Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Who Let the Dogs Out? Cheney Dishes Gulag Gumbo

So now they've trotted out Dick Cheney to defend the Bush Regime's GWOT Gulag against the flood of reports detailing systematic torture, abuse and degradation in the highly secretive system. There are few sights more impressive and inspiring than watching a titan of statesmanship enter the arena of public debate, fearlessly confronting his adversaries in forensic combat. And there was Cheney, that man-mountain of character and courage, daring to step into the lion's den that is Larry King Live, taking on the stern inquisitor whose journalistic rigor has wrung salt tears and shattering confessions from such leading public figures as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Siegfried and Roy. Yes, that's the measure of our valiant Veep, a man who never let actual military service interfere with his selfless lifelong devotion to war....

However, sarcasm aside, it must be said that Larry King is actually a tougher interviewer than Cheney's usual pussycat of choice, Tim "Whiffle-Ball" Russert. Still, the show was the usual farce: Cheney, ineradicable sneer firmly in place, belched out Bushist propaganda lines without challenge while King nodded affably and thought about dinner.

There's really not much point in getting all het up about the odious veep. Cheney is an unregenerate member of the Snidely Whiplash school of the hard Right, unwilling or unable to conceal his smirking contempt for the idiotic American public that keeps voting him and his bloodthirsty, ball-breaking faction into power. To steal a line from Gore Vidal, Cheney's open scorn for democracy and the people "makes Coriolanus look like Hubert Humphrey." Whenever Cheney surfaces from the bowels of the White House, you know exactly what you're going to get: horseshit gumbo, served piping hot.

And so it proved this week. Cheney blasted critics of the Gulag as murderous anti-American terrorists "peddling lies" -- neatly overlooking the fact that the vast majority of credible reports about systematic torture and abuse in the system come from two main sources: 1) released prisoners (i.e., men who would not have been released at all if there were the slightest chance that they were actually "individuals who have been actively involved as the enemy, if you will, trying to kill Americans," as Cheney described the Guantanamo detainees); and 2), investigations by the Pentagon, the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. government agencies.

No, in Cheney's gumbo, there are only a few "allegations" of "mistreatment" that, upon investigation, are melted into air, into thin air. Why, it even turns out that the guy who made those slanderous accusations about Korans in the toilet and what all was recently re-interviewed in his cell and "was unable to substantiate his account," Cheney said. Obviously, the concentration camp prisoner should have been able to produce copious documentation -- video, affidavits, photos, paper trails -- for his scurrilous accusations...while hanging chained from the ceiling in a "stress position," of course.

But that's our Dick: lies, elisions, misdirection, false analogies -- the same stew he served up before the Iraq War, when he was the leading dispenser of iron certitude about the imminent threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the Bush Regime has done us all a favor by unleashing Dick to bark and belch on the subject of American torture. For Cheney is a pole star by which we can all plot our course on the roiling sea of spin and propaganda: whatever he says -- anything, on any subject -- is 100 percent guaranteed to be a lie. If you want to know the truth, simply look to the opposite of Cheney's assertions. If he says Iraq has WMD -- it doesn't. If he says the Bush Regime is not engaged in wholesale torture -- it is.

Thus his appearance on Larry King has provided us with confirmation, at the very highest level, of the horror he and his little meat-puppet George have foisted upon the nation, and the world.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Dubya Indemnity: Bush Renews Protection for War Pork Cronies

The remarkable Deep Blade reminds us of an important story that slipped completely beneath the media radar last week. (And my, isn't that a surprise!) George W. Bush has quietly renewed the infamous Executive Order 13303. (Or rather, it would be infamous if anyone knew about it.) This imperial edict, first promulgated in May 2003, bestows complete immunity -- civil, financial, even criminal -- on all US corporate interests involved in any way with Iraq's oil. Deep Blade provides a panoply of backing documents, so scoot on over there and check it out.

I first wrote about Order 13303 in the Moscow Times in August 2003, following up on reporting by Steve Kretzmann and Jim Vallette. Here's an except from that MT piece:

...In the order, Bush proclaims that any legal action taken for any reason against any American corporation dealing in "Iraqi petroleum products" at any point in the process – from well-head to gas-pump to boardroom – "constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States. In fact, the very possibility that one of Bush's oil pets might be held accountable for its actions while gorging on Iraqi crude is so terrifying that the Looter-in-Chief has declared a "national emergency" to deal with the situation. (A "national emergency" that he forgot to mention to, er, the nation.)

The Bush edict grants a blanket immunity to all traffickers in Iraqi oil – as long as their moolah finds its way, by hook or crook, into the coffers of "United States persons or entities." Bush declares flatly that any "judicial process" launched against these protected entities "shall be deemed null and void." And how to guarantee that his partners and patrons won't be troubled by some rogue nation that still clings to the outmoded principle of law and order? Simple: one of the agencies authorized to "employ all powers" necessary "to carry out the purposes of this order" is our old friend, the Defense Department...

The full story can be found here:
Dubya Indemnity: Bush Barons Beyond the Reach of Law

The Progeny of Fear and Corruption

Why has the American media been so spineless in the face of the Bush Regime's high crimes and monstrous corruption? Wise man Robert Parry tells us:

"The Answer is Fear."

Parry has been one of the most indispensable -- and indefatigable -- sources of truth during the dark Age of Bush. Visit his website and learn the genuine history of modern America, and how we got into this degraded state. Parry's work reminds me of a line I wrote (in a cranky letter to the editor) way back in the run-up to the first Gulf War -- a line that, sadly, is still more than apt today:

"I think we are living in a world of lies -- lies that don't even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Catapult the Propaganda: Bush Speaks the Truth at Last!

