Saturday, May 31, 2008

Speaking of US "journalism"

Glenn Greenwald has the goods on Chuckles Gibson's disingenuous statements in the dustup caused by Scott McClellan's book:
Concerning this statement by Gibson -- "You go back to the Powell speech. There was a lot of skepticism raised about that" -- I just described it as "one of the falsest statements ever uttered on TV." But when I wrote that, I hadn't gone back and read what Gibson and his Good Morning America colleagues were saying at the time about the Powell speech. Now that I've done that, I realize that I was far too kind in describing Gibson's comment.

On February 6, 2003 -- the day of Powell's speech -- Gibson had on as guests former CIA Director James Woolsey and Terence Taylor of the International Institute For Strategic Studies to analyze Powell's claims. Here are some of the super-tough, skeptical questions Gibson asked:

* Terence Taylor, let me start with you. Specifically, of all the biological and chemical weapons that he outlined, and the means of delivery, what's the most frightening? Should be the most frightening?

* Question number two that was in my mind. James Woolsey, he showed intercepts, he showed photo intelligence. He talked about human resources that we had. How much intelligence was compromised?

* On a scale of one to 10, one being the most sanitized of intelligence information and 10 being laying out all our intelligence ammunition, where was he yesterday on the scale?

* Terence Taylor, as I look at some of the pictures that we were talking about just a moment ago with James Woolsey, the pictures dramatic in that they show Iraqi trucks pulling away from sites virtually as the, as the inspectors trucks are pulling up. How compromised are the inspectors there? Are they totally infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence?

Here's how the segment ended:

James Woolsey, the Iraqis immediately challenged a lot of what was shown, said it was altered, said it was doctored. The international community -- do they know that stuff was genuine?


Oh, anybody who is objective about this I think does. The people who now doubt whether or not Saddam really has WMD programs, chemical and bacteriological, in particular, are really of two types, either they work for Saddam or they're doing a human imitation of an ostrich. There really are, I think, no other possibilities.


James Woolsey, former CIA Director, Terence Taylor, former weapons inspector, I thank you both.

Oh, the "skepticism" is just so bountiful.
Not to worry, Chuckles. There are plenty of bloggers with very long memories.

Useful reading

Check out Roobin's The just-about-Gramscian theory of successful rioting over at Lenin's Tomb. Enough of what's written there not only applies to the UK, but generalizes reasonably well to our situation.

Too little, too late

Well, all one has to do is look at and find the usual right-wing suspects having conniption fits over Scott McClellan's new book, in which he more or less confirms what many of us knew all along: the White House lied and continues to lie about the Iraq War, and the corporate media were enablers who kept spreading the propaganda. A couple days ago, I said that McClellan was apparently confessing his sins in hope of salvation. It's going to be a hard sell, if critiques outside the usual establishment media are any indication. Layla Anwar has already made the pronouncement that it's too little, too late. Bill van Auken, writing for the World Socialist Website, looks at the fallout from the McClellan bombshells and basically chalks it up to McClellan offering no startlingly new revelations (how many of us were calling all the war talk emanating from the White House and parroted by corporate media propaganda all along?), and points out that about all that will result will be a few weasel words from the usual news anchors and an effort to score some cheap political points by the Democrats in the run-up to the November elections.

Personally, I think it's crucial to remember the words of the pro-war propagandists in the media and in the government, and keep shining a light on their role as collaborators in what has been undeniably a catastrophe for Iraqi civilians.

Suck on this, Tom Friedman

Another trip down memory lane:

That was Friedman five years ago yesterday. Five years later, Friedman can take satisfaction in knowing that the Iraqi civilians continue to, as Friedman would put it, "suck on it."

Never forget. Never forgive.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I've got good news and bad news.

Which would you like first? The bad you say? Sure. What the hell.

Here's the bad news: if the peak oil folks are correct, we may well be facing imminent economic meltdown. The way Kenneth Deffeyes puts it:
How big is the problem? Multiplying production (barrels per year) times the oil price (dollars per barrel) gives a total cost in dollars per year. It's an enormous number; tens of trillions of dollars per year. To put a scale on it, the three thin curves on the graph show the oil cost in contrast to the total world domestic product; the annual value the goods and services added up for all the world's countries. The three curves show the oil cost at one percent, two and a half percent, and five percent of the total world economic output. At $130 this morning, we are at six and a half percent.

