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'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, August 30, 2004

Johnny Cash Was Not a Republican 

This Tuesday the Republicans are planning a special celebration of Johnny Cash for the Tennessee delegates at Sotheby's. To get an idea of just how cravenly despicable an act this is, here's an excerpt from Cash's obituary in that fine Republican journal, The Socialist Worker:

Cash was inspired by the movements of the 1960s and spent months reading about the plight of Native Americans. The result was his record Bitter Tears and the song "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," the true story of a Pima Indian who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima in World War Two, but faced bigotry and rejection when he came home. In the end, "He died drunk one mornin’/Alone in the land he fought to save/Two inches of water in a lonely ditch/Was a grave for Ira Hayes."

The song rose to number three on the country charts, but many programmers refused to play it. In disgust, Johnny took out a full-page ad in Billboard that read, "‘The Ballad of Ira Hayes’ is strong medicine. So is Rochester-Harlem-Birmingham and Vietnam. Where’s your guts?"

He crossed musical boundaries as well, playing Bob Dylan’s songs when it was unheard of for a country singer to play folk music. At the height of his career in 1971, Cash used his TV show as a platform for antiwar protest singers like Pete Seeger and Joan Baez.

He performed "Man in Black" on the show. "I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down/Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town/I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime/But is there because he’s a victim of the times."

[ ... ]

A story told by Kris Kristofferson probably best sums up Johnny Cash. "I opened for John in Philadelphia a few years ago, and I dedicated a song to Mumia Abu-Jamal," Kristofferson told Rolling Stone magazine in 2000. "The police at the show went ballistic. After I came off, they said that I had to go out and make an apology. I felt pretty bad, because it was John’s show. But John heard about it and said to me, ‘Listen, you don’t need to apologize for nothin’. I want you to come out at the end of the show and do "Why Me" with me.’ So I went out and sang with him. John just refuses to compromise."

Two of Johnny Cash's closest friends were Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, for godsake. Look, it's not Johnny Cash's fault that the Republicans don't have enough A-list celebrities on board for their big party. Why don't they get Vincent Gallo to introduce a special screening of Brown Bunny for the delegates from Tennessee? Or if they want to celebrate a famous Republican Johnny, how about treating the delegation from Tennessee to "An Evening with Johnny Ramone"? -- I'm sure that would be a big hit, and it wouldn't involve co-opting a dead man's legacy.

Anyway, here's the link for information about the protests being planned for Tuesday's gala.


Sunday, August 29, 2004

Iran-Contra II 

Well, Juan Cole has posted his take on this unfolding scandal, which if you are at all interested in this sort of thing you should go and read. This story is huge, and as with all huge political scandals, it's convoluted and hard to get one's head around. To that end, here's my Cliff Notes version of the situation as explicated by Juan Cole:

The pro-Likud faction of the Department of Defense was conspiring with Israel's Likud party, the proto-fascist Italian intelligence agency SISMI, would-be Iranian revolutionary Ghorbanifar, and the Iranian anti-Khomeini terrorist organization MEK to overthrow the government of Iran. The overthrow was going to occur after Iraq was taken care of. SISMI forged the Niger uranium documents that alleged the existence of a joint plot between Iran and Iraq against the rest of the world, setting up the next phase of the neoconservatives' big adventure. Larry Franklin gave the draft directive on Iran to AIPAC not to pass intelligence to Israel but to seek input in framing US policy towards Iran and to prep AIPAC for lobbying for the future military action against Iran. The neoconservatives in the State Department successfully blocked an agreement between the USA and Iran in which Iran would have given up five high-level agents of al-Qaeda in exchange for chief operatives of MEK. The agreement was blocked to prevent a thawing of the relationship between the US and Iran and to keep MEK intact for use in the overthrow. Had the conspiracy succeeded its primary beneficiaries would have been the rightmost elements of Israel's government, who would be free to do as they pleased in Palestine and to annex southern Lebanon, and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi who would make a killing. The story is about a conspiracy to hijack the US government on behalf of foreign powers.

Something is Happening ... 

Josh Marshall and Laura Rozen's piece about the Israeli spy story is now up on WashingtonMonthly.com and, wouldn't you know it, it focuses on the Larry Franklin/Manucher Ghorbanifar connection. Marshall et al. assert that "the investigation of Franklin is now shining a bright light on a shadowy struggle within the Bush administration over the direction of U.S. policy toward Iran.":

The FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more-senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up.

Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of "regime change" in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach.

You heard it here first...

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Powell Killer Go Home 

Despite the rosy spin, there's been a tense atmosphere throughout these Olympic games. The level of unanimity right now between the nations of the world in condemnation of the foreign policy of the United States is probably unparalleled in history. Add to that Greece's deep tradition of populist leftism, and it's a wonder that these games weren't plagued with more than a vague tension. But tension there was, and it resulted mostly in the American teams that could most easily be conflated with the USA's international bully persona -- the men's basketball team and the men's volleyball team -- getting soundly booed; as one American tourist told Reuters, "The Greeks boo us. I don't mind them cheering their own team, but they boo us. I went to the basketball game between the US and Puerto Rico and they booed us so much that I thought I wanted to rip up my €3,000 worth of tickets and go home."

