<$BlogRSDUrl$>

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

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Richard Perle's New Talking Point 

Richard Perle watchers should be pleasantly surprised by The Prince of Darkness's recent performance on O'Reilly. He seems to be spicing up the old act with some new material, finally.

For the past several months Perle's TV appearances have featured him reciting a single exciting talking point over and over again, that everything would have been fine in Iraq had only the US turned the country over to everyone's favorite Iraqi expatriate conman. The primary difference from one Perle performance to another has been in the euphemism he chooses for "Ahmed Chalabi". (On O'Reilly he said, "I’m not saying that everything would have worked out, but everything certainly didn’t work out the way we did it. My own view is we should have supported a government in exile even before going into Iraq.")

But on Monday night he mixed it up a little. He said that everything would have been fine in Iraq had only the US turned the country over to Ahmed Chalabi and the fact that we didn't was entirely Colin Powell's fault.

So, there you go ... this new insightful analysis should be good for another six thousand or so media appearances...

Canada Welcomes Bush 

An estimated 10,000 protesters greeted Bush at Parliament Hill in Ottawa today.


There were also several thousand outside Hotel Chateau Laurier where Bush and friends are staying.


More pictures can be found here, here, here, and here.

Good Old Canada 

Bush has touched down in Ottawa.

Based on the content and number of news articles about the forthcoming protests and the fact that BushCo itself has decided to cut the Ottawa visit short because of them, I think these demonstrations are going to large by North American standards.

Anyway, whatever the turnout is like, I'd like to thank our Northern neighbors for all the effort; something like this, for example, is precisely the sort of thing that you would never see in the USA:

New Democratic leader Jack Layton has sent out pre-recorded phone messages encouraging party members to protest against George W. Bush at demonstrations tonight, just hours before he meets with the U.S. president at a state dinner

Layton is heard in voice messages sent Friday to about 2,000 NDP members in the Ottawa area - exhorting them to attend anti-Bush demonstrations, including a candlelight vigil in opposition to the ballistic-missile defence system.

In the message, he gives locations and times for the anti-Bush rallies and asks party members to "join me and the NDP caucus to show Canadians we are leading the fight against Star Wars."

After tonight's demonstrations, Layton will attend a reception for Bush at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.

U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci called Layton yesterday and assured him he would get a chance, however brief, to speak to the president.

Layton insisted there was nothing disrespectful in taking a face-to-face meeting with Bush while inciting demonstrations against him.

"I don't think it will be any particular surprise to the president that there are a diversity of views on these issues here.

"The president, I think, is well aware that peaceful protests and the expression of points of view are fundamental."

And, you know, I guess one can read this as pro-Bush but I take it more as light-hearted mockery -- Bush is, after all, a Mickey Mouse dictator:

Downtown Ottawa traffic already seemed muted Monday, as though workers prematurely took to heart warnings of presidential road closures. [ ... ] Two helicopters droned circles around the Peace Tower. Below, government workers in ball caps added a few dozen more steel crowd-control barricades to the hundreds already ringing the Hill. Choppers aside, security was not noticeably tighter than usual.

The incongruity of the scene was captured perfectly by the Dominion carillonneur, whose noon serenade from the Peace Tower bells included one of the more powerful U.S. cultural exports: the Mickey Mouse anthem.

"Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E."

The harmony tinkled over a parliamentary precinct bathed in rare November sunshine, a sort of Gothic Disneyland North.

For all the seriousness of playing host to the leader of the free world, there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere to the enterprise.


Of course, Bush's people cut the Ottawa visit short to head off to Nova Scotia, where Bush is supposed to belatedly thank the people of Halifax for hosting families grounded due to 9/11. It probably sounded like a nice idea for a photo-op but, unfortunately, Nova Scotians don't seem to care for Bush anymore than Ottawans.

I'll try to put up some pictures when they become available.
[Hat tip to INTL News for the Ottawa Citizen link]

It's About Time 

From Reuters

Lawyers acting for a U.S. advocacy group will today file war crimes charges in Germany against senior U.S. administration officials for their alleged role in torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"German law in this area is leading the world," Peter Weiss, Vice President of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a human rights group, was quoted as saying in Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper's Tuesday edition.

According to the group, German law allows war criminals to be investigated wherever they may be living.

Those to be named in the case to be filed at Germany's Federal Prosecutors Office include Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet and eight other officials.

The group is due to present details of its case at several news conferences on Tuesday, according to invitations faxed to media organisations.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Thanksgiving Treat from the Pentagon 

Quietly on the afternoon before Thanksgiving the Pentagon released an oddly reality-based report produced by an advisory panel about the US's failure to convince the Muslim world to support the United States' foreign policy. Here it is as a PDF, and here's an excerpt:

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.

o Muslims do not "hate our freedom," but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

o Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that "freedom is the future of the Middle East" is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World -- but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.

o Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.

o Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack -- to broad public support.


The Times wrote of the report last Wednesday, but at the time it hadn't been made publicly available.

[Via No Capital]

"Aye Carumba! -- The dastardly yanks demand metal detectors. Foiled again!" 

WorldNetDaily, which, by the way, is not a conservative news source, reports that according to rightwing nutjob, Jack Wheeler, the reason for our dear leader's recent hissy fit in Chile was because of an assassination plot planned by Ricardo Lagos in cahoots with, you guessed it, Hugo Chavez: (from here)

"Far worse than this was Chilean President Lagos' refusal to have guests at a State Dinner go through a metal detector. No one attends a function with the POTUS, either here in the U.S. or anywhere in the world, without going through a metal detector, and this was agreed to way beforehand in Santiago. At the last moment, Lagos refuses – then cancels the dinner when the Secret Service won’t budge."

"Ricardo Lagos is a left-wing anti-American socialist whose hero is Salvador Allende, who almost turned Chile over to the Soviets, and a great friend of Hugo Chavez," Wheeler writes. "Was there a plan to slip a firearm into this dinner in Santiago and assassinate GW? No one in Washington is sure – but there is a very frightened and angry buzz of worry that there might have been."

Because, lord knows, if the president of Chile and the portion of his staff responsible for security were involved in a plot to assassinate Bush, there would have been no easier way to go about it than sneaking a gun through the front door of a state dinner.

For what it's worth, here's the real story.


What If I Supported the War? 

I've been meaning to link to a post on Apostate Windbag for a while. Victor writes great long-format posts that really deserve to be read more than they probably are.

See for instance this thought experiment in which he accepts at face value the argument of the so-called liberal hawks and follows through with the logical consequences of their stated position.

But That's Not What the Talking Heads Say On TV... 

More proof that this whole line about a striking new rise in the popularity of rightwing positions on social issues is just a baseless media talking point: a poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs concluded that, by a huge margin, Americans want Roe vs Wade to be upheld: (from here)

A majority of Americans say President Bush's next choice for an opening on the Supreme Court should be willing to uphold the landmark court decision protecting abortion rights, an Associated Press poll found.

The poll found that 59 percent say Bush should choose a nominee who would uphold the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. About three in 10, 31 percent, said they want a nominee who would overturn the decision, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

via The Republic of T.

And in a related story on the international stage, yesterday was the 14th annual Latin American and Caribbean Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Sandinistas on the Rise 

I guess Rumsfeld's cheerleading tour didn't take ... from "Sandinista wins worry U.S." Chicago Tribune:

As leftist leaders make gains across Latin America, an old U.S. adversary from the 1980s contra war has set off alarm bells in Washington: Daniel Ortega's Sandinistas.

The Sandinista Front won 87 of Nicaragua's 152 mayoral posts in elections this month, making significant inroads against a right-wing ruling faction divided by infighting and corruption scandals. Analysts say the victories also reflect the leftist party's success in running several cities efficiently and fairly.

At a time when the United States is fending off a growing chorus of leftist criticism in the region, Bush administration officials worry the victories will boost Ortega's chances of winning back the presidency he lost when Nicaraguans voted him out in 1990 after a decade of socialist rule and war against the U.S.-backed contras.

"People have begun to lose their fear of the Sandinista Front," said Herty Lewites, the popular Sandinista mayor of Managua who is leaving office but was praised for his governing of the city in the past four years.

[ ... ]

The developments come after a string of victories by leftist leaders across the region, at least in part because of frustrations over the failure of free-trade agreements and other U.S.-backed neoliberal policies to alleviate poverty and other problems.

