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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Liberal Hawks Know Best? 

Lawrence Kaplan makes the case for staying in Iraq in the supposedly liberal New Republic, furthering the venerable journal's odd transformation into the Weekly Standard of the liberal branch of the neoconservative movement.

Basically Kaplan offers the standard argument: the US can't withdraw from Iraq because doing so would cause a bloodbath. He supports the argument with lots of anecdotal evidence. He says that the autumn offensive in Tall Afar, Operation Restore Rights, was very successful and that if we peer hard enough at Tall Afar we can see a sort of mirror image of what a full withdrawal from Iraq will look like: Tall Afar before Restore Rights is what Iraq will be after the US leaves.

Tall Afar is a cause célèbre on the right -- the mayor of the war-ravaged city sent a letter thanking the "Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment". There are pictures of smiling Iraqi children among smiling American troops. The mayor and smiling children do not apparently mind that the oppression from which they were delivered was a direct and predictable result of the American invasion in the first place. Such considerations also seem to have no noticeable effect on two classes of political commentators who find a near pornographic delight in thankful Iraqi mayors: big name fools like Kaplan who staked their reputations on Bush's folly and the little deluded nobodies with second-tier blogs pining away for "good news from Iraq" in an era of open civil war in which bombings that kill less than twenty are hardly news and in which big name conservatives are jumping ship faster than you can say "Fukuyama".

Kaplan selects a story with a happy ending and wants us to view the entire occupation through the prism of his one story. But viewing the Iraq War through the prism of one narrative is how we got into this mess in the first place. Let me select another story: how about Fallujah? Did the mayor of Fallujah send any letters to the liberators of his city? Would the 150,000 Fallujans currently living in tent villages care to pose for any pictures?

Fallujah is never mentioned in pieces like Kaplan's because apologists for the occupation are incapable of seeing American troops as anything but benign and they are incapable of seeing Iraqi insurgents, only foreign fighters. The fact is, as too many commentators have argued to go into here, the insurgency is primarily composed of Iraqis and thus can be read in its entirety as a violent and bloody letter asking the courageous men and women of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to please take their things and go home.

Kaplan's piece is obviously informed by the current turn toward full civil war. He implies that the usual US as bloodbath-deterrent line is more applicable than ever given that the bloodbath may be underway. But this argument ignores the degree to which the US is inflaming civil war. The insurgents are primarily sunnis. The new Iraqi government that was created, is funded, and is defended by the United States is dominated by shiites. The new Iraqi army -- the one that's cracking the whip on all those sunni insurgents -- is primarily shiite; it is in effect a huge shiite militia that is supported by the United States. When events like the Samarra mosque bombing occur one must wonder to what extent the animosity of sunnis toward shiites is due to the perception that the shiites are actively collaborating with the conquerors of their mutual homeland and the extent to which the US's continued presence in Iraq is exacerbating that perception.

It is unclear to me why we must assume that the US's presence in Iraq is making the situation better. In any case, I'm not an expert on the country and I defer to the opinions of those who are -- lord knows, I don't mean the Lawrence Kaplans of the world, I mean Iraqis. In poll after poll Iraqis express the opinion that their welfare would be better served if the American military would leave their country and they are generally supportive of the insurgency. These were the findings of the British poll and also the recent study done by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. The PIPA survey found that 87% of Iraqis want the government to endorse a timeline for US withdrawal, that 70% of Iraqis would like the US to withdraw either within 6 months or within 2 years, and that 47% of Iraqis approve of the "attacks on US-led forces in Iraq".

But I'm sure Lawrence Kaplan knows best; after all, he's been to Iraq a couple of times.

The Case for Impeachment 

From Lewis Lapham in Harper's:

Before reading [the report commissioned by Congressman John Conyers sketching the case for impeachment], I wouldn't have expected to find myself thinking that such a course of action was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don't know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal—known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child's tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Fukuyama Renounces Neoconservativism 

Francis "End of History" Fukuyama says that the neoconservative ideology has failed and should be relegated to the dustbin of history. Here's The Scotsman:

NEOCONSERVATISM has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime architects.

Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.

In an extract from his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads, Mr Fukuyama declares that the doctrine "is now in shambles" and that its failure has demonstrated "the danger of good intentions carried to extremes".

I think this Fukuyama thing is bigger than O'Reilly's statement against the Iraq War which was kind of moronic and bigger than William F. Buckley Jr.'s statement which was kind of unsurprising.

"Drop the bomb. Exterminate them all!" 

Bill Kristol just had his Apocalypse Now moment, arguing that the reason Iraq is a mess is because the US military was not allowed to go all out: (from here)

BILL KRISTOL: There would not be civil war if Zarqawi had not spent the last 2 1/2 years – had ex-Saddamists with him, very skillfully going on the offensive slaughtering Shia in Karbala, now blowing up the mosque.

CHRIS WALLACE: They’re there. There are going to be more mosques to blow up. What do you do about the terrorists?

KRISTOL: Kill them. Defeat them.

CHRIS WALLACE: We’ve been trying.

KRISTOL: We’ve been trying, and our soldiers are doing terrifically, but we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq as opposed to laying the preconditions for getting out.

CICI CONNELLY: I think that really begs the question then: what have we been doing over there for three-plus years? You say there hasn’t been a serious effort to rid that region of the terrorists. I just wonder what secretary Rumsfeld would say in response to that or all the U.S. soldiers who have been over there all this time.

KRISTOL: Secretary Rumsfeld’s plan was to draw down to 30,000 troops at the end of major activities.

It's a Strange World ... 

Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution notes that invading countries is like a box of chocolates:
New Republic Senior Editor Lawrence Kaplan recently spent time in Iraq. Among the things he witnessed was this:

On the day the preliminary results of December's elections were announced, [Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim] Jafari invites the election commissioners for dinner. The liberal activist Mustafa Al Kadhimiy wrangles two invitations...

As a television in the corner of the room conveys images of the carnage outside, Jafari admits to being partial to the works of Noam Chomsky. Why won't Chomsky come to Iraq? he asks.


I think it's safe to say that—of all the possible futures the Bush administration may have considered when they invaded Iraq—one thing they didn't anticipate was ending up with a Chomsky fan as prime minister.



Friday, February 24, 2006

What, if Anything, Is the Purpose of Karen Hughes? 

As far as conservative TV pundits go, I rightly-or-wrongly throw Tucker Carlson into the not-as-bad-as-some-of-them bin because of several endearing statements he's made in the past. One is describing Grover Norquist as a "mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep" who's like "the leering, drunken uncle everyone else wishes would stay home". Another is the following query to a Salon interviewer, "I don't know who would want to watch that shit. Do you?" – the shit in question being The O'Reilly Factor.

But amusing slams aside, Carlson's most interesting piece and major claim on not-completely-evil-ness is his Talk Magazine interview with then-Governor George W. Bush in which he (a) describes Bush mocking the final pleas of a woman he has condemned to death and (b) describes Bush swearing like a sailor. Not very surprisingly (b) caused more of a stir than (a) among Bush's evangelical base.