However, the air of anti-Americanism didn't result in much more than boos and whistles until it was announced last Monday that Colin Powell would be attending the games' closing ceremony. As early as Wednesday quotes like the following from Greek activist Yiannis Sifakakis were making the their way into AP stories

[Colin Powell] is a hawk, a war criminal and an arch murderer. .. We do not want him here, [ ... ] Colin Powell is coming here while the Americans are killing people in Iraq.

and, by Friday, the day before Powell was to arrive, thousands had taken to the streets in Athens. Greek communists hung a huge banner across one of the sides of Acropolis hill which read "Powell killer go home. Don't forget that civilians are being slaughtered in Najaf and a wall is being built in Palestine." The street protests followed the standard narrative the mainstream media likes to tell about successful demonstrations: they started out peaceful but then "turned into a riot." In this case, the spark that led to violence was the protesters' decision to demonstrate in front of the American embassy which would have been a huge embarrassment for Greece. The cops were sent in, tear gas was used, three were injured -- the whole shebang. Here's a picture of the peaceful phase of Friday's protests

and here's the riot phase

Anyway, the Greek leftists were successful. Colin Powell is not going anywhere near Athens citing other "urgent responsibilities" ... uh, yeah ... like not creating a negative photo-op for the boy king.

The Israeli Spy Thing 

Don't have much to add about the whole Larry Franklin story ... except to say that I too believe this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg and would like to flag Juan Cole's excellent and frightening post on the subject, which mostly just sheds light on the AIPAC's role in American politics. I agree with other commentators (and/or wild speculators, as the case may be) that the most likely reason that this story has suddenly sprung into the media spotlight is to put heat on Franklin perhaps to "flip him", as they say on the Sopranos, for use in a broader investigation.

Oh, yeah, I'd also like to point out that the last time this Mr. Larry Franklin made an appearance in our newspapers, it was in a somewhat interesting context. Serveral years ago, he was secretly sent by the Pentagon as an American envoy to Iran-contra personality and shady arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar. Here's a little of the Post's coverage from last August:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged yesterday that Pentagon officials met secretly with a discredited expatriate Iranian arms merchant who figured prominently in the Iran-contra scandal of the mid-1980s, characterizing the contact as an unexceptional effort to gain possibly useful information.

[ ... ]

Last night, a senior defense official disclosed that another meeting with the Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, occurred in June in Paris. The official said that, while the first contact, in late 2001, had been formally sanctioned by the U.S. government in response to an Iranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war on terrorism, the second one resulted from "an unplanned, unscheduled encounter."

A senior administration official said, however, that Pentagon staff members held one or two other meetings with Ghorbanifar last year in Italy. The sessions so troubled Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the official said, that he complained to Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser.

Powell maintained that the Pentagon activities were unauthorized and undermined U.S. policy toward Iran by taking place outside the terms defined by Bush and his top advisers. The White House instructed the Pentagon to halt meetings that do not conform to policy decisions, said the official, who requested anonymity.

The Defense Department personnel who met with Ghorbanifar came from the policy directorate. Sources identified them as Harold Rhode, a specialist on Iran and Iraq who recently served in Baghdad as the Pentagon liaison to Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, and Larry Franklin, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst.

Don't know if this is relevant or not -- I'm just throwing it out there...

Friday, August 27, 2004

That Wacky Iraqi Soccer Team 

AFP reports that the Iraqi soccer team has caused another mini-scandal by refusing to wear black armbands, in remembrance of an Italian journalist who was murdered in Iraq, to the bronze medal match between Iraq and Italy. The team's coach pointed out that to do so would be kind of silly given that, you know, more than ten thousand Iraqi civilians have died since the start of the invasion:

We will not be wearing black armbands. The Italians will be and we respect their choice ... We regret the death of the Italian journalist but it's necessary also to think of the hundreds of Iraqis who have died each day during resistance to the occupation. It would be necessary to wear an armband every day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Without a Clue 

Aljazeera.net recently interviewed Dr Muthana al-Dhari, editor-in-chief of al-Basaer newspaper and media officer of the Association of Muslim Scholars who was briefly imprisoned and interrogated by the US's occupying force. Here' s the best part:

What subjects did they bring up during the interrogation?

Basically, because the AMS have made efforts in the releasing of several captives in Iraq, they suspected that we have links with the captors, but the truth is that the AMS is highly respected and the only link between us and the them is our appeals in which we remind them of the principles of Islam which prohibits Muslims from harming people.

They also mentioned the names of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and wanted to know if I knew any of them. The interrogators were keen to find out anything about the Iraqi resistance.

They think because we are a revered Sunni Muslim organisation, we might have information about the so-called Sunni resistance, but the truth is the resistance is Iraqi not Sunni.

They asked me, why we hate them? I told them that we do not hate the American people, they are welcomed as tourists, traders…etc., but not as occupiers.

An interrogator blamed the Israeli-Arab conflict for the hostility between Arabs and Americans, and if Israel removes the settlements everything would be alright.

I did not agree with him, and reminded him of Jerusalem, and how it is occupied. I let him know that Muslims do not mind Jews and Christians living with them in Jerusalem, but they must ask for permission not come by force.

What was your conclusion?

I got the impression that US interrogators and CIA officers have not a clue about what they are doing. Their questions were shallow and indicated serious ignorance of the Iraqi scene.

I also noticed they are so keen to mock, ridicule, and insult us. Some of them are good people, and are very angry at George Bush, one of them told me if [Bush] loves Iraq so much, why does he not bring his family and live here?

