Saturday, November 26, 2005

From the mailbag

I get email, and every once in a while it's something other than an ad for Viagra or breast enhancements or those crafty folks from Nigeria and elsewhere who wish to "deposit" large sums of cash into my practically nonexistent bank account. But I digress.

Cernig of Newshog has a humorous and informative piece titled, You don't have to a sociopath to be Republican, but it helps.

It is the policy of this blog to not diagnose people as having antisocial personality disorder (as defined by the DSM-IV-TR) merely for being Republican. It is the policy of this blog to point out that the Republican Party's elected officials and cronies do demonstrate a pervasive pattern of antisocial behaviors on a regular basis. In other words, the party and its policies are sick, even if most of its members are clearly of sound mind.

Censorship at Daily Kos

Apparently this diary was just too controversial for the 401k liberal crowd, and was deleted without the author's knowledge. Some kind soul was able to recover its contents along with the 500+ comments. Worth a look as much for the state of mind of a number of the commenters as anything else.

A quote for your Saturday


"I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger."

- Muhammad Ali
Hat tip to Maryscott O'Connor from her blog My Left Wing.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Oh and remember that humanitarian war in the Balkans?

Seems that we have our own humanitarian mini-Guantánamo facility in Kosovo.
From Reuters:

CONCERNS ABOUT DETENTION Center IN KOSOVO

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil Robles, separately raised questions about a detention center used by the U.S. Army in Kosovo, although he said he could establish no clear link to the CIA prison reports.

He told the French newspaper Le Monde he had been shocked by the detention center in Camp Bondsteel during a visit in 2002.

"The place looked like a reconstruction of Guantanamo on a small scale," he said. "(The prisoners) were mostly sitting, some locked up in isolation cells. Some of them were bearded. Some were reading the Koran."

Drawing a comparison with the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Le Monde said prisoners had had no access to lawyers.

At least we got rid of Saddam

He was certainly enough of a bastard that little more need be said: let's just say that there were a few of us who thought he was bad news for his own people back when it wasn't politically correct to dislike his regime (i.e., the go-go 1980s when old Saddam was buddy-buddy with the Raygun-Bush crowd). So, the guy's behind bars, and is closer to being forced to account for his various crimes. So all should be hunky-dory in Iraq, right? Not so fast:
Saddam Removed From Power - Well at first this seemed like a success. Old Saddam was a'hidin' in his spidey hole and the blessed American military smoked him out. Not only that, but most of his top aides and deviant war criminal government were arrested and are now sitting in the dock. The people of Iraq are now free of his dictatorship!

The only problem is that the new Iraqi government doesn't seem to be one whit better. Not one whit. I can't find a shred of evidence that the new guys are any better than the old. If you look at everything bad ever said about Saddam, from the fact he rigged elections, tortured people, had a vile secret police, repressed free speech, used violence against political opponents and had a network of brutal cronies in positions of power, well gosh that's pretty much what's going on in Iraq today.

Maybe it's time for a chart:


Iraq Under SaddamIraq Today
Torture?YesYes
Illegal detentions?YesYes
Ba'athist thugs in power?YesYes
Rigged elections?YesYes
Censorship of media?YesYes
Use of chemical weapons against civilians?YesNo*
Functioning economy?YesNo
Religious fundamentalism including sha'ria law?NoYes
Repression of women's rights?NoYes
Functioning basic services like water, electricity?YesNo
Exporting oil to earn revenue?YesSomewhat
Engaged in war with neighboring states?YesNo
Home base for terrorism and Al-Qaeda?NoYes
Children dying of malnutrition and dehydration?YesYes
Americans and British being killed?NoYes

Well it looks like except for engaging in a war with its neighbors, the new Iraqi government is actually worse than under Saddam. Whoever wanted that to happen?

I put an asterisk next to "NO" for the current government using chemical weapons against civilians. As far as I know only the American military has done that in Iraq.

While everyone hopes that next month or next year or in the next decade that things are better under non-Saddam rule, so far it's hard to see how anything's improved whatsoever for the Iraq people.

Remember that was one of the rotating door of rationales for a war that has now killed over 2100 US soldiers, injured thousands more, along with of course the lives of Iraqis.

Shorter former FEMA Director Michael Brown

"I fucked up. Let me show you how you can too, for a nominal fee."

One thing's for certain:

while America may have had a holiday on Thursday, there was no respite from violence in Iraq.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Today's music mix

  1. The Time is Now! - Phil Ranelin
  2. Sounds - Roscoe Mitchell
  3. As if it Were the Seasons - Joseph Jarman

All three excellent albums.

More food for thought

Thanksgiving on the Rez provides more of the historical context of Thanksgiving.

Subjective Scribe also has some interesting thoughts on this holiday that deserve consideration.

