Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Next Iraq Disaster

I'll start off with a piece from the Telegraph penned by Damien McElroy:

Relations between the top United States general in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, the country's prime minister, are so bad that the Iraqi leader made a direct appeal for his removal to President George W Bush.
Although the call was rejected, aides to both men admit that Mr Maliki and Gen David Petraeus engage in frequent stand-up shouting matches, differing particularly over the US general's moves to arm Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qa'eda.

Is this the autonomous Iraq that the Bush Administration was referring to? Is this the great new democracy that determines its own fate? Is this the country that can decide whether to have US forces in the country or have them leave (aside from the fact that they've asked the US to leave several times that is)?

Let us go back a couple of years; this is what the brilliant and forward-looking Dr. Condoleeza Rice had to say on January 30th 2005 - two and a half years ago:

"The elections are a first step to a brighter democratic future for a country once held under the thumb of tyranny....the Iraqi people have taken a very important step in losing the sense of fear and intimidation that has been in their lives for decades, [under deposed leader Saddam Hussein]."

Sure, because they've replaced the fear of Saddam Hussein with the fear of being shot by a trigger-happy, pimply, 19 year-old at a checkpoint or having their entire family turned into corned beef by a suicide bomber of one ethnicity or another if they haven't already been blown to smithereens by a wayward five-hundred pound bomb from an F-18.

Back to today; General Petraeus’ plan to arm Sunnis in order to rid Iraq of the alleged Al Qaeda presence is so misguided it isn't funny. The last group the Sunnis will have loyalty to are the US and coalition troops. The only thing that will be achieved by arming the Sunni faction is another escalation of the violence. I don't have much respect for Prime Minister Maliki, but he definitely understands the catastrophe that Petraeus is creating. I don't know how these guys become generals but they evidently get lobotomized first.

The continuing misguided opinion coming form the White House is that they know what they are doing and that they have even the slightest understanding of how things work in the Middle East. The spiral will continue downwards with escalation after esacalation, whilst US foreign policy making things worse and worse until finally the troops do leave. Then there really will be carnage on the streets and the neoconservatives will turn around and say "I told you so."

This is a frozen moment in history. There is an opportunity to de-escalate. I'm noting here that General Petraeus under guidance from Washington is making things worse and is not heeding the advice of the one man who would have a vested interest in things in Iraq going better. Petraeus belongs on the rubbish heap of failed policy makers along with General Tommy Franks who actually belongs in jail along with Paul Bremer. Condoleeza Rice with her idiotic predictions is way, way off. The Iraqis have increasingly nothing to look forward to other than fear, discomfort and death. That's the democracy we have offered them.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Next Step

The massive shift to the right that continues to be felt in this country since the Bush Administration came into power has been well documented and indeed, we are witnessing signs of the despotic nature of the present government every day. The most obvious one is the Executive branch’s unwillingness to answer to the Legislative branch’s demands. Other signs are the stringent so-called security reforms which have come about under the umbrella of Homeland Security. This Orwellian Department was created as a means of allegedly fusing the various security and support sections of government beneath it. Furthermore, the FBI and CIA have seen a massive boost in their ability to illegally listen in on telephone conversations and read private mail, whether it be email or regular mail, to an unprecedented extent. Things that were considered to belong only to totalitarian regimes such as the incarceration and torture of prisoners held indefinitely without charges being brought against them, have become an everyday occurrence. The hijacking of the Justice Department by a rabid White House was apparently the icing on the cake.

But it didn’t stop there. I experienced first hand the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing discovery of literally hundreds of thousands of files compounded on ordinary citizens; information which was passed on to the Stasi, the ‘State security Police,’ by thousands upon thousands of informants. People were compromised by the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MFS) and were forced, coerced or threatened into spying on their friends, neighbors, husbands, wives, sisters or anyone in their circle of acquaintances. The most mundane aspects of the lives of ordinary citizens were documented in a maddeningly bureaucratic manner down to the tooth-brushing habits of individuals or their breakfast preferences. It was an unfathomable infringement of the rights of the citizens of that country made possible by the gigantic network of clandestine informants that the MFS had recruited over time. This is now coming to America, as Justin Rood of
ABC reports:

The FBI is taking cues from the CIA to recruit thousands of covert informants in the United States as part of a sprawling effort to boost its intelligence capabilities.

The FBI said the push was driven by a 2004 directive from President Bush ordering the bureau to improve its counterterrorism efforts by boosting its human intelligence capabilities.

Do not for one minute think that the above scenario, which became part of everyday life in the former German Democratic Republic under its allegedly socialist regime, could not happen in the United States. Consider that it happened there with over 95% of the population opposed to these practices, whereas the fear of terrorism which has gripped this country, driven by an administration which is using fear to bludgeon the mostly undereducated population into accepting its arguments for a need for increased surveillance, has conditioned people into believing that draconian security measures and clandestine wiretapping are a necessary part of life.