Carlson's commentary on the post-interview controversy engagingly captures the degree to which the total message-discipline of Bush-era partisan spokespeople borders on insanity: (from the same interview as the O'Rielley quote)

Then I heard that [on the campaign bus, Bush communications director] Karen Hughes accused me of lying. And so I called Karen and asked her why she was saying this, and she had this almost Orwellian rap that she laid on me about how things she'd heard -- that I watched her hear -- she in fact had never heard, and she'd never heard Bush use profanity ever. It was insane.

I've obviously been lied to a lot by campaign operatives, but the striking thing about the way she lied was she knew I knew she was lying, and she did it anyway. There is no word in English that captures that. It almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness.

They get carried away, consultants do, in the heat of the campaign, they're really invested in this. A lot of times they really like the candidate. That's all conventional. But on some level, you think, there's a hint of recognition that there is reality -- even if they don't recognize reality exists -- there is an objective truth. With Karen you didn't get that sense at all. A lot of people like her. A lot of people I know like her. I'm not one of them.

Karen Hughes demonstrates this kind of insanity all the time in her current role as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Take for example the following from an interview with Der Spiegel a couple of days ago:

SPIEGEL: Take a look at what is happening now: There is an uproar concerning new pictures showing atrocities in Abu Ghraib. And a United Nations report is demanding that Guantanamo be shut down.

Hughes: Those pictures are disgusting and, frankly, I'm embarrassed, as an American, to think that people around the world associate those pictures with our country. Those pictures are old and represent crimes for which many people have already been punished, including one who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in prison. We don't want to be defined by those pictures, any more than the people of Germany would want your country to be defined by pictures of crimes. They don't represent America. On the larger issue of Guantanamo, what to do with dangerous terrorists who wish to kill innocent Americans, Germans and others is a very difficult one, but we feel this report is fundamentally flawed. The authors of the report did not even accept the offer to visit Guantanamo. Our government has been wrestling with how to deal with terrorists who don't wear a uniform, who don't represent any state, who therefore don't fit neatly under any international treaty or convention. Nonetheless, we are treating the detainees humanely and consistent with our laws and treaty obligations.

SPIEGEL: You could at least give them a fair trial.

Hughes: We have given fair reviews to these individuals and have released those we believe no longer pose a threat to the US or our allies. The first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens, but we are very willing to listen to constructive suggestions of what we ought to do with the more than 400 terrorists who are a threat to us or who refuse to renounce their stated ambitions to kill Americans and others. I note that some of those who have been released have unfortunately returned to the fight.

At this point dealing with Guantanamo by characterizing those imprisoned there as "400 terrorists … who refuse to renounce their stated ambitions to kill Americans" is so wildly inaccurate that we must once again conclude that Hughes is lying to an interviewer who she knows knows that she is lying. Analogously to the situation Carlson described, Hughes' response is so out of touch with the reality of global perception of US policies in 2006 that it comes off as pathological.

Guantanamo is in the news right now on several fronts. Clearly one of the reasons the interviewer brings up subject at all is because of two new reports that conclude precisely the opposite of what Hughes asserts and thereby corroborate 2004's Red Cross report:

The first report was written by Corine Hegland and published two weeks ago in the National Journal. Hegland scrutinized the court documents of 132 prisoners—approximately one-quarter of the detainees—who have filed habeas corpus petitions, as well as the redacted transcripts of the hearings that 314 prisoners have received in appearing before military Combatant Status Review Tribunals—the preliminary screening process that is supposed to ascertain whether they are "enemy combatants," as the Bush administration claims. Hegland's exhaustive review concludes that most of the detainees are not Afghans and that most were not picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The vast majority were instead captured in Pakistan. Seventy-five of the 132 men are not accused of taking part in hostilities against the United States. The data suggests that maybe 80 percent of these detainees were never al-Qaida members, and many were never even Taliban foot soldiers.

Most detainees are being held for the crime of having "associated" with the Taliban or al-Qaida—often in the most attenuated way, including having known or lived with people assumed to be Taliban, or worked for charities with some ties to al-Qaida. Some had "combat" experience that seems to have consisted solely of being hit by U.S. bombs. Most were not picked up by U.S. forces but handed over to our military by Afghan warlords in exchange for enormous bounties and political payback. [ … ]

Mark Denbeaux, who teaches law at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and attorney Joshua Denbeaux published a second report several days after Hegland. They represent two detainees. Their data on the evidence amassed against the entire detainee population jibes with Hegland's. They evaluated written determinations produced by the government for the Combatant Status Review Tribunals; in other words, the government's best case against the prisoners, in the government's own words.

The Seton Hall study found that 55 percent of the detainees are not suspected of having committed any hostile acts against the United States and that 40 percent of the detainees are not affiliated with al-Qaida. Eight percent are listed as having fought for a terrorist group, and 60 percent are merely accused of being "associated with" terrorists—the lowest categorization available. They confirm that 86 percent were captured either by the Northern Alliance or by Pakistan "at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies." They quote a flier, distributed in Afghanistan at the time of the sweeps that reads: "Get wealth and power beyond your dreams ... You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces catch Al Qaida and Taliban murderers. This is enough money to take care of your family, your tribe, your village for the rest of your life. Pay for livestock and doctors and school books."

This is the Bush administration we are talking about and I don't expect our minister of propaganda for the Arab world to address grievances in a truthful way, but it is kind of surprising to see her behaving like a crazy person; she basically begs the foreign press to present her as a laughingstock. If Karen Hughes wants to appear rational -- let alone appear to be competently engaged in public diplomacy – she needs to argue that the two new reports are false not pretend that they do not exist. Der Spiegel isn't some small town newspaper in Texas where Karen Hughes can assume a shared worldview with the interviewer and promote goodwill towards Bush with down-home hospitality and chitchat about the Rangers... All of which leads one to wonder: What, if anything, is the purpose of Karen Hughes?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Henny-Penny Revisited 

Rumsfeld just told Charlie Rose that the program to pay Iraqi newspapers to run pro-America articles had been killed just after the press brought it to light, and the LA Times forced him to retract the statement, which wasn't hard given that it was, you know, totally false:

In his most specific comments thus far about the information operations program, — carried out by U.S. troops and a private contractor — Rumsfeld said the U.S. military should not be paying Iraqi media to publish articles, whose origin was concealed even from the news outlets.

He said he had not been initially aware of the clandestine program, and ordered it shut down after news outlets published details of it.

"When we heard about it, we said, 'Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing,' " Rumsfeld said Friday during a taped interview on PBS' "The Charlie Rose Show."

Rumsfeld said the contractor, Lincoln Group, and commanders in Iraq were notified of the Pentagon's concerns and ended the propaganda effort.

"They stopped doing that," he said.

Rumsfeld's remarks were made available by PBS producers before the show aired late Friday night.

One person familiar with Lincoln Group's operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of an ongoing investigation, said the program in Iraq was still active as of a week ago.

Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said during a Dec. 16 news conference — more than two weeks after the existence of the operation was revealed — that it had not been shut down.

