Thursday, January 31, 2008

One million?

We will probably never know the full extent of the damage caused by the Iraq war and we will probably never know the real cost in human lives. But some groups are trying to find the latter out and the way they go about it is that they are questioning members of individual families about deaths related to the conflict within that family.

The latest poll conducted by ORB and published by Reuters has been shocking:

LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - More than one million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to research conducted by one of Britain's leading polling groups.

The poll has an accuracy, says ORB, of 1.7%. However, even if the poll was out by 20% it would be a statistic to make one pause and think.

It would also be a statistic that finally puts to bed the question of whether toppling Saddam was worth it or not.

If at all accurate, it would mean that George Bush put into motion events that killed a million people who shouldn’t have been killed. His ‘oops’ caused a million deaths. That’s the sort of figure that would normally carry the tag of “mass murderer.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bush Destroyed The Republican Party

No, don’t look at me – I think George Bush destroyed America, but here I’m just the messenger. The person who actually said this is none other than the right’s beloved, iconic Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal.

George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.

I don’t doubt Noonan’s analysis. What puzzles me is that any Republicans out there still support Bush. Do they really hate the Republican Party that much?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


It’s the number of false statements the bush Administration made with regards to the security threat represented by Iraq in the wake of 9/11. The findings, by two independent non-profit journalism organizations conclude that the Bush Administration stated unequivocally on at least 532 separate occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or that they were trying to obtain them, or had links to Al Qaeda.

Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith, staff members of the Fund for Independence in Journalism are quoted by the Huffington Post as saying:

"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Iraq Vets: Killing Civilians is Policy

I’m certain that the usual talking heads will splutter and huff and puff and vehemently deny that this is true, but at the end of the day, one can only pit one point of view against another. A group called Iraqi Veterans Against the War have accused the US military of targeting civilians as The Raw Story reports:

"The killing of innocent civilians is policy," said veteran Mike Blake. "It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."

It is easy to understand why members of the military past and present would want to deny this and a lot harder to understand why someone would actually come out and state that this is the case and that they took part in such actions.

I fully expect the right that loves the military as long as they play by their rules, i.e. we don’t want to see bodies of Americans, the only casualties we want to know about are Arabs which we can refer to as terrorists, especially if they are dead and we don’t want to hear about atrocities unless they’ve been committed by the other side, to swift boat this group of veterans.

They will very quickly forget the “service to their country” that these soldiers performed and will forget the sacrifices these soldiers made. But these veterans, like the Winter Soldier veterans of 1971, are truly courageous, because in a country such as this where so much is focused on the military, it is harder to speak up. Faced with fellow soldiers who don’t want to hear this it’s harder to speak up. Confronted with what society expects from you it is harder to speak up.

As Maggie Kuhn said, “speak your mind even if your voice shakes.”

These veterans are doing just that and should be applauded not derided.

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's The Economy, Stupid

This could also be entitled ‘Denial is Not a River.’

What I want to know is where is the right? They should be on the barricades by now. But they continue to pretend that all is well and that the Bush cut-taxes-for-the-rich economy is working. Well it isn’t.

When the first indicators started appearing back in August of last year, the DOW was heading up to “another all-time-high” as the idiots on FOX News announced and with broad grins and puffed out little chests they denounced those that were more cautious and were already warning about the sub-prime crisis. But in today’s America, the real economical data is glossed over and scrapped for a superficial “everything’s great” approach. As late as December experts were still apparently oblivious to the real state of the union’s finances.

One of the major factors here is that the giant corrections that the market experienced when the tech bubble burst along with 9/11 (sorry to sound like Rudi but it really did have an effect) was that the economy slowed significantly from its Clinton days. This was, I’m sure a thorn in the Republicans’ side but their myopic approach to fixing the problem basically was to put a tax-cut band-aid on a gushing arterial wound. To move things along, the housing market was poked and jostled into action and Alan Greenspan decided, when interest rates were at a record low, to suggest ARM mortgages over fixed rate loans.

Millions of Americans were able to buy their houses for the first time as sub-prime borrowers suddenly qualified for houses which were already at utopic prices. The result is the sub-prime disaster and it has not gone away. Only to listen to FOX News or the right wing pundits, you would think it was nothing. Peanuts. But it isn’t. Merill Lynch just posted its biggest quarterly loss ever, Lehmann Bros. are axing jobs and homebuilding has seen its sharpest drop in 27 years. Building permits have dropped to levels not seen since 33 years ago as reported by CNN Money. The ensuing result is that the nations largest builders and at the same time, employers are reeling with huge losses.

