Sunday, July 31, 2005
Same As It Ever Was
Reed stands. The assembled banqueteers -- prosperous burghers, their bellies bulging beneath the white fronts of their tuxedos -- look up at the reporter just returned from the front.
Reed sits down.
-- From the film "Reds," by Warren Beatty
Halliburton Announces 284 Percent Increase in War Profits
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Past Imperfect, Present Trace
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Mob Rule in London: Five Shots to the Head for Fashion Mistake
So here's what happened. Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, a man from Brazil, working in London as an electrician, walks out of an apartment building that the police were casing as part of a terrorist investigation. The cops don't like the look of his bulky coat, so they come after him. But these are not uniformed officers strolling up to ask him some questions – it's a gang of up to 20 armed undercover agents in plain clothes coming toward him, the BBC reports. That's right; a foreigner living in London sees a mob of 20 men coming at him, shouting at him to stop, telling him they are the police. What if they're not the police? What if they're a gang of yobs, rightwing hooligans looking to stomp some convenient foreigner? What should he do, what's the best course of action in this situation? He only has a second or two to decide. [Yes, the very same rationale later offered incessantly for the officers' actions in the shooting.] He decides: he runs. They chase him into an Underground station – a mob of 20 men with guns. He jumps the ticket counter, runs into the tunnel, tries to hop onto a train, with the gunmen only a couple of steps him. He stumbles, they tackle him. They hold him down and one of the officers pumps five bullets into his head.
Maybe de Menezes had some other reason to run. Maybe he was involved in some dodgy business. Maybe he had drugs on him. Maybe his work papers weren't in perfect order. Or maybe he just decided that he didn't want to trust in the good will of 20 armed men in plainclothes running at him on a fine English summer morning.
It doesn't matter now. He's dead. And now we know that he wasn't armed, didn't have a bomb, and, according to the police themselves "was not connected in any way" to the recent London bombings. He just wore the wrong coat. He just ran when a gang of men in ordinary clothes told him to stop. He's just another piece of "collateral damage" in the "war on terror." Killed with the best of intentions, for the noblest cause. Just like the tourists in Egypt murdered by the dozens the next day. Just like the people of Iraq every day.
Is there anyone on any side in this hydra-headed "war" who is not killing people in the name of some higher principle – for justice, security, morality, freedom? Is there any side that is not invoking divine sanction for their actions? Is there any hope of ending this mad and maddening cycle of violence as long the most primitive and destructive aspects of our human nature – sectarianism, greed, fear, revenge and the bestial desire for domination over others – remain in the ascendant on every side?
The gravity of the bombing of London, said a BBC commentator, "can be measured by the fact that it marks Britain's first suicide bombing". What about Iraq? There were no suicide bombers in Iraq until Blair and Bush invaded. What about Palestine? There were no suicide bombers in Palestine until Ariel Sharon, an accredited war criminal sponsored by Bush and Blair, came to power. In the 1991 Gulf "war", American and British forces left more than 200,000 Iraqis dead and injured, and the infrastructure of their country in "an apocalyptic state", according to the United Nations. The subsequent embargo, designed and promoted by zealots in Washington and Whitehall, was not unlike a medieval siege. Denis Halliday, the United Nations official assigned to administer the near-starvation food allowance, called it "genocidal".
I witnessed its consequences: tracts of southern Iraq contaminated with depleted uranium, and cluster bomblets waiting to explode. I watched dying children, some of the half a million infants whose deaths Unicef attributed to the embargo - deaths which the US secretary of state Madeleine Albright said were "worth it". In the west, this was hardly reported. Throughout the Muslim world, the bitterness was like a presence, its contagion reaching many young British-born Muslims.
In 2001, in revenge for the killing of 3,000 people in the twin towers, more than 20,000 Muslims died in the Anglo-American invasion of Afghanistan. This was revealed by Jonathan Steele in the Guardian but never became news, to my knowledge...Bush and Blair wanted a "war on terror" and they got it. Omitted from public discussion is that their state terror makes al-Qaeda's appear minuscule by comparison. More than 100,000 Iraqi men, woman and children have been killed not by suicide bombers, but by the Anglo-American "coalition", says a peer-reviewed study published in the Lancet, and largely ignored...
...On 19 July, while the BBC governors were holding their annual general meeting at Television Centre, an inspired group of British documentary film-makers met outside the main gates and conducted a series of news reports of the kind you do not see on television. Actors played famous reporters doing their "pieces to camera". The "stories" they reported included the targeting of the civilian population of Iraq, the application of the Nuremberg Principles to Iraq, America's illegal rewriting of the laws of Iraq, and theft of its resources through privatisation, the everyday torture and humiliation of ordinary people and the failure to protect Iraqis' archaeological and cultural heritage.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Them Belly Full
Endless Nightmare, Ever Darker
White House threatens veto on detainee policies. Excerpt from AP:
"The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere. The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter.
"'If legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice,' the bill could be vetoed, the [White House] statement said."
It really defies belief. Bush is openly telling the elected representatives of the American people that he will not allow them to put any fetters on his power to treat captives in any way he sees fit. He will not allow them to outlaw barbaric practices that stain the nation's honor and stir hatred against its people around the world. He will not even allow them to examine the allegations. He must have a free hand -- an iron hand -- to do what he pleases, to whom he pleases.
Oh, how he delights in his raw power, in his brutality, this nasty little man, this vile, soul-crippled creature. How the thought of war and torture makes him strut. What have we come to? How much deeper must we fall? When and how will we ever wake up from this nightmare?
Live From London -- or Rather, Dead From London
"...[Underground passenger Mark] Whitby told BBC News: "I was sitting on the train reading my paper. I heard a load of noise, people saying, 'Get out, get down!' I saw an Asian guy run onto the train hotly pursued by three plain-clothes police officers. One of them was carrying a black handgun - it looked like an automatic - they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him. "I saw the gun being fired five times into the guy - he is dead," he said."
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Master Plan:The Rise of the Commander-in-Chief State
The United States long ago ceased to be anything like a living, thriving republic. But it retained the legal form of a republic, and that counted for something: as long as the legal form still existed, even as a gutted shell, there was hope it might be filled again one day with substance.
But now the very legal structures of the Republic are being dismantled. The principle of arbitrary rule by an autocratic leader is being openly established, through a series of unchallenged executive orders, perverse Justice Department rulings and court decisions by sycophantic judges who defer to power – not law – in their determinations. What we are witnessing is the creation of a "Commander-in-Chief State," where the form and pressure of law no longer apply to the president and his designated agents. The rights of individuals are no longer inalienable, nor are their persons inviolable; all depends on the good will of the Commander, the military autocrat.
George W. Bush has granted himself the power to declare anyone on earth – including any American citizen – an "enemy combatant," for any reason he sees fit. He can render them up to torture, he can imprison them for life, he can even have them killed, all without charges, with no burden of proof, no standards of evidence, no legislative oversight, no appeal, no judicial process whatsoever except those that he himself deigns to construct, with whatever limitations he cares to impose. Nor can he ever be prosecuted for any order he issues, however criminal; in the new American system laid out by Bush's legal minions, the Commander is sacrosanct, beyond the reach of any law or constitution.
This is not hyperbole. It is simply the reality of the United States today. The principle of unrestricted presidential power is now being codified into law and incorporated into the institutional structures of the state, as Deep Blade Journal reports in an excellent compendium of recent outrages against liberty.
For example, on July 15, a panel of federal appellate court judges upheld Bush's sovereign right to dispose of "enemy combatants" any way he pleases, the Washington Post reports. In a chilling decision, the judges ruled that the Commander's arbitrarily designated "enemies" are non-persons: neither the Geneva Conventions nor American military and domestic law apply to such garbage. Bush is now free to subject anyone he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted – a brutal sham that some top retired military officials have denounced as a "kangaroo court" that will be used by tyrants around the world to "hide their oppression under U.S. precedent."
One of the kowtowing jurists on the appeals panel was none other than John G. Roberts. Four days after he affirmed Bush's autocratic powers, Roberts was duly awarded with a nomination to the Supreme Court. Now he will be sitting in final judgment on this case – and any other challenges to Bush's peremptory commands. This is what is known, in the tyrant trade, as "a safe pair of hands."
