Friday, May 14, 2004

Standard Operating Procedure

Big, Left, Outside links to the Black Commentator:

At 12:30 in the morning of May 10, approximately 20 U.S. Marines executed a military assault on the Port-au-Prince home of 69-year-old Annette Auguste, a.k.a. Souer Anne. Auguste’s residence is part of a compound that includes four other apartments that were also invaded by the U.S. military forces. The troops covered the heads of 11 Haitians with black hoods and then forced them to lay face down on the ground while binding their wrists with plastic manacles behind their backs. The victims of this terrifying U.S. military invasion included five-year-old Chamyr Samedi, 10-year-old Kerlande Philippe, 12-year-old Loubahida Augustine, 14-year-old Luckman Augustine, and seven adults.

Giordano sums it all up:

Get it? The black hoods, the binding, are not isolated abuses. These are Standard Operating Procedure for an illegitimate administration gone mad.

This isn't the America I grew up in...
Know Your Chickenhawks

An oldie but goodie from Take Back The Media (Flash Animation).
'Round the Bend

Riverbend posted today regarding the latest news from her country. What more can I add?
Command Post

Update: Blogger is back up over here--I added the link to the article in question.

Trying to rise to Timshel's challenge, I had filed this away, thinking I'd get around to posting about it sooner or later. Actually, Mikhail Capone got to it first. Called Pedestrian Paradise, Jay Walljasper of Utne Reader presents the anti-Hummer point of view--one incidently, shared by a lot of people, including my dad, who is as conservative as they come.

Making the streets, once the arteries of urban life, the exclusive domain of cars and trucks, has contributed in its own way to the increasing alienation of city life. Consequently, some have decided to take back the streets, as it were, petitioning for "traffic calming" measures to be implemented, requesting that alternatives like bike and walking paths be built (here in Baton Rouge, sidewalks would be nice--there are SOME, but by no means is a sidewalk considered an essential amenity), etc. etc. It's an attempt to restore urban life to something more...urban.

The Alternet article is a little long--and I'm a little too busy here to give a real good summary--but check it out. Progressive politics begins with a number of things, one of which is a realization that, while cars aren't going away any time soon, there's no reason why we have to worship at the altar of Ford, GM, Chrysler, or the Asian and Euro versions. Besides, walking is great exercise for both body and mind.

Alas, I've gotta close the request line. Back to justifying my existence.
Erotic Versus Obscene

Dr. Susan Block over at Counterpunch uses her training as a sex therapist to comment on the George Bush and the Abu Ghraib photos.
Blame Game

The Boston Globe reports on damage to the Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, a particularly sacred site for Sh'ia Muslims. General Mark Kimmitt blames the Al Sadr militia for the damage, which reports call "slight."

First, "slight" is relative here. Religious Sh'ia Muslims will view ANY damage to the shrine as significant. Second, whether or not the damage was actually done by Al Sadr's thugs, the US military will be blamed. Duh. As occupiers, and outsiders, our military is an easy target for scapegoating--and it isn't like they were shooting water pistols during the fighting.

And, finally, off topic, but Rumsfeld yesterday looked like a slighter more hyper version of Richard Nixon during his visit to Abu Ghraib. As Atrios and others note, Rummy made a particularly crass statement, calling himself a "survivor" in the course of his public comments. In light of ongoing issues like securing body armor and heavier troop transports for actual soldiers in the theater, this remark demonstrates a profound callousness on the part of the Defense Secretary. It's time to vote him off the island.

Regarding body armor, apparently they STILL don't have enough for every soldier--not to mention any for Iraqi security forces--but dogs apparently have protection (link courtesy of As'ad AbuKhalil).

How many ways can one say FUBAR?
Surrealistic Hill

If you want to watch what could only be described as surreal, check out C-SPAN, either here on the internet, or perhaps they'll rerun Wolfowitz's testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Everyone and no one is responsible for Iraq at this point. Black is white, up is down, and they desperately need the money, but they can't tell you exactly what they need it for. Deniability seems to be the mantra of the Pentagon. No word on who's playing sitar.

The New York Times offers a glimpse into the operations at Abu Ghraib prison. Seeing the photographs is one thing. It's quite another thing to read about the abuse. Stomping on fingers and toes, hitting detainees so hard that they're knocked unconscious, lunging into groups of people on the floor over and over again, "like it was a pile of autumn leaves," in addition to the sexual humiliation.

One interesting element in the latest news could well be the firefight between various echelons in the armed forces. Jeremy C. Sivits, who brought the scandal to light, paints a picture that reflects the views of the higher ups, namely, that this was the work of a few out-of-control individuals. Lawyers for those accused offer a much different story.