Thousands of dissident writers have thundered their imprecations at George W. Bush and his works for years now. But I don't think any of us have come up with a more perfectly crafted description of the Regime's devious and sinister methodology than the phrase coined by the Dear Leader His Own Self this week. Observe a master of the cogent, killing phrase at work (during a stop on his endless Social Security roadshow) with this pure political poetry:

"If you've retired, you don't have anything to worry about -- third time I've said that. (Laughter.) I'll probably say it three more times. See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

Says it all, doesn't it? Captures the essence of the Bush Regime perfectly: brazen deceit coupled with the relentless militarization of American society. Note too how he equates truth with propaganda. And why not? For those higher beings who have left the grubby confines of the "reality-based community," there's no difference between the two.

(From Buzzflash, via Crooks and Liars.)

Road to Damascus: Next Step for the Crawford Caligula?

Corrente notes some ominous moves of US Naval forces sent on an "unexpected mission" to "support anti-terrorist efforts" in "the Balkans and the Middle East." Meanwhile, Condoleeza Rice has moved from condemning Syria for "not doing enough" to stop insurgents moving across its borders into Iraq to blasting Damascus for knowingly allowing insurgents to stage their operations on Syrian soil. And US forces in Iraq are carrying out large-scale attacks near the Syrian border. How long before "hot pursuit" of insurgents carries them into Syria itself, or some other border incident -- contrived or genuine -- gives rise to war fever among the chickenhawks of the Potomac?

All the recent Zarqawi noise seems to be part of this buildup as well. Would a jihadi website controlled or supporting Zarqawi really be posting a stream of stories about his being wounded, taken out of action, passing on the baton to an aide, etc.? Wouldn't they instead be singing the praises of their invicible leader, or other such freeper-like propaganda? One possibility is that it's dat ole debbil psy-ops at work again -- possibly setting up a scenario that finds the "jihadis" confessing that their boss is safe and sound in Syria: yet another casus belli for Bush agression.

The Syrians are desperately trying to stave off the impending strike -- first by withdrawing from Lebanon, and today by announcing their large-scale efforts in arresting would-be foreign insurgents trying to get into Iraq. Over and over they keep signaling how cooperative they've been in the "War on Terror," hoping, perhaps, they'll win brownie points for taking part in Bush's priority project. But of course, the "war on terror" is demonstrably NOT Bush's priority: the domination of world energy resources -- by force and threat -- and the imposition of Bush-style crony capitalism -- again by force and threat -- are the real foreign policy priorities of the Bush Administration.

Syria is in the cross-hairs: when Bush is ready to pull the trigger, he will. It wouldn't matter if Syria handed over Osama bin Laden on a platter. It's not about terrorism, it's not about "keeping America safe" -- it's about the brutal expansion of elite power.

This has been obvious for a long time. Here's a take on the Syrian situation that I wrote about in The Moscow Times -- in April 2003:

As shovels scoop the shredded viscera of cold collaterals in Baghdad, and brisk hoses scour the blood from market stalls and children's bedrooms – festive preparations to make ready for the enthronement of the new lords of Babylon – we cast an anxious gaze beyond the barbed steel of the security perimeter, to a column of troops and ordnance rumbling toward the horizon. Whither are they bound? Who's next to feel the mailed fist of liberation?

At the moment, all signs point to Syria. Iran, of course, would be a more glittering prize – not to mention a more remunerative one for the unholy trinity of Oil, Arms and Construction whose mephitic spirits brood over the rising American Empire. But Iran is a big beast; first Iraq must be chewed, swallowed and digested before there is sufficient room in the imperial gut – and sufficient loot in the imperial treasury – for another sumptuous banquet.

Syria, however, would make a tasty snack – rough fare gulped down on the long, circuitous march to Persia and Cathay. What's more, a dose of shock and awe for Damascus would secure the rear for any eventual push on Teheran. And once recalcitrant Syria is brought to heel, the juicy olive of Lebanon would surely fall of its own ripe weight, without any need of brutal plucking. Then, with the equally cowed Jordan, it could serve as a – what should we call it? repository? refuge? – yes, a refuge for the troublesome hordes of Palestine, transferred – humanely and happily, of course – from the newly cleansed lands of Judea and Samaria...


....And last week, Bush courtiers suddenly began trumpeting the fact that the repressive Syrian regime – a Baathist Party state, just like Iraq! – sadistically tortures its prisoners, who are often snatched in secret arrests and held without charges or trial. This fact has hitherto been conveniently overlooked by the Bushist Party state, which has been sending some of its own Guantanamo zeks – often snatched in secret arrests and held without charges or trial – to Syria's torture chambers for "special interrogation."

But as Saddam has learned, doing America's dirty work – which he did for many years, bombing, brutalizing and gassing with the gushing support of Ronald Reagan, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George Bush Senior – cuts no ice when the courtiers change their plans. So keep looking for that light on the road to Damascus – not the blinding glory that converted Saul of Tarsus, but the flash of flesh-chewing MOABs launched by the Crawford Caligula, George Widowmaker Bush.

Tattoo Nation: America Pays the Cover Charge for Bush's War Crimes

Here's an extended version of the latest Moscow Times column, also published on CounterPunch.org. An except below:

The young soldier thought she'd been sent to fight for democracy and freedom, the relative told Hersh, but it was a lie. Instead she found herself in Hell, committing crimes, violating her own nature, her sense of duty perverted by leaders who twisted it into a weapon to serve aggressive war. Since her return, said the relative, the young soldier keeps getting black tattoos, more and more of them, slowly covering her entire body -- trying literally to change her skin.

