Friday, September 28, 2007

Gosh Darn It!

Darth Cheney foiled by his past again!

A video which has surfaced from 1992 shows Cheney utering these immortal words:

"The bottom line question for me was: How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? The answer: not very damn many."

There goes that argument for invading Iraq I guess. Or else he doesn't consider 4,000 to be that many American lives. Dang! Don't you hate it when there's no easy way out of a conundrum?

Who Are the Bad Guys?

A very disturbing report appeared in today's NYT:

In anguished, eloquent sentences, Sergeant Vela, a member of an elite sniper scout platoon with the First Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, quietly described how his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, cut off the man’s handcuffs, wrestled him to his feet and ordered Sergeant Vela, standing a few feet away, to fire the 9-millimeter service pistol into the detainee’s head.

Of course this is not the norm and of course this is rare. But it happens and it happens often enough to bear thinking about. The article goes on to say that the platoon was exhausted by a military leadership desperate to raise the body count.

Remember when Rummy said "Well, we don't do body counts on other people."

Well actually we do. It's a body count war and it's increasingly become a body count war; 35 insurgents killed here, 65 Taliban killed there.... but no real confirmation, nebulous numbers while those on the ground cry out about civilian dead and the US Army flails around trying to win over a now unwinnable population, mercenaries disguised as security forces that fire into crowds and soldiers who murder innocents at the drop of a hat.

It will, no it has, driven America's standing in the world to a depth that I cannot remember and always the pressure from the top; kill, kill, kill because that's the only answer they have for their own failure.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Splitting

The Senate is feeling warm and fuzzy these days. In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate has overwhelmingly endorsed a solution for the mess in Iraq which would result in the country being split into three semi-autonomous regions. The plan, which was developed by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), was approved with a 75-23 margin as a non-binding resolution.

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray quotes Biden as saying: "This has genuine bipartisan support,and I think that's a very hopeful sign,"

Woohoo! Hooray! Everything's going to be great in Iraq!

What am I missing here? That American politicians still haven’t understood the nature of the calamity that they’ve created? Surely not?

But that appears to be the case.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who recently withdrew his support for a plan that was to extend leave for US troops in Iraq after being pressured by the White House calls this idea “the high water mark” for bipartisan efforts in Iraq, after acknowledging that Iraq is a problem that basically cannot be solved militarily. What we are seeing is a bunch, there is no other suitable collective term for Senate lawmakers these days, of Senators who believe that because THEY have found consensus on a point, the Iraqis are going along with it.

The incredible, phenomenal arrogance that these people possess is beyond me. War was declared on a reasonably if not well functioning, autonomous country with a declaration that this war would free its people and now, when that has failed and all those responsible are throwing their hands in the air exclaiming “who’d a thunk it!?” they propose to split the country up. But it isn’t their country to split up!

What happened to “Iraq is a free country now?” What happened to the autonomous Iraq? What happened to Iraqis deciding their own future? That’s been wiped off the table after the abject failure of the American military to secure the country and this decision to split Iraq has one, very strong message which flies in the face of everything General Petraeus told Congress: the surge has failed and has no chance of success.

But what are the consequences of a split Iraq? Splitting Iraq up is the parachute the Republicans have been looking for, but it bodes ill for the region. It's the quick 'just add boiling water' quick-fix. Everything we have learned in the past 80 years tells us that drawing artificial demographic lines is a short term solution which produces a time bomb for the future. There is not a region in the world where a European power marked artificial delineations between states that did not end up in turmoil, civil war and strife down the line and the problems in the Middle East primarily stem from that approach.

So when violent war breaks out between the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds and the Turks, because the United States Congress decided on a whim where to draw imaginary lines to produce three so-called semi-autonomous states whilst patting their fat bellies and belching up their martinis, please don’t say “who’d a thunk it?”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Off Topic: Orchiectomy

Orchiectomy is the polite medical definition for surgically removing someone's (single) testicle which is what happened to me yesterday as a result of the cancer diagnosis two weeks ago. It appears that they got everything and, apart from having lost a previously treasured body part, I'm recovering nicely. I have to say that I look like a butcher went at me with a meat cleaver. The incision is about five inches long and runs diagonally down from roughly where one might suspect one's appendix might be towards the remaining crown jewels which, I am happy to say were spared and which I am also happy to report continue to function flawlessly in all manner of speaking. All movement is however accompanied by the same level of pain as one would expect from a broadsword stab in the same region so I'm not about to go for a run.

My CT-Scan form last week showed my abdomen clear of tumors apart from two nodules in my lungs which are very small and which I believe will turn out to be nothing problematic, but they will be running tests on those in the coming few days or weeks. I will also be doing a course of radiation or chemo treatment – the doctors haven’t decided which yet.

