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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Kids Are All Right 

Umm ... so Bill Kristol was giving a speech at some college in Richmond, Indiana, and some kid hit him in the face with a pie. Here's Indymedia's coverage, via a Kos diary.

I generally try to run a high-brow blog here. I'll stoop to the occasional send-a-feather-to-Jonah link or, you know, the occasional post about USA Today refusing to run Ann Coulter's piece on the Democratic National Convention because it was so fucking stupid and kind of incomprehensible, but generally I'm more about me-too-ing Robert Fisk than covering pies to the face. I'm making an exception in this case for two reasons:

(1) I think the kid deserves credit for his choice of target. Any college leftist can throw a pie at a Sean Hannity or a Michelle Malkin, but I'm imagining some dorm room discussion that ends something like this, "No, Bill Kristol ... not Billy Crystal. Look, where could I still get a pie?" And I think such initiative deserves encouragement.

(2) The footage is very compelling, eminently watchable, good cinematography, etc.

Another "War President" Show 

During April and May, a large print of my image "War President", the Bush mosaic, is going to be exhibited at a gallery in Houston as part of a show called Thought Crimes: The Art of Subversion. Here are details on the show and here's the gallery's top page.

I didn't do a new version or anything. The version of "War President" they're going to display is the same one that was at Ronald Feldman Gallery in Soho last November. I'm not going out to Houston (I live in Pittsburgh), so if anyone stops by I'd appreciate hearing about the show; I'd like to hear if they show this other work of mine called "Vanunu" that I sent along as well but I bet they don't, which, you know, I guess shouldn't be that surprising -- the kids are crazy for the "War President".

The mosaic's one year birthday is coming up on April 4th (gosh, they grow up so fast) so I considered doing a new version and maybe I still will. Given the number of dead, I believe just by using the pictures in the Washington Post database I could come up with enough to do a version with resolution comeasurate to the original without repeating photos, thus, taking care of once and for all the right's big criticism of the original, but, I don't know, it's a lot of work and I don't know if I feel like going there again.

Actually I've turned down a couple of these gallery shows in the last year but agreed to this one because I thought it was funny to have the thing displayed in Bush country...

Blaming Turkey 

So last week Rumsfeld blamed Turkey for the insurgency in Iraq, saying

"Given the level of the insurgency today, two years later, clearly if we had been able to get the 4th Infantry Division in from the north, in through Turkey, more of the Iraqi, Saddam Hussein, Baathist regime would have been captured or killed. ... The insurgency today would be less."

but Turkey isn't a new target in the neoconservative blame game.

Back in the Iraq War salad days Wolfowitz used to like to admonish the Turkish military for not intervening on behalf of the US. Here's the Times, May 2003:

Mr. Wolfowitz, in an interview broadcast on Tuesday on CNN-Turk, criticized Turkey for not joining the Bush administration's campaign to topple Saddam Hussein's government. "Let's have a Turkey that steps up and says: `We made a mistake. We should have known how bad things were in Iraq, but we know now. Let's figure out how we can be as helpful as possible to the Americans,' " Mr. Wolfowitz said.

Just before the start of the American bombing, the Turkish Parliament rejected requests by the Pentagon to base troops in Turkey as part of a northern offensive on Iraq.

Mr. Wolfowitz singled out the Turkish military for criticism. "I think for whatever reason, they did not play the strong leadership role that we would have expected,"Mr. Wolfowitz said in the interview, conducted on Monday in Washington.

which demonstrates Wolfowitz's committment to democracy given that Turks were against the US invasion of Iraq by an incredibly huge majority: (via Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association, circa Feb.2003)

A growing number of Turks oppose an American military campaign against Iraq according to a recent public opinion poll by ANAR. The poll, conducted on January 27-29 among 2,036 people in ten major cities by random sampling, revealed that 94 percent of Turks oppose a possible U.S. military intervention in Iraq while only 4 percent support it. In December 2002, a similar poll conducted by ANAR showed 87 percent of the respondents opposed American military intervention in Iraq. The latest ANAR poll showed 78 percent of Turks also oppose any kind of Turkish involvement either by sending troops to Iraq or by allowing the U.S. to use Turkish bases.

So, you know, no one loves democracy more than Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, and if the people don't love it enough you can always call on the military to intervene.

But anyway Rumsfeld backed down a little yesterday ... I guess times have changed. It was okay to call on the Turkish military to stop Turkey's government from acting according to the will of 94% of Turkey's population when the neoconservatives were still hanging "Mission Accomplished" banners from aircraft carriers, but when Rumsfeld makes less inflamatory comments now, he's forced to say things like the following a week later:

Although Rumsfeld did not deny statements made last week that Ankara’s not allowing the opening of the north front had resulted in a greater level of insurgency in Iraq following the March 2003 invasion he said that Turkey had made its own decision in as independent country.

"There was a very fresh government in power in Turkey then, this party had not run the country before. But despite that the government showed a good willed effort to pass the bill," he said.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Douglas Feith Takes Us to Mount Splashmore 

FOX's Cal Thomas interviewed "the dumbest fucking guy on the planet", to quote Tommy Franks, this weekend and Feith did the standard broken record act. No transcript is available but News Hounds provides some quotes and commentary.

I like this exchange in which Feith shockingly acknowledges that Iraq didn't possess stockpiles of WMD's, or rather that the stockpiles "have not been found":

Thomas: Billions and billions of dollars spent, over a thousand lives lost, many others wounded. Has it been worth it so far? Will it be worth it in the end in terms of money and blood?

Feith: After 9/11 it became clear that the principal danger that we faced in the war on terrorism was the possibility that one of the state sponsors of terrorism could provide weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist group and use it in the United States. If that happened, the casualties would not be 3,000 as we suffered on 9/11 but it could be ten or a hundred times that number and even though Saddam Hussein's stockpiles have not been found, he clearly had a history of hostility to us, of aggression, of support for terrorist organizations. He was a major danger and I think the American people, and the world in general are much better off, much safer now that he has been removed.

One small step for the reasonably undeluded; one giant leap for neoconservative kind.

One wonders, however, exactly why the assertion that Saddam Hussein had a history "of support for terrorist organizations" is "clearly" true, given that no evidence backs it up. The commission appointed by Feith's bosses concluded that no "evidence indicat[es] that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States," for example. Further, one wonders for what reason Feith believes that Saddam Hussein "was a major danger" to the most powerful nation in the history of our planet.

Look, for the millionth time, Saddam Hussein destroyed what WMD's he had in the early nineties, which is why, you know, he didn't use them two years ago when he was being deposed. If neoconservatives have evidence to the contrary, they should provide it. Hussein was a vicious petty tyrant, but that doesn't make him a "major danger". He was hated by just about everyone but feared by almost no one besides Iraqis, not even his regional neighbors. He was feared here, of course, but that was after a major propaganda campaign.