"We did a preliminary assessment shortly after the [news stories] came out, and we concluded that we were operating within our authorities and the appropriate legal procedures. And so we have not suspended any of the processes up to now," Casey said.

A Pentagon spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

But I'm surprised the LA Times and other critics missed the opportunity to quote the primary source here on the nature of this lie itself ... Rumsfeld is on record that the program would be shut down in name only. Remember?:

And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And 'oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.' I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.

That was intended to be done by that office is being done by that office, NOT by that office in other ways.

Monday, February 20, 2006

KDVS 90.3 FM Interview: How They Almost Stole the Haitian Election 

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti explains how the electoral process was manipulated from its inception in an attempt to disenfranchise the impoverished majority. Concannon also describes his participation in the successful prosecution of the Haitian military for the April 1994 Raboteau massacre. Unfortunately, the subsequent removal of Aristide lead to unanticipated, tragic consequences for some of those who bore witness, as he explains.

Concannon displays a profound respect for the resiliency of the Haitian people in the face of tremendous adversity. Go here to listen or download the archived program. The interview commences about 5 minutes into the program. It will be available through this Friday, February 27th, 5pm, Pacific time.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Belated CPAC 2006 Report 

Back on February 3rd, Joe asked for reports from the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, otherwise known as CPAC 2006. Turns out Paul Craig Roberts did attend, as evidenced by his recent article entitled Conservatives Endorse the Fuhrer Principle.

As a longtime libertarian conservative, Roberts glumly surveyed the brand of conservatism on offer at the conference:

Last week's annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn't get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.

Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, who led the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton, reminded the CPAC audience that our first loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution, not to a leader. The question, Barr said, is not one of disloyalty to Bush, but whether America "will remain a nation subject to, and governed by, the rule of law or the whim of men."

The CPAC audience answered that they preferred to be governed by Bush.

Predictable, I guess, but no less troubling when considered along with the unwillingness of the Democratic Party and the federal judiciary to provide any meaningful opposition to the creation of an all powerful presidency unaccountable to anyone. The disclosure of more disturbing photographs of abuse of Abu Ghraib merely serves to highlight the despondent state of politics in America, as Chris Floyd observed the other day:

Of course, these Abu Ghraib photos themselves represent only a small fraction of the atrocities carried out -- in our name -- in secret hell-holes around the globe. The photos depict the raw and brutal dawn of a system that has become progressively more refined, more "professional," now largely removed from the hands of untrained grunts with digital cameras, and instead carried out in secret by CIA agents and other operatives of the America's mammoth "security organs" -- again, acting under presidential orders, and presidential protection.

What shall we say when history asks how such crimes came to be committed in the name of America? Will we say that we stood silently by, shrugging our shoulders, filling our bellies, closing our eyes? Or will we be able to say: We saw. We dissented. We resisted. We condemned.

Unfortunately, as Roberts discovered at CPAC, there is another frightening alternative that Floyd did not consider: enthusiastic support.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Abu Ghraib Update: Questions About Salon's Corpus 

Salon claims to have a DVD containing all of the evidence uncovered by the CID during its investigation of the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib:

Salon has obtained files and other electronic documents from an internal Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal. The material, which includes more than 1,000 photographs, videos and supporting documents from the Army's probe, may represent all of the photographic and video evidence that pertains to that investigation. [...]

The source who gave the CID material to Salon is someone who spent time at Abu Ghraib as a uniformed member of the military and is familiar with the CID investigation.

The DVD containing the material includes a June 6, 2004, CID investigation report written by Special Agent James E. Seigmund. That report includes the following summary of the material included: "A review of all the computer media submitted to this office revealed a total of 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of Military Working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts." [ ... ]

The DVD also includes photographs of guards threatening Iraqi prisoners with dogs, homemade videotapes depicting hooded prisoners being forced to masturbate, and a video showing a mentally disturbed prisoner smashing his head against a door. Oddly, the material also includes numerous photographs of slaughtered animals and mundane images of soldiers traveling around Iraq.

I am skeptical that Salon's DVD is comprehensive. Actually Salon is skeptical as well to some degree; they say it's "not clear" if the DVD is identical to the material that is being sought by the ACLU and others.

There are a couple of claims on the public record, claims for which there are good reasons to believe, of material not encompassed by Salon's above sketch of its DVD's contents: (from an old American Leftist post)

Seymour Hersh had the following to say about the unreleased Abu Ghraib material during a speaking engagement at some ACLU shindig:

Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

Less graphically, here's a bit of the transcript from MSNBC's coverage of Rumsfeld's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee after the original pictures broke:

[Jim Miklaszewski, NBC Pentagon correspondent (voice-over)]: Rumsfeld then dropped a bomb, revealing that there were more photos, even videos depicting abuses far worse than what has been seen so far.

RUMSFELD: There are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman.

MIKLASZEWSKI: U.S. military officials tell NBC News, the unreleased images, show American soldiers severely beating one Iraqi prisoner to near death; apparently, raping an Iraqi female prisoner; acting inappropriately with a dead body; and Iraqi guards apparently videotaped by U.S. soldiers raping young boys.


(for the above links, see my old post on this subject)

It's possible the above exists but was not uncovered, or was not ... ahem ... officially uncovered by the CID, but assuming the military investigation collected all existing evidence of all crimes at the prison mentioned by informed sources on the public record, one of three things must be true: Hersh and MSNBC were wrong, the Salon corpus is complete; Salon is for some reason mischaracterizing what it possesses; or the Salon corpus is incomplete. If the Salon material is incomplete it is an open question whether the ACLU et al. are on the trail of material of the sort mentioned by Hersh and MSNBC.

The questions are... What happens now? -- Will the Salon material be made publicly available or buried? ... Is the ACLU of the opinion that Salon has everything it is seeking and everything there is to have?

(Also, does anyone else realize that with around two thousand images of torture and corpses you could finally make a digital collage of Rumseld with comparable resolution to the big versions of "War President"? Someone already did a Rumsfeld mosaic back in 2004 after my mosaic broke, and then the ACLU did one or used the first guy's, but there really wasn't enough available material back then ... just saying. Anyway for what it's worth my favorite of the "War President"-copycats was Porn Ashcroft.)

Only the Ball Was White: Robert W. Peterson, R. I. P. 

At lunch yesterday, I picked up a discarded section of the New York Times. Paging through it, an obituary grabbed me by the throat.

Robert W. Peterson, whose pioneering history of the Negro leagues, "Only the Ball Was White," recaptured a lost era in baseball history and a rich facet of black life in America, died Saturday at a hospital in Salisbury Township, Pa. Mr. Peterson, who lived in Lower Macungie Township, Pa., was 80 . . .When Mr. Peterson's account of black baseball was published by Prentice-Hall in 1970, little was known of the Negro leagues apart from the memories of black Americans who had been thrilled by players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. Black baseball had flourished in a segregated America but was largely ignored by the mainstream press and went out of business in the 1950's, soon after the major league color barrier had been smashed. . . When Mr. Peterson was growing up in Warren, Pa., he had seen some of the great Negro leaguers in barnstorming games. He later played baseball at Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., and worked as an editor for The World-Telegram and The Sun. When the paper closed in 1966, he turned to freelance writing and set out to learn the history of the Negro leagues by interviewing the star players and studying microfilm of black newspapers.