Oil production obviously cannot consume 100 percent of the world's income. My intuitive, uninformed guess is that it cannot go above 15 percent. If we see oil at $300 per barrel, we will be looking out over the smoldering ruins of the world's economy.
If you look at Matt Savinar's site Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash, you'll get an idea of the scope of the problems we might well be facing fairly shortly. One thing to note is just how much of our lives in what passes for Western civilization in the early 21st century is dependent upon petroleum products. One also gets an idea that much of the legislation that has been passed in recent years in the US seems aimed at dealing with the turmoil to come - that national security state that's been developed comes complete with the end of habeas corpus, the building of a vast prison/concentration camp system, fat contracts for Blackwater and other mercenary operations, etc. That's not to mention the ever-present risk of a return to military conscription to provide sufficient bullet stoppers for the War for Oil War on Terra. I digress. Read for yourself if you dare.

Matt also says over at his blog:
So while it is still impossible to answer the question of "How much time is left", we might be able to use the price of oil and gas as some rough indicators of where we're at. We're hovering around $125/barrel and $4/gallon right now and already seeing significant slowdowns in the housing, banking, airline and automotive industries. Shutdowns likely begin around $200/barrel and $8/gallon. At $300/barrel and $12/gallon most everything simply stops.

If prices continue to rise at a pace even roughly resembling the trajectory of the past two years, this gives us 6-to-24 months before total shutdown.


Of course, the pace could slow down just as easily as it could accelerate for a whole host of reasons.
So, what is the good news? Glad you asked. Via Matt's blog:
FWIW, I don't think you need to worry about the police state or the KBR camps much past $200/barrel and $8/gallon. At those prices, the economic machinery that simultaneously feeds hundreds of millions and imprisons tens of millions begins to shutdown. At that point, a cessation of food and fuel shipments is, in my opinion, much more likely than are mass round ups and imprisonment.

"But what about the camps that the Third Reich ran even as its economy crumbled?" Unlike World War II Germany, we don't have much of a train system in this country and what we do have is pretty decrepit. Furthermore, the lion's share of the energy used to extract the coal to run the trains and the camps comes from oil-derived fuels. Most of that oil is imported from thousands of miles away. (Even the domestically produced stuff is typically imported from hundreds of miles.) The production, import, and refining infrastructure to do all of this is dependent on extremely complex and highly globalized "just-in-time" networks of commerce, finance and telecommunications that are unlikely to exist in sufficient capacities for very long once oil settles in above $200-$250/barrel.
And y'all thought I was a pessimist. What is clear is that there are some huge changes on the horizon for which there is nearly no preparation. I do think that neoliberalism will become little more than a historical artifact of the late 20th & very early 21st century once that black gold becomes too expensive. As I was saying over a year ago:
The world that my generation is leaving behind for our kids and grandkids will in many ways seem much harsher than the one that we inherited. The thought used to drive me to depths of despair. The older I get though, the more stoic I have become - instead I'm realizing that those who've survived previous collapses find opportunities for finding meaningful existences, and even a measure of happiness. With crisis comes opportunity. I have little choice but to hold out hope that my kids' generation will seize that opportunity to create the beginnings of something beautiful out of the ashes of what we gave them. Hopefully a few of us middle-aged gen-x-ers can live long enough to pass on the lessons we learned of the folly of American Exceptionalism, and of the predatory capitalism that myth enabled. Maybe they'll take those lessons to heart.
Food for thought.

The US was basically at peace on Sept 11, 2001?

Apparently, that's what John Kerry would have us believe. Funny, I doubt folks living in Iraq at the time would have believed that. In the past, I've alluded to the fact that the US & UK were still conducting bombing raids on Iraq as of 2001 (of course, those raids became much more frequent and intense during the latter half of 2002). Of course the economic war against the Iraqis was going full-tilt, having the effect of further decimating that nation's basic infrastructure (you know, little things like the electrical grid, sewage systems, etc.). Of course, I've mentioned that during the immediate years preceding 2001, there was hardly any "peace" either.

I realize that the usual wings of the War Party, be they the hawkish neocon crowd or the "dovish" center-right crowd that are normally referred to within the US as "leftists, the critique will be one of arguing that Kerry failed to mention the alleged threat of al Qaida prior to Sept. 11. Truth is you were and still are more likely to be shot to death by law enforcement than to be killed in a terrorist attack on American soil. Of course, if preventing terrorism is something you think should be central to US policy, it strikes me that the most sensible thing to do is to stop bombing other nations. Stop doing that, and you'll take away a major creator of terrorism. It really is that simple.

Update: typo-ed the headline, but it's fixed now. I should know better than to type on a black keyboard with minimal lighting, but hey, gotta save a few bucks!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Don't you know the joker laughs at you?"

From the article, The McCain Touch:
...but the presidential candidate-cum-expert of genuine interest is Senator John McCain.

At first, we were impressed by the senator's statements in Republican primary debates about how he had actually opposed the Bush administration's conduct of the war from the start. As he told CNN's Kiran Chetry, in August of 2007, "I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three-and-a half years."