Anyway, I feel like a broken record responding to this crap -- which is probably its purpose. People like Feith do their broken record imitations, people like me get tired out, and the fact that bankrupt dilapidated little Iraq was a major danger to the United States of America becomes part of history.

It's sort of like when Lisa and Bart got to go to Mount Splashmore by repeating "Take us to Mount Splashmore" over and over again... or maybe that's how the neoconservatives got their war...

Bolton's Vital Personal Interests 

Fifty-nine former US diplomats have written to the chairman of the foreign relations committee urging the commitee to block the appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN. Here's the Guardian:

Chief among the objections was Mr Bolton's stated view that the UN "is valuable only when it directly serves the United States".

In addition, Mr Bolton was criticised for his record as US arms control supremo.

He had an "exceptional record" of undermining potential improvements to US national security through arms control, the diplomats complained.

Among the most senior signatories was Arthur Hartman, former ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Richard Nixon.

Princeton Lyman, a former ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria, Monteagle Stearns, US representative in Greece and Ivory Coast, and Spurgeon Keeny Jr, Jimmy Carter's deputy director of arms control, also signed the letter.

Mr Bolton requires approval from the foreign relations committee - made up of 10 Republicans and eight Democrats - before being told he can head to the UN's New York headquarters.

The text of the letter doesn't appear to be online anywhere -- if someone finds it please leave a comment.

I'd like to see if the ex-diplomats' letter raises what I think should be the biggest beef against Bolton: he isn't just skeptical of the worth of the UN, he is on record arguing against the very notion of international law.

See for example Bolton's little rant "Kofi Annan's UN Power Grab" in which Bolton rails against Annan for proposing the radical doctrine that actors in the international theatre should behave according to laws of acceptable behavior upon which they have all agreed:

On a visit to the war zone, Annan said at the time: "Unless the Security Council is restored to its preeminent position as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, we are on a dangerous path to anarchy." Subsequently, in the secretary general's annual report to the U.N. membership, Annan returned to this theme, arguing that "enforcement actions without Security Council authorization threaten the very core of the international security system...Only the [U.N.] Charter provides a universally legal basis for the use of force. " These are sweeping -- indeed breathtaking -- assertions, made all the bolder by the fact that the U.N. Charter describes the secretary general as merely a "chief administrative officer."

But not only is the Annan doctrine limitless in its purported reach, it greatly inhibits America's ability (and everyone else's, for that matter) to use force to protect and advance its vital national interests. Such a limitation was never seriously advanced, and certainly not accepted, when the Senate considered the U.N. Charter in 1945. Indeed, during the Cold War, Americans would have greeted such statements by a U.N. secretary general with derision. Why did President Clinton allow Annan's assertions to go unrebuked and even support them, albeit implicitly, during his address to the General Assembly?

The Annan doctrine is clearly the result of post-Cold War wishful thinking. The absence of a visible threat, previously supplied by the Soviet Union, has led dreamers in the international strata to believe that force is no longer a serious option for responsible nations, except to swat the occasional dictator and prevent human rights abuses. The somewhat less dreamy do not ask such naive questions, but nonetheless see in the Annan doctrine an opportunity to dramatically limit the military autonomy of nation-states, particularly the United States.

Here's what I never get about people who believe that international law is a bad idea: Why do they believe that national law is a good idea? Aren't the internal laws of, say, the US just the naive fantasy of dreamers who believe that force is no longer a serious option for responsible individuals? Don't laws just greatly inhibit powerful people's ability (and everyone else's, for that matter) to use force to protect and advance their vital personal interests?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Mandate 

So Bush's approval rating is currently the lowest its ever been.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bishop Romero 









“I have frequently been threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people." -- Archbishop Oscar Romero

Twenty-five years ago today a professional assassin murdered Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero while he was delivering mass in the Chapel of the Hospital de la Divina Providencia. Here's a summary of the UN Truth commission's findings regarding Romero's murder.

So Long, Valerie Plame... 

Our esteemed colleague Simbaud (as some one or other would say) flags an Editor & Publisher article that predicts the Plame investigation will conclude without identifying the guilty party:

Paradoxically, there is now little expectation that Fitzgerald will succeed in identifying the person or persons in the Executive Office of the President who was first to knowingly and intentionally violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing Valerie Plame's covert CIA identity to journalists. It appears that every official is in a position to claim that her name was "out there," in circulation, before Bob Novak's July column, and that they merely repeated what had been heard from someone else to members of the press or the administration.

For example, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- a skilled lawyer -- is claiming that he first heard Plame's name from a press source. (Bob Novak is speculated to be Scooter's alleged source; Judith Miller comes in second.) If Libby mentioned the sensitive information to staff, they might have passed on what they had heard about Plame to selected reporters, without necessary knowledge of the law.

Or other reporters could have first heard of Plame from Novak's column, or Matt Cooper's online story a few days later, and then called officials for confirmation. However, as later claimed by Novak, her professional identity may not have been "much of a secret," as Walter Pincus of The Washington Post -- who did not write about it at the time -- had heard the tale before any word appeared in public print.

Thus, it would seem to be only a matter of time before Fitzgerald concludes an inconclusive investigation into who committed a felony.

Well, you know, at least Congress is getting to the bottom of the whole steroids in baseball scandal...

Richard Perle May Face SEC Suit 

from The New York Post:

Hollinger International director and former Pentagon bigwig Richard Perle might face civil charges for his involvement in the alleged looting of the company by ousted newspaper baron Conrad Black.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has warned Perle, the one-time "Prince of Darkness in the Reagan administration — that it is considering filing suit against him, according to Bloomberg News.

Perle confirmed he had received a so-called Wells notice — a formal warning that SEC staffers are prepared to bring charges — several months ago and that he had responded to the allegations.

The speed with which Black and Perle turned on each other was a sight to behold. Here's what Perle had to say about Black when the accusations started to fly last fall:

"The special committee has concluded that Lord Black and other members of the Ravelston Management Group misled the directors of Hollinger, including me, concerning the scope of their compensation, the payment of noncompete payments and the related-party nature of several transactions ... As the report shows, critical information was either not revealed or obscured as matters were presented to the audit and executive committees and the full board of directors. ... I did not participate in or profit in any way from the management agreements, related-party transactions or noncompete payments at issue."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Google News Indexes Racists, Etc. 

So via LGF Watch via, god help me, Little Green Footballs, I learned that Google News includes the racist National Vanguard as one of its news sources. National Vanguard is a horrible site. Let's put it this way, it was described as an "unspeakably vile neo-Nazi white supremacist web site" on Little Green Footballs -- 'nuff said.

The Little Green Fascists are amusingly upset that their clubhouse isn't indexed on Google, leading to a constant stream of LGF posts of the Google News indexes Jihad Unspun but not LGF!? variety. What they don't seem to get is that Google News doesn't index news aggregators and doesn't index many blogs period. It especially doesn't index blogs composed predominantly of short-format posts -- what exactly is there to index? In other words, LGF isn't included by Google for the same reason that Atrios isn't.