It's nice to see the phrase "the failure of free-trade agreements and other U.S.-backed neoliberal policies" appear without caveats in a major American newspaper story. This failure used to be the elephant in the room that was not mentioned, but maybe given the reality of the recent victories of administrations advocating anti-neoliberal policies throughout Latin America, the subject can now be broached in mainstream discourse.

The Use of Napalm in Fallujah 

Here's the Sunday Mirror on an emerging scandal on the other side of the Atlantic:

US troops are secretly using outlawed napalm gas to wipe out remaining insurgents in and around Fallujah.

News that President George W. Bush has sanctioned the use of napalm, a deadly cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel banned by the United Nations in 1980, will stun governments around the world.

And last night Tony Blair was dragged into the row as furious Labour MPs demanded he face the Commons over it. Reports claim that innocent civilians have died in napalm attacks, which turn victims into human fireballs as the gel bonds flames to flesh.

Outraged critics have also demanded that Mr Blair threatens to withdraw British troops from Iraq unless the US abandons one of the world's most reviled weapons. Halifax Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "I am calling on Mr Blair to make an emergency statement to the Commons to explain why this is happening. It begs the question: 'Did we know about this hideous weapon's use in Iraq?'"

This story began with reports from the Middle-Eastern press that the US used illegal chemical weapons in Fallujah. The story then gained in credibility when Inter Press Service ran Dahr Jamail's article about the use of "unusual weapons". Both of these accounts are informed by the fact that the United States has admitted to using napalm in Iraq.

But it's still a speculative claim that napalm was used in Fallujah. All the eye-witness descriptions of these "unusual weapons" so far sound a lot more like white phosphorous rounds than napalm. Take for instance this excerpt from an al-Jazeera piece:

Abu Sabah, said; "They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud... then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them."

He said that pieces of these strange bombs explode into large fires that burn the skin even when water is thrown on the burns.

Phosphorous arms and the napalm gas are known to have such effects. "People suffered so much from these," Abu Sabah said.

Sabah is clearly talking about phosphorous arms, which makes sense given that it is a well-documented fact that the US used white phosphorous in Fallujah. Early on there were even media reports of "white phosphorous shells [lighting] up the sky." White phosphorous burns at incredibly high temperatures; it will burn through steel, concrete, and so forth. It's intended to burn through the buildings and rubble the insurgents are using as cover. In a sense, it is the Iraq War equivalent not of napalm, but of the defoliant Agent Orange.

I don't doubt that the US would use napalm in an environment rife with civilians. I just don't see any reason to fixate on this unsubstantiated claim when it is perfectly substantiated that white phosphorous was used in Fallujah and phosphorous rounds are napalm's equal in terms of vileness and horror.

The Lord of the Flies 

Here's a graphic first-person account of the Fallujah assault written by a Russian doctor. I can't vouch for the site that this comes from but the author's description of the dangerously unsanitary conditions in Fallujah and looming humanitarian crisis is corroborated by statements made by several international aid groups and his allegations of the execution-style murder of Fallujan POW's (which I haven't excerpted) obviously resonates with Kevin Sites' footage:

Together with Americans the flies invaded the city. They are millions. The whole city seems to be under their power. The flies cover the corpses. The older is corpse, the more flies are upon it. First they cover a corpse as by some strange rash. Then they begin to swarm upon it, and then a gray moving shroud covers the corpse. Flies swarm upon some ruins as gray monstrous shadows. The stench is awful.

The flies are everywhere. In the hospital wards, operating rooms, canteen. You find them even where they cannot be. In the "humanitarian" plastic bottle with warm plastic-stinking water. The bottle is almost full, simply someone opened it for a second and made a gulp, but this black spot is already floating there...

It is a general crisis with water. There are simply no clean sources. The local residents fetch water from the river, muddy, gray and dead. You can buy anything for water now. The sewage system is broken, the water supply is broken, and electricity is absent in the city.

I am afraid to imagine what will happen in two weeks. Hepatitis will take toll of thousands. They say already that people at the outskirts are in fever with the symptoms of typhus. But one cannot verify it. They prohibited moving in the city.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Who Killed Danilo Anderson? 

A little more than a week ago Venezuelan public prosecutor Danilo Anderson was murdered by a car bomb. Danilo Anderson headed several politically charged investigations: a case against the leader of a mob that attacked the Cuban Embassy in Caracas during the attempted coup d'etat of 2002 and cases against members of the Venezuelan press also implicated in the failed coup, for example. All in all, Anderson was investigating about 400 suspects linked to the coup. Given this fact it's a reasonable assumption that his murder was a political assassination perpetrated by the opposition. The question is whether or not outside actors were involved.

Immediately after the attack Chavez himself accused Florida-based Venezuelan exile groups, working in conjunction with Cuban-exile terrorist organizations, of being the assassins: (from here)

Chavez initially pointed the finger at Commandos F-4, an openly anti-Castro group based in South Florida. Commandos F-4 leader Rodolfo Frometa, a former political prisoner, is one of Castro's most vocal opponents. He supports proactive resistance to the Cuban dictator.

On the Commandos F-4 Web site, there is a section devoted to denouncements of Chavez and pictures purporting to be of Venezuelans taking part in paramilitary training with members of Commandos F-4.

There is no indication of where the pictures were taken or when.

Chavez also cited an interview on Miami television in October in which Orlando Urdaneta, an entertainer and opposition loyalist, openly called for the assassination of Chavez: (from here)

The tone was light, but the dapper comedian's words were sobering as he outlined his vision for regime change in leftist Venezuela.

"It has to start with the physical disappearance of the top dog, at a minimum," Orlando Urdaneta opined in reference to Venezuela's populist President Hugo Chávez. Asked who would do the disappearing, he replied: "Men with rifles and telescopic sights who do not miss."

Chávez's government is airing Urdaneta's comments, made in an October interview on a Miami television station, to underscore its claim that Venezuelan exiles in Miami may have played a role in the car-bombing assassination Thursday night of a prosecutor probing 400 suspects in the coup that briefly unseated Chávez in 2002.

This crime and the fallout from it play out in front of a backdrop of rising anti-American and anti-Bush sentiments throughout Latin American, and recently there have been indications that the White House intends to intervene in the South in some way. Such covert involvement was, of course, quite common in the twentieth century, and it continues to this day: it is now well-known that the US aided the opposition during the 2002 coup d'etat, although it is unclear to what extent. Frank Gaffney, an influencial neoconservative, recently called for "appropriate strategies" for dealing with " the emergence of a number of aggressively anti-American regimes in Latin America,'' and one wonders if someone somewhere considered the assassination of Danilo Anderson appropriately strategic.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Here We Go Again ... 

A reader forwarded me an email that Jerry Falwell just sent to his mailing list. It is a call for members for a 21st century version of The Moral Majority, and looks to be the beginning of the final push to outlaw abortion and ban gay marriage. Here's an excerpt:

DATE: November 24, 2004
FROM: Jerry Falwell
TO: THE MORAL MAJORITY COALITION

RECRUITMENT BEGINS FOR FIRST ONE MILLION COALITION MEMBERS!!

Here I go again! I am today launching a campaign to enlist the first one million charter members of The Moral Majority Coalition (TMMC), a 21st Century Moral Majority. I am asking you to be one of those historic charter members without financial charge by visiting our new website- www.faithandvalues.us .

I announced nationally last week that God has led me to mobilize TMMC and to immediately implement our agenda which I believe can begin restoring America to the her original Judeo-Christian ethic as "One Nation Under God".

HERE IS THE MORAL MAJORITY COALITION AGENDA:

(1) The confirmation of pro-life, strict constructionist U.S. Supreme Court justices and other federal judges; (2) the passage of a constitutional Federal Marriage Amendment; and (3) the election of another socially, fiscally and politically conservative president in 2008, along with conservative members of Congress in 2006 and 2008.

[ ... ]

GOD ALLOWED ME TO GIVE BIRTH TO "THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT".

More than 25 years have passed since the Moral Majority was born. The fruit of our never-ending labors was blessed by God and became obvious to the world on November 2, 2004 when more than 30 million “faith and values” voters went to the polls and made the difference in America.

