Saturday, August 23, 2003

The Mojo is Ours

A must read.

An oldie but a goodie:

How the White House handled the outing of Ambassador Wilson's wife as a CIA operative, in clear violation of Federal law:

Although the US media won't cover this story, it's clear that the administration is sweating bullets over this. Clearly, they're terrified. I'll close with this excerpt from a White House press briefing. Note how the administration's new mouthpiece, Scott McClellan, cuts off the questioning when it cuts too close to the bone:

Q The Robert Novak column last week identified the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson as a CIA operative who was working on WMD issues. Novak said that identification is based on information given to him by two administration sources. That column has now given rise to accusations that the administration deliberatively blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative, and in so doing, violated a federal law that prohibits revealing the identity of undercover CIA operatives. Can you respond to that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up. That is not the way this President or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step.

Q So you're saying --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying that that is not the way that this President or this White House operates, and I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it.

Q Are you saying Novak was wrong in saying that it was two administration sources who were the source for --

MR. McCLELLAN: I have no idea who "anonymous" is. I often wish --

Q It's not anonymous. He says senior administration officials.

MR. McCLELLAN: That would be anonymous.

Q Well, that would be senior administration --

Q Like the guy who briefed us last week?

MR. McCLELLAN: Whether it's anonymous senior administration officials or just anonymous sources, it's still anonymous.

Q Is Novak lying? Do you think he's making it up?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you our position. I'll let the columnist speak for himself.

Q You're saying, flatly, it did not happen, nobody --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you, flatly, that that is not the way this White House operates. I've seen no evidence to suggest that there's any truth to that.

Q That's different from saying it didn't happen. Are you saying, absolutely, it did not happen?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying no one was certainly given any authority to do anything of that nature. And I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it. I want to make it very clear, that is simply not the way this White House operates.

Q If it turns out that somebody in the administration did do that --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not even going to speculate about it, because I have no knowledge of any truth to that report.

Q What's the extent of your knowledge? Don't you want to get some more facts? I mean, how do you know that no one in the administration -- Robert Novak has been around for a long --

MR. McCLELLAN: If I could go find "anonymous," Terry, I would.

Q Does the President support a criminal investigation --

MR. McCLELLAN: [interrupting, and turning to another reporter] Did you have something?

Anti-War Protests are Back!

US dissidents challenge the Bush cabal's wisdom regarding their Iraq policy, and urge that the government bring the troops back home.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Here's a tidbit from the Asia Times

According to this article, Ahmad Chalabi claims to have received intelligence on 14 August that something huge was about to go down in Baghdad, and that the UN was one of the possible targets. Granted, he's not the most reliable source of information, so it'll be interesting to see if his claim holds water. Still, it does suggest that the U.S. may very well have known that the UN was in danger in Baghdad and did not lift a finger to provide security to the UN. There's also apparently an implication that the UN had no idea what was about to hit its offices in Baghdad. The final paragraph has an ominous tone worth highlighting:

So not only soldiers are legitimate targets. Corporate employees of Kellogg Brown and Co (a subsidiary of Halliburton) or any other corporation likely to make a killing out of Iraq's resources are legitimate targets. UN employees are legitimate targets. The IMF and the World Bank are legitimate targets. The Pentagon's response is predictable. It will send more troops. Not regular troops, but most of its 29,000 specialists in repression of urban guerrilla and terrorist groups with military training. They may kill thousands more Iraqis, but they won't kill a national liberation movement, operated by people who lived for years in a militarized society awash with weapons. And the message of this national liberation movement to those who concocted and want to profit from the invasion of their country is stark: welcome to hell.

And in the Roffle of the Day Department [1]

Judge Rejects Fox Bid Vs. Franken's Book . The judge in the case described the lawsuit as "wholly without merit, both factually and legally." Fox shoots itself in the foot and gives Al Franken more press (as well as help his book sales). Almost makes me wish that my cable package included Faux News.

[1] roffle = shorthand for rolling on the floor laughing :-)

War Foes Were Right

Well, I already knew that, but it's always nice to read. :-)

Hopefully some folks will read the column.