Another thing that the LGFers don't seem to get is that the inclusion of the neo-Nazi site actually hurts the case they are trying to make. They say to Google, "Hey, why don't you include LGF?" Google says, "Because of the format of your content." They say, "Nuh-uh. You don't like the content of our content, you liberals." And they attempt to support this argument by posting about Google including a news source that is to Little Green Footballs' right and that is not a news aggregator and is not a short-format blog? Ummm... doesn't that indicate that the Google people aren't discriminating based on ideology but based on format, as they constantly explain?

I am a free speech absolutist and, to be honest, would rather have a Google News that is willing to index National Vanguard than one that is not, as long as it is also willing to index hard left news sources, which it evidently is. Google News is not itself an online newspaper; it is an engine for searching the internet within the domain of news stories -- and we all know the breadth of the range of viewpoints that spans the internet. When I search for news stories I want to get all valid matches to my search string for the same reason that I want to receive all valid matches when I search for web pages with Google's primary search engine.

However, given the naive impression that Google News is an online newspaper, an impression bolstered by its auto-generated front page that looks very much like the top page of, say, nytimes.com, and given that the Google corporation's only source of income, as far as I know, is advertising dollars, I wonder if Google News will ever feel pressure from its advertisers to limit the spectrum of opinion that it purveys to the spectrum presented by the corporate media. In other words I wonder if the Chomsky-Herman propaganda model will ever catch up with Google.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Neoconservative Musical Chairs 

The Turkish Press reports that the US ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman, has resigned, and citing "diplomatic circles" speculates that Edelman will become Rumsfeld's chief stooge if Wolfowitz's appointment to the World Bank goes through or that he will replace Feith as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Edelman is a neoconservative Kool-Aid drinker and one of the vice president's men. Before becoming an ambassador, Edelman was Cheney's Deputy for National Security Affairs, according to the New Republic, a top Pentagon "Sovietologist and organizer of the Saturday seminars" who was tapped by Libby to become his chief strategist. He's been hanging around with the boys since the days when they were the crazies who liked to send crank letters to Clinton about invading Iraq. Here's how Nicholas Lemann characterized the group that lobbied for Iraq War II and what has become the war on terror:

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of Defense, set up a "shop," as they say, to think about American foreign policy after the Cold War, at the grand strategic level. The project, whose existence was kept quiet, included people who are now back in the game, at a higher level: among them, Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense; Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff; and Eric Edelman, a senior foreign-policy adviser to Cheney—generally speaking, a cohesive group of conservatives who regard themselves as bigger-thinking, tougher-minded, and intellectually bolder than most other people in Washington.

During the Freedom Fries era, the Times described Edelman, along with Scooter, as a "driving force" at a meeting within Cheney's office discussing how to "punish" France for not supporting the invasion of Iraq.

So the new Wolfowitz might be a lot like the old Wolfowitz except more in bed with the vice president...

Happy Birthday, Iraq War! 

Don't see how the terrible twos can be much worse...

[Photo is from Fallujah, Nov 13 or 14, 2004, via mblog]

An Observation 

Zeynep flags a Porter Goss quote in which Goss asserts that "the intelligence community" never tortures people during interrogations: (from the AP)

CIA Director Porter Goss defended U.S. interrogation practices and rejected any notion that the intelligence community engages in torture. ... “I can assure you that I know of no instances where the intelligence community is outside the law on this,” Goss said. “And I know for a fact that torture is not productive. That’s not professional interrogation. We don’t do torture.”

What I like about the above is manner in which Goss attempts to convince us that he's being honest: he says that torture is "not productive". Pretty funny if you think about it ... It would be like if I was the head of some ultra-powerful organization, say American Leftist, that was accused of some vile morally outrageous crime say -- I don't know -- cooking and eating puppies, and I defended myself by saying, "We at American Leftist would never cook and eat puppies! They don't even taste that good."

"If we had an air force I promise you we would only target French barracks" 

Thoughtful interview with Tariq Ali in the Socialist Worker on the nature of the Iraqi resistance:

Q: The Iraqi resistance is demonised by Bush and Blair as terrorists, supporters of Saddam Hussein, Islamic fundamentalists and so on. Tell us what you think of the resistance.

A: Every resistance movement against imperialism has been categorised as terrorist — the Mau Mau in Kenya were demonised and brutally tortured by the British; the Algerian FLN by the French; the Vietnamese by the French and the Americans.

Today Israel’s Ariel Sharon refers to Palestinians as terrorists, Russia’s Vladimir Putin crushes the Chechens in the name of fighting terror and Tony Blair is assaulting traditional civil liberties in this country in the name of fighting terror. It’s hardly surprising that the Iraqi resistance is characterised in the same fashion.

Obviously the means used to drive out imperial occupiers are determined by the nature of the occupation. The brutality of the US troops and systematic torture they have used has been well documented. So how can the resistance be beautiful?

During the Algerian war a leader of the national liberation front, the FLN, was asked about using terror against French civilians in cafe bombings in Algiers. He replied, “If we had an air force I promise you we would only target French barracks, but till then...”


WMD's in Fallujah, Sgrena, Etc. 

Lenin of Lenin's Tomb asks whether the US used WMD's in Fallujah, and I wanted to weigh in with a recap of what's known about this issue...

The use of white phosphorous rounds in Fallujah is not controversial -- there were mainstream accounts at the time of "white phosphorous shells [lighting] up the sky." The use of napalm in Iraq in general is not contested -- the story was broken by Andy Buncombe of the UK Independent, but the use of napalm in Fallujah is little more than a rumor. The use of gas weapons, such as nerve gas or mustard gas, is established to a similar degree as the use of napalm in Fallujah, or perhaps slightly better in that Iraqi doctors are on the record about treating victims of what seemed to be some sort of poisoning. Anyway, here's my old post covering this stuff in which I go into more detail.

Now Guiliana Sgrena has produced photographic evidence that cluster bombs were used in Fallujah, and as Lenin points out cluster bombs in such a context violate international law.

Was Guiliana Sgrena targeted for this reason? Such an action on the part of the US makes little sense to me mainly because of the above -- because it was widely reported that white phosporous was used in Fallujah and was unwidely reported that napalm was used, or is being used, in Iraq, and no one seems to care much. Murdering Sgrena would, if anything, have shown more light on the reports she was filing.

From Israel 

Brian Avery wants to know who shot him in the face, via Hareez:

Avery came here two years ago, in January 2003, a 24-year-old who dreamed of fixing the world, or at least helping to solve the conflict in the Middle East. Five months and three operations later, he returned home emotionally battered and with his face seriously injured, to a no less cruel future. He has five or six rounds of plastic surgery ahead of him, until his face - maybe, some time - will once again resemble what it used to be.

The issue of Avery, an activist in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), is now being deliberated in the High Court of Justice. Two and a half weeks ago, the first session took place. A panel of three justices instructed the judge advocate general (JAG) to interview, within 90 days, the witnesses to the incident in which Avery was injured in Jenin, and to inform the court whether it will adhere to its previous decision, and if so - why.