Postscript to the previous

Robert Jensen had an article on CounterPunch titled A National Day of Atonement, along very similar lines, delving into Thanksgiving as part of our own national myth building. Some clips of interest:
One vehicle for taming history is various patriotic holidays, with Thanksgiving at the heart of U.S. myth-building. From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.

Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it's also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.

Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.

[...]

How does a country deal with the fact that some of its most revered historical figures had certain moral values and political views virtually identical to Nazis? Here's how 'respectable' politicians, pundits, and professors play the game:

When invoking a grand and glorious aspect of our past, then history is all-important. We are told how crucial it is for people to know history, and there is much hand wringing about the younger generations' lack of knowledge about, and respect for, that history. In the United States, we hear constantly about the deep wisdom of the founding fathers, the adventurous spirit of the early explorers, the gritty determination of those who 'settled' the country -- and about how crucial it is for children to learn these things.

But when one brings into historical discussions any facts and interpretations that contest the celebratory story and make people uncomfortable -- such as the genocide of indigenous people as the foundational act in the creation of the United States -- suddenly the value of history drops precipitously and one is asked, 'Why do you insist on dwelling on the past?'

[...]

This off-and-on engagement with history isn't of mere academic interest; as the dominant imperial power of the moment, U.S. elites have a clear stake in the contemporary propaganda value of that history. Obscuring bitter truths about historical crimes helps perpetuate the fantasy of American benevolence, which makes it easier to sell contemporary imperial adventures -- such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- as another benevolent action.

Any attempt to complicate this story guarantees hostility from mainstream culture.

[...]

History does matter, which is why people in power put so much energy into controlling it. The United States is hardly the only society that has created such mythology. While some historians in Great Britain continue to talk about the benefits that the empire brought to India, political movements in India want to make the mythology of Hindutva into historical fact. Abuses of history go on in the former empire and the former colony.

History can be one of the many ways we create and impose hierarchy, or it can be part of a process of liberation. The truth won't set us free, but the telling of truth at least opens the possibility of freedom.
Food for thought.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The real story of Thanksgiving

As a follow-up of sorts to a previous post, Just How Civilized Are We?, some words about the original Thanksgiving "feast" and its bloody aftermath:
It is not at all clear what happened at the first – and only – “integrated” Thanksgiving feast. Only two written accounts of the three-day event exist, and one of them, by Governor William Bradford, was written 20 years after the fact. Was Chief Massasoit invited to bring 90 Indians with him to dine with 52 colonists, most of them women and children? This seems unlikely. A good harvest had provided the settlers with plenty of food, according to their accounts, so the whites didn’t really need the Wampanoag’s offering of five deer. What we do know is that there had been lots of tension between the two groups that fall. John Two-Hawks, who runs the Native Circle web site, gives a sketch of the facts:
“Thanksgiving' did not begin as a great loving relationship between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people. In fact, in October of 1621 when the pilgrim survivors of their first winter in Turtle Island sat down to share the first unofficial 'Thanksgiving' meal, the Indians who were there were not even invited! There was no turkey, squash, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. A few days before this alleged feast took place, a company of 'pilgrims' led by Miles Standish actively sought the head of a local Indian chief, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping Indians out!”
It is much more likely that Chief Massasoit either crashed the party, or brought enough men to ensure that he was not kidnapped or harmed by the Pilgrims. Dr. Tingba Apidta, in his “Black Folks’ Guide to Understanding Thanksgiving,” surmises that the settlers “brandished their weaponry” early and got drunk soon thereafter. He notes that “each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people's ‘notorious sin,’ which included their ‘drunkenness and uncleanliness’ and rampant ‘sodomy.’”
Soon after the feast the brutish Miles Standish “got his bloody prize,” Dr. Apidta writes:
“He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, ‘as a symbol of white power.’ Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name ‘Wotowquenange,’ which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.”
What is certain is that the first feast was not called a “Thanksgiving” at the time; no further integrated dining occasions were scheduled; and the first, official all-Pilgrim “Thanksgiving” had to wait until 1637, when the whites of New England celebrated the massacre of the Wampanoag’s southern neighbors, the Pequots.
The first "official" Thanksgiving was a celebration of a massacre:
Sixteen years after the problematical Plymouth feast, the English tried mightily to erase the Pequots from the face of the Earth, and thanked God for the blessing.
Having subdued, intimidated or made mercenaries of most of the tribes of Massachusetts, the English turned their growing force southward, toward the rich Connecticut valley, the Pequot’s sphere of influence. At the point where the Mystic River meets the sea, the combined force of English and allied Indians bypassed the Pequot fort to attack and set ablaze a town full of women, children and old people.
William Bradford, the former Governor of Plymouth and one of the chroniclers of the 1621 feast, was also on hand for the great massacre of 1637:
"Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire...horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy."
The rest of the white folks thought so, too. “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots," read Governor John Winthrop’s proclamation. The authentic Thanksgiving Day was born.
Most historians believe about 700 Pequots were slaughtered at Mystic. Many prisoners were executed, and surviving women and children sold into slavery in the West Indies. Pequot prisoners that escaped execution were parceled out to Indian tribes allied with the English. The Pequot were thought to have been extinguished as a people. According to IndyMedia, “The Pequot tribe numbered 8,000 when the Pilgrims arrived, but disease had brought their numbers down to 1,500 by 1637. The Pequot ‘War’ killed all but a handful of remaining members of the tribe.”
Hat tip to Ductape Fatwa's blog Enemy of the State, regarding tomorrow's National Day of Mourning.