This is the ugly side of the American character, and I fear that our impending loss in Iraq will reveal more of that side.

Via Atrios, Matthew Yglesias has a link of his own to a conservative site which expresses this pretty succintly: in their mindset, the choice is between wishing Arabs would just go away versus those who wish to blow them away.

Consider: at present, the United States is mired in two military conflicts, the economy is still quite shaky, the military itself will be struggling to control its internal damage, we've alienated our long-time European allies, who refuse to be part of a fool's errand, politics has literally trumped national security in the outing of Valerie Plame, somebody--sorry, I can't recall the source--pointed out that the job of counterrorism chief in the Bush administration might as well be listed as temporary employment, since no one lasts for more than about a year. And that's not even half of it.

It's going to be a bumpy ride, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

We've Come to Liberate Sow the Seeds of Despair

The Boston Globe manages to obtain the opinion of a few Iraqis:

The Americans killed hundreds in Fallujah in retaliation for the mutilation of the four Americans, and now those people are killing an American in retaliation for the torture of prisoners," said Arkan Mohammad, a cleric at Baghdad University. "Someone has to do something to stop the cycle of violence from going on and on."

Even in the Baghdad Sunni Muslim stronghold of Adhamiya, where opposition to the occupation is fierce, the decapitation of Berg appalled many residents.

"We denounce this act. No one can accept the killing of another human being in this horrible way," said Yassir Saleh, a 30-year-old barber. He, too, pointed to a tide of violence that has swept the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Many Iraqis say they oppose the US-led occupation but also despise insurgents whose suicide attacks, mortar strikes, and bomb blasts have killed far more Iraqis than Americans.
Freeway Blogger

Link via TBogg. Visit his home page, or check it out over at AP.

Link via As'ad AbuKhalil. Maureen Dowd notes the following in The New York Times, regarding the latest photographs in the Abu Ghraib scandal:

"Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell said some photographs seemed to show Iraqi women being commanded to expose their breasts--such debasement, after a war that President Bush partly based on women's rights."

Thus, yet another post hoc invasion justification falls by the wayside. Sadly, it wouldn't surprise me if SOME of Bush's supporters would cheer their "huzzahs" if the Chimp-in-Chief announced that the war was all about sadistic humiliation of a foreign nation after all, and that it had NOTHING to do with WMD, liberation of the Iraqi people, bad guy Saddam, flypaper, or whatever the hell else they've proffered. Of course, the sadism wasn't supposed to be photographed, as that might have some negative impact on what's left of Bush's core support, i.e., the religious right. They seem to be keeping a stiff upper lip about all this, though; however, when it comes times to cast a ballot, some of these folks might stay home instead. Let's hope so--you know they won't vote for Kerry, so just put them on the sidelines.

Humiliation of women in a war fought ostensibly to enforce political rights for women is the worst form of hypocrisy. And we're seeing similar things happening in Afghanistan, where provincial governments are once again restricting women's freedoms. I understand now why some Afghan women refused to remove their burkhas when we "liberated" them: our liberation lasted only until Bush began exploring his inner adult A.D.D., assisted by the obsessed Richard Cheney.

The United States' reputation as a world leader--certainly, in the area of civil liberties and individual rights--has taken a fatal blow. Wingnuts might not care a whole lot about this right now, but problems will arise when we discover that our business relationships will suffer. Sy Hersch talked about that the other day on NPR. It won't be pretty.
Friedman Boards a Lifeboat

A bunch of other folks have taken note, but I'll add my .00002 cents worth: Aside from a gratuitous swipe at Yasir Arafat--but, then again, don't you expect that from Tom?--it looks like the Kool-Aid has finally worn off and he's seeing a different shade called reality. FromThe New York Times:

"Why, in the face of the Abu Ghraib travesty, wouldn't the administration make some uniquely American gesture? Because these folks have no clue how to export hope. They would never think of saying, 'Let's close this prison immediately and reopen it in a month as the Abu Ghraib Technical College for Computer Training with all the equipment donated by Dell, H.P. and Microsoft.' Why didn't the administration ever use 9/11 as a spur to launch a Manhattan project for energy independence and conservation, so we could break out of our addiction to crude oil, slowly disengage from this region and speak truth to fundamentalist regimes, such as Saudi Arabia? (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.) Because that might have required a gas tax or a confrontation with the administration's oil moneymen. Why did the administration always--rightly--bash Yasir Arafat, but never lift a finger or utter a word to stop Ariel Sharon's massive building of illegal settlements in the West Bank? Because while that might have earned America credibility in the Middle East, it might have cost the Bush campaign Jewish votes in Florida.

