Saturday, November 20, 2004

Troubling

Earlier I happened to finally see the brawl footage from yesterday's NBA game. That was bad enough--but what really troubled me was the response from the people where I was watching. They hollered for blood.

I'm not ready to say the end of Western Civilization is upon us--but there's no way anyone can say there isn't a significant culture of violence in this country.

And I couldn't help but think that soccer might actually have a future here.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging Posted by Hello

The "how to tell which cat stole your drugs" edition.
Open Comment

I tried several times to add a comment at Hubert Humphrey High, but for some reason it's not working. So--I hope Peregrine doesn't mind me adding that, by all means take a break if you feel the need, but at the same time, there are plenty of people who appreciate what you have to say. It's good to know there are some sane folks throughout the country. And, best of luck.
From the "Hit the Nail on the Head" Department

My sister sends me this charming bit of home grown satire--unfortunately, I don't know who to credit it to:

ACADIANA BARBIE

Mattel recently announced the release of limited edition Barbie dolls for the Acadiana market:

RIVER RANCH BARBIE

This princess Barbie is only sold at River Ranch shops. She comes with an assortment of Kate Spade handbags, a Lexus SUV, a longhaired foreign lap-dog named Honey, and a cookie-cutter dream house with a lawn service. Available with or without tummy tuck and face lift. Workaholic ex-husband Ken comes with a Porsche.

BROUSSARD BARBIE

This modern day homemaker Barbie is available with Ford Windstar mini-van and matching gym suit. She gets lost easily and has no full-time occupation or secondary education. Traffic-jamming cell phone sold separately. Available at Target.

EVANGELINE THRUWAY BARBIE

This recently paroled Barbie comes with a 9mm handgun, bowie knife, a ’79 El Camino with dark tinted windows and a meth lab kit. This model is only available after dark and can only be bought with cash, preferably small bills, unless you are a cop, then we don’t know what you are talking about.

GREENBRIAR ESTATE BARBIE

This yuppie Barbie comes with your choice of BMW convertible or Hummer H2. Included is her own CC coffee cup, credit card set and Red’s membership. Also available is Shallow Ken.

CARENCRO BARBIE

This pale model comes dressed in her own Wrangler jeans two sizes too small, a classic Metallica shirt and Tweety Bird tattoo on her shoulder. Wants to major in NASCAR at LSU. She has a six-pack of Coors Light and a Hank Williams, Jr. CD set. She can spit over 5 feet and kick mullet-haired Ken’s ass when she’s drunk. Purchase her pickup truck separately and get a confederate flag bumper sticker absolutely free. Available at Big Lots & Dollar General Stores.

OPELOUSAS BARBIE

This tobacco chewing, brassy-haired Barbie has a pair of her own high-heeled sandals with one broken heel from the time she chased Beer-Gut Ken out of Carencro Barbie’s (Discontinued) house. Her ensemble includes low-rise acid-washed jeans, fake fingernails, strawberry lip gloss and a see-through halter-top. Comes with Barbie’s dream doublewide trailer. Available at Wal-Mart. Cheap.

LE TRIOMPHE BARBIE

This collagen injected rhino plastic Barbie wears leopard print Spandex and drinks cosmopolitans to new age music with friends at the Lodge. Into
crystals. Comes with Percocet prescription and botox treatments. Also cheap.

GRAND COTEAU BARBIE

This Barbie comes with a monogrammed tote bag, a collection of credit cards in her daddy’s name, expensive hair highlights, cell phone and an enormous sense of entitlement. Available in two models: eating disorder with natural breasts or eating disorder with breast implants. BMW X5 or Chevy Tahoe. ESA Ken (with Toyota 4 Runner and iPod) is also available.

UNIVERSITY BARBIE

This doll is made of actual tofu. She has long straight brown hair, archless feet, hairy armpits, no makeup and Birkenstocks with white socks. She prefers that you call her “Willow”. She does not want or need a Ken doll, but if you purchase two University Barbies and the optional Subaru wagon, you get a rainbow flag sticker free.

YOUNGSVILLE BARBIE

This doll is pregnant, drives a new Ford Excursion and is perfect in every way. We don’t know who Ken is because he’s always away hunting or in Japan on business. Youngsville Barbie aspires to become River Ranch Barbie. Not cheap, but still very na├»ve.
Two Steps Forward, Six Steps Backward

James Wolcott has a good post up entitled Headless Body, Topless War. In it, he links over to a couple of folks at the Lew Rockwell web site, hopefully making at least some folks realize that it's NOT just the liberal/left in this country opposing the war. Neither Martin van Creveld and William Lind could be considered liberal by any stretch of the imagination, yet they've tirelessly critiqued the thinking that put us into Iraq. Both forecast an ignominous defeat in Mesopotamia, and they've got far more in the way of insight and analysis than the faith based neo-cons who seem to think along the lines of college football as metaphor for Operation Go Fallujah Ourselves. Goddamn.

Creveld takes on the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam--but of course, we KNOW there are NO parallels between Iraq and Vietnam...well, except for the fact that military superiority means nothing in either situation, except that our lack of reliable intelligence means we never really know what the enemy is up to, except that as a direct result of not having reliable intelligence we end up killing civilians--which, like it or not, is one of the best recruiting tools available to the insurgents, except that we really don't have a clear objective to begin with, except that, just like in Vietnam, we have complete air superiority which allows us to level pretty much everything we want--likewise providing an excellent recruiting tool for the insurgents, given that most folks don't like being killed, seeing their friends or relatives killed, and/or watching their property get destroyed, except that, just like in Vietnam, we're engaging in acts that could be considered war crimes, except that Allawi--or whoever else we call the "president" of Iraq is little more than a US puppet, except that Iraq no more wants to be "Americanized" than the average American wants to be "Iraqified"...except for that, Iraq is NOTHING like Vietnam at all. So, let's not even compare the two--although Creveld does, using the experience of Moshe Dayan, who visited the country pre-Tet Offensive, and went back to Israel with a rather pessimistic outlook for the US position...