I wish there wore more Oklahoma editorials like this

From the editorial page of the Tahlequah Daily Press:
The public should be thankful Vice President Dick Cheney seldom ventures out to utter his blasphemies. Otherwise, we'd spend a lot of time sick at heart, stomach or both.

Cheney is dangerous because he's a threat to the American way of life. Most of his public statements are fallacious, intended to smear opponents or prop up special interests like Halliburton.
The rest made for a fun read.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Maybe the White House propagandists will try to convince us that the next Depression really is "great!"

Hat tip to Left Coaster for the pic.

Upper Class Twits

This one is funny:


This one is deadly:

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Just How Civilized Are We?

Some comments recently from Digby's blog:
To some extent civilization is nothing more than leashing the beast within. When you go to the dark side, no matter what the motives, you run a terrible risk of destroying yourself in the process. I worry about the men and women who are engaging in this torture regime. This is dangerous to their psyches. But this is true on a larger sociological scale as well. For many, many moons, torture has been a simple taboo --- you didn't question its immorality any more than you would question the immorality of pedophilia. You know that it's wrong on a visceral, gut level. Now we are debating it as if there really is a question as to whether it's immoral --- and, more shockingly, whether it's a positive good. Our country is now openly discussing the efficacy of torture as a method for extracting information.

[...]

When the smoke finally clears, and we can see past that dramatic day on 9/11 and put the threat of islamic fundamentalism into its proper perspective, I wonder if we'll be able to go back to our old ethical framework? I'm not so sure we will even want to. It's not that it changed us so much as it revealed us, I think. A society that can so easily discard it's legal and ethical taboos against cruelty and barbarism, is an unstable society to begin with.

At this rather late stage in life, I'm realizing that the solid America I thought I knew may never have existed. Running very close, under the surface, was a frightened, somewhat hysterical culture that could lose its civilized moorings all at once. I had naively thought that there were some things that Americans would find unthinkable --- torture was one of them.
Whether or not we humans are truly savages - beasts within who must be restrained by civilization - is a topic perhaps I'll pick up on another day. To make a long story short, I have plenty of doubts. That said, there is little doubt in my mind, based on what I've read and observed that differing societal patterns invite varying levels of violence, such as torture, genocide, and so on. The words that a civilization, society, or tribe may use to describe its values, its institutions, its rituals may provide a veneer of civility. However, ultimately it is deeds rather than words that distinguish between civility and savagery. The truth is that America, for all of its Enlightenment-era rhetoric about human rights, equality, and so on is an extraordinarily violent nation. No doubt that at least some of the antecedents for our own violent history come from the Europeans, who during the early days of conquering the "New World" utilized torture and genocide to a great degree in their efforts to rid the Americas of its indigenous peoples (practices that were further refined as the US gained its independence from England). The dirty little secret (well, not so secret to those willing to look) was that all along many of our fellow citizens have had little problem with the use of extremely brutal violence against just about any group of people they deem unfit, whether within our own borders or on foreign soil. Torture? Look no further than the front lines of the civil rights struggle. Genocide? In addition to efforts to not only destroy the cultures as well as the lives of countless indigenous natives - efforts that were by and large successful - we can also look at America as the effective birthplace of the Eugenics movement. Lynchings are less popular nowadays perhaps, but it seems largely because such practices have been somewhat suppressed.

Yeah some of those impulses seemed to have been suppressed, and it's in that environment in which I grew up. Somehow, in the early years of the new century we've seen those impulses reawakened. I suspect that what 9/11 did was to tear off the veneer of civility and allow those violent tendencies that mark our own particular society to reassert themselves. Like Digby, I'm not sure that going back to the pre-9/11 days would be advisable. Rather, we need to ask how other societies manage to largely avoid the sorts of violence that seem second nature to our own. How did the Iroquois Nation (the folks who provided much of the inspiration for our own Constitution) manage to survive without torturing and without resorting to genocide against their neighbors? How have the Europeans whose own histories are replete with all manner of acts of brutality managed to move towards societies that are genuinely more civilized? We're not talking utopia here. As a species of predatory mammals, it's a safe assumption that some instances of violence will be with us until extinction. I merely wonder what we can do differently here in this country to minimize (and not merely supress) the sorts of brutal intraspecies violence that we currently experience and apparently accept.

