Bob's Links and Rants

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Monday, May 31, 2004

Reports of Muqtada al-Sadr's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

From the NY Times:
Meanwhile on Sunday, people in the streets of Najaf were handed mysterious fliers with Mr. Sadr's picture that said "Moktada was followed by the Iraqi police for his ties to the slaying of Khoei, and due to violent actions he was killed during an attempt to arrest him."

Another flier had a photo of Iraqi policemen and the words "The Justice Ministry tried to arrest Mr. Sadr, but he and his followers resisted fiercely, which drove the Iraqi police to defend themselves."

The fliers appeared to have been made by Iraq's Justice Ministry or its allies to be handed out in case Iraqi policemen killed Mr. Sadr. Somehow, they were distributed prematurely. There were no reports of Mr. Sadr's death.
Just in case. Just in case the assassination attempt is successful, the cover story is already prepared. Thanks to Billmon for spotting that one.


That's the current count of US soldiers killed in Iraq. Two more died yesterday, along with some 45 "insurgents," formerly known as "liberated Iraqis."

Free to Do Exactly What Bush (or Kerry) Wants

From Boondocks.

Walmart Killing Competition in Toys

Using its usual predatory buying and labor-crushing methods, the beast of Bentonville is destroying independent toy stores.

Don't shop at Walmart or Sam's Club. They are profiting by destroying American jobs and independent businesses. Don't feed the beast.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Jimmy Carter Praises Recall Procedure in Venezuela

This weekend, Venezuelans have had an opportunity to verify (or un-verify) their signatures on petitions calling for a recall elections for President Hugo Chavez. Former President and Nobel Prize Winner Jimmy Carter has been observing the process:
Carter said he had "found everything to be in order." He noted isolated incidents of intimidation and technical problems but said they were "relatively minor and have not disturbed the overall process."
Kudos to AP for presenting a report much more even-handed in its treatment of Chavez (at least in this article) than the typical tripe coming from the Washington Post.

From what I've read and heard, it seems likely that Chavez will face a recall vote, but will survive it easily. The Constitution requires that there must be more votes to recall him than he received when he was elected in 2000, meaning a substantial majority. It is very unlikely that the opposition can muster those kinds of numbers.

Riddle Me This, Billmon

That's right: Billmon's back and Bush is gonna be in trouble! The riddle he poses is why, "in yesterday's attacks in Al Khobar, as in the attack earlier this month in Yanbu, the terrorists went after people, not infrastructure?"

He goes on to point out that if the terrorist's goal were either a massive disruption of the world economy or the overthrow of the corrupt Saudi government, a direct hit on the many far-flung elements of the oil infrastructure--wells, pipelines, pumps, storage tanks, loading docks--would be both much more effective and easier to carry out than killing or kidnapping a few engineers. Billmon concludes:
So why is Al Qaeda still fooling around with these attacks on foreign workers? Is it because they don't want to alienate Saudi popular opinion by destroying the goose that lays the petroleum eggs? Are they hoping to inherit the oil infrastructure intact once they take power? Do they have a implicit deal with the royal family (or some faction within it) to limit their attacks to the infidel devils and leave the valuable stuff alone?

I could see the House of Saud offering such a deal (and trusting that the clueless Americans will never find out about it), but what motive would Al Qaeda have for abiding by it?

I don't have any obvious answers to this riddle - or at least, none that aren't wearing silly tinfoil hats. But think about it the next time you fill up your tank, because it's probably the only thing standing between you and a $6 gallon of gas.

Let Us Never Forget What They Died For:


From Doonesbury.

And they worried about the lessons that Clinton was teaching children...

From Boondocks.

Remember Last November, When the Abu Ghraib Scandal Broke?

What, you say? Wasn't that just a couple of weeks ago?

Well, not if you worked in the Pentagon or the White House. From Bob Harris, guestblogging for Tom Tomorrow:
The U.S. Army determined that "hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held in Abu Ghraib prison for prolonged periods despite a lack of evidence" -- last November 5th.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross gave the Army a detailed catalog of sexual and physical abuse at Abu Gharib -- last November 6th.

As far as I can tell, you had to read both the NY Times and the LA Times to get both stories and see the dates line up. But now we know: six months before the world recoiled in horror, the Pentagon absolutely knew what was going on. All of it. And nothing changed.

So: six extra months of imprisonment for hundreds of innocents. Six extra months of continued sexual and physical abuse. Six extra months of teaching Iraqis to hate us.

Who's the Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. Army, incidentally? Just asking. Because, gee, I don't know who the hell you blame for something like this.
Harris also comments on Iyad Allawi, Iraq's puppet-du-jour:
Meanwhile, this Iyad Allawi guy, the new bigshot in Iraq? A well-known Baathist and CIA tool, so the Shiite majority is obviously gonna just adore him. Because there's nothing Iraqis like better than having a Baathist in charge. Or a CIA puppet. So this is really the best of both worlds for them.
There are limits to competence. But apparently there are no limits to incompetence.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Stupid *&$%#@ Democrats

I know it's just a cheap ploy to get me to contribute money, but you'd think that the Democratic National Committee would at least PRETEND to have an interest in my opinions on the issues that matter most to me. But their "Official 2004 Party Platform Survey" that I got in the mail just asks me to rate a bunch of dumb statements as "Very important," "Somewhat important," "Not very important," or "Not important at all." Aside from Personal Comments at the end, which I'd bet 10-to-one are never read, I'm given no opportunity to call for full and immediate withdrawal from Iraq, for withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO, for universal health care, for raising the gasoline tax. Basically, I'm just allowed to assign priorities to Kerry's stupid platform, not suggest changes.

I think I'll just fill out the comments and send it in without money. Maybe someday they'll get the message.

Diehard Neocons Won't Give Up on Chalabi

The Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle, and other insane neocons "marched into the West Wing office of Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to complain about the administration's abrupt change of heart about Mr. Chalabi and to register their concerns about the course of the war in Iraq," according to the NY Times. (I know, why should we believe anything printed in that propaganda rag?)

And the quote of the week?
"I know of no inaccurate information that was supplied uniquely by anyone brought to us by the Iraqi National Congress," Mr. Perle said.
In other words, they had OTHER scumbags telling them the same lies.

Friday, May 28, 2004

This GMO Stuff Pisses Me Off!

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled recently in favor of axis-of-evil charter member Monsanto in its suit against a family farmer in Saskatchewan. Genetically-modified "Roundup Ready" canola seeds from neighboring farms had taken root on the guy's farm. He saved the seeds from those plants and used them for the next year's crop. Monsanto sued him, claiming that their patent on "Roundup Ready" canola was violated by the farmer using the seeds without paying Monsanto a royalty.

If you don't know what "Roundup Ready" crops are, you should. Monsanto manufactures the widely-used herbicide Roundup, used to kill weeds and unwanted grasses on farms and in backyards. It's hard to use on farms, however, since it tends to kill all plants in its path, weeds and crops both. So the evil geniuses of Monsanto screwed around with the genes of canola, corn, and other crops, and developed genetically-modified versions which are basically immune to Roundup. This means farmers can soak their fields in Roundup, killing all the unwanted weeds and grasses without killing the crops.

The problem? For starters, you're buying crops that have been soaked in poison. Next, one farmer's crop can be the next farmer's weed. If Farmer Jones' GM (genetically-modified) canola seeds blow into Farmer Smith's traditional wheat, Smith won't be able to get the canola out using Roundup or similar herbicides. And the mechanical methods used to harvest most crops these days are generally not usable on mixed-crop fields. So Smith ends up growing canola too, even though he wanted to grow wheat. But if he does grow GM canola, he'll have to pay Monsanto a royalty.

Worst of all, the Roundup-ready gene may spread to other plants, including weeds. And of course weeds are highly adaptable, and the heavier use of Roundup in the GM fields inevitably leads to Roundup-resistant weed strains. An arms race between Roundup and the weeds begins, and the environment and consumers are the losers.

Monsanto and the other gene-meddlers generally try to answer all criticism by claiming that GE (genetically-engineered) foods haven't been shown to be harmful to humans (you've already been eating them for probably eight years). While that's probably true in most cases, it hasn't really been proven. Worse, that argument is intended to cause people to ignore what I consider to be more important issues. GM crops are leading to increased use of Roundup and other herbicides; they threaten biodiversity by introducing plants with an unfair genetic advantage, just like many plants that have been imported into non-native environments in which they have few natural enemies (think dandelions and kudzu, for example). So GM crops may not kill you when eaten directly, but eventually they'll kill you by seriously damaging the ecosphere and killing untold numbers of plants and animals along the way.

All of this crap has been introduced in a huge way in the US, Canada and elsewhere in just the last ten years, with little fanfare except a few stupid "isn't that cool" articles praising the technology in business magazines and the like. By modifying crops, Monsanto and others claim the right to patent them, and thereby receive royalties from everyone growing them, intentionally or not. This gives the corporate ghouls at Monsanto an outrageous amount of control over people's food supplies.

The Organic Consumers Association has lots of dirt on Monsanto--the effect their frankencrops are having, their connections with the Bush administration, their court cases. They've also got some actions you can take to try to put a stop to this crap.

From Ed Stein.

We Interrupt This Broadcast

From Jim Morin.


From Kirk Anderson.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement is supposed to be signed today. Good news for the wealthy elite of the six countries involved (esp. the US); bad news for everyone else.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result

That's from Albert Einstein.

From Bill Day.

Congressional Record

One congressman is doing his job. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has prepared a searchable database of lies used by the Bushies to get their war on Iraq.

Blogger Post 4000

This is the 4000th post I've made on blogger since September 14, 2002. This was number one:
The trap is set: We ask, "Why Iraq?" Certainly if it is terrorism we are concerned about, then Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have clearly been far more involved in supporting terrorists, especially al Qaeda, than Iraq has. If it is weapons of mass destruction, Iraq might have a few, along with some primitive delivery systems, but Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, France, England and maybe some others have fully developed nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Invaded other countries? Certainly Iraq is not alone in this--the US invaded Afghanistan just last year. Killed, abused, tortured, imprisoned its own citizens? Big club there. We mention all of this hoping to point out the simple-mindedness and incoherence of Bush's push for war. Why this particular dictator at this particular time? Our hope is that others will see that it doesn't make sense and that war can be averted. But now I'm afraid that the Bushies are just setting a trap. A year or so after a muddled, bloody and inconclusive attack on Iraq, W will be making the case for attacking Iran, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia, and he will have all of these quotes from us liberals to support his case. The Bushies are using 1984 as their guidebook for world domination, and an endless series of wars is very much part of the plan. While our arguments about the Saudis, Pakistanis and others are valid, we must be clear that we present them only to debunk the Iraq war plan, not as implied support for any future wars.
For better and worse, 4000 posts later the Bushies are so tied up in their criminal and stupid invasion of Iraq that they don't have the time to lie the groundwork for another or use arguments about the relative invade-ability of various countries against us.

I'd like to think my 4000 posts (and my pre-blogger posts before that) made some difference, but it's hard to see how. The war in Iraq happened. The worst president in US history is being "challenged" by a virtual frat-brother of his who has supported most of his crimes. "Free-trade" agreements and GMO's and sprawl and "enemy combatants" and Halliburton and the Veep from the Deep and the race to the bottom--all continuing, despite my best efforts.

Oh well--4000 is the product of a perfect cube and a perfect fifth power. I guess I settle for that.

Agreement in Najaf

From the NY Times:
American forces and guerrillas loyal to the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr agreed Thursday to quit fighting in Najaf, in a deal that signaled the possible end of seven weeks of fighting in the city, during which scores of Iraqis have died.

The agreement, hammered out between Mr. Sadr and Iraqi leaders and approved by the Americans, requires that the fighters of the Mahdi Army get off the streets — and if they are from other cities, to leave — and for the Americans to pull most of their forces out of the city.
Although plenty of the details are different, this seems similar to what happened in Fallujah. After bloody fighting for weeks, the coalition finally agrees to cede the city back to the Iraqis, a proper and wise decision. Why they can't see that doing the same thing now for the entire country, BEFORE thousands of more people are killed and wounded for nothing, is also the proper and wise decision, is infuriating. The Iraqis are going to control Iraq. We can make that easy, or make it difficult. The easy way is to GET OUT NOW.

Maybe Iraqis won't be able to govern themselves well. Who knows? But we've got plenty of evidence that the "coalition" is a miserable failure at the job, with no signs of improving except for the long-overdue concessions to reality in Fallujah and Najaf.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Encourage Other Lying Liars to Lie to Them

Read this. I don't know who Ahmed Amr is, but I think he's pretty close to the truth with this. Only by going way deeper into the conspiracy theories does the Chalabi-Cheney connection start to make sense. The neocons organized and funded BOTH Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress for Lying Exiles AND the Office of Special Plans, and then encouraged the one to lie to the other. They also got Fox News (a pushover), CNN, and the New York Times to be special channelers for their lies. The Veep from the Deep is from a deeper deep than any creep in US, and maybe world, history.

Me Lie--Time for a Colinectomy

Why didn't President Gore call for Powell's resignation too? The latest Harry Potter book has less fiction and fantasy in it than Powell's UN presentation last year did. From the Baltimore Sun, via the Chicago Tribune:
Powell: Iraqis cited in UN speech not found
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that U.S. investigators have been unable to find or identify the Iraqi officers whose recorded voices plotting to deceive United Nations inspectors provided a highlight in his presentation to the UN last year about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

"We can't find those guys. I don't know who those guys were. But the tapes were real tapes. We didn't make them up," Powell said in an interview with reporters from six newspapers.

Powell's Feb. 5, 2003, presentation to the UN Security Council included voice recordings that bolstered American assertions that Hussein was hiding stockpiles of banned weapons.

The recordings were made from what Powell described as intercepted telephone conversations. The Iraqis were identified in Powell's speech as military officials. They were identified by rank but not by name.

In one of the tapes, a lieutenant colonel relays an instruction from the Republican Guard chief of staff for "scrap areas" to be inspected before UN inspectors arrive, adding, "After you have carried out what is contained in the message . . . destroy the message."

In another, a man identified as an Iraqi captain instructs a colonel to "remove . . . the expression . . . `nerve agents"' in wireless instructions.

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, whom U.S. officials portrayed as insufficiently aggressive in exposing Iraqi deception, later raised questions about the tapes in a book, writing that he didn't know where the U.S. had obtained the tapes.
But the tapes were real! Best evidence indicates Memorex or BASF; lab is investigating. Could it have been "Captain" Chalabi and "Colonel" Cheney? And shouldn't somebody have wondered about a captain ordering a colonel anyway?

Actually, I should give Powell the benefit of the doubt. Both Captain and Colonel were probably killed (one shocked, the other awed) in the invasion based on Powell's lies, along with probably tens of thousands of other Iraqi soldiers.

The Day After Tomorrow

The movie debuts tomorrow (not the day after). But is the reality already hitting the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where entire villages have been washed away by floods and thousands may be dead?

I know that there have been huge floods in the past, as well as all sorts of destructive weather. And these floods are not caused by rising sea levels. But many of the global warming predictions that I've read suggest that most areas will likely see an increase in the unpredictability and violence in the weather before they notice a general increase in temperatures overall. Obviously it is and will be very hard to separate naturally bad and freakish weather from that caused by global warming for some time. But the massive flooding in Europe in 2002, the ongoing drought in the American west, and these massive floods in Haiti and the DR may, perhaps, be signs of human-induced climate change.

The Central Front in the War to Create Terror

Time Magazine highlights the obvious:
If, indeed, there is a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, it may not be the kind the Bush campaign is likely to dwell on. The same day the President spoke, the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies released its annual survey that found, among other things, that far from dealing a blow to al-Qaeda and making the U.S. and its allies safer, the Iraq invasion has in fact substantially strengthened bin Laden's network and increased the danger of attacks in the West. And the London-based IISS is not some Bush-bashing antiwar think tank; it hosted the president's keynote address during his embattled visit to the British late last year.

Either way, it's scary

From Steve Sack.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Race to the Bottom Continues

Tecumseh Products to Cut 340 Local Jobs
Tecumseh Products Co. will eliminate more than half the jobs at its two local manufacturing facilities as part of an ongoing global restructuring program.

The company said it will move its compressor machining and assembly operations from Tecumseh to its existing factory in Tupelo, Miss., and move its compressor distribution operations from Clinton to Tecumseh. That will mean eliminating about 340 jobs in Lenawee County, leaving only about 200 manufacturing workers locally. The company's corporate headquarters is also based in Tecumseh.
Michigan, Mississippi, Mexico, China, Bangladesh. The never-ending quest for cheap labor. Isn't stopping stuff like this what governments are supposed to be for?

Chalabi Jr.?

Left I on the News gives us some background on Dr. Hussain al-Shahristani, who is apparently now the leading candidate to be Iraq's next puppet prime minister. Apparently he, like Chalabi, has a history of telling the Bushies what they want to hear.

Bush Gets Gored!

President Gore calls for the immediate resignation of Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Feith, Cambone, and Tenet. A highlight:
President Bush set the tone for our attitude for suspects in his State of the Union address. He noted that more than 3,000 "suspected terrorists" had been arrested in many countries and then he added, "and many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our allies."

George Bush promised to change the tone in Washington. And indeed he did. As many as 37 prisoners may have been murdered while in captivity, though the numbers are difficult to rely upon because in many cases involving violent death, there were no autopsies.

How dare they blame their misdeeds on enlisted personnel from a Reserve unit in upstate New York. President Bush owes more than one apology. On the list of those he let down are the young soldiers who are themselves apparently culpable, but who were clearly put into a moral cesspool. The perpetrators as well as the victims were both placed in their relationship to one another by the policies of George W. Bush.