The publication of Peterson's book built upon Ted Williams' famous comment during his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966:

I hope some day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren't given the chance.

It sounds improbable now, after the romanticization of the Negro Leagues by people like documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and a wealth of books published about the players and their experiences in recent decades, but the history so vividly documented by Peterson in 1970 exploded with the force of revelation. Especially so for someone like myself, a precocious 10 year old who had recently signed up for the Sports Illustrated book club. At first, I found myself involuntarily receiving Curt Flood's autobiography, describing his struggle to overcome baseball's infamous reserve clause, because I failed to return the postcard saying that I didn't want the book. Apparently, it's now out of print. But when Peterson's book was subsequently listed as a 'book of the month' selection, I received it enthusiastically. Enthralled with professional sports, and baseball specifically, I found the description of the book irresistable, as it conveyed an air of mystery, a sense of secret knowledge that only can only be shared with a select few. Upon reading, it did not disappoint.

The book is especially noteworthy for its portrayal of the early history of the Negro Leagues, powerfully enshrouding the participants of the pre-Ruth era in the aura of myth. Peterson rescued the experiences of players like John Henry Lloyd, Smoky Joe Williams and Rube Foster from obscurity. Foster is described as a protean figure: pitcher, manager, league president, major league in everything but name. About Lloyd, baseball giant, Pirates third baseman Honus Wagner said: I am honored to have John Lloyd called the Black Wagner. It is a privilege to have been compared to him.

Peterson's evocation of barnstorming, and the theatrics associated with it, as manifested in the phenomenon known as clowning are bittersweet, yet mesmerizing, with a keen sense of social insight. One example, Peterson quotes from his interview of Arthur W. Hardy, who toured with the Topeka Giants in 1906 and 1907:

On the Topeka Giants we did some clowning on the field, but it was done like this: As you know, some people might resent what they might consider you making fun of them, and so Topeka Jack Johnson would always talk to the local people. He'd say, "Now what about your folks here? Do you want us to put on some kind of funny act? Or do you think that they would resent it?"

Here was one of the stunts: The pitcher would throw the ball and maybe it would be a little low but the umpire would call it a strike; all right, you'd get down on your knees at the plate. Or some guy would hit the ball out of the park and run to third base and around the bases backward, that sort of thing.

Well now, unless the local people would approve, we would never do it. Johnson always insisted that we didn't want to humiliate anybody.

Not surprisingly, conditions were difficult for African American players as they traveled long distances in turn of the century vehicles and frequently had trouble obtaining lodging in many parts of the country. It did not have to be so. Peterson explains how African Americans and Latinos were driven from the late 19th Century professional leagues that ultimately became the major leagues we know today. Cap Anson played an especially odious role as one of the most notoriously bigoted players of his time. In this, he gave expression to prevailing sentiment.

Upon reflection, it is evident that Peterson persuaded me to look behind the curtain and seek to understand the often ignored, if not deliberately concealed, social experiences of people marginalized by conventional thought. As I age, I find myself reading more and more works that rely upon the oral histories of participants, with Black Workers Remember, Embracing the Infidel, and, of course, the inimitable Blood of Spain constituting compelling examples of the genre. Only the Ball Was White shall therefore always occupy a prominent, visible place on my bookshelf. It is obvious that the black players that inspired Peterson in his youth also touched a compassionate place in his heart, and that he acknowledged the debt by writing such a magical, yet brutally honest book about their lives.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Australian Press Breaks Abu Ghraib II 

Australian media has released some of the as yet unseen Abu Ghraib photographs. The ACLU has been fighting the DoD for the publication of these photos -- and much more including video -- since last June; here and here are my old posts on the story. No word yet on the video.

The Sydney Morning Herald article doesn't reveal the source of the pictures; it phrases the declaration of the press's possession of the material in the passive voice, saying the photos "have been leaked" but not by whom. Interestingly the article includes comments by Mike Carey, the executive producer of an Australian news show airing the pictures tonight. Carey speculates that other media outlets have the material and comments on the fact that he is the first to run with them:

"I think it's strange, maybe they think its more of the same."

Yeah, it's strange all right...

Lou Dobbs' Tiresome Obsession 

Is anyone else getting tired with Lou Dobbs' bizarre fixation on illegal immigration from Mexico? I suppose this is a red meat issue for many CNN viewers which explains the incessant coverage, but it strikes me that Dobbs' daily focus on illegals is particularly pointless because his commentary is entirely superficial: he just blusters around evening after evening mentioning the issue and acting outraged.

Look, it's pretty simple -- if Dobbs and the jackasses in lawn chairs of the Minute Men Project and others view illegal immigration as such a vital concern, they should be calling for an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement and indeed all other economic policies that have caused, reinforced, and exacerbated the Third World economic status of Latin America for the past 200 years.

This isn't 1994 anymore: we don't have to speculate about what the effect of NAFTA might turn out to be we can examine what the effect has been. The following, for example, is from an Institute for Policy Studies release two years ago assessing NAFTA's record in Mexico:

o Disconnect between exports/investment/productivity and wages: Mexico did indeed attract a significant number of jobs in export processing factories. However, despite substantial productivity growth, real wages in manufacturing dropped 13.5 percent between 1994 and 2000, according to the International Monetary Fund.

o Failure on labor rights: Part of the explanation for falling Mexican wages is that NAFTA has failed to protect the rights of workers to fight for their fair share of economic benefits. The agency set up under the NAFTA labor side agreement has proved incapable of holding governments or corporations accountable for worker rights violations. More than 20 complaints have been filed regarding alleged violations in all three NAFTA countries, but in not a single case has the process yielded more than a bit of public exposure to the problem.

o New jobs disappearing: According to the Mexican government, from a high of about 1.3 million in 2000, the country lost more than 230,000 export assembly jobs by the end of 2003.[3] Analysts estimate that as much as 35 percent of these cuts were due to shifts in production to China, where workers make about 60 cents an hour, compared to Mexico’s average manufacturing wage of about $2. This job flight has raised fears that Mexico’s strategy of attracting investment by offering low wages is short-sighted.

I haven't read the book Dobbs is shilling so I can't comment on its content, but I certainly haven't heard him mention the acronym "NAFTA" on the air.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Guantanamo: The Devil's Chair 

Out here in Sacramento, the disclosure that US troops at Guantanamo have used the restraint chair in an effort to break the detainee hunger strike revived especially unpleasant memories, as reported in an article entitled The Devil's Chair by Anne Marie-Cusac:

In February 1999, the Sacramento Sheriff's Department settled a class-action lawsuit alleging that deputies were torturing people, many of them women and minorities, with a restraint chair. The cost of the settlement was $755,000, the largest ever for alleged officer misconduct in the department's history. The lawyers who brought that suit are demanding that the restraint chair be banned.