And, of course, why did the president praise Mr. Rumsfeld rather than fire him? Because Karl Rove says to hold the conservative base, you must always appear to be strong, decisive and loyal. It is more important that the president appear to be true to his team than that America appear to be true to its principles. (Here's the new Rummy Defense: 'I am accountable. But the little guys were responsible. I was just giving orders.')

Add it all up, and you see how we got so off track in Iraq, why we are dancing alone in the world--and why our president, who has a strong moral vision, has no moral influence."
Compare and Contrast

Daily Kos, via Tom Tomorrow, has an excellent idea for a Kerry campaign commercial.

A quick break here, which gave me time to tour around the usual websites. From Talkleft, I found this Baltimore Sun article written by Kenneth Lavon Johnson. In 1960, the now retired judge was a 22 year old Southern University Law Student. He sat down at the lunch counter over at the Kress Department Store (I'll be walking right by the now abandoned building in a few minutes to pick up a bite to eat myself), and was refused service. This was one of the first acts of non-violent civil disobedience in the pursuit of civil rights for people of color.

For his efforts, Mr. Johnson was expelled from the university. This Saturday he will be awarded an honorary degree from the school.

If you have a few minutes, take the time to read the article.
Odds and Ends

A couple of things real quick here, then it looks like I'll be a little busy this morning. First, my sitemeter shows a small spike in traffic--and, wouldn't you know it, almost everyone is looking for the Nick Berg execution video. At the risk of losing y'all, sorry, but I won't post a link. For the record, I found the video--hint: one of the sites I read has a link in a comments section. For the record again: yes, it's gruesome. I don't want to see it again. My heart goes out to the family of Nick Berg. My heart goes out to the families in Afghanistan and Iraq who've had loved ones killed as well. Given that THEIR grief has been perpetrated with our tax dollars, as opposed to a vicious, insane creep like Zarqawi, maybe we should focus on those victims, given that we supposedly have some control over the expenditure of our money. Therefore, I WILL link to a site,, which has both photographs documenting the destruction, and superb writing that places the carnage in context.

Last night's Nightline was somewhat interesting, if only in the sense that torture is now actually being discussed as an option for interrogation. Alan Dershowitz, professional creep, has managed to contort himself into a justification for techniques of the type pointed out here, while Ariel Dorfman opted for a contrary position, one that is a little more indicative of possessing brain matter above his eyebrows. There was a third person on the panel, an individual whose name slips me, although he apparently was an intelligence specialist of some kind. He reiterated a position also put forth in the Times article above--namely, that torture is mostly INEFFECTIVE in producing anything of value. Those being tortured will talk, sure, but can you really trust what they say? All the "ticking time bombs" (Israeli shorthand for "time to call in the sadists") can't get someone to tell the truth.

Aside: I can't believe anyone who's followed the 9/11 investigation believes torture is of ANY value. It is clear that the problem pre-attack was one of lacking focus and resources.

Another aside: Rumsfeld testified yesterday before the Senate Appropriations Committee. C-Span should have a Real Media feed for those who want to watch the clown show.

Finally, here's a critical view of the situation in Iraq from William S. Lind. Lind thinks. Bush, judging from another C-Span rerun I viewed last night, clearly doesn't. As I watched Dubya make a statement prior to boarding Marine 1, it struck me that he's so far out of the loop (again, see above: he doesn't even want to know where "high value" Al Qaeda detainees are being held) that I can't imagine anyone thinking he's even nominally in control. Hell, they don't even let Bush out to do ribbon cutting duties. He's merely the campaigner in chief.

Sorry for the eclecticism in this morning's post. If I'm not as busy as I think I'll be, look for more in a bit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

At Last--A Plan for Iraq

From The Angry Arab News Service.
Chomsky, Schell, Zinn, and Polk

Jeffrey over at Library Chronicles spotted this. Also from The Guardian, four powerful voices weigh in on the mess in Iraq.

I wonder if Bush is so full of shit and hubris that he'd take the same path if somehow he could go back and start again. Alas, probably so. The other day I caught a replay of his "all glory and honor are yours, almighty Rumsfeld" speech. Dubya's look and tone when he barked about "completing the mission" spoke volumes as to his persona: petty, vain, vindictive, narcissistic--and his exit offered more of the same. Emperor Tinpot, unable to trouble himself with the masses.

Bush, and his minions, live in a world of myth. In their, uh, well, I can't honestly call it mindset, but that the closest match, the United States=all good, and the Middle East/Central Asia=, well, that's the funny part. They can't decide if they're trying to help the little brown skinned people find "western democratic happiness" or if they're leading a crusade against the swarthy heathen. They change their minds, sometimes in the course of minutes, as to the paradigm of the day.

Recently, I read the opening essay in the compendium Reel Bad Arabs--it included a quote from, of all people, John F. Kennedy:

"For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, continued, and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears."