They are not. It is as unnecessary to live in fear of a terrorist attack as it is to worry every day that one might die of kidney failure. The instrument of fear is being wielded to control an already cowed population into accepting anything and everything and the non-occurrence of an event, of a terrorist attack, is being proclaimed by such media outlets as FOX News as being the success story brought about by an infringement of our rights as citizens. The America which represented freedom is slipping into a dark world of repressive government legislation disseminated by a cabal of power-hungry, despotic politicians and supported by a Justice Department which has lost all autonomy.

Articles of Impeachment should be drawn up for Bush and Cheney and Alberto Gonzales should be held accountable for perjury and thrown out of his job. Make no mistake; it is better to impeach than to sit back and allow the current trend to continue. The concern of many, that impeachment will not work because the vote will never pass the House, is erroneous. It is the constitutional duty of Congress to impeach and it is the duty of the American people to hold Congress accountable for upholding the Constitution. At worst it will stall this government and prevent it from dragging this country further into the abyss.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rove Under Pressure

The continued hedging of the White House around the subpoenas demanded by the Senate Judiciary Committee with regards to the firings of eight US Attorneys has begun to draw fire from both Republicans and Democrats alike. The attempt by the Committee to place the White House in contempt, which has stalled due to the Justice Department pandering to the White House demands, that Executive Privilege be granted to anyone and everyone with whom Bush has shared even the smallest remark. It’s unbelievable that we have a Justice Department which bows to Executive Pressure.

Whilst Senator Patrick Leahy point blank accused karl Rove of playing a key role in the firings, Senator Arlen Specter also fired a shot across the White House bow as reported by
Michael Roston of The Raw Story:

"The accumulated and essentially uncontroverted evidence is that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine United States Attorneys last year," the committee's chairman said. "The evidence we have been able to collect points to Karl Rove and the political operatives at the White House."

We have a runaway executive branch here that needs to be reined in with the full force of Congress and the Senate. If that means impeachment, so be it, but I cannot understand for the life of me why Bush is being allowed to jerk the entire country around and no one seems to be proactively doing anything about it. Republicans should be up in arms and every Democrat should be asking for Gonzalez’ head and Bush’s impeachment. Can anyone imagine the uproar had Bill Clinton claimed Executive Privilege during the obscenely long and ridiculously expensive, not to mention aborted, Whitewater investigation or the laughable investigation over Monika Lewinsky?

The Democrats’ fear that Impeachment will not work because the Republican Congressmen would never vote for it is not a ground to avoid applying the law as it is laid out in The Constitution of the United States. The President broke the law, is breaking the law and will continue breaking the law until he is stopped. It’s the duty of the legislative branch of government to heed the constitution and to impeach him.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Guantánamo Ruling

A legal bombshell seems to have gone largely unnoticed by the general public: in a stunning blow to the Bush administration, a federal appeals court ordered the government to turn over almost all of its information on the inmates at Guantánamo who are challenging their detention. This is a direct challenge to the Justice Department which we know, is basically controlled by the Bush administration, contrary to the law and contrary to the Constitution of the United States and which wants to limit the disclosures. It opens up the field for legal battles which will target the government’s insistence that it is allowed to keep inmates imprisoned indefinitely.

William Glaberson of the New York Times writes:

A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington unanimously rejected a government effort to limit the information it must turn over to the court and lawyers for the detainees.
The court said meaningful review of the military tribunals would not be possible “without seeing all the evidence, any more than one can tell whether a fraction is more or less than half by looking only at the numerator and not the denominator.”

Why the Bush administration cannot follow London’s lead and simply try people in a normal court of law or let them go if there is insufficient evidence to hold them is puzzling. Most of the 360 men still held at Guantánamo cannot even be classified as enemy combatants. The method by which the U.S. army offered rewards for tips leading to the arrest of Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Iraq was a flop. It is widely accepted that most of the men turned over to the military were not affiliated with a terrorist group. However $500 in Afghanistan, which is what the military doled out for this kind of information is over two years’ pay for the average worker. Warlords would hand out bogus information on people they wanted to have removed and ordinary people gave false information about neighbors in order to pocket the cash.

Guantánamo remains a crime against humanity. This court ruling is a small step in dismantling the Gestapo-like actions of the Bush Administration in arresting and indefinitely holding human beings in conditions that would be criticized by the United States were they occurring elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Women and the Children

There is a view in the West that assumes the moral high ground and in some ways it is hard to shake that off. Stories of stoning adulterous women and cutting the hands off thieves sound so very much like the Dark Ages which we, as a Western society, feel that we left behind long ago. The barbaric acts that constitute parts of Sharia law leave us shuddering at the brutality some Arabs seem to be capable of.

In the Iraq war, much has been made of the beheadings that took place mainly in 2004 and 2005. They served again to reinforce our image of the uncivilized indigenous fighters compared with our troops who regularly try and avoid civilian casualties. With the advent of alternative media possibilities such as U-Tube, the general population began getting a glimpse behind the scenes of the Western allied war machine and it probably surprised many, that pilots, for example, ask permission to engage a target and await confirmation before they destroy it. It was an indication of the laudable lengths the military goes to, to try and ensure that as few civilian casualties as possible occur. At the same time, we, as the public, are shown just how vastly outmatched the local fighting force is compared to the arsenal and technological sophistication demonstrated by the U.S. Military.