The ruling by Roberts and his fellow Republican jurists ignores the fact that the Geneva Conventions – which lay down strict guidelines for the handling of any person detained by military forces, regardless of the captive's status – have been incorporated into the U.S. legal code, as Deep Blade points out. They cannot be abrogated by presidential fiat. And anyone who commits a "grave breach" of the Conventions – by facilitating the killing, torture or inhuman treatment of detainees (e.g., stripping them of all legal status and subjecting them to rigged tribunals) – is subject to the death penalty under American law.
This is why the Bush Faction labored so mightily to advance the absurd fiction that the Geneva Conventions are somehow voluntary – while simultaneously promulgating the sinister Fuhrerprinzip of unlimited presidential authority. The fiction was a temporary sop to the crumbling legal form of the Republic, a cynical perversion of existing law to keep justice at bay until the Fuhrerprinzip could be firmly established as the new foundation of the state.
It doesn't matter anymore if the president's orders to suspend the Conventions, construct a worldwide gulag, torture captives, spy on Americans, fabricate intelligence and wage aggressive war are illegal under the "quaint" strictures of the old dispensation; the courts, packed with Bushist cadres, are now affirming the new order, the "critical authority" of the Commander, beyond law and morality, on the higher plane of what Bush calls "the path of action."
This phrase – with its remarkable Mussolinian echoes – was incorporated into the official "National Security Strategy of the United States," promulgated by Bush in September 2002. That document in turn was drawn largely from a manifesto issued in September 2000 by a Bush Faction group whose members included Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush. Their plan, often detailed here, envisioned the transformation of America into a militarized state: planting "military footprints" throughout Central Asia and the Middle East, invading Iraq (even if Saddam Hussein was already gone), expanding the nuclear arsenal, massively increasing the defense budget – and predicating all these "revolutionary" changes on the hopes for "a new Pearl Harbor" that would "catalyze" the lazy American public into supporting the militarist agenda.
This agenda is designed, the group said, to establish "full spectrum dominance" over geopolitical affairs, assuring control of world energy resources and precluding the rise of "any potential global rival" that might threaten the unchecked wealth and privilege of the American elite. The rule of law could only be a hindrance to such a scheme; hence its replacement by the Fuhrerprinzip and the "path of action."
There has been virtually no institutional resistance to this open coup d'etat. It's now clear that the American Establishment – and a significant portion of the American people – have given up on the democratic experiment. They no longer wish to govern themselves; they want to be ruled, by "strong leaders" who will "do whatever it takes" to protect them from harm and keep them in clover. They have sold their golden birthright of American liberty for a mess of coward's pottage.
Annotated sources can be found here.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
And no molly-coddler of criminals, he: Roberts Upheld Arrest of 12-Year Old for Eating French Fries on the Subway.
Meanwhile, the wife of the affable bagman turns out to be a big-time Right-wing player: a top member of the anti-choice group "Feminists for Life" (yes, another of those inverted Orwellian titles that Bushists love so well) and a high-roller in the Iraq war pork stakes, as intrepid investigator Margie Burns reports.
Strip mining, mountain killing, womb controlling, child arresting, war profiteering: why, the dread pirate Roberts is a veritable poster boy for the Bushist Way! All this, and an eager beaver protege of race-baiting, vote-suppressing William Rehnquist, foisted on the Court as a sick joke by Richard Nixon! Get this man to the High Bench pronto!
Update: Max Blumenthal informs us that Roberts was also the attorney for Fox Television when it successfully thwarted government regulations against media saturation by a single conglomerate. A bagman for Rupert Murdoch too! Can this guy be any more perfect? What next? Is he Jesse Helms' secret love child?
Introducing Judge Dread: The Affable Accomplice of a Coup d'etat
So now we know: it's John Roberts for the Supreme Court. The main focus of debate on the pick will undoubtedly be Roberts' statement on abortion, while serving as deputy solicitor general Bush I, declaring that Roe v. Wade was wrong. This is the only "controversial" angle cited by the NY Times' loving – not to say groveling – profile this morning, which then goes on to give Roberts an alibi, if he wants it: that he was only dutifully stating the government's position at the time.
But all of this is a smokescreen. The NY Times doesn't even mention Roberts' most dangerous decision, issued just last Friday, when, as part of a panel of appeals judges, he upheld Bush's outrageous claim of dictatorial powers: the right to dispose of anyone he arbitrarily designates an "enemy combatant" as he sees fit; in this case, sending them to the kangaroo court "military tribunals" he has concocted.
I'm writing more extensively on this case for the Moscow Times later this week, but here's the gist: Roberts' decision is part of an on-going process of elevating the president beyond the reach of law -- essentially a slow-rolling coup d'etat, replacing the old American Republic (or what's left of it) with an authoritarian "Commander-in-Chief State." (Deep Blade has more examples of this process here.) How so? Here's a preview of the column:
"The principle of arbitrary rule by an autocratic leader is being openly established, through a series of unchallenged executive orders, perverse Justice Department rulings and court decisions by sycophantic judges who defer to power – not law – in their determinations. What we are witnessing is the creation of a "Commander-in-Chief State," where the form and pressure of law no longer apply to the president and his designated agents. The rights of individuals are no longer inalienable, nor are their persons inviolable; all depends on the good will of the Commander, the military autocrat.
"[Through a series of executive orders and presidential directives, beginning in October 2001] George W. Bush has granted himself the power to declare anyone on earth – including any American citizen – an 'enemy combatant,' for any reason he sees fit. He can render them up to torture, he can imprison them for life, he can even have them killed, all without charges, with no burden of proof, no standards of evidence, no legislative oversight, no appeal, no judicial process whatsoever except those that he himself deigns to construct, with whatever limitations he cares to impose. Nor can he ever be prosecuted for any order he issues, however criminal; in the new American system laid out by Bush's legal minions, the Commander is sacrosanct, beyond the reach of any law or constitution.
"[In last week's decision, Roberts and his fellow judges] ruled that the Commander's abitrarily designated "enemies" are non-persons: neither the Geneva Conventions nor American military and domestic law apply to such human garbage. Bush is now free to subject anyone he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted – a brutal sham that some top retired military officials have denounced as a "kangaroo court" that will be used by tyrants around the world to "hide their oppression under U.S. precedent."
The column will explore the implications of this decision in more detail. But the fact is that Roberts -- this affable "insider," this "regular guy" from Indiana -- will now be implementing the anti-American principle of unlimited presidential authority on the highest court in the land. Too bad the NY Times doesn't think this is controversial.
Meanwhile, regarding the Roberts' nomination, let me cry out with Hamlet: "O my prophetic soul!" I'm not often this right when I peer into the crystal ball, but I do think that Bush's pick is pretty much along the lines I predicted here on July 4, when I wrote:
"For what it's worth, here's my prediction on Bush's Supreme Court nominee: it won't be any of the "hot-button" prospects (Gonzales, Pryor, etc.). It will be some Federalist Society apparatchik who has plugged along for years, quietly, unnoticed, issuing consistently right-wing rulings but with a minimum of overheated Borkian/Scalian rhetoric.
"It will be someone who will evoke this kind of reaction among the "conventional wisdom" clique (Richard Cohen or E.J. Dionne, say): 'At first glance, at least, President Bush has made a surprisingly solid pick for the Supreme Court: a conservative to be sure, but no ideologue, no firebrand. All the lefty bloggers and anti-Bush activists out there may yet dig up some skeletons, of course, but at the moment, we applaud what looks to be an act of genuine statesmanship by the president.'
"This first impression won't last, of course. Unsavoury facts about the nominee's hardcore ideology and slippery ethics will indeed emerge. But that first CW impression will have taken hold, and the subsequent opposition to the nominee will be increasingly portrayed as arcane nit-picking and partisan spin."
I think we'll see things play out along these lines, although given Roberts' impeccable "insider" credentials -- cited so approvingly by the Times today -- the "slippery ethics" angle might not come into play. Unlike some of the other candidates considered by Bush, Roberts never sought an elected judicial post, so we won't have the usual conflict-of-interest contributions that Bushist apparatchiks normally glory in.(Revised from earlier post.)