Iraq Intelligence - Public Forum

I consider this a must-read. Although not a direct transcript of the proceedings, it paraphrases Jay Inslee's (D-WA) public forum quite nicely.

My favorite line (from Ambassador Joseph Wilson, regarding the forged "yellowcake" documents):

The documents in question [the Niger forgeries] were so bad that an Italian tabloid used to printing pictures of bare breasts wouldn't even publish them. This episode seriously impacts our credibility at a critical time. It was sold as if the threat was imminent, but it's clear now that it was not.

My second favorite line (courtesy Professor Brewster Denny):

Was there sufficient evidence of imminent threat? No. Were the inspections given enough time? No. Was the limited intelligence available spun? Yes. Did they spend enough time building an international consensus? "They gave it the finger!" And those 16 words damaged our relationship with our oldest and closest ally, Britain.

There's a rather interesting discussion on such issues as how the Bush administration used (or rather, misused) the intelligence they received regarding Iraq, its alleged WMD threat, alleged nuclear threat, and its alleged link to Al-Qaida; also discussed is the controversy regarding who outed Wilson's wife as a CIA operative.

Again, truly a must-read.

Free The Dixie Three

Although not a country fan or Dixie Chicks fan by any stretch of the imagination, I've followed their story since Natalie Maines' anti-Bush comments earlier this year. Here's a quote from this article that I thought was especially worth highlighting:

Robison picks up the thread: "They've set this tone that they're not to be questioned and if you do then you are unpatriotic. That's somehow gotten into the American psyche and that's scary. If you can't question your government then you are just mindless followers."

Blinded by Faith

A column from The Daily Brew. Check it out. Here's a passage:

Karl Rove plans on making the theme of this election that we live in a dangerous world, and that George Bush is the only man we can trust to steer a course through it. But Bush is charting that course not with facts and reason, but with the superstition born of blind belief. Time and again, when facts fail to fit Bush's dogma, it is the facts that are discarded, instead of the dogma. Whether it is global warming, military intelligence, or economic projections, when facts confront ideology in the White House, the facts usually lose and the ideology usually wins.

But facts are stubborn things. So no matter how many times Bush says his tax cuts have turned the economy around, the lost jobs still remain lost. Whether George Bush believes in the science of global warming or not, the heat wave in Europe is still killing people by the thousands. And while Bush might have told us that "combat operations in Iraq were over" and our "mission was accomplished", the Iraqis apparently weren't listening because our soldiers continue to die in Iraq almost every day.

A strategy for defeating this administration: stick to the facts. Be as objective as possible. Be persistent.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Thunder of '68 Rumbles Onward

Matt Kurlansky column from LA Times that offers some food for thought. The summer of 1968 was the period in which the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to quash the Prague Spring -- an effort by Czechoslovakian Communist leaders to create the ideal socialist democracy envisioned by Karl Marx. Arguably that event was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union, which became increasingly viewed as a superpower that bullies small, relatively defensely nations. Let's fast-forward to the spring of 2003: is the US now viewed in a similar light world-wide? Will we now decay from within like the USSR did? Again, food for thought.

16 Words, But Not the Ones You're Thinking Of

Now here's an eye-opening George W. Bush quote:

"Afghanistan today is a friend of the U.S. It's not a haven for America's terrorist enemies." Add to those 16 words, this little gem from the mouth of our Great Misleader: "Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terror, the Taliban is history...."

Really. So those deadly bombings that were recently reported in Afghanistan are not acts of terror. Hmmmm... The Taliban is still alive and kicking, and ostensibly gaining strength. Osama has yet to be found, and Al-Qaida is still active, the "government" in Afghanistan has control of the capital and little else. At least for those here in the west who've "got the jones comin' down" [1] there's at least comfort in the herion trade that's flourished since the US invasion. In Bushspeak I guess it's paradise.

[1] Lyric from the song "Jones Comin' Down" on The Last Poets eponymous debut album.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Floodzone Fridays

This is a pretty cool idea that appropriates Dubya's re-election website to spread messages regarding Bush's many policy disasters. Check it out.

Who's sabotaging Iraq?