Lind, who I've linked to before, reviews the book Tactics of The Crescent Moon, and applies the lessons to Iraq--coming up with unfortunate conclusions for the American position in Iraq. Lind often laments the lack of understanding our military has for what he describes as 4th Generation Warfare, and concludes the Iraqi resistance is fighting using these tactics. Given their familiarity with their own country, proclamations that "we've broken the back" of the resistance have to be viewed along the lines of the Vietnam-era statements about lights, tunnels, and whatnot.

Wolcott sums it up nicely enough:

Since Saddam's fall, we've been stomping around Iraq like Godzilla. Lind: "The result is likely to be more flattened cities like Falluja, more victories on the moral level for our opponents, and in the end, ignominious withdrawal and defeat."

So thick is the euphoria and triumphalism post November 2nd that I wonder if most of our media, never mind the bovine American public, have any inkling of how ghastily Iraq is going down the drain, and taking the American military with it. We've been so bombarded with "Failure is not an option" that few are willing to assert, as van Creveld and Lind do, that failure may not be an option but it damn well may be the outcome, and quicker than anyone contemplates.

Andrew Sullivan and Thomas Friedman can petition for more troops all they please. It's too late for more troops. We don't have troops to spare as it is, but even if we did, it's too late. It's too late for everything. The blundering mistakes that were made in the first days and weeks of the occupation can't be reversed now--they're incorrectible. The window of opportunity dropped like a guillotine while Donald Rumsfeld was regaling the press corps with his pithy wisdom.


The REAL question, in fact, is how the loss in Iraq will affect our future policy towards the Middle East. I think it's high time we found people in the region with whom we can work AND who have some support among the folks who live there. Given that I don't have any desire to take up residence in the desert (and I doubt many Americans do) it might be a good idea to figure out how to get along with the folks ALREADY THERE. Raining lead and depleted uranium down on them isn't a particularly good start--though it could make for a disastrous conclusion...
They Shoot Cars, Don't They?

Timshel points to an Advocate article mentioning the possibility of light rail service, initially connecting Denham Springs and Baton Rouge. Mayor elect Holden will explore the possibility of using existing rail lines, which would significantly reduce costs--although that still means the price would be enormous, as opposed to beyond the realm of possibility.

Still, ANY discussion of public transportation, particularly discussion that moves beyond buses, is good news. Buses simply can't compete in a city the size of Baton Rouge, for a variety of reasons. Rail, on the other hand, has any number of benefits. But I won't get my hopes up too high--something tells me we won't be seeing anything accomplished by the end of a first Holden term.

Still, something needs to be done. The morning rush hour would drive me completely insane if I had to commute from Baker, Zachary, Denham Springs, Walker, or Ascension Parish. I've pretty much given up on entire sections of the city--unless I absolutely have to, I won't go NEAR Siegen Lane, Essen Lane, Burbank at Bluebonnet, Perkins at Bluebonnet (and both College Drive and south Highland Road are getting that way). Oh--and how could I forget Airline Highway and Florida Blvd? I'll tell you how--by NEVER driving them.

Even though I just bought a new fossil burner (for the record, a Corolla--I'd thought about buying a hybrid, but they're still a little out of my price range. Instead, I've got reliable transportation--and a car that gets between 30 and 35 mpg), I'd happily support any kind of taxes and/or bonds Holden might propose to pay for a commuter service. Because even if I'm not along the line, it benefits me and the rest of the city. I wish people addicted to driving would consider that--by REDUCING the volume of traffic, people who LIKE driving will gain a net benefit: fewer cars on the streets causing traffic jams.

And you know what? If/when such a service comes to Baton Rouge, I'd be tempted to hop aboard just to check it out--which means I'd at least take a look at some of the shops and restaurants out in the east burbs...not that one person can make or break a small business, but, hey, every little bit helps. Besides, it can be fun to just look out the windows, enjoy the ride, and not have to watch out for the morons who've learned how to drive by watching NASCAR races.

Now, if only they could also get to work on a passenger line connecting Baton Rouge to New Orleans...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Praise the Lord and Pass the Creationism Act

Robert Kuttner writes in yesterday's Boston Globe (link from As'ad Abu Khalil):

In the United States, meanwhile, reason is on the defensive as we head backward toward creationism and religious absolutism. This is one of those moments when people all over the world, threatened by cultural and economic assaults far beyond their local control, are turning to fundamentalisms. Author Ben Barber sums it up in three words: Jihad vs. McWorld.

What is uniquely alarming in the United States today, among all the democracies and in our own history, is that a president of the United States is explicitly on the side of antimodernism. Never before has an American chief executive worked deliberately to foment a fundamentalist absolutism that is ultimately tribal, theocratic, antiscientific, and incompatible with pluralist democracy.

What are we who believe in reason and democracy to do? We need to revive the American tradition of appealing to citizens based on their multiple selves, including family selves, civic selves, and economic ones. We need an uncharacteristically fierce alliance of the tolerant -- good people of diverse faiths who share a basic humility about the multiple ways to worship, or not.

