a former Army doctor and nuclear medicine expert who examined and tested the nine men at The News' request, concluded four of them "almost certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from exploded depleted uranium shells fired by U.S. troops. -- NY Daily News
Glad to Have Some Company
Billmon thinks it sucks that Americans are more concerned about gas prices than they are about our miserable failure of a war:
What does it say about a country -- a country at war, no less -- when its citizens are paying much closer attention to the price of a gallon of gas than to the fact that four of their countrymen were just killed, burned and hung upside down from a railroad bridge in Iraq for the world to stare at?
Coalition civilian head L. Paul Bremer on Monday accused al-Sadr of trying to usurp "the legitimate authority of the Iraqi government and the coalition." -- CNN
How is the "authority of the Iraqi government and the coalition" legitimate? An illegal invasion based entirely on lies? These clowns are completely down the rabbit hole.
The Tragedy of the Commons
California shows once again why public referenda are bad ideas.
A generation ago, proposition 13 was passed by referendum (direct public vote instead of through the legislature) in California. It put severe limits on property taxes and resulted in significant and ongoing cuts in school funding. The progressively more ignorant public (my brilliant nieces being exceptions) which resulted from these cutbacks just can't get enough of a bad thing. Other stupid referenda have been passed, making the crisis worse. And then, after these voters twice elected the horrible Gray Davis as governor, they then decided a recall election would be fun, replacing Davis with the even worse Arnold Gropengrabber.
Now, the real axis of evil, Wal-Mart, is trying to use California referendamania to weasel their slimy way into Inglewood after the city council repeatedly voted to keep them out. The vote is tomorrow, and I'm guessing that the typical voter will think "I don't work for those stores that will be closed, but I will be able to buy crap for a lot less!" And they'll vote for the Wal-Mart, putting hundreds of their fellow Inglewoodians(?) out of work, and allow Wal-Mart to continue to make a mockery of labor and anti-trust laws while continuing to destroy what little is left of the U.S. manufacturing base. The grocery workers who went on strike for months to retain some of their medical benefits won't have a chance on the next go-round; most will probably have been laid off by then anyway.
I shouldn't be too harsh on the Californians; anyone who shops at Wal-Mart is supporting the destruction of American jobs, both quality and quantity. The monopoly control exercised by Standard Oil and other late 19th-Century behemoths led to the passing of anti-trust laws in the first place. And Wal-Mart is as bad as any of those.
Kerry is a wuss and a hawk
In light of the unacceptable statement about the death of Americans made by Daily Kos, we have removed the link to this blog from our website. As John Kerry said in a statement earlier this week, "My deepest sympathies are with the families of those lost today. Americans know that all who serve in Iraq - soldier and civilian alike - do so in an effort to build a better future for Iraqis. These horrific attacks remind us of the viciousness of the enemies of Iraq's future. United in sadness, we are also united in our resolve that these enemies will not prevail." -- From the John Kerry for President blog
To which Billmon has a superb response:
Now this little wad of rhetorical bs would not sound at all unnatural issuing from the piehole of a neocon apparatchik like Paul Wolfowitz -- or typed up in a Halliburton press release. It willfully ignores everything we've learned over the past year about the reasons we went to war in Iraq, glosses over the gross incompetence with which the war has been managed, studiously avoids any mention of the internal conflicts that are now tearing Iraq apart, and gives the administration full credit for desiring only to "build a better future" for the Iraqi people.
Am I the only one who finds this incredibly ironic? That John Kerry, who launched his political career as an angry veteran protesting a disastrous, unwinnable war, is now a presidential candidate glibly endorsing a disastrous, unwinnable war?
I wonder how a President Kerry would feel if, a couple of years from now, he were to find a new generation of war protesters lined up outside White House gates, screaming "Hey, hey, JFK, how many kids did you kill today?"
I guess irony is one of those things you can't afford to recognize about yourself if you want to be president. And I'll still vote for Kerry, even though I do recognize it. My reasons for supporting him have always been, and still are, independent of my feelings about him. But I do have one question I'd like to ask -- even if it gets Whiskey Bar delisted from the Kerry campaign blog. It shouldn't be too hard to answer, since I know he's heard it before.
So please tell me Senator: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
Does Kerry really believe that "Americans know that all who serve in Iraq ... do so in an effort to build a better future for Iraqis?" If so, he doesn't deserve to be president. It's about oil and power, Senator--always has been. You Skull & Bones guys are all alike. And don't you dare pretend to speak for what I know. Those who serve in Iraq, soldier and civilian alike, do so in an effort to make the wealthy elite in this country even wealthier.
You've got to go through a lot before you finally find some benefit
The ongoing disintegration of Iraq is bad, if predictable, news. In January, conservative columnist Paul Craig Roberts wrote about what might happen if the Shi'ites become violent, which they now have. The prediction:
If the Shi'ites become violent, the insurgency would be too large to be contained by our present occupying force. Moreover, the outbreak of a general rebellion in Iraq would spill over throughout the Middle East where unpopular secular rulers are sitting on a smoldering Islam. Our puppet in Pakistan would likely bite the dust. Israel would then face countervailing Muslim nukes.