Avery wants to know who shot and wounded him critically on Saturday night, April 5, 2003. The original Israel Defense Forces investigation, carried out immediately after the incident by Colonel Dan Hefetz, commander of the Menashe Brigade, concluded with the following surprising IDF statement, which was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv: "Mr. Ivory's injury is an unfortunate incident. ISM activists knowingly endanger themselves by operating during curfew in combat situations, seeking clashes and frictions with IDF soldiers. No findings indicate that Mr. Avery was injured by IDF fire in any of the above-mentioned events."

Also Vanunu is facing a new jail term for the crime of speaking to the press (after being imprisoned for eighteen years for the crime of speaking to the press) via the Guardian:

The Israeli nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, is facing another term in prison after he was charged yesterday with breaching a gag order imposed on his release from an 18-year sentence last April.

Israeli prosecutors laid 22 charges against Mr Vanunu at a Jerusalem magistrates court for allegedly exposing nuclear secrets in interviews with the foreign press and for attempting to visit Bethlehem at Christmas. If convicted, he faces up to two years in jail.

After he was freed last year at the end of his sentence for revealing the inner workings of Israel's nuclear weapons programme to the Sunday Times, Mr Vanunu was served with a court order forbidding him to contact or pass information to foreigners or to leave Israel.

Mr Vanunu told the Guardian yesterday that he did not know if the charges were a serious attempt to put him back in prison or simply to silence him amid an international campaign to have the restrictions lifted when they come up for renewal in July.

"They have to decide what they want to do with me. The police spent a lot of time watching me to see what I was doing and now they charged me for giving interviews to the foreign media. It is a breach of the conditions of my release. I don't think it is a big offence but maybe they do."

Shortly after he took up residence at an East Jerusalem cathedral on his release, Mr Vanunu began giving interviews to the Guardian, the BBC and dozens of other media organisations in defiance of the gag order

The above Guardian piece contains a nice quote from Daniel Ellsberg summing up the situation:

"That, after 18 years of imprisonment and solitary confinement and mistreatment, a person can still come out sane, articulate, compassionate - this is the secret that no regime wants its citizens to know."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

How Bush's Number One Priority For His Second Term Is Going So Far 

When Republicans in Congress go home this weekend they aren't going to hold townhall media events because of the protests that greeted such meetings last month. From USA Today:

Shaken by raucous protests at open "town hall"-style meetings last month, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio and other GOP leaders are urging lawmakers to hold lower-profile events this time.

Republicans plan to heed President Bush's call Wednesday "to talk to their constituents not only about the problem, but about solutions" to Social Security's looming financial shortfall. The president wants to allow workers to divert some payroll taxes into private investment accounts. [ ... ]

This month, Republican leaders say they are chucking the open town-hall format. They plan to visit newspaper editorial boards and talk to constituents at Rotary Club lunches, senior citizen centers, chambers of commerce meetings and local businesses. In those settings, "there isn't an opportunity for it to disintegrate into something that's less desirable," says Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Apparently, the "something that's less desirable" is a photo op in which it is apparent that 65% of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of social security and that 58% say "the more they learn about Bush's Social Security plans, the more likely they are to oppose them"

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO plans to mobilize its members to protest corporations that back and stand to profit from Bush's plan to privatize the country's most successful social program. From the LA Times

The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor union, plans public protests against Charles Schwab Corp. and Wachovia Corp. because the companies back President Bush's plan for private Social Security accounts, a union official said Tuesday.

The union on March 31 will hold at least 50 events in dozens of cities, including rallies outside Schwab and Wachovia headquarters, as it intensifies a campaign against financial companies supporting Bush's plan, said Bill Patterson, AFL-CIO director of investment in Washington.

The union is trying to choke off funding to the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, the main business group backing the Bush plan. This month, Edward Jones & Co. and Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. withdrew from the group, which no longer lists members on its website.

"The campaign to sell this by the White House has not been firing all cylinders," said Ethan Siegal, president of the Washington Exchange, a Bethesda, Md.-based group that tracks federal policy for institutional investors. "It gave the unions an opening to pressure and use their political muscle."

The labor group's main target is San Francisco-based Schwab, "the poster child of the push by Wall Street firms to promote privatization," said Suzanne Ffolkes, an AFL-CIO spokeswoman. The union expects at least 1,500 demonstrators outside Schwab headquarters and dozens more outside Wachovia offices including the company's headquarters in Charlotte, N.C..

Clare Short: Bush is Shooting the World the Double Bird 

ITV reports Clare Short, who is best known for resigning from the Blair adminstration in protest of Britain's participation in the invasion of Iraq, has some choice words regarding the Wolfowitz appointment:

Ms Short said President George W Bush's decision to put forward his hawkish Deputy Defence Secretary - to take over from James Wolfensohn who steps down on June 1 - was like showing "two fingers to the world".

Mr Bush has described Mr Wolfowitz, 61, as a "compassionate, decent man" but Ms Short told Channel 4 News: "This is really shocking. It's as though they (the Americans) are trying to wreck our international systems.

"They have nominated a man with no record on development who drove the Iraq war and in the Pentagon was responsible for Iraq after the war - and that is a complete and absolute disaster, the worst post-conflict situation we have had in the world for a very long time."

Ms Short continued: "Europe should stand together and say no, sorry, no record on development, not an acceptable candidate.

"They are playing games with us putting a hard-nosed hawk into the World Bank just when we are all saying we are all going to focus on poverty and development. It's like two fingers to the world.

"I think this is a real test of Europe. If Europe accepts this then forget your multi-polar world, forget Europe balancing America, the American empire can do what it likes."

The Ravings of a Mad Man 

Affable crank Jude Wanniski says that the reason Bush picked Wolfowitz to head the World Bank is because of Wolfowitz's connection to the private interests that benefit most from the World Bank's racket:

If you want to know how Professor Wolfowitz got the job, follow the money.

That’s what the World Bank is all about. It was created as an adjunct of the United Nations at the end of World War II, along with its brother institution, the International Monetary Fund. On paper, its function was to lend money to developing countries to help them grow. Its real job has been to serve the interests of the major money-center banks and the multinational corporations who make the big bucks in World Bank development projects. The Bank, which is really a “fund,” persuades a poor country like Ghana, for example, to build a new industrial complex in order make stuff for export. It will lend the money to Ghana -- which it gets from global taxpayers including you and me -- and arrange for the complex to be built by one of the favored corporations in the military-industrial complex. The list always includes Bechtel Corporation, Halliburton, and Kellogg Brown & Root, a division of Halliburton. These outfits go in and build the projects because the locals have no expertise. [ ... ]

The name most associated with Bechtel is George P. Shultz, once its top dog, now a mere director. Shultz was Treasury Secretary under Richard Nixon (helping talk him into floating the U.S. dollar), Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, and currently a member of the Defense Policy Board, which until last year Richard Perle chaired.