But interestingly, some of [the US soldiers] are just thieves. They stole my agenda and wrist watch in front of my eyes.

Karl at the Bat 

So Bush was asked directly if he was going to go to the Olympics and said no. The denial happened down at the OK Corral where Bush was attending a meeting in which he pretended to listen to defense and national security officials and where the press questioned him about his favorite Olympic sports. Here's the transcript of the exchange:

QUESTION: You're not going to Athens this week, are you?

BUSH: Athens, Texas?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: The Olympics in Greece.

BUSH: Oh, the Olympics. No, I'm not.

The reason the question was asked, of course, is because Drudge recently reported that there was talk of sending Bush on a secret mission to the Olympics to see an Iraqi soccer match and, presumably, appear in an Iraqi-soccer-themed photo-op. Bush's denial could mean that Drudge was full of shit, but more likely it indicates that the leak to Drudge was a trial balloon gingerly released from Fat Karl's grubby little hands and unceremoniously shot down by insurgents in Najaf.

To be honest, I'm a little bit disappointed. I must admit I like to watch Karl do his job. There is tremendous comic appeal in Rove's negative stuff, for example, the current Swift-Boat-Stooges-for-yada-yada-yada operation. The swift boat stunt in particular has an austere beauty in its pure unadulterated hypocrisy and succeeds swimmingly as black comedy, but, for my money, you can only really appreciate the full Rove touch in the man's positive work, his shameless propaganda set pieces. Who else would have even considered the Mission Accomplished photo-op? One can just imagine Rove's albino-like visage in some underlit office in DC yelling into the phone, "Look, I hear what you're telling me but I don't care. We're flying him on to an aircraft carrier and he's wearing a fucking flightsuit! He's giving the speech in a flightsuit, okay." Or who can forget the secret mission to Thanksgiving in Iraq in which Fat Karl had Bush pose with a plastic turkey and managed to get the talking heads of the nightly news to breathlessly read reams of secret mission boiler-plate? After the Thanksgiving trip, Rove even got a 100% phony anecdote ("Did I just see Air Force One?", asked a British pilot no one could seem to find) into the mainstream press coverage and then merchandised the fucking phony anecdote (CNN reported that "large pins featuring the president's plane and the BA pilot's words -- 'Did I just see Air Force One?'" sold out at gift shops in Crawford) ... Now that's Karl Rove.

So had the Olympic photo-op taken place it would have been a sight to behold. Maybe Karl could have fixed the soccer semifinals and finals and had Bush present the Iraqi athletes with their gold medals personally? Or Bush could have handed out cowboy hats and beef jerky and joined the fawning Iraqis for a pick-up game of footie before the steps of the Acropolis. Personally I'd liked to have seen it. I'd like to have seen Bush shaking hands with that midfielder from Fallujah whose cousin was killed while fighting the occupation and who says that if he wasn't playing soccer he'd be taking up arms against the Americans himself. Maybe it'll still happen but it seems that the Iraqi soccer team's virulent hatred of Bush -- and, perhaps more importantly, the press's willingness to write stories about the Iraqi soccer team's virulent hatred of Bush -- has spooked Karl Rove.

Which raises the interesting question -- What will be Karl Rove's positive centerpiece of this campaign? What image will he attempt to burn into the consciousness of America just before the election? It will be an image. It's always an image with him. Rove is said to believe that you should run every political campaign as if people are watching television with the sound turned down. He's been swinging at the ball but missing quite a bit lately, but let's not count our boy out just yet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Raed's Back in the Middle 

The inimitable Raed Jarrar is back after a several week hiatus. Raed is the Palestinian-Iraqi architect who was the lefter half of the famous Baghdad blogger team, an amusing and intelligent voice. Here's an old GNN piece about Raed and here's a snippet from his latest post:

AsSadr and his supporters are Iraqis. They are the poor repressed Iraqis that were devastated for decades, the same people to whom the bush administration propaganda made promises of a better life after occupation. Aren't these the people the majority that the bush-style-democracy was supposed to protect? Doesn’t this show how paradoxical is it to judge the Iraqi culture by U.S. standards and values? doesn't it prove why imported “democracy” would never work?

[ ... ]

Why is it allowed for bush and his administration to kill hundreds of Iraqis without a bastard opening his mouth? Why do we hear lots of dogs barking and remembering the human rights in the pre-war Iraq, or Yugoslavia or wherever, but the current lives lost are ignored?

I mean, it is bad that people are killing each other in Darfur, or that the Saddam government gassed Kurds in the north, but where is the difference between that and what is happening in Najaf? Where is the difference between what bush and Allawi are doing to Iraqis and what the worst totalitarian dictatorships did anywhere anytime?

Central authorities crushing smaller groups, people with bigger and stronger tanks killing others…

Freedom? Haha
International law? Hahahaha
Iraqi soccer team winning in the Olympics? Oh! This is worth it.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Sacco and Vanzetti 

Seventy seven years ago today the state of Massachusetts killed the Italian anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, for a crime they did not commit. From Sacco's last letter to his 14-year-old son, Dante:

... But remember always, Dante, in the play of happiness, don't you use all for yourself only, but down yourself just one step, at your side and help the weak ones that cry for help, help the persecuted and the victims, because they are your better friends; they are the comrades that fight and fall as your father and Bartolo fought and fell yesterday for the conquest of the joy of freedom for all and the poor workers. In this struggle of life you will find more love and you will be loved.