So we have on the one hand, a rag-tag group of insurgents who stop at nothing in their attempts to sway politics, public opinion or sheer terror and on the other, a super-advanced fighting force that has all the means at hand for targeting and destroying enemy targets with the ever-ubiquitous ‘pin-point’ precision. This makes us feel good. We haven’t got people on our side murdering women and children willy-nilly which puts us in the right and the enemy, where our governments want them, morally in the wrong. So why don’t the Iraqis love us?

The problem is two-fold. Firstly, there is the subjectivity of morals. I’d like to think of ethics as objective rules for living. The truth however, is that an Iraqi mother who’s child was killed by an American soldier cannot be expected to think “well they didn’t mean to kill my son.” She is angry and rightfully so. 429 people were shot dead at checkpoints by U.S. forces during the past twelve month period as reported by
McClatchy Newspapers.

Those are 429 people to add to the list of Iraqis accidentally bombed, burned and otherwise killed by the coalition troops. Not a single relative of those killed will have any understanding for the presence of foreign fighters on their soil and given the nature of the Iraqi family demographic, we are talking about a lot of angry people. But still, we hold firm to our moral compass and proclaim that these ‘regrettable incidents’ could not be avoided and we are very sorry.

The second factor is that of the willful deaths of Iraqis caused by coalition troops. This again is split into those who died as insurgent fighters defending themselves or attacking Western forces and those who were murdered in cold blood. The latter of course are the ones who will sink the neo-Conservative crusade. It does not matter that we are talking about a few bad apples and it does not matter that the incidents are few and far between. Haditha is a black mark on the United States’ military occupation of Iraq. Haditha is the nail in the coffin of the ‘good guy’ argument.

The Washington Post has reported on the latest in the Haditha scandal in which marines opened fire and killed several civilians in cold blood. There is fresh evidence to suggest that the marines also knowingly murdered women and small children.

One of the
Marines charged with murdering civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005 knew that only women and children were huddled in a back bedroom in a house there, but he opened the door and shot them anyway, a squadmate testified Tuesday.

"I told him, there's women and kids in that room," Lance Cpl. Humberto M. Mendoza said of Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum. Tatum's response was, "Well, shoot them," Mendoza said.

The problem for the United States is, that it doesn’t matter if you kill three children or three thousand children. You become a child murderer. Just as those who are generally wont to label other groups for the actions of a few, the Iraqis will label the U.S. forces based on the actions of the marines. I have repeatedly heard the insurgents referred to as “beheaders” although surely the small number of beheadings that took place, were carried out by a few bad apples. But in our minds, from our Western perspective, many see them that way, in the same way as they will see us in the dark light of the Haditha killings, as those that came and murdered their children.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

None of The Above

Everyone keeps talking about a Bush legacy. Even George Bush was reportedly hunting for something he could potentially claim as a future legacy or at least some good news that he may one day be credited with a legacy, any legacy, besides that of a war-mongering, war-profiteer who sacrificed the lives of thousands, literally thousands of Americans and destroyed the lives of millions, yes, millions of Iraqis, that he set fire to the Middle East, that he ruined the image of the United States in the eyes of Muslims for decades to come for personal, ill-conceived plans which were executed in such a baffling display of utter incapability that even hard core Neoconservatives are chomping at the bit to oust him. One would be forgiven for thinking that that was it. I mean, what more can one attribute to this man, this abject failure of a President?

Let us take a step back for one second; one of the reasons that the word ‘legacy’ is being bandied around is the fact that even with eighteen months to go, the Bush catastrophe is virtually over. His complete irrelevance in the affairs of this country, coupled with the fact that the American public just wish him to go home means that people are thinking of ‘The Post Bush Era.’ They are fleeing mentally to a future without the Decider in Chief, the man who single-handedly took the United States from a super power to a laughing stock. The man who with his team of devious and defective aides and advisors, his cabinet of dishonest, disingenuous and duplicitous political renegades has managed to demonstrate to the world how to defeat the world’s most powerful army. No one really knows how the ‘Post Bush Era’ will look, but the tired and weary Americans know that it cannot possible be worse. So there is a glimmer of hope. In this context, people are wondering just what will we remember about George W. Bush?

Well one thing that will be omnipresent is the utter destruction of the Republican Party. That will be George’s other lasting legacy. Only a few months ago, the right was gloating about the utter collapse of the Democratic Party, only to see it rise and take back the House of Representatives and the Senate and with that victory, the Democrats have a chance of taking back their country and handing it back to its true owners; not the power hungry cabal of maniacs running it now, but the American people.

So it comes as no surprise, with the dismantling of the Neocon dream that Bush’s successors are floundering. How much is evident in the most recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll which shows that between the four leading GOP candidates for 2008, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain or Mitt Romney, the public chooses “none of the above,” as
reported on CNN.

None of the top candidates has a clear lead among Christian evangelicals, a critical part of the GOP base that has had considerable sway in past Republican primaries. Giuliani, a thrice-married backer of abortion rights and gay rights, had 20 percent support -- roughly even with Thompson and McCain who have one divorce each in their pasts. Romney, a Mormon who has been married for three decades, was in the single digits.