The book, like this Robert Fisk article, demonstrates an ongoing portrayal of Arabs in our entertainment media as sub-human connivers and snivelers. No doubt this feeds upon, and then fuels, the ongoing racism expressed in BOTH attitudes noted above. The problem, though, is that it doesn't add a single constructive idea to the debate.

I hope it's a little rash to talk seriously about Armageddon. But turning the Middle East into a shooting gallery might well bring about something similar.

This Guardian article literally makes me nauseous:

For Huda Shaker, the humiliation began at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Baghdad. The American soldiers demanded to search her handbag. When she refused one of the soldiers pointed his gun towards her chest.
"He pointed the laser sight directly in the middle of my chest," said Professor Shaker, a political scientist at Baghdad University. "Then he pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck you.'"

The incident is one of a number in which US soldiers are alleged to have abused, intimidated or sexually humiliated Iraqi women.

The report goes on to note that, in violation of international law, women are taken as hostages if a male wanted for questioning is absent from the house. Whether or not they are sexually abused while in detention hardly matters--once released, these women are in danger of being beaten or killed, thanks to the religious and sexist weirdness of the local society. That said, we are no less blameworthy: it's not like the Iraqi people were begging for us to "liberate" them.

Now, thanks to the horrible death of Nick Berg, racists of all stripes are demanding nuclear justice. Arabs and Muslims once again are guilty by association, although not one of those screaming for revenge gives half a damn about these pictures, which never receive attention from the mainstream media. Judging from THOSE photos, I'd say that we've already had plenty of revenge.

Nick Berg should not have been killed and those who killed him should be brought to justice, if there is such a thing in the "new" Iraq. However, as Balta and others (including me) have noted, Bush passed on several opportunities to capture or kill Zarqawi, presumably because his presence (in Iraqi Kurdistan, i.e., outside Saddam's jurisdiction) added justification to the invasion. Berg paid the ultimate price for Bush putting politics above a rational policy.

Because there is no policy (see my link to Bad Attitudes below), and because we don't have the first clue as to what to do now that were there, sadistic acts like the killing of Berg--or the disgusting abuse of Iraqi women--will continue to play out in a this-for-that spiral until it has the destructive force of a tornado. Wrongwingers haven't even begun to realize how bad this will get.

And it's all because little Dubya and old Dick wanted a nice little war to kick off their reelection campaign.
Moe Blues=Spot On

Check out his post over at BAD ATTITUDES. Opening lines:

Bush and his cheerleaders proclaim that we must "stay the course" in Iraq. That would be fine if we actually had a course.

Then it gets better...
Red versus Blue

The New York Times has their version of the electoral map.

The two campaigns are, as of now, looking at 22 states between them, a playing field that is about one-third larger than it was at this point in 2000. Analysts say it could expand even more in the months ahead, before undergoing the contraction that inevitably takes place after Labor Day, as the campaigns take stock of where they stand for the remaining 60 days of the contest.

The map offers some hope that the reign of Crawford's Village Idiot will end in 2005, although I still scratch my head when trying to figure out how ANYONE could possibly support Bush. Can anyone really point to a positive accomplishment on his part? Iraq, previously contained, is a fucking mess, the economy's still as shaky as a drunk with the D.T.'s--in spite of $500 billion dollars in deficit finance, which isn't merely priming the pump, but more like spraying an entire can of nitro into the carbuerator--Afghanistan is a mess, democracy in Haiti has been subverted in favor of rule by death squads, our international reputation has been destroyed, but there are elements of the public who either can't think or won't think. If there was any genuine accounting for the last four years, we'd be looking at the potential for a fifty-state Kerry sweep.

Still, regardless of what happens in November, there will be a large increase in the number of chickens coming home to roost. And the ultimate legacy of one George W. Bush could well be that, on his watch, the decline of the United States was swift. Personal responsibility is one of his campaign slogans. I wonder if he means it...

From Today in Iraq.Images of U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners seeping into Baghdad's art scene.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) The crouching man is naked, his hands tied and his head covered with a hood.

The alabaster sculpture on display at a Baghdad gallery bears a striking resemblance to some of the shocking photographs that emerged last week of Iraqi prisoners abused by their American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison.

But the 15-inch sculpture with words ''We are living American democracy'' inscribed on its base was fashioned two months ago.

''We knew what went on at Abu Ghraib,'' Abdul-Kareem Khalil, the artist, said Saturday. ''The pictures did not surprise me...''

At the Hewar, or Dialogue, art gallery where Khalil's works are on display, owner Qasim al-Sabti recently invited artists to write or paint their impressions of the occupation on a 6½-foot by 10-foot rectangular piece of wood in the gallery's garden.