Despite George W. Bush's dangerous role as self-appointed proselytizer in chief, most Americans are not yet zealots. God help America if they ever are.
Taking Out the Garbage (Man)

The army has charged a lieutenent with premeditated murder in connection with the killing of an Iraqi boy last August.

I posted on this a week or so ago, but don't feel like looking for the link--however, this was not unlike last weekend's killing of a wounded Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque. Perhaps it's even more egregious--the soldier in Fallujah can offer a defense of combat stress, which has got to be a lot worse than the words themselves imply. The particulars of the case noted above are quite a bit worse: soldiers fired on a garbage truck, erroneously assuming it was an insurgent vehicle laying down IED's. After discovering their error, some of the wounded were treated, but the lieutenant in question ordered two soldiers to shoot a young boy to "put him out of his misery"--while a relative of the boy, who spoke some English, begged for medics to treat him instead.

There are few things that epitomize the Iraq disaster as much as this--an incident grounded in misinformation, bad judgement, excessive violence, and tragedy for all parties in question. Once again, I'm less inclined to blame the indicted soldier--without condoning his action--and instead, thing blame should rightly rest with the people who ordered him there in the first place. War does awful things to people, which is why it should NEVER be undertaken on a whim.

And I don't think anyone has seriously made the case that Iraq wasn't a discretionary conflict.

Yet, even as soldiers are indicted for what are either criminal acts, genuine tragedy, or, more likely, a combination of both, I doubt the press has even scratched the surface when it comes to revealing the truth about the horror of modern warfare. Something tells me that the few cases we know anything about are more than matched by hundreds of other incidents that are euphamistically referred to as "the fog of war." Not-so-smart bombs and/or misidentification of targets, friendly fire accidents, wholesale slaughter from the air or ground in the course of the advance and/or occupation are likely as normal as the sun rising in the east. We haven't heard about them only because the information management--or, perhaps more appropriately, micromanagement--has been so intense. In other words, the "fog" of war is more like a deliberate smokescreen, thrown up by a government that no longer trusts the public (even as it claims a "mandate" from what is now the second-closest election of my lifetime).

When the public finally awakens to the horrors perpetrated in its name, I think there will be a great deal of soul searching...or, maybe I should say I HOPE there will be a great deal of soul searching. Otherwise, you might as well set out the "Closed" sign.
Some Background

Fallujah 101, link via Cursor, is a nice little primer about the city we're destroying. Too bad that the neocons seem to have left any understanding of regional history off their reading lists before rushing headlong into Operation Go Fallujah Ourselves. They might have learned a few things.

For instance: Wahabbist Islam, a particularly conservative form of the religion (extensively practiced in Saudi Arabia), is based on principles and practices that started in the city. Fallujah was also an important center of resistance to the British occupation in the early 20th century.

Something tells me that Fallujah has a distrust of outsiders that makes the American south seem cosmopolitan in comparison. And, given that local heroes would be but a couple of generations removed--we're talking grandparents or great-grandparents here--our occupation of the city will be awfully tenuous.
Reactions

Just went over to Baghdad Burning to see Riverbend's latest post--as I expected, she wrote about the killing of the wounded Iraqi at a Fallujah mosque.

Not surprisingly, she takes a negative view. And, let's face it: there's not a whole lot you can say in a positive light after seeing the video. Unless you're Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh--or one of their worshippers at sites I won't even bother to link to (although here's a post from My Due Diligence that'll give you a small sample).

The problem, of course, with the wingnut perspective, is that no one IN Iraq really gives a shit what they think. Hell, even Allawi, compliant puppet that he is, expressed "concern," not that he's in any position to do anything (which kind of undercuts his position as "leader" of a "sovereign nation"). No, what the wingnuts have forgotten--or never learned in the first place--is that if you intend to "liberate" a country, it's a good idea to establish some rapport, and generate some support, from the liberatees. Killing them pretty much makes it clear that "liberation" was never really the goal.

But the wingnuts will toss excuses like a monkey flinging feces from a zoo cage.

Now, as I noted below, I don't excuse or condone the Marine's actions; however, combat has a way of bringing out the worst in humans (duh--combat implies a complete breakdown of the social order). The true criminals are still the people who ordered the invasion, and who continue to conjure up ever more implausible justifications for the war as each rationale gets shredded like so much office waste. No WMD's. No ties to 9/11. No ties to bin Laden or Al Qaeda. The number of people killed is beginning to rival the number of victims during Saddam's reign. And now Iraqis have witnessed the cold blooded murder of one of their own. Is it any wonder why they don't support the occupation?

That said, what I find even more disturbing is the reaction of the Sean Hannity's and Rush Limbaugh's of the world. Once again, they display a remarkable degree of ignorance, doing their best to convince their wingnut fellow travelers that all is OK. Earth to 'nuts: the people you need to convince are in IRAQ. Good luck, suckers.
Ethics Shmethics

Why let a silly rule about being indicted keep you from losing your leadership position within the House of Representatives? It's not like they ever used the rule to blast away at Dan Rostenkowski for cheap political gain or anything like that...wait a second...

I mean, it's not like DeLay was reprimended three times by the House Ethics Committee...oh, wait, nevermind.

You know, it's not like DeLay claimed that his reason for avoiding military service during the Vietnam War was due to large numbers of minorities taking all the available slots...um...forget that...