Hugo Chávez of Venezuela Helps US Poor

Here's a story making the rounds:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered to ship 285,000 barrels of oil to Massachusetts and sell it at a 40 percent discount. The deal was arranged by U.S. Congressman William Delahunt, the Venezuelan gas company Citgo and a Massachusetts nonprofit called Citizens Energy. Nationwide home heating oil prices are expected to increase by as much as 50 percent this winter because of rising oil prices.
More from the Boston Globe (via Susan Hu - see above link):
That meeting -- unusual for a sitting member of Congress and a head of state so critical of the White House -- sparked negotiations that led to the official announcement scheduled for today: A US subsidiary of a Venezuelan-owned company will provide 12 million gallons of discounted home heating oil to Massachusetts consumers and organizations serving the poor.

Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat who is emerging as one of his party's leading voices in Latin American affairs, said he was simply trying to smooth strained US-Venezuelan relations while helping low-income people in his home state.

Critics said Delahunt should not be working so closely with Chávez, an outspoken leftist.

[.........]

''He's been kind of an apologist for Chávez for some time," said Steve Johnson, a Latin American specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Meeting with the leader who calls himself a revolutionary populist, Johnson said, ''is not something I'd like my congressman to be doing."

Delahunt dismissed the criticism, saying he is doing his part to continue a dialogue with a country that is the fourth-largest provider of refined petroleum products to the United States. The heating oil agreement, he said, ''was something that wasn't about politics, was not about the bilateral relationship. It was about people. It was genuinely humanitarian in its intention and in its impact."

Asked if he was subverting State Department policy toward Chávez, Delahunt said, ''I don't work for Condoleezza Rice. I don't report to the State Department. I report to the people who elected me in the state of Massachusetts. I belong to an independent branch of government." ...

Read all at the Boston Globe.

Citgo is the only oil company to bother to respond to a plea by a group of US Senators to major oil companies to use some of their record profits to help those most in need of help the winter weather season. Whatever one might think of Chávez, if nothing else a lot of folks who might of otherwise froze to death this winter will stay alive and warm. That last paragraph in which Delahunt asserts that he reports to his constituents in Massachussetts and not the State Department and that he belongs to an independent branch of the government is also worthy of highlighting.

Things that make you say WTF?

Did Bush Want to Bomb Al-Jazeera? Here's the news clip.
The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the anti-war-in-Iraq daily.

The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters.

Blair allegedly feared such a strike, in the business district of Doha, the capital of Qatar, a key western ally in the Persian Gulf, would spark revenge attacks.

The Mirror quoted an unnamed British government official as saying Bush's threat was "humorous, not serious".

Al-Jazeera's perspectives on the war in Iraq have drawn criticism from Washington since the US-led March 2003 invasion.

The station has broadcast messages from Al-Qaeda terror network chief Osama bin Laden and the beheadings of Western hostages by insurgents in Iraq, as well as footage of dead coalition servicemen and Iraqi civilians killed in fighting.

A source told the Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush.

"He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.

"There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

Another source said: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

The diary goes on to discuss the possibility that Al-Jazeera has been in the US government's crosshairs for quite a while. Certainly I recall late 2001, when that particular media outlet's Afghanistan offices were bombed and there was some question as to the motive of the bombing. Add to that the various journalists who have been killed at the hands of coalition forces over the past couple years and one wonders.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Man Bites Dog

Man Bites Dog is a pseudo-documentary that follows the killing sprees of the murderous Benoit (Benoit Poelvoorde). With cameras rolling, he calmly explains his theories about killing people and weighing down the bodies so they won't float to the surface of whatever river or lake he dumps them in. He then proceeds to slaughter person after person, respecting neither age nor sex nor race, and murdering in a wide variety of ways from strangulation to a bullet to the head. All the while, the film crew trails him, heedless of the danger they put themselves in, and uncaring as they are drawn deeper and deeper into the psychotic, criminal world of their subject.

[...]

Benoit possesses an especially interesting personae. Heartless as a killer, he's actually a fun guy to be around most of the time. He loves his girlfriend and adores his family. He's smart and thoughtful, often giving lengthy discourses on various aspects of life and death. Then, the next thing you know, he's blowing someone's brains out or raping a woman while her naked husband looks on in horror.
Review of the film, Man Bites Dog (1993)

What, will you murder me? Thou gaoler, thou, I am thy prisoner.

The infantilising of politics, the reduction of dissent to weak graffiti-satire (invariably portrayed as savage critique), the obsession with personalities, the gigantism in which relatively minor facts are inflated well above their true value. How could these be more amply portrayed than in this story? Isn't it satisfying? Doesn't it show Bush for the inept clown that you suppose he is? What fun! Crazy guy, crazy country.