How dare the incompetent and willful members of this Bush/Cheney Administration humiliate our nation and our people in the eyes of the world and in the conscience of our own people. How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace. How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison.
The whole thing is a must-read.

Amnesty International Blasts "War on Terror"

Washington's global anti-terror policies are "bankrupt of vision" as human rights become sacrificed in the blind pursuit of security, a leading human rights group charged on Wednesday.

Amnesty International also rapped partners across the world in the United States' self-declared "war on terror" for jailing suspects unfairly, stamping on legitimate political and religious dissent, and squeezing asylum-seekers.

"The global security agenda promoted by the U.S. administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," Amnesty head Irene Khan said, launching its annual report.

"Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses has damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place."

Specifically, Amnesty lashed Washington for unlawful killings of Iraqi civilians; questionable arrest and mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan; and opposition to a new global criminal court.

"The world is crying out for principled leadership," Khan added, saying the negative effects of U.S.-led anti-terror policies had spread far and wide.

"Governments are losing their moral compass, sacrificing the global values of human rights in a blind pursuit of security."
That from CNN, which also has an online poll I'd like you to vote in: Should some human rights be sacrificed for security?

I've felt pretty much ever since it was declared in 2001 that human rights and political dissent were not just collateral damage of the "war on terror." They were its main target. Governments in the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere were rewarded by the Bushies for repressing their own opposition. On May 8, 2002, I wrote the following on my blog:
Spend a few days in Indonesia and you'll find many people asking you a question you weren't prepared for: Is America's war on terrorism going to become a war against democracy? -- Opening sentence of Thomas Friedman's opinion piece in the NY Times today. While the article as a whole is great, especially coming from the usually pro-Bush Friedman, this sentence assumes an incredible naiveté on the part of his readers. The war on terrorism has been a war against democracy since the very beginning. Had it been around in the 1770's, Bush's war on terrorism would have been supporting the British in detroying the terrorist infrastructure of those al Qaeda colonists like Washington, Adams and Jefferson whose rhetoric causes their followers to dump tea in the harbor and shoot at redcoats from behind fences.

Friedman ends his article much more intelligently than he starts it:

America needs to be aware of how its war on terrorism is read in other countries, especially those in transition. Indonesia is the world's biggest Muslim country. Its greatest contribution to us would be to show the Arab Muslim states that it is possible to develop a successful Muslim democracy, with a modern economy and a moderate religious outlook. Setting that example is a lot more in America's long-term interest than arresting a few stray Qaeda fighters in the jungles of Borneo.
I'm glad to see that this idea is finally making it to the headlines on CNN. And I think I need to send AI some more money!

Ayatollah they were stupid!

From the Guardian:
An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the US into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, it emerged yesterday.
Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.

According to a US intelligence official, the CIA has hard evidence that Mr Chalabi and his intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, passed US secrets to Tehran, and that Mr Habib has been a paid Iranian agent for several years, involved in passing intelligence in both directions.

The CIA has asked the FBI to investigate Mr Chalabi's contacts in the Pentagon to discover how the INC acquired sensitive information that ended up in Iranian hands.

The implications are far-reaching. Mr Chalabi and Mr Habib were the channels for much of the intelligence on Iraqi weapons on which Washington built its case for war.

"It's pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. "Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the US for several years through Chalabi."

Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the state department, said: "When the story ultimately comes out we'll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy."
I can believe that Iran was feeding bogus info to Cheney and the boys through Chalabi. I don't believe they were duped, however. They wanted to invade Iraq for the oil and the bases and the Halliburton contracts and the political boost. If the Iranians hadn't been willing to lie to them, they would have found someone who was.

This raises a whole lot of questions in my mind. Back on March 13, 2003, a week BEFORE the war on Iraq officially started, I cited a Washington Post article about the false uranium-from-Niger claim. Here are the opening paragraphs from that Post article:
The FBI is looking into the forgery of a key piece of evidence linking Iraq to a nuclear weapons program, including the possibility that a foreign government is using a deception campaign to foster support for military action against Iraq.

"It's something we're just beginning to look at," a senior law enforcement official said yesterday. Officials are trying to determine whether the documents were forged to try to influence U.S. policy, or whether they may have been created as part of a disinformation campaign directed by a foreign intelligence service.
I guessed Israel as the source without actually naming it, as follows:
Which foreign government? Now I don't want to be accused of being anti-much-of-anything except war, so I'll just hint that it is likely a Middle Eastern nation that has been rumored to have an active nuclear program, the name of which begins with "I." Desperate as they are for evidence, it still seems unlikely that the administration would present evidence given to them by charter members of the "axis of evil," so, well, you do the math.
So I may have been right about "begins with 'I'," but wrong to dismiss an axis-of-evil charter member out of hand.

And note that the falsity of the uranium claims was recognized by the FBI and the Washington Post by March 12 of 2003. Joseph Wilson's July 6 op-ed in the NY Times four months later was hardly a revelation, just a reminder, but for whatever reason the "sixteen words" in the 2003 State of the Union address didn't become an issue until after Wilson's article.

In the 1980's, the Reagan administration provided weapons and other assistance to both Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini (Iran-Contra), pretty much hoping they'd destroy each other. I imagine that the Bushies were trying the same thing, but in stages. Use Iran's "information" as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq, and then, when the new airbases are built, attack Iran from them. But maybe Iran played the triangle even smarter--get Iraq and the US to destroy each other. (The US is still not seriously threatened, but our influence in the Middle East certainly is, and Iran would probably be happy to destroy that.)

Billmon, Come Back!

Perhaps the best blogger in the lengthy, detailed-analysis category, Billmon has closed his Whiskey Bar blog. If he doesn't return shortly, I'm going to have to start thinking for myself! Aargh!

Can I PLEASE vote for Nader?

The NY Times' Adam Nagourney and Richard W. Stevenson write that there's little difference between Bush and Kerry on Iraq. Times columnist William Safire proudly trumpets the fact, and challenges Kerry to stay the disastrous course. Times columnist Nicholas Kristof bemoans the fact that there is no difference between Bush and Kerry on Israel/Palestine. And that's just today's paper!

Nagourney and Stevenson state:
[A]s became evident with Mr. Bush's latest speech on Iraq on Monday night, which followed a detailed speech Mr. Kerry gave on Iraq's future one month ago, the broad outlines of their approaches are more alike than not. That is particularly true as Mr. Bush moves toward giving the United Nations more authority, a move long advocated by Mr. Kerry.

They both support the June 30 deadline for the beginning of the transition to civilian power. They both say they would support an increase in United States troop strength, if necessary. Neither has supported a deadline for removing United States troops.
There were six more or less decent anti-war candidates running for the Democratic nomination (Kucinich, Dean, Clark, Graham, Moseley-Braun and Sharpton), all of whom had far more charisma than Kerry, not to mention better positions on most issues. Why this dull warmongering nonentity was chosen is just beyond my comprehension.

To the anybody-but-Bushers: Foreign policy matters. The best Supreme Court justices in the world (and do you really think Kerry would pick the best?) won't save us from the effects of a disastrous foreign policy. Bush has a disastrous foreign policy. And Kerry supports it in all but the most minor details.

And will we be happy with our liberal Supreme Court while we continue to exploit the 6 billion or so Earthlings who don't get to vote this November?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Our Bad

The editors of the New York Times admit that they channeled false information about Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" from Chalabi's group of liars and Cheney's group of liars to the American people.
we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

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

Liberation by Execution

Michelle has a collection of links to articles documenting various U.S. atrocities in Iraq over the past 13 months.

I will add that stuff like this ALWAYS happens in wars; U.S. soldiers are no worse than most and probably better than many. That doesn't excuse their behavior, and it certainly places the liar's share of the blame on the hands of George Worthless Bush, who started the war.

Oil Pipeline Bombed

In northern Iraq:
An pipeline that carries crude oil from the northern Kirkuk oilfields to Turkey has been bombed and greatly damaged.

A security official of Iraq's Northern Oil Company, Juma Ahmad, confirmed on Monday that an explosive device badly damaged the pipe at around 1500 GMT.

He said the attack was carried out on a section between the Kirkuk oilfields to the Dibis pumping installations, 50km further north. Pumping had to be stopped in order to tackle the fire.

Issam Muhammad, another security official for Northern Oil, said Monday's fire had been put out, but the damage would take nearly two weeks to repair.

Poor Haiti

First fascist rebels, then Marines, and now floods. Hundreds killed in Caribbean floods:
At least 270 people have been killed in floods in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, many of them swept away when rain-swollen rivers burst their banks, authorities in the neighboring Caribbean countries said Tuesday.

Bush Poll Numbers at New Low

This will win those hearts and minds

From South Africa's News24:
Najaf - Seven people were killed and 45 wounded in fighting on Tuesday in Iraq's central holy city of Najaf, where a mortar round exploded inside Shiite Islam's holiest shrine, medics said.

The upper part of one of the main gold-covered gates leading to the tomb of revered Shiite Imam Ali was damaged and rubble strewn on the blood-stained floor of the shrine.

Quote du Jour

From Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's spokesman John Feehery:
It's extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government.
Especially if you're incompetent.


Red Alert

The World Socialist Web Site suspects that there may be a politically-timed terrorist attack coming up this fall, and that the Bushies are preparing to capitalize on it.
In a piece published May 20 entitled “Beware of any stretch-run surprises,” Wall Street Journal columnist Albert Hunt writes that the November elections could hinge on “unanticipated events.” First on the list of such events is a terrorist attack. Hunt notes: “The Bush administration and outside terrorist experts repeatedly have cautioned that another attack on the homeland is likely. The White House, politically, has it both ways: taking credit for avoiding any assault since 9/11, while at the same time warning that another is likely.”

There is a more sinister subtext to Hunt’s column in the suggestion that the Bush administration would like to “have it both ways” in another manner: it would like to benefit politically by presenting itself as the strongest force against terrorism, while preparing to politically exploit any future terrorist attack. He quotes Charles Black—a Republican strategist and close confidante of President George W. Bush—as stating that “my instinct is there likely will be a rally around [the incumbent] effect” in the event of another attack.
It's interesting that Hunt and others are claiming that there haven't been any terrorist attacks since 9/11. Obviously, they must mean attacks in the U.S., since Bush himself referred to attacks in Madrid, Istanbul, Tunis and Bali just last night. But what about the anthrax mailings and the Beltway snipers? (Domestic terrorists don't count, apparently.) Well, what about the October 3, 2001 Greyhound bus crash where the driver's throat was cut and six people died? The July 4, 2002 shooting which killed three at Los Angeles International Airport? Or two very suspicious plane crashes which have yet to be adequately explained: American Airlines flight 587, which crashed in Rockaway Beach in New York on November 12, 2001, and the crash which killed Senator Paul Wellstone and seven others on October 25, 2002. And to be thorough, how about the brutal police response to peaceful protesters at the FTAA meeting in Miami last November?

Since Islamic fundamentalists crashing airplanes into the World Trade Center is apparently the only domestic event that the Bushies consider to be terrorism, you'd think that Condi could have seen it coming.

He Left Out Osama--"Lower Manhattan"

Like Father, Like Son

From Vic Harville.

Final Episode of Friends

Where's the flightsuit, Osama?

From Robert Arial.

M.C. Buscher


Can we get our money back?

From Don Wright.

Monday, May 24, 2004

From Tom Toles.

Fahrenheit 911

Frank Rich reviews Michael Moore's award-winning movie.

Hillary is Selling Us Out--Again

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An unlikely pair of Senate allies called for a larger military Sunday and pledged a thorough investigation of abuse against Iraqi prisoners in Baghdad.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, are both members of the Senate's Armed Services Committee.

"A number of us have been sounding this alarm. We have to face the fact we need a larger active-duty military," Clinton told the television show "Fox News Sunday."

"We cannot continue to stretch our troops, both active-duty, Guard and Reserve, to the breaking point, which is what we're doing now."

Graham said the United States is "putting too much pressure on the men and women in uniform."

"We need more of them, sooner rather than later," he said.
No matter how much they abuse her, using her as a "lightning rod of hate" (phrase stolen from "Who's Line Is It Anyway?"), Hillary continues to provide cover for the right-wing idiotlogues. She voted for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the Patriot Act. And if you withdraw them from all illegal and/or unnecessary wars that they're currently involved in, our military forces are plenty large enough. But calling for more troops gives Bush an out, just like Lieberman did with "Homeland Security" two years ago. Soon, maybe even tonight, Bush will make the call himself for expanding the military. And his supporters will deflect all criticism by saying "See? Even the arch-liberal Hillary supports this."

More troops will not resolve the situation in Iraq, only postpone the inevitable withdrawal after substantially more casualties. Bush will be counting on the enlargement buying him more time--that is until after the election. I don't know who Hillary is working for or why, but I know it isn't the good of the country or the world. She has taken her completely-undeserved label as a liberal champion and used it to help a disastrous man continue a disastrous war.

Nader Suggests Edwards and Gephardt as Kerry Running Mates

Politics is bizarre, to say the least. Why is Ralph giving Kerry suggestions? And why two guys who voted for the war? Why not Bob Graham (my personal favorite among the people Kerry would actually consider), or Kucinich or Dean or Mosely-Braun or Wesley Clark, all of whom were at least nominally opposed to the war in Iraq? Among those who voted for the war, Edwards is my clear favorite--I just plain like the guy having watched many of the debates, and Kucinich likes him too. Being anti-NAFTA is about the only thing I like about Gephardt. He's about the only choice who wouldn't upstage Kerry in the charisma department. If Kerry wants to bring more energy and charm to his lousy platform, Edwards is the clear choice. If he wants to get people like me to vote for him, maybe even support him (and maybe win Florida in the bargain), he should pick Graham.

I don't think Ralph is trying to sabotage Kerry with his suggestions, but I must say the fact that he made them and who they are has done more to make me less likely to vote for Nader than all of the insults thrown at Ralph (or me) by the anybody-but-Bushers.

41 Percent!

Bush's latest approval rating, that is. Fifty-two percent disapprove. Only 30% think the country is on the right track.
Sixty-one percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while just 34 percent approve.

As concern about the situation in Iraq grows, 65 percent now say the country is on the wrong track — matching the highest number ever recorded in CBS News Polls, which began asking this question in the mid-1980's. Only 30 percent currently say things in this country are headed in the right direction. One year ago, in April 2003, 56 percent of Americans said the country was headed in the right direction.

The last time the percentage that said the country was on the wrong track was as high as it is now was back in November 1994. Then, Republicans swept into control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades.

Majorities disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is handling foreign policy and the economy. Terrorism remains the only positive area for the president — a majority of 51 percent approve of the way he is handling the campaign against terrorism. But that number matches his lowest rating ever on terrorism.

Just 37 percent — the lowest number in his presidency — now approve of Mr. Bush's handling of foreign policy, while 56 percent disapprove. Mr. Bush's ratings on the economy are similar: 36 percent approve of his handling of it and 57 percent disapprove.
Americans aren't stupid--they're just REAL slow. As Bob Herbert said last month:
[F]antasy must always genuflect before reality.
If a president is bad enough for long enough, even the idiots start to notice.

He May Be Drunk, Too, Bob!

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

Destroy the Village to Save It

The World Socialist Web Site reports on the destruction in Karbala:
The conduct of the American military in Karbala has received virtually no attention in the international media. The US assault has left entire streets of the old city around the shrines in ruin. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Saturday: “Buildings are gutted, walls blown off and businesses reduced to towering piles of rubble, with twisted wires sticking out of the wreckage... destroyed and burnt-out vehicles littered the ground, as upset residents stumbled across fallen electricity cables.” Much of the Mukhaiyam mosque has been damaged. Bullets and shrapnel have scarred hundreds of houses.

Karbala has effectively been held to ransom by the US military—with the implicit threat that unless Sadr’s militia ceased their resistance the Shiite shrines inevitably would be damaged by the shells and machine-gun fire being unleashed all around them. On Friday morning, a school and other buildings directly behind the Hussein shrine, where Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia allegedly had their headquarters, were shelled by tanks and strafed by an AC-130 gunship. Al Jazeera reported that at least nine civilians were killed. An American officer described the area to the south of the shrine as “complete, total destruction”.
And while the Abu Ghraib atrocities and the Chalabi scandal are getting more press here, the "Arab street" is incensed by the attacks on Karbala and Najaf:
A Shiite demonstration was held on Friday in Bahrain—a US client-state and the main American naval base in the Persian Gulf. More than 20 people were injured in clashes when police attempted to disperse the rally. Highlighting the explosive situation, the king of Bahrain sacked his interior minister for ordering the police attack and issued a statement declaring he shared “the anger of our people over the oppression and aggression taking place in Palestine and in the holy shrines”.

In Lebanon, up to 300,000 people took part in a demonstration on Friday in Beirut called by the Shiite Hizbollah movement “in defence of the religious holy Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf against the US-led occupying forces in Iraq”. Tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiites wore white funeral shrouds and carried portraits of al-Sadr. Thousands of Palestinians also marched, denouncing the Israeli military atrocities in Gaza.

Hezbollah secretary-general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told the mass rally: “The Iraqis can decide when, how and where to fight for the liberation of their country. However, when it comes to Najaf and Karbala, we consider ourselves directly involved. In wearing our death shrouds, we show the enemies our readiness to fight and die in defence of the holy shrines and sites.”
Bush is giving a speech tonight. I know he'll repeat the same lies and platitudes, and introduce some new ones. But if he finally decides that it's time to really start addressing the problem as opposed to continuing to create it, I suggest that he steal these words spoken by a slightly more honorable warmongering president from Texas 36 years ago:
Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.