A full 25% however stated that none of the candidates running would be their choice in 2008. Isn’t that sad? That, my friends, will be the legacy of the man in the White House. He will have destroyed the GOP and their chances of leading the country for the next eight years. The image of Republicans is a party gone mad, throwing good money after bad for deluded and obtuse concepts which even the most dense red state voter questions. More of the same? No thanks! As the Giulianis and McCains walk the tightrope of backing the war whilst keeping a distance to Bush, all the while applauding his efforts enough, to make sure they garner support amongst the remaining 26% who still believe in him. We are aware only of the two-faced nature of their arguments, hip-hopping and flip-flopping to avoid being ensnared in the traps of same-sex marriage and immigration, of war in Iraq and abortion. They come across as the most disingenuous pack of inauthentic politicians one has ever set eyes on.

Entirely gone is the idea that the Republicans represent honesty and family values. From the thieving, corrupt likes of Cunningham to the page boy affairs of Rep. Foley, from Washington DC bordello stories of Senator Vitter to the Abramoff tainted White House, the Republicans have become the party of hypocrisy and scandal.

"I'm looking for a strong honest person. Do you know of any?" asks Barbara Skogman a 72 year-old retiree from Cedar Rapids Iowa, who can’t decide amongst the Republican candidates.

My answer would be “no, I don’t.”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Capital Punishment - The Real Crime

The fundamental prescient case for capital punishment is that it fits the crime. The fact that almost all Western countries have outlawed it however, should tell us something about the way the death penalty is regarded. It is a backward society that executes humans in order to exact retribution. It cannot be justified by deterrence and should not be justified by revenge. The overwhelming case against it, is that should the state, any state, as has undoubtedly been the case, execute an innocent person, it has made itself accountable in the same way as a murderer – a cold blooded pre-meditated killing of a person. ‘Oops’ does not work.

So this should again be taken into account in the pending execution of one Troy Davis of Georgia. Davis was a man who may or may not have committed the crime, but that is no basis for carrying out an inmate’s execution. What is certain is that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 1989, A scuffle between two men outside a Burger King between a homeless man by the name of Larry Young and a second man had broken out allegedly over a beer. An off-duty but uniformed police officer intervened and was shot twice and died of his wounds.

A weapon was never found so police relied on eyewitnesses. A man named “Red” Coles eventually went to the police with an attorney and named Davis as the killer. Some witnesses named Coles as the killer but in the event of a homicide on an officer, police were desperate to make an arrest. Davis turned himself in to police four days later after hearing that he was being sought. The police took affidavits from several people at the scene and Davis seemed to be implicated by some of them. However, this is an example of what many of those witnesses said after the conviction as reported in the Washington Post:

The affidavit from Darrell Collins, the friend who was with Davis that night, was typical.

"I told them it was Red and not
Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn't want to hear that," Collins, who was 16 at the time, said in his 2002 statement. "The detectives told me, 'Fine, have it your way. Kiss your life goodbye because you're going to jail.' After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear."

Other witnesses have since confessed to lying on their statements. So it should be clear that if the death sentenced is not overturned, there should at least be a new, thorough investigation. There wasn’t and the truth is even more uncomfortable: Martina Correia, Davis, sister tried in vain to find a lawyer who would support them as they didn’t have the means to pay for one. Some on the right might consider that tough luck.

In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act into effect. It was passed by Congress in the wake of the Oklahoma bombing and was aimed at limiting the reasons as to why the Supreme Court can overturn death penalty decisions in the context of Timothy McVeigh’s sentence.

The court dealing with Davis’ case has now said it is to late for an appeal to be pressed. Too late? We aren’t talking about an entry for a tombola prize here. We are talking about a man’s life. This isn’t about partisan politics. This is about preventing a monumental blunder.

The death sentence remains one of the major factors which makes it hard for this country to accuse other countries of Human Rights violations. It is a barbaric practice which has no place in today’s society. The United States still suffers an inordinately higher number of murders than any other Western modern state despite its affection for capital punishment, which absolutely eradicates any basis whatsoever for the argument that capital punishment has ever, ever deterred a single person from committing a homicide.

Davis is due to be executed tomorrow. By all appearances an innocent man will be put to death by the state. Of course President Bush would have the power to commute the sentence in the light of the new evidence, but he’s unlikely to do that for an African American in Georgia who isn’t part of his personal clique.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

That Gut Thing

It isn’t often that one sees things taking shape with such crystal clarity. I’m talking about the language of fear, the Neo-Conservative’s number one instrument for controlling the public. The Republican right, which still believes in the Iraq war is in a quandary. Public opinion is evidently strongly against it and support for the war is flagging on all fronts. How do you restore public support for a disastrous military campaign? Traditionally, one did this by instilling fear in the populace and so, perhaps led by the inimitably corrupt Karl Rove, a murmur, which started a couple of years ago, transformed into a whisper and has emerged as a ‘gut feeling.’ The Neocons are good at ‘gut feelings.’