Tom DeLay apparently believes in the power of Jesus--so I guess that's all that matters. I wonder, though: What Would Jesus Lie About? How Would Jesus Abuse His Authority? How Would Jesus Plead?
On Chasing One's Tail

So, we've "liberated" Fallujah--except there are still pockets of resistance. We'll now be able to "pacify" other areas of Iraq--except that, if we do, we run the risk of losing the city we spent ten days "capturing." Of course, the liberation "process" had the unfortunate side effect of turning Fallujah into rubble and ruins. And most of the insurgents fled before the invasion, thanks to the decision by Bush to put off the assault until after the election (which provided the insurgents with more tactical intelligence than anything an unembedded journalist could possibly reveal).

Operation Go Fuck Ourselves is proceeding apace.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

Actually twenty-one, but why let details get in the way? Check out this front page from the November 17, 1973 edition of the New York Times...Dick Nixon, at DISNEYWORLD (no, I'm NOT making that up) announces to the world that he "is not a crook." His "wanna get away" moment would happen nine short months later.

Take a look at the article, where you'll find some real gems: like his assertion that the June 20th (1972) tape contained "no details" about Watergate--probably because he'd erased the contents, creating the infamous 18 1/2 minute gap--and that the system itself was just "a little Sony" tape recorder and a couple of lapel-mikes...

Or his defense to paying exactly $792 dollars in income taxes for the year 1970--and all of $878 dollars the next year. And consider: Nixon got 61 percent of the vote--about as close to a "mandate" as you can get.

The bigger they come, the harder they fall.
The Bushiad, Revisited

Now's probably as good a time as any to link again to The Bushiad and The Idyossey--one of the best modern satires I've come across. Example:

Marched for hours on bloodied bare feet,
Mac and his band are locked in an old stone hut.
Alone in a barren landscape devoid of life,
It’s like some old abandoned ghost town -
Doors off hinges, flapping wooden shutters -
Home to snakes and desperate men.

The boys try to act tough, while
Mac, the leader, keeps his cool. He
Won’t give in to these deceitful demons -
Fighters with no uniforms, no honor,
Not real soldiers who respect the rules of war,
They heap dishonor on the fighting man’s tradition.

Once inside, hands bound, they’re placed against a wall.
One Fedayeen guard remains inside, the others leave.
Stepping outside they argue in Arabic, but
Their sentiments need no translation,
They plan to kill us, Mac thinks to himself,
And swallows thickly.


By all means, read both volumes if you can find the time.
Library Chronicles Chronicles Wimblehack

Jeffrey found the final article, which announced the winner of Wimblehack 2004. The envelope, please.

The winner is---Elisabeth Bumiller. Not entirely an upset, given her #3 seeding--Fineman was the true dark horse with a #4, but alas, Howard defaulted the title away. Still, Bumiller can proudly identify herself as truly the biggest hack for--well, perhaps four whole years, depending on how often New York Press decides to hold the contest.

As hard as it was to choose the hacktackularist of the bunch, it's equally difficult to lift anything from the article itself--I highly recommend reading Taibbi's entire piece. However, as someone who watched Bumiller display her arrogance last February during a Democratic candidates' debate, this really stood out for me:

Bumiller, of course, was not completely immune to concerns about the lack of substance in the campaign. She demonstrated that most forcefully when she was one of the moderators of a live televised debate of Democratic candidates, held in New York on Feb. 29 of this year.

You may remember that one: Bumiller was one of three journalists, along with Dan Rather and Andrew Kirtzman of WCBS, who moderated the last meaningful Democratic debate. At the time, there were only four candidates left: Kerry, Edwards, Sharpton and Kucinich. The debate was remarkable because of the obviousness with which the three panelists tried to steer the discussion away from Sharpton and Kucinich. Early in the debate, Bumiller cut Sharpton off in the middle of one of his answers, about Haiti. When she tried it again later on, Sharpton protested:

SHARPTON: If we're going to have a discussion just between two—in your arrogance (ph), you can try that, but that's one of the reasons we're going to have delegates, so that you can't just limit the discussion. And I think that your attempt to do this is blatant, and I'm going to call you out on it, because I'm not going to sit here and be window dressing.

BUMILLER: Well, I'm not going to be addressed like this.


But wait--there's more. Elisabeth was also responsible for a Times piece about Dubya's "heroic" turkee run into Baghdad a year ago. Interestingly, Team Bush, miffed that the newspaper of record didn't demonstrate sufficient fealty to all things GOP, made sure Liz wasn't invited. No problem: Bumiller just rewrote the pool reporter's copy--making sure to bury a small disclaimer in the body of the text.

Her efforts inspired my friend Ben to come up with this homage to the flightsuit-in-chief:

And W came and brought turkey unto the brave soldiers,

The Soldiers of the Lord,

By the light of the slivery moon.

And W said, Eat, and be Proud,

For you bring Freedom unto the world.

And W then departed, walking as they do in West Texas,

To Air Force One, returning, humbly, to the Throne

God had made for Him.


Thus making him the first guest poster here at my humble blog. Thanks, Ben.
Powell on his Resignation: He and Bush had "Offensively Flattering or Insincere" Discussions

Saw this at Bad Attitudes--actually Powell said he had "fulsome" discussions, which means either he doesn't know what the term means, or he couldn't resist using a two-dollar word to twist the knife a bit on his way out...
Casting a Spelling

CNN provides a bizarre enough picture to go along with their story. I wonder what Margaret is trying to accomplish with the mass hypnosis....
From Bad to Worse

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the murder of Margaret Hassan:

Officials of the European Union in Brussels say the murder of Margaret Hassan, the head of the relief group CARE's operations in Iraq will set back efforts to bring much-needed relief to the country. The Australian reports that Poul Nielson, the EU's departing development commissioner condemned the execution of Mrs. Hassan, and says that, "This kind of savagery makes it almost impossible for relief agencies to continue their crucial work in Iraq."