And yet, what is Bush doing in this story, aside from discovering a locked door (doh! the rest of humanity exists on an ethereal plane where such misfortune could never happen)? He is, if I am not very much mistaken, doing business with a hideous dictatorship. One which has WMDs, moreover. Further, it has invaded its neighbours. Well, Bush does the usual routine: liberalisation (free trade), democratisation (free markets) and openness (fill in blank) are the order of the day. But Bush understands, of course. His country has been doing the same thing since Manifest Destiny. It's just peculiar that this thought never occurred to the BBC's finest minds, that's all. Somehow, "Bush is a hypocrite and blood-stained liar" became translated as "*giggle*, look at how foolish Bush is, he got the wrong door!"
The Comedy Murderer by Lenin's Tomb (2005)

Quotable

We have been trying to train the Iraqis in human rights. We’ve set up conferences for the Iraqis on human rights with all the NGOs. We’ve been trying our very best to get human rights into the Iraqi psyche. We want to help them I think.

- Ann Clwyd (providing a glimpse into the imperialist psyche)

Examples of this "training" abound:



Hat tip to Lenin's Tomb for quote and pictures. Make sure to read the whole thing.

Things to read

Cynthia McKinney, one of the very few consistent anti-war voices within the Democrat Party has a few choice words from the House floor worth reading:
Sadly, if we call for an end to the occupation, some say that we have no love for the Iraqi people, that we would abandon them to tyrants and thugs.

Let us consider some history. The Republicans make great hay about Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against the Iranians and the Kurds. But when that attack was made in 1988, it was Democrats who moved a resolution to condemn those attacks, and the Reagan White House quashed the bill in the Senate, because at that time the Republicans considered Saddam one of our own.

So in 1988, who abandoned the Iraqi people to tyrants and a thugs?

[...]

We must be willing to face the fact that the presence of US combat troops is itself a major inspiration to the forces attacking our troops. Moreover, we must be willing to acknowledge that the forces attacking our troops are able to recruit suicide attackers because suicide attacks are largely motivated by revenge for the loss of loved ones. And Iraqis have lost so many loved ones as a result of America's two wars against Iraq.

In 1996, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on CBS that the lives of 500,000 children dead from sanctions were "worth the price" of containing Saddam Hussein. When pressed to defend this reprehensible position she went on to explain that she did not want US Troops to have to fight the Gulf War again. Nor did I. But what happened? We fought a second gulf war. And now over 2,000 American soldiers lie dead. And I expect the voices of concern for Iraqi civilian casualties, whose deaths the Pentagon likes to brush aside as "collateral damage" are too few, indeed. A report from Johns Hopkins suggests that over 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, most of them violent deaths and most as "collateral damage" from US forces. The accuracy of the 100,000 can and should be debated. Yet our media, while quick to cover attacks on civilians by insurgent forces in Iraq, have given us a blackout on Iraqi civilian deaths at the hands of US combat forces.

Yet let us remember that the United States and its allies imposed a severe policy of sanctions on the people of Iraq from 1990 to 2003. UNICEF and World Health Organization studies based on infant mortality studies showed a 500,000 increase in mortality of Iraqi children under 5 over trends that existed before sanctions. From this, it was widely assumed that over 1 million Iraqi deaths for all age groups could be attributed to sanctions between 1990 and 1998. And not only were there 5 more years of sanctions before the invasion, but the war since the invasion caused most aid groups to leave Iraq. So for areas not touched by reconstruction efforts, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated further. How many more Iraqi lives have been lost through hunger and deprivation since the occupation?

And what kind of an occupier have we been? We have all seen the photos of victims of US torture in Abu Ghraib prison. That's where Saddam used to send his political enemies to be tortured, and now many Iraqis quietly, cautiously ask: "So what has changed?"

A recent video documentary confirms that US forces used white phosphorous against civilian neighborhoods in the US attack on Fallujah. Civilians and insurgents were burned alive by these weapons. We also now know that US forces have used MK77, a napalm-like incendiary weapon, even though napalm has been outlawed by the United Nations.

With the images of tortured detainees, and the images of Iraqi civilians burned alive by US incendiary weapons now circulating the globe, our reputation on the world stage has been severely damaged.

If America wants to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, we as a people must be willing to face the pain and death and suffering we have brought to the Iraqi people with bombs, sanctions and occupation, even if we believe our actions were driven by the most altruistic of reasons. We must acknowledge our role in enforcing the policy of sanctions for 12 years after the extensive 1991 bombing in which we bombed infrastructure targets in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.

We must also be ready to face the fact that the United States once provided support for the tyrant we deposed in the name of liberating the Iraqi people. These are events that our soldiers are too young to remember. I believe our young men and women in uniform are very sincere in their belief that their sacrifice is made in the name of helping the Iraqi people. But it is not they who set the policy. They take orders from the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress. It is we who bear the responsibility of weighing our decisions in a historical context, and it is we who must consider the gravest decision of whether or not to go to war based upon the history, the facts, and the truth.