Shultz also introduced Governor George W. Bush to Condoleezza Rice, who in turn introduced Paul Wolfowitz to Governor Bush back in 1999. Shultz of course knew at the time that Wolfie and Perle and their neo-con Cabal were planning a war in Iraq, and we know nice, little “doable” wars (Wolfie’s word), are meat and potatoes for the military-industrial complex. Instead of squeezing nickels and dimes out of the taxpayers to persuade Ghana to build a steel mill it doesn’t need and can’t run, even little wars run into the billions. And everyone gets into the act. The arms makers who produce airplanes, tanks, guns, jeeps and humvees get to blow up a country (like Iraq) and Bechtel and Halliburton come in right behind to rebuild it. In announcing the Wolfowitz appointment today, President Bush said the World Bank is a big organization and Wolfowitz has experience running a big organization, the Pentagon!! As far as the military-industrial complex is concerned, Wolfowitz did a FANTASTIC job. He was only expected to plan for a $30 billion war and he screwed up so badly that it is now a $200 billion war, and counting. Anyone who can screw up that badly deserves a promotion, to the World Bank.

Wanniski is a funny fellow. He is responsible for movement conservatism's perhaps most important bedtime story, an explication of why lowering rich peoples' taxes is a panacea for all that ails a society, supply-side economics, but was unceremoniously excommunicated from the establishment right. See here for more on the strange case of Jude Wanniski.

Also, on Wolfowitz ... a question I haven't seen anyone pose: Assume Wolfowitz indeed moves over to the World Bank -- Who will become Rumsfeld's deputy secretary?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Military Justice 

Forty-five days in jail for drowning two people to death, from The Guardian:

An American army platoon leader who ordered his troops to throw two Iraqi prisoners into the Tigris river was sentenced yesterday to 45 days in military prison and given a $12,000 (£6,200) fine.

Lieutenant Jack Saville, 25, pleaded guilty to assault and dereliction of duty, at Fort Hood, in Texas, for ordering his troops to force two Iraqis into the river in January last year - one of the men was feared to have drowned, though his body was never found.

Marwan Fadil and his cousin Zaidoun Hassoun were out after curfew in Samarra, 62 miles north of Baghdad, when the incident happened.

During an earlier trial Mr Fadil testified that Mr Hassoun had been killed but this was denied by other US soldiers who said his death had been faked.

The fact that Mr Hassoun's body was never found made it difficult for Lt Saville to be charged with manslaughter.

[hat tip to Intl News]

Public Enemy Chavez 

The Financial Times says that the Bush administration is working on a policy to "contain" Hugo Chavez:

A strategy aimed at fencing in the Chávez government is being prepared at the behest of President George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, senior US officials say. Roger Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs at the Department of Defense, said the policy was being developed because Mr Chavez was employing a "hyena strategy" in the region.

"Chavez is a problem because he is clearly using his oil money and influence to introduce his conflictive style into the politics of other countries," Mr Pardo-Maurer said in an interview with the Financial Times. "He's picking on the countries whose social fabric is the weakest. In some cases it's downright subversion."

Meanwhile, Chavez's recent claims that the US is planning to assassinate him were supported by an unlikely source, ex-Contra supporter ex-Che murderer ex-CIA spook Felix Rodriguez:

The former CIA agent’s comments were made last week, on Thursday, during the talk show of a well-known supporter of the anti-Castro movement, Maria Elvira Salazar. Rodriguez affirmed during the program, "According to information I have about what is happening in Venezuela, it is possible that at some moment they [the Bush administration] will see itself obliged, for national security reasons and because of problems they have in Colombia, to implement a series of measures that will bring about a change in Venezuela."

The moderator, not satisfied with his vague answer, asked Rodriguez what kind of measures these might be and he responded, "They could be economic measures and at some point they could be military measures." He then added, "If at some point they are going to do it, they will do it openly." As an example, Rodriguez gave the Reagan administration’s strike against Khadafi, whose residence was bombed and whose adoptive daughter was killed in the process.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Abu Ghraib Stories in 2005 

The ACLU obtained via FOIA requests the transcript of an interview with Brig Gen Janis Karpinski in which she discusses the interment of children at Abu Ghraib. If you are a reader of leftwing blogs like this one this information should not come as a shock to you (see here and here, for example) but because of the ACLU's work the mainstream media has finally focused on the issue, ironically almost exactly a year after the story broke. Here's the AP's piece, for example.

The ACLU has made the new documents publicly available as PDF's. Here's the Karpinksi interview, but unfortunately the above only seems to be the second half of Karpinski's deposition and doesn't include her comments regarding children (as far as I can tell).

It does contain, however, an interesting exchange in which Karpinski is asked directly who she blames for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Her answer is that she blames pressure from above:

Q In your opinion, based on everything that you knew from the beginning of when you were there to the things that you have learned since, what is your current opinion regarding what happened at Abu Ghraib? What broke down? Who were the responsible parties at Abu Ghraib?

[ ... ]

A. Sir, I think there was a tremendous -- I know, not think -- this is fact. I know there was a tremendous pressure being placed on the interrogation teams and on Colonel Pappas, especially, to get more sooner, to find Saddam, to -- I mean, amongst all of those pressures there was never any pressure exerted to my knowledge, to release prisoners But, to get more sooner, and the real focus was finding Saddam. [ ...]

Q. Did He [Pappas] tell you from whom that pressure was coming?

A. He said that General [Barbara] Fast was pressuring him.

Q. Anybody else?

A. He didn't say specifically, but he did get beat up routinely by General Sanchez.

If you followed the news accounts of the court martials you may recall Fast's name. Here's the The Arizona Republic:

"The commanders condoned the actions and nobody ever condemned it."

Bergrin claimed that among the commanders who knew what was going on at the Iraqi prison or helped make it possible were Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, a former deputy commander of Huachuca whose appointment to command the fort has been on hold for five months because of the Abu Ghraib scandal, and Col. Thomas Pappas, who was stationed at Huachuca until 2002 and commanded an intelligence brigade at Abu Ghraib.

"General Fast was putting pressure on Pappas, who was putting pressure down the line to break the detainees and get as much information any way possible," Bergrin said.

"Everyone knows that. I can't believe General Fast is still in the military."

Fast, one of the few women in the Army to reach the rank of two-star general, was chief of intelligence in Iraq at the time of Abu Ghraib. She has refused to talk to the media but has never been accused of wrongdoing in any of several military investigations into the abuse.