Hmmm...Forgive me, but I'm even more worried about the U.S. facing countervailing Muslim nukes.
If you think more US troops are needed now in Iraq, imagine how many more would be required to deal with a wider conflagration. Where would they come from? The US military is already so thinly stretched that soon 40% of the occupying troops will be drawn from the National Guard and reservists, resulting in tremendous disruption in the affairs of tens of thousands of families.
Pilots and troops are shunning the cash bonuses offered for reenlistments. The troops recognize a quagmire even if their neocon overlords cannot. The only source of troops is the draft.
Vietnam all over again. Not good news if you're young, or used to be.
A Shi'ite insurgency that brought back the draft would deprive Bush of reelection.
Finally, there's the benefit! Why did and does the world have to go through so much death and destruction before people finally realize that our pResident is a bloodthirsty moron?
The core intent Bush's tax cuts has been hidden from most of the public. But this week, Newsweek pulls back the curtain (lots of that going around now, finally!):
The blather from both sides obscures the real, but largely hidden, agenda behind the Bush tax cuts. Bush has been open about each item he wants: lowering taxes on capital income, such as dividends and capital gains; creating two big new income-sheltering investment plans; eliminating the estate tax. But he's not been at all forthcoming about the ultimate effect of his program. If Bush gets what he wants, the income tax will become a misnomer—it will really be a salary tax. Almost all income taxes would come from paychecks—80 percent of income for most families, less than half for the top 1 percent. Meanwhile taxpayers receiving dividends, interest and capital gains, known collectively as investment income, would have a much lighter burden than salary earners—or maybe none at all. And here's the topper. In the name of preserving family farms and keeping small businesses in the family, Bush would eliminate the estate tax and create a new class of landed aristocrats who could inherit billions tax-free, invest the money, watch it compound tax-free and hand it down tax-free to their heirs.
By drastically favoring investment income over salary, fees and other "earned income," Bush would make it harder for people who start out with nothing to earn their way up the economic ladder, because they'd pay full taxes on almost everything they make, but he'd shower rewards on people who have already made it to the top rungs.
Pay no attention to the bloodthirsty ogre behind the curtain!
This was the week the curtain got pulled back on the Bush presidency. In exchange for allowing Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath, President Bush gets to bring along his vice president when he appears privately before the commission.
A top Republican strategist dubbed the legal document striking the unusual deal ?the Wizard of Oz letter? because it strips away the myth that Bush is in charge. Until now, it?s been all speculation about Vice President Cheney?s influence. With the revelation of the tandem testimony, nobody with a straight face can deny Cheney is a co-president or worse, the puppeteer who pulls Bush?s strings. -- From Newsweek's Eleanor Clift.
From Jack Ohman.
From Rob Rogers.
From Ted Rall.
If we don't base our electoral decisions based on what they don't want us to do, then the terrorists haven't already not won!
From today's Tom Tomorrow cartoon (ad viewing required).
Sunday, April 04, 2004
A coordinated Shiite militia uprising against the American-led occupation rippled across Iraq on Sunday, reaching into the heart of Baghdad and the sprawling Shiite slum of Sadr City on the capital's outskirts and racking the holy city of Najaf and at least two other cities in southern Iraq.
Seven American soldiers were killed in Sadr City, one of the worst single losses for the American forces in any firefight since Baghdad was captured a year ago.
An Iraqi health official in Najaf said 24 people had been killed and about 200 wounded in clashes that ensued when armed militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, a 31-year-old firebrand Shiite cleric, besieged a garrison commanded by Spanish troops on the road leading into Najaf from neighboring Kufa.
An American military spokesman said one Salvadoran soldier had been killed in Kufa and 13 soldiers wounded, including an American. All the other casualties were said to be Iraqis. -- NY Times
CNN says that "dozens more" U.S. troops were wounded and a Salvadoran soldier was killed.
Looks like I'll be roughing it in Caracas...
Photo from the Hotel Savoy in Caracas.
[Update] Michelle informs me that the Hotel Savoy in Caracas doesn't look like that. It looks like this:
They Don't Give Us Flowers Anymore
Not that they ever did. The violence of Fallujah has spread to Baghdad and the south of Iraq, with armed militias opposed to the American-led occupation controlling streets in some areas.
Iraq was racked today by its most violent civil disturbances since the occupation started, with a coordinated Shiite uprising spreading across the country, from the slums of Baghdad to several cities in the south.
By day's end, witnesses said Shiite militiamen controlled the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad, with armed men loyal to a radical cleric occupying the town's police stations and checkpoints. More than eight people were killed by Spanish forces in a similar uprising in the neighboring town of Najaf.
In Baghdad, American tanks battled militiamen loyal to Moqtada Al Sadr, the radical cleric who has denounced the occupation and has an army of thousands of young followers.