Sadly, however, our country is at war in Iraq based on a lie told to the American people. The entire war was based premised on a sales pitch-that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction menacing the United States-that turned out to be a lie.
Jeremy Scahill has some choice words of his own about the Democrat Party, starting with some basic history:

None of the horrors playing out in Iraq today would be possible without the Democratic Party. And no matter how hard some party leaders try to deny it, this is their war too and will remain so until every troop is withdrawn. There is no question that the Bush administration is one of the most corrupt, violent and brutal in the history of this country but that doesn't erase the serious responsibility the Democrats bears for the bloodletting in Iraq. As disingenuous as the Administration's claims that Iraq had WMDs is the flimsy claim by Democratic lawmakers that they were somehow duped into voting for the war. The fact is that Iraq posed no threat to the United States in 2003 any more than it did in 1998 when President Clinton bombed Baghdad. John Kerry and his colleagues knew that. The Democrats didn't need false intelligence to push them into overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime. It was their policy; a policy made the law of the land not under George W. Bush, but under President Bill Clinton when he signed the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, formally initiating the process of regime change in Iraq.

Manipulated intelligence is but a small part of a bigger, bipartisan 15-year assault on Iraq's people. If the Democrats really want to look at how America was led into this war, they need to go back further than the current president's inauguration.

As bloody and deadly as the occupation has been, it was Bill Clinton who refined the art of killing innocent Iraqis following the Gulf War. One of his first acts as president was to bomb Iraq, following the alleged assassination plot against George HW Bush. Clinton's missiles killed the famed Iraqi painter Leila al Attar as they smashed into her home. Clinton presided enthusiastically over the most deadly and repressive regime of economic sanctions in history--his UN ambassador Madeline Albright calling the reported deaths of half a million children "worth the price." Clinton initiated the longest sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam with his illegal no-fly zone bombings, attacking Iraq once every three days for the final years of his presidency. It was under Clinton that Ahmed Chalabi was given tens of millions of dollars and made a key player in shaping Washington's Iraq policy. It was Clinton that mercilessly attacked Iraq in December of 1998, destroying dozens of Baghdad buildings and killing scores of civilians. It was Clinton that codified regime change in Iraq as US policy. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq but he could not have done it without the years of groundwork laid by Clinton and the Democrats. How ironic it was recently to hear Clinton call the war "a big mistake."

It's easy to resist war with a president like Bush in the White House. Where were these Democrats when it was Clinton's bombs raining down on Iraq, when it was Clinton's economic sanctions targeting the most vulnerable? Many of them were right behind him and his deadly policies the same way they were behind Bush when he asked their consent to use force against Iraq. As the veteran Iraq activist and Nobel Prize nominee Kathy Kelly said often during the Clinton years, "It's easy to be a vegetarian between meals." The fact is that one of the great crimes of our times was committed by the Clinton administration with the support of many of the politicians now attacking Bush.

Then going to the punchline:
Herein lies the real political crisis in this country: the Democrats are not an opposition party, nor are they an antiwar party - never were. At best, they are a loyal opposition. The Democrats ran a pro-war campaign in 2004 with Kerry struggling to convince people that Dems do occupation and war better. The current head of the DNC, Howard Dean, never met a war he didn't adore until he realized he could exploit the energy and sincere hopes of millions of peace-loving Americans. Dean wasn't ever antiwar. In fact, during the 2004 campaign he attacked Kerry for opposing the Gulf War while laying out his own pro-war record.

[...]

When the hawkish Democrat Rep. John Murtha bravely stepped forward to call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq this week, he was quickly blasted by the White House and simultaneously disowned by powerful Democrats like John Kerry. Occupation lovers together again. The bloody scandal of the Iraq occupation has opened a rare and clear window into the truth about this country: there is one party represented in Washington--one that supports preemptive war and regime change. The reality is that the Democrats could stop this war if the will was there. They could shut down the Senate every day, not just for a few hours one afternoon. They could disrupt business as usual and act as though the truth were true: this war should never have happened and it must end now. The country would be behind them if they did it. But they won't. They will hem and haw and call for more troops and throw out epic lies about the US becoming a stabilizing force in Iraq and blame the Republicans for their own complicity and enthusiasm in the 15 years of bipartisan crimes against Iraq. Why? Because they support war against Iraq.