The PDF also contains a lot of information regarding General Miller's trip to Iraq to "GITMOize" Abu Ghraib. At one point Karpinski recounts Miller advocating treating the prisoners "like dogs":

And another interrogator asked him about the -- I don't remember the exact question, but it was something about maintaining control. And it might have been the subsequent question to my comment that in Guantanamo Bay they [have] 800 MPs to 640 prisoners, and I had -- at Abu Ghraib, I had 300 Mps to guard more that 7,000 prisoners. Then he said, "You have to have full control, and the MPs at Guantanmo Bay know what -- they know what that means. A detainee never leaves the cell if he's not escorted by two MPs in leg irons, and hand irons, and a belly chain. And there was no mistake about who's in charge. And you have to treat these detainees like dogs. If you treat them any differnently and they get the idea that they're making a decision or they're in charge, you've lost control of your interrogation.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bolivian Congress Rejects Mesa's Resignation 

Here's Bloomberg:

Bolivia's Congress unanimously rejected President Carlos Mesa's offer to resign over protests against government energy policies, giving Mesa backing for new hydrocarbon legislation.

``The consensus is that the president should continue in his duties and assume his responsibilities while reviewing the conduct of government,'' Lower House president Mario Cossio told reporters.

Mesa also received backing from the majority of the 157- member Congress to call a constituent assembly to review the constitution, call a referendum on independence movements in southern Bolivia and hold regional governors' elections.

and here's Miguel of Ciao! who offers more informed commentary than I can provide:

Mesa, I'll admit, played a masterful hand. He bluffed his way into a strong vote of confidence (parliament rejected his resignation w/o a single "yes" vote), the multi-party coalition that goes w/ it, rallied around his agenda.

While this strengthens Mesa's hand temporarily, it also marks a dangerous fork in the road. Either the protests end on their own, and Mesa's able to govern. Or they don't. I suggest that Mesa's cult of personality can only go so far.

The El Alto FEJUVE protest continues. The Evo-led cocalero protest in Chapare picked up steam today. And w/ the new government coalition comprised of all parties minus MAS & MIP, we're basically back to the same position as before, except Mesa now has Goni's multi-party coalition behind him. Oh, and he burned (probably permanently) all his bridges w/ MAS & MIP (who now only have incentives to increase opposition tactics).

If things don't settle down, there's no other way out but a strong response. Mesa can't threaten to resign again. But now, he can easily say that it's the "people's will" if coercion must be used to restore order. I'm settling in for a bumpy next few weeks.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Dance, Scottie, Dance 

Extremely funny exchange at today's gaggle.

So here's the context ... The Bushies want to privatize social security by diverting money within the system to private accounts invested in the stock market. This is what's known as a "carve-out" plan, because it carves money out of social security. Another way to introduce private accounts, if for some reason you really wanted to, would be to set up an entirely different government program funded independently of social security, such a plan would be an "add-on" plan.

Recently, Bush screwed up and used the term "add-on" to describe his vision of social security reform. The press didn't quite know how to react because it was either a case of (a) Bush blatantly lying, (b) Bush making a major concession, or (c)Bush demonstrating that when he speaks he has no idea what he is saying.

The statement is best understood as being a result of explanation (c), and it is, therefore, extremely funny to watch Bush spokespeople attempt to perform damage-control, given that if they were honest they would have to say something like, "Well, come on, don't worry about the actual words he uses. Lord knows, George says all kind of crap... He's not a real smart guy."

Anyway, here's Scottie doing his Scottie dance:

Q: Would private accounts as an add-on, as a supplement to Social Security, as opposed to an integral part of Social Security, satisfy the President's desire to create private accounts?

SCOTTIE: I think the President has made his views clear. The President firmly believes that personal accounts are an important part of a comprehensive solution for strengthening Social Security.

Q: But is he -- Secretary Snow suggested last week he's not married to the idea of it being within Social Security, that it could be an add-on.

SCOTTIE: No, that's not what he said. The President talked about how -- first of all, the President has made it very clear in his principles that personal accounts, where younger workers can invest a portion of their own payroll taxes into personal accounts, is an important part of strengthening Social Security. [ ... ]

Q: A follow-up question.

Q: Is that still an absolute red line for him?

SCOTTIE: Is what an absolute red line?

Q: Personal accounts within the framework of Social Security?

SCOTTIE: Well, you've heard the President talk about how this is a time when we all have to talk about the problems facing Social Security and we must have a common understanding of what those problems are. Social Security is unsustainable on its current course. It faces a massive unfunded liability at this point. And he has also talked about the importance of moving forward in a bipartisan way to solve it. He wants to create a climate where people will bring forward their ideas for solving this problem.

We've made some significant progress in recent weeks, because several weeks ago, there were many saying that there is not a problem. Now it appears to be at a point where more and more people are talking about possible solutions to the problem. That's a sign of progress.

Q: So I take it, then, from this long explanation, simply yes or no, that he is leaving the door open, that this is not necessarily a red line?

SCOTTIE: He is saying he welcomes all ideas. He is not embracing those ideas. He has put forward what his ideas are, but he welcomes all ideas for solving this problem.

Q: So it's not a red line.

SCOTTIE: The President's principles are clear, John. He believes firmly that personal accounts are part of a comprehensive solution.

Q: But it's not a red line.

SCOTTIE: John, that's not the way I would describe it.

Q: How would you describe it?

Q: A follow-up question?

SCOTTIE: Go ahead, John.

Q: Thank you. Just as a follow-up --

SCOTTIE: I don't know what part you weren't hearing, because, I mean, his views are very clear. But --

Q: It was the yes or no part that I didn't hear.

SCOTTIE: No, the point that the President has made, John, is that we should work together. This is a serious problem, and we need a bipartisan solution.

Q: Red line, yes or no?

SCOTTIE: That's why the President is not getting into ruling things in or out. He made it very clear to you all several times that we're not going to get into commenting on each and every idea that is thrown out there by members of Congress --

Q: He threw out the idea.

SCOTTIE: We welcome ideas by members of Congress for solving this problem. That's how we get things done in this town. We've managed to get a lot done in the first term through the President's leadership and the willingness to tackle the big challenges that we face. And the President believes that the approach that we're taking now is the right way to proceed.

The best bit is when Scottie says he doesn't know what part the reporter is not hearing, and the reporter replies that he didn't hear the part in which Scottie said yes or no... Good times, good times...

Going to War with the Army You Have 

This piece by Michael Schwartz on TomDispatch expresses my thoughts on the nature of the insurgency in Iraq better than I would have been able to express them.

Schwartz argues that US planners mistakenly characterize the Iraqi insurgents as a traditional military force with a command-and-control structure because this is the sort of opponent that the US is best prepared to fight -- kind of like the old joke about the drunk guy looking for his lost keys under the street lamp because that's where the light is.

Schwartz flags a recent instance of this sort of mischaracterization: "a detailed account of current theorizing among American and Iraqi officials about the structure of the Iraqi resistance" as compiled by a team of Newsweek journalists. The Newsweek team concluded that according to military planners the insurgency has a hierarchical structure with its leaders based in Syria, or more colorfully, it is "a monster with its head in Syria and its body in Iraq," which explains the number of sabers that have been rattled in Syria's direction lately.

