Saturday, April 23, 2005

Some things bear repeating

over and over again, until it sinks in. From the blog Under The Same Sun with regard to the torture scandal:
Someone should remind these people that just because we here seem so resolute in not noticing this massive cover-up, it doesn't mean the rest of the world is also not noticing it.

Friday, April 22, 2005

GOP, Taliban - same shit different rhetoric

This is the atrophied soul of today's GOP:
You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them.

-- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991 Link

The board member, R. Albert Mohler Jr., said Thursday he stands by the comments he made in March 2000 on the cable news show Larry King Live.

"I believe that the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel," Mohler said at the time. "And indeed, I believe that the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office." Link

Suffice it to say, theirs is not a Christianity I can relate to, or would even want to relate to.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

An excellent summarization of the Iraq quagmire

Steve Gilliard lays out an excellent analysis of the situation in Iraq, detailing in no uncertain terms how Bu$hCo's war has failed miserably. To cut to the chase, here's the concluding commentary (make sure to read the whole thing, and check out the maps that display quite graphically how and why an insurgency can operate so effectively):
So let's draw some conclusions:

* Rumsfeld's eagerness to use Iraq as a test bed for his transformation of the military was a disaster. While the US handled stage one capably, his indifferent to disorder set the stage for stage two.

* Leaving open the ammo dumps set the bed for the resistance. The Iraqi resistance is the most lavishly equipped in history. Every unit well armed with modern weapons.

*Poor planning left the US without their Third World auxillary armies to provide basic security. Without the large Pakistani and Nigerian units to patrol towns and provide basic area denial, US units have had to do two jobs, security and quick reaction.

* Disbanding the Army set the stage for the resistance to have trained people running it. These men didn't learn war from textbooks. The senior folks learned in combat and passed those lessons down

* US forces have adapted to tactics only to have those tactics shift.

* The Iraqis have minimized the use of helicopter units and limited them to observation and attack.

* The Iraqi resistance has also limited the use of the roadnet. Without convoys, resupply is impposible. This control is so dominant that US units now get some supplies by air.

* They have also thoroughly penetrated US assets in Iraq. No Iraqi unit can move without the guerrilas eventually finding out.

* US units are unable to leave their bases except on patrol. During the Vietnam War, Americans could frequent bars and live in the cities. No American can live in Iraq without security at the risk of kidnapping and death.

* The lack of infantry leaves the US unable to sustain military successes when they do occur. The scarest military resource is not armor, but trained combat infantry. Sure, you can send artillerymen out on patrol and get tankers on foot. But infantry is irreplacable for guerrilla warfare.

Every day, US forces go out, take casualities and go back to their bases, trying to survive yet another attack that night. The US, in two years, have lost lives and material, but gained little. There is not one area the US can say that guerrillas cannot operate. And that is the most important fact. After two years and 1500 dead, the guerrillas control the highway to the airport, Baghdad's main drags and the country's highways.

This is not winning.

Emphasis added.

Racism is alive and well in America

Firefighters suspected in racial altercation: Man says he was threatened with handgun, dog
Town of Merton - A Milwaukee man fishing from a bridge over the Oconomowoc River on Tuesday was cornered by two local men, had a handgun pointed at him, and was chased by a German shepherd, he said.

The man, Mark Bratton, who is black, said authorities believe that the two men, who are white, were the North Lake fire chief and a firefighter.

"I saw this red truck stop by us and I thought he was going to ask me how the fishing was," Bratton said. But instead, using a derogatory term for blacks, one of the men yelled, "Hey (expletive), get out of my town," Bratton said.

Bratton, 41, said in an interview that one of two men in the truck pointed a handgun at him. "He said, 'You got two minutes to pack your stuff and get out of our town.' "

Bratton said he ran behind the truck to get the license plate number and called 911. He knew it was a firefighter's vehicle because of the specialized plates, and he told the dispatcher.

Then Bratton saw the second man, whom authorities later identified as North Lake Fire Chief Terry Stapleton, coming toward him with a large German shepherd. "I thought he was going to be a good Samaritan, but then I realized they were together," Bratton said.

While he was on the phone with emergency dispatchers, the men kept telling him to hang up, Bratton said.

Stapleton would partly loosen the dog's leash, then snap it back to scare him, Bratton said. The dog chased him down the road as the men continued to tell him to get out of town, Bratton said, and got as close to him as 12 inches.

At one point Stapleton brought the dog over to Bratton's sister and his nephew, Bratton said. His sister told Stapleton they were trying leave, but needed to pack their stuff. Bratton said he feared for his life until the men abruptly stopped when they came upon a woman walking her dog.

The firefighter then said to Bratton, "I guess you'll learn now not to throw things and spit on my truck." Then they left him alone, Bratton said.

Bratton calls the lady, whose name he doesn't know, "a guardian angel."

"I believe without her, we'd all be dead," he said.

Bratton, who has been fishing at that location for three years, said he couldn't believe the men were firefighters.

"They took an oath to protect people," he said.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

So, How's That Iraq Occupation Going?

