Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Neil vs. Roger
I've seen all kinds of information about the amount of news coverage Bill Clinton's military records got while he was running for president and how they compare to that of the Bush Jr. run. As you know, there is no comparison--Bush's record is so much more sketchy--but I guess going AWOL because your coke habit will show up during drug testing isn't as horrific as being in college overseas during an immoral war. Now don't even mention how Laura actually killed a guy when she was 17, in 1963; she ran a stop sign and hit a car driven by her boyfriend, Michael Douglas, who was thrown from his car and died. Anyway, I'm sure you've seen these stories and thought about how Hillary would have been executed if the same secrets were in her past.
Now for my point. I think there could be a great comparison made between Neil Bush and Roger Clinton. The international media is reporting on Neil's divorce everywhere but in the US, as I guess a lot of juicy details are coming out in court, including his romps with Thai prostitutes, giveaway software contracts with the Texas public schools and a more than questionable relationship with the Chinese courtesy of his $2 million contract with Shanghai-based Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing (and don’t even ask about Marvin P. Bush’s dealings with Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Holdings). Nothing! At least nothing I've read in the mainstream press.
But Roger! We heard everything about this guy, who I think might actually be borderline retarded. When Bill pardoned him on the possession charge, you would have thought that he pardoned Hitler! Who wouldn't pardon their brother--I mean, if you can't get a pardon when your brother is the f'in president! But anyway, there's a nice comparison to draw between the two. Here's a good Online Journal article that has some nice links on it.
[This post brought to you by mystery helper G.]
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Goodie Ashcroft Saw You in the Forest Dancing Naked with Osama Bin Laden
No one does witch-hunts like the good old US of A. One of the biggest ongoing under-reported news stories of the last several years has been the continued state-run persecution of Muslims.
The Washington Post reports that last Thursday the Justice Department's inspector general announced the existence of hundreds of videotapes documenting the cruel and unusual punishment of foreign nationals at a New York detention facility just after 9/11. Here are some highlights:
The report concluded that as many as 20 guards were involved in the abuse, which included slamming prisoners against walls and painfully twisting their arms and hands. Fine recommended discipline for 10 employees and counseling for two others who remain employed by the federal prison system. He also said the government should notify the employers of four former guards about their conduct.
"Some officers slammed and bounced detainees against the wall, twisted their arms and hands in painful ways, stepped on their leg restraint chains and punished them by keeping them restrained for long periods of time," the report said. "We determined that the way these MDC staff members handled some detainees was, in many respects, unprofessional, inappropriate and in violation of BOP policy."
During two incidents captured on videotape, the report said, "We observed officers escort detainees down a hall at a brisk pace and ram them into a wall without slowing down before impact." In the numerous "slamming" incidents recorded on tape, the report said, there was no evidence that the detainees had provoked or attacked the guards.
etc. Not that it should matter in a just society, but nonetheless, none of these detainees were ever charged with terrorism-related crimes.
The other big under-reported Muslim witch-hunt is, of course, the Yee saga. This one even has the sort of mob hysteria and xenophobic irrationality that characterizes actual hunts for witches! For those not up on this case, the facts go as follows: several months ago, with much media hoopla, James Yee, a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, was taken into custody by the state under suspicion of being a spy for al-Qaida. He was never officially accused of any espionage charge but was detained for seventy-six days. With much less media hoopla, a couple of weeks ago he was charged with adultery and downloading porn on a government computer, I kid you not. The army says that Yee transported classified documents out of Guantanamo Bay but it needs more time to figure out if the documents were really classified. Yee's back home on leave now, I guess, awaiting trial on the porn rap; here's the latest
. Yee actually seems like a pretty nice guy.
There's also another similar witch-hunt in the making. It's a strange case -- full of hysteria and hot right on right action -- and it involves the blogger of American Leftist feeling sorry for Grover Norquist, but unfortunately it is beyond the scope of this post.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
So How Many Halliburton-related Scandals Does This Make Now?
In Krugman's latest, he mentions an NBC news story about Halliburton running unsanitory mess halls in Iraq. Hadn't heard about this one ... here's the story. Also, here's a piece about Bechtel's crappy work on Iraqi schools that Krugman also talks about.