The Sacramento case alleged numerous and repeated forms of torture, including mock executions, where guards strapped inmates into a Prostraint chair and told them they were about to be electrocuted.

Katherine Martin, a 106-pound woman with a heart condition, claimed she spent eight and a half hours in the chair after she was wrongly accused of touching a guard. She alleged that the straps had been pulled so tight that they had sliced skin from her back and shoulders and cut off circulation to her extremities and that she suffered permanent nerve damage. She also claimed that she was given no liquids and that she was taunted and mocked. She was denied her requests to use the bathroom and ended up urinating on herself. Martin had originally been brought into the jail on suspicion of public drunkenness. This charge was later dismissed.

Videotapes of the Sacramento Jail's restraining methods played an important role in the case. In one tape, Ronald Motz calls through the window of his cell, asking for his lawyer. "Motz, this is the last time we're going to tell you, sit down," says a police officer, "Your attorney's not here, and the phone doesn't work."

Motz continues to call out. After a break in the tape, guards wrap a spit mask around his face and pull him into a chair. "I just want to call my attorney," says Motz. "You don't get to call an attorney," says the officer. "Why?" asks Motz. The officer tells him that he can't make the call because he was "drunk in public."

A few seconds later, the guard says, "You were going to be released in about five hours. Now you're not."

"What did I do wrong--ask for my attorney?" asks Motz.

"You weren't following directions," says the guard.

The videotapes also show a woman named Gena Domogio being put into the chair naked. She yells at the guards who are kneeling on her back and spits blood on the floor, apparently because her mouth has been injured. The guards respond by wrapping her face in a towel. They keep the towel on her face and at one point appear to hold it against her mouth as they force her into the chair, although she repeatedly says that she has a thyroid problem and that she can't breathe.

Kimberly Byrd was reportedly taken to the hospital after she passed out in the chair where she had been hooded and tightly bound, according to a letter Amnesty International wrote to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department in March 1999. In the videotape of her restraint, she is obviously terrified. "I'm going to die. Please don't let me die," she says over and over again.

The Sacramento case, Geovanny D. Lobdell vs. County of Sacramento et al., listed AEDEC International, Inc., as a defendant. AEDEC's Corcoran gave a deposition on June 8, 1998, to attorney Stewart Katz. Many of Katz's questions referred to a "Manufacturer's Warning" sheet Corcoran distributes to his clients: "The purpose of the Prostraint Violent Prisoner Chair is to provide law enforcement and correctional officers with the safest, most humane, and least psychologically traumatizing system for restraining violent, out-of-control prisoners," reads the statement of purpose included on the warning. "The chair is not meant to be an instrument of punishment and should not be used as such."

Or, as Katz subsequently said in 2004, in an article relating similar horrors in Dayton, Ohio:

It’s Spanish Inquisition technology with sort of a late 20th century advertising spin.

Was Katz aware that there was a possibility that the US military would use the chair at Guantanamo when he made this remark? After all, the Spanish Inquisition targeted not only Jews, but Muslims as well. It would be an exaggeration to say that history is repeating itself, as people often do when comparing the present to the past, but British historian Simon Schama's comment is apt: We often make the same kind of mistakes. Our moral myopia in this regard remains brutally on display at Guantanamo.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

WSF 2006 

Macu over at Milfuegos has posted tons of pictures from this year's World Social Forum.

Guantanamo: Breaking the Hunger Strike? 

According to the New York Times today, the military has almost broken the hunger strike there:

United States military authorities have taken tougher measures to force-feed detainees engaged in hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after concluding that some were determined to commit suicide to protest their indefinite confinement, military officials have said.

In recent weeks, the officials said, guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into "restraint chairs," sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods to keep them from being pressured by other hunger strikers, the officials said.

The measures appear to have had drastic effects. The chief military spokesman at Guantánamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin, said yesterday that the number of detainees on hunger strike had dropped, from 84 at the end of December to 4.

In the article, lawyers for the detainees relate a number of harrowing stories:

. . . Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, said one of his three Bahraini clients, Jum'ah al-Dossari, told him about 10 days ago that more than half of a group of 34 long-term hunger strikers had abandoned their protest after being strapped in restraint chairs and having their feeding tubes inserted and removed so violently that some bled or fainted.

"He said that during these force feedings too much food was given deliberately, which caused diarrhea and in some cases caused detainees to defecate on themselves," Mr. Colangelo-Bryan added. "Jum'ah understands that officers told the hunger strikers that if they challenged the United States, the United States would challenge them back using these tactics."

One must ask the disquieting question as to whether US troops at Guantanamo inflict such pain and humiliation upon detainees because of contempt for their Muslim beliefs. As former Army chaplain James Yee explained:

. . . in general, there was extreme anti-Muslim hostility throughout the base of Guantanamo, not only towards Muslim prisoners, but also towards U.S. Muslim personnel. And there were a number of things that I observed that indicated this. I came across emails, for example, that referred to Muslims as quote, “ragheads.” Requests for religious accommodation of Muslims, so that they could adhere to Islamic diet and have Halal meats -- Halal meats, meat that's properly slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines -- requests for Islamic diets for Muslim soldiers was denied by General Miller. Interesting, I was able to ensure that the Muslim prisoners had Halal diets, had Islamic diets, but I wasn't able to find support to support the Muslim soldiers for their Halal diets.

There were other things. One translator, a civilian translator, he ended up resigning from his position with Titan, the civilian company that provides -- that provided civilian translators when I was down there, resigned from his job because he was being routinely designed permission to attend the Friday service prayer, obligatory on Muslims on Friday afternoons. And that disturbed him to the extent that he would quit his job.

Of course, no one should be subjected to the abuse inflicted upon detainees at Guantanamo, but it is obligatory to observe that there is strong evidence that many of them, perhaps a majority, have no connection to al-Qaeda or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My Local Scaife Rag Comes Out For Withdrawal 

The Pittsburgh-Tribune Review just ran an odd 250-word pro-withdrawal editorial that positively compares the paper's new position to that of Jack Murtha.

It's something of a big deal because the Tribune Review is a prototypical cog in the rightwing slime machine -- it probably participated in the Murtha smear a few months ago. The Trib is owned by Richard Mellon Scaife, a delightful fellow whose hobbies include funding the "Arkansas Project" and calling The Nation's Karen Rothmyer a "fucking communist cunt".

This paper habitually regurgitates undigested White House talking points: it calling for withdrawal means something is up. There was a lot of talk about this sort of thing, even among Republicans, in the fall, which led many commentators, including me, to speculate that BushCo might announce some sort of fake withdrawal during the State of the Union address. I wonder if such an idea is back on the table.

Alarmingly, Scaife's paper argues that it may be necessary to strike Iran and such an attack requires a withdrawal from Iraq:

That said, the world situation has changed dramatically since November. The nuclear saber-rattling of neighboring Iran is heading for a showdown. To meet that threat should diplomacy fail, the United States must begin the six- to nine-month logistical process of drawing down its Iraqi force and repositioning it to respond, if need be, to the Iranian threat.

