The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error.
Saturday, December 9, 2006
Mr. Speaker:So, any takers in Congress? Anyone in DC willing to do the right thing and follow up on her lead. I have my doubts.
I come before this body today as a proud American and as a servant of the American people, sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Throughout my tenure, I've always tried to speak the truth. It's that commitment that brings me here today.
We have a President who has misgoverned and a Congress that has refused to hold him accountable. It is a grave situation and I believe the stakes for our country are high.
No American is above the law, and if we allow a President to violate, at the most basic and fundamental level, the trust of the people and then continue to govern, without a process for holding him accountable, what does that say about our commitment to the truth? To the Constitution? To our democracy?
The trust of the American people has been broken. And a process must be undertaken to repair this trust. This process must begin with honesty and accountability.
Leading up to our invasion of Iraq, the American people supported this Administration's actions because they believed in our President. They believed he was acting in good faith. They believed that American laws and American values would be respected. That in the weightiness of everything being considered, two values were rock solid: trust and truth.
From mushroom clouds to African yellow cake to aluminum tubes, the American people and this Congress were not presented the facts, but rather were presented a string of untruths, to justify the invasion of Iraq.
President Bush, along with Vice President Cheney and then-National Security Advisor Rice, portrayed to the Congress and to the American people that Iraq represented an imminent threat, culminating with President Bush's claim that Iraq was six months away from developing a nuclear weapon. Having used false fear to buy consent, the President then took our country to war.
This has grave consequences for the health of our democracy, for our standing with our allies, and most of all, for the lives of our men and women in the military and their families-who have been asked to make sacrifices-including the ultimate sacrifice-to keep us safe.
Just as we expect our leaders to be truthful, we expect them to abide by the law and respect our courts and judges. Here again, the President failed the American people.
When President Bush signed an executive order authorizing unlawful spying on American citizens, he circumvented the courts, the law, and he violated the separation of powers provided by the Constitution. Once the program was revealed, he then tried to hide the scope of his offense from the American people by making contradictory, untrue statements.
President George W. Bush has failed to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States; he has failed to ensure that senior members of his administration do the same; and he has betrayed the trust of the American people.
With a heavy heart and in the deepest spirit of patriotism, I exercise my duty and responsibility to speak truthfully about what is before us. To shy away from this responsibility would be easier. But I have not been one to travel the easy road. I believe in this country, and in the power of our democracy. I feel the steely conviction of one who will not let the country I love descend into shame; for the fabric of our democracy is at stake.
Some will call this a partisan vendetta, others will say this is an unimportant distraction to the plans of the incoming Congress. But this is not about political gamesmanship.
I am not willing to put any political party before my principles.
This, instead, is about beginning the long road back to regaining the high standards of truth and democracy upon which our great country was founded.
Under the standards set by the United States Constitution, President Bush, along with Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Rice, should be subject to the process of impeachment, and I have filed H. Res.1106 in the House of Representatives.
To my fellow Americans, as I leave this Congress, it is in your hands to hold your representatives accountable, and to show those with the courage to stand for what is right, that they do not stand alone.
Friday, December 8, 2006
At a time when the Baker report on the Iraq quagmire has proven to be a dud, we can at least recognize one fundamental reality. The US needs to simply get real and get out of there before doing any further damage.
In any event, we can't wait for 2008 to get the troops out of Iraq, for the simple reason that it's too dangerous to keep them there. The primary destabilizing factor in the region is the presence of American troops in Iraq. As long as they are there, the insurgents have a cause to rally around, as does Sadr's Mahdi Army. Every day the conflict comes closer to spilling over Iraq's porous borders, into Syria, Iran – and beyond. The longer we stay, the more chances there are of a regional conflagration breaking out.
Left to their own devices, the Iraqis will sort things out. It may not be a pretty sight: but, then again, it never was that pretty to begin with. The long, slow withdrawal of American forces from Iraq envisioned by Baker-Hamilton endangers our troops unnecessarily, and the prospect of "embedding" American soldiers in Iraqi-led units is even worse. The insurgents are already infiltrating Iraqi military and police units: "embedding" them alongside these characters is bound to prove fatal for a large number of our best soldiers. If we are going to get out, then let us get out pronto – and leave the Iraqis to determine their own future. If that future is a dark one, then the inescapable knowledge that we are largely responsible may act as a brake on our brashness and willingness to intervene elsewhere.