The battle is not over by any means. We have thrown down the gauntlet. The left is furious. Everyone now knows that the stage is set for the church of Jesus Christ to turn this nation back to the faith of our fathers and the Judeo-Christian ethic. New Supreme Court justices can overturn Roe vs. Wade. The Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution can forever define the family as one man married to one woman. Any senator who opposes this FMA could face the same fate Sen. Tom Daschle experienced. I truly believe we can bring 40 million “faith and values” voters to the polls in 2008 to assure that Sen. Hillary Clinton, or someone of her ilk, will never be president of this nation. But, I need one million new charter members of TMMC immediately.

SEVEN DECADES IN MY REAR VIEW MIRROR.

Please help me finish what I started a quarter century ago. At age 71, I am dedicating the next four years to finishing the vision God gave me as a much younger man. I need your help!!

MSNBC Apologizes 

So the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on American Muslims to contact MSNBC in protest of the hate-filled statements made recently by Don Imus and Sid Rosenberg on Imus's show. Commenting on Arafat's funeral, Imus and Rosenberg said the following:

DON IMUS, host: They're [Palestinians] eating dirt and that fat pig wife [Suha Arafat] of his is living in Paris.

ROSENBERG: They're all brainwashed, though. That's what it is. And they're stupid to begin with, but they're brainwashed now. Stinking animals. They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill 'em all right now.

BERNARD MCGUIRK, producer: You can just imagine standing there.

ROSENBERG: Oh, the stench.

IMUS: Well, the problem is that we have Andrea [Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent] there. We don't want anything to happen to her.

ROSENBERG: Oh, she's got to get out. Just warn Andrea, get out, and then drop the bomb, kill everybody.

MCGUIRK: It's like the worst Woodstock.

ROSENBERG: Look at this. Look at these animals. Animals!

CAIR's letter-writing campaign led to this tepid apology from MSNBC

The views expressed on the program are not those of MSNBC. Having said that, it was unfortunate that these remarks were telecast on MSNBC. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by these remarks.

and I suppose that's the end of this story, which is truly amazing and rather sad. Imagine what the repercussions would have been had any other ethnic group been referred to as "stinking animals" on a major American television network during commentary about the funeral of one of the group's revered leaders.

[Hat tip to jews sans frontieres]

Hey, Remember Larry Franklin? 

Richard H. Curtiss of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs provides a summary of the Larry Franklin espionage scandal and discusses where the story stands today. Curtiss' piece covers events and press coverage that transpired after the month of August when this story broke, and some of this material may be things you haven't heard before, such as the following:

o Rep. John Conyers Jr. petitioned Ashcroft to have chief Plame investigator Patrick Fitzgerald replace Paul J. McNulty, who heads the Franklin probe, because "the role of U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty in the case has obvious political implications" in an election year. His letter to Ashcroft cited press accounts of anonymous sources claiming that McNulty "had put the brakes on" the probe.

o The Israeli press named two AIPAC functionaries suspected of being Franklin's contacts: Steven Rosen, AIPAC’s director of foreign policy issues, and Keith Weissman, an expert on Iran. Curtiss claims "it is quite possible that the FBI [is] looking even higher in the organization" and that

Just about the time news organizations began reporting on the existence of the FBI counterintelligence investigation, the FBI was interviewing Rosen and Weissman. The interviews were halted when both men asked to be represented by a lawyer before answering more questions. Washington defense attorney Abbe Lowell said he had been hired to represent Rosen and Weissman, and would not discuss the case.


o The idea that Franklin is or was negotiating a deal with the government to have the charges dropped or made less severe in exchange for "his information about other people in the case" is no longer just the wild speculation of publications like this blog but is now the wild speculation of The New York Times.

But perhaps the most interesting bit was the conclusion:

Others expected to be interviewed will probably include Iraq and Iran specialist Harold Rhode, former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, and Iran specialist David Wurmser, Cheney’s principal deputy assistant for national security affairs, according to sources familiar with or involved in the case.

Wurmser, Feith and Perle were among the authors of a 1996 policy paper for then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu entitled: “A Clean Break: A new Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The realm in question was not the United States, of course, but Israel.

So Richard Perle is going to be involved in at least three major scandals simultaneously. The other two I'm thinking of are Seymour Hersh's "Lunch With the Chairman" allegations and the Hollinger scandal. If he keeps this up maybe some day he'll catch up with Cheney.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Rollback 

The unrepentant leftist flags a Post article about the controversy surrounding the film Kinsey in which the director of the conservative Culture and Family Institute in Washington seems to imply that the right doesn't merely want to outlaw gay marriage but to rollback the sexual revolution, just as (I kid you not) Reagan rolled back communism: (from here)

Robert Knight, director of the conservative Culture and Family Institute in Washington, said evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic groups also want to bring to bear the political clout they demonstrated in the presidential election.

"Just as Reagan was not content to contain communism but announced a rollback, pro-family organizations are not content to protest the latest outrage anymore, but will seek legislation and will punish sponsors of lewd entertainment," he said.

Such statements ,the unrepentant leftist points out, resonate with previous statements made recently by mavens of the right regarding the evils of "cohabitation and casual divorce and deliberate childlessness":

"When you talk about protecting marriage, you need to talk about divorce," said Bryce Christensen, a Southern Utah University professor who writes frequently about family issues.

"If those initiatives are part of a broader effort to reaffirm lifetime fidelity in marriage, they're worthwhile," he said. "If they're isolated — if we don't address cohabitation and casual divorce and deliberate childlessness — then I think they're futile and will be brushed aside."

Yee Speaks, Sort Of 

Capt. James Yee just made a rare public appearance. Yee was the Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay who was locked in solitary confinement, persecuted for months by the US military, because of an espionage charge that turned out to be completely baseless. On Saturday night he received an award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and spoke of the "new culture of eroding civil liberties" during his acceptance speech.

Although Yee has resigned from the army, he is still under a gag order presumably until Jan. 7 when his honorable discharge will be finalized. Yee seems anxious to speak about his ordeal; at his first public appearance after his release he thanked the audience for their patience with his inability to tell his story but promised that he would eventually. It's more than half a year later but Yee still isn't saying much. Evidently he justifiably fears being thrown back in jail a la Vanunu. In an article about his recent appearance, the Sacramento Bee claims that Yee has, in fact, been recently re-warned not to speak out:

Yee and Al Halabi [Yee's assistant at Gitmo who was also falsely charged] declined to be interviewed Saturday. Earlier in the week, Yee's civilian defense attorney, Eugene R. Fidell, said his client was warned by military officials that his public statements would be scrutinized.

[ ... ]

Military officials also declined to comment on Yee's Sacramento speaking engagement and his case.

"No one's talking about the Yee case. It's pretty much an 'over' issue," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Loundermon, a spokesman at U.S. Southern Command in Miami. "He can tell you what he wants to tell you."

If Yee is free to tell the press what he wants to tell the press, then why doesn't the army lift the gag order and why did they just warn him about it earlier this week?

It's pretty obvious the military has something to hide here. The big question has always been whether the gag order on Yee has anything to do with the Abu Ghraib-style abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. I guess we'll find out in January...

Monday, November 22, 2004

Kinsley's World 

It seems when you become a successful public intellectual of the liberal variety, you lose the ability to see the hard left. Something happens to your eyesight, and Z Magazine and Alexander Cockburn's column in The Nation fade away like they were written in invisible ink. Kinsley makes this unfortunate disorder the basis for a whole op-ed piece:

What seems to be today's antiwar position — it was a terrible mistake and it's a terrible mess, but we can't just walk away from it — was actually the pro-war position during Vietnam. In fact, it was close to official government policy for more than half the length of that war.

Today's antiwar cause doesn't even have a movement, to speak of, let alone an agenda. It consists of perhaps 47% of the citizenry — the ones who voted for John Kerry — who are in some kind of existential opposition to the war but don't know what they want to do about it.

It only makes sense to refer to the assertion "It was a terrible mistake ... but we can't just walk away from it" as "today's antiwar position" if we assume we are discussing a world with a much narrower political spectrum than the world of reality.

It's ironic that he doesn't state anywhere in his column that he, Michael Kinsley, believes the United States should immediately withdraw from Iraq. It is, after all, this unwillingness to do so on the part of people like Kinsley that causes proponents of "Out now!" policies to be so hard to see.