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Conspiracy of Silence
The Impeccable Logic of Intelligent Design
Via -- appropriately enough -- Jesus' General, we present "An Open Letter to the Kansas School Board," by Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen. Not since Martin Luther pinned his theseses -- his thesetheseeses -- his thesissessess's -- those things to that door has there been such a brilliant exposition of religious theology. Go thou and feast upon the whole plate -- but first enjoy this appetizer:
"I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.
"Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.
"It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.
"Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power...."
Pilgrim, do not dawdle. Seek now His Noodly Appendage!
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Yoo Hoo: Peeling Back a Layer of the Bush Faction's Terrorist Connections
(Via Kurt Nimmo): John Yoo, one of the little legal beavers who helped the White House craft its infamous torture memos and develop the novel legal theory that the "Commander-in-Chief" cannot be restrained by any law whatsover, comes out into the open with one of the Bush Faction's darker purposes in a recent Los Angeles Times column. Yoo, justifier of torture and military autocracy, is now actually teaching young people about the law, but he took time out from his busy schedule tainting impressionable minds to pen a piece in which, among other things, he calls for the United States to set up "fake" terrorist organizations, complete with its own websites, recruitment centers, training camps and fundraising operations." This group would also launch "fake" terrorist attacks. The idea, we're told, is to sow confusion among al Qaeda's ranks.
Yoo presents this as a new idea; it is nothing of the sort, of course. What he is doing is laying the groundwork for the public acceptance of a practice that is already going on -- much as administration insiders floated stories about the "possible" use of torture and "taking the gloves off" and "rendering" prisoners to torture states in the first months after 9/11, saying that such things "might" be necessary, when they were already taking place on a wide, systematic scale. Just as the ostensibly hypothetical torture plans were actually existing realities, so too with Yoo's "suggestion."
I first wrote about the Bush plans to set up its own terrorist organizations in November 2002. And it was clear from the plans revealed then -- by William Arkin -- that such groups needn't confine themselves to "fake" operations. Indeed, the plan called for Pentagon operatives to also penetrate existing groups and "provoke terrorists into action." There is simply no way of knowing which of the countless terrorist attacks that have beset the world since then can be traced back to these groups and operatives.
All of these operations take place in a shadowland, where "terrorists" are actually "police informers" and vice versa, where "security agencies" and "terrorist groups" operate in impenetrable knots of interpenetration. This murky union "hath left a kind of blot/To mark the full-fraught man and best indued/With some suspicion." In the fallen world of the "war on terror," neither government pronouncements nor terrorist claims can be taken at face value. There may always be another layer behind whatever line is taken in the daily news. Or there may not be another layer. This uncertainty is a key part of the terror that the leaders of both sides find so profitable.
The initial November 2002 piece on the Bush-produced terror groups can be found here:
Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to Foment Terrorism
A follow-up to that story from January 2005:
Darkness Visible: The Pentagon Plan to Foment Terrorism is Now Operative
And proof that Bush is funding foreign "militias," "guerrilla groups," death squads, terrorists and what have you, is here:
Cry Havoc: Bush's Own Personal Janjaweed
Friday, July 15, 2005
Love Me Tender: Harvesting the Blood Fruits of Terror
They were still scraping body parts out of the blasted carriages in the London Underground last week when the terrorists brazenly announced a harvest of blood fruits from their murderous campaign. The declaration – bone-chilling in its moral nullity, its brutal cynicism – was made in the fearsome name of Jihad.
That would be Asim Jihad, of course, spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Yes, just one day after London's agony, the state terrorists who perpetrated the ongoing mass atrocity of aggressive war in Iraq celebrated an important victory in their campaign of violence and fear: 11 juicy oil fields are being put up for tender to international investors, Italian news agency AdnKronos International reports.
The corporate cornucopia of these fertile fields in oil-laden southern Iraq – 3 million barrels a day, said Jihad – will surpass the nation's entire current output of 2.2 million bpd: rich pickings indeed for the oil barons whose branch office in the White House has done such outstanding advance work for them. With oil prices soaring past $60 a barrel – on their way to the $100 mark in the near future, some experts say – the $25 billion ante that the Iraqis are seeking will be a small price to pay for a seat at this game.
But goodness gracious me – as Pentagon pump-jockey Don Rumsfeld would say, in that prim spinster patois he likes to affect when wiping blood off his hands – nobody in their right mind believes all that money will actually go to the Oil Ministry, which will maintain ostensible control of the sold-off fields for the alleged benefit of the Iraqi people. Heavens to Betsy, no!
Some of the loot will be skimmed by Bushist-favored bagmen in the new Baghdad regime. Some will be siphoned off to fund the death-dealing, torture-happy goon squads now operating on behalf of various factions in the government. Some will be kicked back to the oil barons. And some will be smuggled into slush funds for covert ops, mercenaries, campaign hijinks in the Homeland and "retirement packages" for good and faithful servants of the Bush war machine.
How do we know this will happen? Because it's already happened to Iraqi oil money that fell into the hands of the profiteer-in-chief, George W. Bush. According to detailed audits and investigations by Congress, the Pentagon, the General Accountability Office, the International Advisory and Monitoring Board and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, more than $8.8 billion in Iraqi money under Bush's control simply went walking between October 2003 and July 2004, the London Review of Books reports. These were revenues supposedly earmarked for the Iraqi government – but no one knows where they actually went, except for a few dollops that investigators found were bankrolling many of the worthy endeavors outlined above.
And this epic rapine – looting on a scale not seen since the days of the Mongol Horde – is just a single rivulet in the vast delta of corruption draining the conquered land. Christian Aid estimates that an additional $4 billion in unmetered oil export revenue was sold off under the counter, Saddam-style, to Coalition cronies. Then there were the plane-loads of cold cash spread around by Bush's "Provisional Authority" – off the books, natch – to"couriers," brokers, Western contractors, tribal leaders, "intelligence assets" and anyone else who had the moxie to put their hands out at the right time.
All of this money was stolen from the Iraqi people. In fact, every bit of Iraq's oil money was seized by Bush and transferred to New York's Federal Reserve Bank in May 2003. Perhaps this was the operation Bush was referring to in his ballyhooed "Mission Accomplished" declaration that same month. (He certainly couldn't have been talking about the military mission – not with "major combat operations" still being launched even as we speak.) And oil revenues kept flowing to Bush's bank account after the conquest. All told, by the time Bush's personal viceroy, Jerry Bremer, did his "last days of Saigon" bug-out from Baghdad last year, the Crawford Caligula had run through $20 billion of Iraq's oil money.
No one has been brought to justice for this monstrous – indeed murderous – thievery. And the oil barons preparing to feast on the new tenders needn't worry about such "quaint" notions as legality either. That's because Bush – hugger-muggger as usual – recently renewed his infamous Executive Order 13303, the blanket immunity for all U.S. corporate interests involved in any way with Iraq's oil, Deep Blade reports. The original edict was issued in that fateful, fruitful month of May 2003.
Bush's ukase applies to all traffickers in Iraqi oil – as long as their loot 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 – not excluding criminal proceedings for, say, fraud, corruption, extortion, even murder – "shall be deemed null and void." But what if some rogue nation still clinging to the outmoded principle of law and order tries to take Bush's cronies to court? Not to worry: one of the many agencies authorized to "employ all powers" to "carry out the purposes of this order" is none other than Spinster Rumsfeld's own little parlor – the Pentagon.
Money and power, grabbed through violence and deceit: that's the real point – the only point – of Bush's "war on terror." It is in fact a war of terror, where both sides use senseless murder and mass slaughter to advance their degraded ambitions. No doubt the innocent victims of the London bombing are happy to have died in the service of such a noble cause.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Let Freedom Ring
--- "No alcohol, no music CDs, woman forced to wear hijab, people murdered in the streets - this is not the city I remember," says Samir, an editor of one of Basra's largest newspapers. (His name, and others, have been changed for security reasons.) "In the past, Basra revolted against attempts to make it too Islamic." One woman living in Basra says, "Before, we had Saddam; now we have religious parties and militias. To them, a woman's smile is a crime...."