That weakness has also hammered at the results of the nation's largest builders. A week ago KB Home (
KBH, Fortune 500), the nation's No. 5 builder by revenue, reported a fiscal fourth quarter loss that was nearly 10 times worse than forecasts, as CEO Jeff Mezger told investors during a conference call that "As we enter 2008, we see no indication markets are stabilizing."

The DOW Jones Industrial average is almost back to where it was when Bush took office and basically, if an index doesn’t move forward, it’s going backwards against inflation.

Recession around the corner? No! The recession is here and what does FOX News report:

Bush to Lay Out Plan to Put Money in Your Pocket. President Bush to Push for Tax Rebates, Breaks for Businesses to Keep Economy Growing.

Economy growing? Growing? Guys, the economy is in free fall. Bush dropped the ball. He’s destroyed an unfathomable amount of capital, shredded the value of the US dollar and caused record foreclosures in the housing market. It’s the economy, stupid.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Iraq is Not What It Was

Just as in Afghanistan, where in the wake of the US led war on the Taliban, farmers were left without any sort of income and a large proportion turned to growing opium poppies, Iraqi farmers are now seeing themselves forced to do the same as The Independent reports:

The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops…..

The speed with which farmers are turning to poppies is confirmed by the Iraqi news agency al-Malaf Press, which says that opium is now being produced around the towns of Khalis, Sa'adiya, Dain'ya and south of Baladruz…

Afghanistan has now become the world’s number one exporter of heroin, providing over 75% of the world’s market. The Afghan opium is normally processed in Afghanistan and then shipped through Iraq. This process was allegedly impossible during Saddam Hussein’s time because of his fanatical dislike of drugs and his control of ports such as Basra.

Although there seem to be no labs in Iraq as yet, one can imagine it is only a matter of time. The question is, who is going to stop or even control this? Is this the next thing the US army is going to have to deal with?

Just for the record, since the US led invasion the following has changed in Iraq:

Women are afraid to go on the streets without traditional muslim dress [check]
Christians are no longer free to worship where they wish [check]
Most of Baghdad is without power and water most of the time [check]
On average about 50 Iraqis die from violence in Baghdad every day [check]
Iraq has started growing opium poppies [check]

That’s a pretty impressive record considering the country was apparently ‘freed.’ Good on ya’ George.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

White House Destroyed Back-Up Tapes

The Raw Story reports that the White House, which has up till now refused to cooperate in the case of the missing emails regarding the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, has now in fact come up with a statement a few minutes - let's repeat that - a few minutes before their court-ordered midnight deadline ran out:

The White House has acknowledged recycling its backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003, raising the possibility that many electronic messages — including those pertaining to the CIA leak case — have been taped over and are gone forever.

How convenient.

Pentagon Sexed Up Straits of Hormuz Incident

Gareth Porter of analyses the dissemination of the Straits of Hormuz incident and provides a clear description of how what was a pretty routine and normal event for the Navy in those waters, was warmed up by the Pentagon into the international incident that pointed to Iran as an aggressive enemy.

The timing is interesting for this propaganda piece, which came on the eve of a trip by George Bush to the Middle East where he intended, amongst other things to beg the Saudis for more oil and also convince Middle Eastern leaders that Iran was a threat. The incident itself however was so normal that neither the Navy nor the Pentagon saw fit to report it. Only after a strategic decision was taken to ramp up the anti-Iranian rhetoric, did military officials turn it into the story that it wasn’t.

Central to the events of that day is the recording of a threatening voice that is heard on the accompanying video. That voice, it turns out was spliced into the recording in order to give the argument that the Iranian boats were threatening, some weight:

A separate audio recording of that voice, which came across the VHF channel open to anyone with access to it, was spliced into a video on which the voice apparently could not be heard. That was a political decision, and Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon's Public Affairs Office told IPS the decision on what to include in the video was "a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command, and Navy leadership in the field."

The whole was intended as a demonstration of how dangerous Iran is to the peace efforts of the coalition forces in the area and was designed to coincide with efforts by the Bush Administration to align the Middle Eastern countries with the USA and Israel in their aggressive anti-Iranian stance.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Olmert of Israel, George Bush went so far as to discredit his own country’s NIE on Iran, which stated that Iran had in fact ceased work on a nuclear weapons program as far back as 2003. The Newsweek article quotes a senior Bush Administration official as saying:

"He told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own views"

I guess his own views are those very same gut feelings that told him Iraq was full of WMDs. In my opinion the guy should seek out a gastrologist.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Most Logical Answer

Large sheets of ice that were previously thought to be unaffected by global warming are now shrinking.