Ms. Hassan was a tireless critic of the sanctions imposed on Iraq after 1991 and the invasion. Her death is a genuine tragedy. But it in NO WAY justifies the invasion. In fact, her death is one of the strongest arguments against Bush's foolishness: Bush's plan generated the chaos that resulted in her abduction and now murder.

I'm still amazed that so many Americans seem to not have the first clue about the disaster Bush has wrought.
The War in Pictures

Greenboy at Needlenose discovered that Kevin Sites, the news photographer who took the footage showing a Marine killing a wounded Iraqi insurgent, has his own blog: kevinsites.net. It turns out that Sites had to leave CNN because of it.

A new blog chronicling the devastation of Fallujah and the toll on human beings is also up: Fallujah in Pictures.

Both websites are worth checking out.

Side note: This is slightly off topic, but something that's bothered me for some time while watching the rising death toll--both US and Iraqi--is the effect this will have on kids who've lost parents. I remember when I was very young my dad went overseas for roughly a yearlong tour of duty. Since he wasn't assigned a combat role (fortunately), it wasn't like he was gone forever. Still, it seemed like he was gone for a VERY long time, and, as a kid, this stuff affects you.

I can't imagine what's happening with the kids who've been told that their dad or mom will NEVER come back. And something tells me that one George W. Bush couldn't care less.

What a son of a bitch.
The Ghost of Wolfman Jack

From Tlachtga, here's a link to a Shreveport Times story noting that young men are being required to register with Selective Service in order to obtain a drivers license here in the Gret Stet.

Funny, but I didn't see this in the Baton Rouge or New Orleans papers. Maybe Timshel saw it.

But Team Bush keeps promising there won't be a draft...
Justice DeLay'ed


Tom begs for a pardon.

The GOP is looking to amend House rules which prohibit indicted legislators from holding positions of leadership:

House Republicans adopted the indictment rule in 1993, when they were trying to end four decades of Democratic control of the House, in part by highlighting Democrats' ethical lapses. They said at the time that they held themselves to higher standards than prominent Democrats such as then-Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (Ill.), who eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to prison.

Hmmm. Funny how things change.
Blessed are the (Grilled) Cheesemakers

The grilled cheese on toast, supposedly featuring the Virgin Mary, is back up for auction on eBay.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Wounds That Don't Merit a Purple Heart

You might not see a scar, but that doesn't make them any less severe. Here's another L.A. Times article that demonstrates why there really aren't any winners in war--Swopa at Needlenose provides the link:

In soldiers like {Sgt. Matt] LaBranche — their bodies whole but their psyches deeply wounded — a crisis is unfolding, mental health experts say. One out of six soldiers returning from Iraq is suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress — and as more come home, that number is widely expected to grow.

The Pentagon, which did not anticipate the extent of the problem, is scrambling to find resources to address it.

A study by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found that 15.6% of Marines and 17.1% of soldiers surveyed after they returned from Iraq suffered major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder — a debilitating, sometimes lifelong change in the brain's chemistry that can include flashbacks, sleep disorders, panic attacks, violent outbursts, acute anxiety and emotional numbness.

Army and Veterans Administration mental health experts say there is reason to believe the war's ultimate psychological fallout will worsen. The Army survey of 6,200 soldiers and Marines included only troops willing to report their problems. The study did not look at reservists, who tend to suffer a higher rate of psychological injury than career Marines and soldiers. And the soldiers in the study served in the early months of the war, when tours were shorter and before the Iraqi insurgency took shape.

"The bad news is that the study underestimated the prevalence of what we are going to see down the road," said Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Dartmouth Medical School who is executive director of the VA's National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Since the study was completed, Friedman said: "The complexion of the war has changed into a grueling counterinsurgency. And that may be very important in terms of the potential toxicity of this combat experience."...

Combat stress disorders — named and renamed but strikingly alike — have ruined lives following every war in history. Homer's Achilles may have suffered from some form of it. Combat stress was documented in the late 19th century after the Franco-Prussian War. After the Civil War, doctors called the condition "nostalgia," or "soldiers heart." In World War I, soldiers were said to suffer shell shock; in World War II and Korea, combat fatigue or battle fatigue...

A war like the one in Iraq — in which a child is as likely to die as a soldier and unseen enemies detonate bombs — presents ideal conditions for its rise.

Yet the Army initially sent far too few psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to combat areas, an Army study released in the summer of 2003 found. Until this year, Congress had allocated no new funds to deal with the mental health effects of the war in Iraq. And when it did earmark money, the sum was minimal: $5 million in each of the next three years...

Whether people like Matt LaBranche seek and receive treatment will determine how deep an effect the stress of the war in Iraq ultimately has on U.S. society.

Before the war, LaBranche was living in Saco, Maine, with his wife and children and had no history of mental illness.

He deployed to Iraq with a National Guard transportation company based in Bangor. He came home a different person.

Just three days after he was discharged from Walter Reed, he was arrested for threatening his former wife. When he goes to court Dec. 9, he could be looking at jail time.

He lies on a couch at his brother's house most days now, struggling with the image of the Iraqi woman who died in his arms after he shot her, and the children he says caught some of his bullets. His speech is pocked with obscenities.