But even this type of thuggery is not the only manifestation of religious extremism in Basra today. "This is a city where if you have a birthday party for your child, you could end up dead," says one Iraqi journalist. As drama professor Thawra Yousif Yaakub relates, her sister-in-law Salina belonged to an all-female band that performed at baby showers, birthday parties, and other festive occasions, playing before all-women audiences only. Last May, the band were unloading their equipment on the street after a gig, when a man leaped out of a car and opened fire, killing Salina and another band member. "They died because they were women and they made music," Yaakub says...
"We have over 70 political parties, many without any constituents," says one academic. "Where do they get their funding? And whose interests do they serve - Basra's or Tehran's?" If Iran casts a political shadow over Basra, its influence on the city's social life is even greater. Over the past year, for example, many women changed their hijab style from the traditional Iraqi buknuk, or tight-fitting cowl, to the looser Iranian-style scarf. "But of course, the whole idea of compulsory hijab is Iranian," says Salaam Wendy, a Basran who recently returned to the city after living overseas for 20 years. "In the 1960s and 70s, you rarely saw women in Basra covered." As for the bans on alcohol, music CDs, or general mingling of the sexes, "This is Iranian, too," says Mr. Wendy. "In the past, Basra had bars, casinos, nightclubs - it had life. Basra has really become an Iranian city. I no longer recognize it."---
Somewhere, the Ayatollah Khomeini is smiling: "How great is Allah! He's gotten the Great Satan to do our work for us! Blessed be Bush, blessed be!"
Eye of the Storm: The Journalistic Integrity of Frank Gardner
I've been wanting to write about Gardner for some time, but was finally prompted by a very good piece by Seumas Milne in the Guardian today, a portion of which singles out Gardner's realistic take on the "terror war." It's a small part of a longer article that is worth a read in its own right. But here's the Gardner-related excerpt:
"The first piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that al-Qaida and its supporters have no demands that could possibly be met or negotiated over; that they are really motivated by a hatred of western freedoms and way of life; and that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination. The reality was neatly summed up this week in a radio exchange between the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, and its security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was left disabled by an al-Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia last year. Was it the 'very diversity, that melting pot aspect of London' that Islamist extremists found so offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's capital, Marr wondered. 'No, it's not that,' replied Gardner briskly, who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. 'What they find offensive are the policies of western governments and specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim lands, notably Iraq and Afghanistan.'
The rest of the Milne piece is here.
Chickenhawk Down: The 'Filter' Strikes Back at Comfy Pajama Brigade
First, a bit more from Mark Yost, writing from the air-conditoned splendor of his office or home in leafy Minnesota. "I know the reporting's bad because I know people in Iraq," he revealed. "A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When's the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up. I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren't so blinded by their own politics that they can't see the real good we're doing there. ...Why isn't the focus of the story the fact that 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces are stable and the four that aren't are primarily home to the genocidal gang of thugs who terrorized that country for 30 years? And reporters wonder why they're despised."
Now here's the Knight Ridder reply, first from Washington chief Clark Hoyt, then Baghdad bureau chief Hannah Allam, from a memo sent to KR editors.
From Clark Hoyt:It's astonishing that Mark Yost, from the distance and safety of St. Paul, Minnesota, presumes to know what's going on in Iraq. He knows the reporting of hundreds of brave journalists, presumably including his own Knight Ridder colleagues Hannah Allam and Tom Lassetter, is bad because his Marine colonel buddy tells him so.
Yost asks why you don't read about progress being made in the power grid, which the colonel oversaw. Maybe it's because there is no progress. Iraqis currently have electricity for an average of nine hours a day. A year ago, they averaged 10 hours of electricity. Iraq's oil production is still below pre-war levels. The unemployment rate is between 30 and 40 percent. New cases of hepatitis have doubled over the rate of 2002, largely because of problems with getting clean drinking water and disposing of sewage.
The "unfiltered news" Yost gets from his military friends is in fact filtered by their isolation in the Green Zone and on American military bases from the Iraqi population, an isolation made necessary by the ferocity of the insurgency. To say that isn't to argue that their perspective is invalid. It's just limited and incomplete.
From Hannah Allam herself:
...I invite Mr. Yost to spend a week in our Baghdad bureau, where he can see our Iraqi staff members' toothbrushes lined up in the bathroom because they have no running water at home. I frequently find them camping out in the office overnight because electricity is still only sporadic in their sweltering neighborhoods, despite what I'm sure are the best-intentioned efforts of people like his Marine buddy working on the electrical grid....
Mr. Yost could have come with me today as I visited one of my own military buddies, who like most officers doesn't leave the protected Green Zone compound except by helicopter or massive convoy. The Army official picked me up in his air-conditioned Explorer, took me to Burger King for lunch and showed me photos of the family he misses so terribly. The official is a great guy, and like so many other soldiers, it's not politics that blind him from seeing the real Iraq. The compound's maze of tall blast wall and miles of concertina wire obscure the view, too...
Mr. Yost can listen to our bureau's morning planning meetings, where we orchestrate a trip to buy bottled water (the tap water is contaminated, when it works) as if we're plotting a military operation. I wonder whether he prefers riding in the first car -- the most exposed to shrapnel and bullets -- or the chase car, which is designed to act as a buffer between us and potential kidnappers...
Mr. Yost's contention that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are stable is pure fantasy. On his visit to Baghdhad, he can check that by chatting with our resident British security consultant, who every day receives a province-by-province breakdown of the roadside bombs, ambushes, assassinations and other violence throughout the country...
Blade Runner: Slicing Up the Failure of the "Terror War"
"An effective strategy can be developed, but it means turning our attention away from the terrorists and on to the conditions that allow them to recruit and operate....From this point of view, it must be said that everything that has followed the fall of Kabul has been ruinous to the task of winning over moderate Muslim opinion and isolating the terrorists within their own communities. In Iraq we allowed America to rip up the rule book of counter-insurgency with a military adventure that was dishonestly conceived and incompetently executed. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed by US troops uninterested in distinguishing between combatant and noncombatant, or even counting the dead. The hostility engendered has been so extreme that the CIA has been forced to conclude that Iraq may become a worse breeding ground for international terrorism that Afghanistan was. Bin Laden can hardly believe his luck."
The Blade cuts sharp and deep -- with plenty of factual backup -- and is always worth checking out.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Reality Check: That Long Black Cloud is Coming Down
"What all these cretins seem to miss is the cold hard fact that today's transient global economic relations are a product of very special transient circumstances, namely, relative world peace and absolutely reliable supplies of cheap energy. Subtract either of these elements from the equation and you will see globalism evaporate so quickly it will suck the air out of your lungs.
Also, it must be obvious that relative world peace depends on equitable distribution of cheap energy. If the industrial nations don't get the oil and gas they need at a tolerable price, they are going to get very cranky, and when nations get cranky, peace itself is in short supply.
Three quarters of the world's oil is in the eastern hemisphere -- two-thirds of the total is in the Middle east alone. Guess what? All of it is a lot closer to China than it is to us. Some of it they can walk to. Do you have any idea how desperate for oil both China and America are going to be in five years? Do you have a clue how tapped out America's WalMart shoppers are going to be as jobs vanish and the value of a dollar craters in the face of runaway energy prices?"
Man on Fire
...Does the House not believe that hatred and bitterness have been engendered by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, by the daily destruction of Palestinian homes, by the construction of the great apartheid wall in Palestine and by the occupation of Afghanistan? Does it understand that the bitterness and enmity generated by those great events feed the terrorism of bin Laden and the other Islamists? Is that such a controversial point? Is it not obvious? When I was on the Labour Benches and spoke in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I said that I despise Osama bin Laden. The difference is that I have always despised him. I did so when the Government, in this very House, gave him guns, money and encouragement, and set him to war in Afghanistan. I said that if they handled that event in the wrong way, they would create 10,000 bin Ladens. Does anyone doubt that 10,000 bin Ladens at least have been created by the events of the past two and a half years? If they do, they have their head in the sand.