Well, having dug into those missing years a bit, here, for the record, is what we found to be Senator McCain's typical responses to some of the key questions posed above:

How would American troops be greeted?: "I believe… that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators." (March 20, 2003)

Did Saddam Hussein have a nuclear program that posed an imminent threat to the United States?: "Saddam Hussein is on a crash course to construct a nuclear weapon." (October 10, 2002)

Will a war with Iraq be long or short?: "This conflict is… going to be relatively short." (March 23, 2003)

How is the war going?: "I would argue that the next three to six months will be critical." (September 10, 2003)

How is it going (almost two months later, from the war's "greatest critic")? "I think the initial phases of [the war] were so spectacularly successful that it took us all by surprise." (October 31, 2003)

Is this war really necessary?: "Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war." (August 30, 2004)

How is it going? (Recurring question for the war's "greatest critic"): "We will probably see significant progress in the next six months to a year." (December 4, 2005)

Hat tip, A Tiny Revolution.

About to meet the destructive power of "civilization"

Image caption. Painted: In a thick rainforest along the Brazilian-Peruvian border, these tribespeople are thought never to have had any contact with the outside world
Check this article out - Incredible pictures of one of Earth's last uncontacted tribes firing bows and arrows (h/t JOS at Mickey Z's place). Some passages from the article that struck me as salient:

The uncontacted tribes, which are located in the jungles of South America, New Guinea and a remote and the beautiful and remote North Sentinel island in the Indian Ocean (the inhabitants of which have also responded to attempts at contact with extreme aggression) all have one thing in common - they want to be left alone.

And for good reason. The history of contact, between indigenous tribes and the outside world, has always been an unhappy one.

In our overcrowded world their very future hangs in the balance. Almost all of these tribes are threatened by powerful outsiders who want their land. These outsiders - loggers, miners, cattle ranchers - are often willing to kill the tribespeople to get what they want.

Even where there is no violence, the tribes can be wiped out by diseases like the common cold to which they have no resistance.

According to Miriam Ross of Survival International, which campaigns to protect the world's remaining indigenous peoples, 'These tribes represent the incredible diversity of humankind. Unless we want to condemn yet more of the earth's peoples to extinction, we must respect their choice. Any contact they have with outsiders must happen in their own time and on their own terms.'

As to who these people are, how they live their lives, what language they speak - we know nothing. 'Normally you can tell who tribes are by their language, how they wear their hair, how they adorn their bodies and so on, but in this case the photos don't allow us to get close enough to see,' says Ms Ross.


'The jungle is fundamental to their lives and survival. It's their home, their source of food, the source of their culture etc. Without it, they could not exist as a people.'

Contact is usually a disaster for these remote tribespeople, who live a life probably unchanged for more than 10,000 years. Even if the loggers do not shoot them (which they often do) or force them off their land, diseases against which these isolated humans have no resistance typically wipe out half an uncontacted tribe's numbers in a year or two.

Ms Ross added: 'These pictures are further evidence that uncontacted tribes really do exist. The world needs to wake up to this, and ensure that their territory is protected in accordance with international law. Otherwise, they will soon be made extinct.'
The above passages reminded me of something social psychologist James Jones wrote regarding mere contact between groups or between peoples – namely, that people of color found their contact with Europeans to be disastrous1 (e.g., the indigenous peoples of Africa whose cultures were nearly decimated by slavery; the indigenous peoples of the Americas, whose genocide could be easily labeled The American Holocaust2). Monocultures are disastrous for agriculture, and equally so for the human species. Certainly those who are on the receiving end of the current era of monoculture as exemplified by neoliberalism (think about IMF, World Bank, etc.), those on the receiving end have found their ways of life decimated. I'll be writing more on the topic over the next few weeks, as I've been inspired by the work of Anthony J. Hall - (in particular, his book The American Empire and the Fourth World Volume 1: The Bowl with One Spoon).


1. James Jones (1972). Prejudice and Racism. Boston: Addison-Wesley.

2. David E. Stannard (1992). American Holocaust. Cambridge: Oxford University Press.

As a follow-up to Judge Baltasar Garzón sez:

In that post, I made a passing reference to John Bolton's recent escape from a citizen's arrest. Over at AfterDowningStreet, there's a handy essay up on How to Make a Citizen's Arrest of a War Criminal. Here's the thing to keep in mind - the element of surprise is crucial. While announcing the effort ahead of time might make for good theatre, if one actually wants to succeed, it's best for the potential arrestee (and whatever hired thugs might be nearby) to be blindsided. Included is a list of war criminals who definitely deserve to be arrested, as well as a very detailed list of dos and don'ts.

I'm not surprised, but still...

On Wednesday night, CNN's Jessica Yellin talked to Anderson Cooper about Scott McClellan's tell-all memoir and agreed with the former press secretary that White House reporters "dropped the ball" during the run-up to war.