If one wishes to be merely Machiavellian about it, how about considering the potential of large portions of the US Army being surrounded without further access to the energy resources needed to fuel an escape? Think Little Big Horn on a grander and more cataclysmic scale.
In the meantime, the Democrats would be well advised to use their new mandate to force a withdrawal from this disastrous and unpopular war, rather than merely continuing to fund the on-going disaster and meekly hoping for more "oversight". It's a point that Dennis Kucinich makes with the good horse sense that seems to be missing among much of the crowd of Beltway elites.
Baghdad- Two large families are believed to have been killed in a US air raid in northern Iraq Friday, with security sources in Tikrit saying 32 members of the two families were killed.
The US Army has yet to comment on the attack, which took place in Ishaki.
Sources in Tikrit's city hall said that nothing suspicious was found in the debris of the two houses - no weapons, ammunition or explosives.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US
Here's my favorite slide from the second link (click the picture for full size):
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
nothing in those weeks added upPoem by Peter Dale Scott (a former human subject in one of the infamous sensory deprivation experiments at McGill University during the 1950s).
yet the very aimlessness
preconditioning my mind…
of sensory deprivation
as a paid volunteer
in the McGill experiment
for the US Air Force
(two CIA reps at the meeting)
my ears sore from their earphones’
amniotic hum my eyes
under two bulging halves of ping pong balls
arms covered to the tips with cardboard tubes
those familiar hallucination
I was the first to report
as for example the string
of cut-out paper men
emerging from a manhole
in the side of a snow-white hill
From a good capsule summary of torture in America by Alfred McCoy, and the role of US and Canadian psychologists in pioneering the cruel methods currently employed in US gulags.
Let's just say that a war on catnip will lead to some pretty irate felines in my household. Tip o' the hat to the blogger known as catnip (who previously had no knowledge of the GOP plot to start a war against her).
“Drug warriors scored a virtual victory after the 2006 U.S. elections when they hurriedly extended the War on Drugs to a psychoactive substance previously exempt: nepetalactone, the main psychoactive ingredient in catnip.”
What harm is there in catnip? Here comes the science: “This psychosexual reaction lasts for 5-15 minutes and cannot be evoked again for an hour or more after exposure.” Were there humans who were somehow abusing catnip? The feline receptors that react strongly to catnip lie in an organ exclusive to cats, yet the chemists say catnip may affect humans like a mild herbal sedative akin to valerian root.
In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a stepped up effort to “dismantle the militias.”Never mind that the recent US midterm elections served as a repudiation of the Iraq War debacle (as noted earlier), my guess is that we'll see Dems who might have run on an anti-war platform will quickly backtrack - and apparently a presumed "progressive" may well be one leading the charge. In the US, I suppose, being "progressive" means making life progressively more miserable for those Iraqis unfortunate enough to be in the line of fire. That addiction to imperialism is just so hard to shake, even for the most liberal-minded of our politicians. We'll just add that to the reasons why I'm increasingly distancing myself from the so-called progressive label.
The soft-spoken Texas Democrat was an early opponent of the Iraq war and voted against the October 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to invade that country. That dovish record got prominently cited last week when Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi chose Reyes as the new head of the intelligence panel.
But in an interview with NEWSWEEK on Tuesday, Reyes pointedly distanced himself from many of his Democratic colleagues who have called for fixed timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Coming on the eve of tomorrow’s recommendations from the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton commission, Reyes’s comments were immediately cited by some Iraq war analysts as fresh evidence that the intense debate over U.S. policy may be more fluid than many have expected.