The fate of this soul-broken, tormented daughter of America embodies the nation itself under the malevolent reign of George W. Bush. The whole country is changing its skin, trying to cloak its shame and complicity by a wilful disfigurement. Who could look on the hideous form of Bush's America -- the snarling faces belching rancor on Fox News; the rabid partisans oozing bile through the halls of Congress; the money-glutting religious extremists relentlessly pushing ignorance, intolerance and theocratic dominion; the corporate beasts devouring the landscape, destroying communities, writing their own laws, gorging on unprecedented profits wrung from global sweatshops, corruption and war; the somnolent, silent, acquiescent public, blankly countenancing torture, deceit, elitist rule, military aggression and the open destruction of their Constitutional order ­-- and not see in all this a body politic in profound psychological crisis: traumatized, guilt-ridden, turning itself inside out in a frantic attempt to escape the truth?

**P.S. Please excuse the dating problems in the link given above. I haven't yet figured out how to do a separate long post with only a link or excerpt showing in the main blog, so I'm having to "pre-date" such items to get them off the main screen. Any advice on this problem would be most welcome.**

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Supper at Gunpoint: The Filibuster Deal

The commentariat is all abuzz over this burning question: was the filibuster deal a victory for the Democrats -- and by extension, for all those who believe in the Republic -- or not? The "Frist Filibuster" activists from Princeton had this take: It is a victory, won by a great deal of hard work and public mobilization, but...

"That having been said, it is a strange sort of victory, isn't it? If you believe that Senator Frist's nuclear option would have been illegal and unprecedented - as we do, along with many constitutional scholars and political analysts - then the Republican leadership should not have considered it in the first place. Is it a victory when the world is returned to what it should be? Do we celebrate normalcy?"

On balance, I think that, for today, we must indeed celebrate "normalcy." We must celebrate in the same way someone celebrates when the thug holding his family hostage allows the children to have their supper instead of blowing their heads off -- for now. Because that is where we are in America today -- fighting like the devil just to maintain a scrap of normal democratic life in the face of a relentless, ruthless faction bent on unrestrained domination.

So yes, let's celebrate the fact that the children's brains are not scattered across the table this morning. But of course the thug is still in the house with his loaded gun. And tomorrow -- as many of the "moderate" Republicans made crystal clear -- he may decide to pull the trigger.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Department of Correction

I'm afraid I have to apologize -- humbly, sincerely -- for my intemperate rant of last week concerning the murder of prisoners by American forces in Afghanistan. In that harsh outpouring, I gave the impression that the Bush Administration was not moving swiftly to rectify any unfortunate abberations in its entirely humane system of incarceration and interrogation.

But this morning comes news from the Associated Press that would cause even the bitterest Bush-bashing dissident to hang his head in shame at the injustice being done to the Commander-in-Chief's sterling reputation as a man of honor. AP tells us that one of the military policemen who helped beat a prisoner to death in Bagram has been given exemplary punishment by a U.S. military court. Yes, for his direct role in "pulpifying" the legs of a chained and helpless prisoner, who died of a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots formed from the beatings, Specialist Brian E. Cammack has been slapped with...a three-month sentence.

Obviously, such stern retribution sends a clear message throughout the Bush Administration's entire system of compassionate conservative concentration camps. And that message is: If by some freak chance your torture duties are exposed, you will be gently removed from the scene with nominal punishment -- as long as you don't rat out your superiors, of course.

What better example of honor and morality can be offered in these troubled times? Thank you, wise Commander! Thank you!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Tears of Rage, Tears of Grief: A Nation Brought Low

In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths.

The unspeakable brutality detailed in this story stems directly -- absolutely directly -- from George W. Bush himself. It is George W. Bush who lifted the protection of the Geneva Conventions from all those he has rounded up in his "war on terror," including the literally thousands of innocent people (as confirmed by the Red Cross) devoured by his gulag. It is George W. Bush -- this sniveling, smirking, shirking little coward, this cosseted little pipsqueak trying to prove his manhood with macho bluster and aggressive war -- who is directly responsible for establishing this world-wide system of inhuman degradation and pig-ignorant bullying. It is his direct orders, his implications, his rhetoric and his will -- passed down along the entire chain of command -- that have instigated these crimes, these bloody stains on the national honor. Yet who among the high command -- from Rumsfeld on down -- has resigned in protest over these outrages? No one. They are all complicit, they have all played "cover your ass," passing the buck, and the blame, down to the lower ranks. And these lower ranks they have perverted with a relentless drumbeat of hate-speech and propaganda, deliberately fomenting a thirst for revenge that sweeps up every single Muslim in its blind wrath.

If you are an American with even one drop of genuine love for the country in your soul, you cannot read this story without shedding "tears of rage, tears of grief," in Bob Dylan's haunting words. What have they done to us, these snarling apes in their thousand-dollar suits? What have they done to us, these sanctimonious killers, mouthing the name of God through teeth flecked with human guts?

What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?

Motion Sickness: Entrails and Empty Shells in the Bush Imperium

Published in The Moscow Times, May 20, 2005.

They keep going through the motions in Washington, much like the Roman Senate used to meet in solemn conclave and pretend that their flatulent oratory had some effect on the real engines of imperial power. Today, Congressional factions strive in fierce agon over profound Constitutional issues – filibusters, judicial review, church and state, executive privilege. Commentators knit their brows in sage analysis of these world-historical events, while activists choose their champions and drive them on with partisan heat. Yet none of it means a thing.