“Never mind what your brain says, always trust your gut,” to paraphrase the wonderful Stephen Colbert. The gradation with which this has developed into something tangible is really to be respected and so let us pass review on the evolution of this process of fear-mongering. Really, these guys have been on a roll since 9/11. But it was back in November 2005 that a secret GOP memo surfaced, expounding the theory that only a disastrous terrorist attack could restore Bush’s credibility somewhat by unifying Americans behind him. The context then was the looming mid-terms and the GOP, it turned out rightly so, were worried about losing control of one, or even both of the houses.

Fast forward to 2007 and the upcoming Presidential Election of 2008, where we have five strong Democratic candidates and four weak Republican ones. Iraq is a quagmire – even right-wingers admit that now and the question is how to restore national unity behind a Republican pro-war candidate? Well the same ideas seem to be popping up in their heads a second time around: a big bomb detonated by some Arabs would do it! Back in July, our friend Rick Santorum the one who compared homosexuality with incest, bigamy and adultery seemed to be very keen on something blowing up somewhere and said this on the Hugh Hewitt radio show:

"Between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public’s going to have a very different view of this war, and it will be because, I think, of some unfortunate events, that like we’re seeing unfold in the UK. But I think the American public’s going to have a very different view."

Between now and November? How does Rick know? Is he just hoping that something will happen, in other words, is the mother of all family-friendly, Catholic politicians wishing for a disaster? Inquiring minds want to know.

But then along came Dennis Milligan. He’s the new chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party. This is what he had to say to the
Arkansas Democrat Gazette on June 03, 2007:

“At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001 ], and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country,”

“All we need is some attacks….?” Please tell me he apologized for saying that. But he didn’t. In his own words, the man is 150% behind President Bush. How do you back someone 150% who has a 26% popularity rating? Only blindly, is the answer. But I digress! Now we come to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's gut. Mr. Chertoff’s gut tells us that there will be a terrorist attack on US soil in the summer. There has been much written about Chertoff’s commentary about his gut. It’s a pretty amazing gut I must say. It has the ability to predict terrorist attacks. Never mind the $50 billion spent on counterterrorism measures, never mind the several billion dollars spent on surveillance and intelligence each year, never mind the warantless wiretapping of US citizens and never mind the giant apparatus the government has allegedly now in place to predict terrorist threats – it’s all down to one man’s bowels.

I’d love to know what kind of gut feeling it was. Suddenly, the entire United States Homeland Security depends on an intestinal muscle twinge? A fart maybe? What is Chertoff thinking? Well, one thing that it does is it makes us all wonder, whether he’s right. But it’s actually a pretty smart move. If something happens, he becomes the new Billy Graham and his gut becomes famous at predicting cataclysms. Upon his death it will be preserved in formaldehyde in the Smithsonian for us all to wonder and contemplate. If he is wrong, he shrugs and says it was only his gut – the department intelligence will have not betrayed us.

But the overall effect will be this: that millions of Americans, will now again worry about a terrorist attack. Millions of Americans will be afraid. Millions of Americans will be worried and millions of Americans will be more than ever willing to undergo a clampdown and will be willing to have their rights removed. Millions of Americans believe, now more than ever, that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 in some way and millions of Americans will feel, perhaps, that it is fundamentally important for the safety of this nation that more American soldiers get fed into the meat grinder that Iraq has become and that it is fundamentally important that education, arts and health care cuts are made to fund the War on Terror.

But here’s the conundrum that no one is talking about. There is a general creed amongst the Neocons, that the reason for the Iraq war is that it is better to fight “them over there” than to let “them” fight us “over here.” Now you would think, that if there is a terrorist attack on the U.S., people would think that the “War on Terror” is not working, particularly in Iraq and therefore it’s time to bring the troops back.

But the Republican Neo-Conservatives are likely to say “We cannot let up for a minute or they will strike us again – we need hasher measures and we need to redouble our efforts in Iraq.” The truth is that the Republicans know that the Democrats will lack the spine to call for a total troop withdrawal in the face of such an attack and that they will most probably join the fray in calling for stronger anti-terrorist measures all the while criticizing the Bush Administration.

The Republicans will do everything they can to claim that they, and only they, can continue to fight the “War on Terror” even if it means invading foreign countries and sacrificing the youth of America in a pointless attempt to control the Middle East for what they believe, is the ultimate good.

That is why the Rick Santorums and the Milligans of this world have been ruminating on its possibility. That is why Michael Chertoff’s gut twinged or bulged or burped its message, that there will be an attack, this summer, or this fall, or maybe next week but he’s not sure when. They can crank up the fear machine and hope to control the masses again, those masses who have slowly understood, that terrorism is not something you fight with a war. It isn’t something you throw more bodies at, something you crush with tanks or bomb with planes; it is something that is fought with education, with courage and with conviction. That’s something the Michael Chertoffs and Karl Roves of this world don’t want anyone to remember.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Mickey Mouse Dictatorship

You know all those comedies about dictators where the ruler of a country says something like "but I want my name at LEAST three times on EVERY PAGE of EVERY speech!"? Pretty funny aren't they? I mean, you might expect that from say, Saddam Hussein if he were not dead, maybe Kim Jong Il, maybe a few of the African despots, possibly someone like Hugo Chavez. But the person who actually has asked for it is none other than.... well, I'm sure you've all guessed by now! As reported by Gardiner Harris in the New York Times:

Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona also went on to testify that the reports that came out of his department were effectively censored and altered by Bush Administration officials and that important public announcements were suppressed due to political considerations.