But Yellin went much further, revealing that news executives — presumably at ABC News, where she'd worked from July 2003 to August 2007 — actively pushed her not do hard-hitting pieces on the Bush administration. [See update]

"The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings," Yellin said.

"And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives — and I was not at this network at the time — but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president, I think over time...."

But then a shocked Cooper jumped in, asking, "You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?"

"Not in that exact.... They wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces," Yellin said. "They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes, that was my experience."

UPDATE: TVNewser reports that Jessica Yellin is going to post a blog item shortly on that will clarify her remarks. From what I'm hearing, she'll write that it was MSNBC execs, not ABC that she was referring to last night. Yellin worked at MSNBC during the run-up to war, but then moved on to ABC that summer, where she stayed for four years.

Nerdified link

There's a reason I tend to refer to corporate media "news" is nothing more than glorified propaganda. If war crimes trials are ever held for the perps of the warfare that has killed and displaced so many, I'd prefer that some of these media execs be tried as well.

Note: see Robert Parry's take on Consortiumnews (h/t Earthside).

Kurt Cobain back from the dead?

Not exactly, but I have to say this article at Not Bored! has some choice lines that I thought I'd share:
No, what America needs today -- what America needed fourteen years ago and still needs in 2008 -- is someone who can dramatize what almost everyone is either feeling or perpetrating upon others: humiliation, abjection, guilt and shame.


What's happened since 5 April 1994? No, that's too easy. Everyone knows that November 1994 (the mid-term Congressional elections, which were swept by reactionary Republicans) began the six-year-long period in which President Bill Clinton was publicly shamed. Then what's happened since 2003? A second war against the people of Iraq; the use of sex to bring about intense shame at Abu Ghraib; the use of waterboarding as a means of interrogating Muslims in secret detention centers; and the construction and operation of "Camp Delta" (otherwise known by its location in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba), America's very own concentration camp. What happened in 2006 (the mid-term Congressional elections again)? The voters of America spoke: they wanted an end to all this, immediately, and they voted for Democratic politicians, who quickly, utterly and ignominiously failed to end anything. The war goes on; torture is "not illegal" and can be practiced by "our" forces; Guantanamo Bay remains open. Today, America's shame is a hundred times what it had been just a few years ago. How could America allow that which happened, but which never should have happened, to happen again? And how could it, of all nations, be the one who has made it happen? The only possible answer is that "America" is no longer America; "America" is dead. Think of the TV interview with the policeman in Night of the Living Dead (1968): like any walking corpse or zombie, America may not give up, but it will "go up real easy."
If by America the myth, yeah, it's dead or dying as of this writing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Judge Baltasar Garzón sez:

US President should be tried for war crimes. I'll give you the basics:
Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who sought to prosecute Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, has called for US President George W. Bush and his allies to be tried for war crimes over Iraq.

Writing in El Pais on the fourth anniversary of the invasion, Garzón stated, “Today, March 20, marks four years since the formal start of the war on Iraq. Instigated by the United States and Great Britain, and supported by Spain among other countries, one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history began.

“Breaking every international law, and under the pretext of the war against terror, there has taken place since 2003 a devastating attack on the rule of law and against the very essence of the international community. In its path, institutions such as the United Nations were left in tatters, from which it has not yet recovered.” “Instead of commemorating the war,” Garzón continues, “we should be horrified, screaming and demonstrating against the present massacre created as a consequence of that war.”

He then writes that George W. Bush and his allies should eventually face war crimes charges for their actions in Iraq: “We should look more deeply into the possible criminal responsibility of the people who are, or were, responsible for this war and see whether there is sufficient evidence to make them answer for it.” “For many it would be merely a question of political responsibility, but judicial actions in the US are beginning to emerge, as is the case of the verdict passed on one of vicepresident Cheney’s collaborators, [I. Lewis Libby] which point in a different direction.”

“There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation and inquiry to start without more delay,” he added.


Garzón has investigated everything from Basque terrorism to the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings, whose alleged perpetrators are currently on trial. He led the investigation into the rightist terror group Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL), whose creation was attributed to the Socialist Party (PSOE) government of the day. He also banned Herri Batasuna, the political arm of ETA—the first political party to be outlawed since the death of Franco in 1975.

Back in 1996, the Progressive Union of Prosecutors filed criminal complaints against the Argentine and Chilean military for the disappearance of Spanish citizens under the dictatorships that ruled them in the 1970s and 1980s. One year later, Garzón issued an arrest order that included Argentine Navy Captain Adolfo Scilingo, who made a televised confession in 1995 of “death flights” in which hundreds of detainees were thrown from airplanes to their deaths in the Atlantic Ocean. Scilingo was detained after travelling to Spain voluntarily.