By the way, they also shaved me 'down there' as part of the procedure, which is what one would expect. It is an interesting experience and I'm sorry to say new to me, but it does have certain interesting advantages which I think would stretch the limits of posting on this blog so I won't. What some of you may not know and others may not want to know is that they also replace the extracted unit with a prosthetic one. One actually only needs one testicle, it seems, to function properly, but two do dress a man better, I have to agree. I did ask if they could replace it with a brass one but that didn't seem to be in the realm of the possible - it just seemed it would have been nice to say "I do'" the next time someone says "you must have balls made of brass!"

In any case, I'm recovering nicely and have a whole boatload of Vicodin to keep me company to keep the pain at bay and, although I haven't taken one yet, I'm about to and I'll drift off to a nice codeine high which should make enough of you jealous to want pre-emptive surgical removal of a testicle just for the drugs.


It appears that things may be worse than they seem. What have you got if you've got a world leader who doesn't know how to pronounce the names of the leaders and the countries that he's supposedly leader of?

In an embarrassment to the White House, a draft of a speech by Bush to the UN was accidentally prematurely released and posted on the UN website along with the cell phone numbers of the speechwriters.

ABC News' Ann Compton and Jennifer Duck report:

Pronunciations for President Bush's friend French President Sarkozy "[sar-KOzee]" appeared in draft #20 on the UN website. Other pronunciations included the Mugabe "[moo-GAHbee] regime" and pronunciations for countries "Kyrgyzstan [KEYRgeez-stan]" and "Mauritania [moor-EH-tain-ee-a]."

Of course, maybe other 'world leaders' had phonetic spellings in their speeches too. Of course this is a minor point and not really half as important as the outrage over a full page advertisement in the NYT.

But it's still sad that we are repetitively faced with the fact that someone with the brain of a sparrow and the education of a small dog can still become leader of the supposed 'free world' and can be the 'decider' about whether thousands and thousands of people are going to die or not.

It just isn't right.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Losing Touch With Reality

In 1985 I made a trip with my father on motorcycles. He on a BMW RS80 and I on a rather shoddier and cheaper, but nonetheless functional Yamaha 650 across the States from Ohio to the West Coast and back again. It was an epic trip and one that I remember well and remember with great fondness, even the sweltering heat of Kansas, the rolling miles of corn above which we couldn’t see it was so high, the scorching dryness of death Valley and even the trip on 80 from Sacramento to Reno where we got bogged down in 15 inches of snow. There were hundreds of beautiful, breathtaking sights on the way which of course included the Grand Canyon and I understood for the first time why some people referred to this part of the world as God’s country. One of my most memorable experiences was the fascinating beauty of Colorado’s Western slope, when one has left the sheer ruggedness of the Rockies. We wound our way down from the Rocky Mountains spending a night at Steamboat Springs and then taking the beautiful highway 131 and then 133 on to the stunning Black Canyon of the Gunnison via little towns called Basalt, Gypsum and Granite. From there we rode on to Durango and the next day we visited Mesa Verde National Park with the spectacular cave dwellings of the Pueblo People.

One would imagine with a natural treasure trove such as this one, every effort would be made to conserve it and who better to do that than “conservatives.” But unfortunately the label is a misnomer in this case. It turns out that the White House, ever greedy for more oil for its buddies has turned this once magnificent corner of the United States and turned it into an industrial junk yard. I can already hear the right wing protests that the area affected is tiny, that the search for resources is necessary to rid us of the evil Middle Eastern monkey we have on our backs who keeps selling us oil, that you can’t really see the oil and gas drilling units or the thousands of trucks which now thunder up Highway 131.

However the local population, mostly stoic conservatives themselves see it differently. Colorado, the epitome of the red state is slowly turning blue as more and more of its populace react angrily to the rape of their once pristine state by the Bush Administration as Karl Vick of the Washington Post reports. Landowners report black sludge and sulfurous odors in their homes. Hydraulic drilling for gas fractures the subterranean rock formations which enclose and contain the drinking water wells and reservoirs for the region.

"I can only speak for myself and I'm a registered Republican, but last year I voted a straight Democratic ticket. First time in my life," said Bob Elderkin, 68, …."The Republicans have kind of lost touch with reality."

We may never know how George Bush managed to get elected a second time, whether by stealing the Ohio vote or whether there just were too many people out there so blinded by so little that they couldn’t see this freight train of horrors upon which the Bush Administration was riding. But this too is to be added onto the growing list of disasters that can be attributed to them and the entire Republican Party. They have managed to destroy some of America’s most sublime scenery, some of its most dazzling landscapes for short term profit and power and they will still defend their actions. I can only hope for a backlash against the Republicans of such magnitude that they finally stop and think about what it is they doing to the country they pretend to be representing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A day after 9-11

One day after the anniversary of 9-11 is an appropriate opportunity to comment on the grave robber mentality that has become the hallmark of the Bush administration. Six years ago a terrible tragedy catapulted New York and the United States onto every television screen in the world and within an hour of the first plane hitting the World Trade centre, the world was united in condemning the actions of the terrorists who perpetrated this abominable act and the world declared solidarity with the American people. Media attempts to show Palestinians celebrating were quickly shown to have been manipulated, stories of Afghans making victory signs were soon proved untrue. Perhaps for the first time ever, there was a feeling of global unity to stop the horror.