The U.S. Congress gave away its powers long ago to corporate interests and the almighty executive branch that every legislator secretly hopes to lead one day, Pentagon thunderbolts in hand. (Who would curb Caesar who might Caesar be?) This "degradation of the democratic dogma" has been the work of more than 50 years of bipartisan goonery, but it has now reached its nadir in the festering pit of blood and bile that is the Bush Regime.

American public life is now almost entirely a façade, a deadening – and deadly – sideshow: the multibillion-dollar electoral circuses, the increasingly frenzied "culture wars, the epic clash of interest groups across the media battlefields, the endless making, unmaking and remaking of laws. This non-signifying sound and fury merely obscures the ugly reality: that there are no effective restraints on the arbitrary exercise of power by the imperial court of George W. Bush.

He can wage aggressive war based on lies. He can order the assassination of anyone on earth, anywhere, at any time, without trial, without evidence, at his unchallengeable whim, as we've often detailed here. He can set up torture chambers all over the globe. He can dole out countless billions of public dollars to corporate cronies in no-bid contracts. There is no punishment for these crimes, no political price paid for this corruption, no genuine resistance at all to this rape of liberty from the very institutions and civic structures being ravaged.

What's more, a great many of "the people" also embrace – even celebrate – this brutal reality. It is not at all true, as some progressives would contend, that there is some kind of collective goodness in "just plain folks," some magical kernel of broad-minded, open-hearted, democratic wisdom just waiting to be tapped if only "the people" could be freed from the bedevilling lies of their wicked leaders. Most lies succeed because people want to believe them.

This is doubly true in politics. Not only history but also our own daily experience shows us that those in power (or those seeking power) routinely lie, shuffle, deceive and manipulate. Nothing they say can be taken simply on faith; it must be met with stringent skepticism, examined in the harshest light. This has proved true in every single human society, without fail, throughout all recorded time. Yet millions of people willingly, happily swallow the most blatant political lies at face value. They have no wish to be undeceived, and lose the illusions of their own specialness, their own righteousness, their exalted place in the world. If there must be violence to maintain this place, if someone out there must die, if someone must starve, if someone must wail, then so be it. If the truth convicts us, undermines us, discomforts us, then let the truth be changed. This is the unspoken credo of vast swathes of "the people." Leaders play upon this, they encourage it and prosper by it – but they don't create it out of whole cloth.

This literally unspeakable situation accounts for much of the strange hollowness and sense of dislocation that pervades political life today. Leaders can't possibly say what they really mean or tell the whole truth about their policies, which rest ultimately on violence, corruption, suffering and fear. Nor do their followers want to hear the truth. The pious masks required to hide such unmitigated greed for loot and power thus become more outlandish, more cartoonish. That's why the maskers (and the "just plain folks" who support them) strive ever more ruthlessly to suppress or discredit all dissent – they know that honest skepticism could destroy their ludicrous fraud.

In Iraq, for example, the war criminals of the Coalition cannot possibly admit that they are killing, torturing, and despoiling innocent people in order to maintain and extend their own geopolitical dominance. Bush cannot possibly say, "I tore the eyeballs from that little girl's skull, I churned that woman's entrails with steel splinters, I sodomized that teenage boy and smeared him with his own filth to make a few of my cronies rich and keep the rubes out there fat and happy with big cars, cheap gas and 37 different brands of corn chips" – although that's exactly what he's doing. He can't say, "We know Iraq posed no threat to us but we wanted to invade them anyway, so we 'fixed the facts and intelligence around the policy'" – although that's exactly what was revealed in the just-leaked "Downing Street memo," the record of a 2002 strategy session between Tony Blair and his advisers following top-level talks in Washington.

No, such undermining truths wouldn't do at all. Instead, we get first the implausible lies about WMD and now the laughable cant about a "noble mission" to bring democracy to the "dark places of the earth." This while Bush succors Islam Karimov even as the Uzbek despot massacres his own people and runs a regime several magnitudes worse than the factions recently overthrown – with copious U.S. assistance – in Georgia and Ukraine.

And so the imperial engines grind on, untouched, untroubled, unrestrained, churning the world's entrails behind the façade.

Chris Floyd
* Links and annotations for this column can be found here.*

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Profiles in Cowardice

Once again, Greg Palast nails the case, this time on Newsweek's craven climbdown. A couple of choice bits:

"And just for the record: Newsweek, unlike Rumsfeld, did not kill anyone -- nor did its report cause killings. Afghans protested when they heard the Koran desecration story (as Christians have protested crucifix desecrations). The Muslim demonstrators were gunned down by the Afghan military police -- who operate under Rumsfeld's command."

"Was there a problem with the story? Certainly. If you want to split hairs, the inside-government source of the Koran desecration story now says he can't confirm which military report it appeared in. But he saw it in one report and a witness has confirmed that the Koran was defiled. Of course, there's an easy way to get at the truth. RELEASE THE REPORTS NOW. Hand them over, Mr. Rumsfeld, and let's see for ourselves what's in them.But Newsweek and the Post are too polite to ask Rumsfeld to make the investigative reports public."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Justice in Jebworld: Florida Jury Issues Stern Rebuke to Bush Family Values

A few days ago, we reported here about Jeb Bush's attempt to crush the life of an abused 6-year-old girl in his Florida satrapy. State officials had gone to court to cut off public assistance to Marissa Amora, who, at the age of 2, had been abandoned by Jeb's "Department of Families and Children" despite overwhelming evidence of horrific past abuse and the dire risk of more to come. More came, of course; she was beaten almost to death -- and then Jeb's minions tried to pull the plug on her and let her die. She survived, has thrived, has a new family - but still suffers from permanent, catastrophic damage from the entirely predictable beating she received after the DCF cast her aside.