Hey How Come the British Can Find Leakers?
Apparently, one only gets arrested for leaking information that is detrimental to the Bush administration (even in other countries). From The Guardian)
A sacked GCHQ employee charged yesterday under the Official Secrets Act said last night that her alleged disclosures exposed serious wrongdoing by the US and could have helped to prevent the deaths of Iraqis and British forces in an "illegal war".
Katharine Gun, 29, of Cheltenham, was charged by Metropolitan police special branch officers under section 1 (1) of the act. The section states that any serving or former member of the security and intelligence agencies is guilty of an offence if they disclose "any information" about their work without official authority.
In a statement last night, Ms Gun said: "Any disclosures that may have been made were justified because they exposed serious illegality and wrongdoing on the part of the US government which attempted to subvert our own security services. Secondly, they could have helped prevent widescale death and casualties amongst ordinary Iraqi people and UK forces in the course of an illegal war."
Gun exposed the US government's plot to bug the phones and intercept the emails of the UN security council delegates who were considered swing voters in the run up to the war in Iraq. Maybe, at least, the story of this arrest will help shine the media spotlight back on the US's dirty tricks operation which has fallen down the memory hole. Anyway, Katherine Gun deserves support and a lot of respect. What she did was pretty brave.
Monday, December 15, 2003
For What It's Worth
Human Rights Watch lists the following as crimes against humanity for which Hussein should be tried:
(1) The genocidal Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds, which resulted in the deaths of some 100,000 civilians and the destruction of more than 4,000 villages.
(2) The use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians.
(3) The large-scale killings that followed the failed 1991 uprisings in the north and south of Iraq.
(4) The destruction and repression of the Marsh Arabs
(5) The forced expulsion of ethnic minorities in Northern Iraq during the “Arabization” campaign.
(1) The Anfal campaign took place in 1988, at the time Hussein was considered a valuable US asset. In 1988 the US was providing Iraq with economic aid, military intelligence, and other forms of assistance. The US provided equipment and weapons. The government of the United States did not denounce Saddam Hussein when the Anfal campaign occurred.
(2) There is some question as to whether Iran or Iraq was responsible for the Halabja bloodbath (that I assume this item is referring to). This NYT op-ed piece sums up the facts of the incident.
But let's assume it was Iraq, regarding the use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops and the Kurds, the New York Times ("Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas," 8/18/02) reported, "A covert American program during the Reagan administration provided Iraq with critical battle planning assistance at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war." Also, note that the use of chemical weapons, as is the use of any weapon of mass destruction, is surely an atrocity, but in this case it was an atrocity that occurred in the context of a war between Iran and Iraq. I am pleased that the international community, and now presumably the US, views chemical weapon use in warfare as a crime -- hopefully, we will shortly see former US presidents posthumously tried for the use of napalm against the Vietnamese.
(3) The 1991 uprisings were a result of Hussein's defeat in the Gulf War I. If the goal of US foreign policy regarding Iraq was to free the Iraqi people from their dictator then this was the time to do it. Initially Bush I called for the Iraqi people to revolt, but the uprising didn't go as planned; it didn't spread to the military. The nascent civil war probably would have resulted in a popular Shi'ite government rather than a US-backed military dictatorship, thus the Bush administration changed course, and tacitly signaled to Hussein that they would help him remain in power. As Friedman opined in the NYT the "best of all worlds" for Washington would be "an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein."
Bush I didn't just leave him in power, his military actively worked to quell an incipient rebellion that sought to overthrow Hussein. Anti-Hussein forces asked repeatedly to have the arms recovered from the Iraqi army but were refused by the US, which went so far as to blow up arms dumps and even disarmed groups of rebels. The US allowed the supposedly-destroyed republican guard to shell Kurdish-held areas with impunity after the war was officially over. They simply were not interested in supporting a popular rebellion if they didn't get to be in control after it was over.