With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office--the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.
LBJ had some atrocious attitudes and escalated a stupid and pointless war. But at least it seemed to BOTHER him.

Reading LBJ's speech, I'm struck by how long it was, and how he withheld his bombshell (so to speak) announcement until the very end. The speech covers a lot of detail about Vietnam, as well as talking about the budget and other matters. I would have thought that a major announcement, such as "I'm not running for re-election," would have been the entire focus of the speech. I wonder if he was considering leaving out the three paragraphs quoted above while he was reading the rest of the speech.

Fascism in New Mexico

Cyndy links to this story about a poetry teacher in New Mexico who was fired last year because one of his students wrote and read a poem opposing the war in Iraq.
After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

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

Ten Mistakes

Actually, most fall under the category of crimes against humanity. Juan Cole has excerpted the ten mistakes cited by General Anthony Zinni a couple of weeks ago:
"And I think that will be the first mistake that will be recorded in history, the belief that containment as a policy doesn't work. It certainly worked against the Soviet Union, has worked with North Korea and others.

"The second mistake I think history will record is that the strategy was flawed. I couldn't believe what I was hearing about the benefits of this strategic move. That the road to Jerusalem led through Baghdad, when just the opposite is true, the road to Baghdad led through Jerusalem. You solve the Middle East peace process, you'd be surprised what kinds of others things will work out.

"The third mistake, I think was one we repeated from Vietnam, we had to create a false rationale for going in to get public support. The books were cooked, in my mind.

"We failed in number four, to internationalize the effort.

"I think the fifth mistake was that we underestimated the task . . . You are about to go into a problem that you don't know the dimensions and the depth of, and are going to cause you a great deal of pain, time, expenditure of resources and casualties down the road.

"The sixth mistake, and maybe the biggest one, was propping up and trusting the exiles, the infamous "Gucci Guerillas" from London. We bought into their intelligence reports.

"The seventh problem has been the lack of planning . . . And I think that lack of planning, that idea that you can do this by the seat of the pants, reconstruct a country, to make decisions on the fly, to beam in on the side that has to that political, economic, social other parts, just a handful of people at the last minute to be able to do it was patently ridiculous.

"The eighth problem was the insufficiency of military forces on the ground. There were a lot more troops in my military plan for operations in Iraq.

"The ninth problem has been the ad hoc organization we threw in there. No one can tell me the Coalition Provisional Authority had any planning for its structure.

"And that ad hoc organization has failed, leading to the tenth mistake, and that's a series of bad decisions on the ground. De-Baathifying down to a point where you've alienated the Sunnis, where you have stopped having qualified people down in the ranks, people who don't have blood on their hands, but know how to make the trains run on time . . .
Zinni was on 60 Minutes saying "they've screwed up."

This Scandal Goes All the Way to the Bottom!

Public crimes, "private" guilt.

From Ted Rall.

Blame it on the Rain

According to Kos, White House spokesperson Trent Duffy blamed aWol's bicycle accident on loose topsoil caused by recent rain. Except it hadn't rained in Crawford for eight days. Kerry supposedly asked reporters if Bush's training wheels had come off.

Enough of that. If under torture I was forced to say something positive about George W. Bush, I would commend him for being physically fit. There's so many ridiculous, scandalous, and obscene things about Bush--it's crazy to criticize him for a bicycle accident.

Then again, the White House doesn't need to lie about the rain. Lying just comes naturally to these guys.

Creative Spamming

I just got an e-mail from "Nicholas Berg." Not only is he not dead and beheaded, but he's selling medications online! Imagine!

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Putting it in Perspective

January 29, 2002: President Bush introduces us to the "axis of evil"--Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

May 2004: President Bush pulls 3600 troops out of South Korea, facing the only "axis" member thought to actually posess nuclear weapons, to continue fighting the illegal war in Iraq, which was justified using false information bought by the administration from Chalabi, who was working for Iran.

The real axis of evil is in Washington.

Tell Kerry what you Think!

This online survey asks you to give your opinions to the Democrats' lame nominee. (Yeah, I know, he's better than Bush. And Abu Ghraib under the Americans isn't as bad as Abu Ghraib under Saddam. We need some standards here.)

Now Sit Right Back and You'll Here a Tale

From Clay Bennett.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Bizarro Weather

Last night we had an electrical storm unlike any I'd ever seen. It wasn't particularly loud and there was almost no wind, but the lightning was almost constant, just flashing brighter and softer for over half an hour like a faulty fluorescent light. This afternoon, the rain came in a downpour with strong winds, looking rather like a hurricane.

I've read that one of the most visible early signs of global warming will be (is) more unpredictable and violent weather. Michigan weather has always been unpredictable, but it sure seems to be getting even more so in recent years.

History Repeats Itself

Two Tom Tomorrow cartoons from 1991:

TT's full archives are here!

Let the Sun Shine

California's state legislature is considering a bill that would require homebuilders to include a percentage of solar-powered houses in all new subdivisions. (LA Times editorial)

Azalia in bloom in my front yard! (I'm trying out the new "Bloggerbot" picture posting tool which uses the "hello" instant messenger.) Posted by Hello


I've got my bumper sticker AND my vanity plate! I've been running my 2001 VW Golf on about 50% biodiesel for over two weeks now; if it ever runs low, I'll fill it with 100%!

Read more about biodiesel in my previous posts here and here and here and here!

Take a stand and take a hike!

Michelle apologizes when she steals an entire post. I'm sorry, but I won't! She quotes former US diplomat Roger Morris from a Salon article asking current diplomats to resign from the Bush administration:
The diplomat who quit over Nixon's invasion of Cambodia [Roger Morris] asks Americans on the front lines of foreign service to resign from the "worst regime by far in the history of the republic".

I need not dwell on the obvious about foreign policy under President Bush -- and on what you on the inside, whatever your politics, know to be even worse than imagined by outsiders. The senior among you have seen the disgrace firsthand. In the corridor murmur by which a bureaucracy tells its secrets to itself, all of you have heard the stories.

You know how recklessly a cabal of political appointees and ideological zealots, led by the exceptionally powerful and furtively doctrinaire Vice President Cheney, corrupted intelligence and usurped policy on Iraq and other issues. You know the bitter departmental disputes in which a deeply politicized, parochial Pentagon overpowered or simply ignored any opposition in the State Department or the CIA, rushing us to unilateral aggressive war in Iraq and chaotic, fateful occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

You know well what a willfully uninformed and heedless president you serve in Bush, how chilling are the tales of his ignorance and sectarian fervor, lethal opposites of the erudition and open-mindedness you embody in the arts of diplomacy and intelligence. Some of you know how woefully his national security advisor fails her vital duty to manage some order among Washington's thrashing interests, and so to protect her president, and the country, from calamity. You know specifics. Many of you are aware, for instance, that the torture at Abu Ghraib was an issue up and down not only the Pentagon but also State, the CIA and the National Security Council staff for nearly a year before the scandalous photos finally leaked.

As you have seen in years of service, every presidency has its arrogance, infighting and blunders in foreign relations. As most of you recognize, too, the Bush administration is like no other. You serve the worst foreign policy regime by far in the history of the republic.

...And again, whatever your politics, those of you who have served other presidents know this is an unparalleled bipartisan disaster. In its militant hubris and folly, the Bush administration has undone the statesmanship of every government before it, and broken faith with every presidency, Democratic and Republican (even that of Bush I), over the past half century.

...You know that showcase resignations at the top -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or flag officers fingered for Abu Ghraib -- change nothing, are only part of the charade. It is the same with Secretary of State Colin Powell, who may have been your lone relative champion in this perverse company, but who remains the political general he always was, never honoring your loss by giving up his office when he might have stemmed the descent.

No, it is you whose voices are so important now. You alone stand above ambition and partisanship. This administration no longer deserves your allegiance or participation. America deserves the leadership and example, the decisive revelation, of your resignations.

Your resignations alone would speak to America the truth that beyond any politics, this Bush regime is intolerable -- and to an increasingly cynical world the truth that there are still Americans who uphold with their lives and honor the highest principles of our foreign policy.

...Unless and until you do, however, please be under no illusion: Every cable you write to or from the field, every letter you compose for Congress or the public, every memo you draft or clear, every budget you number, every meeting you attend, every testimony you give extends your share of the common disaster.

The America that you sought to represent in choosing your career, the America that once led the community of nations not by brazen power but by the strength of its universal principles, has never needed you more. Those of us who know you best, who have shared your work and world, know you will not let us down. You are, after all, the trustees.

Can you say FUBAR?

Juan Cole on the latest reports of fighting in Karbala:
Even if the shrines were not damaged, you can't imagine how much Shiites don't want to hear phrases like "American tanks and AC-130 gunships pounded insurgent positions near two shrines in the center of the holy city of Karbala early Friday . . . " I cringed when I saw it. I don't see how Iraqi Shiites are going to forgive us for this. Ever.

Who's that standing behind Laura Bush?

In this picture? Why, it's Ahmed Chalabi!

Don't Miss Bob Herbert Today

In the NY Times:
Sergeant Mejia has been charged with desertion. His court-martial at Fort Stewart, Ga., began Wednesday, the same day that Specialist Sivits pleaded guilty to the charges against him. If Sergeant Mejia is convicted, he will face a similar punishment, a year in prison and a bad-conduct discharge.

Sergeant Mejia told me in a long telephone interview this week that he had qualms about the war from the beginning but he followed his orders and went to Iraq in April 2003. He led an infantry squad and saw plenty of action. But the more he thought about the war — including the slaughter of Iraqi civilians, the mistreatment of prisoners (which he personally witnessed), the killing of children, the cruel deaths of American G.I.'s (some of whom are the targets of bounty hunters in search of a reported $2,000 per head), the ineptitude of inexperienced, glory-hunting military officers who at times are needlessly putting U.S. troops in even greater danger, and the growing rage among coalition troops against all Iraqis (known derisively as "hajis," the way the Vietnamese were known as "gooks") — the more he thought about these things, the more he felt that this war could not be justified, and that he could no longer be part of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

What's the Deal with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

Maybe the only thing I agree with Bush on is his continuing to fill the strategic petroleum reserve while gasoline prices continue to climb. In a real emergency, firetrucks, ambulances and police cars can run on $5 a gallon fuel, but they can't run on $1.50 fuel if you haven't got any. At least that's why I think they should keep filling it. I'm pretty sure that has nothing to do with Bush's "thinking," however. Why, when he's finally taking political hits from all over, would he not try to stem the tide and give in to public pressure for lower gasoline prices? I can only think that it is a part of his re-election strategy--perhaps to make him look prudent when the next big terrorist attack hits this fall on a date to be determined by Karl Rove?

Finally Getting It Right

As I mentioned in my previous post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Bush incompetent, among other things, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday:
"Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he's not a leader,'' Pelosi said. "He's a person who has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon.''
"He has on his shoulders the deaths of many more troops, because he would not heed the advice of his own State Department of what to expect after May 1 when he ... declared that major combat is over,'' Pelosi charged. "The shallowness that he has brought to the office has not changed since he got there.''
"Not to get personal about it, but the president's capacity to lead has never been there. In order to lead, you have to have judgment. In order to have judgment, you have to have knowledge and experience. He has none,'' Pelosi said.
That's good stuff, Nancy! Why hadn't you figured that out a year and a half ago? Here's some of what Pelosi told Tim Russert in a Meet the Press interview in November 2002 (The MTP transcript isn't online anymore, but my post about it is):
  • Suffice to say, we stand should-to-shoulder with the president in the fight against terrorism.
  • My concern was what going into Iraq, what the impact of that would be on the war on terrorism, which is a clear and present danger.
  • I don’t question a decision of the president of the United States on his timing or the priority he gives a threat.
  • MR. RUSSERT: But if the president decides to go unilaterally or with the British and the Turks without U.N. approval, you would support the president? REP. PELOSI: Yes, I would support the president.
Okay, give her a little benefit of the doubt. She was new on the job, right? Well, four months later, as Bush was loading the gun two weeks before the official start of the invasion, Pelosi gave her first foreign policy speech as minority leader, saying it was TOO LATE to stop Bush because the Dems had been such wimps earlier:
"If the Democrats had spoken out more clearly in a unified vote five months ago in opposition to the resolution, if the people had gone on to the streets five months ago in these numbers in our country and throughout the world, I think we might have been in a different place today," Pelosi said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

"But the fact that we didn't and because we were very split at that time on it, I think the president is too far down the road and I don't think he's turning back," the California Democrat said.
And then in May of last year, Pelosi was willing to give Bush a pass on the missing WMD's:
This week, Pelosi said it is "difficult to understand" why the weapons can't be found. Yet she did not seem concerned about whether any are found. "I am sort of agnostic on it; that is to say, maybe they are there," Pelosi said. "I salute the president for the goal of removing weapons of mass destruction."

Similarly, Senate Democratic Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who on the eve of war accused Bush of failing "miserably" to win international backing, now talks of giving the president "great credit" for winning the war.
Bush is incompetent, no doubt. But he's not the only one. The cartoon I posted this morning applies to Pelosi as well.

Training Wheels?

That's what 15 months of a brutal and horribly mismanaged occupation following an illegal invasion was? Training wheels?

See, aWol went to Capitol Hill today to talk to (not listen to) Republican legislators:
Representative Deborah Pryce, Republican of Ohio, told reporters that the president told the group that for Iraqis it was "time to take the training wheels off" and that they need "to take the bike and go forward."

Ms. Pryce also said that Mr. Bush told the group that Mr. Bremer's job "would have been a great job if it hadn't been so dangerous," and "you know, who in the world would want it to begin with."
I'd say Nancy Pelosi was being generous when she called Bush "incompetent" yesterday.

Skeptical about the Skepticism

Josh Marshall doubts the suggestion in my previous post that the Chalabi raid was staged to boost Chalabi's standing in Iraq.


A story on suggests that the Bushies' "break" with Chalabi is just a ruse to get him in power in the post-June 30 government. "See? He's not our guy--he's independent and stuff!"

So they pretend to cut off his funding and make a dramatic raid on his home and office, and Chalabi acts suitably outraged. Try to convince Iraqis and the whole world that he's not an American puppet so that he can continue to be an American puppet. Would Iraqis really think that an independent embezzling lying scumbag would be a big improvement over a puppet embezzling lying scumbag anyway?

What Juan Cole Says...

I've checked the UM professor's blog several times this morning to read his post on the Chalabi raid. It's finally there! His conclusion?
One problem with the way the US has been behaving in Iraq, whatever the merits of this case, is that it is alienating all major political forces in the country. First its radical debaathification (so that a high school teacher out in Ramadi who had joined the Baath party but never done anything criminal was fired and excluded from civil society) alienated the Sunnis. They have not been mollified by recent steps belatedly to reverse this policy. Then the US came after Muqtada al-Sadr and began alienating a lot more Shiites. Now it has turned the [Chalabi's] Iraqi National Congress against it. The INC, whatever one thinks of it, has strong Kurdish and Shiite allies. What happens to a ruler without strong allies? Can you say Louis XVI?

When Scumbags Fight

The Washington Post has a more thorough description of the U.S. raid on Chalabi's house and offices this morning, and they offer a bit of an explanation:
The raids appeared to complete Chalabi's remarkable fall from grace in Washington over the last difficult year of U.S. occupation in Iraq. INC officials said the operation was U.S. retribution against Chalabi for his increasingly strident criticism of the American management of post-war Iraq.
And the New York Times offers this quote
"Bremer," said one Chalabi aide, "has lost his mind."
and this photo:

While probably a far worse person by any scale than Paul O'Neill, Joseph Wilson, or Richard Clarke, Chalabi is receiving the same Bushie wrath they deal out to those who turn against them.

This means you Kerry, and you too, Hillary!

From Milt Priggee.

Bad Apples

Explanation, Please!

Michael Ramirez from the LA Times is one of the more annoying right-wing cartoonists that I see on the Slate cartoon page. He's been a consistent defender of the war in Iraq. As far as the Israel/Palestine war goes, his position seems at least somewhat nuanced. He places a lot of blame on Arafat and on Hamas, but he also seems to suggest that the settlements and the wall in the West Bank are serious impediments to peace. Still, here's a cartoon from 2002 which is fairly typical of the right-wing cartoonists' "big bad Arab terrorist kills helpless innocent Israelis" theme:

But his most recent cartoon seems to put a more realistic perspective on the relative strengths of the two sides:

Please use the comments to tell me what you think he is saying here. Is he really pointing out the unfairness of the situation, just like the first cartoon with the roles reversed. Or is he trying to point out the Palestinians that resistance is futile? Or what?


Sins of the Fathers

This should be a land of equal opportunity. Anybody should have a chance to become president or have his own radio show, right? I guess, though I'm sorely tempted to call for preventing sons of former presidents becoming president or having talk shows. You know who I'm talking about as far as president. As for radio shows, I'm talking about Michael Reagan. Like idiot Senator Inhofe, he's outraged by the outrage from the Democrats about the Abu Ghraib scandal, and claims that the Nick Berg execution justifies everything. (And by "Democrats," I guess he's including Senators McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC) and Warner (R-VA), who have explained clearly and repeatedly what is really wrong with Abu Ghraib and the general prison torture scandal, and why it should not be swept under the rug.)

Reagan makes the commonly-heard argument that "our" abuse pales in comparison with Saddam's, but neglects to mention that his father's (and the president's father's) administration actively supported Saddam in the '80's, even though his atrocities and use of chemical weapons were known back then.

Sometimes I think I should stop reading right-wing crap all together. It almost never provides me with any information, but it always pisses me off.