Former Chilean President Pinochet was arrested during a medical check-up in London in 1998 based on a warrant issued by Garzón. For months the judge attempted to have the dictator extradited to Spain to be tried for heading the military coup in 1973 that overthrew the elected president Salvador Allende and the subsequent murder of thousands of students and workers. He has also signalled his intention to question Richard Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger about events in Chile, after declassified documents released by the US State Department and the CIA suggested that Kissinger was well aware of what was happening.

The fact that such a prominent international judicial figure openly speaks of bringing war crimes judgement against the leaders of the US, UK and Spain is an indication that the entire Iraq campaign is heading towarda disaster and a response to the mounting opposition around the world. Yet his statement was given only the most cursory coverage by the media in the United States and internationally. No publication chose to make an editorial comment and most simply reproduced or slightly amended a Reuters report. Such is the level of hostility to the Iraq war and occupation in Spain, however, that even sections of ex-Prime Minister Aznar’s Popular Party (PP) are publicly declaring that his attendance at the meeting in March 2003, in the Azores that supported Bush in his decision to invade Iraq was an error. Reporting on their criticism, the right-wing newspaper El Mundo commented on March 20, “The PP should not continue avoiding an auto-criticism on Iraq.”
My emphasis added (h/t Madman in the Marketplace). If the US won't hold its war criminals accountable, the odds are that such justice will be imposed (or such imposition will be attempted) from outside the US. In the meantime, we can expect more current and former Bu$hCo officials to flee efforts to arrest them during overseas public appearances, such as with former US "ambassador" to the UN John Bolton today, and former "Defense" Secretary Donald Rumsfeld previously. At bare minimum, these folks will find that appearances outside of the US borders will be too risky for them, as hired security goons can only do so much to keep angry justice seekers at bay.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eli drops some inconvenient truths at his joint

Check it:
In a speech given on April 11, 2006, Ahmadinejad declared that Iran had "joined the nuclear club," referring to their initial success at enriching uranium. Here's what he said at the time: "We have declared many times, and we declare again, that our nuclear technology is in the service of peaceful goals. We declare that mass destruction weapons are sought by those who still think in the mode of 50 years ago. Those who think that political equations and cultural and economic equations can be solved to their benefit by relying on arsenals of mass destruction weapons." Nothing he has said since that date has ever contradicted that initial statement; the idea that he has delivered "fantasy rhetoric" about the use of nuclear weapons is itself pure fantasy.

That fact alone casts rather strong doubt on Brzezinski and Odom's opening statement that "current U.S. policy toward the regime in Tehran will almost certainly result in an Iran with nuclear weapons," but as it happens there is even stronger evidence. Considering the religious character of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and considering that it is a widely-held belief amongst American politicians and pundits that the most powerful person in Iran is not Ahmadinejad but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it is surely relevant that on August 10, 2005, Khamenei issued a fatwa declaring "that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons." Curiously, Brzezinski and Odom, along with every other American politician and pundit, fail to mention that rather salient fact.

Iran, like every other signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has a perfect right to develop nuclear power including the enrichment of uranium. As Brzezinski and Odom note, it is the United States, with its failure to significantly reduce its nuclear arsenal, which is in violation of the NPT, not Iran.
Both the hawks and the doves agree on the basic propaganda points with regard to Iran. Their only difference is in whether Iran will be bombed into the Stone Age or some more "humanitarian" genocidal policy (such as sanctions) will be tried instead. Already been through that with Iraq. This is just the latest installment in the on-going war of terror.

The memoirs keep coming

Former press secretary McClellan is also trying to confess his sins in hopes of salvation.

The man who (over)sold the war

According to Douglas Feith, that would be his former boss. Apparently he claims not to have been terribly enamored by all the propaganda the White House was spewing at the time about bringing "democracy" to Iraq, thinking that they should have played the "national security" card instead. He seems especially sore at the focus that has been aimed at all those false statements made by the White House about Iraq's alleged legendary WMD (which were eventually downgraded to WMD programs and then WMD-related activities, and I suppose eventually dreams of WMD-related activities). He of course uses the well-worn canard "even the Democrats believed it back in the 1990s". It's true enough that you could find plenty of folks in Congress (and yes, the Clintonistas in the White House) who were using that as a propaganda ploy for further economic sanctions and of course the periodic "humanitarian" air strike (of which plenty1 can be said of the damaging consequences2). Feith completely misses, however, the skeptics who existed long before the Iraq War's current phase was even a neocon wet dream, who toiled in relative obscurity, and who weren't necessarily tied to either of the establishment US political parties. Heck, I was one of those skeptics.