About 40 artists and writers took up his offer. One painted an American eagle with feathers that look like rockets.

''You liberated us. Ok. Thank you! Go home,'' someone wrote in English.

''America is the plague,'' another one wrote.

''We are not strangers to what the U.S. Army does,'' said Khalil, standing next to the statue of the naked man and two other alabaster sculptures also inspired by the occupation. ''Our dignity cannot endure this humiliation. Anyone detained by the Americans is ready to join the resistance upon his release.''

Al-Sharqiyah, one of several satellite TV channels that have sprung up in Iraq over the past year, has been broadcasting ads for a sitcom about life under U.S. occupation that will air soon.

Some of the scenes ridicule American soldiers, focusing on their ignorance of local culture or their zeal in searching for insurgents and weapons.

We would do well to listen and heed what these artists are trying to tell us.

Taking Orders

CNN reports on Lynndie England, now under indictment based on the Abu Ghraib photographs. England was interviewed by KCNC televison in Denver (several Denver based lawyers have agreed to take her case).

Referring to the photograph of her smiling, England said, "I was told to stand here, point thumbs up, look at the camera and take the picture."

Maass asked England who told her to do that. England replied, "Persons in my chain of command."

When asked by Maass what she was thinking at that time, England said, "I was thinking it was kind of weird."

England said even worse things were captured in photographs taken at the prison. She declined to comment what might be depicted in those images.

If what England says is true, then it contradicts the public statements of Rumsfeld, Taguba, and others, who argue that this was a case of a few rogue elements getting out of hand. At the same time, it doesn't entirely absolve England: according to something I saw last night on PBS, the Army supposedly trains soldiers to distinguish between legal and illegal orders:

LT. COL. DAVE GROSSMAN (Ret.): Ever since Mylai, every single soldier is required by law to be repeatedly trained on a yearly basis about what is an illegal act, what is an illegal action and not just how to identify illegal actions but how to go about reporting them and how to disobey orders.

Of course, saying that this is done doesn't mean much--a friend of mine who is in the reserves told me how the "don't ask, don't tell" policy towards gays was handled in his unit--in a word, disgustingly. But the fact is that England and others should have known it was wrong. England herself says she thought it was "kind of weird."

However, not disobeying illegal orders implies that illegal orders were given. The question is, by whom? Blaming low level staff like England will simply be another case of denying the real problem: our Iraq policy, based on false information, racism, and an overall lack of understanding of the region, is a catastrophe.

How many more--on ALL sides--must die before this relatively simple concept is understood, and acted upon?
Thinking Global, Acting Local

Timshel has a few things regarding the same-sex marriage ban amendment. He found an editorial in The Shreveport Times that at least points out the absurdity of banning something already banned by statute. Ricky also has this post, which links to the papers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

When I think about the crap spewed forth by the anti-gay crowd ('it's an abomination,' etc. etc.), I'm often find myself thinking that it sounds exactly like the braying from the anti-Muslim crowd.


The Angry Arab News Service has some poignant thoughts regarding the murder of Nick Berg.

Of this I am certain: “Bush” wanted a war between “us and them” , and “Bin Laden” wanted a war between “us and them” and they both got what they wanted, and for that we all suffer, and will suffer. Of this I am certain: we have entered a perpetual path of revenge, counter-revenge, wars, and counter-wars, and more revenge and counter-revenge, and on and on and on.
* “Bush” refers not to the man necessarily but to the phenomenon of the ruling ideology at the helm of the US Empire.
* “Bin Laden” refers not to the man necessarily but to the phenomenon of kooky Islamic fundamentalist militancy represented by Al-Qa`idah and similar groups.

Berthold Brecht: In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing, about the dark times.
Could We Get Greg Palast Back?

Via Atrios. Tresy at Corrente transcribes some of last night's Daily Show.

Tresy goes on to note that Jon Stewart offered to trade "one Aaron Brown, two Brit Humes, and a Van Susteren" for a British scribe. I'd take Palast back any day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

All the News That's Print to Fit

From Needlenose.

The New York Times has some coverage of Kerry's visit to Baton Rouge last Friday (scroll down to my post entitled Impressions), although it's sandwiched into a general story about the respective campaigns.

At least it's provides some follow up to the low level of coverage in the local paper, which while still available online, requires a search. Local television also covered the event, but has moved on to other topics, I guess--a search of WAFB's website doesn't bring up anything.