“We’re not going to have stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private armies,” Reyes said. “We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq … We certainly can’t leave Iraq and run the risk that it becomes [like] Afghanistan” was before the 2001 invasion by the United States.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Now this is cool - some folks inspired by the film "V for Vendetta" have taken it to the streets of DC. I'm gathering this is some sort of libertarian/paleocon group responsible for the protest - not quite my cup of tea (especially if your website is dropping names like Bay Buchanan, you can pretty well count me out), but the idea of protesters utilizing the "V" costume for mass demonstrations does have a sort of symbolic appeal to it at a time in our history where the government has taken on an ominously more authoritarian turn.
The case of Jose Padilla, a US citizen held as an "enemy combatant" by the United States government, got some discussion in the New York Times yesterday. This is how they're breaking Padilla:Torture indeed has some nasty consequences. A reminder of what torture is would be in order. As I have written elsewhere:
1) Solitary confinement.One spring day during his three and a half years as an enemy combatant, Jose Padilla experienced a break from the monotony of his solitary confinement in a bare cell in the brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, S.C.2) Depersonalisation.
That day, Mr. Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert whom the Bush administration had accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack and had detained without charges, got to go to the dentist.Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla’s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla’s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.3) Sensory deprivation.
Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padilla’s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”4) Torture.His interrogations… included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of ‘truth serums.’The result:Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Mr. Padilla for a total of 22 hours in June and September, said in an affidavit filed Friday that he “lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense.”
“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.
The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Punishment or Treatment (United Nations, 1985) defines torture as: "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” Acts that would be considered torture under the above definition include a variety of methods: severe beatings, electric shock, sexual abuse and rape, prolonged solitary confinement, hard labor, near drowning, near suffocation, mutilation, hanging for prolonged periods, deprivation of basic biological needs (e.g., sleep, food, water), subjection to forced constant standing or crouching, and excessive continuous noise (e.g. McCoy, 2006; Walsh, 2006). Torture may also include actions inducing psychological suffering such as threats against the victim’s family or loved ones (e.g., McCoy, 2006).I'd imagine it's safe to say that what Padilla has been experiencing is indeed torture, in multiple ways.
McCoy, A. W. (2006). A question of torture: CIA interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. New York: Metropolitan Books.
United Nations, Department of Public Information (1985). Outlawing an ancient evil: Torture. Convention against torture and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. New York: Author.
Walsh, J. (2006). The Abu Ghraib files. Retrieved April 28, 2006 at http://www.salon.com/news/abu_ghraib/2006/03/14
As we know now, Bu$hCo has authorized the abuse of detainees' genitals, which itself has consequences - not only the deep psychological ones for those victimized, but for the government itself. Read on:
After 9/11 the Bush administration decided to 'take the gloves off' and authorized the CIA to get medieval on suspected terrorists. Here's Mark Danner:The repercussions for these serious human rights abuses will be felt for some time to come - not only for the US but for the EU as well, to the extent that several EU nations (Germany, Sweden, Italy, UK) have been implicated in renditioning people to other countries to be tortured. Whatever the ultimate fallout one thing remains clear: those responsible for torture either directly or indirectly (in the case of those who enabled the practice of renditioning) must be brought to justice. The victims deserve at least that much.
As you know, very shortly after 9/11, the then-White House counsel [Alberto Gonzales] proposed to President Bush that provisions of the Geneva Conventions had been rendered obsolete, even quaint, by this quote "new paradigm." The Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture, and the federal statutes against torture -- these undertakings by the U.S. -- represented restrictions that would unduly hobble the country in fighting the war on terror and, by extension, threaten[ed] the existence of the United States. And I think that's where torture -- "extreme interrogation" is the euphemism -- goes to the heart of the reaction against the way this country has observed human rights in the past, a reaction in a way against law itself. What we have here is a conflict between legality and power.
The problem is that 9/11 did not change the laws, nor did it change our treaty obligations. To be sure, some laws were changed domestically (for example, the Patriot Act), but none that dealt with torture. So, in effect, the CIA was authorized by the President to commit crimes. One crime they committed was to abduct Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and fly him to Egypt where he "he was tortured by Egyptian agents under questioning...with electric shocks, beatings, rape threats and genital abuse." You may be surprised to learn that the Italians consider this a prosecutable offense. And they intend to prosecute.