I can guarantee that current contenders for the Dem pres. nominee such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will brag about how they'd love to send even more troops to Iraq. That's the last thing this country needs. The Dem leadership simply fails to get it. As I've mentioned previously, Congressional Dems pleaing ignorance won't work. I'll grant that they didn't have access to all of the intelligence that the White House had, but at the end of the day, there was certainly enough information available from enough credible sources to cast serious doubts about invading Iraq. The Dem leadership, hands already dirty from over a decade of sanctions and bombing raids aimed at Iraq (while our government was presumably not at war) probably wanted to believe in the veridacity of the BS the White House was feeding them. Those few Dems who were against the Iraq war from the beginning (McKinney, Conyers, and Kucinich come most readily to mind), and those like Murtha who have not only acknowledged their mistake in supporting the invasion but are now insisting that the US government does right by its troops and bring them home in an orderly fashion pronto are to be commended.

Speaking of White House BS, here's my periodic reminder of the enormous number of false and misleading statements made by the White House prior to the March 2003 invasion, courtesy of Seeing the Forest. Also, here's another bit on the credibility of one of the so-called informants used by Bu$hCo. Looks like "Curveball" should have been code-named "Wild Thing."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Anniversaries

Apparently today marked the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. Cruz del sur offers a translation of a piece by Ernesto Ekaizer:
..."November 20th is the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the first Nuremberg Trials against top Nazis, for crimes against humanity. The trials certified the birth of International Law. Just as it's advances on the last decade, with the leadership of the Spanish and Great Britain's judicial system, as it's essence (the Geneva Convention and the UN's Convention Against Torture, among others,) are threatened by the war against terrorism promoted by the Bush administration.

It is the morning of November 20th, 1945 in Nuremberg. The clock has marked 10 am. The courtroom is uneasy. The twenty-one accused make their entrance. Hermann Goering exhibits some papers and wants to make a statement. The tribunal rejects his request. Robert Jackson, the American chief prosecutor had the word, and will spend all day with his presentation.

Essentially his message is ""We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. Our conduct must shoe such impartiality and integrity, so that posterity will praise this trial for having fulfilled Humanity's aspiration that justice was done"

Sixty years have passed. Reed Brody, from Human Rights Watch, is in Dakar, Senegal. This week he collaborated with the detention of former Chad's dictator (1982-1990), Hissene Habre due to an international order for his detention by the Belgium Justice so he can be extradited to Belgium.

"Habre sidestepped justice for 15 years. On Tuesday I saw how they brought him arrested to the court. It seems, and I say it seems because one is never knows what will happen when it comes to Universal Jurisdiction, that justice finally pounced on him" explained Brody from Dakar. The tribunal delayed the decision on extradition until the 22nd

Eric David, professor of International Law at Free University of Brussels, questioned during the 80's if Nuremberg was a Damocles' sword held over the head of every dictator and torturer, or is it a frozen product buried in the freezer of the legislative apparatus, of the states". His answer: "The Law of Nuremberg is a bit of both things. According to him, it is a dormant right. Or, a ghost right

This Ghost Right traveled Europe and Africa and took shape in the tribunals of Rwanda and Yugoslavia in the 90's. A process that culminated in the creation of International Criminal Court in 1998.

In the midst of this process, in 1996, a strong, unexpected wind begins to blow from southern Europe. Spanish justice led by Judge Baltasar Garzon, began to investigate the crimes the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina and of Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

"The Nuremberg Doctrine inspired our experience with Pinochet" remembers Joan Garcet who presented the first complain against the former Chilean dictator in July 1996. The strife between criminal and humanist impulses will continue to be permanent. The Nuremberg Doctrine continues to be one of the rational instruments to confront them. The significant date was October 16th, 1998, the day when Judge Baltasar Garzon presented the international order for the arrest of Pinochet. On March 24th 1999, the British Parliament, in order to to determine if the former dictator could face a trial for extradition voted that Pinochet nor any other former head of state could invoke immunity against the crime of torture.

That sentence has weight in the US now. Scott Horton, president of the American Bar Association believes it is so: Jackson's poisoned chalice seems to be in the lips of Bush, who has removed the country from the traditional respect for International Law, and ignores it's obligations with the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture. It is the Nuremberg Ghost. Why are president Bush and VP Cheney threatening to veto McCain's Senate Amendment that prohibits torture? They want to guarantee immunity in case of a future legal prosecution, explained Horton.

Meanwhile Brody said from Senegal:" I'm an American who goes through the world trying to take dictators and torturers to justice. Today my hardest job is to be an American. Why? Because in the world's eyes I represent a double standard and Judicial imperialism.

Carlos Castaneda, the prosecutor of the first demand against the crimes of the argentine dictatorship and later against the crimes committed by the Chilean one, warns from California against the dangers of hurricane Bush against International Law. The Nuremberg Doctrine, after the World Trade Center and in the context of the War Against Terror, has more weight than ever. International crimes are such, even if internal laws which authorize abuses such as Guantanamo's, Chechnya or Abu Gharib.