A Couple of Links with a Watergate Theme 

Johann Hari interviews G. Gordon Liddy and the man comes off sounding like a lunatic, which, I guess, shouldn't really be a shock, but I was a little bit surprised by the extent to which Liddy appears to be insane. This is after all a man who is a successful radio personality, but I guess that's the world we live in now.

In the interview Liddy crazily explains that Watergate was actually a nefarious plot hatched by John Dean for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Nixon or bugging the offices of the DNC; John Dean is apparently covering up his career as a criminal mastermind by writing reasonable essays from a moderate anti-Bush stance. In his latest, Dean discusses the issue of Bush's new found "political capital" and concludes that "Bush has yet to pay the piper for his Iraqi war, but sooner or later that debt must be paid."

[Tip of the hat to D. Rose for the Liddy link]

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Lori Berenson 

Peru says it won't release Lori Berenson even if the Inter-American Human Rights Court decides that she didn't receive a fair trial in 2001. Here's the AP:

Peru will not abide by an international human rights court ruling supporting the release of Lori Berenson, a New York woman imprisoned for collaborating with Marxist guerrillas, the country's foreign minister said, according to news reports Saturday.

The Inter-American Human Rights Court, the Costa Rica-based legal arm of the Organization of American States, is scheduled to deliberate Berenson's case Nov. 24-25 to decide whether she received a fair civilian retrial in 2001. Peru is an OAS member.

"If this error were made, the Peruvian state, with legal justification, would take the position of not liberating any person accused of terrorism," several newspapers quoted Foreign Minister Manuel Rodriguez saying Friday from Santiago, Chile, where he attended the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

"In no case would any disposition be observed that recommends freedom of people accused of terrorism in Peru."

I found the AP's explanation for Peru's refusal to release Berenson interesting:

Her case is a touchy issue for President Alejandro Toledo, who has vowed that "no accused or convicted terrorist" will be released on his watch. [ ... ] Political analysts say that with his approval rating hovering around 10 percent, Toledo does not want to be labeled by opponents as soft on terrorism - particularly after the embarrassing collapse last week of a civilian retrial against Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman and his top rebel commanders.

Here's the BBC on Guzman's trial.

The Worst Guest in the World 

Well, Bush is running around Chile making an ass out of himself: (from Reuters)

Chilean security officials stopped several members of Mr Bush's Secret Service detail, and a shoving match ensued. It occurred as Mr Bush was entering the Mapocho Station cultural centre for an official dinner of the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum on Saturday.

Mr Bush was posing for photographs on the red carpet with his wife, Laura, and Chile's President Ricardo Lagos and his wife, Luisa Duran, when he became aware of the confrontation that was developing behind him.

He stepped away from them and reached into the crowd and hauled the leading Secret Service agent from Chilean security agents. For a few seconds Mr Bush seemed to meet resistance from the Chilean officers. He was seen shaking his head and muttering under his breath as he walked away.

So the guy's not willing to eat at a fancy dinner with world leaders without having his bodyguards a few feet away from him? Maybe Bush should get a court food taster? -- who knows what those Chileans are sprinkling on his sea bass!

The incident Saturday night leads directly to this

An elaborate state dinner tonight for US President George W. Bush was scrapped after US and Chilean officials failed to agree on security measures at the presidential palace, Chilean media reported.

Reportedly the secret service demanded that the 200 guests be forced to walk through a metal detector, and Chile wouldn't go for it. There's a vein of paranoia in these reports that really makes one aware of just how unpopular Bush is around the world.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Chile Welcomes Bush 

Well, Bush went off to Chile for the APEC summit and received a warm welcome ... giant burning American flags are very warm. More pictures of the protests can be found here, here, and here. Here's the Guardian:

President George Bush flew into a stormy reception last night on his first foreign trip since re-election, as tens of thousands of protesters sought to disrupt a summit of leaders from Asia and the Americas.
Police used tear gas and water cannon as dozens of masked youths broke off from a rally of up to 50,000 people to throw rocks, tear up park benches and hurl molotov cocktails in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Several officers and protesters were injured, with at least 130 arrests.

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested throughout Chile over the past week, and thousands of additional police are on duty in Santiago for the largest security operation since the papal visit in 1987.

Organisers estimated more than 50,000 people marched through the city centre, hours before leaders from the 21 economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group arrived for a weekend of meetings focusing on free trade and security.

The summit brings together some of the most powerful economies in the world, including the US, Japan and China, and gives President Bush the chance to sound out allies and adversaries on prospects for building pressure on North Korea to return to talks on its nuclear ambitions.

Concerns another of Mr Bush's "axis of evil" countries - Iran - will provide a talking point with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, particularly with a crucial meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna this week. Stalled global trade talks and international terrorism are other subjects likely to be broached.

The protests were organized by the Chilean Social Forum.

Al Giordano vs. Sixty Minutes 

Al Giordano has decided to take a long break from Big, Left Outside which is a loss for the blogosphere. But anyway he's still going to be posting to the Narcosphere, the group blog of Narco News, and actually there's a pretty interesting post by Al on there right now. It chronicles his correspondence with a producer of "Sixty Minutes" who's fishing for contacts in Rio.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Ted Rall's War with the Tone 

According to E&P, WashingtonPost.com is dropping Ted Rall's comic strip. Executive editor Doug Fever had the following to say about the decision:

Ted Rall does very interesting work. Some of it is not funny to an awful lot of people. We decided at the end of the day that it just did not fit the tone we wanted at WashingtonPost.com.

The funny thing about the above is that the NYTimes.com people said the exact same thing when they decided to drop Rall last March:

New York Times Digital Spokesperson Christine Mohan said in an e-mail: "After two years of monitoring cartoons by Ted Rall we decided that, while he often does good work, we found some of his humor was not in keeping with the tone we try to set for NYTimes.com ... While NYTimes.com and its parent company support the right of free expression, we also recognize an obligation to assure our users that what we publish, no matter what its origin, does not offend the reasonable sensibilities of our audience."

The tone is a mighty enemy...


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

At Least 800 Civilians Dead in Fallujah 

Dahr Jamail, writing for IPS, posted a story today that quotes a high-ranking Red Cross official who places the lower bound on civilian casualties in Fallujah at eight hundred:

At least 800 civilians have been killed during the U.S. military siege of Fallujah, a Red Cross official estimates.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of U.S. military reprisal, a high-ranking official with the Red Cross in Baghdad told IPS that ”at least 800 civilians” have been killed in Fallujah so far.

His estimate is based on reports from Red Crescent aid workers stationed around the embattled city, from residents within the city and from refugees, he said.

”Several of our Red Cross workers have just returned from Fallujah since the Americans won't let them into the city,” he said. ”And they said the people they are tending to in the refugee camps set up in the desert outside the city are telling horrible stories of suffering and death inside Fallujah.”


Monday, November 15, 2004

Hordes of Foreign Fighters 

During an "operational update" on Fallujah today, Colonel Michael Regner accidentally broke with the standard practice of military spokespeople of glibly reciting Pentagon talking points decorated with scientific-sounding military buzzwords without ever actually saying anything. He indirectly gave us an estimate on the number of Fallujah's mythical foreign fighters. Regarding the nationalities of the prisoners of war captured during Operation Phantom Fury Colonel Regner said

[The number of] our detainees not too long ago this afternoon was right about 1,052. I think we're a little bit over that as we continue to progress through the evening. [ ... ] Predominantly, however, most of the 1,052 are in fact Iraqis. But there are individuals that are from different countries [ ... ] We can't really identify all of those, but some of our Iraqi brethren which are helping out in this joint effort are saying this guy is clearly from -- let's just say Syria; this individual here is from another country. And so they're helping out. But at this time, out of 1,052 most likely about 1,040 -- or 1,030 are Iraqis.

So 1,030 and 1,040 are approximately 98% and 99% of 1,052, meaning 1% or 2% were non-Iraqis. If we assume that Fallujan prisoners of war are representative of the Fallujan insurgents as a whole, which the Pentagon numbered at 2,000 to 3,000, that gives us a range of between 20 and 60 foreign fighters present in Fallujah during the run-up to the assault. I guess 20 to 60 guys can qualify as "hordes"? Or maybe the hordes of foreign fighters in Fallujah are the ones wearing the American uniforms?