I'm certainly a jaded individual when it comes to much of what comes out of the White House and the mass media. That's nothing new. I have been for years now, even before Junior Caligula's reign of error began in 2001. What I will say for the current clowns in government is this: they have truly made an artform out of taking manure and selling it to the masses as cologne. I've finally been reading through Seymour Hersh's "Chain of Command" as time has permitted over the last couple weeks. I'd read the chapter on the Abu Ghraib scandal in March (basically a distillation of his excellent New Yorker articles from last May). But getting to how the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were planned and sold to the public has been quite an eye-opener. Most of us would like to think that both of these countries have held "democratic" elections, and now everything is hunky-dory. And yet, both wars were fundamentally flawed from the get-go, and the poor decision-making and failure to properly utilize intelligence data has been striking for their long-term costs both in terms of cash and casualties. This sad first decade of the 21st century has seen a "perfect storm" in DC: a mixture of Straussian true believers, thugs, opportunists, and theocrats has taken over the asylum, changing the way intelligence is vetted and the way information is presented to the American public. What follows is a quick round-up of some blogging on Iraq that caught my eye.

First, Lenin's Tomb has part of an interview with Les Roberts, whose article in the Lancet gave us an estimate of the high number of Iraqi civilian casualties as a result of US force - remember that number: 100,000.

Also from Lenin's Tomb: Resistance and Representation. The war according to our government and media here in the states and the war as it is actually happening are two distinct entities with little actual overlap. To give you an idea, some clips:
Most violent incidents in Iraq go unreported. We saw one suicide bomb explosion, clouds of smoke and dust erupting into the air, and heard another in the space of an hour. Neither was mentioned in official reports. Last year US soldiers told the IoS that they do not tell their superiors about attacks on them unless they suffer casualties. This avoids bureaucratic hassle and "our generals want to hear about the number of attacks going down not up". This makes the official Pentagon claim that the number of insurgent attacks is down from 140 a day in January to 40 a day this month dubious".

Similarly, in the interview with Les Roberts linked below, the leading scientist behind the Lancet report complains that: "I get very angry about the coverage of Fallujah. I heard a show last week on public radio in the US. They said that it is believed that half the 200,000 people who used to live in the city had returned. Well, the ministry of health told us the population used to be 310,000." How many times have you heard that? The disappearance of 110,000 people? Unless you're a believer in the supernatural, the obvious conclusion is that what we are seeing on the television and in newspapers is not a representation of the reality in Iraq, but a confection of lies.

The violence, of course, continues: fifty bodies found in the Tigris River:
BAGHDAD (AP) - The bodies of more than 50 people have been recovered from the Tigris River and have been identified, President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday. He said the bodies were believed to have been those of hostages seized in a region south of Baghdad earlier this month.

In a separate discovery, another 19 Iraqis were shot to death and left against a bloodstained wall in a soccer stadium in the town of Haditha, about 225 kilometres northwest of Baghdad, an Iraqi reporter and residents said.

But wait! There's more! Iraq: Descending into chaos; 2 more U.S. soldiers killed:
"...Militant violence has surged in the past week, especially in the capital, with explosions often going off one after another in the morning.Three suicide car bombs, including one targeting a U.S. convoy, and several shootings killed at least six Iraqis in Baghdad on Wednesday. A seventh Iraqi was killed outside Baghdad. A car bomb exploded Wednesday near a U.S. convoy in an area of western Baghdad where the notorious Abu Ghraib prison is located, setting an oil tanker on fire. Two Iraqis were killed and five wounded. The two other car bombs exploded in southern Baghdad. One missed a police convoy but hit a civilian car, killing two Iraqis and wounding four. The other exploded in a parking lot near Bilat al-Shuhada police station in Dora area, wounding four civilians. On Tuesday night, an attack by a suicide car bomber near an American patrol in southern Baghdad killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded four. Seven Iraqi civilians also were wounded.

On Tuesday, insurgents killed at least 15 people throughout Iraq, including two U.S. soldiers hit by a suicide bomber in Baghdad, and a former aide to Saddam Hussein's half brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who was gunned down in southern Iraq, officials said. In Sadr city, a poor section of eastern Baghdad, gunmen in a speeding car shot and killed policeman Ali Talib as he walked toward his car. In another part of east Baghdad, gunmen attacked a Health Ministry car, killing the driver and wounding one unidentified passenger. South of the city, one Iraqi policeman was killed and two were seriously wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in the town of Mowailha.

And while the violence continues to mount, the US scores more diplomatic points by humiliating a member of Iraq's congress:
A tearful member of the Iraqi parliament, Fattah al-Shaikh, stood up before other MPs and told the story of how he was attacked and detained by US troops when he attempted to enter the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area near downtown Baghdad where parliament is held and the US embassy is situated. Wire services report that he said, '“I don’t speak English and so I said to the Iraqi translator with them, ‘Tell them that I am a member of parliament’, and he replied, ‘To hell with you, we are Americans.'" '

Al-Hayat reported that al-Shaikh, a member of the Muqtada al-Sadr bloc, said the US troops put their boots on his neck and handcuffed him. The Iraqi parliament was thrown into an uproar by the account, and demanded a US apology from the highest levels of government. Others demanded that the site of parliament meetings be changed. (This is not the first complaint by a parliamentarian of being manhandled).

Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hasani condemned the assault, saying that members of parliament are symbols of national honor and must be respected.

Parliament adjourned on hearing the news.

The incident will seem minor to most Americans and few will see this Reuters photograph reprinted from al-Hayat (which is not the one featured at the Reuters story on the incident on the Web). But such an incident is a serious affront to national honor, and Iraqi male politicians don't often weep.

It should be remembered that someday not so far from now, the US will come to the Iraqi parliament for a status of forces agreement (SOFA), and Fattah al-Shaikh and his friend will vote on it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Justice, schmustice

Here's a little history lesson courtesy of Empire Notes:
On March 16, 1988, as part of Saddam’s Anfal campaign in which 100-200,000 Kurds were killed, Saddam’s forces attacked the town of Halabja with chemical weapons. Somewhere from 3-8000 people died in agony, grotesquely distorted and discolored.

The United States intervened to make sure the Security Council did not act nor even issue a toothless condemnation. As it unfolded, the United States actually increased the flow of agricultural credits that was its primary means of supporting Saddam’s war machine. The United States even deliberately put out disinformation suggesting that Iran was responsible for the attack. It aided and abetted the massacre of Halabja and is guilty as an accomplice of Saddam’s, a fact he will surely bring up at his trial if allowed to.

So that's the state of the Reagan/Bush reaction to that terrible massacre as of 1988. Let's fast-forward to the 1990s:
Halabja remained buried until Saddam crossed a certain “line in the sand” in Kuwait. Since that time, Halabja has been rhetorically used by three U.S. administrations in order to justify the first Gulf War, the sanctions, the 1998 Desert Fox war, the ongoing invasion and occupation of Iraq, and all the other ills that the United States has made Iraqi flesh heir to.

On March 16, 1998, the 10th anniversary of the gassing, James Rubin at the State Department presided over a special ritual commemoration -- in the middle of a propaganda campaign that culminated in the December 1998 bombing.

So we have the Bush/Quayle revisionist history of the massacre (really revisionism of the previous administration's revisionism) as part of the propaganda used to justify the 1991 Gulf War. That revisionist history is subsequently passed on to the Clinton/Gore administration for their own justifcation of continued bombing raids and undoubtedly the policy of economic and medical embargo that led to the death by starvation or disease of some 500,000 Iraqi children. Real nice. Now let's fast forward to our current sorry decade:
And it is not an accident that George Bush chose March 16, 2003, the 15th anniversary, as the occasion to launch his twin ultimatums -- one, to Iraq to capitulate immediately or face war, the other to the United Nations, to capitulate immediately or face war in Iraq. In that speech, he showed his pious horror at the suffering of Halabja’s dead, suggesting that they died because the U.N. was ineffectual, not because the United States [made] the U.N. ineffectual.

One might think that the residents of Halabja might just be on the verge of getting an even break at last - aid to rebuild a decimated infrastructure, aid to clean up the toxic waste dump that their community has effectively ended up being for the last 15-plus years, etc. That would be nice. But as we know, reality has a way of being anything but nice:
A little over a year ago, on the 16th anniversary of the gassing, Paul Bremer and Colin Powell flew to Halabja for the commemoration and decided to “help” the town, not by providing water, but by allocating $1 million for the building of two schools. The Washington Kurdish Institute found evidence of cytotoxic chemicals in the soil on those sites; the United States has refused to follow up with a serious study, confident that the children of Halabja won’t mind just a little bit more exposure.

Those plans for schools are about the only thing that’s been done so far to “help” the people of Halabja.

As for any other aid:
You may recall that, back in September, the Bush administration shifted $3.4 billion of the congressional allocation for reconstruction away from water, electricity, and oil into “security.” At the time, only about 5% of the money allocated had been spent and only about one-fourth of that was actually going to benefit the Iraqi people, instead of to private mercenaries, government corruption, and corporate profits.

The New York Times reports recently that, of 81 water reconstruction projects being planned, all but 13 have been defunded. The Kurdish north, which has been harmed by the occupation much less than the rest of the country, lost all but two of the 20 projects being planned.

The project for Halabja, $10 million allocated to bring water to a town where only half the population has access to running water, was one of those that was cut.

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

Leave it to someone at Counterpunch to remind me of the classic Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch. If you're needing a laugh today, then by all means enjoy!

"Support the troops - bring them home now."

Eli of Left I on the News has been using this meme for a while now, and notes it is spreading. I've also seen the same slogan on bumper stickers and magnet stickers, so I think it's been spreading for a while. But what the hey - doesn't hurt to do our part to spread the meme around further, and if it helps down the road to prevent further US and Iraqi casualties then all the better. Related memes: "why the hell are our troops still in Iraq?" and "why in the hell are they there in the first place?" Spread with reckless abandon.