There was plenty of propaganda, folks. The Crawford Caligula, his cronies, and plenty of talking heads in the press yapped about all sorts of reasons for the mass slaughter and displacement of Iraqi civilians - including the usual "humanitarian" drivel, spreading "democracy" and "freedom" to the Iraqis, the alleged national security threat posed by Iraq (why else would there have been an effort to link Saddam Hussein to 9-11 and al Qaida?) ad nauseum. Hidden in the background, of course were issues of maintaining and expanding US hegemony, opening up the oil spigots to corporate cronies, funneling money to war profiteers3, and of course the potential threat that Hussein's regime posed to the almighty US Dollar.

Contra Feith, the last thing we needed was a better sales pitch for continuing the carnage. What was needed was the very thing that Feith and his cronies feared most: truth.


1. From William Blum's Anti-Empire Report (June 21, 2006):
Loss of a functioning educational system. A 2005 UN study revealed that 84% of the higher education establishments have been "destroyed, damaged and robbed".

The intellectual stock has been further depleted as many thousands of academics and other professionals have fled abroad or have been mysteriously kidnapped or assassinated in Iraq; hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, other Iraqis, most of them from the vital, educated middle class, have left for Jordan, Syria or Egypt, many after receiving death threats. "Now I am isolated," said a middle-class Sunni Arab, who decided to leave. "I have no government. I have no protection from the government. Anyone can come to my house, take me, kill me and throw me in the trash."[2]

Loss of a functioning health care system. And loss of the public's health. Deadly infections including typhoid and tuberculosis are rampaging through the country. Iraq's network of hospitals and health centers, once admired throughout the Middle East, has been severely damaged by the war and looting.

The UN's World Food Program reported that 400,000 Iraqi children were suffering from "dangerous deficiencies of protein". Deaths from malnutrition and preventable diseases, particularly amongst children, already a problem because of the 12 years of US-imposed sanctions, have increased as poverty and disorder have made access to a proper diet and medicines ever more difficult.

Thousands of Iraqis have lost an arm or a leg, frequently from unexploded US cluster bombs, which became land mines; cluster bombs are a class of weapons denounced by human rights groups as a cruelly random scourge on civilians, especially children.

Depleted uranium particles, from exploded US ordnance, float in the Iraqi air, to be breathed into human bodies and to radiate forever, and infect the water, the soil, the blood, the genes, producing malformed babies. During the few weeks of war in spring 2003, A10 "tankbuster" planes, which use munitions containing depleted uranium, fired 300,000 rounds.

And the use of napalm as well. And white phosphorous.

The American military has assaulted hospitals to prevent them from giving out casualty figures from US bombing attacks that contradicted official US figures, which the hospitals had been in the habit of doing.

Numerous homes have been broken into by US forces, the men taken away, the women humiliated, the children traumatized; on many occasions, the family has said that the American soldiers helped themselves to some of the family's money. Iraq has had to submit to a degrading national strip search.

Destruction and looting of the country's ancient heritage, perhaps the world's greatest archive of the human past, left unprotected by the US military, busy protecting oil facilities.

A nearly lawless society: Iraq's legal system, outside of the political sphere, was once one of the most impressive and secular in the Middle East; it is now a shambles; religious law more and more prevails.

Women's rights previously enjoyed are now in great and growing danger under harsh Islamic law, to one extent or another in various areas. There is today a Shiite religious ruling class in Iraq, which tolerates physical attacks on women for showing a bare arm or for picnicking with a male friend. Men can be harassed for wearing shorts in public, as can children playing outside in shorts.

Sex trafficking, virtually nonexistent previously, has become a serious issue.

Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims have lost much of the security they had enjoyed in Saddam's secular society; many have emigrated.

A gulag of prisons run by the US and the new Iraqi government feature a wide variety of torture and abuse -- physical, psychological, emotional; painful, degrading, humiliating; leading to mental breakdown, death, suicide; a human-rights disaster area.

Over 50,000 Iraqis have been imprisoned by US forces since the invasion, but only a very tiny portion of them have been convicted of any crime.

US authorities have recruited members of Saddam Hussein's feared security service to expand intelligence gathering and root out the resistance.

Unemployment is estimated to be around fifty percent. Massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of Baathist government workers and soldiers by the American occupation authority set the process in motion early on. Later, many, desperate for work, took positions tainted by a connection to the occupation, placing themselves in grave danger of being kidnapped or murdered.

The cost of living has skyrocketed. Income levels have plummeted.

The Kurds of Northern Iraq evict Arabs from their homes. Arabs evict Kurds in other parts of the country.

Many people were evicted from their homes because they were Baathist. US troops took part in some of the evictions. They have also demolished homes in fits of rage over the killing of one of their buddies.

When US troops don't find who they're looking for, they take who's there; wives have been held until the husband turns himself in, a practice which Hollywood films stamped in the American mind as being a particular evil of the Nazis; it's also collective punishment of civilians and is forbidden under the Geneva Convention.