That said, maybe I shouldn't complain too much. The candidate's own web site doesn't carry anything about Friday's event.
From TalkLeft

More about Rick Berg, the young man brutally killed in Iraq by followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The article notes some curious circumstances regarding Mr. Berg's days in Iraq, including detention by both Iraqi and US security forces. Berg's family noted that he supported Bush, but they have mixed views about the invasion and the US committment to democracy. Additionally, they're not particularly happy about a lot of bureaucratic roadblocks they encountered when trying to ensure his safe travel back to the United States.

For the record: when George W. Bush was Rick Berg's age, he wasn't running a business that offered technical services in third world countries. Instead, he was going AWOL, and whooping it up at Hunter Thompson's Super Bowl party.
Public Service Announcement

How To Spot A Liar, from Take Back the Media (Flash Animation).

Via Atrios, I've learned that Rich Lowry (and Rush Limbaugh), have managed to find a proper scapegoat for the abuses at Abu Ghraib: pornographers.

If only Ashcroft hadn't had his wings clipped...wait a minute...
Vocabulary Lesson

From Cursor, it looks like the word of the day is Gitmoize.
It Keeps Getting Worse

Any number of the big websites have already covered this--and I just came across the story after taking care of a few things here.

Atrios and Kos both note that al Zarqawi, who apparently is behind this tragedy, actually could have been aprehended several times prior to Mr. Bush's splendid little war (which Billmon, as always, right on target, called the "21st century's answer to the Spanish-American War"--all irony intentional)--but the US left him alone in hopes that it would further "justify" the invasion.

Nick Berg became a pawn in a ridiculous game being played by the cynical (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz), the maniacal (bin Laden, Cheney), and the ignorant (Bush). Now he's dead.

Sadly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the neocons seek to use the circumstances of Berg's killing for political gain. It's amazing how low they will go.
Osama's Fantasy Coming True

The New York Times reports on US efforts to "train and equip" African governments for the global war on terror. Bin Laden will no doubt smile when he learns this news. Global conflict is the centerpiece of his deranged agenda. The flip side of the coin is that, funny enough, the neo-cons feel the same way.
Add James Inhofe to the Google Bomb

Via Atrios, a link to Kicking Ass doing just that to the Oklahoma Senator. They point out that the ICRC believes that "70 to 90 percent" of detainees in Iraq were arrested by mistake. And, they rightly point out to the Senator that, just because 10 to 30 percent were NOT arrested by mistake, there is NO justification for the vicious acts undertaken at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

We might still be "better than Saddam," but the margin is getting closer and closer. And that's an awfully low standard anyway.
Google Bombable?

I don't know, but Timshel is spot on accurate when he calls Rush Limbaugh a complete asshole. Here's one reason why.
Rape Rooms

Via Tlachtga, Yahoo reprints an article from the Los Angeles Times.

BAGHDAD — One woman told her attorney she was forced to disrobe in front of male prison guards. After much coaxing, another woman described how she was raped by U.S. soldiers. Then she fainted.

A U.S. Army report on abuses at Abu Ghraib prison documented one case of an American guard sexually abusing a female detainee, and a Pentagon spokesman said Monday that 1,200 unreleased images of abuse at Abu Ghraib included "inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature."

Whether it was one or numerous cases of rape, many Iraqis believe that sexual abuse of women in U.S.-run jails was rampant. As a result, female prisoners face grave prospects after they are released: denial, ostracism or even death.

Yesterday, TalkLeft linked to what they admitted was an unsubstantiated set of photographs posted by an extreme anti-semitic website. The photos supposedly showed a female Iraqi prisoner being raped. Today they've pulled the link and apologized. However, I wouldn't be surprised if there are photographs showing sexual assaults on women incarcerated at Abu Ghraib. Let's not kid ourselves: some people will engage in sadistic behavior if you put them in a situation that allows them to "get away with it." That's precisely what happened in Iraq--along with more than a little racism added to the mix.

Dehumanizing the enemy is common during war. That's one way to get people to kill other people. However, we're in a situation where "the enemy" happens to be the entire population of the country--or it might as well be, since we have no reliable intelligence. Considering this, are we really surprised to see the horrors emerging from Abu Ghraib, even as General Taguba attempts to control the damage to the extent that he can?

One last thing: while Taguba and others bemoan "the few bad apples," no one mentions that the entire orchard may have been poisoned. Most soldiers trained to think of others as less than human will readjust just fine upon their return. But some might snap. Recall that John Allen Mohammed, the D.C. Sniper, was, among other things, a decorated Gulf War veteran. And that was a "relatively easy" conflict. Son of Gulf War is a decidedly different war, and will affect those who fought in it much more intensely.

Mary links to this from the Appleton Post-Crescent. Seems like they're not above doing whatever it takes to strike a "fair and balanced" posture--including soliciting for letters in support of the Dubya:

We’ve been getting more letters critical of President Bush than those that support him. We’re not sure why, nor do we want to guess. But in today’s increasingly polarized political environment, we would prefer our offering to put forward a better sense of balance.