The above implies that the troops in Iraq will be needed to invade Iran, which is nonsense -- the US is considering an airstrike on Iran not a ground invasion; however, such an airstrike probably would necessitate a withdrawal from Iraq. If the US bombs Iran -- with it's own bombs or with Israel's -- Iraq will explode. The US's unlikely alliance with Iraqi Shiites will be over, to say the least, and the occupation of Iraq will become untenable unless perhaps the bombing of Iran is accompanied by a massive air campaign in Iraq as well. Needless to say what I am discussing here is absolute madness -- it is very frightening that the chatter about an attack on Iran seems to be becoming increasingly serious.

It will be interesting to see if the Weekly Standard runs a piece like the little note in the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review.

Iraq Body Count: An Occupation Allegory 

It is difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate the number of Iraqi casualties resulting from the war and occupation as I posted in November 2005 and again in January 2006. One of the most perplexing aspects of the subject, as noted in my November post, has been the reflexive deference given to the work of Iraq Body Count, while the efforts of researchers at John Hopkins University, as published in the Lancet medical journal have been ignored, except for the occasional instance of ridicule. Of course, it couldn't be because the researchers at John Hopkins estimated significantly higher casualties than IBC, approximately three times as many.

Now, it seems that there are some people beginning to express concern as to whether calculations of IBC, and the underlying assumptions behind them, actually serve to conceal the brutality of the war and occupation. David Edwards of Media Lens has confronted this question in a two part series, Paved with Good Intentions, published at ZNet, posted here and here. Part 2 includes this troubling passage:

Earlier this month Media Lens searched the IBC database looking for incidents involving the mass killing of Iraqi civilians by 'coalition' forces between January-June 2005. We began by searching for incidents citing a minimum of 10 deaths and above. This seemed reasonable. After all, the New York Times reported in July 2003:

"Air commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were proposed, and all of them were approved." (Michael R. Gordon, 'After the War: Preliminaries; U.S. Air Raids in '02 Prepared for War in Iraq,' New York Times, July 20, 2003)

We found 58 incidents of 10+ deaths. Of these just one was attributed to a US airstrike:

"k785 08 Jan 2005 2:30 AM Aaytha, near Mosul suspected insurgent hideout, wrong house hit laser-guided bomb dropped by F-16 jet 14 [people killed]" (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/bodycount36.php?ts=1137413717)

Of the other 57 incidents listed, 25 were attributed to suicide bombers and a further 29 were attributed to insurgent actions targeting Iraqi government troops, government officials, religious groups, and so on. The few remaining cases described corpses shot at close range, bodies blindfolded and shot, and executed bodies that had been dumped.

In short, out of 58 incidents involving a minimum of 10 or more Iraqi civilian deaths just one was attributed to the 'coalition'. We then searched for incidents citing less than a minimum of 10 deaths involving 'coalition' airstrikes, helicopter gunfire and tank fire, we found three references in the six-month period we examined totalling 15 civilians killed:

"k815 16 Jan 2005 - Samarra civilian vehicle at checkpoint tank fire 4 [killed]" (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/bodycount35.php?ts=1137415170)

"k997 13 Mar 2005 - Mosul 'insurgents' firing on helicopter, civilians killed in return fire helicopter fire 3 [killed]" (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/bodycount30.php?ts=1137415112)

"k1357 19 May 2005 12:00 PM Mosul attack by gunmen on house of National Assembly member Fawwaz al-Jarba, US troops also involved gunfire, helicopter gunfire 8 [killed]" (http://www.iraqbodycount.net/database/bodycount21.php?ts=1137487725)

This struck us as frankly remarkable. In the December 2005 edition of the New Yorker, journalist Seymour Hersh reported a US Air Force press release indicating that, since the beginning of the conflict, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone had dropped more than 500,000 tons of ordnance on Iraq.

Perhaps, such an outcome is not so surprising, when you consider the following:

In its report 'A dossier of civilian casualties 2003-2005', IBC noted that just three press agencies - Associated Press, Agence France Presse, and Reuters - provided one-third of all stories. Reliance on Western media is not deemed a problem, however, because they "are unlikely to suppress conservative estimates which can act as a corrective to inflated claims. . . .We have not made use of Arabic or other non English language sources, except where these have been published in English. The reasons are pragmatic. We consider fluency in the language of the published report to be a key requirement for accurate analysis, and English is the only language in which all team members are fluent. It is possible that our count has excluded some victims as a result."

Given such an admission, it is hard to understand how anyone could consider the efforts of IBC credible, and it is even more extraordinary that American and British media commonly cite figures from it without acknowledging this embarrassing disclaimer, while ignoring the results of the study published by the Lancet. As an aside, am I the only person who finds the IBC explanation for relying solely upon reports "published in English" unpersuasive? After all, why is it necessary for "all team members" to be fluent in the language of a published report? Is this just a roundabout way of avoiding an acknowledgement that none of the participants of IBC can read and speak Arabic? Or is it also a means of ensuring that most reports will originate from sources reflexively sympathetic to the cultural perspective of the occupying forces?

Perhaps, I am being too sarcastic about an enterprise that started with such good intentions. Even so, we should not hesitate to wonder whether IBC has been transformed into an endeavor that puts a human face on the occupation, highlighting killings by the resistance and suicide bombers, while lacking the motivation to document killings by occupation forces. As Sam Ramadani said today in the Guardian:

Admittedly, reports on the ground are difficult and dangerous. But while western media are not averse to revealing deceptions around the WMD scare and pre-war lies, occupier-generated news still takes pride of place, and anti-occupation Iraqi voices of all sects - particularly Shia clergy such as Ayatollahs Hassani, Baghdadi and Khalisi - are ignored.

A few months before US soldiers boasted of using white phosphorus, the BBC's Paul Wood defended his reporting from Falluja in the November 2004 siege, telling Medialens: "I repeat the point made by my editors, over weeks of total access to the military operation, at all levels: we did not see banned weapons being used ... or even discussed. We cannot therefore report their use." Doctors and refugees fleeing US bombardment talked of "chemical attacks" and people "melting to death". But for the BBC, eyewitness testimony from Iraqis is way down the pecking order of objectivity.

It would clearly be wrong to portray victims' claims as uncontested facts, but there is a duty to publish and investigate them. Had, for example, Iraqi families' claims been highlighted shortly after the occupation began, the world would not have waited over a year to learn of torture at US-run jails. It was not until US soldiers gleefully circulated sickening pictures of tortured Iraqis that the media paid attention.