There was a new development in the case this week, and -- for the moment -- it's wonderful news. The jury in the case found in Marissa's favor, awarding her $35 million for her suffering and, more importantly, for her future care, the Palm Beach Post reports. The DCF has been ordered to pay the bulk of the award.

An unusual triumph for justice and compassion in Jebworld, certainly. But there are still some roadblocks on the way to a happy ending, however. As we all know, the Bush Family are ferocious proponents of "tort reform" – i.e., protecting powerful entities from paying for their crimes. Thus Jeb's satrapy has a law limiting damage awards against the DCF to $100,000 per person or $200,000 per incident. For Marissa to receive the full amount from DCF awarded by the jury, the Bushist-controlled state legislature must pass a special law. This cumbersome process offers ample opportunity for Jeb to chisel down the award or weasel out of it altogether. And of course, the agency could always appeal the verdict, dragging out the case – and the suffering and anxiety of Marissa's family – for months, even years.

If Marissa's case had garnered even one-tenth of the national media attention larded on the partisan hokum of the Teri Schiavo carnival, Jeb would be feeling too much political heat to try to beat the rap. But of course there was no mention of the story in the national media at all. And here we see a tragic conundrum in American public life today: those who honestly care about "nobodies" like Marissa -- the poor, the dispossessed, the abandoned, the "insulted and injured," in Dostoevsky's phrase -- are too honorable to exploit them for crass partisan gain...and too busy trying to alleviate their suffering to waste time and energy on media campaigns. But ruthless operators like Jeb Bush, Tom DeLay and the whole sick crew of Bushists are more than willing to hype a case to the skies if they see some political advantage in it -- and equally willing to flush people down the drain if they can't make use of them.

But for now, it's good news, a rare victory for human decency in a harsh, inhuman time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Occupational Hazards

Japan Today reports that 24,000 people formed a human chain around a U.S. military base in Okinawa last Sunday, demanding an end to 60 years of military occupation.

Below, Chalmers Johnson has more on the occupation of Okinawa, and the brutalizing and corrupting effect of America's plantation of military colonies around the world.

Three Rapes: The Status of Forces Agreement and Okinawa. (Via TomDispatch.com)

All-Day Permanent Red

From Knight-Ridder (far and away the best mainstream journalism service in America today), a good look at the bloody chaos that Bush's war of aggression has visited on the people of Iraq, who are now getting it in the neck from every conceivable direction:

Marine-led campaign killed friends and foes, Iraqi leaders say.

Structural Difficulties

As always, Greg Palast has the goods. Below, he reveals the real reason for the Bush Regime's attacks on Ecuador's new president, the mild-mannered, pro-American heart doctor, Alfredo Palacio. (Attacks seconded by the faithful spear-carriers at the New York Times, now busy turning the conservative Palacio into the second coming of Hugo Che Fidel Zapata Chavez.) The answer, of course, as always with the Bushists, is -- oil and investments.

You should read the whole piece, but here's a prime nugget that Palast unearthed: a secret codicil from the World Bank's "structural adjustment" loan to the poverty-stricken nation in 2002. First, some background:

"This nation of only 13 million souls at the world's belly button is rich, sitting on 4.4 billion barrels of known oil reserves, and probably much more. Yet 60 percent of its citizens live in brutal poverty; a lucky minority earn the 'minimum' wage of $153 a month."

And now the World Bank's draconian terms:

"The secret loan terms require Ecuador to pay bondholders 70 percent of the revenue received from any spike in the price of oil. The result: Ecuador must give up the big bucks from the Iraq War oil price surge. Another 20 percent of the oil windfall is set aside for 'contingencies' (i.e., later payments to bondholders). The document specifies that Ecuador may keep only 10 percent of new oil revenue for expenditures on social services."

A sweet deal for dabblers in national debt -- 90 percent of the gravy for the investment class, dregs for the useless rabble. But surely the World Bank will no longer pursue such hateful and harmful policies, now that it's in the hands of that great humanitarian -- Paul Wolfowitz.

Ecuador Gets Chávez'd, by Greg Palast.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Smoking Gun of the Smoking Gun

Below, Mark Danner provides one of the best examinations of the "Downing Street Memo" -- the "smoking gun" which proves (or rather confirms a mountain of other, long-known evidence) that Bush's war crime in Iraq was based on deliberate, carefully-calibrated deception. It is of course being buried or ignored by the mainstream American press; the Bushists have not deigned to comment on it; and Tony Blair airily dismissed it as "old news" even as it peeled away even more voters from his crumbling plurality. But for anyone who wants the truth, it is now out there -- again -- as plain as day, so stark and simple that even the thickest dullard (e.g., Tom "Noble Cause" Friedman) can understand it.

Danner's piece comes via the estimable Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch.com.