It was indeed the jackpot for Bush. He could have launched a worldwide strategy for keeping the nations of the world united, it could have been the starting point for a real global fight to stop terror, to stop wars and to stop the killing. It was a moment to reach across to those who felt themselves as not belonging to this new age and to show them that we are all in this together. It was a moment to show the world that the United States was about peace and freedom and not about war and hegemony.

Well, he blew his moment.

Bush used up all the goodwill, all the power and all his “political credit” in order to invade Iraq. It was a gamble and it was even well set up. There was an initial half-hearted stab at getting Bin Laden and then the propaganda machine started grinding into action, crushing any and all objections beneath its patriotic tracks as it lumbered across the American Nation carrying its message deep into the heartland: “Iraq and 9-11 are linked.”

That tactic still hasn’t stopped and as Salon’s Gary Kamiya wrote in a piece yesterday, Bush referred to Al-Qaeda 95 times in a speech about Iraq. He’s still at it plugging away at the only card he has left: that which banks on the ignorance of the people to discern between Al-Qaeda that carried out the deadly attacks on September 11, 2001 and Al-Qaeda wannabes in Iraq.

It’s no coincidence that General Petraeus’ report on the progress of the so-called ‘surge’ is brought to us on September 11. It’s no coincidence that Bush and Cheney keep plugging away at the connection that never existed between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. So it comes as no surprise to hear about a new advertisement campaign organized by a group known as Freedom’s Watch, a rag-tag group of wealthy Bush allies amongst who’s founders is former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. The Washington Post reports that four spots are airing in 60 congressional districts in 20 states and the ads have one aim: to plug the idea of staying the course and to link Iraq with the events that tragically happened six years ago and in order to do so, the Bush Junta of course turns to the epitomy of sacrifice: a wounded American soldier.
The television commercial is grim and gripping:

A soldier who lost both legs in an explosion near Fallujah explains why he thinks U.S. forces need to stay in Iraq.

"They attacked us," he says as the screen turns to an image of the second hijacked airplane heading toward the smoking
World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. "And they will again. They won't stop in Iraq."

Ari Fleischer defends the ads and says it is not misleading to say “they attacked us” whilst showing pictures of Iraq and then talk about Iraq whilst showing pictures of 9-11. Ari Fleischer maintains that “Nine-one-one is a bona fide, legitimate reason to remind people…why we need to win in Iraq.”

The truth is that the group of politicians who nearly fell over themselves to start the war that has turned into the biggest political fiasco in America’s history, the Rumsfelds, the Bushes, the Cheneys and the Wolfowitzes were never concerned about the victims of the World Trade Center disaster. They were concerned with only one thing: getting to the oil and they thought they had it sown up!

They had a cause, they had a crusade and they had a wound they could stick a knife into and twist every time the American people became restless. They could manipulate the logic, fake the intelligence and the stupid population would swallow it – it was a golden opportunity to take Iraq, take Baghdad and funnel the oil into the hands of the US oil conglomerates. So what if we have to give the British a few drops – lets take them on board too. It’ll be a cakewalk and by the time the dust has settled and the war’s over everyone will have forgotten about the half-truths and the deceptions that got us there. There’ll be lots of happy Iraqis, Ahmad Chalabi’ll see to that and when they wave their purple thumbs whilst showering our troops with flowers and sweets the public’ll go nuts – nuts I tell ya. They’ll love it!

Only it didn’t happen that way. The 9-11 story should be about remembering what hate does and remembering the fact that innocent people were killed because others felt they were expendable. Innocent blood was spilled because criminals had no sense of ethics. Innocent children were left without a father or a mother because someone, somewhere, thought they had the God-given right to bring death and destruction onto a people. Instead, Bush, Cheney, Rice, Pearle, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld used the victims of 9-11 to justify doing the dame thing to another country, another people and this time, leave 100,000 dead and millions homeless because they felt they had the right to do so and for that, they can never, ever be forgiven.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The making of a lie

A Salon article by Sidney Blumenthal states that two CIA operatives have confirmed Tyler Drumheller’s account of the developments between Tenet and Bush with regards to the intelligence received from Naji Sabri, Saddam Hussein’s Foreign Minister. Drumheller stated that Tenet had informed Bush prior to the war in Iraq on the findings of the Naji Sabri debriefings. Sabri had been paid up to $200,000 by the CIA alone and more by French Intelligence to divulge information about Saddam Hussein's WMD programs and had stated categorically that Saddam Hussein may have wanted to have WMDs but that he had none and that Hussein’s engineers had told him that they could build a crude atom bomb in two years if they had fissile material, but they didn’t.