Continual American bombing assaults on neighborhoods has left an uncountable number of destroyed homes, workplaces, mosques, bridges, roads, and everything else that goes into the making of modern civilized life.

Haditha, Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi ... names that will live in infamy for the wanton destruction, murder, and assaults upon human beings and human rights carried out in those places by US forces.

At one time or another, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been forced to become displaced refugees because their city was made uninhabitable by American air and ground attacks, as in Fallujah.

The supply of safe drinking water, effective sewage disposal, and reliable electricity have all generally been below pre-invasion levels, producing constant hardship for the public, in temperatures reaching 115 degrees. To add to the misery, people wait all day in the heat to purchase gasoline, due in part to oil production, the country's chief source of revenue, being less than half its previous level.

The water and sewage system and other elements of the infrastructure had been purposely (sic) destroyed by US bombing in the first Gulf War of 1991. By 2003, the Iraqis had made great strides in repairing the most essential parts of it. Then came Washington's renewed bombing.

Civil war, death squads, kidnapping, car bombs, rape, each and every day ... Iraq has become the most dangerous place on earth. American soldiers and private security companies regularly kill people and leave the bodies lying in the street; US-trained Iraqi military and police forces kill even more, as does the insurgency. An entire new generation is growing up on violence and sectarian ethics; this will poison the Iraqi psyche for many years to come.

US intelligence and military police officers often free dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on insurgents.

Iraqis protesting about various issues have been shot by US forces on several occasions.

At other times, the US has killed, wounded and jailed reporters from Al Jazeera television, closed the station's office, bombed the office, and banned it from certain areas because occupation officials didn't like the news the station was reporting. The Al Jazeera office was bombed even though the staff had made a point of giving the US their exact GPS coordinates. Other newspapers as well have been closed for what they have printed.The Pentagon has planted paid-for news articles in the Iraqi press to serve propaganda purposes.

2. From Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival (pp. 126-128):
The 1991 war, involving the purposeful destruction of water, power, and sewage systems, took a terrible toll, and the sanctions regime imposed by the US and UK drove the country to the level of bare survival. As one illustration, UNICEF's 2003 Report on the State of the World's Children states that "Iraq's regression over the past decade is by far the most severe of the 193 countries surveyed," with the child death rate, "the best single indicator of child welfare," increasing from 50 to 133 per 1,000 live births, placing Iraq below every country outside Africa apart from Cambodia and Afghanistan. Two hawkish military analysts observe that "economic sanctions may well have been a necessary [sic] cause of the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history," in the hundreds of thousands according to conservative estimates.

... Academic researcher Joy Gordon ... learned enough, as have others, to reveal a shameful record of deliberate cruelty and efforts pursued "aggressively throughout the last decade to purposefully minimize the humanitarian goods that enter the country ... in the face of enormous human suffering, including massive increases in child mortality and widespread epidemics." The US blocked water tankers from reaching Iraq on grounds so spurious that they were rejected by UN arms experts, "this during a time when the major cause of child deaths was lack of access to clean drinking water, and when the country was in the midst of a drought." Washington insisted that vaccines for infant diseases be withheld until it was compelled to back down in the face of vigorous protest by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, supported by European biological weapons experts, who charged that the dual-use claims by the US were "flatly impossible."

3. See the excellent analysis by Michael Schwartz in the February 13, 2008 edition of Asia Times, "Iraq's broken pieces don't fit together." I summarized and expanded on some of that article here. I would also strongly recommend Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, for an analysis of why the Iraq War in its current phase was really implemented - an excerpt of which can be found at Alternet.

And a thousand pundits' heads exploded

Fidel Castro thumbs his nose at Obama. The McCainbots and Clintonistas will whimper. The Obamawishfulthinkers might feel temporarily vindicated - for what they themselves won't know. If nothing else, America's elites, be they wingnuts or pwogs, will find a handy excuse for demonizing Cuba yet again. Pass the popcorn.

Well, it ain't as efficient as just burning money directly

but it sure comes close: thanks to the UN carbon offsetting program, a lot of money is being spent with precious little to show for it. H/t Lenin's Tomb, who can say "we told you so." All that talk about reducing greenhouse gases is little more than hot air.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nothing says antiwar like...

preparing for more war:
This page strongly supports a larger, sturdier military.
Yup, that's New Pravda's editorial board for ya.

These folks, and the rest of the US elite remind me of the kid I knew in junior high and high school who had to constantly flex his muscles and brag about how he could kick everyone's ass since he was such a bad-ass and everyone else was lame. That kid ended up in a lot of fights, and no matter how much bigger and sturdier the muscles got, he just got into more and more fights. Eventually the kid just dropped out - I'm guessing he ended up in juvie. Maybe there's a lesson there, if anyone were willing to pay attention.