Saboteurs as convenient scapegoats for a failed policy in Iraq? A case can be made for that. The usual demons are mentioned by the Bushies of course: Saddam loyalists, members of Al-Qaida, and so forth. Let's try another angle: maybe, just maybe the oil pipeline bombings and the bombing of a major water main are more of a symptom of not only lousy US "coalition" policy in Iraq, but also years of UN-imposed sanctions (under US auspices of course) that have allowed the country's infrastructure to rot for the last decade.

Letter by Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis written from "exile" in New Mexico

More on the Texas GOP attempt at mid-decade redistricting and its implications.

And while I am thinking about the anger in the eyes of those who have been occupied:

When will we get it through our thick heads that punishment is not a terribly effective tactic? Much of what occupiers do falls under this category, from the public humiliations and imprisonment of young men to the destruction of property and lives that we've been witness to. Occupying forces use punishment as a means of suppressing attempts to defy the occupiers' athority. However, suppressing a behavior is not quite the same as extinguishing the behavior, and whenever the agent of punishment is absent or is rendered ineffective, those same behaviors will return to original baseline levels. If the occupiers fail to keep up their guard, they face precisely the acts of resistance that they intended to eliminate. We might look at the current debate regarding the size of the military presence in Iraq in this light. There may simply be insufficient troops to suppress the acts of resistance that have been occurring with increasing frequency. Clearly the presence of the so-called coalition has had a harder time suppressing acts of disobedience than did deposed leader Saddam Hussein -- at least in part due to the insufficient numbers of troops and in part to the lack of legitimacy they have in the eyes of the Iraqi citizens. I still would contend that although an increased military presence would suppress much of the guerilla activity occurring in Iraq, that such suppression will be temporary at best (If anything, we'd probably end up with a Vietnam-style escalation, with more US casualties being the long-term result).

Another approach occupiers try is reinforcement of cooperative behaviors. However, as in Vietnam, efforts to reinforce cooperation among Iraqis has been weak. There's little payoff for Iraqis to welcome US-led forces when promises to improve their lives have been largely unmet, or if met in a weak and untimely manner. Reinforcements that are too weak fail to change behavior. If the idea is to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, the US is doing every bit as poorly as they did in Nam. So, what is the US left with? Instill as much fear as possible and hope that the inevitable loathing among the Iraqi populace doesn't explode into widespread violence -- at least not until after Election Day 2004.

We're left holding the bag: $4 billion per month spent on occupation, the suffering of countless Iraqis and the troops who are left in a hostile environment for no discernible reason, and no end in sight. What were Bush and his cronies thinking?

Have We Forgotten Anger in the Eyes?

Worth reading. Although it is true that Vietnam and Iraq are two wars fought in two different eras, it's worth noting the parallels that appear to exist: the failure in each case to understand the cultures of the people whose hearts and minds they were expecting to win over, the clumsy attempts at "pacification", and the ensuing resentment and fear that fueled further guerilla fighting. Those currently occupying the White House have failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam. Unfortunately for those of us who have to endure the remaining months of Dubya's term in office, we will pay the price for his administration's foolishness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

David Rozelle: Bush's lie tactics to make case for Iraq war are Orwellian

The opening quote is a classic:

"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible."

- George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"

Monday, August 18, 2003

Local Soldier E-mails From Iraq, Asking For Help

She's [Private First Class Mary Yahne] written us here at KIRO 7 Eyewitness News saying, "the military expects us to be happy out here. I'm very happy serving my country, but not when the government fails to take care of you."

To give some context to that statement, consider that our troops are enduring daytime temperatures that consistently reach and exceed 120 degree fahrenheit with out airconditioning available, eating packaged meals, and drinking a couple bottles of water per day. Certainly their bodies are under considerable stress from the environmental conditions alone. Add to that the guerilla war that has persisted since Dubya declared "victory" and that's escalated in the aftermath of his idiotic "Bring them on" comment, along with an occupation assignment that is lasting considerably longer than our troops were lead to believe initially (and for what seems to be no really good reason at all any more), and we have the makings of considerable psychological stress. We know that an overload of stressors in the short term can have deleterious physical and psychological effects, and that an overload of stressors in the long term can be physically and psychologically devastating -- think of Gulf War Syndrome in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, and PTSD in the wake of Vietnam. We're going to have some serious public health issues on our hands here as these men and women who've served in Iraq make their way home. Will they get the treatment they'll need by the VA when all's said and done, or will our esteemed politicians continue to slash their benefits, leaving the veterans to try go it alone when it comes to recovery?