On a recent outing with friends, he became so enraged when he saw a Muslim family that he had to take medication to calm down.

He is seeing a therapist, but only once every two weeks.

"I'm taking enough drugs to sedate an elephant, and I still wake up dreaming about it," LaBranche said. "I wish I had just freaking died over there."
Failing Upward

Bob Harris's website links to this Los Angeles Times article (free registration required) by Robert Scheer appropriately entitled "The Peter Principle and the NeoCon Coup." For those with valid concerns about registering (cookies, and whatnot), here are a few choice paragraphs:

...incompetence begat by ideological blindness has been rewarded. The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under U.S. rule. In fact, despite calls for their resignations — from the former head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Anthony Zinni, among others — the neocon gang is thriving. They have not been held responsible for the "16 words" about yellowcake, the rise and fall of Ahmad Chalabi, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the post-invasion looting of Iraq's munitions stores and the disastrous elimination of the Iraqi armed forces.

As of today, the neocons on Zinni's list of losers — Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz; the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby; National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams; Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld — are all still employed even as Bush's new director of central intelligence, Porter J. Goss, is eviscerating the CIA's leadership.

This is the culmination of a three-year campaign by the president's men to scapegoat the CIA for the fact that 9/11 occurred on Bush's watch.

So far, half a dozen of the nation's top spymasters have been forced out abruptly — a strange way to handle things at a time when Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are still seeking to attack the U.S. Ironically, this all comes as Goss is suppressing a lengthy study, prepared for Congress by the CIA's inspector general, that, according to an intelligence official who has read it, names individuals in the government responsible for failures that paved the way for the 9/11 attacks...

We should remember that as flawed as its performance was under former Director George J. Tenet, the CIA at least sometimes tried to be a counterweight to the fraudulent claims of Rumsfeld's and Dick Cheney's neoconservative staffs. All of the nation's traditional intelligence centers were bypassed by a rogue operation based in Feith's Office of Special Plans. Feith was given broad access to raw intelligence streams — the better to cherry-pick factoids and fabrications that found their way into even the president's crucial prewar State of the Union address.

Now, by successfully discarding those who won't buy into the administration's ideological fantasies of remaking the world in our image, the neoconservatives have consolidated control of the United States' vast military power.

With the ravaging of the CIA and the ousting of Powell — instead of the more-deserving Rumsfeld — the coup of the neoconservatives is complete. They have achieved a remarkable political victory by failing upward.


And, off topic, but: Harris, who has more stomach for this kind of stuff than I do, apparently spent some time checking out the lunawingnut reaction to the videotaped shooting of the wounded Iraqi. His comments are pretty much what I was trying to get at myself:

One final point: the soldier in question has at least one defense I can think of, which is ultimately human and understandable, even without condoning what he did. In the midst of a dangerous situation, furious from earlier combat, sleep-deprived, overheated, god knows what all the guy went through... he made a momentary, snap decision, one which he may or may not come to regret for the rest of his life.

OK. That'll all be at the trial and so on. That's one thing.

But the people condoning this sort of summary execution as we speak... words fail me. They have no such defense. Most of them are sitting in comfy chairs enjoying a broadband connection, with all the time in the world to consider moral questions.

And they say killing people in cold blood is A-OK.

I am much more frightened of them than of this particular soldier.

Killing Continues

War does things to people--I'm guessing that a lot of folks have read or heard about the soldier who shot and killed a wounded and unarmed Iraqi in a mosque over the weekend. Unfortunately for the soldier, his actions are on video tape for everyone to see (a sanitized version with the actual shooting blacked out has been aired on US television).

Without justifying the action of the soldier, my own take is that the real criminals are the ones who sent them there in the first place. Yes, military service is "voluntary"--you can always opt for work in the fast-food industry I guess. And I guess it's entirely possible the young man in question is simply a cold-blooded killer. However, I think it's much more likely that this case is simply a matter of insane reactions to an insane situation. Unfortunately, the ramifications will reverberate. Abu Ghraib might have had a shelf life of only a few months here in the land of "values;" however, throughout the world the horrors are still fresh. Mix in Guantanamo, the whole sorry misadventure in Iraq, and now this, stir, and you've got the makings of a bona fide reason for the rest of the world to shrug their shoulders if, heavens forbid, we see another act of terrorism here in the USA.

Worse still is that we no longer seem to even care about things like the bombings in Madrid, in Istanbul, in Indonesia, and elsewhere. It's as if the entire country is engaged in a national version of navel gazing that precludes any understanding of the concept of a world community.
Brass to Grunts: You're FODDER

The group of soldiers who refused a suicide mission to deliver tainted fuel will likely face disciplinary action, including possible courts martial.

This makes a lot of sense when you consider the assault on Fallujah likewise accomplished nothing--well, besides enraging Iraq and perhaps the entire Middle East (not to mention Muslims worldwide).

If the assault makes "good sense," why not punish men and women who had the temerity to think their lives are worth something?

You know, the wingnuts who support this war from their own front line position--the sofa in their living room (living on the civilian equivalent of C-Rations: Cheetos)--seem to LIKE this stuff. So, perhaps this is part of the overall "strategery" of the Bush administration: keep the casualties flowing. Why else would they throw people into battle without the proper equipment, which, as I've noted before, doesn't so much beg the question as it hollers it: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SPENDING $400 BILLION A YEAR ON, EXACTLY?