Previously, only ice sheets along the Northern tip of Antarctica near South America had been observed to be melting. The latest findings are that ice sheets in Western Antarctica are now also melting causing scientists to rethink the rising sea-level models that they had up till now held.

This is occurring actually across the board where the melting of ice caps in mountainous regions is also accelerating faster than predicted as witnessed by Professor Lonnie Thompson and stated in his keynote lecture at Ohio State University:

"The information from Antarctica is consistent with what we are seeing in all other areas with glaciers -- a melting or retreat that is occurring faster than predicted," he said. "Glaciers, and especially the high-elevation tropical glaciers, are a real canary in the coal mine. They're telling us that major climatic changes are occurring."

The potential disaster: the ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica both melt at the same time which could raise sea levels by several meters. Even if one does not believe that man is causing global warming, one should be attuned to the fact that we may at least be contributing to it and we should therefore be doing everything to try and reduce that contribution by as much as possible.

The article in the Washington Post goes on:

Martinson said researchers do not have enough data to say for certain that the process was set in motion by global warming, but "that is clearly the most logical answer."

The difficulty is that logic doesn’t really count when you’re dealing with an administration who invaded Iraq as a retaliation for an attack originating in Afghanistan.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back to Waterboarding

A lot has been made of who said what about whether waterboarding was torture or not. The practice of placing a cloth or a cloth bag over someone’s face and pouring water onto it thus causing the person to instinctively feel as if they are drowning has been hotly debated ever since it became clear that the practice was accepted as far up as the White House. The White House and President Bush in particular were quick to point out however, that it does not constitute torture.

Well the fact is that it does to anyone experiencing it, as National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has clarified in a Huffington Post article:

"If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can't imagine how painful! Whether it's torture by anybody else's definition, for me it would be torture," McConnell told the magazine.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey along with McConnell however decline to classify waterboarding as torture because they would open a can of worms the size of Texas. So now we are talking about everyone knowing that it IS torture but declining to offically admit it. Well isn’t that grand. I feel like I’m watching a kiddie’s tea party.

But the bottom line is that the United States has been torturing people and the litmus test is this: anyone experiencing waterboarding – anyone – would declare it to be torture, would claim it was torture and would state that they were being or had been tortured. This, all the while that Mr Bush has been saying “We do not torture.”

Well actually, yes you do. Your own National Intelligence Director just said so.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Homeland Security - if the Bill is Paid

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, along come the Telecoms and the FBI to re-create an undercover wiretapping scandal worthy of Mr. Bean. OK, so you are a right winger and you approve of the telecom companies allowing the FBI to eavesdrop on US citizens regardless of whether a warrant is in place or not. Or maybe you’re a left winger and don’t approve of this practice and think the telecoms shouldn’t let the FBI install wiretaps.

The fact is: they do. Until, that is, the FBI neglects to pay its phone bills and then, lo and behold, homeland security, anti-terrorism and the wire-tapping that allegedly goes with it becomes moot as reported by The Raw Story:

Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

Who would have thunk it? The FBI of course denies that the service interruptions have caused any breach of security.

What the devil are the wiretaps being used for then, if, when they stop functioning, there’s no danger anyway?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Pointy Haired President

Here’s the news: the Pentagon and the Bush Administration have changed the goal posts in Iraq yet again. This time it is actually to their credit I have to admit and that is only thanks to Ambassador Crocker, who has scrapped all previous lofty goals and brought in the new one: “Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems.”

Hey! It’s that simple. What some people have been preaching for years has suddenly dawned on the Bushies. As the Washington Post reports it's a far cry from the original targets set out by this administration:

In many cases -- particularly on the political front -- Iraqi solutions bear little resemblance to the ambitious goals for 2007 that Bush laid out in his speech to the nation last Jan. 10. "To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis," he pledged. "Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year . . . the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution."

This is actually the fifth time that the language has been changed to suit the situation on the ground which means that either:

a) the original goals, that of creating a free westernized Iraq with free elections, a democratic process and a state of the art stock exchange and a non-corrupt government which has the power to provide security in its own country, which the Neocons pronounced as the reason for going in there in the first place after the WMD myth evaporated, were completely out of synch with reality (as many prophesied), or

b) the Bush Administration is incapable of fulfilling the benchmarks it had set out to achieve.