Good Old Russel 

Scottie & Me is back from hiatus, and today's episode was pretty good:

Russel: You opened the briefing on Wednesday by offering the President’s best wishes to the U.S. Marine Corps on its 229th birthday. Are you familiar with the life of Major General Smedley Butler?

Scottie: No, I’m not –

Russel: He was probably the most decorated Marine Corps Major General.

He was given two Congressional Medals of Honor.

And in 1935, he wrote a book – and this is an unusual title for a Marine Corps General who has been around the world – titled War Is a Racket – in which he argued that “war is a racket – and it always has been.” He said that in his 33 years with the Marines he was a “high class muscleman for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

Now this is a guy who had a decorated career as a Marine Corps Major General.

And I’m wondering if you agree with him generally, that “war is a racket and it always has been”?

Scottie: I just addressed that when I said that I’m not familiar with this particular individual or his situation.

I would say that we should always view war as a last resort. And that’s what this President does. We should always make sure that is a last resort. It is not something that the President goes into making a decision about lightly.

At the same time he is committed to doing everything he can to protect the American people and make America more secure from the threats we face in this day and age and there are some very dangerous threats that we face. That’s the President’s view.

Well, That's a Relief 

So apparently on Saturday Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told reporters that there were "no civilian casualties" in Fallujah.

Rumors of Hard News 

It's funny ... the United States has been rewarded for its failure to stabilize Iraq with the gift of conducting military operations without the scrutiny of an independent press; the country is just too dangerous for journalists to do their job there. This dynamic has led to a poverty of hard news stories about Fallujah: stories in which Fallujan civilians are interviewed, stories that attempt to assess the damage to the town or the number of civilian casualties there.

This poverty of hard news forces one to take a look at less reliable news sources than the mainstream Western press. The story of Monday's clinic bombing, for example, was first reported by the Chinese press, which is more willing to print sketchily sourced material than just about any other bigtime news service as far as I can tell, but turned out to be true.

Anyway, right now the big rumor is that the US forces in Fallujah used (or are using) illegal chemical weapons against the insurgents. The Middle Eastern press propagated the story and the original source seems to be the insurgents themselves. IslamOnline.net & News Agencies cite "resistance sources" and "an Iraqi doctor, who requested anonymity" via Al-Quds Press. Here's an excerpt:

US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein’s alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988.

"The US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally-banned chemical weapons," resistance sources told Al-Quds Press Wednesday, November 10.

The fatal weapons led to the deaths of tens of innocent civilians, whose bodies litter sidewalks and streets, they added.

[ ..]

"The US troops have sprayed chemical and nerve gases on resistance fighters, turning them hysteric in a heartbreaking scene," an Iraqi doctor, who requested anonymity, told Al-Quds Press.

"Some Fallujah residents have been further burnt beyond treatment by poisonous gases," added resistance fighters, who took part in Golan battles, northwest of Fallujah.

In August last year, the United States admitted dropping the internationally-banned incendiary weapon of napalm on Iraq, despite earlier denials by the Pentagon that the "horrible" weapon had not been used in the three-week invasion of Iraq.

The above is quite correct regarding the use of napalm -- I think The Independent broke this story back in August -- and the napalm example is relevant to any discussion of the truth of the chemical-weapons-in-Fallujah claim. Napalm, after all, is a chemical weapon, so we know the US is willing to subject Iraqis to these sorts of horrors if it pleases to do so. I wonder, however, if the above claims of people being "burnt beyond treatment" are actually descriptions of the results of the white phosphorous rounds fired in Fallujah; the use of white phosphorous during Operation Phantom Fury has already been widely reported by the Western media.

Vanunu Update 

AFP reports that Vanunu has been put under house arrest:

Mordechai Vanunu, who was freed in April after 18 years in an Israeli prison for revealing the country's nuclear ambitions, has been placed under house arrest after being detained on suspicion of giving secret information to foreigners, a judicial source said.

The former Israeli nuclear technician, 50, was taken into custody at an east Jerusalem hotel on Thursday, where police seized documents found in his room, police said.

The judicial source said he was released from custody in the evening and placed under house arrest for seven days at his east Jerusalem home.

He has been banned from talking to the media and from announcing the exact nature of the charges against him.

Police confiscated documents from his room and information from computers.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Mr. Rumsfeld Goes to El Salvador 

Rumsfeld spent Veteran's Day in El Salvador where he treated the locals to an uplifting speech. Here's a representative sample:

Not so long ago, El Salvador was enmeshed in its own fight for political and economic freedom. For millions of Salvadorans back then, peace and prosperity was little more than a distant hope. [ ... ] The Iraqi people can find much to admire in El Salvador's recent history. Your country has accomplished so much in so few years.

Today El Salvador is one of the freest and most stable countries in the hemisphere. And the people of the United States, I must say, take special pride when having stood with you during those tough times and they were tough. I believe someday both of our countries, the people of both of our countries, will look back with pride on the role that you are now playing in helping the Iraqis on their paths to freedom and a more peaceful future. Today the Iraqi people are learning that our people, your people, discovered during our own struggle for independence and freedom, that the fight is not easy, it never is, that it requires patience and that it has costs.

It is hard to express the hypocrisy of the above. Actually I'm not quite sure the word "hypocrisy" is semantically powerful enough to capture the full reality of Rumsfeld's statement.

That said, I must say I mostly agree with Rumsfeld.

The Iraqi people, indeed, can find "much to admire in El Salvador's recent history". They can admire the courage of the Salvadorans who fought to improve living conditions for the people of their country despite the horrific acts of terrorism El Salvador's right wing committed against them. Organizers and members of human rights groups, labor unions, church-based peasant associations, and other popular organizations were tortured, raped, and murdered in some of the most appalling atrocities that this hemisphere has ever witnessed -- arguably some of the worst atrocities of the second half of the twentieth century, which is saying quite a bit.

Rumsfeld is also correct that the United States "stood with [Salvadorans] during those tough times" but I don't think anyone should feel a "special pride" about it. The United States "stood with" a long chain of Salvadoran dictators and their henchmen who ruled the tiny country with an iron fist. The US provided El Salvador's rightist regimes with funding and other kinds of support during the worst of their crimes, and is closely linked to some of the worst atrocities. The notorious Atlacatl Battalion, responsible for the El Mozote massacre (see here or here) among much else, was created, trained, and equipped by the United States.

So when Rumsfeld said at another Salvadoran press conference

Iraq is a difficult situation today. They have diverse religious and ethnic groups that were held together by a powerful, repressive dictatorship, a dictatorship that killed tens of thousands of human beings and used chemical weapons against its own people and its neighbors. A regime that cut the hands off and the heads off people. A regime that threw people off the tops of six story buildings with their hands and legs tied to kill them. That regime's gone. That is a wonderful thing for the people of Iraq, for the region and the world. You don't read about that. You don't see that on television. [ ... ] What's the lesson? The lesson is if you go back through United States history to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt, they were all wartime presidents, they were criticized viciously, there were people who wanted them to stop doing what they were doing. I'm sure that was true in your country, that there were people who said enough! The cost is too great, the pain is too great.

I'm sure there were many people who could relate to his stories of Iraqi beheadings and dismemberment; after all, here is how Father Daniel Santiago described the Salvadoran equivalent

People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador -- they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed in their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the national guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until the flesh falls from their bones while parents are forced to watch. The aesthetics of terror in El Salvador is religious. The intention is to ensure that the individual is totally subordinated to the interests of the Fatherland, which is why death squads are sometimes called the 'Army of National Salvation' by the governing ARENA party.

But I think many Salvadorans would disagree with Rumsfeld's point about America's wartime presidents. Many Salvadorans would have been very happy if the ARENA party and friends had "[stopped] doing what they were doing," and many Americans would have been happy if the United States would have stopped funding and supporting it.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Gee, Who Could Have Seen This One Coming? 

The use of a predominantly Kurdish proxy army has, pedictably, exacerbated the conflict raging across Iraq's ethnic fault lines. In Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, insurgents attacked the PUK party headquarters; here's the AP:

The most serious incidents took place in Mosul, a city of about 1 million people, where fighting raged for a second day. Gunmen attacked the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in an hourlong battle that a party official said left six assailants dead.