Instead of the usual Memorial Day whatever,

Image courtesy of Support Subversion.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


h/t Arcturus:
Subject: FNS News: Mexican Women’s Activists Threatened

May 22, 2008
Women's/Human Rights News

Death Threats against Women's Activists

Prominent women's rights activists in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua have reported receiving a new round of threats. Members of Ciudad Juarez's Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (May our Daughters Return Home), a group of relatives of murdered women, canceled their participation in a screening of the Hollywood movie Bordertown scheduled for their hometown because of death threats received by e-mail and on cell phones. 'Now the threat is more real,' said Marisela Ortiz, Nuestras Hijas spokeswoman.

Titled Verdades que Matan in Spanish, the film stars Jennifer Lopez as a US reporter who probes the Ciudad Juarez femicides. The movie also features Antonio Banderas, Martin Sheen, Kate de Castillo, and Maya Zapata. Directed by Gregory Nava, the film has not been released on the big screen in the US and is only available on DVD. After years of production and delays in its release, Bordertown finally achieved a limited showing in some Mexican theaters last week. In Ciudad Juarez, unidentified journalists have also reportedly received threats warning them against promoting the film.

In a Mexico City press conference on May 12, Nava said the movie was possibly not released in the US because of its critical portrayals of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the maquiladora industry. Nava also revealed that when Bordertown's producers were in Ciudad Juarez a crew member was kidnapped and tortured into telling his tormentors the hotel where film material was stored. Local policemen then lifted the material, according to Nava. Many scenes in the movie were filmed in Nogales, Sonora, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, among other locations.

Nava was recently interviewed by a reporter for Ciudad Juarez's El Diario newspaper. The journalist pressed Nava about exaggerating the murders, propagating presumed 'myths,' surrounding the killings and profiting from the suffering of victims and their families. Defending the film, Nava blamed Mexican authorities, free trade and US companies for creating an environment in Ciudad Juarez in which women's lives have no worth.

'Women in Juarez live in terror, their life has no value, and this is what we have to change,' Nava said. In an earlier interview with the Mexican press, Nava charged that governments on both sides of the border were doing nothing to address the femicides. 'It is horrible, but it is easier for the authorities from Juarez, from Chihuahua and from the United States to cover up the situation. It is a grand injustice'

The Diario interview mentioned incidents of harassment against Bordertown staff, but it did not report the alleged kidnapping of the crew member.

Prior to Ortiz's denunciation of death threats against members of Nuestras Hijas, Chihuahua City lawyer Lucha Castro, director of the Women's Human Rights Center, reported receiving a similar threat. Castro has long represented the mothers and family members of young women from Chihuahua City slain in a manner very similar to the more-publicized Ciudad Juarez rape-murders. According to Castro, an unidentified male caller threatened her on May 14. Castro then filed a criminal complaint with the Chihuahua State Office of the Attorney General, and two officers were assigned to protect the human rights attorney. Activists also demand that the Chihuahua state government protect Marisela Oritz and the other members of Nuestras Hijas.

The death threats against women's rights activists come amid an unprecedented wave of narco-violence in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua state. More than 400 slayings attributed to organized crime have been reported this year alone, and fear of further carnage is gripping society. In recent days, e-mails and messages to cell phones in Ciudad Juarez have warned people to stay home during the coming weekend or at least exercise extreme caution because of an alleged plan to carry out spectacular executions on public thoroughfares.

The threats against women's movement leaders likewise occur in a broader context of violent attacks and legal pressure against social activists of all stripes. Since March, Chihuahua farm movement leader Armando Villareal has been murdered, and labor and women's rights activist Cipriana Jurado, has been arrested on federal charges stemming from a demonstration nearly three years ago. Arrest warrants are reportedly pending against dozens of other farmers involved in a payment strike against the Federal Electricity Commission.

Mexican and foreign activists contend that a deteriorating human rights environment characterizes the country. Juan Ignacio Garcia, Spanish member of the International Civil Commission for the Observation of Human Rights, cited Ciudad Juarez as among human rights cases crying for redress from the authorities. The international community is seriously concerned about the femicides, murders of journalists and other human rights violations, Garcia said.

'We know that public opinion is aware of all this, and it would be good for the Mexican government to show a measure of stronger will and attend to these cases,' Garcia added.

Sources: Frontenet, May 22, 2008. El Paso Times, May 22, 2008. Article by Marisela Ortega Lozano. Cimacnoticias, May 19 and 22, 2008. Articles by Lourdes Godinez Leal. Apro/Cimacnoticias, May 21, 2008. El Diario de Juarez, May 16, 2008. Article by Gabriela Minjares. Pagina 24/Agencia Reforma, April 21, 2008. Article by Dalila Carreno.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Textbook non-denial denial

Found at TPM.