Standing Against The Fear

Here's an excerpt from this William Rivers Pitt column:

... [describing Veterans for Peace] These are men and women who have known fear, true fear, the fear with the big teeth and roaring snarl that rips the skin from your body before reducing you to ash. What they see happening in America today, the manner in which their government is actively trying to terrify the populace for their own purposes, disgusts them. They stand against it without fear.

Understand that the difference between these two groups - the Bush crew, and the men and women of the VFP - is the difference between what America is, and what America should be. Consider the experiences, the motivations, the actions, the sacrifices. Decide whether you want to spend your life afraid, or whether you will overcome that fear to reach the greatest victory of your life. Decide where you stand.

US troops 'crazy' in killing of cameraman

This seems to underscore the degree of mistrust between journalists in Iraq and the forces currently occupying Iraq.

Lessons in how to lie about Iraq , a column by Brian Eno

A quick aside: Eno has been one of my favorite musicians for ages now. His compositions and ideas on composition have been consistently thought-provoking, and undoubtedly he has a decent grasp on the effectiveness of propaganda if delivered subtly. Ironically, because we live with all the trappings of liberty, including a relatively free (ostensibly not government-controlled) press, regular elections, and so forth, it is easy to fall into the illusion that we cannot be manipulated by propaganda here in the US and in Eno's UK. The truth of the matter is far less comforting once we consider that the means of disseminating information is controlled by a small collection of corporations (we may have more channels and papers to choose from than ever before, but those "choices" are typically owned and operated by said handful of corporate conglomerates). Not only are executives of such corporations likely to be motivated to spin the news of the day in order to show their favored politicians in the best possible light, but they also are more easily controlled by those very political entities precisely because there are so few of them to control.

Here's an excerpt from Eno's column:

the PR companies helped finesse the language to create an atmosphere of simmering panic where American imperialism would come to seem not only acceptable but right, obvious, inevitable and even somehow kind.

Aside from the incessant 'weapons of mass destruction', there were 'regime change' (military invasion), 'pre-emptive defence' (attacking a country that is not attacking you), 'critical regions' (countries we want to control), the 'axis of evil' (countries we want to attack), 'shock and awe' (massive obliteration) and 'the war on terror' (a hold-all excuse for projecting American military force anywhere).

Meanwhile, US federal employees and military personnel were told to refer to the invasion as 'a war of liberation' and to the Iraqi paramilitaries as 'death squads', while the reliably sycophantic American TV networks spoke of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' - just as the Pentagon asked them to - thus consolidating the supposition that Iraqi freedom was the point of the war. Anybody questioning the invasion was 'soft on terror' (liberal) or, in the case of the UN, 'in danger of losing its relevance'.

An Excerpt from Richard Stott, Daily Mirror

"Bush and Blair's war shows no sign of being won. Indeed, those of us who pointed out that such a war could create the very thing it set out to destroy are in danger of being proved right. It was to silence such opposition that the prime minister was so determined to provide evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

No 10 knew: Iraq no threat

One of Tuesday's stories from the Guardian.

In a message that goes to the heart of the government's case for war, the Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, raised serious doubts about the nature of September's Downing Street dossier on Iraq's banned weapons.

"We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat," Mr Powell wrote a week before the document was finally published on September 24.

...The fact the three closest men to the prime minister knew of this information strongly suggests Mr Blair would have been aware.

...Writing on September 17, he said he believed the arms dossier "does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam".

Definitely a different picture than the one PM Blair attempted to paint.

Let's see what the US press does with this story.

Shh, don't tell anyone; we're running things

A quote:

Here's a problem that people with something to hide always have: The lies get so complicated that they get real hard to keep straight. The solution to that is to say as little as possible. When President Bush was finally embarrassed into holding a news conference, he managed to spend almost an hour saying nothing at all.