The AP explicitly cited the Kurds cooperation with US forces as possibly "inflam[ing] ethnic rivalries" in Iraq :

In addition to firing the Mosul police chief, Iraqi authorities also dispatched four battalions of the Iraqi National Guard from garrisons along the Syrian and Iranian borders. Most of the reinforcements are ethnic Kurds who fought alongside American forces during the 2003 invasion a move which could inflame ethnic rivalries with Mosul's Sunni Arab population. Nevertheless, it appeared Iraqi authorities had no choice given the apparent failure of the city's police force to maintain order.

Friday, November 12, 2004

A Street in Fallujah 

Meanwhile Back in Baghdad 

Unembedded journalist Dahr Jamail is back in Baghdad. Today Amy Goodman interviewed him by phone about the situation in the war-torn Iraqi capital. Dahr paints a picture of a city that has descended into almost total chaos:

It is continuing chaos and violence in Baghdad. Actually, just as of last night, several large areas of the city have been taken over by the Iraqi resistance and they remain so today. These are the areas of Aldora, Al-Amaria, and Abu Ghraib although right now there's extremely heavy fighting in the Al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad as well. [ ... ] But people here in Baghdad on top of what I just mentioned, as well as the events of Fallujah, are continuing to get angrier every single day. The green zone nearby me continues to take mortar rounds on a daily basis. Just down the street from my hotel, earlier there was an improvised explosive device that went off by a United States patrol, and then just a few moments ago actually, several large blasts went off again nearby. As I said before, there's been very heavy fighting in the Al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad. [ ... ] Also, another important event that occurred in Baghdad today, there was a very huge demonstration. Well over 5,000 followers of the Islamic party at the Imam-Alham mosque here in Baghdad. They were denouncing so-called Prime minister Iyad Allawi and calling for Jihad. They demonstrated to show that they're not afraid of the U.S. military, that Iyad Allawi was a traitor and should be removed as quickly as possible.

Also, in a a recent dispatch he interviewed Dr. Wamid Omar Nathmi, a senior political scientist at Baghdad University who vehemently opposed the regime of Saddam Hussein and now is speaking out against the US's continuing presence in Iraq:

Dr. Nathmi added, "Certainly the US military can eventually suppress Fallujah, but for how long? Iraq is burning with wrath, anger and sadness...the people of Fallujah are dear to us. They are our brothers and sisters and we are so saddened by what is happening in that city."

He asked what the difference was between what is occurring in Fallujah now to what Saddam Hussein did during his repression of the Shia Intifada which followed the ’91 Gulf War. "Saddam suppressed that uprising and used less awful methods than the Americans are in Fallujah today."

Dr. Nathmi is a brilliant man and certainly a warehouse of informative analysis about the events in Iraq. He was quick to point out another flaw in the US policy here, of how the US disbanded the entire Iraqi Police force in Ramadi the day before the siege of Fallujah began.

He held up his hands and asked, "Who will provide security in Ramadi now, angels?"

"I can assure you, it is well over 75% of Iraqis who cannot even tolerate this occupation," he said a little later when discussing the Bush administrations attempts to whitewash the situation in Iraq. "The right-wing Bush administration is blinded by its ideology, and we are all suffering from this, Iraqis and soldiers alike."

Keeping the Media in Line 

You would think that the fact that every Western journalist in Fallujah is dependent on the US military for survival -- relegating them to little more that stenographers for military sources -- would be enough to keep the international media on script. But, hey, I guess that doesn't take care of non-Western news sources. Maybe they should have the journalists sign loyalty oaths. Or I guess they can always just threaten them: (from "Iraq Tells Media to Toe the Line", Reuters)

Iraq's media regulator warned news organizations Thursday to stick to the government line on the U.S.-led offensive in Fallouja or face legal action.

Invoking a 60-day state of emergency declared by Iraq's interim government ahead of the assault that began Monday, Iraq's Media High Commission said media should distinguish between insurgents and ordinary residents of the Sunni Muslim city.

The commission, set up by the former U.S. governor of Iraq, was intended to be independent of the government and to encourage investment in the media and deter state meddling after decades of strict control under President Saddam Hussein.

The commission statement bore the letterhead of the Iraqi prime minister's office.

It said all media organizations operating in Iraq should "differentiate between the innocent Fallouja residents who are not targeted by military operations and terrorist groups that infiltrated the city and held its people hostage under the pretext of resistance and jihad."

It said news organizations should "guide correspondents in Fallouja ... not to promote unrealistic positions or project nationalist tags on terrorist gangs of criminals and .killers."

It also asked media to "set aside space in your news coverage to make the position of the Iraqi government, which expresses the aspirations of most Iraqis, clear."

"We hope you comply ... otherwise we regret we will be forced to take all the legal measures to guarantee higher national interests," the statement said. It did not elaborate.

[Story caught by Raed]

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Didn't We Already Have This Conversation Last Century? 

So as the evolution debate rages on in Georgia...

A federal lawsuit being heard this week in Atlanta concerns evolution disclaimer stickers placed by Cobb County school officials on the inside covers of high school biology texts in 2002. The stickers say evolution is "a theory, not a fact" and it should be "critically considered."

I'm left wondering why no one wants to put a sticker on geography textbooks cautioning that the notion of a spherical earth is a theory not a fact or on geometry textbooks pointing out that the value of pi may well be three.

In a related note, Karlo at Swerve Left flags a web site that I really really wish was a joke ... check out the middle school level 2nd place ...
[Update: the link turns out to be a very good satire see here]

And on to Mosul, Whack-a-Mole as Military Strategy... 

It's common knowledge now that during the run-up to the final assault on Fallujah, when the US was busy announcing that Fallujah was going to be hit but waiting for the elections to be over, a large contingent of the insurgents there simply abandoned the city. Yesterday, for example, the Times reported

Abu Khalid, the guerrilla fighter, said insurgent leaders had debated how many men to leave in the city.

"There were different views about that," he said. "They discussed percentages like 20 percent inside the city and 80 percent outside, to save as many fighters as possible for future operations. In the end, they settled on a 50-50 split."

"We told the fighters that those who want to stay alive and fight should leave, and those who want to become martyrs in this battle should stay," he said.

[ ... ]

Canny insurgents rarely stand and fight, and they often take advantage of their ability to blend in with civilians and melt away. And for them, the propaganda campaign is as important, if not more so, than the strictly military one, since the most immediate goal is to win the support of the people.

Well, given today's events it looks like a lot of them moved on to Mosul:

Insurgents launched attacks in Iraq's third-largest city Thursday, raiding police stations and political offices and battling U.S. and Iraqi forces for hours. An American official acknowledged it could take "some time" to secure the city.

One Kurdish official in Mosul said Iraqi police had proven ineffective in the fight and some were cooperating with the insurgents.

The occupying forces seem to be interested in moving on to Mosul as well: AFP quotes Iraq's Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan as saying

We will launch operations in Mosul, because some groupings that came from neighbouring western countries [Syria] are trying to step up terror operations there.

Fallujah, Day 4 

Well, the Pentagon spokespeople over the past several days have sketched a vague but generally rosy picture of the Fallujah operation, stating that the resistance is less intense than they had anticipated and generally the Western press has regurgitated that assessment. Today, however there was a slight modulation of the standard line; there's a creeping thread of skepticism. The AP reports that "the large number of wounded sent to Germany suggests that fighting may be more intense, at least in some areas, than the military had initially indicated" and the BBC tells us that US marines are facing "strong resistance" and have come under "heavy and sustained fire" on Day 4, citing BBC Correspondent, Quil Lawrence, who claims that US forces have "pulled back" from the hospital that was taken on Sunday.

Also the BBC News site has posted another firsthand account translated from Arabic of life within Fallujah:
A row of palm trees used to run along the street outside my house - now only the trunks are left. The upper half of each tree has vanished, blown away by mortar fire. From my window, I can also make out that the minarets of several mosques have been toppled.

There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable. Smoke is everywhere.

A house some doors from mine was hit during the bombardment on Wednesday night. A 13-year-old boy was killed. His name was Ghazi.

I tried to flee the city last night but I could not get very far. It was too dangerous. I am getting used to the bombardment. I have learnt to sleep through the noise - the smaller bombs no longer bother me.

Without water and electricity, we feel completely cut off from everyone else. I only found out Yasser Arafat had died because the BBC rang me.

It is hard to know how much people outside Falluja are aware of what is going on here. I want them to know about conditions inside this city - there are dead women and children lying on the streets. People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever. Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens.