Because it sure as hell isn't going to the folks who actually need it.
More Empty Calories from the Bush Administration

No one seems all that surprised that the dauphin nominated lady-in-waiting Condoleezza Rice to replace Colin Powell. Bottle of Blog has about the best reaction I've seen thus far:

I think Rice is an excellent choice to take over our State Department. Since the Bush administration’s insane clown posse took over the country, the State Department has had basically no say in our foreign policy.

And I can’t think of anyone more qualified to do nothing than Condoleeza Rice. I think her record of doing nothing as our National Security Advisor more than speaks for itself.


Bottle goes on to suggest that if Rice doesn't work out, why not throw up Pat Robertson (no pun intended)? Robertson, he recalls, once suggested nuking State.

Actually, if you think about it, Team Bush has pretty much done that. The State Department is just a shell--sort of as if a neutron bomb had gone off on the premises.

So, Colin kept the seat warm for Condi--I'm sure she'll take pride in her position. Best of all, such a role guarantees a generous pension and the possibility of income derived from lecture circuit fees. She'll need it. I can't imagine how anyone could hire her to do serious scholarship after watching how pitiful her performance was as National Security Advisor.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Retrospective

I saw this at Bad Attitudes, and it makes a lot of sense. Xymphora commenting on the election:

How could Kerry possibly lose? Two reasons:

1. People aren't entirely prepared to admit it, but there really is an underclass of very unhappy white people in the United States who are still fighting the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the Civil War. The dissatisfaction in their lives is caused by the powerlessness they feel in the face of the fact that they fall further behind with each generation. The Republicans manage these people with great skill, and use the full force of the media to direct all their anger and hatred to liberalism. The fact that many of them are evangelical Christians is more a symptom of the same malaise that it is the cause of their hatreds. Nutty religion is their opium. While many of them are terribly misinformed and stupid, I don't think it is entirely fair to say that they misunderstand their class interests. They have come to the conclusion that they are going to be screwed regardless of which party is in power, and they prefer to be screwed by a group that doesn't appear to hold them in contempt. Indeed, you get the impression that their hatred is so great that they are taunting the liberal attempts at policy solutions to their problems, almost saying we hate your contempt for us so much we'll prove it by voting against our own interests.

2. The computer voting machines were fixed. This will be proven when differences between the recorded votes for Bush and the exit poll results are found to be higher in a statistically significant way in areas where computer voting machines were used. This will have to be carefully studied, as the Republicans were very clever and not greedy. They only manipulated the results in the key states and only to the extent they needed to win. The Democrats have only themselves to blame for this mess, having had plenty of notice of the problem and failing to complain about it until it was too late.


Bob Harris has an interesting post about the oddities of exit polls versus actual numbers as well--scroll down a bit and you'll find it. But, even if you don't, Harris has a lot of interesting things to say.
Q. What Happens When You Delay an Urban Offensive in Order to Placate Domestic Concerns During Election Season, Thereby Telegraphing Your Intentions to Such an Extent that Western Union Can't Dare to Compete?

A. Insurgents Leave the City You're Attacking, and Counterattack Elsewhere.


Another from the Times, this being, in contrast to the Sunshine News below, the "Duh" segment:

A rebel counteroffensive roiled central and northern Iraq today, with guerillas storming police stations and setting oil wells ablaze, as American troops tried to flush the remaining insurgents from the debris-strewn cityscape of Falluja.

Tanks and fighting vehicles had smashed through the southern Falluja neighborhood of Shuhada, the last major rebel stronghold in the city, on Sunday. But a die-hard band of the insurgents hid in some of the houses and other shelters at the furthest southern edge of Shuhada and emerged this morning, after the tanks had left, setting off a five-hour gun battle when ground troops arrived.

The wave of guerilla assaults rolled across the Sunni triangle, with the sharpest surge in violence coming in the morning in Baquba, 35 miles northwest of the capital. There, insurgents laid siege to a police station downtown and to one in a southern suburb.


Note that Fallujah is now back to "not quite liberated," a change from this morning (at one point Google News had an article describing the "liberation" of Fallujah (from The Washington Post, I think) just above a European press piece (The Guardian? Damnit--I didn't take a screen shot) describing ongoing fighting.

But the Times story makes it clear--even though they never admit it--that insurgents for the most part didn't stupidly hang around in Fallujah and face certain death. They moved out during the pre-election delay, and now that the US Army has committed a large contingent of soldiers THERE, the resistance has gone elsewhere. Duh.

Now, the truly frightening thing to consider is that instead of realizing the tactical error (the whole strategic bungling notwithstanding), I fear Team Bush could simply up the ante, i.e., give up on their false concern for "the Iraqi people" and call in the B-52 strikes. If they do that, my own take would be that Osama isn't hiding in Pakistan--he's holed up in the basement of the White House somewhere, because that would be like Christmas every day for that son of a bitch.

And Santa Bush apparently thinks he's been a VERY good boy...

Damn, I could do a Dean scream.
Sunshine News Segment

As of January 24, 2005, we won't have Bill Safire to kick around any more--at least not with his regular op-ed gig at the New York Times.

However, he'll still bore the shit out of us with his "On Language" contributions to the magazine. Oh well--every silver lining has its cloud.
Weekend Update

Sorry I don't have a link for this, but over the weekend I ran across a story on both local newscasts about how police in either East Baton Rouge or Livingston Parish (I forget) are donating old bulletproof vests to the Army--where they will be used to help protect vulnerable areas of Humvees.

If anyone finds a link, please let me know and I'll update accordingly. Until then, I guess the only remark I can make is "Fuckin Fuckity Fuck."