Here's Wolfowitz on the 1991 uprising:
'No one can read about what's going on there without feeling a great sense of sympathy for what's going on. But that doesn't mean it is in our power to straighten it out. It's a mess that, to be a little harsh about it, is to some extent of their creation, and they are going to have to come up with a solution'.(thanks to Atrios for the quote, which is from the London Guardian 3/28/91)
(4) My commentary for (3) applies equally well to the destruction of the Marsh Arabs because their fate was a result of supporting the uprising that Bush called for. As Australia's The Age reports
Their water-borne culture survived the Turks, the Persians, the British and successive modern Iraqi regimes. But then, at the short-lived urging of the first President George Bush, they dared to join the revolt against Saddam Hussein in the months after the 1991 Gulf War.
Their punishment was to be dispersed and now the marshlands from which they ran a disorganised guerilla campaign are virtually drained.
A Chicago Tribune story quotes Emma Nicholson, the founder of the international charity, Amar, as saying, "The U.S. bears that burden of guilt." about the draining of the marshes.
There were a lot of stories in the spring of 2003 about the US's plans of the restoring the marshes. Hopefully, it will happen. I haven't seen this project mentioned lately, and these plans are complicated by the fact that there are huge oil reserves under the marshes.
(5) The arabization of Iraq began when the country was created in 1921, but accelerated greatly under Hussein. The results of the ethnic cleansing program are visible in particular in the city of Kirkuk (from Radio Free Europe,10/18/02).
The US has a history of selling out the Kurds. The US double-dealed the kurds once during the 1991 uprisings as discussed above. More recently, it attempted to again during the start of the current Iraq conflict when it agreed to Turkish demands to suppress the development of any sort of Kurdish autonomy in exchange for the use of the Iraq-Turkey border: (from Kurdish Media)
There are no doubts that the main incentive for the Turk rulers “notorious for their ulterior intentions” to accept the US offer was to get that golden opportunity (they have been trying very hard to get) to sour the good relations that the Kurds of South Kurdistan currently enjoy with the US. It is most evident to the whole world that the Turks are against any Kurdish influence anywhere in the Middle East and beyond. They only want to see the Kurds as unnoticeable, powerless, divided and insignificant people who are only good enough to be ruled and brutalized by the barbaric regional “fake” states who “against the will of the Kurdish nation” have shared the occupation of Kurdistan.
The US will try Saddam Hussein for forcefully expelling Iraq's Kurdish population from areas deemed pollitically important, but it looks the other way when Turkey does the same thing: (here's Chomsky)
Everyone knows that Turkey's a leading terrorist state, maybe one of the worst in the world. And again, when I say Turkey, I mean the U.S. and Turkey. In the 1990s, in the area that I just visited, southeastern Turkey, the Kurdish areas, this is the site of some of the worst atrocities and "ethnic cleansing" of the 1990s. It was bad enough in the '80s, got much worse under Clinton. The U.S. supplied 80% of the arms. They peaked in 1997--1997 alone, more arms were sent to Turkey than the whole cold war period put together, up to 1984, when the counter-insurgency campaign began. A couple of million refugees, country devastated tens of thousands of people killed. Far worse than anything attributed to Milosevic, in Kosovo before the NATO bombing.
Chalabi-mania Running Wild?
Anybody else notice there's been a lot of Darth Chalabi
in the news lately? For instance in these stories
. Most of these stories mention that Chalabi, who has lived in Iraq for something like what a few months out of the last fifty years, wants the trials to be in Iraq.
"We passed a law for the specialized court for crimes against humanity and the principle defendant in this court will be Saddam Hussein."--Ahmed Chalabi
Gee, do you think anyone is putting him up to this? Why has the US all of a sudden become so concerned with the domestic laws and rights of sovereign nations? Isn't, for instance, the purpose of the whole framework of corporate globalization to get around the laws of sovereign nations? Now, all of a sudden Hussein has to be tried in Iraq because the barely existent unelected Iraqi National Congress coincidentally passed a law a few weeks ago.
I guess it couldn't be that they don't want him to go before the Hague because they don't control the Hague, huh?
Friday, December 12, 2003
There's an interesting article
on the website The Black Commentator
about a speech Dean made in Columbia, SC. These paragraphs are a concise summary:
Bill Clinton – the ridiculously dubbed “Black” President – began his 1992 campaign by staging an ambush of Sister Souljah to impress white males, dedicated his second term to elimination of “welfare as we know it,” and ended his tenure with a purposeless national “conversation on race” that went nowhere by design.