Iran Wins Iraq War 

So the AFP reports that the US's empire-mongering blood-spilling ways has been good for the old bottom line in Iran: (from "Iraq chaos boosting Iran's oil coffers", AFP)

Iran may want peace for Iraq, but the instability plaguing its war-ravaged neighbour suits the Islamic oil power's bottom line just fine - for now.

Concerns about the violence in Iraq and unabated demand sent New York's main oil contract soaring above US$49 (S$84) a barrel last Friday for the first time - and racing towards the symbolic US$50 mark.

'Given the increased revenues from crude exports, hiking oil prices will be to the benefit of Iran,' Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh acknowledged last week.

'The higher the oil price, the more profitable oil industry development projects,' said Mr Zanganeh, whose country is the second-largest producer in the 11-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) cartel and has claimed the No. 2 position in world crude reserves based on new oil discoveries.

According to the authorities, Iranian oil revenues totalled US$8 billion between March and July, a full US$1 billion more than forecast in the budget.

One wonders if Iran is considering trying some reverse psychology (ie. "American infidels, The Islamic Republic of Iran would be greatly offended if you would completely wreck the internal infrastructure of another oil producing nation -- maybe, I don't know, Venezuela...")

Link ripped from No Capital

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Why Don't They Just Start Stamping 'Leftist' on Passports? 

So is it now official Israeli policy that you can't enter the country if you're a member of the International Solidarity Movement? Anyway, here are examples of barred entry, expulsion, and detention from the last thirty days or so: Ewa Jasiewicz, Adam Wilson, and Anne Robinson-Peter.

The case of Anne Robinson-Peter is particularly troubling in that she was imprisoned in a police detention center at the Ben-Gurion International Airport for 28 days, and she isnt't even that much of an activist. She's an artist from New York who says she never publicized her membership in the International Solidarity Movement and that she was detained "probably because [she is] on the ISM mailing list."

The Homefront 

On Friday the Independent wrote of the family of a British soldier, Fusilier Gordon Campbell Gentle, who was killed in Iraq. Gentle was killed on the very day of the phony handover, and his family is speaking out against the war. In particular, his 14-year-old sister Maxine wrote a scathing letter to Blair. Here's the complete text of the letter

In other news, a week or so ago, in a truly affecting segment, Amy Goodman interviewed the family of Jeffrey M. Lucey, a US marine who hanged himself after returning from Iraq. Lucey's parents say that Lucey was unable to overcome the grief he felt about what he saw and did in Iraq. One incident more than any other haunted Lucey: he had, under a direct order, shot two unarmed Iraqi prisoners at point blank range. Here's the Luceys discussing the incident with Goodman:

KEVIN LUCEY: My understanding was that there was a higher ranking official who told Jeff, and this is the quote that is etched in my mind, “pull the [bleep] trigger, Lucey.” And it was two unarmed Iraqis. He shot them from about five feet away, and he watched them die. It was the first time, well, that he shot anybody. He told me those deaths he knew he did. That's what he said.

JOYCE LUCEY: One of them, he--Debbie just told me on the phone that he said he was looking at this boy's eyes and the boy was shaking. He was shaking.

KEVIN LUCEY: He told me about how that haunted him. “It's somebody's son, it's somebody's brother, pa. It's somebody’s father.” Jeff, I think was writing down when he came back, he didn't see dead soldiers. He saw dead people. That was one of the things that I guess concerns somebody. That's where--that was the beginning of the cancer--the Post-Traumatic Stress.

This interview and the Luceys' other public appearances have led to the Marine Corps "looking into" the shooting incident, which not very surprisingly isn't getting very far: (from here)

Kevin Lucey said yesterday he is puzzled by the tenor of the Marines' response.

"We never accused anyone of war crimes," he said. "We were just reporting what Jeff was saying."

Lucey said someone from the Marines spoke with the family on Monday about the probe.

"I thanked him because we wanted to find out everything we could," he said.

Kerr said the Marines also have no record that Lucey, a member of the 6th Motor Transport out of New Haven, was involved with a special operations unit, as reported by his family. Kevin Lucey said yesterday that his son was trained as a clerical worker, then assigned a job as a driver in a convoy.

Jeffrey Lucey told the family that he and seven other people in his unit were pulled out at some point and assigned to special operations in Iraq.

Kevin Lucey said that he and his family stand behind his son's version of events and questioned whether it was appropriate for the Marines to investigate the incident.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

Well, Everyone Forgets an Anniversary Once in Awhile 

Mark Goldberg of Tapped points out that not a single major US newspaper ran an editorial about the significance of today's date:

One year ago today, a car bomb ripped through the UN headquarters in Iraq, killing one of the world’s ablest diplomats and forcing the UN to pull its personnel from Iraq. The bomb that took the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello and 22 of his colleagues was the first of its kind and served as a harbinger of the unrelenting calamities to come.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Maybe Those Protester Kids Are in Cahoots With al-Qaeda ... 

Unless I hallucinated this, last night on CNN Headline News Rudi Bakhtiar interviewed some protester about being hassled and intimidated by the FBI because she (the protester) plans on taking part in the RNC protests. The protester did a good job, I thought; she said what any sane person would say about the FBI dropping by for transparently political reasons. Anyway, that segment ends and then the very next story is Mike Galanos saying, I kid you not, that knowledgable sources believe al-Qaeda is trying to recruit women, Westerners, and non-Muslims to help case possible terrorist targets in the US with less scrutiny. Did anyone else see this? Headline News transcripts are not online as far as I know so I can't back this up with links...