What about Bush and Cheney aids that helped design the War Against Terror? British lawyer Philippe Sands said that: "the Convention Against Torture also criminalizes those persons who are accomplices. The US on the other hand, sentenced Joseph Altstotter and other lawyers who collaborated in drafting Nazi laws and decrees for Hitler, for their participation in an organized system of cruelty.

President Bush might be able to hide in his Crawford's ranch, but he cannot run. Time will most likely pass by, but humanity will always be waiting for the right time. We will ambush him, we will pounce on him and hopefully we will shackle him. And if not, he will fear that one day, US law might change. He will dream about it or even have nightmares of it. In the meantime we will be waiting patiently and steadyly until that day arrives.

Learn more about the Nuremberg trials.

Food for thought

Our Monsters In Iraq

It is time to start waving the bloody shirt. There is no longer any doubt that the men that the United States has installed in power in Iraq are monsters. Not only that, but they are monsters armed, trained and supported by George W. Bush's administration. The very same Bush administration that defends torture of captives in the so-called War on Terrorism is using 150,000 U.S. troops to support a regime in Baghdad for which torture, assassination and other war crimes are routine.

So far, it appears that the facts are these: that Iraq's interior ministry, whose top officials, strike forces and police commando units (including the so-called Wolf Brigade) are controlled by paramilitary units from Shiite militias, maintained a medieval torture chamber; that inside that facility, hundreds of mostly Sunni Arab men were bestialized, with electric drills skewering their bones, with their skins flayed off, and more; that roving units of death-squad commandos are killing countless other Sunni Arab men in order to terrorize the Iraqi opposition. Even the Washington Post, that last-ditch defender of America's illegal and unprovoked assault on Iraq, says:

Scandal over the secret prison has forced the seven-month-old Shiite-led government to confront growing charges of mass illegal detentions, torture and killings of Sunni men. Members of the Sunni minority, locked in a struggle with the Shiite majority over the division of power in Iraq, say men dressed in Interior Ministry uniforms have repeatedly rounded up Sunni men from neighborhoods and towns. Bodies of scores of them have been found dumped by roadsides or in gullies.

The New York Times reports that the Iraqi interior minister isn't all that upset about the torture center. Bayan Jabr, "speaking of the prison in an angry sarcastic tone, said, 'There has been much exaggeration about this issue.' And he added, "Nobody was beheaded.'" So, apparently not beheading innocents is the standard of justice in the New Iraq. And, apparently there may be dozens, scores or hundreds of similar facilities.

Hat tip to Dave Chandler of Earthside.

While Congress Screws the Poor and Middle Classes

Its members help themselves to a $3100 pay raise.

Hadley was behaving badly

Sunday Times Confirms Hadley was Woodward's Source
THE mysterious source who gave America's foremost journalist, Bob Woodward, a tip-off about the CIA agent at the centre of one of Washington's biggest political storms was Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, according to lawyers close to the investigation.

Woodward, the Washington Post reporter who broke the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon out of office, has refused publicly to divulge the name of his informant without permission, which has thus far been withheld.



Steve Soto on the implications of Hadley being Woodward's source:

There are so many ways that this revelation is lethal for the Bush White House.

If Hadley came forward to tell Fitzgerald that he was releasing Woodward from any pledge of confidentiality, what and who prompted Hadley to do this? Did Scooter or Cheney force Hadley’s hand, knowing that Libby wasn’t the first to talk with reporters about Plame’s identity? Remember that just before the Libby indictment, there were stories that Hadley assumed he would be indicted.

Nothing in Woodward’s story changes the fact that Scooter allegedly lied to the FBI and grand jury, but it does give Libby a chance to plea to something lesser now if he is motivated to do so. And please, spare me the line that Woodward only knew from Hadley that she was an analyst working on WMDs, because the guy who wrote “Veil” would also know from this that she would be working on the Directorate of Operations side of the Agency, in other words, the NOC side.

If Hadley was in fact the first administration official to talk to a member of the media about Plame’s identity, and knowingly revealing that she was a possible covert operative due to her assignment in the Directorate of Operations, how plausible is it that his boss at the time didn’t know about this either. You know, his boss, the current Secretary of State?

And which is worse for Bush: the fact that he knowingly promoted two people to senior positions in the government (Secretary of State and NSA) who may have been involved in this, and lying about his knowledge of this all this time to the American people in advance of a presidential election, or not knowing any of this was going on right underneath his nose for the last two years. And tell me again why, if Bush did know this, did he let both Condi and Hadley keep their security clearances, to this day?

This definitely pulls the whole thing inside the Oval Office, and “high crimes and misdemeanors” is back in the lexicon. The president's current NSA talked to a reporter about the identity of a critic's wife, who happened to work at the Agency on WMDs, and we are supposed to believe that Condi, our current Secretary of State and the NSA at the time kept this information from Bush?

And that's all before we find out if the Chief of Staff was involved also.