Howard Dean has taken history in his hands by hitching his ascendant campaign to a straightforward, anti-corporate message that does not pander to white racism. He presents whites in the South and elsewhere with the only principled choice they should be offered: to vote their interests, or vote for their bosses’ interests (if they are lucky enough to have a job). Although corporate media called Dean’s statement his “southern strategy,” it is in fact the only position that holds out any hope for a national Democratic victory in 2004 – whether enough southern whites emerge from their racist “false consciousness” or not.
The December 7 speech is a clear and definitive break from the lethal grip of the Democratic Leadership Council, the southern-born, corporate-mouthpiece faction of the party. The DLC’s favored presidential candidate is Senator Joe Lieberman, it’s most illustrious personality is Bill Clinton, and it’s most prestigious founding member is none other than – Al Gore.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Well, it's funner and slighltly more intellectually stimulating than most of the other reality shows on the air. It's entertaining to speculate and make predictions but ultimately the Democratic primary dog and pony show leaves me profoundly disinterested.
It's nice to see Gore sprout a little bit of a spine. Maybe in twenty years, with proper care and feeding, he'll grow into a liberal Democrat, not the sort of person who runs on the same ticket with a stridently religious moral conservative who was the primary advocate of a policy that lead to one of the ways that companies like Enron overstated their profits. The grassroots nature of the Dean campaign is certainly refreshing, but it's hard to get excited about a man who supports the construction of Israel's apartheid wall, who wants to send more troops into Iraq (either Americans or foreign soldiers depending on whether asked before or after waffling), and who is a fiscal conservative with a history of supporting NAFTA, the WTO, and the general framework of corporate globalization*. Likewise, it's hard to get excited about the other antiwar candidate who has a strange tendency of voting for Republicans and waging humanitarian interventions that for some reason involve an awful lot of purposeful bombing of civilian infrastructure (and then telling the New York Times that the escalating atrocities and incidents of ethnic cleansing that occurred as a result of said bombings were "entirely predictable").
Look, for real leftists there's only one voice in this contest that has any resonance whatsoever -- Kucinich -- and he doesn't have a prayer so we're back to playing the devil's game that the hard left is forced into in every election cycle.
The pundits say that the last election was about winning over swing voters but this election will be about mobilizing the parties' core constituencies, and for once I agree with the pundits. The hard left is part of the traditonal base of the Democratic party and its actions in this election may prove to be consequential. For hard leftists, the Democratic race has two abstract candidates: Mr. Anybody-But-Bush and Mr. Anybody-But-Bush-And-Lieberman. Mr. Anybody-But-Bush-And-Lieberman loses if Lieberman wins. Thus, Gore's recent endorsement of Mr. Anybody-But-Bush-And-Lieberman should put a smile on the face of those who have a deep emotional investment in a Democratic victory in 2004. I'm a leftist and Mr. Anybody-But-Bush-And-Lieberman is my main man, he can kiss my babies any time! And as long as my man wins the democratic ticket no one should have to worry about Nader...
*-although, to be fair, he's now modulating his position on free trade.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
The UN general assembly has asked the world court to examine the legality of the separating wall Israel is building. The resolution has resulted in a couple of stories about the wall breaking through into the mainstream US media, such as this one in Newsday
or this one in the LA times.
While it's nice Israel's big project is being mentioned, it still hasn't gotten the level of exposure in the US that the story receives in the international press. One thing in particular that you won't see in US coverage is a map:
The interesting thing about the above is, of course, the extent to which the proposed barrier does not follow the pre-1967 Israel-Palestine border. I got the above graphic from Gush Shalom's website
(by way of monkey fist
). Gush Shalom bills itself as "the hard core of the israeli peace movement." Their position is that the argument that the wall is being built strictly for reasons of security is untenable prima facie -- the wall encroaches so far into Palestinian terrority, is so far removed from the pre-67 border, that it is much longer and, therefore, much more difficult to patrol and/or keep secure than if it simply followed the green line.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Well, here is the first post in my new blog.