For the record, I wondered what the source of this non-Muslim recruiting story was and poked around a little. The only thing I could find is this little article on some second-rate obviously rightwing news site, which bases the story on .. um .. some guy's opinion from a rightwing think-tank. The guy's name is Nimrod Raphaeli and he's a frequent contributor to Horowitz's FrontPageMag.com, 'nuff said. So CNN ran a rightwing extremist talking point as a news story, but I guess there's nothing unusual about that.


Monday, August 16, 2004

Maybe They Could Have Just Asked Nicely 

The Iraqi police at the request of Iraq's puppet government (at the request of I-wonder-who) is attempting to expel every journalist from Najaf, at gun point no less ... which probably explains why hard news about the slaughter and the state of the seige is so hard to come by. Here's a snippet from The New Standard:

Police officers arrived at a Najaf hotel housing journalists and demanded they leave the city at once or face arrest. "You've got two hours to leave or we are going to open fire at you. It's just our orders," an Iraqi police officer told London Times reporter Stephen Farrell.

Reporters Without Borders has denounced the media blackout.

Chavez! 

Chavez beat the recall by a sizable margin. Here's Al Giordano of Narco News:

With 94.49 percent of the electronic voting machines reporting, the National Elections Council of Venezuela informs that the "NO" vote - against recalling President Hugo Chávez - has amassed such a wide margin over the "YES" vote - by those who wanted to depose the elected president - that the trend is irreversible:

NO: 4.991.483 (58.25%)
YES: 3.576.517 (41.74%)
That is a total of 8,568,000 votes.

That means that only about 470,000 votes are left to count, but the pro-Chávez vote already enjoys a comfortable margin of 1,414,966.

So even if the opposition gets every single vote left uncounted, the pro-Chávez side will win by almost a million votes. More likely, the remaining votes will fall in similar percentages as the 95 percent already counted, bringing the final total to something like 5.26 million "NO" votes to 3.76 million votes.

This means that the opposition did not even succeed at garnering the 3.8 million votes that, had the pro-Chávez vote not turned out in these record numbers, would have been required to provoke a recall referendum. Thus, it is a double loss for the dwindling opposition in this oil-rich country of 24 million men, women, elders, and children.

Still, everybody won: Finally, after years of struggle, Venezuela has emerged as an authentic participatory democracy without coups d'etat, violence, or the false democracy of a two-elites, two-party system ruling its body politic through simulation. The repercussions will travel far and wide, even to the United States presidential elections this coming November.

The opposition members can and should take pride in the service they provided to their country and to the world around it: they made possible a referendum that sweeps Venezuela - and, soon, all of América - into a new day for the dream made reality of democracy that is also participatory and authentic.

Of course, the opposition, in its openly sleazy manner, is fighting the result, and, of course, the mainstream media is taking the opposition seriously; for example, the AP titled their Chavez wins piece "Chavez apparently survives recall vote" ... Do you think if the opposition had won by a million votes that "apparently" would be in the headline? And the Independent's Hannah Baldock basically called the thing for the opposition yesterday in an article titled "Venezuela's Chavez on brink of referendum defeat" that seems no longer to be online. Here's Justin Podur on the controversy:

Speaking of fraud, the UK Independents reporter Hannah Baldock seems to have violated Venezuelan law, using the opposition’s phony exit polls to declare a Chavez loss early on Sunday. The article seems to have been quietly removed from the Independent’s website, but the NarcoNews team did a dissection of the piece (see here:

http://narcosphere.narconews.com/story/2004/8/15/205259/595#1) that includes Baldock’s figures: she cites "mid-morning results" (from where?) that "showed that the opposition, already boasting an enormous 1,758,000 votes to Chavez's 798,000, is well on its way to reaching the target of 3.76 million votes it needs to oust the authoritarian, left-wing President."

The Independent might have retired Baldock’s article from the site, but there is little doubt that the international press will seize on the opposition’s figures and contrast them with the CNE’s. The referendum has been true to the pattern in Venezuela, including "polarization", irreconcileable stories, and the sleazy role of the media.

And what exactly does this sentence from the Times' coverage mean:

But the voting, if anything, showed clearly that millions of Venezuelans — not just the very rich, as Mr. Chávez contends — want him out.

Yes, but more want him in; so he stays in ... that's called democracy.


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Chavistas 

I've seen a number of pictures of the opposition's big rally. Haven't seen a lot of pictures like these:






(from here)


Because, You Know, This Sort of Thing Has Worked So Well in the Past 

So Wolfowitz wants $500 million to build a network of "friendly militias", presumably, in places like the tribal areas of Pakistan: (from "A network of friendly militias to fight terror", AFP)

The Pentagon urged Congress Tuesday to authorize US$500 million for building a network of friendly militias around the world to purge terrorists from "ungoverned areas" and warned Muslim clerics against providing "ideological sanctuary" to radicals. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war, told the House Armed Services Committee the money would be used "for training and equipping local security forces-- not just armies -- to counter terrorism and insurgencies."

I think the key here is finding the really really friendly militias. Hey, I know, how about those Afghan jihadists who we funded and trained to fight the Soviets in the 80's? -- I wonder what those guys are up to? ...

(tip via Whatever It Is I'm Against It, which has a great name (Viva Groucho!))