US forces claim 70% of Fallujah has been taken, while Australia's ABC cites Fallujan residents who say it's more like 40%.

Vanunu 

Here's details on the re-arrest of Vanunu via the BBC:

The bishop of the Jerusalem church where Vanunu has lived since his release said he saw him seized by between 30 and 50 men, many armed with machine guns.

Anglican Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal told the BBC News website that Vanunu's room had been searched and his mobile phones, laptop, camera and notebooks seized.

The bishop said some Swedish pilgrims visiting St George's Church had been shocked to tears by the police operation.

"They invaded the cathedral close," he said. "Some of them climbed over the fences, others came through the main gate.

"They terrified, terrorised the guests and the pilgrims, none of whom knew why this invasion happened with machine guns."

The bishop said he was "very angry" at the way Vanunu was seized. He was not allowed to speak to him, but was told he was being taken for interrogation.

Police spokesman Gil Kleiman told the Reuters news agency that Vanunu would be charged at a court hearing on Friday.

Some commentary from Zeynep over at Under the Same Sun:

The whole world knows Vanunu has no more secrets to reveal; he has already told the world all that he knew from his time as a technician at the secret Israeli nuclear plant in Dimona.

His real crime is that he wasn't broken by the prison, by the solitary confinement. He wasn't even bitter: he emerged from the long ordeal as a calm, confident believer in peace, a steady opponent of nuclear weapons. The Israeli goverment slapped on him ridiculous restrictions: can't talk to foreigners, can't talk to press, can't leave the country, can't do this, can't do that. It's obvious that what they are afraid of is not some alleged secrets that he possesses, but his brave voice.

Vanunu did not seek to be a hero, he was just looking for a job when he landed at the heart of Israel's nuclear program. He has, however, more than lived up to the challenge life thrust upon him. His rearrest is a crucial test for all of us. It's clear his arrest was timed to take place when most news organizations were covering Arafat's death. They are betting we will ignore this outrage.

If we let Mordechai Vanunu once again be disappeared into the Israeli jails, who will want to fight for our freedom again? If he can be snatched by "20 police commandos wearing bulletproof vests and wielding machine guns" without worldwide outrage, who will want to be a whistleblower again?

There's No One There 

Stan Goff writes of being sick, jet-lagged, and obligated to debate a well-connected foreign-policy-PhD'ed bigtime neoconservative who knows Dick Cheney personally. Initially he's worried he's going to get torn apart but quickly realizes the man has nothing to say if you leave the ritualized arena of the Democratic/Republican political spectrum. It's an oddly inspirational piece:

I was second to present my opening remarks. While I was pretty nervous before he started to talk, by the time he'd taken his 15 minutes to open, I grew more and more relaxed. We were not being treated to either subtlety or erudition. His pitch was barely above the level of a carnival barker ­ a rehash of what you might hear at any Centcom briefing. The gist of it was and this was telling well, we made some mistakes, at least the 'intelligence community' did, but now we are there, and it would be a disservice to the Iraqi people for us to leave the place and allow the 'terrorists' to take over.

That was it!?!?

This guy had boarded a plane from DC to the Land of Strom to debate a burned-out commie vet emaciated with an amoeba, and the best he could come up with in front of around 300 people was "stay the course?"

That's when it occurred to me, there's no there there. These people have no arguments they can state. His opening remarks were a rehash of why John F. Kerry was less fit to run Iraq than George W. Bush. Once anyone refuses to engage in this speciousness, the neoconservatives flounder like beached mullets.

We don't need the heavy artillery of superbly crafted argument to face them down. The simplest facts that were excluded from the presidential debates out of political expediency (dare I call it opportunism) can shoot these guys down like sparrows lined up on a fence.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Kurdish Militia 

Scott Ritter calls the "only effective unit" of the new Iraqi army "a Kurdish militia":

The reality is there is no Iraqi Army. Of the tens of thousands recruited into its ranks, there is today only one effective unit, the 36th Battalion.

This unit has fought side by side with the Americans in Falluja, Najaf, and Samara. By all accounts, it has performed well. But this unit can only prevail when it operates alongside overwhelming American military support. Left to fend for itself, it would be slaughtered by the resistance fighters. Worse, this unit which stands as a symbol of the ideal for the new Iraqi Army is actually the antithesis of what the new Iraqi Army should be.

While the Bush administration has suppressed the formation of militia units organized along ethnic and religious lines, the 36th Battalion should be recognized for what it really is – a Kurdish militia, retained by the US military because the rest of the Iraqi Army is unwilling or unable to carry the fight to the Iraqi resistance fighters.

Fallujah Civilian Casualty Numbers 

No one seems to know much yet ... mainly because of the near impossibility of covering Fallujah due to the instability and dangerousness of war-ravaged Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz essentially refused to offer an estimate at a briefing yesterday, saying that the US military has "seen very few civilian casualties." Metz also refused to give a specific number of US casualties leading to this somewhat amusing exchange in which the general argues that he shouldn't offer a number because the number "may go up and fluctuate over time" -- I kid you not:

Q Excuse me. Just to press this, I don't understand how you can not tell the American people how many troops have been killed in this. I mean, I don't see how you can just say a round figure, a dozen, sir. You can't give us any specific figures at all, minimum figures?

GEN. METZ: I would like not to give you a particular number. That number changes. I take updates periodically through the day, and they flow up from the chain of command. There are different periods of day we reconcile those numbers to ensure that we have accurate counts and that the casualty notification process is going according to the regulations that we abide by. And so I'd like to keep it at a figure that is low, and I don't want to state a particular number because that number would not have been the number six hours ago, and it may not be the number six hours from now. So things may go up and fluctuate over time, but I would not like to be pinned down to a particular number at this time.

Of course, none of the reporters present felt the need to press the issue regarding civilian casualties. Damn that liberal media...

Anyway, Reuter's reports that the citizens of Fallujah claim scores are dead, many dying because hospitals are inaccessible:

Mohammed Abboud says he watched his nine-year-old son bleed to death at their Falluja home, unable to take him to hospital as fighting raged in the streets and bombs rained down on the Iraqi city.

In the midst of a U.S. onslaught and hemmed in by a round-the-clock curfew, he said he had little choice but to bury his eldest son, Ghaith, in the garden.

"My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn't take him for treatment," said Abboud, a teacher. "We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out. We did not know how long the fighting would last."

Residents say scores of civilians have been killed or wounded in 24 hours of fighting since U.S.-led forces pushed deep into the rebel-held city on Monday evening.

Doctors said people brought in at least 15 dead civilians at the main clinic in Falluja on Monday. By Tuesday, there were no clinics open, residents said, and no way to count casualties.

U.S. and Iraqi forces seized control of the city's main hospital, across the Euphrates river from Falluja proper, hours before the onslaught began.

Overnight U.S. bombardments hit a clinic inside the Sunni Muslim city, killing staff and patients, residents said. U.S. military authorities denied the reports.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Monday troops detained 38 insurgents entrenched at Falluja Hospital and accused doctors there of exaggerating civilian casualties.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ashcroft Resigns 

One wonders if they're going to undrape those two statues of justice (seriously, aren't you curious if they will)

Here's his resignation letter:

Dear Mr. President:

Nothing in my life compares to the high honor of serving America as Attorney General in your administration.

The cause of justice is indeed a serious calling. Americans have been spared the violence and savagery of terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001.

During the last four years our violent crime rate has plunged to a 30-year low. Under your "Project Safe Neighborhoods" the number of gun crimes has fallen to its lowest level in modern history. Drug use among America's young people has fallen and continues to fall significantly.

Corporate integrity has been restored with the work of your Corporate Fraud Task Force. As a result United States markets have reinforced their position as the trusted allocators of the world's capital resources.

Thank you for your leadership which has made these and many other justice-related achievements possible.

The demands of justice are both rewarding and depleting. I take great personal satisfaction in the record which has been developed. The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts. Yet, I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration. I believe that my energies and talents should be directed toward other challenging horizons.

Therefore, I humbly state my desire to resign from the office of United States Attorney General.

It would be my pleasure to structure the announcement of this resignation and the ensuing transition in conjunction with you so that your administration and the cause of justice are served optimally.

I have handwritten this letter so its confidentiality can be maintained until the appropriate arrangements mentioned above can be made.