Secret Way to War, by Mark Danner

Hope Abandoned

Wise man William Blum skewers "the hopeless Democrats, again," in his latest Anti-Empire Report at Killing Hope:

On April 23, speaking in Minneapolis before the ACLU, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean declared: "Now that we're there [in Iraq], we're there and we can't get out. ... I hope the President is incredibly successful with his policy now." That can mean one of two things: It could mean that Dean believes that the intentions of the Bush administration in Iraq are honorable, that they mean well by the Iraqi people, that the bombing, invasion, occupation, torture, and daily humiliation have all been acts of love; and that oil and the care and feeding of American corporations play no role. Or it can mean that he supports the objectives of US imperialism and is opposed to abandoning them. During the 2004 presidential primaries it was stated repeatedly that Dean was "against the Iraq war". I was never interested enough in him or the Democrats to track down just what this really meant, to pinpoint precisely what the basis of his opposition to the war was, but I assumed it was not anything approaching the unequivocal opposition that characterized the majority of the anti-war movement, including many of Dean's supporters. I hope that their disillusionment has at least been enlightening.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Miami Vice: The Mobbed-Up, Money-Grubbing Moralist From Florida

Published in Friday, May 13 edition of The Moscow Times:

The next president of the United States was on the road last week, throwing red meat about "moral issues" to a baying crowd of Bushist Party faithful – while simultaneously trying to cut off medical support for a six-year-old girl his agents had previously tried to kill.

Yes, it was Jeb Bush, governor of the ruling family's Florida dominions, pounding the pulpit, er, podium at a Republican conclave in Georgia. Jeb told the flock that the party must stand for "absolute truth" – something previously associated with religious cults – if they want to maintain their "ascendancy" over the nation, Associated Press reports. "There is such a thing as right and wrong," he declared. Whipped into a frenzy by this blazing revelation, the crowd responded with cries for Bush to ascend to his brother's throne in 2008.

But even as Jeb basked in the bootlicking adulation, his peculiar sense of "right and wrong" was on vivid display in a Florida courtroom. There, his minions are fighting to stop state aid for young Marissa Amora – four years after they sought a court order to let her die following a savage beating, the Palm Beach Post reports. What's more, these same minions – the Department of Children and Families – could have prevented the beating, which left Marissa permanently disabled.

In late 2000, as Jeb was ensuring the "ascendancy" of his brother by – among many other tricks – deliberately slashing thousands of eligible African-American voters from the rolls, Marissa was hospitalized for a month. Doctors and nurses saw telltale signs of past beatings – and witnessed her neglectful mother abusing her in the hospital. They pleaded for DCF to intervene. But the agency – perhaps mindful of Jeb's fierce public championing of "family values" – declined to step in.

Then came the inevitable: a few weeks later, Marissa was back in the hospital, beaten nearly to death, with severe injuries to her brain and liver and several broken bones. Now the DCF took an interest: they rushed to court to obtain a "Do Not Resuscitate" order for the mangled two-year-old. For God's sake, don't let her live, the DCF told Marisa's doctors, because she might "potentially" be left "in a vegetative state."

But the doctors disagreed with the Bushists' expert diagnosis. And so Marissa is still alive today – brain-damaged, crippled, fed through a stomach tube, but alert, talkative, happy, with a new foster mother. Indeed, she would seem to be a shining example of the "culture of life" that we hear so much about these days from certain pulpit-pounding politicians. But to Jeb and the DCF, she's just a "useless eater," a budgetary burden, a mistake to be flushed away. Without state aid, her new family will sink beneath the staggering cost of Marissa's treatment – and the decent life that she's clawed back from the hellhole Jeb left her in years ago will wither on the vine.

'Tis passing strange. After all, this is the same agency – the same governor – that just fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep the long brain-dead Teri Schiavo existing in a very real "vegetative state." Jeb even found himself lauded on the front page of the New York Times for "cementing his political stature" in the case, with his maneuvers "rooted" in a "deeply-held" religious faith "rather than in political posturing." Yet he was perfectly willing – even eager – to pull the plug on Marissa Amora, and is still trying to destroy her life.

How can this be? For one who lives solely by the "absolute truth," what could possibly be the difference between a crippled, abused, neglected little black girl with no money or connections, and a nice white woman whose case was promoted world-wide by the maniacal, filthy-rich extremist factions that form the base of his brother's "ascendancy"? Since we know from the highest authority that Jeb would never stoop to mere "political posturing," the apparent hideous hypocrisy in his behavior must forever remain an ineffable mystery, like the Trinity, or the 2000 Florida election results.

But then, Jeb has always been the most mysterious of the Kennebunkport Klan. Like the two Georges, he trawled murky waters indeed to make his fortune. One of his business partners, Camilo Padrera, was indicted for drug-dealing, gun-running and embezzlement; but the charges were dropped when the Bush family firm – the CIA – told the FBI that Padrera was their man, fronting covert ops. Padrera then worked Jeb's Washington contacts to steal millions of federal dollars intended to provide housing for the poor. He was convicted of fraud in 1989.

Jeb then hooked up with Miguel Recarey, an associate of Miami mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr., Mother Jones reports. Federal investigators called Recarey's company, IMC, "a criminal enterprise interlaced with intelligence operations." It was in fact yet another front, this time for the Reagan-Bush gang's illegal terrorist war in Nicaragua. Recarey also milked Jeb's Washington connections, diverting millions of Medicare dollars intended for needy patients into the IMF-CIA slush fund. Recarey later fled the country to avoid fraud charges.

In yet another scam, Jeb and a partner used a frontman to wangle a $4.5 million federal loan to buy an office building. When their shill went belly-up, Daddy's federal government obligingly revalued the prime Miami real estate at $500,000. Jeb and pal coughed up that chump change --and kept the building for themselves: $4 million of pure gravy.