As usual, our interest remains primarily focused upon the perils of participating in the occupation, and we continue to invest the participants with a credibility that is wholly undeserved.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Polytrauma 

Charlie Anderson of Iraq Veterans Against the War points out that one of the reasons casualties in Iraq are lower than, say, Vietnam is simply advances in medical science. Given the technology of previous wars many of the Iraq War's wounded wouldn't have made it:

At present, 2,241 of my brothers and sisters in arms have died. In some way, they may be the lucky ones. Over sixteen thousand others have been wounded in this war, thousands more than planned. The term wounded sounds sterile, bland, and inoffensive. But, in reality, many of them have been so horribly damaged that medical science had to create a new word to describe their wounds: polytrauma. These people would have died in earlier wars, but because of the gallant efforts of brave doctors and medics, they get to live. They get to live with teams of ten or more doctors just trying to get their broken, mangled bodies through another day, as their families look on in horror. They get to live in a physical and emotional hell, not able to recover and not able to voice the pain they feel or the psychological demons they face. All the while suffering with a Veterans Administration under funded by nearly three billion dollars and unable to care for them in the manner they deserve.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Interview: Raed in the Middle and Another Irani Online on KDVS 90.3 FM 

Last Friday, I, along with Ron Glick, the co-host of our KDVS 90.3 FM program, Speaking in Tongues, interviewed Raed, from Raed in the Middle, and Niki, better known as "The Letter N", from Another Irani Online. They describe, from personal experience, how US policy has empowered Islamic fundamentalists, the economic and military destruction of Iraq, the prospect that a similar intervention in Iran will result in a another catastrophe, potentially even greater in scope, and the difficulty facing secularists in promoting a non-interventionist approach to the region.

Go here to listen or download the archived program. The interview commences about 17 or 18 minutes into the program, after Ron's initial commentary. It will be available through this Friday, February 10th, 5pm, Pacific time. Both Raed's and Niki's blogs, linked here, are, of course, highly recommended if you are unfamiliar with them.


Friday, February 03, 2006

War With Iran? The Ghost of Judith Miller Files at the New York Times 

After all that embarrassment, after all those legal fees, after all that internal turmoil, you'd think that the New York Times would have learned its lesson. You'd think that it finally understood that it would have to repudiate Judith Miller's stenography, her willingness to exploit the prestige of the Times for the benefit of her neo-conservative friends and her abrasive self-righteousness in order to preserve its remaining credibility. And, most importantly, you'd think that the Times recognized that it must never, never again cloak disinformation in the guise of journalism in order to assist our leaders in their efforts to lead the country into war.

All quite reasonable assumptions, and all of them quite wrong. As with the war with Iraq, the Times has reported for duty. On Wednesday, readers stumbled upon a story with the following headline:

Atomic Agency Sees Possible Link of Military to Iran Nuclear Work

Channelling Miller, no doubt in the early morning hours, reporters Elaine Scolino and William J. Broad publish a story rife with sinuendo, but sparse on identifiable, attributable sources. Sinuendo is the technique of encouraging people to believe that something is true in the absence of evidence, while avoiding exposure for defamation, with the most skilled practicioners of the art employed by tabloids. In this instance, Scolino and Broad have the objective of persuading readers, with whatever remains of the Times prestige, that Iran does, in fact, have a program for developing nuclear weapons.

Operative terms common to the use of sinuendo have been highlighted:

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it has evidence that suggests links between Iran's ostensibly peaceful nuclear program and its military work on high explosives and missiles, according to a report from the agency that was released to member countries on Tuesday.

The four-page report, which officials say was based at least in part on intelligence provided by the United States, refers to a secretive Iranian entity called the Green Salt Project, which worked on uranium processing, high explosives and a missile warhead design.

The combination suggests a "military-nuclear dimension," the report said, that if true would undercut Iran's claims that its nuclear program is solely aimed at producing electrical power.

Upon close reading, there isn't much there, is there? ". . . evidence that suggests links . . . combination suggests a "military-nuclear dimension" . . . that if true would undermine Iran's claims . . ." Say, what? It took me about 2 or 3 minutes to stop my head from spinning like Max Headroom after encountering these passages.

And, surprise, surprise, "officials" say that the report was ". . based at least in part on intelligence provided by the United States . . . " But, only "in part", of course, because it was essential that Scolino and Broad imply that the US information, which might raise suspicions among the well-informed in light of the Iraqi WMD debacle and the Niger forgery, be supplemented or corroborated by other, more presumably reliable sources.

Naturally, there's more:

More broadly, the report states that the country has not been fully cooperative on all of the outstanding nuclear issues that the agency has questioned for years, and that formed the basis of a resolution by the agency's board last fall that Iran was not complying with its international obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The Green Salt Project derives its name from uranium tetrafluoride, also known as Green Salt, which is an intermediate product in the conversion of uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride — a toxic gas that can undergo enrichment or purification into fuel for nuclear reactors or bombs.

The report suggests that the fuel project, the high explosives tests and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle "appear to have administrative interconnections."

It would seem to be the first time the agency has publicly suggested that the fuel production — which Iran has said is purely for civilian purposes — was linked to its military programs.

My personal favorite here is the combined use of suggest and appear in the same sentence: ". . The report suggests that the fuel project, the high explosives tests and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle "appear to have administrative interconnections." Can someone explain what this actually means? Indeed, the pervasive invocation of the word "suggest" or "suggests", well, it "suggests" that reporters at the Times are badly in need of a thesaurus.

Beyond close textual analysis, it is also essential to understand the means by which the IAEA report itself provides subconscious credibility to such amorphous information, inducing the reader to leap the numerous high hurdles of "suggest" and "appear" liberally sprinkled throughout the article, so as to believe that Iran must have a nuclear weapons program. Or, at least, legitimize the claims of the Bush administration to this effect:

While the Bush administration has long argued that Iran was using its civilian program to hide ambitions to build a nuclear weapon, the agency has always steered clear of that accusation. With the report, it has for the first time provided evidence directly suggesting that at least some of Iran's activities point to a military project.

Wow! ". . evidence directly suggesting . . " They must teach this vocabulary only in advanced courses in the most highly regarded journalism schools. I will leave it to commenters to excavate other nuggets of sinuendo from the article. One, however, must be addressed. The reference to a document in Iran's possession that describes procedures that can only be used for nuclear weapons has been known by the IAEA since 1987. Strangely enough, Scolino and Broad substitute the vague, antiseptic term ". . in the past . . ", without referencing the date. If, however, you are trying to persuade the public to launch another pre-emptive war, after the first one has been discredited, it pays to be as vague as possible.

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Another Vanunu Trial 

Vanunu's trial in Jerusalem started last week.

He's charged with violating the terms of his release by granting interviews to foreign journalists. Remember, I think, two years ago he got out of jail and started doing interviews with Amy Goodman and the British press every three seconds? -- that's what this is about. Israel claims that it is a danger to its national security for Mordechai Vanunu to talk to non-Israeli journalists. Here's a bit of his account of the first day of the trial:

This evidence was accompanied by testimony given by a police officer who interrogated me last year in a police station. This police interrogation was recorded by secret video camera without my knowledge. Also they brought the policeman who arrested me on my way to Bethlehem on Christmas eve 2004.

This was the first session. It took some four hours. The following session will be on the 9th of February for more witnesses by the police.