Raid on Chalabi

The thlot pickens! Dick Cheney's favorite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi, was the Iraqi exile who fed Cheney and the others the BS about Saddam's WMD's. The Bushies used said BS as their main reason for invading Iraq, and then tried in various ways to put Chalabi in charge of the country. Chalabi and his nephew Salem were given control of Saddam's security force's records on thousands (millions?) of Iraqis, giving them immense power to shame or blackmail possible political opponents.

Well, this morning, according to AP:
U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police surrounded the residence of Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday, and an aide said the troops raided the house ostensibly to search for fugitives.
Several armed Westerners were also seen, wearing flak vests and using SUVs without license tags -- vehicles associated here with U.S. security.

Some people could be seen loading boxes into vehicles, and neighbors said some members of Chalabi's entourage were taken away.
I've only read this one story so far; I'll bet Juan Cole and Atrios and Josh Marshall and Billmon and many others will have lots of interesting angles on this story. Just days ago the Bushies decided to stop paying this embezzling liar (or is it lying embezzler?) $335,000 a month to keep lying to us.

It will be interesting to see who ordered this raid--was it done with the approval of longtime Chalabi supporters like Cheney and Rumsfeld, or did Powell or Rice, perhaps, convince W to overrule Cheney? Maybe Cheney died in his undisclosed location and they're keeping it a secret? (They keep everything else secret.) Or maybe some rogue Army colonel got so pissed at Rummy and company that he ordered the action himself?

In any case, it would seem to indicate the end of Chalabi's influence over our government, and that can only be good. Maybe they'll finally extradite him to Jordan and let him serve his twenty years there.

[Update] Okay, I've checked the blogs I mentioned above, and a couple of others, and none has anything to add to the story so far except a pithy comment or two. I will say that I'm wondering if those boxes removed in the raid contained those records that gave Chalabi so much control.

Globalization! Ugh! What is it good for?

Absolutely nuthin'. Here's an excerpt from Arundhati Roy's speech (printed in the book War Talk) at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, January 27, 2003:

It is a myth that the free market breaks down national barriers. The free market does not threaten national sovereignty, it undermines democracy.

As the disparity between the rich and the poor grows, the fight to corner resources is intensifying. To push through their "sweetheart deals," to corporatize the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the dreams we dream, corporate globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies.

Corporate globalization--or shall we call it by its name?--Imperialism--needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice.

Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden their borders and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. After all they have to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents, and services that are globalized. Not the free movement of people. Not a respect for human rights. Not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons or greenhouse gas emissions or climate change or--god forbid--justice.

So this--all of this--is Empire. This loyal confederation, this obscene accumulation of power, this greatly increased distance between those who make the decisions and those who have to suffer them.

Our fight, our goal, our vision of another world must be to eliminate that distance.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Monkey's Uncle

Regulators Fine Riggs $25 Million

New York Times
Federal regulators fined the Riggs National Corporation, the parent company of Riggs Bank, $25 million yesterday for failing to report suspicious activity, the largest penalty ever assessed against a domestic bank in connection with money laundering.
The fine stems from Riggs's failure over at least the last two years to actively monitor suspect financial transfers through Saudi Arabian and Equatorial Guinean accounts held by the bank. The accounts are still being scrutinized as possible conduits for terrorist funds or for the proceeds of graft

And guess who's an executive for Riggs? George H.W. Bush's brother, aWol's Uncle Jonathan Bush.

Talk Left has more. Those 28 redacted pages from the Congressional 9/11 report make even more sense now.

Conspiracy theorists are those who believe that terrorists attacked us "because they hate our freedoms," that the whole operation was planned by a sick man hiding in a cave in Afghanistan, and that George W. Bush has done a good job in the "war on terror." A sober consideration of the facts would lead reasonable people to conclude that the Bush family at a very minimum facilitated the 9/11 attacks to further their imperial and dynastic programs. The Bushes are the most dangerous crime family in history.

McCain Mutiny, Part II

From CNN:
The exchange started when a reporter asked: "Can I combine a two issues, Iraq and taxes? I heard a speech from John McCain the other day..."

Hastert: "Who?"

Reporter: "John McCain."

Hastert: "Where's he from?"

Reporter: "He's a Republican from Arizona."

Hastert: "A Republican?"

Amid nervous laughter, the reporter continued with his question: "Anyway, his observation was never before when we've been at war have we been worrying about cutting taxes and his question was, 'Where's the sacrifice?' "

Hastert: "If you want to see the sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda. There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make sure they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it. And, at the same time, we have to react to keep this country strong."
For the ultimate figurehead nonentity chickenhawk (sorry, George) to be trying to mock the former POW and star Republican McCain is ludicrous. I couldn't find an article about it through google, and apparently McCain didn't bring it up in his response, but I'd still bet money that McCain has been to Walter Reed and Bethesda.

Bush and Hastert are wrong on EVERYTHING; McCain was and is wrong about the war in Iraq, but he's right about campaign finance reform, right about global warming, and right to point out the reckless fiscal irresponsibility of his Repuglican colleagues. As I said yesterday, I just don't get why he's still loyal to a party that obviously can't stand him.

Get Out. Now. Two.

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinians blame an Israeli helicopter strike for the deaths of 24 people among 200 marching in a protest of Israel's crackdown in Gaza, but the Israeli military vigorously denied its helicopter fired on the crowd.
Of course not. They were firing on one guy who just happened to be standing in the middle of the crowd.

Though crowded out of the headlines by the news of atrocities in Iraq, things in Gaza have gone from terrible to much worse than terrible in the past few weeks. Palestinians are being killed by the dozens and having their homes demolished by the hundreds, but it generally only makes major headlines when a Palestinian retaliates and kills a few Israelis. Major headlines here, that is. In the Arab world, including Iraq, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is a major story, as was Bush's acquiesence with Sharon's plans last month.

I'm sure one person is happy about all of this, if he's still alive--Osama bin Laden. Bush, Sharon and Blair have been his dream team for convincing Arabs and Muslims to see the U.S., Israel and Britain as the enemy.

Get Out. Now.

Following a recurring pattern established in Afghanistan, U.S. aircraft have apparently shot up another wedding, this time in western Iraq, killing dozens.
Iraqi witnesses said in a video distributed by The Associated Press that at least 20 people were killed and five others critically wounded early Wednesday when planes fired on a wedding celebration in an Iraqi village near the Syrian border.

The Pentagon said it is investigating.

A man on the video said all homes in the village were destroyed in the attack at about 3 a.m. local time Wednesday.

The video showed at least a dozen bodies, including small children, wrapped in blankets for burial as they were unloaded from a truck.

Men with picks and shovels were digging a series of graves in the video.
Meanwhile, the same article reports the deaths of two more soldiers.

We had no business going there; we've got even less staying.

Venezuela Talk

I'm giving a talk about my recent trip to Venezuela tomorrow night here in Ann Arbor. If you're local, please come! (It's free!!!) I'll be speaking at the Friends Meeting House,, 1420 Hill Street, Ann Arbor (about a block west of Washtenaw, across from Hillel), at 7 PM.

I've posted the text I'll be speaking from here. If you want to know how close what I actually say is to that, I'll guess you'll just have to come and find out!

Public Service Announcement

I went to a CPR course this morning. I'd been to one before, about three years ago, but this was the first time I had been trained in using an automated external defibrillator, or AED. Did you know that the newer ones which are being placed all over have recorded messages which tell you what to do? Even if you've never had CPR training, if you are the best or only person available to save someone who has no pulse, please use an AED if one is available. You should call 911, or better yet have someone else do it, while you set up the AED. They say every minute in cardiac arrest lowers the victim's chances of survival by 10% (and they didn't start at 100% at the time of the heart attack).

The AED's have start buttons. Once you push start, it will tell you how to attach the pads. Once the pads are attached, the AED can analyze the patient's heart activity and decide whether administering a shock is advisable. It warns you not to touch the patient, and tells you when to push the shock button. In some cases, the shock is not advisable, and it will tell you that too.

So pay attention to where AED's are stored at your workplace and other places you go, and make sure other people are, too. And while it would be best to have a trained paramedic or EMT administer treatment, and second best to have someone trained in CPR, don't hesitate to grab an AED and start hooking it up if you're the only option for someone without a pulse. At that moment, you're their only hope.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

Time Magazine has a very positive review of Michael Moore's latest movie.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" may be seen as another example of the liberal media preaching to its own choir. But Moore is such a clever assembler of huge accusations and minor peccadillos (as with a shot of Wolfowitz sticking his pocket comb in his mouth and sucking on it to slick down his hair before a TV interview) that the film should engage audiences of all political persuasions.

In one sense, Michael Moore took George W. Bush’s advice. He found “real work” deconstructing the President’s Iraq mistakes. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is Moore’s own War on Error.

How About Getting Some of it Back?

The United States government has decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, an official with the group said on Monday.

Mr. Chalabi, a longtime exile leader and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, played a crucial role in persuading the administration that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. But he has since become a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration, who say the United States relied on him too heavily for prewar intelligence that has since proved faulty.

Mr. Chalabi's group has received at least $27 million in United States financing in the past four years, the Iraqi National Congress official said. This includes $335,000 a month as part of a classified program through the Defense Intelligence Agency, since the summer of 2002, to help gather intelligence in Iraq. -- NY Times.
Chalabi basically said back in February that the ends justified the means, that he told lies to Cheney so they could get their war. Our tax dollars (well, actually those of the next two or three generations) have gone to pay this liar, embezzler and general scum of the earth for years.

The McCain Mutiny

As I've written before, it seems as though the best hope for getting rid of Bush comes from Republican senators. The Repugs in the House are consistently and totally partisan, and the rules in the House give them almost total control over the committees and the votes. So even though the most progressive politicians in America are in the House--Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, John Conyers and some others--their voice is rarely heard, and it rarely has an impact. Both because there are fewer of them, and because of Senate rules like the filibuster, individual senators have much more power than their House counterparts. Unfortunately, there are very few senators who are remotely progressive: Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold maybe, and Robert Byrd and Bob Graham and one or two others on certain topics like war. Most of the prominent Democrats are total wimps who voted for the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and pay continuous lip-service to the "war on terror" BS, giving Bush a pass on what should be seen as his greatest among many negatives. Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Diane Feinstein and most of the other Democratic senators, including John Kerry, fall into this category (Joe Lieberman is a Republican).

But several Republican senators have been quite outspoken in their criticism of the Bushies: Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, Richard Shelby. Even South Carolina's Lindsey Graham has been quite outspoken in his criticism of the Abu Ghraib atrocities. But the most eloquent, and best known, of these critics is John McCain. Here's an extended selection from NBC News' Meet the Press on Sunday:
Tim Russert: What serious errors were made?

Sen. John McCain, R-AZ: I think several. One was the lack of sufficient troops there which allowed the looting to take place, which established kind of a lawless environment. I think any law enforcement person would tell you that the environment is a very important aspect of it. The fact that we island-hopped and left certain areas of towns and cities around Baghdad as well as in the Sunni Triangle alone. I think it's because we probably didn't make sufficient plans to turn over the government as quickly as possible and a level of expectation that probably was unrealistic, which led to a certain amount of disappointment, but a lot of it had to do with lack of sufficient troop strength at the time that "combat phase" was over.
McCain: But let me just say that the Iraqi people don't want Americans there as occupiers. But if the Iraqi people saw us there as a way to provide security and to bolster the government and help them make this transition, I think these numbers would be very different. I just don't see our friends in Paris now agreeing to significant NATO involvement. I'm sorry to tell you, because of many of the errors in the past, the bulk of the responsibility is going to lie with America. But should President Bush seek help wherever he can? Absolutely. But it's still going to be America's mission.
Russert: Senator McCain, do you think the Bush administration understands the sense of urgency necessary to deal with Iraq at this moment?

McCain: I think they're beginning to. I think the increase in troops, which actually has taken place and more may be needed, is an indication of that. I believe this commitment to hold firm to the June 30 date. As was mentioned earlier, mistakes happen in war. That's why we try to avoid them. Mistakes have been made. I think we all acknowledge that. The important thing is, we are in a crucial time. This is the point where we can still achieve success in Iraq if we get a legitimate election and a legitimate government in power. And now's the time that, yes, we need presidential leadership and we need congressional leadership, and we have to understand that if we lose this conflict, the consequences are enormous. And the benefits of success are also enormous.
McCain: ...and other countries criticizing us, we will punish those responsible. In many countries that are criticizing us today, it is common practice. But that doesn't matter. We distinguish ourselves by our treatment of our enemies. And there are conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war. And my view in Iraq, they were violated and we cannot let this happen again. And you got to get everything out as quickly as possible. Take remedial action and move forward and take the measures that we were talking about earlier in the program.

Russert: So you are not outraged by the outrage?

McCain: No. I'm saddened. I'm saddened by what it hurts the reputation of our brave young men and women who are serving with such honor and sacrifice. But I'm also saddened by the image of America in the world. There are prisons all over the world that are looking for our adherence to human rights, the people are, and that we will bring about their freedom. This diminishes our ability to achieve that goal.
We need to take this as far up as it goes and we need to do it quickly and I am convinced that the sooner we do that, the sooner the United States of America can begin to reassert its rightful place in the world as a leading advocate for democracy and human rights. And we are signatories to certain protocols as well as adherence to the Geneva Convention which should apply in Iraq.

Russert: This is a presidential election year. I don't have to tell either of you gentlemen. Newsweek, this is the latest poll. President Bush's job approval? Approve, 42 percent; disapprove, 52 percent. President Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq? Approve, 35 percent; disapprove, 57 percent. Senator McCain, what do those numbers tell you for Republican President George Bush?

McCain: It means that we've got to get this issue--bring closure to this issue as quickly as possible, assign whatever responsibility there is and move on, because the thing that bothers me more than the presidential implications is that Americans, when they saw these pictures, turned away from him, as I turned away when I saw them, and we cannot lose this and we cannot lose the American support, public support for this conflict. And that's, I think, the more serious consequences than even to the fortunes of President Bush.

Fine so far, Senator. Even though I disagree strongly with your support for the war, it sounds as though your priorities are in decent order. But when Russert asks him about the rumors about being Kerry's running mate, McCain strongly denies interest. And here is his explanation:
McCain: I am a loyal Republican. I am supporting President Bush's re-election. I am campaigning for it. And I'd like to mention one other thing. The bullet played in all these stories is John McCain is angry at President Bush about 2000. Look, that was four years ago. My constituents don't want me to look back in anger. They want me to represent them. I work with President Bush on a lot of issues and I want him re-elected and I'm not looking back in anger at anything.
Shorter John McCain: Bush is doing a stinky job in Iraq and in other areas, he's a nasty campaigner who used dirty tricks to defeat me in 2000, but in the end being a Republican is more important than being an American or Earthling.

Low Gas Prices Cost More Than High Gas Prices

Axis of Evil

From Ann Telnaes.

From Jim Morin.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is an Indian woman who writes eloquently about peace and social justice, or any other topic she chooses. Here are a few quotes from her book, War Talk:
Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. When independent, thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the nation, it's time for all of us to sit up and worry.

She also gives us some of the sordid history of British imperialism in the Middle East:
In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the coutry...Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.--Lord Arthur James Balfour, British Foreign Secretary, 1919
And this from Winston Churchill in 1937:
I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger, even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.
If Bush was going to invade Iraq anyway, which he was, it seems as though he would actually have had a better chance in the hearts-and-minds area if it had been completely unilateral. Aside from Israel, I'd have to think that Bush couldn't have had a coalition partner more offensive to Iraqis than Britain.

On the other hand, this is the first time I've understood how people could claim that Bush is Churchillian.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Oil Prices Reach New High

LONDON - Oil prices struck a new high on Monday on simmering concern that rapid fuel demand growth will outpace global supplies at a time when traders fear a sabotage attack on the Middle East oil infrastructure.

U.S. light crude reached $41.85 a barrel, the highest price since the New York Mercantile Exchange launched the crude contract in 1983.
-- Reuters

There's a lot of news out there which should be damaging to aWol's chances for reappointment. While I try to point out these news items and explain Bush's complicity, I can't enjoy many of them. Soldiers being killed and wounded, prisoners being tortured--nothing to be happy about there. I'll attempt to see that some good results might come from them, but obviously I hope they stop today, even if it benefits Bush.

But when it comes to rising oil prices, I'm jumping for joy. This country and much of the world has been living an oil-based lie for decades. In the long run only good things can result from higher oil prices. Only the most unimaginative politicians can claim that higher prices will hurt our economy. With just the tiniest bit of creativity it should be a huge boost! Lots of work in renewable energy, mass transit, new vehicle designs, and so on. Finally turn the trade deficit around by using home-grown fuels instead of oil imports.

The oil economy was going to run aground sooner or later. It's already later, but every day that passes without our officially abandoning oil as a major component of our economy just means that the crash will be that much harder.

So go oil, go! And if you take Bush out with you, all the better!

Planned From the Top

A Newsweek story is backing up Seymour Hersh's New Yorker story about how the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in the American gulag is the result of a decision made in late 2001 or early 2002 by Donald Rumsfeld.

The Bush administration created a bold legal framework to justify this system of interrogation, according to internal government memos obtained by NEWSWEEK. What started as a carefully thought-out, if aggressive, policy of interrogation in a covert war—designed mainly for use by a handful of CIA professionals—evolved into ever-more ungoverned tactics that ended up in the hands of untrained MPs in a big, hot war. Originally, Geneva Conventions protections were stripped only from Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. But later Rumsfeld himself, impressed by the success of techniques used against Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay, seemingly set in motion a process that led to their use in Iraq, even though that war was supposed to have been governed by the Geneva Conventions. Ultimately, reservist MPs, like those at Abu Ghraib, were drawn into a system in which fear and humiliation were used to break prisoners' resistance to interrogation.