There are more people in the world today who hate us more intently than they did before as a result of the actions that we have taken. Does this House understand that the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison have inflamed and deepened that sense of hatred around the world and made our position more dangerous? Do Members of this House not understand that Guantanamo Bay has contributed to the sense of bitterness and hatred against us around the world? Does nobody in this House understand that when Palestinians' houses are knocked down, their olive trees cut down and their children shot by Israeli marksmen, an army of people who want to harm us is created? To say that is not to hope that they succeed—I started by making clear, I hope, my utter rejection and condemnation of the events in London this morning.
It does not matter whether Britain replaces the Trident submarine system with another. The threat now, as the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith) made clear, is not the intercontinental ballistic missiles of other countries but the asymmetrical threat of angry people who hate us and who are ready to exchange their lives for several of ours, or hundreds of ours, or thousands of ours, if they can do so. Is that really so hard to grasp? Given that one cannot defend oneself against every angry man among the enragés of the earth, it follows that the only thing we can do is address what the Secretary of State called the causal circumstances that lie behind these events. That means trying to reduce the hatred in the world and trying to deal with the political crises out of which these events have flowed. If, instead of doing that, we remain in this consensual bubble in which we have placed ourselves, we will go on making the same mistakes over and over again. We will go on with Guantanamo Bay. We will go on as we are doing, making Abu Ghraib not smaller as we were told would happen after the photographs were published, but bigger. We will go on with occupation and war as the principal instruments of our foreign and defence policy. If we do that, some people will get through and hurt us as they have hurt us here today, and if we still do not learn the lesson, that dismal, melancholic cycle will continue.
It ought to be common sense that people start from the standpoint that the only thing that matters is whether what we plan to do will make things better or worse. I listened to the Secretary of State lay out the success story of Afghanistan and Iraq, and his account bore no relationship to the truth or reality. He talked about Afghanistan as a success story and about the President of Afghanistan, when everyone knows that Karzai is the president of the congestion charge area of downtown Kabul and no more. He talked about an Afghan army—it is a fantasy. Afghanistan is a patchwork quilt of warlordism, where the warlords' armies dwarf the so-called Afghan national army. He talked about drugs and narcotics: before we invaded the country those lunatics of the Taliban were reducing heroin production in Afghanistan, but the people whom we have put into power there have increased production by 800 per cent. Our armed forces are in Afghanistan and our taxes are being used to support a political structure that is producing 90 per cent. of the junk that ends up in the veins of our young people in Glasgow, east London and many other places in the world.
The Secretary of State talked about Iraq—as if Iraq were any kind of success story. I could not believe my ears as he described, in that complacent, orotund manner, progress over 12 months, 18 months or two years. Iraq is going backwards, not forwards. It is impossible for the Secretary of State to say we shall withdraw in any given time frame, because Iraq is getting worse, not better. There are more people being killed in Iraq now than there were before. More military operations are being conducted by the Iraqi resistance than before. Last Saturday alone, 175 military operations were mounted by the Iraqi resistance on one day....
....One thousand, eight hundred American boys, conscripted by poverty, unemployment and poor opportunities, have lost their lives as a result of the pack of lies that was the case for the invasion of Iraq, and 17,000 American boys have been wounded. Ten per cent. of them are amputees, who will have to go around with no legs for the rest of their lives as a result of the pack of lies on which we went to war in Iraq.
Eighty-nine of our own boys, including the son of Rose Gentle from Glasgow, 19-year-old Gordon, were sent to die in Iraq on a pack of lies. The Prime Minister will not even meet Gordon's mother. He will not meet the mother of a 19-year-old boy who was sent to die in Iraq. Last Monday, I was on a television programme and a call came through from the mother of a 17-year-old soldier who was leaving for Iraq the following Monday. He is 17 years old, and he is being sent to Iraq, into that quagmire. The 19-year-old Gordon Gentle is dead. Eighty-eight other young men from this country are dead as a result of this, yet our Ministers roll out their jokes and their cod philosophy here today. They have absolutely no grasp of the gravity of the situation, or of how unpopular their stand has become outside these walls. They have learned nothing from the fact that they lost a million votes as a result of what they did in Iraq, or from the fact that millions in Britain marched against them and begged them not to do this.
The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones), in an otherwise fine speech, described today's events as "unpredictable". They were not remotely unpredictable. Our own security services predicted them and warned the Government that if we did this we would be at greater risk from terrorist attacks such as the one that we have suffered this morning.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Crime Pays: Another Iran-Contra Atrocitist Rises From the Depths
Here's a ringing endorsement – from a Republican elder – for a top Bush official in a highly sensitive Pentagon post: at least he's not a murderer or a rapist.
Yes, that's the high praise heaped on Robert L. Earl, chief of staff to Gordon England, the acting Deputy Secretary of Defense who took the place of Paul Wolfowitz and is now nominated for the permanent post. Earl is yet another of alumnus of Iran-Contra – you remember, the criminal conspiracy where the Reagan-Bush gang defied the law of the land by supplying their terrorist army in Nicaragua with slush funds obtained by secretely selling arms to the terrorist-backing regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. Earl confessed to lying to the FBI about his role in the crime, which consisted mainly of stealing national security documents and destroying them at the behest of his boss, the terrorist-facilitator Oliver North.
Earl was granted immunity for his testimony in special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh's probe of the scandal – a probe that was taking the rock-ribbed Republican investigator straight into the office of George H.W. Bush, where all the tangled skeins of the affair seemed to gather in a tight knot. But the fearless prosecutor – who, quaintly, put duty above party – was derailed by a series of blows: first, Bush pardoned a raft of top conspirators in one of the final acts of his failed presidency; then Bill Clinton inexplicably put the kibosh a number of investigations, including some red-hot Congressional probles, into Bush-era crimes – not only Iran-Contra, but the now-forgotten "Iraqgate" (Bush's secret arming of Saddam Hussein – long after he "gassed his own people") and the even more sinister (and even more forgotten) BCCI scandal. The U.S. Senate described BCCI as perhaps the largest criminal enterprise in history, a network of banks fronting for all manner of nefarious activities – gun-running, dope-dealing, intelligence "black ops," extortion, bribery, prostitution, fraud. One of little Dubya's business bail-outs came from one of BCCI's many tentacles – a bail-out arranged by mysterious Arkansas tycoon Jackson Stephens. That would be the same Jackson Stephens who, in 1992, was one of the largest political contributors to two candidates: George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
(Still wonder why Bill and Old George have become such bosom buddies these days?)
Anyway, the immunized Earl never served time for his admitted crimes. And now he's been "rehabilitated" by Bush II – put in a job where he actually oversees the kind of sensitive intelligence documents he once stole and shredded. He joins convicted perjurer Elliot Abrams, who now directs Middle East policy for Bush's National Security Council. (What next? Ollie North for that open Supreme Court slot any day now. Why not?) But as we all know by now, "it's OK if you're a Republican." GOP elder Warren Rudman absolved the Iran-Contra criminal conspirator for his "one mistake," he told the LA Times. After all, "it's a little different than murde, rape or grand larcency," he added.
Of course, Earl actually did steal classified documents – doesn't that still count as larceny? Oh well, it is true that he didn't murder or rape anybody. And as the Scarlet Pimpernel used to say, Odd's fish, that's something, isn't it?
Then again, the Iran-Contra scam enabled the Contra terrorist army and their Latin American allies to rape and kill a lot of people. It was also part of the US policy of supplying both Iran and Iraq during their brutal conflict, a deliberate attempt to prolong the war and weaken both nations. The dead, raped and wounded from that Reagan/Bush-stoked war runs into the millions.
But it was just "one mistake," right? I'm sure Earl and all the boys had their hearts in the right place.
[*Corrected from earlier version, which mistakenly listed Earl as Deputy Secretary of State, not Defense. My apologies.*]
Monday, July 11, 2005
Blowback and its Discontents
Then wise woman Karen Armstrong explains that "Fundamentalism is Often a Form of Nationalism in Religious Disguise." Here's an excerpt:
"Bin Laden was not inspired by Wahhabism but by the writings of the Egyptian ideologue Sayyid Qutb, who was executed by President Nasser in 1966. Almost every fundamentalist movement in Sunni Islam has been strongly influenced by Qutb, so there is a good case for calling the violence that some of his followers commit "Qutbian terrorism." Qutb urged his followers to withdraw from the moral and spiritual barbarism of modern society and fight it to the death.