So this is "the trial" that Israel wants, at the same time they are hiding it, hiding the fact that this is a trial not about 'state security', as they have said in the past 20 years, but about the fact of me SPEAKING TO THE PRESS! NO 'NUCLEAR SECRETS' INVOLVED! I HAVE NO MORE SECRETS SINCE THE PUBLICATION IN 1986!

NEVER IN ALL MY COURT CASES HAVE I FOUND THE COURTS SEEKING THE TRUTH OR JUSTICE AND I DOUBT THEY WILL NOW.

-VMJC.

Good old Vanunu... Also here's his thoughts on running in to Jimmy Carter, who was in the neighborhood for the Palestinian elections:

It was a good surprise to find myself in the restaurant eating dinner while Jimmy Carter came to have his dinner in the American Colony restaurant.
When Carter and his wife were leaving his wife recognised me and I came to say hello.
Carter and his wife say they will be very happy to see me in US.
It was just good to meet a man of peace in this very crazy region, after the trial of yesterday. -vmjc

Christ, Jimmy Carter is going to be waiting a long time if he's waiting for the day when Mordechai Vanunu steps on an airplane in Israel and steps off in the United States...

CPAC 2006 

Hey the 2006 Conservative Political Action Conference is coming up on the 9th. . The full tickets are, go figure, really expensive but the "student package" is only twenty-five bucks. If anyone in the DC area is planning on crashing this thing I'd really like to hear about it ... In particular I'd like hear what gets said at the Cheney and Bolton speeches. Here's my coverage (via press reports) of last year's festivities.

Oh, here's the URL: http://www.cpac.org
(I don't want to put up an actual hypertext link because that seems like the sort of thing that could lead to a troll infestation)...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gee, I Wonder Where This is Going... 

Via Oil Wars, Rumsfeld compares Chavez to Hitler:

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the rise of elected populist leaders in Latin America like Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was "worrisome".

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington at about the same time that Chavez announced the expulsion of the US naval attache in Caracas for spying, Rumsfeld said the emergence of populist leaders through elections in Latin American was "worrisome."

"You've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money," he said. "He's a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally."

"And then (he) has consolidated power. And now of course is working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr Morales and others," Rumsfeld said, said referring to Evo Morales, Bolivia's new socialist president.

These guys, Bush, Rumsfeld, etc., are such caricatures that it's hard to take their words seriously. The Bush administration would like it very much if the definition of the word "democratic" was "supporting American interests" unfortunately it is not.

In the last eight years, Chavez has won two elections by huge margins, survived a coup backed by the most powerful nation in the world, and beat a recall by a landslide. He has probably been ratified by more democratic process than any other currently serving world leader. Despite the best efforts of the lovers of democracy to the north, Chavez presides over a Venezuela that is experiencing record growth and he polls in the range of 70% to 80% approval.

Sure sounds like Hitler to me.

"2,245, huh? I just got back from there." 

From Cindy Sheehan's first-hand account of getting thrown out of the State of the Union because of the message on her T-shirt:

My ticket was in the 5th gallery, front row, fourth seat in. The person who in a few minutes was to arrest me, helped me to my seat.

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled, "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like, "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.

The officer ran with me to the elevators yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car. On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said, "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting." Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting." [ ... ]

After I had my personal items inventoried and my fingers printed, a nice Sgt. came in and looked at my shirt and said, "2,245, huh? I just got back from there."

I told him that my son died there. That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain.

What did Casey die for? What did the 2,244 other brave young Americans die for? What are tens of thousands of them over there in harm's way for still? For this? I can't even wear a shirt that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing.

I wore the shirt to make a statement. The press knew I was going to be there and I thought every once in awhile they would show me and I would have the shirt on. I did not wear it to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George's speech. If I had any idea what happens to people who wear shirts that make the neocons uncomfortable...that I would be arrested...maybe I would have, but I didn't.

So Much the Better... 

Interesting post over at A Tiny Revolution -- in a 2004 Esquire article an anonymous high-level source basically states that it was intentional administration strategy to confuse Americans into believing that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. Schwarz speculates the source of the assertion was either Wolfowitz or Libby:

But what's gotten little attention is that, in 2004, a Bush official actually admitted this was a conscious strategy.

In other words:

(1) To put it concretely, they sat in their offices and figured out the best way to fool a retired New York City policeman gutted by grief for his dead son.

(2) They were so proud of their cleverness they couldn't help bragging about it to a reporter.

This appears in a November, 2004 article in Esquire about Dick Cheney. If you read the whole thing, you'll see the "senior administration official" was probably Paul Wolfowitz or Scooter Libby:

But what were the real reasons for going into Iraq? I'd asked a senior administration official.

There were two basic reasons, the official said. "One was to be rid of the Saddam Hussein regime"... The other was containment...

As it was, the administration took what looked like the path of least resistance in making its public case for the war: WMD and intelligence links with Al Qaeda. If the public read too much into those links and thought Saddam had a hand in September 11, so much the better.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Human-animal hybrids? 

How many times can this guy give the same speech?

The call for an end to tyranny was straight from his second term inaugural address. The talking heads in the State of the Union postmortems seemed to be enchanted by Bush's distinction between the good war critics and the bad war critics; however, that whole line was boiler-plate from the nineteen thousand terrorists-rejectionists-and-Saddamists speeches he gave in the fall after his numbers dipped below forty. I guess the phrase "addiction to oil" was new, but then again two years ago -- I think it was two years ... it's all starting to blur together -- such sentiments led to an incredibly convincing call for hydrogen cars. Remember that? This year all we got were human-animal hybrids.

Truly a bold stand on that one, by the way. Who exactly is for human-animal hybrids? -- you know what, screw it: I, Joe of American Leftist, am hereby coming out in favor of human-animal hybrids... I think they're desperately important for the good of the human race. We need to focus our best and brightest on that age old goal of mankind: creating a sardonic talking monkey who smokes a pipe and sounds like James Mason.

Perhaps the bold new proposals that Bush didn't propose were of more interest than the rehashed tripe that he did. If you would have asked me three months ago to predict the centerpiece of this year's State of the Union I would have guessed that Bush was going to announce a phased withdrawal from Iraq -- which would have turned out not to be a withdrawal at all but would have coincidentally begun right around the 2006 elections. I bet Karl Rove would have made a similar prediction -- alas, the reality on the ground in Iraq has always had an anti-Bush bias.

UPDATE: The British are, apparently, pro-Human-animal hybrid ... my people, my people.

Interview: The US, Iran and the Possible First Use of Nuclear Weapons on KDVS 90.3 FM 

Last Friday, I, along with Ron Glick, the co-host of our KDVS 90.3 FM program, Speaking in Tongues, had the opportunity to interview Jorge Hirsch, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego. He discusses the Iranian nuclear energy program, the frightening relaxation of American policy in regard to the first use of nuclear weapons and the prospect that a preemptive war against Iran could result in the use of such weapons by the United States, subjects that he has written about extensively at antiwar.com. A profoundly troubling interview, as war hysteria intensifies.

Go here to listen or download the archived program. It will be available through this Friday, February 3rd, 5pm, Pacific time.


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