If I recall, Senator Joe McCarthy was from Appleton.
Like Patron, Like Plebe

The New York Times reports that an Israeli armored personnel carrier was destroyed in Gaza by either a mine or bomb. Hamas claims it was a missile that hit the vehicle, killing six soldiers. Seems like they learned a thing or two from the Iraqi resistance.

The response from the Israeli Occupation Force was to blast away with a helicopter gunship, killing at least six, including three small children.

If a house in on fire, the last thing you want to do is throw gasoline on it--but tell that to Ariel Sharon. The cycle of violence is now as much a part of the landscape as the scrub vegetation and olive trees. Killing children affects the mind in a way that few of us can genuinely relate to. As the brain becomes inured to horrific scenes, I don't doubt that tactics like suicide bombings begin to seem justified.

Sadder still is the mindset that thinks either "they deserve it," or "they've been fighting each other for generations." Slightly off topic, I recall an antiwar march I went to in New Orleans last year. Ending up in Jackson Square, an individual asked if he could look at my sign, which was a photograph of a twelve year old Iraqi girl, with the caption, "Is this the enemy?" This person looked at it and told me, yes, he thought she was--because she would grow up to hate the United States.

Well, considering what we've done in Iraq, why shouldn't she? Likewise, twelve year old Palestinian boys and girls see the damage brought about by the Israeli army, and no doubt develop a burning anger. The cycle of violence continues. Human life becomes cheap.

And we all lose as a result.

Monday, May 10, 2004


Another link from As'ad Abu Khalil, this to Veterans for Common Sense piece. It's a reprint of an article from Salon. The Salon version makes for easier reading, but requires either a subscription or a day pass (view an ad).

Summary: an Al Jazeera cameraman/journalist, Suhaib Badr al Baz, recently spent seventy four days in US custody in Iraq. His account largely agrees with that of other detainees--and now we have some photographs to provide proof.

Unfortunately, given the hostile stance of the US towards Mr. al Baz's employer, there will be those who question what he says. Similarly, skepticism greeted the allegations of three British nationals who spent 26 months at Camp X-Ray. However, in light of recent events, one would be foolish to dismiss claims of abuse.

And, finally, I'd like to point out an observation Josh Marshall makes regarding Bush. In posting about a different topic (Dubya's callous mocking of Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed during his tenure as governor), Marshall points out that, "as many have noted, the now-President's ire has oddly turned on the photos -- that is to say, the evidence -- seemingly more than the underlying facts."

Evidence can be so inconvenient.

The Poor Fight Wars--Now They're PAYING for Them as Well

Tlachtga posts and links to a BBC article on the subject. The Guardian UK has more.
Poking the Hornet's Nest With a Stick

The New York Times reports on the destruction of Moqutada Al Sadr's Baghdad headquarters. Earlier reports claimed thirty five people had been killed, but this notes a death toll of nineteen--none of whom were actually inside the building (which a photograph shows being reconstructed).

Al Sadr's reaction, through a trusted aide, was to call for a more general uprising.

Nelson Mandela, speaking before the South African parliament to markthe 10th Anniversary of his Inauguration: "'We live in a world where there is enough reason for cynicism and despair. We watch as two of the leading democracies, two leading nations of the free world, get involved in a war that the United Nations did not sanction. We look on with horror as reports surface of terrible abuses against the dignity of human beings held captive by invading forces in their own country."



From the "On Another Planet AND Out to Lunch Department"

CNN--Bush Praises Rumsfeld.

In contrast, The New Yorker has more on Abu Ghraib, including a photograph of a naked Iraqi prisoner being menaced by dogs. Is this what Bush means when he says, "Thank you for your leadership. You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude."
Sorry--Carry On

From As'ad Abu Khalil, this link to a Los Angeles Times opinion piece by Abbas Khadim, an Iraqi-American working on his dissertation at UC Berkeley. The entire piece is well worth reading, but this line stuck out--according to Khadim, it's an old Arab saying: "He slapped me and cried."

I'm reminded both of Saddam's infamous 1979 press conference, when he wiped away tears after ordering the execution of "disloyal" Baathists, as well as the pious mea-not-so-culpas recently coming forth from the Bush administration. The main theme of the editorial is an explanation of why we're losing the war: for the pro-war crowd, it's all about the US. Iraqis are basically extras in the biggest, most expensive military campaign/action movie of all time. The wrongwingers munch down on popcorn and enjoy the special effects, but ordinary Iraqis are sick and tired of being the equivalent of extras-in-red-shirts on the old Star Trek TV show, i.e., fodder.