The Berg Beheading

While suitably disgusted and appalled, I haven't paid much attention to the Berg story. The blog New World Disorder has, however, and provides a lot of interesting points for the suspicious.

Blame it on the CIA

You know that we've gone through the looking glass, around the bend, and way outside the envelope when liberal types like me start defending the CIA. But Colin Powell has finally admitted he told an untruth (aka "lie") to the UN and the world about the "Winnebagoes of Death" mobile balloon fillers that posed an imminent threat to our safety. But he says it is because the CIA was "misled," which caused him to be misled.

While I'm sure the CIA made mistakes in evaluating intelligence, the Bushies, including Powell, desperately WANTED to be misled by Chalabi or anyone else who would tell them what they wanted to hear.

Bush to Meet with Pope

On June 4, meaning he'll probably be out of town once agains for a big protest march (ANSWER is planning a march on the Pentagon on June 5). Apparently the Pope and his minions will give Dubya an earful:
"To bomb a mosque, to enter holy cities, to put women soldiers in contact with naked men, shows a lack of understanding of the Muslim world that I would label astonishing," Cardinal Laghi said.

"Bridges must be built with Islam, not pits dug," he suggested. "And priority should be given to the Israeli-Palestinian question, which is the first source of terror."

He added that "the forces present in Iraq not only must not be in fact under the command of the United States, but they must not even give the impression that they are."

Fahrenheit 911

Reuters reviews Michael Moore's latest film, which is apparently a hit at Cannes. My right-leaning sister surprised me when she said she liked "Bowling for Colombine." I wonder if she'll watch this one.

Bike to Work Week!

I rode to work this morning, how about you? Here's information about BTWW in Ann Arbor.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Osama's Best Friend

Time to stop digging

From R.J. Matson.

The Iraqi Hillbillies

Or I Wish They All Could Be West Virginny Girls
[My apologies to West Virginians, including many of my relatives, and to hillbillies everywhere, including Kansas. I grew fond of multiple titles for stories while watching Rocky & Bullwinkle as a kid. ("Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a title out of my hat!" "Again?")]
Frank Rich compares and links the stories of Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England.
IT'S almost too perfect. Two young working-class women from opposite ends of West Virginia go off to war. One is blond and has aspirations to be a schoolteacher. The other is dark, a smoker, divorced and now carrying an out-of-wedlock baby. One becomes the heroic poster child for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the subject of a hagiographic book and TV movie; the other becomes the hideous, leering face of American wartime criminality, Exhibit A in the indictment of our country's descent into the gulag. In the words of Time magazine, Pfc. Lynndie England is "a Jessica Lynch gone wrong."

Thanks to Dena for sending that!

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Get Lost, W

USA Today founder Al Neuharth says that it's time for GWB to make like LBJ and head for the ranch now.
Maybe Bush should take a cue from a fellow Texan, former president Lyndon Baines Johnson, who also had some cowboy characteristics.

LBJ, after mismanaging the Vietnam War that so bitterly divided the nation and the world, decided he owed it to his political party and to his country not to run for re-election. So, he turned tail and rode off into the sunset of his Texas ranch.

Five more soldiers dead

And "dozens" of Iraqi "insurgents." I'm guessing that the operative definition of "insurgent" is "non-American over the age of ten."

Bush Let Zarqawi Go?

From Slate:
The second news story that heaves more burdens on the president comes from an NBC News broadcast by Jim Miklaszewski on March 2. Apparently, Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the story puts it:

[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

If this is true, then Bush, who as the article makes clear had much more control over the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq before the war than Saddam did (Saddam had none), allowed one of the world's most dangerous terrorists to operate a terrorist camp there so that he could use it as an excuse to go to war. In effect, Bush was harboring terrorists. Zarqawi was linked to the attempted sarin gas attack in London in January 2003, and has been fingered as the executioner of Nicholas Berg.

I've pretty much given up predicting that THIS is the straw that will break the camel's back, but sheesh! Except for denying that it's true, I don't see any way that anyone on the left or right can spin this in any way that doesn't result in Bush's impeachment and imprisonment. If you believe the hype about the "war on terror," then you must see that Bush hasn't delivered on his promises. If you don't believe the spin, then this is just one more case of Bush lying to get his war.

Powell says US will leave Iraq if asked

Dear Colin: Get out!

Well, he didn't say we'd get out if I asked, but he did say they would honor any request by Iraq's new government to withdraw foreign troops after June 30.
Speaking after a meeting of officials from leading industrial nations, Mr. Powell and his colleagues emphasized that they did not expect such a request to come. It is inconceivable, they asserted, for anyone to doubt that a troop pullout would lead to chaos and violence in Iraq.
Chaos and violence they already have in spades. Hope is what seems to be missing--and a US withdrawal would give them that.
But the envoys evidently felt compelled to clarify the issue after some testimony in Congress on Thursday left the administration's intentions unclear. "I have no doubt that the interim Iraqi government will welcome the continued presence and operation of coalition military forces," Mr. Powell said, adding that he was "absolutely losing no sleep thinking that they might ask us to leave."
Of course he's not losing any sleep. He's popping Ambien.

But he said that, in the interest of clearing up any confusion, "were this interim government to say to us, `We really think we can handle this on our own; it would be better if you were to leave,' we would leave."
Could they possibly handle it any worse, Colin?

Billmon is at the conference in Jordan where Powell was speaking; it will be interesting to read his take on it.

Declare Victory and Come Home

It's the only way out. A Time magazine headline:
A Future for Iraq's Insurgents?
Negotiations at Fallujah and Najaf suggest those who have fought the Coalition may play a role in Iraq's future

Friday, May 14, 2004

Telling/Asking Congress about Biodiesel

As you already know if you've been reading the blog for the last couple of weeks, I'm pretty excited about my "new" 2001 VW Golf TDI, which is currently running on about 50% biodiesel. So today, I decided to write my congressman about biodiesel!
Dear Congressman Dingell:
You came and spoke to us at the Michigan Union last December. I appreciated your visit and what you had to say. Somebody asked you about your opinion on the CAFE standards and your approach in general to improving fuel economy. You responded by suggesting that low-sulfur diesel fuel offered a lot of promise, and that it was already widely available in Europe.

My question is: What is your opinion of biodiesel? I recently became aware of biodiesel (diesel fuel made from vegetable oil, either new or used) as an alternative to fossil fuels like petrodiesel, gasoline, and natural gas. I did a lot of research, and became convinced that it offers a great opportunity for increased mileage (over gasoline, anyway), cleaner emissions, and especially energy independence. Needing a car anyway, I went out and bought a used diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf, which runs wonderfully on biodiesel. While not widely available yet, there is a station about 25 miles from here which sells 100% biodiesel. Since my car gets about 700 miles per tank, this isn’t a serious inconvenience, although I’m hoping we’ll get a station or two in Ann Arbor selling it soon.

The national biodiesel board ( claims a large positive energy balance for biodiesel—that over three times as much energy is in the fuel as it takes to make it (by comparison, ethanol seems to be hovering right around the 1-to-1 break-even point).

I know that GM had a bad experience with diesel cars in the 1980’s, but it is my understanding that much cleaner and more efficient diesel engines can be made now (like the one in my VW), and that it would be a much simpler task for the Big Three to convert a substantial part of their production to diesel engines than it would to switch to hybrids. And with the possibility of using a clean, renewable and domestic fuel like biodiesel, this seems like an enormous opportunity. I bought a German/Brazilian car so I could burn American fuel; wouldn’t it be nice if American cars could do the same?

Please let me know your opinions on biodiesel, and why it isn’t getting more attention from the Big Three, in Congress, or in the press.

Thank you!

Huge Anti-American March in Cuba

From CNN:
HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro launched an immense anti-American protest on Friday with denunciations and ridicule of President Bush, saying the U.S. leader was fraudulently elected and trying to impose "world tyranny."

The Cuban leader led a sea of Cubans past the U.S. diplomatic mission here on the oceanfront Malecon Boulevard in a demonstration organized by the communist government against new U.S. measures aimed at squeezing the island's economy and pushing out Castro.

The crowd chanted "Free Cuba! Fascist Bush!"
Many of the people who went on the trip to Venezuela with me had also been to Cuba. Most of them said that it's not at all a bad place, and that the Bushes and Kerrys of the world trying to appease the 600,000 Cuban exiles in Miami by badmouthing Castro are full of crap. Frankly, I don't think Fidel could have stayed in power for over 40 years if he was as brutal as they claim. Nor would he dare lead a million-person march down the street.

No need to look...

If you were born thinking you're always right and have never had that assumption challenged, you might say things like this:
In answer to another question, the officer, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, said American forces were fired upon from a cemetery in Najaf "from north to south," adding, "I haven't seen it, but if there is a hole in that shrine, go ask Moktada who put that hole in the shrine."

He continued: "I suspect that he will tell you that it was coalition forces. But I suspect if you look very carefully, the coalition does not yet have ammunition that can shoot to the north and then turn around and head south."

If Kimmitt hasn't seen it, how does he know which way the shots came from?

Context: US forces are currently storming around in the holiest of Shiite areas in Najaf, and the golden dome of the Shrine of Imam Ali, one of the most sacred sites to Shiite Muslims, was damaged in the fighting, according to the NY Times.

There never was much hope for anything resembling a "successful" outcome from the illegal invasion of Iraq. What little hope there was derived from the idea that the Shiites, 60% of the Iraqi population, would see the "coalition" as an improvement over Saddam's Baathist Sunnis who had repressed them for years. Storming their holiest city and causing their holiest shrine to be damaged (whether it was American or "insurgent" ammunition, it was fired because of the invasion) is sure to disabuse many Shiites of that notion. And even if they still see the US occupation as an improvement over Saddam, they'll likely conclude that it doesn't come close to being acceptable.

Photo Op

Thursday, May 13, 2004


From Jim Morin. Morin isn't usually one of the really horrible cartoonists, but this makes no sense on many levels. For starters, the fact the Chavez refuses to treat Castro in the incomprehensibly stupid way that Washington has for 40 years doesn't mean that Castro controls the flow of Venezuelan oil to the US. And I think Castro has been in power longer now than just about any world leader; how is he "unstable?" Chavez has been perfectly willing to continue supplying the US with oil for five years; he has only suggested that if the Bushies continue to try to go regime change on him that he may have to withhold the fix from the junkie.

Oh well, Morin is from Miami. Those Cuban expats down there rule the world now anyway--just ask John Kerry.

Grapefruit Republic

From Rob Rogers.

The Problem with the Draft

From Doonesbury.

Not making the headlines anymore

But American soldiers continue to die, along with dozens of Iraqis. Here's Centcom's casualty report list.

And things are getting worse than ever in Gaza and the West Bank. From CNN:
Two Israeli helicopter attacks Thursday in Gaza's Rafah refugee camp have killed 10 people, according to Palestinian security and medical sources.

The strikes followed Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers Tuesday and Wednesday that have claimed 11 soldiers' lives. This week, violence in Gaza has claimed the lives at least 33 Palestinians as well as the 11 soldiers.

I guess front pages and homepages generally stay the same size. And the American media has a particular priority for stories: Iraqis being killed is news, except when Americans are killed, except when Iraqis are tortured, except when Americans are being held hostage, except when Americans are being tortured, except when Americans are being beheaded.

I remember that Jimmy Carter took a lot more grief because 55(?) Americans were held hostage in Iran than Ronald Reagan did when 250(?) Marines were killed in Lebanon. And the torture of hundreds(?) of Iraqi prisoners is properly getting a lot of attention, but the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians in an illegal war gets very little.

Friedman's Just Another Word for Nothin' Much to Say

Okay, I shouldn't pick on Thomas Friedman today, of all days, when he is finally seeing the light about the Bushies.
It is time to ask this question: Do we have any chance of succeeding at regime change in Iraq without regime change here at home?

"Hey, Friedman, why are you bringing politics into this all of a sudden? You're the guy who always said that producing a decent outcome in Iraq was of such overriding importance to the country that it had to be kept above politics."

Yes, that's true. I still believe that. My mistake was thinking that the Bush team believed it, too.
I think he still misses the point that wars are inherently suckful ways to accomplish good things, and I don't see how he could ever have been so blind as to expect anything but the worst from the Bushies. But it's good to have one more prominent columnist abandoning the Bushies, at least, if not abandoning the war.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Defend Greenpeace

An e-mail from Greenpeace:
Dear friends,

As a supporter of Greenpeace, you're going on trial on Monday for protecting the rainforest in the Amazon.

For the first time ever, the US government has decided to prosecute an entire organisation for exercising its right to free speech through non-violent protest.

The trial begins on May 17th, and results from a protest against an illegal shipment of mahogany headed for the Port of Miami in Florida two years ago. Unable to find a suitable law against calling attention to environmental crimes, the Attorney General has charged Greenpeace under an obscure 19th-century law designed to stop prostitutes from boarding sailing vessels.

If we are found guilty, it will mean being branded a criminal organisation

While Greenpeace is in the dock, those who logged, imported and sold the illegally imported mahogany continue to operate.

Not only is this a wholly unwarranted and politically motivated attack on an organisation that was attempting to prevent a crime, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for the future of free speech and the right to civil protest in the US. It could also be used as an example in other countries to curb non-violent direct action. The case has been attacked in articles and editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and Miami Herald. Senator Patrick Leahy of the US Judiciary Committee wrote to US Attorney General John Ashcroft saying his selective prosecution of Greenpeace could "have a chilling effect on free speech and activism of all kinds." Al Gore called the case "highly disturbing" in a speech to MoveOn members. Fellow environmental and civil rights groups have rallied to demand Ashcroft drop the case. But Ashcroft's not listening.

Now it's your turn to make sure we don't let this case go unchallenged. We need your help. Sign on to our letter demanding Bush and Ashcroft prosecute illegal loggers rather than Greenpeace. To date, 37,000 people have joined this appeal. We want to have 50,000 signatories by Monday. We need to show the US government that people all over the world are watching this trial. We need to remind them they can't silence Greenpeace without silencing everyone who supports Greenpeace.

Don't let Bush and Ashcroft silence you. Take action now:

Find out more about the case below:

Meet some of the people involved and the history of the action and prosecution:

Send this fun animation about the case to your friends:

When Kerry Loses...

Will the million people who vote for Nader be blamed, or the 1.5 million people who won't vote at all because Kerry didn't bother to show up to extend their unemployment benefits?
The Senate impasse ended after Democrats consented to limit debate in exchange for an agreement from Republicans to allow a vote on extending supplementary unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, an election-year priority for the Democrats.

But the vote on the unemployment measure turned into an embarrassment for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The Senate voted 59 to 40 for the proposal, one vote short of the 60 needed for approval. Kerry, who favored extending jobless benefits, was campaigning in Kentucky and was the only senator to miss the vote.
The unemployment proposal would have revived a program to pay an extra 13 weeks of assistance to an estimated 1.5 million people who have exhausted their standard 26 weeks of state benefits. A previous program expired in December.

After Kerry missed the vote, his campaign issued a statement saying Kerry had "fought again and again to extend unemployment benefits for workers left behind in the Bush economy" and blamed Bush and his GOP allies for the proposal's failure.
-- Washington Post

Even when he's right he gets it wrong. BOTH parties really need to get different candidates. Better yet, we need to get different parties.

Blogger's Tightrope

The Berg execution, like so many other recent news items, puts us bloggers into a quandry. Granted, it's a much less significant quandry than that faced by practically everyone currently in Iraq--Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, soldiers, marines, Halliburton workers, journalists, etc. They are faced with decisions daily that may cost them their lives, and there aren't any good guidelines for deciding.

Right now I want to condemn the Berg execution while pointing out how it doesn't change the facts of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib or the war in general, all without losing the moral high ground. Many condemned Daily Kos for his brief moment of insensitivity towards the Americans killed in Fallujah last month, and one of my favorite bloggers, Max Sawicky, strongly condemns one of my favorite cartoonists and columnists, Ted Rall, for his insensitivity towards our military because of their insensitivity towards Iraqi prisoners. The moral high ground seems to be nowhere in sight. Comparing atrocities seems to be a losing game, and generally leads to more atrocities. So maybe I'll just drop out of this discussion for a while.

But with one final attempt to find a little high ground: The quickest way to get into a moral morass like this is to start a war. The odds are that Nicholas Berg, hundreds of other Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive today if not for George W. Bush's need to get his war on.

Osama bin Smilin'

A grand and glorious week for Osama. The finally-released story about the apparently widespread abuse of detainees in Iraq and elsewhere has fueled the already rampant, and mostly justified, resentment of the US by the Islamic world. But just as many Americans are finally learning of the crimes of their government and starting to question the invasion of Iraq and the other insane elements of the "war on terror," a video is released showing an American getting his head cut off. Never mind that "coalition" forces are still killing Iraqis by the dozen in Karbala, Najaf and Baghdad--the freepers are jumping all over this to justify any and all atrocities by our military.

Large-scale sanity in this country is very hard to come by, and very fragile once it is attained. And two powerful forces continue to do everything in their considerable power to keep sanity from truly taking root--the neocons led by George W. Bush and al Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden. Two sets of terrorists working together for their mutual benefit.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Tempting Fate

The baby squirrel seems to think that my neutered male cat Marcos is his mother. Marcos wasn't sure how to react, just gently batting at the squirrel. I separated them before the inevitable happened, but I lost track of the squirrel.

Vote for Stephanie!