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Najaf 

Here's a couple of quick links. As'ad of Angry Arab puts the battle of Najaf in context (via UnFairWitness).

And al-Jazeera reports that the mayhem in Najaf may lead to the secession of the governorates of Basra, Misan and Dhi Qar in southern Iraq. Ali Hamud al-Musawi, head of the Misan governorate council, had the following to say about secession:

The feelings of Iraqi southerners in particular and Iraqis in general had been contempt. [...] This reaction comes in response to the crimes committed against Iraqis by an illegal and unelected government, and occupation forces who claimed they came to liberate Iraq, but it turned out that they have come to kill Iraqis
[ ... ] We are discussing the decision [to secede] and we will stop Misan's oil flow, until Baghdad's government restores its logic and realises that millions of Iraqis care for the people of Najaf and Karbala [ ... ] Iyad Allawi should not expect us to support him. We expected this government to give us justice, democracy and freedom. [ ... ] We support the unity of Iraq when there is an Iraqi government that acknowledges all people's rights. [ ... ] The government should not make irresponsible decisions and attack our religion.

The way he casually refers to Allawi's administration as "Baghdad's government" is pretty funny and revealing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Porter Goss is Not a Partisan Prick -- He Just Plays One in the House Intelligence Committee 

So let me get this straight ... the mainstream story is that Tenet resigned at least partially because of the agency's failure to predict and stop the 9/11 attack. (I say "the mainstream story" because what's often swept under the rug is the extent to which the CIA attempted to warn the Bush administration about the severity of the threat from radical Islamicists) Our government's failure to predict and stop 9/11 was dissected by a special commission. Before that commission Tenet said things like

We made mistakes. Our failure to watchlist al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in a timely manner—or the FBI’s inability to find them in the narrow window of time afforded them—showed systemic weaknesses and the lack of redundancy.

supporting the idea that such mistakes were the sort of thing that led to his resignation.

And now they want to replace Tenet with a guy who openly opposed the commission, the investigation, and the "uproar" over the failure to stop the terrorist attack?

Here's Porter Goss on the uproar over the failings of various branches of government that led to 9/11, on the whole "what did the president know and when did he know it?" hubbub:

The only thing that this uproar does is give aid and comfort to the enemy and I don't think there's anybody who wants to give aid and comfort to the terrorists.

Here's CNN on Goss opposing to creation of the commission:

Rep. Porter Goss, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was no need for any new congressional inquiry because intelligence panels have already been reviewing the events leading up to the attacks. To date, he said, nothing has emerged to suggest that anyone in the government could have predicted them.

Interestingly, Goss was railing against the uproar and opposing the commission at a time when he was making statements like:

Should we have known [about 9/11]? Yes, we should have. Could we have known? Yes, I believe we could have because of the hard targets [that CIA operatives were tracking] ... You read the file and you say, why didn‘t we listen?

which clearly indicates the partisan nature of his opposition to the creation of the commission. He believed an investigation was warranted but not by an independent commission if the White House didn't want one. He believed that 9/11 could have been prevented but if the uproar over this fact seemed to be affecting the president's popularity it was aiding and comforting terrorists. Of course, this was all before the White House realized that the 9/11 commission was a good thing and got behind it; it turned out to be a good thing because it could serve as another instrument with which to scapegoat the CIA like the Kay report in the case of the nonexistent WMD's. Presumably Goss supports the existence of the commission now, meaning he flip-flopped in synchronization with the White House.

Was he a sock puppet for the White House in the House Intelligence Committee? Here's how Ray McGovern characterized Goss' contribution as chairman of the committee:

On the House side, of course, you’ve got Porter Goss, who is a CIA alumnus. Porter Goss’ main contribution last year to the joint committee investigating 9/11 was to sic the FBI on members of that committee, at the direction of who? Dick Cheney. Goss admits this. He got a call from Dick Cheney, and he was “chagrined” in Goss’ word that he was upbraided by Dick Cheney for leaks coming out of the committee. He then persuaded the innocent Bob Graham to go with him to the FBI and ask the Bureau to investigate the members of that committee. Polygraphs and everything were involved. That’s the first time something like that has ever happened.

So the new Director of the CIA will be a guy who flip-flops in time with the president and jumps through hoops when the vice-president asks him to. I think Fat Karl made a really good choice.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Lost in Jerusalem 

Israeli dissident Mordechai Vanunu is looking for a friendly state to come to his aid: (from "Vanunu Issues Plea for Asylum", PA News)

The whistleblower who alerted the world to Israel’s nuclear weapons program appealed tonight for a country to grant him asylum.

Mordechai Vanunu, who was released from prison in April after serving 18 years for treason, said his life was in danger from extremists.

“I am ready to go to any state that will give me asylum or a passport to leave the country. I want to go abroad immediately.

Although he was released from prison, Vanunu is not really free. He must notify the police if he leaves Jerusalem; he is prohibited from traveling abroad; he is prohibited from speaking to journalists and even from talking to non-Israelis. Vanunu hasn't really been paying much attention to the gag order, however. He was recently interviewed by the Al-Hayat daily and the Al-Wassat weekly and said among other things that Israel was behind the assassination of JFK, that "Israel possesses between 100-200 nuclear weapons," and that if an earthquake occurred in the region the Dimona nuclear reactor threatens to become "a second Chernobyl". That last bit is pretty scary given that Israel seems to believe it, from AFP:

Israeli authorities began distributing iodine anti-radiation tablets today to thousands of residents living near the controversial Dimona nuclear reactor.