Thanks to Get Your War On for the invaluable contribution to English phraseology (and to my sister for noticing it).

Operation Eternal "Liberation"

From Steve Gilliard.

AP Photographer Flees Fallujah:

In the weeks before the crushing military assault on his hometown, Bilal Hussein sent his parents and brother away from Fallujah to stay with relatives.

The 33-year-old Associated Press photographer stayed behind to capture insider images during the siege of the former insurgent stronghold.

"Everyone in Fallujah knew it was coming. I had been taking pictures for days," he said. "I thought I could go on doing it."

In the hours and days that followed, heavy bombing raids and thunderous artillery shelling turned Hussein's northern Jolan neighborhood into a zone of rubble and death. The walls of his house were pockmarked by coalition fire.

"Destruction was everywhere. I saw people lying dead in the streets, wounded were bleeding and there was no one to come and help them. Even the civilians who stayed in Fallujah were too afraid to go out," he said.

"There was no medicine, water, no electricity nor food for days."


If you have the time to link to the story, you'll note American troops firing on civilians swimming across the Tigris River, American troops firing randomly at houses, and so on. Between that, the airstrikes, the tank and artillery rounds, we've managed to "Afghanistanize" Fallujah, to coin a term--or, you could say we've "Fallujah'ed Fallujah. Or "Cheney'ed" it. Rregardless of what terminology you use, the fact is that our "liberation" of Iraq is roughly akin to calling the Reign of Terror in France an event which resulted in the liberation of many heads from their associated bodies.

Bush is calling it something different, as you might expect--he considers obliterating a city and who knows how many of its inhabitants "progress."
Don't Expect to get an Exit Row Seat

From Bob Harris, here's a report form Sunday's London Times (I was able to link from Harris's site--they MIGHT request subscriber info) about the flying the not-so-friendly-skies--and that's the good part. After landing, you'll find yourself a bit worse off than in a hotel without concierge:

AN executive jet is being used by the American intelligence agencies to fly terrorist suspects to countries that routinely use torture in their prisons. The movements of the Gulfstream 5 leased by agents from the United States defence department and the CIA are detailed in confidential logs obtained by The Sunday Times which cover more than 300 flights.

Countries with poor human rights records to which the Americans have delivered prisoners include Egypt, Syria and Uzbekistan, according to the files. The logs have prompted allegations from critics that the agency is using such regimes to carry out “torture by proxy” — a charge denied by the American government.

Witnesses described seeing the prisoners handed to US agents whose faces were masked by hoods. The clothes of the handcuffed prisoners were cut off and they were dressed in nappies covered by orange overalls before being forcibly given sedatives by suppository...

Witnesses have claimed that the suspects are frequently bound, gagged and sedated before being put on board the planes, which do not have special facilities for prisoners but are kitted out with tables for meetings and screens for presentations and in-flight films...


"A charge denied by the American government..." Of course. By now, most folks have probably forgotten about the case of Maher Arar, a CANADIAN who was deported to Syria, where he was tortured for almost a year--just because he'd apparently met someone who might or might not be an Al Qaeda member. Since the general public has been fed a steady diet of Scott Peterson for so long, it doesn't surprise me that Arar is likely forgotten--or that the American government thinks they can get away with denying the facts--I mean, shit, it's not like the facts ever mattered in Iraq...

Still--I don't think you'll hear any complaints about the in-flight movie and/or food service either...
Colin Calls it Quits


Colin Powell resigned today, expressing utter disgust and shame that he ever associated with, much less worked for, the Bush Administration.

"My God, what have I done?" Powell asked rhetorically, noting that while he was proud of being the first African-American Secretary of State, the daily humiliations he suffered became just too much to handle. "For four years, I served as window dressing for the...worst...president...ever. I hope my fellow Americans will empathize. During this time, I, like many of this country's citizens, engaged in daily activities that I found revolting. I did so for any number of reasons, including the fact that a steady paycheck isn't something to sneeze up at in this economy."

"My hope had been to inject a degree of reason into the foreign policy of the administration. With the aim of accomplishing this, I allowed myself to be used as a tool. Any number of times in private I railed against the lunatics at Defense, the lunatic Vice President, and the idiot dauphin himself, trying to stress the importance of genuine multilateralism in foreign policy. In attempting this, I even undertook the most shameful element of my otherwise distinguised career when I gave a speech at the United Nations that was so full of lies that to this day I beg forgiveness from what I hope is a merciful God."

"You know what? Bush fucked up the so-called war on terror. He fucked up Iraq SO badly that the best we can hope for is a hostile theocracy in the region, and limited blowback here at home. His economic policies stink, his foreign policy has made the world more dangerous, and I was also sick and tired of the leash and collar I was forced to wear--Don [Rumsfeld] can be a real son of a bitch when he decides to jerk on the choke chain..."


Well, ok, so Powell didn't actually say that, nor does he wear a leash and choke chain--I think. I'm not so sure, though, about the rumors regarding just what Paul Wolfowitz has in that jar on his desk.

You know, as piss poor as the first Bush administration was...hell, it was the sequel to Bush I--Son of [a] Bush--it looks like the sequel to the sequel will be even worse. Just like in Hollywood, they'll do their best to wring out a few extra dollars on the franchise, using lesser and lesser B-Level actors (or will these be C-Levels? The B-Level folks were the first four years). Considering that the first term ultimately worked out about as well as the average "Gator" movie...well, let's just say we won't even be graced with the presence of Sally Field.

And when THAT'S the measure of quality...uh oh.