Democrat Stephanie Herseth is running for Congress in South Dakota--the seat vacated by convicted motorcyclist-killer and Republican Bill Janklow. The Aberdeen News has an online poll (in the left margin about half way down); help make Stephanie look inevitable for the June 1 election!

Increased Demand Raises Prices

The Detroit Free Press finally passes Econ 101. The main headline today?
Who's at fault for gas prices? Partly, it's us
Big autos, longer commutes gobbling up supplies
I mock a little, but it's great to see that headline screaming from the newspaper vending machines around Motown (well, I'm not in Motown, but I'm close). From the article:
Like it or not, we're burning more gas than ever. Consumption has jumped nearly 24 percent since 1990. And the government says we're on track to burn another 48 percent by 2025.

Sure, there are more vehicles on the road. Between 1990 and 2001, the number of registered vehicles grew about 22 percent, according to the federal government. And the miles those vehicles traveled jumped 29 percent.

But the biggest reason consumption has risen so sharply -- after growing at a much slower pace in preceding years -- is parked in many of our driveways: The number of light trucks, especially SUVs, has spiked in the past several years, growing about 74 percent between 1990 and 2001. And since these vehicles consume more gas than passenger cars, they're likely responsible for the record level of fuel use, experts say.
I'm hoping that I bought my last tank of gasoline today. I've been driving an old Toyota pickup, which I am replacing with my biodiesel-powered 2001 VW Golf. I drove the Toyota to the Secretary of State office to get plates for the VW, and nearly ran out of gas. So I filled the tank. Should be a good selling point!

What would a bad job look like?

From Josh Marshall:
When President Bush says Don Rumsfeld is doing a "superb job" you really have to shudder to think what we'd have in store for us if the guy came off his winning streak.


From Tom Toles.

The War Continues

The news about torture in the prisons has taken attention away from the fact that the military is blasting the crap out of Najaf and Baghdad. See the WSWS and Juan Cole for details.

Blogger Confusion

The new blogger site offers some cool features. One of them is "post pages," which gives each post a page and url of its own. Unfortunately, the post pages ate up all of my remaining web space, so I had to delete them and turn the feature off.

I've reorganized the archives into monthly collections (actually, blogger did that for me). Next, I'll see about getting the blogroll back onto the main page, since the archives aren't taking up so much space. Comments on the new format are welcome, assuming comments are still working!
We met with this guy!

If my memory is working properly, Tarek William Saab is a poet serving in the National Assembly. When our Global Exchange group toured the National Assembly building, Saab was one of a few Chavista assemblymen who came and talked to us. Here, he tells it likes it is about America's leading crime family, the Bushes:
VENPRES' Veronica Sosa reports: To Tarek William Saab, president of the Permanent Foreign Policy Commission of the National Assembly (AN), statements released by Florida governor Jeb Bush ... younger brother of the US president ... reveal that mental retardation runs in this family.

The MVR deputy characterized George Bush Sr., as well as the two sons George W. and Jeb, as "a decadent family group that thinks that they can, on their whim, not only direct the destiny of an empire like the US, but also intervene in the internal affairs of Venezuela in their false belief that Venezuela is a part of their empire."

On the basis of statements made by governor Jeb Bush to the newspaper El Nuevo Herald, which characterize Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as "a crazy guy," Saab said that the presidential family is stunned by the defeat they suffered in Venezuela.

"This is a family who has connections to the petroleum industry, and evidently, they want to control Venezuelan oil, and they know that the way to do that is to remove President Chavez Frias from power."

On the other hand, the National Assemblyman recalled that the state of Florida, governed by Jeb Bush, is home to Venezuelan terrorists like Carlos Fernandez and the two military personnel sought by Interpol for their participation in bombings at the Spanish Embassy and the Colombian Consulate.

Saab urged the Florida governor to turn over "those Venezuelan criminals and not harbor them as he has been doing. The state of Florida, where he is governor, is the center of operations for terrorism against Venezuela."
Thanks to Michelle for finding that.

The "Chavez is crazy" talking point seems to be making the rounds in US right-wing circles: Jeb, the Washington Post, John Kerry. I've seen Chavez in person and on numerous videos. I certainly wouldn't rule out "calculating," or maybe even "ruthless" on occasion. But crazy he ain't.
It's news when WE decide that it's news
The Washington Post appears to have decided to get back into the reporting business. After a couple of years of mostly just repeating George Bush/Scott McLellan/John Kerry BS, they're now back into going out in the world and finding out what's going on. One of their main stories today has this headline:
Secret World of U.S. Interrogation: Long History of Tactics in Overseas Prisons Is Coming to Light
A selection:
In Afghanistan, the CIA's secret U.S. interrogation center in Kabul is known as "The Pit," named for its despairing conditions. In Iraq, the most important prisoners are kept in a huge hangar near the runway at Baghdad International Airport, say U.S. government officials, counterterrorism experts and others. In Qatar, U.S. forces have been ferrying some Iraqi prisoners to a remote jail on the gigantic U.S. air base in the desert.

The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where a unit of U.S. soldiers abused prisoners, is just the largest and suddenly most notorious in a worldwide constellation of detention centers -- many of them secret and all off-limits to public scrutiny -- that the U.S. military and CIA have operated in the name of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
I've been reading the World Socialist Web Site for over two years--they've been covering all of this stuff all along, as has much of the foreign press. It's only "coming to light" in Washington now, probably because the powers that be have decided that George Worthless Bush has outlived his usefulness.
It's the War, Stupid
What little economic recovery there is comes from the military-industrial complex
:"For us, the economy is great," said Allen, senior vice president and general manager of Armor Holdings Inc.'s Mobile Security Division. "It's a sad situation, but . . . " His voice trailed off, then he added, "I don't think anyone here is thinking about it that way."

In this corner of a critical presidential-election battleground state [Ohio], the economy is surging with the urgency of a boom. But it wasn't President Bush's tax cuts, Federal Reserve interest rate policies or even a general economic turnaround that did the trick. It was war.
-- Washington Post.

America. A country so stupid that the only way it can keep itself running is to kill people.

From Rob Rogers.
A "gross, ghastly error which has become a serious catastrophe that is heading for a disaster of galactic proportions"
Democracy can't be imposed by invasion; our best (only) course now is to cut and run. So says former US Chief of Mission in Iraq, Edward Peck.
Peck was stridently pessimistic about American prospects in Iraq and the region. America must abandon the agenda set forth by the Project for the New American Century and its plan to coerce democracy. On the subject of Iraq specifically, he characterized the current situation as a “gross, ghastly error which has become a serious catastrophe that is heading for a disaster of galactic proportions.” Even passing the situation to the UN would do little to improve American standing, as many Iraqis remain resentful over the aborted invasion in 1991 and UN sanctions.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Good News, Bad News
The good news is that aWol's approval rating is at a new low. The bad news is that 46% of Americans still approve of his job performance. Like the Egyptian farmer in the flood, they're in denial.

And for all those Democrats who decided Kerry was the most "electable?" Well, he still trails Bush, 48 to 47 percent, even with Nader not being considered.You've got the worst president in history, the public is finally realizing it, and the Dems have a candidate so bad that he still trails.

The whole primary campaign remains a huge disappointment to me. Of the non-Republicans (that is, those without Joe-mentum), Kerry was clearly the least appealing candidate in the debates. Kucinich had great positions, Dean had fire, Graham had knowledge and experience, Edwards was articulate and likeable. Kerry had nothing. But the media told the Dems that Kerry was electable, and they bought it.
Bush is in trouble; Call in the Saudis!
DUBAI (Reuters) - Leading OPEC producer Saudi Arabia Monday called on the oil cartel to raise supply limits by at least 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), just over 6 percent, to prevent high crude prices from derailing global economic growth.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi issued a statement saying that an increase in output by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was ``essential'' to balance global supply and demand after prices spiked to $40 a barrel last week.
If you were wondering why, back in late 2001 when the Bushies were arresting everyone with a tan, they let a bunch of bin Laden relatives and other assorted Saudis fly out of the US unquestioned, and why those 28 pages about the Saudis were redacted from the Congressional 9/11 report, well, this is why. American consumers are willing to stick their grandkids with a $200 billion bill for a stupid war on terrorism, but they'll turn around and vote for the candidate who keeps gasoline under $2 a gallon. Bush delivered for the Saudis; the Saudis are delivering for Bush. Quid. Pro. Quo.
What's Really Up With Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Cells Program?
I think most skeptics believe that it is just a gift to the Big Three, allowing them to continue to do practically nothing about fuel economy for the next ten years. But Mother Jones suggests that there may be more than that:

The Bush administration is high on hydrogen. The president's proposed 2005 budget includes $228 million to help businesses develop better hydrogen fuel cells, triple the assistance the federal government provided in 2001. What's left unsaid in his speeches about America's potential to "lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles" is that the initiative holds out a massive windfall for Bush insiders and well-connected lobbyists, not to mention a Russian oligarch with a history of shady dealings and environmental destruction.

The source of this prospective fortune is the Montana-based Stillwater Mining Co., which is the only domestic producer of two platinum group metals (PGM) -- platinum and palladium. Last year Vladimir Potanin, a Russian billionaire whose empire already includes vast PGM reserves in Siberia, took control of Stillwater. Regulators from the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) quickly approved the deal even though it gave Potanin greater power over metals that could be critical to the nation's future.

To understand what this has to do with hydrogen and why there's so much money at stake, begin with this fact: Fuel cells will use platinum or palladium as a catalyst. The metals speed the process by which hydrogen combines with oxygen, releasing energy that could power a vehicle. The metals also could be used in storing hydrogen and are already used in catalytic converters. If the market for fuel cells booms, so too will demand for palladium and platinum. There are only a few locations in the world that mine platinum metals, and the largest producer of palladium and the second largest of platinum is the Potanin-owned Norilsk Nickel Mining Co. on the Taimyr Peninsula in Siberia.
Much more in the article, including a mention that former Michigan Senator and Keating Five alum Don Riegle is on the board of Stillwater. It also appears that the axis of evil, aka the Carlyle Group, is linked. If you're not familiar with Carlyle, you probably should be. George H.W. Bush (aka Bush 41, Bush Sr., Poppy, the Wimp) and Osama bin Laden's father were both early investors. And check out who's involved in senior management.
Go for it, Andy!
Regular readers of other, more popular blogs like Atrios and Tom Tomorrow are probably familiar with some of the rantings of Andrew Sullivan, a journalist/blogger who supported the war in Iraq. For a long time, he seemed to have gone through the same looking glass as the Bush administration. But recent events seem to have smacked Andy upside the head, bringing an uncomfortable clarity to his vision. Here's a selection from a recent post:
To have humiliated the United States by presenting false and misleading intelligence and then to have allowed something like Abu Ghraib to happen - after a year of other, compounded errors - is unforgivable. By refusing to hold anyone accountable, the president has also shown he is not really in control. We are at war; and our war leaders have given the enemy their biggest propaganda coup imaginable, while refusing to acknowledge their own palpable errors and misjudgments. They have, alas, scant credibility left and must be called to account. Shock has now led - and should lead - to anger. And those of us who support the war should, in many ways, be angrier than those who opposed it.
Even George Will is seeing the light now. And a bunch of other right-wingers.

Where does it all lead? My cherished hope is that the Repugs decide that it's time to dump Bush and Cheney and put someone else on the ticket, probably John McCain. I would probably choose McCain over Kerry--they're both war hawks, but McCain understands our electoral mess and has actually done something about it. He also gets global warming, probably on a more sincere basis than Kerry does. Actually, freed from the worry of four more years of Bush, I would probably vote for Nader or maybe the socialist guy and let the rest of the people decide between McCain and Kerry.

I doubt if the millions of Bush lovers out there will turn against him fast enough, but the rich folks who design the polls might. If they skewed a new poll to show Bush 15% behind Kerry, the Repugs might all of a sudden find some principles and call for Bush to get off the ticket.
The one scandal that will finish Bush off

If his wealthy investors lose a few million here or there in the stock market, they'll toss him aside for the other Yalie millionaire in a Skull & Bones minute.
The "War on Terror" -- It Keeps on Killing
SKOPJE, Macedonia -- Macedonian police gunned down seven innocent immigrants in an ambush two years ago and claimed the immigrants were terrorists to show that the police were participating in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, authorities said Friday.
She described a meticulous plan to promote Macedonia as a player in the fight against global terrorism that involved smuggling the Pakistanis into Macedonia from Bulgaria, housing them and then gunning them down.

The action was carried out in March 2002 by special Macedonian police who claimed to have eliminated a terrorist group allegedly plotting to attack embassies and other foreign representatives in Macedonia. Konteska said the Pakistanis were illegal immigrants who were lured into Macedonia by promises that they would be transferred to Western Europe.

The "war on terror" is just like James Bond's "007" number--a license to kill. Countries like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and apparently Macedonia kill some dark-skinned people every now and then get rewards from the neonuts in Washington, while those same neonuts continue to berate and threaten Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries for not playing their murderous game.

A strange note: I first read about this story this morning at home before I left for work on the NY Times web site, but I can't find it anywhere there now. The above quote came from the Washington Post from a week ago.

[Update 2: 22 PM] The story is back up on the main page of the NY Times web site.

From Boondocks.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

New template!
Blogger gave me a bunch of new choices, so I picked one. They're also providing comments now, which I'll turn on only so long as y'all are nice out there! For starters, let me know what you think of the new template!
Bush and Kerry: Like Apples and Apples
The Washington Post notices that we have two Republican candidates for president. I know, Kerry is better than Bush. That's similar to the current wingnut argument that American prisoner abuse in Iraq isn't as bad as Saddam's was. I really don't consider either one acceptable.

I'm sticking to my plan to do whatever I can to help knock Bush down so far that I can vote for a good candidate in November without worrying about giving aWol four more years to complete the destruction of the planet. Those who have jumped on board with Kerry already are just validating Bush's policies on things like sending more troops to Iraq and destroying Latin America (and American jobs) through the FTAA.

If it's going down to the wire in November, and Kerry hasn't gotten even worse by then, I'll make an election-day decision. Until then, I'll do whatever I can to discredit Bush and hold out hope that I can vote for the best candidate.
What's in a name?
The head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib is Colonel Foster Payne. Really. From the Guardian, spotted by Atrios.
Five sides to the issue
The brass is NOT happy:
A senior general at the Pentagon said he believes the United States is already on the road to defeat. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he said. "The American people may not stand for it -- and they should not."

Asked who was to blame, this general pointed directly at Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. "I do not believe we had a clearly defined war strategy, end state and exit strategy before we commenced our invasion," he said.

From Steve Sack.

From Steve Kelley.
The view from Iraq
Iraqi blogger Riverbend tells us exactly what the Abu Ghraib atrocity means. The whole post is compelling; here's about half of it as a sample:

People are seething with anger- the pictures of Abu Ghraib and the Brits in Basrah are everywhere. Every newspaper you pick up in Baghdad has pictures of some American or British atrocity or another. It's like a nightmare that has come to life.

Everyone knew this was happening in Abu Ghraib and other places… seeing the pictures simply made it all more real and tangible somehow. American and British politicians have the audacity to come on television with words like, "True the people in Abu Ghraib are criminals, but…" Everyone here in Iraq knows that there are thousands of innocent people detained. Some were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, while others were detained 'under suspicion'. In the New Iraq, it's "guilty until proven innocent by some miracle of God".

People are so angry. There’s no way to explain the reactions- even pro-occupation Iraqis find themselves silenced by this latest horror. I can’t explain how people feel- or even how I personally feel. Somehow, pictures of dead Iraqis are easier to bear than this grotesque show of American military technique. People would rather be dead than sexually abused and degraded by the animals running Abu Ghraib prison.

There was a time when people here felt sorry for the troops. No matter what one's attitude was towards the occupation, there were moments of pity towards the troops, regardless of their nationality. We would see them suffering the Iraqi sun, obviously wishing they were somewhere else and somehow, that vulnerability made them seem less monstrous and more human. That time has passed. People look at troops now and see the pictures of Abu Ghraib… and we burn with shame and anger and frustration at not being able to do something. Now that the world knows that the torture has been going on since the very beginning, do people finally understand what happened in Falloojeh?
[Bush] is claiming it's a "stain on our country's honor"... I think not. The stain on your country's honor, Bush dear, was the one on the infamous blue dress that made headlines while Clinton was in the White House... this isn't a 'stain' this is a catastrophe. Your credibility was gone the moment you stepped into Iraq and couldn't find the WMD... your reputation never existed.

So are the atrocities being committed in Abu Ghraib really not characteristic of the American army? What about the atrocities committed by Americans in Guantanamo? And Afghanistan? I won't bother bringing up the sordid past, let's just focus on the present. It seems that torture and humiliation are common techniques used in countries blessed with the American presence. The most pathetic excuse I heard so far was that the American troops weren't taught the fundamentals of human rights mentioned in the Geneva Convention… Right- morals, values and compassion have to be taught.
I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Bringing American-style "Democracy" to Iraq
From the NY Times:
In a 1999 opinion, Judge Justice wrote of the situation in Texas, "Many inmates credibly testified to the existence of violence, rape and extortion in the prison system and about their own suffering from such abysmal conditions."

In a case that began in 2000, a prisoner at the Allred Unit in Wichita Falls, Tex., said he was repeatedly raped by other inmates, even after he appealed to guards for help, and was allowed by prison staff to be treated like a slave, being bought and sold by various prison gangs in different parts of the prison. The inmate, Roderick Johnson, has filed suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, said Kara Gotsch, public policy coordinator for the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mr. Johnson.