An army spokesman said that soldiers had begun delivering the Lugul tablets to homes and that a distribution centre was also being opened under the supervision of health experts.

[ ... ]

Israeli scientists and politicians have called for the closure of the 40-year-old Dimona plant, saying its age had increased the risk of accidents.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Prince of Darkness and President of the Ahmed Chalabi Fan Club 

So the question is, is Richard Perle standing by his man? What do you think ... Richard Perle called Chief Investigative Judge Zuhayr al-Maliky a "rogue, out-of-control judge" who "systematically issued warrants against the INC and other members of the INC, and finally he's done it with respect to Ahmed Chalabi" and, further, "It's Saddam Hussein's style of justice, and it's appalling." (from here)

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Chalabis Gone Wild 

So .. um .. the Iraqi puppet government has issued a warrant for the arrest of Ahmed Chalabi on counterfeiting charges and for the arrest of Salem Chalabi, chief kangaroo of the kangaroo court trying Saddam Hussein, on a murder rap. Here's a link to the AP's account:

"They should be arrested and then questioned and then we will evaluate the evidence, and then if there is enough evidence, they will be sent to trial," said Judge Zuhair al-Maliky.

The warrants, issued Saturday, accused Ahmad Chalabi of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars - which had been removed from circulation following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last year, he said.

Ahmad Chalabi appeared to have been hiding the counterfeit money amid other old money and changing it into new dinars in the street, he said.

Police found the counterfeit money along with old dinars in Ahmad Chalabi's house during a May raid, he said.

Salem Chalabi, Ahmad Chalabi's nephew and the head of the tribunal trying Saddam, was named as a suspect in the June murder of the Haithem Fadhil, director general of the finance ministry.

Who knows what's really going on here ... maybe it's a frame-up, or at least a politically motivated action, designed to take out a viable opponent of New Iraq's current regime. Afterall, Ahmed has been quite successful in recent weeks in reinventing himself as a Shi'ite populist; He's been kissing up to Sadr, and Riverbend, for instance, mentions a rumor that Chalabi accompanied the ailing Sistani to London. But one would think that Allawi and "the American embassy" would have other priorities right now than worrying about Chalabi's political power given that large swaths of the country are in open revolt.

Lynne Stewart 

The trial of Lynne Stewart has begun. The site Justice for Lynne Stewart has lots of links and information about the trial, etc. Here's a four sentence summary of Stewart's case from the above site:

Radical human rights attorney Lynne Stewart has been falsely accused of helping terrorists. On Tuesday, April 9, 2002, she was arrested and agents searched her Manhattan office for documents. She was arraigned before Manhattan federal Judge John Koetl. This is an obvious attempt by the U.S. government to silence dissent and install fear in those who would fight against the U.S. government's racism, seek to help Arabs and Muslims being prosecuted for free speech and defend the rights of all oppressed people.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

RIP Gloria Emerson 

Gloria Emerson died at 75. She was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times in Vietnam and in other war zones. She won a Polk for her reporting on civilian casulaties, cared deeply about the plight of the Vietnamese and of our veterans, and generally was the sort of reporter that we could use more of. Here's her obituary in the Herald Tribune. And here's this:

Vietnam is just a confirmation of everything we feared might happen in life. And it has happened. You know, a lot of people in Vietnam-and I might be one of them-could be mourners as a profession. Morticians and mourners. It draws people who are seeking confirmation of tragedies....

Once I got so desperate-the Americans had started bombing Hanoi- I ran to the National Press Center where they give the briefings...a forty-year-old woman running through the streets in the middle of the night...and I wrote on the wall in Magic Marker, Father, forgive. They know not what they do. And I don't even believe in God. Who is Father? Father, forgive, they know not what they do. But there were no other words in the whole English language.

If they found out it was me they would have sent me home. New York Times correspondents must not go running around at two o'clock in the morning writing, Father, forgive, they know not what they do. But afterward I thought how there's no way...no one, no one to whom you can say we're sorry.

--Gloria Emerson



Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Yee Gets The Hell Out Of Dodge 

It's official -- xenophobic anti-muslim paranoia has destroyed James Yee's career: (from "Muslim chaplain James Yee to leave Army", Seattle Times)

Muslim chaplain James Yee yesterday said he will resign from the Army in January, ending a once-promising military career that was shattered when he was accused of espionage while ministering to Islamic prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

"In 2003, I was unfairly accused of grave offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and unjustifiably placed in solitary confinement for 76 days," Yee wrote in his resignation letter.

"Those unfounded allegations — which were leaked to the media — irreparably injured my personal and professional reputation and destroyed my prospects for a career in the United States Army."

The bitterly worded letter, released to the media by his civilian lawyer, was the first time Yee has been publicly critical of the Army over his treatment. He was returned to his home base at Fort Lewis after charges were dropped earlier this year and ordered not to say anything negative about the Army.

The interesting thing here is that once Yee is out of the army, he will no longer be under a gag order. Recall that Yee was silenced by a simple military order from a higher ranking officer, not by means of a legal decree, like the magical "state secrets privilege", otherwise known as the Divine Right of John Ashcroft, sicced upon Sibel Edmonds. So when the paperwork goes through Yee can chat away about his case.