Italian prosecutors on Tuesday asked a judge to order CIA agents and Italian spies to stand trial on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect and flying him to Egypt, where he says he was tortured, a court source said.
After a more than two-year investigation that has embarrassed Washington and Rome, prosecutors said they were ready to go to court over the 2003 "rendition" of a Muslim cleric in Milan.
An Italian judge must call a preliminary hearing to decide if there is enough evidence for a trial, but even defense lawyers say privately they expect the case to go to court.
There is a lot of investigative journalism on this case available on the web. I am not going to get into the details of the case except to note the following.
Suspects include 26 Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, as well as six Italians, including the former head of Italy's SISMI military intelligence agency, Nicolo Pollari.Needless to say, the USA will not be turning over 26 CIA operatives to the Italians for prosecution. They already have European Union issued arrest warrants, but they will be tried in absentia. That will lead to permanent persona non grata status in Europe. So, if nothing else, 26 CIA operatives will no longer be of any use to us for any duty in Europe.
Prosecutors believe the CIA agents, with help from SISMI, grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street, bundled him into a van and flew him out of Italy from a U.S. airbase.
Like noted before, some wingnut threatens or actually engages in terrorism and warrants little more than a collective shrug (if that) from the mass media. A Muslim prays in an airport, and there's a major freakout.
On September 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks that devastated our nation, a man crashed his car into a building in Davenport, Iowa, hoping to blow it up and kill himself in the fire.
No national newspaper, magazine, or network newscast reported this attempted suicide bombing, though an AP wire story was available. Cable news (save for MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann) was silent about this latest act of terrorism in America.
Had the criminal, David McMenemy, been Arab or Muslim, this would have been headline news for weeks. But since his target was the Edgerton Women’s Health Center, rather than, say, a bank or a police station, media have not called this terrorism — even after three decades of extreme violence by anti-abortion fanatics, mostly fundamentalist Christians who believe they’re fighting a holy war.
Monday, December 4, 2006
Conservative bloggers back in the Spring of 2005 were quick to note the presence of very attractive females at various protests and rallies during the so-called "Cedar Revolution" (sometimes called the "Gucci Revolution"), and hence we'd hear a lot about the so-called anti-Syrian "protest babes."
As it turns out, the current anti-government protests in Lebanon are producing a similar phenomenon, as Joshua Landis of SyriaComment notes. Apparently there is even a "babe" theory of social movements of which I had been completely unaware, as described elsewhere:
Make of that what you will. To the extent that I'm a feminist (as an aside, I know I'll be accused of being a bit of a sexist too - I won't deny it), I wonder if there is somewhere a "hunk" theory of social movements. I'll have to ask my wife about that one.
The Babe Theory, first described by P.J. O'Rourke in his Parliament of Whores book:"Best of all, there were hardly any beautiful women at the [Housing Now!] rally. I saw a journalist friend of mine in the Mall, and he and I purused this line of inquiry as assiduously as our happy private lives allow. Practically every female at the march was a bowser. "We're not being sexist here," my friend insisted. "It's not that looks matter per se. It's just that beautiful women are always on the cutting edge of social trends. Remember how many beautiful women were in the anti-war movement twenty years ago? In the yoga classes fifteen years ago? At the discos ten years ago? On Wall Street five years ago? Where the beautiful women are is where the country is headed," said my friend. "And this," he looked around him, "isn't it."
Look for the babes, and that's where the social action is, that's where the success will be.[snip]
The babe theory of political movements essentially holds that:
Where and when there are hot babes, an exponential number of men will show up. If 100 cute girls with voluptuous bodies are protesting for freedom, you can count on a thousand men being there as well.
If sexy babes are involved in a peaceful political movement, it has a far greater chance of succeeding. If there are no good-looking women involved, the odds of a successful (and peaceful) movement fall dramatically.