"Western people should learn more about such thinkers as Qutb, and become aware of the many dramatically different shades of opinion in the Muslim world. There are too many lazy, unexamined assumptions about Islam, which tends to be regarded as an amorphous, monolithic entity. Remarks such as "They hate our freedom" may give some a righteous glow, but they are not useful, because they are rarely accompanied by a rigorous analysis of who exactly "they" are.
"The story of Qutb is also instructive as a reminder that militant religiosity is often the product of social, economic and political factors. Qutb was imprisoned for 15 years in one of Nasser's vile concentration camps, where he and thousands of other members of the Muslim Brotherhood were subjected to physical and mental torture. He entered the camp as a moderate, but the prison made him a fundamentalist. Modern secularism, as he had experienced it under Nasser, seemed a great evil and a lethal assault on faith."
Dog Days: Frisky Pups and Frozen Scandals
Puppy Love, at a Price: Affluent Owners Find More Ways to Pamper Their Pets
Excerpt: "Last year, pet owners across the country spent...$34.4 billion caring for their pets, more than double the $17 billion a year spent a decade earlier, according to American Pet Product Manufacturing Association Inc., a Greenwich, Conn.-based trade association. Much of that cash went for routine veterinary visits and over-the-counter food, but more owners are paying for toys, gourmet biscuits and a nice haircut, as well. Cats outnumber dogs, but more of the money is going to the dogs."
I love dogs. Dogs are wonderful creatures: intelligent, empathetic, capable of genuine friendship up to a point. (Some dogs, anyway; not those nasty tiny little yappy ones.) I take a backseat to no one in my regard for dogs.
But good God Almighty in Heaven above, a nation that spends $34.4 billion a year on dogs and other pets is one seriously whacked-out, morally demented land. Spa packages? Birthday parties? Dog dance lessons? No wonder we live in an age of "frozen scandal," where no official crime, no matter how monstrous – torture, repression, deceit, aggressive war and mass murder – ever sparks a wave of outrage and protest from the American people. Too many people are turned completely inward, too busy projecting their own immense self-regard onto the blank screen of their pets. "Oh, Mooky-Pooky just love me so, look at him wag him little Mooky-Pook tail when he see him Mooky mommy and daddy come through the door!" No wonder our leaders treat us with such absolute contempt and believe they can play for fools whenever they want, about anything they do.
Killing Joke: The Day the American Republic Died
I thought then – and still think – that this performance was one of the most revealing – and sickening – episodes in American political history. The cynicism of it defies belief, outstrips all comprehension. Imagine sending men and women to die – and to kill – in a war over weapons of mass destruction, then joking about the fact that no weapons were ever found. All this, while thousands continued to die, including your own soldiers.
The fact that Bush would engage so openly in such murderous cynicism was a telling revelation: it showed, or rather confirmed, that America was being led by a brutal, mocking, heedless Caligula, a spoiled, shallow, vain and selfish fool, a moral psychopath incapable of ordinary human empathy. The reaction of the "journalists" present was another soul-sinking revelation: they laughed. Oh, how they laughed. "What a kidder this Dubya is, eh? What important insiders we all are – real players, tough and savvy – sharing this special moment of "knowing" laughter with the president!" As far as I know, not a single person walked out in protest, not a single "journalist" refused to take part in this open mockery of the dead – our own, and the tens of thousands of Iraqis who had died for the WMD chimera that Bush now found so funny.
All this was bad enough: Caligula ruled us, and the press were nothing more than fat, lazy poodles dozing at his feet. But then something even more extraordinary and equally disheartening happened: the Democratic Party simply ignored the incident in the months of presidential campaigning that followed!
Imagine the devastating effect of campaign ads showing Bush's silly, mincing clown act to the general public, over and over, along with shots of the war's destruction, of American wounded, etc., with grim voiceovers: "President Bush thinks the war in Iraq is funny. He thinks it's a joke that there were no weapons of mass destruction there – none at all – even though that's why he said we had to go to war. Ask the hundreds of our sons and daughters who have died in this war if they think it's funny. Ask the grieving parents, the grieving wives and husbands, the grieving children, if they think it's funny that we went to war for a fantasy, for a joke. Then ask yourself: is this man really fit to govern our great nation?"
(Other versions could have used the footage while stressing the fact that the war had increased terrorism, that Bush had diverted mass resources from securing ports, chemical/nuke plants, and hunting down those who attacked the country on 9/11 in order to pursue the fantasy of Iraqi WMD.)
Imagine having such a political weapon in your hand – and not using it. It would have touched all the bases: striking a chord with the uneasiness about the Iraq war felt by much of the population; educating the general public about Bush's true nature, "getting around the filter" of the national media that continued to paint him in the heroic colors of a "war president"; underscoring the blaring fact that Bush was not the "national security" president, but was in fact a palpable danger to our national security. Everything the Democrats said they wanted to do – particularly neutralizing the security issue – could have been done by using this revolting performance as a cudgel to beat Bush with, every single day of the campaign. It would have been 100 times more effective than the ludicrious gung-ho military drag that John Kerry was festooned with ("Reporting for duty!"). With such a weapon, they could have swept to a margin of victory great enough to swamp the extensive but not-yet universal Bush machinery of vote-fixing.
(And I haven't even mentioned the fact that the words "Abu Ghraib" never once passed Kerry's lips during the campaign. They couldn't even attack Bush for staining the honor of our military by involving it in his foul torture regime, his gulags and hell-holes.)
A party that could not summon the insight, the vision and the will to exploit such horrendous weaknesses in their opponent – in a race that was not just an ordinary political contest but a desperately important turning point in American history, a chance, perhaps the last chance, to save the Republic – is a dead thing, a useless dangling appendage, a collection of time-servers, lickspittles, bribe-takers and morons.
And they have proven this over and over in the months since the 2004 election. How could you have those White House "torture memos" in your hand – and not mount an all-out war, using every last weapon you have as the minority party, including the filibuster -- to stop the nomination of Al Gonzales as attorney general? How could you simply lay down before Bush's threat to break 200 years of Senate law with his "nuclear option" on the filibuster by allowing some of the worst judges in American history to sail through to lifelong sinecures – all for a "deal" that Frist and the Bushist appartchiks said they would break whenever they felt like it?
More and more, I have come to think that the March 2004 press dinner was in fact a wake for the American Republic. Given the reaction – or rather, the non-reaction – of the Establishment to this slathering little killer's mockery of his victims, his strutting, preening celebration of the scam he had put over on the country, it seems clear that not just the Democratic Party but our democracy itself is moribund.
Can it be revived at this point, at this late stage? I don't know. Perhaps Bob Dylan laid out the course we must now take almost 40 years ago: "Strike another match, go start anew: It's all over now, baby blue." Perhaps from the ruins we'll be able to construct a new republic one day. But for now, the agonizing, world-churning death-agony of the old republic goes on, with no end yet in sight.
(Corrected after editing by Jo Boyce)
Sunday, July 10, 2005
The Executioner's Face is Always Well Hidden
"CONGRESS HAS a novel response to the rash of prisoners over the past few years who have been exonerated of capital crimes after being tried and convicted: Keep similar cases out of court. Both chambers of the national legislature are quietly moving a particularly ugly piece of legislation designed to gut the legal means by which prisoners prove their innocence....
For a great many capital cases, the bill would eliminate federal review entirely. Federal courts would be unable to review almost all capital convictions from states certified by the Justice Department as providing competent counsel to convicts to challenge their convictions under state procedures. Although the bill, versions of which differ slightly between the chambers, provides a purported exception for cases in which new evidence completely undermines a conviction, this is drawn so narrowly that it is likely to be useless -- even in identifying cases of actual innocence....
The legislation would be simply laughable, except that it has alarming momentum. A House subcommittee held a hearing recently, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold one and then mark up the bill this week....It is no exaggeration to say that if this bill becomes law, it will consign innocent people to long-term incarceration or death."