There always has been some mystery regarding the spark that started this whole sorry tale. What were the documents that Yee was supposedly trying to sneak out of Gitmo? We heard about a map, but what else was there? A few months ago a reasonable hypothesis floated around the blogosphere: suppose Yee was in possession of something like the photographs that broke the Abu Ghraib scandal. Wouldn't that explain the viciousness of the attack against him and the need levy a gag order? Just speculation, but ... we'll find out shortly what the story is.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Is Douglas Feith the Dumbest Fucking Guy on the Planet? 

So in his new memoir, General Tommy Franks asserts that, according to knowledgeable sources, Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy , Douglas Feith, is in fact "the dumbest fucking guy on the planet". However, American Leftist remains skeptical. I mean as far as I know Feith's mentor Richard Perle still hasn't figured out that the magic beans he bought from Ahmed Chalabi aren't really magical ... Of course, Feith did probably write the memo of which Robert Dreyfuss had the following to say:

Best, of course, is the [instance of neocons demanding an attack on Iraq] reported in a footnote [of the 911 commission report], citing a memo to Rumsfeld “that appears to be from Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith.” Says the commission: “The author suggested instead hitting outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, perhaps deliberately selecting a non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq.” This, said the commission, “might be a surprise to the terrorists.” That is so hilariously stupid on so many levels that it almost doesn’t need comment—but yes, an attack on Iraq would have surprised the terrorists.

So who knows?

What Color is the Wolf Today? 

Found this interesting, from the Independent Institute via Tbogg:

There may well be a real threat this time, but the information picked up in Pakistan indicated that al Qaeda had been conducting surveillance on financial buildings in these two cities for years and it apparently provided no specific intelligence of an imminent attack on a particular date. Al Qaeda conducted surveillance on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania for four years before striking. Is the government going to keep the alert system at the orange level for another four years or only until the November election? Given the sorry performance of the U.S. intelligence agencies prior to September 11(as noted by the 9/11 Commission) and on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (as exposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee), how do we know that the “treasure trove” discovered in Pakistan is not false information deliberately planted by al Qaeda either to scare the American public or to tweak a response from U.S. defenses so that al Qaeda can better learn how they react?

If President Bush and his security apparatus really want to make us safer, they should use the alert system differently. Every time the U.S. government meddles overseas—for example, needlessly invading the Islamic country du jour—and enlarges the bull’s eye already painted on us here at home, the alert level should be raised a notch. Thus, in this election year, voters would have a better idea of exactly how safe government actions overseas were making all of us here at home. Gauging from the sheepishly revised State Department report showing that terrorism has recently been on the rise, the threat to America posed by the Bush administration’s foreign policy is clearly in the red zone.


I have another question to add to those posed in the first paragraph above: how do we know that the treasure trove of intelligence data discovered in Pakistan exists? Other commentators have speculated that the leaker of the treasure trove story was a CIA operative trying to create positive spin for the demoralized agency; however, such a motive only makes sense if the discovered intelligence was fresh, solid, and useful. Given the NY Times' revelation that the freshness, specificity, and value of the information found in Pakistan was greatly exaggerated, one wonders about the motive of the leaker? One also questions the veracity of this whole little narrative ... during the Democratic National Convention it is revealed that Pakistan has captured a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda (who no one has ever heard of and who had nothing to do with 911) and BushCo raises the terrorism threat level. Democrats accuse Republicans of playing politics. All of a sudden there are stories in the press about a treasure of trove of intelligence discovered in Pakistan as a direct result of the raid in which the al-Qaeda member who no one has ever heard of was captured. The intelligence, these stories claim, documents specific attacks on specific US targets, thus the raised threat level was justified ... but it turns out that the intelligence was stale and wasn't really that specific ... umm ... Maybe the real exaggeration here was of the existence of this coherent cache of intelligence, given that the most likely motive for the leak about the cache was politics. I'm sure that lots of intelligence has been gathered in Pakistan; I'm sure there was useful data on Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan's laptop, but to characterize it as a "treasure trove"? To claim, as was claimed by an unnamed US official in the Times, that "the material was more detailed and precise than any he had seen in a quarter of a century of intelligence work"? The whole thing looks like a Rove operation.

God, this administration will make conspiracy theorists of us all ...

Monday, August 02, 2004

Dick Cheney, Paranoid Bigot 

So far this story has only appeared in The New Standard and E&P. The short version of the story is that Dick Cheney's people, citing security concerns, demanded to know the race of a photographer, Mamta Popat, who was assigned to cover Cheney in Arizona, presumably, because she has a non-Western sounding name. From E&P:

A rally organizer for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in Arizona asked Teri Hayt, the Arizona Daily Star's managing editor, to disclose the journalist's race on Friday. "It was such an outrageous request, I was personally insulted," Hayt later commented. "One has to wonder what they were going to do with that information. Because she has Indian ancestry, were they going to deny her access? I don't know."

Hayt said this is the first time in her 26-year career that a journalist's race was made an issue.

[ ... ]

Journalists covering the president or vice president must undergo a background check and are required to provide their name, date of birth and Social Security number. "That's all anybody has been asked to provide," said Hayt.

Bush-Cheney organizer Christine Walton, according to the newspaper, told Hayt that Popat's race was necessary to enable the Secret Service to distinguish her from someone else who might have the same name. "It was a very lame excuse," Hayt said.

Popat said, "My race shouldn't have anything to do with my job."

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