I am grateful to you for the profound honor of serving under your clear, principled leadership.

May God continue to bless, guide, and direct you and your family as you lead America forward in freedom.

Most Sincerely,

John Ashcroft

Well, I'm pretty sure that no one could be worse ... Right? Although the next guy might not be such a great baritone...

Getting Kicked Out of Israel 

A few months ago I posted about a recent rise in the number of reports of the state of Israel detaining, expelling, or barring the entry of human rights workers, leftists, and members of the international solidarity movement, citing the cases of Ewa Jasiewicz, Adam Wilson, and Anne Robinson-Peter. Well, here's another case to add to the list, a poster to the blog Rafah Pundits.

The Targeting of Hospitals 

Here's Brian Dominick's must-read piece on the targeting of hospitals in Fallujah. He discusses the loose rules of engagement the US forces are operating under and draws a comparison between these attacks and the attacks on ambulances frequently reported during April's assault on the city. In an email I received, Dominick wrote

It appears this report is even more relevant than we at first thought. News is coming in from unverified sources that today an airstrike destroyed a second clinic in Fallujah. More on that as we are able to confirm...

This is probably the story that he's talking about: (via XINHUA online)

Dozens of Iraqi people,including at least 20 medics, were killed in a US air raid on a government clinic in the center of Iraq's western city of Fallujah overnight, witnesses said Tuesday.

"Over 20 medics were killed in the air raid and dozens others, including wounded people, were killed as a result of the US raid on the city early Tuesday," local residents told Xinhua.

The sources said the one-story Community Clinic, which had been receiving wounded insurgents and civilians, was totally destroyed.

The building was one of the three Community Clinics erected in the city to substitute the main hospital, which was seized by US and Iraqi forces Monday night, just hours before a full-scale offensive began.

Medics in the city told Xinhua that their clinics were runningout of medical supplies and the only ambulance they had was hit by US fire.

Look, if the above turns out to be accurate, that makes two hospitals and a clinic in three days; this is clearly a calculated and consciously chosen tactic. Aside from exacerbating the damage done by bombs and bullets, these targeted assaults on Fallujah's medical infrastructure are intended to conceal the extent of casualties resulting from Operation Phantom Fury. The USA's plan of attack is to finish off Fallujah quickly with little media coverage, as USA Today put it:

If it drags on for weeks, and TV images of urban carnage and civilian deaths are broadcast around the world, the U.S. could lose the support of the interim Iraqi government and of other friends and allies. "Speed is of the essence," White says. "If we get into a protracted fight, and the government loses its political will, the insurgents score another victory."

There can be no photographs of hospital wards with bloodstained floors packed with the wounded and dying if there are no hospitals. The Times recently wrote that according to senior American officers, the Falluja General Hospital was sacked "because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties". To admit that silencing Fallujan doctors was a motivating factor leading to the early targeting of hospitals and clinics is essentially to confess to a war crime, as Brian Dominick concluded his New Standard article:

The Fourth Geneva Convention offers no provision permitting the seizure of health care facilities in order to prevent hospital officials from releasing statements -- whether true or false -- to the public.

In fact, the only relevant article states, "The Occupying Power may requisition civilian hospitals only temporarily and only in cases of urgent necessity for the care of military wounded and sick, and then on condition that suitable arrangements are made in due time for the care and treatment of the patients and for the needs of the civilian population for hospital accommodation."

Since the US military has established its own rear-area medical facilities, and since the seizure of Fallujah General marked the first objective of the ground invasion, it is unlikely that the criteria of "urgent necessity for the care of military wounded" has been met.

Additionally, The NewStandard has so far been unable to find reports that rebels or terrorists have inhibited the provision of health care to those in need at Fallujah General. The only reports of such obstruction cite constraints placed on the facility by US personnel.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Who's in the New Iraqi Army? 

IPS's Jim Lobe concludes his most recent article with the following paragraph that touches on a subject that I've been interested in lately, the ethnic make-up of the new Iraqi army:

The weekend's desertions reportedly left only one fully intact Iraqi unit deployed with the Marines on the outskirts of Fallujah -- the 36th Battalion, whose troops were recruited mostly from Kurdish and Shi'a militia. ''If the 36th turns out to be the 'Iraqi face' of the new government in Fallujah'', noted one worried administration official, ''it'll be seen as another occupation force''.

Supporting this characterization of the demographics of the Iraqi forces, William R. Polk, a former member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, recently wrote in a guest post on Informed Comment:

And the idea that America can fashion a local militia to accomplish what its powerful army cannot do is not policy but fantasy. It is true that in the days of their Iraqi empire, the British used such a force – composed of an ethnic minority, the Assyrians. But the British wisely used them only as auxiliaries to their army and air force. The Iraqi “Interim Government” has similarly used Kurds as auxiliaries to American forces. An Iraqi army is unlikely to fight insurgents with whom soldiers sympathize and among whom they have relatives. The best America might gain from this option is a fig leaf to hide defeat; the worst, in a rapid collapse, would be humiliating evacuation, as in Vietnam.

and AFP reports

US officers said Iraqi forces, who include former Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and former members of Saddam’s Iraqi army, were among Iraqi troops training with US marines preparing to storm Fallujah. Kurds were allies of the US in last year’s war that ousted Saddam.

So my question is ... What percentage of the Iraqis who are helping out the US with the assault on Fallujah, and who are poised to become the occupiers of Fallujah, are Kurdish?

Early on Rumsfeld and company used to like to describe the insurgents as foreign trouble-makers, dead-enders, former Baathists, and Saddam loyalists. The point was to portray the insurgents as anything except ordinary Iraqis who are attempting to defend their country from a foreign invader. The point was to paint the insurgency as unpopular with the majority of Iraq. One way of achieving this portrayal was the creation of an Iraqi proxy army to combat the insurgents. The use of a proxy army sends the message that the insurgency must be very unpopular if other Iraqis are willing to take up arms against it. Such a message only rings true if the members of the proxy army do not have their own agenda. If the Iraqis attacking Fallujah are predominantly Shia and Kurds, this message doesn't ring true at all.

The Kurds, in particular, are an ethnic minority without strong feelings of nationalism for Iraq -- Kurds have strong feelings of nationalism towards a future independent Kurdistan -- and an ethnic minority with a history of being persecuted by Iraq's arab majority. Kirkuk, the Iraqi city Kurds consider their capital, after years of Hussein's barbaric "Arabization" campaign -- in which Kurdish families were forcefully evicted from their homes and supplanted with arabs -- is plagued with ethnic strife.

One wonders if the US is cleverly exploiting Iraq's ethnic fault lines, pitting group against group, in order to paint a picture of an Iraq that is unified against the insurgency.

Operation Phantom Fury? 

Christ, who's naming these things, George Lucas? Maybe when they invade Ramadi it will be called Operation Revenge of the Sith...

In other making-fun-of-the-name-Phantom-Fury-related news, I like the headline on this Jim Lobe piece, "'Phantom Fury' Poised to Become Phantom Victory" which, you know, pretty much just states the obvious, but, hey, somebody's got to say it:

With Monday's launch of 'Operation Phantom Fury' to regain control of the key insurgent-dominated Sunni city of Fallujah, the administration of U.S. President George W Bush appears to be moving toward another ''phantom victory'' in its broader quest to achieve a stable, pro-western Iraq.

While experts here are united in the conviction that the 10,000 - 15,000 U.S. troops and a reportedly diminishing number of Iraqi auxiliaries will militarily crush the estimated 1,000 - 4,000 insurgents who remain in the city, they also believe the eventual outcome will mark yet another political setback to stabilising the country.

In particular, the operation, especially if bloody and protracted, will almost certainly further alienate the Sunni population, who constitute about 20 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, not to mention the much larger Sunni communities in neighbouring countries, including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.

''The entire Arab public opinion, which had hoped for Bush's (electoral) defeat, has been watching developments carefully'', noted As'ad Abukhalil, an Iraq specialist at the University of California at Berkeley. ''But now they will see the scenes of carnage on live TV contrasted with the celebratory ambiance in Washington, DC.''

The campaign also threatens to split the interim Iraqi government whose president, Ghazi al-Yawer, has opposed a major offensive and last April threatened to resign after hundreds of civilians were reported killed when U.S. Marines last tried to take Fallujah.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?