But as Schwartz points out, despite the popularity of such characterizations even the most cursory inspection of the facts on the ground indicates that to the extent that there is a command-and-control structure at work in groups such as the ex-Baathists, Zarqawi's terrorists, or for that matter the now nearly-forgotten Sadrists, the actions of such groups are clearly a minor part of the insurgency as a whole. Pretty much all the first-hand accounts from the second Battle of Fallujah supported the notion that the Fallujan insurgents were primarily just pissed-off Fallujans (take a look at some of my old coverage last November: here and here). He also cites a recent CIA report that directly contradicts Newsweek's consensus:

This is most easily seen by consulting -- of all sources -- the CIA, which issued a contrary report about the time the Newsweek article appeared. According to the CIA, the Zarqawi faction and his Saddamist allies were "lesser elements" in the resistance, which was increasingly dominated by "newly radicalized Sunni Iraqis, nationalists offended by the occupying force, and others disenchanted by the economic turmoil and destruction caused by the fighting." There is, in fact, a vast body of publicly available evidence in support of the CIA's perspective, including, for example, most first-hand accounts of the resistance in Falluja and other cities in the Sunni triangle.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Mesa Resigns 

Bolivian President Carlos Mesa resigned today, or perhaps I should say he submitted a letter of resignation -- I believe the Bolivian congress can still refuse to accept his resignation.

Here's a primer on the situation, albeit with the standard corporate bias, courtesy of the BBC. The very short version is that Bolivia is suffering from the standard economic symptoms that often result from neoliberal policies but in the context of a citizenry that is unusually well-organized and capable of exerting groundswells of political pressure. Leftwing leaders like Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe are pushing for renationalization of Bolivia's major energy industries, oil and gas, while the rich of Santa Cruz push for autonomy and even threaten to secede.

According to the Finacial Times, "it is not yet clear" if an interim president will be installed or if the elections that are scheduled for 2007 will be held early. If they hold early elections one wonders how Evo Morales will do. Morales, ridiculed by the New York Times as a "coca chewing Amymara Indian leader who would nationalize Bolivia's industries, [and] stop payment of its foreign debt," may end up sitting pretty.

Zapatistas Plan Civil Disobedience to Prevent Coup d'Etat in Mexico 

Via Al Giodano at Narconews:

The Univision TV network reports tonight [in Spanish] that Subcomandante Marcos, spokesman for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials) has issued a communiqué calling for nonviolent actions against the desafuero plot to remove Mexico City Governor Andrés Manuel López Obrador from the 2006 presidential race in Mexico.

According to the TV network, the spokesman for the Zapatistas wrote:

"The desafuero of the Mexico City governor would set the country back one hundred years: to 1910. It would mean, in fact, the anullment of the electoral path as a means of coming to power..."

And he added:

"We are discussing the ways (take note: nonviolent ways) in which we will demonstrate to oppose this coup d'etat..."

There's more, much more, to the communiqué. (Here's a link to the entire text in Spanish). It places all of Mexico - indeed, all of América - on tenterhooks. When the Zapatistas say they're discussing ways to act, it's regularly been an understatement. Deepening...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Al Qaeda is to 2003 as Hezbollah is to 2005? 

A few days ago, Wolcott discussed the possibility that neoconservatives are looking to change the identity of the boogeyman army threatening to destroy our very way of life.

He said he heard Mort Zuckerman on Tina Brown's show fretting about the danger of Hezbollah and then heard about it again on Wolf Blitzer. Wolf interviewed the authors of a new book "Lightning out of Lebanon", which attempts to make the case that Hezbollah is a threat not just to Israel but to America. The authors, at least one of them, not very surprisingly turn out to be affiliated to the neocon movement proper by one degree of separation -- Newman is a senior fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and the FDD's Board of Advisors looks like this: Kristol, Perle, the works.

Anyway, here is the Blitzer interview Wolcott was talking about. It truly is the sort of fear-mongering we haven't seen since those heady days in early 2003 when Osama Bin Laden was all powerful and was apparently holed up on the couch in Saddam Hussein's study:

BLITZER: There's increasing concern about the well-organized terror group known as Hezbollah. Some view it as even more dangerous than Al Qaeda. [ ... ]

NEWMAN: In the United States, all around the world -- in Latin America, in Canada. Last week the head of the CIA and the FBI said to Congress, if Hezbollah wants to, they can strike us anywhere, anytime.

BLITZER: So they have sleeper cells in the United States, is that what you're saying?

NEWMAN: Yes, they have -- we were able to confirm through many sources, you know, nobody hands you a list in law enforcement or intelligence, 14 cities. But we know as of very recently, there were 100 cases open on Hezbollah. They've been here since the '80s.

[ ... ]

BLITZER: Is there any evidence that Hezbollah has ever undertaken a terrorist action inside the United States?

NEWMAN: No, there isn't evidence of that, but there is evidence that they're able to do it if called to do so.

BLITZER: But you disagree?

DIAZ: No, it's not that I disagree; I would just qualify it. There was a point at which there was evidence that there was a Hezbollah team coming in to the United States to assassinate former national security adviser Anthony "Tony" Lake. The government took that so seriously that they moved him from his home into Blair House across from the White House. Now that didn't develop. No such team was ever taken.

But as Barbara points out, the people we talked to, and I don't think frightened is too strong a word, are really concerned that Hezbollah could do something really bad. They did it in Argentina very easily, reached across the ocean, two disastrous bombings in 1992 and 1994. At least one expert I talked to on the Hill said that wasn't only a message to Israel, that's a message to the United States, if we want to do it here, we can do it.

So, you know, Syria pulls out of Lebanon, and let's say you're some country that wants to grab a little Lebanese land. You would need an excuse, of course -- Hey, did you hear that Hezbollah is even more dangerous than al-Qaeda? Just saying...

Indicator Organisms 

Regarding social security, I think the triumphalism that the big partisan Democrat blogs have been displaying lately is probably a little premature... I have to say, however, I've noticed a hopeful sign...

"Indicator organisms" are plants or animals that biologists look for in a particular ecosystem because their presence indicates some property of that ecosystem has a certain value, and it is easier to test for the presence of the organism than it is to measure the property directly. For example, crayfish are more sensitive to pollutants than other common freshwater animals; if you see crayfish in a stream, the stream is probably fairly clean.

Anyway, I think there exists an indicator organism the presence of which in the media ecosystem signals Republican panic: Karl Rove. Rove rarely makes media appearances, preferring to sit back, pull the strings, and let his surrogates do the talking. When he does come into the light, it is almost always when the Republican party views itself as being in trouble. The last time we saw a lot of Rove was the end of the presidential campaign, a time at which there was a tacit Kerry victory subtext to campaign coverage .

And now we get Rove peddling social security "reform" on Hannity... I predict we will be seeing more of him.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Direct and Ultimate Responsibility 

As of today the ACLU and Human Rights First are suing Rumsfeld and others on behalf of eight former detainees, charging the eight were tortured as a direct result of Rumsfeld's actions. The lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to pursue monetary damages under the auspices of the Alien Tort Claims Act. Here's Reuters:

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First filed suit in federal district court in Rumsfeld's home state of Illinois on behalf of eight former detainees who said they were severely tortured. All eight were subsequently released without being charged.