At nightfall today, the Sadr City neighborhood shook with explosions and tank and machine gun fire. Black smoke choked the sky. The streets were lined with armed militiamen, dressed in all black. American tanks surrounded the area. Attack helicopters thundered overhead.
"The occupation is over!" people on the streets yelled. "We are now controlled by Sadr. The Americans should stay out." -- NY Times
Billmon, in an unfortunately necessary "I told you so," tells us that he did tell them so:
A more plausible risk would seem to be something comparable to the 1968 urban riots here in America -- a wave of civil unrest that breaks out in many cities at once, and quickly spirals out of control. The insurgents, no doubt, would be happy to fan the flames any way they can.
Such a scenario could leave the Coalition with two choices: Crack down very hard, with indiscriminate use of lethal force, or, let the riots burn themselves out before trying to restore order. Either way, the Bush administration would be looking at a PR disaster, one that would make it impossible to pretend that things are gradually "getting better" in Iraq.
To be fair, Billmon wrote this last October. But I'd have to say that it is never impossible for the Bushies to pretend. They've been pretending that Bush is a good president for three years; anything else (black is white, night is day, Iraq is getting better) should be easy by comparison.
A former translator for the FBI with top-secret security clearance says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 11 September attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened.
She said the claim by the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous lie".
Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".
She told The Independent yesterday: "I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."
She added: "There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used but not specifically about how they would be used and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities with skyscrapers."
The accusations from Mrs Edmonds, 33, a Turkish-American who speaks Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish and English, will reignite the controversy over whether the administration ignored warnings about al-Qa'ida. That controversy was sparked most recently by Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism official, who has accused the administration of ignoring his warnings.
I've seen Edmonds' story on other blogs, and I apologize for not posting it earlier. I keep getting that shudder of excitement when I think that this, THIS, is finally the piece that will bring Bush's house of cards down. But I recall someone suggesting that Bush wouldn't be impeached until they caught him with a live boy or a dead girl, and that still seems to be operative. Lie after lie has been told and exposed, law after law has been broken, thousands have died, and smirky is still living in the house he stole in 2000.
My Head Hurts...Or Why Bloggers Shouldn't Advertise
I took a quick look at Atrios, who led me to MaxSpeak writing about something that right-wing blogger Instapundit (no link here, on purpose) said about something that mainstream Democratic blogger Daily Kos said about the "contractors" who were killed in Fallujah on Wednesday. Kos wrote "I felt nothing" and "screw them." He explains that he was angry because five real soldiers were killed the same day and got far less attention than the mercenaries (Kos is a combat veteran).
So the thought police, led by Instapundit, came after Kos. Since Kos was running Kerry ads and raising significant bucks for the Kerry campaign, some of the wingnuts told Kerry that he should not have ads on Kos. And Kerry agreed, in case you have any doubt about where he takes his orders from.
I'm not sure I can derive a single coherent lesson from all of this, but I can come up with a few comments:
- Kerry is a real wuss
- Being able to step over the line from time to time is part of the beauty of blogging
- Running ads may take away some of that ability
- Finally, it's VERY tempting to go back and be ignorant again. Knowing more about what's really going on in the world and in politics hasn't increased my personal happiness. Watching Congress approve the Iraq war under pressure from the Bushies in 2002 despite all my phone calls and such (although all of MY reps voted against it!), watching supposedly anti-war pressure groups like MoveOn and Council for a Liveable World continue to support people like Kerry after they voted for the war, watching the U.S. start an illegal war despite all my marching and writing and calling, watching Bush's popularity remain high no matter how much evidence of his crimes is exposed--ignorance sure looks like bliss about now.
I'll be in Caracas Thursday night! I'm going on a Global Exchange tour; we'll learn a lot about Hugo Chavez and his "Bolivarian Revolution." We'll also be warm!
Clarke was basically right
According to Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank in an analysis article in today's Washington Post.
... [The] broad outline of Clarke's criticism has been corroborated by a number of other former officials, congressional and commission investigators, and by Bush's admission in the 2003 Bob Woodward book "Bush at War" that he "didn't feel that sense of urgency" about Osama bin Laden before the attacks occurred.
Of course, the pot insists that the kettle is black:
"The public continues to get different stories on different days depending on which Mr. Clarke they ask or read," said James R. Wilkinson, the deputy national security director for communications. "These contradictions directly undermine his overall case against the administration."
What about the stories the public has gotten from Mr. Bush about the reasons for his illegal war? Or from Mr. Cheney about Iraq's nuclear capabilities? Or Mr. Powell about the bioweapons? The biggest errors they can find in Clarke's statements are whether someone was in the room at a particular time and things like that. This could be important in some cases, but the Post writers state that none of the alleged errors change the gist of what Clarke is saying.
As far as I'm concerned, the case against Bush was made a long time before Richard Clarke even started writing his book. The problem isn't making a better case anymore, it's getting through the thick skulls of the millions of Americans who ignore all the evidence and support Bush, wrong or wrong.