Asked what Mr. Bush knew about abuse in Texas prisons while he was governor, Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said the problems in American prisons were not comparable to the abuses exposed at Abu Ghraib.

The doesn't explain, or Duffy didn't say, why they aren't comparable. Abu Ghraib's atrocities were worse? Better? One thing they have in common is that George W. Bush was ultimately responsible in both cases.

The atrocity that is the American penal system has been going on for a long time. Only rarely does it make the front page of the New York Times. If you're interested in why we have two million Americans in jail and why it is as bad as it is, read The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime, by Joel Dyer. Like most of our other problems, including the war in Iraq, this one was caused in large part by the desire of the wealthy few who run our country to get even wealthier, at the expense of everyone else.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Joe Lieberman is Scum
To put it mildly. Here's what he said to Rumsfeld today:

"Mr. Secretary, the behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge, immoral, intolerable and un-American. It deserves the apology that you have given today and that have been given by others in high positions in our government and our military. I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized. And those who murdered and burned and
humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody."

Not only is he boot-licking swine, still helping the Bushies link Iraq to 9/11 even after they've admitted there was no connection, but he also seems pretty confused. Who does he expect to apologize to the murderers and mutilators in Fallujah?
So What Are You Going to Do About It?
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed Friday that videos and "a lot more pictures" exist of the abuse of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison.

"If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse," Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe."

"The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges."

Are Rush and the other wingnuts still going to pretend this is just frat hazing, just GI's blowing off some steam? Claim that Rummy and Senator Graham (the bad Senator Graham) are just cheese-eating America-haters? Or are they going to leave that to total morons like Joe Lieberman?

By the way, I don't think all of the Bushies are the same. I think the Bush and Rice are basically clueless, willing to lie on the flimsiest of evidence, but more ignorant than deceitful (although plenty of both). Colin Powell is a polished, informed liar. Rummy and Wolfowitz have a whole lot of bad ideas and a very cavalier attitude towards human life, but I think they generally tell the truth (although that can be very hard to judge with Rummy, since he often talks a lot without saying anything). Cheney and Ashcroft are evil incarnate: Liars, murderers, you name it. The same category as Saddam.

So I think Rummy just didn't consider running a tight ship in the prisons to be a priority, and thought that bending the rules to get some actionable intelligence was okay. It probably never occurred to him how far it would go, and once he found out he probably was genuinely shocked, unlike Bush, who has no humanity at any level. Cheney and Ashcroft probably think the torture didn't go far enough.

Anyway, this is one more of dozens of statements in their own words, any one of which should have been sufficient to impeach and indict most of the administration long ago. Basically, any part of their administration which finally receives scrutiny reveals crimes of great magnitude. But they've ridden through all of them so far, and the traitor(s) in the White House who revealed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent is still there. Very slowly, however, the tide seems to be turning--a recent poll I believe showed more Americans now think the war was a mistake than don't. What a shame the Democrats have a candidate who only nips at the periphery of these crimes (because of his complicity), rather than attacking them at their rotten core.
For more prison abuses, go to Texas
From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Horrific abuses similar to those revealed in Iraq regularly occur in US prisons with little national attention or public outrage, human rights activists have said.

"We certainly see many of the same kinds of things here in the United States, including sexual assaults and the abuse of prisoners, against both men and women," said Kara Gotsch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"This office has been involved in cases in which prisoners have been raped by guards and humiliated but we don't talk about it much in America and we certainly don't hear the president expressing outrage."

President George Bush has said he was disgusted by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Yet there were many cases of abuse in Texas when he was governor from 1995 to 2000.

In September 1996 guards at the Brazoria County jail staged a drug raid on inmates that was videotaped for training purposes. The tape showed several inmates forced to strip and lie on the ground.

Guards prodded prisoners with stun guns and forced them to crawl along the ground. Then they dragged injured inmates face down back to their cells.

In 1999 federal judge William Wayne Justice wrote of the situation in Texas state prisons: "Many inmates credibly testified to the existence of violence, rape and extortion in the prison system and about their own suffering from such abysmal conditions."


The people of Iraq ?must understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know,? Bush told Al-Hurra. -- from Wednesday

The only America Bush knows is those idiots yelling "Four more years!" at his bribe-collection appearances. He didn't know what was going on in Texas, he doesn't know what's going on in Iraq. He's an idiot.
Is it that hard to ask a decent question?
I guess I should remember that online polls are basically meaningless, but CNN frequently words them in a way that guarantees meaningless results. Today's question:

Will the Iraq prison abuse scandal affect your vote in November? (Yes/No)

Without noting who you were going to vote for before, what good is it? I can't vote twice, and it certainly hasn't made it easier for me to decide between the non-Bush candidates. My goal two weeks ago was to do whatever I can to tear Bush down so far that I can vote for whomever I want without having to fear four more wars of Bush, and that's still my goal.
Kerry is Such a Slimeball
Pandering to the rich Miami Cubans who apparently run this country, Kerry suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is becoming a dictator on Univision TV Wednesday:

Upon being asked by reporter Jorge Ramos if he considered Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez a dictator, Kerry responded,

"Chavez is fast on the road of becoming exactly that. He is breaking the rules of democracy. I think it is very important for him to allow that referendum to take place and for this administration and others to put more visibility on what is happening so we can hold him accountable to international standards of behavior. Democracy is at risk."

Democracy is at risk, Senator, but not in Venezuela. It's at risk right here at home, where the "challenger" to the worst president in our history seems to agree with him on every part of his imperialist foreign policy, and is willing to sell out the well-being of millions of Venezuelans and norteamericanos just to appease a particularly nasty right-wing constituency.

Unlike his Washington counterpart, who as Left I would say is not worthy of shining his shoes, Chavez not only got more votes than his opponent when he was elected--he actually had a substantial majority. Unlike his Washington counterpart, Chavez faces a large and vigorous opposition with substantially different policies from his own.

There's only one president Kerry should be attacking, and he can just pick an issue. Bush is wrong on EVERYTHING, including his attempts at regime change in Venezuela.
Juan Cole Tells It Like It Is
Excerpts from his post today:
The Bush administration keeps talking about bringing democracy to the Middle East, but a key element in democracy is always the accountability of public officials to the public. That is why we have elections, that is why we have a division of powers, that is why Congress can impeach the executive and the Supreme Court could order Nixon to hand over his tape recordings. When high officials commit improprieties, they must resign. When they run a loose ship and it founders on the shoals of scandal, they must resign. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz must resign. It is the only way the United States can recover even a shred of credibility in the wider world, at a time when this country desperately needs the esteem and the cooperation of allies and friends.
When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, no Bush administration official was asked to resign. The main purveyor of false intelligence on Iraqi WMD was Vice President Dick Cheney. He has not been asked to step down, even though he was largely responsible for taking the country to war based on a falsehood. Scooter Libby, David Wurmser and John Hannah were up to their necks in hyping bad intelligence on Iraqi WMD. None of them was asked to step down. They were supplied the bad intelligence by Undersecretary of Defense for Planning Douglas Feith and his rogue Office of Special Plans. No one associated with this scam has been asked to resign.
Democracy is about more than elections. Most Middle Eastern countries already have elections. Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, all of them hold regular elections. They have parliaments, parties, campaigns. Two things make them nevertheless not democracies. The first is that their presidents manipulate the elections so that there is never any doubt that they will win the election and that their party will dominate parliament (even if space is made for minority parties to win a few seats). Second, their regimes have no accountability to the public. No one in Hosni Mubarak's government has ever had to resign because he performed his duties poorly. He might have to resign because he fell out with the president. But if he is buddy buddy with the head of state, then he can do no wrong.

You really wonder whether the Bush plan to Americanize the Middle East isn't being turned on its head. We now have an unaccountable government not elected in accordance with the will of the majority of Americans, which victimizes critics like Joe Wilson and engages in torture. Bush and Co. are emulating the worst aspects of the military governments of Egypt and Yemen. They have no credibility to push the latter toward democracy.

Read the whole post!

BTW, Juan Cole will apparently be on Wolf Blitzer's show on CNN today between 5 and 6 PM.
Can education overcome heredity?
Jenna Bush is an English major at the University of Texas at Austin, while Barbara Bush is majoring in humanities at Yale University. -- CNN

They certainly wouldn't have had a head start in either field at home.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

"We are working for the day of freedom in Cuba," said Bush, speaking during a meeting with commission members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. -- Washington Post

Cubans need only look at Guantanamo Bay to know that's a lie.
Cold Spell Hits Hell; Pigs Cleared for Takeoff
Bush Apologizes. Really!

President Bush told Jordan's King Abdullah Thursday that he was sorry for the humiliation suffered by Iraqi prisoners and their families because of abusive American jailers.

"I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," the Republican president said during a Rose Garden appearance with the Jordanian monarch.

Of course, George will be George:

"I told him I was equally sorry that people that seen those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him that Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw."
Good Ol' Girl
POINTING crudely at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi, the petite brunette with a cigarette hanging from her lips epitomised America's shame over revelations US soldiers routinely tortured inmates at Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

Lynndie England, 21, a rail worker's daughter, comes from a trailer park in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, which locals proudly call "a backwoods world".

She faces a court martial, but at home she is toasted as a hero.

At the dingy Corner Club Saloon they think she has done nothing wrong.

"A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq," Colleen Kesner said.

"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

"Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."
-- Daily Telegraph

I think Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch prove that women shouldn't be in the military. Men either.

(Please include BOTH sentences above if you quote me!)
Cluelessness, Part II
In our country, when there's an allegation of abuse -- more than an allegation in this case, actual abuse, we saw the pictures -- there will be a full investigation and justice will be delivered. We have a presumption of innocent until you're guilty in our system, but the system will be transparent, it will be open and people will see the results. -- aWol, speaking to Al Arabiya Television yesterday.

Does he know what his buds John Ashcroft and Ted Olsen have been doing to the constitution in the past three years? Has he even heard of Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, U.S. citizens being held in secret, no presumption of innocence, no transparency, no openness, no results, seen or otherwise?
Taking Cluelessness to a Whole New Level
Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilize their country. And we will help them rid Iraq of these killers. -- aWol, speaking to Al Arabiya Television yesterday.

Does he have even the vaguest clue that American soldiers are "foreign people" in Iraq? And you can say lots of bad things about Saddam Hussein, most of them true. You can say good things about the occupation, a few of which may be true. But you'd have to be whacked out on Xanax to suggest that things are more stable in Iraq now than they were in February 2003. The "coalition" is the group of foreign people who have destabilized Iraq.
Quote du Jour
"I want the American soldier to return to his camp. What I want more is that he returns to the United States," General Muhammad Latif told Reuters in an interview.

"They should leave very quickly, very quickly or there will be problems. If they stay it will hurt the confidence and we have built confidence. They should leave so that there will be more calm."

Latif is the Iraqi general the Marines turned Fallujah over to last week. I hope the Marines follow his advice, for everyone's sake.


Another $86
That's the approximate per capita cost of aWol's latest $25 billion request to further cement America's image as a bunch of sadistic warmongers.

Dig that hole deeper, you Repuglican morons.
School Buses on Biodiesel
The St. Johns, Michigan school district switched their entire fleet of 31 school buses to B20 biodiesel (20% bio, 80% petrodiesel) in 2002. They've now put over one million miles on them, and report better mileage (8.8 mpg compared to 8.1 previously), cleaner exhaust, fewer oil changes needed, and fewer problems with fuel pumps.
One of the known knowns...
Is that Donald Rumsfeld is a sadistic creep with no regard for international law. The Washington Post, which should have known this long ago, finally gets around to ripping Rummy a new one. (Is it possible to rip one in one?)

THE HORRIFIC abuses by American interrogators and guards at the Abu Ghraib prison and at other facilities maintained by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan can be traced, in part, to policy decisions and public statements of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Beginning more than two years ago, Mr. Rumsfeld decided to overturn decades of previous practice by the U.S. military in its handling of detainees in foreign countries. His Pentagon ruled that the United States would no longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions; that Army regulations on the interrogation of prisoners would not be observed; and that many detainees would be held incommunicado and without any independent mechanism of review. Abuses will take place in any prison system. But Mr. Rumsfeld's decisions helped create a lawless regime in which prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been humiliated, beaten, tortured and murdered -- and in which, until recently, no one has been held accountable. (more)

From David Horsey.

From Milt Priggee.

From Bill Schorr.

From Lalo Alcarez.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Cyndy's Got It Right
It is NOT a SCANDAL as I keep hearing in the media. It is a WAR CRIME and the buck stops at the top, with the Commander in Chief.

I imagine she's talking about the torture in the prisons, although there are hundreds of other "scandals" which meet the definition of war crime and for which the Dissembler in Chief is ultimately (and mostly directly) responsible.
I couldn't wait!
After I got home from my soccer game tonight (we won, thank you!), I got in the VW Golf TDI and drove the 24 miles to Manchester, home of the closest (as far as I know) biodiesel dealer. I still had about half a tank of petrodiesel from the previous owner, but I topped it off with eight gallons of B100 biodiesel--that is, 100% of the new fuel was biodiesel, made from soybeans, not from 19-year-old soldiers in Iraq.

With about 50% biodiesel in the tank, I drove back home. The car ran just as smoothly and with just as much power as it had going out. Presumably, the exhaust was substantially less toxic as well.

The downside? The B100 is currently more expensive than petrodiesel or gasoline. I paid $2.71 per gallon. The B20 (20% bio, 80% petro) was $1.79, I think. That will probably be the better choice in the winter, since the B100 reportedly doesn't work well in cold weather. My guess is that biodiesel will come down in price while petrodiesel continues up along with gasoline, probably crossing over in the next year or two. If not, I'm still willing to pay more for cleaner, more sustainable fuel. I'm getting great mileage anyway!
Seeing the sights
Your U.S. Military gave journalists a tour of the Abu Ghraib prison today, hoping to convince them that things aren't really that bad. Apparently, they are:

"Where's the freedom Bush? Is this freedom?" shouted one man, waving a prosthetic leg over his head as he leaned on a crutch. Another read a message through a megaphone, protesting the abuse of Iraqis' "freedom, dignity and rights."

Dressed in an assortment of clothing, from shorts and t-shirts to traditional robes and headscarves, at least 10 of the prisoners were on crutches -- apparently wounded in a recent mortar bombardment of the prison which killed 22 detainees.

Some appeared to be in their early teens. Others were old and bearded and walked with the aide of sticks. One young man, who appeared to be blind, was escorted by a friend who desperately tried to point out his incapacity to journalists.

Journalists were not allowed to film, photograph or talk to the prisoners and their visit was tightly controlled, allowing them access only to the parts of the facility that U.S. forces wanted to show them.

Put George W. Bush in Prison
From Harvey Wasserman.

These outrages taint us all. As Americans, and there is just one way to redeem ourselves: get these murderous torturers out of the White House and into a prison of their own, where they belong.
Crude Oil Prices at 14-year high
My VW diesel, bicycle, bus pass, walking shoes, and I are just going to sit back and watch 'em go!

If it gets some of the behemoths off the road, convinces people that 40-mile commutes are NOT acceptable, and cuts down on pollution and traffic fatalities, wonderful. If it gets Bush and his criminal gang out of the White House, even better.

Go oil! Go higher, higher, higher!
Ya think?
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The State Department plans to delay the release of a human rights report due out on Wednesday partly because of sensitivities over the U.S. prison abuse scandal in Iraq, U.S. officials said.

One official who asked not to be identified said the release of the report, which describes actions taken by the U.S. government to encourage respect for human rights by other nations, could "make us look hypocritical."

It's fine to be hypocritical, I guess, as long as you don't look it.
The Economist calls for Regime Change in Venezuela
From the World Socialist Web Site. The WSWS attacks the Economist's imperialistic viewpoint, while blasting Chavez as well.

Moreover, as a member of OPEC, Venezuela has sought to drive up oil prices to $30 per barrel in an effort to shore up its international reserves.

It is this oil policy reform, now entering its fourth year, that has the Economist up in arms. Chavez, whose main constituency is the urban and rural poor and the impoverished peasantry, has had to balance his appeasement of international capital with populist measures—by “shunting PDVSA income into government agriculture, housing and ‘social’ programmes, a transfer that may well violate Venezuela’s constitution,” bristles the Economist.

Yet, the most notable facets of the programs initiated by Chavez are the backward-looking, petty bourgeois economic conception that underlies them and the preponderance of the military in these operations.

The ex-colonel has enlarged the role of the armed forces to such a degree that they are now incorporated into every sector of the state. He has mobilised troops and the National Guard with added frequency.

Canadian citizen says he was tortured in Iraq
Portland, Ore. ? A Canadian civilian says in a lawsuit that he was tortured by U.S. troops in Iraq and saw Iraqi prisoners suffer even worse mistreatment ? the latest allegations of human rights abuses to surface against coalition soldiers.

Hossam Shaltout, 57, claims in a suit filed with the U.S. Army Claims Office on April 30 that he was beaten after being taken to the Camp Bucca detention centre shortly after the launch of the U.S.-led invasion.

"I saw Iraqis tortured more than I was. They did unspeakable things to Iraqis," Mr. Shaltout said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
-- Globe and Mail

Billmon will probably do it better
But the juxtaposition of the two headlines on the NY Times web page is ironic, to say the least:

Bush Tells Arab World That Prisoner Abuse Was 'Abhorrent'

"First, the people in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent," Mr. Bush told Al Hurra, in one of two interviews in which he appealed to the Arab peoples, who have expressed deep outrage over the incidents in the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

"They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent America that I know," the president went on. "The America I know is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. The America I know cares about every individual. The America I know has sent troops into Iraq to promote freedom ? good, honorable citizens that are helping the Iraqis every day."