"Secretary Rumsfeld bears direct and ultimate responsibility for this descent into horror by personally authorizing unlawful interrogation techniques and by abdicating his legal duty to stop torture," said Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the case. [ ... ]

The ACLU filed similar complaints against three other senior officers: Col. Thomas Pappas, Gen. Janis Karpinski and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez on behalf of prisoners mistreated at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

The suit against Rumsfeld focuses on an order he signed on Dec. 2, 2002 that authorized new interrogation techniques for detainees in the "war on terror" being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. These included "stress positions," hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias, prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation.

When evidence became overwhelming that prisoners were being tortured, Rumsfeld turned a blind eye, the suit alleges.

Here is the full text of the complaint against Rumsfeld as a PDF (beware it's 77 pages long), and here is information regarding the eight plaintiffs and their allegations. I recommend reading through that last link to get a sense of what we are talking about here. I follow these matters pretty closely and was surprised that some of the specific charges were new to me.

The Department of Defense issued a terse statement regarding the case:

There are 4 civil complaints under review within this Department and at the Justice Department.

We vigorously dispute any assertion or implication that the Department of Defense approved of, sanctioned, or condoned as a matter of policy detainee abuse.

No policies or procedures approved by the Secretary of Defense were intended as, or could conceivably have been interpreted as, a policy of abuse, or as condoning abuse.

There have been multiple investigations into the various aspects of detainee abuse.

None has concluded that there was a policy of abuse.

The Department of Defense has demonstrated a record that credible allegations of illegal conduct by U.S. military personnel are taken seriously and investigated.

- There have been 8 major reviews, inspections, and investigations; three more are in progress.

- To date, more than 100 individuals have undergone, or are undergoing, disciplinary proceedings. We anticipate there may be additional proceedings against additional individuals.

U.S. policy as expressed in relevant Defense Department orders, techniques, and procedures requires that detainees be treated humanely and in accordance with the law.

- The Geneva Conventions apply to the conflict in Iraq.

- The Al Qaeda and Taliban are unlawful enemy combatants who fail to comply with the laws of war.

- The President has ordered and Defense Department policy emphasizes that Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees be treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.

The above says little but says enough to constitute an admission of guilt. The Department of Defense says that it seeks to treat detainees in "a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva" to "the extent appropriate", but as a body of ratified treaties the Geneva conventions have become part of US law and, further, The War Crimes Act of 1996 explicitly defines "grave breach" of the Geneva conventions as a war crime. It is just as illegal for Rumsfeld to qualify the extent to which those under his command should follow Geneva as it would be for him to personally honor statutes forbidding theft or murder only to the extent that he deems appropriate.

Technical Difficulties 

Several readers have alerted me that this blog is no longer rendering correctly on the Firefox browser. The odd thing is that I haven't changed my template in ages so I don't know what was the spark that started this problem. Perhaps Blogger has made some change that is affecting me or perhaps there is something about the current content on the front page that is causing problems. If anyone has an idea, leave a comment or email me.

UPDATE: I fixed it. The problem was caused by the big block of hyphenated text I had in the Bush/Faulkner satire post. Firefox will never ever word-wrap hyphenated text, apparently.

The Freedom Legion 

Max Boot, a neoconservative's neoconservative who doesn't like being called a neoconservative, observes

It is hard to pick up a newspaper these days without reading about Army and Marine Corps recruiting and retention woes. Nonstop deployments and the danger faced by troops in Iraq are making it hard for both services to fill their ranks.

and, of course, comes to the logical conclusion that the pursuit of an American empire is doomed by practical considerations as well as being a deeply immoral enterprise -- ummm... okay, he didn't come to that conclusion; I was just seeing if you're paying attention.

Actually Boot thinks the solution to the US recruitment woes is to begin recruiting poor people from other countries instead of just poor people from the US:

The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones and, as important, to untold numbers of young men and women who are not here now but would like to come. No doubt many would be willing to serve for some set period in return for one of the world's most precious commodities -- U.S. citizenship. Open up recruiting stations from Budapest to Bangkok, Cape Town to Cairo, Montreal to Mexico City. Some might deride those who sign up as mercenaries, but these troops would have significantly different motives than the usual soldier of fortune.

The simplest thing to do would be to sign up foreigners for the regular U.S. military, but it would also make sense to create a unit whose enlisted ranks would be composed entirely of non-Americans, led by U.S. officers and NCOs.

Call it the Freedom Legion. As its name implies, this unit would be modeled on the French Foreign Legion, except, again, U.S. citizenship would be part of the "pay." And rather than fighting for U.S. security writ small -- the way the Foreign Legion fights for the glory of France -- it would have as its mission defending and advancing freedom across the world. It would be, in effect, a multinational force under U.S. command -- but one that wouldn't require the permission of France, Germany or the United Nations to deploy.

Boot is an unabashed cheerleader for the establishment of an American empire -- in an interview with Josh Marshall he fantasized about US domination of Saudi oil:

"We need to be more assertive," argues Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "and stop letting all these two-bit dictators and rogue regimes push us around and stop being a patsy for our so-called allies, especially in Saudi Arabia." Hopefully, in Boot's view, laying down the law will be enough. But he envisions a worst-case scenario that would involve the United States "occupying the Saudi's oil fields and administering them as a trust for the people of the region."


so it makes sense that Boot brings up the French foreign legion. The purpose of the French foreign legion, after all, was to wage colonial wars, the bloodiest kind of war in terms of civilian deaths and thus the hardest kind of war to wage with a volunteer army or a conscript army, as the US tried in Vietnam.

Boot's advice has been the standard strategy of colonial powers throughout history: the French had its foreign legion, the British had Gurkhas, and perhaps, he thinks, the US should have its Freedom Legion. Boot doesn't mention, however, the extent to which the US already does. To remain solvent, the Iraq occupation relies heavily on the use of "security" contractors that do most of their hiring in the economic South. The private mercenary firm Blackwater USA, for example, often recruits in Latin America. Boot's proposal amounts to cutting out the middle man: why pay these guys a thousand dollars a day if we can get them on the cheap?

Grover Norquist Says Gutting Social Security is About Changing the Way People Think About Rich People 

Whatever It Is I'm Against It pulls the following Grover Norquist quote from this Guardian article:

If 100% of Americans at age 18 knew they were going to retire with a savings account, it would change their attitude to regulating companies, it would change attitudes towards envy, and how they feel about rich people. The entire secular growth in the Republican vote can be explained by the growth of stock ownership. It changes what you read, what you watch, and what you think.

One thing about Grover ... he's more honest than your average Republican activist. Destroying social security is indeed about creating an America in which people are even more dependent on private corporations for survival.

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