Dr. Carmona's sworn testimony went on to say that the administration would not allow him to speak or issue public reports on the following topics:
  • stem cells
  • emergency contraception
  • sex education
  • prison
  • mental health issues
  • global health issues and also from the same NYT article:

Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.

Now whilst the first part, about El Duce wanting to be mentioned three times in every speech makes me laugh, the second part I find more than mildly disturbing. It verges on the criminal. It is so unbelievably dictator-like that the mind boggles. The right, who just dream of being ruled by a dictator are probably going to lap this up of course. The perversion of the surgeon General’s office to pander to the Republican Neocon agenda should have everyone up in arms, but the Ann Coulters of this world will no doubt find a way to justify it.

It all points to a runaway Presidency, all the more dangerous because of its, now almost total, impotence. No one takes Bush seriously any more, not even Republican Senators, and every day, is a day nearer when this excuse for a leader is going to need another 9/11 just in order to go out with a bang so that someone, somewhere, can raise an eyebrow and exclaim: "Oh that old fool's still around?"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gonzo ensnared yet again.

What does one have to do to get rid of a bumbling liar passing himself off as an Attorney General in this country? No seriously. Alberto Gonzales has proved himself to be so phenomenally inept that I really question the fact that he ever studied law at all. He is the most blatant public liar I have ever come across and yet...and yet, he remains Attorney General. In a piece published today in The Washington Post, John Solomon discloses a bombshell – Gonzo lied again:

As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse," Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.

But guess what? Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act now shows that the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that effectively said that there had been exactly that - verified cases of civil liberties abuses - six days prior to that statement. The copy of the report sent to Gonzales by the FBI said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

I know the right thinks "to hell with civil liberties," but civil liberties are actually the cornerstone of the United States Constitution that George Bush, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have collectively been in the process of shredding. The abuses that were reported to Gonzales range from erroneous wiretaps and surveillance carried out on the wrong person because a phone number was wrongly transmitted, to information about particular individuals being sent by mistake to third parties. In some cases, the FBI retroactively wrote new national Security Letters, that instrument which now allows them to basically avoid having to obtain warrants to listen in on your conversations or read your emails, after they had blundered in order to cover up their tracks.

All this Gonzales knew when he proclaimed that he knew nothing. Having used up his one form of defense, the hot-shot lawyer that he is, he will almost certainly reply to inquiries about this matter with that second, most cunning of answers to difficult questions, gleaned by years of law school and practice: "I don't recall."

Monday, July 9, 2007

"I Tried to Stop The War"

Extraordinary how these people are coming out of the woodwork. First former CIA Director George Tenet writes a book about how he didn't believe his own intelligence, or rather, the intelligence he gave Bush was correct but Bush made him skew it to fit his case and because he was being waterboarded at the time he was unable to resign, unable to speak out and unable to refuse. Now Powell is starting his 'save my own skin' campaign as reported by The Raw Sory:

It was revealed today that prior to the Iraq war, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell spent two and a half hours trying in vain to convince President George W. Bush not to invade.

Two and a half hours? 150 Minutes? By Jove! That's an effort if ever I saw one. My god - and I thought the Democrats were spineless. You have to do more, Mr. Powell to stop a war than speak for two hours. You have to resign, you have to go to the public, you have to be prepared to burn bridges to stop a multi-billion dollar war machine from creaking forward and massacring people!

How ridiculous to come out now and plead innocent when you were one of the men, like Tenet, who could have done something about it. Had you had the courage of your convictions to stand up to the Neocon war hawks all salivating about Saddam Hussein's oil, you could have done something. You could have changed history.

But now you are but a footnote. You tried to stop the war? Well good for you. You didn't 'try' hard enough, by any means, to save your reputation and your career as a politician. Your preposterous demonstration at the United Nations which so many swallowed wholeheartedly because they were desperate to believe was a major piece of acting and duplicity.

To come back now, sniveling and pleading that you 'tried' to talk the president out of it doesn't cut it. Not by a long way. Take a good long look at Iraq and the Iraqis dying every day. You could have prevented that if you had the foresight, as so many had, that it was not going to work. But you chose to toe the line. That, dear sir, will be your albatross forever.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


237 is the number of Iraqis killed as reported by AntiWar.Com this past Saturday, July 6, 2007. They died while the McCains, Giulianis and Liebermans of this world slept and while G.W. Bush rambled on about the surge and the need to win “so that they don’t follow us back home.”

One hundred and fifty died in a single truck bomb explosion. Every person who supported this war should have these people's deaths on their conscience. This war, this toppling of a regime, this ongoing futile attempt at parsing the Middle East to the pleasures of the West is, has been and will be recorded as a crime against humanity.