U.S. Begins First Major Assault on Iraqi Militia Led by Cleric

The American military launched its first major assault against insurgents led by Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, striking early this morning at militia enclaves in this holy Shiite city and in another city in southern Iraq in an effort to retake control of those areas.

About 450 soldiers in dozens of armored vehicles, including M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, rumbled beneath a full moon through a neighborhood here controlled by armed supporters of Mr. Sadr.

The firepower on display was extraordinary. Polish and Bulgarian soldiers, Special Forces snipers, an Apache attack helicopter and an AC-130 Spectre gunship backed up the main strike force.

The operation, called Iron Saber, began at 11 p.m. on Tuesday (3 p.m. Tuesday Eastern time) and ran until dawn today. A similar battle took place at the same time in the city of Diwaniya, 60 miles southeast of here.
Tell Kerry what you want
I received this link to the People's Pledge from the Kucinich campaign. On that page, you pledge to volunteer for Kerry in the fall if one of your cherished planks makes it into the Democratic platform at the Boston convention in July. Although I'd pretty much like to see the whole list BE the platform, the way it's worded, the more you pick, the less it means.

I chose US out of Iraq in 90 days and withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO as my deal makers. If either one is a part of the Democratic platform, I have pledged to hit the pavement for Kerry.

I'm not holding my breath, though.
I'm disowning my alma mater
Michigan State University is having Condiliar Rice speak at commencement this Friday.

You can register your displeasure by going to the MSU Alumni Association (you don't have to be alumni) and voting in their online poll (bottom right). You can also send e-mails to the following addresses (MSU administration): (President McPherson),,,,
0 for 3
The Bush adminstration's record on regime change/nation building, that is. We all know how bad Iraq is; even parts they had gotten under control have slipped out of it (not to mention that they had absolutely no business bringing any part of Iraq under control). They never had most of Afghanistan under control, even though their excuse for invading there was infinitesimally less illegal and that there may actually be people there who have actually attacked America.

And now, according to the NY Times, the overthrown of Aristide in Haiti and subsequent invasion have made that poorest western country even poorer:

Difficult as it may be to believe, people here say, life in the poorest nation in the hemisphere has gotten worse in the past two months.

Mounds of garbage choke the streets. Electricity in the capital has been scarce for weeks. The police force has fallen deeper into disarray, and crime has spiked, including a rash of kidnappings aimed at wealthy businesspeople. The price of rice, the Haitian staple, has doubled in some parts of the country.

Fascism 911
Disney blocks distribution of Michael Moore's new film, Fahrenheit 911.

The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.

The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis — including the family of Osama bin Laden — and criticizes Mr. Bush's actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."

Sounds like the Bushies bought a lot of pro quo for some of our quid. Why in the world would Disney be getting tax breaks for Disney World, that immensely profitable cultural wasteland which brainwashes millions of children every year? Rhetorical question--The answer is in the paragraphs above.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

My new car

I just bought this diesel-powered 2001 VW Golf GLS TDI. It's rated mileage in 42 city/48 highway, but what's really cool is that I can run it on biodiesel! I'm going to get a tank of biodiesel when it starts to run low in about 300 miles (the tank's about half full now).

Ideally, I'd rather be completely car-free, but that still puts a few too many walls around my life. So a high-mileage car running on renewable fuel seems like a great compromise--and it's a really cool little car, too!
Another Commie Pinko Liberal Calls for Pulling Out of Iraq
William Odom, a retired Army general who was director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, said Iraqi public anger at the U.S. troop presence has spun irretrievably out of control. "The only question is how long we're going to wait to leave and what price we're going to have to pay if we try to stay," he said.

Odom, now a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, adds that the United Nations and Arab countries might be persuaded to send in peacekeepers to pick up the slack after the American withdrawal.

"But even if they don't, any continued U.S. troop presence is a losing proposition. Once you've done a stupid thing, you don't fix it by keeping doing it. Our troops are exposed; we're going to take more casualties without any capacity of destroying the enemy. That's a losing proposition."
-- From SF Gate.
Digging the hole deeper
The Pentagon is notifying about 10,000 active-duty Army and Marine Corps troops and about 37,000 National Guard and Reserve soldiers that they will be sent to Iraq this year as replacements for units that will have served there a year or longer, officials said Tuesday. -- NY Times

Can you imagine the awful feeling in the gut of those 47,000, especially the reservists, and their families? Two weekends a month becomes a year or more in hell, from which you may not return intact.
Who says Bush isn't creating jobs?
From the comments on Billmon:

CACI's Job Database

Interrogator/Intel Analyst Team Lead Asst.

(Requisition #BZSG308)
Clearance: TS

Assists the interrogation support program team lead to increase the effectiveness of dealing with Detainees, Persons of Interest, and Prisoners of War (POWs) that are in the custody of US/Coalition Forces in the CJTF 7 AOR, in terms of screening, interrogation, and debriefing of persons of intelligence value. Under minimal supervision, will assist the team lead in managing a multifaceted interrogation support cell consisting of database entry/intelligence research clerks, screeners, tactical/strategic interrogators, and intelligence analyst.

Position requires a bachelor's degree or equivalent and five to seven years of related experience, preferably in intelligence field. Requires a Top Secret Clearance. Strong writing and briefing skills, with competency in automation, research and basic software applications. Familiar with intelligence collection capabilities/planning, as well as analytical procedures.

Minimum of 5 years in intelligence field. Requires a Bachelor's degree or equivalent. Requires a Top Secret Clearance. Strong writing and briefing skills, with competency in automation, research and basic software applications. Familiar with intelligence collection capabilities/planning, as well as analytical procedures.

See the world! Move quickly into a position of authority! Satisfy your wildest sexual/sadistic fantasies!

CACI: Beating democracy into the world.

PS: Another commenter on Billmon questioned whether the job posting was real. It is. CACI is hiring interrogators and interrogator assistants. Or just search for your dream job!
And the most ridiculous cartoon of the week:

From Doug Marlette. There was another one, basically identical. Of course, a more accurate cartoon would have Bush supporters watching Fox News with signs saying "God Bless America."

From Randy Bish.

From Bill Schorr.

Monday, May 03, 2004

I'm a great uncle!
I don't think my nephews and nieces would have argued with that before, but they can't now! My nephew Dan and his wife Kim (especially Kim) had a baby girl Sunday night: Audrey Grace Bickel. Pictures here!

Congrats to Kim and Dan!
War Sucks
So now you know. Thanks to prime-time television, you, the American people, understand that war is horrible. The mystery is why you didn't know before, why you are outraged now. Perhaps the answer is, if it's not on TV, it's not happening. So, credit to CBS's 60 Minutes II for finally showing part of the truth - that Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison have been undergoing the horrors of war at American hands. No credit to the US media for pulling the wool over your eyes about this war for so long. No credit to you for being appalled now - you should have known that this is what happens in any war, no matter whose side God is on. -- From an editorial in the Asia Times.
Go West, Young Man!
And die of thirst. Horace Greely gave (?) his famous advice over 150 years ago. But the west is out of water, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better any time soon.

I read a fascinating book a few months ago called Ecology of Fear : Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. (Actually, it's only fascinating if you don't live in LA and don't know anyone who does. In those cases, the proper adjective is "terrifying.") Like the NY Times story, the book describes how the relative wetness of the past two centuries in the west is an historical abberation--extreme drought being the norm to which the west is now returning. Cadillac Desert is another fascinating book about how the west got to be the way it is. Probably the scariest thing is that it seems that not one thing has been done to stop or even slow the absurd growth of western cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix. It seems almost certain that in 50 years, probably much less, Las Vegas will have crapped out and Phoenix will have returned to the ashes--why do people keep moving to these ridiculously unsustainable places?
Scum of the Earth
Is probably a charitable description of Ahmed Chalabi, embezzler, liar, and Dick Cheney's favorite Iraqi. Exiled from Iraq from 1958 until last year, he was convicted of bank fraud in Jordan, provided most of the lies about weapons of mass destruction, and has provided an unknown and unloved face for the Iraq Governing Council to the Iraqi people.

Now, we find out that Chalabi has been feeding "sensitive information" to Iran. And Josh Marshall reports:

Then there's the matter of the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad on August 7th, 2003. I'm told that the Jordanians have phone intercept intelligence, which they shared with the US government, showing that Chalabi had advance warning of the bombing, which he chose not to share with the Jordanians or the Americans.

In other words, Chalabi is the worst sort of scum. No wonder the Bushies love him.
Life Intimidates Art
A 15-year-old high school student in Prosser, Washington, was questioned last week by United States Secret Service agents after he turned in drawings for an art class. The assignment had been to keep a sketch journal depicting the war in Iraq, but apparently not to question it. When the student’s drawings called for an end to the war, school officials called the police.

One of the drawings shows a man in Middle Eastern dress with an AK-47 rifle and an oversized head of President Bush on a stick. Another depicts Bush as a devil firing rockets. A third showed the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in flames. A caption said, “End the War—on terrorism.”

While expressing a definite point of view in a straightforward fashion, there was nothing particularly disturbing about the cartoons. However, their voluntary submission to an art teacher immediately set off alarm bells all the way up from the school hierarchy to the state’s branch of the Secret Service.

Criticized for their excessive violence—this in a culture that routinely views multimillion dollar films and TV shows which are veritable orgies of killing—the cartoons have been treated as either an actual threat on President Bush’s life, or as symptomatic of a potential school-shooting psychopath.

Bush wars are made possible by the ignorance of the masses, especially the teenage cannon fodder in the schools. When some of the fodder starts to catch on, the Nazis move to repress immediately.

The hero-worship of fallen football-star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman is all a part of the brainwashing of youth. Ted Rall makes the point pretty bluntly in his latest cartoon, which is sure to make him this week's target of the right-wing hate machine:

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Venezuelan Journal
When you take a trip, there are a couple of ways to keep a record of it. You can 1) buy a notebook and a pen and take notes as the trip goes along, or 2) long before your trip, you start writing a blog, then announce your upcoming trip and invite readers to come along, hoping one of them will do the notebook/pen thing.

Approach 1 would appear, at first glance, to make more sense, but approach 2 worked for me! Fellow blogger Michelle signed up for the Venezuela trip, and she kept a journal, which you can read now!
Is the world really better off without Saddam?
(Reader Rick wanted an update on the comparison between the kill rate of Iraqis under Saddam with that under the coalition. This is my attempt at an answer. Obviously I don't have either complete information or the time to fully investigate the subject, but I'll try to summarize what I understand. A few months ago, Human Rights Watch wrote a report which investigated whether the war in Iraq was justifiable as a humanitarian intervention. Their conclusion was that it wasn't. I haven't read much of that report; for Rick and others looking for more than my conjectures below, I suggest turning to that report next.)

Is the world really better off without Saddam?

I would suggest that it clearly isn't. The threat of regional or even global war arising out of the illegal invasion of Iraq is growing. The threat of massive terrorist attacks is growing. International law is in a shambles, and America is detested throughout the world.

Is Iraq better off without Saddam? That's a closer call, but it's not looking good right now. In addition to the ever-present possibility of being denounced by a neighbor or colleague and hauled off to be tortured or raped at the Abu Ghraib prison, something which hasn't changed, there's a greatly increased chance of being killed by stray bullets, RPGs, or 500-pound bombs. But how about looking strictly at deaths per day--are Iraqis being killed at a lower rate now than they were before the war? A very difficult question, since we have very poor information on both periods. Saddam apparently didn't count his victims as he dumped them into mass graves, and neither does Bush.

As for what went on before the war, here's an excerpt from a very anti-Saddam article in the NY Times last year:

DOING the arithmetic is an imprecise venture. The largest number of deaths attributable to Mr. Hussein's regime resulted from the war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988, which was launched by Mr. Hussein. Iraq says its own toll was 500,000, and Iran's reckoning ranges upward of 300,000. Then there are the casualties in the wake of Iraq's 1990 occupation of Kuwait. Iraq's official toll from American bombing in that war is 100,000 — surely a gross exaggeration — but nobody contests that thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were killed in the American campaign to oust Mr. Hussein's forces from Kuwait. In addition, 1,000 Kuwaitis died during the fighting and occupation in their country.

Casualties from Iraq's gulag are harder to estimate. Accounts collected by Western human rights groups from Iraqi émigrés and defectors have suggested that the number of those who have "disappeared" into the hands of the secret police, never to be heard from again, could be 200,000. As long as Mr. Hussein remains in power, figures like these will be uncheckable, but the huge toll is palpable nonetheless.

As with other documents that I've seen claiming that Saddam was responsible for over one million deaths, this one has to include the death tolls on all sides of both the Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Gulf war. Certainly Saddam deserves blame for much of this, but so do Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, various Iranian leaders, and many others. The U.S. encouraged Saddam to attack Iran, and received backing from the Reagan administration as he used his chemical weapons and otherwise prosecuted the war. He probably wasn't aware that the Reaganistas were also supplying weapons to Iran. Henry Kissinger openly stated that he hoped the Iranians and Iraqis would just keep killing each other, and though Kissinger wasn't a part of the Reagan administration, that seems to have been pretty much their official policy. This doesn't absolve Saddam, but giving him sole blame for the deaths of 300,000 Iranians and 500,000 Iraqis in this war obviously isn't correct.

Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was largely bloodless. The tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths from the 1991 Gulf war seem to me to fall much
more on George H.W. Bush's shoulders than on Saddam's.

Whatever the proper assignment of blame for the deaths from these wars, we shouldn't forget that Saddam hadn't started a war in over twelve years when our invasion started last year. The war deaths were not an ongoing thing. So I think the key number to look at from the Times article is the 200,000 of "disappeared" Iraqis over the 20+ years of Saddam's rule, which the Times seems to suggest would be the high-end estimate. So up to 10,000 per year. A horrible number to be sure, but it's the lower accepted limit on the number of Iraqi civilian casualties in the year-plus of George W. Bush's Iraq war. And the estimates you almost never see are of the number of Iraqi soldiers killed in the "major combat operations" of March and April 2003, nor of the "insurgents" killed since then. One would have to believe that these numbers each also exceed 10,000.

So I would suggest that Iraqis are still subject to random arrests leading to indefinite detention, torture, and possibly death; that they have new fears for ongoing military action in their streets; and that they may be being killed at up to three times the rate that they were by Saddam in the 1990's.
Four more American soldiers killed...
But one American contractor who had been held hostage got away.

Congratulations to Thomas Hamill on his escape. But the NY Times has his escape as a major headline on their main web page, while the story about the soldiers being killed is a minor note. On, they've got a huge picture of Hamill, which is their main story. The deaths of the soldiers isn't mentioned on the main page.

I don't know if this means that the media is still covering up for Dickie and Georgie's monstrous screwup, or if it has just gotten so bad that the deaths are routine, but survival is exceptional.

I also see that the NY Times, or at least their Reuters feed, has gone back to using the smaller "enemy action" number of U.S. KIA's, currently 545, as opposed to the total who have died (including accidents, friendly fire, etc.), which I believe is at about 750. The media routinely did this for the first eight or ten months of the war, but it seemed as though they had come around to using the more accurate higher number in recent months. It's worrying to see them return to their old ways. Not that I like seeing high casualty numbers, but it should be clear to anyone with a brain by now that the only possible good that can come from these deaths is that they are used as lessons to prevent many more deaths in the future. By underplaying the numbers of dead and wounded, the true cost of the whole pointless exercise is hidden, meaning it may take longer before public opinion becomes so overwhelming as to force President Bush or President Kerry to withdraw.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

From Tom Toles via Michelle.
Mission Accomplished
Abu Ghraib prison was used by Saddam Hussein's regime to brutally torture prisoners. Now that the world is supposedly better off without Saddam, Abu Ghraib prison is used by George W. Bush's regime to brutally torture prisoners. The Bushies have been trying to blame THESE war crimes on some National Guard MP units. But the woman in charge of those troops, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, said the prison cellblock where the abuse occurred was under the tight control of Army military intelligence officers who may have encouraged the abuse.

And Billmon, in another of his extraordinary posts, suggests that it wasn't just the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) who was involved. The CIA and FBI are also implicated, as well as some more of those infamous private contracting firms, who have been trained by and may actually be covers for Israeli intelligence agents.

I've pretty much given up on guessing that THIS LATEST PARTICULAR INCREDIBLY HORRIBLE EVIDENCE OF THE CRIMINALITY of the Bushies will be the camel that broke the straw's back. Bush could appoint Saddam to be Secretary of Defense and Osama to be Secretary of State tomorrow and about half of America would defend his actions. (Of course, they wouldn't be a whole lot worse than who we have now.)

From Rex Babin.

From John Trever, whose cartoons I usually detest. But he's spot on on this one!

From Chip Bok.
Staggering Hypocrisy
''The message the terrorists learned in Madrid is that attacks can change elections and change policy,'' a senior administration official said, talking about the new Spanish government's decision to pull its troops out of Iraq - exactly the goal some believe the train bombers had in mind. ''It's a very dangerous precedent to have out there.'' -- From a NY Times article about the potential effects of another terrorist attack in the U.S. on the election in November.

Don't they realize that 9/11 set the precedent both earlier and more dramatically? U.S. foreign and domestic (think Patriot Act) policy were changed drastically following 9/11, and the Repugs used the threat of terrorism to skew the 2002 midterm elections, as they clearly intend to do in 2004 as well. And don't forget that one of Osama bin Laden's main gripes against the U.S. was the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia since 1991. Well, most of those troops are gone now, restationed in Iraq or Kuwait or Qatar. Who is really the appeaser here?