Somehow that all appears to be the sideshow, as indeed something very important is happening in Lebanon. In the mean time, here's some more of the photos making their way through the mass media for those trying to determine the merits of the so-called "babe theory of political movements":
If nothing else, the pictures are likely to blast a few stereotypes that many Westerners likely hold regarding supporters of Hezbollah, etc. To the extent that occurs, perhaps increased understanding will coincide. One can hope, right? Perhaps a commenter at Josh's site put it reasonably well:
Part of the power of bloggers is that they let us see that people in the Middle East are just the same as us, even down to the same jeans, T-Shirts and tattoos.It should of course be duly noted that there is some writing and blogging on women's activism in Hezbollah and Hamas that is well worth checking out (here's just a clip to whet the appetite):
It beats doom and gloom all the time.
Big appreciation to ISIM, the Netherlands-based International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, that (1) they produce such a fascinating periodical, and (2) they make the whole text of the articles available online. (Even if only in a slightly hard-to-use PDF format. But hey, it's an still an excellent contribution to the global knowledge-base.)
In this piece, Lara Deeb looks at the changing way in which, since the 1970s, women's roles have been portrayed in the annual Ashura rituals that are an important feature of Shiite community life in Lebanon (and elsewhere); and she tracks these shifts with the increased role that Lebanese Shiite women-- primarily, I think, Hizbullah women-- have been playing in public life.
Along the way she makes some thoughtful comments on the relationship between piety and modernity:
The activist lesson of Karbala [ that is, the battle of 680 CE that's commemorated in the Ashura rituals], in its application in daily life, provides a framework for these expressions of [female] piety, and indeed, insists on public activity as a part of piety. In this context, to be pious according to such standards is a large part of being modern. Women who did not express piety “properly” were considered “backward” and in need of education to bring them into their proper role in the progressivist narrative of community development.Of course, this portrayal of what has been happening among Lebanese Shiite women challenges many western notions about the relationship between (our form of) "modernity" and public expressions of piety, which we hold to be generally an antithetical one. To be "modern" in the west is often taken to involve being scantily clad, secular, and even profane. Deeb gives us a timely reminder that that there are many different versions and visions of "modernity."
While it can be argued that this is true to a certain extent for both women and men, public piety marks women most visibly...
That top comment sez:
Maybe after Bolton and his staff have vacated their offices, something could *happen* to the building.Nice. Understandably, someone at Hot Air had the sense to pull that comment, albeit after it started making the rounds in blogtopia. Needless to say, whoever "RushBaby" is, the words echo Pat Robertson's call to nuke the State Department a few years ago. One of those cases of deranged minds thinking alike, I suppose. Maybe "RushBaby" is another Chad Castagana in the making - hardly a happy, uplifting thought I realize. Sad thing is, we live at a point in which a Muslim can merely pray at an airport and be considered a "terrorist" threat, but someone can go on and advocate a terrorist attack as "RushBaby" does regarding the UN building, or as Pat Robertson did regarding Foggy Bottom, and my guess is that it doesn't even warrant a shrug. Sad.
RushBaby on December 4, 2006 at 10:32 AM
Sunday, December 3, 2006
Can we do better? Damn straight!
American Solidarity - A Beginning:
"I am my brother's keeper"
Finding Common Threads
The NSA Scandal and Solidarity
Solidarity: A Meme Whose Time Has Come
Cool Link: Solidarity Edition
The obligatory third anniversary post
In his own words: Binyam Mohamed
The Human Face of Torture: Ali Shah Mousavi
In his own words: Adel Hamad
In his own words: Antonio Hernández Cruz
The Human Face of Torture: Omar Khadr
The Memory Thief: The Story of Ewen Cameron
The Human Face of Torture: Sami al-Haj
The Human Face of Torture: Abu Zubaydah
The Human Face of Torture: Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah
In His Own Words: Khaled El-Masri
In His Own Words: Moazzam Begg
In His Own Words: Eric Fair
Update: Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr
In his own words: Jumah al-Dossari
In His Own Words: Tito Tricot
The Human Face of Torture: Murat Kurnaz
In His Own Words: Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr
In His Own Words: Dr. Shepherd Bliss
In His Own Words: Maher Arar
The Human Face of Torture: Carlos Mauricio
What the voice of the tortured sounds like
The Human Face of the Torture Victim
The inspiration for this series was an essay I posted here in July, 2005: Why are the Abu Ghraib pictures important?