Now with just one more step, this mobbed-up, money-grubbing absolutist will have the whole world in his hands. "Right and wrong" mean nothing to such big-time operators; power is their only truth, their only god.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Human Race Jumps the Shark

There is simply no way to comment on this. There's absolutely nothing one could say to do it justice.

Jesus Spotted in Ultrasound

(From BlondeSense, via Jesus' General)

They are Never NOT Completely Corrupt

And they don't give a damn how many people die from it:

Body Armor Issued Despite Warnings
"The Marine Corps issued to nearly 10,000 troops body armor that military ballistic experts had urged the Marines to reject after tests revealed life-threatening flaws in the vests, an eight-month investigation by Marine Corps Times has found.

In all, the Marines bought about 19,000 Interceptor outer tactical vests from Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Point Blank Body Armor. According to a government memo, the vests failed tests because of "multiple complete penetrations" of 9mm pistol rounds and other ballistics or quality-assurance tests..."

Well, there's your goldang liberal press for you, these commie terror-symps at the Marine Corps Times. Don't these anti-Americans know that body armor doesn't have to stop bullets -- it just has to make money! Get with the program, jarheads!

Feast of the Conquerors

This is a fairly long article, but it provides a remarkable explication of how the world is really run. Read it and weep -- and rage -- and learn.

Straight to Bechtel: "More Powerful than the U.S. Army"

Monday, May 09, 2005

They Don't Ever NOT Lie

Captured al-Qaeda 'Kingpin' is Case of Mistaken Identity

Folsom Prison Blues

Why is Santo Reyes Facing Life in Prison?

Because he:
a) killed someone?
b) raped someone?
c) launched a war of aggression that resulted in the murder of 100,000 innocent people?
d) took a driver's license test for his illiterate cousin to help him land a job?

Kingdom Come

Oh yes, he's running:
Jeb Bush Strikes Moral Tone at Georgia Convention.

And oh yes, he's a despicable hypocrite:
DCF Sought to Let Abused Girl Die

DCF is the Jebworld agency that led the fight to "save" Teri Schiavo, the brain-dead white woman, while actively trying to kill an abused, abandoned black girl. Read this horror story -- and get acquainted with your next president.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Ring Them Bells: Deadly Hypocrisy is Business as Usual

Published in the Moscow Times, May 6, 2005. Also featured on CounterPunch.

An occupational hazard of dissidence in the Age of Bush is the unavoidable necessity of belaboring the obvious. Again and again, you must ring the same bell; over and over, you must repeat the same, blatant irrefutable fact: that George W. Bush and his ghastly minions are lying hypocrites with blood on their hands.

But what can you do? Each week – each day – brings fresh confirmation of this damning truth. And until the American people redeem their lost national honor by rising up in their millions – taking to the streets with the patriotic cry, "These murderous jackals no longer represent us!" – the Bush crimes will go on, and must be documented. So grab the bell-rope: here we go again.

Last week saw a bumper crop of death-dealing hypocrisy, as the freedom-lovin', terrorist-fightin' he-men of the Bush Regime were caught in flagrante delicto with some rough trade indeed: genocidal rape-fiends, diabolical flesh-boilers and tyrannical peddlers of violent, ignorant religious extremism. (And no, it wasn't a meeting of the Republican National Committee.)

Full column here.

Military Maneuvers: The Conquest of the State

American military spending will soon equal that of the rest of the world combined, Jane's Defence Weekly reports. The U.S. "defense" budget hit "$417.4 billion in 2003 – 46 percent of the global total." And we know it has only ballooned since then, with more than $81 billion in war pork for Iraq larded on just the other day.

What does this mean? It means that America has become a completely militarized state; or rather, the military IS the state now, and everything else is ancillary to it, mere excess that can be gutted or chopped off in times of "budget crisis." Bush's policies are of course designed to produce just such a crisis, in order to reduce government to a bare-bones operation, powerless to restrain the restless, relentless, all-pervading greed of the oligarchy. This is happening at every level – federal, state and local – as representative bodies are stripped of their powers to regulate business, preserve the environment, and maintain public services.

For example, in state after state, the bribery-lords of the NRA are muscling through legislation that actually prevents cities and counties from suing gun manufacturers to force them to bear some of the devastating financial consequences – in health care, law enforcement, courts, etc. – of their weapons-peddling. Can arguments be made against these lawsuits – restraint of trade issues, etc.? Yes. But such arguments should be thrashed out in open court. The NRA laws strangle this Constitutional process. They prevent the citizens of a community from exercising their sovereign right to have their concerns heard in a court of law.

There is a similar stripping of sovereign rights and local regulatory power in the "free trade" agreements like NAFTA, which give appointed boards of apparatchiks the power to overrule local laws in favor of corporate behemoths – even foreign corporations. (And yes, NAFTA was pushed through by Clinton and Gore; this hideous degeneration of American liberty didn't start with Bush – it's a long-term bipartisan project.) Meanwhile, some communities are being forced to put their public water and sewer systems up for "privatization" – again, often to foreign interests. And the deregulation mania of the 1990s – which gave us the glory of Enron, WorldComm, etc. – has of course only accelerated under George W. Bush.

The structures of civic life in America are being systematically destroyed, replaced by a rapacious "consumer culture" floating on a sea of noise, nonsense and carefully cultivated ignorance. Why? Because an atomized mob of bloated "consumers" – spun around by official lies, bludgeoned by witless diversions, their worst instincts and prejudices stoked at every turn – is easier to handle than a community of genuine citizens: informed, involved, broad-minded, skeptical of power, tolerant of dissent, highly individual yet concerned for others.