How do Iraqis see us, we in the West with our lofty ideals of democracy and our righteousness? I’m pretty sure I know how we see Iraqis. Last night a friend told me that there were videos posted by the military showing eerie night vision scenes of men engaging in sex acts with animals coming out of Iraq. I’m sure for half a trillion dollars I could obtain similar material from the mountains of Tennessee or the Kansas plains but this material confirms our deepest desire that we are better than them and their deaths are unimportant. How do Iraqis see us?

Three American soldiers were kidnapped recently by Iraqi nationals, unleashing the biggest manhunt in Iraq since the war started. Thousands of troops comb through fields, rivers and brush to find a trace of the missing men, because every man counts. ‘No man left behind’ is the credo.

A bomb goes off and a soldier is wounded. Helicopters arrive as if from nowhere to evacuate him whilst he is tended to by several men. The world news reports the incident. He is awarded a medal.

A soldier dies and his body is recuperated. The men in his platoon pay homage to a small shrine in his name and weep at his passing. His body is placed in a casket and flown home for around $20,000 to his relatives, where a large gathering of people including men at arms who never personally knew him gather. They speak about the loss and the dreams that will not be fulfilled. His remains are lowered into a grave to the tune of a bugle and the flag that draped his coffin is accurately folded and handed to his family whilst seven men fire their weapons three times into the sky. At his head is a carved tombstone stating who he was and when he lived and died.

237 Iraqi civilians are shredded by bombs, bullets and knives. Their deaths are reported in a small article which does not, can not even mention their names. They are carried in trucks to the morgue, heaped upon each other like animals dying of a plague, nameless and numberless. They are not even a statistic. They lie in rows, blood drying on them, flies and maggots infesting them until some relative somewhere can identify them. They are wrapped in rags or whatever is at hand and laid to rest in makeshift, sometimes common graves with a misshapen lump of rock as a headstone.Why do we still think that these people can understand what we want? How can we tell Iraqis that what we did was for them? How do we have the gall to even face them and look them in the eye? In the corridors of power people bandy words around like "benchmark" and "milestone" and "democracy". But in the small village of Amerli in Iraq, a mother just wants to know why her son has been reduced to a smoldering corpse and why no one in the West cares.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rhetoric and The Voice of Freedom

Bush's Fourth of July Speech was full of it. I mean the stuff that is expelled from a Bull's behind.

Analyzing the collection of inane phrases doesn't take long and the core of it is two lies and a veiled admission, found in the White House release of the July 4th speech:

Lie No. 1: "It's a tough fight, but I wouldn't have asked those troops to go into harm's way if the fight was not essential to the security of the United States of America."

Wrong. You asked those troops to fight because you and your little group of evil-doers had an agenda. That agenda was Iraq and Iraq's oil fields. It also settled an old score for you so you killed two birds with one stone. Iraq was a broken country, Saddam Hussein a paper tiger. You've squandered billions on a war you fought for comfort - so that people could continue driving enormous SUVs - not for their security.

If you wanted to do something for people's security, you would have pushed through a bill for stem cell research so that people like my acquaintance Bill, who has suffered from cancer for years and is now cancer free thanks to stem cell intervention.

With 500 billion dollars you could have beefed up port security so that more than the continuing 5% of containers could be checked. With 500 billion dollars you could have transformed the relationship between this country and Arab Muslims so that they didn't believe you were on a crusade to destroy them. maybe if you had spent that 500 billion wisely, they would believe you and not their Imams ranting about the evil West.

But you chose bombs and men at arms and in doing so have jeopardized the security of the United States, not defended it.

Lie No. 2: Many of the spectacular car bombings and killings you see are as a result of al Qaeda -- the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th. A major enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that dared attack the United States on that fateful day.

Wrong. The people planting bombs in Iraq are anywhere between disenfranchised Sunnis whose country you took away from them, frustrated fanatical Shia who were not handed the entire country on a platter and a faction that likes to associate itself with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan but does so unilaterally. There is no evidence that anyone associated with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is funding, helping or guiding the so-called "Iraqi Al Qaeda."

If Al Qaeda did attack America on 9/11 then they did so before you blundered into Iraq with your army. They did so before Al Qaeda had even considered setting up shop in Iraq. Now you have given them not only a pretext to do so but the tools to do it with. You have now given them a country in which they can, by your own words, operate pretty much without hindrance and you have given them, above all, thousands of new recruits.

So what did Bush say that was right, if anything? Well, he did mention the three letter word: 'oil.' From his speech:

If we were to allow them to gain control of Iraq, they would have control of a nation with massive oil reserves -- which they could use to fund new attacks and exhort economic blackmail on those who didn't kowtow to their wishes.

So here we have the kernel of the whole thing again. Basically, the United States invaded Iraq so that it could fund new attacks and exhort economic blackmail on those who didn't kowtow to its wishes. How else do I interpret that. Because before the invasion, there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq - there was just Saddam Hussein and the oil was his. There was no one who would be funded or who wanted anyone to kowtow to anything - just a dictator. But there are plenty of those - just not many with half a billion barrels of oil beneath them.

Oil is something that is sneaking up more and more often into speeches by Cheney and Bush with regards to Iraq. It is a very subtle and insidious process by which slowly, they introduce 'oil' as an invasion argument, their Casus belli and in Australia, the Defense Minister simply blurted it out as reported by the BBC:

Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has admitted that securing oil supplies is a key factor behind the presence of Australian troops in Iraq. He said maintaining "resource security" in the Middle East was a priority.