This is a good editorial (surprising from the WP these days), but it has one major flaw. It overlooks the fact that the rabid Bushist Party apparatchiks pushing this bill simply do not care if they consign innocent people to long-term incarceration or death. After all, that's what the Dear Leader does every day in his "war on terror."
Saturday, July 09, 2005
"Robbing the cradle of civilization"
(From TomDispatch, via The Smirking Chimp.)
Right-Wing Court-Packing in Action
Bush judges to decide Guantánamo case
"When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit takes up the question of the rights of foreign nationals being held at Guantánamo Bay, two of the three judges who decide the case will be just-confirmed nominees of George W. Bush.
"In January, one U.S. District Court judge in Washington ruled that the president has the authority to detain "enemy combatants" at Guantánamo for as long as the war against al Qaida and the Taliban may last -- and that federal courts have little if anything to say about. Two weeks later, another federal judge reached nearly the opposite conclusion, holding that the detainees at Guantánamo have constitutional rights that military tribunals aren't protecting.
"The two cases are before the D.C. Circuit now, and as SCOTUSblog notes today, the court has just announced the names on the three-judge panel that will hear them: Judith Rogers, Thomas Griffith and Janice Rogers Brown. Rogers has been on the court since 1994, but Griffith and Brown have been there less than a month, having been confirmed by the Senate in the wake of the nuclear option-averting compromise struck by the 'Gang of 14.'"
Yes, let's raise a glass once again to those wibbling, wobbling gobs of goo known as "the Democratic opposition." Thanks, guys!
The Hollow, Hateful, Harmful Compassion of the Great and Good G8
"While the G8 agreement commits the richest countries to increase aid and write off the debt of 18 countries, it requires developing countries to pursue a raft of free-market policies. The G8 is united behind this agenda, which Britain has taken a lead in pushing. Gordon Brown's new deal talks of the poorest and richest countries "each meeting our obligations". Poor countries' obligations are to "create the conditions for new investment" and "more favourable business environments" while "opening up trade". Only in return for these will rich countries provide aid and debt relief and open up their markets. One might think that countries where poverty kills thousands every day have no obligations towards the rich. But in the world of Brown and the G8, they are to help western companies make more profits by pursuing policies that have increased poverty and inequality from Ghana to Zambia... It's a cheap strategy, too - last month's G7 finance ministers deal cut in aid what countries got in debt relief...
"The basic aim of British elites has traditionally been to help companies get their hands on other countries' resources. Secret 1960s files state that "we should bend our energies to help produce a world economic climate in which our external trade, our income from invisibles and our balance of payments can prosper". The key was to protect sources of raw materials in the Middle East and southern Africa by promoting "freer" global trade and "increasing our efforts to open up new markets".
"Postwar planners never intended to allow African countries to be truly independent. After decolonisation, they sought to establish pro-western elites - like those who now welcome the G8 agreements - and impose indirect economic rule through levers such as aid. The Attlee government, which established the aid programme in 1948, drained millions from Africa to help Britain's postwar recovery. Current development policies are ways to control nominally independent economies in a post-imperial world."
And again, this is a sinister coin that's paid out on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Hour of the Inevitable
Blair Put Us in the Firing Line: The war on Iraq made the London attack inevitable
Excerpt: "The fury generated by Tony Blair's decision to coat-tail George Bush into what only the blind still call a justified war has put us all in the firing line. When Blair led us into the war on terror, he knew that a country with which Islamist networks had no immediate axe to grind would be drawn into their sphere of hate as a consequence.
"That is why we have had tightened anti-terrorism laws, public scares and training exercises for emergency services. They were all premised on the inevitability of blowback for Blair's foreign exploits. In the calculation that staked our security against some ill-conceived national interest in occupying Iraq, our government has turned us all into expendable pawns..."
This holds true across the Atlantic too, of course -- and in Australia as well.
Shell Game: Iraqi Oil Fields Offered Up to Foreign Investors
Eleven Iraqi Oil Fields Go Up to Go Up for Tender
"Eleven oil fields in southern Iraq, capable of boosting the country's production to three million barrels a day will soon be tendered to international investors, the Iraqi oil ministry announced Friday...."
This is the real game, this is what it's all about, this is why Bush and Blair diverted all those resources away from tracking down real terrorists into their terrorist-manufacturing war of aggression -- this is why those dozens of people were blown to bits in London on Thursday.
Friday, July 08, 2005
A View of London for New Jersey
An Indomitable Spirit Amid the Rubble.
Dark Waters: Sailing Into Madness With the Shade of Josef Mengele
On July 1, the former presidential physician of George H.W. Bush wrote a guest column for the Washington Post. Two days later, the attorney general appointed by George W. Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad. These seemingly unrelated events are not only inextricably linked; together they form a portrait of a nation gone wretchedly astray, hurtling into a moral void from which there may be no return.
There was nothing unusual about the physician, Dr. Burton Lee III, doing a piece for the Post, of course; the paper is the house organ of the American political elite, and a whole troop of loyal Bush Family retainers make regular appearances in its editorial pages, lauding the son who has now ascended the throne. What is remarkable is that Lee came not to praise the younger Bush, but to bury him – with hard truths about the torture regime he has installed in his "terror war" gulag.
Lee, a former military doctor, denounced Bush's use of military medical personnel to help "set the conditions for interrogation": withholding treatment from tortured prisoners, breaking medical confidence to tell interrogators of prisoners' physical and psychological weak spots, and other heinous practices approved by the White House and codified in Pentagon directives for military medical staff.
The good doctor is right to be shocked: the shadow of Josef Mengele hovers over these deliberate perversions of medical ethics. Yet Bush has not only countenanced these crimes against humanity – he has commanded that medical personnel commit them. This level of open, legalized barbarity has not been seen in the United States government since the days of slavery and the Indian wars.
Lee also shredded the big Bush lie that the noble "terror war" had only been temporarily tainted by a few "bad apples," now thankfully removed from the wholesome barrel. In denouncing the "systematic, government-sanctioned torture and excessive abuse of prisoners in the war on terror," Lee noted the true extent of the criminality – and those who bear the ultimate responsibility for it. He writes:
"The widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment – frequently based on military and government documents – defy the claim that this abusive behavior is limited to a few non-commissioned officers at Abu Ghraib or isolated incidents at Guantanamo Bay. When it comes to torture, the military's traditional leadership and discipline have been severely compromised up and down the chain of command. Why? I fear it is because the military has bowed to errant civilian leadership."
Here Lee cites the literally thousands of pages of evidence produced by the Army's own investigators detailing systematic torture and murder throughout Bush's world-engulfing gulag. In a separate interview, Lee then points readers to the new report by the Physicians for Human Rights group: "Break Them Down: The Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces." As Lee points out, psychological torture can be even more damaging and long-lasting than a bout of physical abuse – something he learned first-hand from treating the victims of French torture in Algeria.
The graphic horrors of physical torture – captured in the infamous pictures from Abu Ghraib – have understandably garnered most of the attention in the media's occasional glances at Bush's concentration camps. And here, under pressure, the White House has reluctantly made a few cosmetic changes, limiting to some extent the knuckle-work that interrogators can use – although PHR notes that many of these ballyhooed "reforms" have never been implemented. In any case, these restrictions can be suspended in cases of "military necessity," as Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld always notes carefully in his instructions to the cadres. And of course, none of the published restrictions on military interrogators apply in the super-secret CIA quadrants of the gulag, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed Congress this year.
But while eighty-sixing the brass knucks – in mixed company, at least – Bush and Rumsfeld have continued to implement a range of mind-breaking psychological tortures, the official documents show: practices which PHR notes are "immoral and…illegal under the Geneva Conventions… [U.S.] domestic law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." These codified crimes are spread across the gulag's 42 prisons, where some 11,000 men are now caged – many of them innocent of any wrongdoing, all of them held without charges in an endless legal limbo.
This nightmare machinery was set in motion by Gonzales, who, at Bush's order, led the White House legal team in drawing up official memos justifying the use of torture to the very point of death, and declaring that Bush was not bound by any laws in his role as "commander-in-chief." This monstrous perversion of justice was a virtual coup d'etat, establishing the president as a military autocrat and fostering an atmosphere of lawlessness and brutality "up and down the chain of command."