The bitter irony is that there is actually more long-term profit for business in a society based on justice, fairness, equality, mercy, learning, tolerance, openness and the active, meaningful participation of engaged citizens in ordering the life of the nation. There's more stability in such a society, more security, more freedom for innovation and invigoration in every aspect of life. But our ruling cliques – epitomized by the Bushists – are afflicted with third-rate minds, stunted imaginations, lizard-brain yearnings for immediate gratification, the short-term money. They will ultimately destroy the community that sustains them. They will end up devouring their own entrails – after they've despoiled the nation, and the world, with their blind, brute greed.

The Bushists' deliberate starving of resources for civic structures (they are even talking openly about "de-funding" the judiciary now) increasingly leaves the military as the only thriving arm of the state. The gargantuan military budgets not only skew the priorities of government toward endless "wars and rumors of war" – they also skew the very economic fabric of the nation itself. More and more businesses are dependent on either direct spending from the Pentagon or else serving the military-industrial complex in some subsidiary fashion, with knock-on effects right down the line – to a convenient store dependent on workers for a tool-making plant which is in turn dependent on orders from a weapons plant. (And you could insert any number of other links along that chain.)

This too is probably more deliberate or not. This chain of dependence means that any major cut in military spending will inflict real pain on millions of people, rippling through the economy to its farthest outposts, places seemingly unconnected in any way to the war machine. The military IS the state now; the military IS the economy.

But, as noted, such a massive military cannot be sustained politically without the constant threat – or reality – of war. And thus America's foreign policy too has become almost totally militarized. Weapons sales constitute the largest share of "foreign aid" by an overwhelming margin. (Most of these "sales" are sweetheart deals, with all of the manufacturer's risks guaranteed by the U.S. government – that is, by the American taxpayer. If, say, Poland defaults on its $3 billion commitment to buy U.S warplanes, the weapons industry will still get its money – from ordinary U.S. citizens.) Diplomatic stances are conditioned almost entirely by military necessities: dictators are embraced if they allow "basing rights" for the Pentagon: see Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. And the American people must at all times be kept in a ferment of fear about some vast foreign evil that threatens to "destroy our way of life." In such a system, war becomes a routine instrument of policy – the first or second resort, not the last. It becomes the defining element of society itself.

In this light, the article from Jane's is revealing in another way. For the thrust of the story is not how alarming and unbalanced America's military spending has become. No; instead the magazine urges European contractors to get with the program, to "develop a closer association" with the American war machine, in order to "maximize value." Here we can see how the "values" of militarism have been completely absorbed by the "Establishment" world of international business. There is not even a question that this highly unstable and combustible situation – the creation of a war machine that threatens to overwhelm the entire world, economically and militarily – is not a good thing. There is not a hint of skepticism. It is just assumed that this is how the world should work – and boys, make your pile from it while you can.

Militarism first conquers the state; then it colonizes the human mind.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Past Imperfect IV

Yet another installment of pieces providing some history and context for present horrors.

Welcome to Bushworld:
Masked and Anonymous: The Age of Abu Ghraib
Ring of Fire: The Fallujah Inferno

The Republic's been dead for a long time now:
Death Wish: The Presidential Prerogative of Murder (2001)
Render Unto Caesar: The End of Law (2002)

A brief history of that great Bushist "moderate":
Colin Powell, Bagman

A statement of principles:
Moment by Moment

Previous installments:
Past Imperfect I
Past Imperfect II
Past Imperfect III

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Last Bad Deal Gone Down

Korean Tax Police Raid Carlyle Group Office. (via Buzzflash)

The Real War

A much more accurate -- and more harrowing -- picture of the Iraqi insurgency was inadvertantly revealed last week by the investigation into the U.S. shooting of Italian agent Nicola Calipari. Thanks to the Pentagon's cack-handed technical ineptitude, reporters were able to restore censored passages from a PDF of the probe's final report.

Buried deep within the report is the news that "there were 15,527 attacks on coalition forces, largely American, from July 2004 to late March 2005. Some 2,404 attacks took place in Baghdad from 1 November to 12 March," Patrick Cockburn reports in The Independent. These findings -- issued before the recent onslaught of intensified attacks -- demolishes the conventional wisdom floated everywhere in the mainstream press about "the steam going out of the resistance."

In fact, there has been virtually no progress at all against the insurgency, despite the savage use of the "Guernica option" in Fallujah, the use of the "El Salvador option" in creating death squads, the massive, maniacal roundups of "suspects" (some 17,000 prisoners now crammed into Coalition holding pens -- more than twice the number held during the worst of the Abu Ghraib atrocities), the relentless bombing of civilian areas, despite even the ballyhooed rigging-up of a "sovereign" Iraqi government.

Even the preternaturally right-wing Washington Times declares that Bush's Babylonian Conquest is "back to square one." Martin Seiff makes the telling point that the new surge of attacks was thoroughly anticipated by U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq (men who can't afford to buy the perfumed bullshit Bush peddles for the yokels back home), but:

"What is of far greater concern to U.S. commanders and analysts is that despite this broad strategic sense of when, and even on what scale, the new attacks would come, U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies have so far proven totally unable to prevent them."

These gloomy assessments of the real state of the war in Iraq were confirmed last week by no less an exalted personage than General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In an appearance with Pentagon warlord Don Rumsfeld, Myers admitted that the insurgency was "right where they were about a year ago" -- in other words, before Fallujah, the death squads, the roundups, etc. Oddly enough, the general thought this stark revelation of deadly stalemate meant that "we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time."

Perhaps he's been inhaling a bit too much of that Bushist perfume.