The people of the region have been living there for a LONG TIME. Our ignorance of how they've kept society organized and running--even through bad times like the Hussein regime--is making a mockery of any attempt to impose our version of a social order. The invasion of Iraq will end with a massive thud as our lead balloon hits the dirt hard and sinks into the ground.

I think it's time to ask the question John Kerry posed about Vietnam some thirty odd years ago: how do you tell someone they must be the last woman or man to die for a mistake?
Friedman--Don't Forget to Blame the Victim, Too

Thomas Friedman in today's New York Times says the Arab world is "cursed" by oil. No mention is made of the historical context. Um, Mr. Friedman, do you have any recollection of, I don't know, the British Mandate, the Balfour Doctrine, French influence in Lebanon, British influence in Iraq (including the formation of the country itself)--indeed, the British literally drew the map when it came to establishing the borders of the modern Middle East. Add to this the meddling by the US in Persia, aka Iran, and I'd say there's a little more to the story than the "curse" of oil versus the industriousness of the people of the Far East, of whom Friedman has laudatory praise.

But why bring up history? It's not like it means anything in the region, right? After all, being the birthplace of "western" civilization is so overrated(sarcasm).

And, you know, as I wound down last night, idly browsing website before turning in, one thing struck me. All this time, Bush, et al, have been calling Saddam Hussein a "threat." I know I've posted about this before, but my thought last night was "a threat to WHAT?" Think about it: Hussein was cut off from a third of the country (Kurdistan). If he was going to do anything aggressive, don't you think he'd start there?

What was he threatening, except a good night's sleep for Dick "Ahab" Cheney and his search for the Great Black Gold? Since Saddam is clearly no longer part of the picture, I think it's high time for the intelligence services to release to the public any information regarding Hussein's so-called threats. Show us the intelligence regarding belligerent intentions and actions towards Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and/or Kuwait. Um--preferably timely intelligence, i.e., something from AFTER 1991. Let the public judge what sort of threat Hussein was.

Something tells me the "threat" was right around zero: an embargoed country doesn't generally have a whole lot to work with. But release the data nonetheless. Because I think it will show that the Iraq war is little more than playing politics, with a nice hefty bonus in the form of crude (which was supposed to "pay the reconstruction costs").

$113 Billion dollars and counting. The oil revenue last year was roughly $8 Billion dollars, or less than a dime on the dollar. That is to say, bankruptcy.

An apt description of the Bush policy.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Setting an Example

Via Hesiod, I saw this CNN article noting that Thomas Hamil says his treatment was definitely affected by the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs. He doesn't go into details, but notes that he was asked about the pictures by his captors, and that he feared things would get much worse as a result. Additionally, Hamil brings up the chilling reminder that there are more hostages being held by Iraqi resistance groups.


Otherwise, I woke up pretty early this morning, and saw that Atrios has several items of note. I can't imagine anyone reading my minor league blog doesn't stop by Eschaton, so let's just say I took a look at the links, which include a major story about the prison abuse from The Baltimore Sun, and an opinion piece by Fareed Zakaria, the essence of which is that Bush's call for "personal responsibility" should be viewed in light of his actions, which have dramatically increased the negative views of the rest of the world towards the United States. While the wrongwingers and Joe Lieberman seem to have discovered a new found love of moral relativism, the fact is that the rest of the world is growing awfully tired of the position of "we'll beat the freedom into them if we have to kill them all before it's done."

The United States, it seems, is suffering from the political equivalent of multiple personality disorder. On the one hand, we're looking ever more inwards, ignoring world opinion for the most part, while at the same time naiively attempting to impose a peculiar brand of order in the Middle East, if not the rest of the world--an order that is neither democratic nor attuned to regional traditions. Given that we're pretty much tied up in Iraq, though, our ability to project any real power is severely limited, and any claim to moral superiority is pretty much shot, even as hacks like Lieberman can't repeat "9/11" enough times to satisfy themselves. I'm afraid the rest of the world is getting a little tired of the 9/11 justification for everything, least of all the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Confronting the worst elements of oneself is never easy, and I speak from experience. That said, the prison scandal could be a moment to consider the entire agenda of the Bush team, which combines a hyperaggressive foreign policy with an assault on civil liberties at home. Something tells me that an engaged public would rightly view these policies as anathema to the real interests of the country, and would react accordingly. However, the public seems to be out of the loop. I've noted before that this is the result of many things, often manifest in the person of George W. Bush, although the rest of the country hasn't had the benefit of privilege bestowed upon the Dubya. I worry that the alarm clock has been ringing for some time, but as a nation we've been hitting the snooze button over and over again. Time will tell what happens. One things for sure: four more years of Bush won't make for a pretty picture.