The truth is that both of these are correct. So along comes plan F: “let the bleedin’ Iraqis do what they want as long as we get the oil.” But actually it is the first time that they’ve said something sensible and something that could actually work.

So the Baathists are regaining control of the oil and are being re-armed by the US and a blind eye is being turned to the continuing desperate situations in many of the provinces. A retired British General is quoted as saying:

"The new phrasing is both the dawning of reality, and the cynical use of language and common sense to camouflage past errors, hoping to avoid the audit of flawed logic that got us to this point,"

It is actually the first time that language has predicated that the situation in Iraq is actually entirely different to what one had hoped. It avoids anyone having to say: “We lost the war,” and tries to imply it was won in a different way.

That was the news. I could have spared myself writing all that by showing you today’s Dilbert cartoon:

Brought to you by George Bush: running the country like a pointy-haired boss.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bush Sucks Up

So sometimes you have to hand it to George. He knows how to suck up and he’s doing a great job of it right now. Considering all the criteria, who would one not want to offer new missile systems and smart bombs to? Well, the list may be long, but there are definitely a few short candidates and anyone in the proximity of Iraq would have to count as one of those.

So why would the Bush Administration be selling $20 billion US worth of smart bombs to Saudi Arabia? After all a large proportion of the 9/11 hijackers were purportedly from Saudi Arabia. Well you have to if they’re your mates though don’t you. But not without some objection form the Israeli side as the Jerusalem Post reports.

Israel has expressed concern over inclusion in the deal of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS), commonly referred to as "smart bombs." Nevertheless, it has not actively fought the sale.

Why would Israel not actively fight the sale? Because they are going to get bright shiny new smarter bombs. All this of course is being rushed through Congress because it’s the most important matter at hand seeing as Bush will be visiting both countries and wants to come bearing gifts to both.

Merry Christmas from the Administration that is trying to increase the arms race in the Middle East whilst pretending to look for a solution for peace.
It's also not as if these things are ever going to make it to Iraq.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Desperation Of The Right

The right is getting desperate. Hillary, who automatically embodies everything the right hated about Bill was an easy candidate to target. But along comes Obama as the front runner. Obama taking the lead in Iowa. Obama looking strong in new Hampshire.

I can just hear them in the neoconservative enclaves: “Think Goshdarnit, think! What dirt can we pull up on this guy?”

Because attacking Obama’s African American roots, much as they’d love to do so, could backfire radically, and attacking his drug use didn’t work, they’ve resorted to try to turn him into – you’ll never guess: a woman.

The New York Post, mouthpiece of the right and one of Murdoch’s little numbers, has produced a piece that portrays Obama as - well, they don’t actually ‘say’ “girlie-man”, but they do warn Americans, that by electing Barack, they won’t be getting a man in the White House:

Yet it's not only Obama's policies and strategies that appeal to women. He is like a woman: slim, good looking, with long elegant fingers, appealingly dressed - all terms more typically ascribed to female candidates.

Unfortunately for the right, with its dwindling support all over the country, this is not really going to have any effect: no one except those already engendered with the idea that being a man means "huntin’, fishin’ an’ …. Well huntin’ again" is going to be taken in by this salvo. Anyone with half a brain is going to understand that these are the words of a right that sees its grasp on the Presidency slipping day by day. They are one sentence away from calling him gay but that will come too.

This from the group that gets upset because we call Dufus stoopid.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Gulf Of Tonkin Revisited

The Bush Administration has, by its own admission, been flying drones onto Iranian territory for months, breaching Iranian air space. The US and British navies have consistently also strayed into Iranian waters in the Straits of Hormuz.

Today, in an incident reminiscent of the fracases in the Gulf of Tonkin some 44 years ago, the US navy is claiming that it was harassed by Iranian gunboats in what it terms a "significant provocative act." MSNBC reports:

Military officials told NBC News that two U.S. Navy destroyers and one frigate were heading into the Persian Gulf through the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz when five armed "fast boats" of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard approached a high speed, darting in and out of the formation.

I am not sure what the US government would do if Iranian frigates entered US waters on a regular basis, but I see another attempt to propagandize the situation into a position where war becomes possible, if not a “necessary and unavoidable act.”

The Bush-Cheney administration is the most dangerous government body on the planet.