After Lee's article appeared, Gonzales was suddenly dispatched to Baghdad, AP reports: a headline-grabbing diversion that not only obscured Lee's hard truths but also buried the Observer's breaking stories about the torture and murder being dealt out by Bush's disciples in the new Iraqi government. There Gonzales, the ghostwriter of Bush's torture opus, simply erased the mountains of official evidence cited by Lee and PHR, reducing the ongoing, worldwide atrocity to a single aberrant episode: "From the best we can tell, it really related to the actions of the night shift at one cell block at Abu Ghraib."
This breathtaking lie – regurgitated in the face of undisputed fact – shows how far the Bush gang has fallen into the void of radical evil. Lost to honor, law and truth, unmoored from reality, they are sailing into madness – with no end yet in sight.
"Its time for the President and PM Blair to come to the realisation that its time to save American and British lives and return our troops to their homes.THEN NUKE THE FREAKIN AREA...MAKE IT A PARKING LOT FOR A THOUSAND YEARS! WIPE THE EARTH CLEAN OF THESE COWARDS!"--leagalbgl, Little Green Footballs.
"Those responsible for London attacks are criminals who do not represent Islam or even truly understand (its message)" --Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, powerful Sunni cleric.
For more condemnation of the attacks from leaders of the "Muslim village" who, according to Tom Friedman, are forever "derelict" in their condemnation of the "death-cult in their midst," see this story. Friedman's gasbaggery is particularly acute in his column on the bombings, by the way, with the usual condescending rhetoric, giant blind spot about the West's part in the cycle of violence, the usual specious logic and of course a subtle plug for his latest book, Flatter Than a Flitter in a Roomful of Elephants, or some such.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
London Calling: The Red Wheel Rolls Back
Soon we were in the car, still under media blackout with a broken radio, driving north on the London Orbital, the great bleak wheel of concrete that encircles the vast metropolis. A line of blaring ambulances passed us on the southern side, heading into the city center. It was almost noon before we were finally able to find out what had happened - or rather, find out the first, still-confused inklings of what had happened. An unknown number of dead; many injured, perhaps hundreds; several tube stations hit, one bus blown up; a coordinated series of attacks, taking place during the course of an hour, and clearly aimed at crippling London's transporation system - which it did, most effectively. There was the usual claim of responsibility by a hitherto-unknown group claiming connection to al Qaeda, although the police were showing an abundance of caution about naming any possible suspects.
Then Tony Blair appeared on the screen. A brief statement, very halting, off-kilter, apparently choked with emotion. A short time later he was there again, this time with the whole panalopy of G8 leaders and the various world worthies that were attending them at Gleneagles. As the cameras narrowed in, Blair was framed with a somber Jacques Chirac towering over his left shoulder, while good angel standing at his right was George W. Bush, standing stiffly with that striking look of profound constipation he wears on portentous public occasions.
By now, Blair had found his footing - and some ghost-written text - as he laid out a message of stern resolve. The breathtaking obliviousness his language was striking. Let's be charitable at this time of national crisis in the UK and assume that it was obliviousness - and not conscious hypocrisy, not a deep-stained cynicism foisted on a people even in their hour of need. (Although all historical evidence points to the contrary.) In any case, there was Blair - with Bush at his side - raining contempt and condemnation on all those who would use violence to advance their cause, on "barbarians" who think nothing of killing innocent people to get their way.
What a vertiginous, wrenching disconnection from reality in those words! Here were two men responsible for the deaths of up to 100,000 innocent people if not more; two men whom - as the Downing Street Memos prove - knowingly launched a war of aggression based on "fixed" intelligence, in defiance of the laws of their own nations and international law as well. Today's violence and destruction in London - horrific, sickening, indeed barbaric - still pales in comparison to the epic destruction, looting, chaos and death that Bush and Blair have inflicted upon Iraq. The hour of destruction and fear in London, and a day of partial paralysis (already easing as I write, at 5 p.m.), while terrible in its own right, especially for those left grieving or injured, again pales in comparison to the daily horror Bush and Blair have engendered in Iraq, particularly Baghdad, where the simplest actions of daily life have become a dance with death, where the people live and breathe fear, ruin, terror and strife every day of their lives.
Bush has done this. Blair has done this. They didn't have to do it. There were no compelling reasons of national security or national survival that compelled them to launch this murderous action - a war of aggression in the very heart of Islam, a war that the US-UK intelligence services admit has engendered more terrorism. They have made senseless, violent, barbaric war on others; and now others make senseless, violent, barbaric war on them. This not to excuse the terrorists in any way. Their crime is as heinous as the war made by the great Christian statesmen. Murder is murder - foul, brutal, the all-devouring of a unique human consciousness - whether it is carried out wholesale in aggressive war and state terrorism, or in the "asymmetrical," piecemeal attacks of stateless terrorists, or one on one, between individuals. But you cannot make war and not expect war in return. Once you set the red wheel of slaughter in motion, you can't control it, now matter how powerful you are - or think you are.
I wrote some lines the day after September 11 that still hold true, I think, on this new day of infamy, July 7: "Blood will have blood; that's certain. But blood will not end it. For murder is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for generations?"
There is much else to say on the London bombing and its ramifications, but I'm too tired at the moment. I had to break off this blog post earlier tonight to write a story at the request of the Bergen Record in New Jersey, where I used to free-lance quite a bit. They called to ask for a story on the London situation, to be turned around in just a few hours. I will either continue this post tomorrow, or else post the NJ story.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
The Pimpernel of Babylon
Those Bushies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven, or Malawi,
That damned elusive al-Zarqawi?
The Zarqawi Phenomenon, by Dahr Jamail, on TomDispatch.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Dance of Death: Corporatizing Compassion for Africa
I suppose what shocks me most in all of this is the fact that I am still able to be shocked by the shameless, self-serving, murderous lies of political leaders, and the extent to which they are utterly and completely bought and sold by Big Money. Even so, the cynicism displayed in this sickening episode takes my breath away. Once again, I must drag out a line I've used repeatedly in the Bush-Blair era and cry out with a loud voice, saying: "What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?"
Here's an excerpt from Monbiot:
Multinational corporations…have already been given control of the primary instrument of US policy towards Africa, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The act is a fascinating compound of professed philanthropy and raw self-interest. To become eligible for help, African countries must bring about "a market-based economy that protects private property rights", "the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment" and a conducive environment for US "foreign policy interests". In return they will be allowed "preferential treatment" for some of their products in US markets.
The important word is "some". Clothing factories in Africa will be allowed to sell their products to the US as long as they use "fabrics wholly formed and cut in the United States" or if they avoid direct competition with US products. The act, treading carefully around the toes of US manufacturing interests, is comically specific. Garments containing elastic strips, for example, are eligible only if the elastic is "less than 1 inch in width and used in the production of brassieres". Even so, African countries' preferential treatment will be terminated if it results in "a surge in imports"…
[The Act's] implementation has been outsourced to the Corporate Council on Africa. The CCA is the lobby group representing the big US corporations with interests in Africa: Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Starbucks, Raytheon, Microsoft, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup and others…Now something very similar is being set up in the UK. Tomorrow the Business Action for Africa summit will open in London with a message from Tony Blair. Chaired by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the head of Anglo American, its speakers include executives from Shell, British American Tobacco, Standard Chartered Bank, De Beers and the Corporate Council on Africa…
Few would deny that one of the things Africa needs is investment. But investment by many of our multinationals has not enriched its people but impoverished them. The history of corporate involvement in Africa is one of forced labour, evictions, murder, wars, the under-costing of resources, tax evasion and collusion with dictators…
Debt, unfair terms of trade and poverty are not causes of Africa's problems but symptoms. The cause is power: the ability of the G8 nations and their corporations to run other people's lives. Where, on the Live 8 stages and in Edinburgh, was the campaign against the G8's control of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the UN? Where was the demand for binding global laws for multinational companies?
At the Make Poverty History march, the speakers insisted that we are dragging the G8 leaders kicking and screaming towards our demands. It seems to me that the G8 leaders are dragging us dancing and cheering towards theirs.