The fundamental importance of that statement is simply this: time has now worked its magic. WMDs are a long forgotten thing in our attention deficient society and the truth that surfaces every now and then bubbles up like some demonic black mold that we all know is there but only a few are willing to face as fact and is briefly reported on before being pooh-poohed by someone else as not being the "only" reason for having invaded Iraq. So Bush was able to say "oil" and "Iraq" in the same breath in his July 4th speech and no one is really shocked.

The effect is a ripple by which this becomes the accepted rhetoric and soon, they'll be able to say "we always said it was about the oil." That, my dear friends, is the message when you peel away the semantics about the War of Independence and all that stuff about purple hearts and brave soldiers. Funny that Bush should wax so lyrical about purple hearts when he was at the centre of the purple heart band-aid scandal that was aimed at Kerry in 2004.

No, oil is a touchy subject and we are experiencing an insidiously planned campaign to feather out that fact that everyone knows but which the right wing has forcefully rejected: Iraq was invaded for oil and we have to win the war so that we get to keep the oil. That's what American and British soldiers have been dying for in that country far, far away.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Nothing-to-Lose President

It was surely a tough call for Bush. Relegated to absolute meaninglessness by the events of the past four years, Bush is on the sidelines watching the world drift by as his Presidency devolves into a mish-mash of abject failures, disasters and catastrophes. The Plame affair I am sure haunted him for months with the specter of Fitzgerald hanging over Rove, Cheney and Bush. So when Libby was caught lying and went to trial, the trio sat watching their nightmare unfold and then Libby was nailed and he was sentenced.

Libby was to go to jail for having lied under oath. It’s called perjury and the Republicans have not ceased to tell the rest of us how bad that is. Because Clinton lied under oath about oral sex, the right was up in arms, ready to bring down the Presidency and anything else with it. Libby lied under oath and was sentenced and now Bush had to decide what to do. He didn’t hesitate for long – either way he was going to lose yet again.

The man who can’t even go fishing without getting his boat stuck off the Kennebunkport coast as
recently reported in the Huffington Post, had to make a decision and that decision, was to let a perjurer off the hook. The choice was not a hard one to make because Bush has nothing left to lose. A presidency in tatters with a legacy tainted by a 500 billion dollar war fiasco, an entire city virtually obliterated by a hurricane with a floundering Federal Agency unable to help its inhabitants and a failed Immigration Bill leaves Bush on the gangplank of life with nothing left to do but jump. So Libby’s sentence had to be commuted. In his position, you need all the friends you can get.

Is this the action of a “decider”? Is this the judgment of a “Commander Guy”? No, this is what you do when you are bailing out. Bush has only one hope and that is to make it to the end of his Presidency without the sky falling on his head. Like Indiana Jones, a rather over-flattering comparison I’ll admit, who runs out of the temple he has just plundered with rocks and boulders falling from the ceilings and walls crashing down behind him, chased by a fireball of disgust and a tidal wave of mistrust, Bush is scampering out of the hidden temple having defiled it. But unlike Indiana Jones, he hasn’t got the relic tucked into his waistband; he hasn’t got the treasure packed under his arm. He is empty handed, disheveled and beaten.

The only thing he can do is pull all the ‘get out of jail free’ cards for himself and his friends that he can lay his hands on. No one doubted that Bush would grant Libby a pardon. It’s the only thing he can still do that demonstrates that he is still President. It’s his Daseinsberechtigung and without it, he would vanish like a tiny soap bubble, bursting soundlessly as the world moves on, recovering from that disastrous era stained by a presidency so repulsive that no one wants to even touch it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Wholesale Slaughter

Desensitization to multiple killings in foreign countries is nothing new. Fighting in Iraq kills around 100 people every single day. But it is a vaguely defined enemy or even a vaguely defined insurgency that is doing the killing. Factional fighting and infighting; nothing to do with ‘us.’ But what happens when it is ‘us’ that are killing hundreds of civilians? Griff Witte and Javed Hamdard report of such a massacre in today's Washington Post Foreign Service Section:

Afghan officials reported Saturday that possibly 100 or more civilians had been killed in a NATO and U.S.-led assault.

"More than 100 people have been killed. But they weren't Taliban. The Taliban were far away from there," said Wali Khan, a member of parliament who represents the area. Another parliament member from Helmand, Mahmood Anwar, said that the death toll was close to 100 and that the dead included women and children.

Sometimes collateral damage is just a nice word for massacre. "Oops" is just not good enough and the military's continuing lackadaisical mumblings about being "deeply saddened by any loss of innocent lives," just doesn't cut it.

It is not feasible to uphold an ethical code condemning Taliban attacks on civilians when your own military is killing even more of them. The repeated claims that these women and children are being used as human shields is not an excuse to then target and kill them.

The Afghans have had thirty years of warfare in their country - we have taken over where the Russians left off. A sense of shame however, would be too much to ask from the belligerent, all knowing, all seeing, holders of the supposed moral torch that we in the West have become.