Instead Bush avidly concentrated on the famous agent codenamed “curveball” an alleged chemical engineer who told the CIA and specifically the Bush Administration what they wanted to hear. Drumheller considered ‘curveball’ to be a fake and indeed, it turned out that he wasn’t an engineer at all, but an unemployed taxi driver. Tenet had also told Bush that curveball’s information was at odds with what Sabri had been telling the CIA and that Sabri was considered a highly reliable informant. Bush’s reaction was to call it “the same old thing,” and he disregarded it completely.

The CIA officers in question who had originally written the Sabri memo waited for it to return to them but it never did. Instead a different memo which had been rewritten came to them which put a completely different slant on the Sabri information. One of the CIA agents is quoted as saying:

"Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."

And so we went to war on a lie. Game, set and match.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Another "Oops" Moment for Bush

Edmund Andrew’s of the New York Times reports how President Bush is caught in yet another lie. On Monday, excerpts of a new book on Bush were made public in which Bush chastises his Administration and in particular Paul Bremer III for having disbanded Saddam Hussein’s army after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bush expresses disappointment and frustration that “policy was not followed,” policy allegedly having been to keep the Iraqi military intact.

“Not so!” says Bremer, who proceeds to supply the NYT with evidence that Bush was well aware of the plans to break up the Iraqi forces and that he agreed to those plans.

A previously undisclosed exchange of letters shows that President Bush was told in advance by his top Iraq envoy in May 2003 of a plan to “dissolve Saddam’s military and intelligence structures,” a plan that the envoy, L. Paul Bremer, said referred to dismantling the Iraqi Army.

Maybe Bush was unaware that ‘military’ and ‘army’ are basically the same thing. Who knows?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about how the USA and possibly the United Kingdom is preparing for an eventual strike against Iran. Whilst war games and strategy concepts are an every day occurrence at military planning facilities, there is a real fear that the rabid Neoconservative leadership would be quite capable of actually effectuating a military strike. They may or may not seek Congress approval and if they do, I suspect that Congress, even with a Democratic majority, will buckle, driven by the Democrats’ absolute terror of being labeled unpatriotic or worse, “girlie men.” They may simply start a short bombing campaign designed to cripple Iran militarily and economically and say they are not actually ‘at war’ and therefore did not need to seek approval from Congress.

President Bush and members of his cabinet have been running the same phrases in reference to Iran as they did with reference to pre-war Iraq, claiming Iran to be “a threat to nations everywhere.” At the same time, more and more so-called “national security experts” from the Pentagon are claiming that there are detailed plans in place to obliterate the Middle Eastern country. Sarah Baxter of the Sunday Times reports:

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

The comments were made at The Nixon Center during a meeting organized by The National Interest, a conservative journal. The idea is that Iran will react in the same way whether it is subjected to a protracted bombing campaign, such as a few dozen cruise missiles, or a massive military strike designed to reduce the country to rubble. However there is another point to be made while military strategists exchange ideas about how many bombs to drop where over a chilled martini; if there is a strike it will result in massive civilian deaths. The bigger the strike, the more innocent people will die. The count in Iraq is now beyond 75,000 dead civilians and that only includes the confirmed deaths. The numbers could be much higher. That is the result of war.

Of course Iran will also retaliate and it may retaliate in the only way it can – through terrorism. Iran already does not have the capability of striking back at the full power of a military that has an annual budget higher than the entire Iranian GDP. So it will resort to the only weapon it can – terror. What is the West to do then? Are we to cry foul? Are we to resort to a moral high ground where we claim it is acceptable for us to plan military strikes against countries, to publish these plans, to threaten and insinuate and then to carry out a military campaign which is absolutely sure to result in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and conveniently label these “collateral damage” whilst claiming that retaliatory action is not allowed because it doesn’t fit in our concept of fair play?

How did we ever become so delusional that we assume that this will in any way stabilize what has become a very unstable boat ever since the Neocons destroyed the balance in the Middle East by bringing Saddam Hussein’s regime crashing down without so much as a blithe thought about the consequences only now, to turn around and exclaim with a shrug and upturned palms: “Who’d a thunk it?” An attack on Iran will catapult the entire region into an abyss which could threaten to drag most of the world down with it and all for George Bush’s ego because he has to prove that he is not as redundant as he seems or for Cheney’s outlandish plans to secure Middle Eastern oil for the Western oil conglomerates waiting in the wings? It is at best a spurious, self-deceptive concept - at worst, sheer madness.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying: "Be good to thy Friend to keep him, to thy enemy to gain him."

How did we stray so far and how did we lose touch with the wisdom of those who's legacy we pretend to defend?